From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Searchers looking for Natrona teen find more footprints

CASPER (WNE) — Search teams looking for a teen missing for more than a week in rural Natrona County have found more footprints, authorities said Tuesday.

Those teams were converging from both sides of an area where 16-year-old Joey Peterson is believed to have traveled after he left home on Nov. 10. Peterson has not been seen since.

Along with ground teams, authorities are using drones to search from the air. The drones have captured hours of video, and authorities are using software to search images for colors or other signs within the 8,000 images that have been taken, the sheriff's office said in a Tuesday announcement.

On Monday, authorities revealed that searchers had found Peterson's footprints. Those prints, according to tracking efforts, were multiple days old, the sheriff's office said.

The tracks were headed into mountainous terrain.

Peterson left his home, in the area of Goose Creek Circle and Hat Six Road, late on the morning of Nov. 10. Sheriff's deputies were notified of the 16-year-old's disappearance at 12:12 p.m. Sunday and arrived on scene at 12:31 p.m., according to the agency.

Peterson did not leave the home with a cellphone. Authorities say he has high-functioning autism and is not self-sufficient.

On the night and morning following Peterson's disappearance, temperatures were well below freezing and snow fell for hours. By midday Tuesday, temperatures had climbed into the 40s and have fluctuated since.

Coalition questions progress at Cheyenne school after flyers incident

CHEYENNE (WNE) — More than six months ago, racist and homophobic flyers were spread around McCormick Junior High that rattled the school and the wider community. Now, some community members and leaders are concerned about whether the school district is keeping the promises it made after the incident.

The Wyoming Independent Citizen Coalition, previously Cheyenne Community Leaders, met Tuesday evening to discuss issues with the school's implementation of the SPIRIT program and action plan.The SPIRIT program allows students, teachers and administrators to collaborate, identify issues at the school and work toward solutions together.

The program was supposed to be implemented in the school by Nov. 1, but that deadline was not met.The goal now is to have the program running before April.

"They had plenty of time," said Stephen Latham of the Wyoming Independent Citizen Coalition. "They're backpedaling on what we said should be done. They're not following through."

School district officials said they are still assessing current programs, and attributed the delay, in part, to the principal being new at the school. Laramie County School District No. 1 Superintendent Boyd Brown said it didn't happen as quickly as they would've liked, and that the deadline was set too early.

"I think that was me trying to be optimistic," Brown said.

After the incident, James Williams, a mediator from the U.S. Department of Justice, was brought in to help with the process going forward. Williams said the new April goal was set so students at the school could see that the incident was being addressed this year.

"As long as it's during the school year, the young people are able to see a tangible, measurable outcome," Williams said.

Committee rejects idea to tax vacant homes

JACKSON (WNE) — State lawmakers have rejected — at least for now — a bill to allow Wyoming counties to charge a fee on vacant homes.

The bill is the creation of Rep. Mike Yin, a Democrat from Jackson. He argues it would give Teton County the means to address the impact on the community of vacant homes, which intensify the valley's housing shortage and drive property tax increases, pushing out residents who can't keep pace with the ever-escalating cost of living.

But during a meeting in Cheyenne, members of the joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee declined Monday to adopt the bill, citing concerns over enforcement, private property rights and unintended consequences. Just three of the 14 lawmakers voted to move the bill forward.

"I think there are some unanswered practical questions," said Sen. Charles Scott, a Natrona County Republican. "This bill would require quite a bit of work before we can take it forward."

It would impose a flat fee, based on square footage, on houses left empty for longer than six months a year. Second-home owners could avoid the fee by renting out their homes while they're away, though some have noted it could be difficult to rent such a home to anyone who needs housing year-round.

Nearly all of the revenue generated would go toward the recently resurrected Wyoming Property Tax Refund Program, which Yin said "becomes a struggle to keep funded, or fund at all, in any given budget session." The other 5% would go toward administration and enforcement.

Douglas recycling program on hold

DOUGLAS (WNE) — A look into what is happening with the city of Douglas' recycling program, or lack thereof, caused the city to announce publicly last week that in all actuality, its program had been suspended for nearly seven months and your recycling has ended up in the Casper landfill.

All that recycling you've been exerting your effort to sort and transport to the proper recycling bins, has instead ventured to a landfill outside Casper, City Administrator Jonathan Teichert admitted Friday afternoon.

The city suspended its recycling program more than six months before the announcement last week, as it technically ceased in April but suffered from problems with where to send some items for more than a year.

As to why it took so long to inform the public that recycling was no longer being conducted, Teichert said it was out of fear people would cease recycling habits altogether, causing a setback that would take years to mend once the situation is resolved.

"Hopefully people will continue to sort and recycle," he said.

Recycling could resume, Teichert said, but negotiations and finding a new recycling partner will have to come first. The city is weighing its options about how to proceed. At this point, the only recyclable materials being accepted are aluminum and metal. Everything else is being shipped to Casper's Regional Solid Waste Facility, a landfill.

Previously, the city had its recycling picked up by Wyco Recycling LLC, based in Cheyenne. That option went away when Wyco moved operations to Colorado this spring.

Meth delivery case moves to district court

RIVERTON (WNE) — The couple caught traveling through South Pass in a pickup full of hidden methamphetamine caches has been transferred to Fremont County District Court.

Lander Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt found probable cause to send Moranda Standingrock, 43, and her boyfriend Joe Curtis Sr., 49, to the felony-level court Tuesday, despite the rebuts of public defenders James Whiting and Valerie Schoneberger.

The two were stopped outside Lander in a Chevy Silverado bearing registration which linked to Standingrock, because the Fremont County Sheriff's Office had received a confidential informant's report via the Hot Springs County Sheriff's Office stating that Standingrock and another person were bringing at least half a pound of meth from Las Vegas to sell in the Thermopolis area.

When a drug detection canine alerted on the vehicle, authorities searched it, unearthing three pounds of methamphetamine which had been stashed in candles and a cleaning-product can throughout the truck.

At the preliminary hearing in Lander Circuit Court, Schoneberger disagreed that Curtis could be charged with conspiracy to deliver methamphetamine because the drugs were hidden from view, in a truck belonging to Curtis's girlfriend, Standingrock.

"There's no evidence that he had any awareness that there were drugs in the vehicle," Schoneberger said in court.

Curtis was driving the vehicle when it was stopped by Fremont County Sheriff's authorities.

Denhardt said both issues deserved hearing in the higher court.

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