NEWS BRIEFS for Wednesday, June 17, 2020

School district trims tax rate as coronavirus relief

JACKSON (WNE) — The Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees is trying to do its part to help during trying financial times.

During its monthly meeting June 10 the board voted to lower one of the mill levies it controls. Though the Teton County Recreation District is technically separate, the school board is in charge of determining the amount of money it collects from Teton County property owners.

Given that, the board unanimously lowered its collection from 0.9 mills to 0.25. Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jeff Daugherty presented the reduction to the school board, explaining the Rec District board thought it could cover all funding requests in fiscal year 2021 even with reduced revenue.

“The board members felt like — albeit small — providing some measure of cash to the community was an aspiration they wanted to achieve,” Daugherty said.

In true financial terms the reduction amounts to roughly a $1.3 million estimated drop in revenue for the Rec District. The approved 0.25 mill levy will bring in about $500,000 in fiscal year 2021.

The district should have just under $1.2 million in the bank at the end of this fiscal year, which concludes this month. With the $500,000 in revenue next year that should give it about $1.7 million to deal with about $1.2 million in requests.

“There are a lot of families out there hurting,” Trustee Janine Teske said. “So I want to thank you.”


Tourism board holds improper meeting

DOUGLAS (WNE) — The Converse County Tourism Promotion Board held an illegal executive session last week to discuss funding for the Wyoming State Fair. After being confronted about it, the board met again Monday in a public session to handle those same discussions and their proposed budget once again, albeit with a slightly different outcome for the Wyoming State Fair.

“The question of legality (at last week’s meeting) was not our intent,” board chair Kim Pexton said to open Monday’s meeting. “I take full responsibility for what happened.” 

When the tourism board’s 2020-21 marketing plan came up on the agenda last week, the board went into executive session to discuss funding for the Wyoming State Fair and other projects, though Pexton rejected the idea that the budget was included in that. 

The Wyoming Open Meetings law prohibits boards which manage public funds to have discussions about the budget or funding behind closed doors. 

“Everyone on the board is a volunteer, and we have a steep learning curve,” Pexton said. “We are on the board because we care about our county.” 

Wyoming State Fair Director Courtny Conkle and Converse County Fair representative Morgan Hayes were on hand to present their request for marketing funds for their projects, both for a second time and in public. 

Just like last week, when the tourism board allocated $56,000 for the state fair marketing plan, the board approved $56,000 – the minimum Conkle said she needed to pay for the marketing plan contract of more than $123,000. Initially, she had requested $96,000 from the tourism board, which had a budget for state fair of $107,000.


Train derailment, explosion still under investigation

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Smoke and flames filled the skies outside Rock Springs after a freight train derailed on Saturday afternoon. Multiple agencies responded, and though two deputies were injured in an explosion, no fatalities were reported. The cause of the derailment is under investigation.

A Union Pacific train derailed about 4 miles east of Rock Springs around 2:54 p.m., according to Tim McMahan with Union Pacific.

Sweetwater County Fire District No. 1 Fire Chief Scot Kitchner said, “We had around 30 rail cars that were actually derailed, not the initial 50 that we thought. Of those 30, 10 were involved in the fire.”

The train was hauling mixed freight, including ethanol and alcohol. Kitchner added “a couple of cars had a plastics-type material, hence the dark black smoke that could be seen for so long.”

Union Pacific brought in hazmat teams and experts from Denver and Salt Lake City late Saturday night to work with local resources to mitigate the incident.

“The fire was controlled and extinguished around 3:30 a.m. this morning by fire crews and the Union Pacific resources,” Kitchner said Sunday. “Those resources remain on scene as well as local resources to monitor the work that the railroad has ongoing and to monitor the wildland.”

Approximately 20 to 25 acres of Bureau of Land Management land burned.

An accident investigation team from the Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration/Accident Investigations is on the ground and already investigating the cause of the incident, according to Kitchner.