SWEETWATER COUNTY -- The estimated cost of desired projects to be funded by a potential sixth cent tax in the 2020 election still outweighs the amount that the Sweetwater County commission is willing to support by about $100 million.
Representatives from Sweetwater County municipalities and other organizations attended a four-hour workshop hosted by the commission on Thursday afternoon to share their latest project list proposals.
The workshop packet listed a total of $182,211,145.98 for all proposed projects. In opening statements at the workshop, commissioners varied in their desired total amounts to bring to voters, but all ranged from $80 million to $95 million.
Commissioners wanted one more opportunity to hear from the municipalities and organizations and ask questions before they pick the projects and/or amounts they are willing to put on the ballot. Spokespersons had time to share their most recent revisions and top priorities. Commissioners must also decide how to present the proposals to voters, so they asked entities their opinions on that as well.
After opening statements by commissioners, Deputy County Attorney John DeLeon reviewed statutory components of bringing a sixth cent tax ballot initiative before voters. He said there has to be a resolution by each entity including the six towns/cities and the county identifying their propositions. Organizations must be sponsored by the county or an incorporated municipality. The proposition can encompass projects or the projects can be included in multiple propositions listed by city, by type of project or in other forms. After decisions are made about propositions, political action committees can be formed to gather and use funds to help promote propositions and get them ready for the ballot.
The county commission must approve all propositions. The process must be completed 110 days before the general election, and all sixth cent tax requests must be for a specific purpose or project; they can’t be a traditional budget use. The total amount of revenue must be identified as well as how excess funds would be used and the length of time for the tax.
Back in August, entities met for the first time to share their wish lists for the special purpose tax initiative. At that time, the total came to more than $228 million. Groups have worked to reduce and revise those lists in the meantime, with a few new entities added along the way such as the Castle Rock Hospital District and the Jamestown-Rio Vista Water and Sewer District.
PRESENTING ENTITIES AND REQUESTS
Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld asked each entity if it had received sixth cent funds previously, whether projects funded by those funds had been completed and the amount of cash reserves on hand.
Bairoil, $4.35 million for water and road projects: Mayor Sue Ann Rigano spoke with commissioners via speaker phone. Bairoil has received sixth cent funds in the past, and all projects have been completed. Rigano estimated the town’s reserves at $300,000. She said the water projects are their top priority. The waterlines are old with three to four breaks each winter costing $25,000 to $30,000 per repair. She said the town would be willing to give up at least half of the street projects, if necessary. The total request for their top priority is $1,256,520, according to Schoenfeld.
Granger, $11.7 million for a number of infrastructure projects: This is the same amount as previously requested. Projects prioritized include Ham’s Fork River waterline extension, a 9.8-mile drinking water intake pipeline, backwash pond replacement due to Environmental Protection Agency/Department of Environmental Quality compliance requirements, Occupational Safety and Health Administration compliant access water tank staircase, water meter replacement, street paving, security fencing and sewer lift station and lagoon upgrades. Granger has received sixth penny funds before, and a solar lighting project is the only one that has not been completed. Mayor Bradly McCollum estimated the town’s reserves at $250,000. Although the second priority project is costly at about $6 million, McCollum said it is very important due to the age of the existing pipeline and high cost of repairs. There are no other resources for water in Granger. The only project he would be willing to back off on is the $2 million for the sewer lift station and lagoon upgrades.
Rock Springs, $42.41 million for infrastructure projects, three sponsored projects and one quality-of-life project: Infrastructure projects include water reclamation facility odor control/improvements, storm water detention basins on Lionkol Road, and miscellaneous sewer, water and storm water projects. Another $1 million would go to gateway beautification. Projects in order of priority are a $4 million water reclamation project, $2.5 million for storm water detention basins on Lionkol Road, $5 million for sewer projects, $5 for water projects, $5 million for storm water projects and $1 million for gateway and green belt beautification.
Rock Springs has received sixth cent funds in the past, and all projects are complete. The city has an operational reserve of about $9 million with a requirement of carrying three months worth of cash on hand, taking up a large part of that amount. Councilman Keaton West said that the amount requested by Rock Springs is small considering its population, even with the sponsored projects.
Projects to be sponsored by Rock Springs include a Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport’s commercial terminal project, YWCA of Sweetwater County extension to expand child care services, and multiuse facility to be built adjacent to the Rock Springs Family Recreation Center. Sponsored projects were not prioritized by the city of Rock Springs.
-- Southwest Wyoming Regional airport: The $3.36 million for the airport’s commercial terminal project would be the estimated required local match to receive $15.14 million in grant funds to complete the $18.5 million project. Airport Director Devon Brubaker said it is not a matter of if, but when as far as receiving grant money. At the end of Thursday’s workshop, some commissioners expressed concern that the money might not be used right away if grants had not been awarded.
-- YWCA of Sweetwater County: $3.5 million for the YWCA of Sweetwater County to remove the outdoor pool at the facility and build an extension where it was located in order to expand child care services. The city of Rock Springs owns the property. Melinda Baas explained the great need for child care services, especially for infants and older children after school. There is currently a six-month waiting list for child care. She said the YWCA could absorb operational costs for the addition.
-- Multiuse facility: $13.05 million for a multiuse facility to be built adjacent to the Rock Springs Family Recreation Center. The fieldhouse effort has been spearheaded by people involved in youth sports and would be designed as an indoor option for sports during inclement weather. The question came up of whether the facility would have to be subsidized by the City of Rock Springs. Rock Springs Councilman Rob Zotti said the numbers given by organizers indicate the facility should be able to pay for itself.
It was suggested that the facility could be presented alone on the ballot as a sixth cent tax proposition. Commissioners Roy Lloyd and Schoenfeld said they have received more feedback in support of the facility than against it. Spokesperson Heather Anderson said the facility could benefit Sweetwater County’s economy by hosting tournaments.
Superior, $1.51 million to drill a new well for public water and build sewer lagoons: The town has received sixth cent funds before and all projects have been completed.
Wamsutter, $18.173 for water, sewer and paving projects as well as new equipment and building and expansion projects involving the fire department, an ambulance bay, a community center and park bathrooms: Mayor Joe Erickson and Councilman Gary Waldner said their request had been reduced to $15,265,566. Building projects including park bathrooms had been removed and funds for the industrial loop project and water and sewer projects had been reduced. Wamsutter has received sixth cent funds before, and all projects have been completed. The town's cash reserves are about $297,880. Commission Randy Wendling noted that Wamsutter’s request is high in proportion to its population. Wamsutter officials said the projects are important to keep existing residents and draw new people to the community.
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, $19,455,366 for maintenance and remodeling/expansion projects for the surgery suite, dialysis and medical imaging: Sweetwater County would sponsor the proposal. Commissioner Wally Johnson said the hospital’s total should be divided by the entire population of Sweetwater County since everyone in the county is dependent on it. Commissioners expressed support for the hospital’s proposal although some said the dialysis project may not get through the cut.
Sweetwater Events Complex, $11 million to renovate the current indoor arena and renovate and expand the exhibit hall: Sweetwater County would be the sponsor. The amount is down from $24,085,103 when the Events Complex proposal included building a new indoor arena. Spokesperson Lena Warren estimated that the Events Complex has a $7 million economic impact on the community each year and brought in about $16 million the past year due to the National High School Finals Rodeo.
Superior, $1.51 million to drill a new well for public water and build sewer lagoons.
Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, $19,455,366 for maintenance and remodeling/expansion projects for the surgery suite, dialysis and medical imaging. Sweetwater County would sponsor the proposal. Johnson said the hospital’s total should be divided by the entire population of Sweetwater County since everyone in the county is dependent on it. Commissioners expressed support for the hospital’s proposal although some said the dialysis project may not get through the cut.
North Sweetwater Water and Sewer District (Reliance), $3 million to repair or replace the aging wastewater system that serves Reliance residents: The Department of Environmental Quality has mandated repairs to bring the Reliance wastewater system into compliance with regulatory requirements. The district hopes to bring sewer rates for residents closer to other county areas. Currently, Reliance residents pay $60 per month while people in Rock Springs pay $12.82 per month.
Jamestown–Rio Vista Water and Sewer District, $7.54 million for a wastewater trunkline to Green River: The project would use the existing corridor for the water line that was completed previously. Spokesperson Kael Jasperson said the project with provide opportunities for development and growth in the area.
Castle Rock Hospital District, $10.118 million to help fund its new facility: CEO Bailie Dockter said she considers the facility a feeder for the hospital. She said they would be in favor of being included as a separate healthcare proposition along with Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County on the sixth cent tax ballot. When asked if the requested amount was all or nothing, district representatives said it was not and that they hope to be considered and would like to be approved for as much as they could get.
Green River, $52.921 million for a variety of infrastructure and quality of life projects: It was reduced to around $44 million. City Administrator Reed Clevenger said the reduction was based on the projects that the city decided could be completed in a four-year time period. The city has received sixth cent funds before, and all projects have been completed. Mayor Pete Rust said Green River residents have expressed support to council members for sixth penny projects. The contingent was criticized for being the only group that had not prioritized its requests. Representatives said they would go back to the city council to determine the order of its priorities. Commissioners also expressed concern that the $44 million Green River is requesting is half of the entire amount that several commissioners are willing to approve for the total ballot request.