TORRINGTON – The Goshen County Commissioners met on Tuesday, Sept. 7 to discuss the sixth penny tax which was brought up by the by the mayors of the five municipalities in the county.
Commissioner Justin Burkhart was not present at the meeting.
Mayor of Lingle, George Siglin, brought the idea of a sixth penny tax to the county commissioners after it was proposed to him by Torrington Mayor Randy Adams. Siglin and Adams brought the proposal to the other three mayors and received support from all of them. Each municipality has its own major projects which need major funding.
The sixth penny tax is meant to add on to the sales tax and can only be used for mandated projects.
Siglin said they wanted to get the commissioners’ approval because the county may also have projects to work on as well. Commissioner Chairman John Ellis asked the mayors about some of the projects they are thinking about. Siglin said he has five to six projects in mind.
“One is finishing up our water and sewer project which is going to be mighty expensive because we have to go under our highway, a gas pipeline, and an oil pipeline,” Siglin said.
Siglin also said they want to renovate the town hall as well to give a better impression to visitors.
“Ours is old and pretty well run down,” Siglin said.
Joyce Evans, Mayor of Fort Laramie, told the commissioners she does not think the sixth penny tax is a pot of gold to fix all the problems.
“What we are looking at is projects that will benefit everyone in our community,” Evans said. According to Evans, the Fort Laramie town council knows the government cannot be run on the tax, but it will help to fund the most important projects. Evans also said they do not want to squeeze money from citizens and want to make sure they use the money wisely.
Mayor Norman Feagler from Yoder acknowledged it is not a permanent tax.
“That’s the first thing taxpayers need to realize if we do go forward with it,” Feagler said.
Yoder has three possible projects which could benefit from the sixth penny tax with updating the town hall being the highest priority. The most important part according to Feagler is to educate the public.
“Nobody wants to be taxed,” Feagler said.
Mayor Mark Marshall of La Grange noted they have to be careful with the economy right now, but it is getting increasingly difficult to make budgets on necessities. Marshall said he wants it to get to the voters so they can make the decision.
“I don’t want to take it upon any town council’s back alone,” Marshall said.
Mayor Adams went last and gave the commissioners some background on where the idea came from. Adams said the biggest issue in Torrington is the swimming pool which needs constant repairs. While brainstorming ideas to fix an issue in the pool, a sixth penny tax was brought up. Adams believes it is the best route for the city and the rest of the county.
Adams said the problems extend beyond just the pool.
“We have 88 problems not only in the pool but in the pool house,” Adams said. “We know one of these days we are going to lose it.”
Adams said the next step was to talk to Mayor Siglin about the sixth penny tax. From there, they were able to gain support from the other three municipalities as well.
“This is the first time that I remember that five mayors of five municipalities in Goshen County agreed on anything,” Adams said.
According to Adams, Carbon County is the most recent county to enact a sixth penny tax and have seen a lot of success with it.
Once all the mayors spoke on the issue, Chairman Ellis allowed for other comments. Hugh Hageman said sales tax may be the fairest when it comes to food, but not with other things such as pivot tires and parts.
“A lot of people won’t pay those kinds of taxes, so that tax can get kind of unfair,” Hageman said.
Hageman also said he believes within the next couple of years with COVID-19, the county population could decrease, and they shouldn’t look to keep spending.
Mayor Adams reminded the commissioners they were not looking for a decision from the board today and acknowledged this will be a long process. Chairman Ellis agreed and said this is a very important topic and there needs to be more discussion on it.
In other business, Surveyor Bob Taylor and County Planner Gary Childs addressed the commissioners about plans for some of the subdivisions in the county. 8 subdivisions were discussed, and six of them were only sketch plans and have been approved on a preliminary basis. Taylor said there are 18 possible plats this year, which is quite unusual.
“Normally we have four or five in a year,” Taylor said.
The Hardesty and Johnson subdivision plats were approved with a signature from Chairman Ellis and still need a recommendation from the Soil and Conservation Services. Childs said they are close to the 60-day deadline provided for the recommendation which is normal.
Debbi Surratt, the Goshen County Assessor, also addressed the commissioners. Surratt said tax roll has been sent out to the treasurer and there will be 15 reduction orders. Surratt also said there has been a growing issue of landowners threatening appraisers including guns being pulled out.
“I have visited with the county attorney and county sheriff, and we have a protocol in place for problematic and troublesome things that happen in the field,” Surratt said.
Ellis said he will personally bring it up with the legislature and reminded everyone in attendance it is a state law.
Goshen County Fire Warden, Bill Law, updated the commissioners on the current fire ban and the fires out west. Law recommended to keep the partial ban in effect.
Law also said the Goshen County has been continuing to send firefighters to California, Colorado, and Washington since June.
Governmental Accounting Standards Board consultant, Ron Russell, spoke about the Management Report draft for the 2021 fiscal year. Russell highlighted the sections of the report and agreed with the commissioners to go over it in detail with them later. Ellis said everyone should read the report because it details everything they do. When it comes out there will be printed copies and can be accessed online with previous years as well.
The commissioners will convene on Friday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. for a special meeting at the Rendezvous Center at the Goshen County Fairgrounds to discuss the public health order by Goshen County Public Health Officer Dr. Ted Church, M.D. which came out on Wednesday, Sept. 8.