Now is the time for citizens to encourage elected officials to put tax money where the rubber meets the road.
As Teton County commissioners make their final decisions on the budget for fiscal year 2020, one item of great concern is the lack of foresight in allocating adequate funds for key planning positions.
Planning for transportation and development takes committed experts who execute a community’s vision. It’s a specialized art that requires education, experience and, most importantly, boots-on-the-ground time in mountain communities.
Our Integrated Transportation Plan coordinator quit after three months and hasn’t been replaced for more than a year. The town and county are outsourcing those tasks to consultants. That’s a positive stopgap measure but won’t position our community to build the relationships we require to create long-term, regional solutions.
After trying and failing to hire a qualified planning and building director, county officials decided to pay more for three-month planners instead of permanent employees.
That’s flushing money down the drain. Even the most talented planners can’t achieve long-term goals in three-month increments.
We can’t thoughtfully plan development of our land and roads with a skeleton crew. If we continue this pattern, our power to locally drive decisions will disappear.
The Wyoming Legislature will dictate Teton County’s land use as it did this past session by removing county zoning authority for private schools and allowing family subdivisions regardless of zoning. The Wyoming Department of Transportation will dictate our road width, as it did on Highway 89 South.
The next time you’re sitting in gridlocked traffic — it’s only June — fly up in an imaginary airplane and cruise to 30,000 feet. From there you can see the bedroom communities of Star Valley and Teton Valley, Idaho. There are shared problems that could best be solved by coordination: housing, transportation, even a CWD carcass incinerator. Yet we can’t solve things on a regional level if we’re hollowed out at a local level.
County commissioners need to figure out how to fill these critical leadership positions now before we backslide on our community goals.
The public needs to stay engaged, too. Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the budget and vote on final adoption at 9 a.m. June 25.