Ninth annual Hometown Holidays returns to Rifle this weekend
Hometown Holidays are back in Rifle for its ninth annual year. Read below for the full list of activities and events to celebrate the upcoming winter holidays. Addresses will be listed below, as some events take place in the same buildings.
Midland Arts Company Open House — 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Midland Arts Company
Alpine Bank Business After Hours — 5:30 p.m. at Ute Theater
Craft Fair — 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Rifle Middle School
Craft Fair — 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rifle Middle School
Film Showing: “Polar Express” — 10 a.m. at Brenden Theater
Pet Pictures with Santa — 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Journey Home Animal Shelter
Free Wreath Making for Kids — 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bookcliffs Arts Center
Free Ornament Making for Kids — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rifle Branch Library
Santa — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Rifle City Hall
Free Gift Wrapping — noon to 3 p.m. at Rifle CoWork
Architectural Scavenger Hunt – noon to 3 p.m., starts and ends at Rifle City Hall
Hay Rides — 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Downtown Rifle
Live Reindeer — 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Civic Plaza
Symphony in the Valley Presents: The Nutcracker & Other Holiday Favorites Featuring Dancers from Colorado West Performing Arts Co — 2 p.m. at Ute Theater
Bounce House and more — 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Amy Baysinger State Farm
Luminaries to live nativity — 4 p.m. at 3rd street to Centennial walking path to tree lighting
Live Nativity Scene — 4 p.m. at walking path to Centennial, follow the luminaries
Tree Lighting — 5:15 p.m. at Centennial Park
Holiday Fireworks Show — 5:30 p.m. to 5:50 p.m. at Centennial Park
Parade of Lights — 6 p.m. at Railroad Avenue, Fairgrounds to Brenden Theater
After Parade – Bonfire, S’mores, Cookies, Hot Chocolate, Music/DJ at Brenden Theater
Symphony in the Valley Presents: The Nutcracker & Other Holiday Favorites Featuring Dancers from Colorado West Performing Arts Co — 7 p.m. at Ute Theater
Symphony in the Valley Presents: The Nutcracker & Other Holiday Favorites Featuring Dancers from Colorado West Performing Arts Co – 2 p.m. at Ute Theater
This is the only time that the Symphony in the Valley will be showing The Nutcracker, so be sure to get tickets! Go to their website https://sitv.org/wp/ to buy tickets. The cost ranges from $12 to $30, depending on age.
Midland Arts Company: 101 E 3rd Street
Ute Theater: 132 E 4th Street
Rifle Middle School: 753 Railroad Avenue
Brenden Theater: 250 W 2nd Street
Journey Home Animal Shelter: 1500 Prefontaine Avenue
Bookcliffs Arts Center: 100 E 16th Street
Rifle Branch Library: 207 East Avenue
Rifle City Hall: 202 Railroad Avenue
Rifle CoWork: 144 E 3rd Street
Civic Plaza: Beside the Library
Amy Baysinger State Farm: 100 E 11th Street
Centennial Park: 300 W 5th Street
Fairgrounds: 1001 Railroad Avenue
The fireworks will be set off at Rifle Middle School, which means closure of Rifle Creek Trail beginning at 5 p.m.
Railroad Avenue will also close at the same time in both directions from 14th Street to Centennial Parkway, the city said in a news release.
These closures will remain in place until after the parade. Anticipate at least a two hour closure.
Citizens who park in the lot at Rifle Middle School will not be able to leave until after the parade has ended and Railroad Avenue has been officially reopened.
Vehicles exiting from that location will only be allowed to make a right turn onto Railroad Avenue to facilitate expeditious traffic flow.
Please be aware of this event and drive carefully as a large crowd of spectators is anticipated.For updated information on all City matters, please go to our website, www.rifleco.org or our Facebook, Instagram and X pages.
City of Rifle aims to provide 100 holiday baskets for Fourth Annual Holiday Feast
The Rifle Parks and Recreation Department is holding its fourth annual Holiday Feast event.
“Four years ago, during COVID, our initial thought was to get some meal kits out to some people in need,” Rifle Parks and Rec Director Austin Rickstrew said. “The Alpine Bank and Shelter Insurance Tyler Davis Agency heard about it and gave substantial donations the first two years to get it off the ground.”
This volunteer effort helps provide holiday meal kits to people in need.
“The first year it was 40 meals, the second was 80, and this year it’s 100 meals,” Rickstrew said. “These meal kits aren’t just dinner; it has breakfast and dessert, enough for five to seven people.”
Rickstrew said he and his employees go shopping for the ingredients and then put the baskets together.
“We also put recipes in there, just in case people don’t know what to make,” he said.
To receive a meal kit, a person must be nominated. To nominate someone, either scan the QR code on the flier, which can be found here or go to the Facebook page found here, or see the QR code accompanying this article.
“People can also nominate themselves,” Rickstrew said. There’s a short survey that asks the nominator questions about the person or people being nominated, like names, addresses, places of residences and a brief explanation as to why they are nominating their choice.
Families New Castle, Silt, Rifle and the Parachute/Battlement Mesa community are eligible for nomination, including unincorporated Garfield County.
“Once we get it narrowed down, we give the nominees a redemption ticket,” Rickstrew said. “On the 20th, we’ll be having a drive through and you bring your ticket.”
The deadline for nominations is 5 p.m. Dec. 8.
City of Rifle looks at slight budget increase for 2024
The city of Rifle is looking at a 3.5% budget increase for 2024, according to Rifle Finance Director Scott Rust.
“In the overall budget, we’re at less the deficit for what I was projecting,” Rust told Rifle City Council on Nov. 15.
Rust also said that, amid all the confusing data everyone is dealing with, he thinks the 3.5% increase is correct. He’s incorporating the most updated numbers and preparing for the worst.
“We’re going to continue to see supply chain issues, we’ll continue to watch those things, but we’ll continue to have carryover from 2023 as we don’t have — we’ve ordered a number of items and they still haven’t shown up,” Rust said.
Rust said the projection of the proposed total 2024 budget is approximately $50 million, about $6.5 million more than the 2023 proposed budget. There is a $1.8 million in deficit spending projected, but estimated total reserves come in at about $50 million.
“Moral to the story is we’re still fiscally sound, even if next year ended up being completely awful and the economic volatility completely skyrockets and we don’t earn anything, we’ll still be okay, which we all know is not going to happen,” Rust said. “I feel very comfortable with this budget.”
The budget was then approved by the council unanimously.
TAX LICENSE FEE
Council also reviewed the repeal of a sales tax license fee.
“This is a result of state legislature passed the previous year. The bill stated that owners of municipalities could no longer require a business license,” Rust explained. “It started out as we can no longer charge the fee, then it turned into we can no longer charge the fee or require a license.”
The state legislature being referred to is SB 22-032, which is written in more detail here.
It was decided it wasn’t fair to waive the requirement only for remote re-salers, like Amazon, so Rust recommended it be removed for every sales taxpayer. It removes the $12 fee but also keeps Rifle in compliance with state law.
The overall fiscal impact is about $20,000, Rust said.
“Talking to Scott, we thought, well that’s not fair, why does someone located in Rifle have to pay the fee when Amazon doesn’t?” City Attorney Jim Neu said.
Rust said that staff had been removing the fee manually, and that this motion would make it easier, but that every vendor still needs a license and to provide information to the city.
This first reading was approved by the council unanimously.
Rifle police officers promoted
Two Rifle Police Department officers had a badge-pinning ceremony at the Rifle City Council meeting on Nov. 15. Officer Kyle Green was promoted to corporal and Officer Mike Pruitt was promoted to sergeant.
“I’m very proud of the professionalism these two gentlemen have shown and brought to the Rifle Police Department,” RPD Chief Deb Funston said. “Without further ado, they will be pinned by both of their wives.”
Sierra Green and Dani Pruitt subsequently pinned the badges to their husbands and were met with much congratulations from the crowd. The officers then shook the hands of all the council.
“I wanted to say thank you to all the police officers who serve us everyday and put their lives at risk every day for us,” Mayor Ed Green said. “We appreciate it.”
IN OTHER NEWS
Council also reviewed and approved an item stating that the police chief needs to reside within 25 miles of town, changing it to 15 miles instead. This allows the police chief to respond more quickly to issues in Rifle, city documents state Funston, however, already resides within 15 miles of Rifle.
Council discussed the Veteran’s War Memorial at Deerfield Park and different ways the city can screen people whose names should be engraved on this memorial and how they might be able to get it fixed. Councilor Joe Carpenter also said that some people who should be on that memorial aren’t.
Trish O’Grady spoke to Rifle City Council on Wednesday during public comment, once more calling for certain Japanese manga books to be limited on the Rifle Branch Library’s floor.” It’s still an ongoing issue, and they have not compromised one bit on these books,” O’Grady told Council as she passed manga books to council members. O’Grady said the Library Board isn’t willing to engage in a conversation with her about any censorship of their collection. She also said there was a petition going around and to contact her about it.
City manager Tommy Klein also noted the opening of the dog park, estimating two weeks from Wednesday, and it will be open on a Saturday. He’s hoping for a small event and that council was welcome to attend.
Rifle’s discolored drinking water caused by waterline break, official says
A recent increase in discoloration in Rifle’s drinking water was caused by a major waterline break, the city confirmed last week. The break occurred on Nov. 5 at Park Avenue near Third Street.
Rifle City Manager Tommy Klein said that because of the size of the break, pressure valves in other sections of town opened and water flowed swiftly through the pipes, causing sediment to stir up.
“This sediment is naturally occurring and happens in water pipes everywhere”, Klein reassured Rifle City Council on Nov. 15.
The speed of the water did pick up some of that sediment and discolored it; however Klein also said the water is safe to drink.
“It’s not dirt from the break itself,” Klein said. “It’s sediment from the closed system.”
Mayor Ed Green questioned Klein on whether this affected water pressure in other places in town. Klein said there was some low pressure in some sections of the city, but nobody lost water except in that area.
“If you have a water break or you have questions about your water, you can call us. Or on the weekends, or in the middle of the night, if you see water break or water gushing out on the street, you can call the Garfield County Emergency Communications Center Non-Emergency Number and they’ll dispatch crews out to repair,” Klein said.
Klein also said that if anyone wants for water crews to come look at their water, they can call the city and they’ll look at the sediment in the water and measure the chlorine levels to make sure they’re correct and a color assessment.
“The color should be improving all over the city and if it’s not, just give us a call. It will take some time for all that sediment to flush out of our system.
Call 970-665-6590 for the Wastewater Treatment Plant for questions about your water and call 970-625-8095, the Garfield County Emergency Communications Center Non-Emergency Line for water crew dispatch.
MORE WATER ISSUES
Another water related problem came up during the meeting.
“We did have a pipe break at the wastewater treatment plant, the Edwards building, that’s underneath the slab,” Klein said. “We’re going to need to get that repaired very quickly.”
Klein said they won’t be able to follow the standard procedure on it because it needs to be fixed fast. He doesn’t have an estimate for the repair or when work will begin, but Klein said he’d keep the council updated.
Initial repair estimates for the broken waterline are less than $100,000, Rifle Wastewater Plant Supervisor Jared Emmert said.
“It’s not usually a good idea to install buried PVC (pipes) under a slab, so when the plant was constructed, the problem existed, and now we’re seeing the consequences of that,” Emmert said.
Emmert’s recommendation is to core through the concrete once and move the entire system above ground, onto the walls and ceiling, so that if another leak occurs, they can fix it without having to go through concrete.
“Otherwise we’ll just be doing spot repairs and having to core through the slab every single time. There’s also the issue of the property being on an uranium mill-tailing site, and so authorization from the department of energy and the CDPHE (Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) is required every time we break ground there, so it would make more sense to replumb that building,” Emmert said.
He reiterated his earlier assessment of it being about $100,000 to fix.
NEW WATER PUMP
In addition to breaks, Rifle City Council unanimously approved the purchase of a new vertical turbine water pump for the city’s water pump station.
Emmert explained that the Raw Water Pump Station delivers water from the city’s intake on the Colorado River up to the water treatment facility. Currently, the station has three pumps, two are 250 horsepower and one 300 horsepower.
“This would be the fourth pump. The reasons for this project are two-fold: number one, it increases the capacity and reliability of the pump station and also it helps to develop our conditional water rights,” Emmert said.
In response to a question from Green, Emmert said that occasionally these pumps go down and this new pump would help increase capacity of the pump station.
“Six vendors responded to our request for a 350 horsepower pump and its associated motor. We are recommending Monroe Supply, for a total cost of $72,019.40,” Emmert said.
He said the cheapest option was Falcon Environmental at $71,965.00, but they quoted a 300 horsepower pump at that price point, and Emmert decided to go with Monroe Supply due to it being the most qualified.
“There are warranties that we can add on, usually at an increased cost, and Monroe Supplies that support. They’re a local company out of Grand Junction,” Emmert added, answering Councilor Alicia Gresley’s question. “Our initial estimate on this project was 200k.”
City of Rifle honors Mayor Ed Green on his last day
Mayor Ed Green of Rifle had his last day as mayor on Wednesday.
After the city of Rifle had their regular meeting, City Manager Tommy Klein and City Clerk Misty Williams presented Green with an award for his service to the city of Rifle.
Mayor Green had served the city as council member from 2015 to 2021 then as mayor since then.
Klein, while presenting the award, spoke about the Mayor’s experience before he came to Rifle. Green had a great deal of experience with local government, having been hired as the city manager in North Palm Beach, Florida, and being the county manager of Garfield County.
“I just want to say I thank God for the opportunity to have served as both councilor and mayor for our city and for the residents but I also consider it a pleasure to work with a very talented staff and also with you guys. You’re the best,” Mayor Green said to the other six council members.
Mayor Green spoke about his experience as mayor.
“I never thought of myself as a politician,” he said. “As a matter of a fact, I worked for them for over 15 years and really didn’t have a very good taste in my mouth about that.”
The Mayor also thanked his wife, who helped him think about difficult issues after work.
“Sometimes I would pontificate here and then when I came home, she would, very diplomatically, say, ‘What in the world are you thinking?’ And most of the time, she was right,” he said.
Mayor Green not only received an award from the city, but also a basket of things he would need in his life, like antacids, playdough, arthritis cream, which he joked he could use right at that moment, and a pink gavel that he contemplated giving to his wife.
Councilor Joe Carpenter gave him a heartfelt gift, one that he said he was “totally embarrassed to buy” but did so anyway, and gave Mayor Green a U.S. Army baseball hat. Mayor Green received it among much laughter.
Williams, Klein and City Attorney Jim Neu all expressed gratitude to Mayor Green and then all the council members thanked him, not only for his service, but to his advice and talks they’ve had with him.
Shots fired in north Rifle on Thursday, no injuries
Shots were fired into the ground in Rifle on Thursday morning, according to a Rifle Police Department news release.
At approximately 10:55 a.m. on Thursday, Garfield County Dispatch received a call of shots fired. Rifle Police and Garfield County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the call at a business in the 2000 block of Railroad Avenue.
Witnesses at the scene identified the suspected shooter as Abel Domingues-Banderas, according to the release. Witnesses stated Domingues-Banderas fired two rounds into the ground and left the area.
Officers were able to make contact with Domingues-Banderas in north Rifle, and he was taken into custody without incident and booked into the Garfield County Jail. At this time he is being charged with Felony Menacing, Prohibited Use of a Weapon and Domestic Violence, according to the release.
No one was injured in the isolated incident, and there is no ongoing threat to the community.
“This case remains under investigation. All suspects are considered innocent until adjudicated guilty in a court of law,” the release states.
Decommissioned Graham Mesa Water Plant in Rifle to be replaced with residential housing
The decommissioned Graham Mesa Water Plant in Rifle, currently undergoing demolition, will be replaced with residential housing next year.
According to Brian Prunty, public works director with the city, the 2.1 acres of land will be used to build around 6-8 single family dwelling units.
“It’s just been up in the air,” Prunty told the Post Independent. “There were different concepts for using the property … there were a lot of different ideas and they seemingly just weren’t compatible with the use up there … so it was decided to get it developed.”
Demolition on the water plant started on Oct. 30 and is expected to go through the end of March 2024, partially due to the revegetation requirements.
Prunty presented a funding request for the plant’s demolition to Rifle City Council during their Oct. 4 meeting, where all council members voted in favor of the motion.
“This is a project that’s been long discussed and is overdue and we need to properly utilize the property,” Prunty said during the meeting. “It’s sat pretty much vacant and empty and it’s become an eyesore and a public health hazard in many ways, since 2017. We’re past due.”
The requested amount of $750,000 encompassed the estimated demolition cost of $676,504 plus an additional $73,496 contingency fund, which is essentially a cushion fund for needs that have not yet been identified. The cost of restoring the land after demolition will also fall on the city.
Although it was not yet finalized how the land would be used at the time of the presentation, the demolition would still mean the city wouldn’t have to worry about maintenance efforts, and it would help regain the value of the property.
The land is currently owned by the City of Rifle, and the new property owners and developers will be disclosed once the sale is made.
“We hope to pretty much recover the cost of demolition on the site at the time of sale,” Prunty said. “Given the density that we’re looking at, we’re gonna probably be close to breaking even.”
Prunty said they received two bids for the project, and the 60-day contract was eventually given to contract Martinez Western Construction in Rifle.
“We’re trying to basically make best use of the city resources that we can, and this is one of the best ways to do it,” Prunty said. “And we’ve got a good, solid contractor with Martinez Western Construction and we think we’re going to wind up with a very nice addition to that whole neighborhood.”
The Graham Mesa Water Plant was decommissioned in April 2017, following the opening of a new water plant — the Rifle Regional Water Purification Facility.
The plan is for the company to stay in contact with any residents near the plant throughout the demolition process, according to Prunty.
“There was a little bit of concern by one of the neighbors regarding air quality, and we were able to address that,” Prunty said. “A feature of the contract was that the contractor had to stay in contact with the surrounding neighbors to ensure that they were aware of what was happening and what they were doing … so we’ve tried to address all the issues that you might encounter in a residential neighborhood.”
A mother was told to terminate her baby with Down syndrome. Now she works to uplift their voices.
Marsha Weigum was sitting in the office of her doctor in Glenwood Springs when she was told that there was a 99% chance her son would be born with Down syndrome.
She’d received a call from her doctor earlier that day asking her to come in about her blood work.
“Down syndrome, the word is not strange to me,” Marsha said. “That’s the job I did. My favorite child of them all working with the organization was one with Down syndrome.”
Marsha was pregnant with her sixth child, though it was her second with her husband Kristopher after immigrating to Colorado from Jamaica 16 years ago.
Her reaction to her doctor’s diagnosis was to ask, “What’s next for the prenatal care? Do we need to be doing something different?”
The Doctor’s response, however, encouraged a type of care that Marsha was determined not to pursue.
“She said … ‘you can terminate if you choose,’ Marsha said.
Her doctor continued to list the ways in which raising her unborn baby would be difficult: he would be a slow learner, dependent on family, among other concerns.
“I listened to her, but the minute she said termination, I didn’t think I wanted to hear much more,” she said. “These children are awesome, they’re innocent children, and now here I am having my own.”
Marsha returned her initial question: what’s next?
They discussed some of the risks, such as the chance that some babies born with Down syndrome could have heart defects and therefore need open-heart surgery.
With this perceived diagnosis on her hands, Marsha realized she wasn’t mad about her son being diagnosed with Down syndrome — she was mad about having to navigate doing things differently in a world that didn’t feel like it was built for her son.
“I was mad with determination,” she said. “It’s this kind of determination … that I’m going to make a difference.”
Marsha explained that behind this determination was a need for more education and more resources. She said she felt there needed to be more than one option for mothers facing this diagnosis.
“I want the next woman who’s gonna come through here to have something they can refer to … It shouldn’t be just this,” Marsha said. “People say, ‘You can just go kill it because it could be bothersome to your life and to your family.’ That’s the kind of madness I was feeling. How do I do something about this? How do I change this? This is where I live.”
That’s when Marsha realized this world wasn’t going to build itself, and she would need to be the one to build it.
Our Voice For The Voiceless
Down syndrome occurs once in every 691 live births and over 375,000 people in the U.S. have it, according to the Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association in Colorado. It is one of the most common genetic disorders, and 40- to- 60% of all infants with Down syndrome have some type of heart defect.
In the state of Colorado, there were 946 babies born with Trisomy 21 between 2007-2016, with only eight of those births originating in Garfield County within the nine-year span, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Trisomy 21 is the most common of the three types of Down syndrome, making up approximately 95% of cases.
Marsha said she found that the majority of resources and organizations that could have helped her throughout her pregnancy were offered in bigger cities like Denver, but she did not want to leave the county.
“How do I help that next woman who’s gonna come in? Maybe she’s an immigrant, maybe she’s a single mother, maybe she’s a wife, maybe she’s just passing through town,” Marsha said. “What are we going to do so that she doesn’t have to hear this thing about termination again?”
Marsha is a certified CNA, pastor and a mother. Her experience laid the foundation for what would soon become Our Voice For The Voiceless, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving families of children with Down syndrome in the valley.
The organization, which has not formally launched, will offer informational materials, courses, counseling, events, and a community for parents who want to magnify the voice of their children.
Marsha emphasized that the organization will also focus on addressing early intervention – something she wished she would have known about when she learned of her baby’s diagnosis.
Marsha labels her role as a “special needs parenting strategist,” which she has used to teach mothers how to raise their children in the home, as well as how to educate them for parents who prefer homeschooling but are unsure about how to approach it.
“Yes, children with Down syndrome can learn math. The question is, are we patient enough?” Marsha said. “When (parents) know that these resources and early intervention can offset a lot of these things, there is no limit. There was never any limit, in a way.”
Even though the organization has yet to launch officially, Marsha says she’s gotten a head start speaking to parents both locally and globally since its inception in 2020.
Marsha uses her online community to talk to parents about raising children with Down syndrome. She keeps colorful pipe cleaners next to her computer that she’s used to explain the extra 21st chromosome of a child with Down syndrome to mothers who may sometimes live as far as Kenya.
“It’s the teacher part of me,” she said. “With information like this, I hope parents find it in their heart to reach out to us.”
Marsha has also worked to host events in the interim before the organization’s launch. The last event was a mother’s day brunch held in May at the Rifle Branch Library focused on mental health and wellness in the family. And of course, kids were welcome.
Marsha extends her mission to reach parents and community members through her podcast, Voice Of Hope Show, where she shares her encouragement with parents and caregivers.
“Gift from God”
Even after everything, however, Marsha made it clear that she never would have dreamt to do this on her own.
“I think I realized (all) I need is my faith,” she said. “Same thing with my husband … He went on his knees right there in the park in Carbondale. He fell to his knees and he said, ‘God, what did I do? What did I do wrong? … What did I do this time to deserve this?'”
Marsha said this question is, unfortunately, not uncommon for people who have children with disabilities. According to her experience, some people believe in the connotation that the parents must have done something wrong in order for their child to be born with Down syndrome.
“People just believe that if there’s going to be a child with special needs, Down syndrome or other things, (it means the) the parents sinned, somebody sinned, somebody did some witchcraft, there’s something gone wrong,” she said.
Marsha’s husband, however, did not stay stuck on this question. He told Marsha he heard the answer in his spirit in the form of John 9:3 in the Bible. The verse says, “Neither he nor his parents sinned, Jesus answered. He was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
“It’s nothing that he did wrong or I did wrong that causes our child to be born with Down syndrome. It is so that God’s glory will be manifested through him,” Marsha said. “(My husband) got up off his knees and then he called me and he was saying to me, ‘Marsha, everything’s gonna be fine.'”
Through this experience, Marsha found the answer to the question she felt she’d asked too many times: what’s next? Marsha and her husband turned to their community. They reached out to their family and their pastor at the time, asking for prayers that their son be born healthy, without any heart defects or need for open-heart surgery.
To keep their mission focused while working through the emotional challenges of their son’s diagnosis, Marsha created a “health board,” inspired by vision boards she’d seen.
“I was trying to find every way in which we could keep my focus going through the pregnancy,” she said.
The health board was filled from top to bottom with quotes, bible verses about healing and ultrasound images. At the center of the board was the name of Marsha’s son — Nathan — which means “gift from God.”
“God says in Jeremiah 1:5 that he knew (Nathan) before he formed him in his mother’s womb, my womb,” she said. “That was important for me to grab onto and carry around during this pregnancy.”
When the time was nearing for Nathan to be born, Marsha said she and her husband were sent to Denver for the baby’s delivery because they were considered to be “at risk.”
“So we get there, and the baby is born. We see the baby the next day … and (the doctor) says, ‘No issues with his heart.’ And I said, ‘Can you put that in writing?'” Marsha said, laughing. “I started to lean into God to say, ‘Now, show me how to care for this child.'”
Once again, Marsha found the answer to her question in scripture. She quoted Proverbs 31:8-9: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
“I love this scripture so much because if my husband and I didn’t decide to speak up for this child and say, ‘We aren’t gonna terminate him because you perceive that he’s gonna be a burden to society,’ then he wouldn’t be here,” Marsha said. “So I realized I’ve got to be the voice for those who are voiceless.”
Thus, Our Voice For The Voiceless was born.
The organization’s logo — a singular tree — represents the beauty and potential of every child to come forth and bring fruits into life.
“But when a child is in the womb, it cannot do all of this. It needs somebody to be that voice,” Marsha said. “The best person, and the first person, has got to be the parents; it’s got to be the mom.”
Marsha recalled the stories she’s heard from other parents where families were broken up because of a diagnosis.
“The husband leaves, because this is not what they want,” she said. “People have said, ‘I don’t know what to do but it’s so scary and this is not what we bargained for’ … (they) think that they lost a future … I think where it starts is that first information that is given with the diagnosis news. The picture is painted so ugly.”
This is in stark contrast from the overall number of abortions in the United States, which in 2020 was about 19.8% of all reported pregnancies according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The number is even higher in other countries, where nearly 100% of women in Iceland who receive a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis choose to terminate their pregnancy, according to a 2018 article from Healthline. Denmark follows close behind with 98% of pregnancies, then France with 77%.
These prenatal screenings can help the parents prepare for the birth of a child with Down syndrome in terms of finding specialized resources, especially since people with Down syndrome have an increased risk for certain medical conditions, such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions, according to the National Down Syndrome Society. However, these screenings can also open the door to what some health organizations call “selective abortions” due to misconceptions about Down syndrome and an absence of counseling following a positive result.
Marsha spoke of the experiences shared by followers of her online community, many of whom say they faced pressure from many directions, from their doctors to even extended family, to abort their children.
A huge part of Marsha’s work aims to combat these negative connotations so that families don’t have to face these pressures alone.
“Oftentimes people just get to be, when they have the baby. And they hold that baby in their arms, and they start to realize that, ‘I would never change this for nothing. I’m so glad I didn’t listen to my doctors,'” Marsha said while mimicking the motion of cradling a baby in her arms.
When Marsha decided to launch her organization, she said she knew she wanted it to be free of charge for parents who need resources both during and after their pregnancy.
“Whatever people need, we’re going to pool our resources. I’m going to show them that it’s possible. I’m going to show them that there’s hope, and we’re going to show them that there is a future,” she said. “Down syndrome is not the child.”
Marsha said she hopes to formally launch Our Voice For The Voiceless and all of its services in October 2024. For now, her goal is to reach organizations who are committed to the cause to foster collaboration, and to spread the word.
“If nothing else, I want people in the community to know that there is hope … You know what real, true hope is? Hope is the confident expectation that God is going to do what he says he will do,” Marsha said.
Today, Nathan is 5 years old and lives with his parents and siblings in Rifle.
“This is Nathan’s story. This is not my story. We are just speaking up for him until the day when he can speak up for himself,” Marsha continued. “You can be the voice … For me, Marsha Weigum and my husband, if we ever had to do this all over again, we would say yes.”
Unofficial Rifle City Council election results show Bornholdt, Condie, Roberts leading
The most recent batch of unofficial results for the Rifle City Council election show Chris Bornholdt, Brian Condie and Karen Roberts leading in the polls.
As of 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 8, Bornholdt has earned 28.07% (936) of the votes, with Condie and Roberts following at 27.50% (917) and 22.55% (752) consecutively. Candidate Tanya Perea Doose follows closely behind in last place at 21.89% (730) of the vote.
Three Rifle City Council seats, all serving four-year terms, are on the ballot for this year’s city municipal elections. Three of the four candidates will walk away with a council seat at the end of the night.
“I’m happy either way … I’ll congratulate the winners. And if it’s me, we’ll start planning for next year’s strategic planning. And I would look forward to serving another four years,” Condie told the Post Independent.
“I’m happy to work with any one of them. I think anyone who gets in will be great,” Condie added, referring to the other candidates.
“I’m excited. I mean, I wouldn’t have run if I didn’t want to do it and feel that I would be a good candidate,” Roberts said. “But to me, it’s still pretty close … I just want to wait and see how the numbers play out, and then there’s just work to do.”
The city of Rifle also has Issue 2A on the ballot, also known as the street sales tax. So far, only 35.78% (594) have voted yes to the issue, with 64.22% (1,066) of residents voting against the tax.
“It looks like they’re losing the issue on the sales tax for Rifle. (I’m) a little disappointed there because I think it really, really would have been helpful,” Roberts said. “Everybody keeps complaining about the roads and wants to do something, and this would have directly gone to roads.”
Garfield County finished counting ballots and provided the last results for election night at 9:55 p.m. according to the secretary of state website. The county still has more ballots to count and will provide updated results in the coming days.
The Post Independent will update this story as more information becomes available.