Monthly Archives: March 2013
by nathan oster
A group of more than two dozen community leaders took a fresh look at some of the town’s most vexing problems during an hour-long “Brainstorming for Community Betterment” session Wednesday at the Herb Asp Community Center.
The Greybull Area Chamber of Commerce called the meeting, hoping to not only get public input on the direction it should go in 2013, but also to create dialogue about what could be done to help the Greybull economy, which lost a couple more downtown businesses during the winter months.
The first question the group tackled was, “How do we attract young people to our community?”
Frank Jorge, who is originally from Cuba and has only lived in south Big Horn County for about 10 months, was the first to offer ideas. For him, the attractive part of living in Wyoming is that, “It is still today what America was like when I first came to the States.”
Jorge said one way to get young people to stay in the community would be by encouraging local businesses to enter into partnerships with high school students in which students would earn credits and/or money while learning a trade that would allow them to enter the workforce immediately after they graduate. Jorge said an arrangement of that kind would in turn help students feel a greater sense of connection to their community.
Barry Bryant, Greybull’s superintendent of schools, said a “school to work program” currently exists, but there are requirements that the students must meet to be considered, including maintaining a solid GPA.
Bryant said students are benefitting from the industrial arts classes taught by Ralph Wensky, a certified welder, and from Microsoft Office classes taught by Mark Sanford. “We are limited what we can offer in terms of community education,” Bryant said. “We have a need for an ag program. We sent 14 students over to Riverside last year, 17 this year. If we had a program in house, that number would probably double.
Jorge said he disagreed with “the GPA requirement,” and Julie Owens, the chamber president, said a student coming out of Wensky’s class could be well positioned for success. “There’s a demand for a welder in town right now,” she said.
Bryant said he understood, but emphasized that the school district’s mission is to make sure students are proficient in reading, writing and arithmetic. “We need to make sure that is accomplished first,” he said.
Ernie Smith, a chamber member, said the town needs a central location to act as a clearinghouse, matching up young people with prospective employers.
Right now, the demand for employment is great. “Right now, we have 100 applications on hand,” said Ron Fiene, owner of Ron’s Food Farm.
Cynthia Johnson, director of South Big Horn Senior Citizens, added that the center recently got 25 applicants for a four-hour, part-time job. “Usually we get just few (applicants),” she said.
Donette XXXXX, said she agreed with Jorge. “It’s hard for kids to get a job,” she said. “If they could get a foot in the door with a local business, maybe work two or three hours a day, it might lead to a summer job.”
“It’s all about graduating with a skill,” reiterated Jorge.
Even so, some doubt young people will stick around. Jean Petty, a trustee on the school board, said a lot of kids, including her own 16-year-old son, don’t even talk about staying. “They don’t feel there are jobs here,” she said.
Cliff Manuel, of the Bighorn Basin Geoscience Center, said it didn’t come as a surprise to him.
“Until we have a comprehensive plan in place to bring more jobs in by bringing more businesses in, it’s not going to happen,” he said. “Those businesses are going to go somewhere else.”
Smith said the problem isn’t finding Greybull, it’s convincing them to come.
“We have at least four to five people inquiring every week to move their business to our location, and some even come and look at what we have available,” he said.
One reason they might not be coming is housing, said Barbara Anne Greene, who formerly served as the county’s economic development director and is currently on the board of both the Basin and Greybull chambers. “We looked into it and found that people wanting to come had more than two kids, they wanted more than one bathroom, and they had a hard time finding what they were looking for,” she said. “And people look for things for their kids to do. It’s not just about hunting and fishing. There has to be things to do. The loss of the pool will be huge for us.”
Terilyn Mayland concurred, saying, “I personally know of three families who are moving out of this area to Powell or Cody so their kids can have opportunities to do year-round activities like swimming. We are losing families because there is nothing for kids to do.”
Mayland added that there were opportunities to work outside of school when she was in high school. One student worked for a bank, another for an attorney. She worked for what was at the time Pizza on the Run.
Cathy Kunkel, the Life Skills teacher at GHS/GMS, said she, too, liked the idea of businesses trying to employ high school students, and said that her students, including Taylor Ballard who accompanied her to the meeting, are “the largest untapped workforce in the country.
“I have students who are willing and able to learn job skills. They may be basic job skills, but they free up employers to do more difficult job tasks. Every job has its components that are tedious or detail oriented, but those are things that my kids can be trained to do.”
Susan Sales said local senior citizens are another untapped resource, noting that they can bring not only skills but a wealth of experience and insight.
The Rev. Becky Anderson, who pastors Greybull’s First Presbyterian Church and the Shell Community Church, said the perception in the community is that Greybull is “unfriendly to new businesses.”
She cited Eleutian Technologies, which looked for a spot in Greybull, didn’t find one and eventually established centers in other Big Horn Basin communities. Greene challenged that assertion and added that most of those satellite centers have since closed. “Still, the perception was that the council was not interested,” said Anderson.
Anderson said Greybull leaders need to be more proactive and go out in search of new businesses rather than waiting for those businesses to approach them.
“And we have to have positive attitudes,” said Manuel. “Most communities that want to bring businesses in have something to offer, such as tax advantages or property. They say, ‘We’ll give you these advantages, now you tell us what you need in terms of support.’ We need to do that.
“I spent 35 years in aerospace manufacturing, most in management positions. I’ll tell you, you need those incentives out there if you want to attract businesses.”
Greene said one problem with offering incentives to new businesses is that existing businesses resent the favoritism. She said a business years ago planned to come to Greybull, but was turned away by “people who didn’t want Greybull to grow or change.”
Sue Taylor of Lovell, Inc., said the health of the town’s existing businesses is crucial, and that they have the potential to market the town better than anyone else. “If I’m interested in moving my business to Greybull, I’m not going to stop at Town Hall or the chamber office. I’m going to go door to door on Main Street and ask, ‘What’s business like in Greybull?’ You have to have a happy base of existing businesses before you can have good success.”
Sue Anderson, director of the Greybull Area Chamber of Commerce, tried to get the group to think about what type of businesses it would like to attract. “It’s a whole shift in thought,” she said. “But what do we want?”
Selena Brown, who sits on the Greybull school board, said she thinks the town could do a better job of tapping into all the tourists who pass through town. “Greybull is located in a fantastic place to tap into tourism,” she said, noting that the Outdoor Channel recently did a series on four-wheeling in the Big Horns.
“We have people dying to get to Yellowstone and they blow right past us, they take their tax dollars and go someplace else,” she said. “Look at Dubois. Not any bigger than us, but that is such a little town.”
In fact, it was recently named one of the best cowboy towns in the West, Brown said. “They have something going on constantly in that town,” she said, adding that businesses stay open late to capture tourist dollars.
Greene said that’s always been a “battle” with local merchants, however. “We’ve pushed that and pushed that,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons Cody is so successful.”
Fiene said his store does half of its business between the hours of 4 and 8 p.m. — and gets more customers on Sundays than any other day of the week. On average, cash registers open about 600 times a day on Sundays, he said.
Fiene and several others in attendance suggested that local businesses would do better if they opened earlier in the morning and stayed open later at night. Prowes said locals would also like the extended hours as well, saying it’s hard for her, working in Basin, to get to Greybull businesses before they close each day.
Taylor offered Lovell, Inc.’s help in putting together a “branding workshop” for Greybull. The workshop would help town leaders narrow their focus and determine how best to market the town, not only to tourists but also for economic development. Lovell recently went through the process and emerged with a strategy to emphasize its mustangs.
One possibility for Greybull, she said, might be something along the lines of “Making Tracks in Greybull,” citing not only the town’s railroad history but also its Red Gulch Dinosaur Tracksite, which is popular among tourists.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Livestock Board are hosting a public meeting Thursday, April 4 at 7 p.m. at the Greybull Elks Lodge to discuss new cases of brucellosis found in elk in the Big Horn Mountains.
Earlier this month, Game and Fish identified two positive cases of brucellosis in elk that were harvested during the 2012 hunting season in hunt area 40, about 15 miles west of Burgess Junction. Both hunters submitted blood samples to G&F as part of the department’s statewide voluntary brucellosis surveillance program. Through this program, samples are collected from hunters in the fall and early winter, then analyzed at the G&F lab throughout the winter. Brucellosis has not been documented in livestock in this area.
The April 4 meeting will give livestock producers and others a chance to learn more and ask questions about these recent discoveries, plans for additional surveillance in elk this year, and tested and proven methods to reduce risk to livestock operations.
For more information about brucellosis in Wyoming, go to wyomingbrucellosis.com.
by nathan oster
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso made a special appearance Tuesday morning at Greybull Middle School, speaking with students and staff members about his life in Washington, D.C., the contributions a Greybull native is making as a member of his staff and the Hathaway scholarship program he helped push through the state Legislature.
Barrasso, who like other members of U.S. Congress is on a brief Easter recess from work in Washington, D.C., flew into the South Big Horn County Airport shortly after 10 a.m. and was at the school by 10:15.
He spent 30 minutes at the school, visiting three different classrooms and speaking to three different groups of students before moving to the library, where he visited with Greybull school administrators and board members.
Just by visiting the school Barrasso made news. According to Ken Jensen, who has taught at GMS for 40 years, the last time a sitting U.S. senator visited GMS was 1990. Back then, it was Alan Simpson, and according to Jensen, it was far more informal than Barrasso’s visit, which had been planned for more than a week.
In all three classrooms, Barrasso raved about one of Greybull’s own, Macy Sukut. The daughter of Jeff and Kim Sukut, Macy began working in Barrasso’s office as an intern and has progressed to the point where she is now writing legislation for Barrasso. She’s also making a name for herself, having been named, by a publication known as The Hill, as one of the 50 most beautiful people in Washington, D.C.
“She comes from Greybull, this school…she probably sat at these same desks,” Barrasso said. “Now she is known on Capitol Hill. That just says that no matter where we start in life, there are great opportunities in this country.”
Barrasso also spoke at length about the Hathaway scholarship program, pointing out that he was one of the four senators who originally supported the concept. Today thousands of Wyoming students are benefiting from that decision.
“Every student in this room, right here,” he told one group of students, “can get an education at the University of Wyoming or in one of our community colleges — and all you have to do is earn the scholarship, stay out of trouble and keep your grades up.
“No other state has anything like it. In fact there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world.”
Barrasso said that with so much mineral wealth in the state, there were people who thought the state should “write checks to everyone in the state.”
But the Hathaway scholarship has proven its worth time and time again.
“We knew at the time that the best investment we could make would be in the young people of this state,” he said.
Barrasso said students should take pride in the fact that they attend an award-winning school (GMS received a 2012 Distinguished Title I School award) and live in “a great community that is very supportive” of its young people and their education.
“I’d encourage you all to aim so high that you’ll never be bored,” said Barrasso. “Aim for something you’re interested in, whether that’s becoming a teacher … or working in the energy industry.”
Much like the computer has done, Barrasso said he believes new developments in energy in the years to come will change the world for the better. “And maybe, just maybe, one of you will be the next Bill Gates.,” he told students.
On his way out of the school, Barrasso said there was another purpose behind his visit. For most of his time at GMS, Jensen has led groups of students to the nation’s capitol. Each time, he’s made it a point to check in with the state’s congressional delegation.
“Students have been coming to Washington for years,” Barrasso said. “I wanted to come and visit them on their own turf.”
A celebration of the life of Cynthia “Cindy” M. Gipson of Norfolk, Neb., was held March 28 in Norfolk. Cindy, 63, died Wednesday, March 13.
She was born Sept. 25, 1949, in Roanoke, Va., the daughter of Dallas and Eleanor Loudermilk Miller. Her father was in the Air Force and the family moved frequently. She grew up in Virginia, Wyoming, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, Mississippi, California and Morocco. She graduated from Cheyenne East High School and earned her bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate from Hastings College and her master’s degree from Wayne State College.
Cindy married Roger Gipson June 1, 1969, in Cheyenne. The couple lived in Hastings until 1977 at which time they moved to Norfolk. Cindy taught at Norfolk Junior High and Norfolk Middle School for 29 years.
She had a passion for literature, young adult literature and poetry and she loved to travel. She will be remembered for her kindness, compassion, caring and love. She lived by the motto that no act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted. Her love was the rock that built her devoted family.
She was preceded in death by her loving stepfather Ralph Necessary.
She is survived by her husband Roger of Norfolk; son and daughter-in-law, Keith and Marie Gipson of Seattle, and son Neil of Washington, D.C.; mother Eleanor Necessary of Salem, Va.; father and stepmother, Dallas and Jean Miller of Newport News, Va., and her sister Ivy Miller of Hampton Roads, Va.
Caring friends can honor Cindy’s legacy by committing a random act of kindness and by reading aloud to their children and grandchildren.
Michael Allen King, 59, passed away at his home on Tuesday, March 19, 2013, in the arms of his loving wife Janeen.
Mike was born on Feb. 20, 1954, in Lovell, Wyo., to Edgar ‘Bud’ and Evelyn King. The family moved to Ohio in the late ‘60s, then moved to Worland in 1973 where they opened a carpet store as a family business. In 1984 Mike started a new store as the owner and operator of the now King’s Carpet One.
Mike married the love of his life, Janeen, on June 20, 1992 in Worland. He so lovingly referred to her as “my beautiful wife.”
Mike was a wrestler in high school and was quite good at fast-pitch softball. His more recent sports interest included golf which he enjoyed with his dad, and racquetball with the three amigos, Steve, Rod and Mark, and his brothers whenever they had a chance.
Mike was devoted to serving the Lord and sharing his faith with the community through various leadership roles. He was a youth pastor for 25 years at New Life Christian Center and spent over 20 years on the church Board of Directors.
Mike also served on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) Board of Directors for many years and participated in several high school baccalaureates during his service with FCA. Mike served alongside his dear friend and fellow laborer, David Damiano at the Wyoming Boy’s School for nearly 20 years in Youth Ministry. Mike’s true passion as chaplain at the Wyoming Boy’s School, where he served two days a week in addition to teaching Bible study classes, was to teach the gospel with no ambiguity. If there was ever a Godly man who loved everyone with the same and generous love of God, it was Mike. He gave acceptance to everyone, without judgment, right where they were. He gave resources to any he could help. He gave time to those who had a need. Mike gave his heart to all people because he chose to see the good. He always said, “Spend your life using what God put in your hand.”
Mike co-sponsored the start of “Celebrate Recovery” in 2010 at Grace Chapel with great conviction that our community needed a program that crossed the denominational lines and touched all people. To those who knew Mike, they knew that he believed that everyone need only to belong to the Kingdom of God and what we’d be able to accomplish with the denominational lines erased.
Community outreach was also very important to Mike. He was passionate about education and literacy, particularly among preschool and elementary school children, and was recognized by Region 8 Absaroka Head Start under its director, Elaine Laird, for generously donating books for the students and their families in seven counties, which included 19 classrooms, at Christmas time over a three-year period. Mike also served on the Absaroka Head Start Board for six years. He launched a program called “Magic Carpet Tour” with Carpet One and Walt Disney that gave every child at East Side Elementary a book and a magic carpet. He volunteered countless hours, donated books, paint and flooring to local schools, various nonprofit organizations, and the community.
Mike is survived by his loving wife, Janeen, his father, Edgar “Bud” King, his siblings: Bob (Anna) of Powell, Doug of Casper, Steven (Jewell) of Rock Springs, Mathew (Lisa) of Worland, Chuck (Deborah) of Worland and Cathleen (Bruce) Metz of Rock Springs, as well as many nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews. Mike is also survived by the children he raised in his own home, by the hundreds of kids he touched through the youth ministry, and the thousands they have touched over the years. (You know who you are).
He was preceded in death by his mother Evelyn Mary King.
Memorial services were held at the Zion Lutheran Church at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 23 in Worland with New Life Christian Center Pastor Larry Ramsfield officiating. Memorial donations may be made in care of Bryant Funeral Home, Box 524, Worland, WY 82401 to purchase Bibles for the Boy’s School.
Online condolences may be made at bryantfuneralhomeonline.com.
by nathan oster
The Greybull-Basin Athletic Club had a busy couple of weeks before Easter, sending young matmen to wrestling tournaments in Cody and Powell.
The team, with a roster of 44, draws kids from Greybull, Basin and Burlington. While not all of them attended the two tournaments, GBAC did send strong contingents to both.
Thirty-one attended the meet in Cody held March 16. The placers for that meet were as follows:
PEE WEE — Loomis Alexander was 1st at 45A; Michael Gormley was 2nd and Taft Winter was 4th at 45B; Kyler Winters was 2nd at 55;
BANTAM — Logan Saldana was 1st at 40; James Gormley was 4th at 45; Nicholas Eckman was 6th at 50A; Jayce Sorensen was 2nd at 50B; Coby Henderson was 1st at 55B; Joe Bassett was 6th at 60; Grant Winters was 4th and Morgan Love 5th at 65; Dylan Alexander was 1st and Jake Schlattmann was 4th at 70; James Love was 1st and Tyler Kampbell 4th at 75+.
INTERMEDIATE — Cale Wright was 2nd at 50; Nathaniel Boyer was 1st at 60; Avery Swiftney was 5th at 70; Weston Adams was 2nd at 75; Brac Walker was 6th at 80.
NOVICE — Zachery Ridgway was 4th at 65; Caleb Perry was 4th at 70; Jacob Cook was 1st and Sam Crouse 4th at 75; David Brisco was 4th at 80; Luke Searfoss was 5th at 85; Tate Clutter was 2nd at 112-120.
SCHOOLBOY — Jordan Preciado was 2nd at 84.
The team sent 28 wrestlers to the Powell tournament on March 23.
Placers were as follows:
PEE WEE — Loomis Alexander was 1st and Michael Gormley was 2nd at 45; Kyler Winters was 1st at 50.
BANTAM — Logan Saldana was 1st at 40; Steele Davis was 5th at 50; Xavier Valdez was 6th at 60; Grant Winters was 3rd and Morgan Love 6th at 65; Dylan Alexander was 1st, Jake Schlattmann 3rd and Connor Petrich 6th at 70/75; James Love was 2nd at 75+.
INTERMEDIATE — Cale Wright was 2nd at 50; Nathaniel Boreen was 2nd at 65; Avery Swiftney was 5th at 70; Brac Walker was 5th at 80.
NOVICE — Zachery Ridgway was 3rd at 65; Caleb Perry was 5th at 70; Jacob Cook was 3rd at 80; Luke Searfoss was 5th at 85; Tate Clutter was 2nd at 120.
SCHOOLBOY — Jordan Preciado was 1st at 84.
The team will take this week off before wrapping up the season with tournaments in Worland and Lovell.
The Historic Greybull Hotel was filled to overflowing Friday night as about 300 people roamed the rooms and halls to view the 51 illuminated exhibits displayed by Big Horn County School District No. 3 art students.
Each “critic” could vote on his/her favorite and when the votes were counted, the “people’s choice” was the project of GHS senior Nevin Brown, who received a ribbon, certificate and $100.
Brown’s project started with an old window frame stored in the family garage. The glass was replaced with mirrors centered with a picture of her and her boyfriend. A shelf was built onto the frame, and feathers, candles, flowers and white lights highlighted the project.
“It was very white,” instructor Karyne Dunbar explained.
Shanae Cummings was the runner-up with her “black-light tiger” and Alex Preis took third place with her storm cloud over flowers. Luis Burgos created a “time machine,” which came in fourth.
Forty-nine of the entries were created by GHS students. The remaining two were the work of GMS students enrolled in the Art Partnership class implemented this year.
The two, Cassie FitzSimmons and Megan Mikus, entered their projects, knowing that it was high school competition. But, Dunbar said, the two “did so with all the confidence in the world,” and ended up taking fifth and sixth, respectively, in the voting.
“Obviously, their confidence was not unfounded,” Dunbar added.
The 51 projects will be included in a combined exhibition with Riverside High School scheduled April 12 at the Shell Community Hall. That event will feature pottery, drawings, paintings and assemblage.
Out-of-town judges will critique the work. Winners will advance to the State High School Art Symposium in Casper.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”