Wyoming news briefs for August 12

Gas prices up 2.8 cents in last week

GILLETTE — Gasoline prices in Wyoming continued to tick upward last week to an average of $3.53 a gallon, but there are signs that the momentum may change course.

Wyoming gas prices rose 2.8 cents per gallon in the past week, according to GasBuddy's daily survey of 494 stations in Wyoming. Gas prices in Wyoming are 17.3 cents per gallon higher than a month ago and stand $1.36 a gallon higher than a year ago.

The price in Campbell County was right at the state average of $3.531, placing it among the 10 counties with moderately high prices. The highest in Wyoming were in Teton ($3.969), Lincoln ($3.839), Uinta ($3.819) and Sweetwater ($3.754) counties.

The counties with the cheapest gasoline prices were Albany ($3.419), Hot Springs ($3.409), Sheridan ($3.299) and Park ($3.276).

The cheapest station in Wyoming is priced at $2.85 a gallon while the most expensive was $4.29 a gallon.

The national average price of gasoline has risen 0.6 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.18 a gallon today, which is up 3.5 cents per gallon from a month ago.

It’s the highest prices for gasoline since 2011-2014, when gas prices nationally averaged about $3.50 to $3.60 a gallon.

"Motorists have seen average gas prices edge slightly higher over the last week, even as the price of oil saw selling pressure. This leads me to believe that the tide may soon turn on gas prices, so long as we don't see hurricanes target the country,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy.


Cody hospital opens COVID wing

CODY — Cody Regional Health is turning an entire wing of the hospital into a COVID-19 ward as case numbers and hospitalizations have spiked in recent weeks.

Hospital spokesperson Ashley Trudo said the move was due to a significant increase in COVID patients at the walk-in clinic, emergency department and acute care/critical care units. 

The COVID treatment ward, which had been up previously for an extended period until cases dropped off late in the winter, holds eight single occupancy beds, with the capability to convert the rooms into double occupancy for a total of 16 beds with an additional three ICU beds. 

The COVID wing is currently at full capacity with all eight single beds in use. Trudo said it’s taxing health care staff, as the hospital is also short staffed and COVID-19 patients require more staffing than most other patients.

As of Tuesday afternoon there were 57 active cases of the virus in Park County, with 20 new cases reported in the last day.

It’s the most cases since the surge in January.

Trudo said CRH is working closely with the county and state health officials to follow hospital policies and guidelines from The Wyoming Department of Health and Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“Treating providers are using the most up-to-date recommendations from the national institutes of health and infectious disease society of America to provide the best care to our community members who fall ill,” she said.


Lovell man killed in accident

LOVELL — An 18-year-old Lovell man was killed in a single vehicle rollover Saturday night. 

Mason Keele was driving southbound in a white Chevy pickup with a female passenger on Road 5 near the Byron cemetery early Saturday morning when he started to veer off of the road on the west side. Keele appeared to overcorrect, causing the vehicle to leave the road’s surface on the east side and roll over between two and four times, according to Big Horn County Sheriff Ken Blackburn.

Keele was ejected from the vehicle during the rollover and landed some distance from the vehicle, Blackburn said.

The female passenger was able to crawl out of the vehicle and called for help following the crash.

Emergency personnel were dispatched at 5:11 a.m., arrived on scene at 5:29 a.m. and left the scene at 5:44 a.m., transporting both victims to the hospital at 5:56 a.m.

Keele died at the hospital. The female passenger is expected to make a full recovery.

The case is under investigation, Blackburn said. It is unknown at this time whether alcohol was a factor in the crash.

“Our deepest sorrows go out to the family,” Blackburn said. “Many of (Keele’s) family are first responders. They spend a lot of time helping people and now they are grieving themselves.”


Johnson County, Vanguard reach tax settlement

BUFFALO — The Johnson County commissioners have accepted a settlement with Vanguard Natural Resources - now known as Grizzly Energy - in a case in which energy company Vanguard was attempting to get back ad valorem taxes it had previously paid. 

Vanguard operated in the county from 2016 to 2017 - filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February 2017 - and in 2018, filed suit against Johnson, Campbell, Sweetwater, Sublette, Natrona, Carbon and Park counties seeking the return of previously paid tax money, according to previous Buffalo Bulletin reporting. 

As part of the settlement, Johnson County will receive $230,079.95 in disputed ad valorem taxes - which is roughly one-third of the amount Vanguard still owed the county — and will not have to pay back any of the taxes that Vanguard sought to regain.

Vanguard sought to recover $500,000 from Johnson County that it had paid in 2016 and early 2017, according to previous Bulletin reporting. 

In the lawsuit, the company said it had more than $1.3 billion in liens held by first and second lien holders that should have been given preference over the money owed to the counties. 

"This really is probably the best case scenario for us," Chairman Bill Novotny said at the Aug. 3 county commission meeting. "It's a win-win in that we no longer will continue to incur legal expenses. We have resolved this tax issue, and again, we have protected the tax dollars that were already received and we've recovered some of the taxes that are in dispute."