Town joins fight for downtown trees

by nathan oster

A last-minute effort is underway to get trees planted some of the bumpouts that are currently under construction in downtown Greybull.

To date, the project is minus one in the tree category, as crews from S&S Builders earlier this spring removed the only tree that existed on the north side of Greybull Avenue between Fifth and Sixth.

No tree plantings were included in the design of the new downtown streetscape.

While there has been talk of planters going in the bumpouts at the intersections, Rodney Ross, a member of the Greybull Tree Board, said his desire, and the desire of many people he’s spoken with, is to have “trees in the ground, instead of in a pot.”

The problem is, the project is proceeding toward completion.

“We have a very small window of time here,” Ross told the council.

The tree board met last week to brainstorm ideas and involved the council on Monday night.

“Our suggestion is (to) get the state to hold off on filling in the bumpouts with cement and from pouring the sidewalks, especially on the west end, until the council, the chamber, people downtown and whatever citizens want to be involved can come up with an idea,” Ross said.

“We have to live with these things (the bumpouts),” said Ross. “We want to make them the best we can.”

There is already a tree in front of the Bank of Greybull, but the tree board is looking at three other bumpouts (those in front of Probst Western Store, the former Wyoming Classics building and the Scott McColloch law office), as well as possibly a fourth (in front of the Historic Hotel Greybull).

The council agreed to do what it could to help, including contacting WYDOT to work out the parameters of any potential beautification.

Bret Reed, of Engineering Associates, said there will be benches and planters in the bumpout areas, as well as a display of the memory bricks that have been sold by the Greybull Area Chamber of  Commerce.

In the contract, the completion date of the project is July 30.

In other business:

• The council recognized Kathy Smith, who will be reducing her role with the town when its new administrator/finance director, Joe Fischer, joins the staff on Monday. Smith, who lobbied for the hiring of an administrator, will remain the town clerk while assuming the municipal court clerk responsibilities of Kay Mattis, who is retiring at the end of this month.

The council thanked Smith for “22 years of faithful service” that often times was “above and beyond the call of duty.”

• Police Chief Bill Brenner was asked about several items in his monthly report, only one of which — a drug dog search in the Riverton/Lander area — was something other than a typo in the computer-generated report.

Brenner confirmed that the GPD did, in fact, send its K9 officer, Santana, and handler, Officer Shannon Armstrong, to Fremont County to assist in a drug search of school campuses in that area.

Brenner said that with so few drug dogs around the state, there is great cooperation among agencies with K9s.  Riverton has sent its drug dog to Greybull to assist with searches, he said, adding that in this case, Greybull was just returning.

“That’s the farthest we’ve ever gone, and we try to limit those trips to just one per year,” Brenner said, adding that “We don’t charge them (when we help them) and we don’t pay them (when they help us).”

• Bret Reed if Engineering Associates asked for and received the council’s OK to release the retainage for the 2010 sewer upgrade project. The project’s completion date is approaching, Reed said.

On another topic, the council gave the thumbs up to proceed with the energy-efficiency upgrade to the Herb Asp Community Center — with the stipulation that the bids must meet the approval of the engineers.  The bid opening is set for later this week.

• The council approved a variance to Kate Seneca to proceed with the construction of an 8-foot privacy fence between her property at 441 Second Ave. N. and a property located adjacent to the east.

In doing so, the council followed the recommendation of its Planning and Zoning Commission, which supported the request because the 8-foot fence would be just between the houses and the garages which are set back to the rear of the sites.  According to the minutes, the P&Z ruled the fence wouldn’t be unsightly or create any traffic hazards.

• The council approved its proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year on second reading.

• Steve Hoblit of Grace Fellowship Church approached the council to request two handicapped parking spaces in front of the church.  He said the church would like to paint them blue.

In the past, the council has approved similar requests from churches, including one from First Baptist.  It followed suit for Grace Fellowship, approving the motion with no dissenters.

• The council continued to wrestle with ways to regulate motorized skateboards and motor-driven cycles.

After discussion last month, Town Attorney Scott McColloch made tweaks to the proposed ordinance, including additional language that stated “no person shall enter any roadway, except while crossing a street in a designated crosswalk, upon roller skates, skateboards, motorized skateboard, toy vehicle, motor driven cycle without a 5-foot caution flag nor operate same without an approved safety helmet, knee and elbow pads and all such operation shall be subject to the uniform act regulating traffic on highways.”

The council further tweaked the proposed ordinance on Monday, removing the words “roller skates” and “skateboards.”

The council also tried to better define what type of vehicles would be subject to the ordinance.  Rodney Ross, in attendance to speak about another issue, asked where the town would draw the line.  He cited an adult couple in Greybull who frequently use motorized scooters to get around town.

To resolve the issue, the council agreed that any vehicles that the state would register should be exempt from the proposed ordinance.

“It’s very tough to regulate these things,” said Police Chief Bill Brenner at one point. “That’s why the State of Wyoming has steered clear of it and why they leave it up to the towns to decide.”

• Acting on a request from Brenner, the council approved a contract to house prisoners at the Big Horn County Jail.  Brenner said the agreement has been very informal in nature, and that the county is requesting official signed documents because it its refinancing the loan on the jail.

• Finally, Brenner reported on a number of updates he made to his department’s “guidelines manual.”

The updated manual addresses the use of personal electronic equipment — things such as personal laptops, iPads, iPods and e-readers — while officers are on duty.  They are prohibited in the updated manual. Personal cell phones are excluded.

Brenner said language was added to the manual regarding officer-involved shootings, at the request of the Division of Criminal Investigation. Brenner said the GPD has never had guidelines for this, but the DCI recommended it because there have been departments in the area that have had to deal with officer-involved shootings.

The guidelines manual also requires officers to incarcerate, rather than just cite and release, kids older than 18 but under 21 who are busted for underage drinking.  The old statute allowed officers to simply cite offenders. Kids under 18 who are busted will continue to be released to their parents.

Brenner said the guidelines manual addresses social networking websites — officers cannot go on Facebook, for example, and post pictures of their uniforms or discredit the department or the town in any way.

The chief also said the new guidelines manual ends the “ridealong” program and prohibits officers from  using their police vehicles for personal use, with no exceptions.

The council approved the guidelines manual.

• Mayor Frank Houk reported that a group of eighth graders are doing summer school work on the hill east of town. Their mission is to come up with a way to “make an impact” on motorists entering town, be it with lighting or landscaping.

They plan to make a presentation to the council next month, Houk said.