council to discuss landslide response

By Jim Stanford on April 14, 2014


Brad Watsabaugh shows where a crack has formed in the ground above Budge Drive during a tour of the area last week.

The Jackson Town Council has shuffled the agenda for today’s 3 p.m. workshop to consider the landslide above Walgreens on East Gros Ventre Butte.

An update on the landslide and the town’s response will be the first item discussed. The meeting will take place in Town Hall and be streamed live on the Internet.

Town manager Bob McLaurin plans to ask the council to authorize emergency spending up to $750,000. That figure has swelled from the $50,000 the council initially authorized Thursday.

There will be a press conference at 11 a.m., also streamed online, for authorities to explain the Budge Drive closure. It is expected that Budge Drive will be closed for the foreseeable future, and residents may access the low-risk area on foot after receiving permission from private property owners.

New cracks formed in the hillside above Walgreens and Budge Drive over the weekend, and existing cracks continue to widen or deepen. Pavement continues to buckle in the closed store’s parking lot.

One of the town’s chief concerns is protecting a water main running along the West Broadway bike path, which is still under construction. The slide has been moving beneath the Budge Drive pump house and is about 10 to 15 feet from the water line, McLaurin said.


Posted under Economy, Environment, Politics, Town Government

12 Comments so far

  1. Sense April 14, 2014 4:01 pm

    Yep… It appears the town has hired the same engineers, who were originally hired by Bencor, and who designed and approved the Walgreens plan, to now monitor the slope and engineer a new plan. How much are they paying Jorgensen and Womack? Apparently A LOT…

  2. Common Sense Local Resident April 14, 2014 11:31 pm

    WOW! This is unbelievable! What a waste of TAXPAYER MONEY!

    Here’s what I have to say: I understand that these guys from Jorgensen and Womack designed the project, but I believe the last people who gave the ok were the planners from the Town of Jackson and Teton County. How come the project was APPROVED? Did our local elected planners do their job? I don’t think so. They are too busy making regulations to restrain the private property rights. How come the TOJ has to hire a “consultant” for everything? I thought the people who work in the planning department had a job description which required sufficient knowledge to analyze and approve projects.

    Walgreens was required by Town and County to grade the lot and lower it in order to bring it into compliance with the New International Super Duper Fire Code. As if lowering the lot by 10ft would make a difference for a big fire truck or a huge ladder, like the one that was extended in the Whole grocer lot for a whole day. Heck, that ladder could reach on the other side of Walgreens from Broadway! When the Town and County required them to grade the lot, where they ever thinking of requiring them to reinforce the hill as well? Now, the Town wants to build a “buttress” (a projecting support of stone or brick built against a wall) on Taxpayer money, Not only that, but it’s also hiring consultants on Taxpayer money? Tell me, do you think this is right? I don’t think so. And the money approved for this is taxpayer money. And yes, the town and county are mostly funded by sales tax. We, the residents pay sales tax everyday we shop in Jackson. Check out the town managers report for more info on

    Wake up Jackson! There must be other smart people with commons sense and logic who should voice their opinion. The hiring of consultants from out of state must stop. We should require our local planners and engineers to conduct these surveys and monitoring. After all, what are these guys getting paid for?

    Your local common sense resident.

  3. Paula April 16, 2014 7:23 am

    I’m not for spending tax dollars to fix a problem caused by private property owners nor do I think we should spend tax money to do anything besides protect the waterline — or move it.

    The property owners can come up with the money to protect their assets.

    I would just let the hill slide and then clean it up. Gotta cost less than the million or more we’re going to spend when it’s all over.

  4. Jim Stanford April 16, 2014 10:18 am

    The situation is more complex than several commenters have made it out to be. To those who have been critical over the past week, I share many of your concerns and asked some of the same questions during Monday’s very tense council meeting. It was the most difficult meeting I’ve been through yet, and ultimately I wound up voting against the appropriation of $750,000 to respond to the slide.

    My main objection was to the buttress to be constructed at the foot of the slide; I did not have enough information, nor a range of other options, to conclude that was the best way to deploy public resources at this time. I thought we could take a few more days to get a better handle on the underlying geology and short- and long-term stabilization methods.

    The town’s main focus has been protecting the water line running along West Broadway and the pump house serving the Budge Drive area. That’s why the buttress is being built, to stop the flow of the slide toward Broadway and protect public infrastructure.

    If it’s any consolation, the council’s authorization is not a mandate to spend $750,000, only an allowance for that sum if necessary. Town staff are trying to be as efficient as possible, and there’s a chance that state and federal agencies may cover some of the cost.

    Watch the meeting for yourselves to get informed.

    Also, if citizens disagree with development decisions that meet the current regulations, they ought to call for tightening the rules, not rant about the town restraining private property rights. Hopefully we learn from incidents like this and come up with better land-use rules going forward so the public is not left footing the bill.

  5. joe April 16, 2014 12:20 pm

    Right, Like journalists, bloggers or politicians never rant. We are learning.

  6. Below average sense April 16, 2014 12:29 pm

    Does the Walgreen’s owner not want to move forward with building the buttress? Why is it their choice if that’s the recommendation and the slide threatens public property and other private property? If a building is on fire, the fire department doesn’t ask the landowner’s permission before putting it out.

    I don’t fully understand what “taking weight off the top” would mean. What’s the time line for that approach vs. the buttress? How many properties are involved? Does it make sense to start that in parallel?

    I’m unclear on the confidence level around best and worst case scenarios. 5% chance is a pretty big risk for a “lurch”. What would a “lurch” mean for all properties in the area? I know this question has been asked and the likelihood is low, but is anyone certain that Walgreen’s won’t end up on Broadway if nothing is done? What is it expected to look like if nothing prevents the continuing slide?

    I have confidence that these questions are being asked by the right people and that the town is moving as quickly as possible. I find it difficult to formulate an opinion however without knowing these details. Sorry for all the questions.

  7. Sandy P April 16, 2014 6:51 pm

    The Town should not be paying JE one penny for engineering work. That’s a crime.

    “How come the TOJ has to hire a consultant” for everything?

    Good Question. Don’t we pay them to figure stuff out? What do we get for all those higher wages we pay everyone? We have a public works department. Are they clueless idiots?

    I seriously doubt that the geo-consultant knows anymore than the average Joe with common sense working for the Town’s engineer dept.

    I do wonder why we are spending so much per day for surveying work that could be done by the Town for a fraction of the cost. This is the type of surveying work that a 14-year-old could do. Really offensive bills according to the News and Guide.

    The Town needs to build a bypass for the water line. Throw in a Y, cross Broadway, and reconnect down the street. It should let the hill slide if the land owners aren’t willing to pony up their own money to protect their own property (assuming it’s possible to stabilize).

  8. joe April 17, 2014 8:35 am

    why would Jorgensen buy Womack after they knew the hill was moving? (NAG) and did the master plan push the commercial buildings into the hillside a “bike path too far”.

  9. Jim Stanford April 17, 2014 5:02 pm

    Did your faucet turn on this morning? Toilet flush? That’s the job of public works. In addition to keeping the water and sewer system running, cleaning streets and regular road maintenance, public works is overseeing two new projects — reconstruction of South Cache and expanding the boardwalk on the north side of Town Square — and following through on several others, including pathway construction, Vertical Harvest and Snow King snowmaking improvements. The South Cache project began just as the landslide started to move. Public works scrambled to respond and quickly tore up, shut off and readjusted infrastructure to avert disaster and keep the water flowing for much of Jackson. You have no idea how hard the public works director works every week on your behalf.

    Below average — it would take too much space (and more knowledge) for me to answer all of your questions. Fortunately, there will be a press conference at 10 a.m. Friday at Town Hall, streamed live on the Internet, which may provide better answers. Following the press conference, one of the Geologists of Jackson Hole, Peter Ward, will give an overview of the geology of the butte and the human activities in the area from the 1950s to the present. It’s an excellent presentation that helps put the slide in perspective. I suggest everyone tune in or watch the archived broadcast to get better informed.

  10. Buck April 17, 2014 6:42 pm

    WTF is it with the nixle alert system spamming me with Budge Drive info? I signed up for alerts – stuff like emergencies, road closures like a winter storm closing hwy north of Moran or rockfall closing south park loop; or a lock-your-doors there’s a gunman on the loose & etc. The fact that there is a new press release for the current budge drive situation is not really an emergency , is it? Yet it’s a new alert multiple times per day. Whoever at town/county is choosing to use the nixle alert system to send specious “emergency alerts” such as this is absolutely diluting the utility of the system.

  11. joe April 17, 2014 7:34 pm

    Jim, I think Sandy P comment was a left-handed compliment to the local and hard-working people in the public works dept, but your “rant” was inspiring, albeit a little too defensive. Locals knew the Budge hill was an old slide off east Gros Ventre butte. Sit in the third booth on the west side of Pizza Hut and you can see where it came from. Tell em Joe sent you.

  12. brian April 18, 2014 4:41 pm

    joe-the pathway project had no impact whatsoever on the Walgreen’s site grading. The (future) pathway is located entirely within the highway right-of-way, and Walgreen’s is located entirely on the private Bencor lot and built with the required setbacks from the property line.

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