State Briefs

United launches service from Cody to Denver

CODY (WNE) Just after noon on Thursday, the first of at least two years’ worth of United Airlines winter service flights is set to touch down in Cody from Denver International Airport.

It’s the first time winter service flights to Denver, rather than SkyWest hub Salt Lake City, have been offered at Yellowstone Regional Airport since February of 2016.

From 2016 to March 1, Delta subsidiary SkyWest held the federal contract that subsidizes off-season flights to YRA, but when bids for the 2018-20 contract were submitted for review by the U.S. Department of Transportation last fall, United succeeded in wresting service away by underbidding SkyWest by over $470,000.

SkyWest will continue offering one daily flight to Salt Lake City through Sept. 10, but service to Utah beyond that date is at this point uncertain.

Billing delays cost Gillette hospital $150,000 to $200,000

GILLETTE (WNE) — Billing delays at Powder River Surgery Center have caused Campbell County Health to forgo about $150,000 to $200,000 in Medicaid payments.

Since CCH bought Powder River in 2016, unanticipated computer issues delayed some bills to Medicaid more than one year, so they were denied, said Dalton Huber, chief financial officer for Campbell County Health. In addition, some Medicaid and Medicare patients didn’t get their bills until six or seven months after receiving medical treatment.

The billing delays haven’t affected patients who have other insurance providers.

“I don’t want to point fingers at who was to blame,” Huber said. “It was just kind of a difficult process. Powder River was independent, and now, it’s part of CCH. It took a little bit to work through that.”

Huber estimates that it will be June or July before CCH fully catches up on Powder River’s billing.

When Powder River was a stand-alone business, it sent out bills as an ambulatory surgery center. To continue to bill properly after becoming part of CCH, Powder River had to be recategorized as a hospital-based surgery center.

It took about six months — until July 2016 — to complete the forms necessary to make the change, delaying billing, Huber said.

Powder River’s billing software was unable to send out bills with the new designation as a hospital-based surgery center. To fix that problem, CCH upgraded the billing software, which took until June 2017. During that time, Powder River completed billing manually, significantly slowing the process, Huber said.

Although the new software has been running for about nine months, Powder River remains a few weeks behind on sending out bills and still needs to transfer some old accounts to the upgraded software.

Development organization expands services to Wyoming

GILLETTE (WNE) — The Montana & Idaho Community Development Corp., a nonprofit financing organization, is expanding its services to Wyoming.

“It’s exciting to see a company like MICDC expanding into Wyoming,” said Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead in a press release. “As the state moves forward in diversifying our economy, access to capital for business, especially small business, becomes increasingly important. Wyoming welcomes MICDC and we look forward to working with them.”

Earlier this month, the group secured a $65 million award through the U.S. Treasury’s New Markets Tax Credit program, and it is looking to spend some of that in Wyoming.

Since starting in 2008, the group has received eight awards totaling $496 million. It sells those tax credits to investors and uses the money to finance businesses, nonprofits and real estate development.

“There’s a positive domino effect to these projects that extends well into the future,” said Dave Glaser, the group’s president and CEO. “Where these investments are made, we’ve seen additional investment follow. The tax credits are the catalyst, but the people in these communities take it from there.”

Two men acquitted in 2015 rape

CHEYENNE (WNE) – A jury has found two Cheyenne men not guilty of raping a teenage girl at a party in 2015.

Kelby Niebuhr, 20, and Owen Soto, 21, were each acquitted of a single charge of first-degree sexual assault using force after the jury deliberated for less than two hours.

The nearly four-day trial in front of Laramie County District Judge Thomas Campbell included witnesses such as the detective on the case and the now-17-year-old girl who made the allegations.

Had they been convicted, the two men were potentially facing five to 50 years in prison.

 “I think the jury got it right,” said defense attorney Dion Custis. “It was a very tough case with tough allegations, (but) I think they got it right.”

Laramie County District Attorney Jeremiah Sandburg painted a very different picture. He said the verdict points to a larger issue in the state, referencing another recent verdict out of Casper where a prominent businessman was found not guilty on counts of first- and second-degree sexual assault.

“Last week, it really demonstrated the difficulty we have here in the state of Wyoming of getting convictions in these kinds of cases,” Sand-burg said.

Soto and Niebuhr were each charged in June 2017 with one count of first-degree sexual assault after an investigation into a teenage girl’s claims that the two men assaulted her at a 2015 party.

Police submitted several pieces of evidence to the Wyoming State Crime Lab. Those tests revealed that sperm found on the girl’s shirt sleeve matched Niebuhr and Soto’s DNAs, according to court documents.

There were no witnesses to the alleged event, and both Soto and Niebuhr denied ever having sex with the girl in initial interviews with police, according to court documents.