NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019


UW trustees set timeline for hiring new president

LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming may have its next permanent president selected by early March, according to a hiring timeline approved Wednesday by the school’s board of trustees.

After board chairman Dave True emphasized that the timeline wasn’t “etched in granite” and could be tweaked if necessary, the board approved the outline unanimously. The plan calls for advertisements to be placed in several higher education outlets next month; three months of candidate identification between November and February; and initial interviews to begin with candidates by early February.

The university has selected a search committee of 16 people, headed up by former trustee John MacPherson. The group includes former Gov. Matt Mead, as well as several students, faculty members and other representatives from across the state.

The committee will work with Georgia-based search firm Parker Executive Search and candidate recruiter and former UW president Dick McGinity to identify potential presidents. The committee will then forward along the names of no more than six semifinalist candidates to the board of trustees. That step is targeted to be completed by Feb. 6.

The full board of trustees will then interview those candidates in the following days. By the third week of February, the board is set to pick four or fewer candidates to bring to campus for visits and more interviews. The names of the candidates will be kept confidential until then, officials have said.

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Travel agent accused of stealing from clients arrested

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The former Cheyenne travel agent accused of stealing thousands from his clients has been arrested by Cheyenne Police and is currently in the Laramie County jail.

Brian Box, 48, was arrested on suspicion of 25 counts of felony theft, seven counts of misdemeanor theft, seven counts of check fraud and two counts of credit card fraud. He allegedly stole $125,000 from 34 people in late 2018 and early 2019.

Box was the chief operator of the travel agency in Frontier Mall that went by the names of Top Travel and The Outdoor Pursuit. The business focused on hunting and fishing trips.

Police found out about the fraud when several customers reported they had paid for their trips through the company, and the trips had been cancelled without their knowledge or a refund. The travel agency is no longer in business.

Investigators determined Box was allegedly keeping the trip deposits customers made for himself after he cancelled the trips without their knowledge. He was also accused of keeping the refunds from the trips.

Many of the people in the case didn’t know their trips had been cancelled until they contacted the airlines and hotels directly.

A warrant for Box was issued in January, and he was arrested in Wichita Falls, Texas, on Sept. 21. He was brought to the Laramie County jail on Monday.

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Powell schools ban vaping

POWELL (WNE) — Vaping is not allowed in Powell schools, and an amended policy makes that even clearer.

For years, Park County School District No. 1 has banned electronic cigarettes, tobacco and smokeless tobacco on school grounds and vehicles as part of its Tobacco-Free Schools policy.

The school board voted unanimously last week to amend the policy and add vape pens to the list of prohibited tobacco products. The amended policy also includes “other electronic cigarettes.”

As the district considered revisions to its tobacco policy in recent weeks, two employees were concerned that the term “electronic cigarettes” didn’t fully address vape pens, since the devices can be used for substances that don’t contain tobacco, Superintendent Jay Curtis told the school board.

“Vaping, as you all well know, has become quite the epidemic among youth,” Curtis said.

He cited articles that say twice as many students are vaping today as one year ago.

“That continues to rise,” he said. “There is no decline.”

Trustee Lillian Brazelton noted that Wyoming and many other states have seen a rise in vaping-related lung illnesses.

“It’s kind of scary,” she said of the health issues.

When he talks about vaping with students, Curtis said he explains that it took years and years to see the negative side effects of smoking when it first became popular.

“With vaping, within a few years, we’re starting to see these health crises,” he said. “So, this whole ‘safe alternative to smoking’ is lunacy. It’s dangerous.”

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Grand Teton to remove mountain goats

JACKSON (WNE) — Grand Teton National Park has given final approval to plans to rapidly remove mountain goats by lethal and nonlethal means.

The mountain goats are not native to the national park and threaten Wyoming’s most isolated native bighorn sheep herd, according to a park decision released Tuesday.

Park officials pointed out some modifications to the agency’s original preferred alternative. Qualified volunteers will be used to assist in ground-based hunting, and mountain goat meat may be donated or distributed for consumption, a park press release states. In addition to hunting, the plan calls for the capture and translocation of mountain goats.

The Teton Range is home to about 100 native bighorn sheep, a tiny herd that has never been extirpated or augmented. But mountain goats that have migrated to the Tetons from the Snake River Range carry pathogens that can lead to deadly pneumonia, which could be transmitted to the bighorn sheep and risk wiping out the entire native herd. Mountain goats also compete with bighorn sheep for habitat.

Park officials estimate the non-native mountain goat population within the park at roughly 100 animals, a number that could keep expanding without active management, the release says. The plan will be put into action this winter, the release states. 

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Kemmerer wins grant for economic diversification

KEMMERER — The City of Kemmerer is delighted to announce it recently received a $138,950 economic diversification grant from the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency (EDA). This is to support a redevelopment and revitalization of its coal- and energy-reliant community in the face of recently announced retirements of its Naughton coal-fired power plants.

Matching funds were also pledged by the State of Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council, Rocky Mountain Power, South Lincoln County Economic Development Corporation, Lincoln County Economic Development Joint Powers Board, and the City of Kemmerer. This makes a total of $277,000 now available to the Kemmerer area for a comprehensive diversification study and an impact manager to implement it. 

“We really appreciate all those who contributed funding and time to this effort,” said Kemmerer Mayor Tony Tomassi. “We have done economic development studies in the past, but this is the first time we have had the funding to hire someone to make it happen.” 

Kemmerer will soon be sending out a request for proposal (RFP) for firms to study its economy and provide strategies to strengthen and diversify it. After the study is completed, another RFP for an Impact Manager to implement the strategy of the study will be sent out. The whole project is expected to be completed within three years. 

“The new study will not just evaluate previous studies done, but more importantly, analyze our current challenges and opportunities,” said Tomassi. “We would prefer to hire a firm that has experience diversifying and strengthening coal-reliant, energy-based economies.” 

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Buffalo schools adopt 4.5-day week

BUFFALO (WNE) — Johnson County School Board trustees voted 7-1 Monday night to adopt a 4.5-day week calendar for the 2020-21 school year.

The move comes nearly 10 months after Superintendent Jim Wagner solicited community input on whether the school should adopt an alternative calendar. What followed were months of discussion, a number of community meetings and work by a calendar committee composed of school representatives, board representatives and community members.

The calendar is notably different from the calendar the schools have operated on in the recent past. Buffalo schools will dismiss at 1 p.m. every Friday during the 2020-21 calendar. 

The changes, according to Wagner, were driven by a desire to ensure that Buffalo High School students are in classrooms, with teachers more.

“When I got here, the first thing I heard about from staff, parents and community members was that Fridays were a wasted day at the high school,” Wagner said. “Just a free for all. The question to ask if that is the case, is what are you doing to make it more meaningful? Or continue to do what we’re currently doing which is nothing. We talked about what’s going to best for kids. And what kind of calendar is it going to look like in order to make things happen that can be more meaningful for the kids.”

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