Commissioners and legislators weigh issues ahead of 2013 session

Dec 19, 2012 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Participating for the first time was State Rep.-elect Nathan Winters of Thermopolis, whose redrawn district now includes Shoshoni.

Fremont County Commissioners asked State Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, and Republican Reps.-elect Nathan Winters of Thermopolis and Lloyd Larsen of Lander for help with drafting several bills, making public land-use plans, and replacing or improving the Riverton courthouse.

The legislators met with county commissioners Dec. 11 to strategize for the general session of the Wyoming Legislature that begins Jan. 8.

The commission had invited all the legislators who represent Fremont County residents. That includes Winters, whose redrawn district now includes Shoshoni.

Land use

Thompson said he was concerned with the Bureau of Land Management's resource management plan.

His first issue with the BLM's proposal is its master leasing plan for the Beaver Rim area between Lander and Jeffrey City. He said the current plan adds an extra layer of leasing on top of what users already deal with now.

New rules about fencing around developments and regulations related to sage grouse also had Thompson worried.

Winters asked how legislators could support local efforts.

"Last session (legislators) asked the BLM to your session and asked the hard questions," Thompson replied. "There was a coordinated effort to protect those things that make Fremont County prosper."

He said there also will be a public comment period during which legislators could offer input.

Comssission vice chairman Pat Hickerson said he thought parts of the Shoshone National Forest's land-use plan would be bad for Fremont County.

The governor's office and local efforts are trying to reduce the expansion of critical wildlife habitat. That expansion cuts down on snowmobiling areas and overlaps existing and potential mineral lease land, Hickerson said.

Larsen said he was interested in working with the governor's office on the issue.

Solid waste

Thompson said he would like legislators to watch two solid-waste bills.

One provides funding for repairs to and remediation of leaking municipal solid waste dumps. The other provides money to close and cap municipal dumps and to build transfer stations.

Those bills worry Hickerson, he said, because the state has so much money that it will not be careful to make sure the guidelines make sense.

Special districts

Another bill would require special districts to provide their budgets to the county and require commissioners to post those reports on their website. If the special districts do not provide a budget, the commission cannot approve the funding.

Thompson is concerned the bill does not address commissioners' real issue with special districts.

"We are expected to rubber stamp mill levies and other things with no ability to regulate or monitor those things," he said. "Don't make us responsible for something we can't fix."

Winters said he thought the bill sounded like it would provide some transparency and some ability to push back on the levies.

"That's the part that I think is missing," replied Thompson, referring to the power to push back.

"If we could get some teeth, boy, that'd be good," Winters said.

Thompson said a bill intending to help counties develop land-use plans is worrisome. He does not want to "end up with a one-size-fits-all land use plan," he said.

"We all have a different economic base and social picture," he added.

Title 25

A fourth bill, regarding Title 25, also concerns Thompson. Title 25 is the law under which the state can hospitalize people believed to be a danger to themselves or the community.

He thinks the bill, which would expand eligibility criteria, will increase the number of people hospitalized under the law.

"Right now you have to be a danger to yourself or others or property," Thompson said. "I think this is going to add another category that is mental illness. How much more is the county going to pick up?"

Crisis center

Commissioner Keja Whiteman said a law that requires the Fremont County Crisis Center to achieve accreditation from a group called the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Centers could cost the county.

"We're already certified by the state," Whiteman said. "It doesn't add improvements to the service we're providing. It's just adding more regulation, more bureaucracy and paperwork."

She said she hopes the state will let the local detoxification center opt out of the certification.

Both Case and Larsen expressed interest in the situation.

New courthouse

Commissioner Travis Becker said the cost of building a new courthouse in Riverton troubles him.

Officials, including Wyoming Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kite, have raised concerns about the courthouse after it was found in July that a bullet penetrated its exterior.

"Part of our mandate is we have to provide a place without a funding source for the courts," Becker said.

Thompson said he thinks a solution will involve a partnership between Fremont County, the Legislature and the state courts.

"One of the things that slipped under my radar was this courthouse in Riverton," Larsen said. "I do see the importance of it."

Fuel tax

Commissioner Dennis Christensen asked about the distribution of revenue from a proposed new state fuel tax.

Though the proposal would increase tax on fuel, Case said it maintains the existing formula for sharing fuel tax income.

"I'm not sure the economic climate is right for an increased tax," Christensen added.

Case seemed to agree saying he was the only vote on the Revenue Committee against it.

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