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Wyoming News Briefs: December 10, 2019

Gordon asks USDA for help with beet losses

POWELL (WNE) — Early freezes in October greatly damaged the sugar beet and bean crops before they were harvested this year — so much so that local and state officials are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to officially declare the poor weather a disaster.

Lawmakers across the Big Horn Basin coordinated to communicate the problem to Gov. Mark Gordon, who requested assistance from the USDA for impacted farmers on Thursday.

“I am writing to you today on behalf of Wyoming producers who are facing extraordinary losses due to unseasonably early and powerful snowstorms,” Gordon wrote, specifically mentioning sugar beet losses.

Last month, Western Sugar Cooperative officially declared it wouldn’t accept the remaining unharvested beets in the Lovell Factory District. This left somewhere between 30 and 35 percent of this area’s beet crop rotting in the ground.

In his Dec. 5 letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Gordon requested a secretarial disaster designation in Park, Big Horn, Laramie and Goshen counties.

The letter states that the fall of 2019 brought uncommonly low temperatures on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, which was followed by a second storm on Oct. 13 and Oct. 14. Warmer temperatures separated the freezes, with the thaw and freezing combining to exacerbate the damage to the crops.

The disaster designation is necessary for farmers in those counties to be eligible for monetary assistance for their losses through the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Plus program. The governor expressed his gratitude for the Farm Service Agency county committees’ efforts to pursue assistance through the WHIP+ program.


Motel owners must pay employees almost $190,000

RIVERTON (WNE) — After an investigation by the U.S Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, Sunil and Parul Patel – owners of a Motel 6 and Super 8 motel in Riverton – will pay $189,466 to three employees for federal wage violations as part of a consent judgment lodged in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.

Investigators found the employer violated overtime and minimum wage provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), resulting in wage deprivation to Grace Bemus, Leanne Biggerstaff and Cassie Simmons.

The violations occurred when the employer paid front desk clerks flat weekly rates that – when divided by the number of hours they were working – resulted in the clerks receiving between $2 and $5.15 per hour.

Additionally, the employer failed to keep records of the actual hours worked by the clerks and initially produced false records to WHD, before admitting to fabricating the records. WHD has investigated the employer four times previously.

In the consent judgment, the employer agreed to pay $94,733 in unpaid minimum wages and overtime pay to three front desk clerks, along with an equal additional amount in liquidated damages, for a total of $189,466. The agreement also permanently enjoins the employer from future violations of the FLSA, and the employer will pay a civil money penalty of $2,179.


Cheyenne principal wins top education award

CHEYENNE (WNE) — It was the first time Johnson Junior High had ever held a full-school assembly, Principal Brian Cox told those gathered inside the school’s gymnasium Monday morning.

But it was when Milken Educator Awards senior program director Greg Gallagher took the podium that the buzzing in the room was almost audible.

Gallagher explained that he came to Johnson on Monday for two reasons: to share an important message and to deliver important news that the foundation had been keeping secret from everyone.

The message regarded the role that educators and principals play in our society and how important they are.

The news was that one of the staff members at the junior high was being awarded the “Oscars of teaching,” the Milken Educator Award, which comes with national recognition and an unrestricted $25,000 cash prize.

Finally, Gallagher announced the winner: Principal Cox.

Gallagher and a number of guests helped unroll the massive check, which displayed Cox’s name and confirmed his prize of $25,000.

Cox is the only Wyoming recipient of the Milken Educator Award this year and is one of up to 40 nationally for 2019-20.

He has been the principal at the junior high for the last four years. He received his bachelor’s degree in biology in 2002 and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction in 2006. He’s currently pursuing a doctorate in educational leadership.


Gillette woman charged as accessory in stabbing

GILLETTE (WNE) — A woman accused of helping her boyfriend hide after he’d allegedly stabbed his ex-wife in the throat has pleaded not guilty to accessory after the fact.

Cheyenne L. Brock, 25, allegedly helped Joseph Cruzen leave Gillette and drive to Casper several hours after he allegedly stabbed his ex-wife.

Cruzen’s ex-wife called police at about 2 a.m. to report the stabbing, but Cruzen already had left his house where the stabbing allegedly occurred.

At about 11 a.m., officers received a call from Casper Police reporting that they had learned that Cruzen was headed there to visit his sister. He was arrested 40 minutes later and was with Brock — his girlfriend of two months — and her two children in her vehicle.

His ex-wife told police that she’d gone to Cruzen’s mobile home after she got off work Oct. 3 at his request because he wanted to mend their relationship. She refused that and also refused to have sex with him.

They reportedly argued and fought physically before he pulled out a knife, using it to cut his arm and making suicidal statements. When she tried to leave, he allegedly stabbed her, according to court documents.

She was able to get away and called police a few blocks from his house.

Accessory after the face is a felony with a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a $3,000 fine.


Wyoming This Weekend,  Dec. 13-15

By The Wyoming News Exchange

Nearly every community offers at least one opportunity for the kids to chat with Santa, but if you’re looking for a uniquely Wyoming photo of the family with the jolly old elf, head to Gillette to see Santa at The Range 307 on Sunday. From 1:00 to 4:00, you can snap a picture of the kids with Santa at the shooting range — firearms optional.

Kids’ crafts, a Pictionary competition with prizes, cookies and apple cider will be available.
For more information, visit

Other out-of-the-ordinary Christmas events scheduled across the state this weekend include the following:

The Star of the Magi presentation Friday evening at UW’s Harry C. Vaughan Planetarium explores the possible celestial origins of the famed star that rose in the East (

Experience a Victorian Christmas at the Fort in Lyman at Fort Bridger State Historical Site on Sunday (

Get your Christmas gift wrapping done as you sip on wine at the Wine & Wrap in Lander at the Lander Art Center on Saturday.  Scotch tape, scissors and plenty of space are provided (

Or enjoy some wine as you create a “Winter Snowman on Wood” Christmas decoration at the Sip ’n Paint event at the Table Mountain Vineyards in Torrington on Sunday afternoon (

Join the race to beat Santa and Mrs. Claus in Cheyenne on Saturday in the Christmas Classic 5K Run in Lions Park (

Rock Springs offers a different take on downtown Christmas shopping on Saturday with its Living Windows event, when local performance artists provide interest in merchants’ holiday windows (

Finally, a couple of events in Sheridan and Jackson may give parents the opportunity to get some shopping done.  On Saturday, the WYO Theater in Sheridan offers the Jolly Holiday Film Series — featuring a Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.  Kids are encouraged to wear their pajamas (  And on Parent’s Night Out — also Saturday — at the recreation center in Jackson, kids can play games, swim or watch movies for several hours and are provided dinner with the price of admission (

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