2019: A year in review


January

Local graduates paramedic school in Cheyenne

LUSK – When I got accepted into the program I was full of emotion. I knew that this is what i was supposed to be doing. However, I was nervous to go back to school. I knew it was going to be hard, and I didn’t really know anyone going into it. I was starting over completely in a new town and it was intimidating.”

Niobrara County’s own Katelynn Miller is a 2018 graduate of the Laramie County Community College paramedic program. Affable by nature, Miller, who decided to step away from Lusk roughly a year ago to pursue her paramedic degree, is a 2011 Niobrara County High School graduate, a previous employee of the Niobrara County Treasurer’s office, an EMT on the Lusk/Niobrara Ambulance Service and a past councilwoman for the town of Lusk. On Dec. 8, 2018, she was able to add nationally registered paramedic to her list of successes and commence her new career path.

Wreaths across America

LUSK – We have Veterans Day in the fall and Memorial Day in the spring, but our service members sacrifice their time and safety every single day of the year to preserve our freedoms. In many homes, there is an empty seat for one who is serving or one who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. There is no better time to express our appreciation than during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season.

Wreaths Across America coordinates wreath-laying ceremonies at more than 1,400 locations across the United States, at sea and abroad.

On Sunday, Dec. 23, Mike Smith and his crew of family and friends help spread Christmas cheer around Niobrara County. The Crew prepared 240 wreaths to place upon headstones of Veterans in different cemeteries throughout the county, with 190 wreaths placed in the Lusk Cemetery.

They also honored Veterans in Van Tassell, Node, Mother Feather Legs monument, Manville, Keeline, and Kirtley Road.

Childcare crisis creating
economic hardship in county

LUSK – When Robin Johnson and her husband moved to Lusk in September 2016, they both had good jobs lined up. He was to start work at Thompson Seed, east of town, and she also had a position lined up.

When her job fell through due to in-house politics, Johnson assumed it would be no big deal to find another position. She was right but what she didn’t plan for was the difficulty they would have find childcare – and paying for it.

At the time, both of the licensed childcare centers in Niobrara County were at capacity and not accepting any more children. In addition, Robin had a hard time finding a job that paid her enough to afford childcare. It was a vicious circle.

By December 2016, she made the decision to stay home with her children and take on an additional child or two, to supplement their income.

This scenario is common in Niobrara County. The last Wyoming Department of Family Services community assessment published in 2017 for the years 2014-16, showed only three licensed childcare providers with a maximum capacity for 74 children in the entire county. Two of those licenses were held by the same provider at two different facilities.

According to the same report, 277 children under the age of 12 – representing 11 percent of the the entire population – were competing for those limited spots.

February

Council nixes bar ordinance

LUSK – Changes to a city ordinance which would have allowed people who aren’t allowed to legally drink to accompany adults into bars which serve food died on third reading Tuesday before the Lusk City Council.

The council considered third and final reading of Ordinance No. 8-15-150. The ordinance had been amended to read: “This ordinance does not apply to persons under the age of 21 years when such persons are in the dispensing room for lunch or supper only, provided that said person is accompanied by a person 21 years of age or older; and provided further that the same be allowed only between the hours of 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. In no case may a person under 21 years be seated or standing at the serving bar (bar top) nor may any person under the age of 21 years be permitted to consume alcohol. Smoking shall not be allowed on licensed premises between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.”

Several Lusk residents, including school officials and business owners, addressed the council both in favor of and against the proposed ordinance changes. Lindsey Gill from the Prevention Coalition, which works to prevent substance abuse by young people, expressed her opposition to the ordinance amendment. 

While she understands the economic perspective, from a substance abuse prevention perspective, Ms. Gill called the proposed ordinance inappropriate, given the number of adolescents who engage in underage drinking.

Wyoming Women’s Center
gives more with less

LUSK – Danny Thomas once said, “Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.” In a time when people must do more with less resources, Wyoming Women’s Center (WWC) has developed innovative ways to give back to the community in which they belong.

WWC Associate Warden Neicole Molden has been at the facility since November 2017 and brings with her over 23 years of correctional experience. When she arrived at WWC she began questioning what the Center was doing in the community. She soon realized that more could be done in relation to civic involvement. Changes at the facility are directed toward a new vision and positive direction that hopefully will allow the women at WWC to be more successful. Encouraging success includes remembering the community and what Lusk is and as a result many of the women want to give back. 

AW Molden began brainstorming innovative ideas that would cover both encouraging inmate accomplishment and facility wide community involvement while balancing staff shortages and budget cuts. A community need was identified, and an Avon Fundraiser was organized. The women at WWC aren’t usually allowed to order a lot of cosmetics, but when it is allowed, the facility wanted it to be for a notable cause. 

AW Molden knew the LEMS Band Department was in need of equipment, funding for instrument repair and to help those students who couldn’t afford to purchase instruments. This was the organization chosen to receive the fruits of WWC labors.

School District forum
unveils possible calendar

LUSK – The Niobrara County School Board held an open public forum on Tuesday, February 19th. The purpose of the forum was to introduce the alternative calendars being considered by the calendar committee and the school board for the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years. For an alternative calendar to be submitted to the state for consideration the board must hold public forums for information and comments. This was the first of two forums. The school board, Superintendent George Mirich and NCHS Principal Phil Garhart were available for questions at this forum. 

Mr. Mirich discussed the origins of the alternative schedule. He reviewed the existing four and a half day schedule that has been used for the last two years. After the calendar committee met to begin planning for next year they established their top three goals for any school year calendar. These goals were used to guide their decision making regarding the final two options. The goals are important and district-wide, not just for the calendar but as a decision making paradigm for all program, activity and scheduling needs. The goals are:

• What is best for the kids?

• Increase time where students and teachers are in class together.

• Increase time for staff development and collaborative work time.

March

Town Council receives
many proposals at March meeting

LUSK – The Lusk Town Council met Tuesday with a full agenda which included five visitor presentations and multiple contracts under new business. With both Mayor Doug Lytle and Legal Counsel Dennis Meier absent, they did state that no policy or monetary decisions would be made and most items would be presented, but would have to be tabled until April.

Visitor Bill Bauer of Wind Break Cable appeared to request a franchise transfer from Vyve to Wind Break. WBC is currently in the process of purchasing existing cable from Vyve. 

Bauer said WBC would not be adding lines, but would add increased speed and home connections to the existing system. More information on WBC services will be made available after the franchise is transferred.

Twila Barnette, Tom Wasserburger, Carrie Goddard, Stephanie Smith, Bruce Filener and Del Atkinson attended the meeting representing the newly formed Lusk ROCS. This group has been in touch with Ken Martin, owner of the Hospitality House building on the corner of Main Street and 2nd Street. During discussions, Martin was receptive to the idea of turning over ownership to the Town of Lusk in order to begin the process of abatement and demolition to make way for a downtown rest pavilion or park and a parking lot. 

The Town of Lusk must own the building to qualify for Brownfield Organization grants and additional funding for the project. Cindy Martinez with the Brownfield Organization offered to host a grant workshop for interested community members in early April. Town Council will be kept informed of the date and time. 

Acupuncture: Bringing
old techniques into a new setting

LUSK – Dr. Jeffrey Behringer has been practicing at Niobrara Community Hospital as an Emergency Room physician and some-times clinic fill in for almost three years. 

He has watched the shift in the clinical world as more and more facilities and insurance agencies are encouraging physicians to seek alternatives for pain management for their patients outside of narcotics.  As pressure has mounted for physicians to find other ways of helping their patients he has sought a different route to treating his patients instead of a transfer of care for those pain management cases to pain clinics, which are often difficult to access for may rural patients. 

Instead, Dr. Behringer has chosen to go an alternate route and become certified as a practitioner of acupuncture. In 2018 he certified through the Helms Medical Institute, an accredited institute of continuing medical education that has been training physicians about clinical acupuncture since 1982. 

Dr. Behringer received the expanded course training that includes not only pain management acupuncture but also additional training and techniques for mental health diagnosis (anxiety, depression), and other expanded diagnosis. While acupuncture doesn’t claim to have all the answers, it is a technique that is considered mild enough for children and non-invasive. It is a good starting point for treatment of many illnesses and side effects of chronic diseases such as diabetes, West Nile, arthritis, and other diseases that cause nerve neuropathy. Acupuncture can also be used to treat for smoking cessation, dental pain, menopause symptoms and insomnia as well as other illnesses and symptoms.

Cyclone Blizzard
hits Niobrara County 

LUSK – When a spring storm hits, people in Eastern Wyoming know to expect at least two elements, strong winds and closed roads. The latest storm to impact Niobrara County was no exception. 

The National Weather Service began predicting the storm the week before the system hit the area. They were calling for high winds and six to twelve inches of snow. By the time the system had moved onto the radar maps it had turned into a “Cyclone Storm” in which wind patterns cause the system to swirl in a cyclone pattern resulting in massive winds, equivalent to a Category 1 Hurricane and large amounts of precipitation dropping on affected areas. The storm was predicted to impact communities from Rapid City, SD to south of Denver, CO. It did not disappoint.

In Niobrara County emergency services crews, road crews, and residents all prepared for the storm the best way they knew how, load up on groceries, batteries, candles and non-electric heat sources; cancel non-essential community activities and then wait.

April

Rawhide Robotics competes in Colorado Robotics 

DENVER, Colo. – FIRST Robotics Competition pairs high school students with adult mentors (primarily engineers and teachers) to design and build robots that compete against one another in a high-energy environment. This varsity Sport for the Mind™ combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program ROBOTS to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to “real-world” engineering as a student can get. 

In January 2019, the FIRST Robotics Organization launched the reveal video for this year’s First Robotics Competition (FRC), Destination: Deep Space presented by Boeing. Rawhide Robotics was given six weeks to design, construct and program a robot within the required rules and regulations. The regional FRC competition was held in Denver, March 21-23. On Thursday, the Rawhide Robotics Team, Team 5657, unpacked their competition robot, cleared inspections and fine-tuned their creation during practice matches against other teams. Friday and Saturday morning they competed in 12 qualification matches. During the matches, there are two alliances, red and blue. On each alliance there are three robots; teams that work together to complete tasks that earn points. The alliance with the highest points at the end of the match (2 min 30 sec) wins the match. This year’s competition involved creating a robot that could deliver cargo pods (18” round balls) into different containers at different heights, both on the cargo ship and onto the rockets. The robots also had to place hatch panels (round plastic disks) onto openings on the cargo ships and rockets to secure the cargo balls.

Niobrara County offered grant workshop opportunity

LUSK – Thursday, March 28 community members and grant educators and coordinators met for a three-hour workshop on multiple grants and programs available in Wyoming and to organizations in Niobrara County. 

The session was held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and was attended by 10 members of the community from various non-profit and private organizations. The purpose of the meeting was to provide information relevant to the rehab/repurposing/removal of old, abandoned buildings. There are so many considerations that a community must keep in mind when it comes to working with old properties. The people who presented at this meeting touched upon the most common concerns, such as contamination, historic preservation, funding, ownership, timelines and the general unknown. Each speaker brought a wealth of knowledge to the discussion and is willing to assist the community as it evaluates and implements projects. 

Prom 2019 a success

LUSK – Niobrara County High School students attended the 2019 Prom to the theme song of “Can’t Fight This Feeling”  by REO Speedwagon. While their theme song was originally released in 1984 this wasn’t their parent’s prom. Kids danced all night to music provided by Imagery Sound and DJ Chad Rose. At 11:30 p.m. prom royalty was crowned. Crown Bearers were Ella Murdza and Layne Clark. Queen was Lucy Ceaglske and King was Tyler Basil. Prince was Tanner Carpenter and Princess was Christina Campbell. Once again Barb Baker and her junior class did an outstanding job with decorations and creating a memorable experience for all.

Post prom was well attended with all but seven or eight students who went to prom, also attending the post-prom festivitiesm which were sponsored by the Tiger Booster club with support from local businesses and individuals. A magic show, door prizes and lots of food rounded out the evening and let students party safely until dawn.

May

Niobrara 4-H Meats Team Are Two Time State Champions

NIOBRARA COUNTY – For the second year in a row the Niobrara County 4-H Junior Meats Team has brought home the State Championship Title. 

The State Contest was held in Laramie at the University of Wyoming Meat Laboratory on April 25. A total of 12 junior teams competed in this contest as well as seven senior age teams. Individually, there were 18 junior individuals (8 -10 years of age), 31 intermediate age contestants (11-14) and 32 senior competitors (14-18). 

Junior team members Gracie Zumbrunnen, Melody Zumbrunnen, Kort Bannan and Wyatt Strauch had a combined score of 1,903 points to claim the Championship banner donated by the Marian Henderson Memorial. Each team member received a plaque donated by the Sanchez Family of Evanston. Natrona County had the second-place team which tallied 1,848 points and Fremont was third with 1,784.

Gracie Zumbrunnen paced the championship team and the intermediate division with a total score of 653 points out of the possible 700 points offered. She received a plaque donated by the Wyoming Meat Processors Association for this high individual honor. Gracie was also the high intermediate individual in placing of classes with 298 points out of the possible 300 total points. She received another award for this honor, which was donated by Doug and Denise Stark. She was also recognized individually for placing third in oral reasons and questions and she was the fifth high individual in retail cut identification.

Contributing behind the scenes; local man honored
for his hard work

LUSK – When Terry Griffith moved to the Lusk community in August of 1973 there wouldn’t have been anyone that could have predicted the impact he would have on the small community. 

The Lusk ROCS group wanted to acknowledge Griffith’s work to support the Lusk Community for the last 40 years. Griffith is a hero, not just for his military service, but because of his behind-the-scenes, everyday work to make the Lusk community a place people want to live. He is generous with his time and energy and has never been known to tell someone “no” when it comes to helping out with a large project. 

Griffith is the first recipient of the Lusk ROCS Caring for Our Community Award.

Terry relocated to Lusk with his wife Elaine after serving in the military from 1965 to 1968 including one tour of duty in Vietnam. He bought the local barbershop from Don Carpenter and began working full-time as a barber on Main Street. He first located his business in the building which is now Art’s Auction. He moved across the street and then to the Ranger building during the 5 years that he worked full-time as a barber. In 1978 he went to work for the Port of Entry and continued to barber part-time until 1993. He retired from the Port of Entry in 2006 but knew that retirement wouldn’t be for him. Griffith then went to work at Decker’s Market in 2006. Terry retired from Decker’s in 2011. 

During his first 30 years in Lusk, while working full-time, Griffith managed to serve as a charter member (and continues to be active) of the Sportsman’s Club, Commander of the American Legion, belong to the VFW and serve as a man behind the scenes in many other civic functions. He raised two children and has enjoyed watching his grandchildren grow as well. An avid fisherman, Griffith is known to take fishing trips all over the United States and particularly, back to South Dakota to spend time with family and friends.

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