Rock Springs Council Questions County’s Handling of Tax Initiative

Rock Springs Council Questions County’s Handling of Tax Initiative

ROCK SPRINGS — During their January 21 meeting, members of the Rock Springs City Council again called into question how Sweetwater County representatives are handling the initiative to put a sixth penny tax question on the ballot this November.

Referencing what took place during the Board of County Commissioners meeting earlier on Tuesday, Councilor Keaton West again took issue with that board’s handling of the sixth penny initiative. The county commissioners voted to cap the total amount of funds to be raised by the tax at $80 million and discussed possibilities for how to allocate that amount.

West said he didn’t understand why the board would call for municipalities to go back and once again prioritize proposed projects, since the county still has not decided how to allocate funding. West also said that the the county inviting bond council to their next commisioner’s meeting is, “Putting the cart before the horse. It doesn’t make much sense, from my perspective, to do that until each municipality knows how much money they’re getting.”

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Mayor Tim Kaumo agreed that the county needs to come to a decision on exactly how to allocate the money to municipalities. “Hopefully we won’t continue to have these meetings with no direction. We’re losing time,” Kaumo said.

Kaumo said that with an $80 million cap on the tax funding and a proposed allocation of 35 percent to Rock Springs, it will force the city to cut a further $14 million from proposed projects.

“There need to be some decisions made with other communities to come into line with what I believe is fair,” Kaumo said.

January Proclamations

Mayor Kaumo read proclamations during the meeting to proclaim the month of January to be National Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month and Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in Rock Springs.

“We must shine a light on this violation of the basic human right to be free from violence and abuse, pledge to ensure every victim knows they are not alone, and foster supportive communities that help survivors seek justice,” the first proclamation said.

The Cervical Cancer Awareness Month proclamation aims to raise awareness and prevention of the disease in the community.

Ray Lovato Recycling Center

Ray Lovato Recycling Center board member Devon Brubaker updated the council on the center’s operations in 2019 and outlook for the new year. For 2019, the center processed a little over 1.5 million pounds of material; a 20 percent increase over 2018.

“We did that with about equal funding and also under conditions where the markets have completely tanked,” Brubaker said. “In the month of December, it cost us $15 per ton to send out cardboard, that’s why there is cardboard piled up everywhere around the recycling center,” he added.

Brubaker told the council that luckily the markets have turned around in January, to a positive $5 per ton. That’s still $165 per ton less than what the center was selling cardboard for a year-and-a-half ago.

Brubaker thanked several local businesses that have helped with donations to the center over the past year. The center has a new garage door thanks in part to funding from RSNB Bank. De Bernardi Construction helped out by pouring a new concrete pad outside the door. When the heating system at the center stopped working recently, Vaughn’s Plumbing and Heating fixed it at no cost to the the recycling center.

“So, there’ve been a lot of generous donations from local businesses trying to keep the center up and running and it’s just been great,” Brubaker said. 

“Hopefully we’ll continue to grow that program,” Mayor Kaumo said. “I think it’s much needed. We’re watching the stories in Green River about recycling and it’s not glamorous.”

Kaumo said he doesn’t want to see a situation in Rock Springs where people are going through the effort to recycle and items are still ending up in the landfill. He also said everyone knows recycling is not a cash cow, “But it’s something that I think morally we owe to the community…even a break even is a win.”

City and Union Chip In to Have Police Officer’s Backs

United Mine Workers of America Local 4893 President Les Mauch addressed the council and thanked the city for their help on a recent collaboration to help the police department buy new load bearing vests that will replace the duty belts currently worn by officers on patrol.

Mauch said that after researching belts and looking at studies on the benefits of load bearing, he learned it was a health and welfare issue for the officers. Duty belts can weigh as much as 30 pounds, and cause significant strain to the hips and lower back. Mauch said that hip and lower back pain experienced from the weight of the duty belt is the most common health problem experienced by police officers.

The cost of a load bearing vest is $288.50 and the department needs 36, bringing the total cost to $10,386.

“I am proud to announce tonight that on January 8 at our meeting, I made a proposal to the members to help purchase 18 of these vests, at a cost of $5,193, if the department would purchase the other 18,” Mauch said. “I’m proud that as a group we came together for the health and welfare of our officers, for the city and for our citizens.”

“I appreciate Chief Pacheco and yourself working through this. I think it’s a win win situation and the offer from the very beginning is something I thought was just a fantastic offer. Standup by the union in the interest of the city employees and their health, I just appreciate that,” Mayor Kaumo said.