Commissioners briefed on tourism


PINEDALE – Tourism season officially kicked off during the Memorial Day weekend and the Sublette County Board of Commissioners turned its attention towards tourism during Tuesday’s meeting inside the Pinedale Library’s Lovatt Room.

County administrator Matt Gaffney gave the board an update on the new lodging tax across the county. A portion of tax revenue created off lodging in the county will go into a fund meant to promote tourism and fund tourism activities. The amount remains unknown but Gaffney said they’d have a better idea this time next year.

Gaffney explained to the board that they have a few options: Create a joint powers board, create an informal committee or maintain the status quo.

Through discussion it was brought up that a joint powers board had dissolved in the past because of infighting. While a joint powers board involving members from the county’s towns and commissioners could be beneficial in a lot of ways, it would also require more red tape, like legal stipulations. Deputy county attorney Clayton Melinkovich said a joint powers board was not legally required and said the attorney’s office would lean against it because of the same infighting problems that riddled the one put on the ballot in 2000.

Gaffney said he’s been wobbling between favoring that joint powers board and an informal committee. An informal committee could involve the same entities but wouldn’t hold the committee to the same legal stipulations. At the same time, there was no obligation for the entities to contribute equally while keeping things informal.

The underlying issue during the discussion came from the county’s visitor’s center. There has been talk about the Sublette County Chamber of Commerce branching away from the visitor’s center. As of that meeting, the chamber would continue to operate out of the visitor’s center but would instead focus on businesses and Main Street Pinedale endeavors. Commissioner Tom Noble said the chamber would instead focus more of its attention upon its member businesses. These talks have been ongoing for about a year and, as Noble stated, it’s an awkward situation.

Discussions lately have involved the chamber renting space out of the building from the visitor’s center and maintaining a person there to help visitors.

Commissioners said they’d be willing to work with that agreement, helping maintain one position while also gaining help from volunteers.

Commissioner Joel Bousman suggested getting south county more involved by gauging interest. Commissioner Doug Vickrey suggested reaching out to potential volunteers and seeing how many would be interested in getting involved.

Gaffney said he’ll reach out to all three towns and will return to the board at its next meeting with the findings. 

Planning & Zoning

Dennis Fornstrom of the county’s Planning & Zoning Commission brought forth a pair of items for the only noteworthy discussion during the meeting’s afternoon session.

The first was a change of zoning request by the Wind River Campground, located just north of Boulder. It’s a 10-acre parcel the property operators, who were present at the meeting to answer questions, hope to change to highway commercial zoning because it’s the owner’s intent to build a commercial greenhouse on the property. The campground would also be maintained.

The operators previously brought this to the board under a conditional use permit. Commissioners did not approve it because the Planning & Zoning Committee voted unfavorably on it, citing a zone change would be more applicable in this case.

Following some discussion, a determination of similar use would be needed to build a commercial greenhouse even if it were re-zoned since the greenhouse is only explicitly mentioned in the rural mixed zoning area.

Bousman said he’d be willing to stick his neck out and approve this because he felt there was some unfairness shown to the property operators when they came before the board previously. Noble said he would be in favor of the move if it came with conditions that kept the operations to a campground and commercial greenhouse.

Noble made a motion to approve with commissioner Sam White seconding that motion. Bousman voted in favor. It passed with commissioners Vickrey and Dave Stephens voting against.

The other item Fornstrom brought was for short-term rental regulations. The Planning & Zoning Committee approved the preliminary regulations by a 5-0 vote. That came after numerous workshops to determine the county’s best path forward. Melinkovich and Fornstrom worked together throughout and both received praise for the process.

Fornstrom said there are currently less than 30 short-term rentals in the county right now with eight of them permitted but his office averages almost three calls per day about what the county’s regulations are on short-term rentals.

Radio items

The meeting got heated at the end of the radio maintenance discussion. Fire warden Shad Cooper started the discussion that tied radio systems between the unified fire departments and the sheriff’s office.

Cooper recommended rejecting all three current proposals on the project. Sheriff KC Lehr recommended not putting the project out to bid again and told the board it may not realize how much work Dave Smith conducted on the project – not only for his work with the present parities but also with places like the school district and the weed and pest board.

Cooper presented numbers on the project that estimated costs at $4,284,604 ($3,789,594 for hardware, services and software plus $495,010 in additional hardware). People with Dave’s Electric took exception to those numbers and called them lies.

Butting personalities came to a head when Smith walked out of the room while the board was about to vote to approve Dave’s Electric for an annual contract. He told the board he was pulling his offer from consideration.

Commissioners tabled the item and Bousman said it put the board back to square one.

Following a break, the county's Mike Christie brought forth a new network plan as Union Wireless continues to invest in Sublette County. Christie said, at the speeds requested, the monthly returning costs would be $15,905. Currently, the county is paying just over $14,000 while not receiving speeds promised in a deal with Lumen.

Christie proposed going ahead with Union and that deal. Commissioners agreed and voted unanimously.

Donation

Commissioners agreed to donate a cabin to the American Legion so it can have its own meeting place by American Legion Park. Currently, the American Legion is using storage space behind the VFW and continues to hold meetings in the VFW.

The board credited the American Legion for how far it's come in recent years.

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