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Granby Candidates address Middle Park students’ questions at forum

Katie Loobyklooby@grandcountynews.comGrand County, Colorado
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The sixth hour civics class at Middle Park High School in Granby, Colorado, got a real taste of politics at a debate it hosted Wednesday.After hearing from several politicians in their classrooms, the class formulated questions for the candidates of two races state Senate District 16 and House District 57 and invited community members to listen to them address local issues.As community members entered the Middle Park High School auditorium, students greeted them and ushered them to their seats. Others acted as assistants to the candidates.Michaela Gibbon introduced the candidates and gave a description of the district they are running for and their backgrounds. Students Chris Thompson and Rory Mulligan sat on stage. Thompson served as moderator while Mulligan timed the candidates responses and alerted them when theyre time was expiring.House District 57 candidates Todd Hagenbuch, D-Phippsburg, and Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs took the stage first. Students asked the House candidates about four issues: how they will preserve open space, whether they support the Windy Gap or Moffat Firming projects, what to do about the pine beetle infestation, and rural education.Baumgardner, a rancher, has participated in water meetings for several years.We need to keep as much water here in Grand County as we can, he said. I work with water every day. I know what it is to not have water in the river.After the crowd applauded the candidates, Thompson apologized for initiating the spontaneous outburst and apologized with a my bad, prompting laughs from the audience. He then gave Hagenbuch an opportunity for rebuttal.Earlier on Hagenbuch said we are being pulled by the East Slope folks who want our water and also have obligations according to the 1922 Colorado River Compact to downstream users of the Colorado River.Both candidates felt strongly about the rush to address the beetle kill. Baumgardner said the pellet plant in Kremmling is a good investment and is willing to go to Washington to speak with Congress about waiving permit fees for Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service. We need to waive these permits, he said.Its not a question of if the fire is going to happen, its when the fire going to happen, Hagenbuch said. He also warned of the threat of transmission lines shutting out energy in the forest. We have a lot of power thats coming out of northwest Colorado and traveling through our forested areas.Senate candidatesThe four issues students asked Senate hopefuls about were the Windy Gap and Moffat projects, reducing our dependence on oil, the pine beetle epidemic and affordable transportation.Senate District 16 state Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, and Donald Ytterberg, R-Evergreen, a businessman for 30 years, then took the stage.Gibbs said with 1.5 million acres of dead pine beetle, he is looking for opportunities to turn a negative into a positive. He said Confluence Energy in Kremmling could also use the same pellets to create cellulosic ethanol. Ytterberg said people with contract air tankers could also be of service if a fire spreads. His Suburban engines run on E85 ethanol, he said. He also said that the wood would be of service to solve the energy problem. I think that we have plenty of resources here in this state, he added. In his closing statement, he said he is pro-life and pro-guns.Gibbs said he is pro-common sense and that the district doesnt need anyone with a learning curve.I know how to get the job done at the Capitol, he added.Doug Doudna, whose wife Sandy of Grand Lake helped organize the candidates to visit the classrooms, was in the audience at the debate.I think its a great idea, Im proud to see it, he said. We dont get this kind of attention very often. The kids are doing a phenomenal job, lots of enthusiasm. With a little bit of direction they put all this together Ive been very impressed.Kirk Klancke, Winter Park Ranch Water & Sanitation District manager, said this debate helps the community pick the best candidate and not base their decision by looking for the Ds or Rs Before the debate, Brittany Gardner, 18, greeted people coming in. Weve been putting it together for a couple weeks, she said. Weve heard them each speak individually. You can definitely tell their different views, so this will be interesting. She said this will help her when she decides to vote.Im not basing it off of who they vote for, she said. Im trying to figure it out for myself. Katie Looby covers government and education for the Sky-Hi Daily News. You may reach her at 887-3334 ext. 19601 or klooby@grandcountynews.com.


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