Image courtesy city of Evanston
EVANSTON — The potential purchase of a site in Evanston that includes a rail spur was the topic of discussion at the Evanston City Council’s Oct. 23 planning session.
The site, which currently houses Pioneer Oil, is of particular interest to city planners because of the potential attraction of out-of-area businesses that require a rail spur for transporting their goods.
“The reason we’re interested in this site is because it’s got a rail spur,” Evanston Mayor Joy Bell told councilors.
She noted Pioneer is currently using the spur on a month-to-month lease basis with Union Pacific; the city would seek a much longer-term deal. She also said the city had received a letter of interest from a company in Indiana that was considering building on the site and making use of the spur.
“The switch is active, and Union Pacific is bringing cars into that site continually,” city clerk Jim Davis said. “It’s not very often that you go down there and look over and not see tank cars.”
The city has applied for a $1.5 million loan from the Wyoming Business Council to cover the majority of the $1.75 million asking price for the eight acres of property. Bell said the business council will likely hear the city’s proposal for the business-ready grant sometime in December.
“We need land,” David asserted. “We need a rail center…and we’re thankful there’s eight acres. There’s no other place in Uinta County that has this capability right now.”
Bell emphasized that while the city has been developing the project for the last 18 months, it is still considered preliminary.
“It’s kind of frustrating when you have a railroad that comes right through town,” Bell said, “but to get access to it for your business is incredibly difficult if you don’t have it already.”
The council also discussed ideas to address the city’s “unfunded liabilities,” or accrued employee benefits for thing like vacations, sick time and comp time, the city will need to pay for when individuals end their employment.
“The employees’ group, when I met with them a couple of weeks ago, indicated there was some talk amongst employees about the possibility of us beginning to buy some of that back on an annual basis,” Bell told the board. “…I think that we have the employees that have a lot of time accrued, who are not very enamored with us buying that out right now, but our younger employees are interested in us buying back their sick and vacation time if they haven’t used it; maybe a week of each per year.”
Bell indicated that, if the city were to “close its doors,” it would face paying $653,867 to cover the accrued unfunded liabilities. Additional costs related to sanitation, wastewater and other areas would bring that total up to around $780,000.
“At some point, we need to think about how we’re going to manage our unfunded liabilities,” Bell said. “…If we continue down this road, we continue to have unfunded liabilities. …What happens is those cities and towns, and state and county governments, are going bankrupt because of unfunded liabilities.”
Bell said the city can’t do anything to address the concern until a more workable plan is in place. She noted such changes would necessarily be worked into a coming budget, the next of which is still some time away.
The council convened a special meeting just prior to the planning session Oct. 23 to approve the purchase of a new snow plow truck for use by the Evanston Parks and Recreation District.
The 2013 1 1/2-ton truck will replace a 1997 GMC truck, according to parks director Dennis Poppinga. The total cost for the vehicle, to be purchase from Fremont Motors, will be $52,870, with a delivery date scheduled for March 2013.