TORRINGTON – The Torrington City Council convened for its regular meeting on Tuesday at City Hall. The council approved a proclamation to recognize Sept. 21-25 as National GEAR UP Week.
“Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) is a federally funded, competitive grant program designed to increase the number of low-income students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education. GEAR UP serves low-income, minority and disadvantaged students and their families from underserved communities who might be the first person in their family to go to college,” read the proclamation.
Judy Brown was present for the GEAR UP program and told the council about the program.
“We have served over 4,500 students in the past 15 years, just in EWC’s service area. We continue to do 350 a year, that is what our grant requires us to do. Wyoming is the only state, other than Hawaii, that has a state-inclusive grant, so we are overseen by the University of Wyoming,” said Brown.
Brown continued, “Without the support of the community colleges, the presidents and everyone involved, it wouldn’t work. It works beautifully helping those low-income students reach that goal. We want them to focus on their education, get done and get working in that workforce.”
Another item on the agenda was the swearing in of Police Chief Matthew Johnson. Johnson was officially sworn in and administered the oath of office at the meeting. He has been the Chief of Police for Torrington since June 17 of this year.
Torrington City Attorney James Eddington administered the oath to Johnson. After the administration of the oath, Chief Johnson extended his appreciation to his family, friends and associates. The council then took a brief recess to allow members of the public to meet Johnson.
In other news, Mayor Randy Adams said he was informed that COVID-19 cases were finally trending downward. Adams said he was unsure how the conclusion that cases were trending downward was made, but said he was told the information.
Adams told the public and council he had received word from Goshen County Emergency Manager Shelly Kirchhefer of 63 total cases of COVID-19 since March in Goshen County, 45 recoveries, 17 active cases, and 46 total deaths in the state of Wyoming.
Adams expressed concern for the state of Wyoming cutting municipal budgets and asked anyone with connections to the state committees and legislatures, “let them know to keep us in mind.”
Adams also reported the sealing was done in the Vistas, cemetery and other streets. Construction continues at the hospital, Evergreen Plaza and the airport.
Adams asked everyone in the city to slow down as school is in session, keep your eyes open and help keep children safe.
Also discussed at the meeting was a catering permit for Patrick Zimmerer of Table Mountain Vineyards, LLC. Zimmerer requested a catering permit for a Fall Open House at Studio 127 today (Friday), from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Adams asked Chief Johnson if he was aware of the request.
Johnson said that he was aware and the operators had made it clear they intend to abide by the law and will not create any issues. The council granted the permit.
Jeff Harkins, Director of Public Works for the City, asked for the approval of an amendment to the original agreement, dated Jan. 1, 2020, for the “purpose of providing the design of a new 80-foot-long by 50-foot-wide metal building located to the west of the existing lift station. The amendment would increase the original agreement compensation amount by $19,800.”
Harkins pointed out there was an irregular property line between Chuck Wilson’s Bronco Drilling property and the City of Torrington’s property. Harkins asked Wilson for an equal ‘land-swap’ with the neighboring business to square-up the property line. Wilson agreed to the swap.
Because of the swap, the City now has additional land. Wilson wishes to keep the original facility and add an additional facility. The amendment would allow TriHydro Corporation to save $50,000 in demolition costs.
Councilwoman Deanna Hill asked Eddington if anything needed to be done about the land swap. Eddington said no, adding there is already an agreement in place. The council approved the amendment.
The council approved the submission of a Federal Mineral Royalty Capital Construction Account Grant application to the State Loan and Investment Board for constructing a Wastewater Pretreatment Facility at the existing Wastewater Treatment Plant. Eddington said the grant opportunity would provide $1.75 million for the $3 million project.
The council also approved the submission of a Coronavirus Relief Grant application to SLIB for recovering payroll costs associated with responding or mitigating to the COVID-19 public health emergency. City Clerk-Treasure Lynette Strecker told the council the grant would cover 51% of police officer wages spent in response to COVID-19, and would also cover emergency medical wages. The total amount sought is $755,000.
Dodi Triplett, Deputy Treasurer with the City of Torrington, discussed acting on a potential employee social security payroll deferral program. Currently, 6.2% of employee salaries are withheld for social security. Under the program, employees could have money given to them and not submitted to the Department of Treasury for social security. The downside is they would have to pay the tax back at the rate of 12.4% starting in January 2021.
Triplett said the position of their office was to recommend to stay the course and not change their approach to the matter.
Councilman Bill Law asked if there was any input from the employees. Triplett said it was up to the employer, but one employee present said he was happy with the decision to opt-out of the program. The council agreed and the payroll deferment was declined by the council. Hill added, “I’m glad that we decided not to do it.”
The council held a public hearing for the payment of a “project that was funded by an Economic Development Infrastructure Community Development Block Grant in the amount of $420,176. The funding was obtained to replace aging water infrastructure on West C Street from 21st Avenue to 23rd Avenue.”
The public hearing was opened, but nobody spoke on the matter. The public hearing was closed and the project was approved as it was presented.
Johnson discussed the addition of a Communications Officer Supervisor for the Torrington Police Department. Johnson told the council, “it’s an important role.”
Johnson continued, explaining a patrol sergeant was charged with supervising dispatch in the past. Johnson wishes to put the supervisor in a place where they can be very successful and well taken care of. Johnson said he would like to have the qualifications require the new supervisor to be already employed at the communications center, have five years of dispatch experience and one year of experience with the City of Torrington. The council approved the position.
Johnson entered discussion about another addition to the department, Award Time Leave. Johnson said he was looking to compensate employees for taking on extra responsibilities. He wished to have 10% extra time off given to field training officers who were serving in supervisory roles. He added that FTO’s who were taking supervisory roles were previously given comp time, but the comp time was not serving the correct purpose.
Johnson asked for a 120-hour balance on the leave, that could be accrued by the employees for special events and time with their families. He added it would not be compensable, employees would have to use the time and it would not be paid out upon resignation. The council approved the request for Award Time Leave.
A list of bills was presented to the council for approval. The council briefly discussed the success of the airport and their contentment with the success. Law told the council, “airport activity is really growing and I’m really impressed by that.”
Adams asked if there was anything else to be brought up. Councilman Ted Kinney inquired about enforcement of the compression brake ordinance. Kinney said there was no significant signage on the east side of town. He added, “it would be nice to get that sign up to let them know they can’t do that.”