NEWS BRIEFS for Friday, Oct. 11, 2019


Companies receive $12.1 million to expand Wyoming broadband

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Three companies will receive $12.1 million from the Federal Communications Commission to expand broadband to rural parts of Wyoming over the next decade, the FCC announced in a news release Thursday.

More than 4,700 Wyoming homes and businesses that lack high-speed internet access will gain broadband support through the funds. 

The FCC funding will go to three companies – Inventive Wireless of Nebraska, Tri County Telephone and Union Telephone – to provide service in seven counties: Albany, Big Horn, Niobrara, Park, Platte, Sublette and Uinta. 

"It’s critical that rural Wyomingites have the same access to digital opportunity that their urban counterparts do," FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said in a prepared statement Thursday. "I’m pleased that today's funding will support broadband to more than 4,700 unserved rural homes and businesses in the state."

Thursday's announcement marked the finalization of FCC awards announced last year to allocate nearly $1.5 billion nationwide to support more than 700,000 unserved rural homes and small businesses over the next 10 years.

In a survey of more than 2,400 resident statewide carried out by the Wyoming State Broadband Program, 26.9 percent of respondents said they lacked reliable broadband access. 

The announcement came as the Wyoming Rural Broadband Summit got underway Thursday morning in Casper. The one-day event brought together elected officials, stakeholder organizations, federal agencies and broadband providers to discuss ways to enhance rural broadband statewide.

 

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Potato truck in Teton Pass crash 17,000 pounds overweight

JACKSON (WNE) — A potato truck that plowed into a storage shed on Teton Pass last week was 17,000 pounds over the weight limit for the highway, the Wyoming Highway Patrol said Thursday.

Charges against the driver are pending, Lieutenant Matt Brackin said.

“We haven’t issued any citations yet,” he said. “Due to the driver’s injuries, we haven’t been able to make good contact.”

The driver, 31-year-old Jackson Altema, is licensed out of Tennessee. His semi had Illinois plates. He was released from St. John’s Medical Center on Oct. 5, a hospital spokesperson said.

The truck was loaded in Sugar City, Idaho. Despite at least six signs warning of the weight limit between there and the pass, Brackin said Altema said he didn’t notice any.

The weight limit on Teton Pass is 60,000 pounds. The fine for driving 17,000 pounds over is $655, Brackin said.

When the semi’s brakes failed the evening of Sept. 30, Altema steered into the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s sand storage shed.

The pass’ vehicle arrestor, meant to safely catch out-of-control vehicles, has been closed since Sept. 10, when a pickup with a flatbed trailer crashed through it. WYDOT is investigating the system.

With the arrestor closed, WYDOT plans to close the pass to eastbound trailer traffic Oct. 15, rather than the usual Nov. 15. Westbound trailers can still cross, barring bad weather, until Nov. 15.

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Testing of Fremont Lake shows no contamination

PINEDALE (WNE) — One year ago, the Town of Pinedale’s bragging rights over its pristine drinking water from Fremont Lake were spoiled when water tests started exceeding federal limits for fecal coliform.

After failing its routine sampling, the Environmental Protection Agency initially mandated the town add a water filtration system with a $16-million price tag. The town hired a former EPA employee and negotiated an alternative – a study to reveal the cause of the contamination that peaked in August 2018. 

One year later, the intense study on what caused the contamination continues – but increased testing no longer shows any contamination.

Abram Pearce, project manager with Jorgensen and Associates, said the town is doing additional testing and so is the Environmental Protection Agency. However, most of the tests have been negative. A handful of tests have detected fecal coliform but not at high enough levels to determine the source or warrant additional tests to identify contributing species. Fecal coliform is a bacteria that develops in the intestines of warm-blooded animals. 

Pearce reported to the town council at its Sept. 23 meeting that the study continues on Fremont Lake and the first round of enhanced sampling was submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency. However, it’s difficult to determine what caused spikes last year when they didn’t occur this year, he said. 

Pearce reported the next step is to formulate a plan going forward and to continue monitoring. 

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