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Crime Briefs: Felonies in the Flat Tops; who’s driving this thing?

“MURDER SUICIDE IS A …”

At approximately 5:57 p.m. July 15, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office was advised of a man way up in the Flat Tops west of Yampa who came out of the woods screaming profanities at a woman.

The incident allegedly occurred at the Bear Lake Campground in a very remote part of Garfield County near the Routt County line.

According to an affidavit in the case, the 51-year-old male, who had just been released from jail following a previous domestic violence incident, was in violation of a restraining order that barred him from contacting the 50-year-old woman he was threatening.

The female, who was doing chores around the camp, allegedly saw the male and smelled “a strong odor of alcohol” as he approached her.

The female got into her work vehicle, as the male took the keys to her personal Dodge Ram out of her camper.

According to the arrest affidavit, the man said in a threatening tone “murder suicide is a…”

As the female drove toward the town of Yampa, the male began “fish tailing” her bumper before hitting her vehicle.

Heading down Forest Road 900, the male reportedly almost caused the female to drive off of the road and cliff, according to the affidavit.

Eventually, the male swerved in front of her and again yelled from the vehicle, “murder suicide is a…”

Upon receiving cell service, the female called dispatch and, working with Routt County and Oak Creek police, officers were able to locate and arrest the male, who still had “an extremely strong odor of alcohol” emanating from him.

Officers also discovered an “ax,” “binoculars” and “Mike’s Harder Black Cherry” located in and around the passenger seat of the vehicle the male allegedly commandeered.

After being medically cleared from Valley View Hospital, the male was booked into Garfield County Jail on 12 charges, six of which were felonies including menacing and vehicular assault while under the influence.

WHO WAS DRIVING?

At approximately 1:30 a.m. July, a Glenwood Springs Police officer pulled over a vehicle for driving erratically near Glenwood Meadows.

According to the arrest affidavit, the Dodge Ram “was weaving and touched the double yellow lines five times,” prompting the officer to activate his emergency lights and conduct a traffic stop.

Upon approaching the vehicle’s driver-side window, “no one was in the driver’s seat,” the officer reported.

According to the affidavit, the 22-year-old male in the front passenger seat and a 23-year-old male in the rear passenger seat both stated “that they were not driving.”

Additionally, both males’ eyes were “bloodshot” and the officer could smell “an unknown alcoholic beverage” coming from the vehicle.

Upon questioning the men, both claimed that the other was driving.

After running the 23-year-old’s name, dispatch advised that he had a mandatory protection order that prohibited him from possessing or consuming alcoholic beverages.

After stating, “I’m drunk, but I wasn’t driving,” the 23-year-old was eventually arrested and lodged into the Garfield County Jail on five charges, including DUI, careless driving, driving a vehicle while license under restraint, violation of a restraining order, and failure to provide proof of Insurance.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Trump trade policies under fire at Aspen Security Forum

While China needed to be effectively confronted over its trade policies toward the U.S., the way the Trump administration did it was antiquated, counter-productive and overly negative, according to three experts on doing business in China who spoke Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum.

Further, President Donald Trump’s recent threat to impose tariffs on Mexico over immigration worries U.S. trading partners and undermines future trade agreements America is trying to negotiate, according to a panel of trade experts who also spoke Thursday at the Forum.

“Look what he did to Mexico after signing a trade agreement (with them),” said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. “That’s a good example of his mindset.”

Trump backed down on the threat to impose the Mexican tariffs.

But William Reinsch, a senior business adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Trump’s Mexican tariff threat sent a clear message.

“That message was mostly for other countries: ‘If we make a deal with this gang, is it going to stick?’” Reinsch said. “I think it spooked the Chinese. It’s clearly bothering the Europeans and the Japanese. It’s worrying the Koreans, who have a completed deal.”

The Mexican tariff threat makes it less likely that the U.S. under Trump will be able to negotiate other multi-lateral or bilateral trade agreements, Yerxa said.

Susan Schwab, a former U.S. trade representative under President George W. Bush, said American trade negotiators have to be credible to get results.

Current negotiations with Japan over a trade agreement are off to a slow start and “not likely to succeed,” Schwab said. Also, an agreement with the United Kingdom cannot even begin to be negotiated until the details of Brexit are worked out, she said.

Meanwhile, the European Union is negotiating free-trade agreements “and we are left behind,” Schwab said.

As for the trade war with the Chinese, Schwab gave Trump credit for getting China’s attention, which she said the Obama administration was never able to do.

However, the Trump administration’s trade paradigm harkens back to the way it worked before the proliferation of rules-based trade agreements and the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995, Reinsch said. At the time, there were fewer constraints on U.S. trade actions than now, he said.

Yerxa said the administration’s trade stance, in which it acts like China, is a mistake.

“We should strengthen, not abandon, the rules-based system,” he said.

A more effective way to negotiate with China is through a coalition of countries, which could more easily make them agree to fairer trade rules, Yerxa said.

The idea of pressuring China using a coalition of countries also came up in the discussion about whether business can succeed China, which followed the forum’s talk on trade and tariffs.

Tom Pritzker, executive chairman of Hyatt Hotels Corp., said the larger scale of support provided by alliances is the best way to respond to China’s business and trade policies. The country has a very different history, culture and set of values than Western countries, who created the world order, he said.

“(They say) ‘Why should we change to accommodate you? We’re not the ones who need to change,’” Pritzker said.

Those companies who do business in China are now divided over whether the Trump administration’s trade policies are counter-productive or terrific, said Stephen Orlins, president of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. Some are a victim of “promise fatigue” by the Chinese, who long promised reforms but have not delivered, he said.

One-third of American companies with production in China have shifted it elsewhere in the last year, said Anja Manuel, principal at the Silicon Valley-based consulting firm of RiceHadleyGates.

Others like Hyatt, which is set to hire 50,000 Chinese employees, continue to operate until the Chinese no longer feel they’re getting the better deal, Pritzker said.

“We are aligned with Chinese interests at the moment,” he said. “If we fall out of alignment, we may be in trouble.”

Any trade deal between the U.S. and China probably isn’t coming very soon, Reinsch said.

That’s because the structural reforms Americans want in the Chinese economy would reduce state control, and Chinese President Xi Jinping “is never going to do that,” he said.

“Trump’s choice is to accept less or continue the war,” Reinsch said.

But don’t expect Trump to accept anything until far closer to the 2020 election, he said, when he’ll trumpet whatever it is as the best deal ever, sell it on the campaign trail and not have to deal with the consequences of whatever the agreement’s results might be, he said. If he takes a deal earlier, he risks letting Democrats hammer him on possible negative results, Reinsch said.

jauslander@aspentimes.com

Glenwood City Council approves private security to help combat homeless nuisance issues

Glenwood Springs Police Chief Terry Wilson had a concise message for City Council Thursday concerning law enforcement’s role as it pertains to dealing with homelessness issues.

“I don’t think we are going to arrest our way out of this,” Wilson said of a subject that has resurfaced year after year. “As a matter of fact, I guarantee you we are not going to.”

According to Glenwood Springs Police records, 962 adults were arrested in 2010, 181 of whom were self-identified as homeless.

In 2018, 926 adults were arrested, with 482 self-identifying as homeless, which equates to 52 percent of the department’s arrests.

“And, we are right on track to beat that this year,” Wilson explained, as 49 percent of the police department’s 583 arrests thus far in 2019 fell into the homeless demographic.

The top four causes of arrests within the city’s homeless population included illegal camping, littering, warrants and alcohol-related offenses.

Municipal Court Judge Amanda Maurer described how she continued to see repeat offenders, and how there was only so much the courts — like law enforcement — could do as it related to some of the public nuisance issues associated with homelessness.

“One of the people that is on the docket for this coming Tuesday, and I am sure he is probably under the bridge right now. … How many times can you go and arrest him?” Maurer said. “It’s seriously a problem.”

Between November 2007 and 2019, one self-identified homeless person was arrested 62 different times, according to police records. The same subject was charged 38 times with an open container or drinking in public, 23 times for illegal camping and 13 times for warrants.

City Council was presented with a few different options for consideration, including private security, additional police department staffing and additional camping prohibitions.

Private security would include two to three personnel members between May and October. However, such an addition would carry with it an approximate annual price tag of $113,400.

By comparison, the estimated cost of adding four police officers would be somewhere in the realm of $400,000, council was advised.

City Attorney Karl Hanlon also proposed to councilors the possibility of enacting an around-the-clock camping prohibition. Such a ban could address daytime loitering under the bridge and elsewhere in the downtown area for an extended period of time.

The 24/7 no-camping area would stretch from Ninth Street to Seventh on the south side of the Colorado River, west to Colorado Avenue and east to Cooper. The no-camping area would also include many government buildings, as well as the pedestrian bridge and Sixth Street.

For the time being, council approved hiring private security in particular for the tourist season and during downtown events, such as the Friday night music under the bridge.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Basalt prepares to undertake major road projects on Midland Avenue and Willits Lane

It’s cone-zone time in Basalt.

Two road repavement projects will be undertaken later this month on busy arteries in town.

The intersection at Two Rivers Road and Midland Avenue will be closed from Monday morning until Tuesday afternoon. Downtown businesses will be open and detours will provide access. Traffic coming from downvalley on Two Rivers Road will use Midland Spur to access downtown. Traffic coming from upvalley will be directed from Two Rivers Road onto Cottonwood Drive. There will be no access to downtown via the roundabout on Basalt Avenue.

While planning the project, town staff figured a closure on a Monday evening would be preferred over busier evenings later in the week.

“Staff has been notifying businesses of the closure, and we have been fielding a number of calls,” Town Manager Ryan Mahoney wrote in a recent report to the Town Council. “Mainly we are being asked why would your do these improvements now instead of waiting until the offseason.”

The town determined it could not shut down the intersection while school is in session, Mahoney said. Weather also played a role in the timing. Wet, cold weather throughout the spring delayed contractors’ schedules. The town also had to coordinate the roadwork with the completion of widening sidewalks on Cottonwood Drive. It didn’t want to divert traffic onto Cottonwood while that project was ongoing.

Addition parking will be available on Two Rivers Road west of downtown by the river park for access to businesses in Gold Rivers Court. Parking will also be available at the Basalt Elementary School.

The town’s contractor will roto-mill the existing surface on Two Rivers Road from the intersection to the Fryingpan Bridge by 7-Eleven, according to Mahoney. It will receive a two-inch overlay.

“The intersection has started to deteriorate, especially during the winter when we dealt with a number of potholes,” Mahoney wrote in his report. “If we do not keep on top of these repairs, it is likely that a costlier and longer duration project would be needed in the future.”

By closing the intersection, it can be limited to one evening only, according to Mahoney.

On the western end of town, there will be roto-milling and repaving on Willits Lane July 24-26. The work will occur on the eastern and western ends of the busy, horseshoe-shaped route.

The work will target about 550 feet off Highway 82 on the eastern end and about 1,280 feet on the western end from the roundabout to Lewis Lane. Detours will be in place.

This weekend only: Post Independent’s Music on the Mountain Photo Contest!

Got weekend plans?

The Post Independent’s team is ready to party on Saturday, July 20, at the Music on the Mountain, featuring the local cover band Poser!

The annual summer series, hosted by Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park, offers tons of fun for the whole family with free gondola rides starting at 4 p.m. in exchange for a canned food item to be donated to the Lift-Up community food pantry. The Post Independent team will be at its booth at 5 p.m.

The Glenwood Springs Post Independent is proud to be one of the sponsors of this mountain-top event, and this year we want you to share your best moments at the Music on the Mountain with us.

Instagram Photo Contest

The 2019 Post Independent’s Music on the Mountain Photo Contest will choose the coolest photo taken during this Saturday’s event. The winner gets to take home two tickets for either The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park or the Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

The 2019 Post Independent’s Music on the Mountain Photo Contest will choose the coolest photo taken during this Saturday’s event. The winner gets to take home two tickets for either The Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park or the Iron Mountain Hot Springs.

How to participate:

1 – Follow the Post Independent page on Instagram (@glenwoodspringspi)
2 – Post your photo having fun at the Music on the Mountain event
3 – Use the hashtag #postsnaps in the description

It’s that easy.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us on Instagram, or in person. Our team will be at the event ready to help, chat or take a photo for you.

We hope to see you there.

Community invited to 3 Mile Creek/Roaring Fork River confluence project open house Saturday

Another stream confluence in Glenwood Springs besides the big one where the Roaring Fork River meets the Colorado is getting some attention from the city.

City planning officials will host an open house Saturday concerning planning efforts around the confluence of Three Mile Creek and the Roaring Fork River in the south Glenwood area.

The open house will occur on site — just off the Atkinson Trail near where the creek meets the river – from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

According to Glenwood Springs Senior Planner Trent Hyatt, high use of the area has resulted in riparian plant species being unable to thrive, as well as the loss of recreation space.

“What you see there mostly are just beachgoers, picnic goers, pedestrians and bicyclists that are stopping on their routes,” Hyatt said of the uses the area frequently sees. “Anglers obviously use that space a lot, as well as boaters … both recreationally and commercial.”

City staff, as well as members of the project consultant team with Wright Water Engineers, will provide a tour of the area and field questions from residents in attendance at Saturday’s event.

“Really, what got this part of the project underway is that the city applied for and received two separate awards,” Hyatt explained of the Pitkin County Healthy Rivers grants the city received in the amount of $30,000 and $25,000, which has funded the project’s planning efforts thus far.

According to a recent press release, the city hopes to develop a holistic plan that addresses impacts on the area while also providing ecologically diverse and naturally sustainable habitats, improved water quality, trail connectivity and recreational access.

“It’s just an opportunity for folks to show up and view the area, speak with the consultants and then maybe offer up opinions on their ideas of how to better manage the space,” Hyatt said.

The city has also created a survey to gather further input, which one may take at www.surveymonkey.com/r/3Mile.

mabennett@postindependent.com

A confluence of concerns in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs residents Richard Todd and Gary Vick say they got wind of City Council’s interviews with three potential confluence development teams through hearsay.

“This is the first time that I have been to any meeting to discuss what’s going on over there,” Todd said as he pointed to where the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers meet, just a short distance away from his home.

“There seem to have been some meetings, but certainly I was never invited to any of them,” he said of development prospects that could have a major impact on his neighborhood.

According to the 2017 Confluence Redevelopment Plan, as part of the community engagement process a Project Advisory Team (PAT) was “established to guide the planning process for the Confluence Redevelopment Plan.”

That Project Advisory Team was comprised of 12 stakeholders that included just one public representative — Dean Gordon, co-founder of the engineering firm SGM.

Its other 11 members included two city councilors, including former Councilor Todd Leahy, two Roaring Fork Transportation Authority representatives, four members from the city’s Planning and Zoning, Transportation and River commissions, two Downtown Development Authority (DDA) representatives, and one member of city staff — all of whom were serving within their official capacities.

On Feb. 21 of this year, City Council approved the Glenwood Springs: Moving Forward Together U.S. EPA Area-Wide Plan. The project consultant team for the plan included Stromberg/Garrigan & Associates, Inc. from Norfolk, Virginia; Gaito & Associates, LLC out of Carlisle, Pennsylvania; Development Research Partners from Littleton and Community Builders, based out of Glenwood Springs.

According to its executive summary, the Moving Forward Together Plan, “… represents the proactive role government can take in working with property owners and developers …”

The plan’s strategy included how to better connect the confluence’s redevelopment, the Sixth Street Corridor Master Plan, the Seventh Street beautification project and Two Rivers Park.

“Why is this the first that we are hearing of a 2019 study? We thought the 2017 [Confluence Redevelopment Plan] was the latest and greatest,” said Vick, who also lives near the confluence.

It’s a question he recently posed to City Council and staff.

“Whatever public outreach they did, for them to claim that it was a public process is disingenuous at best, because nobody in this neighborhood knew about it,” Vick said.

The day after City Council approved the Moving Forward Together Plan, the city moved forward with a Master Developer for Confluence Area Request For Qualifications (RFQ). The process was intended “… to find a qualified, visionary development partner to participate in the city of Glenwood Springs’ efforts to develop approximately 12.2 acres of land …”

The RFQ, which closed on May 22, turned up seven responses that were then vetted by members of the city’s Community Development, Engineering, and Parks and Recreation departments, as well as the DDA.

The search was then narrowed to three development teams — Development Partners, Trail Break Partners and the Confluence Development Group — all of which were interviewed at a special City Council meeting on July 8.

“This has not been a public process, otherwise someone on this street would’ve known it was coming,” Vick said. “They are trying to ram it through.”

At this time, City Council has not selected a development team or laid out a time frame for doing so.

In their RFQs, the three teams proposed, among other developments, multi-family residential housing, 614 parking spaces, 25,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space and a potential Hyatt corporation hotel and conference center on the confluence area site.

“I am not an angry homeowner,” Vick said. “I am a concerned citizen who wants to see a proper, well disseminated public process involving the crown jewel of Glenwood Springs real estate.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

Glenwood Council to take a closer look at downtown smoking ordinance

The Glenwood Springs Police Department has recommended “fairly significant changes” to the city’s smoking ordinance and will present them Thursday to City Council.

Currently, the city’s municipal code bans smoking in the downtown area, which largely follows the Downtown Development Authority boundary that includes the downtown core areas north and south of the Colorado River, east to Blake Avenue and west to Pitkin Avenue.

The ordinance bans smoking in public places, such as sidewalks, alleys and parks, between the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m.

NEW PROPOSED BOUNDARY

“We were trying to condense,” Glenwood Springs Chief of Police Terry Wilson said of the proposed smoking boundary. “Make it a little straighter, easier to understand and still incorporate the heaviest-used pedestrian areas for the city.”

South of the Colorado River, the boundary would begin at Ninth Street and run to Seventh. To the west, it would stretch to Colorado Avenue and to the east, Cooper.

However, along West Eighth Street the smoking ban would widen to Defiance Avenue to include the areas surrounding City Hall, as well as areas outside the Garfield County Courthouse, jail and County Administration building.

Additionally, the proposed ban would include the pedestrian bridge to Sixth Street and up U.S. 6 to West First Street.

The prohibition of smoking on city parklands as well as on bicycle and pedestrian pathways would remain intact.

DESIGNATED SMOKING AREA

According to a City Council staff report, “The idea has been kicked around to make the ban on smoking downtown 24 hours rather than the current times.”

Although such an idea has not come to fruition, if an around-the-clock smoking ban was adopted, Council may also approve a designated smoking area.

The report stated that downtown business employees often smoked in alleys and that “possibly making a small area of the ‘Bethel Lot’ a smoking-allowed area may make sense.”

“That’s one option,” Wilson explained of the lot just east of the Grand Avenue Bridge landing, near the cross alley between Grand and Cooper.

ASHTRAYS & PENALTIES

Although one may smoke outside after 10 p.m. and before 5 a.m. under the current ordinance, the report took issue with businesses in the downtown area that put out cans or other ashtray devices, suggesting it created “an appearance of acceptance for smoking that conflicts with the ordinance.”

Additionally, the police department has recommended changing the penalty for violating the smoking ordinance from that of a summoned court appearance to a penalty assessment model, akin to the city’s wildlife trash ordinance.

“It is a summons into court currently and that can be a headache for [the offender] and for the courts,” Wilson said. “We feel after having a little experience with it now, that it is an appropriate ordinance to have as a pay by mail fine option.”

First-time offenders would get fined $50, a second-time offender $100, and third and subsequent offenses, $200.

Wilson explained how tourists often do not know about the smoking ban and hoped to put up more signage, as many were taken down during the Grand Avenue Bridge and Seventh Street construction projects.

“We can create a higher expectation that people are seeing the warnings and being advised, because it is a specialized, local thing,” Wilson said of the ordinance.

City Council will pick up the discussion at a work session Thursday afternoon, as well as during its evening meeting when public comment can be taken.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Post Independent photo essay: Females fighting fire

The Bureau of Land Management recently partnered with the Western Colorado Conservation Corps and is helping to fund the work of crew members working for WCCC.

This year was the first year the corps put together an all-female fire crew in Colorado. The women came from all across the United States to work on fuels projects and are on-call for any fires that require assistance in the state.

A crew woman speaks with another crewmate while cutting down heavy oakbrush as part of the June Creek Project. The women worked to build a fire line along a horse and foot hiking trail, which will later be utilized during a prescribed burn.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A crew woman works to clear brush from the trail after it has been cut down by another crewmate.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The goal of the program is to increase diversity in the fire program by creating entry-level opportunities to help with recruitment. The women are learning skills that will be helpful in getting a position with a wildland fire program in BLM or other land management agencies.

Marissa Wyatt, age 22, from Florida was inspired to go into this line of work by a former project sponsor who was an older female firefighter.

Women participating in the wildland fire training program hike to and camp out during their work week, which consists of four 10-hour shifts at different project areas each week.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
An example of the thick oak brush the group spent the week working to clear along the horse trail. The trail will eventually serve as the fire line in a future prescribed burn as part of the June Creek Project south of Silt.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I have a great group of women to work with out here, and the work is really empowering,” she said. “Running chainsaws all day — you really can’t beat it.”

The group of women with the Western Colorado Conservation Corps head down to continue working on the June Creek Project located south of Silt.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Glenwood’s Downtown Market enjoys calling Centennial Park home, as some suggest it should move to Seventh Street

Glenwood’s Downtown Market & Music Series has begun a straw poll that asks attendees their thoughts on possibly moving the Tuesday tradition to Seventh Street. 

Event organizer Cindy Svatos said that no one at the city had asked her to relocate the market from Centennial Park at the corner of Grand Avenue and Ninth Street to Seventh.

However, with the future “festival street” nearing initial completion, Svatos could not help but wonder if it was only a matter of time before the question did arise. 

“I kind of keep feeling like that could be in our future. We are just getting a feel for what people think,” Svatos explained of the informal survey. “I don’t want to make it sound like we are already gathering ammunition to say no.”  

However, the preliminary consensus among organizers, vendors and attendees thus far has been to keep the market and music series in its home of 14 seasons, Centennial Park.

One issue concerning a potential move to Seventh Street and under the Grand Avenue Bridge is visibility and accessibility for vendors and market attendees. 

“People love this park. …They see us and there is a lot of parking, even for the vendors,” Svatos said, pointing at the parking garage located just footsteps away at Ninth and Cooper. “Once you start over the bridge you are not going to turn back.”   

Massage therapist Victoria Pennock with Moon & Stars Massage called Centennial Park a “perfect” spot for the market and the 200 to 300 people who visit its produce stands, food vendors and artisans between 4 – 8 p.m. on Tuesdays throughout the summer.

For Pennock, the park’s shade, especially when temperatures soar into the 90s, was crucial. 

“If they did it under the bridge there would be shade, but the people that come to this enjoy the trees,” Pennock said. “I think it is a lot more organic over here.”

With Seventh Street’s construction timeline extending through August, the Downtown Market will not change locations anytime soon — if ever. 

And, while the majority of market goers so far have supported keeping the market in Centennial Park, there were a few vendors who preferred the idea of relocating it to Seventh Street.

“I actually like the idea of it moving down to Seventh Street. I think down there kind of draws in a few more people with the businesses and the restaurants,” Till & Company Coffee owner Wyatt Till said as he set up his booth Tuesday afternoon. 

Till thought that the market relocating to Seventh Street would serve as a win-win for vendors like himself, but also for the numerous downtown businesses, particularly on a Tuesday.

“It is almost advertising for them and advertising for us,” added Till. 

With 15 artists performing over the course of the market series’ 15 weeks, one of those musicians – Chris Bank – enjoyed Centennial’s intimate feel and open space. 

“The audience here, I don’t know if you would get this same feeling down there,” said Bank, who has played at the Tuesday market for a decade. “For the market, I would think they would want to have it in a park.”

mabennett@postindependent.com