Friess offers $100,000 grant for fire recovery
PINEDALE (WNE) — Foster Friess, a philanthropist and politician from Jackson, announced a challenge grant of $100,000 to help fund recovery efforts in the community of Hoback Ranches this week. Friess will match every dollar donated to the Roosevelt Fire recovery fund campaign up to $100,000, said Diana Lopez of the Lynn and Foster Friess Family Foundation.
The Roosevelt Fire is the most destructive fire in Wyoming history, destroying 55 homes as it raged through Hoback Ranches in September. Residents face daunting challenges in rebuilding their homes and community infrastructure. The Pinedale Lions Club and the Bondurant Community Club launched the Roosevelt Fire recovery fund campaign to raise money for recovery efforts in October.
Friess frequently donates money to help victims of natural disasters, Lopez said, and “responded instantly” when he heard that his neighbors in the Bondurant area needed help.
Chris Lacinak, a Hoback Ranches resident who helped organize the fire recovery fund, said that Friess’ donation is a “huge step forward” in addressing the financial needs of individuals and communities rebuilding from the fire.
“We are extremely grateful for Mr. Friess’ generosity and excited by the prospect that his challenge grant will increase the level of donations and raise awareness about the disaster,” Lacinak said.
People wishing to help can send financial donations to the Lions of Wyoming Foundation at 224 Talon Ct., Cheyenne, WY, 82009. Donors are urged to make checks out to “Lions of Wyoming Foundation” and include “Roosevelt Fire” in the memo.
UW seeks to boost graduate enrollment
LARAMIE (WNE) — The number of graduate students at the University of Wyoming dropped 6 percent in the past year, but the Office of Academic Affairs has set its sights on a major turnaround.
Based on data from the 15th day of classes — Census Day — the number of graduate students dropped from 2,606 last fall to 2,452 this year.
“Now the grad students definitely have (President Laurie Nichols’) attention,” Academic Affairs Provost Kate Miller said Monday at a Faculty Senate meeting.
While UW’s strategic plan, released in 2017, called for increasing the student body by 1,133 students, it didn’t set a specific goal for graduate enrollment.
A recently released strategic plan specific to the Office of Academic Affairs does set a goal: Increasing overall graduate and professional program enrollment from 2,578 to 2,835 by 2022.
Miller said it’s important to keep growing graduate programs “or else we lose ground as who we are as a research institution.”
James Ahern, associate vice provost for graduate education, told the Laramie Boomerang there are several factors that have led to a decline in graduate enrollment.
The prime draw for prospective graduate students is faculty conducting high-quality and well-known research, Ahern said. Some of that high-profile research has been lost in the last few years.
With budget cuts on the horizon in 2015, UW implemented early retirement programs that led to the departure of many full professors.
Faculty numbers have rebounded this fall, but most of the new hires have been at the assistant professor level.
Wet weather hurts Coud Peak earnings
GILLETTE (WNE) — An unusually wet spring in the Powder River Basin has extended into a soggy, sluggish year for Cloud Peak Energy Inc., which continues to tread water having lost nearly $25 million through the first three quarters of 2018.
The company reported a net income of $12.7 million for the third quarter of the year Thursday afternoon, but was in the black because it posted a one-time $19.5 million gain relating the company’s post-retirement medical plan.
Cloud Peak’s largest mine, Antelope, continues to suffer production losses and problems relating to the wet spring weather, said CEO and President Colin Marshall.
“Third-quarter shipments from our Antelope mine were reduced due to significant ongoing spoil failures that started in mid-August related to the rain in the second quarter,” he said.
Those “spoil failures” relate to mine waste disposal reclamation. The unusually high moisture not only caused problems in mining coal, it also has forced the mine to reallocate equipment to deal with shoring up and repairing the damaged areas, Marshall said.
The process has not only resulted in reduced production at the Antelope mine in the second quarter, but for the rest of the year, he said.
“We are now behind on pre-strip (operations),” he said. “We expect to have the Antelope mine operations back up to normal by the end of the year. The issues through 2018, we believe, are specific to this year.”
Overall production from the company’s three Powder River Basin mines — Antelope, Cordero Rojo and Spring Creek — was 13.1 million tons in the third quarter, down 15 percent from the 15.5 million tons produced in Q3 of 2017.
Evanston man guilty of attempted sexual abuse
EVANSTON (WNE) — A 32-year-old Evanston man has been found guilty of attempted sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree. A jury of eight men and four women delivered the verdict in Third District Court on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the conclusion of a two-day trial.
Sean Wayne Weston faced two counts related to his 2015 relationship with a girl who was 15 at the time, including the attempted sexual abuse charge and a charge of attempted sexual exploitation of a child.
The relationship between the two occurred almost exclusively via Facebook messaging over a period of several months.
The messages were found by the Uinta County Sheriff’s Office in 2017 after a search warrant was obtained for Weston’s Facebook messages during a separate investigation.
Testimony from the girl, now 18, comprised the bulk of the testimony during the trial, as portions of numerous pages of Facebook exchanges between the two were read in court.
Messages included many that were sexually explicit in nature and repeated efforts by Weston to get the girl to sneak out of her home to meet him on an almost daily basis. There were also multiple requests for photographs made by Weston.
When Uinta County Attorney Loretta Howieson rested the state’s case, attorney Elisabeth Trefonas of Jackson, acting as Weston’s public defender, moved for acquittal on both counts on the grounds that no evidence of guilt had been presented.
Judge Joseph Bluemel granted the request for acquittal on the charge of attempted sexual exploitation of a child, which hinged on whether or not Weston had attempted to entice the girl into making child pornography.
Weston was sentenced to no less than 18 months and no more than five years for the attempted second-degree sexual abuse of a minor offense.
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