Ask the Administrator

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Here are the answers to the questions that were asked in the May 2020 "Ask the Administrator" Facebook session. 

If all the "requirements" for social distancing are not laws, only suggestions, why are people being threatened with being arrested and having there licenses revoked? Why cant we be at the bar until 2 AM, why cant we go to a movie and why is it that the only place we are safe is Walmart? Is it legal for an officer of the law to arrest a person for not social distancing, not leaving there business closed or for living within the freedoms we are granted in the constitution?
The Wyoming Department of Health has the Statutory authority under Wyoming Statute 35-1-204(a)(iv) to regulate certain types of businesses and authority to regulate activities. The authority was granted to the Wyoming Department of Health through the Wyoming Legislature. These orders are enforceable as a criminal violation under Wyoming law pursuant to Wyoming Statute 35-1-105 and 35-1-106. As such, they ARE laws - not suggestions as you indicate - and they are lawful orders until revised by the Wyoming Legislature or reversed by the Wyoming Judicial Branch.

As for liquor licenses, a condition upon being granted a City Liquor License is to comply with Wyoming law. If the City is asked by either the Wyoming Liquor Department or the ATF if a license holder has been in compliance with Wyoming law in the operation of its business, the failure to adhere to the State's Orders is a potential issue. Additionally, law enforcement is empowered to issue citations for violation of the State's Orders. The City, however, has not shut down a single bar, business establishment, or issued criminal citations arising from the Health Orders.

FOLLOW-UP: Doesn't this infringe on Article 1 Section 6 (Due Process of Law) & Section 7 (No absolute arbitrary power) of the Wyoming Constitution?
This won't be a complete answer because the topic is vast, and has been dealt with in so many ways over the past centuries of our Country's existence. However, Article 6 (Due Process) and Article 7 (Arbitrary Absolute Power) are legitimate constraints upon the Government. With respect to both Constitutional provisions as well as the Public Health Orders, there is recourse available to a citizen who believes they are aggrieved by the Health Orders. All of the Health Orders allow for an affected person to seek variance for their own business or operations. Each Order also provided the ability for an individual, group, or even the County Commissioners or municipality to likewise seek a variance to the Health Orders. Finally, any affected person had the ability to file for relief through the Judicial Branch, seeking a determination of the ability for the Executive Branch to implement such restrictions, or for the Legislature to convey its own power to the Public Health Officers. Some businesses in Wyoming did seek, and were granted, variances for their specific businesses. In the case of Campbell County, the Commissioners did seek a variance for certain business establishments which were granted. As such, the Orders were not absolute and due process recourse was made available. However, to be clear it is a very difficult balance that has to be struck in this matter, and it is one that does weigh heavily on elected officials.

Is street reconstruction still on schedule to begin 5/28 for the Warren Ave cul de sac?
That part of the Pavement Management project is scheduled to begin on June 11th.

During the middle of a pandemic, and economic crisis so severely affecting the energy sector, which is the heart of Gillette’s economy, why would a rate increase on anything be proposed?
The City's utilities, by law, must be self-sufficient. They must each be managed as a stand-alone business whether it be electrical service, wastewater, water, or solid waste. Each and every January, the anticipated expenses for each utility are discussed at length in a public meeting and a determination is made whether each can operate with the anticipated upcoming revenue. It has been widely discussed for several years the need to increase wastewater rates to deal with an aging treatment facility, and the associated rate increases. It is unfortunate that the need to increase the rates came at the time that it had, but there were no other options available. These decisions were made in January, prior to the issues with COVID or oil prices dropping. However, in order to have a working wastewater facility in the future that meets all the upcoming EPA requirements, these improvements must be made.

I’d like to know how the city can fine business owners for potholes in their parking lots and yet not fix major holes on city streets?
The City has passed an Ordinance which requires a business owner to maintain their common areas including private streets and parking lots where they invite patrons. The City Planning Department works with private businesses to assist in maintaining these common areas. If a business is unable or unwilling to make repairs, then the City may repair the damage and charge the business for those actual costs for repairs. There are no fines as indicated in your post. This Ordinance was passed upon several requests from the public and after three public meetings where it was discussed. No one spoke in opposition to the Ordinance during any of the public meetings, nor were Administration or Council contacted with concerns for the Ordinance.

With regard to the City's need to make street repairs, repairs to potholes are made constantly depending on weather. Each garbage truck has an "app" which allows potholes to be identified for repair as they make their rounds through the community. In addition, citizens may call in concerns and make note of areas that need repair as well. This year the City Streets Division has repaired 388 potholes including 213 in May alone. In some instances, it is assumed that the street is owned by the City, but actually it is privately owned, hence the Ordinance previously discussed.

With our community facing an energy crisis is it possible for the city government to attract new industries to move into Gillette? If so is there a plan in place?
The City of Gillette in conjunction with several groups, including Energy Capital Economic Development and the Northeastern Wyoming Growth Alliance, seek to market and bring new companies and industry to our part of the State. The City also works with the Governor's Office to help secure grants and loans to assist in business development, growth and retention. Unfortunately, most States are more competitive in this regard, as they are able to give tax incentives or direct funding to prospective businesses. Since the City has no taxing authority, there are no tax incentives available, combined with a large segment of the community which does not want tax dollars to be spent on private industry. It is a hard balance to strike in trying to bring business to the community when some do not want to address the associated needs of a new business.

What the City and Campbell County do offer is first-rate infrastructure. We have a fully developed road network with access to interstates and US Highways. We have air service. We have a water supply capable of supporting a population of 57,000 when fully completed. When the repairs at Wastewater are complete, we will have a new facility and will continue to fund the depreciation of the new facilities. With Penny Power, we invest over $10 million annually is replacing streets, water mains, and sewer mains. We also invest in Gillette College which has the ability to adapt their curriculum to train and supply a skilled workforce for any potential industries that may decide to move here.

Why can we have 12 pigeons as "pets" but having 1 chicken is a misdemeanor?
The Ordinance, in its current form, has been in existence for over 20 years. There were attempts to amend the Ordinance in 2012 and in 2015 which both failed. I was not able to find any history as to why this difference between chickens and pigeons exist. I presume it is because chickens are treated as livestock while pigeons are now more considered pets, similar to parrots, and the like. I also suspect it has something to do with the fact that chickens generally are ground dwellers (I realize they can fly limited distances, and do roost above ground) and as such attract animals such as skunks, raccoons, and badgers as well as domestic cats and dogs. I recognize this likely does not answer your question sufficiently, but this is what I was able to find out.

What can volunteers do for the city?
We offer lots of opportunities for volunteers depending on your interests. We have numerous advisory boards for which we are constantly looking for people to serve. We have volunteer positions available at Animal Control. Additionally, there are lots of functions in the community for which we could use help off and on throughout the year. Take a look at our website and feel free to contact us if a particular item interests you.