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Nearly $55,000 spent on Bunker Road work

Jan 2, 2013 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

Fremont County spent nearly $55,000 on improvements to Bunker Road since work began on the controversial roadway 15 months ago.

That figure was one Fremont County Transportation superintendent Dave Pendleton presented to commissioners.

According to his report, $15,512 has been spent on materials for the road since the project began Sept. 14, 2011. About $12,128 has been spent for equipment. Another $10,017 has gone toward labor, and $16,439 has been applied to contractual services.

Work has included installation of signs, culverts, cattle guards with gate access and survey work.

Pendleton said the project's total bill will likely see an additional $2,500 for work that still needs to be completed.

He also noted $135,000 was paid to acquire property from the nearby landowners.

He said the work was at a time when his department was able to fit it into its schedule.

"It didn't create any hardship in our department," he said.

In June, the commission ratified a memorandum of understanding with affected landowners after approving the Lander area road's proposed vacation and alteration.

Under the MOU, the county agreed to pay $135,000, which was divided among affected landowners.

The action followed years of litigation waged by private landowners against the county, questioning the route's legal existence because it was not identified in title searches or a subdivision approval.

The Wyoming Supreme Court ruled in November 2010 that Bunker Road is a legal public route that has never been vacated or abandoned by county government.

Pendleton said commissioners were obligated to do the work once it was decided the road was a right-of-way to access Bureau of Land Management land.

"That's something you had to do," Pendleton said.

He said the alternative would have seen similar costs but would have required reclaiming a creek crossing and disturbing private property.

"I think this was the least intrusive solution for the landowners, short of abandoning the road," commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson said.

Lander resident Richard Cook said he thought Pendleton's expense figures were "unrealistic."

"I think this is a fraction of the cost," he said, asking to see the accounting work.

Pennie Buffington of the transportation department said she felt confident her agency captured costs it was able to.

An expenditure that could not be considered in the total amount was the Fremont County Attorney's Office hours because the office does not keep track of time spent on individual cases.

Buffington also noted there were cost savings because the Wyoming Department of Transportation donated some materials to the project.

Cook said he couldn't believe there wasn't an estimate on the man hours spent by the attorney's office dealing with "this fiasco."

Commission chairman Doug Thompson said the county was listed as the defendant in the Bunker Road litigation.

"We didn't initiate this in any fashion," he said. "I don't believe it's a 'fiasco.'"

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