By BARBARA ANNE GREENE
The drag racing at the South Big Horn County on Saturday, July 16 is a go, according to airport manager Carl Meyer.
Meyer was joined at the July 5 meeting of the Big Horn County Commission by race organizer Mike Howe of Greybull. The county has received a letter from the FAA, stating that it has no objection to the drag racing. Howe had held off on promoting the event until the letter had arrived, even though the FAA had given a verbal “no objection” comment.
There was some discussion about what Cloud Peak Drags/Howe should be charged for the use of the runway/airport. Based on a standard nonaviation rate per square foot, the total will be $116 per day.
The next discussion was brought up by Commissioner John Hyde. It was about the cross wind runway. This runway is an alternative to the main runway, should wind conditions make it hard for small planes to use the main runway. It is deteriorating, which is another reason the county is being allowed to use it for drag racing, per Meyer. “There is a plan to rehabilitate that runway. It was supposed to happen in 2016-17. I keep bumping so now it is in 2021-22. The issue is that it is going to cost $200,000 – $250,000 to Big Horn County to do that. The total cost of the project would be around $ 1 million. So the conversation is at what point and time do you make a decision to rehabilitate it or let it go.” Meyer added that there may come a time that the FAA and WYDOT tell the county it has to fix the runway because they had spend money on that runway at one point of time.
Hyde said he would like to see that conversation sooner than later. Chairman Jerry Ewen pointed out that the runway serves a purpose for light duty aircraft. Hyde said, “The point being it could serve that same purpose whether it was under the guise of the FAA or the county.” Meyer said that there has been a discussion before about if it is decommissioned what other uses it can have. “It’s not going to be easy no matter which way we go because it is in the confines of the airport. So in theory you have to go through this permission process at some level.” He said he could start having that discussion now.
Hyde added, “When you think about the county and annexing that back … down the road Search and Rescue, if things don’t pan out with other buildings and places to store equipment, I can see some other uses.” To which, Meyer replied that he would have to look at the original land use document transfer from the federal government that might prohibit that type of use.
Land Planner Joy Hill provided a verbal and written report with eight topics: subdivisions, flood plan development, forest cabin addressing, Shell Valley zoning, NRMP kick off meeting and steering committee application, septic application redesign and roads.
One subdivision was cancelled and the rest had no updates. Hill next discussed the flood plan development by the Scharen subdivision. She said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had been in contact with the landowner and until he completes the paperwork they are requiring, nothing can be worked on. Also, new location for impoundment has been sited off of Davis Lane.
Hill said she is waiting to hear back from the USFS to give their final approval of the project. She added that a deputy had done some field checking on some accesses on the mountain. “As a result of that we are probably going to change some of the addresses up there. The conditions on the ground are so different than they are on the computer. The USFS has numbers for everything. Like a driveway has a USFS number in a lot of cases. Ideally you would address a cabin off its Forest Service Road number. Unfortunately, a lot of these are real short or there is just one cabin at the end of this little road. So it doesn’t make sense to put the marker at the end of the driveway where the cabin is. It makes more sense to put it out along the main artery that joins that driveway.”
She added that sometimes it isn’t obvious until you are physically at the location to know if the driveways are marked or not. If there is a marker there to help you get to that road it makes more sense to put the marker along the road. If there is no road marker, then you want the cabin marker there. “We have changed about half of the addresses on the south end because of this. The cabin owners on the south end are very good about marking their entrances. On the north end, it is not as obvious.” Hill also noted her department was going to start looking at unaddressed cabins on private lands.
Hill’s update on Shell Valley zoning is that she followed the county attorney’s suggestions to conduct public hearings according to statutory requirements. She had placed a notice in the paper about a public hearing at the Aug. 9 meeting in Shell.
The National Resource Management Plan (NRMP) will have a kick off meeting on July 12, 4 to 7 p.m., in the commission chambers. She also said that she had an application for someone wanting to be on the NRMP steering committee.
The DEQ has redesigned its septic application Hill said. So her department is redesigning theirs; it will be streamlined and provide easier instructions.
The two roads in Hill’s report were the road to the Cowley airport, Lane 9, and Lane 9 ½. Hill asked about naming the future road that will lead to the Cowley airport. The motion was made to name it Airport Road. The motion carried.
There is a road sign discrepancy along Lane 9 and Lane 9 ½ outside of Lovell. Hill provided a map. The map shows that Lane 9 and 9 ½ are a continuous road that changes names where Road 10 ½ meets the lane. She said it was confusing for first responders. “It’s one long road but on the Cowley end it is Lane 9. On the Lovell end it is Lane 9 ½. Willie and I would like to see it be all Lane 9.” She added that the original addressing book for the county does not recognize a Lane 9 ½. There is no record of how Lane 9 ½ came to be.
The name change would not affect any residence or business addresses in the area. Commissioner Felix Carrizales asked how it showed on Goggle Maps. Ewen checked Goggle and said the issue was even more confusing. Ewen directed Hill to do what ever it takes to straighten it out.
Hill told the commissioners that she had received a phone call from a company that wants to do cloud seeding in the Big Horns. The company asked if they needed a development permit for their generators. The county doesn’t have any requirement for this type of permit. The company will work with the USFS.
Representing Road/Bridge and Engineering were Rod Wambeke, Shannon Hovey and engineer Willie Bridges. Also in attendance John Curry who is representative from John Deere. He was there to discuss the lease versus purchase of new equipment for the county.
Curry said, “When we went to the lease versus straight purchase, a lot of counties were spending a lot of money on repairs. What the lease does is that you put your money towards the lease and you are rolling into a new machine every two to five years, depending on the program. So your money is always going to the capital side versus the repair side.”
He gave some examples of cost of leasing versus purchasing. Ewen asked what the up-front cost would be to the county. He was told if the county did a lease, it would just make monthly lease payments. There was some discussion on trading in the county’s current grader for $75,000 and how that would affect the lease payments.
Carrizales asked how much the county spends on maintenance a year on the current grader. He was told $5,000, plus the cost of tires.
A lengthy discussion followed on pros, cons and possible costs. Carrizales said he wasn’t comfortable doing anything without having hard numbers. Ewen asked Curry to get those numbers to Hovey.
South Big Horn County Foreman Hovey gave a verbal report on what the south end crew has been working on. He reported a tree had blown down by Flitners and Whaleys, another tree went down on Douglas Lane, they have been hauling millings and chips, a dozer broke down. He mentioned that the county was going to need some new mowers soon.
North Big Horn County Foreman Wambeke said his crew had been helping Hovey by working on the crusher, Road 1 south of Deaver has been worked on and should be ready for oil. He had a utility permit for Lane 12 from Montana-Dakota Utilities.
Bridges discussed his meeting with United State Forest Service and Stan Flitner regarding 200 yards of rock on Forest Service Road 17. Also in attendance were Ewen and Howey. The USFS left after doing some road construction. Flitner wants the 50 to 60 yards on his property moved. The USFS wants the county to move it. “It isn’t easy to get at or easy to work because of the location,” Bridges indicated. He said he hadn’t worked up any cost to moving it as he hasn’t herd back from the USFS where the rock would be moved too. During the discussion, the commissioners indicated they were not interested in taking on the liability nor the cost of the endeavor. The logistics and cost would be extensive. Bridges will send a letter to USFS telling them it is a maintenance issue that the USFS should take care of it. If they want to hire the county to do it, the county will give them an estimate.
Another item Bridges reported on was a franchise agreement with Charter. The county attorney reviewed the agreement and had some questions. County Clerk Lori Smallwood gave her suggestion on how to get those questions to Charter that would speed up the process.
Bridges talked about the “Secure Courthouse” committee and that the preliminary drawings have been done. He will consult with the sheriff prior to giving them to the commissioners.
On another topic, Carrizales said, “I was approached by one of the ditch boards on the bench. They have issues coming up with culverts, drains, canals and cleaning them.” Because many of these are in the county right of way, he asked if the road and bridge foremen could meet with these boards. He wants the boards to understand the county does not pay for the culvert replacement. Wambeke said he has never paid for an approach pipe. Hovey said that in the past the county has offered a dump truck at the site so when the drains and culverts are cleaned the waste isn’t just dumped on the county property.
The last item discussed were pivots. Wambeke said he had received some calls about them and he had told the callers to shut off their end guns and it should be fine. Hovey said he had called one family in the Otto area twice and the sprinkler is still hitting the county road. He will have a letter sent to them. Carrizales discussed pivots outside of Otto that are sprinkling County Road 17.
- Fred Werner reported that the elevator in the courthouse was going to need major repairs/replacement costs. It is 41 years old and it is getting really hard to find parts.
- Sheila Paumer gave a update on what is happening at the fairgrounds.
- Doctor David Fairbanks was appointed the Public Health Doctor for the county.
- The agreement with UW for the county extension officer was approved.