County Responds to City Concerns Over Fire Board Disagreements

(Gillette, Wyo.) "It could have been avoided." That's according to Mayor Carter-King in regards to confusion about the Joint Powers Fire Board negotiations, which are still ongoing. Yesterday at a press conference with the mayor, city administrator, and city council, issues with the timetable for the current agreement were brought up. It's part of the overall struggle between the county and the city to try and balance responsibilities for not just the fire department, but the recycling and landfill programs and beyond. "It's been a tough budget already and we really haven't even gotten to the meat of it," said Mayor Carter-King. "Even just talking about what our department has to cut is a strain for everyone." The letter of intent issued by the county to terminate the Fire Board seemed to have surprised city officials. "If there were concerns about a time frame, and about binding issues with negotiating that the agreement supposedly pulled out, it was unbeknownst to the city," said City Administrator Carter Napier. "It was certainly unbeknownst that a letter was coming. Had we received a call about the meeting that took place on this topic, I think the conversation would have been a lot different." The letter was a formality to extend negotiations until June 30th. According to the county, the original agreement does not provide the option for a verbal commitment to continue negotiations, it had to be in writing, in the form of the termination letter. "Though some may believe this matter could have been handled at a meeting that day, this was, in fact, not feasible," said Commissioner Christensen in a statement to County 17. The Commissioners discussed their options and voted on the matter during their Thursday Morning Workshop on March 31, 2016. The Thursday Morning Workshops are public meetings, open to everyone. Neither the Town of Wright, the City of Gillette, or the Joint Powers Fire Board were explicitly invited. "It's been a number of years since [the agreement] was looked at," Commissioner Shober told County 17 today. "It honestly has to change. There are a number of issues that we can't continue to fund at the 80 / 20 rate ." Both city and county hope to reach a new arrangement that is fair to everyone. The final deadline for negotiations is June 30th. There are meetings scheduled next week with the City of Wright and the Fire Department to continue covering the topic of the Fire Board, as well as other issues. Final decisions are not expected to be reached at that time, however. "No matter the hurt feelings, the city council will always meet with whatever entity we need to," added the Mayor. #count17 #news