From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Trustees approve computer science degree for UW

LARAMIE (WNE) — The University of Wyoming’s board of trustees unanimously approved a new computer science education certificate program during November’s board meeting on Thursday, and gave the go-ahead for proposed bachelor’s degree programs in neuroscience and early childhood education to move forward.

The certificate program, which is planned to become available for the Spring 2020 semester on-campus and online, will be collaboratively offered by UW’s College of Engineering and College of Education – providing an opportunity for Wyoming K-12 teachers to be endorsed for the teaching of computer sciences, such as programming, to their own students.

Anne Alexander, associate vice provost for undergraduate education at UW, said the program will be especially relevant now that the Wyoming Legislature has mandated such teaching in K-12 schools.

“A couple years ago they added it to the ‘basket of goods’ that all students in Wyoming schools should get an education in – so now we need people who can teach it.” Alexander said.

The projected cost for the program is “extremely low,” according to a report from the Committee on Academic and Student Affairs presented during the board meeting. $7,000 was requested, and approved, in order to implement online teaching of the courses – including the hiring of an “instructional designer.”

Also unanimously approved by trustees for further action were two new proposals to eventually create bachelor’s degree programs in early childhood development and neuroscience, as well as one proposal for a master’s degree in “environment and natural resources in society.”

‘Longmire’ author to host Longmire Days

BUFFALO (WNE) — For seven years, the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce organized and hosted Longmire Days.

That will all change in 2020. Longmire author Craig Johnson and his wife, Judy, will organize and execute the four-day event privately.

Jennifer McCormick is the former director of marketing and programs for the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. She helped organize and execute Longmire Days for five years and will assist the Johnsons in planning for the 2020 event.

“It has gotten so big; it really needs its own staff,” McCormick said. “The chamber is just so busy with all the other things that they do. They do a lot in the community, and they do a lot for local businesses. It (Longmire Days) just needs its own foundation and its own staff, and I’ll be helping Craig and Judy with that.”

According to McCormick, she has become acquainted with many people over the years who are willing to volunteer their time and skills to keep the event running smoothly. The event will be operated by a local and out-of-state volunteer staff of approximately 200 to 250 people, McCormick said.

Longmire Days brings approximately 10,000 fans to Buffalo and Johnson County and they spend about $2 million each year. That provides Buffalo businesses with a major financial boost, with some reporting up to 300% increases in business, according to McCormick.

Woman charged in fatal July accident

GILLETTE (WNE) — A Casper woman who allegedly took anti-anxiety pills July 15 has been charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide in the deaths of two Michigan men.

Sydney N. Peterson, 33, is accused of crashing into a minivan carrying the two men on Highway 50 about 23 miles south of Gillette.

Stephen Biddle, 29, and Alex Gill, 24, were traveling from South Dakota to the Tetons about 4:30 p.m. July 15 when Peterson’s Dodge Ram crossed into their lane of travel and hit them almost head on, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed in the case.

Biddle, who was driving, died at the scene of multiple severe blunt traumatic injuries, Campbell County Coroner Paul Wallem said in July. Biddle was wearing a seat belt.

Gill died several days later at a Colorado hospital, where he’d been taken for major head trauma. Gill, who was sitting in the backseat of the van, also was wearing a seat belt.

In the cab of Peterson’s pickup, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper found a bottle of Clonazepam pills prescribed in her name. They had been refilled that day for 62 pills, and the bottle indicated Peterson was to take one pill twice a day for PTSD. Only 53 pills remained in the bottle, according to the affidavit.

A blood test showed a Clonazepam level of 72, which a physician with the Nebraska Regional Poison Center said was high and considered above the therapeutic level.

Fremont County suicides jump from 2018

RIVERTON (WNE) — Suicides in Fremont County this year have more than tripled from this time last year.

Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said the numbers are a concern. There were four suicides at this point last year, and there have been 13 so far this year, with two more cases under investigation.

“Those tend to go up and down. Last year was a remarkably low year for Fremont County, but this year everything is sort of blowing out of proportion,” said Stratmoen at Tuesday’s meeting of the Fremont County Commission.

“We do share our numbers with prevention organizations. That’s about as proactive as (the coroner’s office) can be in those situations,” he added.

Commissioner Jennifer McCarty asked where Fremont County ranks, and where Wyoming ranks compared with other places in suicide frequency, and the coroner said: high.

“Wyoming ranks in the top five nationally,” in most years, he said, and “Fremont County runs in the top one or two in the state, statistically.”

The highest number in recent memory was 19 suicides in 2012.

The number dropped in subsequent years then rose again to 17 in 2016, 13 in 2017, and went back down to five at the end of last year.

As to this year’s spike, Stratmoen said, “If I had a good reason for why that is I’d probably be a millionaire, because then I could solve the problem.”

Teton County has half the dispatchers it needs

JACKSON (WNE) — Teton County’s communications center has half the dispatchers it needs to adequately answer emergency calls and that means trouble.

“We are one person away from not being able to answer 911 calls 24/7,” Sheriff Matt Carr told county commissioners during their meeting last week. “This is a crisis.”

The 911 dispatch center is considered fully staffed with 16 full-time dispatchers. Right now the center has eight.

Carr told commissioners that something has to be done or some emergency calls could go unanswered. To fill the gaps, dispatchers are working 12-hour shifts and mandatory overtime — and they have been for years.

“We need to retain the excellent staff we have now,” Carr told the News&Guide. “I can’t lose any more.”

Carr is proposing the county pay dispatchers the same salaries it pays detention officers and patrol deputies. As it stands, dispatchers make 10% to 15% less than jailers and deputies.

Starting pay for an entry level dispatcher is $46,791 with the possibility of making more than $66,000 on a step plan.

Commissioners didn’t vote on anything during their meeting.

Carr insisted it’s time to boost dispatcher pay for both retention and recruitment, but also because it’s what they deserve.

“They are the first link to the public,” Carr said. “They are walking people through CPR over the phone. They are often on the line with people in life-threatening situations. The role they play in this process is critical. Why shouldn’t they be at the same salary level?”

West seeks permit for 70,000-square-foot meditation space

POWELL (WNE) — Assuming he can secure the blessing of the Park County government, Kanye West plans to build a more than 70,000-square-foot “meditation space” on his ranch south of Cody.

Last month, West’s representatives submitted an application to build a doughnut-shaped structure out of compacted earth and a concrete shell. Entering the space will involve passing through an entrance tube into a saucer-shaped area that’s mostly open to the sky.

The roughly 43-foot high by 287-foot wide space “is to be used for meditation,” owner’s representative John Skolnick wrote on West’s behalf. Point Architects of Cody, which is also assisting with the project, told county officials it will be a private area for personal use.

“We consider that [personal use] to be available for family and friends, but not commercial [use], not for the public,” said Park County planner Kim Dillivan. “It’s going to be a structure for meditation.”

Because the project is larger than 10,000 square feet, West needs a special use permit from the county before moving forward with construction of the actual structure.

To get the permit, county regulations say West’s representatives will ultimately need to show that the project is “in harmony and compatible with surrounding land uses and with the neighborhood” while not creating a “substantial adverse impact on adjacent properties.”

Wyo judges try to secure another judge

SUNDANCE (WNE) — Crook County’s three District Court judges are doing the work of four people, according to the latest workload assessment from the Wyoming Supreme Court. One of those three, Honorable Michael N. Deegan, updated the county commissioners last week on “an effort we’re undertaking to secure a fourth district court judge”.

According to the workload assessment, Judges Deegan, John R. Perry and Thomas W. Rumpke have undertaken the workload of 4.16 people over the last year. The majority of this, said Deegan, was in Campbell County, which is causing longer wait times in Crook and Weston, the other two counties included in the district.

The workload assessment shows that the three judges dealt with a total of 1864 filings in 2019 from Campbell County but just 165 from Crook County and 205 from Weston County. Of a total workload of 328,821 minutes, 276.879 were dedicated to Campbell County.

In summary, an estimated 83 percent of the district’s workload is centered in Campbell County, Judge Deegan said. Each of the three judges tries to visit Crook and Weston Counties once per month.

“Having a fourth judge, even with the smaller amount of work we do in Crook and Weston Counties, I think would alleviate the wait,” he said.

Deegan asked for support from the commission, explaining that the proposal is in its early stages and will ultimately be the decision of the Wyoming Legislature.

The Crook County commissioners agreed to send a letter to the state legislature in support of the proposal for a fourth judge.

Nebraska man fined $21,000 in poaching case

BUFFALO (WNE) — A Nebraska man will pay $21,000 in fines and forfeit his hunting and fishing privileges for two years in 48 states after pleading guilty to poaching.

Mark Miller of Broomfield, Nebraska pleaded guilty to accessory to taking a big game animal without a license and two counts of accessory to transfer of a big game license for illegally harvesting three bull elk south of Buffalo.

On Oct. 7 4th Judicial Circuit Court Judge Shelley Cundiff approved the conditions of a plea agreement reached between the Johnson County Attorney’s Office and Miller. Miller agreed to pay $21,000 in fines and lost his hunting and fishing privileges in Wyoming, Nebraska and 46 other Wildlife Violator Compact states for two years.

The case began in January 2019 when Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman received information from another Game and Fish employee about discrepancies in records that indicated a possible hunting violation had occurred in September 2018. Seeman learned that a bull elk had been brought to a taxidermist and tagged with a license that belonged to an individual who did not have an archery license. In addition to an elk license, an archery license is required for hunting during the September special archery season.

Seeman ran additional checks and found that the license came back as a “party” application of a family, Mark Miller and three of his children. Records indicated that not only Miller, but the other three license holders had all harvested bull elk, supposedly on the same weekend in September, though the animals were delivered for taxidermy work on different dates.

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