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Wyoming News Briefs: September 6, 2018

The Star Valley Independent is a member of the Wyoming News Exchange.

These stories come courtesy of the WNE.

Another county closing Bank of the West accounts

POWELL (WNE) — Bank of the West’s decision to cut ties with certain fossil fuels has government agencies across Wyoming cutting ties with the bank. 

State Treasurer Mark Gordon and Gov. Matt Mead have announced their intent to pull tens of millions of state dollars from the Bank of the West in response to the bank’s policies and many cities and counties across the state are following suit. 

The Park County government had only a small amount of money with the bank in Cody and Sheriff Scott Steward is closing those accounts. 

Steward said his decision stemmed from fossil fuels’ critical importance to the state. 

Bank of the West leaders “can throw out their opinion and write their policy based on what their beliefs are, but I certainly believe we should not have taxpayers’ funds in an institution that is basically, in a sense, anti-the way Wyoming is,” Steward said Tuesday. 

He added that the issue is not with the people working for Bank of the West locally, “but it’s coming from their corporate headquarters, so I believe it’s just right to move it [the money] out,” Steward said. 

The policies are effectively a moot issue for the City of Powell and the City of Cody, as neither municipality has any business with Bank of the West; the bank closed its Powell branch in early 2014. 

As for Meeteetse, the town government is “kind of prisoner,” because Bank of the West is the only financial institution in town, Meeteetse Mayor Bill Yetter said last month. However, Yetter said the town council is “actively” investigating whether there’s a way to switch to another bank.


Man pleads no contest to sex abuse charges

GILLETTE (WNE) — On the day Richard Hewitt, 49, was scheduled to stand trial for sexually abusing two young girls, the Campbell County Attorney’s Office reduced the charges against him and he changed his plea.

Hewitt had been charged with one count of first-degree sexual abuse and two counts of attempted first-degree sexual abuse of a young girl between November and December 2016. In a separate but similar case, he was charged with 10 counts of first-degree sexual abuse of another young girl between December 2015 and April 2016. The two cases were combined for the trial.

Instead of standing trial on the 13 sexual abuse charges, Hewitt pleaded no contest in District Court on Tuesday to one count of second-degree sexual abuse in each of the two cases. By pleading no contest, Hewitt indicated that he neither disputes nor admits to the crimes. The court treats a no contest plea the same as a guilty plea.

Hewitt’s crimes first came to light in December 2016 when one of the girls told a Campbell County Health employee about the sexual abuse, citing it as one of the reasons she had recently considered suicide, according to court documents. She later told investigators that Hewitt had forced her to have sex on countless occasions during the preceding few years. 

Hewitt was arrested in June 2017 in that case, and shortly afterward, another girl came forward. Campbell County Attorney Ron Wirthwein and defense attorneys Austin Carmen and Mitch Damsky jointly recommended that District Judge John R. Perry give Hewitt consecutive sentences of 15 to 20 years in prison for each count of second-degree sexual abuse, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. They also recommended that Hewitt pay $1,500 in restitution.


Yellowstone’s Inspiration Point re-opens

CODY (WNE) — Following a two-year re-construction project, Inspiration Point at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River has re-opened to visitors.

The work was performed to enlarge the overlook and make it safer and more accessible.

The spot welcomed back tourists late last week after being closed during the renovation.

This project is part of a series of long-term upgrades of the overlooks, trails and parking lots in the area. Uncle Tom’s Point is expected to reopen later this fall.

Renovations at five locations in the area have been completed since 2005. Improvements at the Brink of Upper Falls will start when Uncle Tom’s Point opens. It is expected the Brink of the Upper Falls will be closed through 2019.


Big Horn Co. enrollment at 10-year low

GREYBULL (WNE) — For the past 10 years, Big Horn County School District’s opening day enrollment has hovered between 480, which was the student count of one year ago, and the 533 who started school together in the fall of 2015.

This year, however, the district has slipped outside that range. The district’s opening enrollment this year was 467, a decline of 13 students compared to last fall.

Greybull High School opened the year with 154 students, including 50 seniors — by far the largest class in the district — to go along with 34 juniors, 32 sophomores and 38 freshmen. The school began last year with 157 students and ended in May with 156.

The middle school began this year with 109 students, with 38 being eighth graders, 43 seventh graders and 29 sixth graders. The total is a slight drop from last fall, when the school year began with 117 students.

Not long ago, classrooms were bursting at the seams at GES. But as that wave of students aged out, class sizes have returned to more manageable levels. The building showed an opening enrollment this year of 204 students, down from 206 last fall. Included in the total were seven junior kindergarteners, 33 kindergarteners, 34 first graders, 35 second graders, 30 third graders, 31 fourth graders and 34 fifth graders.

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