County offers to cover shortfall for 17 Mile Road work

Jul 5, 2012 By Martin Reed, Staff Writer

The Fremont County Commission is offering to pay more than half of the funding needed to cover the roughly $2.15 million shortfall for 17 Mile Road's final section rebuild.

During their meeting June 26, commissioners decided to send a letter with their offer to Shelby Carlson, the Wyoming Department of Transportation's District 5 engineer for the region that includes Fremont County.

After the meeting, commission vice chairman Pat Hickerson said the offer is the best the county government can do to help fund the project while maintaining its own road maintenance program.

"We have a lot of other projects that we're trying to pay for out of the county road fund. We just don't have (the money), given our questionable revenues -- especially PILT is up in the air," Hickerson said, referring to the federal government's Payment In Lieu of Taxes funding for the county.

The commission is counting on receiving at least $1 million in federal funding for the upcoming fiscal year, but the amount could fall through.

"If we commit to the full $2.149 million it's just going to devastate our program as far as other roads we need to do chip seals on," Hickerson said. "We can't afford not to do those because it costs over a million bucks a mile" to rebuild them.

The offer followed a June 19 meeting in Lander with commissioners and Carlson, who officially requested the county's help with covering the shortfall.

"I'm really just here asking the commission to take a look at what you could do," Carlson said at the meeting.

Plans are to finish the overall improvement project on the county-owned 17 Mile Road with the nearly $19 million reconstruction of the final 8.3-mile section.

"The opportunity that we have now is to completely finish the project," Carlson told commissioners earlier this month.

The Wind River Indian Reservation tribes and the state transportation department are each contributing around $8 million, prompting Carlson and others to seek commission financial assistance.

She said the commission could cash flow their funding over a three-year period to help ease fiscal impact on their budget.

"Shelby sort of alluded to the fact that maybe they could come up with a little additional money," Hickerson said about the county's offer. "Our proposal was we think we can come up with $1.2 million. It will be $400,000 over three years."

Spreading out the payments over the three years will help the county's roads program, he said.

"That gives us the ability to help without totally scuttling our schedule and our maintenance of other roads," he said. "If we don't do those, we're going to lose those roads; we'll have to rebuild them."

Hickerson said county government transportation department superintendent Dave Pendleton assisted with developing the offer based on allowing necessary maintenance to continue.

"Dave's developed a schedule. We're still going to get our maintenance projects done in a reasonable amount of time. We think we can do that without having a major impact on our program," he said.

"That's our first offer at trying to resolve that problem," Hickerson added.

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