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Newly elected Rifle City Council candidates sworn in

Elected Rifle City Council members sworn in Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Five newly elected Rifle City Council members were sworn in Wednesday.

The newly elected members include Clint Hostettler, Joe Carpenter, Sean Strode, Alicia Gresley and Chris Bornholdt.

Hostettler, appointed in 2018 and 2020, is now serving his first four-year term as a council member. Meanwhile, Strode and Carpenter were both first elected in 2017 and are now in their final four-year term.

First-time candidates Gresley and Bornholdt are slated to serve four-year and two-year terms, respectively.

Wednesday’s regular Rifle City Council meeting also saw council members elect Ed Green as mayor and Brian Condie as mayor pro tem.

Ed Green takes his seat as the new mayor of Rifle on Wednesday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Green, elected to his first term in 2015 and then his second in 2019, will serve as Rifle mayor until 2023.

“This seat has been occupied by people since 1905,” Green said. “It’s humbling, and I do appreciate the opportunity.”

Condie was elected to his first term in 2019 and will serve as mayor pro tem until 2023.

“I look forward to working with council,” Condie said. “Let’s continue what we’ve done over the past four years.”

Green takes over for former mayor Barbara Clifton, who served as mayor since 2017 and as a council member since 2013.

Condie takes over for former mayor pro tem Theresa Hamilton, who served as mayor pro tem since 2017 and council member since 2015.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

Community profile: Rifle woman embarks on winding road to recovery

Janet Souza looks off in the distance while on her balcony Thanksgiving eve.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Janet Souza sat up in her futon on Thanksgiving eve and stared blankly out a sliding-door window overlooking the mountains flanking Rifle’s south end.

The afternoon was relatively breezeless, and a few clouds partially blotched an otherwise bluebird day.

Yet even in the peace of the moment, Souza felt the shadow of addiction.

“It’s hard to get out of the bottle,” she said. “It always seems like it’s capped when you’re in there and you can’t get back out.”

Souza, wearing a soft woolen sweater, was resting. Her plan for Thanksgiving was to grab a ride to a church in Glenwood Springs so she could serve meals to the homeless. Service to others is important to the 70-year-old former cook, who has struggled with substances for years, most recently alcohol. Meanwhile, her 20s and 30s were consumed by methamphetamine addiction.

“It’s just boredom,” Souza said of what fueled her drinking. “I’d be pissed off at somebody, or, if I was having a really, really good day, then I deserve to drink.”

“That was always an excuse. I missed so many days of my life.”

A LONG TRIP

Souza’s mother wanted to hide the shame. So one day, she decided to pack the family car and drive across the country from Souza’s hometown of Fair Lawn, New Jersey.

“I got pregnant when I was 15,” Souza said. “So, my mom moved us to California.”

“She hid me from my relatives out there. I’d stay in my bedroom all Christmas Day.”

After Souza gave birth, her mother gave her a puppy, and her daughter was put up for adoption. Souza later reconnected with her daughter and still sometimes talks with her on the phone.

At 51, Souza ended up in Colorado to be closer with her son, James. The last time she spoke with him was about a year ago.

In the meantime, Souza eventually found herself living on a fixed income in a Silt apartment complex offered by the Garfield County Housing Authority.

Her drinking continued; home and life became a mess, she said.

“That stuff will tear you up,” she said. “I would hallucinate so bad I thought there was an old lady and a young girl sitting on my couch when I went into my apartment.”

Someone had to eventually tell her they were just pillows.

AN AWAKENING

Souza had about $200 to her name. She wasn’t living in Silt anymore, and she owed more than $700 in back rent to the housing authority.

Meanwhile, she had just gotten kicked out of her motel room when she was discovered drunk and unconscious in Centennial Park, a place she used to take her dogs, Jypsy and Missy, both of which died some time ago.

“I passed out in the park, and thank God somebody called somebody to bring me to the hospital,” Souza said. “I could have been dead.”

Whenever someone falls victim to these types of circumstances in Garfield County, various mental health and intervention specialists respond with the ultimate goal of rehabilitating the individual. In Souza’s case, she initially woke up to a representative from Aspen Hope Center, a nonprofit offering a variety of mental health and intervention services.

Souza also met Gabe Cohen, a former drug and alcohol user turned peer support specialist and martial arts black belt. Earlier in 2021, he opened Discovery Cafe, a full-service program that supports homeless, addicted and disenfranchised individuals, according to its webpage. It’s run out of a modest classroom on the Colorado Mountain College Rifle campus.

“She reminds me of a wounded little bird that needs to be held gently and loved on,” Cohen said. “She needs healing.”

Janet Souza sits inside her Rifle Apartment on Thanksgiving eve.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Using emergency vouchers, Cohen set up Souza in another motel. He also purchased her enough groceries to get through the weekend. Soon, Cohen was bringing her to Alcoholics Anonymous, church and, finally, Discovery Cafe.

Cohen said Souza might be 70, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late to seek recovery.

“Janet’s lived through so much trauma,” he said. “She suffered a lot, and she hasn’t been on her prescribed meds for a long time, and she struggles with alcoholism, but she is a smart woman, a sweet woman, a loving, caring woman.”

ROAD ON THE ROCKS

Souza couldn’t believe the atmosphere when she stepped into Discovery Cafe.

“I walked into a room that was totally peaceful to me,” she said, tears building in her eyes. “Just a few days before that, I ended up waking up in the hospital, not knowing how I got there.”

Earlier this fall, Cohen also persuaded Souza to apply for an apartment at Maxwell Heights, an affordable housing complex for seniors.

Though she still owed the housing authority back rent, Cohen loaned her enough money to defray the debt using funds from the Cafe’s account. And though Souza lives on a minimal, fixed income, she’s already paid back most of the loan.

“That’s important to me,” Cohen said. “She is a woman of integrity.”

But Souza isn’t in the clear yet. On Tuesday, Souza admitted to falling off the wagon,

Janet Souza shows a page in an art book she admires while inside her Rifle apartment on Thanksgiving eve.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

At first, she was scared to tell Cohen about her relapse. But when she did, Cohen gave her nothing but love and support.

“Relapsing is a part of recovery,” he said. “We brush the dust off our shoulders, and we press on. This shows the plight and struggle are real. But it also shows triumph.”

For Souza, she’s still moving forward.

“I talked to Gabe this morning, and he’s very happy with me,” she said Friday. “I have a lot of support from people that I thought were going to deny me.”

There are several resources throughout the Colorado and Roaring Fork valleys that offer assistance for mental health needs and addiction. This includes places like Discovery Cafe, Mind Springs Health, Aspen Hope Center and others.

Discovery Cafe

• Call director Gabe Cohen at 719-650-5978.

• Email the center at gabe@discoverycafe.org.

• Discovery Cafe is located at 3695 Airport Road in Rifle.

Mind Springs Health

• Call the Aspen location at 970-920-5555.

• Call the Glenwood Springs location at 970-945-2583.

Aspen Hope Center

• Call the Aspen office at 970-925-5858.

• Call the Glenwood Springs office at 970-945-3728.

• Call the Eagle office at 970-306-4673.

Alcoholics Anonymous

A variety of meetings are available online and in person. Final local meeting times at COAADistrict14.org, or call 970-245-9649 for more information or help.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

PHOTOS: Hometown Holiday dazzles Rifle

Anyone who showed up to Rifle on Saturday were treated to holiday lights, fireworks and a dazzling parade during the Hometown Holiday festival.

Make sure to check out Thursday’s Citizen Telegram for more photos.

A carriage makes its way through downtown Rifle during Hometown Holiday on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
The Grinch waves at spectators during Hometown Holiday in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
The Parade of Lights proceeds down Railroad Avenue during Hometown Holiday in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

PHOTOS: Hometown Holiday dazzles Rifle

Anyone who showed up to Rifle Saturday were treated to holiday lights, fireworks and a dazzling parade during the Hometown Holiday festival.

A group of people watch fireworks burst over Rifle during Hometown Holiday on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Santa Claus rides his sleigh during Hometown Holiday in Rifle.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
The Grinch is led by a procession of lights during Hometown Holiday in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Fireworks boom over Rifle during Hometown Holiday on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Parade of Lights participants dance during Hometown Holiday in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
The city of Rifle lights a Christmas tree during Hometown Holiday on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
A horse carriage gives a ride during Hometown Holiday in Rifle on Saturday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com

Re-2 school board members sworn in

Garfield Re-2 school board members, from left, Jason Shoup, Tony May and Britton Fletchall taking the oath of office with outgoing president Anne Guettler holding a microphone.
Submitted / Theresa Hamilton

Garfield County Re-2’s new school board members were sworn in Monday before electing new officers.

Board member Meriya Stickler, first elected to represent District D in 2019, is now president of the board, according to a Monday news release. First-time board member Tony May, who beat challenger Caitlin Carey in a contested race for District E, was elected vice president.

First-time board member Britton Fletchall, who won the District A seat after challenger Jessica Paugh dropped out of the race in October, was elected board secretary.

Finally, new board member Christina Maness, who was appointed in November to represent District C after former sitting member Katie Mackley resigned, was elected treasurer.

Jason Shoup retained his seat in the November election for Director District B and also ran unopposed. Shoup was appointed to fill the seat left vacant when Kirk Wilson resigned in August 2020.

The next regularly scheduled Garfield Re-2 school board meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 at the Re-2 District Office at 839 Whiteriver Ave. in Rifle.

New ammo-free shooting range opens in Rifle

Timberline Sporting Goods owner Paul Kaufmann demonstrates how to use the store's new digital indoor shooting range.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Using ammunition at a live shooting range can be costly. Timberline Sporting Goods owner Paul Kaufmann wants to provide a cheaper alternative.

Ushering in Black Friday, Kaufmann hosted an all-day demonstration of the Rifle outdoor shop’s new virtual shooting range. Equipped with laser-shot simulations, users can take aim at a giant screen and enhance their accuracy bullet-free, engaging in several respective activities and scenarios.

“You’re paying $20 an hour versus $20 a magazine,” Kaufmann said. “It’s like a handgun at the range but you’re not shooting up $50 worth of ammo.”

The digitally-controlled arsenal is made up of remote handguns, shotguns and assault rifles. Scenarios range from hunting and shooting drills to even on-screen hunter-safety courses.

If anything else, the new, state-of-the-art contraption is loaded with fun-filled simulations. Set sights on programs called Five Stand, Full Boar, Mallard Madness or Practical Shooting Charlie.

A one-hour rental costs $20 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under.

“It’s trigger time,” Kaufmann said. “These firearms, they’re based on the real deal. Weight-wise, the trigger — everything is similar.”

This three-dimensional shooting clinic also brings a unique opportunity for first-time gun buyers. When Kaufmann fields customer questions about any particular gun, he can offer a glimpse of what it’s like owning a firearm and how it works by encouraging them to test out the digital range.

“They can make more of an educated purchase than just buying something,” Kaufmann said.

For Timberline gunsmith Thomas Albright, he admits the new range has simultaneously sharpened his shot and broadened his horizons.

“I haven’t done much with shotguns, and it’s actually taught me to shoot shotguns for birds,” he said. “And same with pistols. I’ve been trying to learn to shoot with both eyes open, and I haven’t been able to do it until three days ago. With the simulator, I’ve been able to learn how to do all of that. And it’s just so much cheaper than going out burning through ammo.”

Timberline Sporting Goods owner Paul Kaufmann takes a shot a target while using the store's new digital indoor shooting range.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Kaufmann originally came across the idea of incorporating digital firearm simulations while exploring ways to enhance the shop’s archery lanes. In the process of devising a way to install a dark system — an indoor archery method that applies reflective arrow tips — he came across the computerized range, at nearly a third of the cost.

New amenities like this foreshadow what’s to come for the new owner of Timberline, a Rifle outdoor hub since 1982.

Kaufmann, an Oklahoma native who started taking breaks as a full-time electrician to volunteer at Timberline two years ago, took over for former Timberline owners Shelly and Steve Sanve on Sept. 1.

He graduated from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He holds degrees in biology and chemistry, including minors in physics and genetics.

But with the new range, as well as numerous plans for Timberline over the next five years, Kaufmann agreed he’s no doubt pursuing his passions.

“So I’ve got all that, and here I am,” Kaufmann said. “And I wouldn’t trade it for nothing.”

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@citizentelegram.com.

Recount for Rifle City Council race officially over

Nearly a month after election night, final results in the Rifle City Council race resulted in no change for where candidates placed.

This election year saw five Rifle City Council seats up for election. Incumbents Clint Hostettler, Sean Strode and Joe Carpenter retained their seats, while Mayor Barbara Clifton and Mayor Pro Tem Theresa Hamilton — both two-term incumbents — are now termed out.

Ever since initial results were released on election night Nov. 2, Hostettler, Strode and Carpenter held significant leads over their challengers. However, first-time candidates Alicia Gresley, Chis Bornholdt and Derek Davis sat practically neck-and-neck in the race for the final two remaining open seats.

The top four seats win a full four-year term, while the fifth remaining spot holds a term of two years.

Monday’s officially amended results show first-time candidate Gresley winning a full four-year term while fellow first-time candidate Chris Bornholdt won a two-year term by nabbing the final remaining open seat on council. Gresley tallied 652 votes to Bornholdt’s 650.

Additional election challengers included Tamara Degler and Bud Demicill.

“I’m really excited to get to work and meet my fellow council members,” Gresley said Tuesday. “That’s kind of the focus now is what’s ahead.”

By the time more batches of ballots were counted, Gresley held a one-point lead over Bornholdt for the fourth open seat on Rifle City Council, 650-649, on Nov. 3.

Since the race was so close, the Garfield County Clerk’s Office was legally obligated to recount the ballots.

Garfield County Clerk Jean Alberico said, after the county’s canvass board conducted the recount Monday morning, a vote initially for Bornholdt was deducted and Gresley ended up winning the fourth open seat on Rifle City Council by two votes.

Alberico said the difference was due to a missed voter intent.

“A voter had initially voted for Chris Bornholdt but drew a line through that vote, as directed on the voter instructions found on the face of the ballot, but the tabulation system read the mark as a vote for Chris,” she said in a Monday email. “… As the Canvass Board reviewed all the votes cast for the Rifle City Council race, the Canvass Board agreed that the voter intended not to vote for Chris Bornholdt and that vote was corrected to an undervote, which lowered the vote total for Chris Bornholdt by one vote.”

The Citizen Telegram reached out to Bornholdt for this story.

1. Clint Hostletter: 987 votes

2. Joe Carpenter: 971 votes

3: Sean Strode: 736 votes

4: Alicia Gresley: 652 votes

5: Chris Bornholdt: 650 votes

6: Derek Davis: 643 votes

7: Tamara Degler: 602 votes

8: Bud Demicill: 540 votes

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@citizentelegram.com.

Aumento en el precio de la gasolina genera mayores costos de saneamiento en Rifle

Mountain Waste recolecta basura en Rifle el martes.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

El aumento de los costos del gas está provocando un aumento en la recolección de desechos y en las tarifas de los medidores de agua para los clientes residenciales, comerciales, e industriales.

El administrador de la ciudad de Rifle, Tommy Klein, dijo al Ayuntamiento de la ciudad de Rifle el miércoles que, para mantenerse al día con los crecientes costos en los que incurre la empresa Mountain Waste & Recycling, con sede en Aspen, la ciudad implementaría un aumento del 7%. Residencialmente, los clientes de Rifle deberían ver que la tasa de rechazo mensual actual por un bote de 64 galones puede aumentar de $18.95 a $20.40.

La primera lectura de la enmienda fue aprobada por unanimidad.

“Mountain Waste tiene un contrato con nosotros para el saneamiento,” dijo Klein. “Todos los años revisan ese contrato y hacen ajustes a sus costos basados en el índice de precios al consumidor y el costo del combustible diesel, que han aumentado considerablemente.”

Los datos proporcionados por el U.S. Energy Information Administration para las regiones del Rocky Mountain muestran un aumento del 1.348% en los precios del combustible diesel en carretera en comparación con el 2020.

El presupuesto de saneamiento de la ciudad adoptado en el 2021 mostró $734.900 en gastos totales.

La enmienda también aumentará la lectura del medidor de agua de la ciudad de $8 a $20. Por lo general, se trata de una tarifa única que se cobra cuando alguien está vendiendo una propiedad y se le pide a la ciudad que lea manualmente el medidor.

“Lo que se refiere a ese tipo de tarifa es que cuando alguien está vendiendo una propiedad o una transacción de bienes raíces, la compañía hipotecaria llamará (al departamento de finanzas) y les pedirá que hagan una lectura,” dijo Klein. “Finanzas enviará a alguien para leer manualmente el medidor, para informar a finanzas, y finanzas hará una tabulación para determinar cuál será la factura de agua hasta una fecha específica.”

La concejal Theresa Hamilton estuvo de acuerdo con la idea de aumentar las tarifas.

“Mountain Waste ha aumentado nuestras tarifas y, para mantener el ritmo, tenemos que aumentar las tarifas para la ciudad,” dijo Hamilton.

EN NÚMEROS

Cargos mensuales

Recolección de basura de 64 galones

Ahora: $18.95

En el futuro: $20.40

Lectura del medidor de agua

Ahora: $8

En el futuro: $20

Traducción de Edgar Barrantes. Puedes contactar al reportero Ray K. Erku al 612-423-5273 o rerku@citizentelegram.com

New head coach to bring European style to Rifle varsity boys basketball

New Rifle High School basketball coach Laimutis Grybe inside the gym at the school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Laimis Grybe finds relaxation from the basketball court. From his young days in Lithuania to his new role as head coach of Rifle High School’s boys varsity basketball team, it’s been the place Grybe has felt he can best be himself.

He almost takes on a new persona.

“Friends have said that to me. They’re like, ‘You’re a different person,’” Grybe said. “When I get on the court, whether I’m on the bench coaching or playing it, I forget about everything that’s going on. I’m just in the zone doing things basketball. It recharges me.”

After four years helming the junior varsity girls squad, the slender, 6-foot 4-inch, shaved-head Baltic man makes the transition over to head coach of the boys program. This fall, he guided the boys soccer club to a 5-8 finish, a sharp improvement from the 0-10 record the team had in the spring season. Grybe said he never played on a soccer team, but “being from Europe, everyone loves soccer.”

He had enough rudimentary knowledge of the sport to lead the team’s talent and took a team-first, chemistry-based approach. They had team breakfasts and played airsoft soccer, in which they “try to score while shooting at each other.”

“He has a passion for coaching and wants to make sure every team is doing good,” Rifle High School soccer and basketball player Javier Salgado said. “He’s just really humble and looks out for everyone.”

New Rifle High School basketball coach Laimutis Grybe inside the gym at the school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Now, Grybe is taking the same approach to his happy place and to the sport he knows. He wants to prioritize that team-first mentality and spread the wealth.

Also a math teacher at the school, he used numbers to pitch his new triangle offense strategy to his players.

“I said, ‘There’s 10 of you on the varsity bench. If all 10 of you score three buckets, how many points is that?’ They sit there, think through it, and go, ‘Oh, 60,’” Grybe said.

If the Bears scored 60 in each of their games from the spring season, they would have gone undefeated. Their highest scoring game was a 56-50 win over Glenwood Springs on March 3.

It’s a style that he crafted since he first picked up a ball at 6 years old. It helped him as an exchange student at Murphy High School in Murphy, North Carolina, as the team went to its first — and only, according to Grybe — trip to the state championships in the 1995-96 season. His playing career peaked as a semi-pro for his hometown in Lithuania.

In the United States, however, it’s a style that goes against the grain. American basketball is dominated by singular stars like LeBron James and Nikola Jokic or super teams.

“I don’t like watching that kind of basketball,” Grybe said. “That’s going to be the biggest challenge this year, is to get them out of that mentality that every time they touch the ball they have to score by themselves without the others’ help.”

Grybe is also realistic about the ceiling for a lot of his players, saying that the players that can be good teammates and share the ball are going to be the ones that might move on to a junior college or Division III school. Because of that, he’s prioritizing character and being a member of a group along with other skills that will translate outside of sports.

Along with girls coach Eric Caro, the two teams and the school as a whole are trying to build a stronger sense of community. The girls and boys basketball teams scrimmaged on Wednesday evening.

“He did some pretty amazing things with those kids during the soccer season,” Rifle High School Athletic Director Chris Bomba said. “He believes in the processes we have in making these kids just good people above the basketball skill.”

Grybe took the helm just a week before Thanksgiving break, two weeks before a nonleague game against Coal Ridge on Nov. 30. It’s a small window to implement a new system, but it’s one he hopes will endure for the long haul and make the Bears competitive for years to come.

Grybe’s youngest child is in sixth grade and he maintains that he and his family are “rooted here.”

“It takes extra time to change a culture,” Grybe said.

For the foreseeable future, Jack Smith Gymnasium will be Laimis Grybe’s charging station.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.

PHOTOS: Rifle Turkey Trot

A dog keeps up with its human during a turkey trot in Rifle on Thursday.

Runners young and old woke up Thanksgiving morning to a nice brisk turkey trot run at Deerfield Park in Rifle. After morning doughnuts and coffee, the runners ran off the calories by completing the family tradition 5K.

Rifle High School Athletics Director Chris Bomba announces the opening race during a turkey trot in Rifle on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent
And away they go! Young runners take off from the starting line during a turkey trot in Rifle on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
A very young runner strides ahead during a turkey trot in Rifle on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Runners round a ball field during a turkey trot in Rifle on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent
Runners take on the last leg of a turkey trot in Rifle on Thursday.
Ray K. Erku / Post Independent

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.