From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 39 - September 25, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Chamber threatens to move

by Jonathan Van Dyke

Members of the Sublette County Joint Powers Tourism Board and Chamber of Commerce met with the Sublette County Commission on Tuesday in efforts to settle a dispute between the two entities, but the issue remained unresolved after the meeting.

“We’re looking for funding to operate,” said James Helm, representing the chamber.

Currently, the Chamber of Commerce holds the lease to the new visitor’s center building. The Tourism Board pays fees to have the chamber employees run the visitor’s center side of operation.

“For tourism related activities, we want to use tourism [board] dollars,” said Greg Ptasnik, tourism board member.

Currently, the board pays $1,600 a month to lease office space in the building and provides funding for all visitor’s center summer help.

The county commission had asked Jonathan Foreman, deputy attorney of the County Attorney’s Office, to help mediate the situation.

Foreman concluded that $1,800 a month would be a reasonable fee to help with utilities and retain a full-time employee to work the front desk of the visitor’s center. The chamber wanted to accept the mediation.

However, the tourism board asked for more policy input with regard to running the visitor’s center side of business if it were to agree to the $1,800 a month. Board members were concerned with a variety of issues, including what hours the building was open.

Ptasnik went as far as offering to have the tourism board take complete control of the visitor’s center portion of the building, but the board may legally only be able to facilitate funding and not be in charge of actual operations.

The chamber countered with an offer to allow a tourism board member at its meetings, with the tourism board allowing a chamber member at its board meetings, in order to facilitate more communication.

“To me, it looks like your interests are almost identical,” Commissioner Joel Bousman said.

Helm said that the chamber was out of funds and could not continue to operate both branches without the $1,800 a month. If no resolution could be reached, chamber members expressed that they would move out of the building at the end of the year and convene in a different building as only the Chamber of Commerce.

The commission would not rule in favor of either party or make a decision on the matter, telling the two parties it was up to them to resolve the issue. The county owns the new building, and the commissioners said that they wanted the Visitor’s Center and Chamber located in it. However, frustration by all parties was evident.

“If we had seen [these problems] coming, I don’t know if we would have bought this [new building],” Commissioner John Linn said.

In other commission news:

— The commission discussed the Special Purpose Excise Tax (SPET) with Todd Bishop of Kaiser & Company, a consultant for the initiative, over speakerphone. The commissioners, along with project representatives Angie Smith and Jo Crandall, sought to answer several funding questions.

The commission was told by Bishop that it was up to its own discretion how to divide the money up once it started coming in. This would allow the county to funnel money in a greater proportion to the Big Piney/Marbleton Recreation Center, which would be ready for construction this fall.

The county will also have the option of lending money to these projects while it awaits the incoming funds from the 1-cent sales bump.

If the SPET passes on this November’s ballot, the tax will actually go into effect next April. The tax is expected to earn about $1.5 million a month, but Bishop said it would take a few months for the maximum amount to start coming into the county.

“There’s sort of a ramping-up effect,” Bishop said.

The county would have the option of moving the majority of early funds to the Big Piney/Marbleton Recreation Center, and then more evenly distribute the money as the Pinedale Community Center becomes ready for construction later in 2009.

— The commission appointed Kathy Anderson to oversee its work with local human and health services.

“This year alone [the commission] funded three new agencies,” County Clerk Mary Lankford said.

The commission has helped give funding to a number of community agencies including the Learning Center, Discovery Center, Van Vleck House and Red Cross.

Anderson will be tasked with keeping track of the various agencies and acting as a liaison between them and the commission.

“I do think if the county is going to give money to these agencies, then we need to have measurable outcomes to make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck,” Anderson said.

— The county commission accepted the bid from R.S. Bennett of $454,680 to make the Class II Road improvements on Meadow Lark Lane from Highway 191 to Iroquois Lane. The hope is to get some of the roadwork completed before the winter.

— The commission discussed the idea of moving the Sublette County Rural Health Care District (RHD) administrative offices to the old Big Piney/Marbleton Clinic.

“I think that building could stay,” Chairman William Cramer said. “There’s no sense renting a space if we have a building like that available.”

The commission would then use the old Pinedale Medical Clinic for county office space, including rooms for the County Sanitarian and Public Health Nurse. Previously, there had been talk that the old clinic would be demolished for parking.

The next commission meeting will be held on Oct. 7.

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