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Committee weighs using 1 percent tax funds to buy pothole-repairing machine

Jun 3, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Fix Our Roads Citizens Committee has asked the City of Riverton to hold off on buying a machine used to repair potholes.

Last year, FORCC saw a demonstration by the Wyoming Department of Transportation as it used the DuraPatcher on potholes in Riverton. The committee members said the device required "less manpower" and applied a better seal on potholes.

Committee chairman Wendell Manka emphasized how efficient the equipment is and how much it would save the city.

"It's just an amazing piece of equipment," Manka said. "It's a new generation of patcher."

FORCC recommended that the city purchase the DuraPatcher rather then renting it, which is what the city was doing at the cost of $4,000 a month.

The purchase would be made with optional 1 percent sales tax funds.

FORCC retracted its recommendation, however, because it feared that using the 1 percent money would "jeopardize" the tax when it came up for re-election in 2016.

"We don't want to burn our bridges here," Manka said. "This is too important to us."

Six municipalities and the county split the tax's revenue and restrict its use to street, infrastructure, and sewer and water line projects.

Warpness said the committee's "strong and valid case" in buying the DuraPatcher was evident but saw a bigger responsibility for municipalities to maintain the trust taxpayers put in them to enforce the limitations on the sales tax and guarantee the revenue is going where they said it would.

"In my mind, anything that can be seen as straying away from that commitment jeopardizes that pledge," Warpness read from his letter May 20.

During a recent Fremont County Association of Governments meeting, Warpness said members felt the same way and suggested pursuing other ideas such as an agreement for all municipalities to purchase and share the DuraPatcher.

"I personally agree and support this request but I cannot in good conscious vote to approve it without the approval of my fellow FCAG members," he said. "It seemed to be the consensus of the members that the risk was not worth the purchase."

FORCC recommended purchasing a new DuraPatcher for roughly $64,000 while a used machine would cost about $42,000. Manka said the DuraPatcher also can perform crack sealing. Councilman Richard Gard said another idea could be for the city to find separate funding to purchase the equipment and lease it out to interested municipalities.

He added that it would be important to consider how long it would take to repair potholes and from there weigh the advantages and disadvantages of owning versus leasing. If owned entirely by the city, he explained, there may not be enough time in the year to share with others.

Interim public works director Dawn Willhelm said the optional 1 percent sales tax fund is estimated at about $1.7 million, and after subtracting the costs of other projects, the fund stands at about $320,000. On average, Willhelm said the city receives roughly $150,000 a month in revenue from the tax.

FORCC has focused on fixing concrete and streets "to prevent water infiltrating into the subgrade, which then causes pavement damage" Willhelm said.

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