Chief shows savings in 911 investment, Collins voted to CCEDC, gravel removal grinds on
At the town of Saratoga’s Tuesday town council meeting, a new 911 system, river work and the appointment of a local resident to the Carbon County Economic Development Board took center stage amid routine business.
The council voted to spend $94,000 on a new 911 system to replace the current system owned by the Carbon County Sheriff’s Department the town pays to use. Council members were swayed after figures provided by Saratoga Police Chief Robert Bifano showed the town would save $34 per month at first and would later save $840 per month once the system is paid off in three years.
The county system was becoming more expensive, Bifano told the council. With budget issues straining the county government, the sheriff’s office has been passing more expenses for the 911 system to the town. Those fluctuating costs have made it hard to develop a budget for 911 service, he said.
The new system also removes one step in a relay system Bifano said caused misdirected calls and delays in response.
On the present system, 911 calls from Saratoga landlines are routed to a relay in Cheyenne. Then, the call goes to Rawlins where it is then directed to dispatchers at the SPD. That step, Bifano said, is where problems arise. Mobile phone calls to 911 by people in Saratoga wind up at the Rawlins dispatchers, who must forward the calls to Saratoga, according to Bifano. The new system, he said, will send calls from cell towers around Saratoga to SPD’s dispatch.
Installation of a 911 system in Saratoga also means there will be will be a secondary 911 routing system for the county in case the Sheriff’s system fails.
The new system will replace the 8-year-old equipment the town currently uses, Bifano said, and would also be under warranty for three years. The existing system is not under warranty and the town would bear any repair expense.
One member of the public in attendance was dismayed at how much 911 costs and the routing issues Bifano described, and suggested it might be better to use the local 7-digit number to call the police department. Bifano acknowledged many residents prefer using the direct number when contacting the police.
Mayor Ed Glode said going without a 911 system was an option, but in his opinion it was not a good one to consider. Rather, Glode said, he supported the idea of Saratoga having its own 911 system.
Council member Will Faust agreed with Glode and pointed out 911 is universally understood across the United States, that children learn the number from a young age and visitors to town who need assistance won’t know the local number.
“Every one of us sitting in this room probably has that number (the police department’s direct line) programmed in our cellphone, but you get someone who is passing through town,” Faust said. “My son is not going to be able to remember 3-2-6 whatever it is, so from a public safety standpoint, every kid the first day in kindergarten or maybe preschool knows that number (911).”
Bifano said if the council approved the project, it will be live in a couple of months, saying the most time consuming portion will be working with local phone operators to have switches reprogrammed for the relay system.
The council voted unanimously in favor of the new 911 system.
The council also voted to appoint Jezria Collins to the Carbon County Economic Development Board. Collins, Glode said, was the only person who submitted a letter of interest for the position. After a motion was made and seconded for a vote, a member of the public in attendance asked where the opening was advertised.
Glode said the position was not advertised.
“So how does one find out about those kinds of positions?” the member of the public asked. “How did she learn about this position, do you recruit people like that rather than advertising for people who might be interested?”
Glode said Collins approached him about the position, and he advised her to submit a letter to the council. Suzie Cox, town clerk for Saratoga, said Cindy Wallace, director of the CCEDC, suggested Collins as a good candidate for the unpaid, four-year position on the board. Cox also said to her knowledge, the county did not advertise for the position.
Collins, in an interview with the Saratoga Sun, said she was contacted by Wallace who recommended her as a good fit for the role. Collins said she then spoke to Glode who suggested she submit a letter to the council.
Collins, who lives in Saratoga, said as a real estate agent she is interested in fostering economic development in the county, especially in the area of housing.
“When some of these companies—like the refinery—have a turnaround it makes things a little tight for housing,” Collins said. “I know here in Saratoga we get a lot of seasonal people that come in late spring and are here through the summer and fall, and that makes it a little tighter for rental properties for people who are here longer-term.”
Another standout issue at the meeting was the announcement that clearing of the gravel bar in North Platte by the WY-130 bridge began Monday, and would continue throughout the week.
Clearing the bar is costing the town $140,000, and this raised questions by new council member Steve Wilcoxson who asked the board to clarify why cleaning the gravel out of the riverbed is being paid for by the town even though the property is owned by the state.
“The state has as much responsibility as the town does to protect its people,” Wilcoxson said. “It seems to me that the state should be able to kick some money in.”
Glode said even though the gravel bar has been an issue since 2011, the state has not prioritized it.
Wilcoxson said he thought the town should not be paying for the gravel removal, but the landowner—in this case the state of Wyoming—should. If that is not an option, Wilcoxson said in the past, the town did not pay for removal of gravel. Instead, the gravel was removed and the contractor who performed the work got to keep the material.
That scheme today requires a mining permit, Glode said. “We hope this (paying for removal) is a one-time thing,” Glode said.
Councilman Richard Raymer said, over the years, regulations enacted by the state have made the process more complicated than it used to be.
Wilcoxson agreed with Raymer’s view, but added the issue will come up again in the future and other boards will have to wrestle with the same issue. “It seems to me that we need to try and do everything that we can as a council to prevent that cost coming out of our town next time,” Wilcoxson said. “The thing to do would be to put the pressure on to the state, this is their property.”
Raymer said the town was hoping to obtain a mining permit so when it is next done, the town can offer contractors the material as payment.
Glode said river work is not done. “There is a bar underwater over by the golf course aimed right at the hot pool and that’s a serious problem and this phase of the project doesn’t address that,” Glode said. “Sooner than later we’re going to have to deal with that and there’s hope that they’re going to use an ag exemption upstream of town and take care of Boozer Creek so the town and county don’t have to worry about that.”
The next meeting of the Saratoga Town Council is 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Saratoga Town Hall.