(Commissioner Stephanie Kessler, far right, brought the project back to the commission table on Tuesday. The city was represented by, front from left, Gary Michaud, Mick Wolfe, Del McOmie and Nancy Pieropan. Joshua Scheer photo.)
(Lander, Wyo.) – The Fremont County Commission is reconsidering providing funds to the City of Lander for the construction of the Lander Community Center following a renewed request by the commission’s Lander representative.
Commissioner Stephanie Kessler asked the county to consider providing $80,000 toward the project with a consideration of providing additional fund in future budgets. Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe, Council President Nancy Pieropan, Community Resource Coordinator Gary Michaud and former Lander Mayor Del McOmie were in attendance on behalf of the city.
In August the Commission declined a request to provide any funds that had been applied for through the Capital Improvement Maintenance Projects: Long-term committee. The committee recommended funding the project to the tune of $250,000. (Read more from that meeting here.) Kessler was not in attendance at the August meeting. Commission Chairman Doug Thompson was not present at the Oct. 1 discussion.
The building is projected to cost $5.4 million, and the city is currently facing a $400,000 deficit, Kessler said. The original structure was lost in a fire in June 2012.
Right now, the county has a little more than $80,000 in general fund cash reserves sitting on top of the preferred reserve balance of $7.5 million. Kessler proposed giving that $80,000 to the county. She, along with Lander Mayor Mick Wolfe, touted the facility as an improvement to the entire county, not just the city. Based on numbers provided by the city, the previous community center was used by 40 to 50 percent of county residents. Lander makes up about 20 percent of the county’s population. Wolfe also noted several city initiatives that provide a benefit to county residents, such as the rural water house and brush truck for the fire department.
However, others raised concerns that cash reserve funds left over from the budgeting process are generally saved for overruns later in the year. If the county gave those away now, the commission would have to dip into its preferred reserve balance to fund any emergency needs.
Most commissioners expressed a desire to see the project succeed and said they support the project. “I have no doubt everything you’ve said was accurate,” Commissioner Keja Whiteman said. “I support it. I just don’t understand how we can fund it.”
Treasurer Scott Harnesberger said the county could help the city out by using money from other county funds, not just the general fund reserve. He said he wasn’t suggesting the commission do that, but it was a possibility.
The commission agree to work with the CIMPL committee to prioritize this among other projects and look for alternative funding options. Kessler withdrew her original motion regarding the $80,000 deferring to newly found plan.
Wolfe and Michaud expressed appreciation that the matter was being reconsidered.