Commissioners work to refine budget
SUBLETTE COUNTY – Looking at the end of several fiscal-year projects and new ones propose for the upcoming 2023-2024 budget that begins July 1, Sublette County Board of Commissioners made decisions on a wide range of items.
Chair Sam White and commissioners Doug Vickrey, Tom Noble, Dave Stephens and Mack Bradley had asked staff during Budget Week to clarify several high-dollar proposals at their June 20 meeting.
They also took time to look back – and into the future – of historical Sublette County.
There was a bit of angst when the Rendezvous Meadows Golf Course Committee came forward to clarify its nearly $1-million budget request for a new building, about $600,000, and redesigned water-pumping system, about $400,000.
“I don’t like spending a million bucks on the golf course if it’s not necessary,” Vickrey said.
Commissioners debated if an existing building could be expanded, if a new building would go up on the site of one to be demolished, or if a new building should be located elsewhere on the ground.
Noble pointed out the new building would need utilities installed.
Chair White asked golf committee chair Scott Cheeney and county maintenance manager Andre Irey to return with a set of three very detailed options and costs.
The Big Piney Airport board has requested funds for a storage building that could be located on adjacent county fairgrounds’ property; commissioners debated an 80-acre land swap or lease to gain more access and right of way for RVs, campers and horse trailers that park for events.
Sublette County Attorney Clayton Melinkovich and airport board attorney Doug Mason are looking into the viability of a 99-year lease and should know before the July meeting.
Mary Lankford, chair of the Sublette Centennial Committee, listed the eclectic activities sponsored in the county’s two-year, $100,000 project, from quilt squares to art shows to receptions and the pandemic-delayed Barn Dance & Social at the Sublette County Fairgrounds.
During Budget Week, Lankford asked if her committee could use $15,000 of about $24,000 left toward a Centennial Legacy project – a historical mural on a Sublette County Fairgrounds building.
Commissioners indicated they would likely approve using the full remaining balance for the mural, closing out that budget.
Commissioners also threw support behind the Green River Valley Museum in Big Piney, whose board said during Budget Week that a significant amount was raised toward renovating the 1910 Texaco station donated to the museum.
Vickrey had noted that south county is poised to grow and commissioners should consider more support to help Big Piney and Marbleton prepare, particularly to bring the Green River Valley Museum to the same standard as the Museum of the Mountain Man in Pinedale.
On June 20, Toni David requested $39,000 to repair the building’s leaking roof for museum and antique vehicle displays and a tourism desk. They raised $13,000 to match an $11,500 Wyoming Community Foundation grant, are applying for another and received another $5,000 in donations, David said.
The building’s roof is 5,694 square feet and the board looked at a new polyurethane “liquid roof.”
“The roof does leak,” she said. “We can do that as soon as we get the permit from the state.”
David said the state is requiring certain permits to work on the whole structure, which is sound except for where an interior supporting wall was removed. That will be replaced, David said. The ceiling still has its frames for new ceiling tiles.
It also has two apartments almost ready to rent, she said.
To replace uprights and level the concrete floor is another estimated $25,000, she added. The building doesn’t need a fire suppression system and underground fuel tanks were pulled out; the board is restoring an old Texaco gas pump to put outside.
Vickrey recalled going to the Texaco station as a boy to take his driver’s test and David’s father worked there. The building had two stories; the top floor was removed at one point and since being built as a Texaco, served as a NAPA store, mechanic’s shop and recently a shuttle bus barn.
Commissioners approved the $64,000 line item in the 2023-’24 fiscal year budget for the Texaco renovation.
Sublette County Visitor Center manager Peter Paulin approached with a request to rent a 75-square-foot room downstairs for $50 a month to the nonprofit Friends of Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Paulin said Main Street Pinedale rented it for that amount for storage; the space would be used by a Forest Service employee who can help provide visitors with timely information. Commissioners asked about other tenants – Friends’ director Scott Kosiba rents an office for $650, attorney Rachel Weksler pays $550 and the Sublette Chamber of Commerce provides wifi and $475 in monthly rent.
“I objected strenuously to that in the past, Vickrey said of the $50 rent. “It wouldn’t even pay for the lights.”
Stephens asked if a Forest Service employee would come out to the visitors’ area – yes, he said, to write some permits and give information.
Bradley called the nominal rent “a slap in the face.”
Noble asked if the room would be vacant otherwise and supported the concept, as did White “for the overall benefit.”
The motion was amended to $100 per month and the majority approved the one-year lease.
Paulin also explained his Visitor Center board approved the 2023-’24 proposed budget, breaking down lodging-tax appropriations of $42,900. It includes $20,000 for website development, $10,400 for Miles Partnership media marketing, $10,000 for the Big Piney Visitor Center and $2,500 for the Visitor Center sticker and postcard program. (These were incorrectly reported in the Roundup.)
The board hired Deanne Swain for $20,000 to develop the interactive website that will eventually allow visitors to book lodging, meals and activities themselves, he said. She designed a new logo and the site will track Wyomingites from other counties.
“We consider anyone from outside our county a ‘visitor,’” Paulin said. This “grassroots” effort can use free social media.
Noble asked Paulin how Swain’s milestones are tracked. Paulin said her rates are in their contract. Miles Partnership will market in conjunction with the Wyoming Office of Tourism, “which has a huge budget.”
“Maybe people will start up in Jackson Hole and end up their vacations in Sublette County,” Vickrey said.