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Airport traffic hits highest monthly total since 2017
Three weeks in, third daily round-trip flight to Denver is already paying off for facility

Thanks to the addition to a third daily round-trip flight to Denver, October was the busiest month at the Gillette-Campbell County Airport in more than two years.

In all, 5,713 people used the airport in October, the highest monthly total since June 2017, when there were 5,970 passengers. October’s mark is an 18.3% increase over October 2018, and it’s the highest mark for the month since 2015, when 5,742 passengers used the airport.

Airport director Jay Lundell said the third flight, which was added Oct. 6, has performed much better than he expected.

It arrives in Gillette in the early evening and takes off about a half hour later. Lundell said that through the first three weeks, the inbound flight has had a load factor of 88%, meaning that on average it had 88% of its seats filled.

He said the outbound flight, however, “still needs some help,” as it has a 63% load factor.

The early morning inbound flight is the most popular, with a 92% load factor. The late night flight comes into Gillette 81% full. Any figure about 65%, Lundell said, is “pretty good.”

To date, 48,429 people have come through the airport in 2019, which is up 4% over the first 10 months of 2018.

Lundell said he’ll be happy to finish the year at 5% over 2018, which would put the total passenger count near 58,000.

Display in courthouse lobby won't be getting Christmas this year

Every November for the last 18 years, Hazel and Don Vassar have brought Christmas to the Campbell County Courthouse.

They’re responsible for the elaborate Christmas village display in the courthouse lobby, which now features a summer theme with a rodeo, zoo, carnival, fair and baseball fields.

The weekend after Thanksgiving, the Vassars switch out the summer display with a Christmas on filled with with snow and Santas galore.

But this year, both have major surgeries coming up that will prevent them from installing in the Christmas display.

On Tuesday, Hazel told the commissioners she hopes they “can tolerate, for a little longer, the summer season hanging on.”

“We’ll get back to it as soon as we can,” she said.

Vassar said Friday morning that it was a really tough decision and she was “dreading” telling the commissioners about it, because it will be the first time in 18 years that she’ll miss a change-out of the display.

She said she hopes to continue to change the display from summer to Christmas and back again for many more years, but she’s 76 years old and her husband is 79.

It’s also a lot of work. It takes two days to take the summer display out and four full days to put the Christmas display in, she said.

The commissioners were understanding. Commission Chairman Rusty Bell asked Vassar if she’s thought of a way to continue the display when she’s no longer able to do it.

Vassar said she’s thought about it a lot.

“It’s definitely something I’m trying to come up with a plan for, because I don’t want it to go away,” she said.

People have offered to help her and Don with the display, and others have asked if they can donate to her collection, which she’s built up over the last 30 years. It’s so large, she said, it could probably fill a display four times as big as the one in the lobby.

“I don’t think anybody in the community would like to see that go away,” Bell said. “You’ve put so much work, so much time into it. However we can help you move that forward, let’s do it.

Commissioner Del Shelstad said when he was in the courthouse to hand out candy on Halloween, children would forget that they were there to collect candy and instead look at the display.

“If there’s anything we can do to help, including putting it up, taking it down, you don’t have to lift a finger,” said Commissioner D.G. Reardon. “There’s people here that will help you move everything.”

Vassar said she was very surprised when she heard the commissioners’ reactions.

“I didn’t realize they were even interested in keeping it here,” she said. “It’s wonderful, it really made me feel good that they appreciate it.”

She doesn’t have a plan in place yet. She’s now concerned with putting in the winter display as soon as she and Don recover from their surgeries.

“I want to do it as long as I can,” she said. “As long as I can crawl around on the floor, it’s going to be there. I just don’t know how long that is.”

New CCH trustee ready to work
After 3-month search, board makes choice to fill a vacant seat

Gillette resident Dustin Martinson has been appointed to the Campbell County Health Board of Trustees and will bring years of health care experience to the organization.

The board voted in favor of Martinson after a Thursday night executive session. He edged out fellow applicants Greg Dougherty, Jeremey McJilton and Kristina Leslie.

“I think the candidates were all great,” trustee Sara Hartsaw said.

Martinson will replace former board member Randy Hite, who resigned for personal reasons in August. He’ll finish Hite’s term which ends in 2020. Hite was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.

Who is Dustin Martinson?

Martinson is the CEO at SYFR Health Information Management, a startup medical coding company that contracts with hospitals across the country. He serves on the John Paul II Catholic School Leadership Team, Campbell County Chamber of Commerce and First Interstate Bank boards of directors.

Martinson also is a licensed physical therapist who has earned multiple degrees, including a Master of Health Care Administration from Colorado State University.

Martinson has a lot of talents and attributes that give him strong potential to be an excellent board member, said trustee Chairman Dr. Ian Swift.

Addressing a few issues

Others on the board asked Dougherty and Martinson on their thoughts on a few topics prior to the vote.

“When you look at perception in health care, they enter it because of fear,” Martinson said about what drives patients to seek treatment.

Some people go to the emergency room fearing death. Once they are helped, even if it was great, all they remember is the fear. The next experience they remember is getting the bill, also not pleasant.

The key is walking through that experience with the patient, he said. Address the concerns, go over the facts and delve into the problem. It does not always solve the problem, but at least there is a discussion and concerns were addressed.

Dougherty said most of the pros and cons he heard about the hospital was about overspending, hospital remodeling “and things of that nature.”

“To be real honest with you, I haven’t paid a whole lot of attention to it,” he said. “It seemed like it was doing OK. Maybe doing this will help me learn a little more about it.”

The decision to apply

One of the reasons Martinson applied is because he felt his knowledge and experience will be an asset to the board.

Dougherty pursued the vacancy because, while he said he was approached by Swift and trustee Lisa Harry to submit an application, he wanted to give it a try and thought it would be a good learning experience.

Time commitment

Both men said attending meetings would not be a problem.

Martinson said a lot of what he researches for work will be similar material he would read as a board member, especially as it relates to dealing with clients.

One of the ways Martinson tried convincing his wife that applying for the board vacancy was a good idea was by telling her, “What I’m already doing every day would only benefit what I was doing here and what I was doing here every day will only benefit what I’m doing at work,” he said.

Moving forward

Martinson will be sworn in next week and will get his feet wet over the next few weeks. His first board meeting will be Dec. 5.

Martinson has the potential to be an immediate contributor, Swift said.

It takes the average board member about 18 months to become a significant contributing member, he said. Part of the adjustment has to do with getting an understanding of what governance really means, what the hospital’s strategic plan is all about and how to conduct oneself as a board member.

With his medical background, it’s possible Martinson contributes at a high level sooner than that, Swift said.