Major monetary matters involving the potential sale of the former Byron school and an imminent need for replacing some sewers marked a Byron Town Council regular meeting in the municipal complex on Tuesday night, Feb. 14.
Because of ground and irrigation water infiltrating the town sewerage pond, which is resulting in threats of significant fines by the Wyoming Dept. of Environmental Quality, Mayor Bret George asked for permission to seek a $3.4 million grant, and he and the council approved the request 5-0. The town would have to come up with 25 percent of the amount if the matching grant is OK’d by the State Loan and Investment Board, he said, adding that, “That looks like $850,000 to me.
“This is a major, major issue,” George said after the meeting, which lasted nearly 3½ hours. He explained that the state DEQ initially could fine the town $10,000; then the amount could rise to some $20,000 per month, he said, if the infiltration problem is not eliminated.
George said that the old clay tile sewer system leaks and that the system beneath Main Street and the portion serving the south end of town need to be replaced. The most severe infiltration occurs, he said, during summer due to irrigation. Fresh water gets above the sewer lines and infiltrates the system because it leaks and then overtaxes the town sewerage pond.
“DEQ says fix it or face fines,” George related.
“A lot of Main Street is involved,” he said. “Because of that and the costs we’re looking at, I am going to work to partner with the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation for multiple ways of funding the project.” The $3.4 million, he noted, comprises an engineer’s estimate involving Main Street and the south end of town.
The mayor indicated that he would prefer to not burden Byron property owners with paying any amount for the project. But he added that “as a last resort” there is a possibility that sewer use fees could be raised. However, “I would go to the public and ask first,” stressed the mayor, stating in essence that such a step would not be taken without discussion and notification.
Regarding the potential sale of the former Byron school, which was deeded to the town last year by Big Horn County School District One, George presented the council two options. Both were submitted by Alex John Campos, of Duluth, Ga., who is affiliated with several organizations including Able Holdings LLC and All American Payment Plan LLC. He proposes to purchase the former school buildings with approximately 95,000 square feet of space and some seven acres of land with plans to use a portion of the facility for a call center that could employ up to 100 persons. Other uses for the site were not provided by the prospective buyer.
During a special meeting on Jan. 27, the mayor and council voted 5-0 in favor of accepting Campos’ proposal of $90,000 as stated in his letter of intent. He has submitted a $10,000 check as a sign of good faith. Under the approved motion last month to sell that which it owns to Campos, it is stipulated that the town would support him if he sought to purchase the auto shop at the former site from the school district. The latter has retained ownership of the shop as a storage building. The town also has use of the former “home ec cottage” at the abandoned school, but cannot sell it.
Last week, George presented the council two options for purchase received from Campos subsequent to the town’s offer. The mayor said that Campos is offering $90,000 to acquire the former school site and for a 49-year lease for the cottage. The second option was to buy the old school for $70,000 without a lease for the cottage.
The council voted 5-0 to notify Campos that it would sell the former school for $90,000 but with a separate lease for the cottage. The lease amount would be the amount of property tax. George said that the amount is not readily available, as the site “has never been taxed before.” During its approximately 20 minutes of discussion regarding the potential sale, items including some legal language and items in the old school that will become the property of a new owner were reviewed.
By Bob Rodriguez