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Maroon Creek gate crasher tracked down, cited

A phone tip Wednesday led Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies to an 18-year-old man who admitted to crashing into and damaging the winter closure gate on Maroon Creek Road the day before, a deputy said.

Luke Garrett was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and careless driving and said he was admiring the scenery and never saw the gate until he hit it, Deputy Ryan Voss said.

“He felt really bad,” Voss said, noting that Garrett was not injured. “He was embarrassed.”

The gate on the road’s upvalley lane was sheared completely off the steel pole holding it in the ground about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The gate had only been closed for the winter since Friday.

Garrett told Voss he’d only moved to the Aspen area about three months ago.

Pitkin County employees were able to weld the gate back together on Wednesday morning, said Brian Pettet, county public works director.

Hispanic business council to promote inclusivity and diversity in Garfield County

Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce CEO and Director Tanya Perea Doose has advocated inclusivity since day one.

“Our communities – Rifle, Silt and Parachute – which we represent have such a high population of Hispanics that it was important for me to recognize that,” Perea Doose said.

The third-generation Coloradan began working for the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce in May and has promoted efforts to engage the Colorado River Valley’s Hispanic and Latino business communities.

“We are not doing our community justice to not have Latino and Hispanic outreach within our business community,” Perea Doose said. “We all love to patron our Latino and Hispanic businesses. But, to reciprocate that, how do we as a community offer them support?”

For Perea Doose, a few immediate efforts came to mind beginning with the formation of the chamber’s Hispanic business council.

Currently, the volunteer council includes Colorado Mountain College’s Gethze Hammond, Cheryl & Co. Real Estate Owner Cheryl Chandler and Rifle realtor Pablo Ortiz.

“Our goal is to promote inclusivity, diversity and to bring the culture of our Hispanic-owned and Latino-owned businesses into the chamber and support them,” Perea Doose said.

When asked if the local governments of Silt, Rifle and Parachute were equally as supportive of the chamber’s efforts, Perea Doose replied absolutely.

In addition to establishing the Hispanic business council, Perea Doose said the chamber’s physical location at 100 E. 11th St. in Rifle now always has a bilingual speaker available.

Both Perea Doose’s dad and grandfather were bilingual ministers, which further inspired the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce CEO and Director to breakdown language barriers in her own career.

“I firmly believe that all things old become new again,” Perea Doose said.

With the rise of the digital era, chambers of commerce often lose walk-in visitors to quick online searches.

That being said, the Western Garfield County Chamber of Commerce continues to revamp its website with upcoming business and event information in both English and Spanish.

“We still see, on average during the summer, probably 500 tourists that stop through here within a four- or five-month span,” Perea Doose said of walk-ins to the chamber’s physical location in Rifle.

And, upon entering, several brochures in both English and Spanish greet those visitors with a variety of activates to choose from.

“They all want maps, they all want brochures and they all want to know where the good restaurants are,” Perea Doose said. “We are not saying, ‘You speak Spanish here’s one brochure for you and you speak English here’s another.’ We are bringing it all together and uniting it.”


Jury convicts ranch managers of lesser theft

A Glenwood Springs jury found Charles “Zane” and Charla Farris guilty of theft, but to a lesser degree than prosecutors charged.

After nearly three full days of deliberation, the jury found both guilty of stealing between $5,000 and $20,000 from the ranch they used to manage, owned by Waffle House, Inc. chairman Joe Rogers.

Prosecutors charged the Farrises with stealing between $100,000 but less than $1 million from Bear Wallow Ranch between 2012 and 2016.

Both Farrises face between 1 and 3 years in prison for the reduced felony-5 charge, the second-lowest category of felony offenses. If they were convicted of the original theft charge of over $100,000, they could have faced 4 to 12 years in prison.

The jury found the husband and wife not guilty on all other charges, including evading Colorado state taxes for five filing years, and theft of 10 cattle.

Jury selection for the complex and lengthy trial began Oct. 11, and opening arguments started Oct. 17. The Jury began deliberations Monday after closing arguments ended Nov. 15.

Prosecutors alleged that the Farrises engaged in a scheme to use Bear Wallow Ranch funds as their own for a period of at least five years before being discovered.

Charla, who kept the books for the ranch, hid personal purchases by miscoding it in the bookkeeping system and entering wrong check amounts, according to prosecutors.

When Rogers’ wife, Fran, an accountant, discovered suspicious transactions in 2016, she began contacting vendors and discovered the Farrises were paying for maintenance on personal vehicles and for personal property.

Much of the prosecution’s case came from Joe Rogers’ testimony. Rogers confronted the Farrises over three days in August 2016 and secretly recorded the conversations, which the jury heard during the trial.

At multiple points during those recordings, both the Farrises said they were wrong to make many of the questioned transactions.

“They said they did it. We showed you the records that prove they did it,” lead prosecutor Ben Sollars said during closing arguments.

Defense attorneys argued that the Farrises thought they had authorization to make many of the purchases as under-the-table bonuses, and said that Rogers was not running the ranch as a business.

“The entire prosecution in this case, the entire theory, is premised on the idea that Bear Wallow Ranch was a normal above-board business,” said Andrew Ho, Charla’s attorney.

In many of the questionable transactions, the Farrises paid businesses they owned for Bear Wallow work, but all that work benefitted the ranch, according to Zane’s attorney Kathy Goudy.

Zane “worked his butt off for the benefit of Bear Wallow” and tried to save the ranch money, Goudy said.

Days after the Ninth District Attorney’s office filed criminal charges on June 6, 2017, Joe Rogers filed a civil lawsuit alleging the theft, which is still active.

The Farrises are scheduled for a sentencing hearing in February.


Illness closes all schools in Grand Junction school district

All 46 schools in Grand Junction-area District 51 have been closed for cleaning because of a possible norovirus outbreak among students and staff.

Colorado Public Radio reports six of the schools in Mesa County had closed as of Wednesday afternoon before the districtwide shutdown was announced.

All the schools also will be closed Friday heading into the Thanksgiving break, which lasts the entire week of the holiday.

Tanya Marvin, the school district’s nursing coordinator, says, “We are taking this highly unusual action because this virus is extremely contagious and spreading quickly.”

Symptoms of norovirus include diarrhea and vomiting that lasts between 12 and 24 hours.

Two Garfield County school districts, Roaring Fork and Garfield Re-2, said they are monitoring the situation, but that they have not seen the symptoms among students in schools from Basalt to Rifle.

“Our health staff is not seeing any of these symptoms in our schools, nor have they seen an increase in or alarming rate of illness.” Roaring Fork Schools spokesperson Kelsy Been said. “Of course, this is something we’re keeping a close eye on.”

Added Garfield Re-2 spokesperson Theresa Hamilton, “Our custodial staffs are using cold and flu season protocols.” Thursday is already the last day of school before the week-long Thanksgiving break. Re-2 schools are on a four-day week, and do not have Friday classes.

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent contributed to this report.

Glenwood replacing failing green ash trees on Grand Avenue

Weather permitting, the city of Glenwood Springs will finish removing and replacing several failing green ash trees along Grand Avenue on Thursday.

According to public information officer Sarah Derrigan, 10 green ash trees needed removal due to significant canopy loss.

“All 10 trees that were removed are being replaced with Sienna Glen Maple Trees,” Derrigan said.

The work, which has occurred predominately along the 800 and 900 blocks of Grand Avenue should conclude Thursday, pending favorable weather conditions.

“Crews have completed the replacement of trees on the west side of Grand Avenue and have moved on to the east side,” Derrigan said.

As of late Wednesday afternoon, crews had successfully removed all of the failing green ash trees on Grand Avenue’s east side and would finish planting new Sienna Glen Maple trees on Thursday.

According to Derrigan, lane closures will not be required Thursday to finish the planting. 


Garfield County raises tobacco purchasing age

Garfield County joined most of the region in raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21, but commissioners are still wary of regulating flavored tobacco products.

In a split vote, Garfield County commissioners approved raising the tobacco purchasing age to 21 on Monday, and also asked state lawmakers to clarify the law about tobacco licensing.

With Monday’s resolution raising the purchasing age, “we’re just asking our vendors with tobacco products to follow our resolution,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said at the meeting.

The resolution applies to nine stores, from Parachute to Glenwood to Carbondale, located in unincorporated sections of the county.

‘New horizon’ in nicotine regulation

2019 has seen a number of towns and counties in Colorado pass stricter rules and higher taxes on nicotine products, all made possible by a bill Gov. Jared Polis signed in March that grants local governments new authority on tobacco issues.

But the bill is ambiguous when it comes to statutory counties’ authority to regulate flavored tobacco and license retailers, according to Garfield County staff.

“There’s still some ambiguity about what counties can license and enforce,” county attorney Tari Williams told the commissioners.

Pitkin County has passed the strictest tobacco and vaping policies in the state so far, by including the slate of new tobacco policies — the tax, raising the purchasing age, and banning flavored nicotine, including menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

Eagle and Summit counties have raised the purchasing age to 21 and proposed tobacco taxes that voters approved Nov. 5.

Aspen, Basalt, Glenwood Springs and New Castle have approved up to $4 taxes on a pack of cigarettes, and Carbondale expects to put a similar tax before voters in April.

The Garfield County commissioners approved a letter requesting state lawmakers pass statewide tobacco policies, or clarify the 2019 legislation.

In the letter, commissioners said they “are very concerned with the use of tobacco products by the youth of our community and … we strongly believe this could be best addressed at the state level. However, if it appears that a statewide regulatory system seems unlikely, we ask that some clarification language to (the bill) be adopted so that we may feel more able to create local regulations.”

Gini Pingenot, who helped draft the 2019 legislation with Colorado Counties, Inc., said she understands the caution, given how new the licensing authority is.

“This is a brand new horizon. I do appreciate the thoughtfulness of jumping into the licensing piece,” Pingenot said.

When the bill was being drafted, regulating flavors was not part of the discussion, Pingenot said.

Pingenot expects lawmakers to consider a state licensing structure for all tobacco and e-cigarette vendors in 2020.

‘A right 18-year-olds have’

The county’s minimum age resolution notes that Colorado youth have the highest rate of teen vaping. The resolution also states that 96 percent of smokers begin before the age of 21, and that nicotine users frequently shift transition from experimentation to addiction between the ages of 18 and 21.

Board chairman John Martin entered the dissenting vote on raising the purchasing age even though he recognizes the health risks of smoking.

Martin considers purchasing tobacco to be a decision legal adults should be able to make themselves.

If an 18-year-old can volunteer for the military, he or she should be able to purchase tobacco, Martin said.

“It’s just a right 18-year-olds have, along with everything else piled on them,” Martin said.

Martin added that people shouldn’t smoke, but said his philosophical position is that the government shouldn’t protect people from themselves when it comes to tobacco.

“You need to take responsibility and make those choices, and also understand what the consequences might be,” Martin said.


PHOTOS: Veterans Day assemblies across Garfield County

The Glenwood Springs Junior Air Force ROTC present the colors during the Veterans Day Assembly at Glenwood Springs High School in Glenwood Springs, Colo on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.
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Students at Glenwood Springs High School salute the flag during the presentation of the colors at the Veterans Day Assembly at Glenwood Springs HIgh School in Glenwood Springs, Colo on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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A member of the Glenwood Springs High School Junior Air Force ROTC stands during a presentation at the Veterans Day Assembly at the school on Monday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Guest speaker Steve Beattie reacts after the audience gives him a standing ovation following his speech at the Veterans Day Assembly at Glenwood Springs High School on Monday.
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Student speaker Patrick Young sits with this great grandfather Phil Wilmont during the Veterans Day Assembly at Glenwood Springs High School in Glenwood Springs, Colo on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Glenwood Springs Middle School students salute the flag during the presentation of the colors at the Veterans Day assembly in Glenwood Springs, Colo on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Veterans and members of the audience stand for the National Athem during the Veterans Day assembly at Glenwood Springs Middle School in Glenwood Springs, Colo on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.
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Members of the Glenwood Springs Middle School choir sing and honor veterans during the Veterans Day assembly held at the school in Glenwood Springs, Colo on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
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Eighth annual Turkey Trot in Rifle to benefit Rifle High School track and field

It’s a Thanksgiving tradition that won’t leave you stuffed.

“We have families that, this is their tradition now,” Chris Bomba, Rifle High School Track and Field coach, said of the Thanksgiving Day 5K race.

On Thursday, Nov. 28, the Eighth Annual Turkey Trot will commence at Cooper Field in Deerfield Park, 182 E 30th St. Rifle.

On-site registration for the Thanksgiving Day event opens at 7:30 a.m. with the Little Gobbler Trot beginning at 8:30 a.m. and the Turkey Trot at 9 a.m.

“We started the Turkey Trot partly as a fundraiser but also as a community outreach event,” Bomba said.

The 5K costs $30 for individuals and $80 for families or teams of five, proceeds of which benefit the Rifle High School Track and Field program.

Additionally, the Little Gobbler Trot costs $20 per child.

According to Bomba, earlier this year rodents damaged the team’s pole vault and high jump pits, which were stored away in sheds.

Bomba said the track and field team hoped to raise approximately $4,000 from this year’s Turkey Trot to go toward their replacement.

This year’s event will also honor former Rifle High School staff member Cande DeLoera, who died of cancer.

“He was just an amazing person. He survived a heart attack and then became a runner,” Bomba said of DeLoera. “You could always see him running around town.”

According to Bomba, the 5K’s route follows a loop around the park and usually concludes by 10 a.m.

“We have a big loop that we do right around the park there,” Bomba said. “There’s one place that’s on grass but the rest of it’s on pavement to be a little bit easier on people.”

In addition to welcoming all skill levels, the Turkey Trot also encourages costumes.

This year’s best-dressed male and female entrants will each take home a pumpkin pie, too.

“Every year we have some families and some teams that put together some pretty creative costumes,” Bomba said. “It’s a lot of fun.”


Final election tally confirms area school board, Garfield County outcomes

Final ballot counts last week in the Nov. 5 odd-year election confirmed results in western Garfield County school board races and ballot measures.

Election results were to be given a final review by the county canvassing board on Wednesday before being certified as official.

The unofficial final results released Nov. 14 confirmed Tom Slappey and Kirk Wilson as the victors in the two contested races for seats on the Garfield Re-2 School Board.

Slappey carried the Director District A race over Seth McMillen by a 60% margin, while Wilson won the Director District B race over Chris Miller with 53% of the vote.

Uncontested for two other seats on the Rifle, Silt and New Castle-area school board were Katie Mackley and Meriya Stickler.

In the three-way race for two open seats on the District 16 (Parachute-Battlement Mesa) School Board, Lynn Shore and Britany Van Teylingen were the confirmed winners of the election, with 36% and 29.8% of the vote, respectively, to Diana Lawrence’s 29.1%.

Also confirmed was the positive outcome of District 16’s Ballot Question 4A, by a margin of 64% to 36% margin. The measure allows the school district to provide advanced services, including telecommunications and cable television, within the district, without raising additional taxes to do so.

Two ballot questions before New Castle town voters — Issue 2B (tobacco tax) and Issue 2C (property tax reauthorization) — also both passed, earning yes votes from 67% and 59% of the town electorate, respectively.

And, the Garfield County Library District mill levy (Issue 6A) increase, was approved countywide with 53% of the vote. The anticipated $4 million in new annual revenue generated by the 1.5 mill levy is to go toward restoring and expanding hours and services within the six-branch library system that stretches from Parachute to Carbondale.

West Garfield County election final results

Garfield Re-2 School Board Director A

Tom Slappey — 2,384 (60%)

Seth McMillen — 1,582 (40%)

Garfield Re-2 School Board Director B

Kirk Wilson — 2,080 (53%)

Chris Miller — 1,857 (47%)

District 16 School Board

Lynn Shore — 663 (36%)

Britany Van Teylingen — 548 (29.8%)

Diana Lawrence — 536 (29.1%)

Write-in 1 — 89 (5%)

Write-in 2 — 4 (0.2%)

Garfield Library District mill levy

Yes — 7,444 (53%)

No — 6,603 (47%)

New Castle tobacco tax

Yes — 794 (67%)

No — 397 (33%)

New Castle property tax renewal

Yes — 698 (59%)

No — 488 (41%)

School District 16 telecommunications

Yes — 863 (64%)

No — 483 (36%)

Mountain Rescue Aspen to host workshop on staying safe on backcountry tours

Mountain Rescue Aspen wants to get the winter off on the right foot by holding a free, public workshop to train or refresh skiers on how to plan a trip in the backcountry.

MRA will host “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour” on Dec. 5 at its CB Cameron Rescue Center at the Aspen Airport Business Center.

“We keep hearing that people want to learn more about planning,” said MRA representative Greg Shaffran.

The volunteer organization is happy to oblige. It has increased its winter and summer workshops to try to help people stay safe in their travels — whether that’s skiing and riding in the winter or climbing and hiking in the summer. It’s now holding four backcountry safety events per year.

Aspen was hit hard by avalanches last winter. Three local residents died, one near Green Mountain in Express Creek and two others on the Pearl Pass Road in Brush Creek drainage near Crested Butte.

MRA obviously wants to help reduce the community tragedies, Shaffran said. The December event will feature an exercise where five friends plan a backcountry ski tour. Shaffran will introduce the event and talk about route selection and navigation resources.

Brian Lazar, assistant director of Colorado Avalanche Information Center, will discuss avalanche conditions and applying them to terrain during planning. Debbie Kelly of MRA will discuss emergency response plans and group rescue gear. Famed Carbondale mountaineer Michael Kennedy will discuss group dynamics and the human factor. Rich Burkley, a longtime Aspen Skiing Co. executive, will discuss “sidecountry” access and concerns.

Shaffran noted that most avalanche accidents in the Aspen-Snowmass area occur in the sidecountry — backcountry terrain just outside ski area boundaries.

A Q&A session will be held after the presentations.

MRA has made changes that will allow it to vastly expand its capacity at public events. Vehicles will be moved out of the garage to accommodate more people. Light snacks and beverages will be provided starting at 5:30 p.m. The event is 6 to 7:30 p.m. The workshop also will be livestreamed on the MRA Facebook page.

“We want to grow these community events,” Shaffran said.

The targeted audience is everyone from newcomers planning their first backcountry excursions to savvy adventurers who are brushing up on their skills.

There has been an explosion in backcountry travel over the past decade or so. Shaffran said he has also become aware of a growing ethic for backcountry travelers to be prepared.

MRA also will hold its annual avalanche workshop in January. This will be the 35th annual event, which features classroom and field work. This winter, people who took the class last winter will assist the MRA team in teaching skills to attendees.

“The idea snowballs from there — they’re teaching people to teach,” Shaffran said.

The audience at the December backcountry-planning workshop will be encouraged to enroll in the avalanche workshop.