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Wyoming News Briefs SEPTEMBER 11

Commissioner: Two Naughton units may close by 2025

AFTON (WNE) — Lincoln County Commissioner Kent Connelly says Rocky Mountain Power may shut down Naughton Units 1 and 2 by the year 2025 and convert Unit Three to full-time natural gas.

He says the plan originally was 2022 and the power company has a top-five outcomes that are laid out in a ten year planning process. However, the issue is nothing is decided.

“It’s really got us in a big yo-yo having no idea what they’re going to do in the next two, three years,” Connelly said. “That is very concerning to us. We will be making every effort to try to sort through what this looks like.”

The plan also includes shutting down Jim Bridger Unit 1 in 2025 as well. Connelly says there will be another meeting with Rocky Mountain Power October 3.

Rocky Mountain Power set up a meeting Sept. 5 to discuss options and will present a final plan Oct. 18 to the Public Service Commission.

He says right now Naughton Unit 3 only runs part-time run on natural gas. The plan is it will run at 265 megawatts when it is fully converted which is one-third what it produced on coal.

“It’s better than no running at all,” Connelly said. “I guess that’s the best way to put it right now.”


State records largest job growth increase in four years

DOUGLAS (WNE) — The state of Wyoming had the largest increase in job growth in four years, according to the latest report from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, and Converse County topped all other counties by adding 785 jobs, at 13.9% increase.

Weston County had the next largest increase in jobs with a 4.3% increase.

The report compares the changes in the number of jobs between 4Q 2017 and 4Q 2018 and is based on employers’ quarterly unemployment insurance tax filings.

Construction jobs added approximately 500 jobs with mining, including oil and gas, added approximately 200 jobs.

Smaller job gains for the county were seen in accommodation and food services, retail trade, professional and technical services and administrative and waste services.

Although the county added jobs in the report that compared 2017 and 2018, the most recent Wyoming unemployment insurance claims reported that the number of Unemployment Insurance (UI) claims increased in July 2019 by 20%.

Most industries saw an over-the-year decline in initial claims, with the biggest declines in educational and health services, government and leisure and hospitality, according to Patrick Manning, Principal Economist at Wyoming Department of Workforce Services.

There was an overall increase which was driven by a 507.6% increase in claims in the mining industry, which was due in large part to mine closures and job losses in Campbell County in July.


Jackson business owner accused of stealing from customers

JACKSON (WNE) — In what’s being described as the most audacious theft case in decades, a Jackson businessman is accused of stealing upwards of $100,000 worth of high-dollar items from his customers.

“The variety, I have never seen anything like it,” Teton County Sheriff’s Office Detective Bret Bommer said. The longtime detective said it was the “boldest” theft he’s seen in his decades-long career here.

Bommer has been working the case against Michael Dennis Lynch, a contractor and the owner of Teton Precision Scapes, since spring 2018.

Lynch, 36, was arraigned Thursday in Teton County District Court where he sported a fresh new, short haircut and pleaded not guilty to the 12 counts he is facing.

According to documents from the Teton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Lynch faces charges of aggravated burglary, four counts of felony theft, burglary, two counts of forgery, two counts of domestic battery, unauthorized use of personal identifying information and aggravated assault and battery.

Deputies have identified eight victims, Bommer said, and they’ve recovered hundreds of stolen items worth about $100,000.

Lynch became a burglary suspect after his former landlord returned home from an extended trip and noticed several items missing from his Jackson house.

In June, Lynch was caught selling his landlord’s stolen coins in Idaho Falls, records state.

Deputies believe he stole silver and gold coins, pills, computer hard drives, computer software, jewelry, artwork, musical instruments, rugs, radios, a rifle and two pistols.

He’s also the suspect in 2018 burglaries in which clothing, cameras, coats and Pendleton blankets were taken, deputies stated.


Gillette airport traffic up slightly

GILLETTE (WNE) — Thanks to a very strong August, traffic at the Gillette-Campbell County Airport is up 1% over 2018, and it should continue to increase when Gillette gets a third daily flight next month.

August had 5,457 passengers, up from the 4,635 in August 2018, an 18% increase. It’s the highest monthly total since June 2018.

As of the end of August this year, 37,732 people have used the airport, up from the 37,537 through the first eight months of 2018. Although it represents a 1% increase, 2019 is 9% behind 2017, which had 41,522 passengers through by the same time.

The drop is understandable given that in 2017, the airport had three daily flights, while 2019 has had two daily flights all year.

Overall, 2019 had been tracking behind 2018 since February, when it had a 14% decrease compared to February 2018, but a strong August was enough to push it ahead.

August is the second straight month to show improvement from a year ealier. For 2019, four months have shown an increase, while four have been down.

Starting Oct. 6, Gillette will have three daily round-trip flights to Denver. It will go back to two daily flights for the first two months of 2020 and will get the third flight back in March.

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