Grand County gives governor a sweet welcome |

Grand County gives governor a sweet welcome

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, Colorado

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

Citizens brought state-related concerns to Gov. Bill Ritter at Granby Town Hall on Friday – others brought wood gas and apple pie.

After the governor’s 15-minute introduction at the town-hall-style meeting, during which he laid out the state’s achievements in education reform, its vision of a new energy economy and the merits of pass-through stimulus funds, Sherry Kent explained her personal tangle with the state health department in trying to open a “Drive-by Pie” business in Granby.

“I’ve converted and done everything they’ve asked me to do to get it open,” she told the governor. “But I can’t get the state to ponder how to approve me. And I ask you today to consider to be bribed with apple pie.”

“I’m not sure you’re trying to bribe a state official,” the governor responded before getting more information to look into Kent’s problem. “If you are, I’m going to pardon you.”

Wood science

Outside the town hall upon the governor’s arrival, Frank Mannix’s wood gas generator propped on a trailer behind a Volkswagon “Thing” caught the governor’s attention.

Mannix, of Fraser, retrofitted the bi-fuel car to run on either wood gas or petroleum gasoline. The experimental wood gassifier came from, Mannix said. The day prior, Mannix powered his car five miles around his neighborhood strictly on wood gas.

“Practically, am I going to drive on wood? No. But it captures people’s attention,” the science hobbyist said. “I wanted to show (the governor) there were options that maybe haven’t been addressed yet for finding solutions for 2 million dead trees.”

During Ritter’s town-hall speech, the governor acknowledged Mannix and his “biomass to fuel-energy” concept, which segued into a talk of the state’s efforts to build a “New Energy Economy” with Colorado being the “sixth sunniest state, the 11th windiest and the fourth best for geothermal.”

Incidentally, Mannix and Ritter once lived on the same street in Denver and their children attended the same elementary school, Ritter said.

“Understand, I was a leader a long time ago when I found Frank’s talents out and I had him help my oldest son on his first science fair project,” the governor said.

Making ends meet

The state’s “economic recovery strategy” with the help of American Recovery Act dollars, the governor said, could be a catalyst toward Colorado’s eventual recession rebound.

The state faces a $1.5 billion deficit with another $380 million discovered in June.

“It’s a test of your values when you’re in a downturn more than when you’re building an agenda,” Ritter said.

The governor touted his administration’s efforts to invoke education reform in the face of 25 percent of high-school students dropping out each year, and to fix roads and bridges with the approved “FASTER” bill that raised vehicle registration fees this year.

One citizen later suggested to the governor that the state should find efficiencies in the Colorado Department of Transportation budget before it hikes fees. The governor said he welcomes such suggestions in light of the state’s budget crises.

Specific to Grand County, the governor said he is “hopeful” the Winter Park Ski Train will be revived, and told the mayor of Winter Park, Jim Myers, that he will do what he can. After 63 years, the line discontinued service last winter.

“I think it’s an important link between the Front Range and certainly Winter Park. But more than Winter Park, the entire area,” Ritter said.

Water diversions

And as a Denver Water firming project sits on the horizon, Grand County Commissioner James Newberry’s inquiry about the governor’s stance on West Slope water problems revealed the governor is an advocate of storage that utilizes Front Range sources before tapping into West Slope water.

“Communities are growing quickly, depleting aquifers under them. We have to think about how we get water to the Front Range. … And storage on the Front Range is a big part of it,” Ritter said

“My inclination is that we look at all these other places and not look to the West Slope,” he said, then added, “And I say that when I’m on the Front Range, by the way. Just so you know.”

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail