Special district loan discussed at commissioners meeting

Niobrara County Commissioners Elaine Griffith, Pat Wade and John Midkiff discuss a 0% loan with representatives of special districts in the county during the regular meeting on Tuesday. Tyler Martineau/Lusk Herald

LUSK – The Niobrara County Commissioners discussed a possible loan for special districts during the regular meeting on Tuesday.
Representatives of special districts in the county met with the commissioners and County Treasurer Keri Thompson to discuss Senate File 60 from the state legislature’s budget session in February which seeks to have ad valorem taxes rolled into monthly payments. Chairman of the Commission Pat Wade said Campbell and Johnson County had been hurt the most by the change as a transition was needed to be put in place from paying yearly to monthly mainly for the oil companies.
The system will allow them to finance it for 13 years, according to Wade which will leave a gap for special districts. 0% loans were created to offset it and Thompson calculated the county is eligible for $83,953 in loans while special districts are eligible for $36,962.
Wade said the purpose for meeting with the special districts was to see if any were interested in the loan. Wade added the concern is many of the companies may become defunct in the next 13 years which means they may not see the money in the end.
The three representatives of special districts in the county who were at the meeting including wee and pest and the hospital said the loan would not be necessary. Wade also said the loans were not all or nothing as some special districts could accept it while others could not.
In other business, the commissioners signed a change order with JW Services to extend the North Lance Creek Road project as well as extend the contract date by 20 days. The addition added $74,000 to the total cost which Josh Harkins from Benchmark said was less than the originally proposed $84,000 to extend the project.
During the elected officials and department head reports, Darcy Cowardin with Public Health gave an update on the search for a new building. Cowardin they are continuing to search for a new place and have already looked at a few buildings. Cowardin also said they hope to increase the days Public Health is open as well as adding more services.
University Extension Educator Kellie Chichester said they are in the process of interviewing for a new admin assistant position as well as getting ready for the fair.
The commissioners also met with Dan Staffan from AT&T First Net to discuss potential benefits for the county, primarily first responders, to switch over from Verizon. Staffan said First Net was created after 9/11 and is meant to give priority and preemption for first responders in emergencies such as a flood or an eclipse. Undersheriff Kelly Dean, who was also present during the discussion, said he personally has First Net and AT&T’s coverage is strong enough throughout the county for him to make calls when he needs one-on-one communication.
Staffan said AT&T has largely improved its coverage throughout the state while there are still some “dead” which may be improved in the future.
The commissioners also met with Sheriff Cary Gill and County Attorney Anne Wasserburger to discuss potential medical costs for a prisoner. Wasserburger stated the particular case relates to Wyoming Statute 18-6-303 which directs the county to pay for a medical bill if the provider has reached out to the prisoner first and the prisoner did not pay. Wasserburger said the county is then billed and can do a civil action to get compensated.
After the discussion the commissioners moved to executive session for the potential hiring of an employee and then moved to another executive session to discuss real estate. No action was taken in either executive session.
After the executive sessions Wade announced Sheriff Gill will be retiring effective June 30.
During action items, the commissioners signed an agreement for water well funds with the Lance Creek Water and Sewer District.
The commissioners also awarded three Commissioner’s Scholarships to Bryce Goodwin, Riley Blackburn and Walker Kupke. As part of the requirements for the scholarship, all three candidates will be attending a Wyoming college. A fourth candidate was ruled ineligible as they will bot be attending a college in Wyoming.
In other business, the commissioners approved a resolution for 2022 election districts and precincts for primary and general elections, an application for a Homeland Security Grant for courthouse security enhancements, revisions to a RFP for the planning and zoning manual, a resolution to set elected official’s salaries for the next four years and a county road crossing permit.
The next commissioner’s meeting is May 17 at 9 a.m.

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