S&R captains prefer airport site for south-end building

Barbara Anne Greene

By Barbara Anne Greene

Big Horn County Search and Rescue issues were discussed at the Nov. 7 meeting of the commissioners.
Commissioner Dave Neves asked Sheriff Ken Blackburn about the status of the South Big Horn County S&R building.
Blackburn said at the last captain meeting, the consensus was that the building should be at the Greybull airport. They would apply for a State Land and Investment Board (SLIB) grant.  
One of the members has a relative who writes SLIB grants for another county. Blackburn asked if the commission would like him to explore that option more. He said the land value could be used as an in-kind match.
Neves said he understands the airport as a location, but asked whether Basin might be more centrally located when the crash truck is needed at remote locations.
Blackburn said this was specifically asked of the south squad. They felt it would not be that significant of a change. It would be faster for the communities of Emblem, Shell and Burlington and wouldn’t significantly impact places south of Basin.
Blackburn said he feels the safety of having the truck on more elevated land as an alternate emergency operation center is positive. Flight operations are taking precedence over land operations. He pointed out that it is only a five-minute difference between Greybull and Basin when a vehicle is running lights and sirens. Blackburn continued that he believes it is “a wash” because at the airport, S&R would have everything it needs. He added that this county’s S&R is the third busiest in the state.
He will ask the S&R captains to be at the next commissioner meeting to answer any questions the commissioners have.
The budget for the north-end S&R building is over budget. Blackburn said he would absorb the costs into the sheriff’s budget.
Blackburn told the commission that this county has the highest helicopter usage in the state.  The National Guard funds most of the missions.
“They have been very judicious with the expenses they’ve had getting the state to fund back those items. We will have capital expenses for ropes.” A rope was burnt on the last rescue. There have been two missions in recent months with people falling at Shell Falls. He believes that the county’s rope rescue team is the best in the state. They may be asked to do a demonstration at an international technical rescue conference that is coming to Wyoming in two years.
Blackburn explained that the BHC S&R will be reimbursed from the Wyoming Search and Rescue Council on some expenses. He would like to see that money come back to S&R’s budget rather than the county general fund. Blackburn added that S&R has run lean in its budget the last couple of years. County Treasurer Nicole Vigil told him the budget process would be a bit different this year. The reimbursement will be around $11,000.
“Why I am talking to you today is because supplies, repairs, and training. Training hasn’t been budgeted for in our budget for a long time because we used the training and the reimbursement line in those accounts for training. And so when I first heard in September that we were doing this different, we had to apply for a ropes training class for $6,525. I had to take those out of the respective line items, which were contingency and other operations, which were in normal planning. Because I was under the impression that we would be able to have those reimbursed. That was not normally planned on because we haven’t been doing training because we’ve been absorbing our training costs in those reimbursements.”
He asked at that the $6,525 go back into the S&R budget under the line items contingency and other operations. The commission agreed.
Blackburn told the commission that the capital equipment budget for S&R is going to be up considerately, as well as fuel and training.
Commission Chair Bruce Jolley asked why there hadn’t been a line item for training in the past. Blackburn replied that it has always been taken out as the reimbursement. “We’ve always been allowed to keep that reimbursement money in the past. We paid for reimbursement capital equipment out of this reimbursement money. With it going away we will now have that line budget in for the request for the budgets. Then you (the county) can have all the reimbursement money in the future.”
Jolley clarified, “So normally this $6,525 would go into one of those other accounts and wash itself out.” Blackburn stated, “It would go initially into an account and when it came back, we would pay for it in this reimbursement line item. Because any training we really do for S&R is reimbursed by the state S&R fund. It’s just one of those things that was good for Becky (Lindsey, the past county treasurer), good with past commissioners. Totally support Niki (Nicole Vigil). No problems cleaning up the budget, but what it is going to create is, we are going to have to expand this budget in the future to cover these things.”
County Clerk Lori Smallwood said for transparency, the budget should be done as Vigil requested.