Wyoming News in Brief – Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019

Teton Pass closes to trailer traffic

JACKSON (WNE) — Eastbound trailers was outlawed on Teton Pass starting Tuesday, a month earlier than usual due to safety concerns along the steep grade.

Violators risk a $435 fine, the Wyoming Department of Transportation warned.

“Our concerns lie mostly with the eastbound traffic on the east side of the pass, given the steep grade, topography and accident history,” WYDOT District Engineer Keith Compton said in a statement.

Though the scheduled seasonal closure typically starts Nov. 15, WYDOT decided to shut down the pass to eastbound trailer traffic a month earlier. The decision comes after the Teton Pass vehicle arrestor — meant to safely capture out-of-control vehicles heading into Wilson — failed to stop a pickup pulling a trailer loaded with logs Sept. 10. The arrestor has been out of commission since the accident, which remains under investigation.

On Sept. 30, with the arrestor closed, an out-of-control potato truck departing from Sugar City, Idaho, plowed into a storage shed near the base of Teton Pass after its brakes failed. The truck was 17,000 pounds over the weight limit, a violation that carries a $655 fine, Wyoming Highway Patrol Lieutenant Matt Brackin said.


Farmers unsure of freeze impact on beets

POWELL (WNE) — It’s too early to know the extent of the damage that three days and nights of freezing temperatures dealt to the area’s sugar beet crop a week ago.

Snow blanketed the area Oct. 9 and shut down the sugar beet harvest. For three nights, temperatures registered from 12 to 16 degrees in areas of the Lovell Factory District.

“The freezing temperatures were bad. The beets have some damage,” said Ric Rodriguez, Heart Mountain grower and vice president of the Western Sugar Cooperative board of directors. “It will take a few days to assess the damage, meaning how long the beets will store.”

In the meantime, special handling of freeze-damaged beets has been implemented.

“We’re processing frozen beets first,” said Mark Bjornestad, senior agriculturist for Western Sugar. “We’ll leave other beets [harvested before the freeze] on the ground. They’ll be fine.”

In order to run the factory on freeze-damaged beets, a quota system on grower deliveries is required.

The quota system is still being established, Rodriguez said, but it will basically be on a ton-per-acre basis.

“If it is determined that the quota is 2 tons per planted acre, and the grower has 100 acres, he can bring in 200 tons during the delivery period,” Rodriguez said. “It will be reassessed every week, and it depends on how well the factory is running.”

“Every grower is treated the same percentage-wise,” Bjornestad added. “We need a few days to see how these frozen beets react.”


Vaccine shortage postpones flu clinics

CODY (WNE) — Due to a temporary shortage of influenza vaccines from its supplier, Park County Public Health has postponed a couple of community flu clinics.

“We’re not getting vaccine when we thought we would,” said Bill Crampton, public health nurse, last Friday.

Over the past three years Park County Public Health has returned leftover flu vaccines.

Referencing the 2018-2019 season, Crampton said the county used all but 100 of 2,000 doses on hand.

“This year it looks like we’re going to run out,” he said.

Sanofi Pasteur, a French drugmaker, is spreading out shipments of the three vaccines public health stocks much farther apart than usual, he said. The next shipment is expected to arrive on Friday.

“At the same time … this may be a worse than normal flu season,” Crampton said. “Suddenly we’re running up against a wall because shipping is not meeting demand, so we’re running low.”

Some community clinics such as one Oct. 9 at the Cody Auditorium have already been completed.

An Oct. 11 clinic in Clark has been rescheduled to the next week and Crampton has asked Powell volunteer firemen to go to public health’s Powell office individually.

There’s not enough vaccine this fall to vaccinate the firefighters as a group, he said.

“Nobody will get cut off,” Crampton said. “We’re just rescheduling things to meet the demand we’ve already had scheduled.”


Riverton examines eliminating recycling program

RIVERTON (WNE) — City leaders want to know exactly how much money Riverton spends on its recycling program. 

The question came up after city staff estimated that eliminating the program locally could result in a savings of about $155,000 per year. 

“At this point it does cost us money,” city administrator Tony Tolstedt said of the recycling program during a meeting Oct. 1. “Over the last two years, the city’s operational cost of recycling has outweighed the savings provided from diverting the materials from the main waste stream.” 

If the council wanted to consider “doing away with the service,” Tolstedt said, he would want to “delve into that a lot more” and do “a couple more calculations,” but he was confident the result would “still be a savings.” 

The council voted unanimously to have Tolstedt “further investigate the specific costs” of the recycling program, per a motion by Councilman Mike Bailey. 

During the discussion Bailey said “recycling is a great thing,” but he did not think it was “economically feasible” for the city to continue losing money on the program, which has generated less participation in recent years due to the removal of the large recycling containers that used to be posted at central locations in Riverton. 

A memo from Tolstedt noted that the containers were removed “due to an inability to separate the contents appropriately.” 


Wyoming this Weekend, Oct. 18-20

By the Wyoming News Exchange

A festival of rocks, gems and minerals tops this weekend’s list of events in Wyoming.

The Fall Geology Expo, hosted by Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs on Saturday, will feature hands-on activities sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey, along with vendors selling a wide variety of rocks and gems.

Other items on sale during the event, held in part as a fundraiser for WWC’s nationally known Geology Department, will include selected items from the department’s collection, such as topographic maps.

Other events scheduled for the weekend include:

A presentation on “Ghost Stories, Urban Myths and Legends in Riverton on Thursday;

A haunted downtown walking tour of Riverton on Saturday;

The Wyoming Frontier Prison Masquerade Ball in Rawlins on Friday, and

The final weekend of an exhibit of the artwork of Casper artist Zachary Pullen at the Brinton Museum in Sheridan.

For more information on these and other events, please visit the Wyoming Tourism Division’s website at TravelWyoming.com.