PINEDALE – The Board of Sublette County Commissioners was prepared to adopt a resolution establishing salaries for certain elected officials during the May 3 meeting. The resolution came after a month of public and employee input was filtered into commissioners’ discussions. Collective hours were spent on this topic, as well as numerous stories published in the Examiner.
Yet, misinformation exists in the community. Not so much in regards to salaries, but concerning the pitched cost-of-living adjustments. Commission chair Joel Bousman said there’s an outright, inaccurate rumor that the board is planning to raise taxes to fund that increase. He felt compelled to set the record straight.
Property taxes rise based upon the competitive market assessment value that the county assessor’s office is required by statute to conduct. If, hypothetically, a neighborhood home sells for higher than it was valued at, it raises property values of homes in the area. That rise, in turn, causes an increase in property taxes. Property taxes have sustained a sharp rise throughout the Mountain West in recent years because of mass migration and various reasons not related to any raises in county salaries.
Salary increases have no impact on the mill levy, which the board also has no control over without violating the law.
“It needs to be very clear to the public that this board of commissioners is in no way considering raising the mill levy,” Bousman said. “We can’t. It would be illegal.”
A motion to adopt the resolution for certain elected officials’ salaries was amended to eliminate “regularly scheduled” from the proposed resolution. Wording originally suggested the board conducts three “regularly scheduled” monthly meetings. Commissioners are paid based upon three monthly meetings (the two every month and an additional if necessary) but receive an extra $200 for additional commissioner meetings (like during budget season).
Commissioner Doug Vickrey then said he’d like to see the commissioners’ salaries remain at $32,500 despite its listing at $35,000. That proposed amendment did not pass.
A motion with the wording amendment passed by a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Bousman, Tom Noble and Sam White voted in favor. Commissioners Vickrey and Dave Stephens voted against.
Figure skating and hockey supporters in Sublette County attended the meeting to request summer ice installation at the Sublette County Ice Arena.
Currently, the rink is shut down for months during the summer. Numerous members of the community wrote letters of support that were sent to commissioners. Advocates said it would benefit passionate skaters and hockey players who want to practice their favorite sports throughout the year. That could further grow those particular winter sports in Sublette County. It could also serve an economic benefit, as it would attract various camps and tournaments to Pinedale during summer. Summer hockey tournaments in Salt Lake City, for example, typically attract teams from Michigan, Vermont and Maine.
Andre Irey, county maintenance superintendent, said he was concerned with the utilities involved. Equipment currently used at the ice area has not been serviced since the pandemic’s beginning and the county’s Zambonis are considered outdated. Irey estimated that, during summer usage, the utility payments alone would be near $10,000 a month. Full-time ice in the summer would also require a full-time employee to maintain the ice.
Grant Golden, ice manager, said he was concerned about attendance. He said he’s often gotten verbal commitments for ice usage only to stand in his jacket inside an empty arena in the summer. In order to compensate for costs, there would have to be a steady amount of people for eight hours a day. Golden said he’s been in the arena during the off-season and saw less than a person an hour, on average.
Commissioners told all the parties involved to further communication and try a pilot program. If all the parties worked together and got word out, the county would have a better idea for how much serious use the summer ice would receive. The board also took note of the outdated machinery in the ice arena and suggested to keep it in mind come budget discussions.
Sublette County Planning & Zoning Administrator Dennis Fornstrom told commissioners his department is continuing to update its regulations and plans to finish a rough draft next month. He said his office has experienced about the same amount of work concerning permits and applications as last year, if not slightly less.
Fornstrom also said his office has stayed in consistent communication with the Bitcoin mining operation by Kendall Valley that continues to bring noise complaints from neighbors. Commissioner Stephens said he’s been out there to check it out as well. He stood about 300 yards away, towards one neighbor’s residence, and didn’t hear much noise pollution. Another neighbor overlooks the operation without much to diminish the exceptional hum coming off the operation’s generators and computers.
The operation is on land zoned agriculture, which allows for a “home-based business.” Since the generators and computers are all enclosed in a building that’s already fitted with noise-dampening equipment, it’s all within regulations. Fornstrom said his office will continue to work with the business owners, who have given the board and department the impression money isn’t an object in the matter.