Wyoming news briefs for December 31

Power restored at ski resort

JACKON — Five hundred feet of cable, a frozen mountainside and a dozen guys with shovels.

That was the scene Lower Valley Energy and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort staffers found themselves in at 2 a.m. Thursday as they worked through the night to restore power to the Bridger and Sweetwater gondolas and to Rendezvous Lodge.

The problem, snowmaking manager Austin Irby said, was a burned wire that took hours to locate near the Casper lift. 

Resort employees first noticed a power problem more than 24 hours earlier when their snowmaking system shut down Tuesday evening. Such failures aren’t rare, given the high voltage required to make snow, Irby said. So they switched back a tripped fuse at the substation. Then it failed again.

Lower Valley linemen, assisted by resort staff and snowmobiles, spent most of Tuesday night scouring the resort, checking each power station with mounting confusion.

With power still not restored by Wednesday’s opening, the resort was forced to close the Bridger and Sweetwater gondolas, as well as the Marmot Double and Teton Quad.

The crew finally found the faulty wire Wednesday around 10 p.m. and set to work cutting 500 feet of fresh cable from a spool, hauling it and its conduit up to the Casper lift by snowcat, then digging a trench through frozen dirt and snow.

Irby said the trench was done in less than an hour. Done by headlamp and in knee-deep snow at 2 in the morning, that is.


Failure to bail girlfriend leads to arrest

GILLETTE — A 30-year-old Gillette man found himself in jail — mostly because he didn’t bail his girlfriend out of jail like he said he would. 

That’s when she started having conversations on the jail phone that she had taken the rap for him by claiming that 8 grams of meth was hers.

That led to Gillette Police seeking a warrant for his arrest for two felony counts of possession with intent to deliver meth and possession of meth.

Mathew Lee Hammond was bound over to District Court on Dec. 21 on the charges of possession with intent to deliver and possession of meth.

The case started Nov. 9 when the SUV Hammond and Laci Rae Taylor, 22, were driving was pulled over at for speeding 52 mph in a 45 mph zone. 

Officers found 8 grams of meth underneath the Durango inside a black pouch held together with Velcro and attached to the steel frame with a large magnet, according to an affidavit.

Taylor claimed the meth was hers and she had been given about a half-ounce three days earlier by a man, whose name she wouldn’t give to police. 

Hammond denied any knowledge of the meth. 

They charged her with possession with intent to deliver meth and possession of meth.

The next day in four different phone calls from jail, Taylor indicated the meth was Hammond’s.

“He told me he was going to bond me out, like, the s— that I got caught with was his,” she said. “He put that magnetic thing on my side of the car for him,” according to the affidavit.


Counterfeit bills surface in Lander

RIVERTON — A counterfeit money scheme surfaced in Lander during the Christmas shopping season. 

Lander Police Department spokesman Duane Kaiser said that on Dec. 22, during the late peak of the Christmas shopping season, Mr. D’s Food and Drug accepted fake $20 bills in their cash, which, Kaiser said, the store had only discovered on Dec. 24 once the bank rejected the bills. 

Kaiser said a lot of the $20 bills will say “for motion picture use only,” or “play money” right on the bill, but a teller in a hurry, counting through a large stack of bills, often will focus on counting rather than on vetting the money.

Smaller denominations can be passed as part of a stack of real money. 

“Some of them look pretty real,” the chief said.


State parks to begin collecting lodging, sales taxes

SHERIDAN — As of Saturday, Wyoming State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails began collecting sales and lodging taxes to comply with Wyoming State Statutes.

Tax rates vary by county and will be collected on fees for overnight camping, annual camping permits, reservations and overnight rental facilities such as cabins, lodges, yurts and treehouses.

“Wyoming State Parks has worked closely with the Department of Revenue to determine where taxes need to be applied to our fees in order to comply with state law,” Deputy Director Nick Neylon said.

Sales and lodging taxes help fund state and county government operating budgets as well as tourism efforts statewide. Past projects that have been supported have included aquifer protection, road maintenance, county library expansions and support of local government.