State Briefs

Gillette airport traffic slow through first three quarters

GILLETTE (WNE) — Through the first nine months of the year, passenger traffic at the Gillette-Campbell County Airport is down 11 percent from 2017.

Through September, 41,940 passengers have come through the airport, down from the 46,711 through three quarters of 2017. It’s also lagging behind 2016, which saw 44,148 passengers at the same point.

In September, there were 4,099 passengers, the lowest monthly mark since February. Airport Director Jay Lundell said this is directly due to SkyWest pulling Gillette’s third daily flight to Denver.

“We lost 33 percent of our capacity from what we had. Losing that third flight hurt us pretty good,” he said.

In August, SkyWest pulled the early evening flight to Denver, bringing Gillette down to two flights a day. It also pulled one of Saturday’s flights, leaving the airport with just one on that day.

SkyWest recently added that flight back, however.

Lundell said the flight that SkyWest pulled was a good inbound flight, but the outbound one was lagging. On average, that flight was 35 percent full.

Despite the decrease in traffic, people are still filing planes, he said. In July, flights were 80 percent full. August had an average load factor of 77 percent and September was in the high 60s.

The state is moving closer toward a statewide capacity purchase agreement, in which the state would contract with an airline to provide commercial air service to communities that join in the agreement.

Lawmakers target drug abuse

CASPER (WNE) — A state legislative committee voted Friday to move forward with two bills aimed at slowing opioid abuse and deaths in Wyoming. Two other proposals will receive further legislative consideration later this year.

The four bills were the product of Wyoming’s Opioid Addiction Task Force, which was created by the Legislature in March. Lawmakers on the task force told members of the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, which met Friday in Casper, that the proposals focused on education and prevention.

The opioid group originally had nine pieces of legislation but “whittled” them down to four.

By 6 p.m. Friday, the health committee had endorsed two of those four. One expands some language in a bill passed in 2017 that attempts to distribute narcan — which can stop an opioid-related overdose in its tracks — to more people, like first responders and ordinary people whose relatives may be at risk. The new language would also broaden who has to report narcan usage to the state Department of Health. The committee quickly moved the bill along, with 13 of 14 members — Casper’s Rep. Joe MacGuire was out of the room — voting in favor. By another vote of 13-1 — with Cheyenne’s Sen. Anthony Bouchard voting against — the committee approved a bill that places restrictions on opioid prescriptions. The proposal would limit physicians to writing a 14-day script for “opioid naive patients,” or people who hadn’t had an opioid prescription in the previous 45 days.

Cheyenne Animal Shelter CEO steps down

CHEYENNE (WNE) — Cheyenne Animal Shelter CEO Bob Fecht has resigned amid public outrage over his decision to have a young dog pepper sprayed last month.

In a Friday evening news release, the shelter announced it had accepted a letter of separation from the former Cheyenne police chief and said its governing board would begin a national search for a new CEO immediately.

Fecht was serving a 60-day unpaid suspension imposed by the Shelter Board after a failed vote to ask for his resignation.

Phil Kiner gave up his board seat to serve as interim CEO in Fecht’s stead.

Fecht previously rejected calls for his resignation from Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr and City Councilman Rocky Case.

Fecht did not return a call requesting comment Friday evening.

“Bob Fecht has been a trusted friend and inspirational leader to the Cheyenne Animal Shelter for many years,” Shelter Board President Tammy Maas said in the release. “We respectfully accept his decision to step down, and we wish him nothing but the best in the future.”

Fecht’s departure follows weeks of turmoil over his reaction to an 8-month-old pit bull mix named Tanner biting an employee after she took him out of his kennel Sept. 4. The employee was able to get away and call for help; animal control officers tranquilized the dog and put him back in his kennel.

The next day, Fecht directed animal control officers to bring the dog outside and pepper spray him in what was later described as a training exercise. The dog was euthanized Sept. 6.

Eight grizzlies killed in Park County in recent weeks

CODY (WNE) — Wyoming hunters and Game and Fish killed eight bears in Park County alone in the past week and a half due to potentially dangerous human interactions.

If Wyoming had been permitted to carry out its planned hunt of the Greater Yellowstone grizzly in September, 11 grizzlies or fewer could have been harvested throughout the Demographic Monitoring Area.

A recent federal court decision returning the bears to Endangered Species Act protection meant Game and Fish had to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before six of the bears were euthanized.

The same court ruling spiked a scheduled Wyoming grizzly hunt as an off-shoot of the long-running debate over whether or not the bear is a recovered species.

Dan Smith, Game and Fish Cody regional supervisor, characterized this stretch of conflicts as “very busy,” but not a record for the department.

At this time of year grizzlies are roaming over the landscape seeking to pack on pounds for winter hibernation, so the chances of running across people are higher.

Smith described these bears as “human habituated.”

Three of the bears put down invaded the Gallagher Corn Maze in Clark. As of the end of the weekend, the department was still attempting to trap a fourth bear in that area.

Three other bears were euthanized after obtaining food in residential neighborhoods on the North Fork.

The other two bears perished following encounters with hunters in the field.

Before the agency decides to put down grizzlies, other options are reviewed, including possibly relocating them to other parts of the state.

In the cases of these six, Smith said, “They couldn’t be moved anywhere else. There was nowhere to move them.”