American Legion days proclaimed, EMS Issues and golf tournaments keep council busy

by Heather Goddard
Posted 6/7/23

LUSK - The June meeting for the Lusk town council held several major items including visitors for golf tournaments, and a report from the interim ambulance director.

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American Legion days proclaimed, EMS Issues and golf tournaments keep council busy


LUSK - The June meeting for the Lusk town council held several major items including visitors for golf tournaments, and a report from the interim ambulance director.

Council approved golf tournaments with close course and reduced greens fees for NEA, the Lusk Fire Department and the high school fall golf tournament.

During discussions around the city-owned bill board signs at the various approaches to the community the council requested that it be researched to find out if the billboards can be sold and the land they sit on leased and what those legalities are.

Colby Thurston along with several members and board members of the Niobrara county rural fire district presented a proposal to the council for the rural department to take over the management of the Lusk EMS service. Since this is contract and personnel it was moved to the executive session towards the end of the meeting. Following a review of Thurston’s proposed budget councilman Tom Dooper asked Thurston if the district was okay with budget showing a $140,000 deficit to which Thurston replied they were comfortable with the numbers. After an executive session following old and new business Mayor Lytle conveyed to those still present that while the town appreciated the offer from the rural district at this time the town preferred to maintain ownership and control of the ambulance service. This was due to several legal and financial concerns the council has. According to Lytle there is currently an interim director following the resignation of previous director Cory Wilcox. Mike Mayfield has stepped in to fill that position until a permanent director can be hired with that position being advertised starting next week. Lytle also stated that there are too many items of concern to the council right now that they would like to stay the course and continue to work through the issues but they did appreciate the rural district’s concern and offer.

Thurston expressed is frustration and concern stating, “You have no idea what it’s like to run those calls and no idea what it is like for the training and stuff, it’s nothing compared to the fire fighter training. The path you are thinking you are going to keep the volunteers with the compensation you offer is not going to happen. The service has gone from twelve active members to nine and it’s going to get worse because you can’t retain people by not offering them anything.” Lytle reiterated that he appreciate that perspective but the town has run the service for fifty years and that it is the council’s job and his to take care of the town. Lytle also stated that the council is, “100% dedicated to the safety and security of this town.” Thurston pointed out that currently only two of the active members reside in the municipality. While the council acknowledged Thurston’s point they also again expressed concern that should they go through the process to transfer ownership and management and the rural district be unable to sustain the service the town would need to take it back over at what cost? Lytle stated that if the rural fire would like to start their own EMS service district there was nothing to stop them. He also reminded those gathered that the town doesn’t have a tax base for budget and the only operating funds are found through rates and payments. When asked by Jim Meng about the possibility of a special district being established to assist with funding and management, council responded that the city had looked at this but a different entity would have to give up their funding since Niobrara county is maxed out on the number of tax mills that can be issued for a county. Lytle also emphasized that it is important for the town, county, rural and municipal first responders to all work together and he wasn’t ruling out the town coming to the rural district at some point in the future for a partnership of some kind however he also stated that while the funding is currently available in the rural district “this county is only one huge fire away from a 3 million dollar expense” and that risk isn’t something they want to create for the funding of the ambulance service.

Thurston also stated that while he commended the town for running the ambulance service this long he (Thurston) only wants what is best for the community and the service and the current funding and the way it is being run have issues. The council did not disagree and stated that both new management strategies and outside funding sources had been identified in a recent needs assessment.

The tense exchange between Thurston and Lytle was indicative of strained relations between the council and members of the ambulance service in recent months. Thurston then asked what specific solutions the council was proposing. How they are going to find volunteers and people to take transfers. He expressed the importance of having perhaps a dedicated, paid position to handle calls. Lytle expressed that there would be changes moving forward but as contract and personnel items those couldn’t be discussed in public at this time.

In department updates Mike Mayfield, the interim EMS director did report that the department continues to move through inventory and taking care of “housekeeping” items with equipment and supplies and cleaning. Without being specific Mayfield stated he would like the council to come to a sort of resolution concerning future plans for the service so that all involved could move forward on a positive note and that regardless of management for the future more EMTs were needed.

Grant director Linda Frye continues to search for additional funding sources and will be attending a free federal funding and grants seminar hosted by Senators Barasso and Lummis and Governor Gordon in Sheridan.

Greenskeeper Trevor Barner reported on a lengthy list of items including greens condition, equipment issues and irrigation audits. Barner explained that the biggest problem he continues to run into is that the central control unit is not functioning correctly where it is currently located. He has been working intensively over the last two weeks to figure out what is going on and he and his help are going to try relocating it and giving it a test run to get it way from the interference points. Until the system can be used to consistently water they cannot move forward with reseeding and fertilizing.

Joyce Hammer, the pool manager updated the council on several items and rules that have required updating at the pool. She provided a letter that will be given to every pass holder. The significant items on the letter included an update that “floaties” will no longer be allowed. Hammer later clarified after the meeting that the “puddle jumper” style assistive devices that go through the arms and buckle around the chest will be allowed however inflatables will not since they pose a drowning risk for children and most pools have banned them. Hammer emphasized the need to improve access to swimming lessons and improve the swimming skills of children in order for safe swim to be occurring. Children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult according to state statute. The previous rule was children under six and non-swimmers had to be within arms length of an accompanying guardian. Council agreed that the pool must follow the state statute but gave Hammer the ability to assess individual cases. There will also be some changes to the slide rules but the specific wording was not yet available.

Opening day, June 7 will be a “free day” at the pool and she looks forward to offering free beginner swim lessons with private lessons at a negotiated rate.

Chief of Police Bo Krein reported that in May the department responded to a total of 299 incidents up from 157 last year at this time. Citations are up and traffic has really increased. Following the personnel suppression and apprehension that K9 Loki was involved in his police and bite drives had really been activated. The lack of high work volume was creating anxiety in Loki which isn’t healthy for the dog and is difficult for his human partner to mitigate. As a result of this, the difficult decision was made to transfer Loki to much higher volume and larger department in Nevada. That department is excited to receive Loki and begin utilizing him. They will reimburse the Lusk department $8,000 for Loki. The department will begin looking for another dog and hopes to receive one that is more appropriate for tracking and drug detection which are the primary uses in Niobrara county. As a valuable member of the law enforcement team the K9 program has always utilized grant and donations funding and does not cost the town or police department any additional budget funds.

Krein also reported that he is working on implementing a wellness program for officers and is open to including all first responders in this program. Mental and physical health and wellness are key components to keeping a department staffed with officers who are fit and prepared to do their jobs. This program includes supporting not only the officers but their families to avoid burnout. Historically law enforcement and first responders experience higher than average rates of depression, PTSD, suicide and divorce than the average population. Krein wants to give his officers and their families as much support as he can.

Des Leleux, Town Clerk updated the board on the changes to where invested funds are located with the completed transfers from WGIF into Wyoming class where interest yields are significantly higher. There will be a site visit with WYDOT on June 12, the USDA will be visiting on June 26 and they are working with the state on additional funding for the infrastructure project. They are also finalizing the budget and wrapping up hate FY 22-23 books.

Public works director Todd Skrukrud offered that there was finally some progress made with the transfer station clean up. The insurance had approved additional costs billed by ARS and he was hoping to move forward with the clean up and electrical work. Skrukrud spoke with WYDOT regarding his concerns about the painting on main street, the high way through town and whether WYDOT would be re-striping. They plan to however do not yet have a timeline or him. Skrukrud also provided updates on the infrastructure project. Anyone with questions can contact him.

Under old business the council approved a reciprocity program with the Crawford golf course. It will be $150 for a membership with no limits on the number of times someone can golf. Full access to the country club but trail fees and cart rentals will still be applicable just like for Niobrara members in Crawford. Council requested that the clubs exchange membership lists for verification.

Chief Krein will continue to work with the state and town on the proposed parking signs for main street.

The ordinance amending livestock permissions to 100 feet from the property perimeter instead of 300 feet passed third reading with a 3-2 vote. Both councilman Dickson and Mayor Lytle expressed an interest in seeing the ordinance read 100 feet for poultry and 300 feet for all other livestock however the ordinance changes passed simply with the 100 foot change for all livestock at this time.

All temporary open container permits new business were approved. This included the application for the adult co-ed softball league for the softball fields only. This permit will apply only to the field area. Open containers in the rest of the park or in vehicles in the parking lot will still be a citation.

Livestock permit renewals for Royce Thompson and Randy and Cindy Starkey were approved along with new permits for chickens and poultry for Heather Goddard and Leslie Erwin.

The audit engagement letter letter was approved and all 22-23 budget transfers as well.

HDR engineering was selected as the consulting group for the Safe Pathways TAP project which is a grant-funded project with a 91%-9% funding match requirement.

Lusk Liquor’s liquor license transfer from individual to LLC ownership was approved contingent on all state requirements being met.

The ordinances pertaining to gambling were updated one first reading. Wording for these ordinances were outdated and did not align with state statute. Primarily the ordinances were more restrictive than necessary and the updates should allow more legal activities for raffles, fundraisers and BINGO.

Mayor Lytle proclaimed June 15-18 American Legion Days in honor of the American Legion State Convention which will be hosted during those dates in Lusk.

The July council meeting was moved to July 11 at 5:00 p.m. A special budget meeting and hearing will be held June 16 at 9:00 a.m.