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Tribal settlement money evident in increased car sales locally

May 2, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Vehicle sales saw a bump in Fremont County as Northern Arapaho tribal members began receiving settlement checks from a lawsuit over mineral royalties.

From April 21 to April 25, the Fremont County Clerk's Office processed 519 changes of title, up 72 percent from the week before. Between April 14 and April 18, the clerk's office saw 301 title changes.

Settlement checks reportedly began arriving for Northern Arapaho members on April 23. When someone buys a motor vehicle -- such as a car, motorcycle, ATV, snow machine or motor boat -- he or she acquires the title to that property.

"No matter how it's handled, a title has to come to us, and a title has to be put in someone's name," deputy county clerk Margy Irvine said.

But vehicle sales fluctuate, and at least one other trend is likely at play this time of year.

"We always get an increase beginning about January due to taxes," Irvine said.

Last year also showed an increase over a similar period when settlement checks were not a factor, though the change was smaller.

In 2013, the number of vehicle title transfers from the week of April 22 to April 26 was a 27 percent jump over the 280 in the week before, from April 15 to April 19.

The seasonal trends do not appear to account for all of the change, because last week's figure of 519 was 46 percent higher than the same week in 2013 -- April 22 to April 26 -- when the clerk's office saw 356 changes of title.

A year-to-year trend might be at play, because both of the numbers from 2013 were lower than those from 2014.

The full effect of the settlement checks on vehicle sales will take some time to see. Eastern Shoshone tribal members started receiving their settlement checks this week, which also could spur economic activity.

Sales through a dealership take time, sometimes up to 30 days, before the transfer of title comes to the clerk's office. Involving a bank that grants a loan to the buyer also slows down sales. Private sales between two individuals are the quickest to resolve.

"Last Thursday (April 24) it was mostly individual transactions," Irvine said.