Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ghosts place third in Buffalo

by marlys good

Matt Dillon and Chandini Dahlberg finished fourth overall and first in the 1A/2A class in the Duet competition at Buffalo Feb. 24-25 to lead the Greybull High School Grey Ghosts to a third place in the 1A/2A division.

Ezra Hanson finished 14th overall in Oratory and 7th in the small school competition. “There were a lot of people in his category,” said Coach Ted Menke.

Junior Josh Hopkin made it to the “Super Congress” (finals) but didn’t place in the top six overall. Menke said “It was a really good finish for Josh. I am proud of all of our kids. They did well.”

The Ghosts were hampered with lack of numbers; just nine of 16 students made the trip. “We were down, mostly because of sickness,” Menke said, “but those who went did quite well.”

Thermopolis won the small school title, topping Greybull, Lovell, Big Horn, Wright and Guernsey. The meet included five schools from South Dakota and large schools from Wyoming including Cheyenne East, South and Central, Casper Natrona and Kelly Walsh.

The team hopes to be at full strength for the National Qualifiers Meet in Riverton this weekend. Menke looks for strong finishes from Dillon and Dahlberg in Duet, and believes both will do well in their individual competitions — Dillon in Humor and Dahlberg in Oratory.

The season winds down with the state meet in Rock Springs March 15-17.

Plans, location of indoor arena discussed

by jennifer butler

On Monday, March 5 a few members of the Big Horn County Fair Board met together in a special work session to discuss the prospect of the indoor arena. Board Chairman Felix Carrizales, board member Tim Flitner and Dallen Smith were in attendance.

Smith had drawn rough blue prints of where the building would stand and how it would be utilized when completed. Smith’s plans were to connect the new arena with the existing building, in order to utilize existing features, such as the kitchen, to help save funds.

The original plans were to first build the shell of the building then continue the process. Flitner  suggested the project be done in phases. First update the kitchen and bathrooms then continue to add pieces to the building until completed. He said, this plan enables us to step away from the project if the board had invested too much in the final project. He added that the board would update what is needed most so the fairgrounds are not left with outdated bathrooms.

During the meeting those in attendance walked around the grounds and mapped out a possible locations for the new building. Carrizales said by seeing where the building would stand and how it could be used it helps him see the vision. He added that he is still concerned about the overall cost and the approval of the community.

He said the fair board needs to build the trust in the community before undergoing such a large project.

Flitner said the building could be used year round and by several of the Big Horn Basin communities.

Smith provided the board with project profits after each of the three phases. He projected the fair would have a net profit in year three of around $30,000.

Carrizales said although he feels better about the project, and he could see the potential it could offer the county, he is still not convinced it is the best option for the board now.

The board is currently reviewing bids for complete construction of the arena.

A grant to the Daniels Fund was submitted by County Grants Writer Maria Eastman March 1.

Tatom case heads to District Court

by nathan oster

Saying self-defense is “a factual issue for a jury to decide and not this court,” Circuit Court Judge Tom Harrington on Feb. 29 bound a 41-year-old Shell man over to District Court on three felony charges that stem from a stabbing incident earlier this year in Shell.

Raymond Ryan Tatom, 41, is accused of second-degree attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault in connection with the stabbing of Tim Mills, 60, during a bar fight Jan. 27 at the Antler Inn.

Harrington’s finding of probable cause came at the end of four hours of testimony which included two witnesses for the prosecution in Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office Captain Blaine Jolley and Deputy Darold Newman and five witnesses for the defense, all of whom were present at the bar on the night of the stabbing. Those defense witnesses included bar owner Al Martin and his girlfriend Wendy Cummings as well as patrons Tom Easterly, Elizabeth Wolfson and Joe Little.

Jolley testified that he arrived on scene to find Easterly applying pressure to Mills’ wound and that Tatom was not present.  Tatom had gone home.  A short time later, Tatom summoned deputies and EMTs for treatment of injuries he had sustained in the fight..

Jolley said deputies were initially concerned with “taking care of the medical needs of the two men” and that Tatom was transported to South Big Horn County Hospital to be checked out and treated.  It wasn’t until the next day, after law enforcement had spoken with witnesses and concurred, that Tatom was arrested.

Jolley testified that he had “gotten the impression from Al (Martin)” that Tatom “had a negative reputation in the Shell area for carrying a knife and being aggressive with it” and that the fight started in the dining room area over a discussion about a mutual acquaintance, named “Wally,” and that Tatom proceeded to make derogatory comments about Mills’ wife and son.

By this time angry, Mills asked Tatom to step outside. When Tatom declined, Mills went out by himself to cool off.  At some point, Wolfson joined him, the two sharing a smoke and talking about what had gone on inside the bar.

Jolley said witness interviews suggested that Mills re-entered the bar through the door leading to the bar (rather than the door leading to the restaurant area) and that he found Tatom at the bar talking with Joe Little.

Within seconds of Mills re-entering the bar, the two men were fighting.  None of the witnesses testified about knowing who threw the first punch — just that the two men ended up on the floor — Mills on top of Tatom and with Tatom’s head and neck up pressed against a single stair that connects the two rooms (bar and dining area).

According to testimony, Mills punched Tatom several times in the face.

At some point during the scuffle, Tatom pulled his knife and stuck Mills in the abdominal area. It was at that point, according to testimony, that Wolfson cried out “Knife!” and bar patrons moved in to assist the injured Mills.

Under cross examination from Tatom’s attorney, Dion Custis, Jolley indicated that he recovered the knife outside the bar, where it had been hidden by Easterly after the fight broke up, and that he did not initially question Tatom about what happened because he was primarly concerned with his medical state.

When he took the stand, Deputy Newman described the knife as “a folding, black pocketknife with a 3- to 4-inch blade,” adding that it had a straight edge.

Newman also provided an account of statements Tatom made to him during the investigation.

“He told me that he was in a fight, that he did fear for his life, and that Tim had been egging him on the whole night,” said Newman.  “He said when Tim left, he thought everything was going to be fine.”

According to his testimony, Newman said Tatom told investigators he was sitting at the bar when Mills re-entered.  Newman added that Tatom’s account is that Mills started the fight, pulling him out of his bar stool, and that the two men ended up on the floor.  At one point, Tatom indicated to investigators that he tried to run away, Newman testified.

Tatom told Newman that Mills “was telling him, ‘I’m going to (expletive) kill you!’” as he repeatedly punched him in the face and banged his head and neck against the stair directly beneath him.

Tatom told Newman he “got dizzy” and was “seeing stars” as Mills was punching him, and that he was begging Mills to get off him.  Tatom told Newman he drew his knife as a last resort, and that his original intent “was to stick him in the leg or in the waist just to get his attention.”

Tatom eventually did confess to stabbing Mills.

Newman also interviewed Mills, who gave a strikingly different version of what transpired.

Mills told Newman that when he re-entered the bar, Tatom faced him and put his thumb in his eye.  It was at that point, Mills said, that he hit him for the first time and the two men eventually ended up on the floor.  Mills told Newman he recalled being stabbed, pulling away, and the knife then being brought to his neck.  In later testimony, Martin was credited with kicking the knife out of Tatom’s hand.

In one final question from the prosecution, Newman was asked if at any point in time any of the witnesses thought Tatom’s life was in danger.  “None of the witnesses told me that,” Newman said. “Actually, a couple of them said that in no way was his life in danger.”

On cross examination, Newman said Mills was described by witnesses as being very angry and that he had gone outside to “cool off.”

The two men had been drinking, Newman said.  In later testimony, bar owner Al Martin said that Tatom had consumed 11 beers, Mills “three to four.” Martin was better able to remember Tatom’s drink count because he kept track on a tab — whereas Mills paid for each drink with cash.

Newman said he hadn’t asked other witnesses, specifically, if they heard Mills telling Tatom he was going to kill him.

The defense opened its case by calling Easterly to the stand.  Easterly, who lives near Shell, testified that he initially tried to calm the situation, but eventually gave up “when I saw that wasn’t going to happen.”

He said he did not see how the two men ended up on the floor, but that he was the one who took the knife outside to ensure that it was not used again that night.  “I didn’t see it until it was handed to me,” he said, adding that both he and Martin were initially concerned with caring for Mills.

Little said he arrived at the bar around 8 p.m. and that the fight lasted only a matter of seconds before he “turned around and Tim was holding his guts.”  Little said he told both men to “knock it off” and that Mills was still mad and “on the fight” when he re-entered, but that he did not see who threw the first punch.  Little said he never saw the knife or the fight, and that the whole thing lasted only a matter of seconds.

Cummings said she took note of the tension between Mills and Tatom during their initial argument, but that she did not see how the two men ended up on the floor.  She did testify to seeing Mills hit Tatom “a couple of times” and Tatom “bringing the knife up toward his head.”

Martin testified that Tatom “wouldn’t let it go” and that Mills “didn’t look too heated to me” before he stepped outside to cool off.  “Tim asked Ray to come outside and fight; Ray didn’t,” he said. “It wasn’t a heated conversation, just stupid bar talk.”

Like the other witnesses, Martin said he didn’t see who threw the first punch, just that he observed Mills hitting Tatom and that he was the one who kicked the knife out of Tatom’s hand as it was nearing the neck of Mills.

Martin also acknowledged receiving a telephone call from an attorney claiming to represent Tatom within five minutes after Tatom left the bar on the night of the fight.  He also said he had hired an attorney to represent the bar in the matter.

Elizabeth Wolfson echoed many of the comments voiced by other witnesses about the events leading up to the fight.  She had been the one to spot the knife and yell, “Knife!”  She also painted a vivid description of Tatom bringing the knife up to the neck of Mills.

 

Findings

In his closing argument, Custis challenged the prosecution’s argument that the act was done “purposely and maliciously” and that there was an “intent to kill” on the part of Tatom.  “No evidence has been presented to this court to suggest that he was doing anything less than defending himself with that knife,” said Custis.

He cited witness testimony that Mills was on top of Tatom and that Tatom was saying, “Get him off me” before he even drew his knife.  When he did draw his kife, Mills was still on top of him, acting “in a threatening manner” and “unleashing serious bodily force that could result in death.

“He was in fear of his life when he used the knife,” Custis said.

Custis also argued that the two aggravated assault charges should be combined, calling it, “one continuous act” that occurred “within the realm of 10 seconds to a minute.”  And within that time frame, Tatom “believed he was going to be killed.  His neck was cracking on that stair. He felt he could be seriously injured, so he pulled the knife out.

“This was an obvious self-defense situation  — and more specifically it was not done with any purpose or maliciousness … it was done in reaction to Tim being on top pounding on his head.”

Frentheway disagreed.

“We don’t believe this is a complicated case and that the facts are pretty clear,” he said, in summarizing his argument.  “We believe we have shown at least probable cause (that Tatom) had the intent to do serious bodily harm (to Mills).”

Frentheway challenged the self-defense argument, describing Mills as “an older man with medical issues.

“While Tatom was getting punched — and we’re not defending the fact that there should have been a fight — but the fact of the matter is, Tatom had a weapon and there was never a reason for him to fear for his life.”

Frentheway asserted that Mills was in the process of getting off Tatom, and that there was no evidence that Mills continued to punch Tatom after he’d been cut. “It was at that moment, as he was getting up, that Tatom brought the knife up to his neck.”

Had Martin not kicked it out his hand at that moment, “Who knows what would have happened,” Frentheway said.  “Had he cut him, he would have died rather rapidly.  We believe it meets the probable cause test … and that the case needs to go to a jury.”

Harrington agreed with the prosecution, telling the defense “You might not even get to argue self-defense based on these facts” and ruling that there was probable cause for Tatom’s case to be sent up to District Court.

“There isn’t any real evidence, at this point, that there was ever a reasonable basis to escalate this from a fistfight into a deadly force situation,” Harrington said, calling it “a purposeful, voluntary action” that was carried out “with malice.”

And as for the self-defense argument, he said, “It’s a factual issue for a jury to decide, and not for this court to decide.”

Marion Otis Riley

May 17, 1925 – March 2, 2012

Funeral services for Marion Otis Riley of Basin will be held Saturday, March 10 at 10 a.m. at the LDS Church of Greybull/Basin. A viewing will be held at Atwood Family Chapel Friday, March 9 from 2-7 p.m. Mr. Riley, 86, died March 2 at St. Vincent Healthcare Hospital in Billings, Mont.

Marion was born May 17, 1925, in Burlington, the son of Thomas Earl and Viola Ruth Griffin Riley. He grew up and received his schooling in Burlington.

Marion served in the United States Army during World War II, beginning active duty on Sept. 26, 1944. He was honorably discharged June 28, 1949.

Marion married Betty Ellen Ainslie July 10, 1944, in Red Lodge, Mont. The couple had seven children. Betty died Oct. 14, 2006.

Marion was a hard worker and enjoyed farming and mechanics. He was a truck driver for Feusner Dairy for two years, Gordon Refinery for seven years, Sweetheart Bakery seven years, Wyo-Ben 13 years, G-K Construction 10 years and Puregro for two years. He worked for Tri-County Telephone for three years before he retired.

Marion married Dorothy Allen Feb. 14, 2009, at the LDS Church.

He was a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints. He enjoyed playing cards, bingo and gardening.

His parents, wife Betty, grandson Billy and brother Alvin Riley preceded him in death.

He is survived by his children and their spouses, Orville and Dee Riley of Townsend, Mont., Carolyn Lewis of Bristol, Va., Ken and Karen Riley of Rapid City, S.D., Bob and Mary Riley of Riverton, Bruce and Jeanie Riley of Kalispell, Mont., Don and Nancy Riley of Basin and Jack and Joyce Riley of Cheyenne; step-children Kengie Hilton of Cedar Hills, Utah, Marlin Jones of Emblem, Kalyn Jones of West Jordan, Utah, Lennis Jones of Pleasant Grove, Utah, and Shelley Peterson of Pryor, Mont.; step-daughter-in-law Susie Jones of Logandale, Nev.; two sisters, Marjorie Harkin of Cody and Florence Nordoff of Redding, Calif.; three brothers, Tom Riley of Ralston and Stan Riley and Vernon Riley, both of Cody; 16 grandchildren; 31 great-grandchildren; six great-great-grandchildren; 32 step-grandchildren, and 51 step-great-grandchildren.

Burial will be in the Burlington cemetery.

Two wrestlers earn invites to New Zealand

by nathan oster

Luke Zeller and Rob Nuttall qualified for the Cultural Exchange trip to New Zealand and several others earned invites to Fargo, N.C. for the Junior Nationals based on their performances at Juniors State Friday and Saturday in Douglas.

The Greybull-Basin Athletic Club sent nine kids to the tournament to compete in both Greco and Freestyle.

“When you go to a state event you can keep team points, but you must have an official and a pairer for your team to compete for a team placing,” said Mark Sanford, head coach of the Greybull-Riverside team part of the GBAC contingent in Douglas.  “It’s too bad we didn’t have a pairer.

“As a team we would have placed second in both Greco and Freestyle.  That is against all other towns in Wyoming.  We had quite a few kids go and we represented our club well.”

GBAC had no individual champions, but several second-place finishers.

Matt Grovenstein placed second in both Greco and Freestyle at 126.

Chris Ogg earned fourth in both at 126.

Jesus Burgos claimed a second in Freestyle and a fifth in Greco at 152.

Luke Zeller was second in Greco and third in Freestyle at 160.

Spencer Redland was third in both at 170.

Matt Brown was second in Greco and third in Freestyle at 182.

Rob Nuttall was second at 195 in Greco and second at 182 in Freestyle.

Zane Edeler was third in Greco and fourth in Freestyle at 220.

Oscar Gomez was fourth in both at 285.

The wrestlers who qualified and plan to attention Junior Nationals in Fargo include Ogg, Redland, Brown and Edeler.  Burgos may also join that crew, according to Sanford.

 

 

 

Frazier, Sylvester make all-conference

by nathan oster

Greybull put two players, seniors Austin Frazier and Travis Sylvester, on the all-Northwest Conference boys’ basketball team, which was announced at the conclusion of the State 2A Boys Basketball Championships over the weekend in Casper.

Lovell, which won the conference, put four players on the team, including conference player of the year in senior Colin May as well as a trio of juniors in Ryan Clark, Dylan Hultgren and Cody Savage.

Brian May, who guided the Bulldogs to a 7-1 conference finish, was chosen conference coach of the year.

Rounding out the squad were two players each from Rocky Mountain in juniors Bryce Ward and Michael Bernhisel and from Riverside in junior Clint Getzfreid and senior Brynnt Wood.

Frazier led the Buffs in scoring, averaging 13 points per game, after missing his entire junior season due to a knee injury.  Frazier’s final line also included 99 rebounds (fifth most on the team), 74 assists and 53 steals. He was also one of the team’s top free-throw shooters, nailing 69 percent of his attempts from the stripe.

Sylvester played point guard and was a defensive stopper for the Buffs.  He finished the season averaging 6.7 points per game, but was the team leader in assists, with 159, and steals, with 103.  He also ranked fourth on the team in rebounding with 126.

Both were repeat selections.  Frazier made the team as a sophomore, Sylvester as a junior.

Sylvester also all-state

Sylvester also earned a spot on the all-state team for 2A.

Joining him on that elite team were two members of the state champion Wyoming Indian Chiefs in senior John Soundingsides and junior Alvin Spoonhunter, as well as two members of the runner-up Lovell Bulldogs in May and Savage.

The rest of the all-state team included Timmy Benedict of Wright, Jesse Brown and Tyson Lonebear of Wind River, Brynnt Wood of Riverside, Colton Wright of Burns, Stephen Yellowtail of Tongue River and Zac Zimmerer of Southeast.

Something New: Spring Home and Gift Show

by marlys good

There will be a little bit of everything and something for everyone at Greybull’s first-ever Spring Home and Gift Show Saturday, March 10 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Herb Asp Community Center.

According to Heather Howe of the Greybull Recreation District, “We are trying to draw area and small businesses, as well as individuals, to let people see what this area has to offer. It is similar to the Christmas bazaar but with a wider variety of items. We have vendors coming who have never participated in bazaars before and we have a lot of very talented people in this area who need a venue such as this.”

There will be homemade lotions, soaps, hats, scarves, home-baked goods, rough-cut wood furniture, pottery, jewelry, a bridal/wedding section that even offers rentals, cabinetry, a full line of mattresses, and all-occasion gifts – Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduation, baby, wedding and birthday, and much more.

Because of the larger items being offered, the number of booths has been downsized to 50.

Howe said the idea of a Home Improvement Show was discussed last year, but “It fell into the category of, would it be big enough to draw in enough people? We put it on the back burner and decided to think about it for another year and then decided to expand on it.”

Breakfast and lunch will be offered and tables will be set aside so diners can eat in comfort, or have a place to sit while their “better halves” are browsing the aisles.

All proceeds from the show will go into the general fund. Said Recreation Director Chris Waite, “We are saving money for improvements to the building – specifically the walls.”

Howe said she was excited about the Home and Gift Show. “I really hope it goes over well.”

 

 

Romney wins county straw poll

With the straw poll completed and precincts having voted on their platforms and resolutions, the entire Big Horn County GOP will gather Tuesday at the Basin City Arts Center.

Results for the all of Wyoming were not available by press time with Sweetwater County conducting its caucus and straw poll on Wednesday. In Big Horn County Mitt Romney received 70 percent of the votes, 88 of 125 cast, for the GOP presidential nomination. Ron Paul received 17.6 percent (22 votes) and Rick Santorum received 12 percent (15 votes). Newt Gingrich did not receive any votes in the county.

County GOP Chairman Dave Mattis said he was pleased with the turnout last Tuesday at the Republican caucuses in Lovell and Basin. He said about 100 people attended in Lovell, and about 32 in Basin. Not all those attending cast votes in the straw poll.

Romney, with six counties yet to have their straw poll and caucuses, was leading in Wyoming with 691 votes of 1,651 cast. Santorum is currently in second place with 519, Paul third with 317, Gingrich fourth with 115 and there were nine other or write-in votes.

Of the counties reporting results as of Monday, Romney won in Albany, Big Horn, Lincoln, Sublette, Teton, Uinta and Washakie counties. Santorum won in Campbell, Carbon, Crook, Fremont, Goshen, Hot Springs, Laramie and Natrona. Paul won in Weston and Sheridan counties.

County convention

Next up for the county Republicans is Tuesday’s county convention. The carry-in dinner will be at 6 p.m. with the convention starting at 7 p.m. Mattis said the Central Committee will meet prior to the dinner.

The convention’s main purpose, Mattis said, is to elect the 12 delegates and 12 alternates to the state convention and one national delegate to the national convention.

The county GOP delegates will also vote on the platforms and resolutions submitted from last Tuesday’s caucuses. The platforms and resolutions approved Tuesday will be submitted to the state for action at the state convention.

Mattis said all registered Republicans are encouraged to come to the dinner and convention, but only precinct delegates will be allowed to vote.

Tickets are also on sale from any precinct committee person for the Lincoln Day Dinner March 17 at the Lovell Community Center. Mattis said Governor Matt Mead will be the keynote speaker but due to the governor’s schedule he will speak at 5:30 p.m. A meet and greet will begin at 5 p.m. Dinner will begin at about 6 p.m., followed by other speeches and the auction.

 

Sales purchase elevator

Susan Sales is the new owner of the Greybull elevator property.

by nathan oster

The family that bought and is working to restore the old Masonic Temple has added another property with historical significance in Greybull to its growing collection of real estate.

Erik and Susan Sales, along with sons Jacob and Ben and daughter Jennifer, recently completed the purchase of the old Greybull elevator property along North Seventh Street from David VanGelder, whose family had owned it since 1970.

Separated by just a couple of blocks, the two properties are part of the same vision for the Sales family, which as Susan describes it, is to “encourage tourism” and “share the wonderful history of our area with locals and people passing through town.”

The Sales still have big plans for the Masonic Temple, although Susan acknowledges that the opening of the theater and community gathering room has taken longer than anticipated.

“We have a projector and a sound system ready to go in, and we should have the theater, at the very least, functioning by Memorial Day weekend,” she said. “It’s been a very long project; so many things came up against us.

“The building is older and had been abandoned … it was a much larger task than we anticipated when we purchased it.”

Sales said Masonic Temple lacks the required space for a museum, and for that reason, she and her husband moved on the elevator property.

“This building has a lot more room and works for the museum we want to put together,” she said. The museum would celebrate “the history of our area — everything from oral history with local residents, to the history of farming, the railroad and the oil industry.  All things that make Greybull what it is today.”

During a walk-through Monday morning, Sales shared her vision for the building. Construction of the elevator began in 1919.  In 1939, a schoolhouse was brought in. As time went on, other rooms were added.

Sales has a vision for all of them, starting with the old schoolhouse, which she sees as “a gathering room for activities” and a showcase of “old school items.”  That opening of that room, which also features an operational scale, will be celebrated in a grand opening sometime in March.

She also wants to turn an upstairs area into a “loft and study area.”  In the elevator part, there is a room where there will be “a live, functioning exhibit” where people who visit will be able to see how grain was moved from the truck and taken through the whole process, including cleaning.  One of the few operational Fairbanks scales in existence will also be a focal point of that room.

Elsewhere in the elevator Sales envisions a “tack room showing the history of shepherders and cowboys,” and arboretum filled with plants — ”kind of like walking into a rain forest,” she said — and an area for an indoor farmer’s market which could ultimately be expanded to include a dinner theater.

“But that’s way, way out there,” she said. “We’ll do everything in phases. We do have a vision.  We are working on it as we have the funds.”

In a room that was once used as a sound room by the band formerly known as the Saugers, the Sales have developed an office, which includes a desk where oral histories are being filmed.

Sales said she and her husband haven’t worked through all the aspects of their business plan, saying simply, “We hope to gain whatever we can from being able to share (this building with the community).”

Sales said she has filed for non-profit status for both the Masonic building and the elevator.  Local residents may have already noticed that the murals are once again illuminated at night, something the Sales did just a matter of weeks ago.

“We’ve applied for a grant to have the murals redone,” Sales said. “We got it re-lit though.  That was a big chore.  We had to rewire everything.”

Sales said anyone who would like to make a donation of cash, items or volunteer labor is invited to contact her at (307) 921-0751.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Town to hire administrator

by nathan oster

The Greybull Town Council is proceeding with plans to hire an administrator who would oversee the various departments and take the lead in the development and monitoring of the town’s budget.

Council members voted during a special meeting Feb. 20 to begin advertising for an administrator/finance director and to formally do away with the public works director position and instead hire a town foreman.

Town Clerk Kathy Smith suggested the council consider the hiring of an administrator in a memo. She cited several recent developments, from the changes atop the public works department following the termination of Randy Rumpler, followed soon thereafter by the sudden departure of his replacement, Mike Packer, as well as the impending retirement of deputy/court clerk Kay Mattis in June, as reasons for her reorganization plan.

Smith said in the memo the “position changes that would benefit the town and assist us in a more progressive direction.”  Smith cited in her memo the need for “more professional assistance” that would “take some burdens off the mayor and the council and act as a stabilizer from one administration to another.”

The town clerk and treasurer for the past 12 years, Smith proposed that those duties be split, that she move into the clerk position and assume the duties of court clerk (now held by Mattis), and that the treasurer position be redefined as a finance office and include the additional title of administrator.

By hiring an administrator, she said in her memo, the town would relieve some of the duties that fell the public works director and the town clerk/treasurer, and by doing so, Smith said the pay for those two positions could be reduced and the public works director could become more of a town foreman.

Smith said her proposal would not have a dramatic impact financially on the town, though some of that would depend upon the pay for the administrator.  Her preliminary estimate for an increase was set at $8,000.

During the special meeting, Smith conceded that the new position could cost slightly more than that.

In the ad appearing in this week’s issue, the town is seeking a person to “perform accounting and budgetary duties for the town,” along with “the supervision of department heads.”

The salary will depend upon experience, but the town is proposing in the range of $58,000 to $62,000.

Discussion at the special meeting focused on the need for the position.  Mayor Frank Houk said administrators have worked in Star Valley and Moorcroft and that they’re becoming more common in smaller communities. Lovell had one, but does not at the present time.

Houk described the administrator as “a full-time overseer” of the entire municipal operation.

Councilor Bob Graham was a strong supporter of the proposal, saying an administrator would function like a superintendent does for the school district — in other words, he or she would oversee all departments and report directly to the council.

Graham said one of the biggest check marks in the “pros” column is that an administrator would be able to pick up some of the work that is now being done — in many cases, at great expense — by the town’s engineering firm. He said an administrator might also be able to do some of the legal work that now falls upon the town’ legal counsel.

Councilor Bob McGuire said he had some concerns — including the fact that hiring an administrator would add a layer between the council and staff members.  He also expressed concern about the impact the position would have on the town’s budget. Ultimately, though, he voted in favor of the position.

 

Current

The last half of the special meeting was devoted to the structure of the public works department — and specifically, whether the town needed to add another employee.  Betty Runyan and Joe Scott were recently brought on as the newest members of the crew.

Dalen Davis, who took over for Packer, is currently serving as the foreman. The other members include Brenda Peterson, who is in charge of the parks and snow removal; Jose Nevarez, who is back on the garbage truck; Roberta Nelson, who has been running the street sweeper and doing sewer work, and  Steve Nielson, who handles the recycling program and reads meters.

The town will look to add a permanent foreman — but council members opted during the special meeting to first fill the administrator/finance director position before seeking applicants.