APRIL 1 - Wyoming Briefs


March 28, 2019

Wyoming economy still “modestly” improving

CHEYENNE (WNE) – Wyoming’s economy continues to improve following an energy bust years ago, but the state has only recovered about a third of the jobs lost during that time.

An economic analysis released by the Wyoming Department of Administration and Information this week shows growth across multiple sectors in the fourth quarter of 2018. This includes employment, personal income, housing prices and state revenue.

The state’s total employment grew by 1 percent, or 2,800 jobs, in the last quarter compared to one year earlier – the largest year-over-year growth since 2015.

Unemployment dropped slightly to 4.1 percent, marginally higher than the nationwide level of 3.8 percent.

Mineral extraction employment grew 1.5 percent from last year, with related industries, such as construction and manufacturing, increasing, too.

“During the downturn in 2015-16, we lost almost 20,000 jobs,” said Wenlin Liu, the Economic Analysis Division’s chief economist. “Even with the rebound, we’ve only recovered a fraction of those lost jobs.”

He added that the construction industry is finally seeing significant growth after improving at a slower pace than even the mining industry.

“It seems to be rebounding pretty well,” he said.

He attributed this to new pipeline, wind farm and utility construction throughout the state.

Total taxable sales grew 9.1 percent to $4.8 billion in the fourth quarter of 2018. The construction industry experienced the fastest growth, with a year-over-year expansion of 32.5 percent.


Presidential search won’t start until Nichols departs

LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming’s Board of Trustees plans to have an “acting president” take over for President Laurie Nichols after her contract expires June 30.

After the trustees’ monthly meeting ended Friday, UW issued a press release stating that the acting president will oversee the school’s leadership team while “the board plans and then conducts an open and transparent search for a presidential successor.”

The trustees met for several hours in executive session on Thursday and Friday but never discussed their presidential search plans in open session.

“While we don’t have a precise timetable at this point, the board is committed to a presidential search that involves stakeholders across UW’s constituencies, including Wyoming citizens,” board chairman Dave True said in a Friday statement.

Friday’s announcement included the most complimentary statements on Nichols’s presidency that have been made by True since Monday’s surprise announcement that Nichols would not be given a new contract.

In Friday’s press release, True said “the president, her leadership team and others have put the university on a very positive trajectory, and the board intends to do everything it can to continue the momentum that has been built during the past three years.”

“We appreciate President Nichols’s dedicated service, and we truly believe her hard work and that of many others has created a tremendous opportunity for her successor,” True said.

He’s the only trustee who’s spoken with reporters regarding the decision. However, his statements have revealed nothing about why the board’s opting to oust the popular president.

Nichols said Monday at a Faculty Senate meeting she was “very surprised” to learn the board decided to remove her as president.


UW trustees approve new bachelor’s programs

CASPER (WNE) — The University of Wyoming’s board of trustees continued its busy week Thursday, approving the creation of three new bachelor’s degree programs while reorganizing the school’s geographic studies offerings.

Starting in the fall, the university will offer a bachelor’s degree in general studies, in elementary and special education, and in art education, according to a Friday press release from UW. The latter two degrees would be bachelor’s of arts degrees. At the same time, the university will eliminate its Department of Geography while retaining the bachelor’s degree for the program. No staff will be laid off as a result of the move, according to the release.

“The university’s strategic plan ... calls for development of academic programs that address workforce needs of the state and region,” UW Provost Kate Miller said in the press release. “The new Bachelor of General Studies provides a high-quality and flexible degree option for nontraditional and transfer students, making a college degree more accessible to the many adult Wyomingites with some college credits but no degree. And the elementary/special education and art education degrees will help fill critical needs for teachers in our state’s public schools.”

The general studies degree is intended to provide a “pathway” for the tens of thousands of Wyomingites with college credit but no degree, according to the release, as well as for community college graduates who may not otherwise continue their education.


Traffic stop nets liquid marijuana bust

TORRINGTON (WNE) — Leejay Burden, of Texas, is facing up to five years in Wyoming prison after he was allegedly caught with a large cache of marijuana in Goshen County.

He has been charged with a felony count of possession of a controlled substance, marijuana in a liquid form, more than 3/10 of a gram. If found guilty, Burden could face five years in prison and a fine of $10,000.

He was also charged with misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance, reckless driving and speeding.

The charges came about after Goshen County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Christopher Green responded to a report of an SUV with Texas plates “speeding in excess of 110 mph and weaving in and out of traffic,” according to court documents.

Green was able to locate the vehicle in Torrington and executed a traffic stop after witnessing the vehicle travel at 50 mph in a 30-mph zone.

Green asked Burden to exit the vehicle and informed him he would be searching the vehicle.

Green searched the vehicle, and allegedly found a black bag with the words “The Green Solution.”

“Upon opening the bag, I discovered 11, .50 gram containers of liquid THC, one single gram container of THC wax, one vape pen, one package of Zigzag rolling papers, one package of vapor pen filters, a 3.5 gram black container of marijuana in plant form, and a 3.5 gram white container in plant form,” Green wrote.


Riverton moves again to tackle public intoxication

RIVERTON (WNE) — Another new ordinance before the Riverton City Council aims to address the issue of public intoxication and substance abuse locally.

Riverton Police Department chief Eric Murphy presented the proposal during a regular meeting March 19, minutes after the council approved an ordinance on third and final reading to include mouthwash and hand sanitizer on the list of illegal intoxicants in Riverton.

The changes Murphy described next address two “loopholes” he has identified in the current rules governing possession or consumption of alcohol in public places.

First, Murphy said, the city’s public intoxication law is too “specific,” as it requires a subject to be under the influence “to a degree that he is unable to care for his own safety” before any enforcement action can be taken.

The other law he identified for revision covers open containers of alcohol: Murphy said the phrase “open container” currently is defined in such a way that subjects can simply reclose a bottle with a twist cap in order to avoid law enforcement action.

The change he proposed makes it illegal to consume any alcohol in public places, while also defining “open container” more clearly using state statute.

“(Now) if officers show up and those people have only had two drinks, they can be arrested,” Murphy said. “(And) if that same liquor bottle has been opened, we (can) arrest on that and not just issue a citation and walk away. …

“This new city ordinance encompasses all of those issues we’ve seen at the police department so we can do our jobs and clean up the streets.”


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