By Karla Pomeroy
Editor 

Mayor Gill looks back at first year

WORLAND — As Worland Mayor Jim Gill wraps up his first year at the helm of the county seat, he sat down to reflect on a busy first year and what’s ahead for 2018.

 

December 29, 2017



WORLAND — As Worland Mayor Jim Gill wraps up his first year at the helm of the county seat, he sat down to reflect on a busy first year and what’s ahead for 2018.

Gill said he appreciated former Mayor Dave Duffy who helped with a smooth transition and answered any question the new mayor had at the time. “He was a lot of help,” he added.

Looking back to a year of flooding and tight budgets, Gill said people have asked him if he is still glad he ran. “I would say resoundingly yes,” Gill said. “And why … I mean it from the bottom of my heart, I work with some great people here in the city as department heads and on down into all of our employees who help make it happen out there. It’s been fun. They make it happen and I know that.”

Gill said being a councilman he knew what many of the challenges were that the city has faced and would face. The challenges, he said, doesn’t take away from what he enjoys about being mayor.

Gill said he comes in between 8:30 and 9 a.m. during the week, going through emails, answering voice mails and visiting with those who stop by the office. He spends a couple hours in the morning at the office at city hall and also spends about an hour in the afternoon.

He said there is more time in the office than he thought there would be but added, “the time I’m spending I feel good about.”

As mayor, Gill said he considers it an honor to be asked to serve at different functions.

“I enjoy meeting new people that I never new before at the different organizations and businesses. I’ve worked hard at being business-friendly,” Gill said. He added that he has tried to visit the major businesses in the city, bringing a department head along to “touch base. We’ve been well-received, I feel. We’ve talked about some things that we’ve worked hard to make better for businesses.”

Gill said one of the major projects this year was finishing the airport master plan and updating all the lease agreements at the airport, which also included a slight increase.

“One thing I want to emphasize … the airport is still a huge part of our community [without commercial air service]. We have a lot of businesses that rely on the air service. Guardian’s been a great addition to the county and our city of Worland.”

Regarding the master plan, Gill said it was an opportunity to look at where they want to grow. There is an interest in more hangars, which means the city needs to provide more taxiways and that growth is included in the plan.

“There’s an interest in growing the airport and we’re going to work hard at doing that,” Gill said.

Another priority as mayor, which has been as a council member, is continuing the street improvement. He said city voters approved optional one-cent sales tax and nearly 100 percent of that funding goes toward street improvements in the city.

Gill said streets weren’t always a priority in the city years ago. He said the city crews, including street superintendent Jeff Taylor and Public Works Director Brian Burky are dedicated to improving the streets of Worland.

The city completed many parks projects in 2017 with new equipment at Hillcrest, new paint at Sanders Park and a renovation at Pioneer Square. Gill said Pioneer Square generated a lot of interest and discussion. He said they had support from the Newell Sargent Foundation who wanted the city to look at improvements in the park at 10th and Big Horn.

“I think the change has been good,” Gill said, noting people can see the pioneer statues that depict the early life in Washakie County.

Regarding a digital, electronic sign that was discussed as an addition to the park, Gill said, the city didn’t receive a lot of support from residents and in the end opted to spend money elsewhere. One of the reasons for considering a sign is with the park renovation, the hill where many organizations would put banners advertising their respective events, is gone. He said the city is looking at allowing the green space on Railway Avenue for signage.

As for his first year, he said, “I’m proud of it. Certainly there’s more to do.”

2018 Grow Worland Initiative

Looking ahead to 2018, Gill said he and the council are looking at a Grow Worland Initiative.

“By that, we’re looking at some of the contiguous areas that surround Worland and what we might be able to do to go in and visit with folks and partner up with us in the future.”

He said there is nothing specific at this time, but it is going to a priority in the coming year.

“Why, because we need to show we are a growing community. If you’re going to attract businesses … they’re not going to be very interested in investing money in a community that isn’t growing. What’s the other driving force, the census is going to be coming up. Right or wrong our numbers are important for the financial assistance we can get from the state for addressing our needs,” Gill said.

Gill said Nick Kruger, building and planning official, and the Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission, has looked at developing a Worland rural zone.

One step the city took in the Grow Worland initiative during 2017 was partnering with the Washakie Development Authority for a revolving loan fund for current or new businesses. The city provided WDA with $200,000 from funding that was initially provided for economic development when Governor Ed Herschler was in office.

BUDGET

Gill said 2018 could be a difficult budget year depending on state funding. “The budget ways heavily on my mind. We are heavily depending on the state for anything we do,” Gill said, adding that the city does seek funding for street and infrastructure projects from the State Loan and Investment Board.

 
 

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