Commissioners update yearly contracts and eye current COVID-19 status

Uinta Commissioners at an earlier County meeting

EVANSTON — It was another fairly routine meeting for the Uinta County Commission on Tuesday, June 1, when commissioners approved annual contracts and grant applications and agreements and received an update on the county’s current COVID-19 status.

Uinta County Public Health Nurse Manager Kim Proffit was a last-minute addition to the agenda with amendments to two grant agreements with the Wyoming Department of Health related to the COVID-19 pandemic response. Proffit said the amendments were simply extensions of the time allotted to the public health office to spend the previously-allocated funds. After approving the time extension amendments, commissioner Brent Hatch asked Proffit about the status of the pandemic in Uinta County. Proffit said she wishes the vaccination numbers in the county were “a little better.” She said current numbers show that about 25% of the county population is fully vaccinated; when just accounting for adults over the age of 18 the rate is about 35%.

Hatch asked, “How do we encourage adults to get vaccinated?” Proffit said that’s what public health offices are trying to do and that the goal of vaccination is not to eliminate COVID-19, but to reduce the amount of risk to something similar to plane crashes or shark attacks — they’re events that do happen but they are rare and people don’t have to alter their lifestyles because of them.

She said recent polls of Wyoming residents found that a full 25% of those who had not yet gotten vaccinated said they had not done so because they didn’t believe COVID was a problem and that perception is difficult to change.

Proffit said for the past month there have been about 20 new confirmed cases in the county each week and that genetic sequencing has confirmed the so-called “UK variant” — believed to be more contagious and potentially more lethal — is circulating in the county. Proffit said there has been a decrease in the number of people being tested but an increase in the number of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

“Some of the people getting tested are doing so because they’re already pretty sick,” she said.

Hatch said, “I want to publicly thank public health” for all their work throughout the pandemic.

Commissioners also heard from Rick Schuler with Southwest Wyoming Off-road Trails, who presented a grant application to the Wyoming Trails Program for $50,000 to be used for signage and other projects to get the SWOT program moving forward. Schuler said the SWOT project is generating excitement throughout the state and that numerous parties are working hard on multiple facets of the program. Commissioners approved the grant application.

Ron Taylor with the county maintenance department requested approval of a mosquito abatement grant agreement for $30,000. Taylor said the amount of the grant has continued to decrease in recent years but the county is grateful to be receiving any money. He said spraying for mosquitoes will likely begin in the next couple of weeks.

Saralee Gross with county road and bridge requested approval of a contract with DustBusters for mag water for dust suppression on county roads. The county utilizes tanks in various locations that DustBusters keeps filled with magnesium water at a rate of $79 per ton in tanks in the Bridger Valley and $75 per ton in Evanston tanks.

Next up was Clay Baird, county public works director, who requested a transfer of an airport entitlement agreement from the Fort Bridger airport to the Big Horn county airport. Baird said the Fort Bridger airport is eligible for approximately $150,000 annually in FAA grants that must be used within three years or returned. He said the airport currently has about $54,000 of that funding that hasn’t been used and explained that transferring that entitlement to Big Horn would allow the Fort Bridger airport to maintain its eligibility and the funds would then be transferred from Big Horn back to Fort Bridger at a time when they are needed for projects.

Baird also requested approval of an application for a $9,000 FAA COVID relief grant. He said the funds could be used to complete the fuel service island project at the Fort Bridger airport, which is considered maintenance for purposes of the grant. Commissioners approved both airport related requests.

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