By Grace Moore
As the Moorcroft Town Council moved forward with the first reading of an ordinance reducing its regular meetings to one per month, they held the first of the planned preceding workshops to help facilitate a fully effective meeting. Among the issues discussed was the refinement of the Public Works Department as had been examined in more detail at the previous workshop.
Public Works Director Cory Allison was on hand to receive the direction on prioritizing projects, keeping track of mileage, tracking work hours per job and changing from delivered gasoline to simply buying at the local dispensary.
A “retreat” was discussed and, at the subsequent meeting, approved for council and department heads to meet at the fire hall for a full day to prioritize town projects and direct the departments for the year. Councilman Dick Claar advised that, in previous years, the town conducted these gatherings to the town’s advantage.
The workshop was immediately followed by a public meeting regarding the upcoming Powder River Sanitary Sewer Project. The town plans to borrow $380,000 from the Wyoming Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) to replace 13050 feet of sewer line between Powder River and Cheyenne Avenues and Park and Weston Streets.
The town will use the sewer investment fees to repay this loan; at present, the fees are adequate without increase.
HDR Engineering’s Heath Turbiville and associate Nick VanWyhe anticipates that, if the loan process is completed without issue, the project will probably be ready for bid in late spring or early summer and, once ground is broken, the job should take approximately 60 to 70 days.
This aspect of upgrading the Powder River Sewer line was not initially set for this year; however, due to the earlier-than-anticipated system failure from roots and cracking of the clay pipes in this region, the time line was moved up, Mathews explained to the audience.
Smoot asked that perhaps each property owner be advised while the work is open, be notified if, “it appears [they] may have a bad line from the service line to the main sewer”, allowing them the opportunity to pay for their line being replaced or cleaned.
With the Goshen Street Water Project and this sewer project, the remaining Powder River Water Project will see but a few isolated areas of the town’s infrastructure brought up to date.
The council members who attended last month’s workshop brought the mayor up to date on the discussion regarding investment fees before asking Town Attorney Jim Peck to examine the bringing together of the three separate town maintained utilities by ordinance and raising rates by two percent annually.
Concern was expressed by Councilmen Paul Smoot regarding dropping one of the monthly assemblies.
“I just don’t think this year is a good idea; right now because of the issues that we’re dealing with as a governing body, we probably still need to be a little more engaged,” he said, an opinion with which Mathews agreed.
If the one meeting a month is to work, said Mathews, “communication has to be really good and constant”; the first reading of the ordinance passed by majority.
Last Wednesday saw Claar, Smoot and Nancy Feehan travel to Buffalo to examine their repurposed school building and was able to get some more ideas on usage of the MTC.
The appraisal of an appropriate substitute for the lost green space from the road construction on South Little Horn Avenue is proceeding. After discussion regarding the cost of the appraiser, Mathews advise his fellow council members of the need to conclude the business, perhaps within the next couple of weeks. “I’d like to see us be able to move forward with it rather than have it sit.”
Wyoming Representative Tyler Lindholm accepted the council’s invitation to attend Monday’s meeting to discuss the town’s concerns and how legislation this year will affect Moorcroft and her sister municipalities in Crook County.
Going into the budget session for 2018 in the Wyoming legislature, according to Lindholm, “Things are a little bit better than they were.” Wyoming invested tax money received in 2016 under the voter-approved constitutional amendment, allowing the State Treasurer’s Office to invest non-permanent funds in stocks and permanent funds in bonds.
The non-permanent funds invested in stocks returned an eight percent gain. The permanent fund, however, showed less than a one percent return.
“The bond market is garbage and has been garbage for quite some time,” opined Lindholm. “If you look at inflation, technically, we’re losing money by holding that much money and only seeing the one percent return.”
The state has seen around a $1 billion return in capital gains. “We’re really able to leverage that in a big way that everybody’s predicting will help with this upcoming budget.
The bills Lindholm considers having a chance of passing are the tobacco and lodging tax increases. He opines the increase to retail cost of a pack of cigarettes if the bill passes will be around a dollar.
“The tobacco tax increase would be a pretty hard hit for Crook County in large ways; most notably Beulah and Aladdin,” he said.
If the price of cigarettes in Wyoming matches that in South Dakota, Lindholm figures that the traffic that currently crosses the state line to buy will no longer have that incentive. He stated unequivocally his opposition to the tobacco tax.
Lindholm voiced his opinion of the lodging tax, too, saying, “I’ve never been a fan of that premise based on the aspect that it is taxation without representation.”
The reappearance of a grocery tax as a local option may be on the legislatures table this year with Lindholm’s approval. “I like it as a local option,” he said.
In 2016, the state funding available to the counties and municipalities dropped to half the previous amount.
“It’s not something you can bet on; it’s not a stable amount of revenue. That being the case, I think more stable revenue for you is you, yourselves,” he said. He added that he would like to see the formula used to set the amounts provided as a statute.
Claar spoke in turn about the projects on the calendar for Moorcroft including the development of the MTC, the landfill and the lagoon, to which Lindholm replied, “Those are all laudable goals.”