With 3-2 vote, majority rejects $1M land appraisal


Commissioners direct Melinkovich to make formal offer

SUBLETTE COUNTY – On July 5, Sublette County commissioners picked up where they left off on June 21, approving a resolution, 3-2 to buy a 25-acre, ag-zoned parcel on Pole Creek Road for a gravel pit.

The going price – $1 million for an apparent mother lode of surface gravel that several commissioners estimate could be worth $13.5 to $15 million. The county owns 40 agricultural acres gifted earlier by the Doyle family at the intersection of Pole Creek Road and U.S. Highway 191 with plans to use it as a gravel pit.

On June 21, Road & Bridge supervisor Billy Pape informed commissioners Doug Vickrey, Dave Stephens, Tom Noble, Sam White and chair Joel Bousman, of Robert Doyle’s plans to sell another 25.44-acre adjacent parcel that the county also might be interested in making an offer for an expanded gravel pit, at a price of about $1 million with some conditions.

At the previous meeting, they went into an executive session and returned and moved, without much preliminary discussion, to offer $1 million for the new Doyle property. The vote was 3-2 with Bousman, White and Noble saying “aye” and Stephens and Vickrey voting “nay.”

Those against the purchase pointed out the county had not mined gravel from the first Doyle property. Those supporting it spoke of county money saved down the road by owning gravel.

Little available

The July 5 agenda listed “property purchase discussion” under Pape’s road and bridge updates.

“Are we ready to talk about the purchase discussion,” Bousman asked Tuesday after Pape’s updates.

No maps or paperwork were available to the public. Sublette County clerk Carrie Long said on Thursday she had nothing in writing about the county’s proposed purchase. She provided an unsigned copy of “the unexecuted deed” with the Doyle property’s legal description of three parcels.

In a similar county discussion in 2015 about buying 40 acres in Bondurant for a gravel pit, a neighbor across Highway 191 had objected in person several times to the proposal. The board then postponed a decision to buy until it heard from the Bondurant community at a public workshop in December 2015.

There, residents and property owners voiced concerns about potential negative visual, noise, road and dust impacts. They also attended the next commissioners’ meeting, as reported by the Pinedale Roundup.

At this meeting almost seven years later, neighbors’ concerns were downplayed.

“There’s no concern about devaluing the neighborhood with a gravel pit going on,” Vickrey asked.

Pape said the county would build a berm – “They won’t see it. We have houses actually a little closer over here.”

Some neighbors are “a little touchy” but have no big issues, he said.

“I had calls about it,” Stephens said.

Vickrey cautioned fellow commissioners that the whole deal “smells bad” to him.

Contract?

Sublette County Deputy Attorney Clayton Melinkovich said he presented Doyle with a draft contract, apparently naming a purchase price of $1 million, who had “a disagreement” with it. That paperwork was not available at press time.

Doyle had counter-offered at $1.35 million, according to the commissioners’ discussion. Vickrey said then Doyle, “out of the goodness of his heart, said he would take the million … and also wanted closing costs. Now they come back and – there’s a smell out there and I don’t think it looks well for the county.”

Melinkovich said of the first offer – “We put the brakes on until they could talk. I talked to Mr. Doyle to clarify and he is no longer interested in having additional terms.”

He said the county is not bound to its first offer because Doyle made a counteroffer, voiding it. Bousman asked Melinkovich to draft another contract, which would need to be signed by commissioners by July 19, when the new budget is approved, to write a check the next day in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

“We have to wait until the next meeting to sign it, finalize it,” Melinkovich said. If commissioners agreed that day, July 5, to make the million-dollar offer to Doyle, the contract “would act as an offer” and closing would be in two weeks. 

Appraisal?

Stephens asked if the new property would be surveyed “down the road.” Pape said Rio Verde Engineers surveyed all of the property and its highway access would be widened.

“I read through the contract and part of it didn’t set very well for me,” Vickrey said. “The buyer and seller are not going to have appraisals. You spend $1 million of the taxpayers’ money – at the very least have an appraisal.”

Bousman asked, “How long does it take to get a true appraisal?”

Pape said he had no idea but he did have “comps” or comparable property sales numbers.

“Want me to have an appraisal,” Long asked.

“I thought that was an appraisal,” Bousman said.

Noble said, “Comps by a real estate agent are usually pretty close.”

White asked Pape how much the gravel was worth.

“There’s over 900,000 tons of mineable gravel (going for) $15 to $17 a (cubic) yard, Pape said, making the rock there worth $15 to $17 million. It costs the county about $4.80 a yard to crush.

If the county spent a third of that “for us to go in and crush it, White said, “A 1-million investment for $13.5 million return is a good enough number for me.”

After Vickrey questioned why existing gravel pits aren’t being used, Pape reviewed history of the previous 40 acres Doyle gifted the county possibly for a law enforcement complex. Using that pit now would be “really handy” for work south of Pinedale so county trucks wouldn’t have to come through town, he said.

After more contract discussion, Vickrey spoke up again, asking if the Doyle property appraised at less than $1 million. “Have we skirted the issue of an appraisal?”

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Bousman said.

Melinkovich pointed out commissioners “have not officially made an offer in writing.”

Next meeting

“I think the Doyles should come here,” Stephens said. “The whole thing’s been a little messed up, personally.

“It’s no different now than it was two weeks ago,” Bousman said, asking Melinkovich to amend the contract “and make a formal offer.”

“But no appraisal,” Vickrey said. “That’s just not good business.”

Bousman replied, “We know what’s in the ground there.”

The Sublette County Board of County Commissioners will hear and act on Doyle’s response at its next meeting on Tuesday, July 19, starting at 9 a.m. in the Commissioners Meeting Room at the Sublette County Courthouse in Pinedale.

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