The perfect swarm: Truck carrying hives overturns near Carlile

Beekeepers work to contain some of the millions of bees displaced during Thursday’s accident.

Beekeepers work to contain some of the millions of bees displaced during Thursday’s accident.

By Sarah Pridgeon

RER mine approval process moves ahead

By Sarah Pridgeon

SCADA system will improve control over city water system

By Sarah Pridgeon
During a routine working day, the city’s Public Works Department physically monitors each individual element of the water system, checking that tanks are at their correct levels and distribution lines are working properly. By June of next year, however, the first phase of installing a SCADA system should be complete and the system can be controlled for the most part from a single office computer.
SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition, an industrial control system that will keep the department appraised of all that’s going on in the tanks and wells around town.
“Our top priority is assurance that we are providing water,” says Public Works Director Larry Schommer, explaining that the SCADA system will alert the department immediately if, for example, a lightning storm knocks something out.
“We’ll know within minutes rather than hours if something happens, far before the problem reaches the tanks. Once the tank calls us, we have a problem.”
The system will, for instance, monitor water levels and issue an alarm if they fall too low or rise too high. The levels can be altered remotely and, if necessary, the tanks can even be flushed.
This is a significant change from the current process, in which a member of staff must drive out to a tank to make manual changes and then return at least once to check the results.
“In the winter, we’ll also be able to adjust the levels of the tanks, bringing them up and down,” says Schommer.
“That prevents them from freezing, which is all about consistency and water quality.”
A SCADA system is not just a more cost-effective way to budget the department’s time, it can also be used to keep an eye on the city’s water at all times of day and night.
“Right now, the tanks just alert us, they don’t tell us what the problem us or how quickly it needs to be dealt with. You have to go to the tank to find that out,” says Schommer, explaining that the SCADA system will provide much more detail on what the problem is and what needs to be done to fix it.
“We want to go to a smartphone system, so that we can receive alerts while we are out in the field or when we are at home.”
During the first year of operation, the SCADA system will also provide the department with a better understanding of how the system works as a whole.  During the Level I Water Study, level sensors were added to the tanks but, once the SCADA system is in place, the same data can be gathered at all times.
This will allow the department to monitor trends, such as how well the system responds to times of high demand. It will issue an alert when the pumps have been running long enough to require maintenance, taking the guesswork out of that process.
From groundwater levels to flow rates, the SCADA system will gather information that the city can’t otherwise get outside its six-month reports, says Schommer.
“When it comes to maintenance, the majority of the time is spent gaining information,” he adds. “Now, we will already have it.”
The project will be completed in phases for financial reasons, the first funded mostly through consensus money and partly through a Homeland Security grant that was awarded because interlocking the system will tell the city immediately if there is a break-in.
Cost estimates are underway for the first phase, during which the system will be networked with Range Telephone Cooperative. SCADA will be installed on the Brewer, Cole and Mt. Moriah tanks and the Sundance West and canyon pump stations.
“For the first phase, we identified where the issues were and how to get the most for our money,” says Schommer. “SCADA is already installed on the Cole and Policky tanks.”
The second phase will add in the Cole well field, which Schommer describes as a “fairly costly” process because there are no adequate cable pairs to carry the signal. During the third phase, cable pairs will be buried between the city’s tanks to connect all eight of them together.
During the fourth and final phase, the outbuildings and transfer stations will be integrated for security reasons, along with the lift station, lagoons and pond.
“So far, we have enough funding for phase one,” says Schommer. “After that it’s hard to say, it could be funded by the Wyoming Water Development Commission, it could be consensus money.”
The city developed a $771,000 ballpark figure for the project during the Level I Water Study, he adds, but the estimate was for a top-of-the-line system with all the bells and whistles.
That would be nice, he says, but it would also require an IT guy on staff. The city really just needs a fairly basic system that provides critical information and is easy to run.
“Our goal is to provide quality, adequate water to the city,” he concludes.  “This will help us maintain that.”

Council discusses projects, grants

By Sarah Pridgeon
Several matters raised during August’s regular meeting of the Sundance City Council were resolved at this month’s session, including an agreement to secure land for the Croell Redi-Mix headquarters access road and an unaddressed nuisance complaint.
The agreement with landowners near the pending Croell Redi-Mix headquarters came to fruition after a period of waiting for a response from the couple’s lawyer. The recommended revisions had been made and the council passed a motion to move forward with the agreement, which will see the city exchange property for the access road for a guarantee to continue providing existing water services.
Council Member Hugh Palmer later commented that he would like to see monthly progress and financial reports on the Croell Redi-Mix project. Though in agreement, Mayor Paul Brooks noted that the contract was written to ensure no costs are passed on to the city and all overruns are paid by the company.
Palmer also asked for an update on the one percent sales tax and questioned whether a special election is still being considered. The mayor replied that he had spoken about it with the other towns and all have agreed to wait for expert guidance.
“The longer we wait, the longer it will be until we can collect money again. If we can get it in May, it will be October before we are collecting; otherwise, it will be 2015,” commented Council Member Sheryl Klocker.
Fire Chief Blair Stugelmeyer approached the council regarding the Workforce Grant implemented in April that will fund new turnout gear for Sundance Fire Department. The grant was prepared by Sundance Survival, owned by Rob and Kristie McNealy.
Unlike other grants, said Stugelmeyer, the Workforce Grant requires proof that the items are paid for and ordered before the grant money is paid. Sundance Survival had requested payment before ordering the items.
Pre-paying is not a legal problem, commented the mayor, but is also not the city’s policy and council approval would be needed for auditing purposes. Council Member Hugh Palmer requested that the issue be tabled to find out more about the type of grant, which Lenz confirmed was possible according to its timeline.
Council Member April Gill, however, was opposed to the request, noting that Sundance Survival is a business and should obtain a loan from the bank. In response to her query as to why the company had been chosen to fulfill the order as well as write the grant, Stugelmeyer explained that Sundance Survival is able to obtain two extra sets of equipment for the same price.
“It’s a conflict of interest, in my opinion,” said Gill, making a motion to not pre-pay for the equipment that the council then passed.
“This is not against the McNealys,” said Mayor Brooks. “It’s just that we have rules and I can assure you the auditor wouldn’t like it.”
No action had been taken in August regarding a nuisance complaint for a property on E. Sewell St to allow the council time to check what had been done to clean it up. Though progress has been made, council members agreed it was very little; Brooks observed that issues such as tall grass and broken windows remain while Klocker wondered if the only steps taken had been to move vehicles.
City Attorney Mark Hughes stated that, under the nuisance ordinance, if the council believes that the property is still a nuisance it can take further action after notifying the owner. A motion was passed to instruct Hughes to move forward.
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY PICK UP A COPY OF THIS WEEK’S SUNDANCE TIMES

Commissioners hit stumbling block in vacating county roads

By Sarah Pridgeon
The County Commissioners are in the process of vacating all unused county roads, one township at a time, to clear the map of those that are no longer or have never been an actual, physical roadway. Residents of Miller Creek Road, however, are not keen to sign easement agreements that they fear may be held against them if it is selected as the access route for Rare Earth Elements’ planned Bull Hill rare earth mine.
The vacation process is a housekeeping issue to make sure the roads for which the county has easements from landowners or the state are the ones that exist on the ground. Certain roads in the county were surveyed and granted easements at some point in the past, but have either long been abandoned; migrated before they were upgraded; were not upgraded from the paths used by wagons a century or more ago; or never existed at all.
During the commissioners’ regular session at the beginning of September, action was taken to vacate such unused roads to the south of Moorcroft and in the Moskee area.
Attention was then turned to Miller Creek Road, with the commissioners reviewing the status of that section with landowners from the area. The road has migrated from its original surveyed position.
The county intends to vacate those unused portions and secure easements for the road’s actual physical location. Only one of the landowners contacted had thus far signed an easement, said County Attorney Joe Baron.
“We’re waiting for the landowners to provide the right-of-way easements before we go ahead and vacate [the unused portions] and get it resolved,” he said.
Whether Miller Creek Road becomes the main access route for removal of mined ore from the Bull Hill Mine will not be confirmed until the Forest Service completes its review of RER’s Plan of Operations.
FOR THE REST OF THE STORY PICK UP A COPY OF THIS WEEK’S SUNDANCE TIMES

Sundance hospital upgrades part of overall county improvements

Cheryl Angel and Erica Davidson test out the new electronic medical record system in the long-term care facility. (Sarah Pridgeon photo)

Cheryl Angel and Erica Davidson test out the new electronic medical record system in the long-term care facility. (Sarah Pridgeon photo)

By Sarah Pridgeon