From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 5, Number 11 - 11/9/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sheriff Asks County to Pay for His Pilot Training
In return, he'd piolot SAR flights for 5 years
by Rob Shaul

Sublette County Sheriff Hank Ruland has asked the County Commissioners to pay for his pilot training in order for him to obtain a private pilot's license. This would cost between $4,500 and $6,000.

In return, Mr. Ruland says he'd pilot, without charge, Sublette County search and rescue operations for five years, during his remaining term as Sublette County Sheriff, and beyond as a private citizen.

In their meeting last Tuesday, the County Commissioners considered a contract between the county and Mr. Ruland which laid out the terms of the pilot training for SAR flying deal. Mr. Ruland is making the proposal as a private citizen, not the Sheriff.

In an interview Wednesday, Mr. Ruland said that Jim McClellan currently pilots search and rescue flights for the county for free. The county does pay an hourly lease rate for the use of Mr. McClellan's aircraft.

Mr. Ruland said the primary reason he's made the proposal to the Commissioners is for his own personal safety. Mr. Ruland has flown hundreds of hours on county search and rescue missions as an observer, and he's afraid that there may be a time when something happens to the pilot, and he'd be the one who had to land the airplane. "My main concern is if something happens to the pilot, could I land it?" he says.

Secondly, Mr. Ruland notes that the county can't rely on Mr. McClellan to pilot its search and rescue flights forever, and that his 27 years experience in law enforcement in the county, plus his knowledge of its geography makes him qualified to take over piloting these flights.

Flight training aside, essentially what Mr. Ruland is proposing is to provide 5 years' worth search and rescue flights to the Sheriff's department for between $4,500 and $6,000, explained Mr. Cramer. He added that the Commissioners did not have to put these services out for bid if they did not want to.

Commissioner Betty Fear said she felt comfortable entering into this general agreement with Mr. Ruland because of his knowledge of law enforcement and search and rescue protocol, and his knowledge of Sublette County's geography.

However, Ms. Fear said she wanted to see the terms of the contract changed so that Mr. Ruland would be reimbursed for his flight training costs only after he successfully earned his pilot's license.

Mr. Cramer and Gordon Johnston heeded Ms. Fear's concern and sent the proposed contract back to County Attorney Dale Aronson for the change. They will consider it again at their November 21, 2000 meeting.

For his part, Mr. Ruland said he was not proposing this for personal gain. He says that if the Commissioners agree to this contract, he never intends to charge the county a pilot's fee. The county would still have to pay the hourly lease fee for the aircraft, however. Mr. Ruland says he can't afford to pay for the pilot training himself.

"I'm doing this for the good of the community, not my own gain," he concluded.

Emergency Management

Also last Tuesday, the Commissioners told Sublette County Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Thompson they intended to fold his program into the Sheriff's Department beginning next fiscal year. A handful of counties in Wyoming, including Natrona, do this already.

Mr. Cramer explained that the Commissioners still wanted to satisfy their legal obligation to provide emergency management coordination, but wanted to do it more efficiently. Incorporating Mr. Thompson's department into the Sheriff's department will put emergency management and its communications under the one umbrella of the Sheriff's own emergency response duties and communications.

Mr. Thompson, who currently fills the part time position as the county's emergency management coordinator, protested the move by raising concerns about losing his job in the process. "I don't want to lose out," he told the Commission. "Does this mean I'd have to go back and be re-certified as a police officer?" He told the Commission this was unfair because of the amount of training he's already received in emergency management, and the investment he's put into the job over the past 8 years.

Mr. Cramer responded that having the emergency management coordinator working under the full-time Sheriff cleared the three part-time commissioners from being responsible for the emergency management coordinator.

"If you're trying to eliminate me, I would like to fight it legally," answered Mr. Thompson.

Mr. Cramer told Mr. Thompson that the Commission's goal wasn't to eliminate him. "We're trying to consolidate, and not duplicate operations," said Mr. Cramer.

Gordon Johnston was more direct. "What we're talking about is the possibility that you would be gone," he told Mr. Thompson. "But there's a heck of a lot of planning involved," before emergency management is folded into the Sheriff's Department, Mr. Johnston added. "I don't know what you mean by fighting it legally, but I want you to understand it."

"I understand," responded Mr. Thompson.

The Commission told Mr. Thompson it intends to make the change beginning next fiscal year, or July 1, 2001. The county emergency management budget this year is approximately $37,000.

Other Meeting News...

Jim Lesko of Rock Springs submitted a $350.90 damage claim to the commissioners for a dent in his vehicle. Mr. Lesko claims the dent was caused by a rock that hit his truck when he was following a county truck on a gravel road. "He came in and wanted me to write him a check right away," County Clerk Mary Lankford told the Commissioners. "I said that's not the way it works."

The Commission denied Mr. Lesko's request. "The Code of the West says don't follow the county truck too closely," quipped Gordon Johnston.

The Commissioners signed a $398,000 contract with Hogan and Associates of Utah as the general contractor and construction manager for the $5.4 million courthouse expansion project.

Gordon Johnston reported that he'd received a call from Rod Rozier of the recently formed Green River Valley Land Trust. Mr. Rozier told Mr. Johnston the land trust had run into a problem: as part of any conservation easement it enters into with a landowner, it acquires a 1-acre piece of the landowner's property. However, current County planning and zoning regulations have no allowance for this. The Commission directed the planning and zoning office to begin the process to amend the regulations in response to Mr. Rozier's problem as soon as possible.

Road & Bridge Supervisor Mike McGinnis reported that he'd had a R&B employee sit at the intersection of Highway 351 (Piney Cutoff) and the Green River Road for two days last week to do a traffic count. The Green River Road is heavily used by oil and gas companies to access rigs and natural gas wells on the Mesa.

On one day, the employee counted 193 vehicles turning off of Hwy 351 onto the Green River Road. This included over 40 semi trucks with trailers, and 56 pickups.

Mr. McGinnis suggested that next year his department may chip-seal the Horse Creek Road.

The Commissioners still have concerns about the final completion of the Ag Center. They've yet to sign the certificate of final completion for the building at the County Fair Grounds, and are withholding the final $90,000 payment to the contractor, Speigelberg Lumber of Laramie. Tuesday, they asked Ms. Lankford to contact Gary Espenscheid and the building's architect to have them attend a Commissioner meeting in December. The Commission wants to know the status of the final punch list items on the building. <

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