EVANSTON — The Uinta County Commissioners voted at the Tuesday, Nov. 20, regular meeting to close the county’s credit card accounts with Bank of the West. The move was a reaction to a Bank of the West corporate policy to no longer support energy projects that are not actively working on the transition to green energy.
Uinta County Clerk Amanda Hutchinson presented the request to close the credit card accounts and said the Bank of the West decision was troubling because of the importance of energy production to Uinta County. Hutchinson said she believes it’s appropriate to remove some local business from Bank of the West because the policy is inconsistent with the local economy.
Commissioner Wendell Fraughton said, “Well, we need to do something because the policy is an insult to the people of Wyoming.” Fraughton said the local people at Bank of the West have been great to work with, but the county needs to send a message to the corporate office.
Uinta County Commission Chair Eric South said he also thinks the county needs to send a message. “I took it as a slap in the face,” said South. “I don’t personally deal with them but I sure as hell won’t now. Ever”
Commissioner Craig Welling said, “We would be remiss if we didn’t make some kind of statement; however, we need to continue to support our local people.” Welling said the county is not closing all accounts with Bank of the West, just moving the credit cards. “We don’t want to cast a shadow on people who work for the local bank,” he said.
Hutchinson agreed the local people at Bank of the West have been very good to work with and the policy is a corporate decision over which locals had no control.
In other business, an extensive discussion was held over an appeal of a planning and zoning (P&Z) commission denial of a conditional use permit (CUP) requested by Casey Wegener to construct a truck maintenance building and truck parking area on property purchased by Wegener that is zoned residential. The property in question is located in a subdivision east of Mountain View on the way to Lonetree on State Hwy. 414.
The P&Z commission denied the request because of concerns about public safety and property values for residences in the area. Wegener appealed the decision and spoke on behalf of the trucking company, Feehan Trucking, at the commission meeting.
Wegener said the property was purchased with the intention of constructing a company shop, with the understanding it was zoned appropriately and available for that purpose. After the purchase was complete, he said it was discovered the property was actually zoned as residential only when he went to apply for the building permit.
Wegener said they planned to improve the property by planting trees and fixing it up and said currently the property is covered with brush and collects wind-strewn garbage. He said the plan was to build an “earth-toned shop” with rows of trees that he believes would be an improvement over the current condition of the property.
He said the concerns about public safety were unfounded because the trucks must be maintained in accordance with EPA and DEQ requirements, and only trucks empty of any cargo would be stored there when off duty. He said there is no possible way any water could be contaminated by leaking fluids from the vehicles and said, “Our livelihood relies on disposing of materials correctly.”
Wegener said impacts to neighbors would be minimal because there would be only between 3-6 trucks located on-site and drivers would leave in the morning and return mid-afternoon. Wegener also said there are other properties in the same subdivision that create more problems with exhaust and potential hazards than would occur with the proposed trucking company.
Neighbor Carelyn Watkins and her husband Floyd spoke against allowing the CUP. Watkins said the Wegeners are good people; however, she is concerned about potential contamination of well water and future difficulties selling their residence if it’s located next to a trucking company.
Wegener said he has spoken to other neighbors in the area who are in favor of the CUP and said, “I think neighbors would be pleasantly surprised at the improved property values.”
County planner Kent Williams said, “I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t acknowledge the planning and zoning commission made an informed decision.”
Commissioners questioned Williams on some of the other properties in the area and whether another trucking operation and a lot full of cars in the area were in violation of zoning requirements.
In response, Williams said, “There is certainly the potential for land use violations in the subdivision.” However, the planning office doesn’t police for such violations because of lack of manpower and follows up on potential violations when they are reported. It is then up to the Uinta County Attorney’s Office to issue citations.
Uinta County Deputy Attorney Amanda Kirby addressed the commissioners and said a major concern of the county attorney’s office involves the precedent set if the CUP were allowed. Kirby said the information provided to the Wegeners about the zoning of the property during the sale wasn’t any fault of the county and said further the potential for other violations in the subdivision was of no consequence in making a decision on the appeal.
Fraughton, who said he is familiar with the area in question, said he believes the CUP should be granted because it could improve the area. Fraughton moved to approve the CUP, which was seconded by Welling. However, Welling stated he was seconding the motion so it would be on the table for voting. He then voted against approving the CUP.
South said he was in a position he didn’t want to be in as the deciding vote. However, after again hearing Kirby’s concerns about setting a precedent for other people who may request similar CUPs in the future, South joined Welling in voting against the CUP.
Kirby and Welling made clear to the commissioners and the Wegeners that they could now choose to appeal that decision to district court.
Finally, Kim West with Uinta County Emergency Management requested approval of a $12,768.49 contract with Convergent Technologies for nine cameras to be installed in the courthouse using funds from a state grant to improve courthouse security.
Welling asked where the nine cameras would be located. Hutchinson expressed a concern about sharing information on where the cameras would be; however, Welling said he believes it’s a deterrent. County maintenance technician Jeff Breininger said the cameras would be paired with 15 cameras already in place in the back hallways and holding areas for inmates coming to the courthouse. The new cameras will be in place near the rear, front and side staircases as well as the front and back entrances to the courtrooms.
The contract was approved. Breininger said after the first of the year they will be looking at additional cameras and continued security improvements to the county complex.