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Dallas Laird says he will offer to buy metal detectors for Kelly Walsh, Natrona County High

Casper City Councilman Dallas Laird said he plans to offer the Natrona County school board two metal detectors for the district’s two large high schools in the wake of yet another deadly shooting at yet another American school.

Laird told the Star-Tribune that his offer was born out of a feeling that he — and others — needed to be doing more to protect schools, especially in the wake of last week’s shooting at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.

That shooting ended after 10 people were killed. It was the deadliest school shooting since February, when a former student murdered 17 people in Parkland, Florida.

“What do we have to be doing? I mean, good lord,” Laird said Tuesday. “My guts are in knots over this thing. I have two little grandchildren. I don’t want them to be shot in a school.”

Laird said he would write the district a check for two metal detectors, one each for Natrona County and Kelly Walsh high schools. He said the devices could cost roughly $6,000 apiece. As for manning them, he suggested enlisting community volunteers who would be trained and could handle the work throughout the school day.

Laird, who had previously sponsored a City Council resolution emphasizing school safety, suggested schools may have to become more like airports if they want to more thoroughly protect themselves from school shootings.

“When I’m laying in bed at night and being haunted by this whole thing, I keep going back to, who ever would have thought that we would have the security in airports that we have?” Laird said. “If you keep firearms out of the school, no child would get shot. It’s as simple as that. You gotta start somewhere.”

Laird said he “can’t answer” whether children should be going to school in buildings that are as heavily secured as airports.

Rita Walsh, the school board chairwoman, said Tuesday morning that she didn’t know Laird was going to make the offer. In previous discussions about school safety, the board has briefly mentioned using metal detectors but has yet to publicly explore the idea further. As a result, Walsh was cautious in discussing the devices and how they could be utilized in Natrona County schools.

“We certainly appreciated Dallas’ interest in school safety,” she said. “I don’t know about metal detectors because I would have to get more information about staffing.”

Casper Police Sgt. Jeff Bullard, who oversees the district’s two school response officers, also wasn’t aware of Laird’s plans before a Star-Tribune reporter called him. He, too, reserved judgment.

“I have no opinion until I hear more about it,” he said. “I think anything we can do to increase the safety of our schools in this day and age is a good thing.”

Still, he said, the devices weren’t going to solve the issue by themselves.

“I know there’s plenty of schools around the nation that have implemented metal detectors and they still have issues,” he continued. “It’s not a magic wand we can wave and make our schools safe.”

Asked if the volunteers manning the metal detector would be armed, Laird noted that the Transportation Security Administration agents at airports are not armed. He said that the City Council and the district are partnering to hire two more school response officers and that an officer could respond to any issues at the security stations.

As much as anything, he said, the metal detectors were a tangible step that officials could take immediately. People can debate repealing the Second Amendment, but even if a repeal effort were successful, it would take years, Laird continued.

“How can you say that you should put this off for years and months?” he said. “I mean, it can’t be done. ... These are baby steps, but by God if we’re not going in the right direction.”

The district has been working on school safety for years, officials have said. As of earlier this month, all but one of the district’s more than 2,000 employees had been given active shooter training.

The effort gained momentum after Parkland. The district announced last month that it was unveiling a 10-part safety plan that covers both threats and bullying. The plan, which includes work from a broad swath of district officials, is already being rolled out in some places and will largely be implemented by December.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune 

Kids meet the characters of the animated show PJ Masks during a "hero appreciation ceremony" on Tuesday morning at Casper Fire-EMS Station No. 3. The event recognized members of the fire department, Casper Police Department and Wyoming Medical Center EMS. PJ Masks Live: Time to Be A Hero appears Thursday evening at the Casper Events Center.

Natrona County soccer team basks in state championship

The marching band circled Natrona County High last Tuesday, belting out the school’s fight song as it made its way around the building.

The musicians stopped at the school’s north entrance, between three-story glass windows and Cheney Alumni Field. Just behind the band on the winding path came the boys soccer team.

The Mustangs joined activities director Larry Meeboer at the conclusion of the brief parade. Together they stood atop a makeshift stage. Orange and black balloons floated in the air.

“This only happens every 22 years,” Meeboer said before introducing the state-champion Mustangs.

Natrona County completed its Cinderella run through the state soccer tournament with a 3-1 victory against Cheyenne Central on May 19 in Jackson. It was the first boys soccer championship the program earned since 1996.

Meeboer then handed the championship banner, made by Natrona County teacher Denise Smith in only a day, to head coach Chad Miller. Assistant coach Michael Miller introduced the team one-by-one in front of the band, fellow students and parents.

Senior captain Nic Gindulis spoke to the crowd and senior goalkeeper Logan Moncur held the championship trophy throughout the parade and ceremony. The team endured the season together so they deserved to be honored together.

“Every year there’s a four seed that beats a one seed on either side and we just wanted to come out and take it game-by-game,” Gindulis said after Saturday’s win. “We just wanted to continue onto the next step. We didn’t think about it as three games, we just took it one game at a time.”

It’s all the Mustangs could do. After all, they were the ultimate underdogs.

They clinched their spot in the state tournament by defeating Jackson 2-0 at regionals. That was followed by two losses, forcing the Mustangs into the No. 4 seed. The team entered the state tournament with a losing record (8-9-1) after a promising start to the season fell apart. A seven-game undefeated streak lifted their record to 6-1-1 after beating rival Kelly Walsh at Cheney Alumni Field.

Then came the road trips and a dismal stretch. The Mustangs won just one game — 4-2 against Evanston — from April 13 to the end of the regular season. They finished 1-6 during that span, including a 3-1 loss in the Casper Cup. At that point, a state championship was a fleeting dream.

“It was tough,” senior Jordan Milby said of that stretch. “We still knew we had the skill to compete with any team we wanted to, we just weren’t getting that result. So regionals, we started over. And state, started over. We made each of them a whole new game.”

Milby had a team-high 10 goals before the state tournament. He remained a nightmare for opposing defenses in the tournament. Defenders who could match his speed and endurance were non-existent. He finished with four goals in the state tournament, including all three of the Mustangs’ scores in the championship game.

The senior’s speed on the forward line was crucial while junior teammate Reegan Chadderdon dealt with an ankle injury. Chadderdon scored twice in the quarterfinal and once in the semifinal, but his minutes were lessened because of the injury.

Those extenuating circumstances meant the Mustangs relied on defense throughout the weekend. The Mustangs allowed 27 goals all season. But in the tournament, against the No. 1, No. 2 teams in the state and 2016 state champions, they allowed just two in three games.

Gindulis anchored the back line as its captain. Fellow seniors Cole Thorpen, Streeter Boatright and Tanner Smith also helped clear danger throughout the weekend. Sophomore Isaac Palomo shut down 4A leading scorer Tommy Swainson in the championship game.

“You want to be in command of a defense that gives up one or two goals a tournament,” Gindulis said. “It’s just a dream come true, to be honest.”

Senior goalkeeper Logan Moncur, who had not played soccer since the sixth grade, remained steadfast in goal. He made numerous saves throughout the weekend, possibly none bigger than the late-second stop against Laramie in the semifinals. He was one of three keepers used by the Mustangs throughout the season. But much like his teammates, he saved his best performance for the state tournament.

“Logan’s a big football guy, so he’s pretty scary,” Gindulis said. “He can come out and definitely challenge but much respect to him for coming out and charging balls like that because it’s ballsy.”

Gindulis signed his letter of intent in February to play soccer at Adams State. He graduates next week. But for one last moment, he celebrated with his teammates.

Tuesday’s ceremony ended and the band retreated back into the high school to return their instruments. Fellow students filed in towards the cafeteria. The Mustangs, however, huddled on the makeshift stage to celebrate one more time as champions, one final time as the long-shot Mustangs who achieved a dream.

“We didn’t have a single doubt that we weren’t going to play our hardest, and coming into the championship we had nothing to lose,” Milby said on Saturday, gold medal around his neck. “The last championship NC won was 22 years ago, so we were just going to play our hearts out. And, luckily, it worked out.”

Trump, Moon try to keep summit on track

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump labored with South Korea’s Moon Jae-in Tuesday to keep the highly anticipated U.S. summit with North Korea on track after Trump abruptly cast doubt that the June 12 meeting would come off. Setting the stakes sky high, Moon said, “The fate and the future of the Korean Peninsula hinge” on the meeting.

The summit, planned for Singapore, offers a historic chance for peace on the peninsula — but also the risk of an epic diplomatic failure that would allow the North to revive and advance its nuclear weapons program.

Trump’s newfound hesitation appeared to reflect recent setbacks in efforts to bring about reconciliation between the two Koreas, as well as concern whether the self-proclaimed dealmaker can deliver a nuclear accord with the North’s Kim Jong Un.

In an extraordinary public airing of growing uncertainty, Trump said “there’s a very substantial chance” the meeting won’t happen as scheduled.

Seated in the Oval Office with Moon, Trump said Kim had not met unspecified “conditions” for the summit. However, the president also said he believed Kim was “serious” about negotiations, and Moon expressed “every confidence” in Trump’s ability to hold the summit and bring about peace.

“I have no doubt that you will be able to ... accomplish a historic feat that no one had been able to achieve in the decades past,” Moon said.

U.S. officials said preparations for the summit were still underway despite recent pessimism — and privately suggested there would be additional public maneuvering as both sides seek to maximize their leverage. Both parties to the talks are invested in holding the meeting, with Kim seeing an opportunity for international legitimacy and Trump the prospect of securing Korean stability — and perhaps a Nobel Peace Prize.

“This could be something that comes right to the end and doesn’t happen,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. But he added that as of now, “we’re driving on.” South Korea’s national security adviser put the chance of the summit taking place at 99.9 percent.

Trump suggested that it could be delayed rather than canceled: “It may not work out for June 12, but there is a good chance that we’ll have the meeting.”

He did not detail the conditions he had laid out for Kim but said if they aren’t met, “we won’t have the meeting.” Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Trump was referring to a commitment to seriously discuss denuclearization.

Skepticism about the North’s intentions have mounted in recent weeks after Kim’s government pulled out of planned peace talks with the South last week, objecting to long-scheduled joint military exercises between U.S. and South Korean forces. The North also threatened to abandon the planned Trump-Kim meeting over U.S. insistence on rapidly denuclearizing the peninsula, issuing a harshly worded statement that the White House dismissed as a negotiating ploy.

Moon sought to project optimism after his meeting with Trump. His spokesman, Yoon Young-chan, told reporters that the two leaders agreed to do their best to ensure the meeting happens on June 12. Yoon said Moon told Trump that the North Korean leader was strongly committed to the meeting and the leaders agreed that any assistance to North Korea would come after complete denuclearization. High-level talks between the North and South would likely happen after June 25.

Trump expressed suspicion that the North’s recent aggressive barbs were influenced by Kim’s unannounced trip to China two weeks ago — his second in as many months. Trump said he’d noticed “a little change” in Kim’s attitude after the trip.

“I don’t like that,” he said.

The president added that he hoped Chinese President Xi Jinping was actually committed to the goal of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, calling him a “world-class poker player.” Trump said he was displeased by China’s softening of border enforcement measures against North Korea.

Trump encouraged Kim to focus on the opportunities offered by the meeting and to make a deal to abandon his nuclear program, pledging not only to guarantee Kim’s personal security but also predicting an economic revitalization for the North.

“I will guarantee his safety, yes,” Trump said, noting that promise was conditioned on an agreement to complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization. Trump said if such an agreement is reached, China, Japan and South Korea would invest large sums to “make North Korea great.”

Meanwhile, North Korean media stepped up their rhetorical attacks on South Korea and joint military exercises with the United States, warning Tuesday that a budding detente could be in danger.

State media unleashed three strongly worded commentaries slamming Seoul and Washington for the maneuvers and demanding Seoul take action against defectors it claimed were sending anti-North Korea propaganda leaflets across the border.

The official media had until recently taken a relatively subdued tone amid the North’s diplomatic overtures to its neighbors, including a summit with South Korea’s president last month and plans for lKim to meet Trump in Singapore next month.

That first changed last week, when it lashed out against the maneuvers, cut high-level contacts with Seoul and threatened to “reconsider” the Trump summit.

One of the reports on Tuesday, which came as North Korea allowed an airplane full of foreign journalists into the country to cover the dismantling of its nuclear test site this week, accused Seoul of teaming up with Washington for military drills intended as a show of force and as a “war drill” against it.

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune 

Moorcroft's Hailey Jones crosses the finish line to win the girls Class 2A 1600-meter run Saturday during the Wyoming State High School Track and Field Championships in Casper.

Barrasso's carbon capture bills moves forward with bipartisan support

A bill that unanimously passed the Environmental Public Works Committee on Tuesday in Washington attracted both senators worried about climate change and ones worried about the future of coal.

The USE IT Act, sponsored by Committee Chairman Sen. John Barrasso, aims to refashion existing laws to support capturing carbon dioxide for use in other products. It would give the Environmental Protection Agency authority in this respect and streamline permitting of pipelines that carry carbon dioxide. The measure would also establish task forces to communicate with those active in carbon capture research.

One of the most active participants in that conversation may be Wyoming, home to the country’s largest coal sector. Though a majority of Wyomingites say climate change is happening, only 42 percent believe it is caused by human activities like burning coal in power plants, according to a Yale University study published last year.

Nonetheless, carbon capture has broad political support from the state’s Legislature and more actively, Gov. Matt Mead.

As long as people are working to stem pollution from coal-burning power plants, it means coal is still being burned, and still being mined in Wyoming.

“Wyoming is the coal capital of the world,” Barrasso said in an interview with the Star-Tribune. “I’m going to make sure we continue to use that asset and not leave it stranded.”

Co-sponsors of the bill hailed from energy states like West Virginia, but also left-leaning states like Rhode Island, which have no tie to the coal industry.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, called carbon research “a win for our climate.”

Other liberal politicians who voted in favor of the USE IT Act Tuesday included Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, who has criticized the administration of President Donald Trump for failing to address the threat of climate change.

Both sides of the aisle acknowledge the need to address carbon dioxide, though central motivations differ, Barrasso said Tuesday.

“We had every Republican and every Democrat vote for this with the realization that the world will continue to use significant amounts of coal for the foreseeable future,” Barrasso said.

The coal conundrum

The Wyoming coal industry’s most pressing problem isn’t carbon dioxide. It’s whether utilities keep burning coal in their power plants when there is cheap wind to build or cheap gas to burn. Coal bleeds more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than these other sources of power.

A new coal-fired power plant in the U.S. could not meet the federal carbon dioxide limits for power plants without carbon capture technology — now an incredibly expensive way to address carbon emissions. That, and the expense of new coal power, has led to zero coal units currently planned in the U.S., while natural gas, wind and solar facilities continue to spread.

But coal still provides about 30 percent of the electricity mix in the United States and the lion’s share of that coal comes from open surface mines around Gillette.

Mead has said that regardless of Wyoming’s take on climate science, it must adjust to the changing market. Carbon capture, he has said, is a way to do that.

Wyoming has quietly made strides in carbon capture over the last few years as national interest in the technology dwindled following failed attempts such as the Kemper Plant in Mississippi, which came in well over budget.

A dedication ceremony May 16 marked the completion of the Wyoming Integrated Test Center in Gillette, which is the largest facility in the country for researching ways to harness the greenhouse gas and make it into something valuable. Mead also pre-permitted a number of pipeline corridors to advance the transport of carbon dioxide from plants to oil fields, where it can stimulate production.

The use of carbon dioxide in the oil fields is a known use for the gas, but it’s not enough, Barrasso said.

Carbon capture research can create new industries around coal, he said.

A number of Wyomingites have stumped for the bill over the last six months. Jason Beggar, the director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority — the state agency that has spearheaded the Wyoming Integrated Test Center; Kip Coddington, Carbon Management Institute at the School of Energy Resources at the University of Wyoming; and one of Mead’s policy advisors, Matt Fry.

Carbon capture has long been a focus of Wyoming’s governor, and more recently the U.S. Senate.

When asked if the bipartisan support for carbon capture would extend to policies that help the coal industry face its other challenges, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s limits on carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants, Barrasso did not directly answer.

He said he was confident in the work done so far and the bipartisan effort to clean up coal.

“We are going to continue to work on these things,” he said. “You cannot power our country or our economy without all the source of power.”

The bill still needs to clear the full Senate before making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.