News Sat, 01 Nov 2014 04:50:54 -0600 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Unmarked but not forgotten Many of the people buried in the Mexican Cemetery near Lovell were babies or small children. While the paper inside this frame is too weathered and faded to read, the name of Gorge Briseno is scratched into the frame. Cemetery records say Gorge was born April 1, 1953, and died Aug. 30 the same year. The grave was hidden by weeds and sagebrush until the NWC Spanish Club cleared them away on Sept. 30.

Mexican families had to bury loved ones in barren lot; effort on to maintain Mexican Cemetery

LOVELL — It’s hard to imagine the overwhelming grief of Lovell-area parents who buried three babies in the 1950s.

But that’s what Celestino and Cysidra (Garcia) Vega endured. Their daughter Glora died on Oct. 13, 1950, at the age of 1 year and 1 month.

Another daughter, 1-month-old Virginia, died of pneumonia just 12 days afterward, on Oct. 25, 1950.
A son, 4-day-old Daniel Garcia, died on June 13, 1957.

Losing three babies would be hard enough. But imagine their added sadness when the Vegas could not bury their children in the local cemetery because they were of Mexican descent. Instead, the family had to bury the children in a barren lot devoid of groomed lawns or trees.

The Mexican Cemetery is located off Cannery Road just northwest of the junction of Wyo. Highway 310 and U.S. 14-A, east of Byron and near Midway Auto Sales.

Still without trees, the Mexican Cemetery, as it’s known. had been taken over by weeds and sagebrush that, until recently, obscured the few grave markers that remain. It made the cemetery appear to be an unkempt, empty lot.

According to Jesse Martinez of Lovell, the Mexican Cemetery was necessary because Mexicans were not allowed to bury their dead in the Lovell cemetery. His uncle, Frank Valesquez, bought 5 acres to provide a place for Mexicans to lay their loved ones to rest.

Martinez, 70, said Tuesday that the cemetery now is in the name of his sister, Rose Cantrall, who lives in Colorado. He said he and his brothers used to take care of it as well as they could, but he’s the only one left. Sight and health problems prevent him from taking care of it as he would like to.

At least 41 Lovell-area residents of Mexican descent were buried there between 1936 and 1958. Today, only a fraction of those graves are marked, and nearly all are unidentifiable. Some markers have deteriorated; framed markers holding printed paper identifying the deceased have faded, making them unreadable. Many graves never were marked.

A small, charred wooden cross lies on the ground near a wire fence on the west edge of the property, apparently a victim of a near-by agricultural burn ignited in the past.

But, until Sept. 30, it couldn’t even be seen due to the overgrowth of sagebrush and weeds.

That’s the day the Northwest College Spanish Club decided to make a difference.

The club, led by Mary Ellen Ibarra-Robinson, gathered at the cemetery, armed with mowers, weed trimmers, shovels, rakes, a wheelbarrow and other tools. They mowed and raked weeds, picked up trash, dug up sagebrush and piled the limbs into a huge mound beside the wire fence.

Within a couple of hours, the group had made a big difference. Where weeds once dominated, grave markers and mementos now were visible.  

Ibarra-Robinson said she was proud of the work the group did, and all that the students accomplished. Martinez said he appreciated the group’s work.

“They sure did a good job,” he said.

Another group of students, these from Lovell Middle School, also helped in spring 2012, he said. Among other things, that group built, painted and put up a sign for the cemetery.

But most of the time, the Mexican Cemetery goes unnoticed and unkempt, he said.

Ibarra-Robinson said people in this area “don’t really identify themselves as Hispanics,” since that term could refer to people any of a number of countries of origin. Most here are from Mexican descent and therefore identify with the Mexican culture, whether they were born in Mexico or not, she said.  

Martinez said he doesn’t know who will mind the graveyard when he’s gone.

“One of my grandkids or my daughter will have to take care of it, I guess,” he said. “People who have family in it, they need to take an interest in it.”

Martinez said he knows of only two families remaining in Lovell who have relatives buried in the cemetery.

In the long run, he said, “We’d like to turn it over to the county so they could take care of it,” he said. “I’d like to see them clean it up and take care of it, plant some grass and stuff like that, so people would know it’s there. People didn’t know it was there for a long time,” he said.

But it’s a lot more complicated than just handing the property over to Big Horn County.

As he understands it, he would have to get permission from all the landowners in the area to add it to the cemetery district.

Currently, the property is just over the boundary for the Cowley Cemetery District, even though the people buried in it lived and died in or near Lovell.

“Supposedly, years ago, we were supposed to be in the (Big Horn) County cemetery district,” he said. But, now, the county says it’s privately owned, and they won’t take care of it.

“There’s the Lutheran Cemetery over there, and that belongs to the county,” he said. “Why can’t this belong to the county?”

People just need to realize that they need to treat that cemetery just like any other.

“If you’ve got family out there, you really should take care of it,” he said.

Members of the Northwest College Spanish Club work to clear weeds, trash and sagebrush from the Mexican Cemetery near Lovell on Sept. 30. The family of the person in this grave used nails to write on the cross marking their loved one’s grave. Unfortunately, the name is no longer decipherable.
]]> (Ilene Olson) News Thu, 30 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Grizzlies on prowl in Clark; Rural community residents alerted to presence of large bears in area Aaron Gaffield, a Mountainview Walking Horse Ranch ranch hand, spotted this grizzly bear around 9:30 a.m. Oct. 22. It was headed toward the cattle he was minding, and he drove it off.

CLARK — Gary Bunn has lived in Clark his entire life, and in those 61 years, he’s never heard so many reports of grizzly bears in the rural community near the Montana state line.

Until now. So far, two grizzlies have been tranquilized and relocated and traps have been set for at least two more, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Bunn said it’s the talk of Clark.

“It’s getting so everybody’s about half-scared out there,” he said during a stop at the Powell Tribune office Wednesday afternoon.

Luke Ellsbury, a Game and Fish large carnivore biologist, was in the Clark area Wednesday. Ellsbury said people should “absolutely” be on alert.

“We actually have several bears out here in the area right now,” he said. “It’s becoming more common in Clark now. And the bears are dropping to lower elevations for the final calorie charge.”

So far, a 400-pound male was "removed" — that is, killed — by the department on Monday and a 300-pound female was killed Tuesday. Ellsbury said when Game and Fish workers were removing traps Tuesday he spotted the tracks of a sow grizzly and at least one cub.

“We actually put up more traps today and put them by a cornfield they were in,” he said.
Ellsbury said people in the Clark area should move animal feed, garbage and other items that might lure bears inside. They should also be on guard when outside, he said.

“With hunting season, it’s always good to be on high alert when you’re in the brush,” Ellsbury said.
Bunn said he was working cattle at his parents’ farm just south of the Edelweiss bar, cafe and convenience store two weeks ago when the cows grew agitated for some reason. They later learned a sow grizzly, reportedly around 800 pounds, was in the area.

A Game and Fish plane flew over his parents’ home on Oct. 20 and Kyle Bales, a G&F  large carnivore biologist also based in Cody, later told him of the multiple bear sightings.

Grizzlies have been spotted by Chief Joseph Estates, a subdivision, as well as by a fish hatchery. So far, no one has been injured, and the bears have all been tranquilized and relocated.

“Never used to be grizzlies out there,” Bunn said. “Sometimes saw a black bear. Never a grizzly.”

However, there have been other reports of multiple grizzlies in the area in recent years.

Five grizzlies were darted and relocated Oct. 8-11, 2011, when they grew too fond of the Clark landfill’s animal carcass pit, according to a Tribune story. A sow with three cubs and another sow were removed from the area that time.

Bunn said the grizzlies are feasting on Russian olives that grow wild along the Clark Fork River banks. He said a neighbor of his was advised to remove an apple tree from his yard, since that might lure grizzlies there. The man declined, Bunn said, and replied he was armed and ready to deal with a large bruin.

Bunn also is armed, carrying a .38-caliber revolver on his hip. He said he has larger weapons in case he needs to deal with a grizzly at his home.

Like other Clark residents, he hopes that doesn’t happen, Bunn said, but people are keeping alert when they step outside, especially after dark.

“I just wanted to let people know,”he said. “I don’t want to see someone getting hurt.”

Editor's note: This version corrects that the two grizzlies caught on Monday and Tuesday were killed by the department, not relocated.

]]> (Tom Lawrence) News Thu, 30 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Country Christmas Lighted Parade moving to morning start

The Powell Valley Chamber of Commerce is shifting the annual Country Christmas Lighted Parade, which was canceled last year due to extreme cold, to a morning start this year.

It is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 6. It will start at 10:30 a.m. The popular parade has started at 6 p.m. since it was launched 27 years ago.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jaime Schmeiser said the parade is being moved to the daytime in hopes that the temperatures will be more favorable and to benefit local merchants as well as the people who take part in the annual event.

“We just thought it might be time to switch it up,” said Schmeiser.

The parade and country Christmas theme this year is Polar Express: Believe. The gift show starts at 10 a.m, followed by the parade. Events and entertainment will continue until 5 p.m.

The event transitioned from a two-day to one-day event in 2012, Schmeiser noted. While people still attended events, downtown business owners did not see a bump in sales, she said.

Last year, a bitterly cold week, with temperatures persisting below zero, caused participants to cancel starting at the beginning of that week. By the end of the week Country Christmas had only one participant, and then the parade was called off.

Schmeiser said it seemed like time for a change.

“Fast forward to this year, and as I had started the plans for the parade, the idea of having it during the day was brought to my attention by community members, gift show participants, merchants and performers, who cited the success of the fair parade being held during the day in July for the community’s active participation, which included merchants having success, as community stayed downtown long after the parade had ended,” she said.

The Chamber board and Ambassadors decided to not only have the parade during the day, but to move Santa’s Workshop and pictures with Santa to the same day.

The Powell Tribune’s weekly poll is on the planned parade change. Check the top of the left sidebar to cast your vote.

]]> (Tom Lawrence) News Thu, 30 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Former Park County Sheriff Bill Brewer dies

Bill Brewer, a Powell native who served Park County as its sheriff and as a county commissioner, died Saturday.

Brewer, 76, died due to heart complications, according to his family.

He served as Park County sheriff from 1973-86 and again from 1991 until his retirement in January 2003.

Brewer also served on the Park County Commission from 2007-10. He was vice chair in 2008 and chair in 2009.

He was in poor health while serving on the commission, said Commission Chairman Bucky Hall. Still Brewer passed on before his time, Hall said, and devoted most of his life to the community.

“Basically he spent pretty much his whole adult life as a public servant,” Hall said.

Brewer graduated from Powell High School in 1957 and then pursued a degree in law enforcement at Northwest College.

His four-decade long career in law enforcement started with the Powell Police Department in 1960. At that time, becoming a police officer meant taking an oath, being given a badge and a gun, and “on the job training” was all that was available, according to a release from the sheriff’s office.

Brewer worked for the Powell Police Department until 1964 when he decided to join the Wyoming Highway Patrol. His first posting was in Cheyenne, which he admitted he did not enjoy due to the constant wind.

In the fall of 1968, he was transferred to Thermopolis, a posting that he preferred much more than Cheyenne. After repeated offers by then-Sheriff Harley Kinkade to work for him as a deputy in Park County, Brewer decided to accept a posting in Powell in April 1969 as undersheriff.

After working as undersheriff for three and one-half years, he moved up one rung. On Christmas Eve, 1972, Sheriff Kinkade retired and asked the commissioners to appoint Brewer sheriff. At 34, Brewer became one of the youngest Wyoming sheriffs up until that point.

He served as sheriff for 12 years until he lost the Republican primary to a friend and co-worker who was running against him. Deputy Dan Hodge was on the ballot as an independent, and won the general election.

Brewer was forced to find another line of work after 25 years in law enforcement. While waiting for the chance to run for re-election, he sold cars for a local dealership in Powell.

In 1991, voters returned Brewer to office where he served another 12 years.

Brewer was instrumental in the consolidation and integration of local law enforcement agencies in the county. He was credited with implementing Park County’s first 911 emergency calling systems, as well as the first law enforcement teletype system in the county.

Brewer also played an integral part in organizing and outfitting the Search and Rescue units in Powell and Meeteetse, and was responsible for procuring the county’s first Search and Rescue airplane.

For his efforts in leading Wyoming law enforcement in the integration of technology, Brewer received Wyoming’s Officer of the Year award from the Wyoming Sheriff’s Association in 1981. Brewer also organized and implanted Park County’s first SWAT response team, which was an integral part of bringing suspects to justice during the widely publicized Silver Dollar Bar shooting in 1983 in Cody.

“Bill Brewer was well-respected within the community,” said Sheriff Scott Steward. “He was an outstanding citizen, dedicated public servant and wonderful friend, and he will truly be missed.”

Brewer is survived by his wife, Janet as well as seven children and 14 grandchildren. A complete obituary can be found online here.

A memorial service will be at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Cody Cattle Company, 1910 Demaris St., on the west strip in Cody. A law enforcement processional in Brewer’s honor will form at Ballard’s Funeral Home at 10 a.m. and proceed through the city to the Cody Cattle Company immediately prior to the service.

Citizens wishing to pay their respects are asked to do so during this processional. Donations may be made in Brewer’s name through Pinnacle Bank in Cody.

Hall expressed his sympathies to Brewer’s family.

“I hope they’re holding up OK,” he said.

]]> (Gib Mathers) News Tue, 28 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Wolverines go to court; Environmental groups suing to get animal on ESA list Several environmental groups are challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision not to place wolverines on the Endangered Species list, but the federal agency and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department believe the biggest land-dwelling weasel does not need federal protections.

Environmental groups are challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to not place wolverines on the Endangered Species List.

Represented by Earthjustice, they are suing to overturn the decision and have filed three lawsuits in federal district court in an effort to overturn it. They claim the federal government used “contorted” data to make its decision.

The Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Northwest, Friends of the Clearwater, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Idaho Conservation League, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Rocky Mountain Wild filed one of the lawsuits on Oct. 13 in Missoula, Mont.

Wolverines remaining in the lower 48 are at direct risk from climate change because the animals depend on areas that maintain deep snow through late spring, when pregnant females dig their dens into the snowpack to birth and raise their young, said Stephen Koenigsberg of Public Relations Counsel & Campaigns, a spokesman for the environmental groups.

“To survive, the wolverine needs the protections that only the Endangered Species Act can provide,” said Earthjustice attorney Adrienne Maxwell.

The USFWS stated on Feb. 4, 2013, that wolverines were nearly exterminated from the contiguous United States in the early 20th century due to broad-scale predator trapping and poisoning. Since then wolverines have made a remarkable recovery, according to the service, but there still is a risk.

“Unfortunately, climate warming over the next century is likely to significantly reduce wolverine habitat, to the point where persistence of wolverines in the contiguous United States, without intervention, is in doubt,” it stated.

Eighteen months later, the agency changed its mind. On Aug. 13, USFWS withdrew a proposal to list the wolverine in the contiguous U.S.

It is clear the climate is changing based on scientific data, but the impacts of climate change to wolverines is uncertain, said John N. Bryan, deputy/congressional liaison for Fish and Wildlife External Affairs in the Mountain-Prairie Region, Lakewood, Colo.

Nor is it clear climate change is impacting denning sites, Bryan said.

The wildlife advocates disagree.

Snowpack is already declining in the Western mountains and is predicted to worsen, Koenigsberg said.

“Wolverine populations also are threatened by trapping, human disturbance, extremely low population numbers resulting in low genetic diversity and fragmentation of habitat,” he said.
The service estimated there are 250 to 300 wolverines in the lower 48 states. Some wolverine populations are expanding, Bryan said.

For example, wolverine sightings outside formerly known habitat occurred in 2008 in the Sierra Nevada range in California, in 2012 in Colorado, and, in 2014, a wolverine was seen in the Uinta Range of Utah — the first confirmed sighting in that state in 30 years, said the release. Individual wolverines have moved into those locations, but have not established breeding populations in these areas, Fish and Wildlife said.

After state wildlife managers in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming objected, arguing that computer models about climate change impact are too uncertain to justify the proposed listing, the service’s regional director, Noreen Walsh, ordered the agency to withdraw the listing, ignoring the recommendations of her own scientists, Koenigsberg said.

“The reversal came despite confirmation by a panel of outside experts that deep snow is crucial to the ability of wolverines to reproduce successfully,” she said.

He is not aware of Western states pressuring Fish and Wildlife to not list the animal, Bryan said. Fish and Wildlife did not reverse its original proposal due solely to state input.

Accusations of politics

“The denial of protection for the wolverine is yet another unfortunate example of politics entering into what should be a purely scientific decision,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “All of the science and the agency’s own scientists say the wolverine is severely endangered by loss of spring snowpack caused by climate change, yet the agency denied protection anyway.”

Three regional directors — the Mountain Prairie, Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest — agreed there is not enough evidence that climate change will impact wolverines and that’s what they told Director Dan Ashe, Bryan said.

“The Service chose instead to convene an independent panel of climate and wildlife scientists to review and discuss the science underlying the original listing proposal,” said the directors.
In Washington, Oregon, Colorado and California, wolverines are listed under state endangered species acts, making it illegal to kill or otherwise harm wolverines. They are also protected from hunting in Idaho, Wyoming and Nevada, and there is no open harvest season in Utah. “Montana is currently the only state in which wolverine harvest is legal,” said the release.

“The best available science shows climate change will significantly reduce available wolverine habitat over the next century, and imperil the species,” said Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance’s Siva Sundaresan. “As an agency responsible for protecting our wildlife, FWS should not ignore science and should make their decisions based on facts and data.”

The state of Wyoming is keeping an eye on wolverines.

One Wyoming Game and Fish Department official said he favors Wyoming administering to wolverines.

“I would prefer to see the state management of all the species we can,” said Zack Walker, Game and Fish non-game supervisor in Lander. “In law it (the wolverine) is considered a protected animal.”

Wolverines rank No. II in species of concern.

“Any native species IV and below is considered a species of greatest conservation need,” Walker said.

Examples are black-footed ferret, ranked I, Canada lynx, also ranked I, and the bobolink is ranked II, according to the Game and Fish.

Ashe’s decision to withdraw the proposed listing was based on a unanimous recommendation by the agency’s three regional directors for the regions encompassing the wolverine’s known range in the contiguous U.S.

“The three directors made the recommendation based on a synthesis of the entire body of scientific evidence,” said the Aug. 12 news release.

“In this case, based on all the information available, we simply do not know enough about the ecology of the wolverine and when or how it will be affected by a changing climate to conclude at this time that it is likely to be in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future,” Ashe said. “If new information emerges that suggests we should take another look at listing, we will not hesitate to do that.”

Fish and Wildlife would not discuss the suit. Rather it is relying on an Aug. 12 news release to explain its decision.

“We don’t comment on pending legislation,” Bryan said.

“Three Western state agencies do not believe wolverines need listing. For the record, our states opposed the Service’s original recommendation to list wolverines based on our concerns about listing a species that is at its highest population level in the past 80-100 years — and still increasing,” stated a Sept. 5 letter sent to regional newspapers from Virgil Moore, director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, M. Jeff Hagener, director of the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Scott Talbott, director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Based on the statutory definition of threatened or endangered and based on science, the wolverine didn’t warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act at this time, Bryan said.

The environmental groups claim climate change is putting the alpine animal at risk, while Fish and Wildlife claims there is not enough data to verify climate change posing a risk to the animal.

The wolverine is the largest member of the weasel family, with adult males weighing 26 to 40 pounds and adult females weighing 17 to 26 pounds, according to Fish and Wildlife. It resembles a small bear with a broad rounded head and bushy tail.

Wolverines are found in Alaska and Canada and contiguous U.S. of the North Cascades in Washington and the Northern Rocky Mountains in Idaho, Montana, Oregon (Wallowa Range) and Wyoming.

]]> (Gib Mathers) News Tue, 28 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Sheriff’s office says prowler report unfounded

‘Jovial’ Clark man claimed unknown person shot, wounded him outside his home last week 

CLARK — It just didn’t add up.

A report that a Clark man had been shot and wounded by a prowler last week has been discounted by the Park County Sheriff’s Office.

Ronald James Derocher, 54, called 911 at 1:52 a.m. Oct. 21 to report a prowler at 37 Burns Road in Clark, according to a release from the sheriff’s office. Derocher said he had just been shot in the leg by an unknown assailant/prowler outside his home.

Park County Sheriff’s deputies as well as Clark first responders and an ambulance from Powell Valley Hospital were immediately dispatched, according to the release.

Derocher told deputies he had let his dog outside around 10:30 p.m. Shortly afterwards, he heard a commotion between the dog and a male voice, then several gunshots, he told them.

Derocher then said that he went outside with a baseball bat to investigate. He said he did not see or hear anyone but as he was kneeling to go through a gate he was shot in the leg.

However, deputies noticed Derocher appeared to be intoxicated and his demeanor was described as jovial or happy in nature, unlike someone who was reporting a prowler near his residence.

While Derocher did have a superficial wound on his left leg just above the knee, the wound was more consistent with an accidental discharge or self-inflicted wound. It was a vertical notch approximately three-eighths of an inch wide and 1 inch long.

He was treated at the scene by the first responders and the Powell ambulance crew.
Derocher continued to insist that he had been kneeling, going through a gap in the fence when he was shot from a distance of approximately 20 feet by an unknown male.

After repeated questioning about the incident however, Derocher changed his story several times and was inconsistent each time, the release states. When asked if he had a gun, Derocher admitted that he was a convicted felon and Wyoming statutes prohibited him from owning a handgun. No gun was located at the scene.

After an extensive search of the area Derocher claimed the shot came from, deputies could find no evidence of a prowler. During the entire interview, Derocher was happy and laughing about the issue and seemed in no way concerned that the shooter might be coming back again.

At that point, the deputies determined the report be unfounded. No charges for filing a false report will be filed, according to the sheriff’s office.

]]> (Tribune Staff) News Tue, 28 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Same-sex marriage arrives in Park County Desiree Flowers (at left) and Nikki Reid got their marriage license Tuesday  at the Park County Courthouse and planned a low-key ceremony Wednesday evening. However, they consider their real wedding to have been a September 2012 ceremony, when the above photo was taken.

Cody couple the first to get a license

"I just can’t believe that it’s truly happening. We did it.”

Disbelief was one of the emotions Nikki Reid was experiencing Tuesday night as she and Desiree Flowers looked over a Wyoming marriage license allowing the Cody couple to legally wed.

Like many others, Reid didn’t expect same-sex marriage to become legal in Wyoming so abruptly, but it did at 10 a.m. Tuesday — the result of a series of decisions from federal judges over the past two weeks that found the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be a violation of those couples’ civil rights.

Reid and Flowers, Cody High School alums who’ve been together for more than 10 years, ended up as the first same-sex couple to get a marriage license in Park County by coming in to the county clerk’s office around lunchtime Tuesday.

Reid said that historic distinction was “kind of cool to us,” but also said getting a license wasn’t about making a statement.

“It’s not even about the fact that I’m a lesbian or anything like that. It’s more about the fact that I want to be able to change my name legally like everybody else does and I want us to have the same rights and benefits that we each get as a married couple,” said Reid, who will be taking on Flowers’ surname. “So that’s where I think it’s pretty cool.”

“I’m just impressed that Wyoming, being the Equality State, wasn’t the very last state,” Reid added.
Wyoming was, in fact, the 32nd to allow gay marriages.

Still, not everyone was enthused about the change in the law — including the Park County official now charged with issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

“I personally don’t want to do it,” County Clerk Jerri Torczon said Tuesday morning.

The Powell Republican said she didn’t like that a judge dictated the legalization of gay marriage when a majority of Wyomingites oppose it.

However, Torczon also said she took an oath to obey the law when she took office and that her hands were tied in having to issue the licenses.

“(I) didn’t want to get into any litigation for the county, and it wouldn’t have accomplished anything,” she said of refusing.

Gov. Matt Mead and his administration, taking a position similar to what Torczon expressed, declined to appeal the Friday decision from a U.S. District Court judge in Casper that cleared the way for same-sex marriages in the state. Judge Scott Skavdahl’s decision was based on controlling precedent from the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals; the appeals court had struck down same-sex marriage in Oklahoma and Utah in earlier rulings that the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider.

Mead’s office explained in a statement that Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael concluded appealing Skavdahl’s decision “to the very court (the 10th Circuit) that ruled these laws unconstitutional — an opinion that the Supreme Court declined to review — would be unlikely to succeed.”

The Big Horn Basin TEA Party panned Mead for “yielding” on the issue in a Tuesday newsletter and urged its readers to call the governor’s office and say Mead had lost their vote.

In the newsletter, tea party activist Ray DiLorenzo described the increasing number of rulings striking down gay marriage bans as the federal government “dictating their values and lifestyle on the rest of the country.”

Independent gubernatorial candidate Don Wills said on his campaign website that Mead should have defied Skavdahl’s decision by refusing to issue marriage licenses to gay couples and then impeached any county clerks who continued issuing them.

Polling has showed support for gay marriage growing significantly in Wyoming in recent years, but a 2013 survey from Public Policy Polling still showed 57 percent of residents opposed. The Wyoming Republican Party endorsed a resolution earlier this year that contains 16 clauses denouncing same-sex marriage, including one statement that such unions “would likely corrode marital norms of permanence, monogamy and fidelity.”

Former Cody lawmaker Pat Childers — a Republican who served in the state House for 16 years — believes his passionate opposition to Wyoming’s laws banning same-sex marriages played a part in his ouster from office in 2012.

“Basically, it goes back to exactly what I said on the (House) floor and what they’ve said: it’s denying people rights with laws like this,” Childers said Wednesday. “Our state has been on the ‘Equality State’ line for a long time, and this is just one thing that we didn’t do.”

He welcomed the courts’ decisions striking down Wyoming’s ban as unconstitutional.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Childers said. “There’s going to be a few irate people in this state, but they’ll get over it.”

He added that for the most part, same-sex couples like his daughter and her partner “just quietly live their own life and pay taxes.”

For all of the years of controversy and debate, the first day of gay marriage looked much like any other day at the Park County Courthouse. About the only sign of anything unusual was a news truck from the Billings station KTVQ — and there was initially some confusion around the courthouse as to what big story had brought the TV station to town.

When Reid and Flowers came in around lunchtime to get their license, Deputy Clerk Kari Smith said about the only strange thing in processing their application was the new form.

Reid said a couple staffers congratulated the couple as they left the clerk’s office, something they appreciated. She’s generally been surprised at how supportive people have been.

Flowers and Reid planned to make their marriage legally binding at a low-key Wednesday evening ceremony with a couple witnesses and officiant Jill Welch. Welch officiated a much more elaborate ceremony for the couple two years ago where the couple’s brothers gave them away and their now 10-year-son served as ringbearer.

Flowers and Reid consider that to be their real wedding day, even if it wasn’t legally recognized at the time.

Reid said she had thought obtaining Tuesday’s license would be intimidating, but she ended up feeling no fear or anxiety.

“I just think this is really exciting for Wyoming,” she said.

Reid said she has a lot of friends in Park County that she hopes will move forward with their relationships and live long and prosperous lives together.

“I hope that now that we’ve taken the first step that other people will too,” she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, no other same-sex couples had picked up a marriage license in Park County.

]]> (CJ Baker) News Thu, 23 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Sugar content up in beets Jeanie Eden, trailed by Donna Stewart, operate tractors (coming toward the lens) while Dennis Eden operates the digger wheel headed away in a beet field northeast of Powell on Road 6. The sugar beet harvest is nearing completion.

Warm weather no friend to ‘good’ harvest, which nears completion

It’s been a warm October, which most people have reveled in.

The people involved in this year’s sugar beet harvest are not among them. The warmer-than-normal conditions have forced them to “start early and quit early,” said Mark Bjornestad, Western Sugar’s senior agriculturalist.

High internal temperatures in the beets are counterproductive, Bjornestad explained, so work is starting at 4:30 a.m. and knocking off as the day warms up. It’s counterproductive to pile up the beets if they are too hot, he said.

“We try to take advantage of the cool hours during the night,” Bjornestad said.

He said the warm weather has been a complication that wasn’t needed. Temperatures have routinely topped the 70s this month, but the beet harvest workers haven’t been soaking in the sun.

“We’d rather be wearing coats,” Bjornestad said.

But this has been a solid harvest, according to the veteran field man. The sugar content in the beets will top 17 percent; it’s at 17.2 percent now. Fields are producing, on average, 28 tons per acre, right on the five-year average.

“It’s going to be a good year,” Bjornestad said. “It’s not a record crop, but it’s a good one.”

He said the harvest should wrap up very soon. It’s about 80 percent done; the statewide average for this time of year is 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“We should be really close to harvest being complete by Halloween,” he said. “It’s a little ahead.”

While the heat hasn’t done any favors for the sugar beet harvest, other crops are benefitting from the warm, dry conditions, according to the USDA report, with 6.4 days of last week deemed suitable for field work.

Subsoil moisture in Wyoming was at 74 percent adequate and 1 percent surplus, compared to 38 percent adequate and none deemed surplus at this time last year. The corn silage harvest was at 96 percent, in line with the 95 percent harvest at the same time last year.

Only 14 percent of grain corn had been harvested, compared with twice that percentage at the same stage in 2013. Dry beans also were slightly behind last year, with 70 percent harvested and 86 percent cut compared to 88 percent harvested and 99 percent cut a year ago.

Range and pasture conditions remain impressive, with 80 percent deemed good or excellent compared to 40 percent in 2013.

]]> (Tom Lawrence) News Thu, 23 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Council given briefing on new fairgrounds building Here is a concept image of what the new multipurpose building at the Park County Fairgrounds will look like.

The Powell City Council was given a virtual tour Monday night of the new $2.7 million building being erected on the Park County Fairgrounds.

The 16,000-square-foot building will be a multipurpose structure, including a 9,500-square-foot exhibit hall, two conference rooms with a potential to create a third, a kitchen, storage and other rooms and spaces.

The current exhibition space, Bicentennial Hall, is 5,000 square feet.

Fair Manager Jennifer Lohrenz and project manager Ron Yount of Plan One Architects of Cody offered a presentation on the new facility during the council meeting. Council members asked a few questions, including about landscaping. They were told none was planned. Electrical hookups, heat and cooling and potential expansion were also touched on.

No sound system is planned to be installed right now, Yount said, for budgetary reasons.

No furnishings have been purchased or budgeted for, including additional tables and chairs. Lohrenz said she now has 90 tables and about 250 chairs.

County Commission Chairman Bucky Hall said furnishings and a sound system will be added after the building is erected. They are just not part of the construction project, he said.

“We just want to get the thing completed before fair next year,” Hall said.

Councilman Josh Shorb also asked about fundraising efforts.

“It’s been a slow go,” Lohrenz said, saying it has been widely reported and was no secret. But she said more than $8,000 was raised for a grandstand sound system during the Smashtoberfest demolition derby and a fall festival may be held in 2015 to raise additional funds.

In addition, the Fair Board hopes to sell memorials on a wall and, if given permission by the County Commission, naming rights for the new building. So far, the commission has not supported that proposal, Lohrenz said.

The plan is to pour concrete in November, and the predicted date for completion is May 31, the council was told. Dirt work is underway at the fairgrounds.

In other agenda items, the council:

• Approved the Fiscal Year 2013-14 audit. James B. Seckman, a Powell CPA, conducted the audit and made a presentation to the council and provided a 40-page booklet.

The city added $100,000 during the fiscal year but retired $164,762 in debt, for a gain of more than  $64,000. The city also is rebuilding its reserve funds; ideally, it would have six months or more of departmental funds on hand, Seckman said.

The city has relatively minor debts, he said. It owes the Wyoming Department of Transportation $329,732 for airport hangars, has a $269,700 sewer bond outstanding, a $65,061 sewer loan and owes $95,000 for electric street lights.

“We don’t have a huge amount of debt at the city of Powell,” he said.

The city has a bank balance of $8.1 million, according to the report.

The city is also enacting proper financial security and has proper internal controls, Seckman said. He said Finance Officer Annette Thorington, who is retiring this year, does an outstanding job and does work that he does not see from other governmental entities, making an audit a relative breeze.

“It’s just unheard of,” Seckman said.

• Approved a request for barb-wire fencing at 1131 Adams St.

Hi Bar Energy Services LLC plans to put a fence around its property with a foot of barbed wire at the top. It is needed to protect vehicles, equipment, tools and materials that are stored there.

The fence would “closely resemble” the fence that encircles Summit Energy Services on Road 8, according to a letter from Barb Loyning, the company’s owner. She and her husband Buck attended the council meeting to make a short statement and field questions.

• Gave third and final approval to an ordinance revising trench detail requirements.

The city will mandate that the construction of streets, alleys, sidewalks and all public rights-of-way and easements adhere to the guidelines in the Wyoming Department of Transportation standard specifications for road and bridge construction, unless there are modifications made by the city.
City standards will be followed if the two codes differ.

• Was introduced to new Building Official Ben Hubbard, who started work on Oct. 15.

• Was told a new merry-go-round was installed at Washington Park; the old one was disassembled and junked. The roof of the city animal shelter is being shingled.

• Gave third and final approval to an ordinance amending the City Code to clarify what permits are needed for the removal of sidewalks, curbs and gutters, also known as a “street cut.”

• Approved a request for a malt beverage permit at the fairgrounds from 5-11 p.m. Saturday for the Alcyone Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star.

• Approved paying $534,126.71 in bills and claims.

• Noted Councilman Myron Heny, who was in Iowa picking up a trailer for Powell Valley Recycling, was absent.

]]> (Tom Lawrence) News Thu, 23 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600
Rescue in the air

Sheriff’s employees help save life aboard flight

Dispatchers from Park County travel to a software conference every year, but the recent event marked the first trip in which they were called upon to save someone’s life.

“Usually,” said Park County Sheriff’s Office Communications Supervisor Monte McClain of the conference trip, “it’s a lot less dramatic.”

McClain and three other folks with local law enforcement were heading home on a Friday morning flight from Reno, Nev., to Salt Lake City. They’d just hit cruising altitude when an 80-year-old woman suddenly gasped and slumped over in her seat.

Sheriff’s Communications Officer Charla Baugher — seated a row back — saw the collapse and grabbed the attention of McClain, who’s also an emergency medical technician for Powell Hospital EMS.

McClain immediately went to the woman’s aid and found she had no pulse. She wasn’t breathing.
A doctor and teacher from Reno plus an EMT from the East Coast quickly joined the effort to save the woman’s life.

“Anymore, there’s a lot of people in health care that fly,” McClain said, adding later that, “We’re at 36,000 feet and there’s not a whole lot of help other than what’s on board — and thankfully we had what we needed.”

While the other EMT and the school teacher continued to administer CPR, McClain prepared the aircraft’s automated external defibrillator to deliver a shock to restart the woman’s heart. However, the device became unnecessary, because just then, the CPR succeeded in reviving her.

With Baugher’s help, McClain started the woman on an IV drip of medication and assisted in monitoring the San Francisco Bay area resident’s condition for the final 30 or so minutes of the flight.

Delta flight attendants also lent a hand.

“If I needed something, it was right there,” McClain said.

The airplane’s tighter quarters made for an unusual rescue effort.

“It was kind of cramped,” McClain said. “I had to kneel in the aisle.”

Lisa Baker, an administrative assistant and dispatcher for the Powell Police Department who was also aboard the flight, was impressed by the emergency responders’ work within the close confines of the plane.

While she was ready to help when needed, in general, “I sat there in awe,” Baker said, adding, “It was amazing to watch.”

The pilot received a priority landing at Salt Lake City — which was the closest airport at the time of the emergency — and a team of paramedics from Salt Lake City Fire met the plane and the patient at the gate.

“She thanked me as she went out the door,” McClain said.

In a statement, Park County Sheriff Scott Steward praised those who work in public safety who “are always on the job, 24/7.

“I can’t say enough about Charla and Monte in this situation. Their quick thinking, immediate action and calm demeanor under the most difficult of circumstances no doubt saved the life of the victim,” Steward said. “I could not be more proud.”

McClain hopes the woman is doing well, but doesn’t know for sure. Delta officials and the Salt Lake City Department of Airlines said they would not disclose her name.

“I never did get her name,” he said. “I was kind of preoccupied.”

]]> (CJ Baker) News Tue, 21 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0600