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NEWS BRIEFS for Monday, June 24, 2019

Wyoming Works program begins for adult students

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Adult students in Wyoming will have more opportunities and resources to get the skills they need to secure employment with last week’s launch of the Wyoming Works program.

The program was approved in March by the Wyoming Legislature, which allocated $5 million for the program. That money will be distributed between the seven community colleges in Wyoming, according to a joint news release from the Educational Attainment Executive Council, Wyoming community colleges and the University of Wyoming.

Three million dollars of that allocation will go toward individual need-based student grants, while the remaining $2 million will be used for the program’s development.

“I think our overall goal is just the realization that as a community we need more education to be competitive,” said Dale Steenbergen, president and CEO of the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce.

“The idea that somebody is going to train for one career and have that career for the entirety (of their life) is not the reality we have today,” said Rob Hill, president of the Wyoming Association for Career and Technical Education.

People are more likely to have multiple jobs and careers throughout their lives that require different skills, he said. This program helps cater to those transitions.

The program caters to adult students who might have a home, family and job, said Judy Hay, vice president of student services for Laramie County Community College. Making the adjustment to go back to school might be difficult for them, and the program grants help give them one less thing to worry about.


Albany commissioners approve development moratorium

LARAMIE (WNE) — A 90-day moratorium on development overtop the Casper Aquifer, including a lengthy list of exemptions, was finalized by the Albany County Commission in a meeting held last week.

The moratorium that was first passed by the commissioners on June 10 needed to be sign-off on by the county board one last time after the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved the moratorium on Wednesday, albeit with a lengthy list of exemptions created by county planner David Gertsch.

Ultimately, the county board passed the revised version 2-1 Thursday evening after Commissioner Pete Gosar, who wanted stricter rules, voted “no.”

“I don’t think this does what a moratorium does. It doesn’t protect the (aquifer) one bit,” Gosar said.

The moratorium was enacted amid a dispute between the county and Tumbleweed Express, a gas station east of town — the only gas station to lie atop the overlay zone of the aquifer, which provides about half of Laramie’s drinking water.

As a “grandfathered non-conforming use,” Tumbleweed Express is only allowed to continue operating because the business predates the county’s current regulations that now ban gas stations in the area.

When new owners began renovating the business’s equipment, county officials unsuccessfully tried blocking the new construction.

Last week, Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said she was worried that Tumbleweed Express could possibly expand.

However, the exemptions for the moratorium allow a “pre-existing nonconforming use” like Tumbleweed to undergo a “modification, upgrade, expansion, repair” so long as they complete a “site specific investigation and include findings with the exemption form.”



WBC extends grant for carbon innovation center

GILLETTE (WNE) — The Wyoming Business Council Board has decided to extend a 2017 grant for the development of the Advanced Carbon Products Innovation Center (ACPIC), pending a legal review and staff contingency requests.

Phil Christopherson, CEO of Energy Capital Economic Development, said the Business Council grant is for $1.5 million. He’d requested an extension several months ago.

“When we started the project, we had a timeline established that said the construction of the building would be completed by the end of July 2019,” he said.

But things “kind of stretched out” due to the project’s increasing scope and his organization receiving a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Association, Christopherson said.

That $1.5 million has been “set aside,” Christopherson said, but he’s waiting for the EDA to “give us an award letter” that will allow Energy Capital to spend the money.

The ACPIC is designed to provide space for pilot facilities to drive existing research toward commercialization of carbon products. With a steady supply of raw material — in this case coal — research can be transitioned into manufacturing of advanced carbon products.

ACPIC will support commercialization for a variety of value-added carbon-based products such as graphene, carbon nanotubes, activated carbon, char for agriculture, coal to gas and coal to liquids.


Jackson man arrested in $50,000 burglary

JACKSON (WNE) — Police arrested a man they believe stole $50,000 worth of items from his landlord’s house while the homeowner was out of town.

Michael Lynch, 36, is in the Teton County Jail charged with aggravated burglary and theft after deputies said he was caught selling stolen coins in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Lynch had been renting from the victim for about a year.

When the victim, who owns a home south of town, returned to his house after a long trip he found most of his belongings missing.

Teton County Sheriff’s Sgt. Clay Platt said evidence is still being processed, but police believe Lynch stole high-dollar silver and gold coins, pills, computer hard drives, computer software, family memorabilia from West Point Military Academy, jewelry (including the victim’s deceased wife’s wedding ring), artwork, musical instruments, Navajo rugs, radio equipment and three guns — a rifle and two pistols.

“The victim is still finding things he’s missing,” Platt said. “As far as the exact financial value, we are still adding things up.”

When deputies searched Lynch’s apartment they recovered some of the stolen belongings, including two of the three guns, but Lynch had already sold some of the items for cash, they said.

“He’s been evicted and trespassed from the property,” Platt said.

Platt said the victim, a longtime Teton County resident, is more upset about the sentimental value of the items.

“The hard drives have photos of he and his wife’s last few years together,” Platt said.


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