Subletter Examiner | Commissioners hear about rising costs
SUBLETTE COUNTY – It comes down to dollars and cents – especially in local government.
Four of Sublette County’s five commissioners braved whiteout conditions around the county to gather in the commissioners’ chambers on Tuesday, April 5, for their first meeting in three weeks. Commissioner Tom Noble was absent from the meeting.
Todd Hurd of Forsgren Associates briefed the commissioners on the county’s ongoing projects. Hurd said water pumps are on site at Daniel’s fire station/road and bridge construction, but controllers are not. Once these controllers arrive, they will take a few days to install, and then an inspector from the state fire marshal’s office will need to give approval before the building is deemed habitable. Hurd expected the building to be ready for occupancy by the end of this week (around April 15) and the account established for the project funds to be between $35,000 and $40,000 from here the next meeting of the commissioners (April 19).
Regarding the ongoing roofing work at the Sublette County Fairgrounds Events Building, all parties have agreed to a 75-25 split. Approximately 75% of payment will be made to cover all necessary items, with the remaining 25% of payment due on completion. Hurd said the contract for the cupola work is $66,730.
Hurd is pleased with the progress being made at the Big Piney Library and the project is on track for completion by the end of July, “as long as the roofing situation holds.” Commissioner Dave Stephens said he was approached with concerns about the building’s elevator. Hurd hadn’t heard of these issues and would look into them.
Commissioners, Hurd and County Administrator Matt Gaffney all approved the current direction of work on the Rendezvous Pointe Garage building which caught fire last year. Hurd requests a change order so the county has documentation of the project’s finances.
Salaries of elected officials
A bill passed by the Wyoming state legislature raised the salary limit for elected officials from $100,000 to $145,000.
The commissioners have asked county elected officials to give their input at this meeting so that a resolution can be made later in the month. That way, wages would be set by May 13, the start of the filing period. Any increase would take effect when elected officials take the oath.
County Clerk Carrie Long reminded council that employees last received a 2% cost-of-living adjustment in 2018. She informed council that she would consider a cost adjustment. of life by 7% in the next budget. Long emailed around the county and hadn’t heard from many, but expected more comments by the next meeting.
However, some elected officials were present at the meeting to make their contribution.
Laila Illoway, county assessor, said her caseload has recently increased. Looking at the numbers her office deals with, she pointed to 197 sales in 2019, 216 the following year, 278 in tax year 2021 and, most recently, an impressive 429 sales in the past year. 2022 tax year.
“I feel like I’m going nowhere because there are so many sales,” Illoway said. “It’s a lot of extra work.”
Sublette County District Attorney Mike Crosson said he was paid $100,000 a year with 20 years of experience. His office recently hired an assistant prosecutor with six years of experience at $92,000. That’s an 8% difference between the senior county attorney with decades of experience and the new hire in his office. That position was open for five months and was difficult to fill, Crosson said.
“We can’t hire people, we can’t retain people, and it’s pretty universal across the state,” he said.
Crosson referred to the fact that lawyers entering government practice do not run for office because of the headaches for only a small financial raise. Lawyers, in general, make much more money in the private sector working for a company than in government.
This is also the case for law enforcement employees.
Sheriff KC Lehr said there is a huge disparity between private sector work and government work. He said that in his 20 years working in the public sector, he had received a cumulative 10% raise, which was almost an annual raise in the private sector.
Lehr also referred to the fact that some MPs are paid more than him, given the overtime he is not entitled to.
County Treasurer Emily Paravicini said occasional pay increases for elected officials are important because, as the county sees an influx of residents, some are bringing their jobs with them. She also discussed how elected officials apply for their jobs in elections and are hired by their constituents. It bothered her slightly when some unelected officials make more money and don’t have to ask the public to keep their jobs.
District Court Clerk Janet Montgomery suggested that the commissioners consider raises as funding the position and not the person in that position — because that person won’t always have that position.
Long said she doesn’t think it would be unreasonable to keep the cost-of-living adjustment conversations for employees and increases to elected officials as separate discussions.
Commissioner Doug Vickrey pushed back slightly on the concerns raised. He has announced that he will likely run for re-election and it makes him uncomfortable that county citizens are feeling the financial pinch more while their elected officials are asking for more money.
Someone identified as “Chris B” watching the meeting on Zoom asked if the county administrator was paid more than the county sheriff. Long confirmed that the position of county administrator, created by the commissioners, pays $95,000 a year and the sheriff’s posted salary is $92,800.
Lehr said he was fine with elected officials being paid the same, regardless of department. Some who have already spoken at the meeting have accepted.
Hospital District Update
Commissioners and legal advisers had little news on the transfer agreement with the Sublette County Hospital District. SCHD executive director Dave Doorn said all concerns appeared to be addressed in the tentative agreement.
SCHD President Tonia Hoffman, who was not present, had questions about public services for public health. Commissioners determined that it would be easier to divide utilities into square footage, so the county could fund and provide public health services, as defined by state law. The heads of the SCHD will submit a proposal for the approval of the commissioners at a subsequent meeting. Doorn said the hospital district is looking for a place to house public health maintenance items within or near the Sublette Center.
Macy Spears of Stroudwater GCL, Rural Healthcare Capital, gave a quick update on behalf of the Hospital District’s USDA loan application. Spears said his office learned last week that the loan was at the final level – the national loans committee. A representative from U.S. Senator John Barrasso’s office confirmed this with the Hospital District.
Stroudwater GCL is the Hospital District’s lender for the construction loan and the 10% long-term equity loan. Doorn said the company also provides loan application support for the hospital district.
Robin Clover of the SAFV task force drove through rough roads from Bondurant to Pinedale for the meeting to read the Sexual Assault Awareness Month resolution. This resolution unites the community in efforts to end domestic violence and sexual assault.
The Commissioners agreed that it was a valuable annual contribution to the public record and adopted it unanimously.
Clover introduced Amber Anderson, director of the Pinedale Aquatic Center, as one of the TANF grant partners. Because Clover is retiring at the end of the month, Anderson will become the new program manager. The commissioners agreed to authorize this transfer of roles.
Amberson, during his appearance before the commissioners, said PAC attendance matches pre-COVID figures, but utility costs have risen 35% since then. She said they are working to diversify revenue streams to offset those utility costs.
- After an hour-long discussion, commissioners voted, 3-1, to approve a waiver of rural residential zoning, allowing Charles Prior to extend his work shed by 5ft, subject to written approval. of the association of neighboring owners. The commissioners unanimously approved a conditional use permit for a guest ranch at the Double J Ranch outside of Daniel. The ranch’s existing cabins were previously used for employee housing and now function more as guest cabins. Council also approved a boundary change for the zoning district near Daniel from commercial highway to light industrial to accommodate a logging and lumber business.
- The county received its money from the Vanguard settlement, which was transferred to a reserve account. The commissioners approved a transfer agreement to transfer $25,000 to a new department for the reception center and the remaining funds were transferred to the general account.
- The commissioners, on the recommendation of Paravicini, did not accept a loan to cover a shortfall caused by the payment of ad valorem taxes. Paravicini said his office had just received the first ad valorem tax payment, this one nearly $60,000. These will arrive monthly.
- Representatives from Union Wireless provided Commissioners with an update on fiber optic and fixed wireless telephony projects.
- Following an executive session to close the meeting, the Commissioners selected Zane Hayward, Autumn Wright and Cody Phelps as recipients of the Commissioners Scholarship. Cora Murphy is an alternate, if one of the recipients defers.