NEWS BRIEFS for Tuesday, June 9, 2020

From Wyoming News Exchange newspapers

Gillette man’s shooting part of prank, witness says

GILLETTE (WNE) — One witness describes the incidents leading up to a 21-year-old man’s death last week as a prank among friends.

Tanner Miller died June 2 after being shot at a close range in an apartment on Running W Drive in southeastern Gillette.

Joshua Lewis Campbell, 21, has been charged with manslaughter in the case. He was released from Campbell County jail Friday afternoon on bond a $50,000 cash or surety bond.

An affidavit of probable cause filed in the case says that Miller, Campbell and another friend had gone to the apartment June 2 after having dinner with another friend. At about 9 p.m., they left to buy more alcohol and then went back to the apartment.

Before Miller parked the vehicle, he let Campbell and the other man out so they could get into the apartment.

The two “as a prank, locked the apartment door and shut the lights off,” according to the affidavit. “They were going to use rifles to scare Miller when he came in.”

“Miller attempted to enter the apartment a couple of times,” according to the affidavit. “Campbell then unlocked the door and Tanner walked into the apartment and turned on the lights.”

Campbell then reportedly fired a shot at close range when Miller was about 8-10 feet inside the apartment, according to the affidavit. A forensic pathologist estimated the rifle was fired no farther than 3 inches from the left side of his head.


Teton County OK’s heli-tour disaster funding

JACKSON (WNE) —Teton County commissioners agreed to move $250,000 from Jackson Hole Airport’s budget to defray wildfire and search-and-rescue costs in the event of a scenic helicopter going down.

The idea, born of the Jackson Town Council, was spurred by the airport board’s recent approval of Wind River Air, a helicopter tour business that starting this summer will base at the airstrip in Grand Teton National Park.

While putting the finishing strokes on Jackson Hole Airport’s nearly $75 million budget, county commissioners agreed Tuesday to a onetime quarter-million dollar transfer to Teton County Search and Rescue. 

Search and rescue operations in response to accidents — costing about $1,700 an hour — are typically wholly reimbursed by the state of Wyoming, Teton County Chief Deputy Attorney Keith Gingery told commissioners. 

But the airport funds could be put toward paying a base monthly fee of $39,500 to station a TCSAR helicopter in the valley for more months of the year, he said.

National Parks Conservation Association staffer Sharon Mader spoke up at the county meeting, encouraging the commissioners to support the disaster and lobbying funding.

“I think there are some very significant potential costs involved in search-and-rescue and wildfire catastrophes that could be caused by a crashed heli-tour aircraft,” Mader said, “and I do believe that legislation is required to address this issue for Teton County.”


Tribe secures $5M for water, infrastructure

RIVERTON (WNE) — The Northern Arapaho Tribe has received a $4.5 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to fund necessary projects that implement water conservation measures, prevent contamination and improve water transmission and storage.

The grant is part of the USDA's Rural Development program, which awarded $281 million to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in rural and tribal communities.

"Having a water system that is safe and reliable is vital to every community," said Jola Wallowingbull, Director of the Northern Arapaho Tribal Engineering Department.

"This funding will support critical updates to our water infrastructure that promote conservation, improve public health and ensure the continued delivery of a clean water supply for the Arapaho people."

Separately, the Northern Arapaho Tribe was awarded $300,000 as part of federal relief provided by Congress via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Federally-recognized tribes were eligible to apply for up to $300,000 to be used as part of COVID-19 response. Allowable funding uses include: acquisition of protective equipment (PPE) for tribal employees, as well as to fund overtime and hazard pay; support of telehealth services; COVID-19 testing and patient isolation; use of mobile clinics and patient transport services; and public information about ways to mitigate the spread of the virus.

As part of the COVID-19 relief allocation, $15 million was awarded to 52 tribes, tribal organizations and Indian health organizations across 20 states.


Design begins on advanced carbon research facility in Campbell County

GILLETTE (WNE) — Nearly four years after plans were announced to build a carbon innovation research facility in Campbell County, design work has finally begun on the project.

There was a kickoff design meeting Friday for the Advanced Carbon Products Innovation Center, which will be located at the Fort Union Industrial Park in central Campbell County.

Last week, the Economic Development Administration approved the contract between the county and Arete Design Group of Sheridan, which means design work can start.

The $1.46 million grant from the EDA was officially awarded Aug. 1. It will be matched with a $1.5 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council. The project is expected to help create 40 jobs and generate $15 million in private investment.

When it’s completed, ACPIC will give researchers a place to test the commercial viability of their technologies that have been proven in the lab.

The plan is to complete design in the next few months, with construction to begin in the fall or late summer.

Phil Christopherson, CEO of Energy Capital Economic Development said construction might be delayed until next spring, when the project would hopefully get better bids.

“We do have a couple of tenants who are eager to get in there,” he said. “If their projects move quicker than expected, we may start construction as early as this fall.”

Christopherson said he hopes local contractors build the facility, but because the federal government is involved, in-state contractors and out-of-state contractors must be treated the same in the bidding process.