Lots of discussion for commissioners

Alicia Louters/Torrington Telegram

GOSHEN COUNTY – The Goshen County Commissioners convened for their second June meeting on Tuesday the 15th, at 9 a.m.

The commissioners heard from Goshen County residents regarding abandoned vehicles and a road pothole, and were updated by representatives from Peak Wellness, the Lodging Tax Board and the Goshen County Library. They also heard departmental reports and amended the county’s budget.

Mona Ramos, Pat DeLeon, Russ Pontarolo and Albert Lira voiced their concerns about abandoned vehicles in South Torrington.

Lira said there have been junked vehicles left on public roads and a wrecker that obstructs the view from an intersection. Lira said certain Goshen County residents consistently leave vehicles in places other than their own property.

Lira, who serves with the fire department and Emergency Medical Services (EMS), said these vehicles are safety hazards, should either department need to respond to the area.

Ramos, DeLeon and Pontarolo also voiced their concerns, some of which included the impact of the vehicles on the appearance of the community and road safety.

Sheriff Kory Fleenor said he has repeatedly told individuals to move these vehicles. In South Torrington he has noticed about 35 of them. He informed the group for each vehicle towed, roughly $700 of the county’s funds are used. Fleenor said there are several areas in the county with the same issue, and the sheriff’s department could not focus enforcement in only one area.

County Attorney Eric Boyer also said this has been an issue for a while. Boyer pointed out counties do not have the policing power that cities have – with a smaller sheriff’s department than the city’s police department.

In Boyer’s opinion, an option is for South Torrington residents to advocate for being annexed into the city.

Ramos voiced her doubts about the likelihood of that happening. Boyer said he is convinced that if enough residents supported the annexation, there is a good chance it would happen.

Ellis said the county has done what it can and encouraged them to further discuss the issue.

Essie McCall and Aimee Foster of Peak Wellness Center and Heath Steel of Volunteers of America (VOA) informed the commissioners that VOA has acquired Peak, which will cease to exist after June 30 this year.

According to Steel, the organization’s delivery of services will remain the same, but their business strategy will look much different.

“Wyoming is headed into some very unique times when it comes to behavioral health,” Steel said. He said legislature is moving in a direction different than it has before in regard to mental health services, and certain areas in the state may see a loss of access.

“We hope you will have VOA as your partner moving forward,” Steel said. He encouraged the county to take some ownership, saying community access will tighten if the services are only state and federally funded.

McCall thanked the commissioners for their past support. She said Peak Wellness Center served 569 people, 122 of which were youth, in their last fiscal year. McCall said she is hopeful about VOA.

According to Foster, personnel took a hit due to business strategy and COVID last year. She said Peak lost about 30% of their workforce.

McCall said the local organization is currently looking to hire two clinicians, a lead clinician and a case manager.

Steel said he hopes this is the first of many conversations with the county.

Boyer commended McCall for the work she has done. He voiced his excitement about what was discussed and said the partnership between the organization and the county is of tremendous benefit to residents.

Gary Olson, who serves on the Lodging Tax Board, and Sandy Hoehn, community development director at Goshen Economic Development, asked about the county’s use of lodging tax.

Olson said 10% of lodging tax collected in Goshen County is given to the county. Olson said it was not his place to ask exactly where the funds were used, but requested it be used to promote tourism in the county.

Hoehn said the number of overnight visitors increased by about 19,000 people every year since the Lodging Tax Board partnered with Goshen Economic Development (GED). In 2019, according to Hoehn, the county had 116,000 overnight visitors, who generated $600,000 in sales tax, emphasizing the importance of continuing to attract visitors.

Hoehn said she would like to partner with the county to determine how that 10% can best be spent.

“There’s not much room to give at this point in the budget cycle,” Boyer said. His opinion is that the county has done well to support tourism in the county with the funds they have. According to Boyer, the funds are spent on tourism, a significant portion going to the fairgrounds, and on administrative costs.

Commissioner Justin Burkhart thanked Hoehn and Olson for attending the meeting and said he is supportive of what they have done for the community and the county.

In public comment, John Hendrickson said for two years there has been a pothole near the intersection of Hope Road and Radio Road. Hendrickson said it has been a danger to smaller cars and motorcycles, and that the area had only been temporarily fixed.

“When are they going to fix it right?” he asked. “I expect that this be taken care of,” Hendrickson said before exiting the room.

Road Superintendent Val Hankins, who said she had spoken to Hendrickson several times, said the county had a chip seal project. The contractor was told not to chip seal the area Hendrickson was referring to but ended up doing it. Hankins said this is why the base was not what it should have been.

Hankins has been trying to get a company from Cheyenne to fix the area but said it has been difficult to get companies to travel to Torrington to fix such a small area.

Library Board President Ellen Creagar and Library Director Cristine Braddy attended the meeting, to provide an update on the library.

“We would like to start coming once a month to share what’s going on,” Creagar said.

According to her, about 70 kids attended the recent Page to Stage production of “Cinderella.” Currently, there are about 250 children signed up for summer reading, which Creagar said is double the usual amount. She said there are about 10 middle-schoolers and 15 high school students and adults also participating in summer reading.

Creagar updated the commissioners on StoryWalk projects around the county. She said Lingle’s has been delivered, Fort Laramie is working on a new sidewalk for one, and they are moving forward in LaGrange and hopefully Yoder. Creagar said the towns are being asked to provide maintenance and change out the stories provided by the library. The library plans to hold ribbon cuttings for each StoryWalk as they are completed.

Lastly, Creagar said the Goshen County Library’s 100th anniversary will be this November. She said they are planning a full year of events, starting in November with a birthday party. The commissioners approved the library’s report.

In other business, a few amendments to the county’s budget were approved – a total of $379,017. The Care Center Joint Powers Board budget was amended by $1,537,640 for construction costs. Fair event and fairgrounds amounts were amended by $10,000 and $25,000. The library saw an amendment of $14,740.

$200,000 of American Rescue Plan funds will be used for a camera project at the jail. Other amendments include $2,277 for publishing and equipment expenses, $12,000 for salary and health insurance at the county attorney’s office, $150,000 for road projects and $5,000 for public health. The budget amendment passed.

Paul Novak thanked the commission for approving the amendment for the Care Center construction. He said the project is going well and moving quickly.

In her report, County Clerk Cindy Kenyon presented $37,000 in bills for last month. Writing a check for a mid-month bill of $111,000 for a road and bridge striping project was approved.

Kenyon presented a contract with public health. The commissioners voted to approve extending the memorandum of understanding (MOA) to December. She also presented a rental agreement to continue renting two office spaces for $6,000 per year.

The County Clerk’s office has been busy, according to Kenyon. Staff completed another full week of training on the new election equipment. Kenyon said it went well. Her report was accepted.

Ron Russell, Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Consultant, provided a summary of what he and the commissioners would later discuss about the annual management report. Russell said the focus was on COVID grants, budgets, employee retention and a few other items.

Fleenor presented the Sheriff Report, which was accepted. Also accepted was County Treasurer Leticia Dominguez’s report. Dominquez said at the end of May, the county’s unassigned spendable cash position was $1,861,355.20.

The meeting adjourned around 11:20 a.m. The next meeting is scheduled for July 6 at 9 a.m

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Alicia Louters/Torrington Telegram

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