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Coal Ridge to host benefit for Paonia coach and family

Coal Ridge High School will host a benefit chili and soup dinner for the Rienks family at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday before the Titans home basketball games against Grand Valley.

Scott Rienks, the head coach of Paonia High School girls basketball, was recently diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer.

The event is $5 per person, and donations will be accepted as well.

According to the Coal Ridge High School’s Facebook page the Rienks family have accumulated significant medical bills and need assistance. 

All proceeds will go to support the family.

Driver charged in Rifle pedestrian homicide told police he drank 2 beers before 7 a.m.

The 19-year-old suspected driver in a crash that killed a pedestrian in Rifle just before sunrise Wednesday told police he drank 2 beers before driving.

Rifle Police say Chayton Reynolds faces charges of vehicular homicide for allegedly driving drunk and hitting Robert Baumwoll, 50, around 7:20 a.m. Jan. 22 on U.S. Highway 6 east of Rifle.

Chayton Reynolds

Baumwoll was unresponsive and didn’t have a pulse when police arrived at the scene east of the Rifle Remote Control Park, according to a probable cause statement from a Rifle Police officer.

The first officers attempted CPR and chest compressions to revive Baumwoll, but he was later pronounced dead.

Officers noted that the car, a blue Honda Civic, had a dent in the hood and “a large hole in the windshield about the size of a human head,” according to the affidavit.

Reynolds was crying when officers interviewed him, but said he was driving to a friend’s house, heard a thump and turned around to see what he had hit. He said he did not see anything before the collision, and would not answer when the officer asked him if the person he hit had been in the road.

Reynolds told the officer that he had drunk “about two beers in the last two hours,” according to the affidavit.

Baumwoll died of blunt force injuries, according to Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire.

“It’s incredibly tragic for everyone involved,” public defender Elise Myer said in Reynold’s first court appearance in the case Thursday afternoon.

Reynolds was on probation for a juvenile misdemeanor that he pleaded guilty to in 2019.

“Certainly this case is very upsetting. Certainly it’s upsetting to Mr. Reynolds,” Myer said. “The arrest report indicates that he was incredibly distraught and emotional at the scene.”

In a first court appearance in the case Thursday afternoon, assistant District Attorney Tony Hershey said the case underlined the dangers of driving under the influence.

Hershey pointed out Reynolds’ admission to drinking two beers before 7 a.m. and other indications of drinking, including slurred speech.

“Drinking and driving can kill people,” Hershey said.

Hershey requested a bond of $25,000, but Judge Tom Ossola, who was filling in at the 9th District Court Thursday, set bond at $10,000.

Myer noted that her client was presumed innocent until proven guilty, and said there may be other factors that will come out in the case, such as road conditions.

Baumwoll had a Silt address, but the coroner believes he may have been staying with friends in Rifle.

Anyone with knowledge of Baumwoll’s whereabouts between Jan. 21 and Jam. 22 are asked to contact the Garfield County Coroner’s Office at 970-665-6335. 


UPDATE: Pedestrian killed in Rifle crash Wednesday identified; police still investigating

UPDATE, Thursday 12:45 p.m. —The pedestrian killed in a fatal Wednesday crash has been identified as Robert Baumwoll, 50, of Silt.

Garfield County Coroner Rob Glassmire identified Baumwoll Thursday following an autopsy and notification of next of kin.

The cause of death was multiple blunt force injuries, Glassmire said in a press release.

The crash that led to Baumwoll’s death occurred on Highway 6 near Rifle around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday. The driver has been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence.

Baumwoll had a Silt address, but it may have been outdated, and authorities suspect he was staying with friends in the Rifle area.

The Coroner’s Office is asking anyone with knowledge of Baumwoll’s whereabouts between Jan. 21 and Jan. 22 to contact the Garfield County Coroner’s Office at (970) 665-6335.

Original version:

Rifle police are investigating a one-vehicle crash that killed a pedestrian Wednesday morning on U.S. Highway 6.

According to Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein, Garfield County 911 received a call around 7:20 a.m. Wednesday about a crash on Highway 6 between milemarker 93 and 94.

Rifle Police officers responded along with Colorado River Fire Rescue.

“Officers arrived first. They located a male lying in the roadway in the westbound lane of Highway 6. There were several people at the scene when the officers arrived,” Klein said.

“The officer provided life-saving measures as well as the ambulance crew when they arrived. However, those efforts failed and unfortunately, the male died at the scene.”

The Coroner’s office responded to the scene and the name of the victim was initially withheld until next of kin could be notified.

Klein said from the preliminary investigation it appears that a subject was driving a blue Honda Civic traveling westbound on Highway 6 — the same direction as the pedestrian.

“After the male was struck the driver turned back around and returned to the scene,” Klein said.

Klein said the driver was arrested and that he will likely be charged with various offenses, one of which is DUI.

“All subjects are innocent until proven guilty in court,” Klein said.

Rifle Police Department is currently speaking to witnesses and gathering more information about the incident.

“We are looking for anyone that stopped at the scene to give us a call, and anyone that may have witnessed anything that happened and did not stop to please give us a call,” Klein said. “We would also like to talk to anyone who saw a man walking along the side of the road this morning.”

Witnesses of the crash can reach Rifle Police detectives at 970-665-6500.

Colorado Department of Transportation personnel and Rifle Community Service officers helped to divert traffic during the road closure. The highway was closed for approximately two hours while the scene was investigated.

The Colorado State Patrol also responded to the scene to help with the crash reconstruction.

“I want to thank everyone who stopped to help the gentleman who died,” Klein said.


Four-legged neighbor becomes a hero in Rifle

For Stacey Wilz and her dog Sitka, a typical day begins when they set out for their morning walk around 5:25 a.m. 

Stacey and her husband Ian Wilz live in the Homestead, a collection of townhouses set around Fir Court in the Graham Mesa area in Rifle.

The Wilz’s have lived there for seven years, and have become friends with many of their neighbors including Jane Holt and her mother Dot Holt, who lives across the street.

But last Wednesday something was different.

Sitka was the first to know there was trouble.

“We always go around the circle, and basically end up right in front of Jane and Dot’s house,” Stacey said.

But before they even got to Jane and Dot’s house, Sitka started acting unusual.

“He was pulling really hard, he got to the sidewalk right in front of the house and he just sat down and took attention right to the house,” Stacey said.

Stacey, who commutes to Glenwood to her job at Berthod Motors kept calling him and telling him that she had to get ready for work, but Sitka wouldn’t budge and kept staring at the house. 

“Finally I went to pull him one last time when I heard a murmuring, a really deep breathing sound.”

Stacey said it scared her at first, with thoughts of a mountain lion or something else on the front porch racing through her mind. 

But she noticed it was a consistent sound so she took out the flashlight she always carries in her pocket.

“At first I thought it was really weird because there was a blanket or something on the front porch that was making this weird noise,” Stacey said

When she shined the flashlight over toward what she was hearing Stacey thought to herself it had to be an animal or something, and that’s when she realized it was a person.

“My heart sunk and I began shaking.”

Stacey always checks the temperature when she leaves the house in the morning and she remembered it was only 15 degrees that morning.

Stacey ran back to her house to wake up her husband and call 911.

Ian Wilz said he was just waking up when Stacey burst through their front door, yelling that there was someone lying on the ground in front of Jane and Dot’s house.

Lying on the freezing concrete by the corner of the garage was 93-year-old Dot Holt, who has dementia.

Ian knelt down and started holding Dot trying to use his body heat to warm her up.

“I’m trying to get her to respond, as I told Stacey to get Jane,” Ian said.

Ian, a fourth-grade teacher at Highland Elementary in Rifle, and was able to use a little background in emergency response; he was a lifeguard for many years when he was younger.

Stacey ran through the front door, which was still open, yelling for Jane.

“Jane came out with the blankets and we wrapped her up,” Ian said.

Stacey and Ian said the paramedics responded quickly, and rushed Dot to the hospital.

“The 911 dispatch was absolutely amazing, I would have probably been in tears if it wasn’t for them,” Stacey said.

“If he hadn’t pulled the attention to it, there’s no way I would’ve known she was out there. Our little rescue dog rescued someone else,”

Caring for her mother

Jane Holt has been living with her mother for nine years now. She decided to sell her shoe store in New Hampshire about 11 years ago and start the process to move to Rifle when she noticed that her mom was showing signs of Dementia.

Holt said people with dementia can change every day – they don’t really have any patterns.

“Every moment is different,” Holt said.

Last Wednesday wasn’t the first time Dot Holt has wandered out of the house and into the elements.

“She had done this once before and gone out our back door to the balcony, and was out for a time, but it was 40 degrees. I found her in the morning and everything was fine after a hospital visit, we ended up putting a combination lock on the door,” Holt said.

Since then she has an alarm by her mom’s bed that she usually steps on if she gets up.

“Somehow she has missed it a couple of times, and this time she went out the front door, which we don’t even use because we have a ramp going out the garage,” Holt said.

Her mother’s temperature was 85 degrees when paramedics arrived. Doctors estimated she had been outside for a couple of hours because of her condition.

“It couldn’t have been much longer, it was like 15 degrees,” Holt said. “I’m so in love with this dog, and I always have been. He is such a great dog.”

Holt admits that Sitka is her new favorite dog and even told her dog he is second now.

Jane said her mother has no recollection of the event.

“She keeps asking what happened here, when she looks at her scrapes and bruises,” Holt said. “The woman’s bones are made of titanium.”

Jane has finally admitted to herself that taking care of her mother is getting to be more than she can handle and is moving her mother to a memory care center in Grand Junction next week where she will be safer.

Holt calls Sitka the neighborhood mascot. Now he’s also the neighborhood hero.

“It would have been an absolute nightmare, they truly saved her life. They absolutely saved her, “ said Jane as she held back tears before giving Stacey and Ian a big hug.

Sitka is all smiles with one of his new toys he received for being a hero last week in Rifle. (Kyle Mills / Citizen Telegram)

Finding Sitka

The Wilz family adopted Sitka from the Rifle Animal Shelter about a year and a half ago.

“We got him July 1, 2018, we had been looking for a dog for a while,” Ian said.

The Wilz’s don’t have children but wanted to share their joy and happiness to someone else.

“Being in this small space it is hard to find a dog, but this guy came up the day before my birthday. I said, ‘Oh my god we have to get him – he’s the one,’” Ian said.

He said he went down to the shelter to put his name down the day a picture of Sitka, known as Luke at the time, showed up on the shelter’s website.

Ian and Stacey were told he was 5 and that he was an American Eskimo when they got him, but not much else was known about him.

They changed his name to Sitka, after Sitka, Alaska, because Luke just didn’t fit his personality. 

Ian said he is still a little hyper and was skittish at first, but now he will walk up to everybody.

“He just loves being around kids, dogs, and other people,” Ian said.

Stacey said after word got out about Sitka’s heroics one of the neighbors made him a little hero medallion to wear and gave him a certificate.

He’s been getting treats from the neighbors and Jane brought him a basket full of toys and treats last Friday.

“He’s gotten quite the ego lately,” Stacey said with a laugh.

The incident has Stacey watching her surroundings more carefully and believes there are things people should watch for.

“If your dog is trying to tell you something, you need to listen, and second you need to look out for your neighbors, you never know what’s going on you have to be aware all the time,” Stacey said.


Bus to Battlement coming summer 2020

The bus service from Battlement Mesa to Rifle could begin in June, with a grant from Garfield County.

Parachute town manager Stuart McArthur told the commissioners Monday that a number of items have to be worked out to meet the June goal, but that is the best time to be able to hire drivers for five-day bus service from Battlement Mesa to Rifle.

The commissioners voted unanimously to release a $300,000 grant to the Parachute Area Transit System, some of which will be disbursed immediately.

Connecting Parachute to the RFTA’s Hogback line has been a need for years, McArthur said.

“The town and Battlement Mesa has always needed transportation services,” McArthur said, but the idea for the town to run that service came from public meetings around 2017.

The primary groups who need the service are students who need to get to Colorado Mountain College, seniors who can’t drive and need transportation, and low-income workers who can’t afford vehicles, but need jobs and currently have no public transportation options.

There’s still a lot to do before the service is ready, but the release of grant funds marks a turning point for the project.

The June start date “coincides with two things,” McArthur told the commissioners.

“One, school is over, so school bus drivers might be available to work. And also, that notes the end of RFTA’s winter season, so again, other drivers might be available to work,” he said.

Another difficulty is procuring buses. Rifle has offered to sell their senior busses for the Parachute/Battlement, but the town isn’t sure how soon that can happen.

Courtesy / A preliminary route map for the Parachute Area Transit System.

Rifle is in the procurement process for a new senior bus, and the current buses are still needed for senior trips.

The first priority will be hiring an administrator to head up the bus project. McArthur will also schedule public meetings in the coming months in both the Parachute area and Rifle, and continue working on schedules, routes and bus stops.

Rifle is the only formal partner to the bus project, but RFTA has helped develop the preliminary routes, fees and schedules.

Colorado Mountain College is also looking into partnering as well.

“I think we can hopefully draw in some other partners to make this a reality, because we have some definite needs,” Commissioner Mike Samson said.

For the first year, the plan is to hire two full-time and one part-time driver for the weekday bus service.

Preliminary fare rates range from $3 for CMC students to $4.50 for a ride from the first bus stop in Battlement Mesa into Rifle.

“I think it’s going to be great for the area. The town of Parachute is happy to be able to provide this service to the residents of Parachute, Battlement Mesa, and Rifle,” McArthur said.


Elk Creek Elementary teacher earns Excellence in Teaching award

Denny Reyes and Keren Segovia don’t know who Virginia French Allen is or how her contributions to teaching English as a second language have impacted instruction for decades.

What Denny and Keren know is that they love Sarah Clayton’s laugh, her smile and learning to read and speak English at Elk Creek Elementary.

Sarah’s passion for kids, her love of learning and her “can-do attitude” earned her the Virginia French Allen Excellence in Teaching from the Colorado Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (CoTESOL) in November 2019.  The award honors a teacher who has excelled in classroom instruction and/or has demonstrated creativity in developing materials or a program of instruction.

Elk Creek Elementary Principal Lisa Pierce says Sarah has done that and more in a mere 18 months of serving as the English Language Development coach.

“Sarah Clayton has high expectations for her students.  She believes in their abilities and coaches them to be great students and extraordinary human beings,” Pierce said in her awards speech at the CoTESOL convention. “She is a master teacher and a perpetual learner.  She absorbs information like a sponge in order to provide the best education for her students.”

The former first-grade teacher came to the role of English language development coach through a circuitous, and altruistic route.

“I adore first grade. I loved teaching first grade. I could probably have gone back to it,” she explained. But in 2018, she was going to return to the classroom after her maternity leave in December, and she could not ask the students to change their teacher, change their routines, and change the style of instruction mid-year.

“I just didn’t feel like it was fair to the children to have a long-term sub for the first half of the year and then come in the second half,” said Sarah.

As a classroom teacher, her first-grade reading groups were primarily comprised of English language learners, so she opted for a change.

“I just started to develop a passion for teaching English to these children using all my first-grade knowledge of actions and pictures and my broken Spanish to communicate with them. It was mostly through teaching these littles that I grew to love.”

As a whole Garfield Re-2 School District is 26.4% English Language Development students and Elk Creek is just slightly below the District average at 24%. Sarah’s passion and determination have helped Elk Creek Elementary re-invent its support for English language development students.

“Sarah Clayton has been the anchor for the re-development and implementation of the English language program delivery model at Elk Creek Elementary,” said Pierce. “She coaches students and teachers using best practice at all times.  She plans (English language) interventions, teaches interventions, and trains others to deliver interventions.”

One of the greatest rewards for Sarah, is seeing her passion for English language development instruction sweep across the school.

“It just kind of ripple effects through the school. I feel like our whole school is on this. They’re just digging a lot deeper and it’s not just teaching a lesson, but they’re learning about like how to discover the language inside the lesson and that benefits all kids,” she explained. 

Though she is new to the field, she has electrified the English language instruction at Elk Creek Elementary, and is humbled by the state-wide recognition.

“I had no idea I was going to receive this. I wanted to give it to other people or share it with my whole school, because I’m the point person, but there are a lot of people behind the scenes that have carried me through.”

Libraries bring employers, job seekers together Saturday

Libraries are often described as a “third place,” recognizing them as a place separate from home and work where everyone is welcome inside without having to pay to enter the doors, read the books, or take advantage of the services. Libraries are also a place where folks from all walks of life can come together as a community.

The library as the third place is one of the things I love most about working in a library. On a busy Wednesday afternoon I enjoy walking around the library to watch our diverse community coexisting in peace. Some folks are working at one of our computers (or their own) to write a school paper, search for a job, or watch a movie. Others are relaxing in a chair with a book or the newspaper, playing with their child in the children’s area, or meeting with friends to catch up.

Over the years, libraries have also become important hosts for educational events and are often the catalysts for conversation between members of the community. In fact, over the next few months Garfield County Libraries is focusing on supporting its working communities by partnering with local organizations for an array of special events. From “Heart Centered Leadership Training” to “Business and Breakfast,” events across throughout the county will help community members find a job, run a business, or nurture their leadership skills. 

One event I’ve always wanted to have at my library that creates that sense of community is a job fair. Connecting local and regional businesses with community members in need of employment is the perfect fit for a library. Fortunately, I’ve got my chance. This Saturday, Jan. 25, Garfield County Libraries will be holding Job Fairs at both the Glenwood Springs and Parachute Branch Libraries. Presented in partnership with the Colorado Workforce Center, City of Glenwood Springs, and Town of Parachute, the Job Fairs run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. simultaneously at both branches, allowing for folks from all corners of the county to attend the one closest to them. The Job Fairs are free and open to all as part of the “Working Communities” series of the Garfield County Libraries.

Vendors at the Parachute Branch Library include businesses such as Alpine Bank, Town of Parachute, and Garfield County School District 16 while the Glenwood Springs Branch Library vendors include, among others, Sunlight Ski Resort, Census 2020, and Hotel Colorado. One vendor you will see at both locations is Garfield County Libraries. As promised in November’s ballot measure 6A, the libraries will be extending open hours in late spring, early summer. To do this, the library needs additional, talented individuals who are interested in serving their community by working with us. 

So come together with your community by attending one of our job fairs, another event in the Working Communities series, or spending some time in your local branch. You’re always welcome at the third place that is your local library.

Update: Highway 6 reopens near Rifle

Update: Highway 6 near Rifle reopened in both directions at 10:20 a.m.

Due to an accident at mile-marker 93 authorities have closed the two lane highway.

Traffic is being diverted at Whiteriver Avenue and Hwy 6 as first responders investigate and clear the scene.

An overnight snow fall created slick conditions on the roadways in western Garfield County during the morning commute.

Stay tuned to postindependent.com when more information comes available.

Weekend apartment fire displaces Rifle residents

Assistance is being offered to the residents of a Rifle apartment building that caught fire over the weekend.

A thick column of black smoke could be seen from miles around Rifle, rising into the air just west of Railroad Avenue, as Colorado River Fire Rescue responded to the structure fire at 310 W. Third St. at 11:32 a.m. Saturday.

According to a Colorado River Fire Rescue news release, upon arrival firefighters found a heavy body of fire with flames pushing vertical and emanating a large amount of smoke.

The large building located at the corner of West Third Street and Park Avenue housed three apartments.

Five fire engines, one ambulance, a command vehicle and 19 firefighters, including mutual aid from Grand Valley Fire Protection District, responded. Rifle Police Department assisted with the call along with the Xcel Energy and the city of Rifle. The American Red Cross and LIFT-UP were called to assist with the displaced residents.

Glenwood Springs Fire Department also supplied an engine and crew to cover CRFR’s New Castle station during the incident, according to the release.

During the attack on the blaze, crews were able to locate a family pet inside one of the apartments and reunite the dog with its family, according to the release.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time and is being investigated by the members of the Garfield County Fire Investigation Team.

Rifle wrestlers win home ‘Rumble in the Rockies’ tourney

The Rifle High School wrestling team won its home tournament Saturday, the Rumble in the Rockies, besting Meeker, Steamboat Springs and Glenwood Springs in the Gold Pool of the 12-team tournament.

All five area wrestling teams — Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Coal Ridge, Grand Valley and Basalt (which includes wrestlers from Carbondale’s Roaring Fork High) — participated in the tournament.

According to results posted to trackwrestling.com, Glenwood Springs finished fourth in the gold pool, behind Rifle, Meeker and Steamboat Springs. Grand Valley was fourth in the silver pool, and Basalt was third and Coal Ridge fourth in the bronze pool, after a full day of wrestling action at Rifle High.

Following the initial pool matches, the Gold Pool round saw Rifle come out on top of Steamboat Springs, 43-18, and Meeker, 43-31. In the third round of action, the Bears out-wrestled Glenwood Springs, 54-22. Glenwood also suffered losses to Meeker, 65-13, and Steamboat Springs, 51-18.

Glenwood Springs advanced to the Gold Medal round by defeating Hayden, 36-24, and Basalt, 40-24; Rifle advanced with team wins over Grand Junction Central 57-15 and Rangely, 66-16.

Full individual and team results can be found at trackwrestling.com, search Rumble in the Rockies.