Wyoming news briefs for October 28


Homeland Security official arrested on DWUI charge

POWELL — The director of the Park County Office of Homeland Security was arrested outside of Casper on Sunday night on suspicion of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

Charging documents allege that Jack Tatum — who was driving his county-owned vehicle — had a blood alcohol level that was more than three times the legal limit for driving.

Tatum pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of DWUI at a Monday appearance in Natrona County Circuit Court. The 33-year-old was released on bond pending a trial.

Park County Sheriff Scott Steward, who supervises the Homeland Security office, said Wednesday that Tatum has been placed on administrative leave. The sheriff declined to comment further on the personnel matter.

Tatum had been attending the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy in Douglas, where he was training to become certified as a peace officer.

According to charging documents, a citizen called law enforcement around 8:30 p.m. Sunday to report that someone in a “Park County Homeland Security” pickup truck had cut off another driver, was swerving all over the road and traveling slow at times on U.S. Highway 20/26 west of Casper.

After stopping Tatum, a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper said he smelled alcohol on his breath. 

Once at the Casper jail, around 9:45 p.m., Tatum provided two breath samples, which put his blood alcohol level at 0.272 percent and 0.267 percent.

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Basin Co-Op employees protest possible vaccine mandate

GILLETTE — Heavy rains, whipping winds and bitter temperatures couldn't deter the American spirit in a group of Basin Electric Power Co-Op employees as they gathered at the entrance of Dry Fork Station north of Gillette Tuesday afternoon to protest the possibility of a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

With Wyoming state legislature meeting this week, the group made a last-minute effort to ensure their voices are heard as they seek out assistance from Wyoming's leaders to prevent any mandates impacting their workplaces.

"We want the legislators to protect us from the Federal government," Brigitte, who wanted to keep her last name private, said. "We want our legislature to know that this state and our jobs create a product that every household uses. The Federal government said they are going to shut us down. We want legislature to know we have a voice, and if they keep pushing and keep pushing, people are going to fight back.”

Currently, employees are safe from a mandate. What they are fighting for is to keep mandates away for good, which hinges on legislators standing up for Wyoming's people, protestors noted.

"I think people are just starting to get fed up," Brigitte said.

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Western Sugar eyes favorable year

LOVELL — A tumultuous workforce hiring season has not stopped Western Sugar from having a very solid year, factory manager Shannon Ellis shared with the Lovell Chamber of Commerce on Oct 18.

Ellis said that harvest was 55-percent done as of that Monday, with workers able to get 5-to-6-percent more of the harvest done on a good day. Early autumn frosts were not cold enough to kill any beets, Ellis said, meaning the crop remains in excellent shape.

“We’re having a pretty favorable year,” Ellis said.

Meanwhile the factory is operating at as high an efficiency as Ellis said he’s seen it.

“We’re probably the smallest sugar factory in the U.S., but we’re operating at a very high level,” Ellis said. “We’re cutting about 3,000 tons of beets per day and producing around close to 9,000 hundredweights of sugar, Sometimes we’re hitting the 10,000 mark.” 

A hundredweight is equal to 100 pounds. 

“Extraction-wise, we’re reaching 87 to 88 percent,” Ellis said. “In the industry, that’s a high level.” 

The only hiccup is a difficult one. A good workforce is hard to find right now.

“The single thing that’s been an issue this year is people and hiring people, that’s been a struggle. It’s a give and take every week, we hire a few and then we lose a few,” Ellis said.

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