Year in Review: The people and stories that shaped Grand County
December 30, 2008
The year of elections
2008 was the year of elections ” local elections, state and national elections, recall and redo elections.
It seemed a day didn’t pass this year that the people of Grand County were preparing to fill out some kind of ballot.
The first ballots were cast in April for town board candidates across Grand County.
Voters brought sweeping change to Granby, unseating incumbent Mayor Ted Wang, replacing him with Jynnifer Pierro in a landslide win.
Pierro swept into the office with 264 votes. Wang took a distant second with 45 votes.
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The same night, voters in Fraser returned Fran Cook to her mayoral seat and Glenn Harrington beat Judy Burke in the Grand Lake mayoral race by two votes ” 88 to 86.
Harrington’s win was short-lived. The Town of Grand Lake challenged the eligibility of some voters who were believed to have primary residences in places other than Grand Lake. The challenge led to a special “redo” election in September between Burke and Harrington. Both candidates campaigned hard, bringing out twice the number of voters as the original election.
Burke won this time ” 133 to 105.
Immediately after the “redo” election, voters turned their attention to state and national stage.
In the final tally on Election Night, Nov. 4, though Barrack Obama won the popular vote nationwide, John McCain won Grand County by a small margin ” 2,908 to 2,864.
In other races, Dan Gibbs was voted into his first full term in the Colorado Senate; Randy Baumgardner won his first term in the Colorado House, taking over the seat held for the past eight years by Al White. Grand County and the rest of the 14th Judicial District elected Elizabeth Oldham as its next District Attorney.
It was a long year of elections, but some voters in Grand County still have more to go. A recall election for three members of the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District is scheduled for Feb. 17, 2009.
A Fraser Rec board election took place in May, when Greg Gallavan won a seat on the board. A second seat was contested by John Kacik and Kevin Davlin. Both men received 213 votes. The winner was decided with a coin toss. Kacik won.
For various reasons that were discussed ad nauseum in 2008, Dan O’Connell, Pete Strohecker and Beth Sands will defend their seats on Feb. 17, running against self-nominated candidates that have yet to be announced.
Though it won’t actually happen in 2008, the recall election could be considered the last of Grand County’s year-long stint in the voting booth.
Meanwhile, another recall has been brewing in Grand Lake. The Grand Lake Metropolitan Recreation District’s newly appointed president Jeremy Kennell is the subject of a recall petition instigated by former board member Tom Jenkins.
The Town of Granby went without a town manager from January to July. After an extensive search, the town hired Wally Baird of Bethel, Alaska. Baird started the job July 14.
The Town of Winter Park said goodbye to its mayor of 26 years, Nick Teverbaugh. Jim Myers was appointed mayor of Winter Park in his place.
Longtime East Grand School Superintendent Robb Rankin retired and Nancy Karas took his place.
West Grand Superintendent Dr. Jeff Perry resigned and Paul Reece stepped in as interim superintendent while the district searches for a full-time replacement.
The East Grand School District saw turnover in all five of its principal positions through a combination of retirements, unrenewed contracts and the tragic car accident death of Fraser Elementary Principal Reba Ferguson.
The combination of five new principals and a new superintendent brought a complete change of leadership to the district.
Kremmling saw a busy year of changes and improvements.
At the beginning of 2008, Kremmling’s water lines were in such bad shape the town was losing 60 percent of its water through leaks in the corroded steel pipes. At the end of 2008, Kremmling has nearly completed $957,000 in water pipeline replacement projects. Crews replaced about 11,000 feet of the 12,000-foot water transmission line.
The town is also getting statewide attention for a pellet plant that opened this year, finding a use for tons of beetle killed trees.
On Aug. 11, Confluence Energy began operating Colorado’s first wood-pellet mill in Kremmling.
By the end of October, the plant increased its production by 50 percent. In an October interview with the newspaper, company owners said they have already invested $10 million in Kremmling. The company plans to spend more than $50 million on renewable energy infrastructure and other projects in Kremmling within the next two years, adding a possible 30 new jobs.
As Kremmling invested in its infrastructure and its economic future, it also invested in preservation of the past.
On Sept. 15, railroad enthusiasts, history buffs and community members lined the streets of Kremmling and watched as the 102-year-old Kremmling Train Depot was put on wheels and rolled from its old location next to the track to a cleared space in the Grand County Historical Association Heritage Park, 1114 N. Fourth St.
The depot was built in 1906. It is the last remaining depot of its floor plan built by the Denver Northwestern and Pacific Railway. The cross-town move saved it from demolition by Union Pacific.
For Kremmling, 2008 was crowned, literally, with the installation of a $500,000 roof over the Chuck Louis Ice Rink. The roof extended the hockey season and marked the end of a years-long fundraising effort.
In 2009, the group hopes to raise money for lights for the rink.
In addition to Lake Granby, invasive mussel larvae have been detected in natural Grand Lake, in Shadow Mountain Reservoir and Willow Creek Reservoir in Grand County.
Results from an independent laboratory confirm that both zebra and quagga mussels are present in Grand Lake.
Zebra and quagga mussels are small barnacle-like mollusks with dark- and light-colored stripes.
They usually spread to other lakes by hitchhiking in motorboat engines, or by attaching themselves to boat trailers. Adult mussels litter beaches with shells and damage equipment by attaching to boat motors or hard surfaces and clog water-treatment facilities.
Although, individually, they appear harmless, their ability to adapt and rapidly multiply and spread has experts baffled. They’re considered one of the most significant nuisance invasions in North America.
The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission deferred setting a numerical clarity standard for Grand Lake until January 2014, choosing instead to grant a “narrative standard” for the interim.
A clarity of 13.12 feet, or 4 meters, from July through September, a standard sought by West Slope water advocates, would have been the first lake clarity standard in the state of Colorado.
The Grand Lake Area Historical Society has focused its attention on saving the Eslick Motor Court building in Grand Lake. The Historical Society is determined to move the Motor Court, recognized as a historic attraction and thought to be the oldest, original-condition motor court in the country.
The Society is looking at properties to purchase, trying to decide where the motor court can be moved while still retaining its easy access for tourists and the community. It will eventually be restored to original condition and interpreted to visitors much as the Kauffman House Museum has been, according to the Society.
Once where a fairy-tale grove of trees stood witness to countless weddings along the alpine-blue water, Point Park on Grand Lake’s shoreline is now nearly devoid of trees, eliminating the hazard of falling beetle-kill.
Upon seeing Point Park after the U.S. Forest Service cleared it, “I wanted to cry,” said Kathy Lewis, who was married at the park. “It was so sad. It was such a beautiful place.”
Grand Lake’s first building inspector and former Grand County building official Marv Fischer was named Grand Lake Rotary’s Citizen of the Year.
Winter Park / Fraser
“McDonald’s: One billion served and one delivered,” was the winning one-liner heard after a pregnant woman gave birth to a healthy baby girl in the woman’s bathroom of the Winter Park McDonald’s.
The incident took place during the Veterans Rally around the time the band “Molly Hatchet” was performing at Hideaway Park.
Christel Short of Colorado Springs, the wife of drummer Scott Short of the band “Inman Brothers,” scheduled to play that day, entered the McDonald’s with her 3-year-old son to use the bathrooms.
Short, in her ninth month of pregnancy with an Aug. 20 due date, said she had been feeling pains that day and thought they were symptoms of indigestion she’d been experiencing.
After the delivery, attended by two Winter Park police officers, Christel and baby were transported to St. Anthony’s 7 Mile Medical Clinic in Winter Park. The baby was deemed fine, a healthy 8 pounds, 4 ounces and 20-inch-long girl. Christel and her husband Scott named her Taylor Winterpark Short.
In December, Winter Park Resort loaded its first passengers in the Village Cabriolet, an open-air gondola that carries guests from the parking lot at the Vintage Hotel to The Village, the resort’s new commercial complex at the base of the ski area. Construction of the lift began in late summer.
The resort hopes that one result of the new Cabriolet is that the Vintage Hotel’s parking lot, which can accommodate more than 800 vehicles, will be used to its full capacity.
On May 20, elected officials from the towns of Winter Park and Fraser met at the Crooked Creek Saloon and discussed the future of merging their two towns. By the end of the meeting, they had agreed not to move forward with the consolidation.
Until May, the town had hosted meetings to get citizen input about the possibility of combining the towns of Winter Park and Fraser, which already share many resources. The councils met in January 2008 and discussed the possibility of annexing one town into the other.
Instead, the councils decided to let the merger happen naturally in coming years. “When the time comes” Winter Park and Fraser will become one, they said at the time. “It will be a very natural consolidation.”
Hot Sulphur Springs
A dedication and open house took place Aug. 18 for the Grand County Judicial Building in Hot Sulphur Springs.
The new $8.2 million building will house the County Court, District Court, the district attorney’s offices, probation, court clerks and juvenile services for the next three decades.
Due to a failing water treatment system, Hot Sulphur Springs residents were under orders from the state for at least six weeks to boil their water before consuming it. That was considered a long time in the state’s view.
Comparatively, the highly publicized March salmonella-contamination to the water supply in Alamosa prevented residents from using their water for three weeks.
Hot Sulphur Springs residents rejected three questions the town placed on the ballot to help fix its water system ” Measures 2A, 2B and 2C. The first ballot issue, 2A, asked if the town’s taxes should double. The town gets around $80,000 a year from property taxes. About $30,000 would have gone toward town operations and ongoing expenses. And $50,000 would have been used to borrow up to $650,000 for water or road improvements.
Proposal 2B asked if the town would eliminate a 5.5 percent limit on the amount property tax revenues can grow from year to year, without changing the tax levy.
Property taxes are only allowed to increase 5.5 percent, but in 2008 the town exceeded its allowed revenue by about $21,000 and must refund this money in 2009 by reducing the town’s mill levy.
Issue 2C asked if the town debt should be increased by $2.15 million. The town had spent $300,000 fixing the water system and plant, and planned to spend another $200,000.
Granby officials estimated the new stoplight at the City Market intersection of Thompson Road and U.S. Highway 40 would be installed by July 2009.
The Orvis Shorefox development west of Granby is attempting to stave off judicial foreclosure.
The civil case has been making its way through Grand County District Court since February, according to court documents.
Granby’s downtown received many new improvements with sidewalk planters and extensive landscaping, as well as an iron-embellished fence at the farmer’s market parking lot. The progress took place with the help of the Economic Development department’s downtown enhancement committee.
Granby, while facing a challenging budget later in the year, searched for a way to save the economic development director position held by Betsy Cook. In the end, Cook’s position was nixed, a 2009 budget casualty. The position accounted for $72,288 in salary and benefits.
Grand County property taxpayers experienced sticker shock in early 2008. Overall, property taxes for single-family homes increased from 16 to 34 percent from the results of the county’s 2007 property tax assessments. Higher valuations reflected Grand County’s growth and an active real estate market, according to the assessor.
Years after a drought set into motion the desire by Front Range water providers to “firm up” their water rights on the Western Slope, Grand County became aware in 2008 of the need to educate itself and defend its water supply to preserve the quality of life of this area.
The newfound knowledge and community awareness led to many things in 2008.
Threats to the region’s water occupied the minds of dozens of Grand County citizens Oct. 9 as they defended why East Slope users should not be allowed to siphon more under the Continental Divide.
Representatives from some of the East Slope cities that seek more Fraser/Colorado River water to satisfy impending growth also gave testimony at the SilverCreek Inn in Granby.
The Windy Gap Firming Project, about which a draft Environmental Impact Statement is circulating among the public, proposes to divert up to triple the amount of water that travels the Windy Gap system in an average year.
Grand County’s unused water pumped to Lake Granby last summer may not go to waste.
Grand County learned in October that it may still cash in the remaining 501 acre-feet of “free” water from the 1,500 acre feet it set aside in Lake Granby last summer after pumping cycles were completed.
Last summer’s deal, struck with Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Municipal Subdistrict, which controls the Windy Gap pumping facility, allowed Grand County to release water back in the river at any time during 2008 at any rate of flow it deemed necessary.
Grand County paid $57,500 for the energy needed to pump 1,500 acre feet of 2008 river overages back to the Granby reservoir for storage.
The Moffat Firming Project is the next major water project coming down the pipe in Grand County. Denver Water proposes to divert additional water through the Moffat Tunnel from the Fraser and Williams Fork rivers.
The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Moffat Collection System Project has been in Grand County’s hands since Nov. 7.
Shortly after its receipt, Grand County sought an extension on the preliminary review period due the coinciding review period for the Draft EIS of the Windy Gap Firming Project.
In light of this and the complexity of the document, the Army Corps of Engineers regulatory office in Omaha agreed to extend the Moffat stakeholder comment period by 45 days. The original deadline was Dec. 10, extended to Jan. 24, to be followed by a public comment period.