From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 26 - September 20, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Rec Board meets with leaders

by Tiffany Turner

As plans continue for a Sublette County recreational facility in Marbleton/Big Piney, members of community boards and governments felt a need to come together with industry leaders to discuss different possibilities that could be housed within the facility and, more importantly, financing.

The group met Sept. 18 at Marbleton’s Senior Center with members of the industry, county commissioners, mayors of both Big Piney and Marbleton, town councils, Sublette Community Partnership (SCP) and the Rec Board present.

The purpose of the meeting was to have everyone involved in one place to discuss the different items happening within the Rec Board and the financing needed with most of the players present. One important facility that many at the meeting were happy to see was the inclusion of a bowling alley.

“I really think a bowling alley is key to this county,” Shell representative Craig Ritschel said. “Bowling in the winter should be a great thing.”

Ritschel brought up the fact that many people in the area bowl, and since there is no alley for them to frequent in the county, many have either stopped bowling all together or are driving to Rock Springs or Jackson to bowl. Ritschel said he felt a bowling alley would help keep Sublette County money in Sublette County.

Angie Smith, a Rec Board chair, discussed the different costs associated with the bowling alley and its upkeep, materials and flooring.

Once the subject of money had been broached, many people began to question planned finances and what exactly the Rec Board and other members of the community expected of the different entities as far as support.

Ray Scarletti of the Wyoming Business Council spoke to Smith about the possibility of the rec center providing a workforce training facility.

“This looks to be a good business plan and a good start,” Scarletti said. “With a good business plan and job creation, you could turn this into a business-minded community project.”

Several members of the industry stated that they felt the plan for the building was too conceptual and they needed a firmer grasp on the financials and the current plans of the towns and the commission.

“I can’t make any commitment, I’m only one of three, but in my mind I don’t think we’re quite to the point where we know what we want, and that is part of the reason for this meeting,” County Commissioner Joel Bousman said. “What I would like people to come forward with, either tonight or later when you have had the chance to mull it over, is not necessarily what’s here, but what’s not here –what would you like to see?”

Bousman added that he was looking for some kind of commitment from the industry before the conceptualized idea took too much form.

“I would like to see some kind of joint community project,” he said, adding that maybe they should talk to the schools and BOCES about different programs that could be run through the facility that would aid with funding.

Laurie Latta, coordinator for the SCP,informed Bousman and the other attendees that Sublette County School Districts Nos.1 and 9 would be meeting with BOCES to discuss different happenings and programs they might be able to cooperatively offer and use. One topic broached was the possibility of using BOCES to help with the childcare program that will be offered at the rec center.

“That childcare is going to be a huge part of this building and a critical one,”Latta said.

In addition to the obvious aid to the community from a childcare program, Smith also said she felt a lot of stay-at home mothers and older children would use the facility due to the lack of other things for children to do within the community.

“We have a lot of outdoor things to do in the area,” she said. “But (the kids) can’t always get a ride out there. This will be close.”

The mayors of Big Piney and Marbleton spoke of their budgeted $500,000 for the year to support the project. “The town of Marbleton has been behind this all along,” Mayor Jim Robinson said. “It’s a county quality of life issue that could really benefit everyone.”

County Commissioner John Linn spoke on behalf of the commissioners’ involvement in the project.

“As far as I’m concerned, a little tweaking here and there is fine,”he said. “But I think the general lay out is complete.” Linn spoke to Smith saying she had put the effort in and done the study to learn what facilities the communities and citizens would like to see in the structure and he felt that part was complete. It was time, he said, for someone to make the first move and to decide to fund so much of the project. “You know the old phrase,” Linn said. “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.”

“To my knowledge we are ready to go, it’s just a factor of money.”

Big Piney Mayor Phil Smith agreed.

“I look at the drawings and I am ready to write a check and get something going,” he said. “I don’t think we are asking for too much considering all that we have given up.”

Smith went on to remind the industry that this was an area that had “openly embraced” the industry and now they wanted something for the community.

Industry representatives, while agreeing on a personal level that it was a great facility, informed those present that they needed more concrete numbers as to what was being asked of them and to understand more of what was going to be needed in the community before they made a decision.

Belinda Salinas, representing Ultra, stated that she felt contribution should be pushed back until the socio-economic impact study was finished and the companies knew that this was a priority to the communities.

“I don’t want to commit and then a month down the road learn we need roads worse,” she said. “The decision will be delayed until we know more.”

“I cannot go straight-faced to my executives not knowing what’s going to happen with this (impact) study and the SEIS,” she added.

Ted Kelly with EOG Resources brought up another issue.

“We struggle to get and keep people and we pay very well,” Kelly said. “How are you going to get people and keep them and train them?”

Angie replied that it was her next big concern and the possibility of the employees being town or county employees had already been broached.

“Look at it from our perspective,” Linn said. “This is where we live and this is a project that will contribute to the enjoyment...and necessities for us to function as a community. This is something we’re looking to have forever.” “We are bringing prioritized projects to you for funding,” he added.

Linn brought up the possibility of the industry paying an additional one-cent sales tax to help fund the facility on a volunteer basis.

“The purpose of this meeting is because we have the chance to do something great and unconventional for the county – can we bridge the gap between the industry and the community and all these different individuals to make a wonderful opportunity happen,” Latta said. “If you can go away from this wondering what you as an employee, company or county can do to lend a hand, then our purpose was met.”

“It’s a good project and we want to see good things happen on this end of the county,” said Geoff Sell. “So, don’t give up on us.”

Kelly agreed, but mentioned the fluctuating price of natural gas and the difficulties the industry as a whole was having and the fact that even some of their personal construction projects had been curtailed.

“I think the industry wants to be involved, but the timing is not right,” he said. Linn stated that as a resident of the county for 50 years, he was ready to fund the project and go from there, but he was one of three commissioners that had to make the decision.

“The ball is sort of rolling,” he said. The meeting came to an end with the agreement that all parties (and some that had been unable to attend this meeting) would again meet after the impact study results had been presented and each entity had time to look at the different things presented and their own financial states.

“Somebody has to be first,” SCP Chair Betty Fear said. “That’s the only way we are ever going to get this going – someone has to be brave and go first.”

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