SUNDANCE — With the help of Senator Ogden Driskill, the City of Sundance will try one last time to sidestep repayment of $225,000 in emergency funding that it was granted by FEMA in 2012 to relocate the Cole Water Tank when it began to slide off the hill.
The federal agency confirmed earlier this year that the city will need to pay the money back because it did not perform a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) study on the land to which the tank was moved.
Despite several attempts, the city was not able to change FEMA’s mind. After two failed appeals, a request for assistance to the State Lands and Investments Board was also unsuccessful.
According to Mayor Paul Brooks and Clerk Treasurer Kathy Lenz, the city was not aware that a study was necessary on private land and was not corrected by FEMA. Pay requests were reimbursed in full at the time and only later was the issue of a NEPA study raised.
While accepting responsibility as the place where the buck stops, the mayor felt the demand to repay the money was not completely reasonable when it was simply a case of the city not having “dotted the i’s”. He had hoped to find help to repay the money rather than institute a user fee for city utilities that would have likely amounted to around $3.72 per user for the next eight years.
“As a community, we would have been much better off had they never helped us,” he said last week.
On Tuesday, the Sundance City Council approved a final attempt to secure this help in the form of a resolution to authorize the filing of an application for Level III construction funding from the Wyoming Water Development Commission. Brooks described it as a “hail mary” to get the tank paid for.
The application requests the full $225,000 owed to FEMA though, once matching funds have been deducted, will actually equal around $193,000. This, said Brooks, was Senator Driskill’s preferred route to help the city secure state funding, rather than to add the request to the annual omnibus water bill considered by the legislature.