County, BTNF talk gravel pits

SUBLETTE COUNTY – Sublette County and U.S. Forest Service officials verbally agreed on a partnership to develop gravel pits on Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) at the commissioners’ July 3 meeting last week.

During discussion with the Road and Bridge Department, BTNF Big Piney District Ranger Don Kranendonk came in and took a seat at the table.

“We’ll let him tell us about the gravel pits,” said Road and Bridge superintendent Butch Penton.

Kranendonk told commissioners Tom Noble, Dr. Dave Burnett, Joel Bousman and Andy Nelson that he needs gravel to almost double the size of the Horse Creek trailhead parking lot.

“I have a grant that is probably insufficient,” he said.

Kranendonk is working with “an internal specialist to install (gravel) pits at our major gateways” through the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) so the BTNF can maintain its most-used roads. He had hopes of partnerships similar to the one the county and state have for gravel at the Fisherman Creek pit in Hoback Basin.

Penton said the closest county pit to Horse Creek is the “Beaver pit” with very coarse pit run.

“I don’t see why we shouldn’t pursue gravel pits on the forest,” Nelson commented.

Kranendonk asked if the county has crushed on the forest and shared gravel.

“We have done that; they usually get one-quarter to one-fifth and we get the rest,” Penton said.

Kranendonk asked Penton about sites and if they might work for both entities; some are beside roads and others farther into the forest.

“Have you picked out a pit on the forest,” he asked, citing “archeological concerns” at an unnamed Piney Creek location – later identified as the Lander Trail.

Penton said he eyed one location “but it’s by the road. There’s not enough room to crush there.” He also mentioned one at Slide Rock Point that is closer but he was unsure about the rock quality.

Bousman said, “If we ever get an easement on LaBarge Creek, we could put in a pit there.”

Getting gravel for road repair is “one of the higher priorities on the forest if you have one that would work,” Kranendonk said.

Penton said he didn’t know what kind of rock was available away from road shoulders. Kranendonk said he could work with Kemmerer District Ranger Adriene Holcomb “to pursue LaBarge Creek.”

“It would be nice to do some test holes,” Penton added.

Bousman asked if the county could get permission to do that.

“An easement for a regular county road would be contingent on test holes,” he said. “Can we jar things loose? Let’s go ahead with the test holes. … If we get a pit on the forest, it may provide some incentive.”

Burnett asked how this would provide gravel for the Horse Creek project.

“I’ve been pressing the Forest Service for a gravel pit,” Kranendonk said. “It would be advantageous for all of us if we could get a partnership.”

The Lander Trail sits close to a “large supply of rock there,” he said, adding that it helps the approval process “any time I can say I’ve got multiple partners (to improve) public access and safety.”

Burnett stated, “If we give you the gravel for Horse Creek, we’re helping the Forest Service out. Is there anything to say the Forest Service can help us out?”

“The county had expressed to me there were sensitivities over gravel going forward regardless of Horse Creek,” the district ranger said, adding if it was “political,” he would understand if the county was uninterested in cooperating with BTNF on gravel pits.

Burnett said the commission’s “concern is more financial than political.”

“If it’s not a benefit to the county to have pits on the forest boundary and partner on that, then I’ll look deeper into the forest,” Kranendonk said.

Penton said he has tried “for a long time” to accomplish something along the forest boundary.

As for the Lander Trail site, the “concern is not damage to the resource itself but damaging the view – but I’m not an archeologist,” he said.

A view is not as important as for public safety, Kranendonk said.

The site up Middle Piney is “a scree slope where the Forest Service had a pit in the past;” he wasn’t sure if there were concerns with the LaBarge Creek site.

Chair Nelson spoke up: “Absolutely we are interested in a partnership.”

They also talked about options for crushing gravel.

Noble then addressed Penton about the county competing with private enterprise.

“I have heartburn with … (the county) crushing for other entities? I have a problem with that,” Noble said. “You mentioned ‘us crushing’ more than once in this conversation. We agree on that; getting into crushing is something we don’t want to get into?”

Penton said that was what he was thinking about it.

“Butch is talking about contracting with private enterprise,” Bousman told Noble.

Nelson said contractors could submit a bid, bring in a crusher and “we pay for ours and they pay for theirs,” although Penton noted a large cost difference.

Discussion then turned to a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) pit on the Lake Mountain Wilderness Study Area (WSA) and Bousman asked if anyone ever directly asked the BLM for samples. He explained the Forest Service has an easement across the WSA, and that the WSA status might be resolved shortly.

Bousman said if the county could do test holes there, “if they are a good option” – we could go to Bob (Harrower) and get an easement.”

Kranendonk said with the county’s interest he would pursue the wider-ranging gravel project with District Ranger Holcomb and NEPA.

Rio Verde Engineering consultant Mark Eatinger asked Kranendonk and Penton about an update on the county’s request for BTNF access to the proposed McKee Pit in Bondurant. Penton said the county seeks to “go through the little draw.”

“I sent it in,” Kranendonk answered. “It’s not going to be a problem. I’m doing it.”

Eatinger asked about “the second one,” submitted to repair the long-term slide at the bottom of Dell Creek Road.

“I’m working that one too,” Kranendonk said, indicating a positive outcome.

Requests for more information about easements and gravel pit sites went unanswered before press time.

Penton then brought up the Skyline Road project, saying the Forest Service asked if he would put in an approach for firewood access. They cleared all the trees “and cut the timber back for us” so he agreed to build it.

Noble also had questions about Class 2 roads, wondering if subdivisions bring roads up to county standards, was the county “held to it” to accept them.

“We’re going to have more roads than we can maintain,” Penton said.

County clerk Mary Lankford answered, “The county has made some agreements.”

Regarding one recent addition, she said, “We had a prior agreement with them. It’s not automatic.”

Waste management supervisor Ron Gordon asked about getting $19,040 for well sampling; Lankford said she would have to see if it is available. Gordon also heard he will have one full-time position in the final county budget, to be approved July 18 and retroactive to July 1.

Lankford held a public hearing requesting a budget transfer of $731,444.24 of “unanticipated revenues” from different sources; she provided a resolution for the commissioners, who unanimously approved.

She also presented a resolution she said was written by the late county planner Bart Myers, adding it did not need to go through the county planning and zoning commission although it has been scheduled for a public hearing.

It would reinstate “rural residential 10” zoning on Bondurant property owned by Scott Leeper. She said the property was zoned RR10 “years ago” but never developed so it “went to agricultural.”

“Bart recommended reinstating the RR10 again. … It was prepared in May for you to sign.”

Bousman asked her, “It does not need to go through planning and zoning?”

“This is just to go back to RR10,” Nelson said. The resolution was unanimously approved.

In other news:

  • Lankford provided letters from people interested in volunteering on county boards. Commissioners selected Van Huffman for the Museum Board, Rachel Weksler and Carolyn Elliott for the Library Board, Dennis Seipp and Jim Huntley for the Planning and Zoning Board, and Monte Bolgiano for the Recreation Board.
  • Twenty-six college students, from freshmen to seniors, were awarded or renewed their college scholarships. Commissioners approved both unanimously.
  • Lankford told commissioners identical bids came from the local weeklies Pinedale Roundup and Sublette Examiner regarding the county’s official newspaper.

“I’m using the Roundup now solely for the purpose that I can meet their deadline,” she said.

“Please let the record show that it’s probably the highest amount any county is paying across the state (for legal notices),” Bousman said. “The Sublette County public is getting ripped off. … We can object to the fact that the taxpayers are being taken to the cleaners by the newspapers.”

  • Numerous employees are filling in after Myers’ untimely passing.

“The public is very patient because they realize we’re scrambling right now,” Lankford said.

In three weeks of advertising the vacancy, she received a “couple applications and a couple inquiries.”

She suggested a wider audience because at the end of the fiscal year, someone laid off elsewhere might fit here.

“Albany County just laid off 10 people,” she added.

Bousman said Sweetwater County also just laid people off.

  • Sheriff K.C. Lehr and Tip Top Search and Rescue director Kenna Tanner thanked commissioners for their support and described the recent dramatic helicopter rescue made of a man who fell into a fast-moving stream and was stranded on a rock.

“The water’s going down but it’s still not safe,” Tanner said.

  • The commission approved an $80,605 bid from HIS Construction to replace the Pinedale Fire Station roof after Eatinger recommended the company’s roofing system.

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