| PostIndependent.com

Holy Cross expanding solar holdings, including plans for new photovoltaic array at CMC-Spring Valley campus

Glenwood Springs-based electric cooperative Holy Cross Energy has taken two major steps recently to expand its solar generation capacity and further its renewable energy goals.

On Tuesday, Colorado Mountain College Trustees gave final conditional approval to a land lease for Holy Cross to build a 4.5-megawatt photovoltaic solar generation array at the college’s Spring Valley campus.

Also this week, Holy Cross (HCE) announced that it has completed the purchase of three existing community solar arrays from Clean Energy Collective (CEC) that are already connected to HCE’s electric distribution system.

The CEC projects were developed over the past nine years, including one located at the west end of the Rifle-Garfield County Airport, the Sunnyside facility east of Carbondale and another one near El Jebel, said Steve Beuning, vice president of power supply and programs for HCE.

A newer section of the Rifle facility will remain in CEC’s hands for now, since the tax credits used to develop it have not yet expired, Beuning explained.

CEC has been one of the primary developers of solar electric generation facilities in Garfield County and the Roaring Fork Valley, working in partnership with HCE.

Recently, though, CEC decided to exit the power supply business, driven by changes in its business conditions and tax policy landscape, according to a Holy Cross news release.

HCE offered to purchase the company’s assets for the benefit of its 230 cooperative members, who have participated by owning one or more panels as part of HCE’s Community Solar program.

HCE members own the solar panels on the arrays while HCE now owns the infrastructure. The electricity produced from the arrays is sold to HCE.

“This purchase will allow HCE to continue to provide clean energy to CEC solar energy customers from the three community solar arrays within HCE territory,” the release stated. “Revenues from the power sales provide credits to participating members, which help to offset their power costs.”

Meanwhile, the CMC-Spring Valley lease involves a partnership with Ameresco Solar to lease about 22 acres of campus property south of the disc golf course for Ameresco to construct a solar facility. It would then sell the generated power to Hoy Cross.

The CMC project helps to further HCE’s goal to achieve 70% of its generating capacity from renewable energy sources, and also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 70% by 2030, Beuning said. 

It also benefits CMC by allowing the college to build up Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to offset its electric utility costs, he said.

“CMC will be able to demonstrate an offset up to 100 percent renewable energy, and if it produces more than that, which we think it will, there will be additional benefits to all Holy Cross members,” Beuning said.

That fits in with CMC’s own “climate commitment” to be completely carbon neutral by 2050, said Sean Nesbitt, director of facilities for CMC.

CMC has smaller solar gardens in Leadville and Rifle, and rooftop arrays in Aspen and Breckenridge, Nesbitt said.

“But those don’t give us RECs,” he said. “This will be the first opportunity to qualify for RECs without costing the college any money, because we’re bringing in an outside developer to build it.”

If those credits extend beyond Spring Valley electricity needs, it then benefit’s CMC’s Aspen and Edwards campuses, which also are located within the Holy Cross service area.

That’s a good likelihood, since Spring Valley typically uses about 1.3 megawatts of electricity in a year, and the new solar facility is expected to generate 4.5 megawatts. The facility is also to have a 5-megawatt battery storage system, Beuning said.

Over the past year, Holy Cross has issued requests for additional supplies of renewable energy, and received 51 offers for more than 500 megawatts.

“That’s way more than we could use,” Beuning said, but goes to show the abundance of renewable energy potential in the region.

“We are in negotiations with developers for projects totaling about 100 megawatts of total supply,” one of those sources being the CMC project, he said.

Holy Cross also has wind power supplies from facilities on Colorado’s eastern plains, Beuning said.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Two pot shop applications working through the system

Glenwood Springs City Council took a look at a couple of marijuana shop permit applications at its regular meeting on Oct. 15.

Kind Castle

Chris Hawkins of Alpine Planning asked council to determine whether a special use permit application from Kind Castle to open a retail marijuana shop at 2114 Grand Ave. is “substantially” different from a previous application from Kind Castle at the same location.

On June 18, council voted 5-2 to deny the previous application after a 7-0 recommendation for denial from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

City code states that “Following denial of an application, the decision-making body shall not decide on applications that are the same or substantially similar within one year of the previous denial.”

Councilor Charlie Willman, himself a lawyer, asked city attorney Karl Hanlon what “substantial” means.

Hanlon replied, “A substantial and material change to the application is what council determines is a substantial and material change to the application.”

Hawkins’ presentation listed 10 ways in which this application differed from the previous one.

Foremost is the business would occupy all three units of the building, for 2,989 square feet, where the previous application was for retail in one unit for 779 square feet.

Having one tenant addresses concerns expressed during the previous application process, including parking problems, Hawkins said, which Councilor Shelley Kaup said was the reason she voted for denial last time.

Other changes, according to Hawkins, include: the Stinker gas station agreeing to allow shared access between the properties; enhanced odor mitigation; signed affidavits of support from residents living above the business; reduced trips to the property by elimination of the previous barber and frame shops; elimination of the Cedar Lodge pole sign; and a promise from the applicant to spruce up the property within a year of approval.

Haley Carmer of Garfield & Hecht spoke during public comment representing Cedar Lodge Motel. She said that there is nothing materially different in this application, the increased retail space increases the potential for odor issues, and she wasn’t convinced that parking problems are solved.

Mayor Jonathan Godes was concerned about the timing of the application as the Planning and Zoning Commission is reviewing marijuana regulations.

“As long as we received and deemed complete an application … we would process that application even as we’re considering code amendments for this specific use,” city planner Trent Hyatt said.

Councilor Steve Davis said that the application meets the requirements of being materially different.

“There is a substantial change. The substantial change is they are the sole occupant of that facility now, and they will be in complete control of that parking lot,” he said, moving to allow the application to go through the permitting process. Kaup seconded.

Councilor Tony Hershey said he did not see it that way.

“I agree with Haley. … This is the same project, and I don’t see a substantial change,” he said.

The motion passed 4-1 with Hershey opposed. Councilor Paula Stepp was absent.

Martin’s Natural Medicinals

An application for Martin’s Natural Medicinals was fairly straightforward. 

Martin’s is proposing to take over a former convenience store at 23 Mel Ray Road after the location of the store on Sixth Street sold.

Hyatt’s presentation demonstrated how the proposed Martin’s Medicinals location meets all review criteria. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval 5-0, and city staff also recommend approval.

With no discussion, council voted unanimously to continue the discussion to the Nov. 5 meeting. City attorney Karl Hanlon explained that this is the procedure for planning items heard remotely to allow the public time to comment should there be problems trying to comment online.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Aspen Skiing Co. experiencing no problem finding job applicants during pandemic

There are plenty of challenges for Aspen Skiing Co. in operating this winter amid a pandemic, but finding enough employees is not one of them.

The number of individual applicants is up 70% at this point over last year, and last year was the previous record, Caleb Sample, Skico’s director of talent acquisition, said this week. Some of the increase is because the company streamlined its online application process, but mostly it’s because people want access to the great outdoors.

“Folks are wanting to come to the mountains,” he said.

The quality of the candidates is also high. He said applicants are often over-qualified for positions. It hearkens back to the days when chances were good a lift operator or a waiter had a master’s degree.

Sample said there has been a surge of applications from college students who aren’t sure they are getting the bang for their buck this year from remote learning or feel the risks of being on campus aren’t worth it, so they’re taking a gap year.

“They’re chasing us down,” he said. “People’s drive and desire is much higher. They need a job this time around.”

In many cases, the job hunters have a connection to Aspen. They visited before with their families or they’ve aspired to visit the resort town they have heard so much about. Now, they are taking the opportunity.

Skico typically needs to fill about 1,200 seasonal positions going into each winter, Sample said. The company employees between 4,200 and 4,500 workers at peak season. The figure changes year to year depending on the strength of the economy, snow conditions and other factors. Returning workers who are residents of the Roaring Fork Valley fill most of the positions.

Skico CEO Mike Kaplan said last month the surge in applicants is “not that surprising given levels of unemployment in the country.”

For seasonal workers, finding housing is proving to be a bigger challenge than ever, Sample said. Skico has between 750 and 800 beds between its own housing inventory and master leases it has signed. Skico’s new affordable-housing complex at Willits Town Center won’t be finished until spring.

After consulting with public health experts, the company is taking a different tactic with housing this year. Employees of a specific department, such as lifties, won’t be housed together. “Basically, the professional advice is, if you work together, you can’t live together,” Sample said.

Skico is also splitting up specific groups of friends into different departments as part of its strategy.

Sample said Skico is in good shape filling positions at this point, but there will inevitably be openings to fill throughout the season. Workers leave for a variety of reasons during the season.

Some workers, especially older ones, have expressed concerns about “guest-facing roles,” but most fears have eased once prospective employees learn about Skico’s efforts to keep staff and visitors safe, Sample said.

One change has been fewer face-to-face guest service workers, such as ticket office personnel. Instead, Skico is hiring more service workers who interact with customers by phone on ski pass and lift ticket sales as well as trip planning.

“It changes the mix of employees,” Sample said.

He believes some of the rearrangement is permanent.

“The pandemic is the catalyst to speed some of this up,” he said.

A federal restriction on J-1 and H2-B visas for foreign workers hasn’t proven to put Skico in a bind. President Donald Trump eliminated the programs, but a California court recently overturned the decision. Sample says it is mainly a moot point. Many countries have travel restrictions that prohibit workers from coming for the winter anyway because of the pandemic.

The surge in applications has also come without the benefit of job fairs. They were eliminated because of social distancing requirements. Skico will also hold training sessions online and will eliminate a preseason gathering held annually to fire up employees.

The company’s minimum wage remains at $15 this season, though many employees make more.

Glenwood Springs City Council takes steps to help local businesses

Glenwood Springs City Council took a couple of steps Thursday night designed to help local businesses through the winter.

Council voted to allow alcohol consumption in designated areas in the city and to extend the suspension of sign code regulations indefinitely.

In keeping with Gov. Jared Polis’ entreaty for municipalities to find ways to help restaurants during the winter, city staff drafted an ordinance allowing city manager Debra Figueroa to temporarily allow the consumption of alcohol in designated public areas within the General Improvement District.

The intention of the alcohol ordinance is to allow the establishment of communal dining areas where customers could take to-go food and drink as an alternative to inside dining. 

Two examples of where these areas could be set up are under the Grand Avenue Bridge or in the garden area next to the pedestrian bridge, according to the staff report prepared for the council packet. 

Councilors were receptive to the idea, only to up the ante, deciding that the entire city should be fair game, not just the General Improvement District, which is generally downtown on the south side of the Colorado River.

Councilor Shelley Kaup said that growing up in New Orleans she’s accustomed to less restrictions on the consumption of alcohol.

“I’m comfortable if anyone else on council is to open it up to the whole city,” she said.

Councilor Charlie Willman made the motion to pass the ordinance applicable to the entire city, with Councilor Steve Davis seconding. The motion passed unanimously with Councilor Paula Stepp absent.

Staff will still need to work with restaurants and the Downtown Development Authority to determine how to properly keep those areas clean and regularly disinfected, the staff report said. 

Earlier in the summer, council passed Resolution 2020-24 to suspend sign code regulations until the end of October. The idea was to allow businesses a little more opportunity to advertise themselves during the pandemic than would normally be allowed.

Assistant city manager Jenn Ooton said in a follow-up email that a couple of examples of businesses taking advantage of the relaxed regulations are Hookers at 719 Grand Ave., which had a banner for their business and a banner thanking firefighters, when normally only one banner would be allowed; and Jimmy John’s using smaller campaign-style signs.

City attorney Karl Hanlon explained to council that Resolution 2020-32 is the same as the previous one except it doesn’t have an expiration date.

Mayor Jonathan Godes reiterated his concern form the Oct. 1 council meeting that the city could see large campaign signs.

Hanlon, who is running against Bob Rankin for state senate, said that so far in the current election season there have been no problems with outsized campaign signs.

Davis moved to adopt the resolution with Councilor Tony Hershey seconding, and the motion passed unanimously.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Bankers’ Hours column: Big banks make more loans, small ones give you more attention

Banks of all sizes chase the same deposit dollars, the wholesale commodity that’s turned into loans and other assets, and the pursuit takes place on the same playing field, whichever way it’s tipped: It’s never level.

But the face of competition changes on the retail side, when that raw cash is marketed as various loan products. This is because all banks will take money from anybody (except known criminals). It’s different when wholesale dollars (deposits) turn into loans and other investments. Much of this is due to exigencies of banking regulation.

A primary reg of banking relates to a bank’s lending limit for any given loan it makes, the so-called Loan to One Borrower rule. Being a formal regulation, there are nuances to it, but, simply stated, it says that a federally insured financial institution can’t make a loan to one borrower in excess of 15% of that bank’s net worth. This is an oversimplification, but if a bank CEO keeps just this basic definition in mind, he or she will probably stay out of trouble — or jail. The rule is integral to the activity, like “green side up” in landscaping.

Let’s apply this rule to our fictional bank, the Second National Bank, in our imaginary town, Downriver, Montana, which we’ve mentioned before. A bank’s net worth, on which that 15% number is based, is the difference between its assets and liabilities, the latter being deposits, which are borrowings from the public, and other loans, probably from a central banking operation like the Federal Home Loan Bank.

To continue operation without regulatory restrictions, a bank should be classified as “well capitalized” by regulators, with a net worth — “capitalization” — of at least 8% of total assets (total assets are generally referred to as “size” in banking parlance). If they can, institutions like to round that number up to 10%. Say that Second National is $200 million in size, then management would like capital, net worth, to be 10%, or $20 million. Consequently, that bank’s lending limit, the maximum loan to one borrower, is just $3 million dollars: 15% of $20 million.

Now, even though one of the TBTFs (Too Big to Fails) might fight head to head with Second National for consumer deposits, it’s a whole different world on the lending side. There are four U.S. banks that are over $1 trillion in size, and a lot more that are a lot of billions big. These operations have lending centers all over the world, making scores of $3 million dollar loans every day. It’s just another day at a lot of offices for Chase. Imagine what 15% of 10% of $1 trillion is. (You’ll have to imagine it. Neither my calculator or brain can accommodate that number.)

But that $3 million deal is a big deal for Downriver’s home town bank. Maybe an entrepreneur walks in to the Second National lobby with a proposal to build a 10-unit townhome project needing, say, a $2.8 million construction loan. He or she may talk to the bank’s CEO right off the bat. Or maybe the chief credit officer picks up the ball. Either way, if the deal looks like a keeper, the president will see the package early, and ride herd on it until it gets to the loan committee.

Which illustrates one of the fundamentals of banking: You won’t get a better rate or terms on a loan at a small bank, but you’ll get a lot more attention. Sure, a big organization and a small one make many of the same kinds of loans — car loans, home loans, small business loans, home equity loans — but, in the instance of the lightweight, 100 home loans is a business line. To the heavyweight, maybe a nanosecond of production in banking time.

When it comes to deposits, everybody feeds at the same trough. But, if you’re a borrower, it’s probably a good idea to get selective in picking a lender.

Pat Dalrymple is a western Colorado native and has spent more than 50 years in mortgage lending and banking in the Roaring Fork Valley. He’ll be happy to answer your questions or hear your comments. His e-mail is pdalrymple59@gmail.com.

Following an intense fire season, what’s next for Glenwood Springs’ airport?

In terms of news, the Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport has been getting a lot of air time lately.

It was used as a helibase during the Grizzly Creek Fire. It’s been the subject of a study last year and one this year. And it is on the path of the South Bridge project.

There have been varying opinions over the years about the best use of 63 acres of city-owned land and the airport’s value to the community.

“Regardless of what the future holds for the airport the community and the Roaring Fork Valley need to ensure that we are always able to have access to an area [from which] we can stage emergency personnel, where Flight For Life can refuel, and helicopters can stage from when the next wildfire happens,” said Mayor Jonathan Godes, who is also the council liaison to the city Airport Commission.

Classic Air Medical has been staging medical helicopters out of the airport since 2016.

Local users

The airport doesn’t get a lot of use by locals.

City engineer Terri Partch determined that there are 29 long-term users of Glenwood’s airport based on hangar leases, long-term (a month or more) tie-down fees and yearly off-airport user fees. 

Very few live in Glenwood.

“Of the 29 long-term users, nine of them reside in Glenwood Springs,” Partch said in an email.

Budget

The airport is a city enterprise fund, meaning it receives no money from the city and is intended to meet its costs from fuel sales, leases and fees. 

Fuel revenues and expenditures are relatively stable, but the Grizzly Creek Fire changed that for 2020.

The original budget forecast for the fund was a decrease of about $14,000, largely attributable to another $11,000 going towards a fuel pedestal.

Because of fire operations at the airport, the current projection is an increase of about $56,000. Such an influx of money from fire operations is atypical.

“Fire operations added that revenue, and, yes, it is unusual,” city COO Steve Boyd said in an email.

A better comparison for estimating next year is looking back to 2019 revenues and expenditures. Fuel sales are the largest item on the revenue side — $151,812 in 2019 and estimated to be about the same in 2021.

The largest expense is purchasing that fuel, $110,871 in 2019 and estimated to be $135,000 in 2021.

That $25,000 change in fuel costs is responsible for about half of a projected decrease in the Airport Fund balance at the end of 2021. Another $25,000 in 2021 is going to construction of a fuel pedestal.

Helibase

The airport was used as a helibase for fighting the Grizzly Creek Fire between Aug. 14 and Sept. 1, and it was shut down for two weeks of that time, interim airport manager Tim Hasselmann said.

Greg Rippy, chairman of the city Airport Commission and a pilot, said in August that the commission and the airport manager agreed to close the airport to users to help with fire protection. 

“While it’s an inconvenience to the airport users … it’s still a matter of community. What’s more important: being able to fly your aircraft exactly when you want to or doing the best that we can to save Glenwood Canyon” and structures in various places. “It’s a minor sacrifice,” Rippy said.

Airport officials did want to recoup lost revenue, though.

“It’s not about how are we going to make money off this, it’s how can we be made whole. … We don’t want to make money off a crisis,” Rippy said.

Rippy said the Glenwood airport is unique in its ability to serve as an airbase. 

“You can see that [the airport has] got 3,000 feet of runway to be able to stage nine helicopters. You can’t do that anywhere else. You can’t take a baseball field, you can’t take a hay field, because we’ve got hard surface here for them,” Rippy said.

Eagle and Rifle airports are too busy with other operations, he said.

Statistics provided by Hasselmann show that during helibase operations, helicopters carried 50,010 pounds of cargo, 224,600 gallons of fire retardant and 1.4 million gallons of water.

South Bridge

The city is making steps toward the eventual construction of South Bridge, a route heading south near the airport and crossing the Roaring Fork River to connect with Highway 82.

“South Bridge is on the verge of being signed by [the Colorado Department of Transportation] and [the Federal Highway Administration]. … That will be a huge milestone in the South Bridge project,” Partch said at the Oct. 1 City Council meeting.

After years of study, the chosen route — modified preferred alternative 10b — cuts across the southern tip of the runway. 

Or under it. The plan includes a tunnel running underneath that portion of runway.

City engineer Terri Partch says the current estimate for the entire project is $48 million, of which $6.2 million would go to the tunnel.

“Eliminating the tunnel would save money,” Partch said.

It would also shorten the runway, which a recent study found to be too short to meet state objectives.

CDOT study

CDOT’s Division of Aeronautics included Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport in its 2020 Colorado Aviation System Plan.

The study included a “report card.”

“The report cards analyze how each airport meets the facility and service objectives established based on the role/classification of each airport in the system. This will be used by CDOT as airports ask for state funding for various projects,” Pam Keidel-Adams, project manager for consultant Kimley-Horn, said in an email.

The runway’s 3,305 feet did not meet the 2020 objective, though a specific desired length for Glenwood’s airport was not given.

The airport failed to meet objectives in more categories than it met them, including runway width, runway strength, runway markings, tie-down space, and not having a terminal.

The study identified about $6.9 million worth of projects for Glenwood’s airport.

“The need for projects will be determined by the airport since they own/operate the airport and decide which projects to do based on numerous factors, including available funding. … We combined system plan and airport projects to determine total costs,” Keidel-Adams said.

The study also performed an economic analysis of Glenwood’s airport. It includes on and off-airport spending and for each the multiplier of income respending, totaling $10 million in payroll, $18.3 million in value added and $36.7 in business revenues.

“Value added reflects a company’s or industry’s contribution to Colorado’s Gross Regional (or State) Product (a local concept synonymous with Gross Domestic Product). It includes all labor compensation, profits, and business taxes paid,” Keidel-Adams said.

While the numbers are impressive, it doesn’t mean all that money is being spent in Glenwood Springs.

“None of the numbers in the document represent only what’s spent in Glenwood Springs per se since we used statewide multipliers that determine the supplier sales and income re-spending of the airport’s direct impacts throughout the state,” Keidel-Adams said. “I would say direct business revenues is the closest to the impact only on Glenwood Springs.”

Direct business revenues totaled about $17.9 million.

Gruen Gruen study

Another study completed last year by Gruen Gruen + Associates was commissioned by the city as part of its Airport Property Scenario Planning Project.

The three primary scenarios for the airport included expanded aviation, a mixed-use village and a residential village.

Godes said there are currently no plans to use the airport land for housing.

“There’s been no developer, no plan, no study that’s contemplated affordable housing to the best of my knowledge. … People in the community might be having that conversation, but I’ve never heard it. There’s nothing official with that,” he said.

Professional opinion

While it’s understandable that area pilots — whether from Glenwood or not — would be in favor of keeping the airport an airport, Rifle/Garfield County airport manager Brian Condie is also a fan of the idea.

“I would like to see it stay open for sure, but I don’t know all the ins and outs or what’s best for Glenwood Springs,” he said. “If they keep it open I’m happy, if they decide to close it I won’t be happy but I’ll support them for sure 100%.”

He suggested that its recent use as a helibase emphasizes its value.

“This last fire season should show the importance of having that asset close,” he said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com

Carbondale Business Confluence goes virtual

The Carbondale Chamber’s Carbondale Business Confluence will be virtual this year, taking place from noon to 2 p.m. Oct. 21.

“The focus will be to inspire, give hope and share strengths, struggles and shifts as we explore ‘Carbondale through Change — an Evolution of Community,’” Carbondale Chamber Executive Director Andrea Stewart said. 

Traditionally held in September, the confluence was moved back a month to allow more time for planning and to provide some support to local restaurants in the off-season. 

“In addition to the overall confluence experience, this year’s $20 access ticket is a redeemable $20 voucher good at any participating Carbondale Chamber restaurant member. This win-win program is an economic stimulus for our Carbondale community,” Stewart said. 

The Zoom format will be available in both English and Spanish. Highlights will include updates from Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson and Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky; HealthCare/COVID-19 information shared by Valley View Hospital; and a local perspective of surviving the challenges of COVID-19 with Eaden Shantay, owner of True Nature Healing Arts.

The Confluence will culminate with the panel discussion “Conversations on Change through COVID,” a sharing of relatable struggles, strengths and pivot points while reflecting on changes since the beginning of 2020.

Panelists will be:

• Briston Peterson of Carbondale Marketplace

• Samuel Bernal of Entravision Communications

• Beatriz Soto of Wilderness Workshop

• Amy Kimberly of Carbondale Arts & Carbondale Creative District.

The Panel conversation will be moderated by Steve Skadron, Colorado Mountain College vice president and dean, Aspen and Carbondale campuses.

“This year’s Confluence will be both a reflection and inspiration as we shift from a survival mentality into finding success among change,” Stewart said. “We have stories of individuals and businesses that we hope participants will find informative and thought-provoking.”

Sponsorships are $500 and will help underwrite scholarships, as well as offset expenses. Sponsors will receive visibility on the Carbondale Chamber website, eblasts and Carbondale Confluence marketing materials.  For more information please contact the Carbondale Chamber at chamber@carbondale.com.

All net proceeds from the Carbondale Business Confluence benefit the Chamber’s continued service to the community and its 425-plus businesses.

For tickets, updated information and membership options, visit Carbondale.com or call the Carbondale Chamber office at 970-963-1890. 

Inside the Chamber column: Help Glenwood Springs Shine Community Challenge

Now more than ever, supporting local businesses is a golden investment in our community. It is estimated that for every $100 spent in the community, roughly $68 to $73 returns to the local economy. Money spent here tends to stay here because locally owned businesses purchase items from other business and service providers, as well as pay their employees, who also spend locally.

To support our local businesses, the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association (GSCRA) has launched the Help Glenwood Springs Shine Campaign, which challenges the community to invest $100,000 in Glenwood Gold community currency by Small Business Saturday, Nov. 28. If the goal is reached, there will be a community thank you celebration on Small Business Saturday.

Thanks to the generosity of Glenwood Springs and our supporters, we are more than halfway to our goal. Two local businesses stepped up in support of the goal earlier this summer to help jumpstart the challenge. Through their Grateful for Glenwood campaign, Alpine Bank gave away $100 in Glenwood Gold to 250 people. Glenwood Springs Ford gave away $200 in Glenwood Gold for every new or used car purchased between June 20 and July 31.

In addition to the significant investment made by both Alpine Bank and Glenwood Springs Ford, we’ve had a number of local businesses purchase Glenwood Gold to thank and recognize their employees, and a number of individuals have also purchased Glenwood Gold.

To further stimulate Glenwood Springs’ economy, the tourism promotion department of the GSCRA is gifting $100 in Glenwood Gold to the first 1,000 people who book a minimum two-night, weekday stay in Glenwood Springs through Nov. 30. Learn more at visitglenwood.com.

What is Glenwood Gold?

If you have not yet heard of Glenwood Gold, it’s our community currency that serves as a year-round “buy local” stimulus program. Glenwood Gold works like cash when redeemed, and the program reimburses participating businesses 100 percent of the face value of the currency.

It is the perfect gift for loved ones, employees and business partners. The certificates work just like cash and can be used at over 50 participating businesses in Glenwood Springs. Any individual, business or group can purchase Glenwood Gold certificates online at glenwoodchamber.com/glenwoodgold. It is recommended that those wishing to purchase more than $500 in Glenwood Gold do so by calling the GSCRA at 970-945-6589.

Participation in the Glenwood Gold program is currently free for local businesses in the 81601 ZIP code. There are no upfront costs, special software or payment processing machines for businesses to purchase. Businesses interested in participating can sign up at glenwodchamber.com/glenwoodgold or call 970-945-6589.

How You Can Help Glenwood Springs Shine

This is not the time for modesty — Glenwood Springs needs shiny advocates. Your community investment might inspire others to follow your example.

Purchase Glenwood Gold at glenwoodchamber.com/glenwoodgold or by calling 970-945-6589.

Use the Glenwood Gold frame for your Facebook profile picture to inspire others to help Glenwood Springs shine. Get the Facebook Frame by searching #ShopGlenwood GlenwoodGold.

Share your Glenwood Gold photo on Instagram by tagging @glenwoodchamber and your favorite local businesses using #GLENWOODGOLD, #ShopGlenwood and #DineGlenwood and talk about it.

Share your local purchases with the community, tell others about the unique things you found or recommend your favorite dish at a local restaurant.

Watch the progress. We will post regular updates at glenwoodchamber.com/glenwoodgold about how much money has been invested and thank businesses and individuals that helped us get closer to our goal.

We are really excited about this campaign, especially the partnership and collaboration opportunities it creates. Not only are individuals supporting local businesses, but businesses are supporting each other, too. Together, we can Help Glenwood Springs Shine.

Angie Anderson, IOM, is president and CEO of the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

A glimpse at the future of farming in the Roaring Fork Valley

Farmers often see their best-laid plans go awry. They suffer heartbreaking lows nearly as often as spirit-soaring highs. Their work is physically and mentally demanding. They must find rewards beyond pay.

They wouldn’t want it any other way, at least not this year’s crew at Rock Bottom Ranch in the Emma area.

Mariah Foley is the “vegetable lead” at the midvalley ranch for a second season this year and is working her fifth year full-time in agriculture. She got interested in farming while attending the University of Denver.

“Hopefully, my 18-year-old self would be proud I’m still with it,” said Foley, now 26.

Rock Bottom Ranch is owned and operated by Aspen Center for Environmental Studies. The nonprofit uses the ranch to demonstrate how agriculture can coexist with wildlife and nature. It promotes sustainable and regenerative practices.

The Rock Bottom Ranch crew is expanding efforts to teach a broader audience about its practices. All of its operations, from planting to harvesting vegetables and from assisting in births to the slaughtering of livestock, will be captured on video and words. The material will be offered to the world to absorb.

The effort kicked off Thursday night with a panel discussion of this year’s crew. For the second year in a row, the crew is all women. Three veteran and three first-year farmers shared their experiences about the work they do as well as their hopes and dreams for themselves and for agriculture overall.

“I anticipated farming being really hard, which it has been,” said Kathleen Voight, 23, a first-year farmer who joined Rock Bottom Ranch to learn about the relationship between food production and sustainable land management.

The day-to-day experience, she said, is gritty and challenging, but she’s finding answers to the issue that piqued her interest.

Dara Unger, 22, another vegetable crew member, dabbled with farming at college, working four hours a couple days per week. Now, she’s in her first year at Rock Bottom with a particular interest in small-scale vegetable production. She often works from sunrise to sunset.

“I’ve become a lot stronger,” she said.

Maddi Sorrentino, 23, has a background in wildlife biology but felt disconnected with the animals. She is working with the cows, pigs, sheep, goats and chickens at Rock Bottom Ranch in her first year there. The experience is much more hands-on. She said she finishes every day more satisfied than with any other job she has held.

“I do think farming is physically and mentally demanding,” she said, quickly adding that it also is energizing.

Despite the challenges, all first-year farmers said they intend to stick with their new careers, some maybe for a year or two, others for longer.

Unger said the job requires a lot of trial-and-error experimentation. She is determined, she said, “to get it right.”

Sorrentino said she already has gained insights that will lead to better food choices for the rest of her life. She intends to keep expanding her knowledge.

“After just one season, I’m completely hooked,” she said.

The veteran farmers indicated they are in agriculture for the long haul.

“I think at this point, my eggs are in one basket,” Foley said, though she admitted it can be tough. She has seen many of her peers hit barriers.

The biggest reward can’t be bought, according to Foley.

“It’s the realization that people are making a meal (out of) the food we’re growing,” she said.

Rock Bottom Ranch has the advantage of ACES’s deep pockets. While the nonprofit organization isn’t blindly plowing money into the ag operation, it is able to ease the lack of capital that face many small farmers.

Foley said America’s food system needs to be overhauled. The goal should be providing ample healthy food, not necessarily making a profit. The system should be designed with feeding people as the starting point, she said.

Jen Ghigiarelli, 31, the livestock and site lead, said land ownership systems need to shift “quite a bit” for farming to be more viable. Entry into the business is prohibitive for anyone who doesn’t have inherent land, particularly in areas like the Roaring Fork Valley, where prices are so high.

The United States needs farming to be viable to ensure communities are well fed and food access is secure, she said.

Alyssa Barsanti, 29, who has been at Rock Bottom for six seasons and is now agriculture manager, said the longer she’s been there, the more confident she is of possessing the skills to make a farm of her own successful.

One important lesson is that farming is humbling.

“You grow emotionally as you get all these curve balls thrown at you,” Barsanti said.

The veteran farmers spoke of a subtle, societal pressure to strike out on their own. Ghigiarelli said the farming part doesn’t daunt her, but she’s not sure her passion for farming could carry over to running her own business.

“I’m not really passionate about accounting and business marketing,” she said with a laugh.

Ghigiarelli also noted that if she was in a point in her life where she wanted to start a family, she’s not sure farming would be a viable path. That said, she cannot imagine pursuing another career at this point.

“Farming just ruins you for all kinds of other work,” she said.

Colorado regulators approve drilling buffers, other rules

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) — The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has provided preliminary approval for new regulations for well drilling sites, including a 2,000-foot buffer requirement from homes.

The five-member panel is not expected to undertake a final vote on the measures until November to allow for some revisions, The Daily Sentinel reported.

The new regulations are expected to take effect Jan. 1.

The measures approved Monday represent the first regulations aimed at a new law requiring the commission to prioritize public health, safety, welfare, the environment and wildlife over oil and gas development.

The measures include adopting requirements for analyzing alternative locations for oil and gas facilities, widening who has legal standing to participate in commission hearings, adding language intended to consider those disproportionately impacted and providing increased collaboration between state and local governments in oil and gas regulations.

Commission Chair Jeff Robbins said Monday that there was a lot of consensus regarding the approved regulations, except on the larger setbacks.

The setbacks are significantly larger than those proposed by commission staff, which recommended a 500-foot minimum setback from homes.

Homeowners, community and environmental activists and some elected officials argued that a greater distance was needed to protect the public. But other industry entities argued it could make oil and gas inaccessible to development.

“We … believe that we’ve created sufficient off-ramps so that minerals will continue to be developed within the state of Colorado,” Robbins said.

West Slope Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Chelsie Miera said those off-ramps don’t offer a clear path for getting a permit and said the setbacks in effect will be even greater — up to 2,400 feet — because they will be measured from a well pad’s edge rather than from the wells.

Garfield County commissioners, in a letter to Gov. Jared Polis last week that was copied to COGCC members, objected to the 2,000-foot setback, saying it would “blunt” any chance at economic recovery and jobs lost as a result of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

“This proposal stands in stark contrast to scientific objectivity, and undermines Colorado’s proud democratic process, which just two years ago saw voters reject a similar setback proposal by a double-digit margin,” the commissioners’ letter stated, referencing the defeat of Proposition 112 which called for a 2,500-foot setback.

Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance in Garfield County, welcomed the approvals saying that they have worked hard to get regulation improvements that protect nearby residents.

The Western Colorado Alliance (WCA), based in Grand Junction, also applauded the new setback rules.

“We know these rules will better  protect residents from the negative impacts of oil and gas development while still giving operators ample room to conduct business in Western Colorado,” WCA said in a Monday statement. “The mandate of SB 181 is to ensure the COGCC protects the health and safety of all Coloradans first in oil and gas permitting decisions, and we thank the Commissioners for honoring that mandate.”

Glenwood Springs Post Independent staff contributed to this report.