Commissioners debate Upper Green bridge situation
Ponder pond problems
SUBLETTE COUNTY – With construction, remodeling and other maintenance projects wrapping up around the county, some new “issues” brought to Sublette County commissioners’ attention on June 6 might slide into the upcoming fiscal year.
The current fiscal year ends on June 30; the new 2024 starts July 1.
Road & Bridge supervisor Billy Pape started the regular meeting with an update on a repairing a washed-out road on Horse Creek Road.
He moved on to discuss the county’s new gravel crusher and that new employees will need several days of training via Western Wyoming Community College.
Pape told commissioners he’s going to need a huge amount of gravel in a short time frame and received a Hughes Enterprise bid of $899,097.90 to crush gravel with their crusher for the county. Some fine aggregate will be stockpiled and next year, the piles could be mixed, he said.
Redoing the Pinedale Airport road alone will require 3,000 tons or about 10,000 yards, he said.
Commissioner Doug Vickrey asked why the county’s crusher couldn’t do the work. Pape said it was a matter of “time frame.”
This Hughes Enterprise’s expense is already in the North Piney Road project budget, Pape said, and the county’s crusher is currently at the Bousman Pit. “I’ve been buying a lot of gravel from Hughes. If we have a pile I can take what I need and buy from the pit that’s closest.”
Commissioners Vickrey, Dave Stephens, Mack Bradley, chair Sam White and Tom Noble voted to approve the $899,097.90 bid.
Sandy Wright, Pape and Rio Verde engineer Mike Jackson next brought up the new bridge proposed for the Upper Green. The current old Green River Bridge needs repairs and does not provide public access to the west side of the river and Bridger-Teton National Forest.
“Where are we at for public access,” White asked.
The current bridge is on private property, Wright said.
“The bridge is not on an actual easement,” Noble said. “If (the county) accepts the bridge, we have to connect a public easement to public property.”
There are different funding options with different stipulations and schedules and the question of ownership might mean Sublette County or the Redstone/ Upper Green Service and Improvement District tackles the project.
Noble said he and Rep. Albert Sommers talked with the Governor’s Office last week and were advised the Green River bridge replacement should be placed higher than the New Fork bridge in priority.
Wright said the district is not interested in creating public access.
“The big question is about bridge ownership,” Noble said.
State engineer John Eddins said a replacement would run from Highway 350 to the Rock Creek Bridge, and it would need to be controlled by Sublette County to be funded by the bridge replacement program. Another public agency could also take on the responsibility of applying for and owning the bridge and road, he added. The exact situation of whether or not a special services district is a “public agency” is being reviewed by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office.
Eddins roughly estimated a new bridge deck would cost $350 per square foot or about $1.5 million. The old Green River Bridge is 130 feet long and 20 feet wide, Jackson said.
Eddins explained that the existing bridge wouldn’t serve as an estimate because state engineers might make a new one longer or shorter. If the county applied to fund it from the bridge replacement fund, WYDOT would schedule the old one for inspection and design.
Another option might be to leave the current bridge in place and build a new one in another location.
“If we don’t get some public access here or there, I don’t want to take over the roads,” Noble said.
Wright said she talked to the Forest Service about people parking in a large lot and people walking across the bridge for public access.
“My question is, why don’t we have the Forest Service here?” Stephens said, adding access should be accessible to the disabled.
Commissioners tried to work out pros and cons of taking over bridge replacement and road ownership.
“If the county takes the bridge, you inspected it and said it should close down – then what,” White asked Eddins.
“We would direct the county to close it,”Eddins said. If a pickup truck couldn’t cross it, it would be closed for public safety.
Stephens asked Wright how cement trucks access the subdivision’s new construction; she said through vacant lots. Noble said if the Wyoming AGO defines a special services district as a public entity, the district itself can apply for the bridge replacement. She agreed.
The issue of liability – especially if the bridge is ordered to be closed – prompted more questions.
“If the county takes over the existing bridge knowing there are issues and someone fell through, would we have immunity,” Vickrey asked.
Yes, said Sublette County Attorney Clayton Melinkovich. Government immunity has blanket coverage for most situations. The U.S. Supreme Court provided immunity after a person went off a closed bridge with no sign. No exceptions are “carved out circumstances” for bridges, he said, and would review if that changes with a WYDOT order.
“If we take ownership and say, ‘Hey folks, if you fall in we’re not liable,’” Vickrey said, adding he would want complete confidence.
Commissioners said they’d wait to hear more about the “public agency” decision.
Rendezvous Golf Course board member Scott Cheeney and Jackson told commissioners about current problems with the No. 7 pond. Jackson proposed some options that appeared in the golf course’s proposed FY2024 budget presented Wednesday at the budget meeting in Marbleton.
Tuesday, they talked about water rights on the Colorado Ditch, with the county being the primary user at its end. Jackson said it could be cheaper to suck sediment out of the intake each year than invest an estimated $472,000 into redesigning the intake structure.
Cheeney also advised of a need for a new building to house golf carts for winter maintenance.
White asked him: “A 600,000 building or 472,000 water project – which one could you wait on?”
Cheeney said in his opinion without asking his board, “To me the bigger worry is … water. It’s the bigger of the two issues. Water storage and suction.”
Vickrey asked if carts could be transferred a handful at a time to the county shop. Cheeney said he would ask the board.
In other county news
- Melinkovich told commissioners a potential criminal incident occurred in Sweetwater County with a Sublette connection and prosecutor Dan Erramouspe asked if he could be assigned the entire case. Commissioners approved a resolution appointing him as a special prosecutor.
- Andre Irey reported the Marbleton Senior Center’s remodel was completed except for new paint and new heaters installed at the Marbleton Fire Hall. The SAFV Task Force’s garage is almost completed.
- Mike Henn of the Sublette County Conservation District reported a full staff for the first time since the pandemic. The office sold more than 2,000 trees and during Arbor Day, students received a little Siberian pea seedling. Last year a trail crew cleared 70 miles of secondary trails closed after blowdowns; The Nature Conservancy granted $15,000 for a fire fuel technician next summer.
- Fairgrounds manager Jay Brower presented a change order for repairs caused by winter snow and ice, an estimated $41,073, higher than the insurance company’s $11,000 payment. He said a damaged storage shed did not to be replaced but a prefab concrete ADA ramp in back of the Community Hall has to be delivered and installed before the fair in July. It is cheaper than making it from scratch he said.
- Sublette County Drug Treatment Court’s Cassie Crumpton introduced client Dave Maynard, who spoke frankly about his resistance to alcohol treatment and how the local program held him accountable. He’d been sober 20 months after drinking 4 gallons of brandy a week, he said, and sobering up led him to value himself and in the process, discover he had cancer. Maynard wanted to thank commissioners and show the results of the community program.
- Sublette County Board of Commissioners, elected officials and department heads began budget talks Tuesday afternoon that continued Wednesday, June 7, at Marbleton Town Hall, Thursday in Pinedale and Friday in Pinedale.