Cheyenne stockyards WLSB mulls facility improvements
Cheyenne – After an $11,000 water bill from the Cheyenne Stockyards, the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) is considering multiple options for what to do with the facility.
WLSB Interim Director Doug Miyamoto reported on the situation at both the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee meeting on April 22-23 in Worland and the WLSB teleconference on April 29.
“In March, I received a $4,000 water bill,” he explained. “That is exponentially higher than normal, so I asked staff to call the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities to terminate service while we called a plumber.”
Because a warehouse behind the stockyard facilities owned by Streamflow Industries utilizes the same water line for their fire suppression system, the Board of Public Utilities said they could not terminate services.
At the same time, a plumber replaced a leaking valve, believing the problem to be solved.
“On the morning of April 8, I met with the city of Cheyenne, and they informed me that we had used 1 million gallons of water between March 10 and April 8,” Miyamoto said. “We were looking at an $11,000 water bill.”
The water service was terminated at that point.
“The stockyards facility along the railroad tracks has been under WLSB custody for about 40 years,” says Miyamoto.
The facility is leased to a subcontractor to run the facility. The successful bidder is required to invest $1,000 into maintenance and improvement of the facility each year.
“We have a contract with the Board of Public Utilities for the water and with Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power for the power,” described Miyamoto. “Typically, we would bill the contractor for the utilities charges.”
“That being said,” he continued, “I don’t know that we can bill the contractor for that much water.”
Joint Ag opinions
Joint Ag Committee member Senator Ogden Driskill asked what the impact would be if the facility was removed and if there were other options for those who use the stockyards as a resting facility for livestock.
“There are people we could pay to house livestock and the cost would not be more,” Miyamoto answered. “At the same time, it is nice to have our own facility that we can control when we have animal welfare issues.”
“The facility itself is also looked at as a service,” he continued.
In the past, Miyamoto also stated that the Union Pacific Railroad, who owns the land the facility sits on, has indicated if the contract was terminated, the infrastructure would all have to be removed within a 30-day time frame – an endeavor that previous estimates pegged at $250,000.
Senator Larry Hicks added, “I would suggest we ask the Attorney General to review the existing contract and the state’s liability. Then we can have a better discussion to make better decisions moving forward.”
The committee passed a motion directing Miyamoto to that effect, and he reported to the WLSB that the Joint Ag Committee asked him to follow up with an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office as to what it would require to turn the facility back over to the Union Pacific Railroad.
“I wanted the Joint Ag Committee to be aware of the situation down there,” said Miyamoto on April 29. “Since then, I have received a response to my original appeal letter to the Board of Public Utilities. They relieved us of $3,000 of the bill amount.”
While Miyamoto said that the relief is a significant amount, he plans to review whether or not he should continue to fight for relief of the remaining $8,000.
“I need to review whether this is worth sticking with or not,” he commented. “I will review that with the Attorney General’s Office, so they can take time to look over the details.”
Additionally, Miyamoto noted he has been in contact with Construction Management for the state of Wyoming and what to do with the facility.
“I got the sense from the Joint Ag Committee that they wanted us to explore what it would take to get out of the contract and walk away from the stockyards,” he said. “Until I have more definition as to what they want to do, I don’t want to make recommendations.”
Despite the desire to remove water from the system, Miyamoto notes that another company – Streamflow Industries – is positioned behind the stockyards and utilizes the water as their fire suppression system.
“They claim they don’t use the water for anything else,” he explains, “but I did tell them it would be my recommendation that we separate the water lines and put a meter on their usage.”
Miyamoto noted that the situation was both complicated and unique, since Streamflow Industries worked with the Wyoming Business Council to relocate to Cheyenne.
Board member Pat Cullen inquired as to whether Streamflow Industries may be responsible for part of the water bill, since the water could not be shut off because of their fire suppression needs.
Miyamoto commented, “We don’t have a formal agreement with Streamflow Industries or even a recognition that we were using the same water line. No one ever drafted a contract for payment for any water use.”
“I really hate to see us spend all our money on the bill where we may not have all the responsibility,” Cullen commented.
Board member Bob Lucas added, “I think Doug is doing well in pursuing this effort. Dropping the bill $3,000 is a step in the right direction, but I think $8,000 is still too much, and we shouldn’t cave.”
The remainder of the Board offered no comment, and Board President Joe Thomas asked Miyamoto and the Attorney General’s Office to continue pursuing the issue and determine costs to remove or fix the facilities to help the Board make an educated decision moving forward.
“We do have movement on this issue, and I have awareness at every level of government,” Miyamoto continued. “We will continue working on what it would require to sever the contract or what our liabilities would be if we don’t.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After a comment period ending on March 3, the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) moved to pass all amendments to the Chapter 17, 18 and 19 rules, which repeal Chapters 18 and 19 and make changes to Chapter 17.
State Brand Commissioner Lee Romsa said, “I didn’t get any written comments on these rules.”
However, he did receive verbal comments from Wyoming Farm Bureau concerning summer trailing permits between counties.
“Currently under summer trailing permits, livestock owners can only go from one county to another,” said Brett Moline of Wyoming Farm Bureau. “Many of our members, particularly those with three-county borders, would like the option to travel to two counties with just one permit.”
After determining that this change can be addressed outside the Chapter 17, 18 and 19 changes that were under review, the WLSB passed the rule changes.
Summer trailing permits will also be discussed during the next WLSB meeting.