Should new Basin schools be renamed?

RHS

BY BARBARA ANNE GREENE

With the new schools coming to Big Horn County School District Four, should the schools be renamed? This question has come up on and off for the last couple of years. When it was discussed at the board meeting on May 9, 2017 the board decided to form a committee to explore the question.

Retiring Para-professional Karen Kinkade told the board that many alumni she has spoken to would like to see the school and the mascot go back to Basin Bob Cats. Other point that was discussed during the board meeting was that the three schools in the district do not have same mascot. The high school and elementary school are Rebels while the middle school mascot is the Cougars. Whether the new schools name changes or not the thought it the mascot for middle school should be changed to be the same as the other two.

A committee was formed that night to explore ideas, thoughts, suggestions, etc., of the public. Send your ideas to Audra Crouse at audra.crouse@bgh4.org.  You may also drop your ideas off at the district administration building located at 416 South Third. Community members on the committee are Kinkade and Carlene Brown. They may also be contacted with ideas. Also board member Deb Craft.

An update on the new buildings was also a portion of the board meeting that night. Business manager Andy DeGraw told the board and audience about the School Facilities Commission meeting May 2-3. He had high praise for Rep. Nathan Winters who attended the meeting as well. Winters, on behalf of district four, addressed the commission about the shortfalls in the construction funding. He said that Winters was very passionate and compelling. “We so appreciate the Basin Area Chamber for contacting our local legislatures and asking them to be a part of the discussion. While Senator Agar and Representative Greear were unable to attend, it was good that we were able to let them know what was going on so they could be advocates for the district at the state level”

The commission recommended moving forward with the project. . The district will now need a notice to proceed from the School Facilities Department. District superintendent Dave Kerby said that there would need to be an additional 4000 square feet cut from the plans. “This cut is based on the current enrollment projections. The original square footage for the buildings is based on enrollment numbers from 2013. The new projections show a slight decline in enrollment.” The square footage cut to meet new square footage requirement were two classrooms in the elementary, small reductions in the size of classrooms in the high/middle school and slight redesign of the hallways.

“The Commission approved us to move forward to bid with a couple of minor changes to the architect’s scope of work,” District business manager Andy DeGraw said. “Once bids come in we will determine if we need to make a request to the Commission for “unanticipated” funding.”

Kerby noted that the commission would not have all the additional $2.1 million needed for the foundation piers. The district will then have to go to the legislature for the rest of the funds.

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Hospital board wants questions from the community to be submitted in writing

hospital

BY KYNLI SMITH

A smaller crowd gathered at the South Big Horn County Hospital District board meeting on Wednesday, April 26. About 10 people attended the meeting compared to the near 200 people the previous month.

Those who had some questions for the board were told they would need to submit their questions to the board and the hospital in writing.

“We are not going to be doing this Q&A and integrating in a meeting, we just aren’t going to do it,” said board chairman Jeff Grant.

“All we are looking for is answers and we haven’t been getting answers,” added Bob Paxton.

“I don’t know how more we could do it,” Grant said. “If you’ve got questions, tell us in writing. We don’t want something to be misconstrued by us. We don’t want it to be misconstrued in the paper. We want to be able to respond to you and answer your question.”

Some asked about the current DEA investigation the hospital is currently cooperating with.

“We don’t know and that is all I can tell you,” said Grant. “We may not know anything from the DEA for months. If you guys are impatient, so are we. We have no idea what is going to happen. They haven’t communicated to us. And they will not communicate anything to use until an end result. It is not a ‘we can’t tell you, we don’ know anything.’”

Some in attendance added that there are other issues outside the DEA investigation that they are concerned about.

“The people that are no longer here, they are not coming back,” said Grant.

Grant added that if the public has questions they could submit questions in writing as long as it doesn’t deal with staffing or other human resource related issues.

“You guys are citizens of the community. You have every right to participate in an open meeting. That doesn’t mean we have Q&A at every meeting,” said Grant. “We weren’t even going to do this. I thought things were going to be OK and we could answer a couple of questions.

“We allowed someone to step up in February and I almost got shot. We allowed it in March because the passions were so heavy we wanted you guys to have the ability to share those passions with us. But we are not going to have meetings where people come and make statements and do that sort of thing. If you have questions, we would like to talk to you about your concerns.”

Hospital CEO John Adlesich said after the meeting that those who would like to request to be on the agenda for board meetings would need to contact the hospital to be placed on the agenda to address the board.

NEW BOARD MEMBER, NEW PROVIDERS, NEW CLINIC

Following the board meeting in March, board member Lisa Reesy resigned, leaving a vacant seat on the board of trustees for the hospital. The board and the hospital have been looking to fill the vacant seat for the past month and have been accepting letters of intent.

The board met with three candidates before the public board meeting on Wednesday and interviewed Mitch Shelhamer, Richard Burton and Connie Werbelow.

“We have made the decision to have Mitch join us,” said Grant.

Shelhamer will fill out the term until the next election, in 2018.

In December the hospital was in talks with their neighbors, the Shelhamer family, on a possible trade or lot line adjustment to put the lagoon in the back corner of the hospital’s grounds instead of the front lot.

According to Adlesich, the hospital has not been in talks with the Shelhamers for the past few months about a land exchange.

“We have enough space for the lagoon on our property,” said Adlesich.

The lagoon project is still moving forward and the hospital is waiting on DEQ approval.

The hospital will be getting new providers this summer. Mary Freund will be joining the hospital staff as a provider in mid-May, and Dr. Deborah Brackett will be joining the hospital in July.

The hospital is still recruiting for a third provider to fill an open spot. Dr. Ricardo Ramos, M.D., who is temporarily filling in at the hospital, will be staying on until July.

The board also voted to open a temporary construction loan at a local bank. The hospital is currently planning the construction of their new clinic and administration in the most recent phase of the hospital update and expansion.

This phase will roughly cost a little more than $2 million. The hospital will receive $1 million from the USDA after completion and will receive $500,000 from the Wyoming SLIB board. The hospital will also be investing their own $500,000 into the project.

The new phase would include adding new administration offices, physical therapy, reception and main entrance.

They are setting up a temporary construction loan because of USDA requirements. The USDA will not give any funds until completion.

After this phase comes partial demolition.

CLINIC CONCERNS

Carrie Lowe, who manages Midway Clinic, addressed the board about the progress in the clinic and making the clinic a BFC Clinic, which would mean the clinic would be a place for patients to get their immunizations.

“We want to see patients from birth on up,” said Lowe.

Lowe added they hope to get approval to be a BFC Clinic in the next few months.

Concerned citizen Randi Noble, who was in attendance at the meeting, asked who would be administering the shots to patients.

“Three weeks ago I brought my son out here and there were no longer nurses; there were medical assistants,” said Noble. A medical assistant checked in my son and he was weighed. His weight was written down as 74 pounds. I said that is not correct, my son weighs 64 pound. And trust me I watch that very closely. That is crucial.”

She added that the medical assistant wrote down the wrong weight for her son anyway and said that the scales were old and the hospital is getting new ones.

“Now I have a little 11-year-old boy that has catastrophic medical issues, and you are prescribing medication based on weight,” said Noble. “A 15-pound difference is huge. I’m interested in who will be administering those immunizations. Will it be a nurse or a medical assistant?”

She added that she is sure the change is a cost saving effort for the hospital and asked if the savings was being extended on bills.

Lowe stated that RNs are onsite along with medical assistants and an RN or LPN administers drugs that need to be administered.

“I have a lot of concern about that and have been vocal about that,” said board member Margie Triplett. “Working at Billings Clinic over in Cody I have talked to all the MAs and RNs. There are certain protocols a facility has to adopt in order to give the MAs certain responsibilities and they have to be trained and certified to do those things. They also have to go through continuing education every year in order stay current.”

She added that providers, nurses and administration would have to come up with a protocol for MAs.

Noble said she isn’t certain she is comfortable with MAs giving her son an injection because the MA she encountered could not weigh her son correctly.

“That is a huge red flag to me,” said Noble. “And I’m sorry. I’m going to be vocal about that in the community and you all know word of mouth in a small community is either going to kill you or it’s going to help you.”

“We are trying to do what we can. As a board we can’t be here and watch every move. We are keeping our hand on the pulse of what they are doing by asking questions,” said Triplett.

“I feel very strongly that you all were elected and are legally bound to represent the very best interest in this community,” said Noble.

“That is what we are trying to do,” said board member Sue Antley.

Noble questioned whether by doing away with proper nurses and putting in medical assistants that the board is doing the best thing for the community.

Antley added that they are adding nurses as they can.

“I can tell you, of all the people that have left this facility in the past year, you know how many we would rehire? Two. They all needed to go. I’m sorry,” said Antley.

“You keep saying that, but there is no proof of that,” said Noble.

Grant and Antley said they needed to move on.

“Let me say something, I didn’t intend to have this questions answer because it’s not appropriate at a meeting like this,” Grant said. “And I sympathize. You should be as passionate as you need to be about your son. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. I’m uncomfortable talking about individual patients.”

He added that the way the clinic operated in the past was not how most clinics operate.

“The fact that changes have been made does not mean that the changes have led us into something bad. It has led us into something different,” said Grant.

He added that some clinics run just off of physician’s assistants, but the board has made the decision to bring in more medical doctors to the facility, which is more of a cost.

He also stated that concerned members of the public should submit their questions in writing and the hospital will respond back to them.

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TCT defendants push back at plaintiffs’ claims in lawsuit; court strikes plaintiffs’ pleadings

TCT

BY KYNLI SMITH

TCT, its owners and former directors are pushing back this week on plaintiffs Joe and Barbara Campbell’s ongoing claims of impropriety in the Campbell versus Tri County Telephone Association lawsuit.

The suit names TCT president Chris Davidson, TCT CFO Steve Harper and former board members Dalin Winters, J.O Sutherland, Daniel Greet, Clifford Alexander and John K. Johnson as defendants. Also included as defendants are Neil Schlenker, accounting firm Hathaway and Kunz and attorney Michael Rosenthal.

The suit alleges that TCT held more than $90 million in hard assets when it was sold for $51 million in 2014. With millions of dollars held back, the suit alleges just $29 million of the sale price was paid to TCT cooperative owners.

“Plaintiffs are playing fast and loose with the facts in their pleadings. This was a sale that was based on multiple independent valuations. It is a sale that was approved by 80 percent of the members of the cooperative, members who were smart enough to know exactly what they were doing,” said Davidson in a press release.

The Campbells claim that they have produced 14,500 documents to the court along with 71 witnesses. For the defendants, the firm of Hathaway & Kunz has produced just one document, they allege.

However, Tim Stubson, attorney for defendant Davidson, said that most of the documents that the plaintiffs have produced originally came from TCT.

The plaintiffs allege in recently released court documents that the defendants are attempting to block discovery in this case.

Regarding the recent allegation that the defendants are attempting to block discovery and other information regarding the case, the defendants reject that claim.

The defendants claim they have asked the court to divide the case into two parts. The first would determine whether Joe Campbell, given “his personal dispute with TCT’s leadership and given his own personal financial interests in defeating the sale, is the right person to represent the members who approved the sale and recognized it as a fair deal,” the release states.

The second part is addressing the merits of the claims that have been made.

Stubson added that Campbell received a salary for being on the TCT board before the sale.

“In this case you see a disgruntled former board member, the only board member who opposed the sale. Mr. Campbell lost a regular paycheck as a result of the sale, so I understand his disappointment. However, his claim to represent a group of people who overwhelmingly rejected the same arguments he is making now when he made them at the time of the sale is concerning,” said Stubson in a press release.

A fair sale

The defendants claim that the 2014 sale was fair market value for the cooperative. They state that more than 650 community owners, roughly about 80 percent of the cooperative’s members, reviewed the sale and market value of the sale and approved of the transaction.

They also claim that TCT and the buyer, BHT Holdings, each independently hired third party consultants to review and assess TCT’s market value.

“This was the first sale of a telecommunications cooperative in Wyoming’s history. Assessing the exact value is unlike any other industry in the state, which is why experts were hired to provide valuation of TCT holdings and assets,” the release stated.

The defendants also claim that proper procedures were used and that before the transaction was negotiated and finalized the board of directors for TCT and officers of the cooperative mailed a summary of the proposed sale and meeting information for the member vote more than 90 days prior to the member vote.

The defendants also state that information regarding the sale was made available to the cooperative members by the following methods:

The complete Ownership Purchase Agreement was made available to the cooperative’s members for review months in advance of the vote.

There were nine informational mailings to the members setting out the specific terms of the transaction.

Members had direct access to the board, which responded to specific member questions prior to the vote.

In addition, board members, Davidson and Schlenker provided information and responded to members’ questions and concerns through no fewer than three “town hall” meetings and several informative videos aired on local TV channels prior to the vote. In addition, Neil made himself available for one-on-one discussions with any concerned member for four hours before each town hall meeting.

They go on to state that members of the cooperative were encouraged to return their ballots by mail, hand delivery or by proxy. The members also were made aware that they could wait to cast their vote until the start of the final sale meeting and that members who cast their vote could change it up until the final vote at
meeting.

The defendants also claim that the 2014 sale of the cooperative was met with “overwhelming approval.” Of the 694 votes cast, there were 42 “no” votes for the sale. Members who abstained from voting were counted in with the “no” votes.

“The approval of the sale was not the board’s or officers’ decision; it was the overwhelming vote of the community owners (nearly 80 percent voting in favor) after receiving detailed information regarding the sale and a 90-day period within which to review the material,” the release states.

ACTIONS AND                 ALLEGATIONS

The defendants claim that Joe Campbell, while serving on the board, was opposed to the 2014 sale. Even though aware of Campbell’s opposition, they state that no board member was removed due to the opposition.

However, given the sale’s magnitude and sensitive nature, board members were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements, and when Campbell refused, he was temporarily prevented from practicing in sale negotiations and viewing associated confidential documents.

“The Plaintiffs, and the small group of members opposing the sale, held public meetings, paid for newspaper ads, created a website and distributed propaganda to members using personal membership information, including addresses, in an attempt to undermine the sale,” the release alleges.

The defendants also claim that allegations the plaintiffs have made regarding the net worth of TCT at the 2014 sale being $90 million is incorrect and that the value does not account for depreciation of assets and other assets that were not in use or did not even exist.

The defendants state in their release that plaintiffs’ allegation of the cash flow being at $7 million is false, as well, and misleading and “leans on improper methods of assessing worth for telecommunications
companies.”

They also allege that the plaintiffs’ actions in the case are contrary to the interests of the former cooperative members, who “overwhelming” voted in favor of the transaction.

“This case is built on sensational and unsupported allegations. Time and again you witness courts seeing through these types of tactics and throwing cases out,” stated TCT attorney David Clark. “We are confident that will be the case here, as well.”

COURT STRIKES PLAINTIFFS’ PLEADINGS

On Tuesday, April 18, the court issued an order striking the pleadings of the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs issued a response to the defendants’ motion to quash the subpoena served to Rep. Mike Greear, R-Worland, and a memorandum in opposition to the defendants’ motion for bifurcation of discovery.

In the court order, Judge Norman E. Young stated, “The court find pleadings to contain immaterial and impertinent matter, such as the clip-art contained on page three of the response and the clip-art of David Letterman on page 25 of the memorandum. These illustrations add nothing to the legal argument nor the parties’ respective positions. Such content is perceived by this court to be unprofessional and lacking in civility.”

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