NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019

Gillette man killed in car crash

GILLETTE (WNE) — A Gillette resident died in a crash east of Ten Sleep on Tuesday, according to a Highway Patrol press release.

Christopher Short, 46, was driving west on U.S. Highway 16 when he failed to negotiate a left-hand curve. He then went off the road and rolled his Ford F-250. No other vehicles were involved in the crash.

Short was not wearing a seat belt at the time and died at the scene, Highway Patrol said.

Speed is being investigated as a factor in the crash.

Short’s death is the 17th fatality on state highways to date in 2019 compared with nine in 2018, 10 in 2017 and six in 2016.


Governor signs ‘Women’s Suffrage Day’ bill

CHEYENNE (WNE) – With the nickname “the Equality State,” Wyoming has long been proud of its status as the first state to give women the right to vote and as the state with the first all-female governmental body, as occurred in Jackson Hole in the 1920s. 

It was only natural for the first bill signing of Gov. Mark Gordon’s tenure to be one co-sponsored by all the women currently in the Legislature: a resolution recognizing Dec 10, 2019 as Women’s Suffrage Day in Wyoming – the 150th anniversary of suffrage passing in the Wyoming Territory.

“In working on this resolution, I can say Wyoming’s history is so unique and so important,” said Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, the chief sponsor of the bill. “Nationally, I think we’re going to hear a lot about how suffrage passed 100 years ago with the 19th Amendment. But we were 50 years ahead of the ball, and that’s a history we should celebrate.” 

Prior to signing the bill, Gordon read a clipping from an article in the Dec. 18th, 1869, issue of the Wyoming Tribune noting the passage of the law, marking the historic significance of Wyoming’s status as the day’s leader on civil rights and the bill’s potential to pave the way for universal suffrage in the burgeoning United States. 

“As a class, the women of America have a keener sense of right and wrong, and morally are superior to, and more conscientious than, the other sex,” Gordon read from the article. “May their civilizing influence be felt in the world of politics as it is in the recluse of the home.”


Greybull gas leak leads to mobile home explosion

GREYBULL (WNE) — An explosion that destroyed a mobile home and injured one of its adult occupants was likely caused by a natural gas leak, according to Greybull Fire Chief Bill Scott.

Greybull firefighters and police officers responded to the mobile home at 1325 N. Seventh Street at 8:52 p.m. Saturday following a report of an explosion and a fire. The mobile home sits right behind the Wheels Motel, on property owned by Daniel T. Rice.

According to the Greybull Police Department, the first officers on scene detected a strong odor of natural gas coming from the trailer. The four people inside the trailer at the time of the explosion managed to exit safely and were outside when the first responders arrived. One of them, a woman, sustained burns to her face and right hand.

“All parties stated that they had smelled an odor of gas and had to re-light the pilot light on the water heater earlier in the evening,” according to the report.

Scott said a state fire investigator confirmed that anatural gas leak was to blame, but added, “It still hasn’t been determined what, specifically, caused the explosion, in terms of the source that ignited it. It was definitely a large explosion, though.

"The fire investigator emphasized how lucky we were that more gas wasn’t involved, given the close proximity to the Wheels Motel and the other trailer houses.”


Bill proposes energy authority

WORLAND (WNE) -– A bill passed in the Wyoming State Senate and moving through the House of Representatives would effectively combine two current state authorities to create a state energy authority, a first for the energy-rich Cowboy State. 

Senate File 37 would combine the state’s current pipeline and infrastructure authorities into a single energy authority, to “diversify and expand the Wyoming economy through improvements in the state’s electric and energy transmission infrastructure and facilitate Wyoming’s production, development and transmission of energy and associated natural resources by planning, financing, constructing, developing, acquiring, maintaining and operating electric, energy export and energy transmission facilities, …and advanced technology facilities for natural resources.”

Rep. Mike Greear (R-Worland), serving on the House Minerals Committee where the bill passed by a majority, stated Monday from Cheyenne that the move would be good for the state. 

“We’ve never had a state energy department, which would be a one-stop shop for energy matters, so it [the authority] would be beneficial for the long term.” 

The authority would encompass all oversight of the current pipeline and infrastructure authorities, with a single board of seven directors. The authority would oversee all forms of energy development, including wind and oil, and the direction of establishing a permanent pipeline network in the state. 

“We need to recognize the new issues coming up with expanded horizontal drilling in the state, so it’s exciting to see in the terms of more efficiencies under one authority,” said Greear. 

If adopted, the authority would go into effect in July 2020, “which gives us time to identify any issues that need to be ironed out,” said Greear. 


Lovell schools examine 4-day week

LOVELL (WNE) — Big Horn County School District No. 1 Superintendent Ben Smith delved further into what a four-day school week may look like during the district’s Feb. 7 regular board of trustees meeting.

Smith analyzed how multiple school districts in Wyoming utlilized a four-day week, including Cokeville, Sheridan No. 1, Glenrock and Laramie No. 2. 

Big Horn School District No. 1 is considering a four-day week after the district’s administration team urged the board in January to put thought into making the move due to the impacts of recreational activities and some budgetary considerations.

“There are Fridays where boys basketball is gone, girls basketball is gone, wrestlers are gone…we have a real significant number in both of our schools involved in activities, when they’re gone, it’s difficult,” Smith said.

Smith said Glenrock saved $40,000 by not hiring substitute teachers on Fridays, although Smith said a four-day week is not ultimately about cost-savings. According to Smith, the districts with a four-day week are still making use of that Friday taken off. The hours of 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. are used for students to come in and receive supplemental help and instruction. The hours after are used for professional development and district meetings,

according to Smith. Smith said districts don’t require students to come in, but that districts strongly recommend it.

“For those students who need that extra help, you can make it pretty encouraging,” Smith said. 

Some districts like Sheridan No. 1 provide busing on Fridays so all students have equal ability to attend. Smaller districts only run buses for special education students.

Smith said most districts manage to maintain most of their staff hours.


Methane level at Newcastle well considered unhealthy

NEWCASTLE (WNE) — Methane in one of the wells surrounding Newcastle’s landfill No. 1 has reached levels that are considered a health and safety risk, according to Caroline Brewer, project geologist with Trihydro Corp. 

Brewer, who met with the Newcastle City Council on Feb. 4, said that Trihydro discovered during monitoring that one of the perimeter wells had a measurable amount of methane in it. 

“The only well with measurable methane was well MMW-3 and it was at 100 percent LEL (lower explosive limit) and 21 percent CH4 (methane),” Brewer said. “This is a health and safety risk at the sportsman’s club.” 

The well, she said, is adjacent to the Weston County Sportsman’s Club. 

“This was not unanticipated; we recognized the problem in the past,” Brewer said. “This is a serious concern. The well is way above the limits and is a potential explosive hazard, may introduce methane into a close structure and you also have asphyxiation. These are the things you have to think about when you have methane concerns.” 

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality was also represented at the meeting. Trihydro is a Laramie-based engineering and environmental consulting company hired by the state to work on landfill remediations across the state.

The landfill, which was operated from sometime before 1945 until its closure in 1989, covers 38 acres of land near the Weston County Sportsman’s Club and contains an estimated 700,000 cubic yards of waste. 


Former Jackson council candidate sentenced on marijuana charge

JACKSON (WNE) — A judge said charging documents made it seem like Zach Padilla was “obsessed with marijuana.”

But because he completed substance abuse therapy the former Jackson Town Council candidate will serve three years of probation for felony possession of THC. The charge won’t go on Padilla’s record as long as he completes probation without issue.

“I can’t tell you how much being here in Jackson means to me,” Padilla told Teton County District Court Judge Timothy Day during his Tuesday morning sentencing. “I made a poor choice. I decided to do something that was illegal, and I want you to know I won’t do it again.”

In a plea agreement Padilla pleaded guilty to felony possession, and the Teton County Prosecutor’s Office dropped two misdemeanor charges.

Police searched Padilla’s Jackson house Aug. 18, 2018, after receiving a tip about possible drug use.

Officers found 12 THC bars, three containers of pot brownies, nine containers of THC gummies, nine cannabis cartridges, one container of raw marijuana buds, three marijuana joints and other residue, documents state.

Padilla was arrested the next day when a police officer spotted him at JacksonHoleLive.

Padilla was running for Town Council during the investigation.

“It’s surprising someone would file for public office when they have all those drugs,” Teton County Deputy Prosecutor Clark Allan previously said. “But I guess I’m just old.”

Padilla didn’t succeed in the primary.

Padilla runs a pair of liquor distribution businesses, Bomb Sommelier and Bomb Beverage.

“Since the time of his arrest he has not used marijuana,” Padilla’s attorney, Dick Mulligan, told the court.

Mulligan said his client received a certificate of completion for a drug and alcohol awareness program, and it found he does not have a substance abuse problem.