River dominates council discussions

Rebuilding after catastrophe ordinance also discussed


“I intend to do a pretty significant dredging project in September,” Saratoga Mayor Ed Glode announced at the May 3 Saratoga Town Council meeting. Though little was decided, contention again surrounded discussion of how to address the long-term health of the North Platte River through Saratoga.

As a body, the council seemed reluctant to fund additional studies on the river, after an October 2015 bedrock survey came back without results. “I get real hesitant to spend another $100,000 of the town’s money,” councilman Will Faust said of committing more resources towards river studies. “We can’t afford it - whether I think it’s a good idea or not is really immaterial at this point,” Faust concluded.

Councilman Richard Raymer likewise balked at more expenditures. In response to multiple resident comments alluding to grant money that could become available if the town commits to figuring out the river’s bedrock depth, Raymer said “everybody that knows about all this money that’s out there doesn’t seem to be able to produce any of that for us to go out there and pursue this.”

Raymer and Faust both suggested that riverfront property owners assume much of the financial burden of studying the river.

Saratoga resident Glee Johnson objected to this notion. Johnson said that making riverfront property owners pay for maintaining river health “would be like saying that the residents along Farm Street should pay for all the paving and everything else on Farm Street because they live there.”

Bridge Avenue business owner and riverfront resident Chris Duke fell somewhere in the middle of these two poles. Duke said he spends around $1,200 per year shoring up his property, and “it is up to us to maintain our investment – we made that choice to live on the river.” On the other hand, Duke said that preventing future flood damage wasn’t his concern alone: “it’s much bigger than that – it’s about an entire season wiped out, hundreds of thousands of dollars, businesses struggling, guides out work for a season.”

To address these concerns, President of the Platte Valley Trout Unlimited chapter Jim States asked for the council’s permission to reconvene the river committee, as he had done at the April 19 council meeting. Council members Raymer and Judy Welton, as well as the mayor reiterated their backing for the river committee during the May 3 meeting.

In a phone call on May 9, Glode told States that the council had withdrawn its support, and the advisory body was to be indefinitely shelved.

Closing out the river discussion was Saratoga Encampment Rawlins Conservation District Manager Joe Parsons. Parsons said that the key to moving forward with a long-term project was organizing riverfront property owners into a cohesive unit. Noting $1.8 million in grants that had been secured to do river work along the Encampment River and North Platte last year, Parsons said “I’m confident that we can go get the money, but we can’t do it without the willing landowners.”

Other big news out of the council meeting included the first reading and passage of zoning ordinance 835. If the ordinance takes effect, it will allow property owners whose buildings are out of code to rebuild if their structures are destroyed by fire or other catastrophe. Current zoning rules allow for the presence of such properties under a grandfather clause, but do not permit rebuilding after disaster.

A budget amendment granting an additional $5,000 to emergency 911 services, $5,000 to the planning commission and $15,000 to the municipal court also passed a second reading.

Director of public works Jon Winter announced that the streets department had installed 20 new electrical hook-ups at the Saratoga Lake campground. Winter also stated that Saratoga had been awarded a $30,000 grant from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Insect Management Program. These funds will be used for mosquito spraying in the area over the summer.

The next council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. May 17, at the Saratoga Town Hall.


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