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Roaring Fork Valley’s first recipient of Habitat house recalls dire times, golden opportunity

Marti Barbour was in dire straits 20 years ago as a single mom with four children and a monthly rent for a house in West Glenwood Springs that exceeded her salary.

She envisioned loading up her kids, all between ages 7 and 13, along with all their possessions and driving cross-country to her mom’s house, “Beverly Hillbillies-style,” she said.

Instead, a new chapter of Habitat for Humanity came to the rescue. Barbour, who then had the last name of Goulding, was the first person selected for housing assistance by Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork.

This summer, she achieved a milestone by paying off her mortgage and taking full ownership of the first Habitat home built in the valley.

“I made my last mortgage payment in June,” Barbour said.

On Monday, she recalled her struggles and how the Habitat home was such an important stabilizing factor for her family.

“They’ve changed the lives of individual families and given them stability,” Barbour said of Habitat’s efforts. “Communities depend on stable families.”

The local chapter of Habitat was started after an existing local nonprofit housing organization secured a grant to build housing, said Tim Whitsitt, Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork’s first president.

“That put Habitat on the ground,” he said.

Ginny Parker made a critical donation of one-half acre of land along West Emma Road. The land was adjacent to her family’s Happy Day Ranch. The Parkers welcomed having low-income housing in their backyard. Ginny and Marti have been friends ever since.

Barbour and her kids ended up in one of the sweetest spots in the valley. The site is surrounded by pasture, where American highlander cows now roam, with their distinct, shaggy look and long horns. It’s in the shadow of the high ground known as the Crown. Barbour’s living room bay window provides great views of Basalt Mountain.

“When I give people directions I say it’s kind of like ‘Little House on the Prairie,’” she said.

Barbour was selected from 30 applicants for the Habitat project. In return, she had to put in sweat equity labor and pay the monthly mortgage.

Groundbreaking for the house was in August 2000. As with all Habitat projects, Marti’s house depended on volunteer labor. Roaring Fork Valley residents rallied to the cause. Scores of volunteers turned up Dec. 23, 2000, to raise the walls. They were treated to a Christmas feast of turkey and all the trimmings at the Methodist Church in Basalt at the end of their workday.

“It was the welcoming of the community that was heartwarming,” Barbour said. “It inspired me to pay it back. I have received so much.”

Barbour and her kids moved into their new 1,150-square-foot, ranch-style house in April 2001.

Marti married Billy Barbour in December 2003. Marti’s kids grew up in the house, and the family put their stamp on the property over the years. It came with a carport but now has a garage-workshop and some sheds. There is extensive landscaping, a deck and gardens. Inside, they added the living room bay window, installed granite countertops and replaced carpet with wood.

Barbour said they might never get the financial return from what they put into the house because there is a deed restriction that limits appreciation. Her focus was always making the house a home.

She and Billy are empty nesters now. Jessica works in software developer relations in Seattle. Victoria is a teacher at Blue Lake Preschool in the midvalley. Patrick served in the Air Force for six years and is finishing education in software development in Denver. Hannah works for a chemical supply company and is moving to Seattle.

“Other than being a proud parent, the reason I was boasting about my kids is because I feel the stability of having the Habitat home contributed to their success,” Barbour said.

Marti has her own business that educates seniors to boost their brainpower and she works with the Eagle County Department of Aging twice per week.

She said it was fulfilling to pay the final mortgage payment and own their home clear. She remains grateful to Habitat for all its done and helps the organization any way she can — working in its ReStore, helping with fundraising and promoting the organization’s good works.

“She’s never said ‘no’ when I ask her for this or that,” said Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork chapter President Scott Gilbert.

Barbour said most of the people who were on Habitat’s board of directors when she built her home are no longer serving. Nevertheless, the organization’s new faces “adopted her” and include her in pursuit of the mission.

Gilbert said Barbour is a great ambassador for the organization.

“This milestone is significant to Habitat because Marti’s purchase of the home by paying off the loan is true, ultimate homeownership,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork has gone on to complete 35 homes in the Roaring Fork and lower Colorado River valleys. Of those, 14 are in the Roaring Fork Valley and 22 more units will be phased in at its latest project, Basalt Vista. The project is a collaboration with the Roaring Fork School District, which provided the land, and Pitkin County, which provided some of the funding.

Barbour said there is serendipity in the fact that she paid off her loan at a time when Habitat is building a project to benefit teachers and other school district employees. She was an employee of Basalt High School when she received her Habitat house.

“It feels wonderful to pass the baton and welcome and congratulate the new Basalt Habitat-Roaring Fork School District families,” she said.


Teen’s long-postponed hearing set for August

A hearing to determine whether a Woody Creek teen will be tried as an adult or a juvenile for his alleged role in sexually assaulting four local girls is scheduled to occur in about two weeks.

Lawyers for both sides of the case appeared in Pitkin County District Court on Monday in an effort to hammer out any remaining legal issues before the relatively unusual hearing — known as a “reverse transfer” — takes place Aug 1 and 2. During that proceeding, District Judge Chris Seldin will decide whether the teenager will be tried as an adult or a juvenile.

The teen is charged as an adult with sexually assaulting three high school girls and as a juvenile in a fourth case involving another girl who is now 8, though he is alleged to have assaulted the child three years ago. The Aspen Times is not naming him pending the outcome of the reverse transfer hearing because he was 17 when he was first charged, though he has since turned 18.

The reverse transfer hearing has been rescheduled several times since the teen was first charged in October.

During the teen’s last court appearance in May, prosecutor Don Nottingham outlined a plea agreement that would have made him a free man in 20 years. The offer was supposed to be good through July 15, though the teen’s lawyer, Trent Trani, said the offer was “technically” still on the table as of Monday.

Guides: Best part of local rafting season starting this week

Glenwood Springs commercial rafting companies continue to receive calls from concerned residents and tourists about whether or not they should still plan a trip.

“‘Am I going to return from this trip? I have seen some really bad press,’” Whitewater Rafting LLC partner Phoebe Larsson said of what those phone calls sound like. “Many of our phone calls are talking people off the ledge.”

With headlines across the state calling 2019 “one of Colorado’s deadliest rafting years,” local rafting companies hope to set their own safety records straight.

“Fortunately, in this section of the Colorado, Glenwood is that wonderful destination for the family-friendly rafting even when the Arkansas and Clear Creek and other rivers are running really intensely,” Larsson explained.


During the summer, Whitewater Rafting takes as many as 400 rafters daily onto the Colorado River and remains in constant communication with other local commercial rafting companies.

Fourteen rafting companies hold permits with the U.S. Forest Service for the Shoshone and Grizzly Creek sections. Known collectively as the Shoshone Partnership, the cooperative allows local rafting companies to connect about water levels and potential hazards.

“Through that cooperation, but also directly company-to-company, we are able to quickly adapt or adjust trips,” Blue Sky Adventures co-owner Patrick Drake said. “It is a daily routine watching water pretty consistently and then being able to make an appropriate decision for where we can offer that family-oriented trip.

Typically, those family-oriented trips include Class II and Class III rapids.

The International Scale of River Difficulty describes Class II rapids as novice and “straightforward” with “wide, clear channels.” The American Whitewater Association, which developed the scale, designates Class III rapids as intermediate with “moderate, irregular waves.”

Six classifications of rapids exist with Class I featuring “riffles and small waves,” and Class VI being “almost never attempted” due to “unpredictability,” “danger” and rescue being in many cases impossible.

“People do respect water levels, and they should,” Drake explained. “Now that we are at a time of year where waters are receding and hitting those more average flows we expect the best part of our season to start this week and really run through late August.”

Defiance Rafting Co. co-owner Gregory Cowan said that context was key when discussing river conditions as it pertained to whitewater rafting.

“There is kind of a tendency to lump an instance or a particular stretch of whitewater and make it applicable to all,” Cowan said. “We are very fortunate where we are to have a really accessible stretch of whitewater.”

From a bucket list experience to a multi-generational family rafting trip, the three local companies agreed that they could provide both — and above all else — safely.

“What’s nice is we can do these things, we can get playful out there and do so in a way that is still safe,” Cowan said.

Added Larsson, “We all work together. And once you’re on the river it’s one river community. If one person needs help, we are all there to help one another.”


Personal Finance column: Motivation can change on a dime

We looked at the weather app and saw a three-hour window to get our bike ride in with only a 20% chance of rain. With the early summer weather being less than conducive for weekend riding, we enthusiastically grabbed the opportunity. Exercise, enjoying the beautiful day, some time at Strawberry Days, running into friends all sounded like good motivation to get out on our bikes.

Enjoying the ride

Mark and I geared up and headed toward Glenwood Canyon, knowing we would have to turn around where the Colorado was up and over the bike path. A light sprinkle greeted us at Grizzly Creek, refreshing as we pressed on up toward Shoshone. Rain clouds and blue moved quickly across the sky. We stopped to look at familiar boating territory raging with this season’s snow melt. We watched a hard-working marmot with a mouth full of nest fodder. A guiding mantra in my life is: “It’s what you make of the journey, not the destination.” Yes, we were getting exercise, but really enjoying the ride.

Coming back towards town, a sheet of rain was visibly coming up through the canyon, and we were headed straight toward it. Should we turn around and hold up at the Grizzly rest stop? Will it dissipate before we get to it? Questions ran through my head to discern a decision as I pedaled. I was ahead, and I thought, “Maybe it won’t be too rough; let’s press on.”

As the downpour started, we rode on alongside the kayakers in the water. I thought, “Well, a little more water doesn’t matter much to them.” The cold pellets of water hit hard. While my sunglasses protected my eyes, my vision was blurred as water covered the lenses.

We decided to take refuge. Jumping off the path, we carried the bikes and traipsed through the mud to get under the l-70 overhang. The wall of water subsided in about seven minutes, and the sun followed. We spent a few minutes walking through some big puddles to get the mud off our shoes and bikes.

I peeled a wet layer of clothing off, and we headed towards town enjoying the warmth of the sun. Stomachs growling, we were anticipating some well-earned “fair food” as we got close to Sayre Park. Then we looked west. We pulled out the weather app, and the rain potential had increased to 40%. The ominous black clouds were making their way towards town. I did not see any sun peeking through them.

Shifting gears

After what we had just experienced in the canyon, we decided to head towards home, knowing it would take another half hour to get up valley.

My motivation for the ride had changed. What started out as enjoying the beauty of this place we call home, getting some exercise, spending time with my husband and savoring fun food, shifted dramatically. Now, I wanted to get home, to the safety of a roof over my head before we got drenched to the bone. I didn’t want to ride and deal with dangerous conditions.

The wind picked up as a strong headwind instead of tailwind. The bike path was wet from a previous downpour. We rode hard. My husband is a stronger rider, and I pushed myself to keep up. Occasionally looking over to the west, the whole sky was consumed with dark, pregnant clouds.

We pulled into our driveway, put the bikes away in the garage, and before I could pour a glass of water, to ebb my thirst, the hail storm started. Followed by about a half hour of hard rain and wind, I was so grateful to be home.

What motivates you?

Can you see the analogies of my changing motivation on this simple bike ride to your financial journey heading toward or into retirement? What is your motivation for looking at the tools, techniques and temperaments that you will utilize during your fall season of life? What joys do you want to experience? What clouds do you see on the horizon that may impact your experience? What do you want to do to navigate the terrain as best possible, knowing there are things both within and outside of your control?

Danielle Howard is a CFP® and CKA® with Wealth By Design LLC in Basalt. Check out her retirement podcasts and blogs at daniellehoward4u.com.

Property values up, especially in west Garfield

Western Garfield County residents have seen big property value increases in the past year, according to the county assessor’s biennial valuation.

“Carbondale, Glenwood, even New Castle hovered around an average 10 percent increase” in home value, said Jim Yellico, Garfield County assessor.

“Silt down to Parachute, it was closer to 20 percent increase in their value,” Yellico said.

Such dramatic increases in value haven’t been seen in that part of the county since the recession, Yellico said.

Between the higher residential value and voter-approved property taxes, the total property tax bill will also likely increase.

Yellico and his staff of 17 have been working on value assessments for the past two years — and many have already started working on the 2021 cycle.

Property owners received updated valuations in May, and had until June 3 to file a protest. Yellico is pleased at the low number of protests his office received.

“We had between 27,000 and 28,000 parcels to send notice of valuations out to. From all those new values, we had 774 protests sent back; that’s less than 3 percent,” Yellico told the Garfield County commissioners Monday.

The total preliminary value of the property in Garfield County — including residential, industrial, commercial, agricultural and oil and gas lands — comes to $2.5 billion.

A big part of the increase was from the real property, everything besides oil and gas, which increased 10 percent, from $931 million to $1.27 this year.

Property value is measured by approved home sales — which excludes things like foreclosure auctions and transfer of homes within families.

Residential property value increases alone doesn’t mean higher property taxes.

But when combined with mill levy overrides and a small decrease in the state-determined assessment rate, many areas could see a higher property tax bill.

This year, the state is likely to lower the assessment rate slightly, from 7.2 to 7.15 percent, which is not a dramatic amount.

The Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado constitution fixed all the rates except for residential, which is updated by the state every other year.

Late in 2018, the Colorado Legislative Council said it anticipated the assessment rate to drop to 6.11 percent, but that was before oil and gas companies delivered their valuations, Yellico said.

The negligible 0.05 percent reduction to the assessment rate is likely due to oil and gas miniboom on the Front Range.

“The increase in oil and gas valuations, mostly in the Weld County area, kept the assessment rate from going down much,” Yellico said.

Commercial assessment rates are fixed at 29 percent, but the residential rate changes to keep the percentage of property taxes homeowners pay even with what businesses contribute.

As housing in Colorado boomed, however, the assessment rate dropped dramatically, and many expected the 2019 reassessment to drop again, which could have decreased property tax bills and, consequently, reduced revenue for some taxing entities.


Glenwood prosecutor wins award for welfare fraud trial

Glenwood Springs native Zachary Parsons was recently awarded the 2019 State of Colorado Welfare Fraud Council Prosecutor of the Year for his work with the 9th District Attorney’s Office. 

According to a press release from the DA’s Office, Parsons received the award for his work on a complex Medicaid fraud prosecution case, in which a jury found the accused guilty of theft between $20,000 and $100,000.

The Garfield County Department of Human Services nominated Parsons for the award, noting his diligence and close working relationship with fraud investigators.

“Parsons and the Department of Human Services investigator’s excellent teamwork leading up to and during a five-day jury trial resulted in successful prosecution of the crimes of theft of limited and valuable hard-earned tax payer funds,” according to the release.

Parsons is a deputy district attorney in District Court for the 9th Judicial District. He grew up in Glenwood Springs. 

“Parsons is an integral member of the District Attorney’s Office and a valuable member of our local community as a volunteer coach for the Glenwood Spring High School’s Mock Trial Team, and a local rafter,” according to the release.

The Colorado Welfare Fraud Council is a nonprofit organization of public employees that works to detect and prevent fraud in public assistance programs.

Sen. Gardner announces move of largest U.S. land agency to Grand Junction

DENVER (AP) — The Trump administration will move the headquarters of the U.S. government’s largest land agency from Washington to western Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado, said Monday.

Gardner said the Bureau of Land Management’s headquarters will move to Grand Junction, but he did not say when the move would occur.

An agency spokeswoman in Washington said she couldn’t confirm or deny the move. She declined to give her name.

Moving the headquarters to a Western state is a key part of the Trump administration’s plan to reorganize the Interior Department, the parent agency of the Bureau of Land Management.

Sen. Cory Gardner

Interior Department officials have said they were considering Grand Junction as well as Denver; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; and Salt Lake City for the new headquarters.

Grand Junction, located 87 miles west of Glenwood Springs, has a population of about 63,000 people.

The Bureau of Land Management oversees nearly 388,000 square miles of public land, and 99% is in 12 Western states.

Gardner and other Western politicians have long argued the agency headquarters should be closer to the land it manages.

“The problem with Washington is too many policy makers are far removed from the people they are there to serve,” Gardner said in a news release. “This is a victory for local communities, advocates for public lands and proponents for a more responsible and accountable federal government.”

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, attacked the move and noted that Grand Junction is not far from Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s hometown of Rifle, Colorado.

“Putting BLM headquarters down the road from Secretary Bernhardt’s home town just makes it easier for special interests to walk in the door demanding favors without congressional oversight or accountability,” Grijalva said. “The BLM officials based in Washington are here to work directly with Congress and their federal colleagues, and that function is going to take a permanent hit if this move goes forward.”

About 400 of the bureau’s 9,000 employees are in Washington. The rest are scattered among 140 state, district or field offices.

Grijalva said he suspects the bureau’s true motive is to force out some employees who would not be willing to move.

The Interior Department has previously denied that was a reason for the move.

Most serious drug count dropped against Lipseys

An Aspen prosecutor dropped a bombshell in court Monday morning in the case against two Aspen parents accused of giving cocaine to a 17-year-old.

Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham said he would drop the most serious charge of distribution of cocaine to a minor filed against both Joseph Lipsey III, 56, and his wife, Shira Lipsey, 44, because there’s not enough evidence to support it. The charge would have carried a mandatory minimum prison term of eight years upon conviction and a maximum of 32 years.

“(The) investigation has been somewhat stymied,” Nottingham said. “At this moment, there’s not a reasonable chance of success at trial with the details we now have on that count.”

Nottingham said he will file a motion to dismiss the cocaine distribution charges against the Lipseys by next week. Charges filed against the couple’s son, Joseph Lipsey IV, 19, did not change Monday, though he was not facing the severe penalties his parents faced. 

Shira Lipsey and and son Joseph Lipsey IV.
File photos

“When this case broke all over the media was that the Lipseys are drug dealers,” said Yale Galanter, Joseph Lipsey III’s lawyer and the lead attorney in the case against the family. “Today …  (the prosecutor) agreed to dismiss (the cocaine distribution charge) indicating they are not.”

The development “totally changes the complexion of the case,” Galanter said. 

“They were looking at a minimum mandatory eight years in prison,” he said. “Now they’re looking at probation. It’s huge.”

Galanter praised Nottingham for taking a close look at the case and making an honest assessment of the facts Monday. He also said he’d like to revisit the $100,000 in cash each Lipsey posted as bond in order to be released from the Pitkin County Jail in March. 

Joseph Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey still each face three felony counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and three misdemeanor counts of serving alcohol to minors.

Joseph Lipsey IV, who was also in court with his parents Monday, has been charged with two counts of felony distribution of drugs, felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor, four counts of possession of a controlled substance and other misdemeanor charges. He also is facing two counts of felony vehicular assault after crashing his parents’ Tesla with four other teenagers in the car in November. 

At least 13 people have died on Colorado’s rivers and reservoirs this year amid fierce runoff

At least 13 people have died on Colorado’s streams, rivers and waterways amid this year’s fierce runoff season.

Authorities and weather forecasters have been warning the public to use extra caution when traversing swollen waterways. Three people have died on the Arkansas River, making it the deadliest stretch of water in the state to date.

Three more people are missing after accidents on rivers.

“Rivers and streams will continue to run high,” the National Weather Service said in a Western Slope bulletin released Monday.

The Colorado Sun is tracking the deaths to better understand where and how they happen.

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

The Colorado Sun is a reader-supported news organization dedicated to covering the people, places and policies that matter in Colorado. Read more, sign up for free newsletters and subscribe at coloradosun.com.

Suspects in Edwards bank robberies announced engagement before alleged crime binge

The FBI didn’t have much trouble finding the woman suspected of trying to rob two banks in the Edwards Riverwalk on May 1.

Karen Sophia Hyatt, 33, was in the Adams County jail for drug possession and ID theft. When she posted her $2,500 bond on June 25, FBI agents grabbed her on bank robbery charges, the Adams County Sheriff’s Office said.

The FBI says Hyatt and Craig “Lucky” Dickson, the other suspect in the Edwards incidents, announced their engagement on April 8, 2019, in a Facebook post, then took part in five bank robberies in the next 30 days.

The FBI checked Hyatt’s and Dickson’s cell phone records and found that they were together — as engaged people like to be — at the scene when banks were robbed in Denver, Boulder, Centennial and on May 1 in Edwards, where Hyatt is suspected of asking tellers at Wells Fargo and US Bank for money with a hand-written note, according to an FBI arrest affidavit.

Photo from the bank security footage.
Courtesy Eagle County Sheriff Office

“Based on their intimate relationship and past associations, it is reasonable to believe they would be traveling in each other’s company,” the FBI’s arrest affidavit said.

Bank security photos matched photos on their Facebook pages, as well as their criminal mugshots, the FBI said.

Then there were the eyewitnesses. Metro Denver Crimestoppers received three anonymous calls from witnesses all independently naming Karen Sophia Hyatt as the Edwards bank robber, the FBI said.

As for the Edwards bank robberies, Hyatt got away with $9,734 in cash from Wells Fargo, the FBI said.

The tellers in the Edwards US Bank branch did not understand what Hyatt wanted. When they took longer to respond than she wanted, Hyatt snatched back the note and left the bank with nothing, the FBI said.

If convicted, Hyatt faces 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

Crime spree started at 4:20

The alleged spree started at 4:20 p.m. Friday, April 12, when Denver police officers were called to the TCF Bank on Broadway for a bank robbery in progress.

The teller told officers a man was waiting in line. When it was his turn he did not speak, but handed over a note saying, “Give me all the money in your drawer, I need all the $50s and $100s. No GPS,” according to the FBI.

The teller was frightened and handed over all the money in her drawer, which included a covert tracking bundle, the FBI said.

The robber again told the teller, “I need the $50s and $100s.”

When the teller told the robber that was all the money, he more forcefully repeated, “I need all the $50s and $100s.” The teller opened a bottom drawer, took out some large-bill currency and handed it over, the FBI said.

The robber quickly left the bank and fled on foot with $1,304 in cash … and the covert GPS tracker. The robber apparently disabled the tracker, but hung onto it, and was picked up by an accomplice driving a dark blue Chevy Malibu.

A witness showed police a phone the robber might have dropped while fleeing the scene. When the FBI searched it, agents found several selfie photos, which Denver police checked against their criminal mug shots and social media.

Another quick check found that the phone had been used for web searches about “bank robbery,” the FBI said.

That phone was used to contact Dickson and a female the FBI later determined was Hyatt. Communications on that phone continued up to the minutes prior to that April 12 robbery in Denver, the FBI said. Among them are indications that Dickson is a member of the 211 Gang, a white supremacist prison gang, and had spent some time in a Colorado prison. Dickson’s criminal history includes drug distribution, robbery, kidnapping, motor vehicle theft, eluding police and burglary.

The FBI says security photos from a Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Boulder bank robbery indicate that that the perpetrator was likely Dickson, and that he might have used makeup to cover his neck tattoos.

Two Edwards bank jobs

The FBI says it appears Hyatt and Dickson ventured away from the Denver Metro area and into the mountains on May 1 for the two bank robberies in the Edwards Riverwalk at Wells Fargo and the US Bank.

A female, whom the FBI says was Hyatt, entered both banks about three minutes apart and handed tellers a robbery note demanding cash.

The Wells Fargo robbery was successful and Hyatt left with $9,734 in cash, the FBI said.

The US Bank robbery was not, the FBI affidavit said. The tellers were confused, so Hyatt snatched back the note and fled on foot.

Hyatt appears on the Wells Fargo security camera footage at 9:02 a.m. May 1, and on the US Bank security camera at 9:05 a.m.

“Hyatt’s most recent mug photo, taken March 3, 2019, bears a strong resemblance to the robber in the Wells Fargo Bank photographs,” the FBI said.

The FBI says Hyatt is a multi-state offender with arrests for things like possession of burglary tools, motor vehicle theft, vehicular eluding and drug possession.

Her attorney, Richard Stuckey, appointed in June to represent Hyatt, did not respond to requests for comment.