Wyoming news briefs for October 21

Woman dies in Cheyenne fire

CHEYENNE — The cause of a Monday house fire that killed one person has not yet been released.

Although detectives with the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office continue to investigate the case, no criminal activity is suspected, and there are no public safety concerns, according to Wednesday afternoon news release.

A woman was found dead inside the structure, having “succumbed to the blaze,” the news release said.

Laramie County Coroner Rebecca Reid said Wednesday afternoon that her office was waiting for scientific positive identification of the victim, which she expected to take no longer than a week.

Reid said she would not release any additional information about the woman until her identity had been confirmed.

At about 5:05 p.m. Monday, the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office responded to a fire in the 700 block of Mitchell Court to assist Laramie County Fire District 1.

LCFD1 Chief Darrick Mittlestadt could not immediately be reached for additional information.

On Tuesday, Mittlestadt called the fire “a significant event for the south side of Cheyenne.”


COVID-sparked staff shortage closes school

WORLAND — Ten Sleep School went online starting Thursday, Oct. 14 and will continue online learning through this week. 

School was dismissed early on Wednesday, Oct. 13. In a letter to parents, Superintendent Jimmy Phelps wrote, “Due to the large number of teachers and staff which are not able to be at school due to illness, we are closing school for a short period of time. We will return to school on Wednesday, Oct. 20.” 

In an interview on Tuesday, Phelps said the illness was COVID-19. He said at the beginning of last week they had staff members testing positive, with more on Tuesday, Oct. 12, so the decision was to end school early. He said with the number of positive cases if they had not gone to online learning on Thursday, the district would have had 48% of the staff out with COVID. 

He said Tuesday afternoon that they did not have the number of staff and/or substitutes to go back to in-person learning so they will be shooting for Monday, Oct. 25. All activities scheduled during this time have been canceled.


School district approves girls’ wrestling program

LOVELL — Big Horn County School District No. 1 followed the Lovell school district’s footsteps Monday, also approving a girls wrestling program in their regular school board meeting. 

Female students are currently able to wrestle, but the sport is still run as a coed event in Wyoming, with female and male athletes often facing off on the mat.

The approval of female wrestling in Wyoming would create a female bracket in tournaments, guaranteeing that female wrestlers will be able to compete against female wrestlers.

Rocky Mountain wrestling coach Daniel Robertson presented the change as a safety issue. 

“This is basically about creating a better chance for (female wrestlers) not to be beat to death,” Robertson stated to the board. Robertson argued that the current setup damaged both male and female wrestlers in the state.

“There’s no upside in the boys in this,” Robertson said, “and the girls incur additional risk.”

Asked about whether the potential impact to girls basketball and other winter sports would make the establishment of a female

wrestling program undesirable, Rocky Mountain Middle/ High School Principal Tim Winland said the pros will likely outweigh the cons.

“It’s hard to state how it would impact other sports,” Winland said. “But, it could provide an additional program for a student who is not participating in anything else. It’s better to have students participate in something than nothing.”

Girls basketball head coach Eric Honeyman echoed Winland’s statements.

“If girls want to wrestle, they should wrestle,” Honeyman said. “I don’t think it would harm us if we supported it.”


More than 100 tires stolen from Gillette store

GILLETTE — A GCR Tires and Service employees came to work Tuesday to find dozens of semi-truck tires missing from the company’s lot off Highway 14-16.

One store employee reported finding the fence leading to the tires cut in two separate places. Inside the yard, a shipping container that had been filled with semi-truck tires was completely cleaned out, said Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds.

More tires from inside of the yard were missing too. In all, 112 semi truck tires valued at about $38,857 were stolen.

Deputies are reviewing surveillance video from the store. The theft is believed to have occurred Monday night. There are no suspects and the investigation continues, Reynolds said.


Sheridan County school district short of bus drivers

SHERIDAN — Due to COVID-19 quarantines and limited qualified substitutes for bus drivers, Sheridan County School District 1 is at its "breaking point" regarding school bus transportation, SCSD1 Business Manager Jeremy Smith said Tuesday. 

"We are at the last possible point of being able to provide service to students," Smith said. "If we lose one more driver, we may have to make some decisions about which services we don't provide, so hopefully that doesn't happen. Everyone keep your fingers crossed and hope they all stay healthy.

"... We certainly don't want to be in that place, but that's where we find ourselves because of COVID."

SCSD1 already employs a limited number of bus drivers due to smaller demand for services than larger districts like Sheridan County School District 2. With three regular bus drivers on COVID-19 quarantine this week, Smith said the district is one absentee away from having to make difficult decisions, having already utilized all of its substitute drivers. 

"I'm glad we don't have a heavy transportation weekend, because we would have to make some decisions on what we won't be doing this weekend," Smith said.

A member of the audience at Tuesday's board meeting asked about relations between districts, noting possibly the smaller district could utilize SCSD2 buses and drivers, if needed. 

"They, like all 47 of the rest of us, are not flush with subs and not flush with drivers themselves," Smith said of SCSD2 transportation availability. "In an emergency situation, we can lean on them, but on a multi-day basis, that's not a reality.”


Big Horn Basin beet harvest hits halfway point

POWELL — With the area’s sugar beet harvest rolling past the halfway point, little crop damage was registered from a brief dip to temperatures below freezing in the last week. 

Moisture from rain and snow was more of a problem, briefly shutting down harvesting operations over Western Sugar Cooperative’s Lovell factory district in Park and Big Horn counties. 

“There was no frost damage to speak of,” said Heart Mountain grower Ric Rodriguez, a member of the cooperative’s board of directors. “It’s still extremely wet in some areas, but it’s getting better day by day.”

The weather forecast calls for some more moisture in the next couple of days, “but (it) doesn’t appear to be much,” he added. 

Meanwhile, the harvest of the 2021 beet crop in the Lovell district was 50 percent complete as of Monday. Sugar content is averaging 18 percent, and all factories in Western Sugar’s four-state region are running well, Rodriguez said. 

Some area growers will finish their digging this week, he predicted.