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Disabled Veteran Claims Dubois Motel Still Not Allowing Service Animals

in News
Col. Victoria Miralda, (Ret.)
22433

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The attorney for a disabled veteran from Colorado is claiming that a Dubois motel is still not allowing service animals, even though in court filings the business said the animals are welcome.

Jonathan Martinis, a Virginia attorney representing Col. Victoria Miralda, told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that Miralda’s legal team has found online reviews of the Chinook Winds that state the motel still does not allow service dogs, despite the motel’s legal team claiming otherwise in recent court filings.

Miralda filed a lawsuit against the Chinook Winds Motel earlier this year, alleging that someone purporting to be the motel’s owner would not let her stay at the motel last fall because she had a service dog, which she relies on for help with physical disabilities and mental health issues.

Martinis told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that Miralda’s legal team found examples on eight different travel websites about the Chinook Winds still not allowing service animals. A 54-page filing showing these examples from the websites was submitted to a U.S. District Court judge on July 15.

“Think about it: All of a sudden, after they’ve been sued, they’re saying that they accept service animals – in an affidavit to one judge, while trying to win the case,” Martinis said. “But, at the same time, they’re also saying, to everyone in American and beyond, on eight travel websites, that they don’t accept service animals.”

He asked what made more sense: whether the Winds’ owner has had a change or heart or the motel “got caught” demonstrating that it still does not allow service animals.

All of the travel websites have statements from a Chinook Winds official that states no service animals are allowed at the motel. It is not clear who made the posts, though.

Attorneys for Chinook Winds owner William Kovac claimed in court filings earlier this month that the blame fell on a former employee of the motel who did not like animals to begin with.

Miralda claims the motel employee violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law when it refused to allow her to stay at the motel with her dog, Luna.

In particular, Luna helps Miralda going up and down stairs and dealing with anxiety stemming from PTSD her lawsuit said.

Miralda and a fellow female veteran attempted to stay at the hotel in September 2021 when returning from an event in Montana, the original lawsuit said. Miralda reserved a room for one night through the Expedia travel website, paying around $120 in advance.

When checking in, Miralda informed then-employee Patsy Meyer, who identified herself as the owner, that she had a service animal. Meyer said Luna could not stay in the room, as the motel did not allow pets, according to court documents.

When Miralda explained Luna was not a pet, but a service animal, Meyer reiterated the policy of no pets and no exceptions.

Since Meyer would not allow Miralda to stay with Luna, Miralda asked for a refund of her advance payment, but was denied, the lawsuit said.

“Chinook Winds put a disabled American veteran on the street, with nowhere to go, late at night,” Martinis said. “And now they’re trying to sweep it under the rug with some pretty words in an affidavit, while they broadcast ugliness and discrimination to us all.”

The Chinook Winds did not immediately return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Friday.

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Lawsuit Claims Dubois Mayor’s Wife, Not Motel Owner, Refused Room To Veteran With Service Dog

in News
Col. Victoria Miralda, (Ret.)
21809

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed against a Dubois motel is shifting the blame for the motel refusing to accommodate a guest with a service dog from the owner to a former employee, who is also the wife of the town’s mayor.

Col. Victoria Miralda filed a lawsuit against the Chinook Winds Motel earlier this year, alleging that someone purporting to be the motel’s owner would not let her stay at the motel last fall because she had a service dog, which she relies on for help with physical disabilities and mental health issues.

But according to a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by the attorneys for William Kovac, the motel’s owner, the case “involves an allegation of a single, isolated incident of a failure by [Chinook Winds] to provide services of a pubic accommodation…”

Miralda claims the motel employee violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and Wyoming law when it refused to allow her to stay at the motel with her dog.

In particular, Luna helps Miralda going up and down stairs and dealing with anxiety stemming from PTSD her lawsuit said.

Kovac’s attorneys said that the incident took place less than a month after he purchased the motel.

Prior to the incident, he employed Patsy Meyer, the wife of Dubois mayor John Meyer, who Kovac understood to be a “person of good repute in the community…who held herself out as a person with experience in the motel industry.”

Kovac’s attorneys claim he instructed Meyer to accept all service animals, as his long-term intent was to allow animals at the motel.

While not admitting Miralda’s claims were fact, Kovac’s attorneys said that if they were to assume her statements were true, Meyer “acted outside of the scope of her employment” when she refused to provide a room to Miralda.

Miralda and a fellow female veteran attempted to stay at the hotel in September 2021 when returning from an event in Montana, the original lawsuit said. Miralda reserved a room for one night through the Expedia travel website, paying around $120 in advance.

When checking in, Miralda informed Meyer, who identified herself as the owner, that she had a service animal. Meyer said Luna could not stay in the room, as the motel did not allow pets.

When Miralda explained Luna was not a pet, but a service animal, Meyer reiterated the policy of no pets and no exceptions.

Since Meyer would not allow Miralda to stay with Luna, Miralda asked for a refund of her advance payment, but was denied, the lawsuit said.

Kovac’s attorneys, in their dismissal request, said that the motel’s owner became aware within the first month of employing Meyer that she had an “irrational” fear of dogs and that she wanted to keep the “no pets” policy that the former motel owner implemented.

“Mr. Kovac had several meetings with Mrs. Meyer before the alleged incident at hand and told her that service animals were to be allowed to stay at the motel anytime,” the motion said.

Once Kovac found out about the incident, he attempted to contact Miralda to provide her a refund and apologize, but was only able to reach her attorney.

He also fired Meyer for her alleged actions.

Kovac’s attorneys argued that since he has rectified the situation and the motel now allows service animals, the court should dismiss Miralda’s ADA violation claim as “moot.”

Meyer did not return Cowboy State Daily’s request for comment on Wednesday.

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Dubois Named Wyoming’s Best Place To Escape

in News/Good news
5976

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Travel website Expedia has declared Dubois as Wyoming’s best place to escape, according to an article making the rounds again online.

In the article, the travel site broke down the best places in each state where someone can get away from the hustle and bustle and just unwind.

“From political unrest to natural disasters, the world is facing some trying things, and we’re right there with you in craving a peaceful retreat and a good place to relax,” the article began. “From quaint small towns to quiet nature preserves, this country is full of places to escape to, and we’ve chosen our favorite in each state, highlighting the perfectly restful things to do there.”

Expedia hailed Dubois’ Old West charm, even comparing it to a setting in the HBO series “Westworld,” saying the town would “cure your frontier fever and fulfill your Wild West daydreams.”

The article suggested checking out the Bitterroot Ranch for an expert-guided pack trip, the summer yoga and horseback riding retreat and the town’s skiing and snowshoeing offerings.

Other towns included on the list included Salida, Colorado, Red Lodge, Montana, Garretson, South Dakota and St. George, Utah.

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Huge $100 Million Military Vehicles Museum in Dubois Postpones Grand Opening

in News/Coronavirus/military
4109

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By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

DUBOIS – A facility expected to be among Wyoming’s largest museums once it opens has postponed its grand opening because of the coronavirus.

Dan Starks, who has built the National Museum of Military Vehicles, said he has been forced to postpone the grand opening scheduled for May because of delays in the delivery of some needed supplies caused by the pandemic.

“I had been preparing myself mentally to reschedule the opening,” Starks said. “Exhibit fabrication and installation shut down a few weeks ago. I don’t know when vendors will start back up or when social distancing will be behind us.”

Starks is also one of the largest stockholders in Abbott Labs, which recently announced it had developed a new method of testing for the COVID-19 virus. 

He said he reached out to the lab seeking access to the test, but was not successful.  

“Every member of Abbott’s leadership team is being inundated. It is a tribute to the ethics of the company that its wonderful capabilities are being made available to the public on a very principled and objective basis,” Starks said.  “It is probably a good thing for me to say that I do not have any special access to the testing resources.”

Starks’ National Museum of Military Vehicles is a massive facility located just south of Dubois in Fremont County.

The $100 million self-funded project has been a dream of Starks, who bought his first Wyoming property in 2011. Construction on the new museum started in May of 2017. It is a 140,000 square foot facility, which is designed to hold 150 military vehicles.

But it is much more than a display of vehicles.

Starks, 65, is not a veteran but has such a high degree of respect for those who served that he sees this project as his life’s work. And what a life it has been.

He worked 32 years at a medical equipment company in Minneapolis, serving as CEO before retiring in 2017. The company made $6 billion per year and had 28,000 employees working on life-saving devices, specializing on heart catheters and other devices. 

“At one time, we figured our devices were saving a life every three seconds around the world,” he says.

His company was acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2017. Their web site shows Starks owns over $600 million in stock in the big international company and serves on its board.

Dan and his wife Cynthia’s life’s dream was to settle in Dubois and launch some project to recognize the service of America’s veterans. And boy, is this ever some project.

Despite the gigantic size of the facility, (you can almost put three football fields inside its walls), Starks now worries that it might be too small.  The couple owns more than 400 of pristine historic vehicles from World War II and other conflicts, presumed to be the largest and best private collection in the world.Starks thinks he might only get 150 of them inside the walls.

The Starks’ daughter Alynne is the executive director of the facility.Their plan for the museum has gone far beyond just a place to display vehicles. “We want to create displays that show the landing at Normandy, the surrenders in Germany and Japan, the Battle of the Bulge, and other great moments in our country’s military history,” Starks says.

Starks sees the facility having three components:

  • First, to honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans;
  • Second, preserve the history of what happened during these wars, and
  • Third, provide an educational experience.

The vast array of vehicles goes beyond the killing machines of tanks, artillery, and flamethrowers. It also includes dozens of the machines that made the wars winnable.

Starks likes to discuss how the “Red Ball Express” helped secure the victories. This was the truck-based supply chain that seemed to provide endless amounts of food, ammo, and war machines as Allied troops marched toward victory.

He wants to show how America was able to convert its massive manufacturing expertise to enable the Allies to fight two different wars in different parts of the world and win both in just three and one-half years. The new museum will show how the American ability to mass-produce cars and trucks was converted to produce tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and other war machines in record amounts that just wore down the enemy. 

“Germany built beautiful machines, but they did not understand mass production like Americans did,” Starks said. “It was impossible for them to keep up when it came to replacing and resupplying their troops at key moments in World War II. We want to honor everyone who participated in this great victory. This museum will showcase that effort but showing the machines that were built and how they were utilized.”

Dan and Alynne Starks led a handful of people on a tour of the facility Aug. 1, including Lander radio station owner Joe Kenney, Fremont County Commissioner Mike Jones and retired Lander business leader Tony McRae.

Kenney said he was impressed that Starks wants no grants or government money to help with the project.  

“He knows what he wants and he is going to get it,” he said. “Amazing.”

Jones said he was overwhelmed by Starks’ passion. 

“His enthusiasm is contagious,” he said. “This is going to be game-changer for tourism in Fremont County and Wyoming.”

McRae said he did not know what to expect. 

“I was just blown away by the scale of this project,” he said. “I can’t wait to see it after it opens.”

Alynne, as executive director, said the project will probably employ about 15 people.  They have not decided on what admission will cost but one thing is sure: “Veterans will get in free!  My dad insists on that,” she said.

Near the middle of the building’s interior is an amazing vault that will hold Starks’ $10 million collection of historic weapons, including a rifle fired at Custer’s Last Stand and a pistol used by General Pershing in World War I. The collection also includes 270 Winchester rifles.  The facility will have meeting rooms and members of the Wyoming Legislature are convening there in October.It also has the Chance Phelps Theatre, named for the brave Dubois Marine who died April 9, 2004, in Iraq.  The movie “Taking Chance”was about that soldier.

There will also be a large library with one of the world’s largest collections of manuals and other information about military vehicles.

There are over 100 tanks and other impressive war machines parked in row after row in a big field next to the new building. There is even a Russian-built MiG 21 parked in the field that was used in the Viet Nam War against American soldiers. It is flyable. Starks’ other machines are in downtown Dubois, on his ranches and stored in Salt Lake City. Besides the main museum facility, the Starks built a large building just off Main Street in Dubois to hold many of their vehicles and a shop to keep them running.

Eight years ago, their first home in Dubois was an old homestead. Then, they purchased a 250-head cattle ranch and recently they bought a third ranch, which now has 36 bison grazing on it.

“We love Dubois and we love Wyoming. This is our great adventure,” Starks said.

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Massive military museum under construction near Dubois

in News/Community/Bill Sniffin
1750
Dan Starks, National Museum of Military Vehicles founder, explains how the oil and gas industry helped the American military build a better tank.

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s next great museum is under construction and will open next May.

The National Museum of Military Vehicles is a massive facility located just south of Dubois in Fremont County.

The $100 million self-funded museum has been a dream of Dan Starks, who bought his first Wyoming property in 2011. Construction on the new museum started in May of 2017. It is a 140,000 square-foot facility designed to hold 150 military vehicles.

But it is much more than a display of vehicles.

Starks, 65, is not a veteran but has such a high degree of respect for those who served that he sees this project as his life’s work. And what a life it has been.

He worked 32 years at a medical equipment company in Minneapolis, serving as CEO before retiring in 2017. The company made $6 billion per year and had 28,000 employees working on life-saving devices, specializing on heart catheters and other devices. 

“At one time, we figured our devices were saving a life every three seconds around the world,” he says.

His company was acquired by Abbott Laboratories in 2017. Their web site shows Starks owns over $600 million in stock in the big international company and serves on its board.

Dan and his wife Cynthia’s life’s dream was to settle in Dubois and launch some project to recognize the service of America’s veterans. And boy, is this ever some project.

Despite the gigantic size of the facility, (you can almost put three football fields inside its walls), Starks now worries that it might be too small.  The couple owns more than 400 of pristine historic vehicles from World War II and other conflicts, presumed to be the largest and best private collection in the world.Starks thinks he might only get 150 of them inside the walls.

The Starks’ daughter Alynne is the executive director of the facility.Their plan for the museum has gone far beyond just a place to display vehicles. “We want to create displays that show the landing at Normandy, the surrenders in Germany and Japan, the Battle of the Bulge, and other great moments in our country’s military history,” Starks says.

Starks sees the facility having three components:

  • First, to honor the service and sacrifice of millions of Americans;
  • Second, preserve the history of what happened during these wars, and
  • Third, provide an educational experience.

The vast array of vehicles goes beyond the killing machines of tanks, artillery, and flamethrowers. It also includes dozens of the machines that made the wars winnable.

Starks likes to discuss how the “Red Ball Express” helped secure the victories. This was the truck-based supply chain that seemed to provide endless amounts of food, ammo, and war machines as Allied troops marched toward victory.

He wants to show how America was able to convert its massive manufacturing expertise to enable the Allies to fight two different wars in different parts of the world and win both in just three and one-half years. The new museum will show how the American ability to mass-produce cars and trucks was converted to produce tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and other war machines in record amounts that just wore down the enemy. 

“Germany built beautiful machines, but they did not understand mass production like Americans did,” Starks said. “It was impossible for them to keep up when it came to replacing and resupplying their troops at key moments in World War II. We want to honor everyone who participated in this great victory. This museum will showcase that effort but showing the machines that were built and how they were utilized.”

Dan and Alynne Starks led a handful of people on a tour of the facility Aug. 1, including Lander radio station owner Joe Kenney, Fremont County Commissioner Mike Jones and retired Lander business leader Tony McRae.

Kenney said he was impressed that Starks wants no grants or government money to help with the project.  

“He knows what he wants and he is going to get it,” he said. “Amazing.”

Jones said he was overwhelmed by Starks’ passion. 

“His enthusiasm is contagious,” he said. “This is going to be game-changer for tourism in Fremont County and Wyoming.”

McRae said he did not know what to expect. 

“I was just blown away by the scale of this project,” he said. “I can’t wait to see it after it opens.”

Alynne, as executive director, said the project will probably employ about 15 people.  They have not decided on what admission will cost but one thing is sure: “Veterans will get in free!  My dad insists on that,” she said.

Near the middle of the building’s interior is an amazing vault that will hold Starks’ $10 million collection of historic weapons, including a rifle fired at Custer’s Last Stand and a pistol used by General Pershing in World War I. The collection also includes 270 Winchester rifles.  The facility will have meeting rooms and members of the Wyoming Legislature are convening there in October.It also has the Chance Phelps Theatre, named for the brave Dubois Marine who died April 9, 2004, in Iraq.  The movie “Taking Chance”was about that soldier.

There will also be a large library with one of the world’s largest collections of manuals and other information about military vehicles.

There are over 100 tanks and other impressive war machines parked in row after row in a big field next to the new building. There is even a Russian-built MiG 21 parked in the field that was used in the Viet Nam War against American soldiers. It is flyable. Starks’ other machines are in downtown Dubois, on his ranches and stored in Salt Lake City. Besides the main museum facility, the Starks built a large building just off Main Street in Dubois to hold many of their vehicles and a shop to keep them running.

Eight years ago, their first home in Dubois was an old homestead. Then, they purchased a 250-head cattle ranch and recently they bought a third ranch, which now has 36 bison grazing on it.

“We love Dubois and we love Wyoming. This is our great adventure,” Starks said.

Dubois celebrates ‘National Day of the Cowboy’ this weekend

in Travel/Tourism
National Day of the Cowboy Celebration Dubois, Wyoming
1676

A weekend of celebration dedicated to an iconic American figure is on tap in Dubois this weekend as the town holds its annual “National Day of the Cowboy” celebration.

Every year, the day of commemoration first recognized 2005 is held on the fourth Saturday of July. In Dubois, that celebration takes the form of a rodeo, parade and special events that may not be seen at just any community event — like the “cowhide race.”

“You hook a cowhide by rope to a horse and the horse pulls you around (an arena) and you have to stay on for a set amount of time,” said Randy Lahr, an official with the celebration. “It’s not easy. You won’t see me doing that.”

The cowhide race is just one of several events occurring during the weekend.

The celebration kicks off Friday night with Dubois’ regular Friday Night Rodeo, held every Friday through the summer.

The rodeo is considered a working ranch rodeo, which means competitors are working cowboys from ranches in the area, Lahr said.

“It’s a totally different rodeo,” he said. “It’s put on by all of the dude ranches and the people who come to the dude ranches are involved.”

On Saturday, events will kick off with a parade through downtown Dubois in the afternoon and a chuckwagon serving coffee and biscuits beginning after the parade.

Later, a “poker run” will lead participants through and around Dubois.In a poker run, participants ride to pre-determined spots to collect playing cards. The person with the best poker hand after a certain number of stops generally wins a prize.

While poker runs are most often associated with motorcycles, in this case, riders will be on horseback, Lahr said.

The cowhide race will follow the poker run, as will a whiskey, wine and beer tasting. The day will wrap up with a concert titled “Romancing the West,” which presents a history of the West in song.

Also running through the weekend is the annual Headwaters National Art Show and Sale in the Headwaters Center.

On Sunday, a session of cowboy church will be held and the chuckwagon will again offer coffee and biscuits.

The celebration is under the direction of the Dubois Western Activities Association, which was created this year to oversee the National Day of the Cowboy, the community’s chariot races, usually held in the fall, and its pack horse race in June.

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