GILLETTE, Wyo. — A joint meeting Wednesday night between the Campbell County Commission, the Gillette City Council, and the Town of Wright produced a verbal agreement to equalize funding and board representation for the local fire department.
During the April 20 meeting in downtown Gillette, the three entities reached a verbal agreement to split funding for the Campbell County Fire Department (CCFD) so the City of Gillette and Campbell County each contribute 49% of the department’s total budget with the Town of Wright contributing 2%.
The three also agreed to adjust representation on the Campbell County Joint Powers Fire Board, which has four members appointed by Campbell County, two by the City of Gillette and one by the Town of Wright. Under the proposed change, that representation would shift to three members from the city, three from the county and one from Wright.
Additionally, the agreement would include a way for any of the three entities to object to how the 49-49-2 model is playing out after two years and revert the CCFD funding model to previous levels.
Wednesday night’s joint meeting was the result of recent talks between Gillette, Wright and Campbell County to look at the current funding levels for the CCFD and ensure they were fair based on the distribution of fire service calls over the last five years, Campbell County Commission Chairman Del Shelstad said.
The issue of fairness was also raised when it comes to representation on the fire board with City Councilmember Nathan McLeland saying that if the city and county had an equal number of appointees on the board, then the Town of Wright would be placed in a powerful position to act as a swing vote.
He suggested a majority be given to either the city or county, similarly to how it is now, and spoke of recent talks between city leaders about the City of Gillette potentially taking on as much as 58% of the fire department’s funding if accompanied by a majority in representation on the fire board as well.
“As stewards of the City of Gillette’s tax dollars, if we’re going to be getting close to that 50% level, we want to make sure we have the proper say or a lot of discretion in how those tax dollars are spent,” McLeland said.
“Why would the county want to give up that control based on the years of funding that we’ve had until now?” Shelstad responded, voicing his opinion that it would make more sense to have everything as equal as possible across the board. “I mean, it’s appealing for you to spend 60% and us to spend 40 or 38, however that works, but I have a little heartburn at that.”
On the issue of fairness, Commissioner Bob Maul said that if anyone had any grievances to air regarding misrepresentation on the fire board, the joint meeting was the place to get those concerns out in the open so they could be addressed.
McLeland clarified that was not the way he felt, adding he was suggesting that the current makeup of the fire board, where the entity that provides the most funding has the most representation, doesn’t necessarily need to be changed.
Wright Mayor Ralph Kingan said it doesn’t matter who contributes the most money or has the most representation on the board because the City Council, the Campbell County Commission and his own Town Council have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their residents.
No official action was taken during the meeting, though the three entities agreed to come back to the table soon with an agreement that would split the CCFD funding and board representation as agreed upon.