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Airport asks county for added FY15 funds

Jun 5, 2014 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Some outside groups are asking Fremont County for more money this budget cycle. Fremont County Commissioners are working on the county budget for the coming fiscal year beginning July 1.

Three of the requests came from organizations serving Fremont County residents. They all said more money was crucial to their operations.

The largest of those was from Riverton Regional Airport, which asked the county to step up with more funding to improve safety and, perhaps, help it draw a more reliable airline to the county. The airport asked for $182,500, nearly double the $95,000 the county gave in its last budget.

"We have the big major runway project. It's a little over $15 million. Our portion of the 15 million is why we're asking for the little more to help cover those expenses," airport supervisor Paul Griffin said.

The requested county contribution would amount to a $13.27 subsidy for each enplanement.

The west half of the runway slopes downward, he said, and it needs to be lowered 11 feet. Fixing it would improve safety for aircraft landing from the west and would allow larger aircraft to land.

Being able to accommodate more kinds of planes would help the airport attract a new airline. An airport task force has voted to try to replace Great Lakes Airlines, which has had reliability problems this year.

"They're not going to come in and look at us if we have runway issues where they can't land," Griffin said.

The airport would be responsible for 2.5 percent of the 15 million cost, and staff calculated they needed an extra $87,500 from the county to cover the expense.

The airport is owned by the City of Riverton, and the municipality's general fund subsidized it to the tune of $365,000 in its last budget. Griffin, however, said the airport serves the whole county.

"Ticket data still indicates that 52 percent of the enplanements by Fremont County residents live outside the 82501 Riverton zip code," a letter from Griffin to commissioners stated.

Center of Hope

Volunteers of America's Center of Hope is asking for $26,000 more than the $85,000 it received last year. Part of the increase would help cover lost funding from the state.

The Wyoming Department of Health is cutting its support for the Center of Hope by $22,000 in the upcoming year, VOA executive vice president Julie Bettcher stated. The non-profit calculates it is asking the county for $11,000 more than last year to cover have the shortfall.

VOA is asking for $111,0000 from the county, compared to the $100,000 it asked for in the last budget cycle. The organization ultimately received $85,000 from the county in the last budget. VOA plans to ask for $11,000 more from Riverton to cover the other half the funding hole.

To make its case, VOA argues it is helping people and saving the county money. So far in its first year of operations, the organization has referred close to 100 people to programs to help them get sober, according to a report from VOA.

"Local businesses have reported a decrease in vandalism...Public intoxication arrests have decreased, and many potential Title 25 clients are deferred from hospital admission," the report stated. "Each of these things reduces the burden on Fremont County."

Through the Title 25 program, counties pay for involuntary hospitalizations of mental health and substance abuse patients.

Paws

The Paws for Life Animal League asked for $18,000, more than both the$12,000 it asked for and the $6,000 commissioners gave the shelter last year. Paws said the increased funding along with a proposed memorandum of understanding would allow them to once again house stray dogs for the county.

Paws and the county came to an impasse last fall when the shelter's operators told officials it could house no more county dogs because the $6,000 had run out. Some commissioners understood their financial agreement with Paws differently and thought it should continue to house dogs.

Since then, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office has ceased picking up stray dogs, though it does handle vicious animals.

The $18,000 would cover the cost of housing the county's strays for a year, according to a letter from Paws board member Kent Moss. He also recommends the two parties sign a memorandum of understanding "so all parties have a clear understanding of what services will be provided at what cost."

Commissioners have not yet discussed these requests but should do so in the next few weeks.