From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 8, Number 42 - January 8, 2009
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

County: Bargerville roads are residents’ problem

by Derek Farr

Reporting to the county commissioners in Sheriff Wayne Bardin’s stead Tuesday, Captain Mike Peterson asked if the county has, or would create, an emergency contingency plan for clearing roads in one of the county’s biggest subdivisions in the event of a major winter storm.

The issue was raised after a Christmas Day (Thursday) storm blanketed much of the Barger subdivision with more than a foot of snow. That night, fierce winds sculpted the snow into unusually deep and impassible drifts up to six feet deep.

Some of the subdivision’s residents were snowed in until Sunday night – and some of those people work for emergency services.

“In all there were about 15 people up there,” Bardin said in a phone interview last week.

According to Bardin, the Barger subdivision holds the highest concentration of resident law enforcement officers in the county. Citing the county’s astronomic housing prices, Bardin said most of the workers live in the subdivision for its affordability.

The down side for those workers is the subdivision’s roads. Brutally washboarded in summer and treacherously slick in winter, the Barger byways are hazardous on normal days.

But after the Christmas storm they were simply impassable.

Barger’s roads are private which means they are technically not the county’s responsibility.

Because plowing Barger would create an avalanche of private road owners demanding to have their roads plowed as well, the county has operated under the commission’s decision not to provide county maintenance to the subdivision.

“I don’t blame the commissioners on their decision,” Bardin said. “But in an emergency situation we should have something available to help out the homeowners’ equipment.”

That was Peterson’s message to the commissioners.

Commissioner John Linn suggested county equipment could plow emergency workers’ roads at a yet-to be determined hourly rate that would come out of a worker’s paycheck.

“If they can’t manage the responsibility on their own to clean the road with their own four-wheeler or own snowplow, I don’t know any other way to manage it,” he said.

Commissioners Bill Cramer and Joel Bousman agreed that the county should only plow private roads in an emergency.

“We’re not asking you to plow our personal drives or anything like that,” said Sublette County EMS Director and Barger resident Wil Gay.

“There were a lot roads back in there for three or four days that were single-lane roads,” he explained, saying the roads were too narrow for an ambulance.

Cramer suggested, if Barger becomes snowed in again, search and rescue equipment be used for emergency evacuations.

Gay said the Barger subdivision working-class residents are not accustomed to being snowed in, where other subdivisions’ residents have a tradition of using snowmachines to get home.

“Barger’s never been that way,” he said.

“It’s going to be a big wake-up call for everybody,” Linn answered. “You know the winter isn’t over yet.”

Cramer said he understood that many county residents can’t afford to live anywhere else and he added: “We’re doing what we can, as far as this point, with the Class II roads, but it’s the responsibility, as far as this point, for the people out there to (clear the roads).”

He added when the Class II road system is complete, he was open to the idea of using extra funds for snow maintenance, but Linn said the county has its money tied up in other projects for the next year.

‘Buck up’

“I will accept the fact that we did a pretty poor job with this storm,” said Tim Wells, president of the High Meadow Ranch Property Owners’ Inc (HMRPOI) – the Barger homeowners association. “We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have available.”

He said the storm was one of the worst he had seen and only one contracted grader worked it.

“We have 50 miles of roads by the number of passes he has to make and it isn’t going to happen overnight,” Wells said, adding the HMRPOI grades four miles of road through Big County Ranches without compensation.

He also said the homeowners’ association would do a better job in the future.

Citing numerous wrecks on ice glazed roads Monday night, Wells asked if the county could sand the Barger roads.

“If you can find somebody to put it on, I wouldn’t object to them … taking some (county sand) for that purpose,” Cramer said.

Cramer offered a localized version of “The Code of the West,” also known as “Don’t Cry to Me,” as a remedy.

The code, chronicled from a 1934 fiction novel by Zane Grey, explains, among other topics, that emergency response may be “extremely slow and expensive” and roads “can become impassable” in extreme weather.

“Just buck up,” Cramer said.

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