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Grand County teams up with Winter Park Resort, Denver Health, West Grand schools for COVID-19 response

The Board of Grand County Commissioners approved on Monday three agreements with local entities to secure space and staff for the county’s COVID-19 response in case it’s needed.

First, the county teamed up with Winter Park Resort to reserve 111 rooms at the Vintage Hotel for an alternate care facility should Middle Park Health’s campuses became too full. According to the agreement, the county would pay $4,000 per week, which covers the rooms, room supplies, and food and beverage service.

“It’s proactive and it’s not going to cost us anything unless we use it,” Commissioner Kris Manguso said. “Thank you to Winter Park.”

The board also approved an agreement with Denver Health for health care staff for an isolation care facility and other needs the county may have for the COVID-19 response.

The agreement includes 96 hours per week of registered nurse time and 72 hours per week for clerical work. Grand County is responsible for providing the medical equipment, as well as reimbursing Denver Health at a rate of $49 per hour for nurses and $26 per hour for clerical personnel.

In addition to those agreements, the board approved a memorandum of understanding with the West Grand School District for use of the middle school gym for a potential medical treatment center or to house the county’s COVID-19 response team. Any costs associated with the use of the gym would be the county’s responsibility. 

“I am thankful that we’re being proactive and prepared as best we can,” Commissioner Rich Cimino said. 

While commissioners hope the county doesn’t need to utilize these agreements, Public Health Director Brene Belew-LaDue noted that the county hasn’t seen its peak number of COVID-19 cases yet.

“We’re in the acceleration phase; we haven’t hit the peak yet,” she said. “Hopefully the social distancing and all of the different things we’ve put in order will help.”

From the frontlines: Grand County nurse steadfast amid outbreak

Janice Tilstra knew she wanted to be a nurse early on, but like almost everyone else, she never expected a pandemic to take over her life.

Tilstra has worked for Middle Park Health since moving to Grand County in 2009. She is an emergency room nurse and has worked at both the Kremmling and Granby facilities.

When Tilstra was 17, her sister was diagnosed with a rare form of spinal cord cancer and given six months to live. Tilstra’s sister spent four months in both Swedish and Craig hospitals, and her family was told that Tilstra’s sister would never walk again.

For Tilstra, the compassion the medical team showed her sister inspired her to become a nurse. Tilstra said she always knew she wanted to make a difference and being a nurse has allowed her to do that.

But the coronavirus has changed things in ways Tilstra couldn’t predict.

“I never imagined that I would be a nurse working during a worldwide pandemic,” she said during an inverview via email.

Middle Park Health has adjusted its operations to protect patients and staff. That means Tilstra now has to greet patients in the waiting room before assessing their symptoms. Welcome in the emergency room before the outbreak, visitors must now wait in their cars.

Tilstra said that social distancing makes it harder for her to provide the same level of compassion that has guided her throughout her career, but she knows these aren’t normal times.

“As a nurse, we are always looking for ways to comfort our patients, so this can feel very harsh,” Tilstra said of social distancing. “I need to continually remind myself that the procedures that we follow are for everyone’s protection.”

Middle Park Health had a health care worker test positive for COVID-19 last week. The worker’s partner was later listed as a probable case, but there hasn’t been any reports of the infection spreading beyond that.

Precautions to combat the coronavirus taken by Middle Park Health include monitoring all employees’ vital signs, even if they are asymptomatic, and increasing cleaning and sanitizing measures in line with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control.

In addition to new safety protocols, all hospital employees are being required to wear personal protective equipment during patient contact.

On the front lines of the battle against COVID-19, nurses like Tilstra are risking their and their families’ health to care for the sick. Tilstra said she worries about exposing her family to the virus because of her profession, but she has taken steps to guard against it.

Before things got bad, Tilstra had been planning to visit her 80-year-old mother but has canceled the trip three times out of fear of exposing her mother to the coronavirus. Tilstra said it was after the third cancelation that she realized the impact this outbreak was going to have on everyone.

Another challenge right now is not knowing how many patients in the Grand County community might be affected, Tilstra said.

“Daily, I wonder when the eye of the storm is going to hit and if we are going to be able to meet the needs of our community,” Tilstra said. “At times, I feel like I am not doing enough when so many people’s lives across the world have been impacted by this crazy virus.”

Middle Park Health’s website says it employs about 250 people. In addition to treating potential COVID-19 patients, the hospital is still taking care of other emergencies.

“The COVID-19 outbreak has challenged the organization to think outside of the box,” Tilstra said.

The staff at Middle Park Health has daily meetings to stay updated on the coronavirus and take inventory of supplies. While there are fears and challenges, Tilstra said her faith and the support of her family, friends and coworkers are helping get her through this time.

“During times of adversity, I believe that as humans we become stronger than we ever think is possible,” Tilstra said. “We are all in this together.”

Tilstra’s sister is now 57. While there have been bumps in the road, Tilstra said her sister is the family’s miracle.

“Be kind to each other,” Tilstra said is her request of the community right now. “Never take people for granted. Let people in your life know how special they are, don’t panic and we will all get through this together.”

Forest Service monitors forest access points but doesn’t anticipate new, major closures

DILLON — Closures of National Forest land including ski areas and recreation facilities like toilets and group sites are closed, but the Forest Service has left some recreation — mainly hiking and cross-country skiing trails — open for local residents to get outside during the novel coronavirus quarantine. However, the Forest Service still asks people to use their best judgment when recreating so that individuals don’t become “part of the problem.”

White River National Forest Mountain Sports Program Manager Roger Poirier said that while the trails are generally open aside from a few highly trafficked trails or recreation areas like Sapphire Point. While Sapphire Point trail is open, the toilet is closed and the site is closed to group use reservations through April 30. Other nearby recreation areas, like Hanging Lake Trail, are closed. The Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area cannot be publicly accessed from Interstate 70 and parking is closed, although the area is open from the Redcliff and Camp Hale access points.

Poirier recommended calling the local ranger for a forest area to ask about trail condition information regarding snowpack and road access. For Summit County specific information, contact the Dillon Ranger District in Silverthorne, call 970-468-5400 or check the Forest Service’s webpage on the Dillon Ranger District for updates. 

Poirier said that campgrounds in the area wouldn’t typically be open this time of year anyway as they don’t open until late spring normally. Many campsite and other recreation area reservations are currently on hold as the Forest Service, like everyone else, does not know how long the public health risk from COVID-19 will last. 

“We don’t want to bog down our reservation system only to refund people,” Poirier said. 

In the White River National Forest’s latest release, the Forest Service acknowledged people’s desire to exercise during the quarantine but asked that people follow public health guidelines when recreating, including using social distancing practices. The Forest Service said they would monitor access points and may adjust management of forest areas in order to keep group sizes small.

“We understand people want to get out there and we’re asking people to recreate responsibly,” Poirier said. 

As for how many people is too many on a trail, Poirier said there isn’t a “magic number,” but to use one’s best judgment. He said to find another place to recreate if the place looks too crowded or if there are a lot of cars at the trailhead. 

“At some point, you’re part of the problem,” Poirier said. “Right now all we can do is monitor those access points, those trailheads.”

At the moment Poirier said the Forest Service doesn’t foresee any new, major closures. Instead the Forest Service will be monitoring locations and may make changes to management of certain trails and recreation spots. So far, he said a ban on backcountry access has not been discussed. Yet, he stressed to “know before you go” when recreating in the backcountry when it comes to proper safety information. He said it is important to not be taxing on law enforcement and search and rescue teams. 

The Colorado Avalanche Information Center stated in their COVID-19 information update that while the center always encourages people to get information about current snow, weather and avalanche conditions before making plans for the day in the backcountry, it is important right now to factor public health conditions into your plan. The information page asked people to check the current public health orders before heading out, staying home if sick, keeping social distance and to “avoid times and places of high use.” The center also asked people to avoid traveling in high risk or remote terrain and to consider avoiding avalanche terrain altogether. 

Poirier added that while the ski areas are on National Forest land and people are typically allowed to gain uphill access to these areas, the ski areas have closed completely all public access in compliance with the state orders. On March 27, all five local ski areas joined in putting out a video asking people to respect the closures and follow public health guidelines.

The Friends of the Dillon Ranger District group has also canceled or postponed all programs and activities through early May, according to a news release.

Grand County Real Estate Transactions March 29-April 4

Grand County’s real estate transactions from March 29-April 4 were worth more than $20.2 million combined.

• Rangeview Subdivision TRT 17 – Kristi Shovein to Mary and Larry Franklin, $725,000

• Lakeview Waterside West Condos Bldg D, Unit 302 – Joan Palen and David Haukeness to Palen Haukeness Revocable Trust, $500

• Mountain Shadows Estates 2nd Amd Final PH 2, Lot R 8 – Nathan and Holly South to Daniel and Shelley Frihauf, $145,000

• Ranches at Devils Thumb Lot 15 – Ranches Devils Thumb Inc to Ranch Collina LLC, $1,650,000

• Beaver Village Flg #1, Bldg 3, Unit 101 – Seth and Brittney Skelton to Tyler Duncan, $390,000

• Cozens Pointe at Grand Park Unit 302, Bldg F; Cozens Pointe at Grand Park Bldg F, Garage D – Cozens Pointe LLC to Brett and Kaia Hoopes, $681,195

• Granby Lots 17,18,19,20,21 – WBBBC LLC to Granby Barn LLC, $346,000

• Pole Creek Valley Subdivision Lot 92 – Christopher Morley and Kristin Smith to Alexis Horowitz Burdick, $775,000

• Mountainside at SilverCreek B U 2 Timeshare 002109 – Jackie and James Burdon Jr to Mountainside SilverCreek Timeshare Association, $500

• East Mountain Filing 5, Lot 114 – Raymond and Jordan Buckley to KKBH LLC, $1,065,000

• Lakeview Waterside West Condos Unit 205, Bldg B – Lynn and Betsy Veeser to Timothy and Julie Glasco, $320,000

• Hot Sulphur Springs Block 2, Lots 11,12; Spruce Arms Condominiums Units 1A,2A As Built – ADAF LLC to PCD HSS LLC, $520,000

• Blue Valley Acres Unit #2, Lot 11, Block 1 – Heath and Dawn Bowden to Linda Shelley, $53,000

• Grand Lake Block 29, Lots 2,3,4 Partial Legal – See Documents – Denise Nielsen, Denise Wagner to Charles Fanaro III, $95,000

• Granby Ranch 5 First Administrative Plat Amendment Lot 31 – McAdams Properties LLC to Lacey and Eric Emeott, Katrina and Steve Bechtold, $451,000

• Fox Run Apartments Partial Legal – See Document – Iron Horse Partners LLC, Blueline Equity Partners II LLC to Anchor Fox Run LLC, $9,440,000

• Snowblaze Bldg C Condo Unit 12; Snowblaze Bldg C Condo Parking Space 12; Snowblaze Bldg C Condo Storage Area 12 – Kenneth Fleck to Todd and Kirstin Cooper, $402,500

• Winter Park Highlands Greenridge Lot 53 – Wohlgeschaffen Markus Karl Borromaus Ludwig to Denise Lenherr, $147,500

• Lakota Flg 3, Tract C, Lot 29 – Nathan and Virginia Davis to Kurtis and Shannan Williams, $335,000

• Roam Filing No 1, Lot 12, Block 10 – Fraser River Development Co LLC to C Finnegan and Allison Faldi, $535,000

• Hideaway Station Unit RU TE 402, Bldg E; Hideaway Station Bldg E, Parking Space R 402 – Winter Park Development Co LLC to Western Sky Real Estate LLC, $650,000

• Victoria Village Lots 8,9, Block M Partial Legal – See Documents – Brent Quinn to James Dicanio, $325,000

• Colorado Anglers Club #1, Lot 30, Block 11 – Kenneth and Rhea Kniep to Vertical Design Development LLC, $27,500

• Lake Forest Subdivision Block 1, Lots 45,46 – Mark and Therese Brady to Robert Merrill and Kathryn Alm, $90,000

•Winter Park Highlands Greenridge Lot 22 – Donald Hanneke to Donna J Norris Revocable Trust, $157,000

• Grand Lake Estates 1st Filing Lot 3, Block 8 – DSTF LLC to Sarah Chabot and Michael Arntson, $425,000

• River Glen Condominiums Unit 201 – Norris and Sally Widener to Daniel Maurais and Stephanie Vossler, $498,000

Steamboat man, 23, faces felony charge after posting threatening video on Facebook

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Steamboat Springs man is now facing a felony charge after a video was posted on social media that showed him inciting harm to others amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Numerous people contacted the Steamboat Springs Police Department after the video, featuring local resident Jonathan Perez, was publicly posted this week on Facebook and subsequently shared on a popular Routt County community page.

Perez has been issued a summons to appear in Routt County District Court on charges of inciting destruction of life or property, which is a Class 6 felony.

In the video, Perez instructed youth to begin licking various items around the community to further spread the novel coronavirus and claimed that the COVID-19 pandemic was fabricated. Perez also made direct threats toward vulnerable populations in the video, according to Steamboat police.

The video has since been removed from Facebook.

“Our community vigilance to public safety threats is commendable. This type of behavior is alarming and dangerous; it will not be tolerated,” Steamboat Police Commander Annette Dopplick said. “I am proud to be part of a community that values the wellness of all of our citizens.”

To report a non-emergency incident or violation of the state’s current stay-at-home order, contact the Routt County Dispatch non-emergency number at 970-879-1110. 911 must only be used for emergencies.

“Either be in or out”: Feds swooped in on Colorado’s ventilator order, Polis says

Colorado was making a deal with a manufacturer for an order of much-needed ventilators when the Federal Emergency Management Agency swooped in and took it themselves, Gov. Jared Polis told CNN on Friday night.

It was one thing for states to be competing among themselves for vital resources to fight the novel coronavirus, Polis said. Now they’re competing against the federal government, too.

“Either be in or out,” Polis told CNN’s Don Lemon. “Either you’re buying them and you’re providing them to states and you’re letting us know what we’re going to get and when we’re going to get them. Or you stay out, and let us buy them.”

Prior to Polis’ comments, CNN reported that Colorado had an order canceled for 500 ventilators, among other supplies, because the items were being bought by FEMA. A congressional source told CNN that Colorado was told it was not on the priority list and the state would have to find its own supplies.

“We can’t compete against our own federal government,” Polis said. “So either work with us, or don’t do anything at all. But this middle ground where they’re buying stuff out from under us and not telling us what we’re going to get, that’s really challenging to manage our hospital surge and our safety of our health care workers in that kind of environment.”

Read more at DenverPost.com.

Fraser approves new condo development

Fraser’s Town Board on Wednesday approved the final plat for a new condominium development along US Highway 40 in an effort to increase available housing options in town.

According to the plat, Riverside Condominiums plans to build 20 one-bedroom units in a two-story building next to Grand Valley Flooring on US 40.

“We have been working with the applicant for many months on this project,” said Catherine Trotter, town planner.

The 500 square foot units would also come with storage lockers and most units would have a storage loft. Developers have planned 33 parking spaces for the building and all units will have a view of the Cozens Ranch Open Space.

Floor plans for the 500 square foot Riverview condos.
Courtesy Town of Fraser

The development would utilize modular homes built by Steamboat Springs company Smartpad.

The board unanimously approved the development with conditions regarding the finalization of the plat.

In other business:

  • At the workshop prior to the town board meeting, trustees discussed the Fraser Deed Restriction Program and nailed down some guidelines for the program. Trustees agreed that any unit in the Fraser Valley Metropolitan Recreation District would be eligible for the program as long as the owner or renter works in Grand County. Trustees did direct the Fraser Housing Authority, which will be made up of Fraser’s Economic Development Committee and be responsible for the program, to prioritize units and jobs within the town boundaries.
  • In conjunction with the deed restriction program, the board sent its petition to form the Fraser Housing Authority to the state’s Department of Local Affairs.
  • Fraser’s board approved a declaration of emergency due to the coronavirus outbreak. The declaration serves as a clear message for the community, as well as a way for Fraser to potentially get state or federal funding.
  • Trustees denied access for the new Fraser Mill Development at Mill Avenue and Norgren Road over traffic concerns that the development would overwhelm the roads in Old Town. Several Fraser residents also spoke at the meeting Wednesday or sent comment via email opposing the access due to concerns over traffic and road conditions.
  • The board approved a $100,000 contribution to the Small Business Emergency Grant Fund, which is a grant program issued by the Grand Foundation, to help local businesses make it through the pandemic.
  • The board also approved another $50,000 to go to the Grand Foundation’s COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund for individuals struggling financially during the pandemic.

Alterra announces furloughs, layoffs and other cutbacks

Alterra Mountain Company, which owns 15 North American ski resorts including Winter Park and Steamboat, will furlough year-round employees who cannot work due to ski area closures caused by the coronavirus and “the prospect of zero revenue for the foreseeable future,” chief executive Rusty Gregory wrote in a letter to employees on Thursday.

The plan takes effect Saturday.

“Year-round employees in the U.S. who are unable to perform their work at either home, resort or office due to work restrictions aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus will not receive pay,” Gregory said. “They will remain an employee of their resort or business but will be listed on payroll for ‘zero hours’ and will not be working until these restrictions are lifted.”

Alterra laid off 17,000 seasonal employees on March 14, the day Gov. Jared Polis closed Colorado ski areas effective the next day. Seasonal employment at Alterra’s Colorado mountains typically ends in April.

Company spokeswoman Kristin Rust said she didn’t know how many year-round employees will be affected by furloughs that begin Saturday.

Alterra has cut operating expenses across the board, Gregory said, and more than 50% of previously planned capital expenditures will be postponed.

Read more at DenverPost.com.

COVID-19 shutdown creating constitutional dilemma in Colorado courts

DILLON — Should a defendant have a right to a speedy trial, even if it could endanger members of the public?

The new coronavirus shutdown has impacted almost every corner of society, and the criminal justice system is no different.

The area’s courts and elected officials have had to make numerous changes to keep things from grinding to a halt, and to help protect employees and members of the public from the illness.

Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown said COVID-19 presents entirely new challenges, which could pit constitutional rights against public health interests.

“There’s a chance that we’re going to have to make some really hard decisions,” Brown said. “The Constitution wasn’t written with the idea that courts would be trying to do business in an epidemic. That’s why so many of a person’s constitutional rights involve things like confrontation, the ability to look somebody in the eye, and speedy trial, the ability to do things quickly and not have inordinate delays.

“Those constitutional rights are being tested by a virus that’s requiring people to physically space and to let business that isn’t an immediate public health issue be deferred.”

Earlier this month, Brown wrote a letter to Gov. Jared Polis asking him to exercise his authority to temporarily suspend defendants’ right to a speedy trial, which in Colorado means six months. That means that if a defendant insists on trial, members of the community could see jury duty notices start to pop up in their mailboxes despite the public health closures.

For those who’ve never attended a jury selection, the scene often involves a jam-packed parking lot, crowded hallways and sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with dozens of strangers on the courtroom pews. And once a jury is selected, the situation doesn’t get much better in regard to mitigating person-to-person exposure, requiring gathering in the jury box and in the jury room for hours on end.

There were about 25 trials scheduled in the Fifth Judicial District alone this month. Most of those already have been postponed, but Brown said cases could be kicked down the road only so far.

“As we get into May and June, we’re going to be in a situation that the law doesn’t really have any ready answer for,” Brown said. “We’ve been able to collaborate and continue cases, but at some point, we won’t be able to anymore. And we’ll either have to jeopardize our jury panel’s health or dismiss cases for defendants whose right to a jury trial can’t be afforded.”

Brown’s response will be to ask the district and county judges to declare that the circumstances are extraordinary and continue cases despite a defendant’s objections, essentially temporarily infringing their right to a speedy trial.

But it might be unlikely a judge would make that call. The district’s Chief Judge Mark Thompson said the issue has been on his mind, as well, along with other judges around the state. Most have since adopted policies piggybacking on a mandate put out by Colorado Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Coats, which calls for cases with imminent speedy trial deadlines to move forward.

“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to navigate,” Thompson said. “It’s hard to reconcile the public health orders and the tension we have with a statutory right to a speedy trial. At some point, we’re going to have to face the issue. … But there isn’t anything in the statutes right now that allows us to continue trials for a public health emergency. It simply doesn’t exist in the statutory framework.

“It’s a dilemma. But I can’t see any chief judge at this point say we’re not going to have criminal trials. I haven’t seen a compelling argument that would force that yet. But it’s possible.”

Thompson said the COVID-19 virus pandemic and subsequent public health guidelines would create a number of other issues once jury trials start back up, noting that prosecutors might have a difficult time compelling witnesses to attend, and that the orders would make it difficult for defendants and others to make it to hearings.

Thompson continued to say that judges were looking to the state Legislature to provide guidance on the issue. But until that happens, the local justice system is bracing itself for what comes next. The best-case scenario is that courts are left with an overabundance of work over the next six months.

“We’re going to be taking at least a month and a half of trials and other hearings, and cramming them into the second half of the year,” Thompson said. “It’s going to create some problems. But we’ll figure out how to get it done.”

Election 2020: Kremmling candidates, ballot info

On Tuesday, Kremmling residents will decide three town board members and whether to allow retail marijuana in the town.

Four candidates are running for the three town board positions, including Jim Miller, Peter Moschonas, Dave Sammons and Jason Wikberg. Both Sammons and Wikberg are incumbents, while Miller and Moschonas would be new to the board.

When the Sky-Hi News reached out to the candidates, only Jim Miller responded. His candidate profile is below:

Jim Miller

Jim-Miller-Candidate-Picture2

Background: I grew up in Kremmling and graduated from West Grand High School. I took a many year vacation from Kremmling. In that time I lived in Phoenix, Greeley, and Denver, made a family, and came to a realization that “city life” was no place to raise a family. In late 2006, I moved my family and business back home. My parents have been residents of Kremmling for 41 years and have retired here. I have owned and operated two different businesses while in Kremmling – a computer service and repair business, and because of a cancer battle for my wife, first an electronics recycling “fundraiser” that became a business.  

Community Involvement: Beyond being a small business owner and running a recycling company in an attempt to keep Kremmling (and Grand County) green, I have applied my resources to help with the mud races for 4-H/Fair Queen. I have also been a vendor to Kremmling, which gives me a unique insight as to the business side of town government.

Campaign platform: Running to be a Town Trustee of Kremmling has little to do with pride or notoriety for me. I’m not seeking this position to benefit myself and my interests. I’m running because the people of Kremmling, residents and business owners, need a voice and someone that will stand with them. Kremmling needs to get involved in the “Grand” projects with the other communities and stop practicing isolationism. Kremmling’s economy needs to grow with the future, not against it.

Ballot Questions

Two other questions on the ballot both focus on retail marijuana and sales in town.

The big question residents will vote on is whether to lift the town’s ban on retail marijuana shops. The other question pertains only if the ban is lifted and would ask residents whether they want to tax retail marijuana at a 5% special tax rate and give the town board the ability to raise it up to 10% without having to return to the voters.

With the current coronavirus pandemic, the ballot drop-off box has moved to the CSU Extension Hall and is open 24 hours. Ballots must be turned in by 7 p.m. Tuesday.