Wyoming news briefs for April 21

LCCC, UW won't require students and staff to take COVID-19 vaccines next fall

CHEYENNE — Many colleges and universities across the country have announced they will require students and employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to campus next fall. But neither Laramie County Community College nor the University of Wyoming plans to join the trend.

The college shut down in-person learning last spring and reopened this fall to mostly online learning, with a few exceptions; students and employees who have been coming to campus are required to wear masks and social distance in an effort to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 700 Wyomingites.

Next fall, the college is planning to reopen for mostly in-person learning.

“Our approach is going to be requiring face masks and social distancing over requiring the vaccination,” said Lisa Trimble, associate vice president of institutional advancement for LCCC.

UW, which reported Monday that 56.2 percent of its full-time, benefited employees have been vaccinated, has taken a similar approach to LCCC’s handling of the virus since the pandemic started more than a year ago.

The university, which held limited in-person classes last semester, has since opened up more in-person learning a few weeks ago – and is planning to resume traditional campus operations in the fall. It’s also providing incentives, such as electronics and football tickets, to employees who choose to get the vaccine.

“We’re not requiring the vaccine at this point. We’ve not said that will never be the case, but I’m not sensing any big push to do that,” said Chad Baldwin, associate vice president of institutional communications for UW.


Jury finds Rock Springs man guilty of involuntary manslaughter

ROCK SPRINGS — Following deliberations on Friday, a jury found Jason Lee Fletcher guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting death of his wife. 

Fletcher, 46, of Rock Springs stood trial in Sweetwater County Third District Court for the death of Lena Lynn Fletcher on June 29, 2020, at their home in Clearview Acres. The trial took place over five days. 

Although Jason Fletcher claimed that his wife accidentally shot herself, prosecuting attorneys said the evidence told “a different story” — that Lena Fletcher could not have done it. It was not disputed that both Jason Fletcher and Lena Fletcher were intoxicated at the time of the shooting and that he was the one who loaded the revolver used.

In closing arguments, Sweetwater County Attorney Dan Erramouspe told the jury that most of the evidence was about “what didn’t happen.”’

“We know that she didn’t pull the trigger, and because of that, we know that he did it,” Erramouspe said. 

Although she died in the shooting, the prosecution said that Lena Fletcher testified by showing the defensive wound in her left hand. After penetrating her hand, the bullet went through her neck and shoulder. 

Investigations begin with questions and suspicion, Erramouspe told the jury. When the things Jason Fletcher told law enforcement about the shooting didn’t make sense, they investigated further. 

The results of that investigation showed that it would not have been possible for Lena Fletcher to pull the trigger, the prosecution said. 

Fletcher will be sentenced at a later date, and he was remanded to custody for the interim. In Wyoming, involuntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by imprisonment for up to 20 years.


Record-breaking cold snap chills county

RIVERTON — Riverton saw record low temperatures Monday night and Tuesday morning as local skies cleared over a layer of snow, National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Jones said this week. 

The temperature at Central Wyoming Regional Airport in Riverton was 12 degrees at about 10 p.m. Monday, breaking the previous record low of 22 degrees set in 2002, according to the NWS. The weather stayed cold through Tuesday morning, when Jones said temperatures fell to 10 degrees at the airport. 

The previous record cold temperature for the day was 17 degrees, set in 2011, Jones said. 

Several weather records for April were set in 1966 in Fremont County, he said.

Nearly 20 inches of snow fell in Lander on April 18, 1966, leading to a record low temperature of 1 degree just two days later, on April 20, 1966. The same storm dropped 15 inches of snow in Riverton, Jones noted, and the next day the low temperature was - 2 degrees locally. 

“For those who have been here long enough, they may remember that as a very cold little stretch of time,” he said. 

The 1966 cold record remains in place for April 20 in Lander, where Jones said the low Tuesday was 10 degrees. The record for April 19 in Lander also remains at 2 degrees, set in 1893. The lowest observed temperature Monday in Lander was 15 degrees, Jones said.


Special Olympics supporters brave the Jackalope Jump

WHEATLAND – The sun was shining but the water was still frigid at the annual Jackalope Jump held at Wheatland Reservoir No. 1. Teams of different numbers and ages converged at the dock to wade into the snow-melt filled reservoir to show their support and raise money for the local Special Olympics organization. 

The event raised $5,299. 

The event was originally scheduled for March, but the raging snow storms of late forced the group to reschedule to a later date. 

The teams were not allowed to jump off the dock this year for safety concerns (the water wasn’t deep enough), so they all had to run in the water down the ramp. 

Some wore matching shirts and some elected for costumes like the unicorn outfit worn by Ashley Clark of the Niobrara Sheriff’s office.

When the time came for action, teams lined up to brave the dunk with good spirits and smiles. The good humor and antics continued with one jumper, Myron Singleton, yelling out, “I like it, I’m going back,” as he ran back in for a second time. 

“The first year was so cold my hands were like ice,” said veteran jumper Krystal McClain. “Next year my goal is to get 20 teams here to jump.” 


New wind project proposed south of Rock River

LARAMIE — Planning is underway for a new 590-megawatt wind project south of Rock River that would straddle the Albany County/Carbon County line. 

Michael Svedeman, a representative of Chicago-based company Invenergy, gave a presentation about the project to the Albany County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning. 

Invenergy has developed more than 100 wind projects in the country since 2002. 

The proposed Rock Creek Wind Energy Center would be located on 37,000 acres in Albany County and 6,000 acres in Carbon County between Interstate 80 and Rock River. 

Invenergy also built the Ekola Flats and TB Flats projects north of Medicine Bow, which are now owned by PacifiCorp. 

Svedeman said the plan is to transfer ownership of the Rock Creek project to a Wyoming utility as well. 

“The plan for ownership is being finalized currently,” he said. “We should have information on that in coming months.” 

The Rock Creek project would consist of two separate projects, Rock Creek I and Rock Creek II. They would be visibly contiguous, but one would connect to the Foote Creek Substation about five miles away while the other would connect to the Aeolus Substation via a 40-mile transmission line. 

Invenergy plans to get state and local permitting underway this summer, hopefully to begin construction in 2023 and operation by the end of 2024. 

Svedeman said the exact number of turbines is still being considered, as is the type, but he estimated the project could include about 106 turbines that could be about 550 feet tall. 

Invenergy estimates that the project would create 20-30 full-time jobs and generate $190 million in tax revenue during its lifetime. 


GPD officer hit in the face during traffic stop, meth and marijuana found

GILLETTE — Anthon Skansberg, 33, is in custody after a traffic stop in the early morning hours turned violent Tuesday, said Gillette Police Department Lt. Brent Wasson.

The stop happened shortly after 1 a.m. near the intersection of Fifth Street and Carney Avenue.

Skansberg was driving without headlights on, Wasson said. During the stop, Skansberg told officers that he was driving on a suspended license. Wasson said Skansberg was acting strangely and refused to cooperate with officers.

Officers asked Skansberg to step out of the car, and he began to resist. Skansberg then elbowed an officer in the face, who then shocked him with a stun gun, Wasson said.

After shocking Skansberg, the officers arrested him. They searched his car and found a bag of marijuana that weighed 3.5 grams, 3 grams of methamphetamine and another gram of marijuana, Wasson said.

Skansberg was ticketed for driving without headlights, driving on a suspended license, felony possession of methamphetamine, a third or subsequent possession of marijuana, interference with a police officer, resisting arrest and interference with an officer attempting to cause injury, Wasson said.

The officer did not suffer serious injury from the elbow to the face.