Fort Laramie Town Council meeting sees three sworn-in
FORT LARAMIE – The Fort Laramie Town Council held their regular monthly meeting Wednesday night at 7 p.m. Mayor Joyce Evans, Councilmembers Laura Curtsinger and Kelly Loveland were present with Town Clerk/Treasurer Kim Craft.
Two familiar faces to the council, Ryon Brown and Mike Doan, were elected to the two remaining councilmember seats during an election Tuesday. The two were sworn in by Evans at the beginning of the meeting and fulfilled their roles throughout the meeting.
Evans welcomed the two and thanked those who had helped with the elections the day before.
“Thank you to those people who served as (election) judges,” Evans said.
The council unanimously approved the appointment of Michael Staiger, a former deputy sheriff for the Goshen County Sheriff’s Office, to the position of chief of police. Craft administered the oath of office to Staiger and pinned his badge.
In addition to Staiger, the council reported having enough money in the budget to fund a part-time officer for the town. Officer David Smith will hold the part-time position.
The council unanimously approved two requests for funding from the Fort Laramie Volunteer Fire Department in the amount of $12,800. The town had originally applied for funds through the State Loans and Investments Board (SLIB) but were denied.
The requests will aid in the purchase of a rescue vehicle for the department and air tanks for the self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) used by the department in house and vehicle fires.
Loveland said the fire department had initially gone to SLIB for funding. With funding from SLIB failing, they reached out to the rural fire board to discuss the matter. The rural fire board agreed to contribute $25,000 to the rescue vehicle, but they would need the fire department to come up with the remaining $25,000.
The fire department had a private donor offer to put $15,000 toward the fire department’s expense if the town could pay the additional $10,000.
“The stipulation is they could make other decisions for the money, so the decision needs to be made to night,” Loveland said. “It’s very important to our community to have this rig.”
After a great deal of discussion as to how the money would be allocated, the council unanimously approved to give the fire department $10,000, $5,000 out of court funds and $5,000 out of employee salaries.
The $5,000 coming out of employee salaries would not affect the town’s budget for salaries as the town had received around $40,000 in two payments from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. After discussion about the ARPA funds, town representatives learned they could use the money for employee salaries.
With the surplus going towards employee salaries, some of the money from salaries would be allocated to the fire department to assist in the purchase of the new rescue vehicle.
“The grant written to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) was for 75% of the value of the project,” Evans said. “We had to come up with the other 25% which was $50,000. There is no doubt in the town’s mind, this is a very important project. The fire department needs this in order to the serve the community and the area.”
The council was initially hesitant to approve the funds, but after testimony provided from Loveland, the council decided to unanimously approve the funds.
“It’s time for the council to pony up,” Loveland said. “The rural board bought the ambulance and donated it to the town. Those funds from the sale of the ambulance should go back to the fire department.”
“Last week at rural board meeting, they said they are going to pull their donation if something isn’t moving forward tonight,” Brown added.
“I feel like as a fire department member, the rural board has been floating us for entirely too long,” Loveland said.
Curtsinger made the motion the town donates $10,000, $5,000 out of wages and $5,000 out of court funds. The council unanimously approved the funding request.
The audience applauded the council’s decision to approve the request.
The remaining $2,800 of the request was for the purchase of air tanks. The fire department said they needed $5,600 total, but the rural fire board was willing to pay half of the total amount.
“The tanks are outdated and past their hydrotest,” Brown explained. “
We can’t use them anymore.”
The council asked what would happen without the air tanks.
“We would wait outside until another department gets there,” Brown replied.
Craft said the town had secured a grant for the purchase, but they needed their portion of the funding in order to make the purchase. She added the grant also covered cameras for the police department and other miscellaneous equipment.
“That’s a small price to pay out of court funds,” Evans said. “I feel that we need to support the people that support us.”
Curtsinger motioned to approved $2,800 out of courts funds for the purchase of the equipment. The council unanimously approved the request.
The audience again applauded the council’s decision to fund the emergency service requests.
Two building permits were considered by the council. One for the building of a carport and the other for an extension of a now expired building permit.
The council unanimously approved both permits.
Also pertaining to building regulations, the council approved an amendment to the existing building permits ordinance with language removing the liability on the town after issuance of a permit. The amendment shifts the duty of care from the town to the owner, constructor or permit holder to ensure the building is adequately built compliant with building regulations.
The council approved a request by Evans and Craft to consider application with SLIB for ARPA money they had designated for water and sewer projects.
Evans told the council they were seeking 25% of the sewer water project and decided they needed to fund the operation entirely at this time.
If approved, the 25% would go towards phases four, five and six, with a portion of phase three, and the water well north of the Fort Laramie Town Hall.
“It’s functioning well, enough to be viable, but it’s not treated water,” Evans said of the water well.
Evans said the town would need to reline the well, replace the screens and install a pump for the project. In addition, the Evans proposed they would enclose the water well to create a non-potable water filling station to be used as a water filling station by the fire department, railroad and contractors.
The town has received several requests in the past for bulk water sales, according to Evans. But the town had not previously been able to offer bulk water as the fire hydrants in the town of Fort Laramie are tied to the drinking water and it would substantially strain the town’s drinking water system. Evans noted there are some pipes in the system which are not currently large enough to carry the needs of the fire department. Evans said the enhancements to the well would prolong the life of the existing water system.
Loveland noted the well would be a huge benefit to the fire department and other towns providing mutual aid to the town of Fort Laramie in the event of emergencies.
The council unanimously approved the request to submit the application for the project.
On the topic of utilities, Evans reported the town had been experiencing technical difficulties with the meter readers utilized by the town. Some townspeople had not received a bill and others feared they had lost their bill when they actually never received a bill due to the issues presented by the meter reader.
Evans informed the council the town had acquired an updated reader for the town which would be upgradeable to serve the functions needed by the town. The new reader will utilize a cell phone and will be a recurring cost to the town in the amount of $1,100 per year.
Decilla Watson presented a request to the town to hold a community event, such as a penny carnival, this year during Halloween. Watson said she felt it would be a great community enhancement and help keep the kids safe.
“If we can keep one kid out of trouble, we have done our job,” Watson said.
The event was previously cancelled due to the COVID pandemic, but the council and Watson agreed it would be a great idea to get the fire department and community involved with the matter.
“Blessing given,” Evans said. “It’s going to build community, and we are all about that.”
The council announced an opening for an assistant clerk/treasurer position for the town. The position is part-time, and the position is for one day a week.
Evans announced there will be a band playing in the community center Friday night in honor of her and her husband’s 50th wedding anniversary. She said everyone is invited and urged everyone present to invite all their friends and family.
The next meeting of the Fort Laramie Town Council will be Wednesday Aug. 10, at 7 p.m. at Fort Laramie Town Hall.