NEWS BRIEFS for Tuesday, April 9, 2019


WBC pauses Kickstart program for review

CHEYENNE (WNE) — The Wyoming Business Council paused its state-funded Kickstart: Wyoming program last week for review and improvement following a six-month trial period.

Kickstart, launched late last year, provides up to $50,000 in grant money to Wyoming startups with fewer than 50 employees. It’s one of several initiatives funded through 2018 economic diversification legislation.

More than a dozen startups received a total of $640,000 in funding since the program launched, but only 10 percent of applicants were selected during that time. Companies in Teton and Albany counties received the bulk of the funding.

“It’s a very competitive program so far,” said Sarah Fitz-Gerald, Wyoming Business Council chief strategy officer. “It shows there’s a lot of entrepreneurship in Wyoming, and that’s great to hear.”

Fitz-Gerald said the group always planned to make improvements, ultimately deciding to pause completely to implement stakeholder suggestions.

“This is the first program of its kind in Wyoming,” she said. “We’re still fine-tuning who qualifies and how to issue funding.”

Soon, the Business Council may shift from Kickstart’s monthly funding cycle and streamline applicant correspondence.

“We stood the program up quick,” Fitz-Gerald said. “We’re really proud of what we’ve done so far, and a few of the companies are absolute standouts.”

She noted Casper-based minerals liberation company Disa as one example.

Founded by two University of Wyoming graduates, Disa provides new, patented technology to help energy and mining companies improve efficiency, lower costs and reduce waste.

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Natrona County School Board backs softball

CASPER (WNE) — The Natrona County school board officially threw its support behind a statewide effort to bring softball to Wyoming high schools Monday night, voting unanimously to add Kelly Walsh and Natrona County High to a growing list of schools that would like to offer the sport.

“Thank you from the bottom of my heart for pushing for this for these girls,” Claire Smith, who coaches the Casper Rebels, told the board before the vote.

The vote is the culmination of months of lobbying by Casper’s softball community, who have packed the usually sparsely attended school board meetings since January and made their case to the board. Natrona County School District officials told the crowd at that first meeting that staff was already exploring the option, which was under consideration at other districts across the state.

The Casper softball community packed the school board’s meeting again Monday night. Girls in Casper Voltage and Rebels jerseys filled the rows of chairs, while parents wearing sweatshirts with a lightning bolt emblazoned across it stood against the wall. Parents held out their phones to take pictures and record the moment.

Natrona County’s support is not passive, either: The board voted to support softball be sanctioned as soon as possible, rather than the 2021 timeline that was initially floated. In a meeting Monday afternoon before the vote, the board discussed asking the Wyoming High School Activities Association to begin the sport before 2021, which the governing body had previously targeted as a start date for softball. Trustee Dave Applegate proposed the earlier and noted that the young women who have worked to get the sport sanctioned here may graduate before the first pitch is thrown in two years.

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Men ordered to repay WYDOT for stolen snow fences

LARAMIE (WNE) — Two Colorado men have been ordered to pay $16,000 in restitution to the Wyoming Department of Transportation after the men stole lumber from snow-fences in Albany County and sold them to a Fort Collins business in 2017.

On Monday, one of the men, Tres Steinhoff, was sentenced to five years supervised probation in lieu of a suspended three- to five-year prison sentence. Steinhoff was convicted for conspiracy to commit theft.

“I’m ashamed,” Steinhoff said. “I don’t have anything that justifies this. I’d say that it’s a mistake, but it’s more than that.”

Brian Quinn, who represented co-conspirator Billy Cobb in the case, said in October that Steinhoff was “the ring leader of this operation.”

Billy Cobb was the first of the group to turn himself in. Like Steinhoff, Billy Cobb was sentenced to five years supervised probation.

“I don’t have concerns about your ability to be successful,” Albany County District Court judge Tori Kricken told Cobb at his October sentencing.

Less than two months later, Kricken revoked Billy Cobb’s probation and he was arrested on a warrant after he continuously failed to meet with his probation agent. He remains on probation.

The lumber was taken from snow fences off U.S. Highway 287 near Tie Siding. Steinhoff said he’s particularly remorseful over the fact that the theft could have made the treacherous stretch of road even more dangerous.

Kricken thanked Steinhoff for taking responsibility for the crime.

“While it’s not a violent crime, I appreciate the fact that you acknowledge there could have been physical consequences for someone,” she told him.

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Rock Springs school board rejects 4-day week

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — After arguments back and forth, Sweetwater County School District No. 1 trustees voted 4-3 against moving to a four-day school week at Monday’s board meeting.

Under the plan district staff proposed, students would have gotten Fridays off while staff would be contracted to be at school every other Friday for professional learning community time.

Chairwoman Carol Jelaco and Trustees Max Mickelson, John Bettolo and Matthew Jackman opposed the proposed change while Trustees Lenny Hay, Stephanie Thompson and George Reedy supported it.

Bettolo said the move to implement the proposed calendar was too extreme and too quick.

Hay said he supported the four-day week because he wanted to support the teachers who expressed a need to have more time to plan, and that parents need to be with their kids more.

Thompson, who said she was on the fence on the issue, came out in support of a four-day week.

“I listened to our teachers, they are burned out,” she said. “Is this the solution? I don’t know, but let’s give it a shot.”

Jelaco said while she understood teacher concerns about the need to have more preparation time, she did not feel it was the right time, nor was the four-day week in the best interest of students.

The district polled staff about the four-day and traditional five-day calendars, and about two-thirds responded. Of those who voted, 60 percent were for the four-day and 40 percent for the traditional, according to the district.

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Wyoming this Weekend, April 12-14

By the Wyoming News Exchange

A baking battle in Gillette is taking center stage this weekend in Wyoming.

The Campbell County Public Library’s eighth annual “Cupcake Wars” is being held Saturday at the library.

Fourteen bakers are to face off in a competition that will judge their “themed” cupcakes. Competitors in the past have included an “Elvis” cupcake made with peanut butter and bananas.

The bakers will also decorate display tables according to their theme for the event.

Other activities scheduled for the weekend include:

The FAB Women’s Conference in Sheridan on Friday;

The St. Labre Indian School Student Art Show at Big Horn’s Brinton Museum through the weekend;

Sports shooting events at Spur Outfitters in Encampment on Saturday;

A display of the works of artist Morgan Price in Sheridan through the weekend;

A performance by the Sheridan College Music Ensemble of Audio Technology in Sheridan on Saturday, and

A walking tour of Lander’s Noble Hotel on Saturday.

For more information on these and other events, visit the Wyoming Tourism Division’s website at TravelWyoming.com.