Year end review, July-December


July

Three active COVID cases 

GOSHEN COUNTY – With the number of positive COVID-19 cases and deaths continuing to fall across the country, the total number of active cases went down over the past week. 

Last week, there were eight active cases in Goshen County. As of Monday, July 12, the county reported three lab confirmed active cases. 

Since the state of Wyoming began tracking COVID-19 data in March of 2020, Goshen County has reported a total of 1,153 lab confirmed cases and a total of 24 deaths related to the virus. There have been slightly more men with lab confirmed cases than women. Men have had a total of 576 cases and women have had 573. 

As of Monday, July 12, the state of Wyoming reported 404 lab confirmed cases. Laramie County reported the most active cases with 190. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the state of Wyoming has reported a total of 52,924 lab confirmed cases and there have been a total of 751 deaths statewide. 

Goshen County currently has all four of its ventilators open and there are currently zero COVID-19 patients at Banner Health. 

Cole Sauer wins
National Rifle Shooting Championship 

RATON, N.M. – The 22 Black Powder Cartridge Rifle Association (22BPCRA) held its national championships match July 11-15 at the NRA Whittington Center near Raton. One hundred twelve riflemen and women gathered from across the county to compete for the title of National Champion. As the smoke cleared after three long days of competition, 14-year-old Cole Sauer came out on top, besting numerous veteran shooters and past national champions. Cole is the son of Torrington business owners, Cecil and Amber Sauer. Cecil, Cole and younger brother Chase all made the trip and competed in the event. 

August

National Night Out a success

 

TORRINGTON – Residents and guests alike convened at Jirdon Park in Torrington Tuesday afternoon for National Night Out, an annual event meant to bring communities together, make them safer and enhance the relationships between area first responders and the citizens of the town. 

The park was filled with activities, exhibits and hands-on activities. Towards the east end of Jirdon park, the police department and county attorney’s office hosted an obstacle driving course, followed by a “drunken” obstacle driving course, utilizing drunk goggles. 

The north end of the park was the site of WYO HELP’s staff and volunteers who gave out hot dogs, chips and drinks. Guests were treated to a meal, conversation with local first responders and other support staff. 

Maddie Cook killer enters
no contest plea to murder 

TORRINGTON – Family and friends of Maddie Cook embraced one another as the tears flowed after Monday’s change of plea hearing in the Eighth Judicial District Court, where Cook’s accused killer pleaded no contest to second-degree murder. 

Sean Logan Pettus, the 32-year-old male accused of killing 20-year-old Goshen County resident Madison “Maddie” Cook, pleaded “nolo contendere” or no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder and guilty to one count of first-degree arson, one count of felony theft and two counts of burglary, pursuant to the terms of a plea agreement between the prosecution and defense. 

Around 50 people, many family members and friends of Cook, were present in the Goshen County District Courtroom for Monday’s hearing with more than 10 law enforcement officers present.

Goshen County attorney Eric Boyer told the court an agreement had been reached between the prosecution and defense where Pettus would plead no contest to an amended charge of second-degree murder and guilty to the remaining counts. In return for the no contest plea, Pettus would be subject to a joint recommendation by the prosecution and defense for a life sentence in the Wyoming penitentiary. He would then be required to serve sentences for the remaining counts, consecutive, or one-after-the-other to the life sentence. 

September

Mask mandate approved for GCSD 

TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District approved a motion for K-12 mask mandates starting Tuesday, Sept. 2 during a special meeting. 

The board approved six of the seven action items on the agenda, and one was voided due to a previous action being passed. 

The approved actions include: Revisions to the 2021 Smart Start Plan as presented, District movement from Tier 1A to Tier 1B to the 2021 Smart Start Plan, Proposed K-12 district guidance including indoors face coverings for all individuals in GCSD facilities in correlation with the Wyoming Department of Health and Goshen County Public Health weekly statistics, requiring face coverings for all individuals being transported in any GCSD No.1 vehicle, medical documentation regarding face covering exemptions for students, and religious documentation regarding face covering exemptions for students. 

Community members packed into the Torrington High School auditorium to express their thoughts on the board’s proposal and hear the decisions. All board members were in the auditorium except for Trustee Dylan Hager who attended via Zoom. 

The board opened the meeting with three hours of public comment consisting of 48 members of the public. Chairman Mark Jespersen advised every one of the five-minute time limit for each person as well as to be respectful and refrain from repetitive comments. The majority of the speakers were parents, grandparents, and community members who opposed a mandate on masks.

THS, Sources of Strength host event for students 

TORRINGTON – Torrington High School hosted an event on Sept. 17 where students learned more about a campaign intended to help them become more mentally and emotionally resilient. 

Friday’s event featured several booths set up by different clubs in the school including the drama club, art club and leadership class. The event’s purpose was to get students excited about the different extracurriculars available at the school and to get them involved. 

Sources of Strength has provided the opportunity for students to showcase the benefits extracurriculars have to offer. Sources of Strength is a nationwide organization preventing suicide and helping children and teens learn how to cope with negative emotions. It was a key influence in the organization of the event. 

Students in the leadership class at THS organized and led the event. Michele Ogburn, a social worker and licensed therapist at the school, helped oversee the organizing and activities. Her goal was to see every student engaged and excited to participate. 

Students seemed to be just that. They gathered together with friends to chat, enjoy cupcakes and soda and participate in the various activities. Music rang throughout the cafeteria along with the sound of the students’ laughter. Others met in the library to write on socks the things that make them resilient or went outside to write on the sidewalk with chalk. The ever-popular game of dodgeball happened in the gym. 

October

SLIB denies $6 million grant and loan for feed mill in Torrington 

CHEYENNE – The State Loans and Investment Board voted Thursday, Oct. 7 to deny the City of Torrington’s application for a $3 million Business Ready Community grant and $3 million BRC loan to go toward the building of M Lazy Heart Feed Mill in Torrington’s Eastside Industrial Park.
SLIB held the meeting starting at 8 a.m. and, after the usual opening statements and business, turned the time over to the Wyoming Business Council. From SLIB, Wyoming Secretary of State and Chairman of the Board Ed Buchanan, Auditor Kristi Racine, Treasurer Curt Meier and Governor Mark Gordon were all present. Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow participated via Zoom, as did staff and board members from WBC. Governor Gordon recused himself from the discussion and vote due to a close personal relationship with one of the investors in the project. Paul and Christine Miller are the would-be co-owners of M Lazy Heart Feed Mill. 

The Business Ready Community grant and loan program is intended to promote the economic development of communities in Wyoming. In past cases, BRC funds have been granted to Evergreen Plaza Assisted Living in 2018 and the Lingle Community Center both in 2018 along with 12 other businesses in Goshen County alone in the past 20 years.

Jespersen resigns
from school board 

TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District (GCSD) Board appointed a new chairman at Tuesday night’s meeting after accepting the resignation of former Chairman Mark Jespersen. 

Before the meeting started, the board went to executive session to discuss district real estate. 

After the meeting was called to order, Superintendent Ryan Kramer presented the resignation to the board to adopt into the agenda. Jespersen was not present at the meeting. The resignation was approved by the board, and Zach Miller was voted to be the new chairman while Michael Sussex was voted to fill in as vice chairman. 

The board also approved a new quarantine protocol which was created by Miller, Sussex, and Trustee Matt Cushman who were tasked with finding a more effective protocol after receiving criticism on the current policy. 

Miller said the Utah State Board of Health’s guidelines on quarantine protocols was used as a template when creating the protocols for the school district. 

Williams selected as new rep

 

LUSK – The county commissioners of Goshen, Niobrara, and Weston County selected J.D. Williams from Lusk as the new representative for House District 2 on Tuesday. 

Williams, along with Gregg Matney from Lusk, and Allen Slagle from New- castle, were the three candidates selected by the precinct men and women of the Republican Party from the three counties in the district on Oct. 14. 

Niobrara County Commissioner Chairman Pat Wade served as the chairman of the joint commissioners and explained the process for selecting a new representative. 

The commissioners compiled a list of nine questions which were read to each candidate individually by Wade while the other two sat in the hallway outside of the Niobrara County Fairgrounds auditorium to ensure the candidates could not prepare their answers ahead of time. The order was decided at random, and Williams went last. 

Welcome to the neighborhood

TORRINGTON – The final piece of Evergreen Plaza Assisted Living in order to be complete was the furniture. 

While residents will be able to bring their own beds and other furniture to their rooms, there was a need for chairs and couches for residents to sit elsewhere in the facility. 

On Sunday, staff and guests grabbed chairs from all over the complex just minutes before the opening ceremony. Fifty-two chairs were originally set out for guests to come and see the new level of senior care in Goshen County. Even with the additional seats, there was still not enough for the approximately 100 guests in attendance. It was a testament to the vision of Evergreen Plaza since the beginning of the project: a place for the community. 

Paul Novak, Goshen Care Center Joint Powers Board Chairman and recent recipient of the AARP Wyoming’s Andrus Award, finally had the chance to show the public what he has been working on for the past four years. 

“This has been such a community affair you could tell by the audience here and the people that it was really well received,” Novak said.

November

Board removes mask mandate 

TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District Board voted to rescind the mask mandate in the district on Thursday. 

The decision came almost two months after the policy was initially put into place on Sept. 2. 

The special meeting started with the swearing in of new trustee Sarah Chaires to the board. 

For public comment, the board required speakers to indicate if they were for or against rescinding the mandate prior to the start of the meeting. The board allotted 90 minutes for public comment which was split 45 minutes for both sides. 

Six members of the public spoke in favor of rescinding the mask mandate. 

Smithsonian exhibit
visits Torrington 

TORRINGTON – The Homesteaders Museum on Main Street buzzed with quiet energy as spectators passed through the visiting Smithsonian exhibit during its grand opening on Nov. 4. 

“Crossroads: Change in Rural America” is the latest exhibit to make its way across the country with the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service’s Museum on Main Street program. MoMS has visited more than 1,800 rural towns and cities since 1994. 

In 1900, approximately 40% of Americans lived in rural communities. In 2010, less than 18% of Americans lived in rural communities. Americans have flocked to urban areas, despite only 10% of the country being urban. 

“Changes” focuses on the changes rural America has seen throughout the last century and features paintings, interactive learning features and videos from various places across the country depicting life in small towns. 

“It exposes how rural communities have always changed and change is just the nature of how it goes,” Wyoming Humanities Museum on Main Street Coordinator Lucas Fralick said. “So what’s great about this exhibit is that basically what it showcases by and large is how rural communities change and they persist, and they change and adapt to
those changes.” 

Pettus sentenced to life in prison

TORRINGTON – Sean Pettus was denied the chance to change his plea of no contest to second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison on Nov. 19. 

Pettus entered his no contest plea on Aug. 23 in District Court, where he also pleaded guilty to first-degree arson, felony theft and two counts of burglary. 

Pettus received a sentence of 5-10 years for both counts of burglary, another 5-10 years for felony theft and 14-20 years in prison for first- degree arson, all to be served consecutively after life in prison. 

December

Library holds second
anniversary party of 12

 

TORRINGTON – In the story “The Polar Express,” only those who believe in Santa Clause can hear the ringing bells on his sleigh, and the Goshen County Library on Saturday morning was full of ringing bells. 

“Believe,” read each train ticket the children made, each with a little bell attached. Other crafts included small cut outs of mugs filled with hot chocolate and decorated with white dots to resemble marshmallows. By the door, Library Board President Ellen Creagar and Board Secretary Larissa Felipe passed out real hot chocolate and cookies along with bells for the children to wear as necklaces. 

All the kids and their parents gathered around to listen as library volunteer Logan Dailey read “The Polar Express” and dancers from Wyo Dance Force dressed in little aprons and elf hats with little bells performed a routine to the song “Hot Chocolate” from the movie adaptation of the book.

While Saturday morning’s event welcomed children of all ages, Saturday evening was a different story. A band of community members provided the live jazz music for guests to enjoy while they sipped cocktails, bid on items in a silent auction and chatted with friends. Strings of lights and candles on tables lit the dim library.

Police respond to
safety concerns at THS

TORRINGTON – The Torrington Police Department responded to a call from the Goshen County school administration on Wednesday involving a threatening matter at Torrington High School. 

According to a statement released by the Goshen County School District, peers reported a student made concerning statements which were threatening in nature. 

“School Administrators and Torrington Police Department conducted an investigation into the matter, and the issue was resolved,” the statement read. 

Superintendent Ryan Kramer said the issue has been addressed and there are no other safety issues at this time. 

Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson declined to give comment on the case as it involves a juvenile but said the investigation is ongoing. Johnson also stated the safety of the schools is the highest priority. 

“The safety of our schools is in- credibly important to us,” Johnson said. “We’re really grateful for the partnership we have with Goshen County School District and we’re also grateful that we’re able to host an SRO program where we have the opportunity to work with those folks every day.”

© 2022-The Torrington Telegram

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