Commissioners vote to improve radio signals, hear department reports at last week’s meeting

By Lisa Phelps
Posted 5/14/24

WHEATLAND – After approval by county commissioners to move the county’s North Tower communications antenna, emergency responders will have better signals than they’ve ever had.

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Commissioners vote to improve radio signals, hear department reports at last week’s meeting


WHEATLAND – After approval by county commissioners to move the county’s North Tower communications antenna, emergency responders will have better signals than they’ve ever had.

Platte County Emergency Management coordinator Tony Krotz shared before-and-after coverage maps demonstrating an estimated 50 percent improved radio coverage for emergency responders throughout the county. The improvement would be the result of moving the county’s antenna to a different tower, approximately one-quarter mile away and on a tower that is approximately 150 feet tall. The tower is owned by Absolute Solutions (who purchased the former Kinder Morgan tower), and the county will rent the usage with negotiation room depending on if the county will assume responsibility to maintain the backup generator.

Referred to as the North Tower, the change will move the signal away from the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s, preventing interference in communications, and, with a more vertical beam, the factors combine to give better communication with repeaters set up throughout the county. As phase one of three proposed phases Krotz hopes to accomplish in the next few years, the change at the North Tower should immediately have noticeably better signals.

The commissioners agreed unanimously to approve moving the county’s North Tower antenna, and it is estimated the move should be completed by early- to mid-summer.

Guernsey mayor Ed Delgado was present at the meeting to hear the commissioner’s discussion concerning the bridge at the end of Lingle Street near the Oregon Trail Golf Course in Guernsey. The Town of Guernsey owns either side of the bridge inside the limits of the town, but the bridge is county property. Chris Bookout with the Platte County Road and Bridge department said he and the mayor had been discussing repairs that need to be made to the road on either side of the bridge. Since the county will be doing chip sealing of Tank Farm Road and the county road leading to the bridge, it would be no issue to help fix the small hump on the north side of the bridge and chip seal the full distance to the bridge on the south, not just to the cattle guard where they usually stop. The town would be taking care of the north side of the bridge in its own street repair program.

After a discussion determining the roads on either side of the bridge belong to the town, Commissioner Shockley offered to allow the Town of Guernsey to annex in the bridge if they wanted to. “It makes sense you guys have the whole road,” Steve Shockley, county commissioner chairman, said.

“We don’t want to keep a random bridge,” Mantle agreed. No action was taken during this discussion. 

County Planner Doug Dumont explained Black Hills has separated their project to construct transmission lines through the county into three separate requests to be considered by the Planning and Zoning board, so if one was held up, it wouldn’t hold up the whole project. A meeting of the Planning and Zoning board to discuss the transmission line construction path through Platte County is scheduled for May 14 at the Agriplex, with the commissioners considering the planning and zoning application at their meeting next Tuesday, May 21.

 “We have decided to have the meeting at the Agriplex in the off chance it will be too big. There could be 10 people show up, or a lot more. We sent out so many certified letters and have had so many phone calls it may go smoothly, or it may be a long night,” Dumont said.

The commissioners approved an amended budget from Platte County Clerk Malcolm Ervin, reflecting changes for the sale and purchase of Road and Bridge equipment, and maintenance department repairs to the cooler for the coroner’s office.

In explanation, Ervin said an Oshkosh self-propelled snowblower, which is no longer needed by the county since they now have truck-mounted snowblowers, was sold for an amount that covered the cost to buy a woodchipper. So, the sale of one unneeded piece of equipment paid for the purchase of needed equipment. The chipper will allow the county to trim trees on overgrown roadways to allow better passage of vehicles.

Concerning the repair of the coroner’s office cooler, Ervin said the county owns two coolers. One had a compressor fail, but the replacement had no guarantee, and a quote from TC Edwards for $6,500 for a more substantial repair came with a guarantee, so the decision was made to purchase and install that unit. The money was taken out of the Sales Tax general one percent fund. “That unit was in a precarious spot, and we had to repair it,” Ervin said.

The state legislature has authorized $300,000 per year appropriations from WyoLotto gambling proceeds across the state to be distributed among the counties for the purpose of encouraging responsible gambling, and bringing awareness of resources that can help people to whom it has become an addiction. Platte County Public Health is in charge of administering the funds locally. County Clerk Malcolm Ervin reported at the meeting, while some of the money has been spent, the rest of the resources are being pooled in order to be more effective in the task of encouraging responsible behavior in gambling.

The responsible behavior funding was approved by the commissioners.

Bookout said the road and bridge department is collecting a list of faded, missing, or damaged road signs and will be sending the list to the state, who will then pay for replacement signs.

Platte County Economic Development director Tracy deRyk told the commissioners the University of Wyoming Alumni meeting held in Wheatland last month hosted a UW geologist and the geologist from American Rare Earth. “They talked about the science and geology of the area, but not the economics. When we asked, they did not know – it was not in their knowledge base. There was not a lot of information on the economics of the proposed rare earth mine,” deRyk said.

Citing a newspaper report about American Rare Earth rejecting a $400 million buyout offer for the mine claims on Halleck Canyon west of Wheatland, deRyk is hesitant to plan for the mine to be quite what is boasted. She referred to former Wheatland businesses, and a purported Wendy’s restaurant coming to town but then having the plans cancelled by the owners, drRyk said, “I don’t know about you, but I’m a little gun shy. Things float around and then don’t come.”

She said at the last PCED meeting, the board heard from Tom Davis, the Twin Pine Ranch manager. “I reached out about the state of the Hilltop restaurant, and he said when they took the stuff out of the building during renovation, someone notified the DEQ of an asbestos violation, so they are waiting on the DEQ to give them permission to continue construction.”

On another note, deRyk reported the Total Spring Show was a success, garnering a lot of foot traffic and feedback from surveys about the kinds of businesses people would like to see come to town. She and the commissioners met Thursday to see the breakdown and discuss future plans for economic development for the county.