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Wyoming News Briefs: February 4, 2019

SVI Media is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.

Death penalty repeal clears House, heads for Senate

CHEYENNE (WNE) — State lawmakers ran through one last round of emotional reflections on the death penalty Friday before pushing a bill to repeal it through the House of Representatives.

House Bill 145 — the first of its kind to last so long in the Wyoming Legislature — is now on to the Senate, after the first chamber passed it by a healthy margin of 36-21. In 2018 a similar bill lost by a roughly reverse “no” vote, and the year before another died in committee.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jared Olsen, R-Laramie, has become perhaps the most morally charged legislation of the session.

“It will, for generations to come, be a testament of where we stand and what we want our laws to say,” Olsen said.

Many arguments for and against the bill grew out of the legislators’ spiritual beliefs or their connections to incidents of violence.

Some pleaded with their colleagues to “remember the victims.” Rep. Roy Edwards, R-Campbell, argued the death penalty should remain as a means of retribution for them and their families.

But others countered that “eye-for-eye” justice, satisfying as it may initially seem, does little to assuage the suffering of those who have lost loved ones.

Rep. Danny Eyre, R-Uinta, grew up with Mark Hopkinson, who in 1992 was the last man to be executed in Wyoming. He knew Hopkinson’s family and the families of his four victims.

He recalled thinking the execution — which he supported at the time — would bring relief to him and his community.

“I felt just the opposite,” he said. “It was a dark, sad day, and it didn’t do anything to help relieve the pain of those family members who had had loved ones killed.”


Cheyenne to get Wyoming’s largest convention center

CHEYENNE — A Cheyenne developer plans to break ground this fall on a new 70,000-square-foot hotel and convention center in south Cheyenne.

The $55 million project, built on the Sweetgrass development south of East College Drive, would be the state’s largest events facility, home to a 150-bed hotel, restaurant and convention space.

Set to open in the summer of 2021, plans include a 36-lane bowling alley and eatery featuring local cuisine. The convention and entertainment space will have the capacity to host concerts, basketball tournaments, weddings and trade shows. 

307 Land Development, a southeast Wyoming-based company led by real estate developer John “Tate” Bauman and his family, will oversee the venture, and Fort Collins, Colorado-based AU Workshop will provide architectural services. A general contractor has yet to be announced.

The Baumans leveraged a large cow-calf ranch in southeast Wyoming to establish a number of other companies, including Bauman Construction, Signature Designs and Tate’s Chuckwagon, a Cheyenne Frontier Days staple.

A private equity firm will fund the endeavor.

Bauman estimates the complex will add 170 jobs and $40 million to the local economy annually.

“It’s a great thing that others are looking at Cheyenne and willing to invest in Cheyenne,” said Randy Bruns, CEO of Cheyenne LEADS, the nonprofit economic development organization for Cheyenne and Laramie County. “It’s a strong indication that other folks see good things for us.”

Due to the facility’s proximity to Laramie County Community College, Bauman expects to work with college leadership to offer hospitality career training and employment to students. 

“This ties back to keeping our younger generation here,” Bauman said. 


Demonstrators protest choice of Cheyenne animal shelter leader

CHEYENNE – A handful of protesters are already demanding the removal of new Cheyenne Animal Shelter CEO Don Kremer – questioning his credentials and past defense of former CEO Bob Fecht.

The shelter’s board recently selected Kremer, who has been an animal control officer at the shelter since 2014, after a nationwide search for a new leader.

He assumes his role Feb. 11.

Those demonstrating at the Cheyenne Depot Plaza on Saturday insisted the board chose Kremer based on his ties to the community alone. They hoped for a candidate with extensive shelter management experience who could earn back community trust following months of controversy.

Kremer succeeds Fecht, who resigned last year after ordering animal control officers to pepper spray a young dog the day after it bit an employee. The incident prompted public outrage and resulted in an independent audit of shelter policies and a new crisis management plan.

In a redacted report following the incident, Kremer described it as a safe and relatively harmless way to see if pepper spray would deter an aggressive animal.

The shelter’s board later said this was wrong, but protestors insisted Kremer’s recent promotion demonstrates board members’ resistance to change.

“We don’t think they conducted a nationwide search,” said Lisa Smith, a former shelter volunteer. “We want them to find someone with actual credentials who has run a shelter, rescue or even a doggy daycare at this point. I don’t believe he is qualified to be an extraordinary candidate for the position.”

Shelter Board President Tammy Maas said the board received “considerable” interest in the position after posting to a number of national job boards, but believes Kremer’s experience as an animal control officer, pastor and Wyoming police officer made him the best person for the job.


Public defender in place for Carbon County

RAWLINS — After months without a permanent public defender residing in Carbon County, attorney David McCarthy has taken the responsibility of defending those unable to afford private representation.

The Office of Public Defender is not a glamorous position, often involving long hours and defending difficult cases.

“Every public defender is overworked,” said the former part-time acting public defender, Rick Weisheimer.

The position is invaluable in a democracy as it allows all citizens fair and expert access to justice. Thus, the appointment of new public defender is essential for the county to fulfill its commitment to a just system of criminal prosecution.

The area has been without a full-time public defender since September, when John DeLeon left the position. Whether the long-time defender resigned or was fired remains unclear, as the county did not make an official statement regarding the matter.

During this absence, the area has maintained public defense procedures by employing Bennett Law Group, a private law firm based in Rawlins, and two public defenders traveling from Laramie. These groups were contracted for the length of the county’s hiring process of a new public defender.

According to County Clerk Mara Sanger, BLG has a long history of covering public defender duties in cases of an overextended caseload. Thus, their participation in public defense was simply ramped up from previous years.