Volume 104, Number 40 - October 4, 2007
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Commissioners support new plowing cooperation
The county commissioners took a step toward settling a longtime rivalry over plowing in Hoback Ranches at Tuesday’s meeting.
Barbara Burris, member of the Hoback Ranches Service and Improvement District (HRSID) board, a body that governs the subdivision and answers to the county, presented a compromise Winter Access Plan calling for year-round plowing of a few miles of main roads in the subdivision to two or three parking lots on residential lots that the district will create for residents and visitors to park.
Ranches residents have long disputed over pursuing a safer alternative to parking their cars along the highway and snowmobiling across the powder-buried roads to their remote homes, and this is the best solution that multiple meetings with residents could produce, Burris said.
“Our first step is to bring this to you,” Burris said to the commissioners, adding that the district would next obtain legal advice on changing the current laws that forbid plowing in the subdivision.
The commissioners supported the idea. “As far as I see it, this is your call to make, because we haven’t done anything with your roads,” Commissioner Bill Cramer said.
Burris pointed out that some Ranches residents have argued that a federal law bars snowmobiles and cars from occupying the same roads in “snow states” like Wyoming, but after researching the issue, the district discovered that Wyoming allows exceptions to the rule if county commissioners give approval. The commissioners said they had never heard of the law.
“I have no problem with mixing traffic,” John Linn said.
The district doesn’t want the plan to become a permanent solution, Burris said, and residents hope the commissioners will continue fighting for the district’s most desired solution — a parking space inside the north fence beside the highway on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land, which the commissioners fought for last year by approaching both the agency and Sen. Craig Thomas.
Cramer said if the HRSID board wrote a letter describing residents’ request, he would hand it personally to Sen. John Barrasso the next time he paid a visit to the hill. Commissioner Joel Bousman said the district might find the senators more willing to listen than in past years.
“What makes the difference is now it sounds like you’re more on the same page than you have been in past years,” he said of the Ranches residents who filled local papers last winter with editorials flinging accusations and name calling at each other over the issue. Cramer agreed that senators didn’t want to step in the middle of “warring factions.” Burris blew air out of her lips and laughed. “We weren’t even in the same playbook then,” she said. “There are still a few people who insist they won’t park in residential lots and will continue to park along the highway, but we’re together as a community now and talking about this.”
Ken Konicek also approached the commissioners about possible relocation of the skate park to allow for a parking lot across from the library, but after debating the issue in the executive session, the commissioners didn’t arrive at a decision. Konicek said he would continue to push the subject at next weeks school board meeting.
Rancher Doug Vickrey also approached the county Road and Bridge with complaints that after a county-hired company spread MAG dust suppressant on the roads beside his property near the Daniel Fish Hatchery, the chemical caused the paint on his cattle guard to dissolve within two days. Concerned that the chemical’s corrosive nature could also damage the metal on his ranching equipment and pickup truck, he requested the commissioners rethink their road maintenance procedures.
“I hate dust as much as everybody else, but I can’t trade in my car every eight years for it either,” Vickrey said.
Ed Fick with dust abatement product company Dustbusters, Inc. gave a presentation on MAG characteristics at the meeting, and said that considering MAG is spread by the half gallon across every square yard of road and comprised of 70 percent water, the substance usually isn’t potent enough to cause paint to dissolve. The occurrence on Vickrey’s cattle guard might simply have been the fault of a poor paint job.
“Once MAG hits the road, the majority of it stays on the road,” Frick said. He acknowledged that MAG can accelerate corrosion on metal, however, and suggested applying a second coating of MAG to the roads and then coat them with the corrosion inhibitor lignin.
Linn said that though the county couldn’t breathe without MAG on the roads, the commissioners would consider the concerns in the future.
“We should come up with a plan that if we decide to MAG a road, that we talk to landowners on the project area to decide whether they want it or not,” Linn said. Cramer agreed.
“For now, it’s done, we can’t go out and suck it back up,” Cramer said. “But we’ll be continuing discussion as we go forward, and if the majority doesn’t want it, then we’ll see.”
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