CASPER, Wyo. — The Amoco Reuse Agreement Joint Powers Board (ARAJPB) oversee former Amoco oil refinery property in Natrona County. They control the Three Crowns Golf Course, the Platte River Commons, Salt Creek Heights Business Park and the Platte River Commons Business Park.
The ARAJPB are seeking approval from both the Casper City Council and the Natrona Board of County County Commissioners to allow board members to serve up to three consecutive three year terms.
The city council discussed the request during their Tuesday, July 14 work session.
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Councilman Bob Hopkins, who serves as the council’s liaison to the ARAJPB, noted that the ARAJPB control assets worth over $20 million. One reason the ARAJPB is seeking the change is to “prevent the loss of institutional knowledge and experience if the terms of multiple board members end simultaneously,” a memo in the council’s work packet explaining the request states.
Hopkins said that it is important for the ARAJPB to retain such “institutional knowledge” when the ARAJPB is considering how to best encourage development of the properties they control. He said that “if they don’t handle that money well,” the city or the county will end up having to directly manage those properties.
Councilman Ray Pacheco expressed hesitation about the requested change to the ARAJPB’s by-laws, though he ultimately indicated that he’ll support the request.
Under the board’s current rules, members can serve two consecutive three year terms. Then they are required to be off the board for one year, but could then be eligible to join again.
“It is a powerful board, probably the most powerful board in this town I would say, bar none,” Pacheco said. “Nine years is a long time to be on a board with that kind of influence in this community.”
Pacheco said that if ARAJPB terms were for four years rather than three, he wouldn’t support the requested change as it could result in someone sitting on the board for 12 years in a row.
While he said he would hesitantly support the request, Pacheco added that he would really like to see younger people and women more represented on the ARAJPB. There are currently no women serving on the board, though NC Commissioner Brook Kaufman serves as a liaison to the ARAJPB.
“I think we need younger voices,” Pacheco said, noting that he’d like to see that happen not only on the ARAJPB but on the city council as well. “It is time to start seeing some movement I think. I’ll support it but with great, great reservation.”
Councilman Steve Cathey noted that if the ARAJPB terms were for four years, the ability to serve two consecutive terms would total eight years. Three consecutive terms of three years, totaling nine years in a row on the board wouldn’t be a huge difference from that circumstance, he argued.
Cathey said that someone serving on the board for 12 years in a row would be “way too long” but that he could support allowing someone the ability to serve nine years in a row.
Councilman Charlie Powell said he would support the request since he thought the ARAJPB members had requested it unanimously. But he said that he regretted not voicing concerns about choosing to develop a portion of the Amoco property as Three Crowns Golf Course.
“The reason we have a golf course there instead of a baseball complex is because old white guys made this decision and old white guys golf,” Powell said. “And they sold it to us because it was going to make money and it never has.”
“I always regretted that I didn’t speak up during that process.”
Three Crowns opened in 2005. Hopkins also noted that the golf course has so far not proven to be a profitable venture.
“Right now we have a golf course that loses money,” he said. “It is losing less than it had been so it is headed in the right direction.”
The ARAJPB contracted with Landscapes Golf Management, which is a divison of the company Landscapes Unlimited, to manage the course starting in 2018. The board have expressed enthusiasm about the new management of the course, though Three Crowns, like other golf course, saw setbacks due to COVID-19 this spring.
Mayor Steve Freel indicated that he’ll support the ARAJPB rule changes, but agreed with Pacheco that “you do need turnover at some point.”
Councilman Mike Huber said he’s also likely to support the change, but that he thought it might be valuable to communicate that the city council encourages the ARAJPB to be active in seeking new faces to serve on the board. He also asked City Manager Carter Napier to clarify how people get appointed to the ARAJPB.
Napier explained that ARAJPB put out notice when there is a vacancy and seek applicants. They then make a recommendation among these applicants that the city council and county commissioners must approve before that person is seated.
Napier added that a past city council required candidates that were recommended to serve on community boards appear before the council to give the council an opportunity to ask them questions. While the current city council has not made this a requirement, Napier said “there’s a number of ways council can be more involved if council would prefer.”
Councilman Ken Bates noted that some of his fellow council members expressed hesitation but were nonetheless indicating a willingness to approve the change. He asked whether council needed to decide immediately or whether they could delay making the decision.
“That worries me that there are reservations but yet we are going to do it anyway,” he said.
Napier said council could wait if they would like and possibly ask ARAJPB Executive Director Renee Hahn to explain the reason for the request further at a later work session or meeting.
“It is not my impression that there is some timely issue on the very near horizon,” he said. “I do know that we are losing some folks that would otherwise continue to serve.”
Cathey said that the council had been invited to a meeting with the county commissioners and the ARAJPB in September and could possibly wait to discuss their concerns at that time.
“The issue is not going to resolve itself if we put it off and wait,” Huber said. “Let’s move forward because it ain’t going to get any better if we put it off.”
The council indicated that they’d like city staff to move forward and draft a resolution approving the changes for council’s consideration during a regular meeting. The Natrona County Commissioners must also approve the request before the ARAJPB rules could be formally changed.
The ARAJPB members include:
- Chair Bob Chynoweth
- Vice Chair Reid Merschat
- Secretary Ben Schrader
- Treasurer Terry Lane
- Rob Hurless
- Doug Follick
- Jim Belcher
- BOCC liaison: Brook Kaufman
- City Council liaison: Bob Hopkins
The board was formed after the Amoco Reuse Agreement was adopted in 1998 to fund and oversee clean-up efforts at the former Amoco refinery property.