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‘We Matter, We Vote:’ Hundreds Turn Out For Roe Rally In Cheyenne On Thursday

in abortion/News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A crowd of several hundred gathered in front of the Wyoming’s Capitol on Thursday to protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn the landmark abortion ruling “Roe vs. Wade.”

The crowd began to gather more than one-half hour before the start of the “Rally for Our Reproductive Rights,” with attendees holding signs to protest the ruling, chanting and cheering any cars that drove by and honked in support.

“We matter, we vote,” was one of the chants. Some of the signs included the longstanding “My body, my choice” phrase, while others called on the U.S. Supreme Court to keep its “hands” off of their genitals or accusing U.S. Supreme Court Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas of being sexual abusers.

Cheyenne resident Rikki Cruz brought her two daughters, Ember and Savvy, along with her husband to the rally on Thursday because she said the overturning of Roe would affect the young girls down the road.

Rikki (left), Savvy (center) and Ember Cruz attended the “Rally For Our Reproductive Rights” in Cheyenne on Thursday.

“Ember, my nine-year-old, has already said she doesn’t want to have kids. She’s like, ‘They’re not interesting,'” Cruz told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday, as her daughter agreed with her mother in the background. “She wanted to be included and she wants to fight for her right when she comes of age.”

Ember Cruz told Cowboy State Daily she was mad about the decision, holding up a sign that said “I’m not in your little book club, stay out of my uterus,” with a hand-drawn picture of a Bible and fire surrounding it.

During the rally, speakers such as Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame and Wyoming Senate candidates Marcie Kindred and Ted Hanlon spoke. Time was also given to women to share their stories about why abortion rights were so important and need to be protected.

“I have daughters, I have daughters-in-law, I have granddaughters and I’m worried about them,” Hanlon said. “I have wonderful women friends and I’m worried about them. I have precious friends and family in the LGBTQ community and I’m worried about them.

“This is not the time for nuance and ambiguity. It’s a time to be crystal clear. A woman has an absolute right to make her own decisions about her own body,” Hanlon continued.

A majority of the Supreme Court last week ruled that access to abortions is not a constitutionally guaranteed right and that the issue should be decided by the states. In the wake of the decision, Wyoming’s “trigger ban” law will ban most abortions in the state in less than one month.

Cheyenne residents were not the only ones to turn out for the rally, nor were the participants only women.

Cowboy State Daily columnist Rod Miller could be seen in the crowd, along with Rep. Karlee Provenza, D-Laramie, and a number of colorful participants, including a woman dressed as a handmaid from the television show “The Handmaid’s Tale” and a man who donned short shorts and spiked heels who held a sign that said “Walk in her shoes.”

Megan Cragun was among a group of women who drove from Rawlins to attend the rally. All four of the women told Cowboy State Daily that this was the first time any of them had gone to such a protest.

“If they have the right to make the choices, we deserve to have the same rights,” Cragun said. “Wyoming is the Equality State. I think that should stand as a point for the rest of the United States.”

Her friend, Kimberly Morse, who held a sign featuring a coat hanger (imagery often linked to unsafe and sometimes deadly abortions) told Cowboy State Daily she remembers the days when women used to use hangers and that the nation should not go back to that.

“It’s not right,” she said.

Another woman in the group said people should be “pissed” about the ruling and added if they are not, then they are not paying attention to the world around them.

Rock Springs resident Mya Boren told Cowboy State Daily that she also had never protested before Thursday, but felt she needed to attend because the abortion ruling is part of a larger issue.

“Unfortunately, people don’t see that right now, even the ones who are celebrating this ruling,” she said. “This impacts them, too. This is about our right to our body.”

She said that despite Wyoming being the Equality State, women are not equal in the state or nation and never have been.

“It’s beyond morality. It’s about rights. This is about freedom,” Boren said.

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Blizzard Of Chaos, Part III: Cheyenne Dairy Queen Lobby Reopens After Two Years

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

After more than two years of being closed, the popular Cheyenne Dairy Queen’s lobby has finally reopened, its owner told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

While a fast food restaurant reopening its lobby might not be interesting or newsworthy to most people, the Cheyenne Dairy Queen is not a typical burger and ice cream shop.

Because the lobby has been closed, it hasn’t been uncommon to see a line stretching from the restaurant’s drive-thru window and snaking all the way around the building and spilling — sometimes more than 30 cars deep — onto Pershing Boulevard, one of the busiest streets in the city.

As a result, the restaurant and the police department have been hammered by angry citizens demanding something be done about it because of safety concerns.

“Guaranteed that someone will get killed there,” Kayla Parker told Cowboy State Daily.  “No one obeys the speed limit, people are flying down Pershing at 70mph and then a bunch of dumbasses are sitting in the middle of the street waiting for their stupid chili cheese dog.”

Popular memes circulating on local social media channels, chastise drive-thru-goers for clogging a main artery and turning the street into a game of bumper cars.

Fist-fights have reportedly broken out in front of the restaurant too as upset motorists have either slammed into each other or come close.

Like Riding A Bike

Dairy Queen co-owner Randy Filbin told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that reopening the lobby was like it was like riding a bike — with things running pretty much the way they did before the lobby was closed by COVID-19.

“I’m doing a softer opening right now, because we’ve still got a lot of people training and we don’t want to overwhelm them,” Filbin said. “I’m not fully staffed yet, but we were close enough that I thought we could handle the lobby being opened, as long as we didn’t make a big announcement of it.”

Posts on Cheyenne-centric social media groups announced the lobby’s opening, which Filbin was not surprised by. He does not expect the lobby’s reopening to stay quiet for long.

Dairy Queen employees saw around 75 to 80 people come through the lobby on Wednesday, which is a few more than Filbin was expecting.

“It felt kind of good, having it open again,” he said. “It gives people an opportunity to go work in a different spot after being stuck in the same place and doing the same actions day after day.”

But don’t worry, the drive-thru was still busy the whole day.

Lobby Life

One restaurant-goer told Cowboy State Daily she was relieved the lobby was opened but still had concerns about the volume of traffic the restaurant receives.

“Every day it’s like Target on Thanksgiving Eve,” Rita Mallsen said. “The only difference is no one is trying to steal TVs.”

Pandemic

Filbin has hesitated to reopen the lobby since the COVID-19 pandemic struck two years ago due to low staff numbers. The drive-thru has typically been the more popular option anyway, so he, his father and their business partner decided to keep the lobby closed until they could get their staff up to a higher number.

According to Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Alex Farkas, 10 traffic incidents occurred in the Dairy Queen area in the last year. Five of those occurred at the Dairy Queen address itself and five happened near the restaurant between Duff Avenue and Pershing Boulevard.

Of those 10 incidents, one was directly related to the drive-thru. A collision took place as a driver was turning into the location.

There were two rear-enders at the Dairy Queen, one of which involved a single vehicle backing into something and another related to a driver being under the influence.

The police department also received a traffic complaint from the Dairy Queen address on June 2 regarding speeding and reckless driving.

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Drunken Cheyenne School Bus Driver Charged With 19 Counts, Trial Set For August

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne school bus driver who was arrested earlier this year for driving a bus full of students while intoxicated is facing 19 misdemeanor charges and will go to trial in August, court filings show.

David Richard Williams, 60, faces one charge of driving under the influence, 11 reckless endangering charges and seven charges of endangering children.

He will go to trial on Aug. 18 in Goshen County Circuit Court, a delay from the original trial date of Thursday. The delay was to allow prosecutors to share their evidence against Williams with his attorneys, according to court documents.

Williams was arrested by a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper in February while transporting Laramie County School District No. 1 students to a speech and debate tournament in Spearfish, South Dakota.

After he was stopped, he failed a field sobriety test and was then arrested.

His breath test showed Williams had a blood-alcohol concentration of around 0.15%, significantly higher than the level of 0.04% allowed for a commercial motor vehicle driver and almost twice the level of 0.08% at which the driver of a regular vehicle is considered intoxicated.

In-vehicle video showed Williams to be drinking alcohol both before and while driving the students, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The FMCSA revoked Williams’ commercial driver’s license in March.

Prior to the February arrest, Williams had no violations on his driving record, the Wyoming Department of Transportation previously told Cowboy State Daily.

LCSD1 officials have declined to comment on the situation with Williams, citing personnel reasons. However, the district has implemented new mandatory drug and alcohol awareness training following Williams’ arrest.

The annual recertification class will become part of the training that existing bus drivers are required to take every August during their three-day in-service training prior to the start of the school year.

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, drivers with a commercial driver’s license are subject to a variety of prohibitions on the use of alcohol prior to and while driving CMVs, including a prohibition on using any alcohol within four hours of driving and a prohibition on driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.04% or greater.    

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Florida Man Pleads Not Guilty To Transporting Utah Teen To Wyoming For Sex

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man accused of picking up a 13-year-old girl in Utah with plans of taking her to Florida recently pleaded not guilty to a charge of transporting a minor across state lines with the intent of having sex with her, according to federal court filings.

Christopher S. Evans, 25, of Fort Pierce, Florida pleaded not guilty in U.S. District Court in Wyoming on May 31 to the charge of transporting a minor across state lines with intent to commit sexual contact and sexual intrusion.

His trial is set for July 7. He faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine for the charge.

Evans was arrested at a Cheyenne truck stop in March and the girl was found inside of his vehicle.

According to court documents, the 13-year-girl was reported missing from her Roosevelt, Utah, home by her parents on the morning of March 8. The girl’s phone was discovered in her bedroom, along with her Oculus virtual reality gaming headset.

It was reported that the girl had been in contact with Evans through the video game platform and a message that said “Waiting,” sent by him, was discovered on the headset, indicating that he was the one who picked up the girl.

The two had been communicating for more than a month.

Using his online accounts, police were able to track Evans’ location through his cell phone. Around 3 p.m. on March 10, he and the girl were found to be at a Love’s truck stop in Cheyenne inside of his semi-truck.

Evans was taken to the Laramie County Detention Center after his arrest, where he admitted to police that he was aware the girl was 13.

He also said they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that their plan was to go to Florida to live together and pursue a relationship.

The girl told police she and Evans communicated these plans to friends on the Oculus platform.

During their two nights in the truck, the two slept in the bottom bunk of Evans’ semi-truck. He admitted to touching her bare breast and over the clothes in her vaginal area.

The girl said Evans asked to have sex with her, but it was not clear from court documents whether they did.

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Blizzard Of Chaos, Part 2: Cheyenne Police Says Dairy Queen Owner Not Breaking Any Laws

in News/Business
20710

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Ellen@cowboystatedaily.com

The drive can be maddening and to some, dangerous.

When traffic backs up in front of the Dairy Queen on Pershing Boulevard in Cheyenne, it really backs up.

The street turns into a parking lot, according to a popular meme circulating on local social media channels.

And the co-owner of the Dairy Queen knows why: his restaurant sells a quality product. As a result, his employees serve around 400 cars per day which often spill out onto the busy roadway.

Randy Filbin is also aware that the fast food and ice cream shop’s longtime location is not the most ideal, especially at particularly busy times.

It can be a struggle having a small parking lot and a large customer base, but Filbin, his father and their business partner do their best to make things work.

“We’ve gotten some grief because our lobby hasn’t reopened since COVID, but I don’t think a lot of people understand about coming out of this pandemic and the workforce shortage,” Filbin told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “Now, there’s a lot of competition to hire people. In March, when I normally would have 47 to 50 employees, I was down to 24. We were struggling.”

Filbin’s intent is to get enough staff to reopen the Dairy Queen lobby by the end of the month, but he pointed out that even once the lobby opens, there will still likely be some traffic on Pershing Boulevard.

Is It Really That Bad?

Although some residents predict traffic fatalities will result because of the congestion, those claims may be a bit hyperbolic.

According to Cheyenne Police Department spokeswoman Alex Farkas, 10 traffic incidents occurred in the Dairy Queen area in the last year. Five of those occurred at the Dairy Queen address itself and five happened near the restaurant between Duff Avenue and Pershing Boulevard.

Of those 10 incidents, one was directly related to the drive-thru. A collision took place as a driver was turning into the location.

There were two rear endings at the Dairy Queen, one of which involved a single vehicle backing into something and another related to a driver being under the influence.

The police department also received a traffic complaint from the Dairy Queen address on June 2 regarding speeding and reckless driving.

Outgrown

Filbin said it was likely that the Dairy Queen has outgrown its location after more than 40 years in its spot on Pershing Boulevard, but added that in today’s economy, moving the business could be a huge risk.

“Sometimes when you move locations, you hurt your business by doing so,” Filbin said.

“It’s just a really scary investment when you’re talking about $2.5 to maybe $3 million with a staggered workforce,” he said. We’ve also talked about opening another location, but when you’re having trouble staffing one, what do you think is going to happen at another?”

Looking at another local hot spot, Chick-Fil-A can have dozens of cars waiting in its drive-thru lines as well.

But they have the benefit of data which shows wherever they put a franchise, people will follow. So they know they’ve got to build adequate space for the traffic — which they did 7 years ago when Cheyenne’s first Chick-Fil-A drive-thru opened up.

And the people came. So much so that occasionally the traffic spills over there too — and they have significantly more space.

A recent drive-thru study showed Chick-Fil-A at the top of its class with 77% of its drive-thru experiences having three or more cars in line while 35.5 percent had six or more cars in line. For context, McDonald’s claimed the second-busiest drive thru, and only 41.8 percent of its drive thrus had three or more cars and 9.1 percent had six or more.

This information is interesting but it won’t do anything for Filbin. He’s already in place and there’s no way to expand.

Street Legal

As for the traffic issues, he has spoken with the Cheyenne Police Department and asked whether there is anything they can do.

“They said that as long as a car has their turn signal on to indicate they’re going into the restaurant, then that is the legal thing to do,” Filbin said. “It might not be the safest thing, but it is the legal one.”

Sgt. Ryan Trimble, Cheyenne police’s traffic safety supervisor, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that Filbin was right.

As long as no one is blocking the Duff/Pershing intersection or the crosswalk and the left lane of traffic is clear, the traffic congestion into Dairy Queen might be a nuisance, but not illegal.

“If a person is unable to get into the parking lot, they are allowed to remain in the roadway as long as they’re not completely stopping traffic,” Trimble said. “Same rules apply when turning left into the parking lot.”

The sergeant said Cheyenne police see traffic congestion at other places besides Dairy Queen too. Some schools have drop-off lines so long they actually do impede traffic.

Farkas said the Dairy Queen traffic jams were a good reminder for drivers to be aware of their surroundings and to slow down in area where congestion might be an issue.

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Blizzard Of Chaos: Cheyenne’s Dairy Queen Attracts Customers And Accidents

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Photo by Harvey Deselms
20681

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By Ellen Fike and Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It’s usually a good thing when business is booming and customers are lined-up to visit. But in Cheyenne, one local fast food restaurant is so busy that ill-will is being served on the menu along with the food.

The problem is the location. The city’s sole Dairy Queen is located on one of the most busy streets, Pershing Boulevard.

Once COVID shut the lobby down, it’s stayed closed. But it’s more popular than ever. And it’s all drive-thru traffic.

As a result, cars will line up in the left lane of the two-lane eastbound section of the street leaving just one lane open for travel.

Fist-Fights

Sometimes the line on Pershing surpasses 20 cars, observers say, creating accidents, near accidents, slowdowns, and sometimes altercations.

Just two weeks ago, an accident occurred in front of the popular restaurant and participants in the crash tried to settle the score not through insurance agencies but with their fists.

Local fine arts gallery owner Harvey Deselms took one photo of a recent accident and posted it on Facebook and the response — overwhelming — was indicative of just how much some people are upset about it.

“They do a booming business there, it’s just in an unfortunate spot,” Deselms told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “I think it would alleviate a lot of the problems if they would open the lobby back up.”

Of the accident, Deselms said he was not laying blame at the Dairy Queen owners, employees, or the city of Cheyenne, but rather irresponsible drivers.

“Someone Will Get Killed”

Cheyenne resident Kayla Parker told Cowboy State Daily that she is “fed-up” with what she called a parking lot in front of Dairy Queen and now refuses to drive on Pershing Boulevard.

“Guaranteed that someone will get killed there,” Parker said.  “No one obeys the speed limit, people are flying down Pershing at 70mph and then a bunch of dumbasses are sitting in the middle of the street waiting for their stupid chili cheese dog.”

“I’ve called the police numerous times and get jack squat,” she continued.  “My advice is for everyone to call the police department and complain.”

“Disaster Waiting To Happen”

Fellow resident Steve Moore agreed.  He said he’s tried to find out the name of the franchise owner but no one will tell him.

He said because the franchise owner, in his opinion, isn’t doing anything about it, dire results are a certainty.

“The franchise owner doesn’t care about Cheyenne,” Moore said.  “Someone is going to die in front of their Dairy Queen and they don’t care.”

Moore said the issue can be fixed but only if Cheyenne residents get involved.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen and unless the people stand-up and say no more, there’s going to be a tragedy,” he said.

“We Love Dairy Queen”

It’s not all negative. Dairy Queen has plenty of supporters. There are those who believe the anger over the traffic situation is overblown.

“The DQ has been in that location longer than some of you have been alive. Get in line and enjoy it,” said Gail Tooke on a popular Cheyenne Facebook page.

Donny Terson told Cowboy State Daily that he and his family “love Dairy Queen” and the negativity should be directed at bad drivers, not anything else.

“People just need to go the speed limit and merge when the traffic is backed-up,” he said. “How difficult is that? Buy a blizzard and enjoy summer.”

The Neighbors

Then there are the neighbors of the Dairy Queen — an elderly couple who has lived in the house for 52 years.

They moved in before there was a Dairy Queen.

Their daughter, Lynn Dolwick, told Cowboy State Daily that the restaurant has always been a big draw but since COVID, the amount of traffic has been “dangerous.”

“You know, it’s scary when you’re coming down Pershing and you see the back ends of cars sitting out in the middle of the street,” Dolwick said.

“People swerving around them and other times they don’t see the cars until it’s almost too late,” she said. “It’s really dangerous.”

Dolwick said she was emphatic with the owners because there’s little they can do. Plus, they’ve been good to her parents.

“Dairy Queen has great employees and food and they have been accommodating to my parents since their illnesses,” she said.

Rants and Raves

The restaurant is a hot topic on the Cheyenne Rants and Raves Facebook page. Recently, a meme was posted reminding drivers that Pershing Boulevard was a street, not a Dairy Queen parking lot.

The post went viral and featured, like many similar posts, anger, insults, and ad hominem attacks.



Part two of this series, featuring interviews with the Dairy Queen co-owner and the Cheyenne Police Department, will be published on Tuesday, June 7.

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NTSB Report: Pilot Headed To Texas, Experienced ‘Engine Failure’ Before Plane Crash In Cheyenne

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Security cam photo by Steve Sears
20675

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A pilot of a small, Texas-bound plane reported engine failure soon after takeoff from the Cheyenne Regional Airport, according to a preliminary report released by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The pilot was the only person killed in the crash on May 30, but no information about him has been released.

The NTSB does not release the names of those involved in crashes, a spokesman told Cowboy State Daily last week.

According to the preliminary report, an Express2000RG airplane crashed around 7:50 a.m. on May 30.

Investigators found that the plane departed from the Cheyenne Regional Airport and was airborne for about four minutes before it crashed.

Shortly after takeoff about four miles south of the airport, the pilot declared an emergency with the air traffic control tower personnel and informed them he had an “engine failure.”

He later reported that he would not be able to land at the airport and intended to land in a field. The pilot said his plane was “on fire” and asked air traffic control to send fire rescue.

A video from security cameras at a Cheyenne business showed the airplane spinning into the ground.

The NTSB report said the initial impact point left a divot in the concrete before the plane collided with a storage facility.

The wreckage path continued about 15 feet into a storage locker. A post-crash fire ensued, which consumed a majority of the aircraft.

After on-scene documentation, the plane was removed to a secure facility for further examination.

Business owner Steve Sears told Cowboy State Daily last week that he didn’t see the aircraft hit the ground but thought to check his security cameras shortly thereafter. He said the footage captured the entire incident.

Screenshots provided by Sears to Cowboy State Daily show the plane shortly before impact.

“I was at home when it happened and thought to check [the security cameras] out of curiosity,” Sears told Cowboy State Daily.

“I thought I would check thinking that I would see smoke but much to my surprise, I saw the plane spinning almost straight down and impact,” he said.

Sears said he gave the video footage to the Cheyenne Police Department and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Sears did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Monday.

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$220 Million Gold Mine Project Moving Forward In Cheyenne

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Construction of a proposed $220 million gold mine in Laramie County could begin next year, according to a spokesman for the project.

Jason Begger, a spokesman for U.S. Gold Corp. told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that while state approval is needed before work can begin, construction could begin in late 2023.

“We’re looking at late 2024 to early 2025 to begin the actual mining and that will be about a 10-year lifespan,” Begger said.

Earlier this month, U.S. Gold Corp. put out a request for proposal for local contractors to handle construction at the mine site, which is expected to take around a year. Construction will include building access roads to the site, construction of the processing mill, earthworks and site grading and layout for the storage area.

U.S. Gold Corp. has been investigating the potential of re-opening an old copper mine adjacent to Curt Gowdy State Park to produce gold. The project is known as “CK Gold.”

Begger said that U.S Gold Corp. did work with the University of Wyoming to prepare an economic assessment for the mine, which showed that the mine would generate around 660 jobs and $1.4 million per year in sales tax revenue for the city of Cheyenne alone.

The assessment also showed the mine would create about $65 million in “taxable impact” for the city, county and state, Begger said.

The mine site is located at Copper King, an old copper mine that hasn’t been worked since before World War II and is owned by the state of Wyoming. The company estimates there are around 250 million pounds of copper inside of the mine and 1 million ounces of gold.

The gold deposit at the site has been known to exist for a long time, but mining technology has finally reached a point where experts think it could be worth opening the mine again to retrieve the gold, Begger said in earlier interviews.

Begger added there won’t be much, if any, impact on wildlife or water quality in the area.

He also compared the type of mining that would be done at the site to work done at rock quarries and added no cyanide would be used to leach gold from ore during the process as is often the case at other gold mines.

Several options are being examined for the mine’s use once production is completed, Begger said.

“The plan right now is the mine area would be back-filled … and returned to what it was before it became the mine site, which was cattle grazing lands,” he said. “But, the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities has said that additional water storage will likely be needed in that area in about 20 years, so there is some investigation into whether the site would be a feasible place for storage.”

If this project moves forward to completion, it would be the state’s only active gold mine.

Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins did not return a request for comment on Tuesday.

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Nebraska Murder Suspect Killed In Cheyenne By Police On Saturday

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20366

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Nebraska murder suspect was killed by Cheyenne law enforcement officers on Saturday, the Cheyenne Police Department announced.

Davin Darayle Saunders was reported to be in Cheyenne on Tuesday. Further investigation revealed that he was located at a house on East 11th Street in the city.

On Saturday, the Cheyenne Police Department’s SWAR team was notified to Saunders’ location and responded to the area to conduct surveillance. A warrant was issued for officers to enter the residence.

While on the scene, the team attempted to communicate with Saunders and asked him to leave the residence, but he refused.

Officers deployed gas in an attempt to lure Saunders out of the home, but he pulled out a firearm. Officers saw this and fired on him, killing him.

No further injuries were reported, according to CPD, and no further information was made available as of Saturday afternoon.

Saunders was wanted in Scottsbluff, Nebraska for multiple homicide-related charges. He had a history of violence.

Saunders’ alleged victim was identified this week Karen Cooper, 63, of Scottsbluff, who died as a result of gunshot wounds early Tuesday evening in a Scottsbluff residential neighborhood.

Saunders fled in his vehicle, which was recovered in Cheyenne after he abandoned it.

Cheyenne police were alerted to Saunders’ presence earlier in the week after he was reported at a Walmart to have been involved in a domestic disturbance with a firearm.

The scene is still active and has been turned over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation for further review.

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Cheyenne Gas Station Suing Fed Ex For Driver Damaging Car Wash

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20203

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The owners of a Cheyenne gas station are suing Federal Express, alleging a delivery truck’s backup camera got caught in the brushes of a car wash, causing more than $170,000 in damages and forcing the car wash’s closure for more than one month.

Big D Oil Co., which is based in South Dakota, filed a lawsuit against FedEx in state district court in Cheyenne in late April over damages done to a car wash connected to a Big D service station in Cheyenne.

The case was moved to U.S. District Court on Thursday because the amount in dispute is more than $75,000 and the two parties are located in different states.

According to court documents, Fed Ex driver Penny Archibald drove her delivery vehicle through the Big D car wash on Dell Range Boulevard in August 2020.

The lawsuit said Archibald drove into the car wash despite the presence of warning signs that said her vehicle could not safely pass through the car wash.

The lawyers for Big D argued a sign on the car wash also said car wash operators were not responsible for damages to vehicles and warned drivers against going through the car wash if a vehicle had “body damage, loose chrome or non-standard accessories.”

Archibald’s vehicle had a back-up camera on the top of it, which the Big D lawyers argued is a non-standard accessory.

Her vehicle’s camera became entangled in the car wash’s brushes, which led to a collapse of components in the car wash and caused “severe” damage to the structure and equipment.

Archibald fled the scene after causing the damage, the lawsuit said, but returned later and admitted to causing the damage.

Due to the damage caused by Archibald, the car wash was inoperable from Aug. 6 to Sept. 22, 2020, the lawsuit said. The damages caused totaled more than $174,000.

Big D’s lawyers also claimed that by not having the car wash operational, the company lost additional sales, revenue and customer loyalty.

The lawsuit also argued that FedEx has not reimbursed Big D for the damages to the car wash, loss of revenue or the loss of ancillary sales, despite demands for it.

The oil company is asking for FedEx to not only repay the Big D for the damages and economic losses, but also for but attorney fees.

Fed Ex has denied the allegations in a subsequent court filing, saying the signs at the car wash did not make it clear that the FedEx vehicle could not pass safely through the car wash.

The company also denied it took any action that led directly to the damage.

“FedEx Express’s conduct was neither a material element, substantial factor, nor a cause of any of (Big D’s) alleged injuries or damages,” the filing said.

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Florida Man Faces Life In Prison After Kidnapping Utah Teen, Being Discovered In Cheyenne

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20054

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Florida man is facing life in prison on allegations he took a 13-year-old teenager from her home in Utah and brought her to Wyoming with the intent of having sex with her.

Christopher S. Evans, 25, faces anywhere from 10 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine for transporting a minor across state lines “with intent to commit sexual contact and commit sexual intrusion.” Evans was arrested in Cheyenne in March indicted on the charge by a federal grand jury last week.

According to court documents, the 13-year-girl was reported missing from her Roosevelt, Utah, home by her parents on the morning of March 8. The girl’s phone was discovered in her bedroom, along with her Oculus virtual reality gaming headset.

It was reported that the girl had been in contact with Evans through the video game platform and a message that said “Waiting,” sent by him, was discovered on the headset, indicating that he was the one who picked up the girl.

The two had been communicating for more than a month.

Using his online accounts, police were able to track Evans’ location through his cell phone. Around 3 p.m. on March 10, he and the girl were found to be at a Love’s truck stop in Cheyenne inside of his semi-truck.

Evans was taken to the Laramie County Detention Center after his arrest, where he admitted to police that he was aware the girl was 13. He also said they were boyfriend and girlfriend and that their plan was to go to Florida to live together and pursue a relationship.

The girl told police she and Evans communicated these plans to friends on the Oculus platform.

During their two nights in the truck, the two slept in the bottom bunk of Evans’ semi-truck. He admitted to touching her bare breast and over the clothes in her vaginal area. The girl said Evans asked to have sex with her, but it was not clear from court documents whether they had.

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Gillette Woman Who Defrauded People Hundreds Of Thousands Of Dollars From Cheyenne Hotel Room Gets Prison

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Gillette woman convicted of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from various individuals and the Internal Revenue Service through three separate schemes, including one run while she was staying at Cheyenne’s Fairfield Inn, has been sentenced to almost three years in prison.

Alexa Kinney was sentenced to 33 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for wire fraud, using an unauthorized access device and making false claims to the Internal Revenue Service. She was also ordered to pay restitution in total of $172,400 to her victims.

“Alexa Kinney’s sentence shows attempts to defraud individuals and the federal government for one’s own personal gain will not be tolerated,” said Andy Tsui, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge for Wyoming.  “IRS:CI will continue to investigate and bring to justice those who try to take from others what they are not rightfully entitled to.”

She initially faced 45 years in prison for on charges filed in connection with allegations she scammed one Cheyenne woman of $165,000, used a man’s credit card to pay for a rental car and lodging and improperly applied for a coronavirus stimulus payment with the IRS.

She pleaded guilty to the charges in January.

Kinney was accused of living in various hotels across Wyoming, often using money raised fraudulently to pay her bills.

According to court documents, Kinney, while staying at Cheyenne’s Fairfield Inn in 2019, defrauded a Cheyenne woman of $165,000. Kinney told the woman she would invest the money, but she kept it for herself, documents said.

An investigation revealed Kinney used the money for her personal expenses and to pay off creditors.

M.F. was not Kinney’s only victim in 2019, however, according to court documents.

In March 2019, Kinney met T.S. on a dating website, where she claimed she was a legal consultant. In May 2019, T.S. contacted Kinney regarding a legal matter and agreed to pay her $1,800 to act as his legal consultant.

T.S. provided Kinney with his credit card to make the payment, the only time he authorized her to use his card. A few weeks later, Kinney began charging food and hotel expenses to the card.

Text messages between the two showed Kinney claimed there was a merchant mix-up and that whenever she used her company credit card, T.S.’s card was mistakenly charged.

Additionally, in April 2020, Kinney applied to receive a stimulus check for $1,200 through the IRS’ website. She had not filed a 2019 tax return and was required to submit tax return and income information.

However, Kinney claimed that she was not required to file a 2019 tax return form because her gross income for the year was less than $12,200, which was a false statement, since she’d received at least $165,000 in taxable income from M.F. in 2019.

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Cheyenne Hit Hard By National Garbage Truck Driver Shortage

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Even though a shortage of garbage truck operators has drivers for Cheyenne’s Public Works Department struggling to make up for the lack of workers, longtime driver Carl Munoz keeps a good attitude about things.

Munoz has been working in the city’s public works department for 26 years and he said when the pandemic hit two years ago, drivers for the department had to begin putting in extra hours and taking on more responsibility in response to declining driver numbers.

“About a year ago, it started getting even worse,” Munoz told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

Munoz pointed to one main reason behind the driver shortage, at least in Cheyenne: low pay.

“A lot of people are saying that they have a (commercial driver’s license) and a job like this has a lot of responsibility,” he said. “I think they’re thinking they can go somewhere else for more money instead of putting up with something like that.

“I mean, when I started here 26 years ago, my pay was $6.35 (per hour). Now, it’s $6.36,” he continued, joking.

City Public Works Director Vicki Nemecek agreed that the city cannot compete with some wages being offered to drivers with CDLs.

She added that new federal guidelines for CDL drivers that went into place in February has also made it more difficult to get drivers in a timely manner.

The city’s Public Works Department has 112 positions that require employees to have a CDL, from solid waste transport to transit buses.

The Sanitation Division was short 10 drivers as of Wednesday, Nemecek said.

Years ago, the city helped sanitation employees like Munoz obtain a CDL with various assistance programs. Now, a person who does not have a CDL must attend an eight-week course at Laramie County Community College at a cost of almost $5,000.

Nemecek said city is in the process of bringing on a person who can train potential CDL drivers in-house rather than sending them to LCCC.

“It’s possible for the city to pay for the course, but then we’d have to set up an agreement where we pay LCCC, but we’d also have to figure out if we pay the employee too,” she said. “It’s a big taxpayer expense in order to do that, so we’ve decided the best option is to hire a trainer.”

However, the trainer can’t come onboard until at least July, after the fiscal year begins on July 1.

Munoz pointed out that the training period does not end once a person obtains a CDL. The driver has to learn the ins and outs of working in the Sanitation Division and how to operate the costly equipment while also avoiding expensive accidents at the homes of city residents.

“If this job were easy, everybody would be doing it,” he said. “The drivers who have been doing it a long time may make it look easy, because we’ve done it for a long time and know what we’re doing. I think this job can just be overwhelming to people starting out.”

But Cheyenne is not the only city, by far, seeing an issue with finding CDL drivers. The National Waste and Recycling Association said the waste and recycling industry has been experiencing a growing labor shortage over the past several years, particularly when it comes to hiring people with CDLs.

For the time being, Nemecek said the city’s Public Works Department will continue to make do with what it has, but she also asked residents to be patient with employees during this time.

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Spotify’s Biggest Female Artist To Perform In Cheyenne This Summer

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The woman behind Spotify’s most-streamed single by a female artist will headline Cheyenne’s popular summer festival Edge Fest in August, the event’s organizer told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

Tones and I, whose hit “Dance Monkey” is also the most Shazamed song ever, will headline Edge Fest in Cheyenne on Aug. 27. The event is free and open to the public.

Marketing company Warehouse 21 organizes the event and CEO Dave Teubner regularly scouts up-and-coming artists who would be a good fit for the Cheyenne crowd. He told Cowboy State Daily that Tones and I, real name Toni Watson, has been on his radar for a couple of years.

“She’s really our biggest name so far and we were able to do that because of our sponsors,” Teubner said. “We’ve talked about turning Edge Fest into a multi-day event, but right now, we’ve focused on raising more money to put into the artists, quality over quantity.”

“Dance Monkey” was released in 2019, but still regularly receives airplay. In 2020, it was declared the most Shazamed song ever, with nearly 37 million searches for the Australian singer’s big hit.

Tones and I released her debut album in July 2021, but she has reportedly been working on a new record expected to be released in August.

“She’s going on a world tour, which is huge and she’s playing a lot of bigger venues than (Edge Fest) all across the U.S.,” Teubner said. “We’re pretty lucky to have snagged her while she’s going to be in the states.”

Edge Fest has been a Cheyenne summer staple for nearly a decade and has grown exponentially over the last five years.

Teubner has put a focus in bringing higher-tier independent artists to the festival and some of the recent headliners at Edge Fest include Bishop Briggs, K.Flay and LP, all women.

“The fact that we continue having women headliners is semi-intentional,” Teubner said. “We’re not exclusive to having women. We just really admire these artists’ live performances and their ability in which to electrify a crowd.”

In addition to the performance by Tones and I, artists to appear at Edge Fest will include Claire Rosinkranz and Joe P. The event will also feature around a dozen of the region’s “finest” food trucks, beer sales and vendors.

“It just continues to grow in size and numbers,” Teubner said.

Management for Tones and I did not immediately respond to Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.

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Cheyenne Police Chief Acknowledges Increase In Property Crime, Says Progress Is Being Made

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Although Cheyenne has seen a spike in property crimes over the last year, the city’s police department is taking steps to cut down on the crimes, its police chief told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

CPD Chief Mark Francisco said the city has definitely seen an increase in property crimes such as vandalism, auto theft and burglaries in the past year, but he said he could not speculate as to the cause.

“I know the mayor is particularly frustrated with some of the vandalism that’s occurred on city property downtown,” Francisco said. “We’ve had some success with that in making arrests here and there and we’ve tried to do some education regarding catalytic converters and stolen autos.”

In his weekly “Mayor’s Minute” column issued in late April, Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins called the levels of property crime being seen in the city “tragic” and called on residents to report any illegal activity to the Cheyenne Police Department.

Francisco, who was appointed to police chief in 2021 after Collins decided to not reappoint former police chief Brian Kozak, said there was a particular surge in auto thefts last year compared to years past.

Arrest numbers for burglaries, auto thefts and public vandalism that occurred in Cheyenne in 2021 were not immediately available.

Kozak, who is now a candidate for Laramie County sheriff, told Cowboy State Daily last week that the property crime levels seen in Cheyenne and in the county are exceeding those seen in larger cities such as Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley, Colorado.

“For example, Natrona County had 24 home burglaries last year, whereas Laramie County had 154, and they’re pretty consistent in population to us,” Kozak said. “Weld County in Colorado, which has traditionally had high crime rates, had 142 home burglaries. So we’re above them.”

Francisco could not comment on the numbers Kozak shared, since he was unaware of where the former chief got his data.

While he could not point to any particular reasons for the property crimes spike in Cheyenne, Francisco thought the COVID-19 pandemic could have played a role in it.

“Nationwide, coming off of COVID, the criminal justice system struggled with officers being able to contact people, jails being able to accept people and trials being delayed because of the COVID effects,” he said. “I would say in a broad sense, we’re still digging ourselves out from a backlog in a lot of ways. We’ve got a lot of outstanding warrants out there that the criminal justice system couldn’t deal with.”

Despite the spike, Francisco noted that there has been a downturn in these crimes since the beginning of 2022.

He added that the police department is looking into ways to better monitor certain areas that see more crime or vandalism, such as the city’s downtown parking garage, but some needed surveillance equipment has become difficult to get because of supply chain issues.

In the meantime, Francisco called on city residents and visitors to contact the police if they see something suspicious.

“If they see something that looks odd out there, please let us know,” he said. “Any help we can get to identify when something’s going on, it’ll be better for all of us.”

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UPDATE: Adoption Begins At Cheyenne Animal Shelter Following 58 Large Dog Rescue

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Some of the large dogs who came to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter from a “hoarder” house in Cheyenne are being adopted, a shelter spokeswoman told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

At least five of the dogs from the group of 58 that the shelter took in around 10 days ago have now been adopted, CAS branding director Niki Harrison said.

“We still have more than 200 animals in the building, so it’s definitely still a little crazy,” she said. “But at least it’s all productive.”

More than 30 dogs were available for adoption from the shelter as of Tuesday afternoon and Harrison noted that most of the larger breed dogs available were from the hoarding case. Harrison said all of the dogs have been getting more and more used to being walked on leashes and, while timid and shy, they are friendly and lovable.

In attempt to increase interest in adoptions, adoption fees for adult dogs have been slashed to $50 this week.

Those interested in adopting are also welcome to visit the shelter at any time during its business hours to meet a dog, but Harrison urged patience when coming in to adopt a furry friend.

“We are doing more adoption counsels in a day than we have in a while, so the wait time could be up to an hour, if not a bit more,” she said. “People have been pretty gracious about it, though.”

All of the dogs that were available for foster care have been placed in homes and Harrison noted that even some “foster fails” have occurred, in which a family decides to keep its foster pet rather than return it.

Shelter CEO Britney Tenant told Cowboy State Daily last week that this is the most significant hoarding event the shelter has seen in quite some time.

“I think typically, we would be under a lot more stress when it comes to a hoarding situation of this size,” she said. “But the community’s support, the media’s support, the support from our volunteers and staff, it’s made things much lighter than what it possibly could have been.”

Tenant said last week that the hoarding situation was discovered after the wind blew over a fence at the property south of Cheyenne where the dogs lived, which allowed a number of them, around 15 or 16, to escape.

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Former Cheyenne Employee Sues City; Claims Abusive Behavior By Former Mayor

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A former human resources director for the City of Cheyenne is suing the city, alleging she was a victim of discrimination because of a disability.

Denise Freeman is suing the city in federal court, seeking damages in an amount to be determined by a jury for lost wages, harm to her reputation, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life and other injuries.

According to the lawsuit filed Thursday, the allegations stem from former Mayor Marian Orr’s decision to fire Freeman after Freeman asked for extended unpaid medical leave.

The firing followed several disputes between the two women, the lawsuit said, that began shortly after Orr took office in January of 2017.

“During her only term as tenure, Mayor Orr was prone to fits of rage and would lash out angrily at Ms. Freeman and other city employees,” the lawsuit said. “At all times material to this complaint, Mayor Orr would scream diatribes, swear at and in the presence of city employees and stomp angrily out of meetings.”

Some of the disputes stemmed from the Human Resources Department’s failure to send Orr employment applications submitted by “friends and acquaintances, several of which had not cleared departmental review,” the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit also said Freeman was criticized by Orr for “burying” an application that the Human Resources Department had determined was incomplete.

“During her employment with (the city), Ms. Freeman felt bullied and intimidated by Mayor Orr and her Chief of Staff Eric Fountain,” it said.

In April 2018, suffering from depression, anxiety and insomnia exacerbated by “work stress,” Freeman asked for six weeks of unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

“Ms. Freeman had a disabling medical condition that, among other things, substantially affected her ability to focus and work,” the lawsuit said. “She requested leave because of her disability.”

An assistant human resources director was hired while Freeman was gone, the lawsuit said, and was paid $5,000 more per year than Freeman was making.

The new assistant director was then told he would become the department’s interim director while Freeman was on leave with a salary of $25,000 more per year than Freeman’s.

Freeman’s asked for another six weeks of unpaid leave in June 2018. She asked on July 16, 2018, that she be allowed to use her accrued vacation time for additional leave and to use another 160 hours from the city’s “sick leave bank” to extend her leave. She said her request was accompanied by a doctor’s statement that she was still suffering from depression and anxiety.

On July 18, Orr wrote to tell Freeman her request for additional leave was denied because a doctor had not signed the proper form. 

In the same letter, Orr told Freeman she was fired, although she also said Freeman could apply for open positions within the city when she was ready to return to work.

The lawsuit alleged the city failed to make reasonable accommodations for Freeman’s disability and then fired her because of her disability in violation of federal laws.

“The unlawful employment practices complained of in the preceding paragraphs were done with malice or reckless indifference for Ms. Freeman’s federally protected rights,” it said.


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Drunk Cheyenne School Bus Driver Loses Commercial Driver’s License

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne bus driver who was arrested for driving under the influence while transporting students to South Dakota has lost his commercial drivers license, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Meanwhile, David Richard Williams now faces charges of child endangerment in addition to a charge of driving under the influence of intoxicants, according to the mother of one of the students who was on Williams’ bus.

The FMCSA disqualified David Richard Williams, 60, earlier this month from holding a CDL after determining that the Cheyenne bus driver constitutes an “imminent hazard” to public safety. The department also ordered him to immediately cease operating any commercial motor vehicle.

Williams was served with the order on March 16, one month after he was arrested for DUI outside of Hawk Springs.

Prior to the February arrest, Williams had no violations on his driving record, the Wyoming Department of Transportation told Cowboy State Daily.

Williams was arrested by a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper in February while transporting Laramie County School District No. 1 students to a speech and debate tournament in Spearfish, South Dakota.

He was stopped, failed a field sobriety test and was then arrested. His breath test showed Williams had a blood-alcohol concentration of around 0.15%, significantly higher than the level of 0.04% allowed for a commercial motor vehicle driver and almost twice the level of 0.08% at which the driver of a regular vehicle is considered intoxicated.

In-vehicle video showed Williams to be drinking alcohol both before and while driving the students, according to the FMCSA.

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, drivers with a commercial driver’s license are subject to a variety of prohibitions on the use of alcohol prior to and while driving CMVs, including a prohibition on using any alcohol within four hours of driving and a prohibition on driving with an alcohol concentration of 0.04% or greater.    

Williams is now listed as prohibited from holding a CDL in FMCSA’s Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse and faces a number of possible criminal charges.

Jessica Lyday and Johanna Thomas, whose children were on the trip to Spearfish, intended to press charges against Williams for child endangerment, they told Cowboy State Daily in February.

Thomas told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that she joined a group of LCSD1 speech and debate parents who asked the Goshen County district attorney to charge Williams with reckless endangerment and child endangerment.

“They told us they added child endangerment and reckless endangerment charges to him according to the kids’ ages,” Thomas told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “Then they said he opted for a jury trial. That was the last I heard, and that was about a month ago.”

Lyday did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment Tuesday.

FMCSA’s imminent hazard disqualification order states that Williams’ “blatant violations of the [regulations] and disregard for the safety of your school-age passengers and other highway users demonstrated by these actions substantially increases the likelihood of serious injury or death to you and the motoring public.”

LCSD1 officials have declined to comment on the situation with Williams, citing personnel reasons. However, the district has implemented new mandatory drug and alcohol awareness training following Williams’ arrest.

The annual recertification class will become part of the training that existing bus drivers are required to take every August during their three-day in-service training prior to the start of the school year.

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Cheyenne Becomes First City In Wyoming With Computerized Garbage Trucks

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Cheyenne Sanitation Department has found a way to take picking up trash into the 21st century.

The department recently installed new software in 13 of its 27 trucks designed to make drivers more efficient as the city collects an estimated 250 to 300 tons of garbage per day.

An added bonus? It gives drivers a way to prove that residents who may claim their homes were missed on trash pickup day actually forgot to put out the garbage.

Cheyenne public works director Vicki Nemecek told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the new software, Fleetmind, was initially rolled out in December and will be added to more trucks in the coming weeks and months.

The software, working with a GPS tracker, provides a directions so trucks can more more accurately follow the city’s six routes and better serve the city’s nearly 30,000 residential and commercial customers.

This is the first software of its kind being used in Wyoming, as far as Nemecek knew, putting the city on the cutting edge of garbage collection.

“This software documents every stop we make,” Nemecek said. “So basically, the truck will drive down your street and pick up one of the containers, either trash, recycling or compost. So if they pick it up, the garbage can on the screen will turn green, showing it has been picked up. But if someone forgets to put out their can, they can push a button in their truck, and the can on the screen will turn yellow.”

Cameras on the truck can photograph the spot where the garbage cans are supposed to be, just in case a customer calls to say his or her home was missed on garbage day. It can also document extra items or bags placed outside of the trash container so customers can be charged accordingly.



“We’ll probably see our revenue have a slight increase with this way of charging,” Nemecek said. “We also offer to come back and pick up trash if a customer has forgotten to put their container out, but there is a charge to do so.”

If the sanitation workers happen to drive past a garbage can, the can’s display on the screen will turn red, indicating it has been missed and that workers will need to return to pick it up before heading back to Cheyenne’s transfer station.

Cheyenne garbage trucks pick up around 250 to 300 tons of trash per day, Nemecek said. The average person generates a little more than four pounds of trash per day and when multiplied by nearly 30,000 customers, the sanitation workers stay busy all year round.

The software and its installation cost the city about $400,000 and the city will also pay maintenance costs when needed. Nemecek said it was a process trying to find the best software that would work with the sanitation department and the Cheyenne Board of Public Utilities, which does the trash billing for the city.



“We spent a little more time going out and looking at places that had this system, to get something we thought would really work for us,” she said. “We even had a couple people go so far as to Dallas and look at the system. In fact, it’s worked very well.”

Nemecek said the software has the Sanitation Department’s efficiency in the first four months of its operation. She said that on Thursday, there were only five missed stops in the city.

“I think that’s pretty good,” she said. “The best part is that we can identify those before the end of the day and send that driver back out to pick it up.

Nemecek intends to share information about the trucks not only with other Wyoming cities, but with officials in other states, as she is the president of the regional American Public Works Association chapter, which includes Wyoming, Montana and Illinois.

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Cheyenne School District Addresses String Of Students Hit By Cars

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne school officials are working with the city and law enforcement agencies to address incidents of students being struck by vehicles in recent days.

Laramie County School District No. 1 Superintendent Dr. Margaret Crespo sent a letter to parents on Tuesday to address questions and feedback about traffic situations involving students in the last week.

“The safety of our students and staff is always our top priority,” Crespo said in the letter. “As we navigate the incredible loss of one  of our students, I want to share that we are working with law enforcement, the City of Cheyenne’s Traffic Safety Committee and other stakeholders.”

Around 7 a.m. Monday, Cheyenne police officers responded to a report of two teenagers being hit by a car. An investigation revealed the two boys, ages 13 and 15, were attempting to cross the street at a crosswalk near Cheyenne’s East High School.

While crossing, both boys were struck by an GMC Acadia. They both sustained minor injuries and were transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center.

This incident occurred just days after a teen was struck and killed by a driver in Cheyenne while crossing the street.

Crespo encouraged parents and community members to continue reaching out the district with questions and feedback, with the hope that all of the information received will prevent future tragedy.

“Although the work is preliminary, we anticipate the Cheyenne Traffic Safety Committee will be conducting a safety audit of our pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic at each of our schools,” she said. “As we work through this critical process, we will share updates when they become available.”

The Cheyenne Police Department shared on Monday that 238 traffic incidents have occurred near Cheyenne East High School. Of those incidents, 50 have occurred at the scene of Monday’s accident.

“As a community, we have a shared responsibility for every one of our students,” the superintendent concluded. “At LCSD1 our parents and families are our partners. We are committed to protecting our kids and are taking steps to create a learning environment that is safe.”

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Cheyenne Tavern Selling ‘Pride’ Shirts In Response To Sale Of Anti-LGBTQ T-Shirts

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne tavern has created T-shirts to sell in response to another bar’s past sale of a T-shirt some found offensive because of its depiction of gun violence and use of a derogatory term to describe homosexuals.

The Midtown Tavern will soon be selling “Pride” T-shirts which depict a rainbow-colored bison with the tavern’s logo and “Wyoming Pride” and “Wyoming Proud” written on one sleeve, according to a posting on the bar’s Facebook page.

All of the proceeds raised from the sales will be donated to pro-LGBTQ organization Wyoming Equality, the Midtown announced. It wasn’t clear when the shirts would be available for sale or how much they would cost. The tavern’s staff did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The shirts are being made as a response to T-shirts sold by the Eagle’s Nest, a Cheyenne bar that primarily caters to motorcyclists, that was roundly criticized on social media last week when a photo of the T-shirt it sold began circulating. The T-shirt depicted a man pointing a pistol and a caption reads “In Wyoming, we have a cure for AIDS, we shoot f—–‘n f—–s.”

Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame posted her thanks to the Midtown on its Facebook page.

“Oh golly. Wow. What a thing. I can’t even tell you how surprised and grateful I am. Thank you,” she wrote on the tavern’s post about the shirts.

Wyoming Equality also shared the social media post on its Facebook page and thanked the tavern.

“Thank you to our new friends at Midtown tavern for stepping up — we’re so honored and grateful by how some folks are responding. You know where we’ll be this rodeo. #midtownpride,” the organization wrote.

The Eagle’s Nest’s owner told The Cheyenne Post last week that the shirts had sold out and he had no intention of getting any more.

Ray Bereziuk said that he is “in the bar business, not the apparel business,” and that he would not be reordering the shirts.

It marked an abrupt change as Wyoming Equality previously asked the bar to stop selling the shirts, but the staff refused.

It wasn’t clear how long the bar had been selling the shirts.

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Cheyenne Biker Bar Stops Selling Threatening Anti-LGBTQ T-Shirts, Legislator Calls Shirts “Despicable”

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne bar that was criticized for selling a T-shirt that contained an offensive term has decided to no longer stock the item, the business owner said this week.

The Eagle’s Nest, a bar that primarily caters to motorcyclists, was roundly criticized on social media over the weekend when a photo of a shirt the bar sold began circulating. Many commenters opposed what they called the shirt’s violent imagery and use of a derogatory term for homosexuals.

The shirt features a man pointing a pistol and reads “In Wyoming, we have a cure for AIDS, we shoot f—–‘n f—–s.”

However the bar’s owner told The Cheyenne Post on Monday that the shirts had sold out and he had no intention of getting any more.

Ray Bereziuk said that he is “in the bar business, not the apparel business,” and that he would not be reordering the shirts.

This marks an abrupt change as over the weekend, pro-LGBTQ organization Wyoming Equality asked the bar to stop selling the shirts, but the staff refused.

“We hoped that they would choose to stop selling them when they realized the harm it did to the LGBTQ community and those living with AIDS,” a post read on the group’s Facebook page. “It is a sad day.”

It wasn’t clear how long the bar had been selling the shirts.

The shirt also drew the criticism of a state legislator as offering a message contrary to the state’s actual attitudes.

State Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, said that although he supports the bar staff’s freedom of speech to sell such shirts, all involved should be aware that consequences exist for selling such goods.

“This shirt is despicable and does not represent Wyoming in any way shape or form,” Brown told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “In a time where we need to grow our economy and welcome new industries to our state, this type of action causes consequences, not only for the bar, but our state as a whole. Businesses see this type of action in Wyoming and don’t even blink when offered options in our state. I’m disappointed and frankly I’m hurt that anyone in Wyoming feels this way against EITHER of the communities named in the shirt.  I stand in solidarity with those affected and condemn the sale of such an egregious and irresponsible item.”  

Wyoming Equality executive director Sara Burlingame and Cheyenne Mayor Patrick Collins didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.

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Wyoming Equality Angered at Anti-LGBTQ Shirts Sold At Wyo Biker Bar

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne bar is facing backlash for selling T-shirts that feature threatening and offensive language.

The Eagle’s Nest, a bar that primarily caters to motorcyclists, received much criticism on social media over the weekend when a photo of a shirt the bar sold began circulating.

The shirt features a man pointing a pistol and reads “In Wyoming, we have a cure for AIDS, we shoot f—–‘n f—–s.”

It wasn’t clear how long the bar has been selling these shirts, but pro-LGBTQ organization Wyoming Equality reached out to the Eagle’s Nest over the weekend to ask it to stop selling the shirts. The bar declined to do so.

“We hoped that they would choose to stop selling them when they realized the harm it did to the LGBTQ community and those living with AIDS,” Wyoming Equality wrote in a social media post about the shirt. “Wyoming Equality understands that…this sucks.”

The organization chose not to name the bar in its post, as it did not want the Eagle’s Nest to gain notoriety or sell more shirts. Wyoming Equality also asked people not to protest the bar, for similar reasons.

Instead, Wyoming Equality asked people to donate to it or the Wyoming AIDS Assistance if they wanted to respond to the sale of the shirts.

Wyoming Equality Executive Director Sara Burlingame made a similar post on her personal social media account over the weekend and proposed other ideas to fight back against the sale of the shirts.

“Want to make it unpopular to be a bigot?” she wrote. “Donate to Wyoming Equality or Wyoming AIDS Assistance. Put a pride flag up in your business or home. Wear one of our cool AF shirts. Pass a Hate Crime bill. Invest in queer joy and resilience. Let the haters hate in their own misery. Keep Wyoming queer and wild.”

The owner of the bar said their violent homophobic shirts are “sold out,” and are not available, according to the Cheyenne Post.

Bar owner Ray Bereziuk told The Cheyenne Post that his bar has stopped selling the shirts. He said that he is “in the bar business, not the apparel business,” and that he would not be reordering the shirts.

A woman who answered the telephone at the Eagle’s Nest on Monday declined to comment on the issue.

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Analysis: Cheyenne, Wyoming, Second Hardest Working City In America

in Cheyenne/News
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By The Center Square

Cheyenne, Wyoming, is the second hardest working city in the U.S., according to a new analysis from the personal finance website Wallethub.

To determine its rankings, Wallethub compared 116 of the most populated cities across two key dimensions, “Direct Work Factors” and “Indirect Work Factors.”

Direct work factors includes a subset of data such as average work hours a week, employment rate, share of households where no adults work and share of workers leaving vacation time unused.

Indirect work factors include things such as average commute time, share of workers with multiple jobs and annual volunteer hours per resident.

Cheyenne finished third of the cities studied in direct work factors and 46th in indirect work factors for a total score of 77.21 and the overall second place ranking.

“One of the things that makes Cheyenne the second hardest working city in the U.S. is having the largest number of average workweek hours,” Wallethub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “Added to this, Cheyenne’s residents spend the third smallest amount of leisure time, about 5 hours per day. Other factors that also contributed to this ranking include the 95% employment rate and the share of workers with multiple jobs.”

Anchorage, Alaska, with a total score of 80.46, finished atop the list as the hardest working city in America, according to Wallethub.

“Many Americans view hard work as the path to achieving the American Dream,” Wallerhub said. “We work so hard, in fact, that we put in more hours at our jobs than several other industrialized countries. The average U.S. worker puts in 1,779 hours per year – 135 hours more than the average in Japan, 241 more than the U.K. and 393 more than Germany.”

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Cheyenne Woman Arrested After Shooting At Boyfriend

in News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne woman was arrested Sunday afternoon after firing a handgun at her boyfriend.

According to a release from the Cheyenne Police Department, officers were dispatched to a Cheyenne home around 4 p.m. Sunday in reference to a report of shots fired.

Due to the nature of the call and all parties involved retreating back into the residence and refusing to come out, the SWAT team and crisis negotiation unit were called in.

Both parties eventually came out of the residence without incident.

It was found that after a verbal altercation, Brenda Sutton allegedly fired a handgun at her boyfriend, although the round didn’t strike him.

She was taken into custody on scene and transported to the Cheyenne Public Safety Center, where she was interviewed. She was found to have a warrant in Laramie County for failure to appear in court on an original charge of possession of methamphetamine.

Sutton was booked on the warrant on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

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City of Cheyenne Releases Time Lapse Video Showing Construction of New Courthouse

in Cheyenne/News
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Construction timelapse for Judge Joseph M. Carey Cheyenne City Center

From August 2019 to July 2020, the corner of 17th and Carey Avenue has been transformed with the completion of our Judge Joseph M. Carey Cheyenne City Center! This building in our downtown will serve the needs of our community and municipal court well into the future. A big THANK YOU to all that made this project possible!

Posted by City of Cheyenne, Wyoming – Government on Tuesday, 11 August 2020

When things move incrementally, sometimes you forget just how much work actually gets accomplished.

The City of Cheyenne staged the ribbon cutting for its new courthouse last week and Tuesday it released a time-lapse video showing the construction of the new building from August 2019 – July 2020.

The building replaced a structure that hadn’t been used for 25 years. The time-lapse video would have been more dramatic if footage of the destruction of the old building would have been included, but it’s still pretty cool to see just how much can be built in less than a year.

One other thing of note: the video shows the community didn’t get a lot of snow last season.

The building is named after Judge Joseph M. Carey, who served as the 14th mayor of Cheyenne, U.S. Attorney for the Territory of Wyoming, Governor of Wyoming, U.S. Senator representing Wyoming, and spent time on the Wyoming Supreme Court.

“This building in our downtown will serve the needs of our community and municipal court well into the future. A big THANK YOU to all that made this project possible,” said a post on the Cheyenne City Facebook page.

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Wyoming Coronavirus: City of Cheyenne Announces Updated Work Plan

in News/Coronavirus
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The City of Cheyenne announced an updated work plan that will be implemented beginning Monday and going until at least March 27. 

Here is the plan by department list: 

Mayor: Mayor Marian Orr and her staff will work from home. In person meetings are being postponed and rescheduled. Public speaking engagements to groups larger than 50 people, as well as visits to schools and nursing homes, are being postponed. Public information officer Michael Skinner will serve as the point of contact for communication regarding the coronavirus. Daily briefings will be sent to the media and posted to social media outlets. 

City attorney: The city attorney’s office will work from home with the exception of the prosecuting attorney, who will attend appropropriate municipal court hearings. 

Municipal and juvenile court: Municipal court hearings will continue as scheduled. It’s being taken into consideration that fines and fees be reduced if paid online to incentivize people not to pay in person. Juvenile court hearings are being taken care of on a case-by-case basis. 

Engineering: New engineering plan reviews and projects will be accepted electronically. All questions and interaction of staff will occur over phone or email. Engineering plan and development reviews will be completed electronically as required. 

City engineer Tom Cobb or deputy engineer Wes Bay will attend the city council, finance and public services meetings. Construction inspectors will be provided as needed and contacted via cell. Construction project management will be handled remotely and through email if possible. Attendance may be required for processing pay requests, on-site questions and more. 

GIS personnel will be provided on an as needed basis. The department will remain flexible to accommodate requirements as needed. 

Treasury: The treasurer’s office will work remotely with the exception of various payroll functions and the payable for the city council meeting on March 23. No customer invoices will be run until city offices are reopened. Purchasing pre-bid and bid openings will be postponed. 

Planning and development/Metropolitan Planning Organization: The department will operate remotely. Both offices will be closed to walk-up customer traffic. During this time, both offices will continue to focus on review of existing projects and answering public questions. New projects will be accepted electronically. Staff will contact anyone with a pending application. 

Community recreation and events: The Botanic Gardens is closed to the public for two weeks. Volunteers, seasonal and part-time staff aren’t currently working. Events and rentals for this time period have been cancelled. Full-time staff will either work from home or at the gardens to tend to the plants. 

Forestry’s full-time staff will tend to essential duties that are primarily outdoors and have limited public contact. Part-time staff aren’t working. 

The recreation division’s programs, classes and buildings have been cancelled for the next two weeks. Credits will be given on a pro-rata basis. Full-time staff will work with little public contact. Part-time staff aren’t working. 

The Ice and Events Center will be closed for two weeks, as well the Kiwanis Community House. 

The Cheyenne Aquatics Center’s pool was already closed for maintenance, but this will continue for another week. 

The Cheyenne Civic Center has cancelled all shows until April 4. Full-time cemetery staff will continue working, but large gravesite services are suspended for the time being. 

City clerk: The office will be closed to walk-up customer traffic. Business license and permit applications, if submitted electronically, will be accepted online and will be processed when the city offices reopen. City clerk Kris Jones or deputy clerk Kylie Soden will be present for certain public meetings. 

Human resources: The department is prepared to work from home. 

Youth Alternatives: Counseling and court staff will work remotely and will maintain phone contact with clients in the interim. The Mayor’s Youth Council activities have been cancelled through April 6. 

Board of Public Utilities: Crews will continue to work as needed throughout the community.

Hundreds March for Martin Luther King, Jr. in Cheyenne

in News
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The annual march through Cheyenne in honor of slain civil rights leader Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an action in support of his dream of unity, participants in the march Monday said.

About 300 people took part in the 38th annual march and many agreed that while progress has been made in the cause of equality among the races, more remains to be done.

“We’re still fighting,” said Rita Watson, a march organizer. “We’ve moved, but we haven’t moved far enough. We have a lot of work to do and we can’t stop until it’s done.”

The event does show that some advances have been made, said participant Lakesha McBow-Kenner.

“Looking at today’s event and seeing everyone come together in such a large crowd, I do believe we are more together than we are divided, in spite of what other people may want us to believe,” she told Cowboy State Daily.

Guest speaker for the event, the Rev. Warnell Brooks, told participants that the principles espoused by King went beyond issues of race.

“It’s not just about color, it’s about injustice and trying to make a better life for everyone who lives in this world,” said Brooks, who grew up in Cheyenne and later moved to California. “As (King) said in one of his speeches, we all might have arrived here in different ships, but guess what, we’re all in the same boat.”

Wyoming’s celebration of Martin Luther King Day came about through the efforts of the late state Sen. Liz Byrd, D-Cheyenne, who worked for nine years to convince the Legislature to adopt the holiday.

Her son, state Rep. Jim Byrd, R-Cheyenne, credited the holiday’s existence to his mother’s perseverance.

“You would have had to live with that lady to understand tenacity,” he said. “When she sees something that’s wrong that she believes that she can fix or she can at least affect a change on that, she was going to be all over that and she was going to be relentless.”

How a 42-Foot, 2,000-Pound Submarine Periscope Ended Up at the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens

in Economic development/News/Recreation/Tourism
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By Seneca Flowers
Cowboy State Daily

On some busy summer days, more than 100 people may walk through the Grand Conservatory in the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens. They wait in line to peer through the 42-foot submarine periscope that stands in the building’s second floor classroom that gives them a view stretching many miles around the city.

Cheyenne Botanic Gardens volunteers boast theirs is the only botanic gardens in the nation to have a periscope. But the journey that ended with the periscope finding its new home in Cheyenne took a lot of planning, fast thinking and even more luck. 

Retired Navy Chief Jim Marshall said the idea to put a periscope in Cheyenne first surfaced during Cheyenne Frontier Days of 2005. 

Navy submariners who were part of the crew of the USS Cheyenne and the USS Wyoming visited Cheyenne during the rodeo to participate in community service. But the weather prevented them from working outdoors. 

“It rained and rained the whole week,” Marshall said. 

During the down time, one of the submariners suggested the group obtain a submarine periscope for Cheyenne residents and tourists to look through.

Later, Marshall said he attended Kiwanis meeting in 2007 where Cheyenne Botanic Gardens officials gave a presentation revealing the group had its sights on getting a periscope for the Paul Smith Children’s village.

However, Marshall spoke with those involved and soon realized they may have not considered the logistics of moving a 42-foot periscope weighing more than 2,000 pounds.

So Marshall decided to contact the group he was holed up with during that rainy Cheyenne Frontier Days week in 2005 and have them help get a periscope. However, he couldn’t find the original group members.

Marshall kept searching for anyone who could assist. He ended up contacting the past commanding officer of the USS Wyoming, who added his talents to the search for a periscope until one was found at a U.S. Navy facility in New England. 

The periscope was previously used in three submarines: the USS Corpus Christi SSN-705, the USS Alexandria SSN-757, USS Minnesota-St. Paul SSN-708. Marshall learned it could be moved to Cheyenne if officials at the New Hampshire facility could be persuaded to give it up.

Marshall eventually convinced them to hand over the periscope, but they had a condition — he had to arrange the transportation. This led him on a new quest to find an organization capable of carrying it across the country. The C-130s transport airplanes at the Wyoming Air National Guard in Cheyenne were too small. They were unable to carry the 50-foot long box. 

“A friend of mine in Virginia at the Fleet Reserve Association said, ‘Let me see what I can do to help,’” Marshall recalled. 

His friend contacted some higher-ups and reached the right people, finding a way to to transport the periscope via a larger C-130 housed at the Rhode Island Air National Guard’s headquarters in Cranston, Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Air National Guard brought the periscope to Cheyenne on Father’s Day in 2007. 

Dorothy Owens, who volunteers in the classroom with the periscope, said she remembered the day the periscope arrived. 

“It was a nice summer day,” she recalled. 

The plane arrived and a handful of volunteers, including Marshall and Owens, greeted it. The pilot looked at Owens and asked her what the group planned to do with the periscope in Cheyenne. 

“We’re going to build a building around it,” she replied.

The construction took time. In fact, people weren’t exactly sure what the building surrounding the periscope would look like. The boxed periscope waited in a stockyard surrounded by overgrown grass and weeds until the former Botanic Gardens Director Shane Smith could settle on a location. 

Smith originally wanted to house the periscope in the Children’s Garden.

However, plans for the building that would house the periscope grew with every new idea for features and education. The price tag also grew. The estimated cost for the periscope’s housing unit soared to $40,000, and funding was nowhere to be found.  

When the conservatory construction became closer to reality, Smith decided to move the periscope to the second floor to expand the view available through it, according to Marshall. 

Things began to fall into place from there, literally. It took two attempts to install the periscope in its housing unit on a windy Flag Day in 2017.

The periscope was officially opened to the public August, 2017. Operated by a unique hydraulic lift system to accommodate both children and adults, Owens said those who take a look through the 7.5-inch diameter periscope are usually impressed with the view.

“‘Amazing’ is the word I get most,” Owens said. “People are just enchanted. They cannot believe what they can see, how far they can see or how clear it is. People really are enchanted with it, both tourists and locals.”

Owens said she encountered several children and adults who did not know what a submarine was, so, as a former librarian, she has taken on a mission to educate the visitors.

“I feel like it’s my duty to let people appreciate this (the periscope). Owens said. “I just do this because it’s fun.” 

She added she and the community wouldn’t have had the opportunity if it weren’t for Marshall’s creative solutions. 

Marshall wanted Cheyenne visitors to experience a unique opportunity than many across the country wouldn’t otherwise. Through the periscope’s journey to Cheyenne, it found its place as an attraction far beyond its original intended use. 

“It’s one of a kind,” Marshall said. 

Legislature Brings $1.25 Million Impact to Cheyenne

in News/politics
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By Ellen Fike

Cowboy State Daily

It’s not hard to spot a legislator downtown during the legislative session. Any Cheyenne resident who’s lived in the town for more than a year or two can attest to being behind a representative at Mort’s Bagels or seeing a group of senators walking toward the closest parking garage. 

On Feb. 10, 75 legislators from all over the state (excluding the 15 that live in Laramie County) will descend on Cheyenne for the 2020 budget session, which is tentatively scheduled to run for four weeks. 

This year will also be the first time in four years the legislators will meet at the Capitol, meaning that they’ll definitely be frequenting the downtown area. But it won’t be just legislators; this influx of visitors to downtown Cheyenne will include lobbyists, constituents traveling for various committee meetings and other individuals.

Estimates for the 20-day session put its direct economic impact at more than $500,000.

Darren Rudloff, chief executive officer for Visit Cheyenne, said the visiting legislators generate about $1.25 million in direct spending during a typical 40-day session. Direct spending means that this is what the legislators (or their spouses or staff members) spend in Cheyenne, whether it’s for meals, lodging, transportation and business services. 

As for indirect spending, Rudloff said the legislators will add another $1.9 million to the economy in 40 days. Indirect spending is expansive, almost like a ripple effect, where businesses will buy more inventory or bring in more staff to take care of their guests. 

“So indirect spending is something like if you went to The Metropolitan downtown and wiped them out of broccoli and tequila,” Rudloff said. “This means they need to restock their supply of broccoli and tequila. This is also going to mean things like a hotel bringing in more cleaning staff to ready the legislators’ rooms or something along those lines.” 

As for local taxes, Rudloff said Cheyenne receives around $37,000 during a 40-day session. 

While it’s not quite the same impact that Cheyenne Frontier Days brings every year, Rudloff did note that potential hotel developers often ask why there’s such an increase in traffic every February. This annual increase helps developers decide whether or not to put a new hotel in the city.  

“It definitely makes a difference, their being here every year,” he said. “It’s a nice shot in the arm to the economy. Constituents usually worry when there’s a special session, but for the local economy, it’s great.”

Little America Hotel and Resort general manager Tony O’Brien said that while the hotel definitely brings in its share of legislators every year, he’s noticed a shift toward the lawmakers choosing rental properties when they come for a month-long stay. 

AirBnB’s website boasted more than 300 listings in the Cheyenne area that would be available during this year’s session, ranging in price from $600 to $1,400 for a one-month stay in not only guest rooms but entire apartments and houses.

O’Brien and Rudloff mentioned occasions when lawmakers would rent an AirBnB house or an apartment and split the cost.

“We haven’t seen a decrease in legislators staying with us, but I’ve talked with some of them during receptions and other events and I’ve noticed the younger legislators using an AirBnB instead of a hotel,” O’Brien said. “I think sometimes when you’re staying here for a long time, you want to be able to have that home away from home experience.” 

The legislators aren’t just coming to the hotel for overnight stays, though. There are also a number of receptions held throughout the session that are hosted at Little America. 

But O’Brien is quick to point out that the legislators’ leisure activities affect all of Cheyenne, not just his hotel. 

“There has been some quality space added to Cheyenne in the last few years,” he said. “Cheyenne just offers a great product for visitors, not just the legislators. Obviously, we at Little America want to provide quality service for all of our guests, including the legislators, but the city and county have just incredible services as a whole.” 

Hurricane Winds Can’t Stop Commercial Air Service From Cheyenne to Dallas

in Column/Bill Sniffin
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By Bill Sniffin

Three cheers for that direct daily flight from Cheyenne to Dallas.

We took it for the second time over New Year’s and it is just so doggone handy. It is almost a miracle to me.

We live in Lander, some 250 miles from Cheyenne, so why am I am so psyched about this service?  Because, to me, it is personal.

Driving to Cheyenne works fine because we go through the capital city and head to Denver to see my 95-year old mother in a nursing home there.  We also have two brothers, a granddaughter, and a nephew living in the Denver area. It is fun to reconnect with them during the holiday season. 

Our youngest daughter lives in north Dallas, just 45 miles from the DFW airport, so they can come pick us up after we land. We enjoyed the New Year’s holiday and spent five days basking in 60-degree weather, while Wyoming was blowing and shivering.

Cabin of jet was full for the flight from Dallas to Cheyenne. 

Another reason for liking the flight is because it is a direct flight. However, we talked with two other Wyomingites who used the flight as part of more complicated trips.

Deb Hughes lives at Esterbrook near Douglas. Most recently her husband took a one-year assignment in Guernsey where they live right now.  She liked the service being so local. It was a springboard for her to visit relatives in Florida and Virginia.

Amber Rucker, a social worker at the Cheyenne Veterans Hospital, used the flight as a way to ultimately get to Mississippi. She flew out on New Year’s Day and came back Jan. 6. “Whew those winds were high in Cheyenne,” she said. She was impressed that the pilots handled the planes so well during the takeoffs and landings.

She said Interstate 25 was closed on the day she left, so had she booked her flight through Denver, she would have been unable to go. 

A little over a year ago, when I first heard about Cheyenne offering daily airline service to and from Dallas, I was skeptical.

With local, state, and federal help, a brand new terminal had been built in Cheyenne for what appeared to be non-existent airlines. It was seemingly a Wyoming version of the famous Alaska bridge to nowhere.

It was the airline terminal with no airline service.

Deb Hughes of Guernsey gets set to board plane in Dallas for the trip to Cheyenne.

Then some hard-working folks came up with the idea of non-stop daily service to Dallas, subsidized by local, state, and federal funds.

When I told my Lander friends that we were going to fly that route over New Year’s, they thought we were crazy. 

In recent years we have started a holiday tradition of celebrating an early holiday with our Lander-based daughter Shelli Johnson and her family. Then we plan our flight to Dallas over New Year’s, trying to be in two places at once over the holidays.

We chose to fly on New Year’s Eve day this year with two round trip tickets costing about $580.  It might have been cheaper flying from Denver but if you add in highway tolls, parking fees, and the hassle associated with DIA, well, it made going out of Cheyenne seem like a good choice. No regrets.

American Airlines uses 50-passenger jets. On our trip out of Cheyenne, they upgraded to a 70-seat plane for some reason. Lots of extra seats available, which made the trip super comfortable.

The trip home from Dallas to Cheyenne was on the smaller 50-passenger jet with 47 passengers.  Just two hours. Super convenient. The folks working the Cheyenne airport are great, too. Never seen TSA folks smile as much as that crew.

Overall, I would say this is a great experience.

It seems to me that Colorado’s Front Range folks might drive to Cheyenne to save money and avoid the big airport hassle.  Folks from all over Wyoming, Nebraska, and Colorado are potential travelers out of this airport. 

I’ve been told the next effort should be daily flights from Cheyenne to Salt Lake City and even Denver.  I wonder if they have made a pitch to Allegiant? Now that would be quite a coup. The airline future will be bright for Cheyenne with proper regional promotion.

Cheyenne’s airline past is storied.  United Airlines originally had its main maintenance facility here in Wyoming.  The very first flight attendant school started in Cheyenne in 1930 by Boeing Air Transport.

For over a decade, Cheyenne was headquarters for the large regional airline, Great Lakes Airlines.

Yes, there is a fantastic history of commercial aviation in Cheyenne. With flights like the one we took and future flights on the drawing board, it will be fun to see Cheyenne’s airline experience soar into the future.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Cheyenne stages ninth ‘Ball Drop’ for New Year’s

in Travel
Cheyenne Ball Drop
A huge ball lit by thousands of bulbs will “drop” at midnight on Dec. 31 at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza. The ball drop and accompanying fireworks have been a Cheyenne tradition for nine years. (Courtesy photo)
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A nine-year tradition of welcoming the new year with a large, glittering ball will be observed again in Cheyenne this week.

The Cheyenne Ball Drop, held on the Cheyenne Depot Plaza since 2011, will see celebrations running through the day Dec. 31, offering activities for both children and adults.

Activities begin at 3 p.m. inside the Depot, with games and inflatable toys for children, said Laura Levi, organizer for the Ball Drop and the digital marketing coordinator for Visit Cheyenne.

“A few years back we decided we needed a children’s element,” she said. “Something to take the edge off if people have too much energy to stay inside all  day.”

The “princesses” will visit the children’s New Year’s celebration inside the depot at the Depot Plaza on Dec. 31. The children’s celebration will begin at 3 p.m. and feature games and inflatable toys, along with an early “ball drop” and fireworks show at 6 p.m. (Courtesy photo)
The “princesses” will visit the children’s New Year’s celebration inside the depot at the Depot Plaza on Dec. 31. The children’s celebration will begin at 3 p.m. and feature games and inflatable toys, along with an early “ball drop” and fireworks show at 6 p.m. (Courtesy photo)

The games will continue until 6 p.m., when the huge, lit ball used to mark the new year when the clock hits midnight will make an early trip for those who may not be able to stay up late.

“It will be the same ball and same fireworks show so you don’t miss anything from the regular show,” Levi said. “This way, you can take the kids, see the ball drop and then you can come back out and see the one at midnight.”

After the children’s celebration wraps up at around 6 p.m., the adults’ party will begin at 11:30 p.m., Levi said, featuring a DJ who will play music through the celebration. The ball will drop at midnight, when a fireworks display will take place.

Last year’s ball drop had to be canceled because of sub-zero temperatures and high winds. However, the long-range forecast for this year predicts low temperatures in the high 20s, although winds may be brisk.

For more information on the Cheyenne Ball Drop, go to the Visit Cheyenne website.

Merry Christmas, From Santa

in arts and culture
Merry Christmas
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Santa has made a list and checked it twice.

Cowboy State Daily caught up with the big man at JAX in Cheyenne as he visited with area children to find out who was naughty and nice.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Cowboy State Daily.

Wyoming principal recognized as top educator in the nation

in News/Education
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By Robert Geha, Cowboy State Daily

The principal of a Cheyenne junior high school on Monday was recognized as one of the top educators in the nation with a Milken Educator Award.

Brian Cox, principal of Johnson Junior High School, is Wyoming’s only teacher to win one of the Milken awards and is one of only 40 teachers nationally to win the prize and accompanying $25,000 cash payment.

Cox, who oversees a staff of about 100 at Johnson, was recognized for his commitment to putting students first, urging them to focus on leadership skills in addition to academics. He is known for challenging his students to realize that their goals for the future often depend on academic success.

Cox was given the award during an assembly at Johnson on Monday. Although he was told what the assembly about, he was not informed he was to be the recipient of the prize until it was given to him.

State and Cheyenne educators joined legislators and representatives of Wyoming’s congressional delegation as the presentation was made by Greg Gallagher, a senior program director for the Milken Educator Award, and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

“A savvy and committed principal like Brian Cox can have a profound effect on so many lives,” Gallagher said. “Through personal commitment to individual students, dedicated community outreach and staff development initiatives, Principal Cox is creating a better future for all.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to visit Johnson Junior High and watch Brian interact with teachers and students in such an engaging and positive manner,” Balow said. “Brian’s enthusiasm is infectious, and he’s a champion for students. 

Taco John’s to open satellite office in Minneapolis

in News
Taco Johns
2465

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Taco John’s is expanding its corporate office to Minnesota, the restaurant’s president and CEO announced Monday morning. 

At a press conference, Jim Creel told reporters that the Cheyenne-based corporation will open a satellite office in Minneapolis. He stated that the idea to expand came about two years ago when he instituted a strategic planning process. 

During that process, the company’s board of directors agreed that the expansion should be inside the restaurant’s existing area of operation, which would allow for the greatest potential of growth. Since there are more than 200 Taco John’s locations within a few hours drive from Minneapolis, the board felt expanding to that area made the most sense. 

“This is an exciting time for Taco John’s,” Creel said in a news release. “We have taken a number of steps over the past two years to lay the foundation for expansion. In order for it to take place, we decided that we needed to have a presence where it was all happening.” 

Creel told Cowboy State Daily that he expected the satellite office to open in March 2020, with around 15 staffers holding down the fort. Only a few employees from the Cheyenne headquarters will make the transition to the Minnesota, with most of the rest being new hires. 

“When we’re driving from Cheyenne to Denver to fly out to Minneapolis, we’re losing most of the day,” he told CSD. “It’s the same when we return. The chain will benefit from having our people out working with the franchisees more consistently.” 

With the announcement, Creel said he’s had potential franchisees contact him about opening new locations in the Minneapolis area.  

While some franchisee-oriented departments will be centered in Minneapolis, most of the corporation will continue to be headquartered in Cheyenne, since that’s where the restaurant chain was founded more than 50 years ago. Creel added that the impact of the expansion to the Cheyenne headquarters would be minimal and should only last for a short time. 

“Concurrently, it makes good business sense for departments that provide direct franchisee support to be located where the majority of the franchisees and future franchisees are located,” he said in his news release. 

Taco John’s recent successes made the opportunity for expansion much easier, with a new menu and restaurant redesign that’s soon to be  adopted across the country. The store on Cheyenne’s South Greeley Highway was the first to feature this prototype.  

Creel added that he expected expansion in the Cheyenne headquarters would occur at some point in the future, but he said it was too early to specify what changes might take place.

However, Creel did note that he thinks there will be around 15 new stores opening in 2020 and 20 opening the following year, a rapid growth compared to the company’s normal opening schedule. Creel stated that the ultimate goal for Taco John’s is to have around 500 to 600 stores in the country. Right now, the company is looking to expand in cities including Kansas City, Missouri, Omaha, Nebraska, St. Louis and certain cities in Kentucky. 

Currently, Taco John’s operates and franchises around 400 stores in 23 states.

“We wouldn’t have been able to expand had we not put together back-to-back outstanding years,” he said in the news release. “I have been with Taco John’s for 20 years now and I haven’t seen excitement like this in the franchisee community.”

Some retailers look for options to seasonal help

in News
Extra workers
2400

By Mary Angell, Cowboy State Daily

As holidays draw near, employers at retail stores, restaurants and hotels in Wyoming may find the state’s current unemployment rate of 3.8 percent makes it very difficult for them to hire extra workers for the holiday season. 

That’s why some simply don’t.

“We try to be prepared without having to hire seasonal help,” said Louis Taubert, co-owner of Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters in Casper. “It used to be more (common), but now we look for fewer and better employees so I don’t have to deal with seasonal help.”

 Having enough employees for the holiday season doesn’t concern Taubert, because according to him, the 55,000 square-foot western store is busiest in June, during the College National Finals Rodeo.  

He added that he has a good staff, and if he needs more help over the holidays, he calls on several people who have previously worked at the store.  Some are retired, while others have full-time jobs elsewhere but are willing to work for Taubert on the weekends.

“These people already have training, and they work into the system pretty well,” he said. “That’s probably really good, considering the market now. It’s really tough to get the right candidates for a full- or part-time position.” 

The Bomgarrs store in Gillette also gets through the holidays with its regular staff.  

“The way our budget works, we kind of maneuver around (hiring seasonal help),” said general manager Steve Stalcup. 

“There’s very little range between seasons,” he added.  “We just shift our focus on what we’re doing in the store. The first part of November, we’re focused 90 percent on getting stuff done. From the day after Thanksgiving, the focus is on selling.  It’s a different paradigm as far as how you manage a season. There are hiccups, but generally it works out really well.”

Hiring seasonal workers used to be the practice, said Stalcup, who has 20 years’ experience as a store manager.  

But he occasionally found himself in the unfortunate predicament of hiring a very capable seasonal worker who the company couldn’t afford to keep at the end of the season.  Now he just makes sure his employees are cross-trained and know how to handle the extra work presented by the holiday season.

“It makes sense to keep the staff flexible,” he said.  “When you don’t hire seasonal help, you have to think more strategically, help your staff be flexible.”   

Similarly, although the Little America Hotel of Cheyenne has several staff vacancies — part-time and full-time — it is not going to hire any seasonal help, according to Shane Bustillo, human resources manager. 

The UPS Store in Cheyenne always hires extra staff members for the holiday season, but only one or two. And sometimes getting more people to help out means just calling former employees. 

“We always have backup people who have helped us for the last couple of years,” said A.K. Shrestha, area manager for UPS.

Wyoming’s low unemployment rate is not a concern for Shrestha, who recently hired a new manager, assistant manager and a couple of workers for the store. 

“It’s not hard to find people,” he said.  “We even have walk-ins who need a job.   We just changed our group, rebuilt our team in two days.”

Charter schools achieve big scores with small classes

in News/Education
Charter School
2290

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

A focused curriculum, targeted tutoring and behavioral adjustments all contribute to the above-average statewide education testing scores posted by two Wyoming charter schools, according to their officials.

Of the four charter schools listed in the Wyoming Test of Proficiency and Progress (TOPP), two scored far above the state proficiency rate in all categories for the 2018-2019 school year.

The TOPP test is a state-mandated measure of proficiency for public school grades three through 10 in the areas of math, English and science.

Snowy Range Academy, of Laramie, and PODER Academy, of Cheyenne, topped the charts with some of the highest scores and participation rates in the state.

“(TOPP testing) is really like the Super Bowl for us at the end of the year,” PODER Chief Operations Officer Nick Avila said.  “It’s a team effort, and it reflects on the school.”

While some of his educators disagree with tests as a measure of student learning, Avila said everyone at PODER recognizes the importance of TOPP testing and works toward helping their students succeed.

“It’s not really how smart you are, but how well you can take tests,” Avila explained. “We tackle the methodology of good test taking head on.”

It all begins with attitude.

“There’s a few things we do to achieve success with our students: No. 1 is we focus on behavior from the start,” Avila said. “We try to get the kids to engage, to listen, to increase attention span.”

Getting kids to sit still and study may be the obvious approach to improving classroom learning, but PODER doesn’t stop at the classroom.

“The other main component is the parents,” Avila said. “Typically when you have a struggling student, it’s usually something coming from the home.”

As problems are identified with each student, parents are called in to help discover the best solutions. This can mean a parent has to change their work-week plans or even take time off, which ruffles some feathers, but Avila said they are reminded that attending PODER is a choice.

“Our school is not going to work for every student — that’s just a reality,” he said. “But having options out there is really important.”

After aggregating all the state’s TOPP scores, the state’s average proficiency levels are between 40 percent to 60 percent, with about 7,000 students tested.

PODER’s average TOPP score was 77 percent and its lowest was 67 percent for fourth grade English, well above the state’s 49 percent in the same category. PODER’s highest score was 92 percent for fifth grade math, compared to the state’s 55 percent.  

PODER was founded in 2012 and originally offered course instruction for kindergarten through ninth grade. In 2016, the academy responded to parent requests for additional schooling by adding a secondary academy, which serves students through 12th grade. Approximately 300 students attend the school with a near equal split between the elementary and secondary courses.

About 40 miles east on Interstate 80, the Snowy Range Academy, founded in 2001, has about 235 students enrolled and instructs grades kindergarten through eighth. 

Snowy Range Principal John Cowper said the school’s focus on teaching without the social events he said are present in many public curriculums helped Snowy Range top the TOPP tests.

“We do not spend a lot of time with activities in our school that are not academically oriented,” Cowper explained. “Halloween parties, Valentine’s parties, Christmas parties — they don’t exist. We believe in all that, and we celebrate it outside of school. But, school is not the time to take away from instruction in order to do that.”

Awarded a Blue Ribbon for High Performance by the U.S. Department of Education in 2018, Snowy Range has been recognized for its output of high achievers and celebrates that success, Cowper said, but now, the school is changing its focus.

“This last year we were shooting for growth in our students,” he said. “We did see slight growth, but not what we were shooting for, so we will try harder next year.”

Snowy Range defines growth as the difference between individual students’ test scores year to year.

“From the educator end, we have to really make sure we are identifying those students who are low performers and triangulating their performances,” Cowper said. “Then, we create individual plans for those students.”

Plans can include learning interventions during the school day, after-school tutoring and schooling during winter and summer breaks.

When it comes time for TOPP testing, Cowper said he hands out mints to all the students and gives the school a big pep talk. But at the end of the day, the test is not treated as the be-all, end-all indicator of student success. 

“We recognize these test scores are a one-day snapshot in a child’s life,” Cowper said. “It may be their best day or it may not. So, it’s hard to put a lot of emphasis on the test results.”

Snowy Range’s average TOPP score was 83 percent, with its lowest score being 71 percent in fourth grade English. And its highest was 90 percent, which it achieved in third grade math, seventh grade math, eighth grade math and eighth grade English.

Both Snowy Range and Poder reported 100 percent participation in the TOPP testing, higher than many public schools in their areas with larger student populations.

“Unless we have an exemption from the state, we must find a time to test that child,” Cowper said. “We don’t stop until we have every child on the list tested.”

With fewer students than other public schools in their communities, the charter schools also had smaller test pools. Snowy Range’s smallest test pool was six to nine students for seventh grade English. It’s largest pool was 20 to 29 students for many of its elementary level categories. 

PODER’s smallest pool was also six to nine for all categories tested on the tenth grade level, and its largest was 30 to 39 for the third grade categories.

Looking forward, Avila said PODER’s model is working, but that doesn’t mean it won’t change.

“We set our target high, and we achieved that,” he said. “But every year is different for us. If we start seeing our scores slide over time, we’ll reevaluate our approach to the teaching model.”

Two Millions Reasons To Be Thankful

in News/Community
2261

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne tradition of fundraising reached a milestone of giving Thursday.

“Thankful Thursday” topped the $2 million mark in donations over the course of its decade of fundraising. 

In the spring and fall seasons, several hundred people will gather each Thursday at AmVets Post 10 in Cheyenne for Thankful Thursday, described as a “Party with a Purpose.” Each week, the party raises money for a different Cheyenne charity. 

Using games, raffles and food, charitable organizations can raise thousands of dollars in a single night. There are even free money draws throughout the night, and folks can win thousands of dollars just for showing up. 

However, the highlight of the evening is the live auction. Charities gather donated items from individuals and local businesses that are auctioned off at the end of the evening. 

The auctioneer and master of ceremonies for the evening’s festivities is Bryan “Alf” Grzegorczyk. You’ll know Alf when you see him, because he’ll be wearing one of the many wild and colorful suits that have become his signature. 

As owner of Cheyenne’s Alf’s Pub, Grzegorczyk is quickly becoming a legend in Cheyenne for his fundraising. Recently, Grzegorczyk received not just one, but two awards for his efforts. Compassionate Cheyenne awarded him its “Compassion in Action” award, followed quickly by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s 2019 “Community Spirit Award.”

This most recent Thankful Thursday was a benefit for Wyoming 2-1-1, a group whose mission is to bring people together with available services, resources, and support organizations in Wyoming. 

As things were set to begin Thursday, the total raised so far for various charities was standing at just shy of the mark everyone came to see. 

The success of Thankful Thursday rests in the people of Cheyenne, Alf said.

“The community itself, the people, the businesses in town are so giving here in Cheyenne,” he said. “I have a great volunteer staff that comes out week after week to help me. There have been close to 50 charities helped and I have 40 charities on the waiting list to get on.”

One of the sponsors, and one who has generously given thousands of dollars, is Corey “Lynn” Loghry, who owns the business Lynn Buys Houses. 

“It was something Alf would say ‘Separately we can’t do much but together we can do a lot.’ that was the reason I came onboard as a sponsor,” Loghry said. “When you come together with other small businesses, amazing things can happen.”

Also in attendance was Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr. 

“It has taken our entire community to come out during every Thankful Thursday, and to come to this point where we have reached $2 million, for very worthy causes, because guess what, government can’t do it all,” she said. “I have met mayors from all over the country and all over the world, and they ask what’s special about Cheyenne, and it comes down to it is such a generous community. We have the best community! If there’s a need, everybody steps up.”

At Thursday’s gathering, a running tally was kept so everyone would know the moment the $2 million mark reached. When would it happen though? 

With bidding on auction items coming in faster than Alf could keep track, the crew working in the back got his attention and stopped him. When he returned to the stage, the announcement was made, to thunderous applause, that Thankful Thursdays’ total collections had indeed topped $2 million.

As Alf changed the tote board, Mayor Orr was invited on stage.

“First of all, let’s give Alf a big shout out,” she said, prompting whoops and cheers from the audience. “Hats off to all of you, because the $2 million come from all of you, every Thursday night. I know these organizations’ budgets, and I know how much $10,000 means to an organization.”

After thanking Mayor Orr, Alf turned right back to the auction and starting doing what he does best, raising money for a very “thankful” Cheyenne. 

The haunted bell tower of St. Mark’s

in Community
2256

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Cheyenne is one of Wyoming’s favorite and oldest ghost stories. Is St. Mark’s church really haunted?

Rector Rick Veit took Cowboy State Daily on a tour just in time for Halloween.

Refurbished movie theater first step to building arts community

in News/Community/arts and culture
2162

Refurbishing a movie theater in Cheyenne so it can serve as a venue to world-class concerts is a first step in building a thriving arts community in Wyoming, according to a Cheyenne couple.

Jon and Renee Jelinek founded the “The Alternative Arts Project”, a non-profit organization, which acquired the Lincoln Theatre in Cheyenne several years ago with the intention of making it into a music venue.

Renee Jelinek said once the theater is operating again as a music venue, it will help spur development of a larger arts community in Wyoming.

“Having a real music venue here that can be that ground zero for arts and building the arts in Wyoming is going to be a real catalyst for changing that here,” she said.

The Jelineks are holding an “Arts for Arts” auction fundraiser on Oct. 12 to help raise money for work on the Lincoln, which is expected to be open for performances next year.

Jon Jelinek said the arts for auction, donated by local artists, will be displayed in an “immersive” way.

“It’s going to be a fully immersive art auction,” he said. “Meaning that we’re going to have several pieces paired with a spirit, paired with music so that people can get a full experience of the art that they’re looking at.”

Once in operation, the Lincoln will provide a setting for the kind concert experience that crosses all human boundaries, Jon Jelinek said.

“You think about music and going to concerts,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, what walk of life you come from, your status, your political party, your race. Everybody’s there to enjoy the same experience and gets to have the same experience. And even for that couple of hours, everybody gets along and has a great experience.”

Crowds gather for Cheyenne’s second Chey-Fy Comic Expo

in Community/arts and culture
2050

By Tim Mandese, Cowboy State Daily

Several hundred people gathered at Cheyenne’s historic Plains Hotel last weekend to take part in the city’s second “Chey-Fy Comic Expo.”

The event celebrating all things related to pop culture was sponsored by Cheyenne’s Small Business Hub, a group of business owners who meet to share their experience and expertise with others.

Jon Puls, the SBH vice president of events, said the Comic Expo is the group’s main event of the year and is used as a fundraiser.

“We’ve got comics, cosplay, stars, video games, sculptures, artists,” he said. “We’re doing all this with the hopes to create small business grants for the community.

Many people attending last weekend’s event wore their “Cosplay” costumes. People who take part in cosplay dress up as their favorite superhero, video game character, cartoon character or character from literature.

Vendors, meanwhile, filled many of the meeting rooms of the Plains with goods ranging from original artwork and graphic novels to craft items.This year’s Chey-Fy Comic Expo welcomed guests including Jon St. John, the voice behind many popular video game characters, most notably, “Duke Nukem.”

Fans stopping by his table were treated to St. John reciting lines from the game such as “Hail to the king baby!” 

Also making an appearance was veteran voice actor Dameon Clark, of the animated series “Dragon Ball Z.” Clark has also acted in the television shows Castle, Supernatural and Prison Break.

Several authors were also on hand, including Ron Fortier, writer for “Green Hornet,” and the series “Terminator: Burning Earth.” Along with the cosplay and guests, admission to the expo included discussion panels, a lunch with the guests, as well as anime movie screening and a midnight ghost hunt at the nearby Masonic Lodge. 

For adventure close at hand, Cheyenne residents hike or bike Hidden Falls

in Recreation/Tourism
2008

On the plains of southeast Wyoming access to mountainous hiking and biking can seem at a distance.

Curt Gowdy State Park offers Cheyenne residents and visitors from northern Colorado a great escape that’s just minutes from the capital city.

The Crow Creek Trail to Hidden Falls trail is a particular gem in the state park. The 3.6 mile out and back trail leads to a charming little waterfall and offers terrain that is fun for families but challenging enough that everyone gets to feel those muscles working.

It’s not an hours drive to get outside. This is your reminder, southeastern Wyoming, take in the fall weather while it lasts at Curt Gowdy State Park.

Catching Up: Michael DeGreve from Cheyenne’s Hitching Post

in Community/arts and culture
1863

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

For 30 years, singer-songwriter Michael DeGreve was a fixture at Cheyenne’s old Hitching Post Inn.

Although the self-described “Hippie from Hollywood Hills” may not have seemed like a logical fit for Cheyenne, Wyoming, the entertainer played to packed houses twice a day, six nights a week, from 1977 through 2007.

DeGreve moved on from the Hitching Post a year after the well-regarded owner of the hotel — Paul Smith — died in 2006. After a two-year stint at a resort in the northern woods of Wisconsin, the singer has made Las Vegas, Nevada, his home for the past seven years. His pace has slowed down a bit (now performing only four to five nights a week), but his love of entertaining has never waned.

“I’ve been blessed to play music every day of my life for the past 50 years,” DeGreve said. “It’s what I love to do.”

Now singing at the Mt. Charleston Lodge in Las Vegas and Jack’s Place in Boulder City, Nevada, DeGreve spoke highly of his time in Cheyenne during a recent performance and reflected on his relationship with Wyoming audiences.

“It was very warm right from the beginning,” DeGreve said. “I didn’t know I was going to perform at The Hitch for 30 years but as time went on and I realized the depth of what this place was and how wonderful the people were, I didn’t want to leave. It was my life.”

He discusses that life often during his show at Mt. Charleston. One weekend night, the singer regaled the crowd with many Cheyenne stories — many elicited much laughter. One story, however, silenced the crowd: the flood of 1985.

“August 1, 1985,” he began. “I had been there for eight years. We had a terrible flood. Once in a 100 year flood.

“I was doing my show. A friend of mine sitting right over there,” he continued, motioning to the right. “It had been a dry summer. It started a little bit after 6 p.m. He said ‘We could sure use this water.’

“By 9 p.m., 12 people were dead. The city was trashed. We had 6 1/2 inches of rain and hail in two hours. Trashed the city.”

The singer paused to wipe a tear from his eye. And paused again. The audience didn’t say a word.

A few moments later, DeGreve transitioned, as all of Cheyenne had to do back then, and told of how then-Gov. Ed Herschler called him two days after the flood and asked him for his help.

DeGreve has some powerful friends in the music industry. His first album had members of The Eagles and Crosby, Stills, and Nash singing background vocals. His ex-wife had married Graham Nash. One friend made time for DeGreve despite a booked touring season.

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“I called my friend Neil Young,” he said. “We re-routed Neil’s tour and he and I did a show four weeks later on a blue moon night at the (Cheyenne Frontier Days) fairgrounds for 10,000 people. It was called the Silver Lining Benefit Concert. Everybody showed up. We raised a lot of money and we raised a lot of spirits.

“Everybody takes care of each other there,” he said of Cheyenne. “It is a very magical place.”

For DeGreve, that magic started and ended at The Hitching Post — a place he thought would be resurrected after the fire that ultimately doomed the establishment in 2010.

“The Hitching Post was such a huge part of my life. For the first two years I was here (in Las Vegas) I thought somebody was going to resurrect it on those grounds.”

DeGreve has been back to Cheyenne one time since the fire to attend a book signing event commemorating the Hitching Post.

“It was pretty emotional. Pretty nostalgic. Got to see a lot of friends. Signed books for hours and did a show,” he said.

What affected him the most, however, was seeing the remains of the hotel he called home for 30 years.

“But to see it physically burned down. Sheesh,” he said. “My mind raced and I just thought of the 10,000 nights playing music and telling stories to my friends in Cheyenne. It broke my heart.”

DeGreve said he would like to come back to Cheyenne and if the right circumstances unfolded, he would consider returning.
Although nothing has presented itself yet, DeGreve did say he expected to be back in Cheyenne soon.

“I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag,” he said grinning. “But I think we’re going to do something back in town soon and I can’t wait.”

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Cheyenne’s Edge Fest Scores Hot Acts, Cool Vibes for Fifth Annual Event

in Community/Food and Beverage/arts and culture
1844

Cheyenne residents and visitors from all over the region are in for stellar performances, great food and a happening party this Saturday, August 24 as Edge Fest takes over the new Civic Commons Park and Amphitheater on Cheyenne’s West Edge.

Genre-bending/blending singer K.Flay and rock and roller Billy Raffoul take the stage in Cheyenne for what promises to be the biggest show in Edge Fest’s five year history.

Edge Fest essential details:

Who: K. Flay and Billy Raffoul + epic cross-section of food trucks and vendors

When: Saturday, August 24 | Doors open: 5:00pm | Party Ends: 10:00pm

Where: Civic Commons Park located in Cheyenne’s West Edge

What: Edge Fest is a free, all-ages event. No tickets are required.

Hometown boy makes good: Wyoming native wins world’s longest horse race

in News/Community
Mongol Derby Robert Long on Day 7
Cheyenne native Robert Long gives a thumbs up on Day 7 of the Mongol Derby. (photo courtesy of Mongol Derby)
1835

Nicole Blanchard, special to Cowboy State Daily

It’s only fitting that a man dubbed “the most badass cowboy you will ever meet” hails from the Cowboy State.

Robert Long, a native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, earned the title after winning the Mongol Derby, a 620-mile race across the Mongolian Steppe, earlier this week. At 70 years old, Long is not only the oldest person to win the race but the oldest person to even finish the grueling trek, designed to replicate the route of Genghis Khan’s 13th century postal system.

“I’ve never in my life seen anybody as intense, as skilled, as intelligent, as driven as Bob,”said Gary Schaeffer, former Cheyenne mayor and one of Long’s closest friends. Both men now live in Boise, Idaho.

Long crossed the finish line on Wednesday, Aug. 14, the eighth day of the race. He and 41 other competitors had ridden upwards of 12 hours a day on “semi-wild” Mongolian horses, switching out mounts at checkpoints to ensure the horses didn’t become fatigued. 

“Those horses aren’t ridden every day like ours,” said Cheyenne rancher Doug Samuelson, who has spent time hunting in Mongolia. “They’re not our highly trained quarter horses.”

By the end of the race, Long had ridden 28 different horses.

Schaeffer, who first met Long in 1968, said his friend’s upbringing in Cheyenne no doubt came in handy in the race.

“He was born and raised on horses, used to break them, train them for people,” Schaeffer said. “Besides being a confident horseman and cowboy, he always takes care of his animals, and that shows in the race.”

Samuelson, who doesn’t know Long, joked that Long must be something of a horse whisperer.

“I’d love to shake his hand,” Samuelson said. “Maybe it’ll rub off on me.”

At each checkpoint, veterinarians inspected the small, hardy Mongolian horses to see that they hadn’t been overworked. 

“They’re small horses, but they’re tough,” Samuelson said. “They’re incredibly agile and surefooted.”

Riders received penalties if their horses weren’t in top condition, but by the end of the derby, Long earned a perfect record from the race vets.

“At one point they said he veered off-course to go get his horse water,” Schaeffer added. “I’m sure it cost him some time, but he was more worried about taking care of his horse. And he’s always been that way.”

Schaeffer said Long was matter-of-fact when he first shared his plans to ride in the Mongol Derby, which holds the Guinness World Record for longest horse race.

“He came over to the house and told us ‘I’ve entered the Mongol Derby,’” Schaeffer said. “We said, ‘What? Why?'”

“He said, ‘Because people told me I couldn’t. It’s there, it’s a challenge. I don’t like people to say because of my age I won’t be able to make it. It’s the toughest, most grueling thing a horseman can do, and I want to prove I can do it,’” Schaeffer recalled.

From day one, Schaeffer said, Long’s loved ones had no doubt he could complete the race, in part thanks to his impeccable research, planning and preparation.

Because Mongolian horses tend to be under 14 hands, there’s a weight limit for riders and gear to keep the horses safe. Long lost 30 pounds and practiced packing and repacking his bag to be sure he could make weight. He consulted with previous Mongol Derby riders and spent months building his riding endurance.

“He had this planned down to the inch,” Schaeffer said.

And while Long already had impeccable navigation skills (Schaeffer recalled how Long could always find his way back to the horse trailer during hunting trips in the Snowy Mountains), he honed those skills even more to prepare for the unmarked Mongol Derby route.

“He would try to get himself lost and work with the GPS to get himself back on course,” Schaeffer said. “Though I doubt if he ever got lost. He just doesn’t do that.”

According to a Mongol Derby news release, the riders faced arctic winds and downpours at the start of the race. They also had to watch out for rodent holes and marshy areas as they trekked across the steppe. 

“(The terrain there) is a lot like Wyoming,” Samuelson said. “You’ll see really flat plains areas and kind of high mountains on the side. The grasses are also similar.”

As the weather cleared up later in the race, Long took a lead that he maintained until the end.

Schaeffer wasn’t surprised when Long galloped across the finish line in a live video broadcast on Facebook by the Mongol Derby –but he was emotional.

“I was crying, tears were streaming down my face. We knew he could do it,” Schaeffer said.

“I’ve never seen anything he can’t do,” he added. “If he says he’s going to do it, he’s going to do it.”

Long, on the other hand, was cracking jokes the moment he dismounted.

“My horse just won the Mongol Derby,” he said. “It’s nothing, you just ride 650 miles on a death march. There’s nothing to it.”

Find out more about the Mongol Derby here. And for a great read on the Mongols and Genghis Khan’s 13th century postal system check out Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford.

Cheyenne Frontier Days: Behind the Chutes

in Community/Tourism/arts and culture
1700

By Seneca Flowers, special for Cowboy State Daily

You can tell it’s Cheyenne Frontier Days because the heat has finally kicked up to the 90s in Cheyenne. When the July heat starts cooking, Cheyenne Frontier Days gets into gear. Part of the magic can be witnessed by locals and tourists who can step in the arena mud and dirt as part of the Behind the Chutes tour.

The tour features a variety of history and facts narrated by guides as it passes from the Old West Museum through to the animal holding area and emptying out in to the arena near the bucking chutes and chute nine.

Public Relations Committee Volunteer Jessica Crowder is a tour guide for Behind the Chutes and has been so for nearly a decade. She said over the years, she has enjoyed meeting people from around the world.

“We have had people from Europe, South America,” she said. “I can’t think of place we haven’t seen someone from.”

One family took the tour as part of a vacation from their hometown of Bloomfield, Ind. The Holtsclaw family visited Cheyenne as part of a Wyoming and South Dakota sightseeing trip. As a child, Jarrod Holtsclaw would often visit a Labor Day rodeo in Palestine, Ill., near his hometown with his parents and grandparents. The rodeo was not as large as Cheyenne Frontier Days. He said he was impressed by the size of the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.

His son, Boone, enjoyed being up close to the livestock.

“My favorite part was looking at the bulls they had,” Boone Holtsclaw said.

Although the tour took people along the path for 45 minutes, it was a much tighter tour than it was in the past, according to Crowder. The tour used to be just one to two tour guides who had to know every detail. But nowadays, newer volunteers get to shadow the veterans and take part in guiding the tourists. This allows them to help out without having to know every part of the script.

“That adaptation really made it a lot of fun,” Crowder said.

Although she has done the tour for nearly a decade, she said she enjoys hearing about the tourists’ experiences and watching them have fun while interacting during the tour.

Thunderbirds appear in the sky over Cheyenne for 66th time

in Community/military/arts and culture
1697

The U.S. Air Force precision flying team the Thunderbirds took to the skies over Cheyenne for the 66th time on Wednesday for its annual demonstration of high-speed formation flying.

The Thunderbirds have appeared at every Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo since 1953, with pilots flying their F-16 Fighting Falcons only feet from each other as they put the aircraft through various aerobatic maneuvers such as loops.

Viewers pack F.E. Warren Air Force Base to watch the show and line up on either side of Interstate 25 near the base to get a good look at the performance.

The Air Force describes the Thunderbird team as combining years of training and experience with an “attitude of excellence.”

Today’s Cowboy Vocabulary word is: Reride

in Community/arts and culture
CSD Cowboy Vocabulary Reride
1694

A cowboy is given a second chance to ride a bull or horse, called a reride, on a new animal if his first ride was affected by equipment failure or if the livestock did not buck sufficiently. 

Used in a sentence: “Cody DeMoss only scored a 53 in his first bullride, but he was given a reride because the bull did not buck well.”

The Best Carnival Food at Cheyenne Frontier Days

in Community/Food and Beverage
1687

Corndogs and turkey legs and deep-fried Oreos, oh my!

Hang on, Dorothy, the variety of iconic carnival food available at Frontier Park this week staggers the imagination!

From funnel cakes to rattlesnake bratwurst, the carnival midway is filled with deep-fried, smoked and sugared treats.

Just to give you an idea of the high points, Cowboy State Daily’s Jim Angell visited the midway to try 10 different carnival foods and rank them according to his preference. Take a look at his gastronomical journey and watch to the end to see his top 10 choices.

Remember, there are no hard and fast rules for this, so don’t be afraid to offer up your own rankings on the Cowboy State Daily Facebook page.

Bon appetit!

40 Years Later: Tornado Rips Through Cheyenne, Wyoming

in weather/Community
1656

On July 16, 1979, Cheyenne was hit by the largest tornado (F3) to ever hit the state of Wyoming.

The tornado was responsible for one death, dozens of injuries, and damage to hundreds of homes. 

Don Erickson was Cheyenne’s mayor and he recalls what happened that day 40 years later.

Daddy of ‘Em All is BIG for local business

in Economic development/News/Food and Beverage/arts and culture
1644

Tourism officials in Cheyenne are predicting that the city’s annual Frontier Days celebration will bring at least as many people to Cheyenne as showed up for the 2018 event.

Darren Rudloff, president and CEO of Visit Cheyenne, said he understands that ticket sales for the 10-day rodeo are at levels about where they were last year, when about 105,000 people visited the city and reports indicate most hotels rooms in the city are full for the event.

“So far, rodeo tickets are on par with where they were last year, concert tickets are up about 10 percent from what I hear and the weather is going to be great as well,” he said. “So it’s looking like it’s going to be a great Frontier Days.”

Jim Osterfoss, owner of the Warren Nagle Mansion Bed and Breakfast, said his facility is booked to near capacity for the rodeo.

The annual boost for business provided by the extra visitors is always welcomed by businessmen such as George Kallas, who owns the Albany Restaurant in downtown Cheyenne with is brother Gus.

“It’s our Christmas,” he said.

Kallas noted that anyone in Cheyenne during the celebration would be challenged to be bored.

“People come in (to the Albany), they buy package (liquor), they buy food, they buy drink, they go to the (Depot) Plaza, there’s some nice bands on Friday and Saturday night, they go shopping and then they go out to the rodeo,” he said. “And then they go to the night show. And they enjoy all of that. If you can’t find something to do (during) Frontier Days in Cheyenne, there’s something wrong with you.”

‘The Price is Right’ coming to Cheyenne

in Community/arts and culture
1615

If you’ve always wanted to hear your name followed by the phrase, “Come on down!” then you’re in luck: “The Price is Right” is coming to Cheyenne in December.

“The Price is Right Live,” a traveling version of the decades-long fixture of daytime television, will be in the Capital city on Tuesday, Dec. 3.

David Soules, booking and programming manager for the City of Cheyenne, says the touring game show is a close replica of what you see on TV.

“It’s the same people who put on the TV game show so you’ll see the same games, the prizes are similar – like cash, large appliances, and someone will have a chance of winning a car,” Soules said.

Soules said tickets to attend the show went on sale on Friday, July 12 and he expects them to sell quickly.

“I expect this to be a big hit,” he said. “It’s getting a lot of traction on social media. People are saying this is a ‘bucket list’ event.”

Attendees will likely be encouraged to show up in team shirts and “wacky costumes,” he said — similar to what is seen in other cities that host the production.

Those wishing to register as contestants for the show will be able to do so three hours before it begins. Those registering will not be required to purchase a ticket for the show and the purchase of a ticket will not guarantee that a person will be chosen as a contestant.

Cheyenne’s housing market is heating up

in Economic development/News/Community
1558
https://youtu.be/UIxHTWUQUl8

Affordable housing costs, a lack of inventory and Wyoming’s tax structure are contributing to create a seller’s market for Cheyenne homes, according to members of the city’s real estate and lending industries.

Figures show that single family homes with an acre or more of land priced between $450,000 and $500,000 are selling after just a little more than a month on the market and for an average of 99.3 percent of the asking price. A single family home in town with a price tag of $350,000 to $400,000 is selling for just a little more than the asking price after being on the market for less than two months.

Buck Wilson, president of the Cheyenne Board of Realtors, said the prices for homes in Cheyenne make them very attractive to out-of-state buyers.

“I believe there’s some opportunities for them to still find affordable housing compared to what they’re seeing in Fort Collins or anywhere south …” he said. “When you have a median house price of a home in town of $246,000, that’s affordable. Those people in Colorado go ‘I want to buy one all day long.’”

Wilson, of No. 1 Properties, and Larry Gardner of ReMax both pointed to the lack of inventory in Cheyenne as one reason for the market conditions. In 2009, there were 750 active listings in Cheyenne’s market, a number that has dropped to 250.

Wyoming’s lack of state income taxes and its conservative political climate also make Cheyenne attractive to buyers, Gardner said.

“They don’t want anybody telling them what to do with their guns, with their property,” he said. “A lot of people are looking for properties that don’t have (homeowners associations) or covenants, which is very hard any more.”

Mike Williams, manager of Jonah Bank’s Cheyenne branch, said the city is not facing a housing bubble, but some action might have to be taken to keep housing affordable.

“People are really, legitimately looking for places to live and affordably,” said Williams. “I wouldn’t say, in my opinion, that we have a bubble, but we really do need to watch this growth rate and we’ve got to do something to keep this cost affordable to the working guy in town.”

Gardner said he believes new home construction will eventually catch up to demand, ultimately leading to lower prices.

Wilson agreed, saying he also expects higher mortgage rates to contribute to a slowdown eventually.

Experienced Wyoming accountant retires after 45 years in business

in Community/Business
1507

One of Wyoming’s most experienced tax accountants is retiring after 45 years in the business.

Joe Paiz is retiring as a partner from the Cheyenne firm of McGee, Hearne and Paiz, a company he formed with eight others in 2000.

Paiz’ former partners praised the Wyoming native for his creative nature.

“You could always walk down the hall and talk to him about taxes,” said Jim Hearne. “And talk about creative. We could always figure out a way to get things done and make things happen.”

Ken Dugas, who worked with Paiz for close to 40 years, said Paiz is one of the smartest businessmen he knows.

“I’ve talked to people a number of times about a problem I can’t solve, I go into Joe’s office, he just sits there for a second and bam, he’s got the answer,” he said.

After graduating from the University of Wyoming in 1975, Paiz joined the IRS and then worked for several other firms before becoming a partner at McGee, Hearne and Paiz.

Paiz also spent 35 years doing volunteer accounting work for organizations such as the Cheyenne Animal Shelter.

Wyoming residents look to themselves to boost business, populations

in Economic development/News/Business
Wyoming small business
1480

By Becky Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Residents in many Wyoming cities and towns are pitching in to invigorate their communities in the face of declining populations.

About three-fourths of the larger cities and towns in Wyoming saw people leave between July 1, 2017, and July 1, 2018, based on estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. A recent news release from Wenlin Liu, Wyoming Economic Administration’s senior economist, said Casper was the hardest hit community with a decline of 351 in population, followed by Rock Springs at a loss of 291. Cheyenne, meanwhile, gained 370 residents.

A random check with residents in towns and cities in the Cowboy State finds that many are trying to turn things around. Many get help from state and federal grants, non-money resources and education as well as private financial sources.

Lots of activity is going on now in Gillette, a city of about 31,903 people that depends heavily on the oil and gas revenues. Gillette lost 134 people between July 1, 2017 and July 1, 2018, according to Liu’s news release. The loss reflects an economic slide caused by plummeting oil and gas prices and diminished coal production.

Phil Christopherson, chief executive officer for Energy Capital Economic Development, the economic development arm for Campbell County, said city and county revenues dropped 30 to 40 percent because of the downturn a couple of years ago. But residents stayed strong. 

“Everybody came together and said ‘we’re going to make it through this.’ The community spirit really showed through” and is there today, he said.

The county’s economy is rebounding now, but the downturn meant “that the community became committed to diversify the economy,” Christopherson said. 

Energy Capital Economic Development proceeded with a business incubator program that was in the works when the crash occurred. The business incubator opened in September and has about nine business interests involved.

The agency also started plans for an advanced carbon research facility for exploring the many uses of coal. Its goal is to prove the technology exists to make the alternative uses of coal commercially viable.

The Wyoming Business Council will vote June 20 on a $1.4 million grant for the project, which also received money from an EDA federal grant and private investments.

In Rock Springs, officials are trying to determine how best to develop 15,000 acres of land near the Southwest Wyoming Regional Airport, said Kayla McDonald, business development director for the Sweetwater County Economic Development organization.

Money for the $66,000 study will come mostly from a Wyoming Business Council grant as well as the economic development organization, the county, Rock Springs and Green River. The study will provide ideas about what businesses and industries would be best to recruit for the site, she said.

Economic development supporters also want to recruit more retail businesses and restaurants to the area, she said.

Meanwhile, Powell, a farming town in northwest Wyoming that added only four people to its census during the year, is also looking at new development. Residents now are excited about the planned construction of a new hotel and convention center, said Christine Bekes, executive director of the Powell Economic Partnership.

The center, with an estimated cost of $10 million, is planned to open in 2020 and should create around 33 new jobs. It is the result of a partnership between the Powell Economic Partnership and the Wyoming Business Council. Additional hotel rooms are in demand, Bekes said. 

“We’re right near Yellowstone National Park and the lodging is inadequate,” she said.

The new hotel will increase available lodging by 50 percent.

Other projects in Powell’s near future will rely heavily on community volunteers. A community action group is building Powell’s first public dog park. A dog park is high on the list of what people who are relocating want to see. 

“Those who live in urban environments come to expect it,” Bekes said.

Effective economic development also demands creative thinking.

“I think the communities that are thinking outside the box are finding some success” in terms of positive community development efforts, said Justin Schilling, coordinator of member services for the Wyoming Association of Municipalities. 

Schilling points as an example to high-tech education, such as Cheyenne’s Array School of Technology and Design. The city has a diversified workforce, allowing it to offer career training for high-tech jobs, he added.

Another creative project Schilling cited is the $7 million Evergreen Plaza, a proposed 30-room assisted living facility in Torrington, where the population dropped by 14 during the year.

Money to build the project will come from sources like a $2.6 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council, a loan from local banks and a partnership with the private assisted living provider. The facility can be a solid economic development tool, according to Schilling.

Positive economic development doesn’t always mean building big warehouses. Tom Dixon, marketing management coordinator for the Wyoming Business Council, said that some projects – like the Civic Center Commons park in Cheyenne – “help develop the soul of a place and make people feel more connected.”

Projects don’t have to be expensive, either. Sprucing up a downtown with flower planters, bushes or a giant chess set can make a big difference, Dixon added. 

Even though Cheyenne is the fastest-growing city in the state — it gained 370 people in one year — efforts to boost the economy are ongoing.

Economic development in Cheyenne long has relied on Cheyenne LEADS, a private, non-profit organization with its own volunteer board of directors. Business and community leaders formed LEADS 32 years ago to attract good jobs and industries to Laramie County, Executive Director Randy Bruns said. 

LEADS receives $50,000 a year each from the City of Cheyenne and Laramie County and money from private donations. More than 80 industries and 6,000 jobs have been created in Laramie County because of the work of LEADS. 

“I am still doing this job because when LEADS succeeds, when we have a success, we know that the result of our work helps to do good things in the community,” Bruns said.

Help Wanted: Low unemployment means hiring difficulties in Cheyenne

in News/Business
1477

While Cheyenne’s low unemployment rate is good news for its economy, it means hard times for the city’s employers who are having trouble finding workers.

Cheyenne’s unemployment rate as of the end of April was 3.1 percent, compared to Wyoming’s statewide average of 3.6 percent.

“Help Wanted” signs can be found throughout Cheyenne, a sign of the resulting labor shortage that employers must face when trying to hire workers.

Businesses will have to be more creative than usual in luring staff members, said Stephanie Meisner, vice president of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.

“It causes us as employers, as well as businesses within the community, to have to think more creatively as to how to recruit, as well as retain employees and to be a little bit more competitive with one another in terms of workforce,” she said.

Astrid, the owner of the Plains Hotel, agreed the low unemployment rate makes hiring more difficult.

“It’s very severe for employers right now,” she said.

Katy Rinne, director of marketing and business development for one of Cheyenne’s newest restaurants, The Metropolitan, said her property is almost fully staffed. She attributed the achievement to the restaurant’s training for new workers.

“We’re happy to work with them, we’re happy to show them the way that we want to offer service and really train them to be great employees and to have a great work experience for them and for our customer,” she said.

There’s a whole lotta Mexican goin’ on: Taco 🌮 Johns celebrates 50

in News/Business
1455

“If you’ve got a tiger by the tail, hang on. I knew this was a tiger and I was ready to go right then,” that’s how Taco Johns co-founder Harold Holmes remembers deciding to embark on an entrepreneurial adventure that started in Cheyenne, Wyoming and grew to hundreds of restaurants over 50 years.

Taco Johns celebrates 50 years in business this week and we’ve got the skinny on how a humble taco stand on Carey Ave. – that was built in a week – turned into a national fast-food chain serving tacos (and potato oles) to fans in 23 states.