Commissioners hear potential redistricting lines

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Maps were useful during the Sublette County Board of Commissioners’ meeting on Sept. 7 inside the commission chambers. The board heard numerous discussions on projects, pinpoint locations and even possible redistricting outlines.

Following over 45 minutes of discussion to start the meeting, the commissioners voted to approve the county taking ownership of roads to Big Loop and Spring Gulch subdivisions, contingent upon various improvements to meet county standards. Commissioner Sam White recused himself from that vote because a family member lives in one of those developments.

County Road & Bridge Supervisor Billy Pape said this was the first time he’s remembered using a Mack fuel tank for water storage to blade county roads. He also brought up the choice of bidding or auction for a list of 16 vehicles used by the Road & Bridge department the county is selling. The board agreed an auction made the most sense, with commissioner Dave Stephens serving as auctioneer for no charge. The board tentatively scheduled that for Sept. 25.

Commissioners, Pape and representatives from Rio Verde Engineering then decided to put together list of roads prioritized by maintenance needs so it could be shared with local Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service offices.

Commissioners also heard from the Upper Redstone Service and Improvement District on what various sizes or sections of bridges the district would need. No motion or decision was made but it will be return to the agenda after the district addresses Forest Service road access.

The board also unanimously voted to adopt the federal and state land use policy plan as it was drafted. The plan’s draft followed no issues raised by commissioners and no comment from the public after it was initially shared. It was recommended the whole plan be updated every five years to stay current with fluctuating circumstances. Commissioner Doug Vickrey asked if that would suffice, since Sublette County has seen radical changes regarding desired land use far more often. The board was told the plan should be revisited annually for tweaks with more wholesale altercations and updates done every five years.

The plan will be made available on the county’s website.

On the opposite end of the meeting, Rich Greenwood came before the board to discuss potential redistricting. Every two years after the U.S. Census is conducted, the country gets new redistricting lines to match population with equal representation. That time is, essentially, now. Greenwood explained, comparing maps, that in 2010 Sublette’s population in its towns surpassed average allotment to representative districts. That meant parts of Daniel and Bondurant were in House District 22, whereas most of Sublette County is in House District 20. (Vickrey reiterated his existing anger for that circumstance.) Sublette County is in the opposite situation this year and it would need to take on part of another county for equal representation because of the county’s decline in population. Greenwood gave a few options, the most popular of which meant including the northern part of Lincoln County – mainly LaBarge. Greenwood said that made the most sense because they based that map off school district boundaries.

No motion was made as Greenwood just brought that forth to make the board aware of its situation. He said he’d be an advocate for county clerks to make the process of voting within a county easier on them. County clerk Carrie Long said she’d support the move on those boundaries so long as county clerks Sublette’s designated region (Uinta, Lincoln and Teton as well) agreed. 

Health care

Public Health Nurse Manager Janna Lee spoke to the commissioners about the possibility of gaining a part-time position to help with billing as existing employees continue to struggle with the influx of responsibilities as COVID-19 continues to spread among the county. Commissioners agreed to that, as it would come out of federal funding designated for combating COVID-19.

During that portion, Lee said Public Health is planning to return to drive-through clinics outside of the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale to better serve the 80 to 90 weekly averages of people getting vaccinated. As of the commissioners’ meeting, less than 28 percent of the county’s population has been fully vaccinated. Lee said Ridley’s and Altitude Drug also offer vaccinations now.

Lee confirmed once again, which was reported in the latest Public Health update, that local health officials are struggling to find hospital beds to send the county’s COVID-19 patients who require further care.

Commissioner Vickrey asked about the possibility for more variants, which could require additional vaccines.

“Unfortunately, with as widespread as this transmission is and any virus is going to change and mutate to try to spread more and be more lethal,” Lee said.

Lee said there’s a meeting between the Food and Drug Administration and the Accreditation Committee of Immunization Practice later this month, where officials will discuss how well the vaccines hold up against variants. Recommendations for booster vaccines, if necessary, would also come out of that.

Commission chair Joel Bousman chuckled if the meeting would determine “when China would send us another one.” To which Lee said, “I think we’re doing a fine job of that ourselves, spreading it.”

The board also approved the building of a handicap ramp outside of Aspen Grove apartments on the side facing Rendezvous Pointe. Andre Ivey, maintenance supervisor, said he hoped to complete the project for $5,000 before this upcoming winter.

Tonia Hoffman of the Sublette County Hospital District also joined the meeting to discuss updates. She said the district met its submission deadline for the USDA loan. Dave Doorn and Mike Hunsicker, also with the SCHD, were scheduled for a meeting with the loan officer late last week.

Hoffman also said the district’s legal counsel was approving lease agreement for a temporary Public Health Office. Following a presentation by Sheriff KC Lehr on potential Title XXV space in the new hospital, Hoffman said the district is aware of the need for possibly multiple multi-use rooms, which could be used for those services.