NEWS BRIEFS for Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020

Arch Coal ends 2019 on loss, still generates cash

GILLETTE (WNE) — Despite posting an $8.6 million loss for the fourth quarter of 2019, Arch Coal Inc. executives were upbeat about an overall strong financial performance for the year while navigating some choppy waters for thermal coal.

Overall, the company finished 2019 about $234 million in the black, less than the $313 million realized in 2018, but also producing more than $100 million in cash, said President and Chief Operating Officer Paul Lang. 

Since emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2016, Arch has generated more than $600 million in cash.

“We remain confident this business (can be) long-term, efficient, stable and a cost-effective supply platform,” Lang said during a Thursday morning earnings call to announce the year-end financial results.

He also said an anticipated joint venture with Peabody Energy to merge the companies’ Wyoming and Colorado operations continues to move through the federal approval process and that “things are progressing as expected.”

For Arch’s Powder River Basin mines in Campbell County, Black Thunder and Coal Creek, the last quarter of the year was a challenge.

The mines produced less coal at 18.1 million tons — down from 22.2 million in the third quarter of 2019 and 19.5 million tons in the fourth quarter of 2018 — but were challenged by a significant jump in the cost per ton to mine that coal.

Calling the thermal coal market “increasingly challenging,” Arch CEO John Eaves said the company is “confident Arch is well-equipped to weather the current market.”

Evanston again named Great American Main Street semifinalist

EVANSTON (WNE) — For the second year in a row, the Evanston Urban Renewal Agency/Main Street has been named a semifinalist for a Great American Main Street Award. 

Last year, 10 semifinalist communities were named from across the country; this year, there are eight semifinalists. 

“The Great American Main Street Award is a top honor within the commercial district revitalization field,” said Patrice Frey, President and CEO of the National Main Street Center, in a press release. “These eight outstanding semifinalists have demonstrated the impressive economic and community growth that is possible when commercial districts harness the power of the Main Street Approach.” 

Evanston is a certified community of Wyoming Main Street, which is a program of the Wyoming Business Council. Wyoming Main Street reported 74 net new businesses, $15 million in private funds invested and 168.5 net new jobs among 17 aspiring, affiliate and certified Main Street communities in 2018.

 “We’re very proud,” said Jane Law, manager of Evanston Main Street. “This community and all the citizens, volunteers and supporters who have been involved over so many years and accomplished so much deserve this honor and recognition.” 

Over the last 12 to 14 years, Law said the city’s focus has been on rehabilitating the Strand Theatre and Hotel Evanston.

“The Historic Roundhouse and Rail yards project is another larger endeavor the city took on,” she said. “The Roundhouse was originally built in 1912-1914 and partly refurbished into a public facility in 2009. It was completed in 2016, and now stands as an impressive and useful public space for weddings, public events and celebrations like the Celtic Festival; and it lures railroad enthusiasts from across the nation.” 

Sweetwater dispatch center director and wife charged with appropriation of public property

GREEN RIVER (WNE) — The former director of the Sweetwater County Combined Communications Dispatch Center is accused of misusing an Amazon Prime account set up for the center and making nearly $7,000 in unauthorized purchases.

According to court documents released last week, Robin Etienne and his wife Laura are facing felony and misdemeanor charges related to the alleged incident.

Robin faces charges of felony theft and misdemeanor charges of wrongful appropriation of public property and unlawful use of a credit card. Laura faces a felony charge of theft and a misdemeanor charge of unlawful use of a credit card. The felony charges are punishable with a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison, a $10,000 fine or both. Misdemeanor charges are punishable through a sentence of not more than six months in jail, a maximum fine of $750, or both.

On March 29, 2018, the Sweetwater County Combined Communications Joint Powers Board reported Robin’s resignation as the center’s executive director. An investigation into his expenditures was opened as the circumstances around the resignation were suspicious to the board members and his resignation letter indicated possible criminal activity.

Robin told investigators he allegedly started charging personal purchases to the dispatch center in 2016 or 2017, making those purchases sporadically during the next two years. In 2017, he was able to set up an Amazon Prime account for the dispatch center, using his work email address as the login. Robin said he was having financial struggles and suffering from depression.

Investigators logged into Robin’s gaming account and determined he made 13 charges to the account in 2017 and 2018 using the center’s card. All of the alleged unauthorized purchases amounted to $6,943.04.