Daily Archives: March 21, 2013

Council supports potential land deals

by nathan oster

The Greybull Town Council on March 11 took two significant steps last week toward expanding the town’s horizons.

The council approved the specifics of a cover letter to the Office of State Lands and Investments regarding the acquisition of land east of town in what is commonly known as Tin Can Alley.

The town is interested in a small piece of the state-owned parcel, seeing it as a potential site for residential expansion.

Later in the meeting, another letter came up — and again, the council signed off on it.  This one was a letter of support for the USDA Forest Service proposed for Greybull.

Sell-Well Investments, Inc., is considering constructing a new facility that would house the USDA Forest Service, and the site it is pursuing is just south of town, east of U.S. Highway 16-20 and adjacent to land owned by Murdoch Oil.

In the letter to Sell-Well, the town expresses interest in annexing the proposed area into town limits.  By doing so, it could provide sewer, sanitation, water, fire and police protection to the proposed building site.

“The town’s main concern is routing sewer to the location,” the council writes in the letter. “However, after reviewing and discussing this concern with our public works department and engineers, we are optimistic that the town will be able to provide sewer services before occupancy to Sell-Well’s proposed location.

“We also recognize that providing town services will be contingent upon Sell-Well receiving successful award from the USDA Forest Service and annexation of the proposed site.”

Council members approved the letter of support after Town Attorney Scott McColloch assured them that the letter wasn’t binding them to anything and was just a statement of support for the project.

The town has two options when it comes to annexation.  One is by petition from a landowner who is already bordered by land considered part of the town, while the other is without landowner permission — i.e., a “hostile takeover.”

Council members and one notable member of the audience, Ron Fiene of Ron’s Food Farm, expressed support for the idea of attracting the Forest Service headquarters.

“I’d rather see our efforts go toward enticing something like this,” said Councilor Bob McGuire, who has been lukewarm on the need for a town economic development committee.  “This is how a government can extend itself to create a new economy … a way we can support the community economically.  I feel very comfortable backing these people.”

 

Regional water

Progress was reported on talks between the Town of Greybull and the Big Horn Regional Water joint powers board over the proposed route of a transmission line that would tie a new well into the regional water system.

The issue of contention has been the alignment from the joint powers board’s second well to the town’s transmission line, which carries water from Shell into Greybull. But at the Feb. 20 meeting, an alternative more to the town’s liking was presented.

The new alignment would bring water from the well almost straight north to intersect the Greybull line above the Lucas PRV, then continue north to U.S. Highway 14.  At the point where it reaches U.S. Highway 14, it would turn west inside the right-of-way fence and follow the highway toward Greybull. According to a town memo, the two connections to the Greybull line would be made at the point where the regional line crosses Greybull’s line north of the Lucas PRV.

Big Horn Regional officials ultimately agreed to the alternate alignment, which pleased Greybull council members Clay Collingwood and Mayor Bob Graham.

The proposed alignement of the transmission line calls for it to turn south at a point 1 1/2 miles east of town and proceed south along Basin Gardens Road.

“I thought it was a real positive step,” said Graham.

Added Collingwood: “It’s not everything that we wanted, but it’s better.”

 

Other business

In other town business Monday night:

• Police Chief Bill Brenner said the town’s new animal control officer, Doug Youngerman, has been “extremely busy.” To date, 40 cats have been removed from the town. “He’s not euthanizing them; he’s taking them to ranches that will accept them” he said.

Youngerman has been focusing on ferille cats, but has also been catching a lot that belong to local residents.  In those instances, they are being returned to their owner.  But Youngerman asked Brenner to make a public appeal for cat owners to either get collars or their pets “chipped” by a local vet.

“We have a chip scanner, so when (Doug) catches a cat, he can scan it, and if it shows up he can take it right to its owner,” said Brenner.

Bev Jacobs, who works in the town office, said cat owners can also register their pets for just $5.

Brenner said first-year officer Sean Alquist heads to the police academy April 15 and will be there for approximately 14 weeks.

• Mayor Bob Graham said the only news from the Economic Development Committee is that Carl Meyer, who manages the South Big Horn County Airport, has been chosen to chair the committee.

* On the subject of the levee certification, Mayor Bob Graham said the town was waiting on confirmation from the company that will do the recertification work, AMEC, on the date for a site survey.

* The council approved a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Town of Basin regarding the operation and maintenance of its cardboard baling facility. Dalen Davis, the town foreman, said he’s been trained on using the baler and that it produces “night, tight bales.”

Ron Fiene, owner of Ron’s Food Farm, said the town should consider buying its own baler, noting that the price of cardboard has gone up. “This is a good time to get into cardboard,” he said.

“I think this will be a good trial program,” said Collingwood.

* The council authorized Mayor Bob Graham to cast a vote in the election for two seats on the Shell Valley Watershed Improvement District.  The names of John Ed Anderson and Mike Whaley were the only two that appear on the ballot.

Pool’s final day to be Aug. 31

by nathan oster

The Greybull Town Council and the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of trustees are planning to pull the plug on the swimming pool on Aug. 31 — assuming the facility can hold up that long.

At a special joint work session held Wednesday night at Town Hall, neither the council nor the school board took any official action.  But they did reach a consensus to continue funding the pool beyond when the current fiscal year ends on June 30, 2013.

As part of the memorandum of understanding now in place to operate the pool, both entities are contributing $30,000 annually toward operation and maintenance costs.

To keep it going for an additional two months, and thus give the community one final summer to enjoy the pool, both entities agreed to pony up an additional $8,000 apiece. Anything left over when the facility closes would be returned to the town and school coffers.

Supt. Barry Bryant and Joe Forcella, the district’s maintenance director, reiterated their concerns about the current condition of the facility — and the idea suggested by some to try to extend the pool’s life even beyond the Aug. 31 date.

“We’re three years into a two-year fix,” said Bryant. “Heaven forbid, what if someone got injured.  As if that wouldn’t be bad enough, someone could come back and say, ‘Hey, you knew this was an issue, yet you kept the pool open.’

“It would just open the school district up to liability issues.”

Forcella added that the building is in even worse shape than the public realizes, and that every time there’s a strong wind he worries about the roof. “You can go up there and pull the screws out by hand,” he said.  “At some point, we are going to have a failure.”

The board and the council found themselves in agreement not to stretch the pool beyond the Aug. 31, 2013, deadline and also to pursue the idea of forming a special joint powers board to build, operate and maintain a new pool.

Graham said he’d like to pitch the idea of participating on the joint powers board to every community in south Big Horn County, including Basin, Burlington and Manderson, all of whom have residents who utilized the Greybull pool at one time or another.

Earlier in the meeting, Graham suggested trying to let the pool “limp along” beyond Aug. 31 to allow time for the joint powers board to get its wheels on the ground, but that plan didn’t receive much support from others at the table.

Ultimately, all agreed that the formation of a joint powers board could be the best approach to getting a new pool built — or at the very least, lobbying for the construction.

Another issue is the demolition of the pool.  Bryant said the School Facility Commission has earmarked $140,000 for the pool’s demolition — but that would only be awarded so long as the pool is owned by school district.  If a joint powers board took ownership of the pool, it would be on the hook for those demolition costs, he said, arguing that that’s another reason to deal first with the existing pool before shifting gears to the joint powers board and talk of a new pool.

The consensus of the group was to move forward soliciting information about what it would take to form a joint powers board.  Ross Jorgensen, a member of the town council, suggested that a subcommittee of school and town leaders approach the lawyer who set up the Big Horn Regional Water joint powers board for ideas on how to begin.  Those around the table agreed that would be a good starting point.

Greybull Recreation District Director Chris Waite said the formula for building a new pool has been the same each time in other communities.  A joint powers board would be one step.  After that, other communities have used bond issues to build pools, and a sixth-cent tax to pay for operations and maintenance.

At Monday night’s meeting of the recreation district board, Waite said he’d talked with the lifeguards in recent weeks. “I think we’re going to be OK,” he said. “We may need to pick up one or two, but we have some potential junior lifeguards to draw from, too.”

District to pursue new middle school

by nathan oster

The Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of trustees has elected to pursue the construction of a new middle school rather than make the renovations to its existing building that were recommended by a consulting firm hired to do a capacity study of the GHS/GMS campus.

By unanimous vote, the board chose to “roll the dice,” so to speak, citing the age and condition of the current GMS building, the impact of the recommended renovation plan on current and future school programs, and an overriding concern that the district’s argument for a new GMS would be hurt by any improvements made now.

MOA Architecture, the consulting firm hired by the state to do the capacity study, had offered three options to the district:

1)        Limited renovations to GMS and the Quigg Building, with the biggest change being a relocation of the GMS computer labs to the Quigg Building, into a classroom now used by industrial arts teacher Ralph Wensky.

2)        Limited renovation to GMS, the Quigg Building and GHS, with the biggest change being the incorporation of the GMS media center into the GHS media center along with extensive renovations to the GMS building.

3)        Construction of a new GMS somewhere on the existing campus.  The district would prefer it to be built directly south of the high school, between GHS and the GMS Gym.  By doing so, it would enable the district to turn the existing GMS building into a central office that would house administrative staff.

During its March 12 discussion, the board never seriously considered Option 2. Supt. Barry Bryant said is was the worst of the three options, noting that it would require renovations to all three buildings (GMS, Quigg, GHS) and that it’s unlikely the work could be done over the course of a single summer.

Bryant began the discussion by noting that his preference was to follow the recommendation of the consultants — and to pursue Option 1, although he conceded that in his discussions around the district there was strong support for pursuing funding for a new school.

“The thing that worries me is, the way things are written right now, we don’t have a capacity issue (at GMS),” he said. “My worry is, we’re not going to get anything.”

He said the renovation plan recommended by the consultant would fix the issues of concern at the middle school, bring about much-needed improvements to the Quigg Building’s flooring and HVAC systems and — perhaps most importantly — be a “sellable” position in talks with the School Facility Commission.

Eddie Johnson, who sits on the school board and was a longtime teacher at GMS, disagreed.

“When (the existing GMS) was built, there were soil compaction issues — and those concern me,” he said. “I spent a lot of years there.  You can’t tell me if you’re going to put a bigger roof on something that it’s not going to affect the weight of the building.

“You’d be taking a 30-year-old building, putting $1.5 to $2 million into it — and then it’d be another 30 years before they’d even talk with us (about a new building).”

Bryant reiterated that a new building would be a tougher sell to the SFC.  In 2009, GMS ranked No. 7 on an SFC needs index.  The following year, after criteria changes were made, GMS fell all the way to No. 136.

While the SFC is expected to release a new needs index this week, Bryant said that even if GMS ranks higher than it did in 2010, it wouldn’t guarantee anything. “Some of the districts (that ranked high in 2010) still haven’t got their buildings built,” he said.

After Johnson reiterated his concerns over the longevity of the building, Bryant conceded that “an argument could be made either way.”

Trustees were also troubled by the impact of the proposed renovation on the Quigg Building, where Wensky currently uses the classroom identified as the landing spot for the GMS computer lab for CAD instruction.

MOA’s recommended option, Option 1, also called for upgrades to the Quigg Building’s HVAC system (to better filter dust) and the other industrial arts classroom used by Wensky at the present time.

Wensky, who attended the meeting, said he uses the CAD classroom more than just a single class period every day. Also, he said the plan would prevent him from starting kids with manual drafting instruction and Karyne Dunbar’s use of the lab for a graphic design class that she teaches.  “She isn’t using it this year, but she’d like to be back in there (next year),” Wensky said.

Wensky said losing the classroom would also end talk of any potential expansion of the vocational programming at GMS.  “We’ve always had a dream to add another person to teach ag or something along those lines,” Wensky said. “If you take a lot of that building for GMS, it would cut back on what we can do vocationally.”

That struck a chord with Mike Meredith, the board chairman and a former industrial arts teacher at GHS. “I lived in there for 20 years,” he said, adding that during his time the vocational program was hurt by the loss of a classroom that was eventually turned into an art classroom.

“Now here we are talking about treading on vocational again,” he said. “We have to sacrifice … but it always seems to be at the expense of the vocational side.  It hurts.”

Johnson said the board must do what’s best for its kids.

“I have a real problem with renovating that building and trying to send kids somewhere else for a class period,” he said. “You lose four to five minutes or more of instruction time every time with the movement — and it would affect high school programs, too.  I’d like to see us have an ag  program again.

“I have a real problem trying to make a 30-year-old building into a 60-year-old building.”

Trustee Jamie Flitner asked how following the renovation plan would affect the district’s campaign for a new building.  Bryant noted that GMS ranked 136th in 2010 — “and if we touched it or put money into it, we’d probably fall to 240 or 250.”

Bryant asked the board to rank the three options, saying, “Whatever you choose, we’re going to fight for like it’s the only drink of water in town and we’re thirsty.”

Flitner said her preference was go for a new building, saying that it’s been proven that state formulas don’t work. “I think we should roll the dice and wait,” she said. “We need a new building.  We need more space.”

Her fellow board members agreed, ultimately voting to pursue the new construction option.

Bryant said he’d fight for a new building in his April presentation to the SFC, adding that the districts “who continually knock on the door” are often the ones that ultimately get building projects approved by the SFC.

“The court says we need to have nice facilities for all the kids in the state,” Meredith said. “Well when you make kids leave their building and move their computer lab into a dusty, dirty building, I just think it’s contrary to what the court says.”

Robertson is Teacher of the Year

By marlys good

Greybull High School special educator Dee Robertson has been recognized as Big Horn County School District No. 3 teacher of the year.  Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill made the announcement.

Robertson will receive an engraved notebook and crystal apple award in recognition of the honor.

Robertson’s interest in special education was sparked when she was in high school and the counselor scheduled her to be a teacher’s aide for the special education teacher. “The special education teacher had me work with students doing different things and I fell in love with it,” she recalls.

An educator since 1984 (starting in Niobrara County), she said “I am inspired by the challenge of finding or creating ways for students to learn; and I love being around high school students.”

Robertson said each student comes to the classroom with a different learning style. “My job is to inspire them by finding the way they will learn and succeed no matter the subject. By the time some of them get to high school they can come with a long line of failure. It is always a challenge, but one that is so worth the struggle.”

Robertson said she knows when she is successful with the students. “When they tell you that you have made something make sense, that you changed how they see themselves, that you really listened and cared, or they thank you for the time you spent with them. That is real and it means the most to me.”

Earning teacher of the year honors, Robertson said, is the “ultimate pat on the back from the district. I came to this job four years ago with a vision of what I wanted my program to look like. I have had the full support of my paraprofessionals, the staff at the high school and the administration in this vision; my job is never done alone.”

Supt. Barry Bryant said, “Dee is an asset for our students and truly deserves teacher of the year. She relates well to our students and rises to the challenge. Her students are constantly engaged in learning.”

Gary Meredith, who was superintendent at the time of the nomination, said Robertson’s flexibility in working with students “has earned her a reputation as an excellent teacher who truly cares about people.”

Robertson said simply, “It looks like I am headed in the right direction.”

G&F: Hunt Area 19 now closed

Mountain lion Hunt Area 19 closed at 8:40 p.m. on March 16, 2013. The area closed because the harvest limit of 20 mountain lions was reached.

Hunt Area 19 is roughly the northern half of the Big Horn Basin: south of the Wyoming-Montana state line, east of Yellowstone National Park, west of the Big Horn River, and north of the South Fork of Dry Creek including lands contained within the South Fork and North Fork of the Shoshone River drainages.

The hunt area will reopen for the fall season on Sept. 1, 2013.

 

Track team debuts Saturday at home

by nathan oster

For athletes from Greybull and the surrounding area, the opening act of the 2013 track season will play out Saturday when the Buffs host their annual early bird meet, the Bill Gerrard Memorial Invitational.

Action is set to begin at 10 a.m. — weather permitting of course.  And as of Tuesday afternoon, that was a big “if.”  At that time, the National Weather Service website was predicting snow flurries and highs in the 30s.

Coach Jeff Sukut said he’s as eager as anyone to get his first glimpse of his athletes in action.

As he sat down to preview the season earlier this week, Sukut admitted that not even he knows what to expect from this year’s team, which enters the year with only one athlete, McKenna Powers, who qualified for the state meet a season ago.

Powers, a junior, is the team’s most accomplished returnee.  She placed in the top seven in all four of her individual events at the regional meet, then built on that in the state competition in Casper, finishing fifth in the triple jump, fifth in the 800, eighth in the 400 and 15th in the long jump.

This year, Powers will again have something to overcome.  She suffered a concussion midway through the girls’ basketball season and didn’t return. But Sukut said she’s been looking good thus far in practice, returning to the form that she showed in her sophomore season.

“I’m expecting good things from McKenna,” he said, adding that she’ll likely continue on in her specialty events — the 400, 800, triple jump and long jump.  Sukut said he thinks her best events are the 400 and the 800.

The other returnee this year is Kenzie Bollig.  Like Powers, she’s a dual threat, specializing in the sprints (100 and 200) and the triple jump.  Last year as a freshman, she placed 9th in the 200, 12th in the 100 and 15th in the triple jump at the regional meet.

Rounding out the girls team this year are newcomers Brittany Cheatham, a senior; juniors Alex Preis and Anne McBride; sophomores Chai Durfee and Lynae McBride and freshmen Aftin DeRosa, Jessica Dowling, Sydney Eckman, Brittany Fink and Florina Villegas.

Sukut said he’s hopeful of forming 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams from the ranks of those girls.

The boys team has no returning state qualifiers, but several with previous track experience, including senior Dylan Brenner (a sprinter), Wyatt Good and Wyatt Nielson (hurdlers), Logan Jensen (discus) and Calder Forcella (discus and sprints).

“They’re all a year older and a year stronger,” Sukut said of his returnees. “I’m looking for good things from all of them this year.”

Chris Ogg technically falls under the category of “returnee,” but will be shelved this year due to a knee injury he sustained in football.

Kyler Flock, a junior who is in his first year at GHS, also has previous track experience, Sukut said, adding that he looks like a good runner.

The rest of the boys’ roster includes senior Herme Mendez; juniors Paul Stewart (also injured at the present time), Payton Gonzalez, Alex Hebb and Jarrod Johnson; sophomores Keegan Jenness, Gerald Fulkerson, Ryan Sylvester, Daniel Kinsman and Nicky Murdoch; and freshmen Cesar Sosa, Treston Tracy, Jake LaFollette and Kyle Collingwood.

As with the girls, Sukut said he’s hopeful of forming several boys relay teams this season.

“I’m excited about the season,” said Sukut.

As for the Class 2A Northwest Conference, Sukut said there’s no dispute.  Lovell is loaded on both the boys and girls sides and should be among the favorites to capture 2A titles at the state meet in Casper.

“Hopefully we’ll be somewhere in the middle of the pack in the conference,” said Sukut.  “We’ll know more after the rubber meets the road during competition.  It’s early in the season. It will take us a little while to get in shape and get to where we want to be as individuals and as a team.”

Saturday’s meet will give Sukut a good indication of his team’s potential this season.

“We’ll establish some base times and distances, when possible compare them to where kids left off last year, and then start building a good training regimen based on that information,” he said.

The meet should be a small one on Saturday. Lovell, for example, is attending a larger meet in Cody.  But several area teams will join the Buffs in Greybull, including conferences foes Rocky Mountain and Riverside, as well as 1A powerhouse Burlington.