A new police chief and a new office employee were sworn into office before the Byron Town Council during a special meeting Thursday evening, May 24, that also included discussion on the cost of the annual fireworks show as part of budget considerations.
Other matters that arose during a public hearing in town hall were uses for potential income from a proposed Big Horn County sixth-cent sales tax and a pending contract for a town lease for use of some facilities in the former Byron School with the new owner. He is John Campos, a businessman who lives in Duluth, Ga. His on-site representative is Jeff Noall, who has moved to Byron from Utah with his wife and children. Big Horn County School District One deeded the facility and property to the Town of Byron last year and although initially there were plans for the town to utilize the site for business tenants as an economic boost, the town council sold the place to Campos for $70,000 as of March 12 this year.
In comments about a possible lease between the town and Campos, resident Karma Sanders stated in essence that she would be leery about any agreements, as “no city representative has been able to contact the owner.”
On May 24, town business began with a special meeting during which Byron resident Donna Booth was sworn as the town’s deputy clerk by Clerk/Treasurer Vicki Gibson, who also administered the oath of office to John Wahl as the new police chief. Booth has been working at town hall since Feb. 7. Wahl, who has some 24 years of law enforcement experience, began work on May 8 to replace longtime and well-known Chief Frankie Rohrer, who was hired as the town’s lone law enforcement officer in July 1999. Wahl most recently was with the Douglas Police Dept. in Converse County.
Rohrer will step down officially as of Friday, June 29. A retirement party at town hall is planned for the end of his shift, as many people from across the county, the country and the world want to say good-bye, noted his wife, Peggy, on Monday, May 28. More information about the party will be announced.
Following its second reading the council, after reviewing the proposed 2012-13 fiscal year budget of $999,200, approved it 5-0. Mayor Bret George said that the final budget figures, which include approximately $130,000 in unused grant monies from the current year, will be presented for adoption during the next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, June 5. The current budget of $1.24 million for the fiscal year that will end June 30 is five-sixths spent, the mayor said.
Councilman Alan Bair asked if money is budgeted for the July 4 fireworks show next year, as it was his belief that the council voted last year to at least offset the cost rather than paying for it wholly through the general fund. It was indicated that $15,800 was listed for the annual show during Byron Days, but that it is being adjusted to $9,800 to reflect the actual cost. Bair’s contention that there had been a motion on offsetting the cost of the fireworks display was disputed by Councilman Gilbert Cordova and the mayor. They said that there was talk about the matter, but no decision.
Added the mayor, “I would love to offset the cost.” Bair responded, “I thought we had a motion set in concrete; we need to have that discussion for next year.” George broached the possibility of donors, continuing that, “I like what (the fireworks) bring to the town (large crowds from around the area) and its contribution to Byron Days.” Councilman Marie McCollam stated that at her Byron Bar for the past three years she has tried to get public donations, but that people simply say, “Why donate? It’s free.” Cordova noted that perhaps a bake sale or some such fundraiser could be held, as a recent bake sale held by the Cowley Beautification Committee raised some $1,500. “We could do something like that,” he concluded.
Continuing budget discussion, the mayor suggested that $73,000 in a checking account be closed at First Bank of Wyoming and be “rolled over to a CD. It’s totally legit,” he said, “I just want your approval.” He added that the town’s funds all are being transferred to the Bank of Lovell. At the recommendation of Bair, the mayor said that he would check further into the idea to determine if there is an advantage that would be worthwhile. He is to report his findings to the council. George also explained that the budget format is being revised to better track income and expenditures, including a breakdown of costs department by department including wages and benefits.
The mayor also stated that the town netted $69,000 from the sale of the former Byron School to Campos after closing costs and utility bills were deducted. After 20 minutes of a special council meeting it was recessed to presentations on sixth-cent fund uses and a public hearing of approximately 50 minutes on that matter, followed by a return to the special meeting with the duration of that period lasting some 15 minutes. The public hearing included some discussion with Noall.
The mayor stated that “because of some sticking points” a proposed lease has been reviewed and revised “several times over.” One of his objections is that Campos is proposing a 99-year lease on the facility, but that either party could break the lease with 30 days notice. “So I want to be very careful,” George said. He added that Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi’s office has recommended a minimum four-year lease without an option to break it. Noall, discussing getting the swimming pool at the former school back into shape, cited information that he said is from Cheyenne attorney Barbara Bonds regarding expenditure of public funds on private buildings. In essence, the data state that public money can be spent on a private building if “public purpose is served and there is no conflict with state laws.”
Additionally, there must be remuneration of some sort to the town, such as a reduction in the rental fee. He estimated that the pool work would cost $750,000 and that it could include numerous remodeling aspects for youth and adults of all ages. With all that in mind, Noall said, “We’re asking for the sixth-cent sales tax. We want the pool for the community.”
The mayor asked how the town could be repaid, and Noall replied, “It can be discussed” and could involve “a reduction in rent over the term of the lease.” George responded, “But we have no lease at this time, so I’m hesitant.”
After the public hearing was concluded, the council talked briefly about selling a landlocked piece of ground, and revising its decision on leasing a 20-acre field. There were no motions, but the mayor is to review the matters and report back to the council.
By Bob Rodriguez