Daily Archives: December 26, 2012
Sen. Ray Peterson has a new assignment in the Wyoming Senate – a chairmanship.
Peterson (R-Cowley), in recent years a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was assigned by Senate leadership to become the new chairman of the Senate Revenue Committee, and he has also been named to the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, the same committee Rep. Elaine Harvey (R-Lovell) is chairing in the House of Representatives.
Incoming President of the Senate Tony Ross of Cheyenne called Peterson to give him the news, and all assignments were announced during a recent GOP caucus in Casper. Phil Nicholas of Laramie is the majority floor leader, and Eli Bebout of Riverton is the vice president of the Senate, as well as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“It’s an interesting committee,” Peterson said of the Revenue Committee. “All of the revenue bills start in the House, and most don’t make it out, so once a backlog exists in the Senate we’ll get to hear all kids of bills.”
Peterson spent last week in Cheyenne for hearings with the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC), and he then sat in on the Labor and Health committee on Thursday and Friday to get a feeling for what his new committee will be handling.
Labor and Health will be busy, he said, sponsoring eight or nine bills this session and dealing with important issues like Medicade expansion and health insurance exchanges.
“We’ll be right in the thick of things,” he said.
Gov. Matt Mead presented his recommendations for the supplemental budget to the JAC on Monday, Dec. 11, and the JAC then began hearings with various state agencies for their supplemental budget requests.
Wyoming is in the middle of the two-year 2012-14 biennial budget that was passed during the 2012 budget session.
Peterson noted that the governor has called for an 8 percent cut in the second year of the biennium due to an anticipated decline in revenue due to continuing low natural gas prices, but he said the execution of the cuts has been “hit and miss.” The University of Wyoming, he said, has been asked to make only a 6 percent cut and has been given under the governor’s recommendation additional revenue for salary increases.
“I was frustrated,” he said. “I told Phil Nicholas that I don’t think we’ve had one agency come in with true 8 percent (cuts). But at least cuts are being made.”
Peterson said the latest Consensus Revenue Estimating Group report was better than anticipated, but not much better. He said spending increased with budget surpluses, and now the legislature is “trying to level that off or even reduce spending and reverse that trend a little bit.”
Among the proposed cuts is a recommendation to close the circuit court in Lovell, and Peterson said he made his pitch to keep the court open, citing the average income of the local population and the distances – 40 miles or more – that people in the north end of the county will have to travel for court or to file paperwork.
“This is just a proposed budget,” Peterson said. “It still has to go through the legislative process.”
Gov. Mead told the JAC last week that he would like the legislature to establish a steady funding source for highway construction and maintenance rather than always going to the general fund as a funding source. He has proposed a 10-cent increase in the fuel tax or diverting a portion of the mineral tax revenue that flows into the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund for highways.
“I’m against the (fuel) tax,” Peterson said. “I’d rather divert some of the flow away from what we’ve been stockpiling to catch up on road maintenance. I agree with the concept (of a steady stream of revenue for the Wyoming Dept. of Transportation), but I’m still not convinced that WyDOT is spending money as effectively and efficiently as it could. I’d like to take a shot at prioritization first, for all agencies.
“I have a hard time with increasing taxes for highways when we’re putting money away in an account for a rainy day. Some people say it’s raining, but it’s not like it was 20 years ago. We’ll see how it comes through the House. I don’t think a tax will survive the House.”
The 2013 session will begin Tuesday, Jan. 8.
by nathan oster
The School Facilities Department (SFD) has hired an architectural firm to conduct capacity studies on six Wyoming school districts, including Big Horn County School District No. 3, where the primary concern continues to be overcrowding in its middle school building.
A special school board meeting was held Dec. 19 to formally kick off the capacity study, and attending either in person or via phone were all seven members of the school board, a team of school administrators and representatives of both MOA Architecture and the SFD.
Troy Decker, a project manager, represented the SFD, while MOA Architecture, the firm that will be doing the capacity studies around the state, was represented by Bill Speck, a project manager, and Jack Mousseau, the firm’s lead architect.
Superintendent Barry Bryant called the meeting a productive one, noting that he believes school officials made inroads in convincing the SFD that overcrowding is an issue in the middle school, and that the SFD’s contention that there is “excess space” in the high school, due in part to the size of the auditorium, was not a feasible argument.
The task facing MOA will be to come up with a number of possible solutions to the overcrowding at GMS. One it has those options, another public meeting will be held. From there it will go to the SFD, which will then decide whether to recommend the project to the School Facilities Commission for approval.
If everything goes well, Bryant said construction could begin within the next two years.
How much of a concern is overcrowding in the school? GMS Principal Scott McBride made the argument that it negatively impacts students and staff.
Enrollment at GMS (which is home to sixth, seventh and eighth grades) has ranged between 120 and 140 during the last four years. On opening day this year, the school’s enrollment was set at ….
A PowerPoint presentation put together by the school district emphasized that, “For students to thrive, they need a learning environment that engages and challenges them to reach their individual potential.”
McBride pointed out that the building has small windows and primarily uses artificial lighting. “Through research, we now know that natural light helps kids feel better,” said McBride.
The staff lounge is too small, he continued. “You can only have a few teachers in there at a time, so most of them are isolated in their rooms most of the day with very little interaction or ability to communicate with other teachers about what’s happening in the school.”
McBride also noted that the building does not have a defined “teacher prep” room; its ceilings are low, which limits the number of banners and signs that can be put up to encourage students or display their good works.
Perhaps the biggest concern, however, is the layout of the building. The hallways are very narrow to begin with — and when lockers are opened, they become even more so, according to McBride.
“Kids struggle to get to their classes on time because of the congestion,” said McBride, adding that teachers routinely play “traffic cop” during the transitions between classes. But with more than 100 kids pouring into the hallways at the same time, not everything gets noticed. McBride said the school office gets a number of complaints from students claiming they were either harassed or bullied between classes.
Eddie Johnson, a school board member who spent many years teaching at GMS, concurred, calling those transition periods “scary times” for kids.
“All of this has an impact on climate — and how kids feel about their school,” said McBride.
McBride emphasized that research has proven that “if you improve the culture and climate, you will improve test scores.” He added, “In spite of the problems with the building, our teachers do an excellent job. But our potential is hindered by this structure, by things we cannot control, such as the size of the hallways and the size of the classrooms.”
The school district’s presentation cited several other concerns as well, including the lack of a media center, inadequate room for special services, and limitations in the way GMS instructors can utilize technology in their instruction of students.
“This is not a new issue,” said Bryant, when McBride’s presentation came to an end. “The district has been leading the charge on this for more than 10 years. If it sounds like we’re frustrated, it’s because we are. Not to point a finger at anyone … but I feel it’s time some of the smaller districts are taken care of in this state.”
Bryant pitched one possible solution to the SFD and MOA representatives, one developed through consultations with the school district’s architect, Jim Bauer.
That plan calls for the construction of a new wing, between the sound end of the high school and the current Greybull Middle School Gym, which would house the grade six through eight classrooms.
Administrative offices, which are currently spread among the bus barn, the high school and in the GMS Gym, could then be consolidated into the current middle school building, which in its current location is centralized on the GHS-GMS campus, increasing efficiency in the process.
The district’s plan calls for a reclaiming of the two classrooms to the rear of the GMS Gym, where there are currently administrative offices for special services and a computer lab. The possibility of turning those rooms into a weight room was discussed.
Under the plan, GMS students would utilize the GHS library, which would featured a section just for middle-school level books.
Bryant urged MOA to “take a hard look” at the practicality of the square footage numbers. For example, by the SFD’s formula, Buff Gym is big enough to hold a class of up to 77 kids — but a class of 77 students with one PE teacher is not feasible.
“That gym was built before the SFD, and we are penalized because the good people of this district spent their hard earned dollars building these things,” said Bryant. “We saved taxpayer money by keeping (the GMS Gym) when the old high school was torn down … but now we’re penalized because for excess square footage.”
In summation, Bryant told the SFD and MOA representatives that the district has looked at all of its options, including varying bell times, but that in the end, it always comes back to the limitations of the building, which was constructed in 1980.
“Please don’t think we haven’t sat and brainstormed about how we can make this better,” said Bryant. “We have already extended the school day by five moneys — to the point where our middle school kids get more in-school time than is required.”
Mousseau said MOA’s mission is to look at “capacity based issues” that are either occurring now or are expected to occur through 2020.
While he didn’t draw any conclusions, Mousseau said the GMS’s primary problem isn’t “capacity” as much as it is “improperly designed infrastructure, such as the hallways.
“You may have enough classroom space, but the corridors don’t support the number of students in those classrooms,” which makes for “a horrible situation for those poor kids, in every way that you folks described.”
Mousseau said the capacity study would be an analysis of the entire 6-12 campus and how to best utilize the available space and that he expects that it will be completed by no later than March 2013. It could then head to the SFC by as early as the following month.
At one point, someone suggested moving the sixth grade back to the elementary school. Bryant scoffed at that idea, saying, “Good luck with that one. There is no space there.”
Mousseau concurred. “I don’t see that as an issue either.”
Another suggestion from the audience involved a greater mixing of GMS and GHS students, but Bryant said that, too, would be problematic. “The school board has more say than I do, but I do not want to have a 6 through 12 school,” he said. “We have a middle school for a reason — because it’s more conducive and better for our kids.”
While the district proposal does call for the GMS building to be adjacent to GHS, Bryant emphasized that it would have its own entrance.
Johnson echoed Bryant, saying that from day one in this discussion, “We haven’t wanted a 6-12 school. Middle school kids have very specific needs for getting them ready to go over to the high school.”
The other school districts that are getting capacity studies at this time are all located in large districts in the counties of Park, Campbell, Natrona, Laramie and Fremont.
Feb. 21, 1959 – Dec. 11, 2012
Memorial services for Greg Nordlund of Cody were held Dec. 15 at the Little White Church in Malta, Mont. Greg, 53, died Dec. 11 at his home in Cody.
He was born Feb. 21, 1959, in San Francisco, the son of Jerry and Donita Nordlund. He was raised and received his education in Dodson, Mont. He lived in several places around the country. His final residence was in Cody where he owned and operated Midstate Siding and Construction Co.
Greg loved to sing, golf, fish, race cars and do woodworking projects, but most of all he loved spending time with his family. He had a great sense of humor and could discuss anything under the sun.
He was married to Stephanie Schwartz Nordlund.
He is survived by his wife; three sons and a daughter-in-law, Douglas Nordlund of Great Falls, Mont., Keith and Brittney Nordlund of Sidney, Mont., and Gregory Robert; his parents, Jerry and Donita Nordlund of Malta, Mont.; three sisters, Kim Geer of Seattle, Rita Nordlund of Harlem, Mont., and Lisa Day of Mesa, Ariz.; one brother, Larry Nordlund of Lewistown, Mont.; and three grandchildren.
A memorial gathering for Michael J. Walton of Billings, formerly of Greybull, will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Dec. 28 at the Holiday Inn in Billings. Michael, 67, died Dec. 20, 2012.
Survivors include his sons Jon, Brady and Andy, and sisters Betty and Julia.
Mike was preceded in death by his wife, Chiquita (Pearce) Walton, his parents Clarence and Anna Walton and brothers Anthony and Robert.
by marlys good
The Greybull Lady Buffs outscored the Burlington Huskies in both the second and fourth quarters and won the non-conference match up 45-36 in Buff Gym Tuesday night.
Ceirra Carlson had the hot hand and scored a season high 22 points to lead the offensive charge.
After what Hunt called a “dry spell” in the third period, the Buffs scored 20 points in the last eight minutes, including 10 for 12 from the stripe. “Free throws were a big factor for us,” Coach Jeff Hunt pointed out. “The girls worked hard and finished strong.”
With three varsity players (McKenna Powers, Jordan Kraft and Nevin Brown) out with injuries, other players had to step in, and they did a great job of that. “All the girls who played contributed a lot. The girls played really well,” said Hunt.
After a few days break over the holiday, the Buffs will hit the practice court next week. They need all the practices they can get in to get fine-tuned for the 2013 portion of the season. They come back on Friday, Jan. 4 to play Lovell, one of the 2A’s top-ranked teams. The game is on the Bulldogs’ home court. Game times are 4 and 5:30 p.m.
They’ll get another look at Burlington Saturday, Jan. 5. This time the Huskies have home-court advantage so anything can happen.
Greybull 8 11 6 20 – 45
Burlington 10 6 5 15 – 36
GREYBULL — Michaela Denniston 2 4-4 8, Ceirra Carlson 9 3-4 22, Biri Gallegos 0 1-2 1, Brett Stephens 2 2-3 6, Karlina McIntosh 1 1-1 4, Sarah Bockman 2 0-0 4. Totals 16 11-15 45.
3-POINT GOALS — Carlson, McIntosh. REBOUNDS — 21 (Carlson 5, Gallegos 4). STEALS — 16 (Denniston 6). ASSISTS — 9. TURNOVERS — 21.
by nathan oster
If the first nine games weren’t enough of a measuring stick, the 10th certainly was.
In Class 1A’s top ranked Burlington Huskies, the Greybull Buffs may have faced their toughest opponent to date. While it will go down on the ledger as a 72-57 loss, Coach Jim Prather saw enough good things to be encouraged about his team’s chances when play resumes in January.
“No shame in losing to that team,” said Prather. “In fact, I told their coach after the game that in the 14 years I’ve been here, that’s one of the best Burlington teams I’ve seen — and they’ve had some really good ones over the years.
“They just have the total package. We knew that. They have size, exceptional athletes in the post and on the perimeter, plus guys who can shoot it. They’re just a well rounded team that is taking care of business.”
Being a non-conference game, Prather said he approached it from the standpoint of “wanting to work on things that would make us better in the long run.”
One of those things was a “high pressure press” that Prather rolled out early in the second quarter. After one, it had been a one-point game, at 12-11. “We played at the tempo we wanted in the first quarter and we were able to handle the pressure they applied defense, get the ball to the spots we wanted, and get good shots,” Prather said.
But when the Buffs rolled out the press in the second quarter, “Burlington figured it out pretty quickly and took control of the game. We weren’t able to stop the basketball. McNiven got loose for five straight baskets, which pushed their lead to 11 or 12,” said Prather.
The half ended on a demoralizing play — and with the Huskies in front 37-23.
Burlington stretched its lead to 27 at the end of three, 59-32, before the Buffs rallied in the fourth quarter to close the gap to 15 at the final buzzer.
“We made a few baskets in the second half,” said Prather. “One positive was that we were able to compete against a really good basketball team. Burlington could play In 1A, 2A, and maybe even 3A and compete for the conference championship.”
The Huskies put five players in double figures, with Davidson leading the way with 18 and McNiven following with 16. Preston Wardell, usually a big contributor for the Huskies, did not play.
The Buffs got a big game from Payton Gonzalez, who was 6 of 11 from the field en route to an 18-point performance. Wyatt Good sank a pair of threes and missed only three shots all night, finishing with 12. Freshman Treston Tracy also had a hot hand, connecting for 12 on 5 of 7 shooting from the field.
Prather said he believes the game will prepare his team for its first test after the holidays, a conference game against defending Northwest Conference champion Lovell. While the Buffs have played some good basketball, they have not won since the Big Horn Basin Shootout and will begin play in 2013 with a 4-6 record.
Prather isn’t worried.
“We finished the Burlington game playing well, especially in the second half,” said Prather. “We kept our turnovers down. We ended up shooting a good percentage from the field (49 percent), and for us, being able to make baskets consistently is always going to be a concern. To be able to do that against a team like Burlington was nice to see. Plus our free throw shooting is coming along…and our younger kids have gotten some valuable experience. I feel good about where we are as a team.”
Burlington 13 24 22 13 – 72
Greybull 12 11 9 25 – 57
BURLINGTON – Christiansen 3 0-0 6, Davidson 5 0-0 10, McNiven 8 0-3 16, Wardell 4 0-0 10, N. Carrizales 4 2-2 12, Davidson 8 2-3 18. Totals 32 4-8 72.
GREYBULL – Payton Gonzalez 6 5-6 18, Calder Forcella 2 0-0 5, Wyatt Good 5 0-0 12, Quinton Haley 0 1-2 1, Ryan Sylvester 1 1-2 3, Paul Stewart 2 0-2 4, Fabian Davila 1 0-0 2, Treston Tracy 5 2-3 12. Totals 22-45 9-15 57.
3-POINT GOALS – Wardell 2, N. Carrizales 2; Good 2, Forcella, Gonzalez. REBOUNDS – Greybull 27 (Stewart 8). STEALS – Greybull 9 (Forcella 3). ASSISTS – Greybull 15 (Sylvester 4). TURNOVERS – Greybull 24.