2013 in Review: July through December


Jensen elected U.S. senator at Boys State

Logan Jensen, American Legion Post 32’s delegate to Wyoming Boys State, won election to the U.S. Senate, which was one of the most prestigious offices filled by high school students during the annual leadership camp held June 1-7 in Douglas.

On the last day, as is the custom, the Boys State attendees got to travel to Cheyenne, where Logan was fortunate enough to spend time in the offices of U.S. Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi.

Jensen, who will be a senior this fall at Greybull High School, is a member of the National Honor Society, serves on the Student Council, is a three-year letterman in both track and basketball and a two-year letterman in football.


Classes of 1953, 1958 gather in Greybull

A lot of catching up on years gone by, a lot of reminiscing, a lot of laughter and a lot of memories of high-school antics were the focus of a combined reunion of the GHS classes of 1953 and 1958.

Fifty-one people, including alumni and spouses, gathered at the Uptown Café Friday night to kick off the weekend activities. Saturday morning almost the same group returned to the Uptown for breakfast and then made their way to the Senior Citizen Center. A steady stream of friends, neighbors and former classmates passed through the center throughout the afternoon (11 a.m.-4 p.m.), stopping for a few minutes, sometimes staying an hour or so, to catch up, get reacquainted and enjoy light refreshments.


Branding Iron reopens under new ownership

The Branding Iron is back in business.

The bar at the corner of First Avenue South and Sixth Street, which was owned for many years by Bill and Betty Shem, then for about 3 ½ years by John and Jean Laws up until it closed in the summer of 2012, is now under the ownership of Al and Wendy Martin.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Wendy.


Hotshots saddened by Arizona tragedy

The pain of losing 19 highly trained firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots extended far beyond the city limits of Prescott, Ariz., where they were members of that community’s fire department.

Across the nation there was mourning within the entire wildland firefighting community, which includes the members of the Wyoming Hotshots, who train in Greybull and serve under the leadership of Matt Prentiss of Basin.

The Wyoming Hotshots were fighting a fire in Colorado when the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives while battling the 2,000-acre Yarnell Hill fire that ignited south of Prescott.

“We were devastated,” Prentiss said of his crew’s reaction to the news.  “We had worked with (the Granite Mountain Hotshots) a few times on different fires. Our relationship was strictly a working relationship, but they were a great crew … we enjoyed working with them.”


County approves reduced budget

The Big Horn County commissioners approved an $11.7 million general fund budget at Tuesday’s budget hearing.

The general fund budget was $1.3 million less than the $13 million budget approved last year. In addition to the general fund budget is $3.7 million for the airports, $175,000 for the fair budget and $519,375 for the library budget. The county will levy the full 12 mills allowed by state statute to fund the general fund, airport, library and fair budgets.


Speakeasy liquor sales suspended

The Greybull Town Council has shut down liquor sales at The Speakeasy after a private citizen raised concerns about the legality of an elected official holding a liquor license in the community that he serves.

The suspension of the liquor license came after the council emerged from an hour-long executive session Monday night.

Councilor Myles Foley, who owns The Speakeasy, would not speak on the record about the development on Tuesday morning, saying only that he would comment at the appropriate time and that he and the town have begun the process of transferring The Speakeasy’s liquor license to his girlfriend and business partner, Lori Davis.

The process of transferring the license is expected to take four weeks, at a minimum. During that time, The Speakeasy is prohibited from selling any alcoholic beverages, according to Town Attorney Scott McColloch.


McCollochs team up to win SSB Invite

Scott and Michael McColloch finished four shots ahead of their closest pursuers, the team of Dave Walton and Shawn Roods, to win the more prestigious net title in last weekend’s Security State Bank Invitational at Midway Golf Club.

The McCollochs finished with a two-day net score of 121, following rounds of 61 and 61.

The Walton-Roods team came in at 125, with scores of 63 and 62.


One-room schoolhouse holds lots of memories

Clair and Arlene Cheatham held a “grade school reunion” at their home on Shell Creek July 6, inviting everyone who had attended the one-room Stone School six miles east of Greybull to share memories of bygone days.

He noted, “One doesn’t hear of too many grade school reunions, but one room, eight-grade schools are different. Some of us spent eight to 10 years together in one room, with one teacher who cared about us.”

Although officially named the Odessa School, to early pioneers of Shell Valley and the surrounding communities it is known simply as the Stone School.

Former Stone School students attending in addition to the host were Dwain Cheatham of Powell, Robert Akin (who attended for just one year), Harry Barnett, Mary Bond Dempster of Lovell, Alice Forbes Chapple of Hardin, Mont., Francis “Frankie” Good, Leora “Lee” Good, Harry Grisham, James Grisham of Lovell, Johnny Herren, Roy Herren of Billings, Sharon Peterson Silcocks of Whitehall, Mont. and Kathy Stevens of Emblem.


Decline in natural gas, oil impacts valuation

After seeing a significant jump in valuation last year of $30 million, Big Horn County saw a decrease in valuation by $5 million.

According to figures from the Big Horn County Assessor’s Office, last year’s valuation was $294,606,744 and it dropped to $289,109,390. The biggest change is in the state assessed valuation, Assessor Gina Anderson said. The county’s state assessed valuation dropped from $198,849,143 to $192,882,139. The biggest decreases came in oil and natural gas with natural gas dropping $2.4 million in valuation. Oil dropped $6.8 million in valuation from a three-year high last year of $129 million to $122.2 million this year.

There were also decreases in valuation in railroad, gas distribution companies, major electrics, municipal electrics, major telecommunication, cable and satellite, rural telephone and sand and gravel.

In contrast to oil and natural gas, bentonite continued its increase in valuation for the fourth straight year, jumping $3.3 million this year to $47.1 million.


Councilman charged with selling alcohol illegally

A town council member and part-owner of a popular downtown restaurant was arrested along with his girlfriend and business partner Wednesday morning on charges that they sold alcoholic beverages while their license was suspended.

Myles Foley, who joined the town council in January, and Lori Davis, own the Historic Hotel Greybull as well as Mylo’s Coffee Shop and The Speakeasy, both of which operate out of the hotel building.

They were led into the courtroom of Judge Tom Harrington approximately three hours after their arrests for their arraignment.  By the end of that proceeding, Harrington had agreed to release both Davis and Foley on $10,0000 signature bonds.

The charge of selling alcohol without a license is a high misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and/or one year in jail.



Police budget scrutinized

Cutting an officer from the police force could save the town more than $10,000 annually, but it would hardly be a good tradeoff if it resulted in a decrease in services, including the end of 24-hour police coverage.

That, as much as anything else, seemed to be the consensus that emerged from a town council work session that was held Monday night at Town Hall and attended by approximately 25 community residents, most of them vocal supporters of the GPD.


While the total sales figure fell short of last year’s, averages were up across the board for Friday night’s junior livestock sale at the Big Horn County Fair in Basin.

“It was a good sale,” said Sara Schlattmann, longtime clerk of the sale. The total sale, not counting add-ons, brought $188,592, which was slightly less than the $190,756 generated by the 2012 sale.  But Schlattmann was quick to point out that fewer animals were sold this year, too.  In 2012, 138 were sold; this year, there were 132.

Averages climbed across the board.


Keisel optimistic as camp opens

Brett Keisel made a huge entrance when he arrived at Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, and his performance matched that during the   team’s first full week at Saint Vincent College.

The 12th-year defensive end arrived at camp in an enormous dump truck, saying that the area was like a construction zone. Keisel also wore a No. 99 hard hat because the Steelers were “constructing our team.’


Some good, some bad in PAWS scores

Big Horn County School District No. 3 officials don’t know yet whether any of their buildings or the district as a whole will end up being among those failing to make adequate yearly progress, but say they are generally pleased with their students’ performance on the 2013 Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students (PAWS).

The school district’s goal was to put at least 90 percent of its students in the “proficiency” and “advanced” categories — and in some areas like third grade math, where 100 percent of the test takers tested at that level, the district met its goal.

GMS Principal Scott McBride said he was pleased with his students’ performance on the test, particularly in the area of reading.  GMS came away with 91 percent proficient and advanced in the sixth grade, 88 percent in the seventh grade and 90 percent in the eighth grade.

GMS saw 78 achieve proficiency in sixth-grade math, 90 percent in seventh-grade math, 79 percent in eighth grade math and 60 percent in eighth grade science.


SD#3 welcomes 10 new teachers

There will be a whole lot of getting-to-know-you time when students head back to school on Tuesday.

Big Horn County School District No. 3 has 10 new teachers, as well as several others who have moved into new positions with the district.

Greybull Elementary School will experience the most change.  Seven of the 10 new teachers will work at GES, including Christine Farmer, who will teach second grade, and Ryan Harder, who will teach third grade.

Other new GES certified personnel include Michaela Williams, counselor; Tess Reed and Kamie Kazmar, who will both teach special education; Tracy Boyer, who will serve as the school nurse, and Jeremy Brandl, who will teach physical education.

GMS has two new employees in Cody Kalberer (math/ELL) and Laura Hodgson (counselor).

Teresa Boyer is the only new teacher at GHS, as she steps in to teach art. But two others are in new positions.  Dawn Thur has moved over from GES to teach special education/life skills while Nolan Tracy, until now a PE teacher, has assumed the additional responsibility of activities director.


Marshal: Plug-in likely cause of fire

While cautioning that it’s still under investigation, a state fire marshal said Tuesday that there is a high probability that a dried-out, plug-in air freshener caused the house fire Friday afternoon at 516 11th Ave. N. in Greybull.

“I’m pretty sure of it,” said Richard Embrey, who investigated the fire.  “Historically there have been cases throughout the country where fires have started because of the Glade plug-in malfunction … if you will.

“When those go dry, they have a tendency to get hot because the electricity is still going through them, heating up the element.  They’ve been known to cause fires elsewhere and I think that’s what happened in this case.”

No one was home at the time of the fire, which was reported to authorities shortly after 4 p.m.  In fact, the owner of the home, Matt Good, was out of the state on Friday, visiting his father in Minnesota.


HATS raises another $63,000

HATS V was another unqualified success and between the ticket sales (including pre-sale, tables and at the door), live and silent auction, raffle and the fun “heads and tails” contest $63,905 was raised. The entire amount will benefit people in need of a “hand across the saddle.”

This year’s breakdown includes: ticket sales, $20,000; raffle, $3,100; live auction $38,100; silent auction, $1,930; heads or tails, $775 (won by Kim Coyne).

From its inception in 2009 to HATS IV in 2012, 350 families and individuals from Thermopolis to Powell and all the communities in between were assisted to the tune of $350,000. This does not include assistance provided in 2013.


Tea Party event held in Emblem

If the American flags that lined both sides of the driveway weren’t enough of an indication, the speakers who took their turns at the podium proved it beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Saturday afternoon’s third annual Big Horn Basin Tea Party Picnic held on attorney Rob DiLorenzo’s ranch outside Emblem was an event splashed in patriotism, serving up not only the usual dialogue about property, individual and gun rights but also some of the first public volleys in the race for U.S. Senate and a stirring defense by the state’s embattled superintendent of public instruction.

More than 300 people attended the gathering, which began promptly at noon and lasted into the early evening hours.  While the main course was barbecued pork and beef brisket, behind the microphone, that distinction belonged to U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi and his challenger, Liz Cheney, who whet the public appetite for the campaign to come.



School enrollment soars

Enrollment is up sharply this fall in all three Big Horn County School District No. 3 buildings.

As of Aug. 27 — which was one full week into the 2013-14 school year — the district’s enrollment was set at 532 students, an increase of more than 40 students compared to the 490 counted on the opening day of the 2012-13 school year.

Greybull Elementary School, with 223 students on the books on Aug. 27, has experienced the biggest gains.   The school opened last year with 202 students.  By September, it had fallen to 197.  But when school let out in May, it had grown to 216.


Public health future up in the air

Big Horn County and the Wyoming Department of Health and the Public Health Nursing Division have a few months to iron out differences to keep public health operational in the county.

The commissioners have told the state that they will not sign a new contract, which ends with the fiscal year June 30, 2014, if the situation with the administrative assistants remains the same.

Keith Grant said, “We’re not going to have any more county employees working for the state.” He said the county no longer wishes to have county employees who are supervised by state employees such as with public health, Women and Infant Children program and the Cooperative Extension Service. (See related story on Extension.)

There are two administrative assistants with the county public health program, one in Lovell and one in Greybull. Both are county employees supervised by state employee and nurse manager Kimberly Cowan.

Cowan told the commissioners Tuesday that the Lovell position is currently vacant and they are looking to fill the vacancy but wanted the county’s feedback.


Assessment under way

Approximately 35 local resident joined those who had submitted their input online by participating in the first three listening sessions of Greybull’s community assessment on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

A team of volunteers led by Kim Porter, a program manager for the Wyoming Rural Development Council, heard from people of varying backgrounds during the three sessions, which were held at Town Hall and The Speakeasy.

The first session — the one planned for people in the retail, business, industrial, utilities and insurance sector — drew the biggest turnout of the day.  The second session, set aside for the professional/finance/banking sector, drew only three people, but 10 crowded into the Speakeasy for a general listening session to cap off the day.

Several common themes emerged from the sessions.

When it comes to challenges facing the community, people at both sessions agreed that the community lacks things for young people to do, the downtown area is suffering from the loss of businesses and empty storefronts and that tourists aren’t stopping.


Homecoming royalty to be crowned Friday

Will it be Nevin Brown, Ales Preis or Jarely Castro?

Paul Stewart, Kyler Flock or Cesar Garay?

Those are the questions that will be answered Friday night when the 2013 GHS homecoming queen and king are announced and crowned at the halftime of the Greybull-Pinedale football game.

Attendants include: Freshmen: Tré Nelson and Stevie Wamhoff; sophomores Jorge Carmona and Karla Corral, and juniors, Wyatt Nielson and Lynae McBride.



Kunkel, Ewen pie-baking champs

When the tasting was all done, it was Cathy Kunkel and Kathy Ewen getting the nod as the 2013 champions of the “Sweet Tea Pie” fundraiser at the Greybull Public Library Thursday. Through the event, $825 was added to the library fund.

Kunkel’s “Pumpkin Cheesecake Praline” was the judge’s choice for the tastiest pastry while Ewen’s “Dulce LaLechera” was the People’s Choice.

Both winners received gift certificates.


Judge sends road petition to commissioners

A road petition that was denied by the Big Horn County commissioners in 2011 is now back in their lap after a district court ruling.

According to a Fifth Judicial District Court ruling by Judge Robert Skar, filed Sept. 23, the issue of a private road petition originally filed by Mary and Patrick Whaley of Shell and Buffalo, is “remanded back to the Board of County Commissioners who shall proceed with Petitioners’ (Whaleys) application for a private road by appointing viewers and appraisers pursuant to Wyoming Statute.”

Big Horn County Attorney Michelle Burns, who met with the Big Horn County commissioners last week in executive session, said “Since it is pending litigation I have no formal comment at this time.”


Win sends Lady Buffs to regionals

For the first time in many years, the Greybull Lady Buffs will not have to play a pigtail match to qualify for the Class 2A West Regional volleyball tournament in Lander.  A 25-20, 20-25, 22-25, 25-17, 15-11 victory over Thermopolis Friday assured the Buffs of a No. 2 seed.

Coach Sara Schlattmann said, “The girls were excited about how they played; they have a weight lifted off their shoulders by officially being out of the pigtail game. That was a huge relief.”


Two-story design chosen for GMS

Following the recommendations of their teachers and students, the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board on Oct. 8 approved a two-story “sunrise” design for its new middle school building.

If funding is ultimately approved by the legislature this winter, the new middle school would be built on the green space between the south door of the high school and the GMS Gym.

The building’s size and cost would be dictated by the School Facilities Commission. Right now, the district is operating under the assumption that the building could be up to 14,710 square feet and that its budget is going to be around $4.7 million.



Charges against restaurant owners dropped

A judge has granted the state’s request to dismiss all criminal charges against Myles Foley and Lori Davis, the owners of The Speakeasy in downtown Greybull.

Foley and Davis had each been charged with selling alcohol without a license in a case that began when the Greybull Town Council, on which Foley is currently serving a four-year term, decided to suspend The Speakeasy’s liquor license.

The arrest of Foley and Davis in July on charges that they had served alcohol, in violation of the verbal notice of suspension provided by the council, triggered a public outcry, which included a torrent of letters to the editor, most of them in support of the two business owners.

The latest chapter unfolded Oct. 10 when special prosecutor Timothy J. Blatt, the deputy Park County and prosecuting attorney, filed a motion in the Circuit Court of the Fifth Judicial District in Big Horn County.

In it, Blatt said, “It is in the best interests of justice that this matter be dismissed without prejudice.”


No positive brucellosis tests yet

The first full week of the big-game hunting season didn’t produce any big surprises — and that’s a good thing when it comes to brucellosis testing.

Throughout the fall, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has been encouraging Big Horn Mountain elk hunters to assist in the surveillance effort by taking blood samples and either sending them in or leaving them at collection sites.

“As of Saturday, I was hearing that (the state lab) had tested 80 samples already and that there had been no positives at all in the areas we’re most concerned about (areas 38, 39 and 40),” said Tom Easterly, a wildlife biologist for Game and Fish.


Powers appointed to U.S. Naval Academy

For the majority of GHS students, Oct. 21 was just an ordinary day. But for McKenna Powers the “ordinary” day turned into something very special.

“I was in the girls bathroom when I got a text from my mom saying I had received my official appointment to the Naval Academy. I was floating on air the whole day,” Powers said with a wide smile.

Powers will be inducted into the Academy in Annapolis on July 1,2014.


Council shelves pit bull ordinance

The Greybull Town Council has scrapped its controversial pit bull ordinance on the recommendation of the town’s animal control officer, who stated during its meeting last week that he’d been inundated with phone calls and e-mails from people who opposed the change.

“From all the comments I received, I want you all to know that I did listen,” said Doug Youngerman, the animal control officer. “We went viral I think, because I heard from people from New York to California — and everywhere in between.”

Youngerman, the staunchest proponent of the ordinance amendment last month, urged the council not to pass it on second reading, citing the will of the people and his support for a revised ordinance, which was given first reading by the council in the night.


Five Buffs on all-conference grid team

The Greybull Buffs put five players on the Class 2A West all-conference football team.

The Buffs who made the squad included seniors Kason Clutter and Bryce Wright and juniors Calder Forcella, Fabian Davila and Wyatt Nielson.

Greybull finished fifth in the conference this season, going 3-4 in conference play and 3-5 overall.



Antelope Butte fundraiser nets more than $32k

This past Saturday, the Antelope Butte Foundation (ABF) hosted a fundraiser,

“Butte-ify the Big Horns,” a fundraiser for the Antelope Butte Foundation, raised over $32,000 from generous donors.

Attended by over 200 residents, it was the community’s first detailed look at the project designed to reopen the Antelope Butte Ski & Recreation Area, which last operated in 2004.

“We have spent the last 18 months doing our homework and ensuring Antelope Butte can be viable moving forward,” said Mark Weitz, president of the ABF. “After concluding this is totally doable, we wanted to roll out our plans to the community and begin asking for support. The community’s response was phenomenal and we are encouraged to make it happen.”


New ER doc joins South Big Horn County Hospital

He fell in love with Wyoming as a teenager when he worked on a ranch west of Cody. He bought his first adult pair of cowboy boots from Wayne’s Boots. He had dreams of returning to Wyoming to run his own ranch.

The ranch dream never came true but the one of returning did. Dr. David Fairbanks is the new director of Emergency Medicine for South Big Horn County Hospital. He started in November.

Fairbanks grew up in Bethesda, Md., the oldest of four boys born to David N.F. and Sylvia Fairbanks. His father is an ear, nose and throat surgeon and his mother is a teacher. His grandfather Avard T. Fairbanks is a sculptor of international renown.

He is a graduate of Brigham Young University and the University of Virginia School of Medicine. His trauma surgical internship was done at Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. While serving in the United States Air Force he was deployed for four tours as a flight surgeon during Operation Desert Storm. He was named 7th Wing’s Flight Surgeon of the year.


Local teens witness 64-yard field goal

Brock Hill and Shayla Cheatham were witnesses to history Sunday in Denver, as the two local teens and Punt, Pass & Kick competitors were standing behind the end zone waiting to be introduced at halftime when Matt Prater’s kick sailed over the crossbar in front of them.

Covering 64 yards in total, it was the longest field goal in NFL history and it the sent Broncomaniacs into a frenzy that didn’t subside until the Broncos had wrapped up their 11th win in 13 games and clinched a berth in the AFC playoffs.  “What an atmosphere,” said Shayla’s mother, Shalene Cheatham.


Hansen is Holidazzle grand marshal

Marion Hansen, owner of the Uptown Café, has been selected as the grand marshal of the 2013 Holidazzle parade.

“She was very surprised,” said Hansen‘s daughter, Joni when her mother was presented with a bouquet of flowers, a plaque and sash Monday afternoon, “but she knew something was going on when I made her come back to the restaurant at 2 p.m.”

Marion Hansen has been a fixture at Uptown Café for years. She was a fixture when it was Parker’s Café, and she worked for then owner Chuck Shirran as a cook, a waitress, you name it.


Line break turns out the lights

There is no such thing as a good time for a power outage, but the one that sent local residents scurry for back-up heat sources during the early morning hours on Friday came at one of the worst possible times of the year.

The Big Horn Basin, and for that matter all of Wyoming, has been in a deep freeze over the last 7 to 10 days, with the mercury rarely if ever climbing above zero during this frigid stretch of early December. So when the power went out Friday morning at 3:42 a.m., it caused widespread panic.


Legion in position to start building renovations

American Legion Post No. 32 Commander Paul Linse has announced that renovations to the Legion Hall building on North Fifth Street are expected to begin soon.

Donations from American Legion members and individuals from the community now total more than $6,500, which is more than 10 percent of the total amount Post 32 will require for the total renovation project costs.

Linse said Post 32 has also applied for grants from a variety of sources and feels confident the building will be restored to a state better than the original hall, giving the community an attractive venue for a variety of events and activities.