Commissioners Host 6th Penny Workshop to Start Prioritizing Projects

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SWEETWATER COUNTY– The Sweetwater County Commissioners hosted a 6th cent project workshop on Thursday, in which the different entities and organizations presented their proposed projects to the commissioners, laying out their needs and priorities.

Sweetwater County Deputy Attorney, John DeLeon, said the commissioners had two main tasks for the workshop, which were to figure out priority projects, and start to think about how the proposed projects should be presented on the ballot.

The commissioners have until roughly June 2020 to have the resolution completed to go on the ballot.

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The total proposed projects heading into the workshop totaled roughly $182 million.

“That just absolutely won’t fly,” Commissioner Randy Wendling said.

The commissioners are all in agreement of getting the 6th penny tax down to about $80 million. While Chairman Johnson is looking at $80 million as a hard cap, the other commissioners are a bit more lenient.

Commissioner Lauren Schoenfeld said $80 million feels right, while Commissioner Roy Lloyd said he would go up to $90 million if needed. Commissioner Wendling said he could go up to $95 million, and Commissioner Jeff Smith said if the justification was there, he could go up to $100 million.

Commissioner Schoenfeld said the projects that will make the biggest impact throughout the county as a whole will be given top priority in her decision making. Chairman Johnson said population of the areas the projects are taking place in has to play a key part in where the funding goes.

Commissioner Lloyd echoed Schoenfeld and Johnson, saying the top priority should be given to the projects that have the most impact on the entire county and are proportionate to the size of the community. He added that they should focus on projects that will grow the community economically.

The entities presented their projects and totals to the commissioners, and set their priority projects.

The list of amounts and projects, ordered as presented, are listed below:

Bairoil

  • $4,353,157.98
  • Updating water and sewer lines.
  • Two street paving projects.
  • Priority: Water and sewer line projects.

According to Bairoil, the water and sewer lines break often, and costs them up to $25,000 to $30,000 to fix every time for repairs. The water projects would cost roughly $1.25 million.

The commissioners mostly agreed that they would support allocating the $1.25 million for the priority projects.

Granger

  • $11,712,000
  • Multiple infrastructure projects including: Hams Fork River extension, 9.8 miles of drinking water intake pipeline (the current water line is over 40 years old), a backwash pond replacement, a new fire department facility, a water metering project, street paving, lagoon upgrades and other projects.
  • Priority: Hams Fork River extension and water intake pipeline.

The water pipeline is over 40 years old, and similar to Bairoil, it breaks often and has costed the Town of Granger roughly $75,000 over the last four years to repair. The Hams Fork River extension is needed during the construction of the water intake pipeline, so the projects go hand in hand. The cost of these two projects would cost just under $2 million.

Johnson, Schoenfeld, and Wendling said they would give about $1.3 to $1.8 million for their priority projects. Commissioners Lloyd and Smith were undecided.

Rock Springs

  • $42,410,000
    • $22.5 million for six infrastructure projects, including the water reclamation project.
    • $19.91 million for sponsorship projects: $3.5 million for YWCA building expansion for child care programs, $3.36 million for Commercial Terminal funding assistance at the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport, and $13 million for a multi-use recreation facility.
  • Priority: Infrastructure projects

Proposed Sponsored Projects

With a six-month waiting list for childcare, and with the YWCA being one of the only places in the county that takes infants as young as 6-weeks old, they are in need of expanding their building and program.

Commissioners Lloyd, Schoenfeld, and Johnson were in support of funding the YWCA’s intiative.

The airport funding is a local match for an $18.5 million terminal modernization project. However, the grant for the project could come through anytime between now and the next few years, so the 6th penny money may not be used immediately if granted.

The commissioners were all unsure about funding this project, however, Chairman Johnson leaned towards not funding it, as the funds might not be used for several years.

According to Heather Anderson, one of the main organizers behind the multi-use recreation facility project, there is limited gym space in Rock Springs between 4 and 9 pm. Rather than a complete recreation center, the facility would be a field house where different activities and organizations can book gym space more easily.

Anderson said the facility would be a quality of life project, and she would not mind if it went onto the ballot as it’s own initiative. She hopes the project would increase the amount of sporting events and tournaments the county could host, which would increase the amount of revenue coming into the county.

Rock Springs Councilman Rob Zotti said the estimated revenue presented to the City of Rock Springs would be $450,000 each year. He said he is skeptical of that estimate, but that’s what has been estimated.

Commissioner Lloyd said he understands that Green River has less people and less demand, but pointed out that Green River has made due with gym space. He said he has received several calls in support of this project, but that he still struggles to see the priority of the project.

Chairman Johnson however, has had many calls against this project. Commissioner Smith said that whether or not the calls have been in support or against, they have heard a lot of feedback from the community on this one initiative. Due to this, he believes the county may want to present it on the ballot and leave it up to the residents to vote yes or no.

Superior

  • $1,510,000
  • Drill a new well and add a drip system at the town’s sewer lagoon.
  • Priority: New well and drip system.

Superior currently only has one reliable well, so an additional well is needed. The original water pipes were placed about 35 years ago and are nearly at their life expectancy.

The commissioners all supported funding this in full.

Wamsutter

  • $15,265,566
  • Repair the industrial loop, replace water sewer lines that were placed in the 70s, develop housing for their fire department, build an ambulance bay, construction of other buildings, and more infrastructure and quality of life projects.
  • Priority: Industrial loop and water sewer lines.

Wamsutter got half of the Gateway West impact funding that the county went after recently, however, none of those funds went towards these projects. Chairman Johnson expressed his disappointment that they did not include these projects on their list when they went after that funding.

Wamsutter Mayor Joe Erickson said at some point, the smaller communities in Sweetwater County have to start making improvements if they want to increase residency. He said the industrial loop and the water lines projects go hand in hand, as the water lines must be replaced while they are repairing the industrial loop.

Commissioner Wendling supported funding the top two priority projects. The rest of the commissioners said cuts needed to be made but were not sure where to make those cuts yet.

Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County

  • $19,455,366
  • Reconstruction of the operating room, updating medical imaging, relocating and expanding the dialysis unit, and replacing the HVAC system.
  • Priority: Reconstruction of the operating room and replacing the HVAC system.

For the operating room to meet regulatory requirements, the HVAC units will have to be replaced at the same time of renovations. The commissioners are leaning towards support funding MHSC in full. Chairman Johnson and Commissioner Lloyd both pointed out that the hospital benefits the entire county, so it has the most impact.

Entities that are not municipalities cannot go for 6th penny funding on their own, so they must be sponsored by a municipality. The county said they could sponsor MHSC.

Chairman Johnson and Commissioners Lloyd and Smith supported funding the hospital’s initiative in full. Commissioners Schoenfeld and Wendling said they would support funding the top two projects for sure, and possibly the third.

Sweetwater Events Complex

  • $11,017,564
  • Water system redundancy.
  • Upgrades and expansion of the exhibit hall.
  • Renovations to indoor arena.
  • Priority: Water system and exhibit hall.

The Events Complex initially presented the commissioners with a $24 million proposal, and have since scaled back to these three projects.

Zotti, who also serves on the fair board, noted that the Events Complex is the one thing the county has that makes Sweetwater a destination community. Therefore, there are not only quality of life benefits attached to the complex, but economic benefits as well.

At this time, Chairman Johnson and Commissioner Smith support funding the Events Complex in full. Commissioners Schoenfeld, Lloyd, and Wendling support funding the priority projects, and are open to funding the third project as well.

The county would like to sponsor the Events Complex.

Reliance- North Sweetwater Water & Sewer District

  • $3,000,000
  • Improvements on sewer collection system and lagoon.
  • Priority: Lagoon improvements.

The sewer collection system has several structural issues that has been causing clogging and backups. The lagoon has extensive solid accumulation, capacity overflow, and is currently violating OSHA standards. Therefore, the lagoon must be improved.

Current sewer rates in Reliance is $60, whereas the target range is $20 to $30. With 6th penny funding, they could make improvements to the collection system and lagoon, and lower rates to about $27.

As of now, all the commissioners support funding these proposals in full. The county would like to sponsor this initiative.

Jamestown-Rio Vista Water & Sewer District

  • $7,540,000
  • Place a sewer line from the Gaensslen Ranch area to Green River.
  • Priority: Sewer line.

The sewer line would allow for growth in the Jamestown area, as it would provide wastewater transfer for developers. The commissioners are all in support of this project, and would like to sponsor it.

Castle Rock Hospital District

  • $10,118,000
  • New medical clinic facility.
  • Priority: New medical clinic facility.

The existing clinic was built 40 years ago, and they had outgrown that facility, according to CRHD CEO Bailie Dockter. The construction of the new facility will be completed in Winter 2020. Inititally, they were trying to pay for the new clinic through debt services, and the projected pay off date for that is 40 years.

If they received 6th penny funding, they would be able to use other money to increase services offered by hiring more providers. They would like to expand hours to include weekends, and they would like to bring in behavioral health services.

Chairman Johnson said he would like to get CRHD on the ballot, but suggested they get $1 million instead of their full proposal. The other commissioners agreed they would like to see them on the ballot but were unsure of how much funding to allocate at this time.

Green River

  • $44,000,000
  • Water treatment facility, water line replacement for road reconstruction.
  • UP Train Depot development, airport updates, Fiber runs and connectivity/wifi.
  • Street replacements and overlays.
  • Recreation center renovation.
  • Priority: Infrastructure and roads.

Green River Mayor Pete Rust said the council believes the 6th penny funding is the tool they have available to the community to get necessary projects done.

“We don’t need to apologize for coming in and asking for the needs that we have identified and believe in,” Mayor Rust said.

Green River City Administrator, Reed Clevenger, said they narrowed down infrastructure projects to what they believe they can get done on a 4-year timeline.

Setting Priorities

Chairman Johnson said the commissioners had a hard time telling what the city’s priorities were. Clevenger said roads and infrastructure are the priorities, but that they need to know how much funding they’ll be given to determine which projects can be done.

“You telling me you have $80 million or $90 million still doesn’t do me any good. Are you doing it off of people base, tax base, or what we’ve done in the past?” Clevenger said.

Johnson said if the commissioners knew the city’s priorities, that would influence the amount of money they would allocate to the City of Green River.

Clevenger said the proposed projects in their entirety are the city’s priorities.

Commissioner Smith said $44 million is over half the 6th penny budget and that the commissioners are probably not going to be comfortable with allocating that much to one community.

Clevenger said they would have to go back to council and figure out priorities, which Commissioner Schoenfeld asked them to do as soon as possible and send their priorities to her.

Until the priorities are set, the commissioners are unsure how much they would like to allocate to the City of Green River.