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Dalton Fire Department, ARPA Funds and Road Department Budget Featured at Commissioner's Meeting

SIDNEY- Monday's Cheyenne County Commissioners' meeting was held at 8 a.m. sharp Monday, August 21, and the main items on the agenda concerned firefighting equipment, budgeting of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, and a report by Doug Hart, Cheyenne County Highway Superintendent.

The commissioners reviewed and approved a resolution allocating real and personal property tax to political subdivisions for fiscal year 2023-2024, in the amount of $27,500. They also reviewed and approved a resolution authorizing and reauthorizing petty cash funds for the various county departments, with no changes from last year's amounts.

Matt Gillespie, Fire Chief of the Dalton Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department addressed the commissioners about the need to upgrade the Fire Department's breathing air systems. Gillespie, who's serve two years as Fire Chief, 11 years as a firefighter in Dalton and started his firefighting career in 1988, detailed the difficulties of not having a compressor to refill tanks, and having to rely on other area Fire Departments, like in Gurley and Sidney, to help with refills of tanks. Gillespie has implemented work-arounds to keep the tanks filled and ready to go, but stressed the Fire Department's need for breathing air systems to properly equipped. The total amounts needed for these upgrades were not discussed, as Gillespie was asking the Commissioners for the proper avenue to obtain funding for these types of systems. As Potter is also in a similar circumstance, it was advised that the Dalton FD should approach the Potter FD and propose joint grant requests for private and state funding. The commissioners made it clear that the county would not be able to pay the entire cost, but would be willing to fund a portion.

Next, the commissioners approved a Special Designated Liquor License to MSKE Norgard LLC for 21st Century Equipment and Simplot Grower Solutions special events being held on Wednesday September 13. Cheyenne County Treasurer Shelley Bowlin and Cheyenne County Sheriff Adam Frerichs followed, with a report on distress warrants. Bowlin showed the accounting for 72 warrants collected on totaling $52,573.72, while 21 were still uncollected, totaling $7,756.49. The commissioners praised Bowlin and Frerichs on their work in recovering such a substantial amount.

The commissioners left the meeting for about 15 minutes for the Quarterly Jail Inspection. They came back and remarked positively about the conditions and upkeep, while both Commissioner Sanders and Commissioner Miller noted that it was the least amount of prisoners in the facility they had seen since being elected commissioners.

Cheyenne County Highway Superintendent Doug Hart reviewed the 2023-2024 budget and gave an update on road activities. Commissioner Miller said he took out the request for nearly $237,000 from the budget and shifted it over to the County's ARPA Fund allotment. This leaves the budget with nearly $385.5K to spend. The commissioners and Hart then talked about certain needs, like a dump truck, paint striper and other various equipment, while the commissioners recommended places to look for quality used equipment, as they did not have the budget for new equipment. Hart agreed and noted in most cases, like vehicles, the department prefers older models for their reliability and ease of repair and maintenance compared with newer models.

Chairman Darrell Johnson noted that he was concerned about the fuel budget, especially with winter coming up. With diesel and gas prices continuing to rise, Johnson said that keeping fuel costs under control is a big concern. Hart answered that they had diesel prices locked in until December, and he was actively watching for opportunities to extend or get a better price lock in the future. They also talked about armor coat for repairing the roads, and noted to keep a sharp eye on oil prices, and to buy more armor coat if the prices dipped. Commissioner Miller noted the increase in budget for gravel and training. Although the department has been doing road graveling throughout the county, Miller said, "You can never go wrong graveling roads, but we haven't been doing a good job of it." He also noted that the roads in certain areas were not in good shape for harvest. The commissioners noted they believed that the workers needed more training and left in 50K for that purpose. Additional training will help them be more efficient and able to better work the department's equipment, to get more work done.

The commissioners then talked about the ARPA funds that need to be budgeted by December of 2024, and spent by December 2025. The total amount is $1.7 million, and projects already slated for ARPA funds include the HVAC upgrade to the courthouse for $766k, the communications center for $89k, two used graders for a total of $350k, telephone systems and cybersecurity upgrades which did not have a set amount as of this time. The commissioners also talked about the drop in the price of steel which has lowered their estimated cost on a culvert project and the need for two more cruisers for the Sheriff's department. With their budgeting and with smart shopping for certain items, the commissioners estimate that after all the expenditure, they should still be around $30k left over from the ARPA funds to apply to any underfunded project when necessary.


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