County meeting a mixture of business as usual and county concerns

GOSHEN COUNTY – Tuesday’s regular county commissioners meeting was a mixture of business as usual, as the county works toward finalizing the fiscal budget in addition to hearing resident concerns from around the county, such as outdated, faulty emergency management systems.

“This Fourth of July, we (Goshen County residents) showed true Americanism in Lingle this week with the flood damage,” Goshen County Commissioner Chairman John Ellis said. “All the people that came to assist – it was just absolutely beautiful – I think it just really shows how our community in our county sticks together and takes care of one another.”

Goshen County Commissioner Justin Burkart said, “it was just really amazing to see everybody come together and help the Town of Lingle – and that help came quickly.”

“We want to express our sincere gratitude to all these people for what they’ve done,” Ellis added.

Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the commissioners meeting began with accepting an infrastructure report from Goshen County Road and Bridge Superintendent Val Hankins, who also mentioned her team is short-staffed and backed up due to special projects in lue of typical road maintenance seasonal projects.

“Well, I don’t have much new business for you,” Hankins told the commissioners. “I thought they (Goshen County Road and Bridges personnel) really stepped up and jumped in – took control and did what they could for Lingle. I was really pleased with them.”

“We are still two guys down – I’ll just throw that out there,” Hankins told the board. “So two spoken spots and two open spots (at the Goshen County Road and Bridges department).”

Adding: “We’ve been doing a lot of special projects that need(ed to be) taken care of, so that’s why we are behind now. That’s something I want people to know that the (crews) aren’t out there working the roads – because we’re trying to grab onto projects and fix those as well – we have a fairly good list that we are moving through.”

Goshen County Surveyor Bob Taylor presented a short update on an area of land the department calls the “four corners” where the county intends to pave a county road for better residential traveling.

“A little update on ‘four corners’ – we have three out of four landowners taken care of,” Taylor explained. “The final property is a bit of a problem we are working through because it was co-owned by two now deceased brothers and we are working with about seven family members to educate them about the project and its benefits to the community.”

Taylor explained the seven family members are not Goshen County nor Wyoming residents; and have never been to the area, so are unfamiliar with the landscape and community’s need to build the public access road.

In light of the recent flooding in Lingle, another major area of concern during the commissioners meeting which was brought up by Taylor and Chairman Ellis, included a number of residential and insurance calls to the county planning and development departments regarding floodplain mapping, flood insurance and storm drainage systems. See a future related   Telegram story regarding Goshen County floodplain mapping, flood insurance and storm drainage systems next week.

Goshen County Planner Mike Tietjen told the commissioners his office has received a number of calls regarding solar and wind farm infrastructures and his department is planning to have a departmental work session but not a public meeting to discuss future plans.

The county development team also presented a finalized approval of the Riverview subdivision from the builder; the commissioners approved the final draft, giving the builder the OK to begin building at a later date.

Resident Stan Todorovich presented his concerns to the county development team and county commissioners regarding Road 47. Todorovich noted that Goshen County Commissioner Cody Cox had gone out to the road to visually inspect the complaints of residents along this county-maintained road. Commissioner Cox was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

“Sorry Cody’s not here,” Todorovich told the commissioners and development team during his presentation. “Cody is the only commissioner that came up and looked at that road – it’s a mess – there’s that much dust on the road – I don’t know what you’re going to do about it.”

Todorovich explained to those in attendance that he has been attempting to get the county to properly maintain Road 47 for more than two years because the condition of the road is deteriorating in such a manner it is unsafe for local residents. He also explained that he has experienced several near-miss collisions with other residents and even at one point got into a collision due to the condition of the Road 47.

“You have no access for fire trucks – emergency vehicles,” Todorovich told the board. “What’s going to happen if we have an emergency down this road? Thank God we haven’t yet.”

In addition to providing details of the poor conditions of Road 47, Todorovich expressed he understands other emergency and pressing county items took precedence over his road, but that his concern is the condition of deterioration along the road will cause a tragic outcome.

After a passionate exchange of words, the county commissioners and county development team expressed they would also like to fix the condition of Road 47 but did not have a timeframe due to other on-going projects and short staffing.

The county commissioners approved both the Goshen County Court Clerks earnings report of $4,916.34 and the Goshen County Clerks earnings and warrant reports. Additionally, the board voted to approve the prepayment of Goshen County’s local government liability pool insurance as well as the Election Systems & Software (ES&S) contract to cover the next fiscal year; both of which were previously approved to do so by the board several weeks ago.

The board also approved the draft of the 2022-2023 Goshen County Fiscal year budget – which will be presented at a future commissioners’ meeting for approval. This draft should be on the county’s website by Friday.

Goshen County Clerk Cindy Kenyon, announced to attendees her office set up early voting to accommodate those seeking to vote early and/or change their party affiliation (which requires individuals to vote at time of party change at the clerk’s office), at the back door of the office. She also expressed it is “bittersweet” to be within the last six months of her term before her retirement.

The county commissioners voted to approve the partial fire ban (or stage one fire ban) previously reported by the Telegram last week from Goshen County Fire Warden Bill Law. Law also presented an addendum to his earlier press release which stated the partial fire ban went into effect July 5, after responding to a Fourth of July fire on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land just northwest of Wyoming Medium Correctional Institute (WMCI) and just off of Sheep Creek Road.

This fire was not reported to InciWeb, however, the Arnold Spillway fire shows contained as of July 5 on the Casper Interagency Dispatch Center (CIDC) WildCAD recent fires report. According to Law, Torrington Volunteer Fire Department, CIDC and BLM fire dispatch crews worked with Goshen County crews to quickly get the fire under control and contained by about 10 p.m.; the fire reportedly began around 2 p.m. and is still under investigation at this time.

“I’m always directed to notify BLM when I am aware of a fire on their land,” Law told the commissioners. “After sharing with them the true nature of the sandy terrain and the shifting winds, they determined it in their best interest to dispatch a BLM team to the scene.” 

“At the same time, in consultation with Torrington Fire Command, they asked me to request air support – which is frequently needed,” Law explained. “I contacted Casper (Interagency) Dispatch (Center) (CIDC) who immediately called up one ‘Hela tack’ ship.”

Law said as weather conditions continued to shift and created more hazardous fire containment conditions, CIDC sent “two additional assets (from) Casper – what we call ‘Seats’ or single engine air transport.”

Ultimately, Law said the fire crews found “some very large cottonwood trees were damaged and on fire – and BLM requested assistance from (U.S.) State Forestry (USFS).” He added, “USFS responded with a crew out of Cheyenne to assist in bringing down the trees rather than ask the local fire department to handle that chore.”

According to Law, despite the fire being controlled and contained earlier in the evening, Torrington fire personnel remained on scene until about 10 p.m. to ensure it was completely out. Both USFS and BLM teams remained on site until the following morning to ensure no heat spots were detectable.

“We are going to continue to see a lot of fire activity with weather conditions ripe this year,” Law explained. “We will continue to monitor conditions with the county’s fire departments and determine later if further fire restrictions are appropriate.”

The board appointed two of its five county openings: Shawn Hall was appointed to the Goshen County Planning position to serve until Dec. 31, 2024; and Michelle Traher to the Library Board position to serve until June 1, 2025. There are three additional county positions still open to be filled; one Goshen County Planning position, one Lodging Tax Board position, and one Care Center Joint Powers Board position. 

Residents interested in applying for one of the three remaining positions are encouraged to submit a letter of interest and qualifications to the County Clerk’s Office by mailing to PO Box 160 or walking in the items to 2125 E. A St., room 120, Torrington, Wyo., as soon as possible as the deadline to do so was June 15.

The commissioners board also heard from Lingle Mayor Al Unverzagt regarding the faulty town sirens which failed to promptly go off during last Friday’s storm and flooding.

It was determined the Whelen emergency weather sirens had recently been replaced by the company; however, the company failed to program the radio system to the sirens. According to Commissioner Burkart, that issue had been resolved prior to Tuesday’s meeting and silently tested to ensure it would respond appropriately in the future. 

Chairman Ellis responded by saying, “Most of the sirens in the county need to be upgraded and fixed, something we need to seriously consider looking into.”

No mention of the Goshen County nor Lingle Whelen siren systems were mentioned on the company’s website; email requests had not been immediately responded to in time for publication.

Commissioner Burkart told Mayor Unverzagt there are a number of infrastructure funds and grants from the federal government, state government and county that provide various grant fundings to update emergency management systems and that he would help the mayor in finding the information about those grants.

Lastly, the commissioners approved three public health contracts and grants, totaling $296 thousand dollars. Details about these grants and contacts will be in a future Telegram story.


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