Subscribe for 17¢ / day

The Associated Press

GILLETTE, Wyo. (AP) — A federal judge has taken under advisement a request to make Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County the sole recipient of funding for miners’ health.

The hospital and county commissioners are suing the state to stop a newly created board from spreading the funding across Wyoming instead of sending it just to the hospital, as in the past.

U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson is being asked to issue an immediate injunction barring the state from allowing $600,000 appropriated by the Legislature to be spent by the board, and provide other relief that the court deems just and proper.

The lawsuit states that the Legislature has not sent the hospital enough money to treat miners and should recognize the hospital as the state’s official clinic for miners.

Johnson took the matter under advisement following a hearing Monday.

The State Miner’s Hospital Board formed last winter and was scheduled to hold its first meeting in Rock Springs mid-month. The meeting has been rescheduled for Casper at the end of the month.

Rep. Jeff Wasserburger, R-Gillette, said now is an excellent time for the court to decide what the board can do, because the battle over miners’ funding has gone on for years.

Congress may have to approve a redistribution of funding because the money was originally designated through a federal agreement when Wyoming became a state.

“I don’t think the miners in my area care about this, other than it’s simply not fair,” Wasserburger said. “Twenty-five percent of the miners are getting 100 percent of the money.”

The suit says the Wyoming Act of Admission created a trust of 30,000 acres for the exclusive benefit and support of a miners’ hospital in Wyoming, and that the state violated trust law by using money generated by the land for other purposes.

The suit also asserts the state has not properly inventoried the land trust and should be required to do so.

Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.