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Wyoming News Briefs JULY 31

Rocky Mountain Power delays release of resource plan

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Rocky Mountain Power postponed the release date of its integrated resource plan, which would detail the potential closures of Jim Bridger Plant units one and two. Instead of coming out on Thursday, the plan is scheduled to be released Oct. 18, according to its website.

The plan, which is updated every two years, is designed to be a support tool and roadmap for meeting the company’s goal of providing reliable, cost-effective energy to its customers while addressing the risks and unknowns in the utilities sector, according to Rocky Mountain Power.

Rocky Mountain Power was supposed to have a meeting in Rock Springs on July 12 to address the Bridger units, but that was shelved due to the company needing time to do more data modeling, according to a statement from RMP President and CEO Gary Hoogeveen.

The company posted its presentation from a stakeholder conference call that took place July 18 and explained why it needs more time.

“Considering that early retirement assumptions for Jim Bridger units vary among cases, mine closure assumptions and associated mine reclamation funding assumptions vary by case as well,” it states.

“Consequently, the impact of this issue will vary from one case to the next, which could affect the comparative analysis of the costs and risks of each portfolio that is used to select the preferred portfolio.

“Therefore to ensure that the final IRP is accurate, the company needs additional time to complete its analysis, including rerunning portfolios.”

In late April, company executives visiting Rock Springs said a coal analysis indicated that retiring units one and two by 2022 would save customers about $248 million.


Laramie council tackles housing costs

LARAMIE (WNE) — According to data from the Wyoming Business Council, Laramie residents spend more of their income than any other community in the state on housing costs — yes, including Teton County.

The WBC and a regional think-tank called Community Builders are studying housing on a statewide scale, and simultaneously, the city has partnered with the same firm to complete a housing study focusing on Laramie specifically.

The Laramie City Council hosted a work session July 23 — one Councilman Paul Weaver heralded as the “work session of the year” — to hear an introduction to the study and some of the initial data from the WBC. Sarah Reese, city administrator for economic and community initiatives, said the city wanted to partner with Community Builders directly to try to address some of Laramie’s “incredibly unique housing challenges.”

“We rank number one in the state for residents who are paying more than half of their incomes in housing,” Reese said during the work session.

The data shows Laramie needs about 704 homes priced from $80,000-$309,000 in its housing market, and Reese said there are only 74 currently within that range available.

In its study, Community Builders will complete community assessments, a building code audit and an opportunity assessment and host a developer workshop. The company also plans to engage the community, especially with the developer workshop at the end of the study geared toward real estate entrepreneurs and potential developers.


Two charged with mail fraud

GILLETTE (WNE) — Two Campbell County residents have pleaded not guilty in District Court to charges that they used stolen mail to commit crimes involving checks, credit cards and driver’s licenses.

Text messages between Ted M. Mathill, 45, and Donae Larae Chavez, 37, link the two in the theft of driver’s licenses and credit cards, with Mathill acting as what an investigator called “the ringleader” in a series of mail thefts, according to court documents.

Mathill has been charged with attempting to wrongfully take or conceal stolen property and forgery, both felonies, as well as a misdemeanor count of possessing meth.

Chavez has been charged with wrongful taking or disposing of property, attempting to commit unlawful use of a credit card and burglary, all felonies, and misdemeanor counts of shoplifting and unlawful use of a credit card.

The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office began getting a series of complaints in April about checks or driver’s licenses stolen from their mail and used fraudulently.

In one case, a woman reported that she had requested a new credit card and although she hadn’t received it, Bank of America had alerted her to potential fraudulent use of the card June 6 when there were three small transactions on one day, followed by two large ones totaling $1,162 at Walmart, which were attempted twice before being denied. A third Walmart transaction for $37 also was denied before the user, identified as Chavez on surveillance video, simply took the bag of clothing and left the store, according to the affidavit.

Last month in announcing the arrest of Chavez, Campbell County Sheriff Scott Matheny estimated there were more than 100 victims in the mail theft case.

Mathill was arrested June 17.


Rock Springs woman killed in crash

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — A crash around milepost 49 on U.S. Highway 191 north of Rock Springs Sunday afternoon claimed the life of a 23-year-old Rock Springs resident.

Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers were dispatched to a one-vehicle rollover around 4:44 p.m. They learned that Ashley M. Skorcz was driving a 2013 Ford Explorer southbound on U.S. 191 when she failed to negotiate a curve to the right. The Ford exited the left side of the roadway before Skorcz overcorrected back to the right. As the vehicle crossed back onto the southbound lanes, Skorcz overcorrected a second time, causing the Ford to overturn, according to investigators.

Skorcz was not wearing her seat belt and succumbed to her injuries at the scene of the crash. The passenger in the Ford, a female juvenile who was not wearing a seat belt, was flown to a medical center in Utah, according to a WHP press release.

Driver inattention or fatigue are being investigated as contributing factors.

This is the 94th fatality on Wyoming’s roadways in 2019 compared to 61 at the same time in 2018, 81 in 2017, and 53 in 2016 to date.


Historic Brooks Lake Lodge survives fire

JACKSON (WNE) — Brooks Lake Lodge General Manager Adam Long woke up about 1:30 a.m. Sunday with a weird feeling that something was wrong.

“I walked out on my porch of my cabin and saw a small flame on the roof,” Long said.

He ran to a mop closet, grabbed a ladder and two fire extinguishers, and climbed on to the roof to battle the flames and smoke billowing from the 98-year-old Togwotee Pass lodge.

“When I put the fire out, it was crackling under my feet,” he said. “You could hear it burning under where I was standing, so I figured it’s well beyond my skill set.”

That’s when Long ran to the lodge’s office and called 911. At 2:32 a.m. the Dubois Fire Department received the call and responded, sending eight engines, a water tender and an air unit, according to Dubois Fire Chief Mike Franchini. They arrived on the scene about a half hour later.

“Firefighters attacked the fire from the interior and cut vent holes on the roof,” Franchini said. “The historic building was saved.”

The Dubois Fire Department and the Fremont County Fire Department extinguished the blaze over the course of several hours. No employees or guests were injured, and damage was limited to the ceiling and roof of the “tea room” and part of the dining room.


Man pleads not guilty to hitting woman with gun

CHEYENNE (WNE) — A Cheyenne man pleaded not guilty Monday in Laramie County District Court to allegedly hitting a woman with a gun, which caused damage to her ear.

Anthony Lane, 34, was charged with aggravated assault and battery with bodily injury with a deadly weapon, use of a firearm in a felony, possession of a weapon with intent, reckless endangering conduct, interference with a peace officer and carrying a concealed weapon.

His trial is set for Nov. 5, with District Judge Thomas Campbell presiding.

According to court documents, on Dec. 29, Cheyenne Police responded to DT's bar on East Lincolnway on a call of shots being fired. When police arrived on scene, they made contact with the victim.

She told officers that she and a friend were having drinks after work when Lane interrupted their conversation. He told his friend, who was talking to the two victims, it was time to go. One of the victims told Lane they were still talking, and they started calling each other "b----."

One of the victims went outside, and Lane followed her. When she was outside, Lane punched her in the back of the head with a closed fist. The victim's friend came outside to check on her and started getting into a verbal argument with Lane while exchanging profanities.

Lane then pulled out a gun from the small of his back and hit the other woman on the side of her head with the gun. The impact made the victim start to bleed, and he fired two gunshots into the air in attempts to scare the two victims. He then fled the scene.


Thayne man pleads guilty in poaching case

AFTON (WNE) — On July 26, Stetson Long of Thayne entered a guilty plea on four counts of taking a deer without the proper license. He was subsequently sentenced to serve six months in the Lincoln County Detention Center and ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Game and Fish.

Long was also placed on unsupervised probation for 18 months with the possibility of an additional 18 months of jail and an additional $20,000 in fines if he violates the terms of his probation.

In addition, Long’s hunting privileges were suspended for 20 years and his fishing privileges were suspended for 10 years.

“The charges originated from an investigation by Game Wardens Neil Hymas and James Hobbs,” said Lincoln County Attorney Spencer Allred. “They received a report from a ranch manager near Cokeville stating that he had discovered four sets of fresh mule deer antlers hidden in a barn on the ranch.”

According to Allred, an investigation revealed that Long had been working on the ranch and “between the dates of November 5 and November 13 of 2018 had located and killed four separate antlered mule deer.”

“The skull plates and antlers were removed from the animals and the remainder of the animals were hidden and left to waste,” said Allred.

During the interview process, Allred said, Long admitted to killing the deer.

According to Allred, the 2018 hunting violations were not the first time Long had violated hunting regulations.

Long’s hunting privileges had been suspended from an incident that occurred in 2016 when he was convicted of killing two deer, Allred said.

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