By on September 17, 2013

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – When council members get into a jam they often ask themselves: What would Bob McLaurin do? When McLaurin’s chair is filled with assistant town administrator Roxanne Robinson, they ask Robinson, “What would Bob McLaurin do?”

Anne Cresswell of the Housing Trust had just presented the panel with her latest plan to purchase land and build affordable housing in East Jackson. The deal would run $2.7 million and Cresswell was coming up a bit short on cash to pull it off. Like about $1.65 million short. She asked Town Council if it could tap into the employee housing fund and buy her some houses. If so, she would rent them to town employees.

In his absence, McLaurin recommended the council break the employee housing piggy bank, but there was only a half-mil in that account.

Cresswell then asked about all that money set aside for sewers. It’s just sitting there wasting away until a mainline bursts somewhere. Cresswell promised that if town officials dug a little deeper and yanked $1.1 million out of the sewer fund, she would guarantee four of the 18 units the Trust was building at Redmond and Hall would go to city staffers.

“I talked to Bob and he recommends being extremely cautious about giving all the requested funding for the project,” Robinson warned.

Hailey Morton agreed. “I would prefer to go with Bob’s recommendation because he has a better grasp on all the moving parts,” she said.

“I’m comfortable with $500,000 and not borrowing from sewer. I’m not interested in taking anything out of the sewer fund,” the other Bob, (Lenz), said.

Mayor Mark Barron also said he didn’t want to plunder sewer money unless it was to fund START. “I would go with Bob at this point and live within our affordable housing reserves – about half a million at this point,” Barron said. “That half-million cap from Bob is backed by me.”

Then Jim Stanford swung the vote and used this writer and an alt-interpretation of the Book of Bob to do it.

“We have a writer and radio celebrity sitting in the back of the room who has recently written about his own travails in trying to find housing and how he has bounced around from place to place,” Stanford pointed out in a most eloquent manner. “The town’s need for affordable housing goes out into perpetuity. We are never going to have enough housing and our needs are never going to diminish. There are several ways to skin this cat, as Bob says.”

Stanford reminded his peers that the Town could protect its taxpayers by attaching a lien on the project in case the Trust turned it into another McCabe Corner money pit and, anyway, the governor was probably going to wire another $2.6 million Jackson’s way from the upcoming budget session in Cheyenne.

Don Frank waffled, kicking around the idea that maybe numbers could meet in the middle at, say, $1.1 million instead of the whole $1.65.

Cresswell said it was all or nothing and, oh yeah, time was of the utmost importance. The deal had to go down in 30 days and she needed an answer by Thursday.

The council bitched for a while about illegal VRBOs being the real problem and then Stanford threw down the gauntlet, motioning for the town to fork over the entire $1.65 million. Morton seconded, Frank climbed on board and the Trust got its cake and the icing with Lenz and Barron in dissent.

Somewhere, McLaurin groaned.

 And then there were five

How the town ever got seven warm bodies to show up at a planning meeting is a mystery. The thankless job of planning commissioners is to be the first line of defense against developers, catch a bunch of shit for no money, and then watch their votes be overturned by the council because somebody knows somebody.

The town is lucky five people want this gig.

Tyler Sinclair asked the Council if they wanted to reduce the size of the planning commission by two since they currently had two vacancies for a while now with mild interest from only one applicant. “If we keep advertising, we might be able to fill the positions,” Sinclair said as the News&Guide scribe assigned the drudgery of covering city government suddenly became more alert to the revenue-enhancement possibilities.

It was unanimous. The planning commission went from a water polo team to a basketball team.

About Jake Nichols

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