Oct 2, 2015

Bean farmers enjoyed a hot September; beet farmers hope for a cooler October

The weather this fall has been like an ill-fated attempt at homemade beef jerky — hot and dry. While the Big Horn Basin’s bean farmers enjoyed a hotter than average September, the local sugar beet farmers are hoping October brings cooler weather.

“I love fall and cold temperatures. I am ready for them and they aren’t happening,” said Wyoming Seed Certification Manager Mike Moore.

Farmers are hoping for cooler temps during the long-term beet harvest, which starts this week. Cody News Co. photo by Toby Bonner
Beans, beets, alfalfa and just about everything is harvesting earlier and in bigger quantities than in previous years.

“It has been unseasonably warm for September; we usually get a frost here and there,” said Ric Rodriguez, a Powell farmer and vice-chairman of the Western Sugar Cooperative Board of Directors.

In addition to less rain than usual by this point in the year, temperatures have been about 14-15 degrees warmer on average for the month of September. Cody averaged 69 degrees, with a high of 90 and a low of 45. Powell averaged 66 degrees, with a high of 91 and a low of 41.

The dry bean harvest that Moore’s office deals with was 80-90 percent complete as of Tuesday morning. Normally, they are about 30-40 percent complete.

“We are all but done,” Moore said. “The weather has been conducive.”

About the only aspect to this season’s weather that wasn’t ideal so far was late-season precipitation.

In the spring, there was an unusual amount of rain that fell almost daily in May. Now the Cody area is 2.01 inches short for annual rainfall at 7.03 inches, and the Powell area is 0.92 inches behind schedule, at 5.09 inches, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Bean farmers are looking for dew to toughen up their crops before harvesting them, Moore said.

“That is just unheard of,” Moore said. “The positive is everyone will be done with beans before digging beets, and that is huge. They can focus on one crop instead of two or three — I am not seeing a down side.”

The warm and dry weather also is great for the alfalfa seed harvests, since harvesting becomes less challenging, Moore said.

“For some of it, we won’t know if it is good or bad until harvested,” Moore said. “I don’t remember seeing sunflowers this mature at this time of the year, ever.”

There has been some concern among cattle ranchers in the area regarding grasses in the mountains not having enough moisture to go into the dormant cycle, Moore said.

By this point last year, the area already had experienced some snowfall and frosty mornings. Instead, air conditioners have been on and jackets have been off.

Moore estimated temperatures will remain 10-15 degrees above normal through November.

Beet harvests haven’t been impacted by the heat yet, since they are being delivered to the processing plant in Lovell quickly, Rodriguez said. Long-term storage can be damaging when temperatures are above 80 degrees, and the long-term harvest is scheduled to begin on Friday.

“It needs to cool off for long-term storage on Friday,” Rodriguez said. “The plan now is to stay on scheduled delivery until the weather cools off enough so we can get them in the piles.”

Sugar beets need to be cooler than 55 degrees, so they are sampled once they are loaded onto the trucks.

When the weather gets in the 75-80-degree range, it warms the ground and the beets don’t get to cool off, Rodriguez said.

Looking ahead, the forecast is supposed to cool off and bring some precipitation so beets can be stored long-term, Rodriguez said.

“When I look on Accuweather, it shows temperatures in the 30s at night and lower 70s (during the day), and those are what we need,” Rodriguez said.

Pink lights to hang downtown during Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As October arrives with autumnal shades of orange, red and yellow, you also can expect to see more pink.

Starting this week, strands of pink lights will adorn poles in downtown Cody as part of the Lights of Hope Campaign.
Lights will be dedicated in honor of those who have battled breast cancer. Cody News Co. file photo by Carla Wensky

“It’s to honor those who have battled breast cancer,” said Michelle Gutierrez, executive director of Northwest Wyoming Family Planning in Cody.

Individuals and businesses can sponsor a strand of pink lights for $25 in honor of breast cancer survivors or in memory of those who died of the disease. Donors can choose to honor a specific person diagnosed with breast cancer. Donations also can be made anonymously.

“All the proceeds that we raise through this campaign are going into a separate account that will benefit women who need mammograms or follow-up screenings or anything to do with breast health services,” Gutierrez said.

A grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation is helping fund the local campaign and also provides up to $200 per patient for breast health services, she said.

With money raised locally from the pink lights campaign, “we can help over the $200 mark,” Gutierrez said.

The Lights of Hope Campaign is being sponsored by Northwest Wyoming Family Planning and Wyoming Cancer Resources Services.

In the past, Women’s Wellness hung pink lights downtown for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“When they closed their office, we took this event over,” Gutierrez said.

The pink lights will be hung starting Friday and will remain on display through the month of October. Businesses and individuals can sponsor the lights at any point of the month, Gutierrez said.

For more information or to sponsor a strand of pink lights, contact Northwest Wyoming Family Planning at 307-527-5174 or Wyoming Cancer Resource Services 307-578-2702.

Documents: Former officer violated Cody department policy in 2010 strip search

A former Cody policeman’s strip search of a suspect in 2010 violated the department’s policies and resulted in discipline in 2014, according to new court records.

Former Cody Assistant Police Chief George Menig’s search and arrest of Juan Paul Flores in September 2010 are the subject of an ongoing civil rights lawsuit in Wyoming’s U.S. District Court.

Flores claims Menig used excessive force: ripping his clothes off and shocking him with a Taser — all while he was handcuffed — during a search for explosives. The incident started when Flores flagged down a sheriff’s deputy near the Cody Law Enforcement Center and claimed to be a Taliban member who was going to “blow things up.”

George Menig. Photo courtesy Town & Village
Menig has denied any wrongdoing.

Documents filed in the lawsuit last week provide new details on the Cody Police Department’s internal investigation of Menig’s actions — including how it took place three years after the fact.

The police department’s internal report on the incident is confidential. However, the city had to provide a copy to Flores’ attorney, and Flores’ hired expert on police practices referenced portions of the report in a public court filing last week.

According to expert D.P. Van Blaricom’s recounting in court documents, the three other Cody police officers who witnessed Menig’s search took issue with his tactics.

Flores flagged down Sheriff’s Office Deputy Rayna Wortham in the early morning hours of Sept. 13, 2010, and refused to give a name beyond fake ones like “Pablo Escobar,” police reports say. He was carrying a mostly empty bottle of vodka and claimed he was willing to blow himself up using nitroglycerin that he’d swallowed.

Though he claimed to be from Afghanistan and prepared to die for the Taliban, the man appeared to know nothing about the Asian country, police reports say.

Responding Cody Police Officer Tom Caudle later said the man “wasn’t making any sense,” Officer Josh Van Auken saw the man as a “typical drunk jerk,” and Officer Scott Burlingame said “the threat did not seem very plausible,” Van Blaricom says in his report.

The three officers took precautions for explosives (shutting off their portable radios and moving back their vehicles), searched Flores, handcuffed him and called a bomb technician and Menig, according to police reports.

When Menig arrived, he searched Flores for explosives by “literally ripping his clothing off of him,” Van Blaricom said. When Flores refused to open his mouth to check for the supposed nitroglycerin, Menig reportedly shocked the handcuffed man with a Taser to get him to comply.

In his report filed on Flores’ behalf, Van Blaricom said Tasers should generally not be used on handcuffed prisoners.

“Such pain compliance amounts to coercive torture and is a prohibited police practice,” he opined.

After the arrest, Caudle, Burlingame and Van Auken “unanimously agreed that they had never seen such behavior before” and complained to Sgt. Jon Beck, “but the matter was not pursued further,” Van Blaricom wrote.

Menig had the other officers shut off their in-car video cameras before his search of Flores, but a stationary surveillance camera mounted on the side of the law enforcement center captured the incident.

Some three years later, an unidentified Cody police officer provided Cody City Attorney Scott Kolpitcke with the footage; Kolpitcke gave it to “City Administrator Jean Rosencrane,” Van Blaricom wrote, apparently referring to then-administrator Jenni Rosencranse.

Menig was then placed on administrative leave from Nov. 25, 2013 to March 10, 2014 while the city and Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam conducted an internal investigation, Van Blaricom wrote.

Ultimately, Rockvam found Menig had violated the Cody Police Department’s code of conduct in conducting the strip search, but had not used excessive force, Van Blaricom wrote. Menig was reportedly warned against taking “any retaliatory action” against the other officers.

Juan Paul Flores, sometime after his arrest
According to Van Blaricom’s recounting, Menig said during the internal investigation that his search of Flores was only “unconventional,” and accepted the discipline “under protest and disagreement.”

Van Blaricom wrote that Menig was allowed to keep his position. Menig continued to serve as Cody’s assistant chief through mid-September, when he resigned to pursue a job in the private sector, according to a news release from the city.

Flores filed his suit in September 2014, through attorney John Robinson of Jamieson & Robinson in Jackson.

In his report for Flores, Van Blaricom concluded that both the strip search and the use of the Taser violated Flores’ Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Flores was initially charged with a felony count of making terroristic threats, but that was later dropped in exchange for his “no contest” plea to a misdemeanor charge of interference with a peace officer. Court records indicate that Flores — who has a long history of run-ins with law enforcement — spent a significant amount of time receiving mental health treatment after the arrest, including being involuntarily committed.

Van Blaricom is a former Bellevue, Washington police chief who has spent the last three decades working as a police practices expert in more than 1,800 cases. He was the expert witness for former Powell resident Tricia Wachsmuth when she successfully sued the city of Powell and the Powell Police Department for violating her civil rights during a 2009 raid of her home. Van Blaricom generally charges $395 an hour for his services.

Menig, who’s being represented by the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office, has until Oct. 21 to designate his own experts.

The case is tentatively set to go to trial on March 16, 2016, in Casper.

Oct 1, 2015

Tea party speakers warn of liberal influence in Wyoming

Conservatives must oppose the redefinition of marriage, eroded religious liberties, continued abortions, Wyoming’s moderate Republicans and a leftist effort to rewrite national education standards, urged speakers at a recent gathering of tea party supporters.

“We must stand against these neo-barbaric hordes that would plunge this society into anarchy and chaos,” said state Rep. Nathan Winters, R-Thermopolis.

Winters kicked off the series of speakers at the Aug. 15 Big Horn Basin TEA Party in Emblem, talking about the importance of liberty. The pastor expressed concern about religious beliefs — such as opposition to gay marriage — being excluded from the public square.

Wyoming Gun Association Director Anthony Bouchard holds aloft a poster of state Sen. Fred Emerich, R-Cheyenne, during August's tea party picnic in Emblem. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
Wyoming Gun Owners Association Director Anthony Bouchard faulted Gov. Matt Mead and “your good Republicans” in the state for failing to resist federal healthcare and firearm regulations. He singled out Mead for keeping on or making liberal appointees in state government and for putting in “big government.”

“We have to go after them. We can’t let them just do what they're doing,” said Bouchard, whose methods include mass mailings and radio ads.

“If we don’t do this soon, I don’t think we have five years before they turn this into California,” he added later.

Fellow speaker Jim Nations of Casper, who started a group called the Cassandra Project, blasted the Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards. He said the standards are “crap” and will destroy children’s critical thinking.

“Those leftover communists and Marxists and Leninists and Maoists ... have a direct hand in all of this,” Nations said.

State Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell (at right), was among the roughly 100 attendees a the Aug. 15 Big Horn Basin TEA Party picnic in Emblem. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
He said another new group, called “The Cody 300” and led by Carol Armstrong, will lead the pushback in Cody.

Nations said the Cody group is named after the legendary Spartans who fought off a large army of Persians in the Battle of Thermopylae, picked because “it’s a small group of us ... that have to stand against the invasion into our homeland, into our school, into our communities and into our hearts.”

Earlier this year, a group of conservatives, including Armstrong, objected to new reading materials that had been proposed for the Cody district. Their objections ultimately resulted in the materials being withdrawn so the curriculum selection process could be revisited.

Other speakers included Rebeka Brown of Heritage Action for America and Shannon Walker of Northwest Battle Buddies, a group that provides service animals to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Prominent picnic attendees included former Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill and a few current legislators, including Winters and Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell.

Attendance was down from a year ago, when rock star/conservative activist Ted Nugent took center stage.

(Editor's note: This version has been corrected to say that conservatives stopped the implementation of new reading materials, not standards, in the Cody school district.)

Local tea party supporters look for conservative candidate in 2016

America is now on “the edge of a precipice,” is “collapsing” and has had “seven years of no guidance,” speakers and attendees opined at a recent Big Horn Basin TEA Party picnic.

Former CIA officer Wayne Simmons told the audience of about 100 that the country and its military have been weakened by the “communist, socialist, Muslim sitting in the White House.”

“But in 2016, that can all change,” Simmons said of electing a conservative president. “And if it does, America is back.”

The ongoing presidential race was a primary topic at the Aug. 15 gathering of tea party supporters from around the state, though it wasn’t the only one.

Rev. Rafael Cruz, the father of Texas Senator and Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz, highlighted the event with an impassioned case for conservatives to rally around his son.

During an August tea party event in Emblem, Rafael Cruz urged the conservative audience to rally around the presidential campaign of his son, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker

The elder Cruz said the battle is not in November 2016, but in the Republican primaries.

“If we become like bees, going from flower to flower, the moderates, the establishment, will be dancing in the streets. Because if we split the conservatives, their anointed one, Jeb Bush, will become the Republican nominee,” Rev. Cruz said. “If Jeb Bush is the Republican nominee, Hillary (Clinton) will be our next president, because the millions of conservatives, millions of people of faith who stayed at home in 2008 and 2012, will stay at home again.

“We cannot afford for that to happen,” he said, predicting Clinton would be “10 times worse” than President Barack Obama.

While admitting his bias, Rev. Cruz said his son was the “one great man” among several good, conservative candidates.

“There's only one that has been on the forefront, and has the arrows in his torso to prove it — whether it’s fighting to preserve our religious liberty, our first amendment rights to free speech, Ted has been at the forefront,” Rev. Cruz said. “Others are talking about maybe defunding Planned Parenthood. Ted is talking about prosecuting Planned Parenthood.”

The reverend’s message was warmly received by the Tea Party audience.

Camara Clifton of Powell, a precinct committeewoman in the Park County Republican Party, won a 50-50 raffle at the event and immediately announced she was donating her $110 in winnings to the Ted Cruz campaign.

“When he declared (his candidacy) for president, I didn’t really care who else was running,” said Clifton, who became familiar with Cruz while living in Texas.

“He is the only one — the only one — that we can count on to do what he says he’s going to do, because that’s all he’s ever done since he’s been in the Senate,” Clifton said in an interview. “He will not only lead us out of this mess, he actually is such an incredible thinker that he will help us solve, with the world, the problems that we have today.”

One apparent consensus among local tea partyers is that they have little interest in the campaign of former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who is seen as representing the Republican establishment.

Cody resident Sheila Leach agreed with Rev. Cruz that conservatives need to coalesce around one candidate and she thinks Cruz is probably that person.

Leach has been alarmed about the amount of attention drawn by real estate mogul-turned-presidential contender Donald Trump. Leach believes people have been more attracted to his entertainment value than anything else.

“Some of what he says is quite horrifying. I think he’s outrageous and people are loving it, as if it’s one huge amusement,” she said in an interview. “I would like to see people getting down to studying what the candidates stand for.”

Whether Cruz can capture the majority of the Tea Party supporters remains to be seen.

Attendee Fred Thompson of Burlington said after the picnic that, while he likes Cruz, he prefers Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky — and Trump “sounds pretty good.”

Appearing on KODI-AM’s “Speak Your Piece” Monday morning, Big Horn Basin TEA Party organizer Rob DiLorenzo — who hosted August’s picnic — said a lot of people within the tea party movement are looking at Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, or former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fioriona.

Local tea party organizer Rob DiLorenzo thinks Sen. Ted Cruz's status as an outsider could be a problem for his presidential campaign. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
DiLorenzo said a lot of tea party people believe Trump may be “too aggressive, too caustic,” while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is “too laid back.” On KODI, he suggested the country needs someone in the middle: aggressive, but articulate and “a bit more diplomatic, maybe.”

Tea party supporters do appear to agree on their dislike of former Florida Governor and Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, the son of President George H.W. Bush and the brother of President George W. Bush.

DiLorenzo said on “Speak Your Piece” that the tea party wants a change from establishment candidates.

Thompson, the picnic attendee, was more colorful.

“We don’t want any more Bushes of Clintons in there, because that’s what the establishment wants: New World Order, Agenda 21. That’s what that’s all about,” Thompson said, adding, “They want everybody to be all dumbed down. That’s their agenda. That’s why they want to push that Common Core on the kids: dumb them down, make them all stupid.”

Rev. Cruz argued at the picnic that his son was the best man to fight against the “Washington Cartel” of career politicians in both major parties.

“We can beat the establishment that does not want a constitutional conservative who has the guts to stand and say, ‘(Sen.) Mitch McConnell, you are lying,’” the elder Cruz said.

DiLorenzo, however, suggested Monday that Sen. Cruz may run into problems.

“Cruz is terrific, however, the problem with Ted Cruz is the fact that he considers himself an outsider — and you can’t help but consider yourself an outsider when you call the leader of your party in the Senate a liar,” DiLorenzo laughed on KODI. “That’s not the way to win friends and influence people.”

The Park County Republican Party’s precinct caucuses — where they’ll start weighing in on a presidential nominee — are tentatively set for March 1.

Sep 30, 2015

Friday event to benefit child advocates, feature wide range of food and drink

Sampling buffalo wellington, Asian lettuce wraps and other dishes from around Park County is one way you can support local children's advocates on Friday evening.

The third annual "Taste of Park County" is a benefit for CASA — Court Appointed Special Advocates for children — a nonprofit organization that serves Park, Big Horn, Washakie and Hot Springs counties.

Vendors will offer samples of their wares at Friday's Taste of Park County event, much as they did at the 2013 event, shown above. Cody News Co. file photo by Ilene Olson
Some 19 restaurants and vendors from Cody, Powell and Meeteetse will provide samples of foods and beverages at the 5:30-7:30 p.m. event in the Cody Auditorium.

“It truly is a Park County event,” said Ellen Klym, executive director for CASA of the Fifth Judicial District, which serves children in the Big Horn Basin.

“The restaurants are going above and beyond with all of their samples,” Klym said. “There is meat, soups, cheeses, bread, pizza, candy, beverages and desserts.”

While Taste of Park County showcases restaurants and other vendors for current and potential customers, it also shows that the business owners support CASA’s mission, she said.

Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Fifth Judicial District are volunteers appointed by district court judges in Cody and Worland to advocate for children who are victims of child abuse or neglect, said Klym.

In 2014, 24 volunteer advocates in the Big Horn Basin served 61 abused and neglected children and 48 families. The average time those children spent in foster care was reduced by approximately eight months.

Volunteers around the Big Horn Basin served 61 abused and neglected children last year, donating 6,800 hours, appearing in court 240 times and traveling 21,552 miles.

In total, the volunteers last year donated 6,800 hours, made 240 court appearances and traveled a total 21,552 miles, according to information provided by Klym.

CASA of the Fifth Judicial District began advocating for children in 2011. That year, volunteers advocated for 12 children. In 2012, that number increased to 21, then to 43 in 2013.

All of the money raised during Taste of Park County goes toward training volunteers, who must go through 30 hours of training and pass a background check. None of the money goes to administrative costs. (Klym's salary is paid through a VOCA grant from the Victims of Crimes division of the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office.)

Taste of Park County also aims to raise awareness of the need for volunteer advocates.

Nine new volunteers were trained last year, but more volunteers are needed, Klym said.

Klym said Judge Steven Cranfill, of the Fifth Judicial District Court in Cody, used to wait until an advocate was available before assigning a child to them.

“Now, he assigns a child, and we have to find a volunteer,” she said.

Klym said her goal is to never have a child on a waiting list for someone who will advocate for him or her.

“We have to built a sustainable program,” Klym said. “We’ve got to get enough volunteers that we never have to worry that a child is on a waiting list. I don’t ever want that to happen. ... Having somebody to wait for someone to speak for them in that court room.”

2013's Taste of Park County event drew a healthy crowd. Cody News Co. file photo by Ilene Olson
A new round of volunteer training begins Saturday, Oct. 8, at the CASA office in Cody. For more information, contact Klym at 307-587-4361.

As for those who attend Taste of Park County, Klym said they will not leave hungry.

“I don’t know if they’ll even get around to all of them,” she said. “I think they might fill up when they’re halfway through.”

Some of the sample items include chicken and mushroom Alfredo, buffalo wellington, crab and cream chili chowder, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos, stuffed cornbread sliders, a chocolate fountain, Asian lettuce wraps and many more.

Items in a silent auction will include a four-day time share in Panama Beach, Florida, artwork, photos, jewelry and many more quality items, Klym said.

Tickets cost $20 each or $35 per couple and are available in advance in Cody at The Thistle, 1243 Rumsey Ave., and at Legends Bookstore, 1350 Sheridan Ave. Remaining tickets will be available at the door.

County planning to abandon remote South Fork road

Park County commissioners intend to stop maintaining a South Fork road that serves only a couple residences.

Commissioners are primarily looking to vacate Road 6JM to avoid having to replace an old and outdated bridge that spans the South Fork of the Shoshone River along the road.

The Park County Engineer’s Office — which figures only about 14 vehicles cross “Bridge FII” each day — has estimated that replacing the structure would cost the county between $1 and $1.3 million.

Noting that the low-traffic road mostly accesses one piece of property, “it would seem reasonable to assume that the majority of the general public probably would see the cost of replacing that bridge as unjustifiable, in my opinion,” assistant county engineer Jeremy Quist said at the commission’s Aug. 18 meeting.

If this bridge remains open to the public, the county says it will likely have to replace it at a cost of more than $1 million. Photo courtesy Park County

It’s up to commissioners to decide whether it’s in the public’s interest to vacate the road.

Road 6JM — about 20 miles out of Cody — winds north of the South Fork Highway (Road 6WX). It primarily serves the TE Ranch, but also provides access for several irrigation ditch users and it connects with a private road that leads to Hawks Hill Ranch. It also reaches a 162-acre “island” of state-owned land, where the TE Ranch grazes livestock.

Park County has never formally established 6JM as a county road and doesn’t claim ownership of it or the bridge, Quist said in an interview.

The county stopped maintaining parts of the road beyond the bridge in 2001, saying the structure wasn’t able to carry a county motor grader.

TE Ranch’s owners objected when the county cut back the maintenance and has some qualms about the county’s plan to now abandon the entirety of Road 6JM.

“TE Ranch Limited Partnership understands that public funding is tight and that Bridge FII has been given a low priority,” owners Charles Duncan III and Mary Anne Dingus wrote to the commission last month. “However, Bridge FII still serves a crucial function for the TE Ranch’s ongoing business, private homes and Castle Rock Ditch users in Park County. These are taxpaying entities that contribute to the economy.”

In spite of that, Duncan and Dingus said they would be OK with taking on the responsibility for the bridge and road if the county agrees to also abandon some old, undeveloped road easements that cross the ranch.

“Bridge FII still serves a crucial function for the TE Ranch’s ongoing business, private homes and Castle Rock Ditch users in Park County,” said the TE Ranch's owners.

Quist said the county would likely have to close or replace Bridge FII if it remains open to the public, but if it switches to private access, the TE Ranch would “have more freedom to rehabilitate the bridge than the county would.”

In 1990s, county commissioners had explored the idea of connecting Road 6JM with Road 6NS, which lies a couple miles to the northeast. That connection would have effectively created an alternate route up the South Fork, but the county was never able to get agreement from all the landowners.

Public comments on the county vacating Road 6JM are due by noon Monday. The county will consider any claims for damages at their Tuesday meeting.

The location of Bridge FII.

Sep 29, 2015

Cody police chief Perry Rockvam announces retirement

Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam has announced his retirement, effective at the end of October.

Rockvam notified Cody City Administrator Barry Cook of his plans on Monday and the city publicly announced Rockvam's retirement this (Tuesday) afternoon.

Rockvam has served the city of Cody for more than 20 years, including serving as chief of police for the last 11.

Perry Rockvam. Photo courtesy City of Cody
"He has had an outstanding career in law enforcement for over 30 years, and brought a high level of professionalism to the department," said a news release from the city.

Rockvam's retirement comes weeks after the resignation of Assistant Cody Police Chief George Menig, who announced his departure from the department in early August.

In Tuesday's release, administrator Cook said he respected and appreciated Rockvam's "leadership and dedication to not only the department but the whole community."

Rockvam will help the city start the process of selecting a new police chief, the release said.

"Barry (Cook), along with the City Council, wish him the very best in his future and thank him for all the support he has given to the City Administrator during his first year in that position," the city's release said. "He will be missed by many not only in the city but throughout the entire community."

Dueling signs on South Fork: County posts sign telling public to ignore landowners’ sign

A group of landowners near the Buffalo Bill Reservoir recently put up a sign telling the public to stay off their private road on the South Fork.

Believing the sign to be legally incorrect, Park County commissioners have posted one of their own, basically telling travelers to feel free to keep using it.

The county posted this sign in response to a sign from Shiloh Road landowners say the road is closed. Cody News Co. Photo by CJ Baker
Shiloh Road provides access to the southern end of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir off the Lower Southfork Road. Shiloh Road is private, meaning it’s maintained not by the county government, but by the people who own the dozen or so lots along it.

Over the past year, representatives from Shiloh Road’s homeowners association asked the commissioners, the Park County Parks and Recreation Board, Bureau of Reclamation and Buffalo Bill State Park officials for help with the gravel road’s maintenance. The homeowners said the public traffic was damaging their road and — while they wanted to keep it open to the public — they also wanted some help to cover the costs.

The homeowners’ requests yielded little.

Commissioners refused to take on the maintenance of another road. The county did offer to donate some gravel, but Shiloh Road homeowners representative Zach Toellner said they declined the offer because it felt like “just kind of a, ‘take this and fix your road.’”

The homeowners ultimately invested upwards of $10,000 of their own money to upgrade it, Toellner said. They then posted the sign — which reads, “PRIVATE ROAD No Public Access” — to protect the investment, Toellner said.

However, like most of the other subdivision roads in Park County, Shiloh Road was dedicated to the public when it was first developed. According to the county, that means the homeowners’ sign is meaningless and anyone is free to use the road until the landowners legally change its status.

Shiloh Road landowners posted these signs in an effort to protect their recently fixed-up road. Cody News Co. photo by CJ Baker
“They own the road, so we really have no jurisdiction to make them take the sign down,” commission chairman Joe Tilden said at the commission’s Aug. 11 meeting. Tilden said the best the county could do was to notify the public that the road is still open.

His fellow commissioners unanimously agreed, though Commissioner Tim French wondered if one sign basically reading, “Stay out,” and another saying, “Go ahead,” might be confusing.

“It could be very confusing, but it could at least get somebody to make a phone call,” Tilden offered.

The county’s new sign reads, “Shilo (sic) Road Dedicated to use of General Public.” It plans to correct the misspelling of Shiloh.

Toellner said in an interview last month that the homeowners are beginning to look at formally making the road private and off-limits to the public, but he said they still would like to find a way to keep the public access.

“If the county commissioners are still willing to work with us, we’re all ears,” Toellner said, though he added, “It just doesn’t seem they’re very interested to have any skin in the game.”

Commissioners did not contact the Shiloh Road residents before putting up the county sign.

August unemployment rate down in U.S., Wyoming and Park County

Unemployment rates have dropped in the U.S., Wyoming and Park County over the last year.

National unemployment rates dropped from 6.3 percent in August 2014 to 5.2 percent in August of this year. That's nearly half of where the rates peaked in October 2009, at 10 percent.

In Wyoming, unemployment rates dropped from 3.9 percent to 3.5 percent between August 2014 and August 2015. In Park County, they dropped from 3.8 percent to 3.1 percent.

Park County was one of 16 counties were the unemployment rates decreased between August 2014 and August 2015. Unemployment went up in five other counties and stayed the same in two.

According to estimates from Research & Planning section of the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, 16,869 people were working in Park County last month about 400 more than were employed in August 2014.

Total non-farm employment in Wyoming rose from 299,900 in August 2014 to 301,600 in August 2015, a gain of 1,700 jobs (0.6 percent) and not a statistically significant change, according to the Department of Workforce Services.

Wyoming’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell very slightly from 4.1 percent in July to 4.0 percent in August, a drop that Workforce Services similarly describes as not statistically significant.

From July to August, most county unemployment rates followed their normal seasonal pattern and fell modestly, according to the Department of Workforce Services. Park County's rate fell from 3.2 to 3.1 percent.

Seasonally adjusted employment of Wyoming residents increased slightly, rising by an estimated 354 individuals (0.1 percent) from July to August. This level of over-the-month employment growth is a normal change, according to Workforce Services.

Wyoming's unemployment rate has stayed between 4 and 4.2 percent in each of the past nine months, Workforce Service says.

Sep 28, 2015

Guns, cash reportedly stolen in string of burglaries in Meeteetse

Park County sheriff's deputies are investigating eight burglaries that occurred Sunday night or Monday morning in Meeteetse.

The thief or thieves broke through the front door of the Meeteetse Visitors Center, where they stole cash, and swiped three firearms from two different vehicles, sheriff's office spokesman Lance Mathess said in a Monday afternoon news release. Five other vehicles were apparently entered and searched by the thieves, but it appeared nothing was taken from them, Mathess said. All the vehicles were unlocked.

Sheriff Scott Steward is cautioning residents to be alert, report any suspicious activity and to secure their residences and vehicles at all times.

Each of the burglaries took place in a one-block area around South Street, Water Avenue, Warren Street and Park Avenue (a.k.a. Wyo. Highway 290), Mathess said. The sheriff's office got the first report at around 7:30 a.m. Monday.

Anyone with information about the burglaries is asked to contact the Park County Communications Center at 307-527-8700. Mathess said all information will remain confidential.

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