Kemmerer council discusses WAM resolutions

At Monday’s meeting, the Kemmerer city council discussed eight resolutions proposed for the Wyoming Association of Municipalities (WAM) convention in June in Sheridan.

Municipalities submit resolutions to WAM, and they are decided upon by the convention.

Then WAM lobbies the Wyoming state legislature to create legislation regarding those issues.

The Kemmerer council supported six of the proposed resolutions and voted against supporting two of the proposed resolutions.

The council supported the first resolution, which thanked the city of Sheridan for hosting the summer WAM conference.

Resolution 19-02 (which the council supported 5-2) calls for legislation that would give Wyoming municipalities or Joint Powers Boards the authority to establish a lien against a resident’s property if the city has been unable to collect past-due utility bills. Current legislation allows the city to take the customer to small claims court, but not place a lien on property. City attorney Dean Stout said a lien is usually cheaper and easier than the court process.

“I think this gives us another less expensive tool to collect that money,” said city administrator Brian Muir.

Resolution 19-03 requests legislation to create a Payment in Lieu of Taxes plan for state-owned properties.

“Cities are already providing services like police protection and fire response to those properties, but the state-owned properties are exempt from paying state and property taxes,” Muir said.  “There are not a ton of state-owned buildings in our jurisdiction. This would not be a big deal in Kemmerer, but it could be in places like Laramie and Cheyenne.” 

The council voted 5-2 against supporting the resolution.

Resolution 19-04 requests a bill to give funding to essential air service airports in the state.

“This one doesn’t really affect us  because we’re a rural airport, and we already benefit from the most recent bill passed that gives funding to more rural airports in the state,” Muir said.

The council voted 5-2 against supporting the WAM resolution on airport funding.

Resolution 19-05 calls for more inclusive statewide anti-discrimination legislation. This legislation would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

Stout said that from a legal position, this would open up cities to more lawsuits, but municipalities are already governed by federal anti-discrimination laws. The council voted 6-1 to support the resolution. 

Resolution 19-06 requests legislation to increase the ability of municipalities to directly levy taxes and set the local rate of taxation.

The council said the resolution was vague, but the principle of being able to collect revenue was one they supported.

“If this would lead to different tax rates in each city in Wyoming, it could be a nightmare,” said Mayor Tony Tomassi.

Muir reminded the council that many of these WAM resolutions are a general request for legislation regarding issues the cities and municipalities are facing.

“These resolutions are conceptual documents,” Muir said. “They are not the nitty-gritty legislation that gets worked out later.”

The council voted 5-2 in favor of supporting Resolution 19-06.

Resolution 19-07 gives municipalities and joint powers boards the authority to create additional storm water enterprise funds. The council voted 4-3 to support the resolution.

“Generally these funds are already built into the services that the city or the utility provides,” said councilman David Crosland. “Some cities planned well, and some didn’t, and they need an enterprise fund to do these capital projects.”

Resolution 19-08 calls for legislation that would allow municipalities and counties to participate in the state’s health care plan. Mayor Tony Tomassi said the city presented a similar resolution to WAM last year, but the bill didn’t move forward in the legislature. The council voted to support the resolution.

Tomassi said he would like to see the city of Kemmerer submit a resolution to give more options for specific taxes like the 6th penny. 

“In the election, the south of the county supported the 6th penny measure, and the north didn’t, so it didn’t pass,” Tomassi said. “If we could have a tax like that only had to be passed city-wide, and not county-wide, that might be good.”

Muir said he would create a WAM resolution that the council would examine at the next meeting in May.