Tourism budget discussed at Riverton City Council meeting

Despite the limitations of the 2020 COVID pandemic, Wind River Visitors Council Executive Director Helen Wilson reported that Fremont County had a record-breaking year as she presented the WRVC’s 2021 Annual Report to the Riverton City Council at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

Lodging Tax collections for the fiscal year July 1, 2021-June 30, 2022 are currently at a total of $835,939.99, bringing in more revenue in nine months than in any previous (full) year. Numbers for April, May, and June are yet to be determined.

Tourism Asset Development (TAD) distributions for 2021:

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Dubois: $82,018.69

Riverton: $71,723.19

Lander: $67,909.04

Shoshoni: $8,000

Hudson: $4,000

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Total TAD Distributions: $233,650.92

WRVC board members present were Riverton Representatives Julie Buller and Hal Herron, Vice President and Lander Representative Owen Sweeney, and Treasurer and Shoshoni Representative Joel Highsmith. Comments and concerns were voiced about items proposed for the 2022-2023 budget, such as the amount of time the proposed budget was given for review by the WRVC board, clear allocation of revenue, and an increase in salaries, which are still pending approval.

Julie Buller said that the budget was approved, but not unanimously by the WRVC Board, and expressed her concerns about the increase in salaries, as well as the lack of input and oversight in the development and presentation of the proposed budget.

Julie Buller, WRVC Board Member representing Riverton, addresses the City Council.

Buller sought guidance and input from the council: “Are we just advisory board members to the WRVC, and that’s sufficient to you and the taxpayers? Or do you want an active board that’s out there trying to collaborate with the Executive Director and come up with marketing plans that are effective throughout all of Fremont County, including Riverton?”

Hal Herron said that WRVC has changed since being managed by former Executive Director Paula McCormick. “I don’t agree with Julie in terms of the board rubberstamping,” he said. “I think it’s just a bit too early yet. I think that the items that are presented by Helen and staff are pretty straightforward and well thought out. Can there be some changes? I think so.”

L-R: Riverton WRVC Board Member Hal Herron and WRVC Vice President Owen Sweeney.

Kip Post came forward to speak as a Riverton businessman and as one who sits on several organizational boards in regard to the proposed salary increases. “As a taxpayer, seeing a 40% salary increase freaks me out a little bit,” he said. “We had city council meetings on the city budget and people complaining about a 1% increase in rates, and we’re talking about a 40 percent increase…that’s hard for me as a taxpayer to swallow. Regardless of whether the person deserves it or not, if that salary was in the right range, slowly increase it.”

No motion was made by the Riverton City Council to approve the 2022-2023 WRVC budget. Subsequently, Councilman Kyle Larsen made the motion to table the approval until the council could get some firm figures from the WRVC. The motion passed, with discussion to be brought again to the next city council meeting on May 17.

In other Riverton City Council news…

– Mary Axthelm announced that the operations of the Community Engagement Committee have been suspended in order to join forces with the WYRiverton Chamber Ambassadors to be the facilitating entity for the city’s community engagement projects and activities.

– Ordinance No. 22-004, Allowed Use for C-H Zoning was approved.

– Bid award for two police vehicles in the amount of $86,154 was approved. The bid was awarded to Fremont Chevrolet/Buick/GMC of Riverton.

– The 56 Permit for the harvesting of whitetail and mule deer was approved. Participants must be approved by Wyoming Game & Fish and the City of Riverton before they are allowed to participate in active harvesting activities.

– Nicole Wagon, Northern Arapaho tribal member, spoke on behalf of Murdered & Mission Indigenous Persons (MMIP) Awareness activities happening this week, with Red Ribbon and virtual events on Thursday, May 5 and the 3rd annual MMIP March/Walk from 789 Casino to Riverton City Park on Saturday, May 7.

– City Finance Director Mia Harris presented the Quarterly Fiscal Health Report.

Click here to watch the full Riverton City Council meeting on YouTube.

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