From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 39 - 5/25/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Community Service Requests Top Town Budget Talks
Council "very dissatisfied" with Sheriff's contract
by Jennifer Binning

"Why are you more in favor of Pacificorp than the people of Pinedale?" Jeff Reising pointedly asked Bob Maxam while the Pinedale Town Council juggled numbers for the second reading of Ordinance #342, the 2000/2001 Town budget.

The two councilmen were in disagreement about a request made by George Funk of Pinedale, to set aside several thousand dollars that could be used to help challenge another rate hike by Pacificorp.

During a special Council Meeting on Monday night, Mr. Maxam stated he was not in favor of setting aside any funds for the rate case because he "does not think it is a wise use of taxpayer money to speculate...They (Pacificorp) don't care about Pinedale, they are going to do whatever they want anyway." After several minutes of discussion, the Council decided to leave Mr. Funk's request fully funded until the next Council meeting.

This request was included in a $3.5 million budget for fiscal year 2001 for the Town of Pinedale. As written, expenditures of the Town outpace revenue by just over $300,000, forcing department heads to tighten their belts, and the Town Council to dip into reserves in order to pay bills during the next year.

One area the Council was eyeing for cuts were funding requests by various community service organizations, which had asked for just over $37,000 from the Town. With nerves of steel and a resolve to cut unnecessary expenses, the Town Council set to work trimming the non-essential elements from the budget.

The first organization to feel the crunch was the Chamber of Commerce, which had asked for $5,000, but stands to get just half of that amount. The Sublette Hi-Country Senior Center had warned the Town Council that it would be asking for a substantial increase in its funding. The Center's request this year is $10,000, $3,000 more than last year. Mr. Maxam stated that one of his top priorities is the welfare of the senior citizens in Pinedale, a sentiment echoed by the rest of the Council as they left the request intact.

The Council was not so kind to the Pinedale Fine Arts Council's request of $6,600 for materials to be used in the construction of the Millennium Project. Councilwoman Barbara Boyce said she is "bombarded" on a daily basis by people who are adamant that there should be nothing "artistic" placed in any of the parks. The rest of the Council noted having similar experiences, and Mayor Skinner urged the Council and townspeople to attend the Project planning sessions being held tonight by the PFAC, adding that whatever Mr. Kennell comes up with "will be the decision of the people." Ultimately, the Council felt it could only commit $500.

The Pinedale Skateboard Park is due to open within the next week, and a request had been made to the Town for $3000 for further development of the park. Mr. Maxam said he was frustrated by the lack of teen involvement in fundraising for the project, and suggested that the Town offer to match up to $1,500 raised by the skateboarders. The idea was applauded by the rest of the Council and will be carried on to the third and final reading of the budget.

Voices rose and a tremendous amount of frustration became evident when the Council began to discuss the contract for services between the Sublette County Sheriff's Department and the Town.

"Our contract with the SCSO is to enforce the Town ordinances. Not all of them are being enforced. Are we getting our money's worth?" steamed Mr. Reising, who is "very dissatisfied by the SCSO coverage." Mr. Reising went on to tell the Council that during negotiations with the Sheriff's Office, he was told that some of the Town ordinances were "not important enough to enforce." Enraged, Mr. Reising said "They are all important. That is what we are paying for! It is a dereliction of duty!"

Sheriff Hank Ruland had approached the Town with his budget for the next year, which would cost the Town $162,636, with later increases in the amount of $1,100. Mayor Skinner told the rest of the Council that she had spoken with the Sheriff, who would refuse to sign the contract for anything less than $163,736. The Town was then presented with an alternative by the SCSO of appointing a police commissioner and contracting 3 deputies from the department, essentially reinstating a town police department. Mr. Maxam said he did not feel the Town was ready to administer its own police force, but the idea merited further study. Mr. Reising agreed, saying "they have us over a barrel."

Councilwoman Barbara Boyce said one of her biggest frustrations with the SCSO is the fact that included in the contract for service was the cost of replacing several older cars with new, four-wheel drive models. Ms. Boyce felt the county should cover those costs in full, as the cars were used primarily in the county. Mr. Reising suggested that the Towns of Marbleton, Big Piney and Pinedale get together and approach the County Commissioners with their concerns. After a few more minutes of discussion, Ms. Boyce suggested that since nothing could be done about it this year, the council "quit beating a dead horse and go on." The Town Council voted to approve Ordinance # 342 on the second reading.

Just before 9:00 p.m., with no further business to discuss, the Council adjourned the meeting.

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