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Wyoming News Briefs: May 10, 2019

The Star Valley Independent is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange. These stories come courtesy of the WNE.

Whooping cough cases in Campbell County draw warning

GILLETTE (WNE) — A cluster of at least five cases of whooping cough in Campbell County has occurred over the past week and is drawing warnings from the Wyoming Department of Health.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a serious illness for all ages and especially dangerous for infants, said Kim Deti, spokeswoman with the state department. However, it is preventable with vaccinations.
Deti said the cluster of five cases — and she expects there could be more — is a mix of those who have been vaccinated and those who have not. She added that there are some family connections among them.
She didn’t know the age groups of those diagnosed with the illness.

“It’s especially important because people don’t always recognize pertussis,” she said.
Deti said there have been 13 reported cases statewide so far in 2019, compared to one in all of 2018 and none in 2017.
At least one to two babies have been hospitalized in Wyoming this year, she said.
“There is cause for concern and we wanted people to know about it,” she added.
“Increased pertussis activity is something we watch closely because it can be so tough on infants,” said Clay Van Houten, infectious disease epidemology unit manager with the Wyoming Department of Health.
“Campbell County is of specific concern right now. We’ve seen several cases there recently and continue to investigate more suspected cases.”


Two UW dorms likely saved from demolition

LARAMIE (WNE) — Two of the University of Wyoming’s dormitories, which had been planned for demolition, are now likely to stay in existence on campus for the long-term.
In 2017, Crane and Hill halls emptied and were planned to be the first of UW’s dorms to be demolished. Instead, in what House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, called an act of “providence,” those dorms could now be the only residence halls that remain once more than $300 million of new dorms are constructed.
Under the newest tentative plans, Crane and Hill would be refurbished to house offices for the 145 employees who currently work in Wyoming Hall.
UW plans to begin demolition on Wyoming Hall within the next year to make space for new dorms along the west side of 15th Street.
Matt Newman, a professor of practice and architect at UW, said the two dorms could hold about 400 offices.
As UW’s been weighing which, if any existing dorms to keep, Facilities Construction Management Deputy Director Matt Kibbon said he’s been trying to narrow down “which will cause the least amount of headaches.”
Crane and Hill “meet the structural building codes and the architectural features are similar to that on the rest of the campus,” Kibbon said. “Mechanically, the facilities have exceeding their useful lifespan, but I’ve talked to the guys in our electrical and plumbing shops, and those residence halls have the least amount of needs.”
In total, Kibbon estimated that, once work begins, it would take six months to complete all the work needed for Crane and Hill.


Evanston enrollment at WWCC Outreach drops

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — Western Wyoming Community College’s Evanston campus is struggling with enrollments, and a proposal by Uinta County Board of Cooperative Educational Services to cut funding to the outreach program is causing some concern.
This was the message Evanston Outreach Coordinator Heidi Currutt brought before the WWCC Board of Trustees during the their workshop session Thursday. Currutt said Evanston Outreach has been hit hard incrementally with a declining enrollment. To emphasize this, she noted the Evanston campus tallied 1,033 students in the 2014-2015 school year; enrollment currently stands at 368.
Additionally, course section offerings had dropped from 145 sections in 2014 to 67 this year.
Currutt offered a number of reasons for these numbers, including a loss of instructors, including high school instructors able and willing to teach concurrent and dual credit classes in such courses as American government, art, Spanish and public speaking. Affecting enrollment in nursing classes has been the Wyoming State Hospital’s move to offer its own CNA (certified nursing assistant) classes and changing to 12-hour shifts.
“This was a huge blow to us,” Currutt said about the hospital’s new CNA classes.
Also affecting enrollments is the appeal of online classes to the nontraditional students and Western’s Pathways programming, which has discouraged taking classes outside of a specified academic pathway, Currutt said.
Another problem is that the outreach program is no longer getting the large number of Department of Vocational Rehabilitation students that it once did.
Uinta BOCES has proposed cutting funding to the Evanston Outreach by about $25,300, according to WWCC Vice President of Student Learning Kim Farley.


Former Parkway to open as Clarion

CASPER (WNE) — The former Parkway Plaza Hotel and Convention Center near downtown Casper will reopen this summer as the Clarion Inn at Platte River, according to a Thursday announcement.
Maryland-based Choice Hotels and Georgia-based CUSA LLC will coordinate to reopen the building. CUSA LLC President Deborah L. Cannon said there isn’t a fi rm open date, but they expect to be open by July or August of this year.
The Clarion Inn at Platte River will offer 198 rooms and 42,000 square feet of conference and banquet space, according to the press release. The hotel’s opening will also include the reopening of Old Town Putt Putt Golf, hotel general manager Tabitha Overgard said.
The Parkway, which long served as the city’s convention center, closed last fall for renovations and has changed hands a number of times over the last decade.
Casper businessman Pat Sweeney sold the Parkway to a Texas-based company in 2008, but after that firm failed to meet certain conditions, Sweeney took control of the property again. In 2015 he sold the hotel to CRU Casper, which was owned by a California-based real estate company.
Finally, after CRU Casper defaulted on its mortgage, GreenLake purchased the building for $15.5 million on Dec. 6 as the lone bidder at a public foreclosure auction.
“We want to be an excellent community partner,” Cannon said. “We’re working with the visitors bureau to make sure we’re doing what we need to do to enhance what they’re already doing.”


Sixth grade cut from Alta school

JACKSON (WNE) — Students breaking down into tears during public comment Wednesday night didn’t dissuade the school board from voting 6-1 to cut sixth grade from Alta Elementary School.
After hearing from students and their upset parents, the Teton County School District No. 1’s Board of Trustees approved Superintendent Gillian Chapman’s recommendation to eliminate the grade from Alta starting next year.
Before the vote, sixth-graders living in Alta had three choices: Alta Elementary School, Teton Middle School in Driggs, Idaho, or Jackson Hole Middle School.
Only chairwoman Betsy Carlin voted against trimming the grade. Parents were told of the recommendation April 26 and said during public comment that the decision felt rushed, a sentiment Carlin echoed.
The vote capped a flurried few weeks of outcry in Alta. Parents wrote letters, students made posters and submitted a video and many families trekked over Teton Pass for this week’s meeting.
Chapman told families at a community meeting in Alta last week that the basis for her recommendation was a decline in recent years from 65 students to 48 currently. The resulting low student-teacher ratios weren’t equitable compared to other small schools, she said.
But the discussion turned to educational quality during the school board meeting. This surprised parents, who hadn’t complained about the quality of education their children received at Alta and gave testimony to the contrary.
Mother Sarah Dunn worried that the equity argument could lead to closing the school someday and called it “the first nail in the coffin of our school.”


Sweetwater Co. get first impact payment from Gateway West

GREEN RIVER (WNE) — Sweetwater County officially received its first Gateway West Impact payment last week.
During the Sweetwater County Commissioners meeting Tuesday morning, the Commissioners heard an update from Sweetwater County Treasurer Robb Slaughter about the impact funding the county is receiving.
Slaughter said the county received its first payment of $254,155.56 Tuesday and is supposed to receive this same amount each month for the next 15 months from the Industrial Siting Council. Slaughter said the total should be about $3.8 million. These amounts will be distributed to those impacted by the Gateway West Transmission Line project, including the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s department, Road and Bridge, Land Use Department, Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County, Sweetwater County Fire District No. 1, Food Bank of Sweetwater County, the ambulance board, Rock Springs and Wamsutter.
Chairman Wally Johnson was concerned the funds wouldn’t be the same every month like they were told because that is not what they were told for the Trans West pipeline project.
Deputy attorney John Deleon said the funds will come from Wyoming’s general fund and are going to be distributed on a monthly basis as long as the project continues. He said it is rare for a project not to continue, but recently one stopped in Carbon County.
Johnson said he just didn’t want departments purchasing a big piece of equipment and later finding out the project has stopped and so has the money to pay for the equipment.

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