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Reports on Wyoming State Government Activity

Gov. Gordon vetoes ARPA funds to replace Wheatland's failing water tank

A gigantic white water tank towers above a mobile home, shed and car. They are set against the backdrop of a clear blue sky.
David Dudley
/
Wyoming Public Media
A one million gallon water tank towers above a mobile home that sits just a few hundred feet away.

Gov. Mark Gordon vetoed sending $2 million to replace a failing water tank in Wheatland. The funds would have come from $50 million in remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which need to be allotted to specific infrastructure projects by December, or they will revert to the federal government.

Meanwhile, residents who live near the tank worry for their safety. The tank in question provides drinking water for the Black Mountain community. Those who live near it know that it leaks profusely, and nonstop. If it isn't fixed soon, the water that sustains life could turn deadly for roughly one thousand residents.

Adam Vogel lives with his family a few hundred feet north of the tank. He said that he intends to move as soon as possible.

"I never thought our lives were in danger even a little bit," Vogel said. "It's something I knew about but kind of ignored. But I'm worried now that this thing could burst at any moment and kill everyone in the vicinity."

Gordon declined to comment but in a letter explaining the veto, he said amendments shouldn’t be added to the budget in order to save legislation that had failed earlier in the session.

"This has been a strange year where often the regular order of sessions is overlooked," Gordon wrote in the veto letter. "This section… is another example of the Legislature not passing the stand-alone legislation and responding by adding a section to the budget."

Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland) was working with his son in their shop last Saturday when he learned that the Governor nixed the funds from the state budget.

Haroldson fought for the funds during the final days of this year's Legislative budget session. He said that the Governor's line-item veto to the budget felt like a personal attack.

"In layman's terms, he pulled it [the funds] out because I didn't vote for his budget," said Haroldson. "So, it definitely was a situation where he's playing politics with people's lives. And I ardently disagree with that."

Haroldson said he'll continue to fight for the funds. His next step will be to apply for mineral royalty grant (MRG) emergency funds through the State Lands and Investment Board.

Gordon wrote in his veto letter that the "State Lands and Investment Board was aware of Wheatland's situation." And that they're "anxious to help Wheatland with MRG funds."

This reporting was made possible by a grant from the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, supporting state government coverage in the state. Wyoming Public Media and Jackson Hole Community Radio are partnering to cover state issues both on air and online.

David Dudley is an award-winning journalist who has written for The Guardian, The Christian Science Monitor, High Country News, WyoFile, and the Wyoming Truth, among many others. David was a Guggenheim Crime in America Fellow at John Jay College from 2020-2023. During the past 10 years, David has covered city and state government, business, economics and public safety beats for various publications. He lives in Cheyenne with his family.

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