NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019

Carbon County eyes closing Medicine Bow, Elk Mountain schools

RAWLINS (WNE) — Low attendance has plagued rural schools since the earliest European settlers permeated the region. As such, Carbon County School District 2 is considering cutting Medicine Bow and Elk Mountain Elementary schools in favor of busing to Hanna. 

According to Superintendent Jim Copeland, CCSD2 is looking to combat the high cost of maintaining rural, low enrollment schools while also providing high education quality for the relatively few students. As Elk Mountain currently has four enrolled students and Medicine Bow has eight in attendance, the district is debating whether these schools are serving enough students to justify their existence. 

Given students from these areas are already bused to Hanna Junior/Senior High School from the seventh grade onward, the Board of Trustees believes busing to be an ideal solution. 

Time spent busing is the most important factor to CCSD2’s decision, according to Copeland. As the district is deeply concerned with giving children a quality education and requiring a reasonable time spent staring at the open country. As Elk Mountain is only 25 minutes from Hanna and Medicine Bow is a 30 minutes journey, the route is not considered an arduous journey for the students. 

The impact of winter conditions has been considered and will not change with addition of 12 six to 11-year-olds. As it currently stands, snow days will occasionally apply only to those that must cross vast distances to arrive at school. Some school days will be canceled for these students as the road will not have been cleared before buses are issued from their depot. Some days will also see early release to circumvent leaving students far from home, stranded behind impassable conditions.


Flu hits Cheyenne schools hard

CHEYENNE (WNE) — In the past few weeks, flu season has hit Laramie County School District 1 particularly hard. 

The district's head nurse, Janet Farmer, said some schools in the district had as high as 23-25 percent of the student population absent. She said last week there was one elementary school, which she declined to identify, with just under 100 students absent in a single day. 

She said the number of absences was not atypical of flu season, but school nurses have been getting more students with high fevers this year than last. The district doesn't have a set policy for when a student must go home, but the general practice is to send students home if they have a temperature of 100.4 or higher, Farmer said.

After a little over a week of significant absences, however, Farmer said the district is getting back to normal. On Tuesday, district attendance was back up to 90 percent.

"I was hoping the long weekend would help, and it appears so far that it has," she said. 

But Meadowlark Elementary Principal Jim Fraley said his school is still struggling with absences. He said the school typically sees around 5 percent of students absent on any given day, but this flu season, the school has had upwards of 15 percent of the student body absent daily, and that number is still holding.

"It's been a struggle," he said. "You just have to cope with what this season gives you." 

January through March is when students see the most academic growth, Fraley said, and the flu season can deter some of that progress. 

"We'll anticipate a little slowdown during flu season," he said. "But it's better that they're home and taking care of themselves." 


Bill to build new UW dorms advances

LARAMIE (WNE) — The bill promised to spur more than $300 million of new dormitories on the University of Wyoming campus barely met a Wednesday deadline to stay alive in the Legislature.

Under legislative rules, the bill needed approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee by Wednesday to avoid an early death.

The committee voted 4-1 to advance the bill after a hurried meeting during the Senate’s lunch break.

The bill breezed through the House, but earned more scrutiny this week from the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton.

House Bill 293 doesn’t appropriate funding for the construction, but instead offers a loan while increasing the availability of capital UW can use to guarantee a bond issue for the project.

For the next 30 years, $8 million of UW’s general fund appropriation would be replaced each year by $8 million from federal mineral royalties — funds that can be used to guarantee a bond issue.

The original bill would have originally granted a loan of $88 million to jump-start construction.

However, the Senate Appropriations Committee reduced that appropriation to $10 million on Wednesday.

Trustee John McKinley said UW’s “rough cost estimate” for the new dorms is $367 million.

That estimate includes $230 million for construction, $57.5 million of indirect construction costs, $10 million for site preparation, $15 million for a 400-vehicle parking garage, $20 million for demolition, $10 million for renovations of remaining dorms and the Washakie Dining Center, and $24 million for a new dining center.

Bebout suggested Tuesday he might vote against the bill if he feels UW is planning “Cadillac”-quality dorms.


Molten sulfur leaks from truck near Cody

CODY (WNE) — A tractor-trailer that slid off a road Friday in Oregon Basin leaked a minor amount of molten sulfur but no toxic gases.

The Park County Sheriff’s Office responded to the accident along with the Cody Volunteer Fire Department and Cody Regional Health ambulance.

At 10:14 a.m. dispatch received a report of a tractor-trailer combination that slid off the road and was on its side in Oregon Basin at 238 Road 3EM. The caller said the trailer contained molten sulfur and it was possibly leaking.  

The truck was located about 50 yards off the roadway where it came to a stop by tipping onto the driver’s side.  

The road conditions were hard-packed snow that had turned to ice. The truck driver appeared to have tried to veer right around a slight curve in the road while going down a slight grade and lost control going straight instead, according to the sheriff’s office. It was about 304 feet from where the truck started to slide to where it went off the road. Once it left the roadway, it turned on its side with the trailer containing the sulfur nearly upside down. 

A Marathon Oil employee certified to check chemical spills donned his hazardous material suit and went down to the truck to check for traces of toxic gases. He returned and said there was none present, but there was in fact a minor leak of the molten sulfur coming from the trailer.

Molten sulfur is a fire and explosion risk above 450 degrees and is transported as a yellow or red liquid. It’s used in sulfuric acid production, petroleum refining, and pulp and paper manufacturing.


Boy dubbed ‘Superman’ credited with saving mother from fire

LOVELL (WNE) — Keeli Savage was born without a sense of smell. 

What Savage couldn’t smell on the night of Feb. 5 was her house burning down. 

“I was in our kitchen half an hour before the fire, just putting things in our fridge and getting a snack before lying down in front of our heater in the living room,” Savage said.

As she slept on her couch, what the Lovell Fire Department suspects was an electrical issue ignited her kitchen in flames. She remained in a slumber unaware.

Her family lived in that house at 242 Pennsylvania Avenue for 16 years. 

And in her final moments in that house, her son Ira, 11, rushed to his mother’s side to wake her up. They were the only two inside.

“Ira was watching ‘The Simpsons’ and playing with his toys. The next thing I knew he came to me saying ‘fire’,” Savage said. “I jumped up and headed to the kitchen. There it was so black and one area had orange flames. I couldn’t smell the smoke in my face one bit. “

Keeli said she truly believes Ira saved her life.

Ira’s courage in not running away from the fire, but instead deciding to wake up his mother was a heroic act. It’s fitting in a way. He was already given the nickname “Superman”. It originates from two open-heart surgeries Ira underwent as an infant, just to stay alive.

“Ira recovered very well from it all,” Savage said. “Now he is a little too fearless for his own good but very strong. We named him Superman because of his fight through it all.” 


No impact expected from refinery leak

NEWCASTLE (WNE) — A wastewater leak that occurred at the rear of the Wyoming Refining Co. on Feb. 12 is not expected to have any negative impacts on public health or the environment, according to a refinery spokesman. 

“The leak was treated wastewater. We have a discharge permit for the wastewater out of the final pond,” said Mike Baldwin, manager of health, safety, security and environment at the refinery. “It is treated to meet the permit conditions, so it is not a hazard to health or environment. It is basically water; there are no hydrocarbons with that.” 

According to Baldwin, the leak occurred sometime Tuesday morning in a line that takes the treated wastewater to an evaporation pond. He said that officials at the refinery are still trying to come up with estimates on how much of the wastewater was actually released. 

“It is hard to know with the size of the leak. We do calculations, but those numbers are still unknown,” Baldwin said. 

He said that the leak is still under investigation but that he does not anticipate anything unusual to be found. 

“The refinery takes all releases seriously. Once we were notified of the leak, we shut down the line and repaired it,” Baldwin said. “Because of the location and the leak being water, there was lots of ice buildup on the bike path, but we worked with the city to shut sections of it down (in order) to put down salt and remove the ice so it was not a hazard.” 


Woman who claimed substance was hemp arrested on pot charge

SUNDANCE (WNE) — A substance that allegedly turned out to be marijuana, rather than the “hemp” product the suspect claimed, led to the arrest of an Oregon woman earlier this month on the interstate. Paige Imbrogno faces felony charges of possession and intent to deliver.

On February 2, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper patrolling on I-90 near milepost 181 observed a vehicle allegedly traveling at 80 mph in the 75 mph zone. According to the trooper’s affidavit, he executed a traffic stop on the vehicle, which bore an Oregon license plate.

On checking the driver’s license information, the trooper reports he was advised she is currently suspended. 

According to his affidavit, the trooper told Imbrogno she was under arrest for driving while under suspension and asked her to exit the vehicle, but she refused several times. 

When asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, Imbrogno allegedly said she had some “hemp” in the back. She was placed under arrest and the trooper reports he performed an inventory of the vehicle.

A black plastic tote was located in the rear of the van that the trooper reports contained a leafy substance with the “faint odor of marijuana”. Imbrogno allegedly claimed it was “hemp” she grew in Minnesota and carries with her to give to people.