Daily Archives: July 11, 2013

Council hopes to install AC at Community Hall

by nathan oster

Like the Greybull Recreation District, the Greybull Town Council has identified as a top priority the installation of a new heating and air conditioning system for the Herb Asp Community Center.

Now the only question is, will it be done in time for the Aug. 17 Hands Across the Saddle benefit?

At their meeting Monday night, the council agreed to seek bids for the new HVAC system.  A special meeting has been set for 6 p.m. Monday, July 22, at which time the council hopes to open bids and award the contract to the top bidder.

With no air conditioning at the present time, users of the Community Hall suffer during the hottest summer months.

“To make it more usable, we have to do it,” said Councilman Clay Collingwood.

The town has earmarked money in its FY 2014 budget for Community Hall improvements.

The recreation district also has money available for the project, according to Mayor Bob Graham.

“Last year we went to WAM and asked for a 0 percent interest loan for (the heating and air conditioning upgrades) but were asked by the recreation district to stop what we were doing until they finished their assessment of how they wanted to improve the building,” said Graham.

The council will seek bids on Option 4 of their proposal from a year ago, which calls for four 90,000 BTU Lennox furnaces and four four-ton heat pumps.

“We’d like to get some bids and see if we can get it in there before HATS,” said Graham, before the council approved a motion to do so.


In other business Monday night:

• Administrator Paul Thur said that the town had submitted an application for a Historic Architecture Assistant Fund grant for a free assessment of the current Town Hall facility.  The study would look at ADA accessibility issues, plus countless other associated with the building.

“Their initial reaction was, ‘Boy there’s a lot of stuff you’re requesting with this assessment,’” said Thur. “We may need to pick and choose (what we can get).”

• Referencing the final numbers for the fiscal year that ended June 30, Councilman Ross Jorgensen noted that the town “cut it close” in the line item for administration.  Kathy Smith, the town clerk, said legal fees and professional services were to blame, adding that she hopes this year will be better.

• The council agreed to pay approximately $8,000 to fix the hydraulics on the town’s old blue sanitation truck.  By spending the money, the truck will be suitable for use as a backup garbage truck.

• Councilman Clay Collingwood said there was talk at the recent economic development committee about developing a park/picnic area along the dike and near the bridge, in the general vicinity of the conservation district’s outdoor classroom.

• Police Chief Bill Brenner reported that the town’s fifth officer, Sean Alquist, graduates from the police academy on Friday, July 12.  With his return to duty, the GPD will be back at its approved staffing level of five full-time officers.

• The council approved a catering permit for Lisa’s restaurant, which will be providing the food and drink for the Hands Across the Saddle (HATS) fundraiser set for Aug. 17 at the Herb Asp Community Center.

• The council deactivated the water tap for the property at 532 Third Ave. S., which has been tied up in probate proceedings.  Ben Williams is taking care of the property, which belonged to the late Shirley Stockwell, but he was not in attendance to contest the deactivation when the agenda item came up Monday night.

Because $1,312 is still owed on the tap, the council also agreed to place a lien on the property in an attempt to recover those costs when the house is eventually sold. Whoever purchases the home will need to pay the $1,500 fee to re-activate the tap.

• A water tap request submitted by Vast Manufacturing was approved by the council.

Vast is putting up a new building along Greybull River Road, just outside of town limits.

The application was signed by Roman and John Kinane, who asked that they be able to tap into the line that runs between the storage tank and town limits.

The company has refused interview requests by the newspaper.  Mayor Bob Graham said Vast has been secretive with the town, as well. They are building on a site that borders the west edge of the town’s industrial park.

Vast did make one amendment to the water tap application, saying they were dead set against ever being annexed into the town. “Due to the type of manufacturing they are in, they have a request from their insurance company that they cannot have development around their facility,” said Mayor Bob Graham.  “So they’ve asked that they not have to comply with that part (with respect to annexation).

The council agreed to allow the modification. “I don’t have a problem with it,” said Town Attorney Scott McColloch, when asked for his legal opinion. “They are simply saying they cannot have a facility if it’s annexed into the town.”

• Jim McLauchlan, owner of Dirty Annie’s, approached the council on behalf of the Iowa State University geology camp to discuss a change in the point of diversion of Shell Creek, but was told that the discussion was premature because the matter would first need to be taken up by the state engineer’s office.

Council members stated, however, that they would be inclined to support the request.

• Mayor Bob Graham put out a call for someone in the community to take the lead in efforts to develop an outdoor swimming pool.

He said he spoke with two different pool manufacturers at the recent Wyoming Association of Municipalities gathering and has also obtained information from Wyoming State Parks, Historical Sites and Trails about some matching grant programs.

Graham said a “splash pad” has emerged as one potential solution.

Councilors Myles Foley and Clay Collingwood, who were most recently engaged in talks to convert the existing pool into an outdoor facility, agreed that they would lead the effort on the outdoor pool.

• The council agreed to apply for a feasibility study through the Wyoming Water Development Commission relating to the incorporation of the Airport Bench water tank into the town’s water system.

The feasibility study will look at the full scope of the town’s current water distribution system.

Mayor Graham said, “Our 1 million gallon storage tank is getting some age on it,” he said. “We’ve tried to do repairs on it. We’ve tried to clean it.  But at some point in time, that tank just may need to be replaced.”

Graham said he believes the Airport Bench water tank holds about 610,000 gallons — and that the feasibility study would evaluate whether that in itself would be sufficient for the town’s needs. “Would we need the full 1 million gallons? Or could we get by with 500,000 or 750,000?  Those are all questions that would be answered.”

The feasibility study would cost the town $500. Big Horn County would match that total, bringing the total cost to $1,000.

• The town is planning to auction some of its obsolete/excess equipment.  The council agreed on Monday night to hire an auctioneer.  Mayor Graham said most of the items are either “worn out or can no longer be used due to changes in regulations. “Some of the stuff’s been there since I was with the town (in the 1980s and ‘90s),” he said.

• The council agreed to begin hanging banners on the decorative lightpoles that line Sixth Street and Greybull Avenue.  While they face no obstacles on the section of Greybull Avenue between the stoplight and the planter, since that part of the street is owned by the town, they must get approval from the Wyoming Department of Transportation for the other banners.

The town doesn’t want to have to trim the banners, but state regulations require a 7-foot clearance, which would come into play on the section of Greybull Avenue between the stoplight and the bridge, where there are 13 lightpoles.  There is a way around it on Sixth Street.  The banners could be hung on the backside of the lightpoles. To do that, however, the town would need to get a waiver of permission from each of the property owners who would be impacted.

Mayor Graham said the town has asked for a waiver from WYDOT and that he’d get in touch with Shelby Carlson, the district engineer, by the end of this week, if he hasn’t heard from her prior to that time, to see where that request stands.

• Cor Bijvank, owner of the Greybull KOA, approached the council at the end of the evening to discuss a letter he’d received from the town about his use of Dumpsters off the site of his KOA property, but was told that the matter could not be discussed because it was not on the agenda. It will be taken up at the next regular meeting.



County approves reduced budget

by karla pomeroy

The Big Horn County commissioners approved an $11.7 million general fund budget at Tuesday’s budget hearing.

The general fund budget was $1.3 million less than the $13 million budget approved last year. In addition to the general fund budget is $3.7 million for the airports, $175,000 for the fair budget and $519,375 for the library budget. The county will levy the full 12 mills allowed by state statute to fund the general fund, airport, library and fair budgets.

During the public hearing, representatives of the sheriff’s office, public health, coroner’s office, district court clerk’s office were in attendance.

Court clerk concerns

District Court Clerk Dori Noyes said, “I know this is an extremely hard process with revenues being down. She said under normal circumstances repairs to her office would have come out of the courthouse budget. She said she approached the commissioners about a carryover and was directed to move forward in the current budget.

Noyes said there are cracks in the walls, broken blinds, jury room tables taped together, broken equipment.

“You asked us all to take 6.5 percent off the budget, the majority are nowhere near 6.5 percent,” Noyes said. She said some budgets were decreased by more than 6.5 percent.

Some budgets show an increase in the budget proposed to be adopted, including, the clerk’s office, county attorney’s office, capital improvements and the courthouse.

Keith Grant said the clerk of court budget shouldn’t need repairs that were paid out of the 2012-2013 budget so there’s room for additional cuts.

He said in previous years the county also underestimated revenues and this year revenues are so tight so there is no underestimation.

Noyes said she is concerned about the jury budget with $5,000. Chairman Jerry Ewen said the original budget was $30,000 and “we realize there’s no way to predict that. We cut that back to $5,000, with the understanding if there is a jury trial, without a doubt we’ll transfer funds.”

Noyes said the county attorney’s office has done remodeling twice and has $16,000 more than what was approved last year.

Ewen asked Noyes to direct her comments to her budget. She said she is concerned about the district court budget which was cut by $38,000.

John Hyde said the commissioners looked at what was spent last year, minus the repair/remodel work.

Attorney budget

In regard to the county attorney budget, Treasurer Becky Lindsey said the benefit line item was underfunded last year.

In a meeting with the commissioners, County Attorney Michelle Burns said her overall budget from the previous year was cut by $5,500 but then the benefit line item had to be adjusted properly. Burns said, “A great deal of the safety of our citizens and our communities lies in the work that this office and law enforcement do on a daily basis. I have endeavored to cut every area I can and still do the job I was elected to do.”

Deputy Clerk of Court Deb LaBudda asked the commissioners to explain their rationale of allowing some departments to have increases and some not to have to cut as much others.

Gwen Nelson of the sheriff’s office said the search and rescue budget was cut in half from $108,000 to $55,000.


Ewen said, “It was a difficult process. There were positions that were eliminated. And next  year is not going to be any better.”

The county assessor is not filling a vacancy, the commissioners cut their part-time secretary position/part-time clerk position. Lindsey said she has a vacancy that likely will not be filled. Road and bridge is also not filling a position.

Sheriff Ken Blackburn in an earlier meeting with the commissioners had announced he would be cutting a detention officer and a patrol officer.

In other personnel issues in the budget, the commissioners announced during a work session earlier in the day that no cost-of-living raises were included, nor any step raises. Ewen noted, however, that the county did not go to the employees to increase their Wyoming Retirement System contribution which increased .5 percent. Cost to the county is $24,000 for the increase, Clerk Lori Smallwood said.

The county is also covering the increase in the health insurance premiums, Ewen said.

Outside agency funding took a hit in the tight budget. Both the north and south senior centers received $9,000 each. The county predator control board, which usually received $10,000, was allocated just $5,000.

Despite larger requests, each of the three chambers of commerce in the county (Basin, Greybull and Lovell) received $1,000.

Ewen said the budget includes $75,000 for infrastructure upgrades required for the new multi-purpose facility at the fairgrounds. It also includes funding to upgrade the lines in the courthouse so a new phone system can be purchased.

Some large cuts in the budget, he noted were $38,000 from the engineer’s requested budget with some duties reassigned to the road and bridge foremen, and the removal of the civil attorney line item. Ewen said they will be cancelling the memorandum of understanding the county entered into with Scott McColloch to handle civil issues for the county.

The county was able to maintain their $2 million cash reserve.


As for revenue decreases, Ewen said, valuation, which increased last year, dropped by $5 million this year. Last year the valuation for the county saw a $30 million increase from $264 million to $294 million. This year it dropped to $289 million.

The county, which received $900,000 in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) last year, is estimating just $300,000 this year. Lindsey said another main loss of revenue comes from the forest reserve/Secure Rural Schools. In 2010 the county received $441,159 and similar amounts in 2011 and 2012. For the upcoming budget year, they are estimated to receive just $5,526 due to budget cuts from the federal sequestration.

Grant, the senior member on the commission, said, “This is the toughest budget I’ve faced in my 14 years and next year doesn’t look any better.”


Branding Iron back in business

by nathan oster

The Branding Iron is back in business.

The bar at the corner of First Avenue South and Sixth Street, which was owned for many years by Bill and Betty Shem, then for about 3 ½ years by John and Jean Laws up until it closed in the summer of 2012, is now under the ownership of Al and Wendy Martin.

It was expected to open Wednesday, July 10 — just a little over a month after the Martins closed on the property and began renovations.

Since that time, the main bar area has been expanded, new carpeting has been installed, and all the interior walls have received fresh paint and new décor.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Wendy. While Al bought the bar, it will be hers to run. She’s already hired a Greybull native, Chelsea Drake, to manage it and serve as its primary bartender.

Al now owns three bars in Big Horn County, but according to Wendy, he is trying to sell one of them, the Antler Inn of Shell, so that they can devote all of their time and attention to their two Greybull bars, the Branding Iron and the Silver Spur.

Wendy said her bar’s targeted clientele is the “after-work crowd,” saying she expects normal business hours to be 3 to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday.  On nights the bar is busy, they’ll stay open later than that.

“I’d really like it to be a place where people could come and have a couple cocktails after work, relax and enjoy good conversation,” she said.  “It’s not going to be a rowdy place, I can tell you that.”

Wendy said she’d like to eventually feature live music, saying the bar’s covered outdoor patio area is an ideal venue for all kinds of events, and that she loves the bar’s location which was one of its strongest selling points.

“Everything just kind of fell into place,” she said of the purchase.

Wendy said she’s fielded many questions about her plans since renovations began — and in particular, about her plan for the bar to be a non-smoking establishment.  She’s adamant on that point, but said a smoking area would be set up outside for those patrons who wish to smoke.

Until becoming a bar owner, Wendy devoted all of her energy to raising her two girls, Kayla and Shanae Cummings.  A native of Washington state, she has lived in this area for 24 years.  Both daughters grew up here; Kayla now lives in Casper, Shanae will be a senior this fall at GHS.

“I never planned to be a bar owner or to manage one … it just happened,” she said. “But I’m really looking forward to it.  I enjoy the conversation, and you get so many different types of people who come into a bar.  It’s going to be fun.”


Tragedy in Arizona hits close to home

by nathan oster

The pain of losing 19 highly trained firefighters from the Granite Mountain Hotshots extended far beyond the city limits of Prescott, Ariz., where they were members of that community’s fire department.

Across the nation there was mourning within the entire wildland firefighting community, which includes the members of the Wyoming Hotshots, who train in Greybull and serve under the leadership of Matt Prentiss of Basin.

The Wyoming Hotshots were fighting a fire in Colorado when the 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots lost their lives while battling the 2,000-acre Yarnell Hill fire that ignited south of Prescott.

It was the deadliest wildfire in the United States in 80 years — and the worst loss of life for an American fire department since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“We were devastated,” Prentiss said of his crew’s reaction to the news.  “We had worked with (the Granite Mountain Hotshots) a few times on different fires. Our relationship was strictly a working relationship, but they were a great crew … we enjoyed working with them.”

He added, “The Hotshot community is actually a pretty small one and (their loss) was felt by all of us.”

A memorial service for the fallen firefighters was held Tuesday in Arizona.

A spokeswoman for the Prescott National Forest said it appeared that the 19 were engaged in a “direct attack” — getting close to the fire and trying to create a break to starve it of fuel — when they were overwhelmed by the windblown fire, which prevented them from returning to their emergency fire shelters.

While stunned and saddened by the news, Prentiss said his resolve remains as strong as ever.

He said he was “18 or 19” and “looking for an adventure” when he got introduced to firefighting in California.  It was during his early years as a firefighter that he met his wife, Jennifer, who was also a firefighter at the time.

Prentiss has since climbed to the rank of superintendent of the Wyoming Hotshots, which consists of about 20 crew members, ranging in age from 20 on up to the mid 30s.  He’s been in that role since 2008 and doesn’t plan to leave it anytime soon.

“I’m grateful to have the job I have,” he said. “I have a really good crew; it’s a privilege to work with some outstanding, motivated individuals who work hark. Plus I really enjoy working with the younger guys, teaching them how to fight fires.”

When reached Tuesday, Prentiss and the Hotshots were fighting a fire near Pagosa Springs, Colo.  They did spend some time at home during the long holiday weekend.  In fact, with several Hotshots hailing from Cody, they were a late entry in the Stampede parade.

Through their efforts in Cody, the Hotshots raised more than $8,700 for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which stands in the gap between the day of the accident and the time benefits kick in for the survivors of the lost firefighters.

“They really support the wildland fire community,” Prentiss said of the foundation.

Meanwhile, the task of fighting fires continues.  Prentiss said this year’s been very similar to last year. “A pretty active fire season, especially in Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico,” he said, estimating the Hotshots to be “a little less than halfway through” their season, which typically runs from mid May through mid October.


Wife’s perspective

Jennifer Prentiss said news of the Prescott tragedy travelled quickly within firefighting circles. Very soon after it happened, cell phone towers were brought in so firefighters could let their families know that they were OK.

“Speaking for all the fire wives (of the Wyoming Hotshots), we were all just shocked,” she said. “There had never been a wildland firefighting tragedy like this … in the sense that almost an entire crew was lost. It just changes the way you think about everything and puts an even greater amount of pressure on guys like my husband and his top assistant, Beau Kidd, who has family in Powell.

“We have always known those two were in charge of 20 lives, but when 20 people lose their lives elsewhere, it makes you understand the potential risk and the amount of stress involved in making sure (the firefighters) make it safely home to their families.  Especially with it falling on a long holiday weekend where most people were celebrating with their loved ones, it was extra hard knowing there were those families out there who lost loved ones in the fire.”

She expanded on what her husband said about the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

“Everyone said, that was a very good crew,” she said. “Not that it would have meant anything less if it wasn’t … but I heard one of the  guys saying, ‘Why that crew? It doesn’t make sense that it was that crew.’  Some crews are notorious for not being as safe as others. But not that one. They had a reputation as a safe, good crew of firefighters. So it really hits home, with it happening to those guys.”

If you’d like to help, several online sites are taking donations, including the Granite Mountain Hotshots Family Fund, the Yarnell Emergency Fire Fund, the 100 Club of Arizona, the American Red Cross, and of course, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which was the one chosen by the Wyoming Hotshots.



Golfers tee off for local scholarships

by nathan oster

With 72 golfers teeing off to raise money for local scholarships, the Linda Madden Memorial Tournament was a success before any of the competitors even pulled the putters from their golf bags.

Held on the Fourth of July at Midway Golf Course, the tournament featured 18, four-person teams bidding for bragging rights.

“While the play was a little slow due to the number of golfers, it was a tremendous success,” according to Eddie Johnson.

The foursome of Loren and Naomi Niemitalo and Al and Irene Madden claimed the team title.

Finishing second was the team of Carl Olson, Carmen Olson, Katrina  Olson and Burhl (last name unavailable).

In third was the team of Dave and Kelly Williamson, Carl and Sterling (last names unavailable).

Johnson said the Madden family appreciated the golfers, sponsors who provided prizes and the crew at Midway for a job well done.

This year’s winners of the Linda Madden Memorial scholarship were Logan Phillips of Riverside High School and Holly Huber and Sarah Bockman of Greybull High School.

“I have played in this tournament for six years now and it seems to grow bigger each year,” said Johnson. “The golfers all realize that the proceeds go to a very worthy cause and enjoy themselves regardless of the scores.

“The Madden family does a great job of putting the tournament on and Midway Golf Club appreciates the work they do to make this tournament a success.  It is an annual Fourth of July event, so mark your calendars now and come on out next year and join in the festivities and support the scholarship fund.”

Leslie Jones Wardell

Feb. 5, 1930 – July 8, 2013

Funeral services for George Myfanwy Hockley were held July 10 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Burlington. Georgia, 83, died July 8 at the Powell Valley Care Center.

She was born Feb. 5, 1930, in Greybull, the daughter of William H. and Mildred Jones. She received her education in Greybull and graduated from Greybull High School.

She married Jack Kinghorn on June 25, 1949; they were later divorced. She married Kenneth Hockley April 21, 1973, and they shared 40 happy years together.

Georgia loved singing, dancing, traveling, camping and fishing in the mountains of Wyoming.

Her parents, one brother, two sisters and a great-granddaughter preceded her in death.

She is survived by her husband Kenneth; daughters Rowen and Susan Kinghorn Monsen, Jay and Lana Kinghorn Hously, and Kirk and Holly Kinghorn Rexroat, son Kurt Kinghorn, and Steven and Debbie Hockley; 19 grandchildren and 37 great-grandchildren.


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