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Powell, WY

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Editorials

A Northwest College student illustrated the poor judgment and lack of reasoning and coordination that go hand in hand with binge drinking last week when he allegedly stole a van near one of the residence halls. By the time police officers apprehended him a short time later, he had crashed into two fences, a police car and two other vehicles, court documents say. Officers reported he smelled strongly of alcohol.

Ironically, the incident occurred during Alcohol Awareness Week at the college, with members of the P.A.R.T.Y. group sponsoring activities and events during the week to get the message out about the dangers and consequences of binge drinking.

This young man has already had a lesson about the consequences of his actions, and those consequences likely will continue to pile up over coming weeks and months. All of them could have been avoided if he had made wiser choices. He's fortunate that he didn't kill himself or someone else.

But the news isn't all bad. Alcohol Awareness Week also focused on the fact that most Northwest College students don't binge drink. Statistics show 31 percent of NWC students binge drink. That's 10 percent fewer than the 41 percent average at colleges and universities nationwide, according to a report by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Binge drinking was defined as drinking five or more drinks on the same occasion on at least one day in the past 30 days.

Still, that's far too high. That means three NWC students out of every 10 have engaged in binge drinking. That increases the likelihood they will get in trouble with the law by driving drunk or doing some other foolish thing that they never would consider if they were sober. By binge drinking, they also increase the risk that they will become the victims of crimes —or at the very least, of bad choices with lasting consequences.

Binge drinking frequently leads to use of illicit drugs as well. The survey report states, “Underage persons who reported binge drinking were almost nine times more likely to have used marijuana/hashish during the past month and were more than six times more likely to have used any illicit drug other than marijuana during the past month compared with underage persons who did not binge drink.”

The P.A.R.T.Y. group continues to challenge students to evaluate their use or non-use of alcohol through an E-Checkup program. As an incentive, NWC President Paul Prestwich has said he will dye his hair red if 600 students complete the E-Checkup online by Nov. 18.

The group is to be commended for its efforts to curb drinking, particularly binge drinking, by NWC students. Those students would be wise to listen, and to act accordingly, to avoid learning hard lessons of their own.

Consider the high number of bear conflicts in 2010.

Over three weeks in October, two hunters killed two attacking grizzly bears near Cody. In the past six months, two grizzlies have fatally mauled two humans and injured others in the Greater Yellowstone region.

Wyoming has tallied a record 251 conflicts between bears and humans this year, from a bear eating corn on a Heart Mountain farm earlier this fall to the recent maulings of hunters, according to the Associated Press.

Including the latest hunter-shoots-bear incident last week, at least 45 grizzlies have been killed or removed from the wild this year in the Greater Yellowstone region.

Last fall, grizzlies were re-listed as protected under the Endangered Species Act, and the federal government is considering whether to also place whitebark pine on the endangered species list. The declining tree species provides protein-rich pine nuts, a favorite for grizzlies prior to hibernation.

Though the grizzly re-listing points to bears' dependency on whitebark pine nuts, some research suggests grizzlies are actually fine without them.

“We have not detected an impact of the loss of mature whitebark pine on the grizzly bear population. Rates of reproduction and survival remain high, and the population is still growing,” said the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in an August statement.

Still growing indeed. The grizzly population in and around Yellowstone is at its highest level in decades, according to a report released last week. At least 603 grizzly bears roam the Greater Yellowstone region — more than three times the number in 1975, when the bear was first placed on the endangered list.

More grizzles mean more conflicts.

But fewer pine nuts don't necessarily mean more bear-human conflicts.

“In fact, grizzly/human encounters and bear mortalities are primarily determined by grizzly and human population densities rather than whitebark pine cone production,” wrote Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, earlier this year.

Given the high number of conflicts between humans and bears this year — and the many grizzly relocations — it is time to reconsider how the increased bear population is managed by the federal government. Numbers show the bears are thriving in the Yellowstone region, indicating a growing grizzly population that no longer needs endangered species status.

The end of October is approaching, and with it, two events that call for increased attention to driving cautiously and safely.

The first event, of course, is Halloween and the tradition of trick or treating. Over the years, Powell has taken steps to help kids carry out their annual quest for candy safely, giving them the opportunity to complete their mission in daylight hours or through organized activities.

Still, there are some who will take the traditional route of going door to door, often dressed in costumes that reduce their ability to see or move quickly, in the twilight and dark hours.

Parents have the responsibility to make sure their children take proper precautions, of course, but kids are kids, and in the excitement of the evening they may forget, so drivers should be particularly cautious.

The end of October also means that daylight saving time is close to ending as well. On Nov. 7, we will revert to standard time. The change itself means it will be darker when we will all be heading home from work at the end of the day, but it's also a signal that we are approaching the dark part of the year. Again, that calls for more caution when negotiating Powell streets.

Caution is especially important around schools and other areas where children might gather, but other areas, such as the the offset intersections on Division Street, buildings that block visibility at some intersections on Absaroka and the narrow stretches of both of those heavily traveled streets also require extra attention on the part of drivers.

Everyone should also exercise caution when driving, of course, but at this time of the year, it's extra important, and we urge all drivers to be especially vigilant.

In America's ever-polarized political landscape, the 2010 midterm election season continues to stoke division between Republicans and Democrats. As GOP leaders anxiously anticipate a sway in their favor, Democrats brace themselves as they try to maintain their control of Congress.

Here in Wyoming, GOP candidates for governor and the U.S. House of Representatives lead their opponents in the polls. Yet several races, at statewide and local levels, could go either way come Election Day.

We encourage voters to consider each candidate when voting, rather than blindly casting a vote based on the word “Republican” or “Democrat” alongside a name.

For certain races, such as county commissioner and superintendent of public instruction, it's debatable whether party affiliation plays a role in the actual position. In some cases, partisanship has no bearing on a position's responsibilities — county coroner comes to mind.

Some races should be non-partisan, but the reality is, next week on the ballot, county and state candidates will be identified by “Republican,” “Democrat,” or, in a few cases, “Libertarian.”

Voters need to assess each candidate individually. Don't write a candidate off or stamp your approval simply based on a person's party affiliation.

This is an important election. Remember to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 2, and when you do, consider the best person for each job. Our county, state and nation are strongest when we choose the best leaders — not just those who toe the party line.

EDITORIAL: Keeping kids safe

When it comes to our children, keeping them safe from harm is top priority, and Powell's school leaders are continually working to do just that.

This week, the district's transportation department has been observing School Bus Safety week, and a big part of that week is spending time with Powell's newest school students to make sure they know how to stay safe while waiting for the bus, getting on, riding and leaving a school bus.

Last week, Southside Elementary students and staff, with the help of Powell police officers and Mayor Mangold, promoted safety by gathering at Southside Park and walking to school in observance of Walk to School Day.

The district also is sponsoring Safe Routes to School, a study aimed at helping kids who walk or ride their bikes to school to do so safely. The study has been underway for several months, and next week a preliminary report will be presented at a public meeting. Parents and other community members are encouraged to attend the meeting and comment.

Powell has a pretty good record of getting children to and from school safely, as have most communities in America. But accidents are always possible. Just a couple of years ago, a Powell High School student was injured while riding her bike to school, and before that, another PHS student was hit by a car as he left his own vehicle near the old high school. A few years ago, a younger student in Lovell died after being hit by a car in a school parking lot.

Accidents such as these demonstrate the importance of continually instructing students about bus safety and justify the time and expense of conducting the Safe Routes to School project.

Powell school officials are doing a commendable job of protecting our children through those activities.

Next month's election for the Powell Hospital District Board is both important and unusual.

It is important because five of the seven seats on the board are up for election, with three incumbents choosing not to run again this year. That leaves only two incumbents running, and both were appointed to fill vacancies on the board this year.

Board members elected in November will help guide the hospital and Powell Valley Healthcare (hospital district board members also serve on the Powell Valley Healthcare Board) through some significant changes, including new leadership for Powell Valley Healthcare.

The board will make important decisions in the next four years that will affect the future of medical services in Powell.

Chief among those will be deciding what company or companies will provide electronic medical records software and services for Powell Valley Healthcare. That will be costly, but it also is necessary to stay in step with medical advances and pending federal requirements.

Also up for consideration soon is a proposed update to the district's master building plan. Once that is complete, the board must decide and whether to pursue needed building renovations at the hospital in the next few years, and if so, how those could be paid for.

This election is unusual because, although there are five open seats on the board, there are only four candidates on the ballot and one of them has withdrawn from the race.

Running for a two-year term on the board is Larry Parker, who was appointed to the board in May to fill the seat vacated by the death of Kay Carlson.

Running for four-year terms on the board are Renee Humphries and incumbent Jim Beukelman, who was appointed in January to fill the seat vacated by Ken Rochlitz.

Sharea LinDae MoAn-Renaud, who filed for election to the board, has withdrawn her name from consideration, but her name still will appear on the ballot.

Because there are more seats open than official candidates to fill them, five people are running write-in campaigns. They are Cathy Marine, Virginia Fish, Henry Yaple, Jim Carlson and R.J. Kost.

It's important to know all the candidates, and to remember the names of the candidates you wish to write in on Nov. 2, to ensure the new board is prepared to continue Powell Valley Hospital's reputation for excellence in the community.

A candidate forum for the hospital district board, the Powell City Council, Park County Commission and Park County Clerk will take place Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at Powell City Hall.

Among the many offices on the ballot this year are two positions of particular importance to Powell voters.

Two seats representing Powell are open on the Northwest College Board of Trustees. The incumbents in those seats, Jim Vogt and Carolyn Danko, are seeking to return to the board, and they are being challenged by Rick LaPlante and Kim Dillivan.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, the board will have a number of serious issues to deal with. There has been turmoil at NWC in recent months marked by conflict and communication issues that have affected morale. A mediation process is under way to address those issues, and its outcome will have a major impact on the college.

A number of key people have retired or moved on to new positions and will have to be replaced in the coming months.

Northwest College has experienced rising enrollment for the past two years, a positive sign, but should that trend continue, it raises new challenges in staffing and facilities, especially if the current economic downturn requires cuts in state funding. NWC and the state's other community colleges will have to join in working with the Legislature to ensure adequate funding levels.

NWC also faces the challenges that are affecting educational institutions all over the nation. Education in the United States is undergoing change, and some of those changes involve the role of junior colleges and their relationships to both high schools and four-year colleges and universities. Those changes may affect course offerings at Northwest College and the way learning is delivered to students.

Finally, the college is nearing the end of the accreditation process, and administrators and faculty members continue to work to weave gaols in the college's strategic plan into everyday operation, teaching and learning at Northwest.

The NWC board will have a big role in dealing with all of those challenges.

NWC is a major asset to the city of Powell, both for its economic impact and its contributions to our quality of life. For that reason, Powell residents should not approach their votes for the NWC board casually.

Residents have the opportunity to learn more about each candidate during a forum at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the college.

We urge voters to carefully consider all the candidates for the NWC board and cast their votes thoughtfully.

Three weeks from today, voters will head to the polls, casting decisive ballots for who our next leaders will be in local, county, state and national offices.

At the city level, Powell voters will elect three City Council positions. Prior to Election Day on Nov. 2, we encourage local voters to know the candidates and issues.

Here's what we feel are the most important issues Powell councilmen face:

Landfill: For new councilmen who take office in January, the Powell landfill will close during their term on the council. Facing a scheduled September 2012 landfill closure, city leaders must decide where Powell's trash will go.

Likely, it will either be hauled directly to the regional landfill in Cody each day or stored at a Powell transfer station and then taken to Cody a few times a week.

Powell leaders favor the transfer station option, but it's unclear whether the county would assist in operating such a facility. Whether trash is hauled directly or stored at a transfer station, there will be an added cost for local residents.

City leaders need to evaluate the costs of each option and determine exactly how much it will cost Powell citizens, who already are weary of any increase.

Budget: With the national economy still in the doldrums, Powell — like many municipalities in the U.S. — must deal with a leaner budget.

Following funding cuts at the state level and anticipating tax revenue shortfalls, local leaders reduced this year's budget by about $5 million from the previous fiscal year.

While Powell may not have seen the end of funding cuts, we hope the next council continues to see areas to trim the budget so Powell withstands the current economic downturn.

Powell Aquatic Center: Four years ago, voters approved a 1-cent tax that funded Powell's pool. Swimmers are enjoying the new facility, but its future funding is quite worrisome.

In its 2010-11 budget, the city's projected revenue for the aquatic center is just $217,475, while its estimated operating expenses are budgeted at $829,728.

Though pool membership numbers are higher than originally anticipated, city leaders must find creative ways to keep the pool's operating costs low so it remains affordable to swimmers.

The aquatic center's first year is a crucial time to gather usage statistics and determine actual costs and revenue, but the next few years are even more important to ensure the pool isn't a drain on the city's budget.

Council candidates will discuss these and other issues during an Oct. 21 forum, sponsored by the local chapter of American Association of University Women. The forum begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, and also includes candidates for the Park County Commission and Powell Hospital Board. A forum for Northwest College candidates takes place Thursday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. on campus.

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, become an informed citizen — show up at local forums and be ready to cast an informed vote Nov. 2.

Despite the extreme partisanship that characterizes most political stories this year, there are times when Republicans and Democrats do cooperate.

Wyoming's senators, according to news reports, have joined senators of both parties from Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska in asking the Forest Service to spend more money fighting bark beetles in Western forests.

A drive up the North Fork provides ample evidence of the bark beetle problem in the form of hundreds of dead and dying trees, so the senators' concern is justified.

The biggest concern is that the dead trees pose a major fire hazard, although there is disagreement among scientists about how big that danger actually is.

Fire is not the only concern, though. According to University of Wyoming researchers, the death of so many trees may temporarily increase the mountain snowpack, but the lack of shade will mean a faster runoff, causing more erosion. When the trees disappear, wind and sun will have a negative effect on the snowpack, and the runoff, while it may fill the reservoirs, will carry more silt without trees to slow the flow. In addition, the water may contain excess nitrogen, which is now absorbed by the living trees.

For recreationists, a big concern is safety. Dead trees falling into campgrounds pose a danger, and may make it necessary to close campgrounds temporarily. Hiking trails will be similarly affected.

Wildlife habitat also will suffer as the trees that provide cover disappear.

The senators are asking that $49 million be devoted to battling the beetle infestation and rehabilitating the damaged forests. Given the danger posed by fires, the expense of fighting them, and the damage threatening watersheds and wildlife, that expenditure is more than justified.

Our senators should be commended for participating in this bipartisan effort to fight the infestation.

Autumn has graced the Powell Valley with hues of red, orange and yellow, and with October here, residents should expect to see more pink, too.

From pink lights glowing on Main Street to pink merchandise sold in local stores to pink bracelets adorning residents' wrists, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has arrived with its trademark color.

The month has been recognized for 25 years in America, helping increase awareness, provide education and empower women diagnosed with breast cancer.

It's estimated that around 190,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and more than 40,000 die from it, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thankfully, screening exams can detect breast cancer early, before it spreads to other areas of the body. Many doctors believe early screening saves thousands of lives each year.

October is a month to remind women of the importance of early detection and to remember the wives, mothers, sisters, friends and neighbors who have lost their battles with breast cancer. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it's likely you'll see a lot of pink in Powell.

Though pink products have become a national fad, consumers need to be sure that proceeds from pink merchandise actually benefit breast cancer research, education or exams.

With so many pink products flooding the market — from toothbrushes to umbrellas to T-shirts to soap — there's a growing concern that some merchandise sporting the pink ribbon doesn't actually benefit breast cancer research, but just marketers capitalizing on a trend.

Residents wanting to make a difference should consider donating locally to Women's Wellness. The center uses donations to help uninsured and underinsured women in our area. On Saturday, more than 70 participants participated in a fundraising walk/run, with proceeds helping Big Horn Basin patients with annual exams, mammograms and aid in funding additional tests. The pink lights adorning downtown streetlamps also benefit Women's Wellness.

This month, one of the best ways to think pink is to donate to those in our community.

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