Gillette

Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead licensed under CC BY 3.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/

The Las Vegas Strip Shooting this week is being described as the worst mass shooting in modern history. Gillette resident Clint Burton was at the Route 91 Harvest Festival taking photos for his website Backstage Music Magazine when he was injured in the shooting.

His son, twenty-year-old Bayelee Burton was also at the concert. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard spoke with Bayelee after he and his family returned to Wyoming.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

 

It’s a mixture you wouldn’t usually think of: black suits, pop country music, Japanese officials and the slight smell of manure. All these things came together at the CAM-PLEX event center in Gillette, Wyo., on Sept. 21 for a discussion about coal.

Madelyn Beck/Inside Energy

 

The Gillette Workforce Center had a front row seat for the town’s coal woes.

The office has cream-colored walls, decorated with motivational posters and pictures of coal mines. Vermona Petersen is the manager of the center, which helps people find a new job.

“At the height of the layoffs last year, we were seeing between 250 and 300 people a day,” she said. 

Wyoming coal mines laid off more than 450 workers last March amid financial troubles exacerbated by low natural gas prices and debt.

City of Gillette website

Gillette’s city administrator will soon take over the position as city manager in Casper. Carter Napier will replace V.H. McDonald, who announced his retirement in April amidst controversy surrounding his office and the police department. The appointment is subject to city council approval. 

Stephanie Joyce

The $2 million funding for coal workers comes from a U.S. Department of Labor grant meant to aid dislocated workers. Eligible workers can put the money towards training programs in other fields. 

The Powder River Symphony - Gillette

Feb 15, 2017
Powder River Symphony Orchestra

"Music can change the world."  ~Ludwig van Beethoven

The Powder River Symphony had its beginnings as the Gillette Community Orchestra on November 23rd, 1986.  The orchestra, consisting of band and orchestra students from local schools and other community residents, was formed in September to give members a chance to play in a full orchestra.  Susan Barry (the first strings instructor in the Campbell County School District) was the first conductor of the 25-member orchestra.

Stephanie Joyce

 

The House Revenue Committee killed a bill Friday that would have lowered the coal industry’s severance tax from seven to six percent.

The Coal industry has struggled over the last couple of years and Gillette Representative Tim Hallinan said he hoped that the decrease would spur industry and prevent further bankruptcies, but he said it’s unknown whether or not it would create jobs. For Laramie Representative Dan Furphy that was a deal breaker.

Michael Polito Source: Wikimedia Commons

  

The community of Gillette has seen tension recently with plans for a Quran burning and protests over Gillette’s first mosque. Writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Kathryn Schulz heard this and wondered how a Muslim community came to be in coal mining Wyoming.

Habib M’henni / Wikimedia Commons

At a rally this weekend in Gillette, a Wyoming anti-Islam group is planning to burn a Quran.  

According to the group’s website, members of Americans For A Secure Wyoming are calling to “ban Islam from Wyoming,” though the group does not explain how that could be enforced.

Last year, members of a different online group Stop Islam In Gillette protested the opening of Gillette’s first mosque.

Gillette mayor Louise Carter-King said the protests do not reflect positively on what she describes as a welcoming community.

STEPHANIE JOYCE / WYOMING PUBLIC RADIO

 

Just before midnight on a recent evening, Chris Loman was still busy checking people in and out of the Oak Tree Inn in Gillette, Wyoming. She asked one guest about his wife and ribbed another about a past visit.

“They’re like family to me,” Loman said. “And I am to them.”

The Oak Tree Inn is not a typical hotel. It has private rooms, key cards, and fresh towels, but most of its guests work for BNSF, one of the nation’s largest railroads. Until recently, the entire hotel was under contract to the railroad.

Sheridan.edu

The City of Gillette is asking its biggest water users to cut back for the first time since 2012.

The city is now in “Condition Yellow,” which means it is asking places like the Campbell County School District and Gillette College to voluntarily cut back its water usage by fifteen percent. The community found itself in this situation because the city went over its water usage limit, 10.2 million gallons, three out of the past five days.

Duncan Harris, Flickr Creative Commons

Nebraska-based Kiewit Corporation announced today that 45 positions will be cut from its Gillette mine. In 2015, around 218 workers were employed at Buckskin Mine, Kiewit's only in the state.  

 

In a statement, company spokesperson Tom Janssen wrote:   

 

"Unfortunately, the coal market remains extremely challenging. Low natural gas prices, low overall power demand and high coal stockpiles at utility power plants has significantly reduced our customers’ 2016 coal needs."

 

gillettenewsrecord.com

A new mural is being painted in downtown Gillette this week. It will replace a deteriorating older mural.

A mustachioed cowboy painted by Gillette mural artist Harvey Jackson in 1999 is fading and cracking. It will be replaced with a collaborative piece. AVA Community Art Center is bringing in Denver artist Partick McGirr—a Gillette native—to help 15 to 20 kids create a new collage mural. Sarah Ferguson is on AVA’s board of directors. She says the new mural is about community pride expressed through the kids’ art.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

Gail Japp’s bright blue eyes are the kind you keep on noticing. I met the 64-year-old at her home outside of Gillette, Wyoming on a gray, windy, day in April. She had just finishing filling out unemployment paperwork.

Japp is one of the 235 coal miners who were laid off by Peabody Energy in March. Arch Coal cut around 230 positions that same week.

I asked her how she felt that day. Her reply: “Devastated, scared. What in the world am I gonna do? I’m single. I’m 64. I have a mortgage. Am I gonna lose my house?”

Miles Bryan

Gillette mother Trish Simonson never wanted a tattoo. That changed when her son Kaden died by suicide last May. Now her left wrist is adorned with a Bible verse and a semicolon symbol, along with some text.

“It says Kaden: 5-8-15,” she said with her arm turned out. “And, ‘ask my story.’”

Trish’s twenty-five-year-old daughter Ashley has a fresh tattoo as well. She and her brother both loved Harry Potter, so a “Patronus”—a mythical creature from the books—is now inked on her right arm.

Miles Bryan

  

  

Bret Colvin says founded the “Stop Islam in Gillette” Facebook group for one reason.

 

“I don’t want Jihadis in my neighborhood.”

 

Colvin is a Catholic, and an ex-Marine. His wife passed away last year, and last month he lost his job as an oil field mechanic. Now he runs a home electronics repair business out of the small Gillette house he shares with a roommate, and a few pet turtles.

 

Wikimedia Creative Commons

Campbell County School officials are considering whether junior high and high school students should start their school days later.

Many parents spoke out at a public meeting this week, saying the change would disrupt family routines.

Those students currently start their day at about 7:40 in Campbell County. But the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling on schools to push that back until 8:30 or later.

The District’s public relations director Jeff Wasserburger says the local school board is still in the discussion phase.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Radio

How much coal does a Wyoming coal miner mine? Quite a bit less than he used to, it turns out.

Regulations have received most of the blame for coal’s current downturn but that’s not the whole story; it’s also getting more expensive to mine in the nation’s largest coal producing state.

For the past few months, Cloud Peak Energy, one of the biggest coal miners in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, has been in the process of moving a giant machine called a dragline from one mine to another.

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

While states like West Virginia and Kentucky have been hit hard by the coal industry's decline, the picture for coal mining out west has been somewhat brighter. In Wyoming and Montana, it's mostly been business as usual—which is why some coal miners from West Virginia and Kentucky have decided to try their luck in Big Sky country. Here's one of those miners, in his own words.

Leigh Paterson / Inside Energy

 

 

People from all over the state met in Gillette last week to comment on the Bureau of Land Management's controversial proposal to update the federal coal program. 

Leigh Paterson/Inside Energy

Third-generation coal miner Kent Parrish was blown away the first time he saw a Wyoming coal mine.

“Seventy-five to a hundred-foot coal seams!” he said, recounting the experience on a recent evening while peering down in the huge black pit of the Eagle Butte coal mine, north of Gillette. “If we hit a six-foot seam back home, we thought we hit the motherlode.”

Wikimedia Commons

People from all over the state gathered in Gillette Thursday to weigh in on a controversial new proposal to update the federal coal program. 

Melodie Edwards

There was a big surprise in the annual state rankings released by Education Week recently. Wyoming made the top 10 list for best places to get your child an education, the only state in the Western U.S. The reason is Wyoming spends more on education than any other state. But even paying $18,000 per student--50 percent higher than the national average—Wyoming’s standardized test scores are very mediocre when compared nationally.

Melodie Edwards

When you think of towns impacted by energy development, it usually involves transient workers, increased crime, and RV parks. Maybe not the most family oriented place. But plenty of oil and gas workers try to make it work, which could be just the cure for some of these social ills. The challenge is finding these families adequate housing. 

Leigh Paterson

Liquefied natural gas has long been used to power vehicles like buses and garbage trucks. But this week, one of America's largest coal companies, Alpha Natural Resources, announced a plan to build an LNG plant right next to a Gillette-area mine. That LNG will then be used to power the mine's massive coal haul trucks. 

Leigh Paterson

Girls in clunky roller skates whizz past their coach. They're sweaty, rowdy, and covered in tattoos. Gillette's roller derby team proudly represents coal country, as does their name.

"We’re called the Coal Miner’s Daughters, number one because Loretta Lynn rocks!" Katie Buffington, president of the team, explained. "Number two because coal is the main source of income in the area. And we really wanted to get back to our roots, where we come from."

Tommie Butler was just a kid when World War II began, but he remembers the effect that war-time  retrenchment had on his home town of Gillette—times that were both hard and rewarding.

Bob Beck

Outgoing Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau says he is wrapping up his legislative career.  The Gillette Republican is a fierce advocate for coal and the extractive industries. 

Speaker Lubnau also has had some strong views recently about the University of Wyoming and got national attention over his reaction to the infamous Carbon Sink sculpture that was placed near old main. He speaks with Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

Protesters are gathering in Gillette this week to demonstrate against the Patriot Coal Company during Arch and Peabody Coal’s annual shareholder meetings. Patriot was formed in 2007 when Peabody unloaded its operations east of the Mississippi, along with its long-term health care obligations to some of its retirees. Arch formed a similar company, called Magnum, which was later acquired by Patriot along with another set of benefited retirees.  However, Patriot filed bankruptcy last summer, citing “substantial and unsustainable legacy costs.”

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