Wyoming news briefs for April 20

Gas prices rise again

CHEYENNE — Wyoming gas prices have risen 3.6 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $2.90 per gallon as of Monday, according to GasBuddy.com's daily survey of 494 stations in Wyoming.

Gas prices in Wyoming are 5.6 cents per gallon higher than a month ago, and stand $1.03 per gallon higher than a year ago.

According to GasBuddy price reports, the cheapest gas in Wyoming was priced at $2.56 per gallon Monday, while the most expensive was priced at $3.38 per gallon, a difference of 82 cents per gallon.

The national average price of gasoline was unchanged in the last week, averaging $2.85 per gallon Monday. The national average was down 2.2 cents per gallon from a month ago, and stands $1.07 per gallon higher than a year ago.


Yellowstone roads start to open for season

CODY — As of Friday, select roads and services in Yellowstone National Park are now open to the public for the summer season, weather permitting. Visitors should expect modified operations that are subject to change based on future conditions and public health guidance.

Roads that will be open to the public by Friday include the West Entrance to Old Faithful, Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful (via Norris), Norris to Canyon Village, the North Entrance to Mammoth Hot Springs to Northeast Entrance (open year-round).

The East Entrance outside Cody is scheduled to open 8 a.m. May 7.

The road between Canyon Junction and Tower-Roosevelt will be closed for the 2021 season.

Face masks are being required in all visitor facilities in Yellowstone National Park. Masks are also required on NPS-managed lands when physical distancing cannot be maintained, such as hiking trails, overlooks and parking areas. This requirement is in support of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order, that mandates maskwearing on federal property and spaces.

Initially, some NPS and partner services will be limited and or modified, especially in the early spring. The Park works with partners to safely provide visitors services such as camping, lodging, dining, retail and activities, educational programs, fuel and automotive repair shops, and urgent care clinics. These services will be available through Yellowstone’s lodges, Delaware North general stores, Yellowstone Forever, Yellowstone Park Service Stations, Inc., Medcor at Yellowstone.


Judge: Man who urged girl to become prostitute is mentally ill

POWELL — Cody man who reportedly tried to convince a 17-year-old girl to become a prostitute and sleep with him in 2018 is mentally ill and not responsible for his actions, a judge has ruled. 

After fighting over the issue for months, prosecutors conceded that Kenneth “Val” Geissler Jr., 81, is not guilty of the crimes by reason of mental illness or deficiency. 

The finding was based on the opinions of three different medical experts — one retained by the prosecution and two by the defense — who evaluated Geissler following his arrest on the allegations. 

“We never disputed that he’s mentally ill. We never disputed that he doesn’t understand what he’s doing,” Deputy Park County Attorney Jack Hatfield said of Geissler. 

The prosecution’s argument, Hatfield said, was a technical one about whether it was Geissler’s illness that made him unable to understand his actions were wrong. Judge Bill Simpson had agreed to preside over a bench trial last month to settle the matter, but Hatfield said he ultimately decided it wasn’t worth “fighting the fight on the technical point.” 

In conversations and letters in 2018, Geissler reportedly encouraged the 17-year-old girl to become a “whore,” going into explicit detail on what sexual acts she should perform for clients he would find. According to charging documents, Geissler also suggested that the girl have sex with him to pay off a car she’d purchased and encouraged her to break up with her boyfriend, charging documents say.


Hospital offers staff bonus for COVID vaccination

JACKSON — St. John’s Health is putting its money where its mouth is.

The hospital’s Board of Trustees convened for a special meeting Friday afternoon to discuss creating a “COVID safety” bonus program that rewards employees who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or do so before May 31.

“It’s really about a commitment to safety for our employees, safety for our patients,” human resources director Thom Kinney told the board.

Including premeeting chit-chat, the whole thing took about 15 minutes because the board strongly supported the idea, passing it unanimously. St. John’s will now dedicate up to $517,000 to the bonus program, giving each vaccinated full-time employee $600, with part-time employees receiving a prorated bonus.

“We’d like to make this big push before Memorial Day,” Chief Communications Officer Karen Connelly told the Jackson Hole Daily.

The impetus is setting an example that the community should strive for as high a level of protection from COVID-19 as possible before summer, when expected high levels of tourism may bring the coronavirus to Jackson. Vaccination will also help now, since Teton County has the second-highest rate of infection in the state, according to a recent update from Medical Director of COVID-19 Dr. Paul Beaupre, who also said the hospital’s number of COVID-19 patients hovers between two and four.

As it stands, the hospital’s vaccination rate is 74 percent, CEO Will Wagnon told the board. That’s well above the community’s overall rate, which Wyoming Department of Health data puts at about 40 percent.