Moorcroft Leader - The Voice of the Community Since 1909, Serving Moorcroft and Pine Haven, Wyoming

A Look Forward

 

January 3, 2019



What goals have our local governments and entities set for themselves over the coming months? Where might we be when 2019 draws to a close?

In this issue, we’ll be taking a look forward to the projects, plans and objectives that our county has in store as the new year unfolds.

CITIES

Sundance

“I’m optimistic, I think there’s a lot of good things that are happening and a little extra money. The town is getting fixed up, we have the park ongoing,” says Mayor Paul Brooks of the future for Sundance.

“You have to build a town where people want to live.”

The council will continue to focus on improvements to its utilities and amenities in 2019, he says.

“We have some stuff in the pipeline. One of the highest priorities needs to be lighting up the sidewalks near the new football field,” he says.

The city is always looking to improve its water system, he continues. This has been an ongoing effort that has so far increased the number of working fire hydrants in the city from one to more than 20.

“That’s a huge improvement,” he says. “At some point, we’re also going to start looking at sewer. We’ve got a pretty ancient sewer system and so that’s going to be something that has to be looked into.”

Meanwhile, he says, “We’ve cleaned the town up a lot” and the council will need to make hard decisions on how to tackle nuisance ordinances that are not being addressed by residents.

Brooks believes the city’s coffers will benefit in 2019 from the fact that the state is in better shape. He says Governor Matt Mead predicted the budget would be back to normal levels by the second quarter and that, like Mead, he would like to see the state continue down the road of finding alternative economic sources so, next time there is a dip in energy revenue, the bust period hits less hard.

“His supplemental budget was fairly good for local government. Mark Gordon, in our discussion with him, praised local government, so I see more of the same,” says Brooks.

“Matt Mead changed the landscape when he recognized, honored and started working with local government. It truly changed the way Wyoming does business, so for eight years we did that and Governor Gordon appears to be heading down that path, so I am optimistic that for the next four years there will be more money.”

This is important, says Brooks, because if Gordon serves for two terms, it could ultimately lead to a 16-year period of local governments “getting their way”, at the end of which those who have opposed funds being directed to cities and towns will have grown used to it. At the end of that period, Brooks says, “We may have changed the whole course of the state for a lifetime, which I think is a good thing.”

It’s particularly important for smaller cities, he continues. Any municipalities with a population over around 2000 can generally support itself, but smaller populations rely on direct distribution because “the rate base just isn’t large enough to support what you’re doing”.

“I optimistically say over and over that I would like to see more young families move to town and our population grow to that 2100,” he says. “Will it do it in the next eight years? Probably not, but it would be nice.”

Building a town that works for its citizens and potentially attracts new ones means creating the sort of amenities those people want, he continues.

“That takes nice streets, that takes walking paths, it takes working swimming pools and athletic facilities,” he says. “I think it’s cast in stone that you have to look towards and be cognizant that that is what it’s going to take to run your town for the next 20 years.”

Brooks adds that Crook County might want to keep an eye towards the legislature this year.

“The other thing we have that is huge is two Crook County residents that are in the legislature in leadership positions,” he says. “That should not only be cause for everyone to think we’re in a good spot, but for celebration. Leadership spots are very, very good for your community.”

Moorcroft

For incoming mayor Dick Claar, a preoccupation for 2019 will be finding available grant funding to improve Moorcroft and upgrade its infrastructure.

“I’d like to see the parks improved as far as playground equipment and I’d like to pursue this splash pad we want to put in and maybe a new basketball court up here at Noonan and a volleyball pit to improve the park so that people will use it and have a reason to use it,” Claar says.

“The other thing I would like to see is that we move to obtain financing and start the project to move town hall up to the Moorcroft Town Center.”

Two other needs on which the new mayor would like to focus attention are water and streets.

“We have a water project in front of the State Lands and Investments Board but I really don’t think we can afford to undertake that project because it would increase our debt load to a point we would have raise our rates. We’ve got to keep that project in front of them so that we don’t get lost,” he says.

“We don’t even know if we’re going to be accepted, but we’d have to make a decision on it. I don’t know if we move on it even if we’re accepted. I don’t think we’d do anything for a number of years, until we get some debt resolved in the town.”

Regarding streets, Claar would like to see the town find a way to improve asphalt where it is beginning to deteriorate.

“That’s a debt I don’t think we can afford to take on yet, so we’ve just got to pursue grants and see if we can come up with some 90/10 match grants or something along those lines. On some of our older streets the asphalt has been rutted and grass is growing in the cracks and we need to take care of that stuff or we’re going to lose our streets,” he says.

“We need to pursue funding methods for taking care of our streets that doesn’t put a burden back on our taxpayers.”

Meanwhile, Claar would very much like to see the landfill situation resolved and hopes that Moorcroft will become the hub for Crook County’s garbage.

“I’d like to see the landfill situation resolved and the landfill be open to the county or to anyone who wants to haul there. I’d like to see the county commissioners establish a solid waste district and then a board would be appointed to study the situation and possibly put a mill levy on the ballot for future expansion at the landfill, which is about the way we can get the whole county bought into it,” he says.

“Moorcroft can’t afford to piggyback this whole expense of $4 million, or whatever it costs to keep the landfill going for the next 50 years. We need some help from the county commissioners there.”

At the state level, Claar will be keeping an eye on upcoming bills and also the financial situation.

“There’s going to be some bills concerning taxes proposed, like sales tax revenues. I see one of them is that someone is advocating possibly putting sales tax back on groceries but dropping the overall state rate,” he says.

“There are going to be a number of different financial bills that go across the legislature that I think are going to affect each of our communities. I see Governor Mead’s proposed budget, which he has to turn in before he leaves office, and it looks pretty good for towns.”

Hulett

For the Town of Hulett, says Mayor Ted Parsons, the year ahead will see work continue on a number of maintenance issues.

“We have some work to do on the sewer, we’re looking at trying to build a cold storage building,” he lists. “Nothing major, but just those things that need to be done.”

One of those projects will be to hook an emergency generator into the Greater Hulett Community Center, he continues.

“Years ago, Homeland Security bought us a huge generator for emergencies and it’s been sitting up at the airport unhooked to anything, so one of my goals is to get that hooked up so that, if we do have a long term power outage, we can turn the community center into an emergency center,” he says.

The council will also take a look at a development opportunity that has come about on a road just north as town called Red Devil Drive.

“It’s about a block long and that land was purchased by the city over ten years ago and then broken into four lots. The curb and gutter, the streets, sewer and water were all paid for by a state grant and there were stipulations on what we could sell that land for – what kinds of businesses,” Parsons says.

“Since it’s been ten years, that has been released so now we’re much more capable of getting businesses to move out there. We have a few people who have shown interest. It’s a street that’s out in the middle of a field, basically, but we own four one-acre lots and we want to get those developed.”

Parsons feels optimistic that towns like Hulett may have some extra cash to invest this year.

“From what I’ve read, it looks like maybe the municipalities are going to get a little more money from state government this year,” he says.

“Of course, with that money you can start doing things. My dream is to get a splash park like they have in downtown Rapid City only on a much smaller scale.”

This, he notes, is a personal hope that he believes could be a positive addition for both local families and visitors. Kids could play down there in the summer, he says.

“I’d like to see something for kids to do during the summer when they’re out of school and there’s nothing to do – they have baseball, but that ends earlier in the summer. This would be something where the kids could just go down there, scream and yell and get wet,” Parsons says.

“We get quite a few tourists that spend the night and you see them out walking the street at 6 or 7 o’clock just seeing what there is to see. It would be nice on those hot August days to see places they could go down.”

Hulett is a beautiful town, says the mayor, and additional features could enhance its appeal to visitors and by doing so boost the town’s economy.

“We’ve got two parks, we’ve cleaned up one and we’re putting a new sprinkler in that, so we’ll have a nice spread of grass with picnic tables and playground equipment. It’s just something for tourists to do in the evening so they don’t just go back to their motel room and watch tv,” he says.

“In doing that, they’re going to stop into a café and have a glass of tea or a pop plus eat there.”

Pine Haven

Pine Haven, too, will welcome a new mayor as the year begins. Bill Cunningham has several ideas already for the progress he would like to see made in town during 2019.

“My number one goal and something I would like to see done before I leave is to try to get natural gas in here,” he begins, explaining that he is working on this project alongside Sundance.

“We’re trying to work with them and get some of that ironed out and maybe we can get all the way from Wind Creek to Pine Haven and then Pine Ridge and Sundance. I don’t know what it’s going to entail, we’re just kind of getting underway.”

The council is aware of the project, but it’s very early days, Cunningham says.

“Sundance wants to go forward as much as possible and I do too – I want to see it done,” he says.

Cunningham would also like to explore the future for garbage in the area, specifically as it relates to Moorcroft’s landfill and whether outside customers will be able to make use of it.

“I want to talk to Mayor Dick Claar about the Moorcroft dump and see what his plans and ideas are and see where we can go from there,” he says.

A third goal on the new mayor’s list is to research property taxes for the Pine Haven area.

“The tax estimate for Crook County for Pine Haven is pretty high and I want to go and see why and see what I can do,” he says. He would like to see the county reevaluate property taxes in Pine Haven as they appear to be higher than for other places within the county.

Cunningham also believes there is opportunity to improve conditions for Pine Haven’s emergency departments.

“By next year, I’d like to be able to get a building up on top next to the maintenance building and move the fire hall and maybe the ambulance up there,” he says, explaining that this could improve response time.

Cunningham’s idea for the current fire hall and ambulance building is to turn it into a community center for Pine Haven’s residents. “If that works – I’ve got to look at it to see if it’s feasible, but that’s what I’d like to see by this time next year,” he says.

The incoming mayor has additional goals, such as to improve the signage pointing to Keyhole Reservoir for the convenience of visitors to Pine Haven. He would also like to look at drainage and right of way issues, believing there are some places in town where culverts are necessary and a better right of way is needed to the cemetery.

“Just minor things I’ve got lined out and we’ll get to work on those maybe in January and get a plan lined in,” he said.

He would also like to introduce monthly meetings with the town employees to create the opportunity to hear what’s happening in their departments and gather input. “Sometimes, other people have better ideas than what we have,” he says.

“We’re working on different things and trying to get Pine Haven’s name out there. I don’t want to turn it into a big city, I want everybody to just come and enjoy it,” he concludes.

“I’m not here to spend a ton of money. I want to be really frugal and economical.”

COUNTY

Commissioner Kelly Dennis

The fiscal situation for Crook County will occupy Commissioner Kelly Dennis’s attention in the coming year. The most important thing, he says, will be “living within our budget”.

“I foresee possibly some tough economic times coming ahead as far as what we get for tax money and we have to live within our means,” he says.

For Dennis, this will be just as important a goal at the state level as it is in local government.

“I hope that with our new leaders coming in state government that they are very responsible with the state’s money – maybe more so than what we have been, even,” he says.

“That will bode well for Crook County, if that’s the case.”

Meanwhile, for the county, Dennis expects that 2019 will see the continuation of ongoing work for most of the courthouse’s offices.

“We have projects that are ongoing, mostly in road and bridge and things like that as far as the offices that I’m in charge of,” he says.

Other county offices will also continue ongoing goals, he says, such as the preservation of records.

Summing up his hopes for the commission in the year ahead, Dennis says he will aim to be “Responsible with our spending and responsive to all citizens of Crook County.”

Commissioner Jeanne Whalen

The coming year will bring multiple challenges and new focuses for Commissioner Jeanne Whalen, including completion of a long term project alongside the Forest Service to create FERTA easements.

“The county and the Forest Service have been working on a map through the Bearlodge identifying ownership of particular roads, and who will do maintenance on those roads. This undertaking started a long time ago,” she explains.

“All the surveying is done, we are just waiting for the Forest Service to complete the last few steps. This is important because, if for some reason the federal government shuts down access to the forest, there will still be county roads through the forest that the public can travel on.”

Whalen also looks forward to working towards creating a water district that will help landowners in the west of the county.

“Once the legislature okays the formation of the Carlile Area Water District I will work with the landowners and the state to move things along,” she says.

She will also continue to push for a resolution to the issues with CenturyLink phone service on the eastern side of the county.

“Another project I am committed to is to have decent telephone service on the eastern end of the county. Not having reliable phone service is not only dangerous, it is not conducive to economic growth and frankly beyond ridiculous in this century,” she says.

“I will continue to explore options, be it cell towers or other providers coming to our area. I support the Wyoming Business Council’s broadband plan and hope Governor Mark Gordon continues the program.”

At the state level, Whalen is not pleased to see a bill on the table this year that could affect local property taxes.

“According to the latest Farm Bureau paper, there is a state bill that would increase property taxes 13 percent on residential, ag and other properties. Industrial is now included too,” she says.

“This makes me mad as the county will take the heat for this if the bill passes. We just collect the tax, it goes to Cheyenne and they send us back a percentage of it.”

The fact that this bill would likely annoy landowners is not her only concern with it.

“If the state was serious about raising money, they need to be more forceful about collecting the taxes that are already on the books. If this passes, honest people will continue to pay, dishonest ones will continue to ignore and not pay,” she says.

“There are other proposed tax bills in the works, my opinion is the same.”

By the end of 2019, Whalen envisions that several road projects will be complete, including replacement of the Arch Creek bridge using WYDOT funding; and gravel for 17 miles of the D Road, also sponsored by WYDOT’s industrial roads program.

“The grant submitted to improve the Little Missouri Road did not go through so we will continue to work with the bentonite companies and the landowners to find a solution,” she continues.

Whalen also looks forward to seeing the museum move to its new home in Old Stoney and anticipates that the county will begin planning what to do with the space left behind in the courthouse basement. She expects that the Oneok pipeline will begin installation work in Crook County.

“As I start my third term, I am energized by what has been accomplished and what is reasonable to achieve in the future,” she says. “We have a good group of caring employees that think alike, and try to do their best. They inspire me to do my best too.”

Commissioner Fred Devish

Until he has spent some time in his seat, incoming Commissioner Fred Devish is setting more general goals for himself in 2019.

“Without actively being in there, I don’t know I have any particular projects,” he explains.

“Of course, you have your road projects, which seem to be a major event. You’ve got so much money and you’ve got to put it where it does the most good.”

Devish points to the gravelling project on the D Road as an example of this, commenting, “For any project that comes up, I’d like to see us come to the table and discuss it with some common sense and civility.”

Devish’s major focuses will include to, “Be progressive. We can’t keep doing the same thing year after year after year and expect different results,” he says.

“I’d like to keep the county entities moving forward so that we can catch up to the current year. All the elected and all the staff to move forward and be progressive and try to get our records keeping and that kind of thing to what everybody else is at.”

Devish believes the county should continue working on ways to make its activities more transparent, something that has been a work in progress with such goals as digitizing older documents. He would also like to see the county work more closely with municipalities in times when doing so could benefit all.

“I think there are certain things that affect both of them – the county and the municipalities – that I think they should work on together,” he says.

“I think there are some things for which the county is solely responsible and some things for which the municipalities are solely responsible, but where there are things that the five municipalities and the county can work on together and it benefits both, I think they should work more together.”

Working towards a regional landfill is one example of this, he says, along with the potential water district for county residents.

“I think they can work together on items that benefit both and where there are overlaps, rather than one entity taking the brunt of it,” he says. “It’s a lot easier to get something done with 7000 people pushing on it than with 1000 or whatever number it is.”

Meanwhile, Devish will be keeping an eye on state finances.

“I believe the money stream is critical; we’re kind of on a flat line and have been going down, but now I think that has stopped and might even be coming up,” he says.

“[I want to] keep our name out there and try to get grant monies and things like that where we can get it and it works.”

By this time next year, Devish believes he will have a clearer picture of the county’s needs.

“I’m looking forward to it and I hope to be well versed. I intend on attending other functions than just the commissioner meeting. I would like to visit with all the different boards and all the other departments to see where they are headed,” he says.

“I’m pretty sure I will have a better working knowledge of everything, because going into this I have been attending commissioner meetings and I kind of understand some things, but you can’t get it all from sitting on the outside. I think I’ll be better equipped to go forward.”

LEGISLATIVE

Senator Ogden Driskill

“I am entering a new world this year in the legislature as Vice President of the Senate. With this will come many new responsibilities and opportunities,” says Senator Ogden Driskill. “I also will be Chairman of the Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee.”

With those responsibilities on his plate, the senator plans to work closely with agencies on issues including aquatic invasive species and their possible impact on Wyoming’s waters, as well as predators such as grizzly bears, wolves and lions; hunter issues; and chronic wasting disease.

“I will work closely on state park issues and management,” he says. Other issues he believes will occupy his attention include a continuation of his work to help keep the state budget balanced.

“I will keep working on lowering the burdens of rules and regulations on our cities, towns, businesses and citizens. I am actively working hard to keep Wyoming in the forefront on Blockchain laws,” he says.

Senator Driskill believes that the major focus for 2019 will, in fact, be keeping state funding in check and the budget balanced.

“I will focus much on developing leadership among the new legislators coming into the legislature. I deeply believe that we need to bring the House and Senate closer together – working jointly to solve Wyoming’s issues jointly, rather than individually,” he says.

“I will work hard to help develop a long term vision for Wyoming and its future. The only way to solve pressing problems permanently is to have long term goals.”

Driskill foresees a number of issues on the horizon, including a continuation of the boom and bust cycle.

“In just the last quarter, our projected income has dropped by $150 million, leaving the state from being close to a balanced budget, to being back in the red fairly deeply,” he says.

“We are faced with multiple closures of our coal fired power plants within the State of Wyoming over the next few years—many of these are closures that are much earlier than the life of the plants.”

Wyoming loses on this on many fronts, Driskill says.

“We lose the income from coal royalties and taxes on their industries, we potentially lose thousands of jobs and we pay higher power bills to retire the plants before the end of their useful life,” he says.

“Wyoming has entered into an era we all knew was coming someday: energy has gone from paying over 70 percent of our taxes to the low 60 percent range. This trend will likely continue and possibly accelerate.”

Around 25 percent of the state’s budget has been coming from investment income, Driskill continues.

“With the downturn in the stock market, we could very easily have a drop in income in the following years. These are tough times and we have challenges ahead, but the state is well positioned for the future with robust savings,” he says.

“We have a couple of bienniums (four to six more years) that we can backfill shortages with savings, but long term we must change our base funding and spending ways. We have some major policy decisions ahead as to what we want for services and how we pay for them. I will continue to fight to keep our communities able to provide quality services.”

The senator’s personal goals are to take care of the Madison dispute with the City of Gillette and continue his work to ensure all Crook County residents have access to quality drinking water; and to continue working to solve the landfill problem in northeast Wyoming.

“Keeping our county and cities with the resources to function effectively is always a goal,” he says.

By the end of 2019, Driskill hopes to see more stability both locally and nationally.

“I think Crook County and northeast Wyoming a probably in as good a position as they have been in for many years legislatively. I think we are blessed to live where we do,” he says.

“We still have cycles the same as much of the state, but they tend to not be as severe as in the mineral rich areas. I think we have a bright future. Our economy continues to develop and get stronger in an orderly fashion—I think this is a healthy to grow.”

Driskill closes with his new favorite quote, spoken by Governor Matt Mead at the Wyoming breakfast during the National Finals Rodeo: “I would rather live in a state where people have rough hands and a soft heart, than to live in a state where people have soft hands and a cold heart.”

Representative Tyler Lindholm

Representative Tyler Lindholm will enter 2019 as the Wyoming Legislature’s Majority Whip. It has always been his aim to ensure that the voice of Crook and Weston Counties is as loud as possible, he says, and there are numerous issues on which this will be important in the coming year.

“I think the biggest thing for Sundance right now is ensuring we get that FEMA funding issue fixed [for the Cole water storage tank]. We’ll be working on that at the legislative session and hopefully we can find a solution to help out the residents of Sundance,” he begins.

“It’s one of those bad deals where promises were made by a federal entity and they didn’t live up to their end of the bargain and now a small municipality is holding a large amount of debt.”

Lindholm will also focus on expanding the economies of small towns like those in northeast Wyoming.

“I think everybody is on the same page: we’d dearly love to see some new businesses move into the area, so that’s going to be a lot of my time and concentration,” he says.

This, he says, includes finding efficiencies within the state’s regulations for new businesses and also helping existing businesses expand. He would like to fix mining regulations in regards to gravel pits.

“The way it stands right now is that South Dakota, which has to live up to the same EPA standards that Wyoming does, has much lower regulations. We’re working and will continue working to see that those regulatory deficiencies are brought into line and that the environmental regulations match the environmental risk – essentially, we’re regulating these gravel pits like they’re coal pits laced with thorium,” he says.

The legislature will likely be considering a slew of new tax ideas at the coming session, Lindholm says.

“We’ve asked the revenue committee to bring forward a lot of different options and the ideology behind it all is based on getting away from the boom and bust periods so the state isn’t crippled by one industry having a bad year,” he says.

Lindholm has recently been listed again as one of the state’s most conservative legislators by the American Conservative Union, based on his voting record, “So you’re probably not going to be seeing me vote for increased taxes,” he laughs.

“But there are some appealing options out there, such as the ‘lower and expand’ option that would get rid of some of the exemptions that are in place and lower the sales tax down to 3.5 percent instead of 4 percent. I think folks would love to see sales tax lowered and, if we get rid of exemptions, it would be based on that we could lower sales tax and maintain the same amount of revenue.”

Though Lindholm is not a supporter of more tobacco tax, he will be suggesting an associated idea.

“I will continue to advocate against any hike in tobacco taxes because we have a couple of stores in Crook County that depend 100 percent on folks traveling across the border to buy tobacco in Wyoming,” he says. “I’ve always fought against those and I will continue to do so, and one of the options we’ve got this year to try and ensure that we don’t have to raise the tobacco sales tax is to put a tax on vapor tobacco products that puts them in line with regular tobacco taxes.”

In fact, he says, legislation regarding vapor products is something he is drafting himself. He has done so with the idea that, if he has created a bill, nobody else can do so in a way he finds less palatable, because the legislation already exists.

“I kind of hold it hostage at that point, and I get to set the rate,” he smiles. “We’d be looking at right around 2 to 3 cents per ml on nicotine-based products. If it’s not nicotine-based then there’s no tax.”

The sales tax rebalance and vapor tax are the two Lindholm currently finds most appealing.

“I’m not saying I’m definitely going to vote for them, but it’s caught my eye,” he says.

Meanwhile, Lindholm’s major focus for the year will be on expanding broadband accessibility.

“I would like to show up with a bevy of bills if given the opportunity. I’ve currently got four pieces of legislation in the works that handle broadband and cell phone coverage,” he says.

“What I’ve done is gotten hold of industry and said, what are the biggest problems with setting up or expanding broadband in the State of Wyoming and expanding cell phone access? They returned to me with a laundry list of issues that they had and those are the issues I’ll be working on.”

Among the issues are right of way access and uniform regulations and a lack of clarification on the franchise fees that municipalities are allowed to collect. For cell phone access, the main issue is the difficulty in finding a site for a new tower, which Lindholm believes could be alleviated by making it possible to use right of ways on highways.

“I want to make it silly to not expand. I want to make it just so easy to expand broadband in the State of Wyoming that folks have fiber going right to their door,” he says.

Among the challenges of 2019, Lindholm fears the federal shutdown may have long-reaching effects.

“I used to be one of those guys who would smile at that because, if the federal government isn’t operating, they can’t cause us issues. But what ends up happening is that the USDA inspectors and packing plants are furloughed during the same period and that usually causes a huge dip in cattle markets. That’s not good for ranchers in this area,” he says.

But in more positive news, “We’re going to inaugurate a new governor this year, so that’s exciting. There are quite a few new legislators so a lot of different aspects will be changing in state government,” he says.

“I’m really excited to see Old Stoney finished off this summer,” he adds. Not just because of its potential as a centerpiece for Sundance, but also as a new place to host legislative committee meetings and bring more state attention to Crook County.

“My goal will be to make sure that I’m down in Cheyenne making sure Crook and Weston County have a voice that’s loud and noticed so their priorities are made very clear.”

DISTRICTS

Hospital District

Crook County Medical Services District has made improvements at lightning speed over the last two years. Now comfortable with the level of care provided at the hospital, clinics and long term care, says CEO Nathan Hough, the year ahead will bring smaller upgrades and improvements, such as replacing ceilings in the hospital and repainting the clinic.

“We’re doing something a little bit different on the ceiling out here that will help with the noise,” he says. “We’re accepting bids right now for upgrading the heating and air conditioning on the acute side [of the hospital], so at the next board meeting they will look at the proposals that different organizations have given us and we’ll probably do that in the spring.”

The upgrades, he says, will lower the cost of heating and cooling that part of the building.

Meanwhile, hospital staff will be breaking in the new configuration of the emergency and imaging area, which has been operational now for two weeks.

“There was a lot of input from all of the caregivers on the design and how things should flow, so they are excited about it,” he says. “It’s all about taking good care of our patients. Sometimes we can’t provide a castle for them, but we can provide them with good care that it doesn’t matter what the surroundings are, and this will help a bunch.”

The district will continue the push to maintain the long term care unit at the highest possible level.

“Even on the state ranking for quality, we’ve never been below three, we’re always one of the top ones. We got some recognition nationally for both the hospital and the long term care,” Hough says.

Future plans include the clinics in Hulett and Moorcroft. The former is an ongoing discussion.

“For the last two years, we’ve been talking about what the future looks like up there,” he says.

Whether this is something that the district moves on next year has yet to be seen, but Hough is confident the discussion will be ongoing. Decisions must be made about what level and types of care are needed in the area, as well as such things as whether it would be possible to install a pharmacy.

“We had a feasibility study done on putting a new building, but we really haven’t done much since then. The board needs to make the decision on what we want to do,” he says.

“Once the decision is made, what do we need up there? Do we need a provider who sees kids, or one who does women’s health care?”

Moorcroft, too, is an ongoing project in terms of the future of its clinic. The district is pleased with how well its new provider at the Moorcroft clinic is settling in.

CCMSD is always looking for room to grow and improve, says Hough, and that will always be driven by patient needs.

“Some of the stuff that’s been accomplished in the last two years? We’ve got a great team here, and it shouldn’t have been accomplished in two years,” he says. “We’re doing good, we really are.”

School District

Among the projects on the docket for Crook County School District in 2019, Superintendent Mark Broderson says school safety will be a big consideration.

“We have upgraded the entrances to all buildings and visitors now need to be granted access. We have improved the viewing fields of some of our cameras,” he says.

“We’re in the process of upgrading the vestibule at Sundance Elementary School for a speaking option.”

ALICE training has either been completed or is scheduled for all buildings in the district, he continues, and work is ongoing to set protocols for the release of students in the case of a crisis.

The Moorcroft schools will also see improvements in 2019, Broderson says, including new lights for the elementary school parking lot.

“We are working on an additional parking lot for Moorcroft High School and an area for field events,” he says. “This has been in the works for a while and is taking longer than anticipated.”

The growing student population at the Moorcroft Elementary School will also be a focus for the district.

The focus for the new year for staff across the district will be to continue adapting and adjusting to the new school calendar. Teachers are adjusting their teaching to fit student needs, he says, and will also continue to work on their curriculums to match the new state assessment.

School funding will also continue to be a topic of conversation, says Broderson. In particular, the district will be paying close attention to funding questions regarding transportation and special education.

For the superintendent, the focus for 2019 will be to follow the district’s motto of preparing and empowering all students for successful, lifelong learning through effective teaching.

“Our goal is, and will continue to be, taking care of our students emotionally and academically,” he says.

Forest Service

“The Bearlodge Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest will continue to focus on the overall health and resiliency of the national forest in 2019,” says District Ranger Mike Gosse.

“This will be accomplished by maintaining our timber harvest levels of these past few years, maintaining our timber stand improvement projects, and continuing with our fuel reduction projects. These projects collectively help with reducing the potential threat of a large wildland fire on the landscape.”

The District will also continue to work with grazing permittees on fence repairs from the 2018 tornado that struck parts of the district on June 30, he continues.

“This is a collaborative effort with the Farm Services Administration, the Forest Service and local ranchers. In addition, the Forest Service will continue to work with permittees on water collection improvements for cattle,” he says.

The District will meanwhile continue its effort to eliminate weeds on the forest and surrounding boundary with assistance from Crook County.

“Last year’s wet spring and summer was a boon to the weed communities, so a concerted effort to spray weeds will continue in 2019,” he says.

In terms of recreation, the Bearlodge Ranger District will be introducing new winter opportunities for 2019 for cross country skiers.

“A new cross country ski access trail will be groomed when snow conditions are adequate from the Reuter Campground Parking lot in 2019. This access trail will be a shorter route for skiers to gain access to the main portions of the cross country ski trails,” Gosse says.

The new opportunities are an effort in partnership with the Crook County Natural Resource District, which Gosse explains received a grant for snow grooming and interpretive signs along the ski trails.

“We look forward to a good snow year to get out and enjoy the new trails. In addition, fat tire biking trails in Fish Canyon will also continue to be groomed,” he says.

 
 

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