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Lander Hospital Says It Shouldn’t Pay Medical Bills For Woman Whose Eye Was Gouged Out

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

The family of a Fort Washakie woman who died after her eye was gouged out by a fellow patient at a Lander hospital should not receive compensation for the resulting medical bills, according to the hospital.

SageWest Health Care in Lander, in a new motion in the lawsuit filed against it by the family of Elaine Tillman, said the $500,000 in medical payments sought by Tillman’s family are not allowed under Wyoming wrongful death laws.

Tillman died in Utah nearly two weeks after her eye was gouged out by Dubois man Patrick Lee Rose on Thanksgiving Day 2020 in the hospital’s emergency room. Both were being held as mental health patients in emergency custody, according to SageWest filings.  

After the incident, in June 2021, Rose was released from custody in the Wyoming State Hospital due to limitations on Wyoming’s mental health confinement laws.  

Hospital Bills 

Tillman’s daughters June Louise Tillman and Cathy Ann Lucas sued SageWest Health Care in July 2021, about a month after Rose’s release. They claimed that Rose had a known violent history and was not properly supervised or restrained by the hospital.  

Tillman’s daughters asked the court to order the hospital to pay damages for loss of companionship, emotional support and services Tillman may have provided them had she lived. Plaintiffs also asked for “hedonic” or compensation for the loss of joy of Tillman’s life.  

Tillman’s family has also made claims for nearly $500,000 in hospital bills tied to the incident, according to a March 30 filing by SageWest.  

But the hospital asked the judge to dismiss that claim, saying the bills, some of which are attributed to Tillman’s brief stay at the University of Utah Medical Center after her injury aren’t covered in wrongful death suits under Wyoming law.  

“The evidence is uncontroverted that (Tillman’s daughters) have never seen, nor paid, any of the decedent’s medical bills,” reads the filing, adding that even SageWest hasn’t seen these outside bills itself, “just an itemization.” 

“Therefore,” the motion said, “if the (daughters) were to recover for Mrs. Tillman’s last medical bills, it would be a complete windfall, which is not the purpose of awarding damages.”  

SageWest also has asked the court to block the family’s request for “hedonic” reimbursement, which it says also isn’t covered under wrongful death suits in Wyoming.  

Comparative Fault 

SageWest argued further in its March 30 motion that Rose should be added as a defendant in the lawsuit, saying the Tillman family only sued the hospital “as a tactical and strategical move.” 

SageWest claimed that the Tillman family lawyers do “not want (U.S. District) Judge (Nancy) Freudenthal to put Patrick Rose on the verdict as a non-party ‘actor’ for the jury to allocate and assess comparative fault to Mr. Rose,” reads the SageWest motion. “But, under Wyoming law, the Court must put Mr. Rose on the verdict,” to ascribe possible fault to him in a jury trial.  

The Tillmans have not yet responded to the filing.  

Violent History? 

Patrick Lee Rose

Another key argument in the lawsuit is whether Rose had known violent tendencies the hospital should have anticipated.  

The Tillman family alleged that the hospital should have known of Rose’s propensity for violence and overseen him better while he was at the hospital.  

SageWest argued that Rose’s gouging attack on Tillman was “unexpected and unforeseeable.” To advance this point, the hospital asked on Feb. 4 for psychiatric history documents for Rose dating back to 2007.  

Rose’s attorney had provided documents covering a 37-day window surrounding the event, but the hospital said that was not enough evidence to argue the case.  

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kelly Rankin on March 8 granted the hospital’s request for Rose’s longer case history.  

Home to Dubois 

According to court documents, Rose escaped his own room in the hospital, entered Tillman’s, jumped on the woman and gouged out one of her eyes with his thumb. He was attempting to gouge out her other eye when hospital personnel restrained him and called police.  

Charged with second-degree murder, Rose was released in June of 2021 to live with his wife in Dubois because of provisions in Wyoming’s criminal and mental health confinement laws.  

A Wyoming defendant cannot give a plea at a criminal arraignment until he is determined to be of sound mind. If he’s not sound of mind, he can be held under the state’s emergency mental health laws – but only until he no longer constitutes a threat to himself or others.  

Rose has suffered for about two decades from an acquired brain injury caused by heavy metal toxicity, according to court documents. 

Last June, a physician for the Wyoming State Hospital testified in Lander Circuit Court that Rose was no longer a threat under the law, but he could not be made sane enough to enter a plea.  

The court released him into his wife’s custody.  

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Lander Residents Divided Over ‘Giant Ladder’ For Climbing Debate

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The proposed addition of what has been described as a “giant ladder” to help visitors climb a steep cliff in Sinks Canyon near Lander has many of the city’s residents divided.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, is one of the people fighting against the proposed “via ferrata,” a cable and rung system that allows users to climb steep rock faces, while resident and author Sam Lightner, Jr. is one of its most vocal supporter.

Case told Cowboy State Daily that nearly 200 signs protesting the proposed via ferrata — which means “iron path” — have popped up all over town in recent weeks.

“Everybody is opposed to the development of Sinks Canyon,” Case told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “They love Sinks Canyon. They just don’t want to see it overdeveloped.”

Sinks Canyon State Park is a somewhat small but heavily used park in Fremont County that sees several hundred thousand visitations annually. Though operated by Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department owns the majority of the park’s 585 acres.

Case noted that much of the issue isn’t with the via ferrata itself, but the proposed location, a north-facing cliff near the mouth of the canyon that is home to peregrine falcon nests.

Peregrine falcons saw a major decline in their population during the 20th century across the United States and species was listed as endangered in 1970.

However, the population began to bounce back in the 1980s and 1990s due to various conservation efforts. According to WyoFile, some opponents of the via ferrata cite the negative impact on the birds as one of the reasons to fight it.

Case said that other animals regularly pass through that canyon area as well, so the via ferrata and a proposed visitor center would have a negative impact on them.

“Ignoring the importance of this narrow section [of the canyon] to the movement of animals, State Parks intends to plug  the critical part with a new visitor center building and associated facilities,” Case wrote in an “alternative master plan” about the via ferrata. “At the same time, activity  related to improved access for the via ferrata will disturb the constricted paths on the other side of the  river, the only place animals are able to move without close human contact.”

WyoFile reported that Wyoming State Parks initiated a master plan process in 2019. Prior to that, park improvements were guided by a plan from 1975.

When the plan was released in October 2020 following more than a year of meetings, surveys, small group interviews and more, it laid out a vision of a park with better parking and more trails, a larger visitors center, more educational opportunities and augmented recreation opportunities. 

Among the proposals was the via ferrata. The idea for its construction was proposed by a group of Lander residents as a way to draw visitors and boost the town’s tourist economy.

According to a column Lightner wrote for Cowboy State Daily in April, an independent study conducted on a via ferrata built in Ouray, Colorado, concluded Lander could expect $1 million in added revenue due to increased visitation by people taking advantage of the climbing system.

Lightner sent Cowboy State Daily a new proposal for the via ferrata on Monday which suggested that it be built on the Gunky Buttress area, a sandstone wall across from the Sawmill campground on the north side of canyon’s main entry road.

The via ferrata proponents proposed that $2,000 of the donated funds for the iron path be donated to Sinks Canyon for an interpretive site at the petroglyphs at the far north end of the buttress, which would “help make the area a focus of attention in the park and enhance interest in the legacy the local tribes have in the park.”

They also suggested that a trail that continues up to a high point in the canyon would be “excellent” for an interpretive site.

“One of the things we like about the via ferrata on the northwest facing wall is that from its highpoint…you can see many of the peaks of the central Wind River Range. A trail above the Gunky Buttress location could reach a similar view point (roughly the same elevation),” the proponents wrote. “Though it would not afford great views of the central Winds, it would reveal the peaks of the southern Winds and much of the canyon could be seen. An interpretive site explaining the view and perhaps the geology and geography could be built here with a trail that links back down into the canyon and parking.”

In return for this compromise, the group asked the Sinks Canyon Wild and Friends of Sinks Canyon (two groups opposing the via ferrata) to endorse the project and asked that Sinks Canyon Wild contribute another $2,000 to the interpretive sites.

“The Sinks Canyon Via Ferrata will likely make a few Yellowstone bound tourists stop to try out what we in Fremont County already know –  Lander is a wonderful place with lots of recreation,” Lightner wrote in his April column. “Perhaps they will take in the family-friendly via ferrata, then have dinner in town, stay in a hotel, have breakfast, shop, etc. They may even find out that we are a growing center for mountain biking, or that partaking of the via ferrata is a good first step in learning to climb, which they can do in Lander. This will be done using a natural resource we have and in a way that does not harm the wildlife.”

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Woman’s Retirement Donation Means New Lease On Life For Pets In Lander

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Hot Toddy owes his life to a woman he’s never met.

The husky pup was born to a stray mom under the porch of a woman in Arapahoe, who noticed that the little one was unable to walk. So she contacted the Lander Pet Connection, which was able to take him to a veterinarian for testing and medication – thanks to one of the largest gifts in the non-profit’s history.

Lander resident Claudia Pearson passed away in November and gave a substantial part of her retirement fund to the private animal rescue operation, specifically to help animals in need of medical care.

“In the past, we were able to work with the animal adoption center in Jackson Hole and the Red Desert Humane Society in Rock Springs,” said Marta Casey, executive director of the Lander Pet Connection. “We were able to normally get animals to those places and then they could treat them, but we did lose a few to medical issues. So now, instead of shipping them off or transporting them, we can treat them immediately here.”

In just three months, the shelter has been able to help 132 animals, Casey said.

“In the past, the Pet Connection has taken in 200 to 300 animals annually – this year, with Claudia’s gift, we are able to save many more lives,” she said.

In the case of the little husky pup, Casey noted the financial gift helped keep him close to home, paying for medications that allowed a staff member to foster him. Now Hot Toddy is sitting up and walking with the help of a sling.

“Hot Toddy’s only option in the past would have been to be transported to another facility,” she said. “Now the Pet Connection is able to expand lifesaving for the neediest of animals; this is a sacred part of our job, and we are so happy to honor Claudia’s life in this way.”

Claudia herself was a horse and dog owner and had adopted barn cats from the Pet Connection. A longtime friend, Maryann Pryor, said that Claudia had originally thought of donating her retirement fund to an international organization, but then realized that the impact locally would be much greater.

Casey said that currently, the shelter is hosting nine dogs and five special needs cats. But she added that its foster program is thriving.

“We have 18 functional kennels right now for dogs, and we can take five to 10 cats, depending on their issues — sometimes they have to be in completely separate rooms,” she said. “But by fostering, we can take many more animals in. And we also have a new adoptions program, although we’re doing extensive return-to-owner efforts.”

And Casey reported that people are coming from all over the region – and beyond – to adopt pets from the Lander Pet Connection.

“People are coming from all over to adopt, which is awesome,” she said. “We’re getting adopters from seven hours away. It’s pretty cool to see how lander is becoming a destination for adopting pets.

“In the past we were known as a supply shelter, which is a shelter that’s usually not well funded, and they just take in animals and move them to other areas.”

But now, she added, it has the ability to save more lives.

“We’ve pulled from some Wyoming, and other, high-kill shelters, so we’re helping save these pets too that we wouldn’t have been able to in the past,” she said.

And with the Pearson gift, Casey says that the non-profit can do more locally for animals in Lander, as well as on the Wind River Reservation.

“We’re able to now save the animals here, treat them for medical issues with our partner veterinarians, and find them homes,” she said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

Gifts in honor of loved ones or to help medical cases through Claudia’s Fund can be given online at landerpets.org/memorials or by check with a note specifying the donation.

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Family Of Lander Woman Blinded In Hospital Now Suing For Negligence

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The family of a 72-year-old Lander woman whose eye was gouged out by a fellow Lander hospital patient Thanksgiving morning is now suing said hospital for failing to protect the woman from her attacker.

Elaine Tillman died about two weeks following being attacked and blinded by Patrick Rose, 53, of Dubois, while they were both being treated at SageWest Hospital in Lander. Tillman was life-flighted to Salt Lake City shortly after the attack.

Tillman’s daughters are suing Riverton Memorial Hospital, LLC, the company that owns SageWest. The lawsuit doesn’t specifically list the damages the daughters are seeking, but it is in excess of $75,000.

The lawsuit accuses the hospital company of negligence for failing to protect Tillman from harm.

According to the lawsuit, Rose was a psychiatric patient with a history of violence when he was held in the hospital on Thanksgiving morning.

The lawsuit said Rose was insufficiently restrained and supervised at the time, allowing him to leave his room and assault Tillman. The woman’s autopsy listed her cause of death as homicide.

The lawsuit alleged and it had been known for more than a year that SageWest had been “grossly” insufficient when supervising and monitoring of its psychiatric patients. It also accused Riverton Memorial Hospital of not spending the money to assure patients’ safety despite the complaints.

Officials have determined that Rose is not mentally fit to proceed with his case. He was moved to the Wyoming State Hospital in June for further evaluation.

According to media reports, a nurse was outside of Rose’s room when “he ran out of the room, rushed into the next room, and jumped on the elderly female patient before (the nurse) could react.”

Reasons for the attack are unknown but the Associated Press reported that Rose may have stopped taking medication

“People who take psychotropic medications and suffer from mental illness have a tendency to believe they don’t need to take the medication and then quit taking them, and then things go wrong from them,” Lander Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt said.

Rose told the judge he had a traumatic brain injury.

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Lander Outdoor Equipment Company Is Optics Provider For Archery Olympics Team

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Lander outdoor equipment company has been named the official optics provider for the Olympic U.S. archery team during its competition in the Tokyo Olympics.

Maven Outdoor Equipment Company was officially named as the optics provider for the archery team last week in an ad campaign.

“The best deserve only the best,” Maven wrote in a social media post announcing the campaign. “As the official optics provider of the USA Archery Team in Tokyo, we’re excited to do our part in helping the team perform their finest during this year’s games. Be sure to tune in to your local sports provider on July 23-31 to see what makes them the best of the best!”

One of the athletes featured in the campaign is Brady Ellison, identified on the Olympics website as one of the athletes to watch on the archery team. Ellison scored a perfect indoor score in archery last year prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ellison has competed at more world cup stages and holds more final titles than anyone else in history.

According to County 10, the company crafted special spotting scopes and binoculars for the archery team designed in red, white and blue.

The County 10 website also noted Maven was contacted in late June by the archery team’s coach about creating some optics for the athletes, which got the company working quickly to finish everything by mid-July.

The archery team will begin competing on Friday, when the Olympics begin.

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New Surgical and Cardiovascular Center Opens in Lander

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The new Western Wyoming Medical Ambulatory Surgery Center will open Tuesday in Lander.  

The $10 million project brings state-of-the-art cardiovascular and surgical care to central Wyoming.  According to Alan Daugherty, manager of the facility, Doctor Claude Minor, Doctor Kevin Courville, Doctor Michael Crosby, and a staff of ten medical professionals will begin seeing patients immediately.

Dr Minor is a general surgeon who says his favorite thing in the world is saving limbs on his diabetic patients.  Dr Minor performed the first C02 angioplasty ever in Wyoming just a few months ago saving a patient’s leg.  The use of C02 instead of contrasting dye protects the patient’s kidneys from damage.

Dr Kevin Courville is an interventional cardiologist and will be specializing in cardiac rhythm management, coronary and peripheral interventions. Dr. Michael Crosby, an anesthesiologist, will provide anesthesia services.

Western Wyoming Medical has leading edge technology including the very latest heart catheterization unit in the United States.

Daugherty says he expects that patients from all over Wyoming and surrounding states will come to Lander for the specialized treatment at Western Wyoming Medical and that the patients traveling to the heart center will benefit local businesses while in town.

Paul and Carrie Guschewsky are the developers of the project. The couple has previously remodeled several commercial buildings in town and were instrumental in bringing Rocky Mountain Oncology to Lander. 

The facility will also be home to several expanding businesses in town.  Elevate Rehab is increasing its personnel and services.  Todd Wurth’s Farmers Insurance agency is looking forward to serving its growing clientele.  

Dr. Dunaway at Lander Women’s Care is pleased to expand his services in this new facility, as well.  Wind River Heart Clinic will also have its home in the new complex. 

The 23,000 sq ft facility is built for the future with complete fiber optic connectivity, high efficiency heating and cooling systems and LED lighting. 

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Lander: A Microcosm Of Wyoming’s Growing Pains

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher, Cowboy State Daily

LANDER – Hundreds of citizens in this western town have risen up in protest because they believe their leaders have chosen the wrong path regulating growth.

Like so many cities and towns across Wyoming, Lander residents are choosing up sides when it comes to zoning changes proposed for their communities.

The city’s newest plans would allow smaller dwellings and more people packed onto the same amount of space than the rules currently in place.

City officials all over the Cowboy State are struggling with efforts to balance the need for affordable housing against protecting the highly-prized unique attributes of their individual communities. 

In a nutshell, the Lander plan would involve allowing many new types of housing in different zones of the city, which opponents believe would clog parking and reduce property values. 

More than 200 people crowded into the Lander Community Center Tuesday night to protest the proposed changes. By virtue of the applause, it appeared the vast majority of those in attendance were not in favor of the city’s proposal. 

So, why make the changes?  The reasoning behind the new plan, according to a release from the city, is based on four conclusions from a survey. 

  1. Young adults struggle to have income for housing, so leave Lander.
  2. Couples with ‘grown and flown’ children want smaller homes on smaller lots.
  3. Businesses can’t attract desired workforce due to housing costs.
  4. Aging parents want to live independently, yet close by for assistance when needed.” 

Judy Legerski is one of the leaders opposed to the changes.

“Lander is, and has been for many years, a great place to live.  Our trees, yards, and neighborhoods are the envy of other Wyoming communities, she said.

Legerski, with the help of others, found 500 Lander citizens willing to sign their names to an ad asking the city council to drop the plan or table it.

Lander native Joe Kenney who owns the local radio stations aired an editorial opposed to the city’s proposals.

“The citizens of Lander need to realize what these new rules will do to the character of our community,” Kenney said. “If you live anywhere but in the R-1 Zone, your neighbor could turn their single-family property into a multi-family property by turning their basement into an apartment, their garage into an apartment, and adding what is called an ADU in their backyard. An ADU is an Accessory Dwelling Unit. You could have four families next to you instead of one.”

“Or, if there’s a good-sized lot in your neighborhood, something called a Cottage Cluster could spring up with as many as 16 small cottages, all clustered together ten feet apart,” he said.

“These are just a couple of examples of what is in this 110-page document.  They (the city) have already admitted that the survey they are basing these drastic changes on was flawed and unscientific, and have refused an offer for a scientific study to be done and paid for by private parties.” 

“This is not an emergency. The City Council should table this unpopular ordinance until it can be adequately discussed in public with as many people in attendance as possible,” Kenney said in the editorial.

Legerski echoed Kenney’s sentiments.

“The citizens of Lander love and respect their community as it is,” she said.  “They are obviously not ready for massive changes in its culture.  We are fortunate to live with people who care about their lifestyle.”

Several people at the meeting brought up the fact that Lander receives more than 100 inches of snow each winter. Icy and snow-packed streets would exacerbate parking issues with additional vehicles on the streets, under the new plan, they reminded the city officials. 

Earlier the city had circulated a brochure that outlined the reasons the city council and its planning commission were strongly considering initiating these changes. Here is an abbreviated version of the brochure:

Lander Code and Zoning FAQ’s June 2020 – Why are these being proposed? 

  1. The Lander City Master Plan of 2012 The 2012 Master plan was performed with a planning grant by DOWL/HKM. Along with current engineering and planning standards, input from several public forums and subject focus groups was used to create the action plan. City Council adopted the plan in the fall of 2012. The Master Plan has 5 action items regarding infill development, developing a zoning plan that promotes graduated densities, and expanding residential opportunities in all zones and income levels. 
  2. There are several existing homes that– if something happened to them– could not be rebuilt due to current code requirements. They are non-conforming mostly due to lot size not meeting minimum requirements. 
  3. In a public forum in December 2019, Lander residents noted that housing (rent and purchase of single-family homes) was increasingly challenging for both cost and range of options. The issues most commonly noted included: 
  4. In the last three years, several developers have proposed plans to build single-family homes at more affordable price plans, but their plans didn’t conform to code– such as having 5,000 square ft lots– and were denied. Modest changes to lot size would benefit landowner wanting to sell as land price is higher; better for the developer, who can build more efficiently; provides more options at varied price points for interested homebuyers. 

(Note: Lot sizes are referenced often in proposed changes. To help understand what different lot sizes are: lots in most zones are currently required to be 6,000 sq ft.) 

When were codes last updated? – The current zoning code was done in 1978. The last subdivision code was done in 2008. What is being proposed are changes to zoning codes, not building codes. All new structures are still required to meet the building codes adopted by the City of Lander. 

How were proposed changes developed? – In September 2018, an eight-person team of Lander staff, Lander Chamber, and Lander residents (including members of Lander Planning Commission) attended a two-day housing workshop with nine other Wyoming communities. In 2019, the State provided grant funds for a small, medium, and large Wyoming towns to review codes in hopes that other small, medium, and large towns could use information learned to apply to their communities. Lander was selected as the medium town. 

Most notably, workshop participants expressed interest in; 

  • Allowing for more flexibility in housing choices and offering a larger array of housing types and price points in Lander, especially housing types that fit the context and character of existing neighborhoods. 
  • Allowing for smaller homes to be built on smaller lots in Lander. 
  • Accessory dwelling units received strong support, especially as a housing option that provides extra income and housing stability for existing homeowners in Lander. 

Using the community feedback provided by the survey and workshop, the team met weekly to incorporate stated goals through proposed changes to Lander’s code. The proposed changes were presented to the Planning Commission, composed of seven Lander-area residents. After approval by the Planning Commission, the proposed changes were forwarded to Council for review and adoption. 

Does this eliminate single family homes in R1? – No. Proposed changes allow for slightly increased density in R1 through allowing ADUs (see below). Proposed changes don’t allow apartment buildings in R1. Minimum lot size remains the same in R1. 

What is an “ADU”?  – An ADU is an Additional Dwelling Unit, such as a basement apartment or “in-law” space above a garage. These already exist in Lander. ADUs are not eligible to be subdivided and sold as separate property. ADUs can be desirable as an additional income source for homeowners. Allowing ADUs means that existing homeowners would have the option to build an ADU should they choose. 

If my neighbor builds an ADU, will it affect my property value? 

 Generally, property values in Wyoming are determined by size, construction type and quality of construction in a specific area. 

What is a “cottage cluster”?  

A cottage cluster refers to a group of homes on permanent foundation, with small personal yards and a shared common green space. Homes may be small but are not “tiny homes” (meaning small homes built on a mobile platform). Homes in cottage clusters require the same setbacks to lot lines as current codes for single family homes.

Will density change?  

In developed residential areas, there is potential for change over time if homeowners decide to build ADUs. On larger single lots or contiguous lots, landowners have the option of building slightly more dense apartments or single-family homes. 

How do parking requirements change?  For Main Street, this will allow a more historic presence as seen in 1st-4th blocks. Buildings can be close to the sidewalk, encouraging more pedestrian “window-shopping,” and increasing the feel of “Main Street” instead of a highway. 

In neighborhoods, this may slightly increase on-street parking. Residents who want the convenience of parking immediately in front of their house can create driveways/parking pads on their property. Residents do not own the street in front of their property. 

Does this result in tiny lots in town?  

No. Lots are still required to ‘abut and have access to an officially approved street.” Alley accessed dwellings can’t be split from the main property. 

Does this mean a huge apartment building complex will be built next to my house? 

Highly unlikely. In R5, the highest density area, multi-family housing requires a minimum of 925 ft2/unit on interior lots and 625 ft2/unit for corner lots. In R2, a multi-family unit requires 1,875 square feet per dwelling unit. 

How do parking requirements change? 

Not requiring as much parking for commercial zones will allow for more traditional Main Street buildings as seen in the 100-400 block of Main. In residential zones, there may be a slight increase in on-street parking. 

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Over 200 Lander Citizens Turn Out For Zoning Discussion

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By Bill Sniffin, Publisher, Cowboy State Daily

Some 225 Lander citizens jammed the town’s community center to comment on a proposal to change zoning in the community to allow for more short-term rentals.

Because of the widespread interest in the changes proposed by the Lander Planning Commission, the town council moved its working session on the changes from Lander’s Town Hall to its community center to provide more space for attendees.

The commission is proposing a change to zoning rules to increase the town’s housing density and allow the short-term rental of properties in all areas of the community.

The zoning changes are seen as a way to provide housing for low income residents. Based on applause for those offering comments during the session, it appeared most were against the proposed changes.

Most attendees observed social distancing guidelines and and wore masks.

The building normally holds over 1,000 people for certain events.

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Lander Lab Proposes New Coronavirus Testing Technique; Could Test 900 Samples Per Day

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From KOVE-KDLY Radio, Special to Cowboy State Daily

LANDER – Officials with a private commercial laboratory in Lander are seeking state approval to offer a different kind of coronavirus testing with a much quicker turnaround time than current techniques.

Officials at Lander Labs, which is still working to complete construction of its offices in Lander, said the company could be ready to test up to 900 samples a day.

Supervisor Annie Cook said the test detects antibodies created in the human body to battle the infection. The test can detect COVID-19 before symptoms are evident, Cook said.

Lander Labs is being created to study illnesses such as cancer, but is changing its focus during the coronavirus pandemic to work on the COVID-19 testing, Cook said.

Cook said the laboratory could be ready to start testing within three weeks, using samples collected from doctors’ offices and hospitals.

However, before testing can begin, the state will have to grant approval for the technique.

In a Monday interview with Joe Kenney and Maralyne Middour of Lander radio station KOVE-KLDY, Cook confirmed that the testing would provide results within 24 hours or less. The current testing of mucus can take up to 12 days to yield results.

Lander Labs plans to start testing in Lander and then to work with local and state leaders to take it statewide, Cook said.

Also discussed during the interview was the ability to use plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 to help others who are gravely ill with the disease.

Cook urged listeners to contact state leaders, including Gov. Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Department of Health, to urge them to appropriate more money to pay for more widespread testing of Wyoming residents.

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Lander Councilman: Coronavirus Situation is Serious; ICU Full

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Photo courtesy, Cade Maestas

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A Lander City Council member on Sunday painted a grim picture of the ongoing battle against the coronavirus at one of the hardest hit areas in the state. 

Cade Maestas, in a Facebook post, said he was invited to Sage West Medical Clinic in Lander to observe medical professionals dealing with COVID-19.

Maestas came away with a warning.

“For all of the people that think they know better, for the doubters, for the conspiracy theorists, I tell you I’ve seen it with my own eyes and it’s real,” he said.

“I saw four family members, all unconscious and on ventilators,” he wrote. “The youngest of them was 28 and had no underlying health conditions. It was day 10 for them living on machines.”

(Editor’s note: Maestas later edited his post to remove reference to the family, the use of ventilators and the age of one patient because of concerns over the release of confidential patient information. The original post is embedded at the top of this article.)

Maestas said the hospital originally had four ICU units which expanded to 12.

“They’re working on expanding it to 20 this week … which they are going to need,” he wrote.

The councilman said he was asked to communicate to the public how dire the situation is.

“The tour finished with the head surgeon (begging) us to ask people to stay home, let people know how serious this is, and do our best to communicate that (it has) only just begun,” he said.

There are currently 36 positive coronavirus cases in Fremont County. On Saturday, nine new cases were confirmed and according to the Fremont County Incident Management Team, all were in Lander and connected to the Showboat Retirement Center.

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Fremont County: 400+ People Told To Self-Quarantine & 27 Tests Waiting For Results

in News/Coronavirus

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily publisher

LANDER – More than 400 Fremont County residents have been directed to isolate themselves in their homes because of the coronavirus, according to county officials.

Dr. Brian Gee, the county’s health officer, released the number during a news conference Friday and said another 23 people are under quarantine to prevent the spread of the illness.

According to a news release from the Fremont County Incident Management Team, the number of people in self-isolation was determined through polling of public health nurses, clinics and health care providers.

Gee also said 27 Fremont County residents have been tested for coronavirus and the county is waiting for the results of those tests.

There have been 17 positive cases in Fremont County as of Friday afternoon and two victims have recovered

“We are now considering potential discharges of some of the patients with this disease,” Dr. Gee said. “While this is wonderful news, it points to the fact that the average discharge from beginning to the end of hospitalization in the US for people who get COVID is around 11 days.”  

“This, in itself, is different from most disease processes,” he said. “Because of this, Fremont County Public Health is working with all providers in the county to see how best to manage these patients as they begin a transition out of the hospital.”

“We are currently collecting names of many healthcare providers who would be interested in helping, if needed, with this process.  The response has been phenomenal so far,” he said. 

Most of Fremont County’s cases are connected with the Showboat Retirement Center in Lander, Gee said.

“Based on the numbers we are seeing over the last week, the number of cases in Fremont County is growing at a rapid rate,” the doctor said. “The Fremont County Health Department is stressing the importance to heed the Governor’s request and continue the self-isolation and distancing.”

“We would all like this bad news to be better but until our measures are fully implemented through Fremont County, we encourage everyone to stay the course,” he said.

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Lander, Riverton Basketball Teams Recognize Murdered and Missing Girls

in Uncategorized

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

The standing room only crowd at the Lander Fieldhouse Tuesday, Jan. 28, saw some powerful symbolism of the effort to deal with murdered and missing Indian girls in Indian Country.

The basketball rivalry between the two teams is legendary but on this night, players united in wearing the same red tee shirts and posed together for a photo, prior to the big game.

Lynnette Grey Bull, a leader of a movement called MMIW (Murdered and Missing Indian Women) spoke. A song was presented by Mirks and Cedar Manzanares, which was solemn and soulful.

Just the previous week, a 23-year reservation woman Jade Wagon was found dead in a field. She had been missing since Jan. 2. The investigation is ongoing. Her older sister died earlier in Riverton last year.

Grey Bull declared “No one should disappear without a trace. No one should be murdered. No family should have to go through this.”

It was an emotional moment for a huge crowd of Fremont County basketball fans. It should be noted that many of the stars of the two basketball squads were members of the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes.

The game? Lander jumped out to a 19-2 lead only to see Riverton come back and tie it 43-43 in the fourth quarter before Lander eked out the victory.

Posted by Lynnette Grey Bull on Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Giant bronze horses created in Cowboy State, headed for Sicily

in Column/arts and culture/Bill Sniffin
Bronze horses
Eagle Bronze Foundry workers are dwarfed by the size of these bronze horses created in Lander by the Italian-American artist Arturo Di Modica. They were recently shipped to Sicily. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

In a state where the cowboy culture of horses is almost a religion, it was fitting that two of the largest horses in the world were created here.

Artist Arturo Di Modica, one of the world’s greatest living sculptors, has been using the Eagle Bronze Foundry in Lander for many of his gigantic works.

The first efforts on this project started 13 years ago. In terms of all the projects undertaken by Eagle Bronze, this one might have set the record for its long time in their shop.

But first a person is impressed by the gigantic size of these horses. They are 26 feet tall. They dwarf the workmen who have been putting the finishing touches to the huge bronze work of art.

It is not certain how the horses will be placed in Di Modica’s native Sicily, but they will sure create a stir when installed.

Monte and Bev Paddleford founded Eagle Bronze in 1985 when Bev wanted to return to her hometown to sculpt and to create a small foundry to cast bronzes made by her late father, artist Bud Boller.

Bev Paddleford, one of the owners and founders of Eagle Bronze, shows the relative size of the horses by standing next to a hoof.
Bev Paddleford, one of the owners and founders of Eagle Bronze, shows the relative size of the horses by standing next to a hoof. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

They formed the business with the vision of being a Christian company. In the next decades it exploded into the largest bronze foundry in the country specializing in huge bronze monuments.

Work from the foundry can be found all over the world. Some of the more famous include the huge black panthers at the Carolina Panthers football stadium in Charlotte, N. C.

The largest bronze monument in Texas was created in Lander – it shows a bronze cattle drive through Pioneer Park in downtown Dallas. It features 40 cows and three cowboys.

The Paddlefords worked with a local committee in Lander to use three of those steers plus a cowboy to create what is called The Bronze Roundup – which might be the largest bronze monument in all of Wyoming. It was the millennium project for the Lander community.

For years, Lander has been known as the City of Bronze because of all the bronze monuments that line the town’s Main Street. Most of this effort was spearheaded by the Paddlefords. The first bronze sculpture on Main Street was by Bev’s father, Bud Boller, sponsored by the local Ambassador’s Club in the 1980s.

In recent years, both Casper and Sheridan have placed tremendous numbers of beautiful bronze statues in their cities. But no small Wyoming town has put as many statues on public display as Lander, although Buffalo and Thermopolis have lots of bronzes, too.

Monte tells their story on their web page: “We decided to move back to our hometown so that we could start a small foundry and for me to pastor a Vineyard Church. I guess the Lord had slightly other plans. Having redesigned the way we build and engineer monuments, we have been told that we are the largest producer of monuments in the world, and can do them quicker than most, keeping the integrity that the artist had originally produced.

“Beverly also started sculpting along the way and is a very gifted and talented artist. Her ability to create softness and life in everything she sculpts is truly a gift from the Lord. Her work has kept our vision of ministry going. I may not be the pastor I thought I was called to be, but I have been able to see the impact Bev’s art has had and been able to use this as a tool to minister to people along the way. God was calling me to ministry, just not how I had seen it!

“Along the way, we added some additional help to our facility. In 1999, our oldest daughter Heather and her husband Matt decided to help run our business. Heather studied accounting in college and is now our Controller. Matt, having studied Structural and Mechanical Engineering in college, is now our Vice President. With the addition of these two, we now have the ability to expand our operations and move in directions we never would have if they were not present.

“We have rebranded Eagle Bronze to move in a direction that has made us more than just a fine art foundry. We have become an art marketing group that can take conception to completion, help our artists find and place projects, and much more. We have become a facility that can do more than just recreate and manufacture art.

“Above all, it has always been about the relationships we have made over the years. It is about our everlasting friendships we have built and hope to continue to build.”

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.

Bill Sniffin: Sinks Canyon and Loop Road are magical places this time of year

in Travel/Column/Bill Sniffin
Lander Wyoming Loop Road
Folks who live on the east side of the Wind River Mountains have a tradition of getting “looped,” as often as possible. This is my term for driving the spectacular Loop Road.

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Folks who live on the east side of the Wind River Mountains have a tradition of getting “looped,” as often as possible. This is my term for driving the spectacular Loop Road.

Fall colors were already showing up on the Loop Road when this photo was snapped Sept. 15. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

On a recent Sunday, there was just a hint of color as we headed for the mountains. It sure felt like fall, but the colors were still green and summer-like. Soon it will turn totally golden.

We were re-visiting a magical place that cast a spell on us exactly 49 years ago.  Sinks Canyon and the Loop Road outside of Lander are what caused my wife Nancy and me to move to Wyoming from Iowa almost a half century ago.

It is every bit as beautiful now as it was then. I recall telling Nancy about being blown away by how the Popo Agie River was so picturesque. It looked liked color photos I had seen on calendars but never dreamed that these places really did look like this in reality. It was a transcendent experience.

A tourist from Washington state was swimming in the Little Popo Agie River on the Loop Road on this sunny afternoon before finding this nice rock for sun bathing. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Sinks Canyon is the primary gateway to the Wind River Mountain Range from the east. Located just south of Lander, the canyon’s sheer cliffs and magical river make it a haven for sightseers.

The remarkable reason for the name of Sinks Canyon is that the river disappears into the side of the canyon wall and reappears a quarter mile downstream on the other side of the canyon.  If you have not visited this eighth wonder of Wyoming, you should. There are wonderful visitor centers there to explain things.

This huge rock formation called Windy Point towers over Sinks Canyon south of Lander. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Then you climb out of Sinks Canyon and head up the Loop Road. The highway up the paved switchbacks and pretty soon you are climbing up to the saddle below Fossil Mountain and Windy Point.  I always thought Windy Point should be called Chief’s Head, as it looks like old Chief Washakie looking up to the heavens.

Beautiful lakes in the form of Frye Lake, Worthen Reservoir, and Fiddler Lake greet you along this first section of the Loop Road, which is graveled but passable for sedans.

Wind River Peak is the tallest mountain in the southern end of the Wind River Range.  This view is also showing Frye Lake along the Loop Road. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

The gigantic form of Wind River Peak at 13,192 feet looms over this entire scene.  It is the tallest mountain in the southern Wind Rivers.  It has plenty of snow on it now and glistens in the distance.

Another monolith that shows up in your rear view mirror is the massive hunk of rock known as Lizard Head Peak, which is 12,842 feet high.  It is one of the signature mountains in the famous Cirque of the Towers.  It is amazing that you can see it so well from the Loop Road, but you need to know where and when to look.

A huge mountain named Lizard Head Peak strikes a pose in the distance for tourists driving the Loop Road south of Lander. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin) 

Highest point of the road is Blue Ridge, which sits at 9,578 feet above sea level. A short hike farther up and you can climb stone steps to an old Forest Service fire lookout station. Again, well worth the trip and the view is breathtaking for 360-degrees.

There is a spectacular spot where the road crosses the Little Popo Agie River.  I stopped and snapped some photos and then saw a gal swimming in the frigid river. She climbed out of the water onto a big rock and started to sun bathe.  It must have been very invigorating. She was from Washington state, according to the license plate on her small car parked nearby.

Louis Lake on the Loop Road has nice beaches for families to enjoy at an altitude above 8,000 feet. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Louis Lake (pronounced Louie) is the showpiece of the Loop Road. It is a very deep lake. It has nice beaches on its east end and is a favorite place for boating, canoeing, fishing, and just enjoying life.

From Louis Lake to WYO Highway 28 on South Pass, the Loop Road goes by Grannier Meadows and up and around Dead Horse Curve.  The reason it is called the Loop Road is that you never need to backtrack.  You just keep going and complete the loop drive back to Lander.

As you get to South Pass, you look off at the vast Red Desert, which is one of Wyoming’s seven legitimate wonders.  Continental Peak and the Oregon Buttes stand out in the distance.

A moose casually munches on lily pads in a small pond next to Fiddler Lake on the Loop Road. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin) 

On the way back down the mountain back to Lander the most stunning sight is the vast Red Canyon. This is a huge box canyon, which is striking by all the red rock of the Chugwater Formation. It is one of the most photographed places in this part of Wyoming.

And then we were back home, having enjoyed a wonderful three-hour drive that reinforced all the wonderful reasons of why we live here.

Another of our reasons for this particular trip was that we had not driven the entire Loop this year.  We ALWAYS drive the Loop at least once each year.  Time was running out. What a great pleasure it has always been; it was this time, too.

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.

Lander celebrates fruit-filled heritage with ‘Apple City Festival’

in Travel
Apple City Festival

It’s not widely known that Lander once was once such a leading producer of apples that it earned the nickname of Wyoming’s “Apple City.”

The area’s relatively mild climate, rich soil and plentiful water made it a haven for orchards that used to cover hundreds of acres.It’s that heritage that is being recognized this weekend as the city’s Pioneer Museum hosts the first annual Apple City Festival on Saturday.

“It seemed like a real appropriate activity for us to explore as far as Lander’s history,” said Randy Wise, the museum’s director. “When you think Wyoming, you don’t think of fruit trees. But the Lander Valley has been very productive, particularly of apples, since the very earliest days of the community.”

Wise said early settlers in the valley, led by German pioneers Ed Young and Jacob Meyer, in the 1870s thought that apple trees might do well in the valley because it is sheltered from the wind that rakes much of the rest of Wyoming.

“Both (Young and Meyer) started out raising cattle, but then they both had an interest in fruit trees and they started experimenting,” he said. “The first batch were trees from the midwest and they didn’t make it. They found that Russian trees worked best here.”

Through grafting and cross-breeding, the two were able to develop a species of apples well suited to the area, Wise said.

“Just about every property of any size had an orchard,” he said. “Ed Young had 3,000 trees. There are still a couple of hundred trees left. We’ve got an old apple tree in our back yard and I suspect it was part of an orchard.”

Several small orchards continue to grow apples that are sold at Lander’s Farmer’s Market and some are even sold to a Jackson company, Farmstead Cider, for use in its hard cider.

Plums and pears have also been raised in the valley in the past, Wise said.

Activities scheduled for Saturday include the pressing of fresh apple cider, crafts for children, live music and a contest for the best apple pie.

“I’ve had a lot of interest in that,” Wise said. “But I’ve had even more people asking to be judges. I’ve got a long list of people who want to be a judge.”

Also planned for the day is an applesauce eating contest for children. Competitors will be given a cup of applesauce and a straw.

“Who ever can eat the cup of applesauce the fastest with a straw wins,” Wise said.

A petting zoo will also be on hand, he said.“It’s very much an agriculture-oriented event,” he said.

Farmstead Cider will also be at the festival to offer adults a sample of its cider.

For more information about the day, visit the Pioneer Museum’s Facebook page.

Bill Sniffin: Recalling my daughter’s first day of school

in Column/Bill Sniffin
Wyoming Back to School

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

In the next few weeks, thousands of little children in Wyoming will be marching off to school.  Especially for those parents of kindergartners, it is a poignant time.  It sure was for me back in 1976 when our daughter Amber marched off to her first day of school.

Here is a column that I wrote about how I felt about that event. The column won a national award and was originally published in our newspaper, the Wyoming State Journal in Lander. It was included in my first book, The Best Part of America, which was published in 1993. Here is the column. I hope you like it:

It’s been five years of diapers, dollhouses, skinned knees, pony tails, Barbie dolls, tricycles, sparklers, double-runner ice skates, Big Wheels, kittens, and hamsters.

Today, I’m sending our youngest child out into the great unknown. She will leave our nest and find out there’s much more to life than just that which she has learned from her folks.

For five years now, she’s believed that anything I told her was true. That all facts emanate from Dad. I’ve been her hero as her life has revolved around her mother, two older sisters, and me.

Now it is somebody else’s turn. Today, we trust an unknown teacher to do what is right for this little girl. This five-year-old, who is so precious to us, yet is just like any of thousands of other little five-year-olds here in the Cowboy State.

I suppose there are scores of other little girls with blond hair and blue eyes right here in Lander.

But, please, I’d like you to take a little extra care with this one.

You see, this is our baby. This is the one I call “pookie” when she’s good and “silly nut” when she’s bad. This is the last of my girls to still always want a piggyback ride.

And, this little girl still can’t ride a bike. And she stubs her toe and trips while walking in sagebrush. She’s afraid of the dark and she doesn’t like being alone.She’s quite shy. But she is a friendly little girl, too. She’s smart, I think. And she wouldn’t hurt a flea.I’ll tell you what kind of kid this is.

Twice in the past month, she’s come crying because the cat had killed a chipmunk. She buried both chipmunks, side-by-side. She made little crosses for them too.

This is the child with quite an imagination.  For example, she calls the stars “dots.”  And once when we were watering the yard, she assumed we were washing the grass.She told us that telephone lines were put there so birds would have a place to sit.

She’s just five years old.  I’m trusting her care in someone else’s hands and I’m judging that they will be careful with her. She’s a fragile thing in some ways and in other ways, she’s tough as nails.She’s not happy unless her hair is combed just right and she might change her clothes five times a day. She likes perfume, too.

She also likes to play with toy race cars and Tonka Trucks.

This is the one who always called pine trees “pineapple” trees. And when we visited our old home state of Iowa and she saw the huge fields of corn, she said “what big gardens they have here.”

And like thousands of other little girls here in Wyoming she’s marching off to her first day of school this week.

I know how those other parents feel.

There is tightness in their chests. Their world seems a little emptier. The days are a little longer.

And when our little girl comes home, waving papers and laughing about the great time she had at school . . . when she tells us about the stars and pine trees . . . and how the farmers raise crops, well . . . she’ll have grown up a little bit, already.

And I’ll have grown a little older, too.

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.

It’s all about art at Lander’s Riverfest

in Travel/arts and culture
Lander Arts Center RiverFest
Courtesy Lander Arts Center.

A plethora of art forms, from music to poetry and theater, will be on display in Lander this weekend when the Lander Art Center hosts its annual Riverfest Art and Music Festival.

To be held Saturday in Lander City Park, the event will feature a full day of art exhibits and demonstrations before things wrap up with a performance by Wyoming bluegrass band Ten Cent Stranger.

Sam Rastatter, an official at the Art Center, said the event was started by the center shortly after it was opened.

“The early directors started it after the Art Center got on its feet,” she said. “It’’s grown a lot. It used to be held in the Noble Hotel and it was fairly small compared to what it looks like now. Now, we take over the city park for the day and we typically get around 1,200 people coming through.”

Events at the 11th annual festival begin at 7 a.m. with the “Color Me River Run,” a 5k run sponsored by Child Development Services in which participants will be pelted with colored powder along the route.

At 11 a.m., children attending a theater camp offered the group Communal Pancake will perform a series of sketches and at 2 p.m., a series of spoken word performances, including poetry and prose readings, will begin.

The spoken word pieces will all focus on the Popo Agie watershed, Rastatter said.

“The performers are all from Fremont County and all are very familiar with the Popo Agie,” she said.

Ten Cent Stranger will wrap up the day with a performance beginning at 4 p.m.Throughout the day, some 40 art vendors will show off their original works in vendors’ tents. Demonstrations on arts including glassblowing, pottery and flint knapping — shaping a stone by striking it with another — are also scheduled throughout the day.

Tents offering children’s activities such as art projects will also be open, sponsored by organizations including the Lander Children’s Museum, the Fremont County Library and the Art Center itself.

For more information, visit the Art Center’s website at LanderArtCenter.com.

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