Sweetwater Downs Seeks Reinvestment into Horse Racing Facility at RS Council Meeting

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ROCK SPRINGS — The Rock Springs City Council gathered for their regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, September 3. Read on for a synopsis of the major talking points.

EVENTS COMPLEX FUNDING FOR HORSE RACING

Eugene Joyce, who operates Sweetwater Downs Horse Racing, appeared to ask the city to help make improvements to the race track at the Sweetwater Events Complex. Joyce is asking the county and cities to reinvest money from horse racing back into the racing facilities.

“I need help as a race track operator to make capital improvements into the racing facility. It is forty years old. It’s not up to industry standards. It’s not up to racing standards. Creature comforts are wanting there,” Joyce said.

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Joyce wants the city to set aside a percentage of money received from horse racing for facility improvements. One percent of the money wagered on horse races goes directly the City of Rock Springs and Sweetwater County. Meaning each entity gets half of the one percent. Additionally, Joyce said 25 percent of gross revenue from races goes to the State of Wyoming. Of that 25 percent, about 12 percent is paid back to the city and county.

Mayor Tim Kaumo asked that Joyce and staff from the Event Complex provide the council with specific costs for facility upgrades. “In order to make a good decision amongst the group, I think it would be good to have some costs,” Kaumo said.

Events Complex representative Candy Pendleton said she could come back to the council with details soon. “We should have our proposal back form the engineers sometime this week  and then once we receive that we should be able to get some costs pretty rapidly,” Pendleton said.

MAKING USE OF EMPTY LOT

Tom James spoke to the council about a vacant lot near his home on Blue Sage Way. In the past, James and his neighbors have used the lot as parking for RVs, trailers and boats. However, the city owns the lot in question and in April James and his neighbors were told to remove their property or receive citations.

As a result, the lot is empty and James says the city isn’t maintaining it. James wants to buy the lot from the city, so that he and his neighbors can continue to use it to store RVs and trailers. Before selling the land to James, the city would have to get the plot appraised and put the sale out for bids.

The council discussed a number of possibilities for making the land available to James and his neighbors. Mayor Kaumo also said the council would work with James on making the lot available for parking storage.

Kaumo acknowledged that the city owns too many empty and unkept plots of land around the city. Councilor Billy Shalata echoed that sentiment. “I don’t see a problem with this on a case by case basis. I know a lot of small areas that need to be cleaned up that the city owns the property and there’s never been anything done with it,” Shalata said.

The empty land on Blue Sage Way.

“NASTY” DETENTION PONDS

Councilor Shalata said he’s recently received a number of calls about the detention ponds at Foothill Wetlands Park. The ponds are full of algae and trash. Parks and Recreation Director Dave Lansang said the department has made a number of efforts to clean-up the ponds, but is fighting a losing battle. “I don’t know what the answer is for those detention ponds … nasty is the only word I can come up with. It’s not good but we need something more than what parks and recreation has to remove the algae,” Lansang said.

The detention ponds have solved the problem of flooding that used to occur in the area during heavy rain. However, solving one problem has created another. “It’s pretty much just stagnant ground water sitting in those ponds,” Engineering and Operations Director Paul Kauchich said. Mayor Kaumo said Kauchich was right about that. “Realistically, that’s what the plan was when it was built,” Kaumo said.

Cleaning up stagnant detention ponds is no walk in the park.

SPECIAL PURPOSE TAX

Councilor Keaton West asked the council for input on narrowing the list of projects the city wants to sponsor for potential Special Purpose Tax funding. The council agreed to meet for a special meeting to decide what projects they’d like to move forward with. That meeting is scheduled for Monday, September 9 at 5 pm in the council chambers.