No plan to increase county airport aid; budget hearing set

Jul 6, 2014 Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Animal control funding a bit higher

Organizations outside Fremont County government asked for more county support in the new fiscal year, but the county's financial aid for most entities apparently won't change much.

The funds allocated play into larger issues facing the county, from dwindling air service to unchecked stray dogs.

A proposed budget Fremont County Commissioners approved June 24 includes appropriations for those groups and is to be the subject of a public hearing on Monday. The budget would cover the 12 months starting July 1.

The biggest request was from the Riverton Regional Airport, which operates under the City of Riverton, for $182,500. Last year, the airport received $95,000.

The extra money is necessary to help the airport pay its share of a runway upgrade, according to airport officials.

At their June 17 meeting, commissioners decided to give the airport $95,000 again for the upcoming fiscal year, starting July 1. Commissioners included the figure in their proposed budget but would have to make a final decision on the appropriation when they finish the budget at their meeting Tuesday, July 8.

The airport also receives a subsidy from Riverton's general fund, which was $365,000. Grants and user fees support the facility as well. Riverton Regional is the county's only airport offering airline service.

Animal control

The commission took a step toward resolving a brewing issue but stopped short of putting it to rest. The county board set aside $9,000 in its budget for a long-term plan for housing stray dogs. Paws for Life Animal League in Riverton has requested $18,000.

"There is a huge at large animal problem," Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker told commissioners June 17.

He said $18,000 would be enough for Paws to house all strays his deputies picked up for one year.

Until September, Paws and veterinarian Rich Boulette in Lander took strays picked up by the Sheriff's Office. In the same week, both Paws and Boulette quit accepting the stray animals, the first saying funding the county allocated for the cost had run out, and the second because a fire damaged his facility.

Paws received $6,000 from the county last year to house dogs from the Riverton side of the county, but it was only enough for about half a year, Paws board members said in September. They had requested $12,000.

Commission vice chairwoman Keja Whiteman said affected parties would continue to work on a solution but would have the $9,000 budgeted to use when the resolution is found.

Alcohol crisis center

The Volunteers of America Center of Hope requested $118,000, about 39 percent higher than the $80,000 it received last year for operations at the alcohol crisis center in Riverton.

Commissioners on June 24 decided to include $90,000 for the Volunteers of America in their proposed budget. The organization had asked for $118,000 this year after receiving $80,000 from the county in the last budget.

The Wyoming Department of Health is cutting support to the Center of Hope, and Volunteers of America was hoping the county could make up some of the difference, Volunteers of America executive vice president Julie Bettcher said in an interview.

The Center of Hope is worth funding because it helps people and saving the county money in the end by treated alcoholics, Bettcher said.

Flat funding

Commissioners voted to give a number of organizations less than what they asked but the same as they received last year. Those were $5,000 for the Children's Advocacy Project, $21,800 for Child Development Services, $21,000 for the Lander Senior Citizens Center, $23,000 for the Riverton Senior Citizens Center, $5,000 for the Shoshoni Senior Citizens Center, and $3,000 for the Dubois Boys and Girls Club.

The commission proposed giving several groups the exact amount they asked for, including $3,000 for the Fremont Predatory Animal Board, $5,000 for the Good Samaritan center, $5,000 for the Fremont County Alliance, $1,200 for the Wyoming Senior Citizens Center, $7,000 for the High Country Senior Citizens Center, $1,500 for the Historic Preservation Commission and $40,000 for a Popo Agie Flood Mitigation project.

Other organizations having funding approved but less than they requested were the Lower Wind River Conservation District, at $15,000, Injury Prevention Resources at $20,000 and Community Entry Services, at $10,000.

Members of the public can weigh in on the proposed budget at the hearing July 7 at 5:30 p.m. at the Fremont County Courthouse in Lander.

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