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Wyoming in brief

Commissioners drop Story rezoning plans SHERIDAN — Sheridan County commissioners have dropped plans to rezone Story after residents said the idea implies future development, which they don’t want.

Commissioners proposed designating Story as a rural transitional area that has growth potential and limited infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems.

The town of 700 residents is about 15 miles south of Sheridan.

Residents said any development might harm water quality. They also said they want to maintain scenic views and wildlife habitat and avoid incorporation.

“I beg you not to do this,” Georgina Staggs told commissioners recently. “It’s our centennial year.”

Commissioners agreed to designate the town as rural residential or rural agricultural.

“The thing about Story is that it’s never going to be the same,” Commissioner Steve Cox said. “Someday Story is going to change. You’re going to need water and sewer.”Sweetwater County to put jail on ballotGREEN RIVER — Sweetwater County voters will be asked on Nov. 6 to approve a half-cent excise tax to build a $12.6 million jail.

The commission has been working for more than a decade to improve jail conditions. A 1994 lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union resulted in a court order that forced the county to improve jail standards, such as crowding.

County commissioners approved the ballot resolution Tuesday. At least four of the six towns in the county also must support the resolution.

“I think we’re going to get the two-thirds we need,” said Commission Chairman John Pallesen. “People seem to be aware of the need for a new jail.”

If approved by voters, the new jail would cost about $1.3 million less than a jail proposal that voters defeated last year.

The jail would be located between Rock Springs and Green River on Wyoming Highway 191.Airline will get past turbulence, boss saysCASPER — Great Lakes Aviation has endured its share of difficulties but the Cheyenne-based airline will probably recover soon, the company president said.

Doug Voss said he apologizes for the inconvenience that the airline’s troubles have caused passengers.

The airline has been plagued by flight delays and cancellations that Voss attributed to a June 20 storm that damaged planes in Denver and scheduling glitches that resulted from a takeover of several of Air Wisconsin’s routes.

Financial difficulties are still on the horizon. Voss predicted a “significant loss” financially in the second quarter of this year but pointed to some bright areas, such as an increase in passengers and revenues in the last half of June.

Also, Great Lakes has been working with its bank to restructure deferred payments to Raytheon, its primary aircraft supplier.

“We have no past due payments with Raytheon,” Voss said.

The airline continues to stay in touch with Michael Tennenbaum, of Los Angeles, an investor who has offered to buy the company’s stock for $4 a share, Voss said.Kern River pipeline clears first hurdleCASPER — The first of several planned expansions of a gas pipeline through Wyoming has been completed three weeks ahead of schedule.

Williams Co. is expanding the Kern River Pipeline, which runs from eastern Wyoming to gas markets in Nevada and California.

Kirk Morgan, director of business development for Kern River, said emergency approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission expedited construction.

The expansion has boosted the pipeline’s capacity from 700 million cubic feet of gas per day to 835 million.

The additional capacity could bring some relief to Wyoming gas producers, who say limited transmission capacity out of state is hurting business.Path construction could begin this fallJACKSON — Workers could begin constructing a pathway this fall to key destinations such as Teton Village and Grand Teton National Park.

The paved, 6.7-mile Moose-Wilson Trail would run alongside Teton Village Road between the intersection of Wyoming 22 and the park’s southern boundary.

The Wyoming Department of Transportation must approve the design to prevent any overlap with possible highway expansion plans.

The path would be 10 feet wide and located 16 to 34 feet from the highway.

Jackson Hole Community Pathways has started negotiating easements with landowners next the proposed path.

Pathways director Tim Young said a safe path to key destinations could be attractive to pedestrians and cyclists.

Voters approved $370,000 from the Specific Purpose Tax in May to help fund the project. Another $1.35 million in federal funding is expected.Revenue director: Taxes could be changedCHEYENNE — The director of the Wyoming Department of Revenue told lawmakers it may be time to change the state’s mineral taxation system.

The system is in “great danger” of getting bogged down, Johnnie Burton told the Select Mineral Taxation and Valuation Committee.

There is a lack of trust between the state and counties, she said. Counties are continually appealing the tax decisions made by the departments of revenue and auditing.

Options include eliminating the counties’ right to appeal tax decisions, and allowing counties to come up with the valuations of mineral ad valorem taxes.

Another alternative is to establish a single tax on minerals, she said. An amendment to the Wyoming Constitution would be required for a single tax.

Joe Evans, executive director of the Wyoming Association of County Commissioners, said county should be involved in the valuation and appeals processes.

Mike Geesey, director of the Department of Audit, said trust between the state and counties has increased over the past four or five years.

The committee took no action on the suggestions Monday.

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