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Three units damaged in Glenwood Springs apartment building fire

Three residences in the Glenwood Green Apartments were damaged and no injuries reported in a fire Monday evening in Glenwood Springs.

“Firefighters were able to contain and extinguish the fire before it could spread to additional units,” a news release from the city of Glenwood Springs reported Tuesday. “Overhaul operations continued well into the evening hours.”

The initial call for the fire came in at 5:25 p.m. No one was in the units at the time of the fire, which remains under investigation by the Garfield County Fire Investigation Team, according to the release. 

Two units “sustained significant fire, smoke and water damage.” The third unit received less damaged but is currently uninhabitable.

Responding agencies include Carbondale & Rural Fire Protection District, Colorado River Fire Rescue, Black Hills Energy, Glenwood Water, Glenwood Springs Police Department, Garfield County Sheriff’s Department and Glenwood Electric assisted Glenwood Springs Fire Department during this incident, the release states. Red Cross was also requested to accommodate the displaced occupants.

Doctors to address health questions around Roaring Fork Schools classroom return

The Roaring Fork School District hosts a pair of medical consults this week for parents, one in English Tuesday and the other in Spanish Thursday, regarding the district’s return to in-person learning plans and coronavirus protocols that are in place.

Mountain Family Health Center’s Dr. Maria Roques and Valley View Hospital’s Dr. David Brooks will speak via Zoom, followed by a brief question-and-answer session. Find the link here.

The English version runs from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesday, and the Spanish version will be at the same time Thursday.

“The purpose of the presentations is to share honest and accurate information about Covid-19 and implications for in-person learning,” according to a post on the district’s website.

Drs. Brooks and Roques are set to discuss risk mitigation strategies, practices and recommendations for families and children as in-person classes resume for students in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

The district began bringing students back into schools with the grades K-3 last week and grades 4-8 this week. District high schools are slated to return to in-person classes on Nov. 4.

WATCH: Every Issues and Answers debate, broken out by race and issue

The 2020 Issues and Answers forum was organized through a partnership with the Glenwood Springs Chamber, KMTS and the Post Independent.

Moderated by KMTS News Director Ron Milhorn, the forum took place in Garfield County Commission Chambers on Oct. 15.

Garfield County commission races

District 3 candidates Leslie Robinson (Democratic challenger) and Mike Samson (Republican incumbent):

District 2 candidates John Martin (Republican incumbent) and Beatriz Soto (Democratic challenger):

Colorado House, Senate and Board of Education races

House District 57 candidates Colin Wilhelm (Democratic challenger) and Perry Will (Republican incumbent):

Senate District 8 candidates Karl Hanlon (Democratic challenger) and Bob Rankin (Republican incumbent):

Colorado State Board of Education District 3 candidates Joyce Rankin (Republican incumbent) and Mayling Simpson (Democratic challenger):

Local and statewide ballot measures

Glenwood Springs Fire Chief Gary Tillotson speaks in support of Ballot Measure 6A:

Colorado River District ballot issue 7A proponents Zane Kessler and Russ George:

Amendment B proponent Bernie Busher and opponent Lindsey Singer:

Proposition 114 advocate Rob Edward and opponent Bonnie Brown:

Proposition 118 supporter Hunter Railey with Colorado Families First and Proposition 118 opponent Diane Schwenke with Not Now Colorado:

New coronavirus cases reported in outbreak at Garfield County Community Corrections center

Garfield County was notified of two new confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving clients at the Garfield County Community Corrections center in Rifle, bringing the total number to 11.

“No new staff cases surfaced with the results of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environments Rapid Response Team testing,” the county said in a Monday news release regarding the new client cases.

The new cases bring the total to eight clients and three staff members at the criminal justice facility who also tested positive last week.

The state’s rapid response team arrived last Thursday to test everyone still living in the residential group facility, as well as staff. Test results were provided by CDPHE to county staff Monday morning, according to the release.

“One of the clients in the newest case confirmations was approved for furlough Thursday after testing was complete, and arrangements for the other are being made today (Monday),” the release stated.

All of the clients in the fee-based, work-release program who had confirmed cases were moved out of the facility for recovery as confirmed test results were received. 

“The facility had been operating at 50 percent capacity during the pandemic, and now is further reducing clients in the program to facilitate best social-distancing measures,” Criminal Justice Services Administrator Rodney Hollandsworth said in the release.

“This is intended to diminish spread of COVID,” he said. “We know this has been a stressful time for our clients and our staff, and we extend our concern to them during this time, as we move forward to ensure that we have a safe group living environment.”

Garfield County to roll back some COVID variance allowances in response to latest case surge

Garfield County plans to voluntarily move to the state’s Safer at Home Level 2 restrictions for business activities and gatherings, given the latest spike in new coronavirus case numbers.

The county has received confirmation of 72 new cases of COVID-19 in the past week, including more than 20 new cases over the weekend, Garfield County Public Health Director Yvonne Long said in a Monday update to county commissioners.

Over the past two weeks, the county has had 137 cases, and the incidence rate has increased from less than 200 per 100,000 people at the end of last week to 228.1 per 100,000 as of Monday.

And, about 6.5% of COVID-19 tests in the county are coming back positive, up from less than 5% in recent weeks.

Those statistics mirror what is happening in many other parts of the state, Long said, including the tri-county region of Garfield, Pitkin and Eagle counties. Mesa County to the west has also reverted from the lowest-restriction Protect Our Neighbors status to Safer Level 1 due to a spike in cases there.

Though hospitalizations have been increasing in some areas of Colorado, Garfield County remains in the “comfortable” range.

“We do want to keep it at that, and not have our hospitals overrun,” Long said.

The county should make some effort to try to reverse the case trend in order to avoid the state mandating even stricter protection levels, she said.

“We are getting at the point where the state looks at us as moving from yellow (Safer Level 2/Concern) to orange (Safer Level 3/High Risk),” Long said, referring to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s color coding for its five risk levels.

Due to the state-approved variances in place for Garfield County, many of the county’s restrictions are in line with Safer Level 1 (Cautious), she said. So, there’s room for adjustment without major impacts on business and personal activities, she said.

Under the yellow Safer Level 2, the biggest changes would be:

  • Limiting gyms and fitness centers to 25% capacity, instead of 50% as currently allowed.
  • Limiting restaurants and indoor places of worship to 50% capacity with a maximum of 50-100 (depending on ability to social distance based on square foot), from the current allowance of 50% or up to 175 people.
  • Limiting private gatherings to no more than 10 people from two households, where currently up to 25 people are allowed without household restrictions.

“We don’t have a lot of those large places of gathering that can accommodate that many people anyway,” Long said of the 175-person maximum. “So, it’s a place where we could move backwards, without causing undue hardship on anybody.”

While there is some increase in community spread (unknown source of infection), many of the latest cases are related to workplace spread and spread within family units, Long said.

Ultimately, “It comes down to behavior, and what people are willing to do to get our numbers back down,” she said.

County commissioners were supportive of the voluntary rollback, and said they would oppose any efforts by state health officials to move the county to the more restrictive Level 3 (orange).

“This commissioner is not going to stand for going back to orange,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, saying the economic impact would be too great to roll back to the higher-risk level of protections.

Jankovsky said he doesn’t see adoption of the Level 2 restrictions as being too much different than what’s in place, other than the stricter limits on personal gatherings.

“I don’t want to go to orange. That’s hurting our economy, andhurting our businesses,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Samson emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant and recognizing that disease spread is a concern, and can have consequences.

“It’s about personal responsibility,” Samson said. “Don’t do foolish things, use common sense, don’t be crowded in a small room with people … just using common sense and common respect for one another goes a long ways.”


MONDAY WEATHER UPDATES: Glenwood Canyon rockfall risk being monitored

Rockfall risk: The impact of Sunday night and Monday’s early-season snowstorm on the Grizzly Creek Fire burn area in Glenwood Canyon is being monitored, but is not an immediate threat, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

“Our crews noted 5 inches of snow in Glenwood Canyon with this storm,” CDOT Northwest Region Communications Manager Elise Thatcher said. “We do not anticipate that the snowfall will affect the burn area, aside from putting down some moisture which will help with recovery.”

For now, the snow should not increase the rockfall danger, though rockfall is possible from the freeze-thaw effect brought by the snowstorm and cold temperatures.

“That is hard to predict,” Thatcher said. “If it rains on top of the snow, then we will be monitoring for soil flows, which could bring down rocks.”

UPDATE 3:15 p.m. — Interstate 70 has been reopened west of Glenwood Springs at Silt and Parachute after multiple crashes earlier Monday, according to the latest highway closure information posted to Colorado Department of Transportation’s cotrip.org. Check there for any changes in the status of I-70 and other highways in the region and across the state.

Schools decisions: Two Rivers Community School in Glenwood Springs is joining Ross Montessori in Carbondale are canceling school for Monday due to the weather conditions.

The Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt are still planning to be in session for the second week of in-person classes for K-3 and the initial return of grades 4-8 to classrooms.

And, Garfield Re-2 schools announced late Sunday that schools in New Castle, Silt and Rifle will be online only on Monday.

“Many of our students and families travel significant distances on the highway to get to school, including our school buses,” Two Rivers School said in a late Sunday announcement to parents. “At this time, the roads are in terrible shape and the storm is not forecasted to let up until morning. We have historically followed RE-1’s decisions for school closures, but sometimes we have felt the need to make decisions independently.”

Monday will not be a remote learning day for Two Rivers or Ross, as many teachers and students do not have the necessary materials prepared to teach online.

The Roaring Fork School District sent a reminder late Sunday on how it makes its snow day decisions, and followed up with an announcement just before 7 a.m. Monday that schools will be in session for K-8, while high schools remain online. School buses would still be running Monday, but parents and students could expect delays of 10-20 minutes because of the weather.

“The Roaring Fork Schools will be open today,” the district said in its statement. “We know it’s snowy out there, so please drive safely. And welcome back to in-person learning to all students in grades 4-8.

“When we decide to hold school during inclement weather, it is because we have determined it is safe to do so after following the process outlined [on the district website]. Parents always have the right to keep students home from school, take them to school, or provide transportation to school later when the roads are less of a concern if they feel the road conditions are unsafe.”

As a general policy, “In the event of a snow day, no school will be held through distance learning because not all teachers have access to teaching materials; not all K-3 students have access to their devices; students in grades 4-8 are transitioning to in-person learning, and we do not have fallback schedules or lesson plans for distance learning tomorrow; and teachers cannot provide synchronous distance learning without childcare.”

Aspen Schools, meanwhile, postponed the scheduled return to in-person learning for middle school and high school students, the Aspen School District announced Sunday. Students will have remote learning Monday.

Highways reopened: Interstate 70 through Garfield County reopened overnight after a lengthy closure on Sunday due to the snowstorm that swept over Colorado. However, local and state emergency officials are urging motorists to take it slow and not travel unless necessary.

“If you must be out, please reduce your speeds and drive with care,” the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office is advising. “There are many vehicles on the side of the road, please be aware, and stay safe out there.”

CMC closes Spring Valley campus; Glenwood Center is open: Colorado Mountain College Spring Valley Campus will be closed Monday because of the weather and power outage. The Glenwood Center is open.

Staff that can work remotely are encouraged to do so, the college said in a news release. “Classes are in session today and are encouraged to operate remotely. Students should communicate with faculty with questions.”

LIFT-UP Carbondale food distribution postponed: Due to winter weather and road conditions, the LIFT-UP Carbondale Food Distribution scheduled for Monday has been moved to Tuesday, Oct. 27 from 12 – 2 p.m. Food Distribution will take place at Third Street Center in Carbondale. For additional information, contact the LIFT-UP Admin Office at (970) 625-4496.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

PHOTOS: Winter storm hits Western Slope

Glenwood Springs

A man shovels snow and scrapes away ice from the sidewalk in front of downtown shops on a frigid morning in Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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A family walks down the stairs of the Grand Avenue pedestrian Bridge during a bitter cold morning in Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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A bundled up woman waits to cross Grand Avenue on a frigid morning in downtown Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Snow blankets the hillside while trees still cling to fall after a late October snowstorm dumped multiple inches of snow in Glenwood and surrounding towns.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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I-70 sits snow packed late Monday morning after a snowstorm dumped multiple inches of snow in Glenwood and surrounding towns.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Two women walk down Cooper Avenue in downtown Glenwood on a very chilly morning after a snowstorm dropped multiple inches of snow in the area.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Although a winter storm canceled all schools in the Garfield School District Re-2 on Monday, Rifle Middle School custodian Tammy Wynia, shoveling snow on an outside sidewalk, was hard at work. Asked what she thought of the snow, Wynia jokingly said, “I don’t like it.”
Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram
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Rick Christner, owner of Ricks Lawn Services in Rifle, shovels a sidewalk near downtown Rifle on Monday morning. Following a winter storm that swept across the Western Slope on Sunday night, Christner started plowing streets at 4 p.m. that day and kept working throughout the night.
Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram
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A tree still in the midst of shedding its bright orange fall foliage complements Roan Plateau, which sits enveloped by a blanket of low-lying clouds following a snowstorm, on Monday in Rifle.
Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram
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Kinsley Winschell, 4, enjoys a day of sledding following a snowstorm Monday in Rifle.
Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram
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Kinsley Winschell, 4, enjoys a day of sledding following a winter storm Monday in Rifle.
Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram
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Following a snowstorm, a thin blanket of low-lying clouds surrounds Roan Plateau on Monday in Rifle.
Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram
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Guest opinion: Prop. 113 helps Colorado’s conservatives

The conservative industrial complex — what I call Colorado Conservative, Inc. — is failing the constituency that serves as its purported reason for existence.

How many more elections in the Centennial State does the right have to lose until rank-and-file conservatives wake up?

A perfect example is Proposition 113, aka the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.

Opponents are avoiding an open and honest discussion on what is arguably the most important question on the ballot in this year’s general election. Instead, they propagate myths, falsehoods, and disinformation, including in the pages of this newspaper.

Their most popular claim is that Proposition 113 abolishes or changes the Electoral College. Those who claim this know they are lying.

For the record, I am a conservative who campaigned for Tom Tancredo and against John McCain during the 2008 presidential primaries and caucuses, worked for Ted Cruz, and fully supports Donald J. Trump. I would never support any proposal that altered the constitutional framework for electing the president.

Proposition 113 is both constitutionally conservative and constitutionally consistent. It exercises the General Assembly’s authority under Article II of the U.S. Constitution to replace the state-based, winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes — a method James Madison, better known as the Father of the Constitution, opposed.

Notably, Colorado’s present method of awarding electors is not in the U.S. Constitution, was not debated at the 1787 constitutional convention, and was never mentioned in the Federalist Papers. In fact, states have routinely changed the method of awarding electors since the first presidential election. Examples include Massachusetts, which has changed its method 11 times. Maine and Nebraska use a different method than Colorado. Using different methods to award electors does not abolish or change the Electoral College.

Opponents also regularly claim that New York and California would control a presidential election under the popular vote. This is demonstrably false.

California and New York, which together have given conservatives three presidents in Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Trump, account for just 18% of the country’s voters. Eighty-two percent of voters to be outvoted by 18%, unless you reject basic math.

It is understandable why some conservatives are instinctively opposed to Proposition 113. I had the same initial reaction when I first heard about the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact five years ago.

However, the more I stopped and thought about it, the more I realized that it amplifies the voice of conservatives and, more broadly speaking, Republicans.

Colorado, having gone ‘blue’ in the last three elections, is not a battleground. As a result, Coloradans in every part of the state are ignored as Joe Biden and Trump pander to voters in the handful of states that actually decide the election. This is why Trump gave $13 billion to Puerto Rico three years after hurricanes — there are at least 1.1 million Puerto Ricans in must-win Florida — while Colorado with never-ending wildfires gets only the usual disaster relief.

Arizona, a former safe GOP state, is one of this year’s most contested battlegrounds. In fact, the Grand Canyon State may determine the winner. Additionally, any honest pundit will admit that once solidly ‘red’ Texas and Georgia are either battlegrounds now or will be toss-up ‘purple’ by 2024. Without carrying these states, it is mathematically impossible under the present electoral math impossible for Republicans to win.

Voting ‘yes’ on Proposition 113 puts conservatives up-and-down the ballot in a better position after years of losses by Colorado Conservative, Inc. In doing so it would chart a path out of the political desert for Republicans.

To put it in better perspective: The Colorado Republican Party has been reduced to its second-fewest number of state House seats since Teddy Roosevelt was president. Then there is the fact that 37% of county GOP parties don’t have a website in the year 2020. This dysfunction is what happens to the minority party in a politically irrelevant state.

In a presidential election under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, the Republican candidate would invest in each and every county in each and every state because winning would become a numbers game. This would be a game-changer for conservatives because running up the score in the vast swath of ‘red’ America offsets losses elsewhere.

It also explains why Trump says he supports a popular vote. He knows it is easier for him and other Republicans to win if the votes of every voter in every state count.

Conservatives who want to win elections should ignore Colorado Conservative, Inc. and vote ‘yes’ on Proposition 113.

Dennis Lennox is campaign manager of Conservatives for Yes on National Popular Vote.

Additional students at Rifle High to transition to online school after new COVID-19 cases confirmed

The Garfield Re-2 School District announced Sunday night that another 43 students and teachers at Rifle High School will transition to online instruction based on new coronavirus cases and possible exposture.

The new quarantine comes after a Saturday advisory that 81 students and nine teachers at three Rifle schools, including the high school, were moved to online instruction due to separate COVID-19 cases and individuals experiencing symptoms.

Impacted students and educators are being asked to make the transition to online instruction and to quarantine for 14-days from the date of exposure, according to a news release.

SUNDAY WEATHER UPDATES: Garfield Re-2 schools will be online only Monday

UPDATE 9:40 p.m. — Garfield Re-2 schools in New Castle, Silt and Rifle will transition to distance learning on Monday due to the winter storm, the district announced in a letter to parents and the public Sunday night.

“Due to the current and predicted inclement weather conditions, the Garfield Re-2 School District will transition (Monday) to a virtual distance learning day,” the letter states. “With the amount of snow and ice currently on roads, and freezing temperatures expected to continue overnight and tomorrow, Garfield Re-2 felt this was the best decision for the safety of our community.”

All students will be expected to log into their See Saw or Google Classroom accounts to receive instruction from their teachers for the day, the letter stated.

All teachers will be teaching from home, unless they can safely travel to their classroom. Teachers will be in touch with students throughout the day.

“This is a regular school day … teachers will be taking attendance,” the letter advises.

UPDATE 9:15 p.m. — The weather-related Interstate 70 closure has been expanded Sunday night to include all of Garfield County, from DeBeque through Glenwood Canyon to Dotsero in western Eagle County.

According to a Garfield County alert sent just after 9 p.m., I-70 is closed in both directions from mile marker 133 (Dotsero exit) to mile marker 62, (DeBeque exit), due to multiple accidents. There is no estimated time for reopening.

For the latest on this and other statewide highway closures, visit the Colorado Department of Transportation’s cotrip.org.

UPDATE 6 p.m. — Ross Montessori School in Carbondale has called a snow day for Monday. There will be no in-person classes or online sessions, Head of School Sonya Hemmen said in an email sent to the press.

Interstate 70 between DeBeque and Rulison is closed in both directions Sunday evening due to multiple accidents, according to a notification from Garfield County Emergency Communications.

The current closure is between mile-markers 62-81, and comes just an hour after officials reopened I-70 at Parachute following a lengthy closure earlier in the day.

Travel restrictions, including chain laws for commercial vehicles, remain in effect elsewhere along I-70.

The Garfield County Sheriff’s Office advises that hunters and other travelers with horses or other livestock can bring their animals to the Garfield County Fairgrounds until the weather clears. Staff is at the Fairgrounds to assist. The location is 1001 Railroad Ave. in Rifle.

CDOT advised in a Sunday night press release that, “with bitter cold temperatures and widespread snow impacts across much of Colorado, driving conditions will be challenging through the night and Monday morning’s commute will be slow-going.

“Wet road surfaces will freeze overnight and there will be packed snow on several roadways. CDOT crews are fully deployed removing snow, with the focus on clearing the interstates and most heavily traveled routes first. 

Motorists are advised to limit or avoid travel unless absolutely necessary, particularly on the I-70 mountain corridor.

This is a developing story and will be updated.