Letter: Craig, Thank you to Grand County emergency responders | SkyHiDailyNews.com

Letter: Craig, Thank you to Grand County emergency responders

Thank you to GC emergency responders

I’d like to publicly thank some of the emergency responders in our community. Recently the C Lazy U Ranch required their assistance in a Search and Rescue operation regarding one of our ranch guests. I am pleased to report that the event was resolved successfully and the incident gave me the opportunity to work side by side with these dedicated individuals. My first phone call was to Lt. Dan Mayer of the Sheriff’s department. I’d worked with him previously and knew I could count on his expertise and discretion. In a busy environment with guests and horses he knew how to begin an operation without causing undue alarm to guests and ensured emergency vehicles moved about without frightening horses. His manner with family members and personnel was considerate and compassionate. I was honored that Sheriff Brett Schroetlin spent just about the entire day on scene. His presence sent a message that this was a priority event and his calm demeanor installed confidence and reassurance in others. Flight for Life of Colorado pilot and crew that day were Loren (Pilot), Peter (Flight Nurse), and Britton (Flight Paramedic). These individuals gave us more time than we expected and I had numerous conversations with them that demonstrated they had a sincere desire to find this lost young man and were trying every approach they could think of to achieve success. Search and Rescue personnel and their leadership team were an invaluable resource. Chris Ziegler was the Incident Commander and Paul Robertson was the Field Commander. They were highly organized and efficient and maintained a positive approach that was quickly adopted by others. Their tireless volunteers hiked, bush-wacked, crossed rivers and streams and led teams of search dogs eagerly and cheerfully. Finally, I must recognize my own team of ranch employees who came to work without being asked, and quickly volunteered to participate in search teams on foot, boat, motorcycle and horseback. I was truly honored by their sense of responsibility and caring.This community is blessed with amazing emergency services and volunteer personnel. Their dedication and commitment is something of which Grand County should be very proud.

David Craig

General Manager, C Lazy U

Sulphur Ranger District welcomes Jon Morrissey

If you spend a bit of time wandering around Grand County you will find a surprising variety of terrain including high alpine meadows, low riparian valleys, vast undulating steppes and seemingly endless forests filled with lodgepole pines and aspen trees.

Folks who do not live in the high country often conjure images of those forests when they imagine the mountainous regions of the state. Despite the variety of landscapes found in Grand County, that mental image, of a mountain forest, is an appropriate symbol for our home as most of the public land in Grand County is administered by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

A sizable portion of northwestern and north central Grand County is within the boundaries of the Routt National Forest but most public land in the county is part of the Arapaho National Forest.

DISTRICT RANGER

Federal officials from the Sulphur Ranger District, based in Granby, oversee most of the Arapaho National Forest in Grand County. The District recently welcomed Jon Morrissey as the new District Ranger, replacing longtime District Ranger Craig Magwire who retired in April after serving as District Ranger in Granby for 15 years.

Morrissey’s duties as District Ranger formally started on June 27. He comes to Grand County from the White Mountain National Forest in N.H. but has spent extensive periods of his multi-decade career with the USFS in Colorado.

Originally from San Antonio Texas, Morrissey earned a bachelors degree in forestry from Texas A&M University before moving into the professional working world. The desire to enter the forestry profession stemmed from his love of the outdoors and trees, an appreciation Morrissey credits his father for instilling in him. “I’ve always loved trees,” Morrissey said. “I got that from my dad. Through the Boy Scouts I developed a love of mountains; really wherever it snowed, which was not San Antonio.”

BEGINNING A CAREER

Realizing central Texas wasn’t necessarily where his heart was leading him, Morrissey looked to the high country. His initial work for the USFS was as a volunteer in the Red Feather Lakes area, just a short ways north of Grand County. He continued working as a seasonal volunteer for the USFS during summers for the next several years, heading deeper into the Rockies to the White River National Forest. During those years as a volunteer Morrissey worked primarily with timber related issues, including conducting stand examinations and presale forestry in preparation for logging activities.

He eventually moved to Atlanta Ga. when he took a position with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in hopes of locking down permanent, non-seasonal employment. The southern seaboard states were far from the snowy forests Morrissey dreamed of but sometimes long-term goals supersede short-term desires. “Going from Vail to Atlanta was interesting,” Morrissey said. “I was not that happy being in Atlanta, but it worked out great.”

TRANSITIONS

From Atlanta Morrissey moved back to Colorado and began working in the Uncompahgre National Forest, based out of Montrose, where he oversaw that regions forestry program as it related to timber issues and harvesting timber. It was around that time Morrissey decided to shift the focus of his work from forestry to recreation, another key aspect of the USFS management of public lands.

From Montrose Morrissey moved to Crested Butte where he served as the Recreation Staff Officer and oversaw all recreation within the Gunnison Ranger District, including trails, wilderness areas, developed recreation areas, outfitters and guides and ski areas. Morrissey would eventually head back east to N.H. before returning to the Centennial State to become District Ranger for the Sulphur Ranger District.

“I love working on the ground,” Morrissey said. “This agency has a lot of passion for working on the ground. You will find that with the staff. Passion is what keeps them motivated.”

Working within the Sulphur Ranger District offers unique challenges Morrisey has not experienced in other roles with the USFS; notably, his work with Front Range water diverters including Denver and Northern Water is a unique dynamic with which few other forests contend. Similarly working in a District with a ski resort is fairly unique, though Morrissey has experience working in other Districts, including Gunnison, which also housed ski resorts.

LOOKING AHEAD

Morrissey and other officials from the Sulphur Ranger District are looking towards the future and have a few projects already in mind. Morrissey said the USFS would be reviewing recreation amenities in the Meadow Creek Reservoir area to, “see what opportunities we have to enhance recreation.”

The fire hazard posed by the abundance of beetle kill pine is also a top priority for Morrissey. “We need to be doing some prescribed fire in some of these stands under a managed situation,” Morrissey said. “We are looking at doing more of that over the next few years. Not just burning piles, but bringing some low intensity fire in. We will learn a lot from the Beaver Creek Fire.”

The need for prescribed burns to mitigate the fire hazard posed by dead timber has increased over the years, according to Morrissey, because most of the easily accessed timber has already been harvested. What gets left behind are stands that are more difficult, if not impossible, for commercial loggers to access.

“We have harvested a lot of the easy country,” Morrissey said. “The ground has gotten harder, now we are trying to do it behind subdivisions or on steeper land. We have done about as much treatment as we can to remove trees. We are to the point we have to switch gears to treat vegetation. Prescribed fire is one of those avenues.”

FAMILY

Morrissey and his wife Colleen Hannon currently live in the Three Lakes Region. The couple was married after Morrissey moved to Montrose to begin working in the Uncompahgre National Forest.

“For us, the landscape is what we just love,” Morrissey said. “There is something about western Colorado, the landscape is so different from the Front Range; broad valleys, kind of self-contained peaks, wildflowers, animals – the amount of wildlife here is just amazing. All these things contribute to the quality of life. I’m looking forward to exploring the District.”

Mill update, valuation of mines released

Grand County Assessor Tom Weydert presented the Abstract of Assessment to the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) at the August 23 meeting in Hot Sulphur Springs. The valuation on mines shows a difference of $35,861,490 in 2015 to $11,473,050 in 2016: a difference of $24,388,440, which is a decrease of 68.01 percent. The total change for Grand County was a decrease of 2.42% at $17,975,830.

In March, the BOCC approved a change in the Henderson Mine’s property tax valuation, which is based on its production, from a five-year average to a three-year average. At the Tuesday, April 19 BOCC meeting the board had announced its intention to seek a reversal of its earlier decision (revaluating to a three-year average) after hearing the concerns of citizen Peter Ralph. Ralph claimed that Freeport-McMoRan, who owns the Henderson Mine and Mill, had filed its revaluation request too late. The BOCC seemed to agree with Ralph at the meeting, but reversed itself again to their original decision of a three- year average of production.

Clear Creek County rejected a similar request to adjust its valuation.

Grand County Commissioner Jane Tollett said in an email send to the Sky-Hi News on Monday, August 23 that the BOCC does not have the Henderson Mill on any future agendas, which go out a couple of weeks. Interim County Manager Ed Moyer said he did not believe the BOCC had any updated information on the Mill valuation. The BOCC announced that there will be no BOCC meeting next week, August 30.

This story will be updated if any new information is released.

Officials investigate stolen truck, multiple break-ins

A sudden rash of vehicle thefts and break-ins has county investigators searching for clues as they gather details on what appears to be a series of connected property crimes that occurred in the Fraser Valley over a single night last week.

County officials are still in the thick of investigations related to the crimes but the tentative hypothesis is the crimes are related. The incident was initially brought to the attention of the Grand County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) early Tuesday morning Aug. 16 when the Thornton Police Dept. contacted the GCSO about a 1999 Ford F-350 pickup truck registered in Grand County that was involved in a traffic accident early that morning at approximately 5:20 a.m.

Thornton authorities found the truck’s ignition had been punched out, a typical tactic employed by car thieves, and contacted the GCSO. As GCSO Deputies headed to the vehicle’s registered address the owner of the pickup called the GCSO to report his truck had been stolen overnight. The truck was stolen from the Meadow Ridge area, on County Road 838, west of US Highway 40 in Fraser.

Shortly thereafter the Fraser/Winter Park Police Department received calls about a vehicle in the Winter Park area that had been broken in to during the previous night. Officials were looking into the possibility of a connection between the vehicle in Winter Park and the stolen truck in Thornton when they received a report that several additional vehicles, stored at Miller Storage in Tabernash, had been broken in to overnight.

At Miller Storage authorities found three more pickup trucks had been broken in to. The ignition in two of the vehicles had been punched. Investigators also found someone had broken in to three campers at the storage facility. Additionally a van was stolen from the premises but was crashed into a nearby ditch and was abandoned when authorities arrived. The van had been hotwired and was still running when Deputies discovered it.

Vehicle thefts in Grand County are rare, according to GCSO Public Information Officer Lt. Dan Mayer, as are vehicle break-ins. The comparative nature of the multiple crimes and the short timeframe in which they occurred has prompted local investigators to surmise the incidents are related. The investigation is ongoing at this time.

EGSD Admin, Board get down to work

The new school year for the East Grand School District (EGSD) starts on Monday August 29. Teachers and school administrators throughout the District have been busy over the past several days and weeks attending staff meetings and preparing classrooms for the arrival of students.

On Tuesday August 16 the EGSD Board of Education held a Business Session meeting, their second formal meeting as a Board after returning to work for the school year in August. The EGSD Board does not conduct formal Business Sessions during July, rather the Board holds an annual Board retreat to review and discuss broad board policies for the coming academic year.

The beginning of the new school year also heralds the start of Frank Reeves tenure as District Superintendent for the EGSD. Reeves’ contract with the EGSD began on July 1. “Since early in July I have been looking forward to having the staff and teachers back,” Reeves stated. “Today (August 22) we kicked off a new year with enthusiasm and excitement towards making East Grand the best district in the state.”

Reeves replaces former EGSD Superintendent Jody Mimmack who retired this summer after serving as District Superintendent for three years. Reeves comes to Grand County from the Genoa-Hugo School District, located on the eastern plains of Colorado.

While classes for the EGSD start next week student athletes have been busy getting into sporting shape for the past two weeks with team training camps for the fall. Reeves expressed his excitement about the start of fall sports and the character he is already seeing in the young athletes of East Grand.

“Having the high school students start practice last week, and having games this weekend is a sign that we are back in session,” Reeves stated. “Meeting a few of our student/athletes was awesome as they presented themselves as polite, mature, hard working young adults.”

Winter Park’s second Temporary Restraining Order denied

District Court Judge Mary Hoak denied the request by the town of Winter Park for a second restraining order against the Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

The town of Winter Park submitted a second restraining order against the BOCC regarding the application of Serene Wellness, a retail marijuana store proposed for Winter Park.

Judge Hoak signed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on Monday, Aug. 15. The TRO was requested by Winter Park and was directed at the BOCC and prevents the BOCC from holding additional Public Hearings related to the proposed marijuana retail business in a portion of unincorporated Grand County contained entirely within the borders of Winter Park.

At their August 16 meeting the commissioners moved to approve the retail marijuana license for Serene Wellness, LLC in Winter Park in a 2-1 vote. Commissioners Linke and Manguso moved to approve the license while Commissioner Tollett voted against approving it. At the beginning of the application discussion at that meeting County Attorney Alan Hassler asked if any of the commissioners had been handed a restraining order, summons, or complaint of any type. All commissioners responded no, and determined they could move on with deliberations regarding the license application.

Winter Park then filed for the second restraining order on August 16. According to the second restraining order, the issuance of the retail marijuana store license will likely cause “real, immediate, and irreparable harm to the Plaintiffs (Winter Park), since the Plaintiffs may have had the right to be heard and participate in the Public Hearing in a more meaningful way, that may be prevented only by a restraining order.” The restraining order restrains the BOCC from issuing the actual retail marijuana store license to Serene Wellness as described in the Verified Complaint.

The order denying Winter Park’s motion for a second TRO states, “the Plaintiffs have failed to show that they will suffer an irreparable injury, loss, or damage. In their request for their first temporary restraining order, the Plaintiffs alleged they had been denied their due process rights because they had not been allowed to participate in a hearing before the BOCC and, absent that participation, the BOCC would make a potentially invalid decision. The BOCC, however, held the hearing in question and decided the question before it at the end of the hearing, prior to the Plaintiffs serving the BOCC with the Court’s TRO. The Plaintiffs fail to elucidate in their second motion what, if any, immediate and irreparable injury, loss or damage will result to them absent a TRO, now that the BOCC has rendered its decision.”

Winter Park is currently pursuing a preliminary injunction regarding the dispensary application.

Obituary: Timothy Jay Adams

Timothy Jay Adams, 50 of Hot Sulphur Springs, passed away unexpectedly August 19, 2016. He was the son of Ronald “Ron” Adams and Marilyn Kay (Wheeler) Adams, born November 6, 1965 in Denver. Tim worked every night in Grand County delivering papers throughout the community. He also helped keep Grand County clean having worked as a trash truck driver and more recently as a hauler of scrap and metal recycling. He enjoyed nothing more than taking his son fishing to his favorite spot in Grand County, Williams Fork Reservoir. He loved his son dearly.

Tim leaves behind his seven-year-old son Timothy Arthur and Timmy’s mom Laurie Trujillo. He also leaves behind his father Ron Adams of Texas, sister Tanya Castillo and her husband Carlos of Texas, his nieces Belinda, Veronica, Kayla, and his nephews Brian and Brandon. Tim was preceded in death by his mother, Marilyn Kay Adams. A Memorial Service will be held at 2 p.m., Wednesday, August 24 at the Hot Sulphur Springs Community Church with a pot luck reception to follow at the church.

Firefighters make progress on western blazes

August is nearly over and big game hunting is right around the corner but this year’s wildfire season is still blazing with conflagrations burning throughout the western US and across portions of Colorado.

Most of the wildfires that have affected Colorado this summer have been fully suppressed or more or less brought under control, including the Cold Springs Fire that threatened Nederland and the Hayden Pass Fire burning near Coaldale, but there are a few uncontrolled wildfires still burning up the Rocky Mountain State.

BEAVER CREEK

The Beaver Creek Fire north of Grand County in Jackson County is still burning. The fire has expanded to 37,170-acres as of Tuesday afternoon August 23. Containment on the Beaver Creek Fire stands at 53 percent with a total of 30 personnel actively battling the blaze.

The fire was sparked just a short distance north of Walden in North Park not far from the Colorado/Wyoming border. Since the initial detection of the fire on June 19 fire officials have worked to contain the conflagration as flames spread through heavily timbered forests of beetle-killed lodgepole pines.

The beetle-kill pine poses a significant risk to firefighters because the relatively weak trunks make them susceptible to being blown over at any time. The downed trees also create additional fuel piles, contributing to extreme fire behavior.

As a result officials have focused much of their effort on the Beaver Creek Fire on establishing fire lines in less heavily timbered areas. The official estimated containment date for the fire is Oct. 21. Over the past several weeks the fire has burned numerous structures including one cabin, eight outbuildings and three historic outbuildings.

Officials do not know the exact cause of the fire but the US Forest Service is investigating the fire as possibly human caused. Local firefighting assets from the Grand Lake Fire Protection District and the Grand Fire Protection District provided assistance on the Beaver Creek Fire shortly after the initial fire outbreak.

LAVA MOUNTAIN

Firefighters from Grand Lake and Granby also assisted regional firefighting assets on the Lava Mountain Fire in west central Wyoming in late July and early August. The Lava Mountain Fire was nearly fully contained, at 95 percent, as of the last fire update provided by the Federal Government’s Incident Information System InciWeb filed on Monday morning August 15.

The Lava Mountain Fire has so far consumed 14,644-acres in the Shoshone National Forest just south of US Highway 287 between Dubois and Moran Wyo. Firefighters continue to mop up and secure containment lines on the fire while working to repair damage from suppression efforts. Officials expect little perimeter growth from the Lava Mountain Fire.

SILVER CREEK

The Silver Creek Fire was first detected on Saturday August 20. The fire is burning in the swath of forest land located between Wolford Mountain Reservoir to the east, Phippsburg to the west, Rabbit Ears Pass to the north and US Highway 134 to the south. The fire grew by about two-acres Monday August 22. So far the fire has burned approximately 10-acres within the Routt National Forest in the Sarvis Creek Wilderness.

A total of 45 personnel have been assigned to the Silver Creek blaze as of Tuesday morning August 23 while press releases from the US Forest Service state containment stands at zero percent. Firefighter activity is focused on structure assessment, developing contingency plans and identifying areas where fire lines and fuel breaks can be built to protect structures. The Silver Creek Fire is burning primarily in live and dead lodgepole pine stands.

SPRING CREEK 2

The Spring Creek 2 Fire is a relatively small fire burning just a short distance south west of I-70 between Parachute and De Beque. The Spring Creek 2 Fire was discovered on private property in Garfield County on Friday August 12. So far the fire has burned 621-acres but despite is comparatively diminutive size to other major wildfires this summer the Spring Creek 2 blaze has done significant damage to private property.

According to InciWeb, “The Spring Creek 2 Fire moved rapidly into Mesa County narrowly missing homes in its path. Fire crews were able to save multiple primary residents but four out building, three trailers and three vehicles were destroyed.”

Containment on the Spring Creek 2 Fire stands at 100 percent. There are a total of six personnel still assigned to the fire according to InciWeb.

GCLD proposes mill levy increase to BOCC

At the August 23 Grand County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting the Grand County Library District (GCLD) proposed an increased mill levy for the November election to pay off their debt, balance their budget, and maintain services and branches. If approved, the mill levy would increase from 2.41 mills to 3.36 mills, a .95 increase. According to the GCLD, this results in a property tax increase of $8 a year on a $100,000 home.

According to the GCLD, the mill levy increase will raise enough money to pay their $4.5 million debt 10 years early, and by paying off the debt in 10 years, they will save Grand County tax payers $1.2 million in interest payments—money they will not have to pay out in the end. By using money from the mill levy to pay their yearly debt payments they will be freeing up cash to run the district. According to the GCLD, getting rid of the debt as quickly as possible is the fiscally responsible thing to do to help them move towards a balanced budget. The mill levy sunsets in 10 years when the debt is paid, so this way the GCLD will not be asking for more from tax payers than absolutely needed.

Mary Chance, GCLD board member pointed out that this does not ultimately mean that they will never have to cut services again, but by increasing the mill to pay off the debt early the GCLD can focus on their future and the library users when property values recover or the Henderson Mill picks back up again. According to a slide show presentation from the GCLD, they have crunched the numbers, and by taking care of the debt payment, tightening the budget, and cutting central services they can maintain their branches for the immediate future.

One concern about the proposed ballot question, raised by Commissioners Linke and Manguso, and County Assessor Tom Weydert was the wording, which was written by an outside law firm hired by the GCLD.

The original question states what the money from mill levy can be used for including: “to pay off the district’s outstanding lease-purchase financing; to operate, maintain and improve library facilities and library services; and for any other uses permitted by law.”

The phrase in question was “any other uses permitted by law.”

Weydert and Commissioners Linke and Manguso agreed that if the GCLD could make the phrase more clear as to what the money would be used for, it may be more palatable for voters.

The GCLD plans to return the question to the firm that wrote it and represent the mill levy proposal at the Tuesday, September 6 BOCC meeting.

Chance said the library district will be coming up with two budgets in October: one for if the mill levy passes, and one for if it does not.

Commissioners Manguso and Linke also said they are willing to help the GCLD store belongings in the Administrative building if the GCLD central services building, which is currently listen on the market, sells.

Val Lind accepts Therese McElroy Award for Excellence in Healthcare Service during fundraiser

The Grand County Rural Health Network hosted its 4th Annual Bulls, Boots, and BBQ fundraiser on Friday, August 19 at Strawberry Creek Ranch 9N in Granby.

The Olde-Fashioned Barn Dance honored the past, present, and future of healthcare in Grand County, while raising money for a local nonprofit that improves the future of our healthcare by educating the community on health issues and ensuring accessibility and efficiency of the healthcare system.

Jen Fanning, Executive Director of the Grand County Rural Health Network presented the Therese McElroy Award for Excellence in Healthcare Service to Val Lind, RN. during the fundraiser. Included in the night’s festivities was a live auction and a sillent auction. Attendees could ride a mechanical bull and the local band, Red Dirt Hill played under the tent. Despite a rain and hail storm, the night went off without a hitch with excellent food, drink and entertainment.

The Sky-Hi News invites participants to submit their photos from the evening to be posted on the Sky-Hi News website. Please view videos of the event on the Sky-Hi News Facebook page.