Commissioners talk money issues

MARBLETON – After hearing multiple items that cost money during its March 16 meeting inside Marbleton Town Hall, the Sublette County Board of Commissioners decided to implement a hiring freeze across all county departments. The hiring freeze was to happen immediately as County Administrator Matt Gaffney drafted a form that to county departments that if a position becomes in dire need of being filled, that department would have to come before the commissioners for permission to fill that vacancy.

The decision to enact a hiring freeze came from a previous board meeting after hearing the latest budget shortfall projections for the county.

One of the first budgetary issues the commissioners – except for absent commissioner Tom Noble – heard during their latest meeting was a presentation from Paul Stille of Riley and Co., who brought forth an audit report to the commission. Stille went through procedures and findings of the latest audit.

Stille explained that the county received about $2.4 million in CARES Act money for payroll reimbursement. Some of that related back to the fiscal year 2020, which was considered federal aid for audit purposes. That altered the estimation to $1.2 million. Stille explained that when expenditures of federal money exceed $750,000, it automatically triggers special federal audit procedures.

After Stille’s presentation showed no significant discrepancies, board chairman Joel Bousman asked Stille if he had any recommendations for doing things differently. Stille had no definitive answer with all the pending state legislation that could change the county’s government funding and operating budget.

Mark Pape with Tegeler Insurance presented the board with a county insurance renewal. Pape explained this year’s renewal was different because it changed off exposure ratings. Every aspect of the county’s coverage stayed consistent except for automotive coverage. Pape said over the course of the year 65 more vehicles had to be added to the schedule.

“Our entire increase in premium this year is entirely driven by auto,” Pape said.

In 2010 the county had 149 vehicles on the insurance schedule, according to Pape. Last year that number expanded to 227.

When asked about claims, Pape said the county has more auto insurance claims than any other kind. He also said over the last decade the county has filed $1.4 million in claims.

“We’ve got 227 vehicles on the road. We’re going to have auto claims,” Pape said.

Commissioners said they would talk to department heads going forward and reassess the county’s insurance needs pertaining to automotive coverage.

Deputy county attorney Clayton Melinkovich made a presentation on behalf of county treasurer Emily Paravicini. Melinkovich said a new lodging tax in the county would distribute 10 percent to the general fund and the county would get to decide how to spend the remaining 90 percent towards tourism development. Melinkovich said he’s unsure how much money that would regularly be. The first check was for slightly more than $1,200, but the timeframe from which that was collected is unknown. Melinkovich said time would tell how much that revenue stream will be.

The board directed Gaffney to come up with options and return to the commissioners with recommendations.

During his presentation of road and bridge projects, Billy Pape told the commissioners his department discovered a honest accounting mistake in mileage while looking at numbers for the transfer station. The accounting system shorted someone $50 each trip dating back to 2018. That system error has now shorted that person $68,500, Billy Pape said. The commissioners voted unanimously to “make right” and pay the $68,500.

The board also voted to approve a new five-year contract with M and M Transfer on waste management. M and M President Ryan McGuire pitched a contract longer than three years because it’s been difficult to buy new machinery as needed and recoup costs on payments within three years. 

Executive sessions

  • The board conducted multiple executive sessions during the meeting. The first was for county sanitarian interviews, which concluded with the board passing a motion approving Phil Vrska for the position.
  • Commissioners also went into executive session regarding a potential real estate purchase. The board took no action as it decided to not pursue that opportunity.
  • The board also approved requested donation of sick leave for a county employee.
  • While listed under executive session, the board had an open meeting regarding scholarships. The county has typically donated scholarship money to high school seniors pursuing college. County attorney Mike Crosson said it was his belief that scholarships should be needs-based and it was his interpretation of the law that the county shouldn’t donate scholarships in its current form. Commissioner Doug Vickrey said the county has offered these scholarships since at least 1962, when he accepted one to attend the University of Wyoming. Vickrey said the county should continue doing so. It was determined that the board would continue course for the current year and reassess its scholarship process for the next year.