WyoLink gets left behind

County moves forward with its own radio system

SUBLETTE COUNTY – In the face of hollow promises and empty requests for input, the Sublette County Board of Commissioners is pushing ahead with plans to reject the state’s radio communications effort and build its own system.

“Now is the time,” said board chair Andy Nelson. “We’ve got to get this done now. We don’t need to be waiting ‘til next year.”

By October 2018, WyoLink will start charging for the statewide communications system, which is being spearheaded by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and is intended to link about 300 federal, state and local agencies. WyoLink is expected to start charging a monthly service charge in addition to a “user fee” each time a button is pushed on the radios.

What’s more, county officials who have met with WYDOT to discuss the WyoLink issue have come away unconvinced that WYDOT is willing to listen to local input and implement local ideas.

Last Tuesday, the commissioners – along with fire chief Shad Cooper, sheriff K.C. Lehr and radio tech Dave Smith – discussed the potential price tag of building out the county’s own communications system.

Preliminary estimates put it at $1.5 million for infrastructure costs, which will include the construction of at least two more towers to go along with improvements that will be needed at the county’s existing three towers.

According to county clerk Mary Lankford, however, the county “put $3 million away (as a reserve) for communications and IT,” so the county could fund those upfront costs.

“It is comforting to know that there is a plan,” said commissioner Mack Rawhouser. “It’s easy, with Mary’s guidance, to vote on this because we know the money is there and it was designed for this.”

If they were to approve the capital costs, commissioners wondered how long it might take to get the system up and running.

“If you guys have the will to write the checks, we can build the lion’s share of it this year,” said Smith, who’s currently contracted by the county for radio and communications services and would be the go-to guy for the new system as well.

“Is your bill going to go up?” Nelson asked Smith.

The answer was no, although an additional expense on the radio tech side would be to fund a potential part-time position since “one man is not available 24/7/365,” said Smith. “Occasionally, you’re just not available for whatever reason.”

The first step for the county is to put out a request for proposals (RFP) from communications carriers, although Smith strenuously recommended Motorola in this instance, since it will maintain compatibility with WyoLink in the event the statewide system runs into trouble.

“Basically, you’re building a communications highway and you could give those guys a pass to drive on it,” explained Smith, adding that another benefit would be that WyoLink could theoretically lease the county’s network.

For Cooper, however, an RFP will allow various carriers to vie for the contract, thereby increasing the chances that the county is “getting a competitive bid in place.”

“With everything we have discussed, are you still convinced that it is best, in the long run, to go our own way rather than go with WyoLink?” board chair Andy Nelson asked those gathered.

The answer was a resounding “yes.”

The commissioners agreed to move forward with the RFP.

In other news from the meeting:

  • The county got a liquor application from Cowboy Country Distilling, located south of Pinedale near the airport, to allow on-site sales of its product as well as to have a tasting room.

The commissioners will hold a public hearing on the application at their Aug. 8 meeting.

  • The commissioners heard an update from the High Meadows Water District on water and sewer upgrades that are planned in the area, funded largely by state grants as well as incremental rate hikes on the users in Barger.

The commissioners, who have been contemplating a paving project on Meadowlark Lane in the subdivision, were happy to hear the update, since it impacts their decision on the project. The water and sewer improvement work is expected to be completed next summer.

“That’s good information to have,” Nelson said. “This was invaluable.”

  • The commissioners heard an update on the county’s health insurance plan from Ken Konicek on behalf of Tegeler and Associates.

The commissioners next meeting will be Aug. 8.

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