Gillette’s proposed city budget down nearly 30% for upcoming fiscal year
GILLETTE (WNE) – When Gillette began its budget process for the next fiscal year, the city wasn't caught up on a global pandemic and ground zero for crashes in the nation's oil, gas and coal industries.
Now budgeting for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which begins July 1, is more uncertain.
The city’s proposed budget is $146.4 million, about a 29% or $60 million decrease from its adjusted fiscal year 2019-20 budget of $207.1 million.
General fund revenues are projected to be $32.2 million, about $14.7 million less than this year. The city also anticipates a 21% drop in sales and use tax revenues from about $21.6 million this fiscal year to $17 million.
The city’s is concerned about how revenues will look in the next three to four months, City Administrator Pat Davidson said at a Tuesday budget workshop with the City Council.
Historically, the city's general fund calculations are based on the average of the lowest six months of sales tax receipts. Instead, the latest projection is using the lowest levels of sales tax receipts over the past four years.
The city started its budget process in January and by February was projecting a 6% increase for the next fiscal year, or a budget of $219.5 million.
That was short-lived, however, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, drops in energy and historic declines in unemployment rates and tourism.
"It's an eye-opener for sure," Councilman Billy Montgomery said about the drastic change in the city's budget projections. "I knew Wyoming was in tough shape, Campbell County especially. (But) I did not think it was as bad as I thought until I read the budget he gave us."
Bighorn National Forest officials say developed sites may open early
LOVELL (WNE) — Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the summer recreation season on the Bighorn National Forest is expected to begin like it normally does, with the phased opening of developed areas starting in a couple weeks and the current region-wide restriction on campfires expiring May 31.
Members of a forest steering committee acknowledged during a teleconference Thursday that they have been fielding a high volume of calls from people voicing questions and concerns about losing access to the forest.
Sara Evans-Kirol, a public affairs officer for the Bighorn National Forest, said some have been thrown off by the new rules that are going into effect for the Wyoming State Parks system, mistakenly believing they will all apply to forestlands.
The Wyoming State Parks has cancelled all 2020 reservations for out-of-state visitors in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19 and ensure adherence to social distancing guidelines.
“We don’t have restrictions on out-of-state visitors,” said Evans-Kirol of the BNF.
During Thursday’s teleconference, Erin Phelps, the forest’s acting supervisor, noted that there are still two region-wide closure orders that impact the Bighorn. One is tied to developed recreation, the other to campfire restrictions.
Phelps said there is currently no restriction on dispersed recreation in the Bighorn National Forest.
The forest’s developed recreational areas such as its established campgrounds are currently closed by regional order, Phelps said. That order expires May 31.
The other restriction deals with campfires. Through May 31, they are not permitted on the forest. After that, they would be left to each forest to decide, based upon ground conditions.
Buffalo Bill Dam Visitor Center vandalized
CODY (WNE) – A main gate was damaged, vending machines tipped over, and a golf cart pushed towards the canyon at the Buffalo Bill Dam Center. That was the discovery made on Monday, the Park County Sheriff's Office said.
The only measure stopping the cart from falling all the way down the canyon was a cable barrier.That cart had been parked in the back of the facility, and the push appears to have occurred from the closed side of the Visitor Center.
Authorities from the Sheriff's Office reported the main gate was damaged, but still locked. It appears to have been struck with a vehicle at a low rate of speed in an attempt to gain entry.
The two vending machines were also damaged in the incident.
Charla Baugher, a spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said no exact time for the crimes is known, other than it took place sometime over the weekend.
All of the property belongs to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. No other damage has been reported at the facility off US 14-16-20 West at this time.
The damage is being actively investigated by the Park County Sheriff’s Office. Anyone with information on this vandalism is asked to call Park County Sheriff’s Office Dispatch at 307-527-8700 or 307-754-8700.
Grizzly hit by truck on WYO 120
CODY (WNE) – A grizzly bear and a truck collided along WYO 120 North on May 7, according to the Park County Sheriff’s Office.
The bear was killed in the incident.
The incident occurred in dark conditions, around 10 p.m., about seven miles north of Cody city limits. Luke Ellsbury, large carnivore biologist for Wyoming Game and Fish, said the bear ran out into the road before the driver could swerve out of the way in his ¾ ton pickup truck.
The truck suffered a dented bumper but no other damage from the accident.
“It’s important to be vigilant when driving, for wildlife mitigation,” Ellsbury said. “Be careful watching on the sides of roads. There are lots of animals traveling this time of year.”
Ellsbury said G&F had prior encounters with the 2-year-old, 180-pound male bear, seen encroaching on town residences in prior instances. He said G&F had been engaging in trapping activities by the canal north of town in pursuit of the bear.
Ellsbury said there are typically 1-2 bear-related vehicle accidents per year on highways around Cody.
Jackson man charged with theft released due to pandemic trial delay
JACKSON (WNE) — Michael Lynch had been scheduled to go on trial June 1 in Teton County for burglary, theft, forgery and domestic battery.
But jury trials are on hold because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s not Mr. Lynch’s fault that we find ourselves in these uncertain and very different times,” Lynch’s attorney Elisabeth Trefonas said during a hearing Monday.
The pandemic presents a tricky situation for courts because defendants have a right to go on trial within a certain period of time, also known as the right to a speedy trial.
Judges are starting to address the fact that they have upcoming jury trials and no way to safely hold them.
In a virtual hearing Monday morning Trefonas said her client would waive his right to a speedy trial if the court would release him from Teton County Jail on a signature bond.
Lynch was booked back into jail in January after violating his probation. His bond has been $100,000.
The state and Lynch have not been able to agree to a plea deal, and the case was set to be tried in June, the first of many criminal trials set for this summer.
Judge Timothy Day said higher courts are discussing the best possible solutions, like calling a jury pool but making masks mandatory or doing voir dire by video.
Lynch is facing a slew of charges including aggravated burglary, theft, forgery and domestic battery.
Police said he stole more than 400 pricey items from construction clients over the past few years. The long evidence list includes guns, drugs and expensive rugs.