Attorney hired to represent Lincoln Co. in Westmoreland bankruptcy

KEMMERER (WNE) — At the Oct. 23 commission meeting, the Lincoln County commissioners signed an agreement with the Law Office of Ken McCartney, P.C., to represent Lincoln County’s interests in the Westmoreland Coal Company Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Westmoreland Coal Company officially entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Oct. 9. Westmoreland affiliate Westmoreland Resource Partners, LP (WMLP) simultaneously filed for relief under chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

The company announced that in order to restructure, Westmoreland is working with a group of lenders to continue financial operations while in bankruptcy court in Houston, Texas. These operations include paying taxes and wages and ensuring employee benefits.

According to an August 2018 publication by the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Westmoreland’s annual ad valorem taxes levied on mineral production to Lincoln County average around $9 million.

The report stated that Sublette County faces a similar situation in the wake of Vanguard Natural Resources’ bankruptcy. Sublette County has secured $2 million of the mineral tax debts, but is still attempting to collect an additional $2 million that the county is owed.

Although the state of Wyoming collects ad valorem taxes on a monthly basis, individual counties in the state may receive those taxes as late as 18 months after the mineral extraction.

The state legislature’s Joint Interim Revenue Committee has discussed a bill that would align the county collection timetable with the state, making it easier for counties to collect ad valorem taxes in a timely manner.

Riverton man killed in one-car rollover

RIVERTON (WNE) — A Riverton man died Sunday after a one-vehicle rollover reported west of town.

Officials said Shane Limpy, 34, was the sole occupant of the 2017 Nissan Titan involved in the crash, which was reported at about 2:50 a.m. Sunday at the intersection of U.S. Highway 26 and Lewis Road near Airport Hill.

The reporting party said the Titan had passed her vehicle and then “lost control.” She said the occupant was “half way out of the vehicle” when she called police.

While officers were on their way to the scene, dispatchers said the reporting party advised that Limpy had stopped breathing.

Officers at the scene said the Titan was in the borrow ditch approximately 80 yards west of the highway intersection with Lewis Road. Limpy was wearing a seatbelt, officials said; he was cut loose from the belt and pulled from the wreckage through the rear driver’s side door.

Responders performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation until an ambulance arrived to transport Limpy to the local hospital.

His vehicle was towed from the scene, according to reports.

The Riverton Police Department is investigating the crash with help from the Wyoming Highway Patrol. The Fremont County Coroner’s Office said Limpy will not be autopsied, and results of a toxicology test will be available in about two weeks.


Former teacher faces new charges

CODY (WNE) — Katie Marcus, a former Cody and Douglas teacher serving probation for sexual abuse of a student when in Douglas, will have her probation revoked and faces new charges of criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor that brings up to six months in jail and up to $750 in fines.

According to the Cody Police Department, Marcus made a visit to Walmart on Sept. 15, the same place she was caught shoplifting from last year and had a probation order in place, forbidding her from visiting the store. She not only entered Walmart but also made a trip to the customer service desk around 7:18 a.m., asking employees to remove the no trespassing order against her, according to charging documents.

According to the police report, workers refused the request and a Walmart manager later called police authorities.

Marcus pleaded not guilty to the criminal trespassing, was booked at the Park County Detention Center and released after paying a $500 cash bond, said Cody Lt. Jason Stafford. A warrant was issued for her arrest Oct. 10 after the county decided to press charges, but Marcus and her public defense attorney Tim Blatt made arrangements with the Park County District Attorney’s Office to turn herself in to circuit court Oct. 16.

Her original probation conditions were revoked by Park County Circuit Judge Bruce Waters on Oct. 24. On Oct. 26 she paid another $500 cash bond.

Merit Energy loses Park County tax appeal

POWELL (WNE) — The Park County government has, at least temporarily, prevailed in a tax dispute with the area’s largest oil and gas company.

Roughly $100,000 of property taxes per year ride on the dispute.

Officials with Merit Energy Company contend that Park County Assessor Pat Meyer has overvalued some 1,500 pieces of their oil field equipment for tax purposes. The company lodged a protest with the Park County Board of Equalization — made up of the county commissioners — last year, but commissioners endorsed Meyer’s assessment. Merit Energy appealed that decision to the state level and the Wyoming Board of Equalization ruled in late September that Meyer and the commissioners acted properly.

“Merit offered no direct evidence that the assessor overstated or misjudged the equipment’s condition,” wrote the three-member board. Merit can appeal the state board’s ruling in Park County district court and, ultimately, to the Wyoming Supreme Court if it so chooses.  The dispute stems from Meyer’s decision to change the way that he values oil field equipment.

Historically, the assessor’s office depreciated oil and gas equipment by 80 percent, meaning the property was taxed on only 20 percent of what it would cost to replace it. But after his office audited the equipment a few years ago — photographing machinery and talking to company personnel about how it’s maintained — Meyer concluded that it was worth more than 20 percent of replacement cost.