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Powell, WY

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EDITORIAL: Keeping kids safe

When it comes to our children, keeping them safe from harm is top priority, and Powell's school leaders are continually working to do just that.

This week, the district's transportation department has been observing School Bus Safety week, and a big part of that week is spending time with Powell's newest school students to make sure they know how to stay safe while waiting for the bus, getting on, riding and leaving a school bus.

Last week, Southside Elementary students and staff, with the help of Powell police officers and Mayor Mangold, promoted safety by gathering at Southside Park and walking to school in observance of Walk to School Day.

The district also is sponsoring Safe Routes to School, a study aimed at helping kids who walk or ride their bikes to school to do so safely. The study has been underway for several months, and next week a preliminary report will be presented at a public meeting. Parents and other community members are encouraged to attend the meeting and comment.

Powell has a pretty good record of getting children to and from school safely, as have most communities in America. But accidents are always possible. Just a couple of years ago, a Powell High School student was injured while riding her bike to school, and before that, another PHS student was hit by a car as he left his own vehicle near the old high school. A few years ago, a younger student in Lovell died after being hit by a car in a school parking lot.

Accidents such as these demonstrate the importance of continually instructing students about bus safety and justify the time and expense of conducting the Safe Routes to School project.

Powell school officials are doing a commendable job of protecting our children through those activities.

Next month's election for the Powell Hospital District Board is both important and unusual.

It is important because five of the seven seats on the board are up for election, with three incumbents choosing not to run again this year. That leaves only two incumbents running, and both were appointed to fill vacancies on the board this year.

Board members elected in November will help guide the hospital and Powell Valley Healthcare (hospital district board members also serve on the Powell Valley Healthcare Board) through some significant changes, including new leadership for Powell Valley Healthcare.

The board will make important decisions in the next four years that will affect the future of medical services in Powell.

Chief among those will be deciding what company or companies will provide electronic medical records software and services for Powell Valley Healthcare. That will be costly, but it also is necessary to stay in step with medical advances and pending federal requirements.

Also up for consideration soon is a proposed update to the district's master building plan. Once that is complete, the board must decide and whether to pursue needed building renovations at the hospital in the next few years, and if so, how those could be paid for.

This election is unusual because, although there are five open seats on the board, there are only four candidates on the ballot and one of them has withdrawn from the race.

Running for a two-year term on the board is Larry Parker, who was appointed to the board in May to fill the seat vacated by the death of Kay Carlson.

Running for four-year terms on the board are Renee Humphries and incumbent Jim Beukelman, who was appointed in January to fill the seat vacated by Ken Rochlitz.

Sharea LinDae MoAn-Renaud, who filed for election to the board, has withdrawn her name from consideration, but her name still will appear on the ballot.

Because there are more seats open than official candidates to fill them, five people are running write-in campaigns. They are Cathy Marine, Virginia Fish, Henry Yaple, Jim Carlson and R.J. Kost.

It's important to know all the candidates, and to remember the names of the candidates you wish to write in on Nov. 2, to ensure the new board is prepared to continue Powell Valley Hospital's reputation for excellence in the community.

A candidate forum for the hospital district board, the Powell City Council, Park County Commission and Park County Clerk will take place Thursday, Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at Powell City Hall.

Among the many offices on the ballot this year are two positions of particular importance to Powell voters.

Two seats representing Powell are open on the Northwest College Board of Trustees. The incumbents in those seats, Jim Vogt and Carolyn Danko, are seeking to return to the board, and they are being challenged by Rick LaPlante and Kim Dillivan.

Whatever the outcome of the vote, the board will have a number of serious issues to deal with. There has been turmoil at NWC in recent months marked by conflict and communication issues that have affected morale. A mediation process is under way to address those issues, and its outcome will have a major impact on the college.

A number of key people have retired or moved on to new positions and will have to be replaced in the coming months.

Northwest College has experienced rising enrollment for the past two years, a positive sign, but should that trend continue, it raises new challenges in staffing and facilities, especially if the current economic downturn requires cuts in state funding. NWC and the state's other community colleges will have to join in working with the Legislature to ensure adequate funding levels.

NWC also faces the challenges that are affecting educational institutions all over the nation. Education in the United States is undergoing change, and some of those changes involve the role of junior colleges and their relationships to both high schools and four-year colleges and universities. Those changes may affect course offerings at Northwest College and the way learning is delivered to students.

Finally, the college is nearing the end of the accreditation process, and administrators and faculty members continue to work to weave gaols in the college's strategic plan into everyday operation, teaching and learning at Northwest.

The NWC board will have a big role in dealing with all of those challenges.

NWC is a major asset to the city of Powell, both for its economic impact and its contributions to our quality of life. For that reason, Powell residents should not approach their votes for the NWC board casually.

Residents have the opportunity to learn more about each candidate during a forum at 7 p.m. tonight (Thursday) at the college.

We urge voters to carefully consider all the candidates for the NWC board and cast their votes thoughtfully.

Three weeks from today, voters will head to the polls, casting decisive ballots for who our next leaders will be in local, county, state and national offices.

At the city level, Powell voters will elect three City Council positions. Prior to Election Day on Nov. 2, we encourage local voters to know the candidates and issues.

Here's what we feel are the most important issues Powell councilmen face:

Landfill: For new councilmen who take office in January, the Powell landfill will close during their term on the council. Facing a scheduled September 2012 landfill closure, city leaders must decide where Powell's trash will go.

Likely, it will either be hauled directly to the regional landfill in Cody each day or stored at a Powell transfer station and then taken to Cody a few times a week.

Powell leaders favor the transfer station option, but it's unclear whether the county would assist in operating such a facility. Whether trash is hauled directly or stored at a transfer station, there will be an added cost for local residents.

City leaders need to evaluate the costs of each option and determine exactly how much it will cost Powell citizens, who already are weary of any increase.

Budget: With the national economy still in the doldrums, Powell — like many municipalities in the U.S. — must deal with a leaner budget.

Following funding cuts at the state level and anticipating tax revenue shortfalls, local leaders reduced this year's budget by about $5 million from the previous fiscal year.

While Powell may not have seen the end of funding cuts, we hope the next council continues to see areas to trim the budget so Powell withstands the current economic downturn.

Powell Aquatic Center: Four years ago, voters approved a 1-cent tax that funded Powell's pool. Swimmers are enjoying the new facility, but its future funding is quite worrisome.

In its 2010-11 budget, the city's projected revenue for the aquatic center is just $217,475, while its estimated operating expenses are budgeted at $829,728.

Though pool membership numbers are higher than originally anticipated, city leaders must find creative ways to keep the pool's operating costs low so it remains affordable to swimmers.

The aquatic center's first year is a crucial time to gather usage statistics and determine actual costs and revenue, but the next few years are even more important to ensure the pool isn't a drain on the city's budget.

Council candidates will discuss these and other issues during an Oct. 21 forum, sponsored by the local chapter of American Association of University Women. The forum begins at 7 p.m. at City Hall, and also includes candidates for the Park County Commission and Powell Hospital Board. A forum for Northwest College candidates takes place Thursday, Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. on campus.

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, become an informed citizen — show up at local forums and be ready to cast an informed vote Nov. 2.

Despite the extreme partisanship that characterizes most political stories this year, there are times when Republicans and Democrats do cooperate.

Wyoming's senators, according to news reports, have joined senators of both parties from Colorado, South Dakota and Nebraska in asking the Forest Service to spend more money fighting bark beetles in Western forests.

A drive up the North Fork provides ample evidence of the bark beetle problem in the form of hundreds of dead and dying trees, so the senators' concern is justified.

The biggest concern is that the dead trees pose a major fire hazard, although there is disagreement among scientists about how big that danger actually is.

Fire is not the only concern, though. According to University of Wyoming researchers, the death of so many trees may temporarily increase the mountain snowpack, but the lack of shade will mean a faster runoff, causing more erosion. When the trees disappear, wind and sun will have a negative effect on the snowpack, and the runoff, while it may fill the reservoirs, will carry more silt without trees to slow the flow. In addition, the water may contain excess nitrogen, which is now absorbed by the living trees.

For recreationists, a big concern is safety. Dead trees falling into campgrounds pose a danger, and may make it necessary to close campgrounds temporarily. Hiking trails will be similarly affected.

Wildlife habitat also will suffer as the trees that provide cover disappear.

The senators are asking that $49 million be devoted to battling the beetle infestation and rehabilitating the damaged forests. Given the danger posed by fires, the expense of fighting them, and the damage threatening watersheds and wildlife, that expenditure is more than justified.

Our senators should be commended for participating in this bipartisan effort to fight the infestation.

Autumn has graced the Powell Valley with hues of red, orange and yellow, and with October here, residents should expect to see more pink, too.

From pink lights glowing on Main Street to pink merchandise sold in local stores to pink bracelets adorning residents' wrists, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has arrived with its trademark color.

The month has been recognized for 25 years in America, helping increase awareness, provide education and empower women diagnosed with breast cancer.

It's estimated that around 190,000 American women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and more than 40,000 die from it, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Thankfully, screening exams can detect breast cancer early, before it spreads to other areas of the body. Many doctors believe early screening saves thousands of lives each year.

October is a month to remind women of the importance of early detection and to remember the wives, mothers, sisters, friends and neighbors who have lost their battles with breast cancer. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it's likely you'll see a lot of pink in Powell.

Though pink products have become a national fad, consumers need to be sure that proceeds from pink merchandise actually benefit breast cancer research, education or exams.

With so many pink products flooding the market — from toothbrushes to umbrellas to T-shirts to soap — there's a growing concern that some merchandise sporting the pink ribbon doesn't actually benefit breast cancer research, but just marketers capitalizing on a trend.

Residents wanting to make a difference should consider donating locally to Women's Wellness. The center uses donations to help uninsured and underinsured women in our area. On Saturday, more than 70 participants participated in a fundraising walk/run, with proceeds helping Big Horn Basin patients with annual exams, mammograms and aid in funding additional tests. The pink lights adorning downtown streetlamps also benefit Women's Wellness.

This month, one of the best ways to think pink is to donate to those in our community.

When the economy turns bad, communities are faced with tough choices.

One of those choices for the city of Powell was to impose a hiring freeze for this fiscal year. Under that policy, employees who leave their jobs will not be replaced.

Recently, the Powell Police Department became the first city agency to feel the impact of that policy with the resignation of one officer. His departure, coupled with the deployment of another officer with the Wyoming National Guard, has left the department two officers short of its ideal strength.

Chief Tim Feathers has said the situation is a normal part of the life of the department, and the department can adjust in the short term, but in the long term, it will become more difficult.

Under normal circumstances, public safety likely will not be compromised, but emergencies do arise, and there will be fewer officers to deal with them. The smaller force will mean longer hours for the officers and make it more difficult to cover for officers who are ill or on vacation. It likely will add to the stress of what already is a stressful job.

In the long term, it may not even save much money. As Mayor Scott Mangold noted, overtime costs could wipe out much of the savings from a hiring freeze.

Instituting a hiring freeze was the proper course of action given the uncertainty of the economy, but such a policy can't be set in stone. Our city leaders realize that, of course, and both Mangold and Feathers say they will be watching carefully to make sure public safety isn't compromised and that the morale of the police force is not damaged. Should that happen, Mangold has said the city would consider lifting the freeze and allow the hiring of another officer.

In the meantime, it is important for local citizens to support our law enforcement personnel. They have a tough job, and it's up to us not to make it any tougher.

This week, the old Powell High School auditorium/natatorium came tumbling down. All that remains of the structure, built in 1956, are massive heaps of concrete, bricks and metal — an all too familiar sight in the community as of late.

The auditorium/natatorium was third in a succession of demolition projects over the past six months, joining the demolished old Powell High School gymnasium and Westside Elementary. At those sites, only dirt remains.

Eventually, the old Powell High School also will share a similar fate, though it won't be demolished until a cafeteria is constructed for Powell Middle School. The old high school cafeteria is still in use and likely will be until a new middle school cafeteria opens.

Planning for a new middle school is under way, and construction of a new Westside Elementary recently began.

Though new buildings replace the old, memories of the old structures aren't easily forgotten.

Each building carried meaning. The elementary school where children began their education and learned early life lessons.

The pool where, for 50 years, residents learned how to swim and experienced triumphs and disappointments in competitive swimming. The auditorium where hundreds of nervous and bright-eyed kids gathered each year for time-honored Christmas programs. The old gymnasium that hosted many memorable proms, emotional graduation ceremonies and countless athletic competitions for more than 60 years.

Throughout the past 10 years, Park County School District No. 1 board members deliberated over difficult decisions to demolish and replace these buildings. Often, decisions and funding at the state level dictated how the local board proceeded.

We know the demolition of landmark buildings is difficult for Powell residents. The torn-down structures leave a void in the community, especially for those who grew up as students in the buildings.

Yet in their absence stand new structures, and many local youth are grateful for the new Powell High School, new Southside Elementary and new Powell Aquatic Center. Young students who use those facilities can attest to the fact that new memories are being made, and for the next generation, these will be the buildings that carry meaning.

Still, the changes remain difficult — and for many Powell residents, driving by the sites where old landmarks once stood always will stir memories.

EDITORIAL: Civility matters

Park County was privileged last week to host Jim Leach, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and his nationwide “American Civility Tour.”

Leach, a former Republican congressman, is traveling the country in an effort to change the climate of political debate in this nation, which has become increasingly hateful and destructive over the last generation. That trend has made it increasingly difficult for the country's leadership to make decisions on behalf of the nation.

What is necessary, according to Leach, is civility, which he indicated does not mean simply being polite, nor does it have anything to do with so-called “political correctness.” Rather, it means treating each other with respect, whatever our political differences.

Respecting the other person involves listening to his or her point of view, looking at an issue from that person's perspective and trying to understand why he or she thinks that way. Doing so is more likely to lead to rational discussion of differences rather than arguments filled with name-calling.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to fall into such arguments, with opponents questioning each other's patriotism, faith or intelligence. Once that begins, reason is abandoned and all hope of resolution of differences is lost.

Today, we are in the middle of a nasty political debate marked by anger and name calling on both sides. Civil debate has been completely abandoned in favor of shouting and negative advertising. Hardly anyone is really listening to the other side.

There really isn't anything new about this. American politics have featured such campaigning since the days of Jefferson and Adams, but it shouldn't be that way. In today's climate, this lack of civility has the potential to paralyze our nation's ability to govern itself.

We should make every effort to be respectful in our political discourse, listening to those with different points of view and trying to understand why they believe as they do, rather than writing them off as evil.

In other words, we urge everyone to be civil.

It's easy to notice the bright green paint and solar panels at Plaza Diane. Less obvious are other ways the downtown plaza is green — from the recycled materials used in the building to the outdoor water conservation system.

Plaza Diane's green elements helped it earn the second-highest level of certification — gold —in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

It's an accomplishment to be proud of.

Plaza Diane is Powell's first LEED-certified building, joining just nine other certified projects in Wyoming and 32,000 projects worldwide.

Overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council, LEED is the most widely used and recognized green-building initiative in the nation.

Plaza Diane incorporated LEED standards through its energy-harnessing solar panels and irrigation drip system that conserve electricity and water.

The center was created from an old World War II-era filling station; rather than demolishing the entire building and starting anew, architects reused the existing building and found ways to recycle or reuse 90 percent of the material.

With green design elements in place, the challenge now is to keep Plaza Diane operating as an energy-efficient center.

Some critics of the national LEED program have said that though the green buildings may be environmentally friendly by design, there's no follow-up to verify that projects actually conserve energy down the road.

“What really needs to happen is the transformation of the owners and the operators of the buildings to ensure that the building is being operated properly,” said Rick Fedrizzi, head of the USGBC, responding to critics in an NPR interview.

The Plaza Diane Board of Directors (which includes two owners of the Powell Tribune) is seeking independence from the city of Powell in operating the community arts center, and as leaders move forward, we encourage them to look for ways to continue operating it as an energy-efficient building.

With its LEED certification, Plaza Diane has become a local model for green building —one that can lead the way in the community and entire Big Horn Basin.

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