Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Mark Dykes
Assistant Editor 

Council approves payment reconsideration


Tuesday night, the Thermopolis Town Council voted, with Councilman John Dorman Sr. voting “no,” to reconsider covering a portion of an overage for work on the communications area at the Law Enforcement Center.

At the council’s last meeting, they voted to approve splitting an overage on the project with the county. Brad Basse originally bid the project at $3,324, but unforeseen complications put the final amount at $11,7760.60; the town agreed to pay half of the overage, or $4,226.30.

However, during last night’s meeting, John Zupan brought concerns about the precedence the town and county are setting, as in the future people might purposely bid projects low with the intent of having high final costs for which they will be reimbursed. The communications project final cost was 3.5 times more expensive than originally bid, Zupan noted, and this could open the door for future low-ballers.

Mayor Mike Mortimore said such things would not be allowed to happen in the future. Several councilmembers noted Basse was likely unaware of the issues that caused the additional costs, but concern was expressed as to how he handled the matter and the high final cost.

Zupan was also concerned there was evidence Basse knew of complications with the project and moved forward without any contact with the county commission, or a change order or addendum. He pointed out when the project began Basse was a sitting commissioner and knows how the system works. Additionally, Zupan said, paying for half the overage means the taxpayers have to assume Basse’s liability, and he wanted the town and county to do right by the taxpayers.

While Zupan requested the town review and reverse its decision to split the overage, the council voted to reconsider it and table further discussion. Complicating the matter further is the subject of consensus funds, which were to be used for the project but were not. It was unclear as to what has occurred with those consensus funds, and the matter was tabled, in part, to allow time for further research.

In other action, council approved a storm sewer line project for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, with the condition the pipeline be owned and maintained by the church. A previous council from a few years back approved the project, though no plans moved forward on it.

Town Engineer Heath Overfield explained the parking lot at the church, as it sits now, has a serious drainage problem; this issue also leads to a yard east of the church being flooded. The pipeline would run east from the lot along Richards, with a length of about 170 feet.

Overfield also provided an update regarding the landfill, in particular a minor amendment to dig a future cell deeper than the permit currently allows. In the process of getting approval for the amendment, Overfield said concerns were raised with the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) as to existing water level elevations and ground elevations.

Overfield said it shouldn’t be much of a hassle to get the DEQ to approve the amendment. However, one of the stipulations requested is eliminating the designation of cells along the south side of the landfill. On the north side, the eighth cell is expected to be filled in a matter of months, and part of future cell 9 along with all of future cells 10 and 11 will be used for demolition materials. Among the upcoming projects at the landfill is a transfer station to handle other waste.

The DEQ, Overfield said, wants the south cell designations removed because they believe they will never be used and don’t want a reminder they were approved. He suggested getting rid of individual cell lines, but labeling the entire area to denote it is approved space.

Also during the meeting, Melene Mierzejawski reported on the Hot Springs County Counseling Center’s building renovation and being branded as WellSpring. She further noted May is Mental Health Month, and they plan on hosting a family two-mile walk and 5K run on Saturday, May 13. The event is planned for 8 a.m., and Mierzejawski noted it is the same day as the regional track meet here, but the walk and run should be done before the meet.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Meri Ann Rush brought the council up to date on plans for the 2017 solar eclipse. She said there have been meetings for the past two years for the event, and she would like to ensure tourists have a good time while they are here, so they will want to come back.

Rush said about 4,500 people are expected to come for the eclipse, based on the number of hotel rooms available and those with visiting family, and that doesn’t include the day-trippers.

Public meetings regarding eclipse plans are held at the fire hall the second Wednesday of every month, starting at 10 a.m., and Rush encourages people to attend. There are about 30 different organizations already involved, she noted. Among the topics being addressed are basics such as additional dumpsters and restrooms, as well as activities to keep people entertained in the days leading up to the eclipse.

Another part of the preparation is setting up a hotline people can call with questions, to alleviate the dispatch center. Hot Springs County Emergency Management Coordinator Bill Gordon said the plan is to publish one or two local numbers people can call with non-emergency questions; on the flip side, there will also be discussion for protocol, if those manning the hotlines need to transfer a call to the police.

Gordon commended Hot Springs County Memorial Hospital for being very proactive with their staffing and making sure there are enough supplies such as rattlesnake antivenin, as well as partnering with other hospitals should they need additional supplies.


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