NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, June 21, 2019 From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers


Oil, gas companies appeal Sublette assessments

PINEDALE (WNE) – Eight oil and gas companies with 38 different property accounts are appealing their 2019 Sublette County tax assessments, setting up the County’s Board of Equalization, comprised of the county’s five commissioners, for a lengthy hearing process. 

All appeals are based on the same objection as to how property values on equipment depreciated, which increased values, in some cases more than 90 percent. The companies want to use a depreciation schedule similar to that used by the Internal Revenue Service based on the equipment’s age – also called a straight-line approach. 

Sublette County Assessor Jeness Saxton followed guidelines sent by the State Board of Equalization that direct assessors statewide to take into consideration maintenance on equipment. 

The County Board of Equalization has 30 days to set a hearing, and both parties – in this case, the nine companies and Saxton – have 30 days to exchange discovery and fact-finding. The hearing must be concluded and a ruling made before Oct. 1. Throughout the hearing process, the Sublette County Attorney represents the county assessor and is unable to advise the Board of Equalization. 

At a special June 18 meeting of the County Board of Equalization, members were advised by Deputy County Clerk Tracey Hoover that tentative protests include Newpark Drilling Fluids, LLC., Jonah Gas Gathering, Ultra Resources, Inc., Omimex Petroleum, Inc., Mustang Resources, Inc., Foundation Energy Management, Urban Oil & Group and HilCorp Energy. 

According to the appeal filed by Jonah, the company is requesting a value adjustment based on obsolescence and a 57-percent usage of the equipment.

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WBC backs $9 million loan for Cheyenne manufacturing plant

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Plans to develop a $17.8 million manufacturing plant in Cheyenne are moving forward.

The Wyoming Business Council board on Thursday recommended the state approve a $9.35 million loan for the construction of an 80,000-square-foot biomedical facility on the city’s east side.

The loan, funded through the state’s Economic Development Large Project program, is still subject to State Loan and Investment Board review and governor approval.

Owners of California-based Innovive, a company registered as WYTEC locally, are working with economic development groups to design and build a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in the Cheyenne Business Parkway within two years. Cheyenne LEADS, which owns the business park, would sell the acreage to WYTEC.

The company specializes in disposable caging products for laboratory rodents used in medical research. Traditionally, these animals are housed in thick plastic containers that require regular sterilization, but Innovive CEO Dee Conger told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle in February this method is expensive and time-consuming.

“We patented single-use disposable cages,” Conger said. “They come to you sterile, and when you’re done with them, you just put them back in the bag, and we come and recycle them.”

Conger said Innovive would move its entire production to Cheyenne – a boon to the city and Wyoming. Although the plastics manufacturer now uses a third party to sterilize the cages, owners want to expand and offer those services, too.

The company plans to employ 80 to 100 local workers, and the Business Council estimates a $3.2 million economic benefit to Wyoming annually.

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Commissioners’ letter to delegation addresses impacts of ‘war on coal’

GREEN RIVER (WNE) — A letter addressed to Wyoming’s congressional delegation and signed by four Sweetwater County Commissioners addresses impacts the commissioners allege are a result of a war on coal usage.

The letter comes after news that Rocky Mountain Power plans to deactivate four power-generating units at two Wyoming power plants, including two at the Jim Bridger Power Plant.

Wally Johnson, chairman of the Sweetwater County Board of County Commissioners, said the letter was inspired by decisions made that will impact the county, state and nation. He said decision makers can’t sit idly by as those decisions are made and hopes the letter will spur a response and action from the congressional delegation.

The letter both highlights impacts faced locally due to decreased coal demand, as well as impacts that would be felt nationally. The letter argues the ability to reliably and affordably generate electricity is threatened as coal loses prominence in the power generation mix. 

Citing statistics by the National Mining Association, the commissioners argue power generation is cheaper in states utilizing coal, than states using other means of power generation. They argue weather impacts wind power generation.

Economically, the letter cites people employed by the mining industry earn nearly twice the average annual wage in Wyoming and paid approximately $1.5 billion in wages throughout the state’s economy. 

Locally, the commissioners cite 929 direct jobs supported through coal mining and power generation, estimating 5,103 county residents, about 12 percent of the county’s population, are supported through the coal industry.

“Any War on Coal hardship, placed upon our coal mining and power industries, will cause wide ranging economic hardships for Sweetwater County, its cities, towns and residents,” the letter states.

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College board approves Sheridan College expansion

SHERIDAN (WNE) — New agreements will allow the Sheridan College campus to significantly expand and bring potential for growth to the college and community.

On Wednesday, the Northern Wyoming Community College District Board of Trustees approved three agreements related to land and property that will increase the college campus by almost one-third and lead to opportunities in construction technology and related fields.

Two days after the Sheridan Economic and Educational Development Authority Joint Powers Board approved several agreements and exchanges, the NWCCD Board finalized the issues directly affecting the college.

The NWCCD board accepted from SEEDA five acres of mostly vacant land on Solutions Way,  just east of the Sheridan College campus across Interstate 90. It also approved a separate agreement that includes Seven Pillars, LLC — which owns EMIT Technologies — granting 26 acres of additional land on Solutions Way to the NWCCD for economic development and educational purposes. Those 26 acres sit next to the five acres and include a 25,000-square-foot building that will house the Sheridan College construction technology program.

Upon approving the land grants, the board accepted a grant of the current construction technology building on North Brooks Street from Whitney Benefits. Immediately after, the board granted the property to The Hub on Smith to use as part of its homecare programs.

As part of the agreement, the college will report to the SEEDA board on a regular basis and provide updates on what is happening with the Solutions Way property for the next 10 years. The property must be used for economic and educational development of the Sheridan community.

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WalletHub ranks Wyoming second for summer road trips

TORRINGTON (WNE) — Wyoming’s outdoor amenities and wide-open highways served it well in a recent study – the state received a second-best designation for road trips in the U.S., largely thanks to high marks in cost-effective and safety categories, according to personal-finance website WalletHub. 

The Cowboy State ranks first in the nation for lowest price of camping; third for quality of roads; ninth in car thefts per capita; 20th in access to scenic byways; and 26th in average gas prices. 

WalletHub lists the No. 1 overall state for road trips in the country as North Carolina; third is Minnesota; fourth, Virginia; and fifth, Texas. On the other side of the spectrum, Rhode Island is ranked last; preceded by Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, and Arkansas. 

In order to determine the rankings, WalletHub considered three dimensions, including cost , safety, and activities. Data analysts then used the square root of the population for certain categories to calculate the population size to avoid overcompensating for minor differences across all states. 

Specific metrics considered included average gas prices, average cost of car repairs, lowest price of three-star hotel room, lowest price of camping, population density, nightlife options and idealess of summer weather.

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