Sixth Penny Tax hot topic at commissioners meeting


TORRINGTON – The regular meeting of the Goshen County Commissioners took place Tuesday, April 5 with a packed house. The hot topic, once again being that of the Sixth Penny Tax and whether it will go on the ballot. 

Representatives from each municipality were in attendance to present the projects each had come up with if a Sixth Penny Tax were to be implemented.

Mayor George Siglin from Lingle, Mayor Randy Adams from Torrington, Mayor Joyce Evans from Fort Laramie, Colby Sturgeon, attorney for the Town of Yoder and LaGrange Public Works Director Tracy Pragnell presented to the commission. 

The proposed projects for the town of Lingle would be to finish their sewer project and to make improvements to the Town Hall. Siglin also proposed to perhaps hold off and put the Sixth Penny Tax on a ballot in 2023, rather than this year.

The town of Fort Laramie’s request is minimal with a stormwater study, maintenance equipment and a maintenance building. “We had a town meeting, asked people what their most important concern was, and that concern was streets,” Mayor Evans said. “So, we’re asking for minimal equipment, a tractor with attachments in order to maintain our streets.”

Like some of the other towns, Pragnell mentioned that LaGrange is looking to replace old maintenance equipment, road grader and replacing their main shop. “That building was built in the 1920s as a service station, it was converted into an implement dealer, converted into a trailer shop, converted into the town hall, into the library and now it’s a maintenance shop,” Pragnell said. “So, we’re at the point where we can’t get the big equipment in and so whenever we work on something, it’s out in the street basically and that equipment sits outside.”

Mayor, Randy Adams presented a $9 million pool project for the City of Torrington. The current pool was built in 1972 with a lifespan of 25 years. And now 50 years later, the biggest concern is that of safety. “We spend money every year trying to keep in afloat, and we have been very successful at that,” Mayor Adams said. “The staff that works on it is very skilled, they do a great job, they’re very creative. But we know someday that it’s [going to] fail.”

Clerk to the Board of Commissioners, Cindy Kenyon, mentioned she will put together a packet of the proposed projects from each municipality that will go on the county website for the public to view. The packet can be found at goshencounty.org.

Chairman Ellis stood steadfast in voting ‘no’ to add the Sixth Penny Tax to the ballot. “The situation that we’re in today in our whole country, in the community and everything, is the timing is so bad for this right now,” Ellis said. 

Cox recognized he is the deciding vote and stated that he has not yet made his decision, but is pleased to have the numbers from each municipality. “If we’re going to do this, everybody needs to be represented and I believe they need to be represented equally,” Cox said. “So that’s kind of where I’m standing on it.”

Burkhart is in favor, as he believes voters should choose. “As you guys know that I’m in favor of these type of projects because it’s the only way these types of things ever get funded,” Burkart said. “We go back in the 90s and 2000s and that’s how a lot of these buildings that are in Goshen County got built, was through back then, capital facilities tax.”

Burkart concluded that he is concerned about the $13.7 million figure that would be matched by the county and doesn’t want to see anything over the 10-year lifespan of taxation. “I guess I differ a little bit maybe from my other two counterparts here about how much we should ask for, Burkart said. “I don’t know that, you know, if [each municipality] all had that same mentality of wanting to get what, you know, Torrington’s asking for…if all the towns had that same mentality, we would be at…45 million before you even got to us.”

“So, I think we need to be fiscally responsible and ask for what we think we need versus just an overall blanket cost share,” 

Several Goshen County residents attended the meeting as well to voice their opinions.

Young generation rancher, Lane Hageman stood before the commissioners to voice his agreement with Chairman Ellis. Hageman also shared that he is proud to be from Goshen County and would like to someday raise a family here, but with the current state of the country, finds it harder for the younger generation to be involved in agriculture.

“I really appreciate what Mr. Ellis has to say about the poor timing of this. I just, we just can’t even explain how, how uncertain we are about our future and how scared we are for our future and how we’re just doing everything we can to pinch our pennies and, and survive,” Hageman said. “We have no idea what’s going to happen.”

While many in attendance, including Chairman Ellis, agreed that the infrastructure projects for the smaller municipalities were warranted, the proposed pool project for Torrington received a resounding opposition. 

“I don’t want to single anybody out but maybe like a swimming pool in Torrington, to me is not something in, you know in my mind, something that people need, maybe wants versus needs,” Hageman said. “You know, there’s been there’s a lot of talk about let’s just turn it over to the people. Let’s just have a vote of the people. And I just want everybody to think in here in the back of their mind, that you know, if we’re just gonna put it on the ballot and let people decide, then I hope that means that nobody’s going to campaign for this. Because if you just want the people to decide on their own opinion, then I would hope that maybe there won’t be any campaigning because you don’t you don’t want to campaign for it. You just want the people to decide.” 

Also in attendance, Fire Warden, Bill Law provided insight with his experience in emergency management as well as a former council member for the City of Torrington. 

“So we talked about the swimming pool. Yeah, on the surface it sounds like that is a want, you know, so you know, push it down the road. Ladies and gentlemen, I work in emergency management,” Law said. “We deal with emergencies when they arise. What if that swimming pool that is almost, what 40 years past is safe life? What if that thing collapsed and we lose a child or a group of children?”

Agreeing that many are facing hardships in their daily lives, Law noted the challenge facing the leaders in the community.

“So, how do you move forward on this? It is a monumental challenge,” Law said. “You can continue to put it off. If we had built the swimming pool some 40 years ago, would have cost us a lot less. To build a road when it cost us a lot less. How far down the road can we kick this thing?”

Road and Bridge report Val Hankins indicated that they are now anticipating to be down four operators now after an operator put in their notice last week. Already running on their lowest staff, the county will have to anticipate even longer waits. 

Clerk of District Court, Brandy Correa, reported collecting $4,103.40.

County Assessor, Debbi Surratt reported that she is getting ready to print assessment notices and noted we will be looking at about a 10-12% property tax increase across the board.

Kenyon presented the clerk’s report including warrants in the amount of approximately $284,000 to be paid along with the payroll reports. Kenyon also reported that she posted the change to the sick leave portion of the employee handbooks for the sheriff’s department. Fire Warden, Bill Law reported that a training class for the use of chainsaws was held with 22 students from around the county in attendance. Law also noted that Yoder has their dozer support team on assignment in Texas and another Goshen County team is in Kansas as well. He also let the commissioners know that he would keep them advised as to any early partial fire bans if the need arises. 

Shelly Kirchhefer reported that her department is still working on a hazard mitigation plan and is hoping for it to be wrapped up close to fall. She also mentioned looking at planning a weather spotters class.

Also present at the meeting were representatives from the Torrington Learning Center (TLC); Heidi Wayland, TLC Coordinator, Tonya Nepper, Lincoln Infant Toddler Center Coordinator and Lacy Judkins, Early Head Start Coordinator, to thank the county for their financial contribution and support. As the child development center for the county, they are responsible for identifying and serving children in Goshen County who have disabilities of any sort and provide free screenings for children ages zero to five at TLC for the families of Goshen County. 

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