Wyoming News Exchange 

March 23, 2023 Wyoming Briefs


March 23, 2023

Cheyenne City Council fails marijuana ordinance

CHEYENNE (WNE) — An ordinance aimed at decriminalizing marijuana within city limits failed to receive a positive recommendation Wednesday night from the Cheyenne City Council’s Committee of the Whole.

Council members Richard Johnson and Scott Roybal co-sponsored the ordinance, which would repeal and re-create code provisions specific to prohibiting marijuana in the municipality.

Johnson clarified the ordinance wasn’t meant to address legalization, medical recreation taxes or the licensing of dispensaries, which he said are issues that need to be discussed by state legislators.

“This conversation was about the municipal decriminalization of marijuana in the city limits,” he announced at the meeting. “Both state and federal laws apply within the city limits. Someone can be criminally prosecuted as a result, but through either the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the (Laramie County) District Attorney’s Office. They just won’t end up in Cheyenne Municipal Court.”

Johnson’s presentation was followed by nearly an hour of public comment, largely in support of taking the steps necessary to decriminalize marijuana in Cheyenne. Residents made arguments spanning the benefits of cannabis in medicinal and recreational instances, as well as the negative impact of fines or jail time on users when the drug is legal only 45 minutes away in Colorado.

Despite the significant turnout by supporters, there were still those who questioned what passing the ordinance would do.

Opponents shared their personal experiences with negative mental health impacts due to cannabis use, whether that be lack of motivation or violent outbursts.

This story was published on March 23, 2023.

Newcastle high schoolers help police move into new location

NEWCASTLE (WNE)— Three Dogie sports teams took the phrase “teamwork makes the dream work” to a whole new level last Friday as boys and girls soccer, track and Dogie Football got together to help the Newcastle Police Department move from its previous location to new digs just up the street.

Head football coach Matt Conzelman has, for years now, had his team help out the community with doing jobs that need done, whether it’s shoveling walks in the winter or cleaning up yards in the spring, summer or fall or helping people who need to move.

“A lot of people would call the school looking for help doing odd jobs, so we decided to use those as fundraising opportunities,” Conzelman explained. “The funds they earn go to the players to help pay for camps and other expenses relating to their sport.”

Recently, when the PD was looking to move, Mayor Pam Gualtieri reached out to Conzelman to see if he could round up some athletes to make that move happen.

Not only did it end up being a fundraising opportunity for the athletes who volunteered to help, it was also an opportunity to build relationships between the students, the school, the PD and the community.

Due to conflicting obligations on Friday, several members of the football team were unavailable to help, so Conzelman opened up the opportunity to the spring sports as well.

About 15-20 NHS athletes from boys and girls soccer, track and football heeded the call to help out in cold and blustery weather conditions.

This story was published on Mar. 22, 2023.


Sundance man accused of possessing child porn

SUNDANCE (WNE) — Charles Flint of Sundance faces four felony counts of possession of child porn.

In October, 2022, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children received information from Microsoft Online Operations that a user of Microsoft Bing Images was in possession of suspected child pornography. The information was referred to the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and an agent tracked the user to Flint at his Sundance address.

The agent learned that Flint had felony convictions for sexual assault on a child and internet luring of a child in the State of Colorado in 2007. He also found that Flint is a registered sex offender in Wyoming.

The agent obtained a search warrant for Flint and his Sundance address on February 27. The warrant was executed on March 1.

In a recorded interview, Flint allegedly admitted that there was child pornography on his laptop and said he obtained it from the internet. During the search, the laptop computer was located and several images of child pornography were allegedly discovered.

Flint was placed under arrest on March 1 and transported to the Crook County Detention Facility. He has been charged with four counts of sexual exploitation of children, a felony carrying a maximum penalty of ten years of incarceration, a $10,000 fine or both.

This story was published on March 23, 2023.


State suicide rate drops 22%, Teton County rate remains the same

JACKSON (WNE) — In a state that has double the national average for completed suicides, Wyoming experienced 22% last year, its first decline in suicide deaths since 2018.

In Teton County, however, the number of resident suicides didn’t change from last year, remaining at five.

Health experts in Wyoming attribute the statewide decline in suicides to the recent changes in the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

In July 2022 the national dialing code for immediate, 24-hour assistance in a mental health emergency became “988.” The three-digit code replaced the old National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number: 1-800-273-8255.

In Wyoming, the lifeline has received more than 10,000 calls since 2020, and calls doubled in August — jumping by 107% compared with August 2021 — after 988 became the new suicide prevention number.

“Ten thousand phone calls from our state, when we’re the least populated,” said Beverly Shore, a suicide prevention specialist with Teton County. “I think that’s unbelievable, that’s huge.”

She explained that before summer the state’s two call centers were not available 24/7. That meant that people calling from a 307 area code would be connected with a Nebraska call center. Now a Wyoming crisis counselor can be reached any time by dialing 988 from a 307 number.

While the decline in suicides statewide is great news, the suicide numbers in Teton County haven’t changed much in the last few years.

The Teton County Community Prevention Coalition developed a subcommittee devoted to suicide prevention. Shore said one of the subcommittee’s most effective programs has been a Safe Talk Suicide Prevention Training.

The training sessions, free for the community and open to anyone 15 or older, are meant to destigmatize conversations about suicide and equip community members with knowledge of what they can do to reduce suicides.

This story was published on March 22, 2023.


Change of plea hearing set in Hightman case

GILLETTE (WNE) — A change of plea hearing is scheduled to take place days before Nathan J. Hightman’s 10-day trial for alleged financial crimes against missing woman Irene Gakwa is scheduled to take place.

The notice setting the March 28 change of plea hearing before District Judge James M. “Mike” Causey was filed Monday, according to the court document. There was no plea deal on file with District Court as of Wednesday afternoon.

If a plea deal is reached and Hightman changes his plea March 28, the trial will likely be unnecessary and the case will proceed to sentencing.

Hightman faces five felony charges alleging he accessed and emptied Gakwa’s bank account, ran up two of her credit cards and deleted her Gmail account in the days and weeks after she was last heard from Feb. 24, 2022.

The 10-day trial was scheduled for April 3 after two separate continuances that delayed his pre-trial conference and trial dates.

He remains a person of interest in the Gillette Police Department investigation into the disappearance of Gakwa, his fiancé at the time.

Hightman has not been charged in connection with Gakwa’s disappearance and pleaded not guilty in June to two counts of theft, two counts of crimes against intellectual property and one count of unlawful use of a credit card, according to court documents.

Police and FBI personnel were seen Oct. 13 outside of Hightman’s home on Pathfinder Circle in Gillette where they executed newly granted search warrants after further evidence gave additional cause to search the home, according to police.

Police have not made a formal statement on the missing person case since the October search and said last week there were no new updates.

This story was published on March 23, 2023.


UW receives strong support in 2023 legislative session

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming will receive $120 million to complete long-planned construction projects, and many UW employees will receive pay raises as a result of action by the Wyoming Legislature.

The supplemental budget includes an annual increase of $12.27 million for staff and faculty raises, on top of $8 million approved during the 2022 budget session.

Legislators and Gov. Mark Gordon also supported a number of UW’s funding priorities for ongoing initiatives, including annual increases of $5.5 million for Tier-1 Engineering Initiative programming and $3.6 million for Science Initiative programming.

One-time appropriations include $5 million for UW’s Advanced Research Computing Center; $2.5 million in endowment matching funds for chairs, professorships and programs in the College of Agriculture, Life Sciences and Natural Resources; and $1.5 million in endowment matching funds for the School of Energy Resources.

An additional $12 million will allow for completion of unfinished space in the university’s new Science Initiative Building.

Other legislative appropriations approved during the 2023 session include:

. $5 million for major maintenance projects.

. An inflation adjustment of up to $2.7 million for utilities.

. One-time funding of $2 million to convert LiDAR data collected by the U.S.

Geological Survey’s 3D elevation program and then host that data.

. A $1.6 million annual, ongoing increase for UW’s Agriculture Research and

Extension Centers due to inflation.

. Up to $860,000 to help recruit and retain pathologists and other critical

positions in UW’s Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory.

The supplemental budget also includes $7.5 million for the College of Health Sciences to plan, develop and sustain an accredited physician assistant training program.

This story was published on March 23, 2023.


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