NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, March 13, 2020

Buckskin mine says it will lay off workers

GILLETTE (WNE) — Coal workers at the Buckskin mine north of Gillette have been informed to expect layoffs in the near future as a response to lower production at the mine and a weak domestic market for Powder River Basin coal.

In a statement to the News Record, Jessica Jensen, a spokeswoman for the mine’s parent company of Omaha, Nebraska-based Kiewit Corp., said the workforce reduction “is not driven by the performance of our employees, but rather the realities of the market.”

Just how many jobs may be trimmed hasn’t been decided, she said.

The move apparently won’t be the first recent workforce reduction at the mine. According to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration, Buckskin had an overall employment of 222 people at the end of 2019, 49 fewer than the 271 workers reported at the end of the third quarter last year.

The mine also cut back by 83 workers in two rounds of layoffs in the first half of 2016 when the coal market crashed and caused more than 600 coal layoffs around the PRB.

The mine produced 17.6 million tons of coal in 2019, a 30% increase over the 13.5 million tons in 2018.

Jensen also said Buckskin Mining Co. will do what it can to find other jobs for some of the affected workers.


Heli-tours in Jackson Hole could start in April

JACKSON (WNE) — As soon as this April, a scenic helicopter tour business could be authorized to pick clients up at Jackson Hole Airport and overfly places like the Gros Ventre and Jedediah Smith wilderness areas.

The business plan of Wind River Air, owned and operated by Hoback resident Tony Chambers, figures to take another step forward March 18, when the airport’s board of directors will review a license agreement. Chambers told the Jackson Hole Daily on Monday that he’s “indifferent” to securing the permit, which is a formality because the Federal Aviation Administration has already told the airport they “consider this matter closed” and they legally cannot deny the business.

“It’s just a step,” Chambers said. “[I’m] going to just take another step.”

Airport board member Jerry Blann said in a statement Monday that the board “shares the same thoughts and values” about the air tours as the Jackson Hole community, which has largely opposed the idea.

“We have received clear communication from the FAA that legally, we have to permit this type of aviation activity in order to comply with federal regulations,” Blann said.

A draft license agreement for Wind River Air that Jackson Hole Airport provided to the Daily shows that Chambers would be authorized to do business for three years, from April 1 to March 31, 2023. He’ll be on the hook to pay a monthly fee equivalent to 5% of his gross operating revenue.


Couple accused in lodge theft  appears in court

PINEDALE (WNE) — A husband and wife charged with theft felonies after both were fired from Boulder Lake Lodge on Aug. 8, 2018, were arrested in Maryland, and brought to Pinedale to appear in Sublette County Circuit Court on Wednesday, March 11. 

Thomas W. Hickman and Katherine A. Entsminger Hickman, most recently employed at the Millhaven Horse Farm in Derwood, Maryland, were arrested there on Monday, Feb. 24, after Sublette County detectives tracked them there and asked Montgomery County law enforcement to pick them up. 

County Attorney Mike Crosson filed amended charges and took part in the hearing. 

Rather than both being charged for stealing the horses, only Entsminger is now charged with misusing Boulder Lake Lodge funds to purchase three horses at Billings, Montana, that she then registered in her name, according to court records.

Each of the felony charges they face carries maximum penalties of up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. 

Hickman now faces two felony charges instead of four – one alleging felony theft on Aug. 8, 2018, of saddles, tack, riding equipment, household goods, electronics and other items with a total value of more than $1,000 from Boulder Lake Lodge, according to court records. 

The second felony charge alleges that he  conspired to commit felony theft with another person, Entsminger, and took a significant step toward achieving it, records show. 

Judge Curt Haws explained that Entsminger, or Hickman, is also charged with the alleged Aug. 8, 2018, felony theft from Boulder Lake Lodge. She still faces four felony charges but the livestock-rustling allegations are removed.