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Obituary: Sean A. Massoud

Sean A.


February 14, 1991 – September 13, 2020

A Celebration of life will be held on Friday September 25, 2020at 5:00pm at Cascade Trail by Monarch Lake.

Colorado wildfires: Cameron Peak blaze up to 104,530 acres

Firefighters are working around the clock on the Cameron Peak Fire, which has now burned 104,530 acres and remains at 15% contained.

According to the US Forest Service, the fire that’s crept into Rocky Mountain National Park has moved into more favorable terrain and large air tankers will continue dropping retardant to slow the fire’s growth.

Additionally, bulldozers and heavy equipment have been aided by cool nights with lower wind speeds, as they try to secure the fire’s flanks. The strategy is to pinch off the head of the fire with direct lines on the flanks.

However, fire managers are watching elevated weather forecasts this week, which could present hazardous conditions with an outflow of wind in the afternoon. Although some rain is predicted, the chances of the rain over the fire area remain low.

There are currently six active wildfires in Colorado, though one — the Thorpe Fire — has only burned 159 acres and is at 100% containment.

The Grizzly Creek Fire in Glenwood Canyon has reached 32,431 acres at 91% containment.

The Pine Gulch Fire 18 miles north of Grand Junction is the biggest at 139,007 acres. It is at 95% containment.

The Williams Fork Fire in Grand County is over 12,300 acres, and the Middle Fork Fire, which is 11 miles northeast of Steamboat Springs, has grown to 5,837 acres and remains at 0% containment.

Letter: Colorado can vote by mail no problem

Responding to nonsense about vote-by-mail, Colorado knows how to do it. Ballots and envelopes with preprinted addresses are readied by the county clerk’s office well in advance.

The party chairs do a “test run” filling out about 25 test ballots to make sure the voting machines are counting correctly. Then a crew of election judges, more or less equal numbers from each party, working in the courthouse at social distances, wearing masks, insert the ballots, return envelopes and voting instructions in the pre-printed envelopes. Those approximately 11,500 ballots are mailed from the post office in Hot Sulphur Springs on Oct. 9.

Since Grand County mail is now sorted in Denver, it can take four to five days to get into your post office box. When it arrives, you could vote, sign the return envelope, insert your ballot, put two stamps on it and mail it back. If that’s your route, get your voted, signed ballot in the mail by Oct. 20. The post office got it to you; they can get it back to the county clerk.

It’s just as safe to complete your ballot, sign the envelope, and, from Oct. 19 till Nov. 3, drop it in the closest drop box. There are drop boxes in Fraser, Granby, Hot Sulphur Springs, Grand Lake and Kremmling. The addresses and your voting options are on the voting instructions you get with your ballot.

From Oct. 19 drop boxes will be open 24 hours a day, under video surveillance. At least once every 72 hours and more frequently as election day approaches, a team of two election judges, one from each party, goes to each drop box, picks up the ballots and delivers them to the courthouse. A team also goes to the Hot Sulphur Springs Post Office to collect mailed-in ballots.

Once ballots are at the court house, the county clerk, her staff and a team of election judges from both parties take over. The signature on the back of the ballot envelope is compared to the signatures the county has on file for that person. The envelopes are opened, the ballot is separated, is examined for stray marks to make sure the counting machine can read it, and counted. All these actions are done by pairs of D and R election judges. Then we all wait for the results. Those counted ballots and envelopes are stored in the courthouse for 18 months, just in case there are concerns. The average taxpayer cost for each ballot mailed out is about $6. Vote! It’s your money, and your civic obligation.

— Susan F. Newcomer, Fraser

Letter: Let’s explore Bill’s vote a little more

Who gets Bill’s vote? He doesn’t say in the letter he wrote for the Sky-Hi News. He answers that question speciously. But this election is too important to debate the issues by donning a red MAGA cap and waving a flag. Most things he votes for are characteristic of both candidates. A few seem to clearly suggest a vote for Trump, but even those also suggest a vote for Biden.

Bill votes for the unborn. That’s a vote for Trump, because he opposes Roe v. Wade; Biden supports it. But rendering the planet uninhabitable is abortion on an incomparable scale — abortion of entire unborn generations. Young Oregonians, fighting for a future habitable planet, are suing the federal government on a longstanding doctrine that governments of every sovereign nation are the “trustees” of resources vital to life — air and water — and the “beneficiaries” are the people, both living and yet to be born.

Trump denies climate change, negated the Paris Agreement, and boastfully rolled back countless environmental regulations. Scientists attribute the ongoing West Coast apocalypse to climate change, while Trump blames a failure to rake the forests. Biden acknowledges the science of climate change and has a plan for a Green America by 2035. That’s a vote for Biden — and the unborn.

Bill votes for people peacefully assembling. The ACLU is suing Trump for attacking peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square. A vote for Biden.

Bill votes for law and order. Trump continually violates the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, invites foreign adversaries into our elections, foments chaos and commits criminal solicitation by inducing people to feloniously vote twice, and brags he “can shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue” with impunity. A vote for Biden.

“Make America Great Again” has become a vacuous propagandist slogan. “Build Back Better!” That’ll make America great again. Biden, not Trump, clearly gets my vote.

— Robert W. Ramsey, Grand Lake

Mustangs, Panthers fight toward the finish

Five Mustangs set personal records as West Grand High School hosted a Saturday tri-meet featuring West Grand, Middle Park and Colorado Rocky Mountain School before next week’s big race in Granby.

In Kremmling, Allura Luna, Lillie Steinle, Joana Ramirez, Brandon Dale, Vincent Schenk and Eric Gregory all turned in new personal records for the Mustangs while Alex Bergman and Alejo Aguilar ran their first high school race on the West Grand course.

“Everybody ran us a great race today,” Mustangs coach Ryan Tripicchio said. “It’s basically a cloudy, cool day and everybody ran well. Vince really came along and dropped his time by seven minutes from two weeks ago, (which) was incredible.”

The coach was also impressed by Gregory improving his best time by six minutes, and Ramirez improving hers by more than four minutes.

In the girls run, Samantha Westfahl and Luna had another close contest that was decided in the last 200 meters, as Westfahl pulled ahead to finish just 2 seconds ahead of Luna. The pair took second and third. Joy Hast rounded out the top three West Grand girls with a seventh place finish, and Steinle and Ramirez continue to get stronger each week.

“Lillie dropping time is also a very good sign for us,” Tripicchio said. “She is crucial as our fourth runner.”

In the boys race, Galen Wilkinson led the Mustangs with a fifth place finish, followed closely by Henry Westfahl, who came in 18 seconds later at sixth.

In the middle of the pack, West Grand had three runners — Alejo Aguilar, Alex Bergman and Quinten Fletcher — finish within 25 seconds of each other.

Also, Vincent Schenk and Eric Gregory each improved their personal records on the course by more than seven minutes. Dale, who joined cross country this fall to keep himself busy, continues to be an asset to the team with solid runs each week.

For Middle Park there were four major takeaways from Saturday’s race, including Maddie Trail posting her first win.

“She is looking stronger each race,” Panthers coach Beth Merrick said of the girls’ top finish.

Additionally, Middle Park senior Ethan Callarman blazed through the course, posting the top time of all racers at 19:32. For Merrick, having Callarman on the team has been “a coach’s dream.”

“Every practice he goes out and trains hard, and race days he brings it,” she said, adding that it was exciting to see him win another race and she will miss him dearly next year.

Also, Middle Park’s Dane Jensen started out toward the back of the pack at the beginning of the run, but he made a strong push later on and passed a good number of racers to finish eighth.

As for Ewan Gallagher, his coach told him to take a chance last week, and Gallagher responded by racing out into lead for the first part of Saturday’s race.

“He ended up not finishing well, but taking a chance is a life long lesson,” Merrick said, explaining that she couldn’t be more proud of Gallagher for taking the chance.

West Grand Tri Meet

Saturday, Sept. 19

Kremmling, Colo.

Boys team scores — 1. Colorado Rocky Mountain School, 25; 2. Middle Park, 47; 3. West Grand, 50.

Middle Park — 1. Ethan Callarman, 19:32; 8. Dane Jensen, 22:37; 10. Ewan Gallagher, 23:24; 11. Calvin Ciccarelli, 23:44; 17. Jonah McKnight, 26:14.

West Grand — 5. Galen Wilkinson, 21:20; 6. Henry Westfahl, 21:38; 13. Alex Bergman, 24:40; 14. Quentin Fletcher, 24:43; 18. Vincent Schenk, 31:19; 20. Brandon Dale, 36:39; 21. Eric Gregory, 49:31.

Girls team scores — 1. Middle Park, 32; 2. West Grand, 46; 3. Colorado Rocky Mountain School, 52.

Middle Park — 1. Madison Trail, 23:18; 4. Leah Cormican, 24:17; 6. Sierra Manyak, 24:56; 10. Cameryn Friesen, 26:27; 11. Ryley Friesen, 26:47; 12. Kylee Boomer, 26:52; 13. Alaina Mears, 28:32.

West Grand — 2. Samantha Westfahl, 23:30; 3. Allura Luna, 23:32; 7. Joy Hast, 25:31; 15. Lillie Steinle, 29:32; 19. Joana Ramirez, 32:35.

Letter: Opposition to Constitution Week comes from ignorance

Editor’s note: John Eastman served as featured speaker Sept. 19 at Constitution Week in Grand Lake. In Friday’s Sky-Hi News, a letter to the editor questioned the lineup of events headlined by Eastman and a controversial op-ed he wrote for Newsweek. Two days after the op-ed’s publication, Newsweek added a note at the top of Eastman’s opinion piece expressing how Newsweek hated that it had become “a tool to perpetuate racism and xenophobia” being “shared in forums and social networks notorious for disinformation, conspiracy theories and racist hatred,” while also explaining why the publication wasn’t taking the piece down.

I want to congratulate the Grand Lake U.S. Constitution Week committee and, indeed, the whole community for a terrific week of thoughtful discussion about and dedication to our Constitution. The reception my family and I received was almost universally warm, marred only by a letter to the editor from someone down in Granby who claimed that a recent article of mine questioning the constitutional eligibility of Sen. Kamala Harris to be vice president was “rubbish” that would lead to Grand Lake being “known as a place of intolerance.”

What a pity that such ignorance of the Constitution could be offered in opposition to Constitution Week. The fact of the matter is that the Constitution sets out certain requirements for eligibility for the offices of president and vice president, including age and status as a natural-born citizen.

Had Ms. Spaet read the relevant provisions of the Constitution, she would have learned that the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment actually contains two requirements, not one. One must be both born in the United States (as Senator Harris clearly was) and subject to the jurisdiction of the United States to be an automatic citizen at birth. And had Ms. Spaet bothered to look at any of the significant scholarly work on this issue — mine as well as a number of other prominent legal scholars — she would have learned that there is an unresolved constitutional question about the meaning of the “subject to the jurisdiction” clause.

It could refer only to territorial jurisdiction (such as makes people subject to our laws while physically present in the United States), or it could mean subject to the complete, allegiance-owing jurisdiction.

If the latter is the case, as I believe the historical record strongly supports, then the children born to temporary visitors — such as children born in Miami to “birth tourism” Russian mothers on tourist visas, or children born to parents on temporary student visas, as was Harris — would not automatically be citizens at birth. Serious constitutional scholars on both sides of that interpretive issue have acknowledged that the Supreme Court has never held that the children born to temporary visitor parents are citizens. Raising such an unresolved yet important question of constitutional law is hardly “rubbish,” therefore, and certainly not evidence of “intolerance.” Constitution Week is designed to overcome ignorance about our Constitution. Ms. Spaet’s letter demonstrates it remains as necessary as ever.

— John Eastman, Benson Center for the Study of Western Civilization, University of Colorado Boulder

Citations issued for entering fire closure area

Colorado Parks and Wildlife shared on Tuesday that they had issued citations to people who tried to enter the Williams Fork Fire closure area.

According to CPW, an unspecified number of people were driving off-highway vehicles into the closure area via Jones Pass on the border of Grand and Clear Creek counties.

While the US Forest Service recently shrunk the closure area, it still encompasses the areas the fire is active, including Jones Pass, County Road 30 and the Byers Peak Wilderness Area.

CPW is also reminding recreators not to fly drones over the fire closure area because it can hinder aerial operations on the fire.

Currently, the Williams Fork Fire is 12,320 acres and 16% contained. 

Violations of the closure order could result in a fine up to $5,000 or six months in jail.

Letter: Proposal threatens important Grand County asset

I am writing to bring to attention to a requested amendment to the Rural Growth Area (RGA) of the Grand County Master Plan by the developers of Byers Peak Ranch West (Gold Medal Ranch) between County Roads 72 and 73.

The developers purchased the land around St. Louis Creek aware of the parameters of the master plan but now are hoping to be granted an amendment to increase the size of their project. From what I can tell, the current development is to the south of the floodplain of St. Louis Creek. Amendment allowed, it would take the development further west and south, where the stream corridor becomes narrower and the flora becomes denser. Amenities included are trout ponds, private trails, river access and a shooting range. The area is surrounded by heavily used forest.

I am opposed to the amendment being granted for these reasons: Why do we have a master plan if we allow amendments? The area is an important wildlife habitat, contains wetlands necessary for said habitat, and St. Louis Creek is a critical tributary of the Fraser River.

The creek is already stressed and “nearly drained” by other entities. How will there be any fishing if there isn’t any water? It is among the most pristine view corridors in Grand County, and building farther away from ‘urban’ areas, encroaching on forests and habitats, should become a thing of the past.

Climate change is here. St Louis Creek showed temperature exceedences this summer; fires like the Williams Fork will become more common. What worked 10 years ago no longer does; our future depends on what we choose to do today. Developers are not in charge; our elected and volunteer officials are, and they are our representatives. Let’s protect what sets Grand County apart from other mountain communities. The planning commission will host another public meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. For more, go to www.co.grand.co.us.

“ There are those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who ask ‘ what happened?’

— Michele Murray-Hedlund, Fraser

County backs ballot measure to protect water on Western Slope

The Grand County Commissioners voiced their support on Tuesday for a ballot measure that would finance water projects on the Western Slope.

Voters of the 15 counties on the Colorado River Basin, including Grand, will be asked in November to approve ballot question 7A for a mill levy increase of 0.248 mills for the Colorado River Water Conservation District. This would bring the total mill levy for the district up to 0.5 mills, equaling a yearly tax increase of $1.90 per $100,000 in assessed value for homes.

Mike Ritschard, the Grand County representative on the Colorado River District board, explained Tuesday that the district collected $169,388 from Grand in 2019. If passed, the measure would roughly double that amount and pump almost $5 million more per year into the entire district.

The district has not asked for a mill levy increase since it was created. Ritschard explained that reduced tax revenue from the energy industry and the Taxpayers Bill of Rights, combined with the reduction in assessment rates from the Gallagher Amendment, has led to financial challenges for the district.

Of the $5 million that could be raised, Ritschard said that 86% would go toward projects identified as priorities by local communities and basin round tables. The remaining 14% would fix the district’s financial deficit, but absolutely none of the funds would go toward creating staff positions.

While these funds cannot be committed to certain projects, they would go toward at least one of five categories: productive agriculture, infrastructure, healthy rivers, watershed health and water quality, and conservation and efficiency. Ritschard highlighted the Windy Gap bypass as an example of such a project.

“These projects are not going to go away,” Ritschard said. “The funding that we need at this point in time is going to help us continue these projects sooner and go more quickly.”

Zane Kessler, director of government relations for the district, added that the fiscal implementation plan for the funds would ensure they are distributed equitably across the geographic region based on need, not just population.

“(This would) ensure counties like Grand County that may not have a huge population center, like Mesa County has, are cut into this pie equally,” Kessler said.

While the commissioners expressed support for the ballot measure, Grand County makes up only a small portion of voters for it. The river district includes all the counties in the Colorado River Basin with the largest of the population being in Mesa County with Grand Junction.

“We hope this passes,” Commissioner Kris Manguso said. “Grand County certainly won’t carry it. We all know where that’s going to have to be carried, and I hope your efforts are successful over there.”

However, Ritschard emphasized the importance of outlying counties and pointed out that every vote in favor of the measure could help it pass.

“If these outlying counties can carry it at 60% or so, there’s a chance,” he said.

The commissioners unanimously approved a resolution in favor of the ballot measure, joining Delta, Eagle, Garfield and Summit counties.

Lucas trial delayed until December

Citing concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic, Judge Nicholas Catanzarite declared a mistrial Monday and rescheduled a new trial in early December for former Kremmling police chief Jamie Lucas.

At a motions hearing, Judge Catanzarite opened the proceeding by declaring a mistrial for Lucas, who was origonally set to stand trial Oct. 13-14. Lucas’ trial was rescheduled for Dec. 7-10.

“I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the United States remains a global hotspot for the virus,” Catanzarite said. “I have to weigh this, and I’m balancing the risk posed by COVID-19 with Mr. Lucas’ right to have a speedy trial.”

Catanzarite noted a few specific factors that played into his decision, including the large jury pool that is expected to be called and the length of the trial. 

While it was originally set for two days, District Attorney Matt Karzen asked to expand the trial to four or five days because a large number of witnesses are expected to be called, and Judge Catanzarite and Lucas’ attorney, Jeffrey Eidsness, agreed.

However, Eidsness did object to the mistrial on the grounds that Lucas deserves a speedy trial. 

Per the state’s speedy trial statute, a trial is supposed to happen within six months of entering a plea, unless a judge grants an exception. Due to the pandemic, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that speedy trials could be extended by three months. 

Catanzarite said he expects to have a jury pool of 90-100 people in order to ensure an impartial jury amid intense media coverage of Lucas’ case.

“The more jurors we call, the greater the risk of spreading COVID-19, which I am loathe to do and I think it’s my responsibility to make sure we don’t if at all possible,” Catanzarite said. “I find that the detriment to (Lucas’) speedy trial right is minimal compared with the community safety risk posed.”

After rescheduling the trial, Catanzarite heard motions from Eidsness and Karzen related to calling jurors and disclosing evidence.

Due to media coverage of Lucas’ trial, Catanzarite approved a request from Eidsness to individually question potential jurors about certain conflicts of interest, including how much potential jurors know about the case from the news coverage.

Also in line with those concerns, the judge approved an extended jury questionnaire to help the court determine jurors with potential conflicts.

“The questionnaire would be the standard one we always use, plus some additional questions about their exposure to media, so that before we even get into the courtroom … we (can) decide who needs to be questioned individually,” Catanzarite confirmed with the parties.

Other motions regarding case material were approved, so both parties will receive a list of potential jurors ahead of the trial and should new evidence be discovered, it has to be shared with all parties at least seven days prior to the pretrial conference.

The pretrial conference was also rescheduled to Nov. 30. 

Timeline of events

Dec. 4 – Grand County Sheriff’s Office takes over the investigation into an alleged case of animal abuse involving three juveniles.

Dec. 13 – Fraser Winter Park Police Chief Glen Trainor confirms his department is investigating Kremmling Police Chief Jamie Lucas for potential misconduct.

Dec. 20 – The town of Kremmling places Lucas on paid administrative leave after receiving a letter from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office that Lucas had been Brady listed.

Jan. 2 – The DA’s office reviewed the Fraser Winter Park Police Department’s investigation after it was completed in December.

Jan. 22 – In response to the allegations of misconduct, Lucas takes a polygraph and requests a special prosecutor. The DA refutes Lucas’ claims.

Jan. 31 – The DA’s office files 15 charges against Lucas after reviewing the concluded Fraser Winter Park Police Department investigation.

April 22 – Kremmling’s town board votes unanimously not to reappoint Lucas as police chief and directs the town manager to begin a job search for a new chief.

May 5 – Lucas pleads not guilty to the charges he faces and a trial is set for Oct. 12-13.

June 15 – Lucas’ attorney files a motion to dismiss the case or appoint a special prosecutor.

June 26 – Karzen files response to Lucas’ motion asking the judge to deny it.

July 17 – Judge Catanzarite issues an order denying Lucas’ motion.

Sept. 21 – Judge Catanzarite declares a mistrial for the October trial and reschedules for Dec. 7-10.