A possible funding source for a purchase of about 5,500 acres of land stretching from the Medicine Bow National Forest to Laramie’s east edge for $14 million was presented to the Albany County Commission on Tuesday during its work session.
Members of the financial subcommittee, a group of appointed officials tasked with finding ways to purchase the property, presented a potential loan from the State Loan and Investment Board, Albany County Grants Manager Tai Wright said.
“We just wanted to discuss this and let the commission know that one of the major pieces of the funding for Pilot Hill that have been in discussion is this loan,” Wright said. “If, in this discussion, you are not interested, that would help our direct our subcommittees moving forward.”
City of Laramie Administrative Services Director Malea Brown said the loan is designed to help agencies protect water from contamination. The Pilot Hill purchase qualifies for the loan because it could help to protect water the Casper Aquifer.
“I have already discussed the loan with the State Loan and Investment Board and the possibility of having a loan program,” Brown said.
Commissioner Terri Jones said purchasing the Pilot Peak property is beneficial for several reasons such as economic growth, providing a recreation area close to Laramie and protecting the aquifer. Even though the county has multiple potential funding sources, applying for the loan is still something they should do, she said.
“(The Pilot Peak purchase) fits into so many things, such as protecting the aquifer,” Jones said. “It is important that we put our name in the hat for this loan, that way we can come back and begin to work on this because it is like a gigantic puzzle and we need to look at all the pieces.”
Brown recommended the County Commission should apply for a loan large enough to cover the entire cost of the project. She said asking for the full amount of the purchase gives the county some flexibility in case they are not able to receive the full amount for the loan.
“If you want a loan and you want to go through the process, you can,” Brown said.
“At this point, there is a lot of stuff going on with Pilot Hill but we probably put it on the intended use plan for the total of $14 million, because you can always go down and you can’t go up.”
Albany County Commissioner Heber Richardson said even though he is not a fan of borrowing money, it is something the county should consider keeping it as an option.
“I do not like the idea of borrowing money,” Richardson said. “The challenge that we have is we have to have that option. (The purchase) is a big soup of resources and we don’t know how much the balance will be to raise the funds.”
The Albany County Commission is planning to further discuss the possible loan during a meeting in February.