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Wyoming News Briefs

Jackson receives high ranking in AARP Livability Index

CHEYENNE (WNE) — AARP recently released its Livability Index, a list of the most livable communities in the country recently, with Jackson ranking in the top 10 in the nation for communities with a population between 5000 and 24,999.

The AARP Livability Index evaluates and ranks communities based on various factors that contribute to residents’ quality of life. It looks at everything from homes and transportation to health and community engagement.

Jackson was ranked ninth in the Livability Index’ Small Communities category. Aspen, Colo .; Orange City, Iowa; LaCrescent, Minn .; and Salida, Colo. made up the top five in the small community category.

Jackson wasn’t the only community in the Cowboy State to be found in the rankings.

Sheridan, Powell and Cody all posted scores of 63, thanks to high numbers in the engagement and environment categories. Low vacancy rates and diversity of destinations available to those who like to walk kept the communities from ranking higher.

As a state, Wyoming posted a score of 53 (on a scale of 0-100), which put it in the top half of states. The state’s highest marks came in civic engagement, where it scored a 67.

The state scored poorly in a number of other categories, including health, transportation and opportunity.

Applications open for artist in residence program

SHERIDAN (WNE) — The Wyoming Department of State Parks & Cultural Resources has announced a call for artists to apply for the 2024 Artist in Residence program.

This program connects visual artists with the wonder and unexpected opportunities in Wyoming State Parks. This ten-day road trip residency in August 2024 will give artists a choice of itinerary that includes visiting a minimum of four State Parks in order to be inspired by the beauty of the state.

The Wyoming State Parks & Cultural Resources Artist in Residence program is open to visual artists. Both established and emerging artists are welcome to apply.

The selected artist will receive a $3500 stipend and waived camping and day-use fees. Camping is required. No gear will be provided although cabins, yurts and/or dorm housing will be offered.

The selected artist must have their own vehicle and must be a year-round resident of Wyoming and at least 18 years of age.

Selected artists will be required to document the residency through blog and social media posts. Artists must create a minimum of 10 pieces inspired by their experience for the Artist in Residence Show and Sale, hosted at the Wyoming State Museum, from November through January.

This is a joint program through Wyoming State Parks and the Wyoming Arts Council.

The deadline to apply is April 15, 2024 at 11:59 p.m. Applications must be submitted online through

Complete eligibility requirements can be found on

For more information, contact Kimberly Mittelstadt, Creative Arts Specialist at the Wyoming Arts Council, at 307-274-6673 or [email protected].

Gillette woman accused of leading troopers on chase in stolen truck

GILLETTE (WNE) — A Gillette woman has pleaded not guilty to felony theft after allegedly leading Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers on a high-speed chase in a pickup truck stolen from Campbell County.

Samantha Jo Longwell, 39, pleaded not guilty at her Jan. 29 arraignment in District Court to felony theft, according to court documents.

She was arrested in late September after a Campbell County man reported his truck stolen, while at the same time, troopers chased down Longwell who was allegedly driving that stolen vehicle near Cheyenne.

A 2013 Ford F-150 was reported stolen the afternoon of Sept. 26 by a man who said he had parked his truck near a building south on Highway 50, where he left it unlocked with the keys inside.

He also told deputies he kept a loaded 9mm handgun inside the truck.

While a Sheriff’s deputy took the man’s stolen vehicle report, the deputy learned that the stolen truck had been involved in a pursuit with Wyoming Highway Patrol, and that troopers had just arrested the woman, later identified as Longwell, who was driving it near Cheyenne.

A Highway Patrol trooper spotted Longwell driving the truck about 94 mph south on Interstate 25 outside of Cheyenne. By the time the trooper made a U-turn and caught up to the truck, Longwell continued speeding and had not pulled over for the trooper.

She continued speeding through a construction zone, reaching about 100 mph as the trooper pursued and more troopers prepared to intervene in the developing chase. The chase lasted more than 10 miles until Longwell ultimately drove over spike strips and continued on until ultimately coming to a stop, according to court documents.

Troopers found Longwell in the vehicle and arrested her for theft, eluding, speeding, failure to signal a turn and failure to maintain a single lane of travel, according to court documents.

Lummis, fellow senators demand Biden end EV mandate

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and 16 of their Senate Western Caucus colleagues sent a letter to President Joe Biden and Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young urging the Biden administration to withdraw its electric vehicle mandate.

Ending the EV mandate would give people out West the freedom to choose what car or truck they want to drive, a news release from the Western Caucus said.

“Electric vehicles are far too expensive and ill-equipped for the long drives and harsh terrain people in Wyoming and across the West travel every day,” Lummis said in the release. “Like most Green New Deal priorities, the EV mandate delivers a price hike to consumers and enriches China, which controls the renewables market. President Biden’s EV mandate is a disaster and needs to go.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed rule titled “Multi-Pollutant Emissions Standards for Model Years 2027 and Later Light-Duty and Medium-Duty Vehicles” requires 67% of new light-duty vehicles and 46% of medium-duty vehicles to be electric by 2032.

The de facto EV mandate has already hit major roadblocks:

• Despite the Biden administration spending $7.5 billion to build out a nationwide EV charger network, just one charger has been built.

• Major automakers including Ford, Stellantis and General Motors have all announced they are reducing EV output due to a lack of consumer interest.

• Reliability issues have plagued EVs, especially in cold weather. Electric vehicles’ struggles in cold weather were highlighted in a study showing they lose 30% of their range in freezing conditions.

National cyberattack impacts local pharmacies

JACKSON (WNE) — Local pharmacies are reporting delays and the inability to bill some major insurance companies after a nationwide cyberattack, first reported Wednesday.

One of the largest health care technology companies in the U.S., Change Healthcare, was hit by a cyberattack that began disrupting a number of its systems and services, according to the American Hospital Association.

“UnitedHealth Group identified a suspected nation-state associated cyber security threat actor had gained access to some of the Change Healthcare information technology systems,” the company said. “Immediately upon detection of this outside threat, the company proactively isolated the impacted systems from other connecting systems in the interest of protecting our partners and patients, to contain, assess and remediate the incident.”

Locally, Albertsons, Smith’s Food and Drug and Broulim’s Fresh Foods pharmacies were still working through issues with patient prescriptions as of Friday afternoon. Albertsons pharmacy staff in Jackson said they were able to bill discount cards and were advising patients to submit pharmacy claims directly to their insurance companies.

Change Healthcare handles patient payments across the U.S. health care system, according to

“The tech giant boasts on its website that it handles 15 billion health care transactions annually and that one-in-three U.S. patient records are ‘touched by our clinical connectivity solutions,’ ” the online newspaper says.

Change Healthcare said that it was hoping to restore service by the end of the day Friday.

Crews battle large grass fire west of Cheyenne

CHEYENNE (WNE)) — Plumes of smoke rose steadily and blanketed much of south Cheyenne from mid-morning through early afternoon on Saturday as firefighters from multiple local agencies worked to contain a large, wind-swept grass fire.

According to a staff meteorologist with the National Weather Service of Cheyenne, the fire — which the NWS Cheyenne was told originated from a vehicle fire — was fanned by wind gusts that reached speeds of up to 70 miles per hour.

NWS Cheyenne officials said they were given that information by state officials.

Darrick Mittlestadt, chief of Laramie County Fire District 1, told the WTE Saturday evening that the fire started in the median of Interstate 80, crossed the highway and burned east to Otto Road and the West Lincolnway exit.

“It blew over Roundtop Road like it was nothing,” Mittlestadt said in his text message. “It also blew over Otto Road to the [Union Pacific] rail line. We had railroad ties on fire on track 1. The wind was not our friend.”

At several different times throughout the day, portions of both major interstates near the city were closed, with Interstates 80 and 25 locked down in both directions to traffic as firefighters got the flames under control. West Lincolnway also was blocked off by emergency response teams for part of the day, starting west of Little America Hotel and Resort.

According to reports made on the emergency response radio frequencies monitored by the WTE, a firefighter was hit by a “snapped cable” during the fire response around mile marker 352 of Interstate 80, near Roundtop and Otto roads.

Mittlestadt said the injured firefighter was treated and was home Saturday evening.

It was unclear whether anyone else had been hurt or whether any structures were damaged or lost in the blaze.

Livestream options available for Krinkee funeral service

SHERIDAN (WNE) — While the celebration of life service for Nevada Krinkee will fill quickly and the graveside service is closed, community members wishing to pay respects to the fallen Sheridan Police Department Sgt. Krinkee may participate in two additional ways.

A procession begins at noon at 11th and Main streets March 1, will proceed south to Coffeen Avenue, then on Coffeen Avenue to the entrance of Sheridan College and the Golden Dome. Community members are asked to pay respects by lining the procession route.

Those wishing to attend the memorial service may do so through livestream options in person at Bethesda Worship Center, Cornerstone Church, First Baptist Church, The Rock Church and Ignite Wesleyan Church. The service can be viewed at these locations or online at

To keep up to date on changes to funeral service information or additional livestream satellite sites, see

Casper utility bill ordinance passes; landlords do not have to pay for tenants’ unpaid bills

CASPER (WNE) — “It sounds like, write the script to have an amendment to remove G,” Mayor Steve Cathey told City Manager Carter Napier at the Casper City Council’s Feb. 13 work session.

“G” referenced point G of section 13.03.050 of a proposed ordinance that would change how the City of Casper bills utility rates and collects late charges. The point says that landlords and property owners would be responsible for those charges if tenants could not or would not pay them. That is according to the original version of the proposed ordinance.

The version that actually passed its third and final reading at Tuesday’s City Council meeting was stripped of point G and the last sentence of point A in order to make it agree with itself. It slid through narrowly.

Only the mayor and two council members opposed removing the section.

At that Feb. 13 work session, councilors debated what to do with the ordinance now that point G was on the brink of being cut. They decided that if G didn’t make it, they would request that city staff revisit the issue with them in six months. There was no scientific rhyme or reason to that number; councilors hope that city staff will have enough concrete data to revisit at that point.

Some councilors expressed interest both at Tuesday’s meeting and at previous meetings in adopting a similar model as Cheyenne and Laramie, both of which don’t allow tenants to have utilities in their names at all.

Landlords will still get a copy of the delinquent notice if their tenant does not pay a bill in time, and they will still be able to contact the city if there is an issue with delinquent bills, said Financial Services Director Jill Johnson.

“Hopefully, they will be partners with us in getting these [issues] resolved,” she said.

Skier falls off broken cornice, triggers Targhee slide

JACKSON (WNE) — The owner of Grand Targhee Resort called a skier “careless” after the 27-year-old Washington man left the resort boundary and triggered a slab avalanche Wednesday when a cornice broke underneath him near Mary’s Nipple.

Targhee owner Geordie Gillett said the skier was just below the summit when the cornice gave way. He fell about 100 feet into the basin below.

“When he hit, he triggered an avalanche two feet deep and 30 feet wide that carried him down over a cliff,” Gillett said.

After falling about 50 feet over the second cliff, the man became partially buried. He hit a few spots of luck on the way down: His airway was not obstructed by debris, and an off-duty ski patroller was nearby to dig him out quickly. The Washington skier suffered two broken legs.

The weather was clear enough for the Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter to respond. Targhee ski patrollers were able to prepare the skier for short-haul — a method where rescuers and a patient are transported via a long line beneath the helicopter — to an ambulance at the base of the resort. Gillette said the operation was completed within about 90 minutes of the initial call for service.

Gillett said the man wasn’t wearing a helmet and didn’t have avalanche gear. He added that the avalanche put people recreating in the Steve Baugh Bowl area at risk.

“If this had happened two weeks ago, the likelihood of a bigger avalanche would’ve been prominent,” he said. “This guy’s actions put probably more than ten people in a dangerous situation.”

Gillett said it’s “unclear” what the skier was trying to do after leaving the backcountry gate. Many signs cautioning cornice danger were ignored, Gillett said.

Town of Saratoga makes it to the top five for the best drinking water in the nation

SARATOGA (WNE) — Success never tasted so good.

Saratoga recently competed against all 50 states in the National Rural Water Association’s Annual Rally in Washington D.C. and finished in the top five at the 25th Annual Great American Water Taste Test.

Saratoga has often made it as a top finisher in the state and earned its way to represent Wyoming in the final five taste-offs.

“One judge might like one taste better than the other,” said Chuck McVey, Supervisor for the Saratoga Water Department, “but as far as changing anything in the system, the system just keeps working and groundwater just keeps getting better every time we use it.”

Emery Penner, public works director, explained how the water department’s system works.

“Our water system is well set,” Penner said. “It is a consistent operation and the groundwater that is produced is pumped into the system. It is not chemically treated except using a little gas chlorine so the product is pretty much the same year after year.”

Suspects in fraud investigation bound over to District Court

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Following preliminary hearings, two suspects charged in a check fraud crime scheme had their cases bound over to district court.

Anthony Gello, 37, of Cheyenne, arrested Jan. 9, faces charges related to fraud, theft, forgery, conspiracy to commit fraud and identity theft. Kayla Moody, 35, of Cheyenne, arrested Jan. 19, faces charges related to fraud, theft, forgery and conspiracy to commit fraud.

Since their arrests, both suspects have attended numerous preliminary hearings related to their crimes. Gello was bound over to district court on all charges Feb. 16, and Moody was bound over Feb. 9.

The investigation began in October when Cheyenne Police Department officers received a report of check fraud at a local business. Since then, Cheyenne police and Laramie County sheriff ’s detectives have investigated over 15 fraud cases related to Gello and Moody. Together, the suspects made thousands of dollars’ worth of fraudulent transactions at businesses and banks across Cheyenne, according to a Cheyenne Police Department news release.

The investigation revealed that from October through January, the couple reportedly stole personal checks, printed fraudulent checks, forged signatures, recruited other individuals to process the check fraud transactions and committed property crimes for the purpose of purchasing controlled substances.