Monthly Archives: August 2013

Robert M. “Swede” Christensen

OBIT ChristensenOct. 8, 1932 – Aug. 5, 2013

Funeral services for Robert M. “Swede” Christensen will be held at a later date. “Swede” died Aug. 5 at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper after a brief illness.

He was born Oct. 8, 1932, in Greybull, the son of Christian Hall and Florence Doughty Christensen. He grew up and received his education in Greybull and graduated from Greybull High School.

He married Carol Kitzerow July 17, 1956, in Billings, Mont.

Mr. Christensen worked as a control room operator at Pacific Power and Light for over 35 years.

He enjoyed gardening, carpentry and was an all-around lover of nature.

His son, Robert “Bobby” Christensen; father Christian Hall Christensen; mother Florence Doughty Christensen; brother Charles Fells; sister-in-law Bee Fells; sister-in-law Joyce Christensen; father and mother-in-law, one niece and his brother-in-law preceded him in death.

He is survived by his wife Carol of Glenrock; two daughters and sons-in-law, Jeff and Karla Samona of Spearfish, S.D.. and Tim and Lisa Wiederrich of Sturgis, S.D.; sister Christina Bush of Yerrington, Nev., brother, Christian “Jay” Christensen of Sierra Vista, Ariz., sister and brother-in-law, Patricia and Clarence Hall of Worland, brother-in-law and his wife, Sheldon and Marjorie Kitzerow of Sun City, Calif.; one grandson and two granddaughters.

Donations in Mr. Christensen’s name may be given to a charity of your choice.

 

Locals among Midway Open winners

by nathan oster

Golfers from Greybull, Worland and Powell were the big winners in last weekend’s Midway Open.

The annual tournament is a three-man best ball event with scores counted from gross and net for part of the tournament and net and net for the other part of the tournament.

“It’s a tournament within a tournament,” said Eddie Johnson, the club president.

Thirty golfers teed off Saturday morning, and when it was over, a familiar pair was on top.  Scott McColloch and his son Michael McColloch, winners of last month’s Security Invitational, added the Midway Open title to their collections.  The two Greybull golfers teamed with Jordan McKamey of Worland to take the gross-net side of the tournament.

Finishing in second was the team of West Hernandez, Wade Hernandez and Shawn Warner, all of Powell.

In the net-net, Aaron Grosch, Andy Anderson and Jacob Craft of Worland placed first followed by the team of Lonnie Koch, Dave Walton and Frank Kelly, all of Greybull.

Several other games were played in conjunction with the tournament.

In the derby, where local golfers are paired with guests and a team is eliminated on every hole until only one is left, Aaron Grosch and Tyler Craft took first, followed by West Hernandez of Powell and Mike Greear of Worland, who were second, and Ryan Tobin and Dave Walton, who were third.

Michael McColloch was the Long Drive winner both days.

In the Closest to the Pin contest, Lonnie Koch emerged victorious on Saturday and Ryan Tobin on Sunday.  West Hernandez was Closest to the Line both days.

“The crew at the golf course worked extremely hard getting the course ready for the golf tournament,” said Johnson. “Lonnie Koch, Bob Fink, Jim Ryles and Carl Olson spent a lot of extra hours working the outside.  The golf course was in great shape and played well over the weekend.”

Johnson also credited the ladies inside the clubhouse for all their efforts and the Basin City Arts Center for providing the meal, which he described as “one of the best we have had out there in a long time.

“I really appreciate all the hard work that everyone did to make this tournament successful.”

There are only a few events left on the 2013 golf calendar, including a twi-night game on Aug. 30, the Midway club championship in September, the Eagles one-man scramble in September and the annual meeting scramble in October.

“The golfing is great, the course is in great shape and there is still plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the summer.  Come on out and have some fun at Midway Golf Club.”

Brimley ‘proud’ of HATS legacy

by nathan oster

Greybull’s most recognizable resident says he is proud of what has been accomplished in the past five years by the Hands Across the Saddle organization, which he helped to establish shortly after arriving in town.

Wilford Brimley has appeared in movies and on TV and as a pitchman for both Quaker Oats and Liberty Medical. But if you ask him, he might just tell you he’s every bit as proud of the charities he helped launch — organizations like Hands Across the Saddle, which will hold its fifth annual banquet on Saturday, Aug. 17 at the Herb Asp Community Center.

“I’m of the opinion that this little town has raised close to a half a million dollars and benefitted over 200 families just in the last five years,” he said.  “I am very proud of this community and the people who have participated in this event thus far.”

Brimley is adamant about one point: HATS isn’t about him or his wife Beverly.

“My wife and I both have a belief that we are charged with a responsibility to leave things a little better than we find them, which was the original and sole purpose of starting this charity,” he said. “We became aware there were people in this community who need a little help now and again — and they should be entitled to get it without sacrificing their dignity or going through a lot of nonsense.

“This charity has done some wonderful things,” he continued. “A man was on his death bed and he needed his tooth out. He was in pain. (HATS) paid for it.

“Just the other day, I answered the phone and a lady was asking if the charity would be able to help her with her medical expenses.  I said, ‘Well I certainly hope it can … because that’s what they’re there for.’  Now obviously, there’s a limit to what (HATS) can do.  It cannot solve anyone’s medical crisis.  But it can make the pain a little easier by providing a motel room, gas money, or something along those lines, when people get in a pinch.”

Brimley said another thing folks need to know about HATS is that the organization never has a difficult time getting well-known acts to participate.  This year, Baxter Black will be making his second appearance at a HATS event.  Last year, Riders in the Sky entertained.

“Each and every year, someone has come here to entertain on a volunteer basis, with no pay other than the applause and love of the audience,” he said. “The first time we did this, out in Shell, my friend Red Steagal made a comment that I’ve never forgotten. In the middle of the performance, he was moved to say, ‘To those who think our nation is going to hell in a handbasket, you should be in Shell, Wyoming tonight.’  I couldn’t agree more.  Each of those subsequent event nights, and in the bronc riding I did put on for three or four years, the support of the community has been magnificent. Heck, Baxter Black asked if he could come back.

“If you stop and think, how many charities do you know that are totally self supporting, in that nobody gets paid anything? Every dome that is donated finds its way to people who truly need the money.”

For that, Brimley said he’s eternally grateful.

“There are people in this town who pitched in, put their shoulder up against the wheel and pushed this deal through the mud and mire and made it fly.  Everybody knows who they are. They know who they are.”

 

Current controversy

Without any prompting, Brimley said he wanted to comment on the recent arrests of Myles Foley and Lori Davis, owners of the Historic Hotel Greybull.  Brimley said he has been following the developments closely and is disturbed by some of the things he’s seen.

Brimley said Foley and Davis have demonstrated the same desire to “leave things better than they’ve found them,” pointing to the improvements they’ve made to the hotel, including the launch of Mylo’s Coffee Shop and The Speakeasy.

“He and his partner are trying to leave things better than they found them,” he said. “Now I don’t know the facts of his situation. I’m not a lawyer. But I’d like to hope that if the police had it to do over again, they would rethink some of their practices.”

He said his comments could also be extended to the county attorney who requested the arrest warrants and the judge who signed off on them. “Before you go into a place like that at lunchtime and put those people in handcuffs, I’d hope they would all rethink that before they did it again.”

Brimley said he’d “leave it for the courts to decide” the guilt or innocence of Foley and Davis.

“I would just hope that there’s the same treatment for everybody in this city and for everybody who comes to this city, does something, or commits a misdemeanor or is misunderstood,” Brimley said. “If they need to be handcuffed, let’s do that. But if something can instead by decided with a citation or a conversation, it should be.”

Brimley’s final thought on the matter referenced people “being scared to death of repercussions” if they stepped forward to support Davis and Foley. “I don’t know who they are and I don’t care, but I would hope that we don’t live in a society where we have to be afraid of those we have hired to protect and serve us.  If those people are afraid of repercussions for stating their opinion, something’s wrong with that picture.”

 

HATS future

Brimley said he has grown to love the community and “this part of the world,” but that all good things eventually end.  He said the time is coming when he and his wife will “sell out and leave here,” but that he doesn’t know when that will happen.

Until then, he’ll continue to be involved in HATS.  Whether he’s here or elsewhere, he has no doubt that HATS will go on.  “I think it’s to a point now where (HATS) has its own wings, its own feet beneath it, to where it will carry itself.

“I’m very proud of the fact, though, that this one of the footprints that we will leave.”

A similar organization that Brimley helped establish in Oklahoma continues to thrive in his absence.

“This isn’t about us,” he emphasized. “It’s an opportunity for people who’ve been somewhat fortunate to return that good fortune to their community.  That’s what it’s all about.”

Otherwise, Brimley said he’s doing well and enjoying life.  He doesn’t have any movie or TV projects in the pipeline, either. “I don’t have any interest in that anymore,” he said. “I did it already.

“Besides, I keep myself fairly busy doing one thing or another.”

 

Averages climb in annual livestock sale

by nathan oster

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.

Schlattmann also pointed out that with “at least another $9,000” as her reporting time of Monday afternoon, it’s looking like, “We are going to have quite a bit more money in ‘add-ons’ compared to last year.”

Averages climbed across the board.

The 20 steers that sold brought an average of $2.86 per pound, up from $2.72 last year.  The top seller in the beef category was owned by Kade Gifford, whose steer brought $5,227.50 and went to Lovell Drug/Cody Country Stores.

Turning to goats, the six that sold brought an average of $11.08 per pound.  Dusty Miller had the top seller, as Greybull River Feeds paid $1,750 for her goat.

The 57 lambs that sold brought an average of $7.25 per pound, up from $6.85 last year.  The top-selling lamb, belonging to Ammon Bullinger, brought $1,400 and went to Basin Pharmacy.

The sale prices in the hog category were up as well.  The 47 hogs that sold brought an average of $4.91 per pound, up from 4.30 last year.  Will Dalin had the top seller, a hog that brought $2,070. Security State Bank was the purchaser of that steer.

 

Rudd wants to help veterans

by marlys good

Chris Rudd started his job as a veteran’s advocate on July 1 and he’s trying to get word out to the 1,118 veterans within Big Horn County about the Veterans Outreach and Advocacy Program because he would “like the opportunity to assist as many as possible.”

Rudd, who covers the northern region of Wyoming, (Anna Ornelaz covers the southeast and Ronda Lee the southwest) saw the job listing online, applied, and is contracted through the Wyoming Department of Health’s Behavioral Health Division. He works out of his home in Greybull.

Rudd explains that his job is to connect service members, veterans and their family members with resources that will help improve their quality of life. “I have the ability to visit veterans seeking assistance in their own community,” he said. “Our primary focus is post 9/11 veterans who may be facing problems with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), other mental health problems and/or substance abuse.

“We can also connect veterans to resources that will help them deal with many other issues related to deployments such as combat operational stress, difficulty communicating with a spouse and children, anxiety, employment, underemployment or housing concerns, feelings of detachment, financial hardship, sexual trauma and any other issues that stand in the way of happiness.”  Rudd said there are also quality-of-life funds set aside to help post 9/11 veterans who are currently in treatment.

Rudd, a 1997 graduate of Greybull High School, is currently a member of the Wyoming Army National Guard. He enlisted in December 1998 and was called to active duty shortly after 9/11 to do airport security and force protection.

He was deployed overseas from 2004-05 where the guard provided residential security for the top five officials of the Iraqi interim government, and again in 2009-2010 as a convoy commander doing escort missions between Kuwait and Iraq.

His son Garret, now 9 years old, was born while Rudd was serving his first deployment so he missed the first 10 months of his life and missed another year during his second deployment.

“I know all too well some of the stresses that veterans go through,” he said “I encourage them to contact me or one of the veteran’s advocates in their region of the state, so they can assist them in finding the resources to improve their quality of life. Confidentiality is of the upmost importance to us.

Rudd said, “I had no idea that someday I would go into social work, but I enjoy it. I love the job.”

Rudd, the son of Dana and Sheila Rudd of Greybull, can be contacted by calling (307) 202-0482.

 

Harry Allen Dooley

Sept. 6, 1964 – July 31, 2013

A graveside memorial service for Harry Allen Dooley of Basin will be held at the Burlington Cemetery Saturday, Aug. 17 at 10 a.m.  Harry, 48, died July 31 at St. Vincent Healthcare Hospital in Billings.

He was born Sept. 6, 1964, in Worland, the son of Russell and Beverly Allen Dooley. He grew up in the Big Horn Basin area and graduated from Greybull High School.

He married Jennifer Elizabeth Lowe Feb. 18, 1988, in Greybull.

Until his health deteriorated, Harry enjoyed farming, working on vehicles and riding horses. He loved camping, fishing and hunting. His most cherished times were those spent playing with his granddaughters; watching them grow brought a smile to is face.

His wife Jennifer Dooley on April 29, 2011, a niece, and his paternal and maternal grandparents preceded him in death.

He is survived by his son, Michael Dooley and daughter Elizabeth Dooley, both of Basin; his parents Russell and Beverly Dooley of Burlington; two brothers, Bruce Dooley of Maui, Hawaii, and Paul Dooley of Riverton; his sister, Stephanie Pharmer of Maui, and two granddaughters, Autumn and Cassy Lewis of Basin.

 

 

Leland Clyde Cathcart

OBIT CathcartDec. 3, 1943 – Aug. 4, 2013

Funeral services for Leland Clyde Cathcart will be held today (Thursday, Aug. 8) at Viegut Funeral Home in Loveland, Colo. “Lee,” 69, died Aug. 4 in Colorado after an extended illness.

He was born Dec. 3, 1943, in Basin, the son of Wendell and Ora Taylor Cathcart. He graduated from Greybull High School as an honor student in 1962. He enjoyed all sports, excelled in football and was the co-captain of Greybull’s state championship football team.

He worked in management in the oil field service industry in Casper, Houston, Texas and Farmington, N.M., for 30 years.

He grew up fishing with his three brothers and fishing continued to be one of his passions for the rest of his life.

Lee was a loving and dedicated husband, father and grandfather. One of his most unique traits was a tendency to antagonize, in the most loving manner, all those he knew. He was full of life and took advantage of every opportunity given to him — from church ministry, to traveling, to family life, to traversing the great outdoors.

He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Cheryl; two daughters, Cindy Price of Cape May, N.M., and Audra Bernal of Fort Collins; three brothers, Fred Cathcart of Denver, Ron Cathcart of Austin, Texas, and Randy Cathcart of Springfield, Mo.; and four grandchildren.

 

Keisel the foreman of line-building project in Steel City

by dale grdnic

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.”

With a foreman like Keisel, the Steelers very well could build into a championship team, but they appear to be under the radar at the moment. Division rivals Baltimore and Cincinnati, the defending Super Bowl champion and playoff team, respectively, are favored. And perennial doormat Cleveland is expected to be on the rise. Where does that leave the Steelers?

“People can say what they want and believe what they want, but we know what we have in this locker room,” Keisel said. “We feel that we have the team and the talent to get back on top, but our first goal is to win the division. Good things happen when we do that, so we’re building toward that.”

With four new starters on offense, three on defense and youth everywhere on the depth chart, Keisel knows that the Steelers have a lot to prove

“The biggest thing we need is our young guys have to step up and seize this moment,” Keisel said. “Training camp is hard, especially for the young guys, because they’re taking most of the reps. They’re the ones the coaches want to see. That should show how well they can do.

“Either they’ll be able to do it, or they won’t be able to cut it. But I’m excited to watch them and see the strong ones rise up and do things to help us win games. I feel like we’re going to be tough this season, but there are still a lot of question marks right now.”

Keisel was given a couple days off during the middle of last week, which he described as “maintenance days,” but he appears to be practicing as hard as ever. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has ramped up the daily workouts with more hitting than ever during his seventh camp, and everyone has responded.

“Big brother Keisel can still get it done,” fellow defensive end Ziggy Hood said. “We look to him for guidance on and off the field. He still has a lot of energy and can still play at a high level in this league.”

How long that can continue should be addressed by Keisel and the Steelers at the end of this season, which is the last under his current contract. Keisel signed a five-year, $18.885 million agreement with a $5 million signing bonus before the 2009 season. He is scheduled to make $2.825 million this season and will become a free agent in 2014. There has been no talk yet about an extension.

“You know, I just want to go out and enjoy this year,” Keisel said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen with everything, but this is the last year on my contract. So, I’m going to go out and give it my all and have fun and see what happens. … I enjoy camp, and I enjoy being up here with the guys. I like going out and competing and proving to myself that I can still get the job done.

“As long as my coaches and teammates feel like I can do it and I feel the same, then, let’s do it. (And) if it is the end, I want to go out on top. (But) I want to go out on top even if it’s not the end. With 12 seasons in the NFL, that’s pretty good, especially with a great organization like the Pittsburgh Steelers. We’ve brought a couple trophies home, but we want to bring back another one.”

And with veterans like Keisel leading the way, there’s no telling how far the Steelers can go this season.

 

(Dale Grdnic is a freelance writer in Pittsburgh who writes occasional stories on Greybull native Brett Keisel and the Steelers.)

 

 

 

Variety of music styles on fair’s free stage

by barbara anne greene

Acts from around the Big Horn Basin will be on the free stage this week at the Big Horn County Fair in Basin.

Sister act The Whitlocks from Cody are a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll. Sister’s Cammy and Abbey have been singing together since they were 3 and 4. They sing their own style of current county pop, oldies and original compositions. They perform Thursday at noon and 3:45 p.m.

From Lovell, Macy and Miranda May will bring their unique sister harmony playing a lot of good ole county music with some classic rock thrown in. The sisters have been playing together all their lives. They perform Thursday at 1:45 p.m.

Mason Werbelow, 13, of Emblem and Olivia Frost, 11, of Cowley,  are another local group that will be featured on the free stage at 1 p.m. Thursday. Werbelow is a young master on the guitar and typically plays backup while partner Olivia Frost provides the vocals for the duo. For this performance he will also sing while Frost plays background for him.

Real cowboy music fans will enjoy Leslie Keltner of Cody, who is on the stage at 2:45 p.m. Thursday. Keltner said that cowboy music is rooted in the West, cattle, horses, family, land and good old values. “You won’t find any drunks, fights, loosing your dog or your mama going to prison in this music,” she said. For good measure you’ll hear a little bit of honky-tonk. She will also be performing some original music.

Audiences will once again enjoy the bluegrass sounds of Prairie Grass out of Thermopolis featuring  Karen Hitchens, lead vocals; Jed Jacobsen, mandolin; Zieb Stetler, banjo and dobro; Joan Stetler, bass and harmony; Tori Anderson, vocals and mandolin; and Glenda Ramsey, lead guitar and vocals.  Prairie Grass performs at noon and 3 p.m. on Friday and 1:15 and 4:30 p.m.. on Saturday.

The Blues Trio of Solider Springs features a drum, bass and guitar. Lucas Kurbeck said their music is comparable to The Black Keys band but with rock and roll influence. They are a ministry of sound, saying “If you don’t like it, we can’t play it.”   They perform at 1 and 4 p.m. Friday.

The band Heaven Bound plays just the kind of music the name implies — gospel. Keyboards, violin, mandolin and guitars backup these heavenly voices.  Heaven Bound performs at 2 p.m. Friday and 2:15 p.m. Saturday.

Ed Capen will be “hosting” an acoustical jam session at 11 a.m. Saturday. Everyone is invited to join in as they play bluegrass and country music. String instruments, harmonicas, jugs and combs are welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

GPD budget scrutinized

by nathan oster

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.

Councilman Ross Jorgensen, who serves as the police commissioner, announced at the outset that the scope of the work session would be limited to a proposal to switch from a five-man police department to a four-man department.

Discussion about recent events in Greybull — and in particular, the arrest of Councilman Myles Foley and his girlfriend/business partner Lori Davis by members of the GPD, who were carrying out an arrest warrant — was ruled off limits.

With the exception of only a few vague references, council members and other attendees stuck to those ground rules throughout the 90-minute session, which began with presentations by Greybull Police Chief Bill Brenner and Administrator/Finance Director Paul Thur.

Citing information gleaned from citydata.com, Brenner pointed out that while the town’s population has grown by 1.8 percent since 2000, its crime rate has actually dropped.  The U.S. average is 319.1.  In 2001 and 2002, it was 225 and 261.1. In 2008, it was 125.5.  It surged to 190.7 in 2009 before dropping again in 2010 to 161.7.

Brenner also noted that with five officers, the town is right in line with a 2010 Bureau of Justice Statistics report, which was based on 2007 data and which showed an average of 2.7 officer per 1,000 in towns with populations between 1,000 and 2,499.

The U.S. average, according to citydata.com, is 3.0 officers per 1,000 people.

Brenner then transitioned to providing historical background, reminding the council that the GPD was “facing lack of administration, turnover and corruption” before the policing of the town was turned over to the sheriff’s department in 2004.

Since it was re-established in 2007, the GPD has become, in Brenner’s words, “a strong law enforcement agency with good leadership, well-trained officers and more resources than it has ever had.”

The town’s budget for the current fiscal year is $545,500, which includes $23,000 for animal control, something which in the past fell under the umbrella of the public works.  Even at $545,500, the GPD’s budget is “comparable to towns our size,” Brenner said, adding that it has only “fluctuated minimally” in the last six years.

Brenner said it would be unwise to trim an officer because the town would still need 24-hour coverage, his position would become non-exempt (meaning he’d no longer be salaried, but rather on an hourly wage).

In addition, he noted that administration would suffer due to the increased workload, citizens would get inadequate service, the GPD would become reactive instead of proactive in terms of dealing with crime, officers would burn out and liability issues would result if officers are asked to work too many hours.

Brenner cited among his department’s accomplishments a good reputation, high standards and a track record of “ridding the community of gangs, drugs, domestic violence, drunk drivers and pedophiles.”

He said most people in town probably didn’t realize that at one time, 14 members of the street gang, Fresno Bulldogs, lived in Greybull.  The majority of them, including a couple of locals, are now behind bars. Brenner said fewer people are driving drunk, too. In 2008, the first year back for the GPD, there were “between 32 and 37 drunk driving arrests.”  Last year, there were only nine.

After noting changes in law enforcement, Brenner moved into legal guidelines, and in particular, the Fair Labor Standards Act.  One of the key provisions is that officers cannot be “on call” and restricted in their personal lives without being paid.

“You have to pay them their hourly wage…you can’t get around that,” he said.

The GPD is also legally required to pay and reimburse officers for continued training.

Brenner ended his presentation by emphasizing the importance of 24-hour coverage, which he believes is a deterrent to crime.  He said the overnight clerks at the Maverik Country Store, which is open 24/7, are “comforted” by the sight of a police cruiser driving through the parking lot in the middle of the night.

He said response time would impacted if there wasn’t a GPD officer on duty 24/7.  If an officer is asleep, his response time would probably be in the eight- to 15-minute range.  But if he’s awake and on duty, it would be closer to one to three minutes.

“Can Greybull operate on a four-man police department?  Yes.  Can it operate on a one-man department? Yes.  But in both cases, you have to ask, what kind of services are you going to get for that?”

 

The numbers

Thur’s presentation focused entirely on the five-man vs. four-man question and was based on consultations he’d had with Jorgensen, the police commissioner, and Brenner, the police chief.

A four-man department would look much different than the current five-man department.

For one thing, officers would be required to work 10-hour shifts.  Currently, shifts last eight hours. In addition, there would be four hours each day when no officer was on duty, and the police chief would see his “administrative” time cut from the present 32 hours per week to eight. In the 33 weeks when the GPD is fully staffed at four officers, each officer as well as the chief would get 2.5 hours of overtime per week.

But those overtime numbers would shoot up dramatically during the other 19 weeks of the year when the GPD is shorthanded either because an officer is on vacation, away at training or down with an illness. During those weeks, the three remaining officers would be required to put in 12-hour shifts, the number of “no patrol” hours would climb, as would weekly overtime hours (four hours each week for the chief, 10.5 hours for each of the other officers).

When taken together, the annual total would be 1,836 hours of standby time, 646.5 overtime officers for the officers and 158.5 hours of overtime for the chief.  As an administrative and overtime-exempt employee, the chief currently does not get paid for any of his time beyond 40 hours per week.

Thur’s presentation also included a look at how switching to a four-man department would impact the compensation for the department’s full-time employees.  Currently there are six, including the clerk, whose total salary is $35,172.

The chief, who currently doesn’t get overtime or standby/on-call pay, makes a total salary of $52,643.  The sergeant, who does, earns a salary of $46,244.  The three remaining officers, who also get paid for overtime and standby/on-call hours logged, earn salaries ranging from $40,934 to $41,983.

Their total compensation packages, however, are much higher when benefits are considered.  For the current fiscal year, the chief’s package is $79,326, the sergeants is $64,427, the three officers come in at $63,187, $62,846 and $57,832, and the clerk’s is $50,680.

The bottom line figure for the GPD, as it’s currently constituted, is $388,400 for FY 14.

According to Thur’s presentation, the town would save only about $5,000 in salaries and benefits if one officer would be trimmed from the force. That’s because the remaining officers would make considerably more due to overtime and standby/on-call pay.

Over the course of a year as a four-man department, the chief would be required to log 150 hours of overtime, the officers 645 hours of overtime and everyone 1,836 hours of standby time, for a grand total of 2,631 hours.

The result would be significant boosts in pay for all the officers.  The chief’s total compensation package would climb to $100,770, the sergeant’s to $77,333, and the officers to $74,988 and $69,339. The clerk’s would remain the same, at $50,680.

Looking at the big picture, the town would pay out more in salaries and wages but less in benefits if the GPD was cut from five officers to four.  The difference between the two would be around $5,200 to the “savings” side.  The town could also expect other line items in its budget to fall as well, if one officer would be trimmed. When things were factored in, the total savings came to $10,660.

 

Discussion

When the floor was turned over to the public, no one voiced support for the four-man force.

Rod Collingwood, who filed for town council last year and applied to fill the vacancy left by Bob Graham, said the town might save $10,000, but that it would lose money overall if the officer whose position is cut moves away, taking with him money that would be spent in the community.

“When you’re talking about losing a household, it’s something like 48 percent of their income (which would be spent in the local economy) that goes too,” he said.  “I fail to see how this would pan out money-wise for the city.”

Some in attendance stated that requiring officers to work additional overtime hours would eventually lead to burnout and a higher turnover rate, which in turn would require the town to hire and train additional officers.

Brenner estimated that four officers have left the GPD since 2007.  One was terminated, three resigned.  In all four cases, the GPD had to pay for their replacements to go through the police academy.

Jan Johnson, who left the council in December, admitted that she was “one of the culprits” who created the five-man force. “When we had a four-man department, I was on Bill all the time about overtime … and that was because the town was on me all the time about overtime.

“Trust me, you wouldn’t be saving money going to a four.  Overtime would eat you alive.”

Brenner said he and the other officers would personally make more if a position was cut, but that it “its not about me, it’s about what’s best for the community.”

Councilman Bob McGuire said he has been, and will continue to be a proponent of the five-man department.  Now a sheriff’s deputy, he was once a member of a four-man GPD in the early 1980s.

The police chief at that time, around 1984, “was working to get a five-man department” he said. “So I’ve worked on both sides of the equation and the five-man department does make a huge difference.  I know what it’s like when there are only three of you, and what it’s like when there are only two of you.”

McGuire said he’s always be a proponent of the five-man department.

Kay Fleek, like Johnson a former member of the council, said in visiting with people on the street and who come into her salon, she has found universal support for the idea of keeping a five-man department.

“I visited with EMTs who talked about how much they appreciate having officers get (to the scene) first,” she said. Her older clientele doesn’t care as much about the $8,000 to $10,000 in savings. “They want to know an officer is out there in case they  need to go to the hospital.  For their own safety and how they feel about life, they very much want to have officers on duty 24 hours.”

Mike Laird, a member of the Greybull EMT team, and Mike Cowan, of the Atwood service, echoed those sentiments.

“I tell you there are some houses in this town we (as EMTs) don’t want to go into unless there is law enforcement present,” said Laird. “We don’t even want to attempt it.”

Laird said police officers also help ambulance workers at the scene, noting there are times when the EMTs wouldn’t have been able to help overweight people back to his or her feet by themselves.

Added Cowan, “The officer is there to protect us.  Several times we’ve had people come at us, saying they don’t want us to take their loved ones away. … Often times, the only thing standing between us and being hurt is having the officers there.”

Other members of the audience who expressed similar sentiments in support of the current five-man force included Officer Greg Hess, Animal Control Officer Doug Youngerman, Ron Fiene, Lori Collingwood, Lindsay Casey and former Mayor Frank Houk, who said, “Five is a little expensive, but it isn’t worth the difference” if the force is trimmed to four.

Several in the audience also questioned why the GPD’s budget was being so closely scrutinized, when those of other departments were not.  Jorgensen said the workshop was “just the start,” and that each department’s budget would be reviewed in the months ahead. Next up is administration.

Bev Jacobs, who works in the town’s central office, said, “This is the best group of officers we’ve every had,” and that, “Some things in life are not worth $10,000.”   She emphasized their integrity and said that when tragedies have occurred in other parts of the country, people never came away complaining about having too many police officers or firefighters.

 

Council members

Councilmen Myles Foley and Clay Collingwood, who had called for the study of a four-man department, were tight-lipped throughout the discussion.

Foley said the workshop was a good exercise. “I’m glad we’re doing this,” he said. “It provided me with a lot of information, and gave me clarity on some things.”

When approached after the meeting, Collingwood said he planned to spend time digesting what he learned.   “But if all we can save is $10,000, it’s probably not a very good value,” he said.