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Commission votes against funds for Lander center
Sep 11, 2013 - By Eric Blom, Staff Writer
The county's tight budget led commissioners on Aug. 13 to decide against contributing any funds to rebuild the Lander Community Center.
A county committee that plans capital investment projects recommended giving $250,000 and city officials asked for $500,000.
Commissioners voted 3-1 for a motion not to give any funds for the community center. Commission chairman Doug Thompson voted against the move and Commissioner Stephanie Kessler was not at the meeting.
"At this point we don't have the resources, but it doesn't take away from the viability of the project in my eyes," commissioner Keja Whiteman said.
The decision came as commissioners met with the Capital Improvement Projects Long Term committee, which plans funding for capital projects costing more than $250,000.
"We've had a lot of business and people step up in Fremont County because this center serves a lot of people in Fremont County," Lander community resource coordinator Gary Michaud said, referring to private donations. "I'm really disappointed the commissioners didn't step up further."
At the meeting, Fremont County Clerk Julie Freese, who is on the CIMPL committee, said the group thought $250,000 was the maximum the county could give to the community center project. It recommended the county contribute $125,000 a year for two years.
Lander city officials originally asked for $1 million. After the recommendation of $250,000, Mayor Micke Wolfe and Michaud on July 8 asked the commission to give $500,000 over three years, or $167,000 annually.
Any money the county would give for the community center would be out of the general fund, Fremont County Treasurer Scott Harnsberger said at the Aug. 13 meeting.
That account had a surplus of $82,000 this year, not including any contribution to the City of Lander project.
Those numbers worried commissioner Travis Becker.
"There's just no way in this fiscal year we can come up with $167,000 and then commit us for two more years," he said. "I don't know where we're going to come up with the $125,000."
The figures were enough to make Whiteman lean toward giving no money.
"I don 't know how we can afford to be funding any of these this year," she said. "The Lander Community Center is a worthwhile project, but as I remember, the list (of items the county could not fund this year) everything was worthwhile."
Commissioner Larry Allen said he agreed with Whiteman.
Denying the $250,000 could affect a state grant for the project, Harnsberger said. The city included county funding as part of its plan to match funding from the Wyoming Business Council.
"They did not say (county funding) was for sure, but the grant funding was contingent on that," Harnsberger said.
Freese warned Lander officials the county funds were not guaranteed.
"If they planned on that (funding), I don't think Fremont County should be stuck with that, because I know I was clear," Freese said.
Michaud said the state funds were contingent on Lander receiving the $250,000 from the commission. He was not sure what will happen to the Wyoming Business Council money, and would have to talk with the state committee to find out, Michaud said.
The city included the county money in its state grant application because the Wyoming Business Council would not grant any funds unless it could see Lander had a plan for raising all the money for the construction project. Officials understood, however, the commission still had to make a decision.
Becker suggested looking for a "creative" way to find funds for the community center before making a decision, and Thompson wanted to know how the commission's decision would affect the state grant.
Harnsberger thought the county should give a decision that day.