PINEDALE – The Pinedale Town Council decided by tiebreaking vote Monday to offer approximately $1.3 million in consensus money from the state and $300,000 in county joint powers boards funds to the senior housing project in Marbleton.
The decision followed a June 5 meeting of joint powers boards last week between the towns, county and senior center’s boards. The following day, last Wednesday, the groups came back together to discuss the consensus money, which comes from the state through the State Land Investment Board.
The Sublette County Board of Commissioners hosted the annual meetings to decide how to dole out $812,000 in consensus funding from this year, as well as $512,000 left over from last year. The joint powers board money brings the total to more than $1.6 million for 2012.
In the past, consensus and joint powers board money has been either split four ways between the three major towns and the county, or it has been levied more heavily for one area to support a specific project.
When discussing the money, Big Piney and Marbleton both listed senior housing as a priority, along with other town projects.
Pinedale listed phase 7 of the “water and sewer rehabilitation” project, which totals about $3.9 million and the sewer lagoon rehabilitation and clean up, listed at approximately $382,000.
“We had quite a discussion on the old money and the new money. [The commissioners and boards] weren’t very receptive in giving us any of the money. They were more in favor of using all of the money on the Big Piney and Marbleton housing,” Pinedale Town Council member Nylla Kunard, a member of the joint powers board between towns, reported to the council Monday. “They thought we voted on that, but we said we had to come back to the council for the full vote.”
Big Piney and Marbleton have each committed $1 million to the senior housing project, which already acquired the land from the county and has drawings and plans in place.
“The Big Piney mayor, [Phillip Smith], said that Pinedale needed to at least give $1 million to the Sublette Center, put our money where our mouth is and come up and support them,” Kunard added, referring to the previous meetings.
While each council member repeatedly stressed being in favor of developing senior housing and supporting the endeavors, pledging $1 million is not in the Town of Pinedale’s current plans.
“I wouldn’t mind dedicating $1 million to them if we had $1 million,” Mayor Steve Smith said.
Council member David Hohl, who attended last week’s meetings, was less focused on a blanket dollar amount to show support and more focused on instituting a SPET, or specific-purpose excise tax.
“The comment that we should put out a million is basically asking us to donate in kind to something we’ve not been involved in, in any way, shape or form,” Hohl said Monday. “I think the $1 million just as a show of faith is not where we need to put our effort. The effort needs to go into getting the SPET tax approved, not just showing good faith. That’s my take on the $1 million.”
This echoed some of the sentiments last week, where Sublette County Board of Commissioners Chairman Joel Bousman talked about the need to dedicate the money toward senior housing, which right now points to the Marbleton rebuild.
“If there’s one project we can say is common to this county this year, it’s this effort for senior housing on both ends of the county. I think, if the Town of Pinedale was agreeable, I think it would go a long way toward helping getting a balloted issue through if we can go to the public and say, the three towns and the county have made this project a priority for this community,” he said last Wednesday in reference to the SPET tax.
Bousman said he views all senior housing efforts as one project.
“The bottom line, if we’re going to do an adequate job of informing the public and getting the support we need to get that done. I think it’s imperative that we all get on the same page and we work at this together.”
Even still, council member Chris House said he was “frustrated” by the joint powers board, where he said the Town of Pinedale received no money and was repeatedly turned down on the four occasions he attended meetings.
Council member Tim Lingle, too, was not in favor of a motion to hand out the money.
Hohl, however, made the motion.
“We’re being manipulated into this, which is distasteful, but, if they want a show of interest, I think one or both of those would be more than enough of a show of interest than $1 million to me,” he said.
Kunard said she’d be more inclined to be in favor of giving up the money if she thought it would help the Town of Pinedale in the future, which is not a guarantee, it was pointed out.
“I don’t know that we’ll ever have a dependable revenue source from the county,” Smith said, citing differences in projects, budgets, etc.
Following Hohl’s motion, Lingle seconded. Hohl and Kunard voted in favor of the motion, but Lingle and House opposed. Smith broke the vote in support of offering all $1.6 million to the housing project at the southern end of the county, and Kunard informed the county of the move the next day.
“We’re likely not going to see that money anyway,” Smith said earlier in the meeting, prior to offering his vote.