City council welcomes new TPD officer, celebrates another’s longevity

TORRINGTON – Torrington’s second city council meeting of August took place Tuesday night, with Councilman Ted Kinney leading the meeting due to Mayor Randy Adams being out with COVID. Councilmembers Dennis Kelly, Richard Patterson and Kate Steinbock were present with Kinney. 

Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson administered the oath of office to the Torrington Police Department’s (TPD) newest officer, Jacob Smith. 

“Jacob is joining us as our 17th full-time police officer,” Johnson said. “His position is backfilling for the new SRO (School Resource Officer) position that’s going to be starting here in a few weeks. Jake has seven years of experience in law enforcement coming from Goshen County, and he also serves our country and our state honorable in the national guard.”

Johnson administered the oath of office to Smith and congratulated him on his appointment. 

The council and Johnson also recognized Tammy Cearns for 20 years of service to the city. 

“We just wanted to take a few minutes to appreciate and celebrate Tammy for 20 years of service to Torrington Police Department,” Johnson said. “Tammy’s roots run very, very deep in our agency and in our community. She is the proud daughter of our only fallen officer, Lt. Harley Mark, who lost his life while protecting his community in 1993. Tammy proudly carries on his tradition of caring about our community and investing in her family.”

Tammy joined TPD in August of 2002, serving as a communications officer and later changing roles to serve as the code enforcement officer.

“This is a very challenging position with lots of difficulties and trials,” Johnson said. “She does a tremendous job and makes a big impact in what she does. Tammy’s work helps to keep all of us safe and maintain the quality of life in our community. She does her job well; she is a hard and willing worker, and she generally cares about our agency and our community. We are grateful for Tammy’s service, and we will look forward to working with her, hopefully, for many years to come.”

During the public forum, Planning Commission Chairperson David “Dave” Cronk spoke to the council about an annexation proposal that was brought before the council at previous meetings. 

“My reason for being here tonight is to try to keep this City of Torrington from being involved in a very expensive and possibly a very embarrassing lawsuit,” Cronk said.

Cronk provided the council members with a copy of the municipal code and reminded them of their oath of office, asking them to abide by it. 

“It (municipal code) makes it very plain that annexations and subdivisions come through the planning commission for two purposes; that is the public hearing process: every planning commission meeting is advertised in the paper, so the public knows, and then we come together and meet, and we are an advisory committee for the city, but it does have to come through the planning commission by statute, that you swore to uphold,” Cronk said. “Concerning this second reading of the Rutt Subdivision that is very adversarial, I don’t want this to go to a lawsuit. I want it to be revisited the proper way.”

Cronk reiterated that no annexations or subdivisions had been brought before the planning commission, as he previously stated at the last city council meeting. Cronk asked the council to consider tabling the motion, adding that any vote on the matter would violate municipal code and the oath of office the councilmembers swore.

Representative J.D. Williams of Wyoming District House 2 greeted the council. He informed them he had fielded questions about the annexation and was at the meeting to learn more about the process.

In action items, the council heard the second ordinance reading about the annexation of the Rutt Second Addition.

“I don’t know of another event in recent times that’s caused as much stress and strain and loss of sleep for me, personally,” Councilman Richard Patterson said. “There’s a reason that we annex and that we zone. And, when we have people packed in close proximity like we do in a community, in a town, it has to do with safety; it has to do with health, with that many people together, there has to be rules, there has to be standards that everyone has to follow…In my mind, it would be perfectly legal for us to proceed with this, but on the other hand, there are some questions that have come up and I think some legitimate ones about procedure. I think we can do it, but the question for me is should we do it.”

Patterson said there are areas around Torrington that need some attention but also noted, “it’s unfortunate this particular portion of land is not really one of the big problems.”

“What I would like to do, is hit the pause button,” Patterson said. “I don’t want to vote for it, and I don’t want to vote against it. The position I will take tonight is I will neither make a motion nor second a motion to advance it.”
James Eddington, attorney for the City of Torrington, read the ordinance before the council. Kinney noted the ordinance had passed on its first reading on Aug. 2 and called for a motion. No motion was presented. 

Kinney asked Eddington for advice, being as no motion was presented. Eddington told Kinney the matter would die for lack of a motion, but the matter would then be brought to the next council meeting. The motion did not advance, nor was it tabled by the council. 

During the later public comment period, Shelly Rutt, Kirk Rutt and Suzanne Keller spoke about the proposed annexation of the Rutt property. 

“Jim Eddington has admitted, when we first were delivered certified papers, it was on June 15; he also said that he sent two uniformed Torrington Police Officers to my door to deliver the same set of certified papers that he mailed, just to make sure we got them,” Rutt said. “I just want to say, if there is a question about jurisdiction and police officers not knowing where we live, that’s erroneous; they know where we live.”

Rutt also addressed the wrong legal description shown on the proposed ordinance and the differences between official plat maps and the documentation presented by the city. 

Rutt also presented the issue of her removal from the planning commission without her knowledge. Cronk spoke on Rutt’s removal, stating he felt there needed to be an explanation for her removal from the planning commission without her knowledge.

In other action items, the council proclaimed September 2022 as Hunger Action Month to bring awareness to families’ hunger and poverty issues. The proclamation expressed the need to convey attention to the matter and action. The proclamation also declared the importance of food banks and donations to support those in need.

Kyle Borger from WyoHelp spoke to the council about their involvement in addressing these issues.

“We thank you for your awareness of the hunger issues that the people in our county and our community face,” Borger said. “WyoHelp, of course, does the food pantry, and we do much more because we are a community action agency. I wanted to highlight that with our food program; so far, from January of 2022 until August of 2022, we have served 1,934 individuals, and that is not a full 12-month time period.”

Borger told the council they are witnessing an increase in food shortages and demand for food due to food costs. He said the most impacted group in the community is the elderly. He also detailed various services rendered to the community through their operations. 

The council considered a Special Event Permit request from Doug Mercer with Scottsbluff Valley Street Rods (SVSR) for a Classic Cars on Main Street event to be held Sept. 24 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The request would require the closure of Main Street between 19th and 21st Avenue for the event. Mercer also requested the council to waive the Special Event Permit fee.

The council approved the request as presented.

The council heard a request from Director of Public Works Jeff Harkins for a request for a $1.2 million increase in Agreement MSC No. 029CM0090089, which is an agreement between the City of Torrington and the Wyoming Water Development Commission for work being done on Well No. 16 Connection Project in the City of Torrington.

The Wyoming Water Development Commission expressed concern about the funding amount provided by the city for the project. The project is funded 67% by the Wyoming Water Development Commission and 33% by the City of Torrington.

Councilman Dennis Kelly asked Harkins about a test well which resulted in not needing a reverse osmosis unit for the well. 

“The test results of the Well 16 are borderline high in nitrates; they are right at the EPA standard of 10 mg/L, so technically, for us to be able to put it directly into the Torrington distribution system, we would have to treat the water,” Harkins replied. “If we don’t get any additional funding, we will probably just go with the original transmission of that Well 16 to the city’s water treatment plant and treat it there, but we wouldn’t have the backup capacity to go directly into our distribution system.”

The council approved the request for an increase.

Lynette Strecker, clerk/treasurer for the City of Torrington proposed a Solar Energy Generation Project but said they were not ready to proceed with any actions at this time. The council voted to table the matter upon further investigation and information could be provided to the council. 

The next Torrington City Council meeting will be on Sept. 5, 2022, at 7 p.m. in Torrington City Hall. 


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