Commissioners focus on budget, mosquitoes and rendezvous road closure

Uinta County Commissioners Eric South, Craig Welling and Mark Anderson listen to concerns from county residents about the large number of mosquitoes this summer, even after spraying. (HERALD PHOTO/Sheila McGuire)

EVANSTON — At the July 16 regular meeting, the Uinta County Commissioners revisited the issue of a street closure request during the Fort Bridger Rendezvous and decided to approve the closure. Commissioner Craig Welling moved to reconsider the request, which had been denied at the July 2 meeting. 

Welling said the request was made by Clayton Flint of Fort Bridger for purposes of putting on a concert on the evening of Friday, Aug. 30. Welling said commissioners have spoken with Flint, as well as county law enforcement and road and bridge staff about the closure of Manley Street for a short period of time and decided to allow the closure from noon to 11 p.m. only on that date. 

Commissioners had previously denied the request based on concerns about negative impacts of a street closure during the rendezvous. However, as previously reported in the Herald, the concerns at that time were based on closing the street for multiple days during an extremely high-traffic time period. After consulting with all parties involved, commissioners felt the closure could be approved for the 11-hour window. 

In other business, commissioners heard from several county residents concerned about the number of mosquitoes in certain areas of the county this summer. Jack Sims, of the Almy area, addressed commissioners and said he is a longtime resident who pays taxes, shops locally and makes it a point to use local businesses whenever possible, and he doesn’t feel people are “getting their money’s worth” from tax dollars going to mosquito abatement this summer.

“It’s not supposed to be as miserable as it is,” he said, inviting county officials to visit his property to see for themselves the extent of the mosquito problem. 

Sims, who was joined by a few of his neighbors in the area, said he is concerned about the possibility of mosquitoes transmitting West Nile Virus, which has been confirmed in other parts of the state. He said he and his family members are being bitten by mosquitoes even when wearing thick clothing and hoodie sweatshirts. 

Brad Asay, with Uinta County Mosquito Control, said, “Jack is absolutely right,” acknowledging the problem. Asay said there had been a large hatch after the last spray and that he had taken a light trap to the Almy area, which had captured nearly 3000 mosquitoes in one night. 

Asay said it is possible the new chemical being used this year isn’t as effective as the chemicals used previously; however, it is necessary to switch chemicals periodically because of resistance. He said there is evidence the chemical used this year is working since, in some areas, such as an area near Lyman, mosquitoes captured in light traps dropped significantly from more than 500 before spraying to about two dozen afterward. 

Asay said spraying will be done again on Monday, July 22, and hopefully that will help with the problem. “It’s just been an extremely good year for the mosquitoes,” he said. 

Sims said he thinks it’s possible the plane was flying too high when it sprayed over the Almy area a few weeks ago, reducing its effectiveness. Asay said that is possible and he would be speaking with the pilot to confirm the spray would be done at the proper altitude. “My feeling is about 100 feet is where we get our best kill,” he said, “but pilots don’t like to fly that low.” Asay said if the problem persists after Monday’s spray, they will have to look at other options to control the mosquitoes, including the use of a drone purchased specifically for mosquito abatement in hard-to-reach areas. 

The mosquito abatement drone was also mentioned in the presentation of Uinta County Clerk Amanda Hutchinson, who requested approval of the fiscal year 2020 budget. Hutchinson listed the drone as one of a number of one-time purchases that are possible due to a significant cash carryover of approximately $5 million from fiscal year 2019. Other one-time purchases include two new county pool vehicles since the most recent vehicle was purchased in 2009, improvements and upgrades to the county 911 system, carpet squares for county buildings to allow for as-needed replacement and the digitizing of land record abstracts. 

Hutchinson said the cash carryover is largely the result of several years of spending less than budgeted and some larger-than-expected revenues, particularly PILT (payment in lieu of taxes) funds. She said the overall county property tax revenues are expected to increase just over $160,000 from last year, which is still down nearly $1 million since fiscal year 2017. 

While the carryover and increased revenues are good news, Hutchinson cautioned they are not guaranteed to continue. They are, however, allowing the county to address some budget priorities, including adding a deputy in the sheriff’s office and improving medical services at the jail, restoring full-time positions in the clerk of district court and county assessor offices that had been lost previously due to budget cuts, funding county employee health insurance premium increases, completing construction on and beginning to use the Bridger Valley transfer station and making the one-time purchases. 

Hutchinson said another change in terms of budgets is a decision to change the name of the New Fairgrounds Reserve Fund to the Infrastructure Repair and Development Fund to better match the purpose of the funding. 

Total fiscal year 2020 general fund budget numbers include expenditures of approximately $16.8 million and revenues of approximately $12.1 million, with the cash carryover making up the difference. In addition, there are county special fund expenditures and revenues, largely the result of grant funding and related projects. Hutchinson said the approximately $3.8 million in grant funding allows the county to pay for projects that would lack funding otherwise. 

Some of the notable grant-funded programs include mosquito abatement, drug court, dust suppression, the jail sewer upgrade, the Bridger Valley airport, the Bridger Valley transfer station, and grants to health and human services and the sheriff’s office. 

There are also reserve funds set aside for emergencies, liability for self-insurance and deductibles in the event of a major loss and to build funds for special projects or large purchases. Current reserve accounts include $4.5 million in emergency reserves, $800,000 in the insurance reserve, approximately $100,000 in the Evanston airport reserve, about $2.2 million in the capital improvement reserve, $250,000 in the complex reserve, approximately $2.5 million in the infrastructure repair and development reserve, approximately $200,000 in the bridge replacement reserve, $28,542 in the information technology reserve and $10,995 in the abandoned vehicle fund. 

Commissioners adopted the budget, the details of which are available for public inspection on the county website. 


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