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Bill Would Let Frontier Days Bypass Cheyenne For Beer Sale Permits

in News/Tourism
Cheyenne Frontier Days
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A legislative solution to a dispute between the city of Cheyenne and Cheyenne Frontier Days has been proposed by a state senator.

The city and organizers of the 10-day rodeo are debating the use of Cheyenne Police officers as security during the rodeo in July.

City officials have said that unless Frontier Days agrees to cover the cost of the security, estimated at $100,000 to $200,000 per year, the permit that allows the sale of beer at the rodeo grounds will be withheld.

As a result, Sen. Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie, has proposed a bill that would let Frontier Days buy a special event malt beverage permit directly from the state for $100.

“We have no qualms with public protection, we think it’s critical to the public safety of Cheyenne Frontier Days as well as they do,” he said. “But holding up their malt beverage permit because of that is, in my opinion, extortion.”

But Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr said many believe security should be paid for by Frontier Days, not with taxpayer dollars.

“And just from what we’ve seen on social media, the public really believes that this shouldn’t come out of taxpayer funds, that Cheyenne Frontier Days has the ability to pass along that cost to their attendees,” she said. “It’s a private event, it should be picked up privately.”

Orr said both sides in the dispute will meet to try reach a compromise.

Bob Geha: Bill Prohibiting ‘Gun Buybacks’ Wins House Approval

in News/politics
Tyler Lindholm
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By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A bill aimed at prohibiting “gun buybacks” using public money won final approval in the House on Wednesday.

Representatives voted 55-4 to approve House Bill 28, which would prevent any Wyoming government entity from running a “buyback program,” where entities buy weapons to keep them from being used in violent crime.

Bill sponsor Rep. Tyler Lindholm, R-Sundance, said such programs are usually a waste of taxpayer money.

“At the end of the day, it’s somebody with a junk shotgun that they’ll never use, never have any intent of using,” he said. “So it’s just a waste of taxpayer dollars to say that’s somehow taking guns off the street because that gun was never on the street to begin with.”

Lindholm said such programs have not worked well in other states.

“Often times, we as the government, politicians, we like to pretend that everything we create is flowery and it’s all working wonderfully,” he said. “In situations like this, it’s clearly not. In places that do have gun buybacks, they haven’t seen the expected results.”

The bill now moves to the Senate for review.

Tom Burman: Wyoming Working With Clemson to Replace Game

in News
Tom Burman
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By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

University of Wyoming officials are working to fill the hole in the school’s football schedule with the announcement that Clemson will not play the Cowboys as scheduled in 2021.

But the University of Wyoming will be well-compensated for the cancellation.

“Clemson will pay Wyoming $1.1 million to buy out its contract to play the Cowboys during the 2021 season, according to the contract signed by both parties in July of 2013,” the Greenville News reported.

UW Athletic Director Tom Burman said the university is holding off on making formal comment on Clemson’s decision until a replacement game can be scheduled.

“We’re still trying to figure out how we can replace that game and Clemson’s working with us to solve that,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

The Cowboys were originally scheduled to play at Clemson in September 2021, but Clemson canceled the game in favor of one against Georgia.

Burman said the game was scheduled around 2009, before Clemson had gained national championship status.

He added a game against Georgia would be difficult for Clemson to pass up.

“That’s a big national game, I don’t know what the money is but the money’s going to be significant for them,” he said. “Those are the kinds of games schools like that are looking for.”

Burman said he will issue a formal statement about the game in about two weeks.

Cat Urbigkit: Quickly and in Darkness, Wyo Gov’t Works to Buy 1 Million Acres

in Government spending/Cat Urbigkit/News/Column/politics
Wyoming
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By Cat Urbigkit, Range Writing columnist

I listened attentively to Governor Mark Gordon’s live-streamed State of the State address on Monday, Feb. 10. There was no mention of a proposal for our state government to purchase 1 million acres of private land in southern Wyoming in that address.

Two days later, on Feb. 12, two polished bills were filed in the Wyoming Legislature that would allow our state’s top officials to negotiate an undisclosed land deal, for an unknown price. 

Governor Gordon and our legislative leaders held a press conference on Monday, Feb. 17 in Cheyenne to announce the proposal – a full week after that live-streamed State of the State address.

Fortunately Casper Star-Tribune reporter Nick Reynolds was able to attend the press conference, because his breaking news article announcing the proposal is all we have to go on.

According to the article, the deal involves 1 million acres of private land and 4 million acres of mineral rights along the I-80 corridor that is held by Occidental Petroleum in an area of checkerboard land ownership.

This deal “would be part of an effort to improve public land access and generate revenues from its sale.”

Our state leaders called this a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity “to improve the state’s ability to raise revenues” according to the article.

For some, the thought of 1 million acres of private land being gobbled up by government – in a state that is already majority-owned by government – is a hard pill to swallow. Perhaps that’s why the legislation proposes to establish “payment in lieu of taxes” to local governments for loss of private lands from the tax rolls.

The proposed legislation also says “all state laws governing the management of state lands shall be applicable to assets purchased” so at least we know that the land could be subject to multiple uses. 

Another bill, House Bill 37, would expedite the process for the exchange of state lands for the purpose of public access to state lands, and this is also part of the legislative bundle to enable this land deal.

Reynold’s article also tells us that yet another bill, House Bill 222 would exempt members of the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) from provisions of the state’s public meetings law “which could be used to investigate details of the purchase prior to pursuing it.”

I’m glad Reynolds noted that because I had no idea that was the purpose when I read the bill itself. All the proposed bill says is that the SLIB board is exempt from the public meetings law “when meeting solely for the purpose of receiving education or training provided that the board shall take no action regarding public business during the meeting.”

Although this proposal has been worked on for months, according to Reynold’s article, the public became aware of it only yesterday.

The proposal, and the legislation enabling it, are being fast-tracked during this 20-day legislative session so that the deal can be negotiated this summer and perhaps completed by the end of the year. The Governor’s office has promised to issue a press release about the proposal later today.

I looked at the records on land parcels in Carbon and Sweetwater counties and when I searched for Occidental, got no results. Then I remembered that Occidental now owns Anadarko and that’s how the county GIS data lists the parcels.

Since we know very little about this whole deal, we can only assume it’s some of the parcels we’ve included in the screen captures accompanying this column. If you want a closer look, go to the GIS systems of Sweetwater County, and Carbon County and type “Anadarko” into the search engine.

It appears that some of the land in the deal is located in Colorado and Utah, and legislation allows for the sale of those parcels.

House Bill 249 would allow investment of unknown but substantial amounts of state funds for the deal, and Senate File 138 does the same. The fiscal notes for both bills are identical:

“The fiscal or personnel impact is not determinable due to insufficient time to complete the fiscal note process.

“This bill authorizes real property purchases from the following sources:

 The Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA)

The Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund

The Common School Permanent Land Fund and 

Other unobligated unencumbered funds to the State Loan and Investment Board or to the Board of Land Commissioners.

There is appropriated funds necessary from the State Building Commission Contingency Account.

There is appropriated funds necessary from the LSRA.”

I know that there needs to be some level of confidentiality in land purchases. But the State of Wyoming’s cavalier attitude that we the public should just trust our state leaders isn’t enough when it comes to this big of a deal. 

Let’s shine some light on our government. If the State wants us to go along on this land deal, then sell it to us.

Cat Urbigkit is an author and rancher who lives on the range in Sublette County, Wyoming. Her column, Range Writing, appears weekly in Cowboy State Daily. To request reprint permission or syndication of this column, email rangewritesyndicate@icloud.com.

Clemson Dumps Wyoming from 2021 Football Schedule

in News
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Numerous media outlets in South Carolina have reported that Clemson will no longer host Wyoming in a scheduled 2021 football game.

The Tigers have scheduled a game against Georgia instead.

In announcing the change, The Athletic reported Clemson’s original 2021 schedule “didn’t offer much to quash a long-standing notion that its lineup of opponents tends to be too easy.”

The solution? Dump Wyoming, apparently.

“That slate wasn’t going to cut it for one of the premier programs in college football, which is a driving reason behind why Clemson is now making a much-needed swap.”

“The game replaces Wyoming for Clemson … setting up what should be one of the best matchups of the season.”

Davis Potter, Cowboys beat writer for the Casper Star Tribune said yesterday, nothing was official yet.

“In regards to this report, Wyoming AD Tom Burman tells me UW entered a contract with Clemson for the 2021 season “years ago” and that nothing has yet been finalized. Hoping to reach an agreement in the coming weeks,” he tweeted.

Bob Geha: Bill To Increase Per Diem for Wyo Legislators Clears First Hurdle

in Government spending/News/politics
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By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A proposal to increase the amount paid to legislators to cover their expenses while working for the state is moving forward in the state House.

House Bill 227 would increase the daily “per diem” of legislators from $109 to $151. The per diem covers expenses such as lodging and food and is paid in addition to the legislative salary of $150 per day.

Supporters of the bill argued that the increase is needed to interest more people in serving in the Legislature.

“If it’s working class Wyomingites who we want to see serving in the Legislature, who we want to see going to these commissions and boards and everything else, then we just pay a wage that they can afford to do it,” said Rep. Sara Burlingame, D-Cheyenne.

But opponents such as Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, argued the per diem increase is just a salary boost for lawmakers.

“It’s labeled a per diem increase,” he said. “At least let’s call this what it really is. It’s an attempt to raise salary and in this environment of deficits … time is being wasted on this and it’s … inconsistent with our values.”

The measure was introduced in the House on Friday by a vote of 41-16 and is awaiting review in the House Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee.

Sugar Beet Producers Feel Strain Of Bad Weather, Costs

in News/Agriculture
Sugar beets
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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

They create the stuff of magic, equated with deliciousness. And they could make or break a family business.

Sugar beets are a mainstay crop in Wyoming. But in northern Wyoming, where the growing conditions are optimal, farmers who grow sugar beets are facing a hardship like they’ve not seen in generations.

Between a hard frost last fall that left sugar beets frozen in the ground and mounting costs for renovations in other factories in the Western Sugar cooperative, sugar beet growers in the Bighorn Basin are facing a grim financial future. 

That’s according to Kurt Dobbs, the agronomist and field representative for the Bighorn Co-op in the northern half of the Bighorn Basin.

“The farmers around this area, they grow really good beets and are very good at yield,” he pointed out. “But it’s been three years in a row that they haven’t received the money that they need to receive for their crop.”

The growers in the Bighorn Basin are part of the Western Sugar Cooperative, which has factories in Lovell, Billings, Montana, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Fort Morgan, Colorado. 

The Lovell producers farm over 16,000 acres of beets collectively, according to Casey Crosby, a fourth-generation sugar beet grower in Cowley. 

Crosby, who also has a masters degree in business, said the economic hit of crop losses to the local communities could exceed $14 million. 

“It’s a challenging time in agriculture in general, but right now, with the issues we’ve had with our co-op, and then the weather on top of that, it’s crippled a lot of farmers,” he said.

Those issues include bad weather in two of the last three years. In between, when the harvest should have yielded a payment, Crosby said the profit went to offset costs in other areas of the Western Sugar Cooperative.

Rodney Perry, the Denver-based CEO of Western Sugar, said that the organization is working with the USDA on a disaster relief program that may provide area farmers with some much-needed assistance. 

Perry noted the program is similar to the federal government’s WHIP assistance fund (Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Program Plus), which provides disaster payments to offset losses from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, typhoons, volcanic activity, snowstorms and wildfire. 

Crosby said the assistance could mean the difference in whether or not many growers will be able to farm next year.

Crosby is one of the lucky ones – of the 4,000 acres that he farms with another local grower, only 700 of those acres are planted in sugar beets. But as Dobbs pointed out, there are many other farmers whose livelihoods depend on the sugar beet crop.

“The farmers have to get paid for their sugar beets and they haven’t been,” Dobbs said. “So if that continues, you will see farmers going bankrupt.”

Bob Geha: Statewide Lodging Tax Wins House Approval

in News/Tourism/politics
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By Bob Geha, Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would impose a statewide 5 percent lodging tax on the cost of hotel and motel rooms won final approval Monday from the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 134 won approval in its final reading from the House on a vote of 39-19, sending it to the Senate for its review.

The bill would impose a 5 percent tax statewide, with 3 percent — about $13 million a year — going to the state Tourism Department for use in promoting Wyoming tourism.

Income from the remaining 2 percent would go to the state’s counties and another 2 percent tax could be imposed at the county level with voter approval.

Chris Brown of the Wyoming Restaurant and Lodging Association said the bill’s approval is a victory for tourism in Wyoming.

“By putting the state’s second largest (income) generator and the promoting arm of Wyoming on a more competitive footing, this is a win for outdoor recreation, it’s a win for tourism, it’s a win for the state,” he said.

Opponents argued voters might be hesitant to approve the extra 2 percent tax with the statewide tax in place.

“My Sublette County people were afraid of that,” said Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Pinedale. “They’re afraid that this bill could cause the voter to have a backlash and they may not be able to get their remaining 2 percent that’s (approved by) a vote of the people.”

A similar bill passed the House last year, but was killed in the Senate.

Mills, Wyoming Wants to be Recognized as a City

in News
Mills Wyoming
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By Tim Monroe, Cowboy State Daily

There are 99 incorporated cities and towns in Wyoming. One of those towns is Mills, on Casper’s western flank. The town may soon become a city according to Mayor Seth Coleman.

Coleman, a high-energy businessman elected to a 4 -year term in 2018, said Mills may not have a choice in becoming a city.

“We have 2,053 residential water connections due largely to new construction,” Coleman said. “It is estimated that there’s 2.21 people per household so that puts us over the 4,000 people needed to become a city.”

He said there’s also at 66-unit apartment complex in the works that will add considerably more people to the town’s population.

“There’s a difference in many rules between cities and towns,” he said. “Towns deal with their finances with everything in a general fund while first class cities operate with their money in separate, specific accounts.”

The town recently hired a Community Development Director to promote Mills and help guide future growth and community enhancements. Sabrina Foreman has been on the job since early February.

“We want to improve Mills’ sense of community,” Ms. Foreman said. “We’ve hired a consultant to help plan some changes that will chart our future.”

The eagle is about to go up in Mills! 🦅

Posted by Town of Mills on Tuesday, October 16, 2018
The installation of the giant steel eagle in Mills, Wyoming

Since Mills enjoys the North Platte River, Foreman said one element of future planning is development of the riverfront to make it an attractive place to view and visit. She also said that part of her job will be to seek grants-in-aid from various sources that will help the town make the consultant’s and town’s plans become reality.

The town acquired the former Mills Elementary School a few years back. It sits idle while officials seek ideas on what the building could be used for.

The mayor said the building needs new wiring and asbestos ceiling and floor tile abatement. The town may issue a request for proposals in the future to seek occupants of the building.

Another ambitious project involves annexation of about 1,000 acres of raw land and developed areas. A local realtor plans a housing development on part of the acreage.

“We already provide water and sewer utilities to that land so it makes sense to bring it into the town,” Coleman said.

Foreman said the town hopes to upgrade all town parks, including Eagle Park and First Street Park. And, they hope to tie in trails from Robertson Road to the North Platte River.

The mayor and Foreman also said they hope the town can build a pair of splash pads for use by residents and visitors. “The David Street Station splash pad is very popular,” he said. “We can also draw lots of people with a couple of those.”

The mayor and town council are also looking at ways to cut red tape out of dealing with the town.

“We can’t make changes through code enforcement actions; we need to make it easier to secure permits and approvals,” he said.

The town has four council members and the mayor who govern the community. A town administrator handles many of the details of running the town but he also serves as public works director; both are full-time jobs, the mayor said. The town has 50-55 employees, depending on seasonal needs.

Foreman previously served as Vice President of Business Development at Advance Casper, the organization that came out of the Casper Area Economic Development Authority.

Mills was once a subdivision of the City of Casper. It became independent in 1921. The community of Mountain View lies next to Mills and was annexed in the 1990’s

Celebrating Wyoming Centenarians: At 105, Woman Advises Eat Chocolate & Drink Wine

in News
Inger Koedt
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By Mari Heithoff, Cowboy State Daily

After a lifetime filled with adventures, from run-ins with Nazis to climbing the Grand Teton at 76, Wyoming’s oldest resident is sharing her secret to longevity.

“Eat dark chocolate and drink red wine,” said Inger Koedt, who turned 105 on Jan. 15.

Koedt, who has lived in Wyoming for 66 years, has certainly made the most of her long life thus far. 

During a phone interview with Koedt and her friend and caretaker Sylvia Vroman, Koedt shared some unique memories of the past and of her experiences. 

Inger Koedt

Born in Denmark in 1915, Koedt lived through both world wars in Europe. 

During the occupation of Denmark during World War II, she and her husband sheltered Jewish refugees in their home and helped smuggle them to safety in Sweden. 

“It was a hard time,” she said, “but everyone was doing it, so you didn’t worry you would get turned in.”

Koedt and Vroman reminisced about an experience which sounds as though it comes straight from a book about the war. “Tell her about the time the Nazis ate dinner with you and your kids,” Vroman suggested. 

Koedt chuckled and explained that some Nazis invited themselves to dinner while some the family was sheltering some Jewish refugees in their house. At the time, her children were very young, and she and her husband had to be careful that they knew what to say. 

“It all depended on the children telling the right lies to the Nazis,” Koedt explained. “It was a scary time.” 

Fortunately, the soldiers did not discover the identities of the Koedt family’s guests.

After the war was over, the Koedts began to look to America for a new home. 

Although they initially moved to California, where her husband Bob was born and had family and job opportunities, Wyoming has been Koedt’s home for over half a century. The couple and their three children settled in Jackson Hole in 1956, where Koedt promptly fell in love with the mountains. 

An avid adventurer, Koedt was an active skier, mountaineer, and climber for decades. For years, she climbed the Grand Teton annually, most recently when she was 76. 

“People used to come and watch me and cheer,” Koedt chuckles, “But I climbed just to have fun.” 

She said that after a while the mountain got a little “boring,” but added she has also climbed many other mountains besides the Grand. 

She reminisced fondly about her outdoor adventures, including rock climbing and hiking. Many of her activities involved family and friends, and she got into rock climbing in her 60s or 70s because, as she explained, “I liked to climb with my son.” Although her son Peter passed away years ago, she has remained active.

Skiing was a favorite sport, and Koedt still got out in the snow until she broke her hip last year. While she can still walk, she also attends physical therapy, and amazingly, her health continues to improve.

One skiing adventure was a winter camping trip with her son and other friends when she was about 70. The group skied to Lake Solitude, where Koedt’s son built an igloo for them to sleep in. Koedt affirmed the solidity of its construction: “It was very warm.” 

Koedt attributed her fondness for Wyoming winters to her experiences of Danish winters. 

“I love the snow,” Koedt explained. “I love winter, but Denmark was dark. I love the sun here.” 

She also enjoys the simple pleasures of life, and is a well-known Jackson Hole cook. 

In 1967, after Koedt and her family had lived in Jackson for over a decade, she and her husband opened a restaurant known as the Mangy Moose Spaghetti Emporium. The cafe was one of the few restaurants located near the ski slopes to provide sustenance to both skiers and locals, and Koedt herself worked as a cook. 

The cafe developed a unique menu which combined Danish dishes and American cuisine, serving Danish sandwiches known as smorrebrod alongside spaghetti and hearty soups and stews. 

The Mangy Moose has since grown to become one of the most popular hangouts near the slopes, and Koedt, of course has long since retired. 

Fortunately, this talented cook’s recipes are still available in print form. Koedt and several friends collaborated to publish a cookbook entitled “From Smorrebrod to Subs,” which features Koedt’s signature recipes and many original Mangy Moose classics. 

Koedt’s favorite recipe is for pate, a sandwich spread popular in Denmark which can be made from various types of meat. Other favorite foods include salmon and any variety of potatoes, as well as dark chocolate and red wine. Koedt jokingly attributes her long life to the last two.

She had some additional tips for longevity.

“Eat when you’re hungry, sleep when you’re tired, always be happy,” she said. “Don’t hold grudges.” 

Relationships with family and friends also form an integral part of Koedt’s life. Though her husband has passed away and her children do not live nearby, Koedt says that “having someone to love, having your children,” is the most important part of life. 

Despite her years, Koedt still maintains an incredible level of activity and vibrant energy, as well as a good sense of humor. She loves to be outside, regardless of the weather, simply being present in nature, and has a fondness for tulips and wildflowers. Koedt remains active in her community and enjoys forming friendships with people of all ages. She often spends time with friends, sharing drinks and memories, and enjoys going for walks and watching local wildlife in and around Jackson Hole. 

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