Lovell Mayor Bruce Morrison last week expressed support for a proposed Big Horn County-wide sixth-cent sales tax while reporting to the Lovell Town Council about recent meetings he had regarding the proposal, noting that he has a better understanding of how the process works after a meeting of county mayors the previous week.
Mayor Morrison made his comments during the regular meeting of the town council on Tuesday, March 13.
The sixth-cent sales tax is a county-wide tax for specific capital construction projects, Morrison said, and six of nine municipalities in the county must approve a project in order for the process to move forward. When the tax money pays off the projects funded through the sixth cent, the tax comes off.
While the sixth-cent proposal was initiated by the Town of Greybull, which wants to build and maintain a community swimming pool, the Town of Lovell could participate at any level, from a $50,000 project to a $5 million project, Morrison said, noting that the population of the community doesn’t matter.
There are four stages to the funding mechanism, Morrison said: 1) Town councils must approve a possible project; 2) Six of nine municipalities must participate; 3) The county commissioners must approve the projects; and 4) Voters must approve the sixth-cent tax.
Morrison said that during discussions, two potential organizations have emerged that could use funding for a building: the Lovell-Kane Museum and the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center.
Morrison said the museum board is looking for its first building to house a museum, and the mustang center has been raising money for years for a larger facility than the log building constructed a few years ago east of town.
The idea would be to construct a facility to house both the mustang center and the museum on land owned by the mustang center east of Lovell.
“I guess I’m in favor of pushing the sixth cent,” Morrison said. “It’s exciting for these people.”
Morrison said the public will have a chance to weigh in on the idea during the Main Street Project public meeting on April 5, and Lovell Clerk/Treasurer Valerie Beal noted that the town must pass a resolution by June so commissioners can give their approval (or denial) in July in order for the clerk to put the measure on the November General Election ballot.
Morrison said that in Lincoln County, which is similar to Big Horn County, about 40 percent of the sixth-cent tax is paid for by out-of-county people doing business in the county, but Councilman Kevin Jones said he would like to hear from business owners about their feelings regarding another cent added to the sales tax.
“We’ll continue to meet with people to generate enthusiasm,” Morrison said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Water and sewer
Engineer Frank Page reported that the South Phase of the Lovell Water and Sewer Infrastructure Project is scheduled to start up again in early April. He said he’s not sure where Wilson Brothers Construction will start but said the company is looking at starting at finishing the water line on Nevada from 10th to Wyoming, then completing the sewer line on Garfield from 8th to the top of the hill, then the under drain on the Nevada Hill above the Globe Canal. The company would then work on 10th and Wyoming in the area of the hospital and complete the upper bench work before moving below the hill.
Once MDU is finished with the company’s gas line project and the under drain is installed, it is hoped that Wilson can complete reconstruction of Nevada Avenue.
A public meeting on the next and final phase of the project – Main Street – has been scheduled for Thursday, April 5, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Lovell Community Center.
Town Clerk/Treasurer Valerie Beal said she received the certification statement from the State of Wyoming stating that the town will comply with the provisions of the resident preference law for contractors and design firms, a document necessary for the town to receive planning funding from the State Loan and Investment Board. She said the state answered some questions she had.
The council voted for the mayor to sign the certification statement.
Lovell Inc. Director Sue Taylor reported the nearly final contract figures on the Lovell Third Street Incubator Building, saying that Tuesday’s bills to be paid by the council contained $8,100 in retainage to be paid to contractor Penrose Constrution, with $3,400 held back as a late-completion penalty and some money needed to complete a pavement patch from the power pole to the building for electric service.
“This almost wraps up the project,” Taylor said, noting that she would still like to have concrete poured on the east side of the building to keep water away from the brick. She said there is still about $12,000 in grant funding available, with about $700 in outstanding bills yet to be paid.
Old hospital project
The council voted to accept a contract with Northern Industrial Hygiene of Billings for the final asbestos inspection on the old Lovell hospital building on 10th Street.
Taylor said the asbestos inspection will be performed in two phases by Northern: 1) Finish the inspection and prepare a report; then 2) Work on the abatement design and help the town with the contract for abatement.
The inspection was conducted this week (March 20-21), Taylor said.
Big Horn County Firewise Coordinator Chris Weydeveld reported on the progress of the Globe Canal fire mitigation project and the Firewise program in general. During a PowerPoint presentation, Weydeveld noted that the Globe Canal was considered to be one of the top priorities in the county under the new Community Wildfire Protection Plan that came under the Healthy Forest Protection Act of 2004.
After the initial plan worked only on Bighorn National Forest projects, the project received grant money in 2008 for bottomland, and the Globe Canal was identified as a high priority. Firewise worked with landowners to develop individual mitigation plans to reduce fuel loading, increase the opportunity to save structures and identify what vegetation could be removed.
Weydeveld said there came to be a lot of interest from the property owners along the Globe Canal, especially since grant funding was offered on a 90-10 split with up to $1,000 allowed per acre of land. He showed a colored map displaying the properties that had plans developed but were unsigned, plans signed without applying for grant money, plans processed and approved, plans being implemented and plans where the work has been completed.
He said there are 50 landowners and 60 parcels along the canal covering 36 acres. So far, 10 percent of the projects have been completed and work is continuing.
Weydeveld said the work must include herbicide treatment and continuing maintenance and monitoring. More grant money was recently approved through the Bureau of Land Management, Weydeveld said, and anyone needing further information can contact him through Valerie Beal at town hall or councilman Jones.
In other action Tuesday:
• Mayor Morrison announced and the council voted to accept the appointments of Angie Spann, Leeann Savage and Tyler Ennis to the Lovell Tree Board and Shane Pitt to the Lovell Planning and Zoning Commission. All of the appointments run through December of 2014.
• The council voted to send a letter to the Big Horn County Clerk’s Office to request that the clerk’s office handle the 2012 elections for Town of Lovell elected positions – mayor and council – as required by the county. The letter must include a map of the town boundaries and the terms of office for the upcoming elections, Beal said.
• Beal noted that the town will host a meeting of all town boards and commissions Thursday, March 22, at 7 p.m. at the Lovell Community Center to provide information on meeting procedures and responsibilities while serving on a municipal board, as well as the role of each board or commission under the town code.
• Beal also noted that the council needs to begin to meet to start the process of forming the 2012-13 budget.
By David Peck