AP News Update

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AP News Update

Latest Wyoming news, sports, business and entertainment


VA executive: Wait times can be fixed in 2 years

DENVER (AP) - Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson says the agency's scheduling problems and personnel investigations can be cleared up in two years.

Gibson made the prediction Wednesday while visiting the Denver veterans hospital. The Veterans Affairs Department is trying to reduce long wait times for veterans to get care and punish employees accused of falsifying data to hide the problem.

The VA has reported progress recently. An audit released last month showed 46,000 new applicants for care have had to wait at least three months for initial appointments as of mid-June, down from 57,000 in mid-May.

The agency announced last week it would discipline six employees in Colorado and Wyoming accused of falsifying health care data.

Gibson said those were the only personnel investigations completed, but more employees will be disciplined.


Judge approves settlement in campaign finance suit

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - The state of Wyoming agrees that a state law imposing restrictions on third-party political candidate fundraising is unconstitutional and cannot be enforced.

Jennifer Young of Torrington is running for secretary of state as a Constitution Party candidate.

Young and supporter Donald Wills of Pine Bluffs recently sued the state challenging a campaign finance law that limited fundraising for candidates whose parties don't participate in primary elections.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson on Tuesday approved a settlement between the plaintiffs and the state ending the lawsuit.

Cheyenne lawyer Steve Klein with the Wyoming Liberty Group and represents Young and Mills.

Klein says the settlement means Young and other third-party candidates may begin fundraising immediately. Klein says his group wants the Wyoming Legislature to amend state law to reflect the settlement.


Gillette sell out of bonds for gas-fired turbine

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - The city of Gillette needed just 90 minutes to sell $27 million in bonds to pay for a gas-fired turbine engine.

The Gillette News Record reported Wednesday that Tuesday's buyers included local companies and businesses.

The city was seeking to raise $22.5 million for the turbine. Another $4.5 million will be held for working capital and in case the city is unable to make a payment on the bonds.

Dubbed "CT-II," the turbine gives Gillette 40 megawatts of new generation capacity. But utilities director Kendall Glover said officials won't use it constantly.

Possessing the turbine allows Gillette to bargain for better power rates. It can be used if a good rate can't be negotiated.


Draft Wyoming report finds no Pavillion well leaks

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - A draft state report on what might have caused well water in a central Wyoming gas field to smell foul and taste bad says there's no sign that local gas wells are leaking produced gas underground.

The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission report released Wednesday examines 50 gas wells within a quarter-mile of 15 water wells in the Pavillion area.

Petroleum company Encana owns the Pavillion gas field. Company spokesman Doug Hock says the report shows the gas wells were soundly built and couldn't have caused contamination in water wells.

Local residents say their well water turned foul when gas drilling picked up in their area around eight years ago. Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council representing the residents says the group is reviewing the report.


Jackson leaders defend rental decision

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Some Jackson and Teton County officials are defending their decision to confirm a ban on short-term home rentals.

Town councilors and county commissioners voted Monday to confirm a 1994 countywide ban.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reported Wednesday that Board of County Commissioners Chairman Hank Phibbs says anyone who has rented a home for less than 30 days has violated terms of a comprehensive county planning document.

County Deputy Attorney Keith Gingery said short-term rentals aren't allowed in residences without commercial fire-safety fixtures.

Several areas, such as Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, the Aspens and Teton Village, are permitted to have short-term rentals.


Lander center to cost $850,000 more than estimated

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) - Citing rising construction costs, the Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees has approved an extra $850,000 to build a new facility in Lander.

The Riverton Ranger reported Wednesday that the college will pay an estimated $1.58 million for a new Lander center next to Wyoming Life Resource Center. The state will pay $1.25 million.

Administrators said bids for the project came in higher than expected. It initially was expected to cost the college about $728,000.


Gillette man convicted of sex assault on minor

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) - A 36-year-old Gillette man has been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenage girl.

The Gillette News Record reported Wednesday that a jury convicted John Wayne Butler of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. The jury reached its verdict on Tuesday.

Court documents contend the assault occurred in 2010 in Butler's car.

A third-degree sexual assault count, stemming from a 2012 incident involving the same girl, was dropped when Butler was bound over to district court in March.

Campbell County Deputy Attorney Ron Wirthwein said sentencing is expected within 60 days.


Trailer, cars destroyed by Riverton-area fire

RIVERTON, Wyo. (AP) - A fire official says a young boy playing with a lighter may have started a fire that destroyed a trailer home and four cars south of Riverton.

The Riverton Ranger reported Wednesday that no one was injured in Sunday's fire.

Riverton Volunteer Fire Department chief Mike Hutchison said officers at the scene told him a child, age 3 to 5, had been playing with a lighter before the fire began.

The trailer and four cars were engulfed in flames when crews arrived.


Delegates decry what they call duplicative survey

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming's congressional delegation wants to know why the federal government is paying for what they call an unnecessary road survey for Grand Teton National Park.

The Jackson Hole News&Guide reports that Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso have asked the National Park Survey to account for the analysis of the 8-mile-long Moose-Wilson Road.

They say there is no reason to spend on an environmental analysis when, they claim, the park service has decided to make the road a one-way route. They say $2 million already has been spent on the issue.

The agency has not formally responded. Grand Teton officials said no decision has been made.

Teton park officials announced plans in 2012 to prohibit southbound traffic on nearly 3 miles of the scenic road.


Cody police arrest man with stolen Harley-Davidson

CODY, Wyo. (AP) - Cody police arrested a man for possessing a stolen motorcycle after he called them seeking protection from two men he claims were seeking to harm him.

The Cody Enterprise reported Wednesday that 44-year-old Mark Price of Nampa, Idaho, was arrested in late July.

Price was charged with theft and buying and receiving stolen property worth more than $1,000. He was released on $10,000 bail.

Police spokesman Chris Wallace said that Price called police when he saw two people at a Walmart who were after him.

Price said he feared for his life, but did not say why.

He was driving a 2013 Harley-Davidson with Oregon license plates. Price told police the motorcycle belonged to his ex-girlfriend.

No court date has been set.


Tourist crashes drone into Yellowstone hot spring

JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) - A tourist flew a drone into a Yellowstone National Park hot spring despite a park ban on drones.

Park spokesman Al Nash told the Jackson Hole News&Guide the operator reported that the drone crashed into the picturesque Grand Prismatic Spring last weekend. Tourists witnessed the crash.

The drone is submerged in the spring's 160-degree waters. Officials hope to remove it.

Nash says few details are being released because the incident is under investigation.

In July, a drone crashed into Yellowstone Lake near the Grant Village Marina.


Person struck by lightning in Vedauwoo

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) - A rock climber is hospitalized following a lighting strike near Laramie.

Laramie Fire Chief Dan Johnson says crews responded to a report of a lightning strike at about 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Vedauwoo area, east of Laramie.

Johnson says the climber was able to descend from the rocks under their own power after the strike. He says he didn't have information available about the climber's age or whether it was a man or a woman.

A spokeswoman at Ivinson Memorial Hospital said Wednesday the climber had been transferred to another hospital but said no information about their condition, location or identity could be released.

The Laramie Boomerang reports that others nearby the strike also may have been injured.

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