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Now Pig Wrestling Tournaments In Wyoming Are Getting Canceled Due To Inflation

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A traditional event at many Wyoming county fairs has been canceled for at least two counties this year due to the rising price of livestock.

This week, both the Park and Campbell county fairs were forced to cancel their pig wrestling events due to the fact vendors were not able to find enough pigs.

Park County Fair Board Chairman Tiffany Brando told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday that she received word from Double D Livestock in Greybull, the fair’s vendor for pig wrestling, saying the company would not be doing any pig wrestling events this year.

The vendor said it did not have enough pigs to run the wrestling and could not obtain any more.

Campbell County Fair organizer Liz Edwards said she received a similar message from Double D.

“We’ve worked with them since 2013, but they gave us a call and told us they weren’t able to find enough pigs to supply for our show,” Edwards told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday. “They didn’t really give me a whole lot of detail on why they can’t find them.”

Both events received numerous applications from perspective participants prior their cancellations this week.

The lack of available pigs can be attributed to inflation and pandemic disruptions, as pork prices have gone up 13% in the last year, according to Tyson Foods, the nation’s largest meat processor. The price of feed has also increased in the last year, putting a strain on livestock producers to either kill or sell any extra animals in order to avoid any extra costs.

“It makes sense to me, because the prices of livestock are outrageous,” Edwards said. “But it’s not only the cost to feed the animals that has gone up but the price of subcontractors who have to haul the animals has increased and so has gas. It’s just been hard to hold on to things.”

Pig wrestling is an event that’s basically exactly what it sounds like. Teams will work to get a greased-up and muddy pig into a barrel in a certain amount of time.

It’s messy, it involves a lot of squealing and is one of the most popular events at county fairs across the state, being held in the past at fairs from Big Horn County all the way down to Laramie County.

Washakie County Fair chairman Jeff Lapp told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that they were also canceling its pig wrestling event due to the same reason.

As of Friday, it did not appear that any other county fairs have canceled their pig wrestling events. The Wyoming State Fair had not yet announced its list of events as of Friday.

Edwards said to her knowledge, pig wrestling at the Campbell County Fair has never been canceled in the past, at least not due to the lack of available pigs.

The Gillette fair usually has anywhere from 60 to 80 pigs in its wrestling event as there are several categories that teams can participate in, from young children to adults.

“We need a variety of sizes due to our categories, so we need not only a lot of pigs, but different sizes of them,” Edwards said.

She said the community members are disappointed about the cancellation, as the event is always popular. But Edwards and the rest of the fair board are hoping to find something just as good to replace pig wrestling this year for the fair’s entertainment lineup.

“We have a ranch rodeo and we’re bringing in monster trucks, but we want to find something good for our Friday night crowd, because pig wrestling is always a big draw,” she said.

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Powell Teacher’s Assistant Fired, Charged With Abusing Student

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A teacher’s assistant from Powell has been fired and charged with the abuse of a vulnerable adult after allegedly beating a special education student with an ice scraper last fall.

Brandy Wetherbee, 40, is charged with the abuse of a vulnerable adult, a felony with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, and two counts interference with a peace officer, a misdemeanor that comes with a maximum penalty of one year in prison per count.

Wetherbee was charged on April 18 with the offenses and was fired just days later by Park County School District No. 1 officials in a move approved by the district’s board of trustees last week.

According to court documents, PCSD1 Superintendent Jay Curtis contacted Park County Sheriff’s officials in January about an alleged assault that took place in October 2021. The victim is a 21-year-old PCSD1 student with a cognitive disability.

According to Curtis, his office received a phone call two days earlier from a woman who only identified herself as “Mary,” who was later identified as a witness to the incident. During the call, she described the assault that took place on a road near Cody.

“Mary” told Curtis’ office that the victim was being transported in a car from an appointment in Cody when she experienced a “meltdown” and began hitting and kicking. The victim was accompanied by paraeducators Wetherbee and Sue Swistak and another special needs student.

“Mary” described Wetherbee yelling “shut up” at the victim and hitting the student with an ice scraper.

Police contacted the victim’s father, who said that because of the victim’s disability, bruises are common. However, he did remember a bruise occurring around the time of the alleged assault on the victim’s thigh that was the size of a racquetball and a “dark…angry color.”

The victim’s mother recalled a bruise on the girl’s chest near her armpit that the mother thought was odd. However, she noted that the girl regularly is bruised due to participating in outdoor activities such as snowshoeing, so the victim’s parents thought the bruises were common injuries, but were somewhat suspicious, court documents said.

Swistak, when speaking with investigators about the incident, said on the afternoon the alleged assault occurred, she and Wetherbee were contacted by Northern Inc., a social services organization in Cody, to pick up the victim.

The girl was crying when she was picked up by the paraeducators. Wetherbee tossed Swistak the keys and said she would “handle” the victim, documents said.

The victim was sitting directly behind Wetherbee in the vehicle. Swistak told investigators the girl was grabbing at both Wetherbee and the other student in the car something she does regularly when upset.

The girl was also throwing books around the car. According to Swistak, Wetherbee was holding an ice scraper and told the victim to “shut the [expletive] up” and hit her with the scraper around five or six times.

Swistak told investigators she offered to switch places with Weatherbee, but Wetherbee declined and told her colleague “You saw nothing.”

When asked why she did not report the incident, Swistak said it was because of the people she worked with and that she felt guilty for not sharing the information earlier.

“I don’t know why [Wetherbee] felt she had to physically harm her,” Swistak told police.

Wetherbee was interviewed by police at her home the day after Swistak. She confirmed that the victim was being restless in the car and was kicking, hitting and spitting at the other student.

Wetherbee told investigators the victim was throwing things in the car, which caused Swistak to stop the vehicle multiple times so the items could be secured.

At one point, Wetherbee sat next to the victim, who then spat on the paraeducator, she said. Wetherbee said she held the victim’s arms down and also was on the phone with the school, asking for additional help once they arrived.

She denied hitting the girl with an ice scraper, but she did say that the victim had hit her several times during the car ride, court documents said.

Wetherbee contradicted Swistak during some of her interview regarding a restraint used while the victim was in the car, police found.

Wetherbee has been released on bond and her preliminary hearing is set for June 1.

PCSD1 posted a job advertisement for two special education resource teachers last week after Wehterbee’s firing.

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Powell Grad Gets Grammy Nomination For Best Chamber Music Performance

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

A peaceful landscape in rural Montana is hardly the backdrop you’d expect for a state-of-the-art recording studio.

But near the small town of Fishtail, the Tippet Rise Arts Center is where the JACK Quartet created its musical piece “Lines Made By Walking,” which has been nominated for a Grammy in the Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance category. 

And this New York-based quartet recording in Montana got some help with that Grammy nomination from a former Powell resident.

Located on a 12,000-acre working cattle and sheep ranch in southern Montana, Tippet Rise Art Center was founded by Cathy and Peter Halstead, artists and philanthropists who have created a space for both large-form modern art pieces as well as intimate music performances.

“Our concert hall, which is where we do all the recordings, is fantastic, acoustically speaking, so it really helps keep that bar up there,” said Monte Nickles, the Center’s on-site recording engineer. 

Nickles is a graduate of Powell High School and a product of the Music Tech program at Northwest College.

Working With World-Class Musicians

Nickles told Cowboy State Daily that opportunities to work regularly with high-caliber musicians in the northern Rocky Mountain West are not common.

“I think there are some local jobs in radio broadcast and TV broadcast and stuff like that,” he said, “but to just work with world class musicians on a musical level out here is very rare.”

Nickles has been the recording engineer at Tippet Rise for the last four years. 

He said composer John Luther Adams was commissioned by Tippet Rise Arts Center to create the Grammy-nominated work “Lines Made By Walking,” performed by the JACK String Quartet.

“It world premiered here in the concert season of 2019, and we had about five days to record it all,” said Nickles. “And the JACK String Quartet is kind of John’s exclusive string quartet.”

The New York Times has labeled the group “the nation’s most important quartet,” and officials at Tippet Rise note that the JACK Quartet is one of the most acclaimed, renowned and respected groups performing today. 

Comprised of two violinists, a viola player and a cellist, the musicians operate as a nonprofit organization, dedicated to the performance, commissioning and appreciation of new string quartet music.

“They are on a whole different level,” Nickels said. “They are so good, their intonation is insane. And John (Luther Adams) really takes that and pushes it and writes really hard, challenging music. And they pull it off amazing. 

“It’s incredible to see live, and when they’re recording, they’re on it the whole time, no matter what,” he continued. “And it’s really fascinating to be a part of that, to get to see musicians work at that level.”

Middle Of Nowhere

Tippet Rise is located in a rural area of Montana, over one and one-half hours away from the nearest airport in Billings. Nickles pointed out that one of the benefits of recording at Tippet Rise is the uniqueness of the location.

“When you go to a traditional studio, you’re under a lot of pressure to move really quickly because you’re usually paying by the hour for the studio time, for the engineer’s time, for the producer’s time, and it costs a lot of money,” Nickles said. “But we really like to enjoy the time it takes to make something, and slow it down so that people can really live in the artistic moment throughout the whole process. And the results always, always pay off.”

The remoteness of the Arts Center adds a new dimension to a performance, Nickles said, because that time pressure is off, which allows creativity to flow.

“We want them to slow down, enjoy the moment and really have this perfect space to kind of delve into the art of whatever it is they’re creating,” he said. “And part of that is slowing down and taking the time to be here, and be in the quiet, and be in nature and surrounded by the Beartooth mountains and all this amazing landscape.

“It can feel sort of isolated but at the same time, not,” Nickles continued, “because we’re here to help elevate their artistic ability as high as possible, within this kind of ecosphere of art and nature.”

Nickle’s experience recording the JACK Quartet was just one of around 30 projects he worked on in 2019 but the only one he’s recorded that has received this kind of national attention. However, competition for the Grammy award is tough. Other entries in the same category include a performance by acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. 

Nickles and the JACK Quartet will be waiting to find out if “Lines Made By Walking” wins the coveted prize when the 2022 Grammy Award winners are announced on April 3rd. 

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Northwest Wyo Communities Rally Around Family of Teenage Siblings Killed in Head-On Collision

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

An outpouring of support for the family of two teenage siblings killed in an accident lat week is being seen in northwestern Wyoming.

Peiton and Phoenix Hackenberg died in an accident just east of Powell on Feb. 16, when slick roads contributed to a head-on collision with another vehicle as they were driving to school in Lovell.

According to the Wyoming Highway Patrol, 17-year-old Peiton and 15-year-old Phoenix Hackenberg both died in the crash, while the driver and passenger in the other vehicle, 31-year-old Powell resident Brittney Baldridge and 32-year-old Lovell resident Elliott Wittick, were both hospitalized. Wittick remains in a hospital in Billings, Montana. All occupants of both vehicles were wearing their seatbelts.

An outpouring of community support for the Hackenbergs began almost immediately. Although the family lives near Powell, because mom Brenda Hackenberg is a teacher in Lovell, her two youngest children transferred to that school district several years ago. Peiton was an active member of the Lovell cheerleading squad and dance team.

“If you get on the Lovell Cheerleading Facebook group you will see dozens of schools around Wyoming, they all wore purple ribbons for the (Hackenbergs) at their games Friday night,” said Cindy Allred, a Lovell resident who is organizing one of the fundraisers to help the family. “They put their pompoms in a heart and sent pictures. There’s Pinedale and Douglas and Rawlins and Cheyenne East and South. The coach from Utah that taught their state dance routine sent condolences. It is unbelievable.”

Two Facebook groups have been created to help raise money for the family’s expenses. Almost 5,000 people have joined the groups, which feature an auction of donated items organized by friends and family. 

And other, more personal moments over the weekend honored the two young people.

“Wild Edge Printing, the T-shirt place here in Lovell, they printed up 100 T-shirts for all the ball players and the cheerleaders and the dancers to wear in remembrance,” Allred told Cowboy State Daily. “They also printed up a whole bunch of other shirts for sale before the games Friday night, and $8 from every T-shirt will be donated to the Hackenbergs. They had big picture boards of the kids, they had big poster boards where you could write notes to the family. They took donations. 

“Before every game they did a moment of silence, the cheerleaders had their megaphone and the pompom for Peiton just sitting in the lineup with them alone,” Allred continued. “The dancers are making up a dance just for Peiton and they’re going to dance this Thursday night at senior night for her.”

One of the Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers who worked the crash scene posted a video on Facebook about the difficulty he had dealing with the tragic loss of these two young people.

“In this job, we see a lot of things that most people don’t have to see, and we deal with a lot of things that most people don’t have to deal with,” said Trooper Randy Davis. “Normally, we say, well, it’s part of the job. We try not to let it bother us. The difference in this one was, I knew these two kids, I know their family, I’ve gone to church with them and their family. And it hits you a little differently sometimes when you’re close to the situation.” 

The Hackenberg family has seen its share of loss in recent years. Mother Brenda has been raising all four of her children alone since the death of her husband in 2017. Peiton and Phoenix were the youngest.

For the community, the loss of the Hackenberg siblings came just days after another young person from Lovell, 21-year-old Brenda Timmons, was killed in a motorcycle accident in Hawaii.

“We were still reeling from that when these two kids were killed,” Allred said. “So support has come for all of the children, all three of them. There’s bank accounts set up for both families.”

Services for the two Hackenberg children were held on Saturday morning, with live streaming available for those who couldn’t make it.

“The service was packed, overflowing,” Allred said. “This is the first day I have not cried, it has been hard.”

A fundraiser has also been set up to help with medical expenses for Brittney Baldridge and Elliott Wittick, the occupants of the other vehicle involved in the Feb. 16 crash.

To donate to the Hackenberg family, click on the Help the Hackenbergs Facebook group. 

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Powell Couple Hires Local Contractor To Build House; Begins To Collapse As They Move In

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By Kevin Killough, Powell Tribune

(This is the first of a two-part series looking at how people who pay contractors thousands of dollars find they have no way to recoup their losses if things go wrong.)

Dan Catone was driving back from a business meeting in September 2020 when he got a call from his younger brother. The drain in the downstairs bathroom was backing up and Dan needed to come home immediately. 

It was not a good time for plumbing problems. The Catones had a houseful of family members in town for the Catholic confirmation of their twin children. 

The couple had hired Mike Beyer more than a year earlier to construct the custom-built home on their property near Powell. But after delays and what they saw as substandard workmanship, the Catones had fired Beyer just a couple weeks before. Even though their house needed extensive work to be complete, the Catones brought in other contractors to get the house in a state that they could at least move in and accommodate their guests. 

But when Dan got home, he couldn’t believe what he was seeing: Sewage was pouring out of the shower drain, through the hall and into the living room.

“It was a complete disaster,” Dan recalled. 

There were many kids in the house, including infants. Dan’s elderly father had to roll his wheelchair through the river of sewage to get to a dry spot in the dining room. 

The backup was just the first indication that something was very wrong with the construction. Before long, windows on the first floor cracked as the second story began collapsing on the first. Eventually, the Catones learned they would need to tear the house down and build a whole new one. And despite exhausting all their options — including filing a civil lawsuit against Beyer — the family has lost $500,000, Dan said.

The Catones aren’t alone. Contractors can operate in rural Park County with almost no oversight. Most contractors serve their customers well, but when contractors do substandard work or take money for work they don’t do, there is almost nothing people can do to get their money back.

‘One very sad note’

The Catones moved to Powell in the fall of 2018 from Fort Bragg, California, where Dan had started his own private wealth management company. Over his career, he’s founded a number of financial service companies. 

Like many residents of the Golden State, the Catones were drawn to Wyoming’s business-friendly atmosphere and wholesome quality of the Powell community. With two daily flights from Cody to Denver, it was easy for Dan to run his corporations from his office in downtown Powell, while raising his children in a safe, small town with a higher quality of life.  

Two years later, the Catones don’t regret their move.

“We love it here,” Dan said. “The people are wonderful. The culture is fantastic. It’s a very family-oriented farming and ranching community. Our kids have made a lot of friends. It’s all been lovely … with one very sad note.” 

The Catones met Mike Beyer at St. Barbara’s Catholic Church. Dan and his wife, Jen, had purchased some property near Powell in April 2019, where they wanted to build their dream home.

Originally, the Catones were going to swap some land with Beyer — a former mayor of the town of Deaver — in exchange for some road improvements and bringing in utilities for their planned house. While discussing that project, Beyer said he had been building custom homes for three years in Colorado, and had all the qualifications to build the Catone’s house. The Catones say Beyer also reported that he could save them money because he wouldn’t need to hire as many subcontractors, which would reduce the cost by about 35%.

According to the Catones, Beyer said he wanted to establish a contracting business, and building their home would give him something to showcase, as well as some references. Dan has enjoyed a lot of success with his own businesses, so in a “pay it forward” way, he said he tries to help people trying to get their own businesses going.

Beyer showed them pictures of projects he claimed to have built in Colorado, but the Catones say the home he eventually built in rural Powell showed very little knowledge of custom home building.

“Perhaps foolishly we just assumed people are honest at church,” Dan said. “And that’s something we’re going to continue to believe, because it’s a better way to live.”

The Tribune made multiple phone calls and left multiple voicemails at a phone number for Beyer, seeking comment for this story. None of the calls were returned. 

Many delays

When the Catones hired Beyer, they say he reported that construction would begin in June 2019, and their new home would be ready to move into by May 2020.

The Catones got a $680,000 loan for the construction. Beyer wasn’t on the bank’s approved list of contractors, Jen said, but he passed the bank’s screening and satisfied its insurance requirement. 

Beyer had full access to the Catones’ loan and would draw out any amount needed for the project under general categories, such as plumbing and electrical.

However, the summer of 2019 came and went, and Beyer hadn’t started work on the home. It wasn’t until October 2019 that Beyer poured the foundation — although the Catones later learned he didn’t do proper site preparation work — and he started framing in December. 

The work proceeded without a contract. Beyer, the Catones said, showed them a sample contract before construction started, but, despite repeated requests, never provided a document to sign.

In the meantime, the Catones were renting. As the May 2020 move-in date approached, the COVID-19 pandemic hit and their new house was nowhere near ready. Beyer blamed the pandemic for the delays, which was entirely plausible.

“Meanwhile, we’re seeing tens of thousands of dollars vanishing from our bank account,” Jen recalled. 

She commuted daily to the family’s uncompleted home to take care of their horses and other animals, as they couldn’t keep them on the property they rented. They had no water or power to the property, so the Catones hauled water for their animals; with no power to thaw frozen water, it needed to be brought in boiling so it wouldn’t freeze.

The Catones homeschool their four children, so Jen would pack everything they needed for the day and teach lessons in a propane-heated shack. A generator supplied the electricity, as Beyer had failed to provide power, despite promising to have it by the previous fall. 

“We call it our ‘Little House on the Prairie’ year,” Jen said.

By this point, the Catones were in a “in for a penny” situation. Contractors in the area were scarce and booked up for years — and they were unlikely to agree to complete a house that someone else started. The Catones endured the inconvenience and hoped Beyer would get their house built by the time their lease ran out on the rental. 

Final budget

The couple admits they weren’t paying as much attention to the situation as they should have, but with Jen homeschooling four kids and Dan running six corporations — which required constant travel — it was hard to find the time.

“We’re just busy, busy people,” Dan explained. “When we hire people, we just trust people to do it.”

There were, though, indications that something wasn’t right. Beyer would show up and work on the house for a few hours and then disappear for the rest of the week. When Beyer was working, he always seemed to have a whole new crew.

There were also problems with the work. For example, Beyer had installed the drywall on the upper floor, but the cuts were uneven with gaps filled in with caulking, Dan said; the Catones hired a subcontractor who’d done the lower level to re-do the upstairs

“We basically had to beg them to do it,” Dan said. “They didn’t want to touch it.”

By June 2020, the house wasn’t even halfway complete and the Catones’ lease on their rental was running out. Dan then discovered there was only $50,000 left in the account, although Beyer said they’d have $150,000 remaining for outbuildings, such as a barn and “man cave.” Dan asked Beyer how much it would cost just to get the house done so they could move in. Beyer provided a spreadsheet that tallied up $52,100 to complete that house; Beyer also told the Catones all the subs had been paid, which they say wasn’t true.

By August 2020, the house still wasn’t complete, and the Catones no longer trusted anything Beyer told them. The couple fired him, but their ordeal had really just begun. 

A sinking feeling

It was just a couple weeks later that the family had a house full of guests and sewage flowing out of the shower drain and seeping into the walls. The Catones hired Hunter Clean Care to clean and sanitize the impacted areas, and hired a plumber to determine what was causing the backup.

The plumber discovered the entire second floor was draining into a sewer line that was plugged with cement. The Catones ended up spending thousands of dollars to build a temporary drainage system and unclog the pipe, on top of the cleaning and lodging bills for their displaced relatives.

Shortly after that, Jen discovered cracks in the downstairs windows, which the family learned was the result of structural pressure. The house hadn’t been constructed with the proper supports, so much of the weight of the top floor was resting on the window frames. 

Jen and Dan hired engineers and contractors to figure out what needed to be done to keep the house from collapsing. They discovered there were no headers in several walls, and Beyer had cut the trusses without engineering them.

“In our opinion, you did not receive a residential structure that meets some of the basic requirements of the International Building Code or the International Residential Code,” the preliminary engineering report said. 

The Catones ended up paying another local contractor to help install supports to keep the house from collapsing.

Dan also found discrepancies in Beyer’s accounting when he went to make sure the subcontractors — who Dan said did great work — had been paid. Some had not, even though large sums had been taken from the Catones’ account, some to pay subcontractors.

For work Beyer did himself, the amounts withdrawn didn’t match up to the cost of the materials he purchased. Beyer had taken out $60,000 for a radiant heating system, but it didn’t work as intended and wasn’t complete. The Catones paid plumbers $20,000 to install a functioning system.

“So we paid $60,000 on something that really should have cost $20,000,” Dan said.

The numerous problems the Catones encountered ultimately proved irreparable. Due to the extensive structural and foundation problems, the Catones discovered all the work they put into their house after firing Beyer was just more wasted money: It will be more cost effective to tear the whole building down and build a new one. 

“Do you know what it’s like to have your spouse sobbing in your arms when she finds out the home needs to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch?” Dan wrote in a May email to Beyer. 

The contractor never replied. 

Recourse

While the Catones’ experience is particularly egregious, they aren’t alone.

Casey Fisher, who lives next door to the Catones, hired Beyer to build his shop. He said there weren’t any major problems with the workmanship, though the basic shell construction took longer than expected.

However, a few months after Fisher paid Beyer $68,000 for the shop, he said he went to Bloedorn Lumber to buy some materials for another project and learned the company was about to put a lien on his property. Apparently, Beyer hadn’t paid for the lumber used in the construction of Fisher’s shop. 

Fortunately, after Fisher explained he’d already paid the contractor, Bloedorn didn’t pursue the lien on Fisher’s property.

Bill Just hired Beyer to build a house on Campfire Lane north of Powell. For months, it has sat as an unfinished eyesore in the neighborhood. Just said he’s not upset with Beyer, but has since hired another contractor to complete his home.

The Catones opted to take Mike Beyer to court, suing him in Park County’s District Court, in December 2020, for expenses associated with the ordeal, including costs to tear down the home, cost to build a new one, and attorney fees. The insurance that the bank required from Beyer paid for his defense in the case and the suit was settled in Park County’s District Court. As per terms of the settlement, the Catones can’t discuss the outcome other than to say it’s been “resolved” and no further action can be taken against Beyer in this matter.

At this point, as they continue to live in their incomplete home, the Catones have accepted they will never recoup all they’ve lost.

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Powell Firefighter Dies While Working In California

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A firefighter from Powell died while working on assignment in California earlier this month, the U.S. Forest Service announced.

Layla Bradley, 29, died Oct. 11 while on assignment in the Inyo National Forest.

Bradley was working as a member of a wildland fire engine team from Dragon Fighters Inc., a company that works under contract with the Forest Service. The team was providing additional initial attack coverage for the forest during a difficult fire season in California.

Forest officials received a report of a medical emergency on Oct. 11. Personnel responded and attempted lifesaving efforts, but the efforts were unsuccessful.

“The Inyo National Forest staff appreciates the support that contract fire companies provide to the US Forest Service and expresses their deepest condolences to Layla’s family and friends,” forest officials wrote in a release.

According to her obituary, which ran in the Cody Enterprise, Bradley had worked for Dragon Fighters since 2018, traveling the country while doing so. During her employment with them, Bradley “worked her way up from crew member to engine boss and gained the respect, admiration and love of her employers,” her obituary said.  

“Layla was most proud of the work she did as a firefighter. It was her life’s passion,” her obituary concluded. “With that in mind, her family requests that for those who so desire, gifts can be made in Layla Bradley’s name to Wildland Firefighter Foundation, wffoundation.org.

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Powell To Go Dark While New Electrical Substation Equipment Is Brought Online

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By Kevin Killough, Powell Tribune

As part of the Vining Substation renovation, the City of Powell will cut off power to all customers for two nights next week.

The first outage will begin on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 11 p.m. and is expected to end around 3 a.m. During that time, crews will energize new equipment in half the station. Over the next couple days, the city will monitor the equipment to make sure it functions properly. 

Then at 11 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 1, power to the city will again be shut off so that crews can switch the city over to the new equipment. That outage is expected to last six hours. 

Once the entire substation renovation is complete, it will have two 20-megawatt transformers active, up from two 10-megawatt transformers. However, next week’s outages will only be for half the new substation, meaning the city will be powered by a single 20-megawatt transformer until the next phase is ready in early spring. When that portion is ready, the city will need additional outages to bring it online. 

The city had planned to perform the first set of outages during the summer, but electrical equipment is as prone to supply issues as so many products today. City Administrator Zack Thorington said the city was fortunate to have ordered most of the items for the project before supply chain issues arose, or the delays would have been much worse. 

“We were just lucky we had parts ordered before anyone knew what COVID was,” Thorington said. 

Councilor Zane Logan, who was city administrator the last time the city installed transformers at the substation in the early 1990s, said those outages occurred on a cold February morning with subzero temperatures and winds.

The city will benefit from  having brought the first transformer online after summer, as it won’t have the kinds of loads placed on it that occurs when air conditioners are running high, as the substation did during this summer’s high temperatures. 

The weather for next week’s planned outages will have temperatures in the mid-30s, with low winds. Thorington said the city is prepared to delay the outages should the weather take a turn for the worse. 

He and Powell Electric Superintendent “have discussed this scenario, and as of now the weather looks to be cooperating,” Thorington said. 

Thorington advises residents to crank up the heat when they go to bed those evenings so they have some heat stored up in their homes during the outages. He added that the outages could be shorter than planned, but there are too many uncertainties to say for sure. 

The Vining Substation caught fire in June 2019, leaving the city without power for several hours. The city was able to get the substation functional while it carried out a $3.1 million renovation. The entire project is expected to be completed in spring 2022. 

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Early Dig Brings On Beet Harvest

in News/Agriculture
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Powell Tribune

With September, beet trucks will be on the roadways in Western Sugar’s Lovell Factory District.

The early harvest of area sugar beets starts Tuesday, Sept. 7.

Receiving stations will be open five days a week through September and the first couple of days in October.  The regular harvest is scheduled to begin on Oct. 6, depending on weather and forecasts, said Ric Rodriguez, Heart Mountain grower and Western Sugar Co. board member. 

“Yields are projected to be down somewhat from recent averages, but we have had good growth in September before,” and growers are hopeful that is the case this year, said Rodriguez.

Sugar content is expected to be about average for Lovell district growers, he added.

The processing campaign at the Lovell factory also begins Sept. 7 with early-delivered beets.

Receiving stations at Bridger, Montana, and at the factory in Lovell will be the first to open.  The Bridger beets will be brought to Lovell to offset some of the acreage loss in the Powell area, guaranteeing adequate tonnage for the Lovell factory.

West Powell receiving station will open Wednesday, Sept. 8, followed by Heart Mountain station on Sept. 14.  

Growers will deliver 10 to 15 percent of their crop in the early dig, depending on factory performance. All receiving stations will open for the regular harvest Oct. 6.

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Wyo Company That Promised Free AR-15 With Roof Job Disappears; Owners Sued

in Guns/News
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By Kevin Killough, Powell Tribune
Photo: Courtesy Powell Tribune

In the spring, Wiggins Construction LLC began aggressively pushing a new promotion, offering a free AR-15 rifle with the purchase of a new roof. The campaign generated a lot of praise and controversy on social media and elsewhere, and it received local and national media coverage.

In April, Wiggins Construction’s then-marketing director, Matt Thomas, told Fox Business that the company had more than 120 people around the state inquire about getting a new roof. The roofing promotion was set to run through the end of the year, and Thomas told the Tribune that the company was booked up with other construction jobs for nearly the next two years.

“As much business as we want, we can have it,” Wiggins Construction co-owner Josh Wiggins said in April.

However, the Powell company appears to have gone dark following a change in ownership, with some customers complaining of poor work and an inability to get in touch with the company.

Basin resident Tony Harrison is taking legal action against Wiggins Construction, alleging in a pending lawsuit that the company defrauded him out of over $45,000.

Two other Big Horn Basin residents are making similar claims against the company, but say they don’t want to spend the legal fees for a settlement they don’t believe will ever be paid.

“This is way bigger than screwing over one person,” Harrison said.

Two customers in the Powell area have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and the Wyoming Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit; the BBB suspended Wiggins Construction’s accreditation on Aug. 19, after the company failed to respond to the complaints. 

Multiple calls to the main number for Wiggins Construction seeking comment for this story were not returned. Thomas, the former customer relations and marketing director, said he is no longer with the company. Reached at a private number, former co-owner Todd Wiggins said he has also severed ties with the business. He referred questions to his brother, Josh Wiggins, who the Tribune was unable to reach.

Lawsuit

Harrison hired Wiggins Construction earlier this year to build a home on his property in Basin. In his lawsuit, Harrison says he paid the company $66,100 from a construction loan he took out. However, he says Wiggins Construction only performed about $28,000 in excavation and foundation work before abandoning the project.

The lawsuit Harrison filed this month against Wiggins Construction and Josh and Todd Wiggins alleges breach of contract and fraud, accusing the company of taking money for services that were never rendered. 

The suit is asking Wiggins Construction to pay back $45,145, which includes Harrison’s legal fees so far. 

In an interview, Harrison said the work Wiggins Construction did on the foundation was substandard. No floor joists or framing for the house were ever completed after the work on the foundation. In late June, Harrison said Josh Wiggins told him Wiggins Construction had money stolen from it and he wouldn’t be able to complete the rest of the work Harrison had hired the company to do. 

Harrison said he’s talked to other area residents, who claim to have similar experiences with the company.

Cold welcome

Stan and Debbie LaBlue paid Wiggins Construction over $90,000 to set up their doublewide mobile home northeast of Powell, and build a garage and backyard patio. 

In California, Stan worked decades as a truck driver and Debbie spent most of her career as a supervisor in a warehouse. Like many former residents of the Golden State, they wanted to get away from the politics and high cost of living in California, and decided to spend their retirement in Wyoming. 

But their move to the Cowboy State hasn’t gone as planned. The LaBlues said not only did Wiggins Construction not complete the work it was paid to do, what work the company did complete was shoddy.

The LaBlues expected to move into their house in April, when Wiggins Construction estimated the work would be complete. However, the residence wasn’t ready by the April date. Having already sold their place in California, the LaBlues came out to Wyoming and stayed weeks in hotels and an Airbnb rental. Rather than continue paying for lodging, they eventually moved into their home before it had heat, water or sewer. 

Wiggins Construction poured the foundation and set up the home, but much of the work, Stan LaBlue said, wasn’t done properly. One worker from another company, he said, fell through the floor in a hallway where there was nothing but tile over a space between studs, along the seam of the doublewide. 

By that point, the couple had already cut a few checks to Wiggins Construction totaling over $60,000. In June, Wiggins Construction reorganized as Breianna Wiggins Construction LLC, and the LaBlues made out a final check directly to Breianna Wiggins for $20,667, dated June 18, to complete the work on their home. Debbie LaBlue said Josh Wiggins kept assuring them the work would proceed, but it never happened.  

At one point, a lumber company threatened to put a lien on the LaBlue’s property for materials that Wiggins Construction had not paid for. The LaBlues said they had paid Wiggins Construction for the materials, but had to cut a $7,000 check to the lumber company to avoid a lien.

“They were coming after us,” Debbie LaBlue said.

Today, their house has heat, water and sewer, but it’s missing siding. The concrete for the garage and sidewalks is unlevel or unfinished. The drainage is all wrong, meaning water will run toward the house. Wiggins Construction put rebar down for the patio, but never poured the concrete. Wiggins also left a bunch of extra concrete on the approach to the garage, which the LaBlues had to tear up. It will cost them over $400 to dispose of the material. 

Cody Regional Health

The LaBlues have since hired another company to complete the patio, and the LaBlues’ son, Arend, is finishing the garage, which was left with a few walls, no drywall, uneven concrete, and no roof. 

Debbie LaBlue said they received the free AR-15 rifle Wiggins promised — a photo of the couple posing with their gun and the company’s marketing manager was featured in a story highlighting the promotion — but they have since sold it. 

The LaBlues contacted lawyers, but eventually decided it wasn’t worth the cost to pursue legal action.

“We’re not rich. We’re running out of money, and we’ll never see a dime from them [Wiggins Construction],” Stan LaBlue said. 

“You can’t get blood out of a turnip,” Arend LaBlue added. 

They filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Wyoming Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit, and are hoping they can help prevent others from getting taken.

Missing materials

Mike Foster also filed complaints with the attorney general and BBB, saying he had similar experiences with the company. 

Foster hired Wiggins Construction in the spring of 2020 to repair the roof on his father’s mobile home, which is on the same lot as his own house. Foster dealt with Todd Wiggins on that job and said the work was done properly and on time. Wiggins Construction even used photos of the house, with Foster’s permission, in promotional materials for the AR-15 rifle giveaway.

Based on that experience, Foster hired Wiggins Construction again in December 2020 to build his new house. As material prices were rising, Foster said Josh Wiggins asked for an advance to buy the materials before prices climbed higher. Foster paid Wiggins Construction $42,500 to order doors, windows, tile, flooring, and cabinets. Foster said the windows and cabinets were delivered, but he never saw the rest.

“These materials just didn’t show up,” Foster said. 

Wiggins Construction, Foster said, poured the foundation and put up the frame of the house, but that’s where the work ended. Foster said he spoke weekly with Josh Wiggins, and Wiggins gave him different reasons why the work wasn’t proceeding. Foster said Wiggins at first told him the siding hadn’t come in, but when Foster called the supplier to find out what was causing the delay, he was told no order for siding had been placed. 

Finally, in July, Foster decided to fire the company. 

“It came to a point where we couldn’t believe anything he [Josh Wiggins] said,” Foster said. 

New name

Wiggins Construction came under fire from several area residents on Facebook in July, around the time that the company took down its website, changed its name to “Breinna Wiggins Construction” on Facebook and created the new LLC.

In a July Facebook post, the company sought to address what happened, saying the changes were partially the results of a change in ownership. The company also denied various accusations that had been made on the platform.

“The bottom line is this. Wiggins Construction is not going out of business, we are not currently in a law suit, we did not steal $400,000. And please don’t believe everything you read online,” the company wrote on July 11. “We are looking forward to serving more customers and knocking out more roofs this year.”

However, in the comment section below the post, a couple customers posted in August that they were having a hard time reaching the company.

“Wiggins recently put a new and expensive roof on my house. The new roof seems to be excellent with the exception of the need for a gutter apron required to keep rain water out of my sunroom,” one area resident wrote on Aug. 19. “Why won’t you answer your phone or return my calls?”

Another request for a callback was posted days later, but by Friday, the entire Breinna Wiggins Construction LLC Facebook page had been deleted.

Tips for dealing with contractors

Most municipalities, including the cities of Powell and Cody, require general contractors to hold a license and be properly insured. However, rural Park and Big Horn counties do not have any such requirements.

The Better Business Bureau recommends that people research contractors before hiring them. Individuals can verify licenses and insurance, ask the company for references, get all estimates in writing and get a signed contract that specifies who will obtain permits and who is responsible for cleanup. It’s also a good idea to get a lien waiver that states that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. 

Lastly, never pay a contractor up front for any work. Arrange a payment schedule, the BBB recommends, that staggers the payments at certain intervals when parts of the project are completed satisfactorily. All checks should be written out to the company and never to individuals.

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Powell’s Used Fire Trucks Are A Hard Sell

in News/wildfire
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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

When the alarm sounds, Powell Volunteer Fire Department vehicles come to the rescue looking new and shiny. Even after fighting wildland fires off-road, it’s rare to catch a glimpse of the equipment looking anything but perfect.

After the fire is out, but before returning to their jobs and families, volunteers often take the time to clean. The effort is partly pride, but mostly to make hard-fought for equipment last.

“We take a lot of pride in our fleet,” said Powell Fire Chief Dustin Dicks. “We keep them on an amortization schedule so we don’t end up with an aging fleet and have to replace multiple trucks in the same year.”

Every piece of specialized equipment is expensive: fire trucks alone cost Powell taxpayers between $200,000 and $750,000 each. The department was due to buy a new tanker this year. It would have replaced a 1987 model still in use but needing repairs. But with a price tag of about $450,000, the Powell fire district’s board decided to put the purchase on hold.

“We have it on the depreciation schedule, but with the economy and all that, we chose not to do it this year. We’ll revisit it next year,” said board president Bear May.

The 34-year-old tanker looks fresh and is only on the road about 1,000 miles a year. It’s garage-kept and has all the maintenance records. It would be a dream vintage find if it weren’t such a specialty item, yet the department will be lucky to unload it.

The department has 10 trucks, said Dicks, including three tankers, two pumpers, two brush trucks (with one doubling as an extrication truck), two extrication/rescue trucks, and one support truck that serves as a command post. If they weren’t tucked away out of the elements in the heated bays at the station, it might look like a car lot.

Unfortunately, even if the vehicles were sitting out front with a for sale sign in the window, used equipment is a hard sell. In an effort to sell the department’s used tanker, district administrator Kenny Skalsky, the department’s only full-time employee, created a mailer and sent out more than a hundred of the flyers to prospective buyers. But there were no takers.

“There’s a ton of trucks for sale and nobody is buying,” May said.

The department often sells its used equipment to smaller departments with less cash, like those in Clark or Ten Sleep. The Powell district offers to help by selling the equipment for pennies on the dollar and even financing the purchases. Without interest from a local department, though, the only options left are selling equipment to freelance firefighting teams, local farmers looking for a water truck or someone willing to transform the trucks into a different type of tool.

Ten years ago the department purchased its “snozzle” truck for nearly $750,000. It’s still in great shape, but it won’t be long before the board is forced to go shopping. It takes a long time to save tax proceeds to afford the bigger trucks, and prices continue to rise for new models. And even at the high prices, there’s a waiting list of a year or longer.

“We’ve got a great fleet of trucks out here, one of the best,” May said. “I’m proud of what we have. We can go anywhere and do anything; we can go anywhere. And we take good care of them.”

Tax dollars are used to buy all the equipment, from the bunkers the volunteers wear to the hoses and the fleet. In the fiscal year that began July 1 and runs through June 30, 2022, Park County Fire District 1 expects to receive $503,322 in property taxes to help support a $600,2000 budget.

There’s a large list of expenses that might not be obvious. For instance, the department spent more than $20,000 on a new thermal imager this year. The equipment is an upgraded model allowing firefighters to find hotspots while fighting fires. 

Bunkers (firefighting clothing) always need to be replaced. Firefighters finally were outfitted with lightweight wildland fire suits recently, allowing crew members to work in the heat of summer.

“Traditional bunkers are about 75 pounds,” May said. “When we’re out there fighting wildland fires and it’s 100 degrees, the new gear will keep the guys from getting heat stroke.”

There are also requirements for periodic testing of equipment — everything from hoses and tips to the air used to fill self-contained breathing apparatus.

“We drop the pump on every truck, we test every hose,” May said. “Just for our air, it cost us quite a bit. Every quarter, it’s quite a bit of money to have somebody come in and test the air that we put in our air bottles.”

Two years ago the department was retrofitted with a sprinkler system and fire alarms after decades of going without. A blaze similar to the one that destroyed a large chunk of the Powell school district’s bus barn last year could devastate fire response in the Powell area, May said.

The board has fought hard to keep the fleet in shape, and wants to ensure firefighters have the safest equipment available.

“We’ll do whatever it takes to take care of these guys because they’re volunteers, you know, we want them to have the best stuff,” May said. “Every one of the board members has their backs.”

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Powell’s Drive-in Was Wyoming’s First – And Is Its Last – Outdoor Movie Theater

in News/Good news
10678

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By Mark Davis

Pokey Heny always gets opening night jitters.

She never knows what surprises are in store as she prepares to open the doors to customers each spring. After dealing with running a business during the pandemic last year, Heny was hoping for an easy start for the 2021 season’s soft opening.

It wasn’t to be. 

Yet finding her business burglarized and vandalized — and facing dark clouds and a coming storm — still seemed mild somehow, especially compared to the panic the world felt this time last year. Many businesses were shut down, residents and workers remained locked in their homes and many worried about the deadly virus spreading through communities. For Heny, though, 2020 was a different experience.

Customers quickly lined up to reserve Heny’s American Dream Drive-in — Wyoming’s only outdoor movie theater. The spacious venue was one of the few businesses with the ability to remain open and, at the same time, socially distanced. It wasn’t popular just for the chance to get out and see a movie. Heny was approached by a wide variety of businesses, groups and churches — all hoping to use the large space equipped with communication equipment to reach students, clients or their flock as they struggled to deal with the virus.

“Business was gangbusters,” Heny said. “Everyone found out we’re a safe outdoor facility with sound and video. It just took off.”

The Lutheran church in Cody was the first to book the venue. Two more churches followed. Then nonprofit organizations started reserving space, followed by three different high school graduations and school parties. Business was booming and The American Dream hadn’t even opened to show movies yet.

When Heny and her crew opened the season with a showing of Trolls World Tour, “we were slammed,” she said. “We had a line of cars all the way to town.”

To get permission to open, Heny had to make changes. The snack bar couldn’t open and the movie industry was closed with no plan in place to release new movies. No studios wanted to release a movie while indoor theaters were closed.

“Their numbers would have tanked. It would’ve looked like that movie was a failure,” she said. “So they didn’t really release anything. Trolls was the last release before it all hit. Then we had to go back into the archives.”

“I would’ve loved to show something new,” Heny said. “But there wasn’t anything.”

Despite showing nothing but “classics,” people kept coming. The chance to safely get out of the house was more important than what was showing on the large screen.

It wasn’t just locals. People traveled for hours to come to Wyoming’s first and last outdoor movie theater. By the time the drive-in closed for the season, Heny had her busiest year ever. Profits would have been higher if she wasn’t so generous; she went out of her way to help new customers, sometimes charging less than the cost of electricity to run the facility.

When the lights went out and the movie finally started Saturday night, the smell of burgers and freshly popped corn wafted through open car windows and past those finding comfort in truck beds and on lawn furniture. The several dogs in the audience settled in, wrapped in blankets close to their packs for the start of “School of Rock.”

The movie was free, sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance. They weren’t there to raise money. Instead, the idea was to simply showcase groups like the Boy Scouts, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Park County Library and other youth groups, said Tiffany Wutzke, Youth Clubs of Park County’s director of programming and training and ambassador for the Wyoming Afterschool Alliance.

Wutzke chose the movie for the event from the archives. 

“We’re an after-school program. It’s not sitting in your desk and learning. It’s outside the box learning — like making music,” she explained.

Many in attendance dressed in their pajamas for the event. It brought back memories of moms making a big, greasy paper sack of popcorn and all the kids playing catch or tag before the movies, Heny said.

“I always remember wanting the theater popcorn instead. And the pickle on a stick,” she said. “I’ve kind of kept that memory [of frugal mom] alive and I tried to keep everything affordable. And I brought back pickles on a stick.”

Some folks park out front of the theater, opting to buy dinner but passing on the movie. Locals occasionally will stop by just to buy popcorn, she said.

“They’re busy and it’s hard for them to get to the movie. They just swing by — sometimes with their own bowl,” she said. “I fill their bowl and off they go.”

Jake and Melissa Craft bring their two children, Kaden and Kaison, to the drive-in often. The couple remembers when there was a drive-in theater in Cody and enjoy sharing the experience with their family. 

“To see our kids experience the same thing is pretty cool,” Jake said.

“What’s not to love?” Melissa said. “They get to stay up late and have candy to eat.”

Later this month, the American Dream Drive-in will open to the general public and new movies will once again be shown. Heny replaced the stereo equipment that was stolen over the winter, invested in new security equipment and as she looked out over the small crowd settling in for Saturday’s main feature, she discussed the many new titles arriving soon.

“Isn’t it everyone’s American dream to own a drive-in?” she said. “Not very many people can own a piece of Americana; movies, cars, station wagons, kids in jammies, popcorn. Come on!”

Heny bought the theater on a whim — to ensure the tradition lived on in Powell. She had no experience, only learning the lessons of the business the hard way. She’s constantly worried the screen will blow over in a storm, but said after enduring last year, she’s just happy to be able to open her doors again.

Then, almost on cue, dark clouds once again formed in the west. Strong gusts of wind sent dust flying and those enjoying the outdoors experience, scrambling for cover before the rain came.

“You never know when you get here what the weather’s gonna be like,” Jake Craft said. “Regardless, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

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Nation’s Largest Muslim Civil Rights Group Condemns Powell Halloween Display

in News
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The country’s largest Muslim civil rights organizations publicly condemned a Halloween display in Powell that caused an uproar on social media.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke out on multiple issues regarding race in a statement issued Monday. One of the topics covered was a Halloween in display that showed a dummy with a scarecrow’s head dressed in overalls on its knees, with its hands cuffed behind its back and a rope around its neck.

“Americans of all faiths and backgrounds must remain vigilant and continue to challenge all manifestations of racism and hate in our society,” CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper said in the statement.

According to the Powell Tribune, police were called to investigate the display last week, discovering it was a Halloween decoration.

The residents changed the head from a scarecrow’s to a giant teddy bear’s, but ultimately took it down completely after receiving backlash on social media.

A Park County resident who reported the display to police, said she did not believe the display was originally intended as a Halloween decoration.

“There (weren’t) any other Halloween decorations, pumpkins in or around the yard or house,” Jessica Ursey wrote on social media. “I refuse to believe that it was some Halloween prank. Even if it was, it was absolutely disgusting. People of color, which includes myself, don’t feel welcome and/or safe when I see something like that on someone’s yard.”

In its statement, CAIR also condemned vandalism on native land in Minnesota and praised the firing of an Indiana police recruit with alleged ties to a neo-Nazi organization.

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After Truck Plummets Down Beartooth Pass, Towing Bill Could Reach Six Figures

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

A Nevada resident’s borrowed pickup plummeted hundreds of feet over a cliff near the interpretive center on the Beartooth Pass last month. Now, the driver faces a six-digit bill to have the vehicle removed.

The 50-year-old woman was driving a Toyota truck with a manual transmission that she’d borrowed from her father, said Travis Haworth, a federal law enforcement officer with the Shoshone National Forest.

As she arrived near the interpretive center parking lot along the Beartooth Highway (U.S. 212) on Aug. 16, she pulled to the left side of the road. She parked and jumped out for some photos of the iconic elevation sign and surrounding views, Haworth said. As she stepped away, the truck began to roll.

“It’s unclear as to whether there was an equipment failure, or if it was just an operator error,” Haworth said.

The truck rolled across a field through one of the only areas clear of large rocks to make it to the steep cliffs. The truck then plunged hundreds of feet to the bottom of the ravine, hitting two or three times as it fell and leaving several debris fields.

“It’s just incredible to me that there was enough grade there to, you know, cause that vehicle to roll like it did,” Haworth said.

The driver, whose name is not being made public at this time, got a ride after the vehicle was lost. She later contacted the sheriff in Carbon County,Montana, hoping some of her belongings could be retrieved from the truck. From there she was directed to contact the Forest Service.

She called the Beartooth Ranger District in Red Lodge and they forwarded an incorrect mile marker to a Montana law enforcement agency. After it was determined the accident actually happened on the Wyoming side of the pass, the information was then sent to Haworth for the investigation.

“It’s incredible — just the lack of notification. I think she tried,” Haworth said, adding, “I find it a little bit remarkable that the Shoshone National Forest was the last to know.”

When the Tribune heard rumors of the crash last month, a reporter began making phone calls to multiple agencies, ultimately being referred to the Wyoming Highway Patrol.

Patrol Lt. Lee Pence reported then that, although there was a report of a vehicle going off a cliff, “there was nothing found up there — no vehicle over the mountain or stranded driver.”

That led to an ultimately inaccurate Aug. 27 story saying the reports of a vehicle plummeting off a cliff in the Beartooths was less fact than fiction.

Cody Regional Health

However, Pence later followed up to say that new information had surfaced and the Shoshone was investigating; Haworth confirmed in an interview last week that there was indeed an accident. He called it all “an incredible comedy of errors, in my humble opinion.”

Finding the wreckage was a task. You can’t see the vehicle from the highway and Haworth had to hike to find a spot where he could view the bottom of the cliff and confirm the accident actually happened.

Haworth called the woman and alerted her that the truck and the debris fields would need to be removed. “You can’t abandon property on the forest,” he said.

As Haworth worked with the insurance company associated with the vehicle, he learned it will most likely require at least one helicopter aerial crane and professional climbers to clean up the crash.

“Each helicopter has its own hourly fee. Some of those aircraft, like a sky crane, can be $150,000 to $200,000 bucks a day,” he said. “It’s an incredible amount of money when you start using aircraft.”

The salvage operation will have to wait until next year due to the weather. Even then, the high mountain pass can have snow or high winds year round — and planning the removal won’t be easy.

There is already ice building in the area and the pass was closed over the weekend due to heavy snow. Haworth plans to hike to the vehicle to retrieve the owner’s property, but it will be a long trip and he hasn’t yet been able to schedule it.

Haworth is in the Beartooth Range through the winter, patrolling by snowmobile, and thinks it may be possible to get closer to the scene on Glacier Lake Road, on the Montana side of the pass.

No matter how the clean-up works out, it will be expensive.

“It’s not my favorite law enforcement to pursue. Because the reality is, who has that type of [insurance] policy for recovery?” Haworth said. “But it’s such a pristine area there, Its got to get done.”

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Old Jeans Bring $8,470 At Powell Auction

in Community
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Vintage jeans can be a hot item. How about hot as in $700 a pair?

That’s the price that a lot of 12 pair of vintage jeans averaged in an online auction sale from the Forest Wichern Homestead on the South Fork, which closed June 18. The total paid for the 12 pair was $8,470.

Travis Swenson of Swenson’s Auctions of Powell managed the sale of items at the Wichern homestead at 390 Lower Southfork Road. He said the purchaser of the jeans was a reseller for an overseas market.

“I had movie prop producers from New York to Texas to Oregon bidding,” Swenson said.

The makers of the jeans included Levi, Wrangler and Lee. The vintage jeans were from the 1950s and 1960s, “maybe even the 40s,” Swenson said. “They were very worn.”

The uniqueness that made the old jeans so valuable “had to do with the rivets on the Levis, the Blue Bell emblem on the tag inside the pants on the Wranglers and the type of zipper on the Lees,” he said.

There’s a lesson to be learned, Swenson advised: “Don’t throw your stuff away.”

Then he added with a chuckle: “Call Swenson’s Auctions.”

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Northwest tries new tactics to attract students

in News/Education
2476

Northwest College in Powell, facing declining enrollment for the last several years, has launched several efforts to build up the number of students attending the two-year school.

As of the fall of 2018, the number of full-time students attending the college in Powell stood at 807, compared to 948 in the fall of 2017.

College President Stefani Hicswa attributed the decline to the improving economy.

“Community college enrollment is directly tied to unemployment,” Hicswa said. “As people go to work, they don’t go to college. This is the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years, so they’re not choosing to attend college at this point.”

The college also faces competition from for-profit schools that can spend more on marketing, Hicswa said.

Northwest is changing some of its marketing approaches, such as relying more on social media, to reach students with its message, said Carey Miller, the college’s new director of Communication and Marketing.

Williams said efforts are focusing to spread the word about the college’s location, affordability, the quality of its programs and the college experience it offers.

“Those four things, Northwest College excels at,” she said.

In addition, the college is sending recruiters to meet with potential students, said Dee Havig, Northwest’s interim vice president for Student Services.

“Marketing tells us that social media is what students are wanting, but we’re also hearing they like that face-to-face and making that connection to someone with the school,” he said.

Hicswa said the college is also looking at new degree programs, partnerships with regional colleges and universities and the construction of a new student center to attract more students.

Powell man part of team to row across Atlantic

in Recreation/Community
FightOrDieTeam
The members of Carl Christensen’s “Fight OAR Die” team, from left to right: John Fannin of San Antonio, Texas, Luke Holton of Juneau, Alaska, Christensen of Powell and Evan Stratton of Denver, Colorado. (Courtesy photo)
2443

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Fight OAR Die.

No, that’s not a typo. It’s the slogan for a group of military veterans who next week will begin a weeks-long journey across the Atlantic Ocean… in a rowboat.

Powell resident Carl Christensen is part of a four-man team of former military servicemen who will take off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands next month in their “Woobie” to raise awareness and support for the mental and physical health of U.S. veterans. 

The team will take part in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge, rowing 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua. It’s a symbol of the hardships faced by veterans, and the steps that can be taken to overcome them.

Christensen is a 2001 Cody High School graduate who attended the Naval Academy, then served as a submarine officer and an instructor until his service was over in 2014. He said he watched last year’s team, which boasted members from both Powell and Cody, and was inspired to join the movement to support fellow veterans in their struggles with both mental and physical health post-service. 

But the task he’s facing is no small feat, either.

“Last year’s team did it in 54 days. 40 days is the average, the world record is 33 days,” he said. “We do have 60 days’ worth of food on board.”

Fight OAR Die map
This is a map of the path to be followed by Powell resident Carl Christensen and the other three members of his “Fight OAR Die” challenge to row across the Atlantic Ocean.

Christensen’s team represents more than just the Navy, however. Two Marines will be in his boat – one from San Antonio, Texas, and one from Denver, Colorado – and an Army veteran from Juneau, Alaska will round out the crew. It’s the first time for each of them. 

“The goal is to put four new veterans on the team each year,” he said. “We’re showing other veterans that they can row their own ocean, overcome their challenges.” 

He said the Fight OAR Die team has one mission – they want veterans to stop taking their own lives, and start living them instead.

Training is a must for a physical feat such as this. Christensen said he’s been staying in shape as a member of the Park County Search and Rescue volunteer crew. In addition, his wife, who is a personal trainer, purchased a rowing machine to help him train specifically for this journey.

In August, Christensen said the team did a month of training on an actual rowboat in Mobile, Alabama. There, the city’s mayor presented team members with a key to the city for their efforts in raising awareness of post-traumatic stress and post-combat hardship, as well as raising funds for treatment and research.

Part of the team’s mission is to raise support for other organizations that assist veterans, according to Christensen. The Sturm Center at the University of Denver and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health in Aurora, Colorado, are both working on ways to help veterans adapt and heal after their combat missions. 

“We are actually research subjects,” Christensen said. “They’ll follow us for a year.” 

In fact, he says the Sturm Center is now offering students the opportunity to follow a new specialized path – professional military psychologist – specifically to help veterans. 

Christensen pointed out that people who want to support their team’s mission financially can donate to the Sturm Center and the Marcus Institute to further their efforts.

Of the upcoming challenge, Christensen said it’s important to him to continue to serve his brothers and sisters in arms. With 60,000 veterans dying by suicide over the last decade, he said he is proud to be a part of a group that is working to raise awareness – and funds – to help support those who can perhaps end that trend.

“We’re trying to turn the tide,” he said.

Powell celebration raises money for arts center

in Travel
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Those wishing for an early start to both the holidays and the weekend should head to Powell this week for the city’s annual “Festival of Trees.”

Held in the Plaza Diane Community Center for the Arts, the festival on Thursday will give people a chance to bid on and buy trees and wreaths decorated by Powell area residents.

Money raised by the silent auction will be used to fund programs such as art classes and music offered at the center, said coordinator Katie Stensing.

People donating the artificial trees and wreaths are invited to decorate any way they want to.

“I know right now, one of the trees has a farm theme,” Stensing said. “Another one is a book theme, it’s hung with tiny handmade books.”

The auction will be held in conjunction with Powell’s “Sample and Shop the Season” from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, when businesses will stay open late and offer refreshments and snacks to visitors.

“People will hopefully stop in (at the center) and take part in our silent auction,” Stensing said.

Although the “Festival of the Trees” has been held in Powell in the past, this year marks the first for it to be run by the Plaza Diane Center.

For more information, visit the Powell Chamber of Commerce website or the Center for the Arts website at PlazaDiane.org.

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