ROCK SPRINGS– A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Rock Springs and the Sweetwater County Events Complex (SEC) started being developed back in 2011, however, eight years later there is still not an approved document.
The Rock Springs City Council hosted a special meeting Wednesday evening to discuss the issue of the MOU and the history of RV sites located on city property at the Events Complex, known as the White Mountain Campground.
The City owns 462 RV sites, which are on City land, while the remaining 758 are the Events Complex sites.
They also discussed the malt beverage permit requirements at the Sweetwater County Fair, with representatives from the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office, Sweetwater Prevention, and Rock Springs Police Department in attendance.
The First Draft of the MOU
In the meeting, Mayor Kaumo began to discuss the history of the MOU. He said that in 2011, one year prior to Rock Springs’ first National High School Finals Rodeo, the first MOU was drafted. This first draft was based off of language taken from notes in a meeting at Events Complex Executive Director Larry Lloyd’s office with City leaders. However, after that he believes the MOU was never followed up on.
In the first draft of the MOU, provided in the meeting, it stated that the City would waiver all sewer tap fees for the RV sites, which is about 1,120 sites, equating about $1,830,000. Mayor Kaumo used this as an example to show how much the City has invested into this project at the Complex.
That MOU also stated that whichever entity’s sites were being used, that entity would collect the revenue.
“All revenue collected from rental of RV camp sites on the Wataha Recreation Area will be city revenue. All revenue collected from rental of RV camp sites on SEC property will be SEC revenue,” the document reads.
The Re-emergence of the MOU
Recently, Mayor Tim Kaumo sent a revised MOU to Lloyd, on May 2, 2019. The second version.
One of the main revisions included an addition that the City would get 50 percent of the net revenue made from the City’s sites on events using that property, other than the National High School Finals Rodeo.
According to Mayor Kaumo, the City estimates at full capacity of the 462 sites, half of the revenue would come out to be $6,900 per night.
Events Complex Revisions to the MOU
On June 6, just over a month later, the MOU was sent back to the City, revised and signed (version 3). However, since the MOU had been revised, Kaumo stated in the meeting that it is technically a new MOU.
The revisions included:
“SEC will collect all payments for use of all campsites, except for and during events planned and conducted solely by the City. The City will collect and retain all payments for use of campsites on City property used during City events,” the document states.
Kandi Pendleton, Events and Marketing Manager at SEC, stated that the time between receiving the MOU and sending back to the City was just around 30 days, a reasonable timeframe. One attendee joked that 30 days was a quick turnaround, especially when dealing with government.
One of the main issues Mayor Kaumo had was that the Tiffin Allegro Club Rally was starting June 17, and motorhomes were already starting to arrive in Rock Springs. Kaumo stated that this left little to no time to look over the MOU, make further revisions, and put it before the governing body for discussion and approval. At that point, a Hold Harmless Agreement was put in place.
When the Tiffin Rally started, Kaumo was worried that there was no insurance and no MOU.
Dave Lansang, Rock Springs Parks and Recreation Director, said that he was was not made aware of the Tiffin Rally until he saw a press release published on SweetwaterNOW. He believed the lack of communication could lead to event scheduling conflicts in the future.
He added that it’s been eight years since the MOU first started being drafted and that it needs to be completed.
“We need a mechanism and communication,” Lansang said.
Current Draft of the MOU
Mayor Kaumo said the current MOU, the 4th version provided in the meeting, now contains the original language before the Events Complex made revisions, which was done to spur conversation and action.
Lloyd said after they sent back the signed MOU, they received “radio silence” from the City. He suggested the City leaders and the Events Complex sit down, have a meeting, and discuss this issue further. He mentioned that some things get done better when you sit down, close the door, and have a discussion. He believed they could solve this much quicker that way and mentioned that in their business they move fast and are taking care of hundreds of people using the facility at any given time.
Mayor Kaumo responded by saying, “For some reason, your door closed and I wasn’t in it.”
Kaumo further asked why it’s been eight years and there is still no MOU. Lloyd said he assumed everything was good to go when he sent the signed MOU back.
Lloyd also emphasized the importance of the Events Complex to the community’s economy and praised the City employees for their help in events at the Complex. Councilman Keaton West asked Lloyd about the impact from the National High School Finals Rodeo. Lloyd stated that the numbers were close to 8.3 Million in financial impact to Sweetwater County.
Both parties agreed that what they are doing at the Events Complex is important to the community and they would benefit from playing on the same team and resolving these concerns.
Competing with Local Business and the Lodging Tax
Mayor Kaumo then raised issue with RVs camping on the City sites outside of events. The original language of the MOU stated that the City’s 462 sites may only be rented out in conjunction with Events Complex events and no other time, as to not compete with the City’s existing local campgrounds.
According to Mayor Kaumo, he has heard there are RVs parked on the City lots all throughout the year, which he believes takes business away from the City’s existing campgrounds. He requested that be observed because the City is the one who takes the heat when it comes to light that local businesses aren’t getting that money. Pendleton assured Kaumo that they will continue to be observant with that concern.
Another issue that was discussed Wednesday night was whether or not the Events Complex is exempt from the lodging tax.
The original language of the MOU stated, “sales and lodging taxes deemed applicable by the State of Wyoming-Department of Revenue shall be collected at all times to remain in compliance.”
The Events Complex has been in contact with the State and also local representatives and at were told that they are exempt from the lodging tax, while Kaumo says he has heard from Karen Vaughn, State of Wyoming Senior Tax Examiner, that they are not exempt.
Pendleton said that the lodging tax, when it comes to county fairgrounds, has been a confusing issue state-wide during her research. Some collect, some do not. And it can also be based on what type of event. They have been in contact with with the Wyoming Department of Revenue, and have sent a letter to the determination committee. Now, they are waiting to hear back on a determination of the language so they can follow suit.
If it is determined that the Events Complex is able to collect the lodging tax, Pendleton assured it will not be an issue and they could easily add it in their system. Lloyd stated to everyone that the lodging tax benefits them and everyone else in the community. They just didn’t want to collect that tax and have it sitting somewhere in the bank, they are waiting on the appropriate way to handle that when they get a response.
What’s Up Next?
Conversations will continue and the final MOU will go before the City Council, following discussion.
Both parties agreed that a master calendar needs to be put into place so scheduling conflicts do not occur and so they can work together to host events. They said Lansang could be in charge of that calendar.
Kaumo Questions Tiffin Rally Numbers
In late June, the Events Complex released a press release stating that the Tiffin Rally brought over $418,000 to the City of Rock Springs. Mayor Kaumo stated that the rally had just packed up and left at that point, so he believed those numbers to be untrue and based off of approximations.
The Events Complex said they pulled those numbers from Dean Runyan Associates’ research and revenue multiplier. Dean Runyan collects research and data and helps determine how much revenue is brought into communities based on travel and events.
According to Pendleton, the Travel and Tourism agency uses the same data to come up with their numbers for tourism impact. Fair Board member Janet Hartford also stated that through her many years of experience with the Green River Chamber and the Events Complex, those numbers are accurate and that Dean Runyan does a lot of research to come up with those multipliers to make sure they are accurate.
Malt Beverage Permit Requirements at the Fair
The next discussion centered on Wyoming’s Big Show, the Sweetwater County Fair hosted by the Events Complex. The Rock Springs Police Department, who is in charge of enforcement at the Sweetwater County Fair, has raised issues with what has been called the “Pepsi Tent” at the event.
Police Chief Dwane Pacheco said that each year, the police department doesn’t know what to expect when they get to the fairgrounds. “Every year, enforcement is different.”
He asked that the Events Complex make the event more “black and white” with strict times set in place to stop serving beer and also the set up of the established serving and drinking areas. This would ensure that enforcement can be efficient and consistent.
Lloyd said that the Events Complex staff are in the “people business” and that they have found that less law enforcement is better in some cases. They also provide hired security to help with the event, especially in that area. Chief Pacheco did not disagree with that, but that he had an issue with the event changing every year.
Councilwoman Glennise Wendorf asked Chief Pacheco if having a sheet of paper that showed exactly where beer stations would be within the tent would help so they could plan to put officers at each location. Pacheco said it would. Lloyd and others discussed the idea of a pre-fair planning meeting in the future to get everyone on the same page.
Mayor Kaumo encouraged RSPD and the Events Complex to meet by next Monday, prior to next Tuesday’s city council meeting, to figure out a plan that can be approved by the governing body.