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Wyoming News Briefs OCTOBER 14

Body found in Carbon County identified

RAWLINS (WNE) — The body of a Missouri man recently discovered in Carbon County has been identified.

Authorities are saying Robert Wayne Kelley, 44, Springfield, Missouri, had been missing since Aug. 16, before he was found dead in a drain culvert on Oct. 4, just six miles south of Sinclair on County Road 407.

That area is currently occupied by a wind charger job site.

On Thursday afternoon, Carbon County Coroner Paul Zamora confirmed with the Rawlins Times that Kelley’s dead body had been sitting in the culvert for as many as three weeks before its discovery.

“It could be longer,” Zamora said.

According to a Thursday morning Carbon County Sheriff’s Department press release, Kelley “appeared” to have been “traveling on foot” all the way from Missouri.

“The Carbon County Coroner confirmed that the death was caused by exposure to the elements,” the release states. “No foul play was suspected.”

Zamora said that Kelley was found wearing a T-shirt and jeans, and that a subsequent medical examination revealed signs of hypothermia.

“People don’t realize how fast the weather changes here in Wyoming,” said Zamora, “especially here in Carbon County.”

Zamora said that external analyses and x-ray tests didn’t show any signs of physical trauma.

“We didn’t find anything,” he said.


Driver shortage puts administrators on bus routes

LARAMIE (WNE) — In what one administrator described as “a significant long-term problem,” a shortage of bus drivers in Albany County School District No. 1 schools has put several administrators in the position of driving bus routes so far this school year.

The district currently has a dozen open driver positions, ACSD No. 1 Business Manager Ed Goetz told the school board last week.

The shortage has meant both Operations Director Randy Wilkison and Transportation Manager Dave Hunter, as well as the district’s mechanics, have been driving buses this year.

“It’s really been impacting the transportation department pretty heavily,” Goetz said.

He said it’s been difficult to recruit bus drivers because they’ve only been allowing drivers to work 3-4 hours per day, which doesn’t qualify them to receive benefits.

Hoping to make the job more competitive, the school board voted to allow 12 drivers to work five hours a day — which would meet the minimum of a 25-hour work week a district employee needs to work to qualify for benefits.

Current drivers who are working 3-4 hours each day will have the option of moving up to five-hour days.

“This is also a retention effort,” Human Resources Director Taimi Kuiva said. “We’ve had an immense amount of turnover, so to attract them is one thing, but to retain these drivers is really important because we spend a lot of time and money training them.”

The district recently increased drivers’ starting pay to $15.56 per hour.


Sweetwater commissioners suspend part of uranium company loan payment

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Sweetwater County commissioners agreed to sign documents last week suspending principal payments for a struggling Sweetwater County uranium mine.

Roger Smith, president and chief financial officer of Ur-Energy, came before commissioners to explain difficulties facing the U.S. uranium industry that have affected the Lost Creek mine and to ask them to sign documents that would allow the company to make interest only payments for 18 months on a loan balance of $12.4 million. The original loan was for $34 million in 2013 to develop the Lost Creek facility.

Uranium imports have hit the industry hard, according to Smith. Ur-Energy joined with another U.S.-based uranium company, Energy Fuels, in petitioning the U.S. Secretary of Commerce to investigate the effect

of uranium imports on national security and consider limiting uranium imports.

On July 12, President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) found that imports of uranium are a threat to U.S. national security. Trump established the U.S. Nuclear Fuel Working Group to further study U.S. nuclear fuel production, including uranium mining, as the next phase of this investigation.

In August, Ur-Energy announced a reduction in force, primarily affecting employees at its Lost Creek facility. As a result of the White House decision to not take action at this time, the company said it was compelled to respond and initiate significant cost‐saving measures that included a reduction in force affecting 10 employees.


Shoshone join buffalo treaty

CASPER (WNE) — The Eastern Shoshone Tribe has signed an international treaty to increase cooperation among tribes as they work to reestablish buffalo herds in North America.

Tribal representatives joined the Oglala Lakota Tribe and Alberta’s Frog Lake First Nation in Montana to sign the International Buffalo Treaty last week. The three tribes now join about 30 other Indigenous nations that had already signed the agreement, which established an alliance among the tribal nations as they aim to repopulate the vast buffalo herds that roamed much of North America.

The treaty – the first cross-border tribal treaty in about 150 years – serves as a guide for tribes that want to take, or already have, steps to reestablish a relationship with buffalo. Essentially, it acts as an information-sharing tool to pass on best practices when reintroducing the culturally significant animal, said Eastern Shoshone Business Council Co-Chairman Leslie Shakespeare.

“It’s a treaty of cooperation, renewal,” he said. “(Buffalo are) a part of our culture and our health and well-being.”

Used to make shelter, tools, as food and in ceremonies, buffalo are important spiritually and culturally to the Eastern Shoshone and other tribes.

On the Wind River Reservation, 33 genetically-pure Yellowstone buffalo roam about 300 acres. They were first reintroduced in 2016 after more than 130 years away. Eventually, leaders of the Eastern Shoshone’s buffalo program hope to have 1,000 bison living on the more than 700,000 acres of suitable land on the reservation.


Wind developer to pay $3.1 million to local governments

LARAMIE (WNE) — State officials decided Thursday that a wind developer will need to contribute $3.1 million to the governments of Rock River, Laramie and Albany County to offset the impact on public services created by a $1 billion wind project on the border of Albany and Carbon counties.

The wind project is expected to employ 400 workers during 2022, according to an application for an industrial development permit filed with the Department of Environmental Quality in July.

Rock River will receive $1.6 million, Laramie will receive $662,883 and Albany County will receive $885,600. Monthly payments are scheduled to begin April 2021 and be completed in July 2023.

Rock River had requested the “impact assistance” funding to fund water, sewer, roads, emergency services, social services, equipment, and general governmental operations.

The Department of Environmental Quality’s Industrial Siting Council ordered the payments last week, while also setting a number of conditions the project’s parent company, Canada-based BluEarth Renewables, will need to meet to be issued permits.

In a September letter to the company, Industrial Siting Division Administrator Brian Lovett highlight a few deficiencies in BluEarth Renewables’s application, including the fact that the company doesn’t have a “purchase power agreement,” which would guarantee that an electrical company will purchase and transmit the energy produced from the wind farm.

As part of DEQ’s requirements for a permit to be issued, contractors on the project are required to create “procedures to foster local hiring,” including posting jobs with the local workforce center.


Teen to stand trial in high school fire

GILLETTE (WNE) — A 17-year-old boy accused of setting fire to a high school bathroom was bound over to District Court last week.

At Derek Paul’s preliminary hearing on Oct. 10, Circuit Judge Wendy M. Bartlett ruled there was enough evidence for him to stand trial for first-degree arson. She also kept his bond at $25,000, cash only.

Paul is alleged to have started a fire in the handicap stall of a second-floor bathroom in Thunder Basin High School the afternoon of Sept. 30.

School staff said Paul had thrown a temper tantrum earlier that day when he was sent to lunch detention for his failing grades, Gillette Police Detective Julianne Witham said.

He was a student who was “angry with the school,” so he decided to start a fire with “intent to destroy or damage” the school, said Deputy County Attorney Nathan Henkes.

Public Defender Andrew Johnson, representing Paul, said it was “a small fire in the bathroom,” and that there was no testimony showing that Paul intended to threaten the school in any way.

The incident “reads like a poorly planned prank,” Johnson said.

Henkes pointed out that the reason the fire didn’t cause more damage to the school was because of the efforts of the Campbell County Fire Department. He added that many lives were put in danger that day, with 300 to 400 students, teachers and other school staff having to evacuate the building because of the fire.