City maintenance costs concern council hopefuls

Nov 1, 2012 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

Candidates for spots on the Riverton City Council discussed an array of issues concerning the citizens of Riverton, but a repetitive theme throughout the forum Tuesday was the difficulty of maintaining new infrastructure and buildings in the city.

Beautifying Federal

The candidates were asked about using extra money to make Federal Boulevard a better-looking street by installing decorative lights or by simply fixing and paying for necessary upgrades.

Former councilman Lee Martinez, who is seeking election in Ward 2 against incumbent Todd Smith, said it would be nice to improve Federal Boulevard, but he said there isn't enough money for it.

"Beautifying is great to a point, but we don't have to pay a bunch of money to build it," Martinez said.

Smith agreed there are no funds available, especially to maintain upgrades after they are put in place. He said the light posts that have been chosen would use a light bulb that gives off less light, meaning more posts would have to be placed along the road.

Larry Bauman, who is running against incumbent Lars Baker in Ward 3, said improvements to Federal Boulevard would be good, but he said, "The decorative lights will just be lost in the clutter."

He added that advertisements and billboards may have to be raised to allow the posts to be more visible.

Baker pointed out the cost of maintaining these special light posts would be too high and prices would eventually "fall back on the city and cause an increase in our utility bills." He also said that just changing the light bulbs would be expensive.

Convention center

The candidates said a new convention center in Riverton would be a bad idea, again pointing to infrastructure maintenance as a problem.

"The cheapest thing to ever do here is build something, then comes the price tag for maintenance," Bauman said. "The city is not in the position to build something like that."

He said the price would fall on the citizens of Riverton.

Baker and Jonathan Faubion, who is running unopposed to represent Ward 1, agreed that Riverton can't support that kind of facility. Smith said it's a great idea, but it should be given to someone else.

"I don't think that it's a rule of government to build something like that," he said. "Maybe a private enterprise, if they felt it could go in Riverton."

Smith mentioned the City of Casper's difficulty maintaining the convention center it built. He said the city had to use money from its general fund to pay for the center.

Martinez initially said he was for the center, but after he found out the cost of maintaining it, he changed his mind. He said it would bring more jobs to the city, but he questioned whether it would be easy to book events.

Selling the Main Street lot

One audience member asked about the city's decision to sell the property in the 400 block of East Main Street that now is being used as an informal parking lot. Some ideas for use of the land include cleaning it up and using it as a park or cleaning it up and selling it for commercial use.

Both Baker and Bauman mentioned again that a park would cost a lot to maintain after time. Bauman added that clean-up also would be costly.

"It's contaminated with petroleum products and dry-cleaning products," Bauman said of the lot.

Martinez suggested the city clean it up and "sell it and whoever buys it should pay for the clean up."

Faubion said that it was, "of little value in its state."

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