Wyoming news briefs May 6

Encampment man arrested

SARATOGA — An Encampment man could be facing more than 10 years in prison following charges of felony child abuse and domestic battery, according to documents filed in Carbon County Circuit Court on April 29. 

Dustin Gene Buffington was arrested on April 28. 

According to an affidavit completed by Carbon County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) Investigator Dale Miller, CCSO Deputy Kelly Finn spoke to a counselor at Encampment School that morning who said Buffington’s step daughter had reported that she had been beaten by him the night before. 

Buffington’s step daughter had marks on her shoulders and sore ribs, the counselor told Finn. 

In interviews with both Buffington’s wife and his stepdaughter, Finn was informed the incident occurred while the family was caring for their fair pigs. While feeding the pigs, one of the animals pushed against a gate and caused it to slam. Buffington’s wife told Finn he “lost it” and pushed her daughter against a wall and “started beating her.” 

Finn said Buffington’s wife testified that he hit their daughter to the ribs with closed fists.

If convicted on the charge of felony child abuse, Buffington could face a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine or both. 

According to the affidavit, Buffington’s wife told Finn that during the incident, she had tripped and fallen backward after Buffington turned on her.  She said her husband put his forearm to her neck, holding her in place, then grabbed her and shook her. 

Buffington denied any abuse of his wife; however, if convicted on the charge of domestic battery, he could face up to six months in prison and a $750 fine or both. He is innocent until proven guilty.


Man produces stickers to show solidarity for Ukraine 

JACKSON — Shocked and saddened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Wilson resident Horton Spitzer took his unease and channeled it into a visual symbol of support.

Fueled by a brainstorm from friend Lisa Robertson, Spitzer ordered a batch of blue-and-gold stickers modeled after the Ukrainian flag. About 4,700 of the 3-by-6-inch stickers have been distributed across the valley.

“There’s tremendous demand for trying to find some way to take away the angst of what’s happening in Ukraine,” Spitzer said. “People are just horrified by what’s happening, and what can I do?”

Spitzer buys the “I stand with Ukraine” stickers at about 45 cents each from the local shop Stinky Prints and distributes them around town. 

They are available free of charge at Ace Hardware, Bubba’s BBQ, Sidewinders, Nora’s Fish Creek Inn, Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church and Basecamp, as well as many other shop counters.

“These people need assurance that the U.S. is supporting [them],” Spitzer said. “This is not from the government. It’s some little town in Wyoming.”


Solvay buys out longtime partner

GREEN RIVER  Solvay is now the sole owner of the soda ash operation bearing the company’s name west of Green River.

 The company issued a press release Wednesday morning announcing it had purchased the 20-percent minority stake in the operation owned by AGC for $120 million in a deal that was completed later that day. 

Solvay and AGC formed the Solvay Soda Ash Joint Venture in 1992, buying the operation that was owned by Tennaco Inc. 

The facility is one of two plants operated by Solvay in the United States. The company operates six other soda ash facilities in Europe and one in Asia. 

Solvay carved out its soda ash and derivatives business last year, creating a separate legal entity for the department. 

“The acquisition of AGC’s stake in the JV simplifies our portfolio and is an attractive opportunity to enhance and further reinforce our business and a future independent EssentialCo,” Philippe Kehren, President of Solvay’s Soda Ash and Derivatives business, said in the press release. “Increasing our supply of trona-based soda ash is directly aligned with our sustainability ambitions to bring lower carbon-intensive soda ash to the market.” 

Kehren said expanding the US-based trona capacities will support Solvay’s ability to meet growing demands throughout the Americas and Asia in a cost-effective manner. He notes the demand is driven by trends in electrification, which uses soda ash in the production of batteries for electric vehicles and the flat glass used in solar panels.


Teton County tops nation for COVID vaccinations

JACKSON — As with face masks and other pandemic precautions, not everyone was a fan of the COVID-19 vaccine.

But in Teton County, 93 percent of residents are fully vaccinated, making it one of the top 10 most vaccinated counties in the country, according to a May 4 U.S. News report.

Public health officials are celebrating the statistic, even as they continue to give out shots. Jodie Pond, public health director for the Teton County Health Department, said her staff administered over 200 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine just last week, including some first doses.

The department is also expecting results from its application for a National Association of Counties Achievement Award in the coming weeks. In that application, staff highlighted the extensive work of volunteers who helped Teton County achieve such a staggering vaccination rate.

For example, 133 volunteers worked a total of 2,064 hours in the call center alone, answering all manner of pandemic questions from community members trying to understand a rapidly evolving situation to keep their families safe and informed.

On the vaccine front, large-scale vaccination events at the Target building and the Presbyterian Church of Jackson Hole would not have been possible without an army of volunteers. 

With coordination assistance from Team Rubicon, 57 administrative volunteers covered 387 shifts, working a total of 1,548 hours. Volunteer vaccinators numbered 365, serving a collective 7,918 hours.

Those efforts meant people who wanted a shot could typically get one as soon as they were eligible.

Teton County led the nation in per-capita COVID cases during the January omicron surge, but St. John’s Health wasn’t overrun with patients, and only two reported deaths were linked to the virus at the time.