Three of the five candidates on the ballot — incumbent Republican Tim French, Republican challenger Loren Grosskopf and Democrat Faith Wicks — weighed in during the Thursday forum at City Hall, hosted by the American Association of …
Three candidates jostle at forum There was plenty of trash talk at last week's Park County Commission candidate forum.While the discussion was civil, the subject matter at the Powell event largely focused on the future of the county's garbage.
Three of the five candidates on the ballot — incumbent Republican Tim French, Republican challenger Loren Grosskopf and Democrat Faith Wicks — weighed in during the Thursday forum at City Hall, hosted by the American Association of University Women. Republican Joe Tilden and Libertarian Penny Gail were absent — Tilden with a previously planned trip and Gail with an illness.
Three four-year terms are available on the commission.
The candidates at the forum split on how to deal with the county's landfills. State water quality requirements forced the county to line and improve its landfills or shut them down. Cody was chosen as the most cost-effective site to improve, and the household waste cells in Powell and Meeteetse are scheduled for closure.
Wicks and Grosskopf each said they support the construction of transfer stations for communities that have to haul their trash to Cody.
“They (commissioners) really need to take into account how everybody feels about this,” said Wicks, a 47-year-old Powell homemaker.
Commissioner Dave Burke has been the only current member of the board to support transfer stations.
Grosskopf, a 61-year-old retired public accountant from Cody, said it was important to find the most economical way to deal with the county's waste. He said his background in finances would help him run the county as a big business.
French, seeking his fourth term on the commission and the only incumbent to survive the primary, continued to voice objections to constructing transfer stations. The 56-year-old Heart Mountain farmer noted a detailed county study of the issue found transfer stations would cost more than direct hauling.
French also said the county plans to offer deductions to surrounding communities to partially offset hauling costs; he said he was the first commissioner to advocate for such discounts.
Grosskopf said he would be willing to look at using a 1-cent capital facilities tax to pay for landfill improvements. He said it would be a way to make sure tourists pay for their share of garbage disposal.
Wicks said the county needs to look at different revenue options.
French continued his opposition to a tax, saying the economy is in too poor a shape. He said the $18 million tax proposal supported by the county's municipalities earlier this year would have cost more money than it saved.
French also defended a county plan to eliminate discounts for illegal dumping that have been provided to the county's municipalities for years.
“This is a matter of fairness. We need to (level) the playing field,” said French. He also said rural residents do not dump their waste in city Dumpsters.
Grosskopf, a Cody resident, disagreed.
“There is no doubt that a lot of people dump (illegally),” he said, adding, “Anybody that lives on the edge of the city can see that happen every day, every weekend.”
“I always ask, what's their name (those illegally dumping)?” French responded.
Gail, who works as a manager at Cody's Holiday Inn, couldn't make the meeting because she and her children were sick.
Gail, a 35-year-old mother of three, has said she could bring a needed voice for younger families to the commission. She has said she would push for keeping property and other taxes low.
Tilden, who manages a South Fork ranch, was unable to attend the forum due to a pre-planned goose-hunting trip with his son and grandson.
In a letter read at the forum, the 59-year-old Tilden cited his extensive background in community service and diverse business experience. Tilden has previously run a travel agency, a ranching business, sold securities and he is a licensed outfitter. He also has served on the Cody school board, the Cody Medical Foundation board, and the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife of Wyoming board, among others.
In his letter, Tilden stressed the importance of managing of wildlife without federal government intrusion; he's been a strong supporter of Wyoming's wolf management plan.
Pushing back against the federal government was a theme common to all of the candidates present at the forum, too.
French said that, outside of the landfill issue, dealing with federal issues will be the commission's biggest task in coming years. He cited the ongoing development of a new U.S. Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan for the Big Horn Basin, Yellowstone winter use, wolves and the creation of a new management plan for the Shoshone as examples.
Grosskopf, touching on those same issues, stressed an emphasis on local control.
“State rights should trump federal rights any day of the week,” said Wicks.
The candidates also were asked to justify commissioners' salaries.
Among the state's 23 counties, Park County commissioners' annual wage of $33,924 ranks fourth-highest, according to a spreadsheet prepared by the Hot Springs County Clerk earlier this year.
Grosskopf said the wage reflects it being a full-time job, not something where you just show up at commission meetings.
“I think people have to remember the responsibility — it's a big job,” said Grosskopf, adding, “you get what you pay for.”
Wicks was critical of the commission's wages.
“Yeah it is a full time position but it's also public service, not pad your pockets,” she said.
“I'm not padding my pocket; my pocket's pretty slim,” countered French, adding, “This is a full-time job and you should be compensated for it.”
He said commissioners have to be ready to discuss county business at all times and all hours of the day. French said he's been approached at restaurants, a funeral, and via angry phone calls at 2 a.m.