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Results of new housing needs study will be presented in Pitkin, Garfield and Eagle counties

Stop the Bleed campaign teaches Glenwood High School students emergency, life-saving techniques

Glenwood Springs High School students learned the ABCs of saving lives Wednesday as part of an ongoing national campaign called “Stop the Bleed.”

With educators and local medical professionals from across the Roaring Fork Valley presenting, the hands-on event taught students basic life-saving techniques to utilize in the event of an emergency.

‘A’ for alert

Presenter Jen Elias, who also serves as Valley View Hospital’s trauma coordinator, first stressed the importance of dialing 911 or specifically instructing someone else to do so.

Although such a task may seem like common sense, all-to-often panic causes people to take longer to call emergency responders, and subsequently delay professional medical help from arriving on scene.

“The only thing more tragic than a death, is a death that could have been prevented,” Elias said to students, echoing one of Stop the Bleed’s mottos.

‘B’ for Bleeding

Instead of diving straight into how to prevent life-threatening bleeding to the greatest extent possible, Elias made sure students understood that they should not offer help, until they could ensure their own safety first.

Students were then shown images of what life-threatening bleeding looked like and given instructions on how to handle the various situations accordingly until emergency medical personnel did arrive.

GSHS seniors Hanna Spencer and Telford Underwood said that they never envisioned learning about how to prevent a classmate, teacher or even a complete stranger from possibly bleeding to death, But they said they certainly understood the importance of Wednesday’s Stop the Bleed assembly, particularly in this day and age.

“It’s becoming a lot more relevant now and this is a big eye opener as to how relevant it is in our society and contemporary times.” Spencer said.

Added Underwood, “Since things like this can happen all of the time and there’s such a wide spectrum of accidents that can happen, it’s really helpful to know how you could save a life.”

‘C’ for Compress

After making sure 911 was called, ensuring their own safety and identifying life-threatening bleeding, students learned how to use a first aid trauma kit, and what to do if one is not readily available.

Local ER doctors, trauma surgeons, paramedics, EMTs and even Classic Air Medical’s flight crew gave students hands on training on how to stuff wounds with gauze or a clean cloth and looked on as students applied pressure to life-threatening bleeding simulations.

Additionally, the medical professionals taught and reinforced how to utilize devices such as tourniquets around arms and legs.

“It has been a valley-wide collaborative and people from all different professions have gotten involved,” Elias said of bringing the national Stop the Bleed campaign to the local area.

“It was really important to me to have people that were recognizable to the students … their coaches, their teachers, their local EMS.”

Without question, tragedies such as the Columbine High School massacre, the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting come to mind during Stop the Bleed assemblies.

However, the national campaign teaches students critical, life-saving techniques they may apply in a variety of emergency circumstances.

“Could it happen in a school? Absolutely. Could it be a shop class? Absolutely. Could it be at a ball field? Could it be anything?,” inquired Glenwood Springs High School Assistant Principal Patrick Engle.

“For a kid to just at least say, ‘I remember how to do this. I could put my hands on someone and I think I could stop their bleeding,’ what a great service that the medical community is providing to the kids,” he said. “If this right here keeps one kid alive, then this was well worth our time.”

mabennett@postindependent.com

State cracks down on Aspen ‘doctor’

For the second time in five months, the Colorado Medical Board has issued a cease-and-desist order against an Aspen man who has branded himself as a medical doctor although “there exists credible evidence” he lacks the proper credentials.

On Thursday, the board put Hassen Dagher, 45, who once ran a fitness studio in Aspen, on notice that he is forbidden from practicing medicine or representing himself as a physician in the state of Colorado. The board delivered its first cease-and-desist order against Dagher on Dec. 20 but said he has ignored it.

“From approximately April 1, 2019 to present, (Dagher) continues to represent himself as a physician on a LinkedIn profile, although (Dagher) is not licensed to practice medicine in the State of Colorado,” said last week’s order.

Should Dagher continue to ignore the order, the matter will be referred to the state attorney general for injunctive relief, according to Paula Martinez, program director for the Colorado Medical Board.

Dagher on Tuesday referred questions to a Denver law firm that he said is representing him in the matter. The firm could not be immediately reached for comment to confirm it has been retained.

Dagher also provided to The Aspen Times, by email, an image of a certificate he received from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates dated June 7, 2015. Certification from the ECFMG helps medical graduates from outside the U.S. obtain certifications to practice in the States.

According to the December order, however, Dagher “engaged in the unlicensed practice of medicine” starting July 5, 2016. The order cited his July 5, 2016, appearance on a Grassroots Community Network program where he said he was a physician with a medical degree from St. Matthews University School of Medicine in the Cayman Islands; his LinkedIn page describing him as a “skilled physician;” and his testifying that he was a doctor, during an October civil trial in Aspen.

“(Dagher) represented himself as a licensed physician to other members of the public, including, but not limited to, for the purpose of acquiring housing,” according to the December order. “(Dagher) represented himself as a doctor and as a medical doctor to other members of the public in a manner that could induce members of the public to believe he was a licensed physician in the State of Colorado.”

During the citizen comments portion of a March 6, 2017, Aspen City Council meeting, Dagher referred to himself as a doctor and pitched to elected officials the creation of a “fitness czar” who would help the local populace get or stay healthy through programs and other means.

“I suggest this position be treated as an elected position,” he told members of the council. “I would like to recommend myself to propose what the position entails. Of course I’d like to be the first person to hold the position.”

The proposal failed to take flight.

As of Tuesday, Dagher’s profile on LinkedIn, a social media site for professional networking, said he has a medical practice in Aspen. He previously ran Aspen fitness studios including Dagher Fitness, whose offerings included personal training, yoga and rehabilitation.

rcarroll@aspentimes.com

Judge rules Miller’s comments can’t be used against Marcus in Lake Christine Fire trial

Richard Miller’s admission shortly after the Lake Christine fire broke out July 3 that tracer bullets were fired from a rifle at the Basalt shooting range cannot be used in a trial against his girlfriend, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman said Miller’s comments about the type of ammunition and his knowledge of a fire ban in place last July represent what Miller knew, but not necessarily what Allison Marcus knew. The comments made by Miller would be prejudicial against Marcus in her trial, the judge said.

Miller’s comments can be used in a separate trial against him, the judge ruled last Friday. Miller’s attorney, Josh Maximon, had filed a motion to suppress the comments, but it was denied.

Miller can also be called as a witness in the trial of Marcus, the judge indicated.

Miller is scheduled to go to trial May 28. Marcus is scheduled to go to trial June 17. The defendants, both 24 years of age, are facing three counts of fourth-degree arson, a Class 4 felony, and one count of setting fire to woods or prairie, a Class 6 felony. They were arrested July 22 and are free on a $7,500 bond each.

An affidavit in support of an arrest warrant for the couple and testimony in a pre-trial hearing last week showed that Miller and Marcus went to the Basalt shooting range late in the afternoon of July 3. The fire broke out behind the shooting range, and Marcus called 911 to report it, according to her comments to investigators.

Eagle County deputy sheriff Josiah Maner testified Wednesday he arrived on the scene shortly after the fire broke out and was talking to another law enforcement official when Marcus volunteered information.

“Ms. Marcus kind of approached us and said she was responsible for the fire and was extremely sorry,” Maner said.

Miller said he was shooting a shotgun with birdshot. Marcus said she was shooting a rifle that they had picked up from Miller’s father. Maner said he asked Miller what kind of rounds were being fired from the rifle and that Miller said he didn’t know.

A short time later, Maner asked Miller if he could check their equipment, including a container for ammunition. Miller replied, “Well, if I can be honest, it was tracer rounds,” according to Heidi McCollum, assistant district attorney in the 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and a prosecutor in the cases.

The arrest warrant affidavit also said that Maner asked Miller if he was aware that a stage 2-fire ban was in place at that time.

“Deputy Maner asked Miller if he saw the two lighted signs (about the fire ban) on Colorado Highway 82 near Original Road, and the sign on Two Rivers Rd.,” the affidavit said. “Miller stated he did but the signs only read fires and fireworks were prohibited.”

In his testimony last week, Maner said he told Miller and Marcus it was their responsibility to know that incendiary rounds such as tracers were prohibited during the fire ban.

Knowledge of the tracer rounds and the fire ban will be a key issue at the trials. Colorado’s fourth-degree arson law says, “A person who knowingly or recklessly starts or maintains a fire or causes an explosion on his own property or that of another, and by so doing places another in danger of death or serious bodily injury or places any building or occupied structure of another in danger of damage commits fourth-degree arson.”

Marcus’ attorney, Stan Garnett, indicated in court last week he would attempt to show in trial that Marcus didn’t have the state of mind to commit the crime.

“This is the one key issue in the case: What did Ms. Marcus know? What was she aware of?” he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

The survey says — Basalt residents want refund for property tax overcharges

The majority of Basalt residents want a refund for property taxes the town government overcharged, according to results of a town survey.

The majority also don’t want Town Hall to lay a guilt trip on them about how a refund will require a reduction of services, according to Bill Ray, principal in WR Communication Inc., a survey firm that has worked extensively in the Roaring Fork Valley. The survey allowed respondents to provide open-ended comments.

“There were a lot of (comments) ‘I just want my money, I just want my money,’” Ray said.

Several respondents didn’t make a connection between the refund or a reduction of the tax rate with a decrease in services, according to Ray.

“There was general pushback — don’t hang reduction of services over our heads,” he said.

The survey results that he unveiled at the regular council meeting Tuesday night dropped like a political bomb. Not only do residents want a refund, it’s a toss up on whether they will let the town maintain the current mill levy. Respondents also questioned the effectiveness of the leadership of the board.

“Wow,” said Mayor Jacque Whitsitt when Ray concluded his presentation. “Wow.”

The town commissioned the survey after the current administrative staff discovered that the property tax rate was increased 10 times since 2005. The staff reported the discovery to the council in a closed session. The council directed them to share the information with the public.

The overcharge is an apparent violation of Colorado’s Taxpayers Bill of Right or TABOR amendment to the constitution. Basalt residents voted in 1992 to ease restrictions of TABOR, and it appears that was mistakenly interpreted by former and some present town officials to mean property tax rates could be increased without a vote of the people. In reality, it meant excess revenues could be kept when property values increased and taxes raised more funds.

TABOR says that tax entities that violate the law are liable for refunding revenues collected for the most recent four years. Basalt officials estimate the cumulative refund amount would be about $2.3 million.

The challenge, Town Manager Ryan Mahoney said prior to the meeting, is how to provide that refund without crippling the town financially by drawing down reserves, drastically cutting service or a combination of the two.

While WR Communications didn’t have the time to conduct a scientific sample, Ray told the council there was a strong response rate to the survey sent to 1,529 households. The town received 282 responses from a mixture of older and newer residents as well as from residents of Eagle and Pitkin counties. The town falls into both counties.

When asked how the town should resolve the property tax overcharge, 52 percent of respondents said lower the future mill levy rate or provide refunds “even if that means the town will reduce some services.”

Nearly 39 percent said set the mill levy at the current rate to maintain the level of services.

In a separate question, respondents were asked, “If an election were held today, would you vote ‘yes’ in favor or ‘no’ to oppose, to allow the town of Basalt to maintain its property tax at the current rate of 5.957?”

It was evenly divided with 42.55 percent saying yes and 41.49 percent saying no. About 16 percent were unsure.

Councilman Auden Schendler said the town government needs to provide information that reflects the reality of the situation. He said the word “refund” should be avoided and replaced with a phrase like payment from reserve.

Whitsitt expressed frustration that several years of property tax reductions have been forgotten in the discussion. Between 1994 and 2010, Basalt reduced or maintained the property tax rate nearly every year. The rate has increased 10 times in the 14 years since 2005.

The tax issue will be on the council’s plate throughout June and July. Mahoney said the staff would return with recommendations on questions for the November ballot. Whitsitt said she believes there must be two questions — one on maintaining the mill levy at the current level for the future and the other on whether or not a refund should be given for the overcharge.

If there was any silver lining, it was that some residents credited the town with transparency on the issue. The town staff brought the overcharge issue to the council’s attention. Mahoney has been manager for less than two years. The finance director and attorney are new this year. However, Ray said that respondents “do not separate current Town Council/staff from past years.” They lump government past and present together he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Hanging Lake permit reservations coming in from all around the world

A week before the shuttle to Hanging Lake kicks off, more than 8,000 people from all over the world have purchased passes to take the hike up to what has become one of the region’s most popular spots.

Hanging Lake was something of a local secret until recent years, when its popularity became so great that the U.S. Forest Service began raising alarms that the thousands of human visitors were damaging the fragile ecosystem. 

After the Forest Service counted more than 150,000 visitors to Hanging Lake in the summer of 2016, it began developing a system to manage access.

From May 1 to Oct. 31, the only way to access the trailhead by car is a shuttle leaving from the Hanging Lake Welcome Center near the Glenwood Springs Community Center. The reservation costs $12, but until April 30, an “early bird” reservation to bike to the trailhead in Glenwood Canyon is available for $9.50.

Ken Murphy of Glenwood Adventure Company is part of H2O, a collaboration of local businesses and professionals who were hired by the city of Glenwood Springs and the Forest Service to manage the new system.

A total of 8,639 people have booked their chance to hike Hanging Lake at some point this summer since the reservation system at VisitGlenwood.com launched April 1.

Of that number, 1,335 people have booked their spot to make the hike after biking to the trail, and avoiding the shuttle.

Where are Hanging Lake visitors coming from?

People from all across the U.S. have booked reservations, and others have paid for the chance to visit from Australia, China, Thailand, Israel, and several countries in Europe.

Illustration of reservations to visit Hanging Lake during the summer of 2019 from across the world. Image courtesy of H2O.
Hanging Lake reservations worldwide
Heat map shows which states have the highest concentrations of reservations to visit Hanging Lake. Green indicates a few reservations, red means high concentration of reservations. Image courtesy of H2O.
Hanging Lake reservations from lower 48 states

The vast majority of reservations have come from the Front Range, which is the primary market for other Glenwood Springs tourist attractions, Murphy said.

The number of Hanging Lake reservations by geographical region in Colorado. The total number of reservations is for the entire summer, not any specific day. Image courtesy of H2O.
Hanging Lake reservations from Colorado

While 8,000 may seem like a big number for the small lake at the top of a short trail, those visitors have booked spots throughout the summer. The maximum number of visitors per day is 615, but the shuttle will only take, at most, 44 people each trip about every 45 minutes.

As people hike at different paces, they will naturally spread out. Murphy said it’s unlikely there will be large clumps of people heading up the trail.

“The way we’ve set up the system creates a better experience,” Murphy said.

Compared to years past, when hundreds of people might be at the top of Hanging Lake on a busy day, the reservation system makes it possible to see only a few people at the lake itself.

“There are certain times of the day where you might be there by yourself,” Murphy said.

Case in point

In just the past few weeks, the importance of a more hands-on management of Hanging Lake has been illustrated.

Pictures of an apparent wedding celebration at Hanging Lake in mid-April circulated on a closed Facebook community group over the weekend, showing video of streamers scattered in the grass near the waterline.

The reservations prove that Hanging Lake is not just a local gem, but a Colorado and national treasure, Murphy said.

From June to August 2016, Hanging Lake had far more than 615 visitors each day, according to the Forest Service’s count.  In May 2016, only six days saw fewer than 615 visitors. Most days were over 1,000.

Murphy and H2O have made some adjustments to the process as they hear from people registering for this summer. For example, they won’t charge for an infant too young to walk — but that requires a call to the office. 

But the daily limit will stay in place. “The only thing that will never change is the 615 people per day limit,” Murphy said.

H2O is finalizing the trail signs and getting the welcome center set up for next Wednesday. Murphy said they have been very conscientious about how to best educate hikers. The welcome center will not sell disposable water bottles, only refillable containers.

And, with more interaction with Forest Service and representatives of H2O, hikers should be more prepared for the steep trail and any adverse conditions, he said.

Safety concerns

In the past week, the Glenwood Springs Fire Department was called to the trail for emergencies twice, according to Fire Chief Gary Tillotson.

The details of the two incidents were unclear, but Tillotson said the trail conditions after the heavy snows had left slippery conditions.

“Our guys on the last couple of trips definitely had to wear their traction devices, I can only imagine that some hikers had been injured as a result of those conditions,” Tillotson said.

“I anticipate that, with this being the last weekend that no reservations or fees are required, it’s probably going to be a busy weekend for those who think that they’re going to get their last free trip up the trail,” Tillotson said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Glenwood’s household hazardous waste and paint drop off event is Saturday

Glenwood Springs encourages residents to take advantage of the city’s household hazardous waste and paint drop off event this Saturday.

The annual event will take place between 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Glenwood Community Center’s upper parking lot, 100 Wulfsohn Road.

The city asks that those wishing to dispose of either their household hazardous waste or paint to make an appointment ahead of time by calling (970) 945-5375 by Friday at 4 p.m.

“It’s a lot smoother the day of the event when people have an appointment and it’s not everyone dropping off something at 8:30 in the morning and waiting in a long line,” said Sarah O’Brien, executive assistant for the city.

The city will not accept commercial hazardous waste, but rather hazardous waste from private parties only. While the service remains free for Glenwood Springs residents with proof of a utility bill or a valid driver’s license, those living outside of the city’s limits may still drop off their household hazardous waste items for $2 per gallon of liquids or solids, as estimated by an attendant.

Accepted household hazardous waste items include: Aerosols, oil-based paints, latex paint, mercury, pesticides, flammable liquids, cleaners, acids, miscellaneous household solids, chlorophenoxy derivative acids, fertilizers, lead acid batteries, ni-cad/ni-fee batteries, batteries with mercury, antifreeze, gasoline, diesel fuel, and motor oil.

Not accepted are: Compressed gas, oxygen cylinders, explosives, shock sensitive materials, ammunition, unknown materials, infectious or biologically active materials, dioxin, tri tetra and pentachlorophenol and their chlorophenoxy derivative acids, oxidizers, esters, amine and other salts.

“This event coincides each year with our spring cleanup event,” O’Brien said. “We like to have it in the spring around Earth Day and we do it to encourage people to not dispose of paint or household hazardous waste in their spring cleanup.”

Additionally, Glenwood Springs residents wishing to drop off paint may do so for free with proof of a utility bill or a valid driver’s license. Those living outside of the city limits will be assessed a $1 per gallon handling fee, based upon the actual amount of paint as estimated by an attendant rather than the container’s size.

Although the city will not accept commercial hazardous waste, it will accept latex paint and water-based finishes from contractors and commercial painters to recycle for a $2 per gallon fee — not by container size, but by actual amount of paint as estimated by an attendant.

“The city will take care of the paint and household hazardous waste items and discard them appropriately,” O’Brien said.

The city asks that participants not utilize containers larger than 5 gallons to transport paint or household hazardous items that they wish to dispose of.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Basalt looks to citizens for help to get on track with 10-year vision plan

When you talk about a town master plan process, the reaction of most residents falls into one of two categories — either their eyes glaze over from boredom or they foam at the mouth with excitement at the prospect of getting involved.

Basalt town officials and their consultants hope to get as many people involved as possible in the town’s first full-fledged master plan update since 2007. They welcome the foamers, they hope to attract the glazers, and they’re seeking ways to interest everyone in between.

Heather Henry, principal with Connect One Design, a Basalt-based company hired to help with the update, said the process has some things going for it that should attract people.

First and foremast, the master plan will help determine how Basalt looks and feels, what kind of character is possesses and what it needs to do to achieve that vision. It won’t solely be a land use document that dictates how many square feet can be constructed here and what types of uses can go there.

“You can see how we’re really digging into a lot of different things,” said Henry.

The goal is to have an updated master plan by the end of the year. A website that will be used throughout the eight-month process went live Monday at www.letstalk.basalt.net.

The site will be used to conduct a survey, poll people as issues arise and allow participants to share stories on issues being contemplated.

In addition to the website, the first public open house will be held Thursday from 5:30–7:30 p.m. at The Temporary in Willits Town Center. Town residents are encouraged to come in any time during that window to talk to the consultants, learn more about the process and share their thoughts.

Connect One and another consulting firm, CTA Group, want to use the survey and direct communication with the public to find answers to a variety of questions.

“What are they enjoying about their town? What are they struggling with?” Henry said, citing examples of the issues that will be explored. “What are some of the strengths we want to capitalize on and how?”

The Basalt Planning and Zoning Commission will play a key role in the new plan. It must also be approved by the Town Council. Planning commission chairman Bill Maron said at a meeting last fall he wants the new master plan to set aspirations for the town. The last plan was too oriented toward land use mechanizations, he suggested.

“It helped us determine what we don’t want. It didn’t help us advance goals for what we do want,” Maron previously said.

The process could be facing some challenges. First, although the town hasn’t completely overhauled its master plan since 2007, it undertook an extensive land use planning process for the former Pan and Fork property and other land downtown in 2014-15 .The exercise, headed by former town manager Mike Scanlon, was intended to build some level of consensus over what could be built on the Pan and Fork site and avoid land-use political fighting. It didn’t work. The town appears evenly divided over whether the site should oriented to have more development or more park. The fight has stretched into its seventh year with no certain path for resolution.

Another challenge could be Basalt’s status as a bedroom community. An unrelated study called the Greater Roaring Fork Regional Housing Study found that 90 percent of Basalt’s 3,200 working residents commute to jobs outside of town while only abut 330 work and live in town.

Basalt businesses provide about 2,250 jobs, but 85 percent of the positions are filled by people commuting into town, according to the housing survey.

Meanwhile, housing prices continue to climb and make it difficult for the working class to gain a toehold in Basalt, as is the case elsewhere in the valley. The average existing house sales price is about $780,169 in Basalt. About 22 percent of Basalt’s total residential parcels are owned by people outside the region, the housing study said.

Henry said she didn’t see the high number of commuters as a problem. People can have pride in their community and be concerned about its direction even if they commute elsewhere for their job, she noted. They are still concerned about issues such as schools, community character, parks and opportunities for recreation, she said.

In addition to Thursday’s event, there will be open houses on May 9 at Basalt High School and May 30 at Rocky Mountain Institute. All times are 5:30–7:30 p.m. Participants can drop in at any time during that window. There is no central presentation.

The open houses are designed to be progressive, Henry said. So information collected at the first event will be used to dig deeper into issues for the second event.

All three open houses will have kids activities, and refreshments and light food will be provided. Information will be provided in English and Spanish.

From a “who cares” perspective, Henry said, the master plan is supposed to provide a road map for Basalt’s direction for the next 10 years. So any one who believes they will be part of the community for the foreseeable future will want to get involved. It’s intended to steer public-sector programs and decisions by providing a framework for regulatory tools such as zoning, annexation and other policies.

It provides a vision for what’s desired for current and long-term growth.

It provides developers and private landowners with a blueprint for community expectations.

“This is the vision of what the community really wants in these parcels,” Henry said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

First steps taken in a long road for new Colorado oil and gas regulations

After Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 19-181 into law last week, operators, government officials and other interested parties across Colorado will have both eyes on the rule-making process to see how exactly oil and natural gas industry regulations will change.

That could take weeks, months and possibly even years, some observers say.

The bill, introduced by the state’s Democratic leadership with Polis’ backing in early March, sought to change how the industry is regulated, with more authority given to local control. How exactly that will look remains to be seen.

On Monday, the new head of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), Jeff Robbins, released a draft of the objective criteria for the new bill. The directive is meant to guide officials to determine whether a proposed well or location requires additional analysis to ensure the protection of public health, safety, welfare or the environment.

The criteria will be used to consider whether permits, drilling and spacing unit applications, and comprehensive drilling plan applications meet the bill’s mandate, according to Robbins.

The comment period for the objective criteria opened on Monday, as residents across the state have the chance to review and voice their thoughts and concerns before the COGCC finalizes them.

West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association Executive Director Eric Carlson stated his disappointment in the short one-week time frame to review the objective criteria and submit comments. Those interested have until 5 p.m. April 29 to submit comments to http://cogcc.state.co.us/comments/default.aspx.

Once the comments are collected, the review will be evaluated by May 16.

The criteria apply to applications for permits to drill, an oil and gas location assessment permit, a request to vent or flare permit, an intent to plug permit and more. It will also apply to pooling applications, drilling and spacing unit applications, and comprehensive drilling plans.

If a permit meets one or more of the objective criteria, it may be subject to additional review.

‘moratorium,’ in effect

One position taken by operators and industry advocates since the bill was introduced is that the process essentially put a moratorium on all new oil and natural gas development until the new rules are finalized.

Robbins said in the Monday statement that there is no moratorium. “All oil and gas permits or projects will not be put on hold, and there is not a moratorium on oil and gas permits in Colorado,” according to the release.

However, Carlson questioned if a delay is much different than a moratorium.

“The legislation does not require the director to delay all final permit determinations until these rules are promulgated,” the objective criteria draft reads.

“Rather, the bill allows the director to delay specific final permit determinations until the director is satisfied that the permit complies with the intent of SB 19-181.”

Garco could be model

With so much uncertainty until the rules become more clear, it may discourage future investment from operators, according to Carlson.

He said he plans to provide input through the objective criteria comment process, as the industry tries to figure out what the final regulations will entail. Carlson added that he remains concerned by the uncertainty.

Robbins visited the West Slope last week, as one of the presenters at the Energy and Environment Symposium in Rifle.

When asked about the bill’s impact on Garfield County specifically, Robbins told the Post Independent that Garfield County has historically had good relationships with operators and he didn’t think the bill will make [the county] do things differently.

He added that, while the bill changes the mission of the COGCC and the organization will have to reflect what that means, he hopes to have Garfield County involved in the rule-making process as stakeholders.

Emily Hornback, with Western Colorado Alliance, said the organization plans to comment on the objective criteria and participate in the subsequent rule-making later in the summer.

Leslie Robinson, chairwoman of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, a western Colorado group that advocates for greater distances between wells and homes, said she plans to look at the county’s own rules.

In particular, some of the conditions of approval for Ursa Resources’ drilling operations in the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development provide a good example for the COGCC to use, she said.

One rule that came to mind for Robinson was the condition of approval to halt all work from dusk to dawn at the gas pads in the PUD.

“I think Garfield County had a lot of influence [when it comes to the new law],” she added.

azorn@citizentelegram.com

Garfield commissioners give quarry operators deadline to straighten up

The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to give Rocky Mountain Resources until June 1 to come into compliance with its county special use permit, or face further legal action.

After a nearly three-hour public hearing, the time clock was set for the controversial quarry operation — currently proposed for a major expansion — to meet its existing obligations.

Nearly 200 people attended the meeting, held at Glenwood Springs Middle School to accommodate the crowd. County planning staff members presented their findings that RMR was in violation of five out of seven alleged violations.

The allegations were made in November after a complaint from the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance, a group best known for their opposition to RMR’s proposal with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to expand operations.

Commissioners agreed with staff that RMR stands in violation of the county’s special use permit in five areas out of the seven allegations. Those include:

• RMR confirmed it was selling limestone for road base, boulders and other construction materials, when their permit specifically authorizes extraction of only chemical-grade limestone dust.

• The quarry operated between Dec. 15 and April 15 the past two years, despite the special use permit prohibition on extraction during those months.

• RMR is operating on 20.8 acres of BLM land, when the county permit authorizes only 16.3 acres.

• RMR failed to keep noise on Transfer Trail low, and did not implement communication with Glenwood Caverns traffic as stipulated in the permit’s maintenance agreement.

• RMR conducted exploratory drilling, with a BLM permit, which was not part of the county’s special use permit.

“It’s a slower process than we’d like, but we’ll get there,” Jeff Peterson, an active member of Citizens’ Alliance, said after the commissioner’s decision.

DUAL PROCEDURES

The public hearing came just days after the BLM returned RMR’s application to expand quarry operations from about 21 acres to 320 acres, operate seven days a week year-round with the aim of removing 5 million tons of rock each year.

Garfield County authorized the special use permit for the Mid-Continent Quarry in 2009, when it was owned by CalX Minerals. RMR purchased the quarry, and inherited all the accompanying permits, in 2016.

Commission Chairman John Martin made sure to clarify that the hearing was only on the current permit, and sometimes reminded speakers not to address a future expansion proposal.

When Martin said Kevin Hillmer was “straying a bit” in commenting that RMR’s expenditures exceeded revenues, Hillmer summed up: “They should not be trusted.”

Every person who delivered public comment spoke in opposition to RMR, and urged the commissioners to take action against the quarry operator. The speakers included former Glenwood Springs Mayor Michael Gamba, current Mayor Jonathan Godes and Mayor Pro-tem Shelley Kaup.

“We’re a nation of rules and laws. We’re a community of rules and laws. When those rules and laws are violated, that breaks the social compact,” Godes said.

Glenwood Springs City Attorney Karl Hanlon did bring up the BLM to point out that he believes RMR is trying to use the modification application, which is still in draft form, to address noncompliance with federal permits.

Many speakers urged the commissioners to immediately shut down the quarry or revoke the special use permit, arguing that RMR has already had more than two years to comply and apparently does not respect local rules.

The county does not have the authority to force RMR to stop operations overnight. Commissioner Mike Samson said that is not the right way to go.

“There are people employed there that need a job, and are depending on that paycheck. If you work for this company right now, would you want to be told tomorrow that you don’t have a job?” Samson said.

But he also scolded RMR for not being more forthcoming about a number of issues.

“I feel that RMR has not honored the conditions” of the special use permit, Samson said, adding that some of the conditions may be a little vague.

“I don’t think you’ve been as forthcoming as you should have been in time and in fact,” he said.

quarry rep responds

Representatives of RMR said they had been transparent with regulatory bodies, including the county, the BLM and the Colorado Department of Reclamation, Mining and Safety.

RMR’s attorney, Mike Stratton of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Shreck, said the company had been transparent and forthcoming as possible, and was more than willing to work with city and county staff.

“Every one of these issues that we’re dealing with tonight are issues that we have brought to people’s attention,” Stratton told the commissioners. “We will continue to respond to county officials, city officials and state officials, but there is no lack of transparency, gentlemen, and no effort on our part to be hiding the ball on any regard.”

The county’s written order of noncompliance “doesn’t change our plan,” RMR President Greg Dangler said after the hearing.

“We’re going to continue to work with the county and maintain their standards,” he said.

tphippen@postindependent.com