Search of Snake River for missing man winds down
JACKSON (WNE) — After finding no clues, Teton County Search and Rescue stopped combing the Snake River on Sunday, winding down its search for a 21-year-old man reported missing since Wednesday night.
Rescuers started looking for Averin Scott on Thursday, the busy Fourth of July holiday, when his disappearance was first reported.
“There’s been no clues,” said Cody Lockhart, chief advisor for Teton County Search and Rescue. “We need something to go on … and we just haven’t gotten that.”
Lincoln County agencies had joined the search on their stretch of the Snake River, but Lockhart said Sunday that search operations were ramping down.
Scott was last seen around midnight Wednesday near the edge of the river near the Snake River KOA and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Scott’s shoe was found near the river while his keys and phone were at his house, officials said.
Scott, of northern Arizona, is living in Teton County for the summer. Scott’s family has been working with law enforcement to try to locate their loved one.
Wyoming Territorial prison sees visitor numbers grow
LARAMIE (WNE) — If she had known how many visitors would brave the winter weather to visit the Wyoming Territorial Prison this year, Superintendent Deborah Cease said she would’ve tried their winter hours a long time ago.
“The majority of those individuals were travelers,” she said. “It has made a big difference being open in the winter.”
Not that the prison needed the extra visitors — Cease said the number of visitors has “grown exponentially,” with 49,000 people walking through the state historic site just from April-December.
“We’ve already beat our numbers from last year,” she added. “Of course, you really can’t beat January, February or March because we were closed (last year).”
One thing many don’t realize is most visitors to the historic site are not local. Cease explained the travelers can range from international visitors — including a tour bus full of Russian people who listened to the tour guides via interpreter last week — to families stopping through on their way to other Wyoming cities and landmarks.
Even with the Territorial Prison’s brown informational sign on the side of Interstate 80, Cease said the days of highway travelers stopping on a whim because of a sign are pretty much over. Google and other websites like Google Business reign supreme, and she said the Territorial Prison’s social media presence is strong.
Trip Advisor, a website where people rate and recommend travel destinations, recently gave the historic site an award for being a 5-Star destination for five years straight.
New approach to state investments saving millions in fees
CHEYENNE (WNE) — Earlier this year, the Wyoming Legislature passed several major reforms to increase the amount of money from major state financial pools invested in the stock market, as well as how hands-on the state was with its investment strategy.
Those reforms have already saved Wyoming millions and helped to attract talent that might not have come to the Equality State.
Patrick Fleming, Wyoming’s chief investment officer, said during a June meeting of the Select Committee on Capital Financing and Investments that Wyoming was on track to save about $24 million in fees it would have paid to outside investment managers.
By focusing on bringing more of the state’s investment management in-house, Wyoming is seeing significant savings, while still maintaining its funds performance, Fleming said.
Currently, the state is budgeting about $6 million for the biennium for the internal investment team, which has expanded significantly to handle the extra work.
As those savings materialize, State Treasurer Curt Meier and the Treasurer’s Office would like to see some of that put back into modernizing the investment office. The state’s still operating with an antiquated system that could potentially create mistakes as trades are conducted quickly.
Those systems could cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but would completely modernize the investment portion of the Treasurer’s Office, Meier said.
As the investment team has added more high-level staff, Meier said the ability to offer incentive pay for high-performing investors has drawn significant talent into the state. Meier said the newest member of the team has spent decades in New York as part of high-performing investment firms.
Bridger-Teton proposes increase in camping fees
JACKSON (WNE) — For the first time in nearly three decades, Bridger-Teton National Forest officials may raise the fees for some campgrounds and rental cabins.
The Bridger-Teton has not increased fees since the early 1990s, according to a news release. Now, following upgrades to 17 campgrounds and cabins, the additional revenue seeks to balance the higher costs of operation and maintenance.
“Our fees have been pretty continuous for a good long while,” said interim forest spokesperson Evan Guzik. “I know in [some] other forests across the country, they’ve already raised their prices.”
The new rates would offset expenses from campground improvements like vault toilets, water system updates and bear-resistant food storage, and cabin improvements like flooring, stoves and heaters.
Some of the increases won’t put much of a dent in anyone’s wallet. For example, several campsites currently listed at $7 could rise to $10 or $12. But rates for a few pricier cabins could more than double, from $30 to $60 or $80.
If approved, the increases would take effect next spring, but for now they are only proposals.
They will be presented sometime in the winter or spring to the Wyoming Recreation Action Team, a committee of federal and state land management agencies, from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to the Bureau of Land Management. That meeting, which is not yet scheduled, will be open to the public.
The regional and national offices of the U.S. Forest Service will also perform an “extensive review” of the increases, according to the release.
Riverton responds to lawsuit by job candidate
RIVERTON (WNE) — The City of Riverton submitted an answer on Friday to the lawsuit that former city administrator job applicant Dennis Sparks filed against it in early May – to wit, that the Riverton City Council and former Mayor Lars Baker did not wrong Sparks amid their job selection process.
Riverton’s answer cites 88 paragraphs worth of complaints, filed May 6, in which Sparks had alleged that the city performed an unlawful background check on him and further, falsely reported to independent consumer reporting agency LexisNexis that the inquiry on Sparks was for “law enforcement purposes.”
To each of the paragraphs, Riverton’s answer either denies the allegations or denies the allegations as plead.
The filing also asserts that Sparks signed a release granting the city permission to perform the background check, a fact which Sparks’s original complaint had acknowledged.
The report by LexisNexis on Sparks revealed two records of Virginia criminal history – one felony and one misdemeanor – which Sparks’s complaint said were inaccurate because “LexisNexis misreported the substance of the charges, as they were for attempt rather than the actual completed crimes… In addition, those charges were expunged in 2009, so they should not have appeared on the report at all.”
Sparks claims that the erroneously reported charges precluded him from the city administrator job, but former Riverton Mayor Lars Baker said that was not so.
“He just wasn’t a top candidate,” said Baker.
Tornado touches down near Laramie
CHEYENNE (WNE) — Severe thunderstorms made their way through southeast Wyoming on Saturday night, with at least one tornado touching down in Albany County, north of Laramie.
According to National Weather Service meteorologist Matthew Brothers, a tornado was reported by spotters near the Bosler area, prompting a tornado warning for the area. A tornado signature was seen on radar in that area.
Videos of the tornado also made their way onto Twitter from trained storm chasers and others.
A barn suffered damage from the tornado in the Bosler area of Albany County, Brothers said.
No other damage was immediately reported.
“It was like the tornado last year that went north of Laramie,” Brothers said. “It went through some fields, for the most part.”
Although a tornado signature was indicated on radar and warnings were issued near Horse Creek in Laramie County between 7-8 p.m., no touchdowns were immediately confirmed, according to Brothers.
“There were some reports of rotating wall clouds coming from the Laramie Range, but beyond that, there were no reports of tornado touchdown with that storm.”
Jeanine West, manager for Cheyenne/Laramie County Emergency Management, said there was no damage immediately reported in the west-central area of Laramie County, where the tornado warnings were issued.