By KARLA POMEROY
There were many stories to choose from throughout the 366 days in the leap year of 2012 but the Basin Republican Rustler selected 11 stories this year for its top 10 (tie for 10th). They are as follows:
The Big Horn County Fair made news in 2012 with a change, twice in fair managers and new fair board members. This year’s fair saw an entire new board with some previous board members not seeking re-appointment and others resigning in mid term. New board members for 2012 were Chairman Feliz Carrizales, Tim Flitner, Carl Nielsen, Andy Perkins and Casey Sorenson.
Deb Schnitzmeier was hired by the previous board at the end of 2011 and began duties in early 2012. Following the August county fair, Schnitzmeier was subsequently suspended by official action. At the September meeting, the Big Horn County Fair Board voted 4-1, with Sorenson opposed, to suspend Fair Manager Deb Schnitzmeier immediately without pay. Prior to the motion Carrizales asked Schnitzmeier if she had a letter of resignation to present to the board.
“No I do not. I don’t intend to resign,” Schnitzmeier said.
Carrizales said he had come in to speak to Schnitzmeier the previous week and did ask her if she would resign. He said if she’s not willing to do that he then asked the board if they wanted to take action regarding Schnitzmeier’s employment and Board Member Andy Perkins moved to terminate her employment with Carl Nielsen seconding the motion.
In October Schnitzmeier came to the commissioners prepared to read a statement in open public but County Attorney Michelle Burns cautioned the commissioners to recess into executive session. Schnitzmeier provided the Basin Republican Rustler with her statement which stated she did not believe she had resigned. She also provided a letter from her attorney, which asked that Schnitzmeier be “paid in full up until, if and when, she is terminated. Failure to do so will result in our seeking all legal remedies available to us.”
In November the fair board hired former fair secretary Vangie Hackney as the new fair manager.
In other fair news, making the top 10 for 2012 was the ongoing discussion for a multi-purpose indoor youth facility. The board has formed a committee to look at plans and uses for the facility. A Daniels Fund grant and a Consensus Block Grant has been obtained to partially fund construction of the facility.
Child abductions — one real and one a prank — made our top 10 list. The actual abduction was an 11-year-old girl in Cody by a Montana man. An arrest has been made. In the Oct. 16 story of the Basin Republican Rustler it was reported — In a press conference Monday, Cody Police Chief Perry Rockvam said, “It’s been quite a year,” alluding to two armed robberies, two shootings and last week’s child abduction. “The innocence of our town has been lost. We all realize Cody is not the same as it once was.”
The abduction was addressed at area schools and safety procedures were reviewed. Laura Irwin Elementary counselor Dottie Hannon said when she went into the fourth-grade class for her normal presentations she could see “there was a lot of anxiety. It wasn’t just in Cody but it became Basin-wide.”
One of the main points she told students is that if an adult ever asks you for help, start running. “You should not be trusting of an adult who is asking you for help,” she said.
On Dec. 20, a young juvenile made a prank phone call stating he was hiding in a classroom and had just seen a friend abducted. Police were able to ID the caller and the matter was handled by the officers and the child’s parents. Both Laura Irwin Elementary and Riverside High School were locked down to make sure that every child and staff member was accounted for.
Chief Chris Kampbell said, “Overall if I had to grade the entire process I’d give it a B-. There are things that were done very well. Obviously the school has done some practicing for lockdowns and emergency situations. Every classroom I went in the teacher and students were doing the exact same thing.”
Prior to the incident, Kampbell said he had been talking to Superintendent Mary Fisher about conducting an incident-response drill at the school. He said they’ll continue that planning with law enforcement and school personnel to develop a drill for the next few months “to make sure we’re prepared.”
He said another thing he is working on with Fisher is where parents can go for information. “We don’t want them coming to the school.”
Comings and goings — 2012 was filled with lots of people coming and going. The year started with Big Horn County Public Health Nurse Sue Wiley announcing her retirement effective Feb. 2 after 26 years. Basin’s own Kimberly Cowan was hired to replace her.
Next came the resignation of Land Planner Jim Waller after 10 years with Big Horn County. He took a job with Johnson County. Joy Hill later replaced him.
Besides Waller there were other major changes in the county government. Deputy Clerk of District Court Maxine Ruppert took medical retirement and later Clerk of District Court Vickie Larchick announced she would be retiring in the midst of her four-year elected term. The resignation brought about a chain of events and kept the Republican Central Committee busy. The committee took applications, nominated three candidates with the commissioners making the final appointment. The commissioners appointed County Clerk Dori Noyes, which started the appointment process over for that position. The commissioners appointed Deputy Clerk Lori Smallwood to fill that role. Both Smallwood and Noyes will fulfill the rest of the terms through 2014, and they must then run for election to retain the offices.
The county hired a fulltime airports manager after having contracted with Engineer Willie Bridges since the airport board resigned and the county opted to reorganize administration of the airports. Carl Meyer was hired for the new position.
Grace McCoy at the town of Basin announced she would be retiring after 7.5 years. She was replaced by Katrina Jares, who had started in October of 2011. Also new to the town this year have been linemen Stacey Lesher and Brad Jolley and at the town hall Denise Lynch and Ben Coy.
At the end of 2011 the war in Iraq was over as troops came home but the war in Afghanistan continued and in 2012 Big Horn County suffered a casualty. By order of Gov. Matt Mead, the U.S. and State of Wyoming flags around the state were flown at half-staff on Wednesday, Sept. 5, in honor of Army Specialist Mabry James Anders, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on Aug. 27.
Mabry, the son of Gretchen and Dan Anders of Shell and Troy and Gen Woydziak of Baker City, Ore., was laid to rest Wednesday in Baker City. His body arrived in Baker City on Monday via aircraft — and with a military guardian, according to Mike Laird, who is the casualty assistance officer and with the Anders family in Oregon.
Anders was assigned to the 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, out of Fort Carson, Colo., when he was killed in action in Kalagush, Afghanistan, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom.
A release from the Department of Defense issued immediately after Anders’ death stated that he had died of injuries from enemy, small-arms fire.
There were four house fires in south Big Horn County this past year. The first fire in February destroyed the home of Ruth Richards Zeller at 506 South Ninth, who had just moved out of the home after having gotten married in December so no personal possessions were lost. The next fire was in May when Brett and Lynn Tippets lost their home at 1655 Highway 14 and nearly all of its contents in a fast-moving, early-morning fire that appeared to originate in the garage. The third house fire was the home at 611 South Fifth being rented by the Mennonite church for a home and school. The Mennonites have relocated to North Sixth. The last house fire of the year occurred in December in Otto with quick response from the Burlington Fire Department saving most of the home of Royden and Elizabeth Jones at 229 First Street South. The fire originated from the water heater and the fire and damage was contained to that section of the home where the two bedrooms are located.