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Phase 1 of newly approved Silt tiny home community is a go

A community housing project that began out of a close friendship between Alan Danson and Ray Nielsen is now almost a reality, with the town of Silt giving the final approval to the first phase of the planned tiny home community.

“We wanted to create a business model similar to the KOA, but a little different, so we created a residential community,” Danson said. “Instead of staying for three nights, you are staying for 10 years.”

Danson said his business partner, Nielsen, who owns the KOA Campground at Silt, came up with the design and is the architect of the planned community.

On Tuesday morning, Tiny Homes at River Run will start taking deposits for the first 13 sites and living units.

Interested buyers can go to tinyhomesatriverrun.com, and the first 13 who put a deposit down will have priority on the first sites, which will be located along the Colorado River.

“Tuesday, they will open it up, first-come, first-serve; whomever can put down a $1,000 deposit,” said Joshua Bassett, director of business development with Align Multimedia, who is handling marketing for River Run.

The deposit is fully refundable up until two weeks of delivery of the unit, he explained.

Danson is calling the first prospective buyers the “lucky 13.”

On July 23, the website will go live with an e-commerce application for interested buyers to click and put down a $1,000 deposit. The first person to make a deposit would be assigned lot 1 of the 13, Danson explained.

“Once we get to 13, any additional people will be put on a numbered waiting list, and let’s say number six doesn’t want to do it, we will refund his deposit and number 7-13 will all move down one slot and number 14 will move into the 13,” he said.

After a model tiny home was placed on site before Memorial Day, demand began to increase, the business partners said.

The community received approval from Silt Trustees last year for the 70-unit community, to be situation next to the KOA between the Frontage Road and the Colorado River, near exit 97 off Interstate 70.

Originally, the plan was for the buyers to move in by spring 2020, but Danson said people wanted to move in sooner than next year. He added the response has been tremendous, and hundreds of people have toured the model unit.

“We were absolutely blown away by the number of people, and by the positive comments,” Danson said.

After getting feedback from potential homebuyers, Danson and his partner have made a few adjustments to the unit designs and homeowners’ fees.

They added washers and dryers to units, doing away with the planned central laundry facility and clubhouse.

“We had set a $900 a month land rental and community HOA fee. Since we no longer need the community laundry, we can get rid of the clubhouse, pool, and a few other amenities, so we were able to reduce the monthly fee to $750,” Danson said.

Danson and Nielsen took a phase plan to Silt town officials and asked if they could develop the community in stages, instead of developing the whole thing at once, doing 13 homes sites at a time.

“The town of Silt have been aces. They have been wonderful, easy to deal with and very cooperative — they are excited about the project,” Danson said.

Site preparation is to begin at the end of July and beginning of August, he said.

Danson and Nielsen negotiated a contract that they signed this past weekend, with the tiny home manufacturer that will deliver the first 13 homes in a time frame so that people should be living at the River Run property by November.

“All though the homes that we are offering to people are all the same on the inside, they will look different outside — different colors, finishes and so on, and they will be all landscaped,” Danson said.

“I can’t tell you it’s going to be the answer to the housing issue on the Western Slope, but I can tell you it will be a very attractive option.”


Arlene J. Heckman

On Friday, June 21st, 2019, Arlene J. Heckman passed away at age 87, in Rifle, CO.

Born in Hayden, CO, to Wayne and Iris Lyons. Arlene attended Moffat County High School in Craig, CO, where she enjoyed playing the French Horn in the marching band. Once graduated, she attended Denver University to study nursing. For many years, Arlene was a registered nurse all around Colorado. She enjoyed reading books, listening to classical music, being in the mountains, speaking of her travels to Alaska, and spending time with family and friends. Arlene is preceded in death by her Mother, Father, Daughter – Julie Heckman, and Sister – Silva Ayers. Arlene is survived by her Husband – Jack Heckman, Brother – Otis Lyons, Sister – Jean Pelley, and two Granddaughters – Jaimie and Allison Heckman.

A memorial service will be held on Sunday, July 21st, 2019, at Davidson Park in Rifle, CO, from 2:00PM to 6:00PM.

Millard (Rocky) Gene Rockwell (February 17, 1935 — July 13, 2019)

Millard (Rocky) Gene Rockwell passed away July 13, 2019, at the Methodist Residence Hospice in Memphis, TN. Rocky was born in 1935 in Holyoke, CO. In 1968 he moved his family to Rifle, Co, to the mountains he loved.

He worked in the body and fender repair business many years and was an avid elk and deer hunter. After retirement, woodworking was his passion. Rocky was an active member of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Rifle.

He is survived by Fay, his wife of 63 years; his son Randy, Rifle, CO; daughters Regina (Russell) Hiner, Albuquerque, NM, Rhonda (Mark) Zoller, Hernando, MS, and RaLynn (Doug) Behr, Fairfield, OH; six grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. Services on August 3, 2019.

In lieu of flowers the family requests that contributions may be made to Emmanuel Lutheran Church Pre-school. Please visit the online guestbook for Rocky at www.colemanfuneralhome.com.

Big Blues Band Experience comes to Rifle’s Ute Theater Thursday night

The ultimate blues big band is coming to Rifle to play the Ute Theater at 8 p.m. Thursday.

The band is led by blues man Mike Zito, who originally hails from St. Louis, Mo. but has been living in Texas for the last 16 years.

This show features a seven-piece big band sound — drums, organ/piano, bass, rhythm guitar, sax, trumpet and Zito on lead guitar.

Zito said the big band is a culmination of years of trying to do something different.

“I always loved BB King, and I always liked that he had a big band sound but still played the guitar,” Zito said.

“It’s really special. We are only doing like 15 shows this year with the whole band. It’s a really great show, and it’s a very much a blues-oriented type show,”

The band will play songs from BB King and Albert King, to name a few.

“I’m excited were able to do four shows in Colorado, and coming to different parts of the state,” said Zito, who has been playing Colorado for a long time.

“It’s such a great place for live music.”

This will be Zito’s first time at the Ute Theater. He said he has heard nothing but great things about the venue.

He added the show will bring a big sound and high energy to the Ute stage.

“It’s not a sit back and relax, quiet evening. It’s definitely a very lively show to get people up and dancing,” Zito said.


Growing up in St. Louis, Zito’s family wasn’t musically inclined, and they were stunned when a young 8-year-old Zito came home asking for a guitar.

“I heard ‘Eruption’ by Van Halen, and I had never heard anything like it. I ran home and said I had to have a guitar,” Zito said. “My mom and dad bought me one from the J.C. Penny’s catalog.”

He has been playing guitar and writing music ever since.

“Can’t say I knew what I was doing, and I don’t know what I’m doing now. I’ve developed my own style over the years, learning to play my songs and my music,” Zito said.

He penned his own songs and gravitated to the blues, because of the improvisational characteristic to it, where he said he could be free.

Zito has been making records for over 20 years, and got his first big recording contract 12 years ago.

“That kind of changed everything, and got me on the national scene, got me touring,” Zito said. “I’ve been really fortunate in that respect.”

For a time, Zito was a member of the Royal Southern Brotherhood, a successful band with Cyril Neville, Devon Allman and more.

“That was a big boost for my career,” Zito said.

He admits it wasn’t all easy. Along the way there was drugs and alcohol — screwing up and all kinds of stuff, he said.

“Things are better these days,” Zito said.


Suspected bike thief busted with nearly 20 ounces of pot

On June 17, at around 6 p.m., officers were notified of an alleged bike theft and an active warrant out for the suspect.

A little more than an hour later, officers made contact with the suspect at the 200 block of Ninth Street in Glenwood Springs.

The suspect had a bag on him, which was searched and found to have around 27 grams in marijuana in a glass jar and 101 grams of marijuana in a grocery bag, according to the affidavit.

An inventory later conducted at the Glenwood Springs police station found more marijuana inside the bag.

In total the suspect was found with 19.68 ounces (558.2 grams) of marijuana, states the arrest affidavit.

He was charged with possession of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute.

Trespassers busted with meth

On June 17, at just after 3 a.m., a Glenwood Springs police officer was on patrol in Two Rivers Park when he observed a vehicle parked on the boat ramp in the park.

As he approached the vehicle he saw the driver, 22, begin to move around and duck down in the front seat, according to the arrest affidavit.

The officer also saw two passengers stretched out in the back seat reportedly asleep.

The driver opened his door and said hello, states the affidavit. The officer told him he was trespassing. He responded that he didn’t know he was trespassing and he would leave immediately.

The officer observed a butane torch in the passenger seat and also saw a cell phone sitting on the dash with a white powdery substance on it, stated the affidavit.

The officer asked them all to step out of the car and asked about the white powdery substance on the cell phone, which he believed to be narcotics.

The passengers said they didn’t know what the substance on the phone was because they were asleep in the back, states the affidavit. The driver also responded that he was asleep in the front.

After finding a bag with a white powdery substance in it in the vehicle, the driver admitted it was methamphetamine, according to the arrest affidavit.

He was arrested for unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Josh Allison joins Rifle Police Dept.

“I enjoy hunting, camping, fishing, target shooting and taking my yellow Lab, Tebow, to the park,” Rifle’s new police officer Josh Allison said of his favorite hobbies and interests. 

He hopes Rifle will accommodate all of those interests. 

After growing up on the Front Range, Allison served for four years in the Marine Corps. He spent most of his enlistment at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina working as a light armored vehicle mechanic. During his final year of service, he also became a martial arts instructor and left the military with the rank of sergeant.  

After his return to Colorado, Josh moved to Grand Junction to attend Colorado Mesa University. He had never heard of Rifle until that move. He would go on to work security at Grand River Hospital, where he met many RPD officers.

“I recall encouraging him to apply to our department several years ago,” recalls Rifle Police Sgt. Kirk Wilson. 

Allison wanted to complete his degree before applying. In May, he graduated magna cum laude with a BAS in Criminal Justice and with POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) certification. His work at Grand River helped him connect with the Rifle Police Department.

“As I got to know the Grand River staff and interacted with Rifle residents, I quickly realized Rifle is a tight knit community that is big enough to stay busy and entertained, but small enough to run into a couple people you know every time you go to Walmart,” he said. “I had also heard of Shooters Grill and think it’s one of the coolest restaurants in the country. Over time I met many of the Rifle Police officers, as they came to the hospital quite often. I always appreciated their professionalism and admired their use of discretion when dealing with various situations. I also think the decals on the patrol cars are really cool.”

A new career isn’t the only change in Officer Allison’s life. He recently married his college sweetheart, Jenna. 

“We are both really excited we will get to raise a family and spend our careers here in Rifle,” remarked Allison. This sentiment of family is shared by Chief Tommy Klein who is “very pleased that Josh will be officially joining the Rifle Police Department family.” 

Officer Allison was sworn in as an official member of the city of Rifle family at the June 17 meeting of City Council. 

Rifle Rapport is a periodic article featuring the people and projects of the city of Rifle. If you have suggestions for future articles, please contact city of Rifle Public Information Officer Kathy Pototsky at 970-665-6420 or kpototsky@rifleco.org. 

Coal Ridge’s Camilla Bates earns L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year

Think back to 1988.

Ronald Reagan was President. The average price for a gallon of gasoline was 91 cents. “Big,” “Die Hard” and “Rain Man” were tops at the movie theatre … and 6-year-old first grader Camilla Bates decided to be a teacher.

In 2019, a gallon of gasoline costs $2.50 or more. Movies are available on demand, The Avengers tops the box office, and Camilla Bates has not only become a teacher, but her dedication, skill and passion have put her at the top of the profession earning her the 2019 L.S. Wood Teacher of the Year.

“It’s really awesome to be recognized,” Bates said as she wiped away tears of joy after learning she earned the award during National Teacher Appreciation Week.

“We put in so many hours and so much work, getting something like this is such a big thank you,” she said. “It’s a perfect way to end Teacher Appreciation Week”

The L.S. Wood Charitable Trust was created through the will of Mr. Leighton S. Wood, who died in 1965, leaving most of his fortune in trust primarily for educational purposes.

At the time of his death, Mr. Wood was president of the Mid-Continent Coal and Coke Co. that had operations in Carbondale.

Don Parkison is the L.S. Wood Charitable Trust administrator. He said that honoring teachers is exactly the legacy Leighton Wood wanted to leave.

“The primary characteristic we are looking for comes from Mr. Wood,” Parkison said. “He thought it would be nice that the kids of miners would not fail to go to college due to a lack of funding, and to reward teachers that inspire the love of learning.”

Coal Ridge High School Principal Jackie Davis said that Bates is the epitome of the inspirational teacher.

“I love walking into her classroom to see the joy of learning. You see all of the students engaged ,and you can see they love learning,” said Davis at a presentation before the Garfield Re-2 School Board. “If you were to look up the definition of the master teacher, her picture would be right there.”

Bates has been teaching Spanish at Coal Ridge for 13 years and, over time, her teaching strategies have evolved. She only speaks Spanish to her students and recently began writing books to engage them. That is where she sees the passion for Spanish erupt in her class.

“They want more,” she explained. “They began reading the books and immediately wanted to know when the next chapters will be available. Then they began making suggestions, and I would include those suggestions into the next chapters. They would be so excited to see their ideas included. That process has brought a lot of kids to life.”

Those engagement strategies foster a love for learning in her students.

“When you have students that say they wish they could have your class all day long, it warms your heart,” she continued. “It lets you know that they feel welcome, and I want every kid to feel welcome in my room.”

Also nominated: Daryl Gingrich, Rifle High School

Daryl Gingrich has been the choral music teacher at Rifle High School for 14 years. He currently teaches men’s choir, ladies choir, advanced women’s choir, advanced mixed choir, music theory and IB music.

He has shepherded the RHS choral program from 85 students in a school of 925 to current participation of 160 in a school of 720. This year, Gingrich led the Rifle High School Bel Canto and Varsity choirs to the outstanding women’s 4A choir and the Outstanding Mixed choir for 4A at Colorado West Invitational Music Performance Festival — the first time the RHS choir programs have received both the 4A outstanding choir awards.

“His relationships with students are what inspire me the most,” wrote Rifle High School principal John Arledge in his nomination letter. “He takes the time to get to know each of his students and helps them in all aspects of his career at RHS.”

“Mr. Gingrich has a gift for inspiring all students to do their best,” wrote former student Sarah McCutchen in her letter of support. “Additionally, Mr. Gingrich creates a safe space for every student to feel welcome. If you have ever been in the choir room during the lunch period, you would know how comfortable students feel there.”

The L. S. Wood Teacher of the Year award rotates between grade levels. This year was high school teachers. Last year’s recipient was Rifle Middle School’s John Wisniewski. The last high school award winner was Rifle High School’s Kyle Mickelson.

Next year’s recipient will be an elementary teacher. The last elementary school winner was Kathryn Senor Elementary’s Allison Rickert.

Theresa Hamilton is communications director for the Garfield School District Re-2, which includes public schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle.

Rifle Chamber awards community members

The Rifle community celebrated its own last Saturday, as leaders from the western Garfield County town’s top organizations cheered for one another at this year’s local chamber of commerce annual dinner.

Your Chamber serving the Colorado River Valley (formerly the Rifle Area Chamber of Commerce) hosted its annual dinner and awards at the Rifle-Garfield County Airport May 11, as several key organizations and community members were honored for the work they did in 2018.

Among the winners on Saturday was the New Ute Theater Society (N.U.T.S.), which served as a somewhat unconventional choice for nonprofit organization of the year, for their work isn’t necessarily feeding hungry families or rehabilitating troubled teens.

However, its work in reestablishing the Ute Theatre as a legitimate concert hall has been enjoyed by many people in Rifle and the surrounding communities, and is clearly appreciated.

“Other nonprofits do wonderful work, but nothing like this has been recognized by the city before,” said Helen Rogers, chair of N.U.T.S. “I think to bring more culture and arts into the community is important as well.”

N.U.T.S. formed in the spring of 2010 as it set out to help rebuild one of Rifle’s most treasured landmarks, the Ute Theater.

After a renovation project was completed in 2017, which included new lighting, retractable seating and more, the Ute reopened and continues to be run by N.U.T.S. It has since been the site of high school proms, quinceaneras, music concerts and a variety of other different shows and conferences.

N.U.T.S. has been behind the scenes for each and every one.

“We were a group of people that wanted to see the Ute succeed and do well in the downtown area,” Rogers said. “It’s really brought in all kinds of people from the Western Slope and Denver.”

Alpine Bank’s Jay Rickstrew, who also serves as the president of the Garfield Re-2 School Board, was honored with the final award of the night as he was named the Oran B. Harmon Person of the Year.

“[To win an award like this] You have to have a lot of great people behind you to make that happen,” he explained.

Rickstrew and his family moved to Rifle in 1996 and would go on to call the town home for 20 plus years and counting.

“Rifle is just a great place to raise a family,” he said. “We came to the town new to the area, and the town just embraced us.”


In memoriam: Court Will (October 2, 1979 — May 13, 2017)

In Loving Memory of Court Will

Always Remember Never Forget!

The signature smile, the helping hand, a great son, brother, father, husband, uncle, friend, teacher and champion roper.

Man who stole Sno-Cat from Minturn and hauled it to Grand Junction sentenced

EAGLE — Jason Cuervo has had a year in jail to reflect on some things. One of those is the realization that stealing a Sno-Cat in broad daylight, in a drug-addled state, and driving it along Interstate 70 is a monumentally bad idea.

In fact, it’s such a monumentally bad idea that his mom exercised some serious tough love and told police where to find him and arrest him.

Cuervo admitted that he stole John Brandenburg’s General Lee Sno-Cat from Minturn, hauled it to a neighborhood west of Grand Junction in the high desert — not a Sno-Cat’s natural habitat — then eluded a SWAT team and fled to the Front Range. He also pleaded guilty to criminal offenses in Mesa, Clear Creek and Jefferson counties.

He’ll spend three years in community corrections, a residential program that oversees offenders outside of jail or prison. He also has to pay for $16,000 in repairs to the General Lee. If he messes up any of that, he goes straight to state prison, said Judge Rachel Fresquez, who handed down the sentence Tuesday.

Drugs to blame

Jason Cuervo stole a snowcat from the Turntable Parking Lot in Minturn and hauled it to Grand Juntion behind his tiny Toyota truck.

Cuervo has been an opioid addict and told Judge Fresquez that drugs are at the root of his behavior problems. His year behind bars has given him plenty of time to look at his version of “the ghost of Christmas future,” his attorney J.B. Katz said.

Tuesday’s sentencing was on the one-year anniversary of his sobriety, Katz said.

Cuervo apologized, but he said the time in jail helped him get sober and get his life on track.

“I have no desire to ever use again. I didn’t like the person I was when I was using,” Cuervo said. “I want to turn a new page in my life and leave these choices behind me.”

Deputy District Attorney Johnny Lombardi said Cuervo’s criminal history began as a juvenile in 2003. He asked that Cuervo be sentenced to four years in state prison.

Patty Cuervo, Jason’s mom, said her son is a different person now than the one who committed those offenses.

She said she made the arrangements to have him arrested in a Jefferson County auto dealership where he was having his small truck’s transmission repaired. He ruined it hauling the General Lee from Minturn to Grand Junction.

Some of his Jeffco problems stemmed from trying to swap marijuana to cover some of that repair bill.

Cuervo’s Sno-Cat saga

As you may recall, it was Sunday, March 11, 2018, when Cuervo stole Brandenburg’s orange General Lee Sno-Cat from the Turntable restaurant’s parking lot in Minturn.

Cuervo hauled the big, orange Sno-Cat west on Interstate 70, out of Eagle County’s alpine environment and toward Western Colorado’s high desert.

When it was stolen, Brandenburg called the police, but he first posted the GeneralLee’s picture on Facebook. Brandenburg says the tips poured in, and his Facebook post was shared 3,000 times.

People messaged and called to say they saw the huge trailer being towed by a tiny Toyota pickup truck. One of the General Lee’s co-owners, a pilot, jumped in his plane to search from the air.

The General Lee was spotted by a woman in Mesa County who was curious about why such small truck was pulling such a huge trailer — and straining to do it. In fact, she was so curious that she followed it. The woman called the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, which asked the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office for a little help.

Mesa County deputies showed up to serve a search warrant, which is about the time Cuervo barricaded himself in the house.

Sure enough, The General Lee was in a garage at the same house as Cuervo.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and Grand Junction Police Department SWAT teams executed the search warrant. They found the General Lee, along with weapons, ammunition, drugs and drug paraphernalia.

Cuervo managed to escape until he was arrested in Boulder while his truck was in the shop. His mom told the police where to find him.