Wyoming news briefs for September 2
Crook County Treasurer pleads not guilty
SUNDANCE — At an arraignment hearing last week, County Treasurer Mary Kuhl was asked how she intends to plead to the felony and three misdemeanors she has been charged with.
“Not guilty, your honor,” she repeated four times.
The plea gives Kuhl the right to a public jury trial. The date of Kuhl’s trial was not set.
Judge Stuart S. Healy III also advised Kuhl that conviction on even a misdemeanor could result in her removal from office.
Special Prosecutor Greg Steward, representing the county in this case, asked the court to reconsider the terms of Kuhl’s bond.
Before the case was bound over to District Court, Judge Wendy Bartlett of the Circuit Court of the 6th Judicial District determined that Kuhl should be allowed to return to the office. Steward reiterated his objection to this decision and listed several reasons for his concern.
The first was that, since that date, the Attorney General’s Office has filed a civil case against Kuhl seeking her removal from office.
Also on Steward’s list of concerns was the “tense working environment in the office at this time, as it is anticipated that some of the employees will be called as witnesses.”
Steward also told the court that law enforcement has seen Kuhl removing “two reams” of photocopied papers from her office since her return.
“There’s really no reason why she should not be allowed to go back to work,” said Kuhl’s attorney, Jason Tangeman. He stated that Kuhl is presumed innocent and has not violated the terms of her bond.
Kuhl is facing four criminal charges: a felony count of unauthorized use of monies and three misdemeanors, including one count of official misconduct and two of issuing false certificate.
Worland woman to celebrate 104th birthday
WORLAND — Worland resident Dolores Arps, known as Dee to her friends, will turn 104 years young on Monday, Sept. 6 or maybe Tuesday, Sept. 7.
She was born in Dodge, Nebraska, on Sept. 6, 1917, at least that is when she has always celebrated her birthday. However, Dee explains that her birth certificate actually lists Sept. 7, 1917, as her official birth date.
“We grew up during the Depression and it was a terrible Depression. We went six years without a crop,” Arps said.
She began working for neighbors when she was 13 to 14 years old. The money she earned went to material for her mother to make the children’s clothes.
Arps also remembers as a child how excited she was when her mother got the right to vote and was able to vote in her first election.
At age 18, Dee went to work for a family in Omaha, Nebraska, noting that until 21 her paycheck went to the family because women were not able to get a paycheck until they turned 21.
Dee and her husband Leonard owned Arps Heating and Plumbing and Appliances stores in Worland and in Greybull and the East Drive-In liquor store in Worland.
“I’ve lived to see both of my children celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary and that’s unusual,” Arps said.
Dee has been able to stay independent and is in good health, except for macular degeneration and arm injuries due to falls.
“My blood pressure is normal. My heart is good, my lungs are good. If I could just keep my feet on the floor,” she said.
She attributes her longevity to hard work and a love of life.
School enrollment up nearly 8 percent in Big Horn County
GREYBULL — On opening day of Big Horn County School District No. 3 schools, enrollment was up almost 8 percent compared to last year, with 478 students showing up last week for the start of the 2021-22 school year.
It’s the second year in a row that district enrollment increased. Last fall, the opening day enrollment increased by one, from 442 to 443. This year it was a much sharper increase, climbing by 35 students.
“I think people are realizing that Wyoming is a good place to be right now,” said Supt. Mark Rose, noting that a good number of the new students are from families that moved in from out of state.
Prior to last year, the district’s enrollment had been trending downward since 2015. There were 533 students on the books that year.
The fact that the classrooms are more crowded than they were a year ago has not impacted the district’s COVID-19 numbers. The district has adopted a policy of recommending but not requiring mask use to begin the year while pledging to adhere to social distancing recommendations and maintain cleaning routines.
“So far, so good,” said Rose.
Lovell school district changes quarantine approach after high number of students quarantined
LOVELL — After 80 students and employees were quarantined in the first week of school, Big Horn County School District No. 2 opted in an emergency meeting Saturday to make quarantining optional when a student is determined to have been in close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
“The board took no formal action at this time; however, the new directive will be to give the parents choice when their child is designated as a close contact instead of mandating quarantine,” the minutes from Saturday’s meeting state.
The Wyoming Department of Health recommends that close contacts quarantine for 14 days after exposure. Those without symptoms after ten days can end quarantine on day 11, while those who have a negative test on day five or later can end the quarantine after seven days.
According to Lovell Superintendent Doug Hazen, 60 of those quarantine cases, which span across all three buildings in the district, originated from just three
COVID-19 cases within the school district.
Due to an optional mask policy in place this year, contact tracing procedures, which are identical to what were conducted last year, have caused a large number of quarantines in the district.
The board of trustees elected to continue working through established protocol in response to a positive test but prioritize freedom of choice in close contact situations.
Kim Deti, spokesperson for the Wyoming Department of Health, said the district’s new directive is “absolutely inconsistent” with the department’s recommendations.
Deti said quarantine and isolation orders are still in place, and it is the school district’s role to enforce them.
“We are sharing and encouraging that Department of Health recommendations are taken,” Hazen said, “but we do not feel it is our place to enforce health orders. That falls to the county and the state.”
Washakie County Commissioners express concern over vaccine mandate
WORLAND — The Washakie County Commissioners sent a letter to Banner Health leadership at Washakie Medical Center following their meeting on Aug. 17, expressing concerns regarding the recent mandate to receive the COVID-19 vaccine that was put in place company wide by Banner last month.
“We are very concerned about Banner Health’s recent decision to mandate that all Banner employees take one of the COVID vaccines or resign by Nov. 1, 2021,” the letter from the commissioners reads.
The commissioners stressed they have always encouraged a record of personal responsibility regarding public health issues and not supporting mandates of any sort.
They have asked that if the hospital were to go through with the mandate, then they wait until the vaccines are fully authorized under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The commissioners also asked that Banner implement criteria for exemptions and communicate those items to staff and share the reasoning with the employees and public why they are implementing a mandate.
Since the letter was sent to Banner, the Pfizer vaccine also known as Comirnaty received full approval by the FDA.
Exemptions may be requested for religious or medical (reaction to the vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine) reasons. Hot Springs Health in Thermopolis is mandating the COVID vaccine for new employees.
A protest against vaccine mandates, specifically on Banner’s mandate, was held last month in Worland. A second “Freedom to Choose Protest” is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 6, at 1 p.m. at Pioneer Square. According to a flyer, organizers are seeking support for the local hospital staff, noting “everyone has the right to choose their own medical care.”