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County commissioners updated on STIP funds, Broadway Street Bridge

At the August 2 Hot Springs County Commissioners meeting, representatives from WYDOT gave an hour-long presentation about the Hot Springs County State Transportation Improvement Program. District Construction Engineer Randy Merritt said that for 2022 they received $438,291,760 in federal funding for projects throughout the state of Wyoming. The federal funding covers 71% of the total budget, whereas 29% is covered by the state. WYDOT is $123.92 million dollars underfunded for the various Wyoming assets. Merritt said that they have enough money to maintain projects but they are losing ground on what they have for the preservation of those assets. 

There was some discussion from a concerned citizen about the planned transfer station having a turning lane. Merritt said that the turning lane is not warranted, or a safety-related issue, but he said it is up to the Town of Thermopolis to decide. 

Merritt also presented information about EV Charging Stations and how it was a requirement to have a station installed every 50 miles on the freeway and or roadways. Merritt said that in Wyoming that is not practical and difficult to do since the land is vast. However, if someone wants to install a private sector charging station WYDOT can have a conversation about it but there is no money from WYDOT for it.

Merritt discussed bridges and that there were 44 identified for replacement in the state. Those bridges will have work done on either surface improvements or complete replacements in fiscal years 2025-2029. Additionally, Merritt presented WYDOT’s work in the Wind River Canyon where they dealt with rock fall issues along with patchwork. 

One of the bridges discussed was the planned work on the Broadway Street bridge. The Town of Thermopolis will have a 0% match. It is being investigated whether the work done will be just a surface replacement or a total replacement. 

Shane Rankin gave the Road and Bridge report and said their work on both the Black Mountain Road Culvert Project and the slide area on Buffalo Creek is “stationary”. Rankin also said they added sand to the drain field on Buffalo Creek and added, “I think it will hold well.”

Rankin also held a discussion with the commissioners about the possible purchase of a blade. However, Rankin said the cost of a previous quote has increased by $70,000 with the interest rate increasing from 3.9% to 7%. After much discussion over the numbers and different options, the commissioners had Rankin get a blade with a three-year lease and a budget of $29,000 that contains the same warranty.

Rankin presented to the commissioners four approach permits for Red Rim Ranch. Two require culverts, which will be 60 feet full-sized. Two are hilltops with no drainage. Road and Bridge will inspect the work later. The commissioners voted and passed the approval of the permits.

Nate Messenger gave the FBO report and said they had 168 total recorded operations. This included two air ambulances, nine overnight aircraft, and one request for a hangar. Messenger also reported that they sold 1,933.1 gallons of Avgas and 4,859.42 gallons of jet fuel. 

Messenger said the annual Fly-In is scheduled for September 10 from 7-11 a.m. Also, there will be a remote-control airplane event from September 18-21.

Les Culliton gave the Maintenance report and said the courthouse roof work is done and will have inspections.  

Culliton added that on the north side of the county library there is a brown patch of grass fungus and that treatment is needed. The commissioners and Culliton discussed lawnmowing issues and possibly using Green Turf to remedy the problem.  

The commissioners also voted and passed the approval of both a change order with contractor Redd Roofing, Nelson Architects, and Hot Springs County where the new contract sum is $860,030 and a certificate of substantial completion for the work on the joint Law Enforcement Center and courthouse roof.

Bo Bowman gave the Planner report and said the Natural Resources Planning Committee did not meet in July and will also take August off. The Land Use Planning Committee met on July 20 and recommended to the commissioners two small subdivisions, which will be on their agenda at the next meeting on August 18.

Regarding the old airport, the DEQ contractor and the EPA have found additional funding and the testing there will begin again. There was discussion about removing the asphalt from the old runway and that they would haul the material away and store it. 

Bowman informed the commissioners that the owner of Red Rim Ranch is feeling pressure to get the final plat done. Bowman said that the plat should not be done in a hurry but the owner has addressed three-quarters of the conditions already. The commissioners want to make sure all the conditions are met before the final plat is implemented. There was also discussion regarding a performance bond with an estimated $1.3 million as a minimal amount.

The commissioners called Brian Clarkson of T-O Engineers for the GIS update and said they continue to document septic permits and the mapping of county road easements and the right of way descriptions linked to historical documents for Road and Bridge. 

Additionally, they are continuing to upload planner documents to their cloud storage and building the septic permit database. Also, they plan on providing County Planner Bo Bowman with training materials for land use change applications.

Bill Gordon gave the Emergency Management report and said more siren testing will occur on Saturday, August 6 at 12 noon. Also, the National Weather Service will watch over the fair week and the events at the park.

Regarding grant funding, Gordon said he has been busy. They got fully funded for the fire department’s radio project using Motorola devices in the amount of $22,000 for the use of trucks and equipment. Gordon also put in a grant for Homeland Security for additional radio for Road and Bridge. He said, “Road and bridge is a really critical player for us with radios there. Their eyes are out there in the far and wide in our county. And if they see something weird or whatever it might be out there, it’s to allow that individual who’s out there all by themselves with no cell service to be able to report stuff.”

Gordon also reported that the Big Horn river’s water level is down at 1,250 CFS. The water would need to be 3,000 CFS before there is any signal made.

Tricia McPhie gave the Public Health/Prevention update and said that CPR classes for county employees will be on August 9 with two classes, in the morning and then the afternoon. Prevention will have its next meeting on Wednesday, Aug 10. Also, there will be the County Nurse Meeting on Sept 13-15 with 30 nurses to attend. The meeting will be at the golf course. McPhie said they are scheduling school immunization and have added an extra day in August due to demand.

County Assessor Dan Webber presented documents to the commissioners requesting approval of mill levy requests. Webber said that this year’s mill level compared to last year is the same except that the cemetery district went down to 2.78 mills instead of 3.00. 

Chairman Tom Ryan discussed with Webber and the commissioner at the Meet the Candidates event on July 25 that there was a question about if the commissioners were willing to give tax breaks to new businesses. Ryan and Webber said that the only tax for businesses in the county is property taxes but the commissions do not have the authority to change that tax. The state is the authority for such matters. 

The commissioners vote and passed the approval of the mill levy requests.

Barb Rice gave the Youth Alternatives report and said the program currently has 16 total juveniles, nine female, and seven males. Rice said there was a variety of citations: seven tobacco, 15 marijuana, two minors in possession of alcohol, two theft, two no trespassing, and one Game and Fish violation. 

Rice also said that Central Wyoming College is changing how its enrollment process, but they don’t know them until they meeting in August. Their previous enrollment process has not been successful due to many students not completing the programs. They seek the commitment of the students. 

Regarding community service, Rice reported that they have been doing a lot of projects, such as the People for People and Backpack programs. 

In other business, the commissioners voted and passed the approval of Resolution 2022-08 for Stage 1 Fire Restrictions. 

The commissioners also voted and passed the approval of RFR #19 for the HSG Master Plan. They also voted and appointed Michael Berry to the Museum Board.


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