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City’s $152M budget passes first reading
Sales tax revenue 28% more than anticipated through first nine months of fiscal year 2019

The city of Gillette will work with nearly $152 million for the next budget year to cover costs of city operations and capital construction projects.

That includes more than $7 million for the Madison Pipeline Project.

The $152 million is about a 20% increase compared to the current fiscal year. The city is taking on more capital projects than it has in the last several years and also believes the local and state economies are more stable than two years ago.

When it comes to building a budget, city Finance Director Michelle Henderson and the rest of the finance team relies heavily on sales tax revenue to create projections for the next year.

More than 66% of the city’s revenue comes from sales tax. Other money comes from state and federal sources, charges for services like utilities and a small percentage from grants and loans.

In May 2015, the city submitted a $173.35 million budget. Then the local economy collapsed after massive layoffs in the oil and coal industries. Sales tax receipts plummeted.

The following year, the city cut its budget by 36%, reduced staff through attrition and some layoffs and cut back on services like snowplowing and parks maintenance.

After a tough 2016, the city has slowly increased its budget and is showing signs of life again. Fortunately for Gillette’s bottom line, sales tax revenue has been healthy over the last nine months.

In the current budget, the city estimated it would collect about $25 million through the first nine months of the fiscal year. More than $32 million has been collected, 28% more than anticipated.

The city made a slight amendment to 2019’s budget before it passed the 2020 budget unanimously in its first reading this week.

The city moved about $3.8 million to 2019’s budget, most of which was $1.5 million that was carried over for a Cam-plex remodel and various design costs for capital construction projects like the upcoming expansion of the Energy Capital Sports Complex and the City West remodel.

Because sales taxes have been higher than the city projected, there’s an estimated $250,000 more for social service agencies that receive money from the city’s Optional 1% Sales Tax fund under the 5.5% cap the City Council set last year.

The money will be distributed to the agencies proportionally based on the money they were given during last year’s budget process.

The council will vote on the 2020 budget’s second reading June 11.

afrank / News Record Photo/August Frank 

DMon Bryant, top, and Devin Barnhart leap from the bridge into the Fishing Lake at Dalbey Memorial Park on Thursday afternoon. While temperatures are expected to cool over the weekend, Campbell County may expect some thunderstorms on the edge of a storm system moving through Montana and into South Dakota.

Possible storms, strong winds, hail and cooler temps forecast this weekend

Campbell County may dodge the worst of a low pressure system expected to pass over the state from northeastern Montana into Idaho.

The outlook is for warm temperatures Friday with storms possible in the afternoon into the evening for parts of northeast Wyoming and western South Dakota as a cold front approaches.

David King, Campbell County Emergency Management coordinator, said severe thunderstorms are possible Friday between 3-6 p.m. Golf-ball-sized hail and wind gusts between 60-70 mph also are possible.

Highs in the mid 80s are expected today, with winds 15-30 mph shifting northwest in the evening. Some storms could be severe, warned the National Weather Service in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Temperatures will cool considerably Saturday and continue Sunday. Morning lows will be in the 40s both days, with an afternoon high of about 50 Saturday and in the lower 60s Sunday.

It will be mostly cloudy Saturday with scattered showers and isolated thunderstorms.

The forecast is similar for Sunday with partly cloudy conditions and a slight chance of an afternoon shower or thunderstorm.

The most severe weather expected in the region Friday is north and east of the Black Hills. That’s where the severe storm risk is in slight or enhanced categories, King said. Storms could increase late this afternoon in much of northeast Wyoming and the Black Hills into northwest South Dakota.

Large hail likely will be the main threat from any severe storms Friday afternoon, King said.

A line of storms across northwest South Dakota could form by early evening and strong wind gusts could be the biggest threat.

Cooler temperatures and conditions are expected through the first half of next week and greater chances for rain in northeast Wyoming Monday night and Tuesday, King said.

afrank / News Record Photo/August Frank 

Payge Riedesel, 13, shimmies along the outside of a bridge at Dalbey Memorial Park on Thursday afternoon. “Don’t wanna be in the water doesn’t mean don’t wanna be above the water,” Riedesel said.

Legislature to look at amending trespassing statute
Technology takes guesswork out of many disputes, say proponents of changing law

Wyoming statute on criminal trespass could see a change for the first time in more than 30 years.

The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee voted Tuesday to consider changing state law to remove the word “knowing” from the statute for criminal trespass.

Currently, someone is “guilty of criminal trespass if he enters or remains on or in the land or premises of another person, knowing he is not authorized to do so, or after being notified to depart or to not trespass.”

Notice is given by signs or personal communication by the landowner or law enforcement.

Taking out the word “knowing” would put more burden on people to know where they are. The change was recommended by people in the agriculture industry.

Jim Magagna, vice president of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, said the statute was last amended in the 1980s, and a lot has changed since then.

First, technology has come a long way, he said. Thanks to GPS, smartphone apps and more accurate mapping technology, it’s easier than ever for people to know where they are.

Second, Wyoming is becoming a popular destination for outdoor recreation, especially from people who aren’t from Wyoming and “assume many of these wide-open spaces are public lands,” Magagna said.

When they are out on people’s property disturbing livestock and grass, they’re having a negative impact not only on nature, but on the economy as well.

Magagna added that with increased activity in the minerals industry, there have been increases in trespass calls, whether from land managers “just looking for opportunities” or seismic crews that have authorization to be on one parcel of land but move to an adjacent piece of property for which they don’t have permission.

Magagna also recommended including adding a protection for those who have been misled by technology. Someone accused of trespassing could show that his GPS or a map led him to believe he was on public land rather than private.

Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper, worried about that suggestion.

“Not everyone has GPS capability or map apps on their phones,” Washut said. “We still live in a state where a fair amount of the population is less technologically inclined.”

Magagna said there are enough tools available for it to not be a problem. If the law is amended, it will cause people to become more informed and better educated.

Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, said trespassing is a crime like no other.

“By default, the first offense is pretty much free,” he said. “You get to be told you’re not supposed to be out there, and if you come back and do it, we’ll do something about it.”

That is the underlying issue, Oedekoven said.

“Where else do you have a crime where you basically get to do it once for free, and then we get to deal with you after that?” he asked.

He supported the change, adding that criminal trespass is often not prosecuted because law enforcement chooses to prosecute associated crimes instead, like destruction of property.

Chad Trebby, a Campbell County resident, said while he supports private property rights, legislators should look on the other side of the coin.

When hunting, he’s been confronted by landowners who believed he was on their land. He then has to use GPS to show them that he’s actually on public land.

“There should be a law against people intentionally impeding access to public land,” Trebby said, adding that some landowners don’t know where their property ends and public land begins.

Not everyone has quick access to maps to prove they’re on public land, he said. When this happens, “they’re being denied access to land that is theirs.”

Pair of county men to face more than 2 dozen counts of animal cruelty

Two Campbell County men will be charged with more than two dozen counts of animal cruelty after malnourished animals were found on their property nine miles south of Gillette.

The Sheriff’s Office was called to the 900 block of Highway 50 Wednesday after people noticed that the animals had not been fed or watered for five days, said Sheriff Scott Matheny.

Officers found dead livestock buried on the property with parts of them sticking out of the ground, said Sheriff’s Lt. Kevin Theis.

A local veterinarian was on scene and said 90% of the living animals were “of low body score,” Matheny said, and the animals were taken into protective custody. There are 28 animals in total, including 20 horses, four cows, two calves, one bull and a goat.

The two suspects, a 54-year-old man and his 29-year-old son, will face 28 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, Matheny said.

The animals are at an undisclosed location, Theis said. The men will have to post a care of cost bond to pay for vet care, housing and other costs associated with keeping the animals.

Theis said that as of now, he anticipates the bond could be a minimum of $50,000.

afrank / News Record Photo/August Frank 

News Record File Photo/August Frank

Shay Hough grimaces as she and Tex sprints to the finish in barrel racing.

at the Wyoming State High School Finals Rodeo on Thursday. Hough, the 2017 national all-around cowgirl, has won the state pole bending title three straight years and aims to complete the four-peat in her final Wyoming high school competition.