SHERIDAN — Banner resident Shirley Weidt, who owns approximately 40 acres of land on U.S. Highway 14 east of Sheridan, presented county commissioners with a bill for $22,988 during their regular meeting Tuesday during time for public comments on matters not on the agenda.
Weidt said the bill was to pay for damages caused when the county hired a local contractor to remove mobile home trailers and inoperable vehicles from her land after she failed to do so in violation of two court orders issued to her in May and September of 2012.
Weidt’s land, which is zoned agricultural, is the subject of a decades-old dispute between Weidt, a few nearby neighbors and the county.
A “findings of fact” filed in Sheridan County District Court May 17, 2012, noted that Weidt has refused several attempts by the county to improve the condition of her property and make it so it does not violate zoning regulations.
It also noted that Weidt has never applied for or been granted a conditional use permit for any of the zoning violations.
That same document stated that Weidt had 4.5 mobile homes on her property, 12 inoperable vehicles, five vehicles that have been converted into chicken coops, three recreational campers, two of which are converted into chicken and goat houses, 14 homemade trailers and one van that has been converted into a chicken coop.
This state of vehicle and mobile home use and storage was found to violate county zoning regulations requiring 35 acres per one dwelling unit in land zoned agricultural.
It was also found to violate permitted uses in the zoning district which do not allow auto and mobile home salvage or storage or placement of two mobile homes.
In May and September, 2012, Weidt was court ordered to remove all but one mobile home residence and two operable vehicles from her land. She did not do so and refused to open the gate when code enforcement officers showed up to plan for removal of the items by a hired contractor. The district court found her in indirect criminal contempt.
However, Weidt appealed the case to the Wyoming State Supreme Court, which found insufficient evidence to support the conviction, nullifying the district court’s opinion, according to an opinion filed by the state supreme court Nov. 19, 2013.
On Tuesday, Weidt claimed that the company hired to remove her trailers and automobiles did severe damage to her property in the process.
“The Sheridan County court had a charge against me for the trailers I have out there, which I am still fighting,” Weidt said. “They got a complaint against me and took all the trailers that were out there. They were supposed to take only the trailers. They didn’t take only the trailers. They told me to take everything I wanted kept out of the trailers and put it outside the trailers. Well they took all of that, too, and they left just a big mess out there.”
The bill Weidt presented to commissioners included a hand-written list of 90 items damaged or taken by the company responsible for the removal of items. She said they took items that could be salvaged and sold and destroyed all the other items she had pulled from the trailers with the understanding that she could keep them.
“Like this, they took the baby beds, tool cabinets, claw-footed bathtubs. They just turned it over — it was outside of the trailer — and they stoled the feet and poked a hole in it so I couldn’t use it. And it’s still laying there. Iron bedposts; they just bent them, and they’re still laying there. Refrigerators, deep freezes; they chopped them so they wasn’t usable and bent ‘em up, and they’re still laying there. It looks worse now than when the trailers were there,” Weidt said. “There’s 90 things on this bill, and it came to $22,988.”
Weidt said she and some of her friends assessed the damages by walking around and assigning used prices to items she believes were destroyed by the contractor.
Weidt also claimed the contractor severed her power lines, leaving her without electricity for nine days. She said this caused her incubators to fail, which caused her to lose $800 worth of baby chicks. Weidt said her primary form of income comes from raising and selling chickens, cows, goats and pigs.
Sheridan County Public Works Director Rod Liesinger confirmed that the power lines, which were laid on top of the ground and not up to code, were damaged. He said the county hired and paid for an electrician to replace the power lines and bring them up to code.
On Tuesday, Weidt also claimed that the contractor cut the fittings off her standpipe, cutting her water supply. She said she has been hauling water since June. She said the lack of water and the removal of all but one of her trailer houses has made it so her daughter, Bonnie Weidt Northup, and her two grandchildren can’t live with her. Northup rents a house in town for $755.
Liesinger said Weidt would be on well water and would not have public Sheridan Area Water Supply System water service. Liesinger said he was not aware of her water service being cut.
“I’m not sure how we would interrupt her water service. It would be buried 6 feet deep. I’m not aware of any issues with us compromising her water system,” Liesinger said.
“I’m not saying we did or didn’t,” he added.
County Commission Chairman Terry Cram and Liesinger both hesitated to speak much about the case since matters are still under litigation.
Weidt presented a similar bill to commissioners Nov. 4, though many of the items were different, Cram said. That bill was given to Attorney Ryan Healy, who has been contracted by County Attorney Matt Redle to represent the county in cases against Weidt.
“He filed it away thinking it was just a complaint from her and didn’t require any further action on his part. He wasn’t sure what it was. It was not on formal complaint form. It was just bunch of stuff scribbled down,” Cram said.
At the meeting, the commissioners voted to informally accept the bill since it was not on the agenda.
“We will put it on the agenda and formally accept it at our next regular meeting,” Cram said. “We will accept it with a recommendation from our county attorney on what to do with it.”
Healy confirmed what Cram said, noting that the claim will be formally accepted at the next County Commission meeting. Healy said he could not comment on any other aspects of the case.
“There is a matter pending in district courts, and it’s not appropriate for me to comment on pending litigation,” Healy said. “There is a pending matter that’s related. It’s been filed in district court.”
In other business:
• Issue: Story resident George Lumbeck approached county commissioners during time for public comments on matters not on the agenda to ask for $3,000 to help the board of directors for the Piney Cemetery to purchase 4 acres of state land in order to expand the cemetery, which is reaching capacity.
• Discussion: The 2-acre Piney Cemetery is located between Shell and Mead creeks on the line between Sheridan and Johnson counties near Fort Phil Kearny. It was created in 1900 and holds people who died as early as 1892. If expanded, it is estimated to last another 150-200 years.
Lumbeck said the board is also requesting $3,000 from Johnson County. It has saved $18,000 and needs an additional $10,000 to purchase land from the state land board, which was recently granted the right to sell minute parcels of state land for a handful of reasons, including cemeteries, Cram said.
Sen. Bruce Burns spoke in support of expanding the cemetery. Commissioner Steve Maier requested that the Piney Cemetery submit a letter of request as all nonprofits are asked to do when requesting support. Cram said the matter would be included on the agenda for the next meeting Feb. 4 for consideration by commissioners.
• Issue: The Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board requested the Board of County Commissioners to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement to transfer $491,751 worth of capital improvements and fixtures — including grandstand seating, the crow’s next and an air conditioning system in the Exhibit Hall — completed by the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds to Sheridan County.
• Discussion: Commissioner Tom Ringley, who is on the Sheridan WYO Rodeo Board, said he felt the transfer was a good move on the part of the board.
“I would hope in the next few years the rodeo board would want to do more stuff like this. My hat’s off to the rodeo board,” Ringley said.
• Action: The commissioners voted to accept the memorandum of agreement and ownership of improvements and fixtures.
• Issue: Consider an amendment to the lease agreement between Sheridan County and the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office for land leased by the sheriff’s office at Sheridan County Airport for storage of search and rescue equipment.
• Airport Manager John Stopka said the Sheriff’s office used to be responsible for snow removal on the leased storage area but that it made more sense for airport crews to remove snow. The lease agreement will be amended to have airport staff conduct snow removal in the storage area for an additional $100 per month. The total lease amount will now be $1,300 per month, Stopka said.
• Action: Commissioners voted to approve the amendment to the lease agreement.