April 22, 2014 Updated: April 22, 2014 at 9:30 pm
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Gov. Matt Mead plans to hear from Thermopolis residents Saturday regarding their concerns about operations at Hot Springs State Park following his administration's notice last month that it intends to cancel its contract with a longtime pool operator.
Milward Simpson, director of the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources, gave formal notice last month to the owners of TePee Pools Inc. that they must remove their pool and other property from the park by May 6.
Simpson notified the company that it failed to follow terms of its 35-year lease by not developing an acceptable master plan. He stated in letters to TePee Pools officials that he wants to see the park developed into a world-class water park, complete with large water slides and a "lazy river" feature for floating.
The company has had a concession to run a hot springs minerals bath and pools operation at the park since 1990. A lawyer for the company said earlier this month that TePee Pools has no intention of vacating the premises. Efforts to reach company officials on Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Mead spokesman Renny MacKay said Tuesday said the administration continues to talk with company officials.
"Mead wants to hear from the local community as there are still several possible outcomes," MacKay stated. "He wants to understand their concerns and ideas for the hot springs. He will incorporate this input into short term and long term decisions."
In response to a question about whether the state may opt to keep its contract with TePee Pools, MacKay said, "We're going to hear from the community as there are still several possible outcomes as related to the lessee."
But Simpson said Tuesday that the state's position is the lease has been terminated.
However, Simpson said the lease allows the state to give the company more time to vacate the property or more time continue to operate there.
"Although as of today, there hasn't been a firm decision to grant more time," Simpson said, adding talks with the company are continuing.
In his termination letter last month to TePee Pools, Simpson gave the company until May 6 to remove a large pool building and its other property from the park. He said the company failed to follow the terms of the 35-year lease with the state in July 2012 that called for it to develop an acceptable master plan within a year.
Ed Moriarity, a lawyer in Bozeman, Mont., represents TePee Pools, which is operated by his relatives. In an interview earlier this month, he said the company strongly disagrees that it submitted an unacceptable master plan to the state.
"(Simpson) just says, 'This is the rule, you guys get off,'" Moriarity said. "We're not going to acquiesce to him peaceably. Just because Mr. Simpson says it, doesn't mean that's the way it's going to be."
Moriarity said TePee Pools didn't agree with Simpson's position that because he rejected the company's proposed master plan, the lease was terminated. He said the lease also contains a provision that the state won't unreasonably withhold approval of the lease, which the company claims it has done.
If the state continued to press the company to leave the park, Moriarity said it was prepared to go to court.