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Rifle rallies to find lost dog after car wreck

When a Tuesday car wreck in Rifle sent the driver to St. Mary’s Hospital via helicopter, the search was on for her dog Raptor, who was in the back seat and darted from the crash site in fear.

The family of the driver, Tina Leyba, also went to the hospital to be with her, so the Rifle Police rallied the community to make sure her bad day didn’t get any worse.

Raptor was found the next day, thanks in no small part to the voluntary impromptu community search that was conducted that afternoon and evening.

Tina’s husband, Carlos Leyba, said the community’s response was overwhelming and he and Tina were absolutely stunned by the response.

Tina has since returned home, but with serious injuries following the crash. Carlos Leyba was in Grand Junction while the search for Raptor began.

He said it was hard to be in the hospital knowing the dog was lost, and admitted he didn’t sleep that night.

Fortunately, the community responded.

“There’s no way I can thank everybody,” Leyba said. “I appreciate what everybody has done, from the police department on down.”

Shortly after arriving to the crash site, the Rifle Police Department posted to Facebook asking for the community’s assistance in locating the missing boxer.

All Tuesday afternoon and into the late evening hours, people could be seen driving around town or walking on nearby trails yelling for Raptor.

Dee Stiers, who works at the Riding Institute of Disabled Equestrians in Silt, said she drove near the crash site and around town on Tuesday looking for Raptor for a couple hours in the afternoon, and again a couple of hours in the evening.

She said hers was one of dozens of cars on the road searching for the dog with just as many people seen on foot calling for Raptor.

As a longtime Silt Mesa resident, Stiers said both Carlos and Tina are so beloved in the community. Those 48 hours just goes to show that, she said.

“They just give,” she added.

So, the community decided to give back.

“I’ve never seen [such a response] from the community,” she added.

Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said the takeaway is just how much the Rifle community can look out for one another.

“What I thought was really neat, as we were riding around looking for the dog, we would stop to ask people on the street to help look for him,” Klein said. “They all would say they were already looking for him.”

He added that when he was out walking his own dog later that night, he could see and hear people still searching for him.

After multiple sightings in the area, Leyba used his truck, which he called “Raptor’s truck,” to attract the dog using dog toys, clothes and other tools to help bring him to the scent.

Some 25 hours after the crash, the dog was found in the area of Columbine Ford, looking at the truck with intense curiosity.

He’s now back home and ready to celebrate his one-year birthday on Saturday.

While it’s going to be a bit of a recovery for Tina, at least it’s made easier with Raptor back home.

“It makes me incredibly proud to say the citizens of Rile and throughout the area would step up in a situation like this,” Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton said. “It just shows the spirit of town.”

“We saw people all around looking for him,” she added.

The search got so much positive attention, Klein said the police department’s updated post on Thursday letting everyone know Raptor was found reached 46,000 people on Facebook.


Economic impact of energy industry analyzed at Rifle symposium

Direct jobs supported by the oil and gas industry in six northwestern Colorado counties, or indirectly as a result of the industry, come to just under 11,000, or 6.6 percent of the total jobs in the region, according to Colorado Mesa University Professor Nathan Perry.

Perry spoke Thursday at the seventh annual Energy and Environment Symposium at Grand River Health in Rifle. His talk focused on the study he conducted last year, looking at the economic contribution of the oil and natural gas industry in the region’s Piceance Basin.

Beginning in early 2018, Perry began the report to provide an in-depth analysis of employment and other direct and indirect effects resulting from oil and natural gas activity in the region.

He looked at contributions such as supply-chain expenditures, employment and wages, several taxes, Federal Mineral Lease dollars, ad valorem taxes, sales tax and royalties.

Perry also explored direct effects, leakages, induced effects and supply chain effects when calculating his analysis.

The area he looked at was specific to Mesa, Garfield, Rio Blanco, Gunnison, Delta and Moffat counties.

The indirect effects he discussed, which include leakages, induced effects, and supply-chain effects, better show the impact the industry has on the economy as a whole, he said.

The study also shows the effect the oil and natural gas industries have on other industries in the region’s economy.

For example, hospitals employ 156 jobs resulting from the energy industry, while real estate, restaurants and physicians create 335, 570 and 96 jobs, respectively, according to Perry.

Perry felt there was a strong correlation between Piceance rig counts and employment, and found that Garfield County has the second largest employment impact with around 70 jobs per rig. Mesa County had the highest at 122 per rig.

The results showed that, for every additional rig, employment increased by 208 in the Piceance Basin.

“There is volatility in this sector, and the hope is the study provides local governments and businesses a planning tool to forecast for themselves based on rig counts and prices,” Perry said in a press release following the presentation.

At around $1.1 billion, Perry calculated that the industry’s contribution to the regional gross domestic product is around 9.2 percent.


Grand River Health’s 9Health Fair draws 800

Thomas Slappey joins Garfield Re-2 School Board

The search for a new member on the Garfield School District Re-2 Board of Education ended last week as Rifle’s Thomas Slappey was named to the seat.

Slappey will join the board for at least the next several months after former board member Shirley Parks resigned on Feb. 12.

With two children at school in the district, a son at Rifle Middle School and a daughter at Graham Mesa Elementary School, Slappey said one of the main reasons he applied to the opening was he has such a vested interest in the school system.

“If people don’t step up and do these types of things, nobody is going to do it,” he added.

Slappey has never held an elected or appointed office in his community, but as business owner and senior account manager for Ryerson Inc. his experience dealing with budgets is what ultimately led the school board to pick him.

“I think all the candidates would have been good, and I think it goes with a gut feel and who would mesh with us right away,” Re-2 Board President Jay Rickstrew said at the April 9 board meeting prior to the vote.

He added that the new board member will have a lot of work to do.

“It’s a short time frame,” he said.

In the end, board member Brock Hedberg nominated Slappey and pointed to his background managing budgets as the reason he was the best choice.

Slappey said his goal over the next few months is just to learn as much as he can as the District A seat will be up for election in November.

“I don’t know if I have an intent to run again in November, but I look at it as an opportunity to learn and understand what is in front of us as a community,” he said.

Slappey’s first official board meeting will be April 23.

Colorado oil and gas industry overhaul bill becomes law

Gov. Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 181 on Tuesday, reshaping how the oil and natural gas industry is regulated in Colorado.

Supporters said the law brings much needed protections for Colorado’s booming population, its environment and its growing recreation industry.

Opponents warned the law could stifle a major industry, kill jobs and shrink tax revenue.

Many of those concerns come from Colorado’s Western Slope, and Garfield County in particular, which is the state’s second-largest oil and gas producing county to Weld County.

Garfield County commissioners had opposed the legislation, as had the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

West Slope COGA Executive Director Eric Carlson stressed the importance of both sides working together to “develop final rules that can be achieved by the industry.”

“SB 181 is the most comprehensive oil and natural gas legislation Colorado has seen in decades,” Carlson said. “While we remain opposed to the legislation, we must work now through its complex suite of changes.”

Carlson said he hopes to see a stakeholder process that allows all impacted communities to have a voice in Colorado’s energy future.

“We are thankful with the outpouring of support expressed by West Slope elected officials, business associations, and the many citizens from all walks of life that stepped forward to express their concerns about how this legislation will impact their lives,” he said.

Meanwhile, members of two Garfield County conservation groups praised the bill’s final passage into law.

“We appreciate the hard work and determination of the Colorado legislators and Governor Polis that made this possible,” said Dave Devanney of Battlement Concerned Citizens. “We are looking forward to a new era of cooperation with the oil and gas industry to develop our valuable natural resources in a way that prioritizes public health and safety.”

Said Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, “Residents of Garfield County thank Governor Polis for making this long-awaited bill law. However, we must ensure the intent of the law is upheld through the rule-making process.”

The new regulatory measure was one of the main topics at the Energy and Environment Symposium held in Rifle on Wednesday and Thursday.

Letter: Grand River Gallop thanks

Grand River Meals on Wheels would like to sincerely thank our wonderful community for the support for our 20th annual Grand River Gallop. A special thank you to all of our volunteers who rally together every year, making this event run smoothly.

We would also like to extend our sincere gratitude to our overall Charity Race sponsors: Alpine Bank, Rifle Recreation, Independence Run and Hike and Grand River Health, along with our Gallop Super Hero sponsor: FCI Constructors.

A final shout out goes to our all our other generous sponsors: South Bank Secure Storage, Crabtree Red Canyon Auto Body, Bank of Colorado, Mountain Pest Control, RifleWorks, Bookcliff Survey Services, Impressions of Aspen, Inc., Shale Tech International Services, LLC., and Taxkeeping LLC. Thank you to Garfield County Road & Bridge and to the dedicated team of volunteers who stuff the goody bags, set up the course, and cheered on the participants.

Twenty years of making the Grand River Gallop is amazing and community support is what this event is all about. But the real winners are our Meals on Wheels clients.

And, of course, we want to thank all who came out and ran (or walked) in the event and who went the extra mile and wore their superhero outfits – this world needs more superheroes. All of these things speak volumes on how you support the homebound seniors and disabled in our community. Together, we can keep seniors living independently, healthier at home, and feeling more connected to their community.

Debi Billings,

Grand River Health, Meals on Wheels program

Industry, gov’t leaders gather for energy symposium

Colorado oil and natural gas industry representatives along with government officials from across the state gathered at Grand River Health on Wednesday to discuss what changes may be coming to an industry that remains one of the largest job creators for Garfield County.

While a variety of topics was and will be discussed during the two-day event, after being signed into law by the governor on Tuesday, few topics were on the minds of the people in the room more than Senate Bill 181.

The new law is expected to change how the industry is regulated locally and throughout the state.

Among the first presentations of the symposium was Colorado Legislative Services’ Jim Cole, who looked at how the bill may impact the people in the room.

During his presentation, he polled the audience to see what their background was in. Half of the 260 people in attendance said they were in the industry, while the half said they represented local governments.

Garfield County oil and gas liaison Kirby Wynn said there were 55 local governments represented at the conference this year.

During the presentation, Cole said communication for locals in the industry is going to be more critical than ever. He also suggested everyone take a deep breath when it comes to the new regulatory provisions, and to learn the new extent of its authority.

He added that for the government officials and county commissioners in attendance, which included representatives from Garfield and Mesa counties, who openly expressed concerns about the bill’s impact, “you don’t have to walk on the plank of regulation.”

Cole said a number of things still have to play out as far as the bill is concerned, and suggested that those most concerned should “aggressively participate in the state conversations.”

Concerns from local government officials were voiced throughout Cole’s presentation.

“I watched the governor sign the bill,” Garfield County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. “‘The war on oil and gas is over in Colorado,” he said. “Very disturbing that type of attitude was taken by the state.”

As the bill gives more power to local governments and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to regulate the industry, it remains to be seen exactly what that will look like for Garfield County.

Another topic during the first day of the symposium was the Jordan Cove Energy and Pacific Connect Gas Pipeline Project and how the proposal that could provide a port for the region’s natural gas has progressed since last year’s symposium.

Michael Hinrichs, who said he’s been working on the project for seven years, updated those in attendance on where the project stands today.

While the project is still seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, expected by Nov. 29, Hinrichs asked those in the room to voice their support for Jordan Cove by continuing to send letters supporting the project publicly.

In January, the Garfield County commissioners reiterated in a letter to federal officials their support for the project.

The commissioners’ letter stated that Garfield County could use the proposed Jordan Cove facility and pipeline to “positively impact energy geopolitics and improve its national energy security.”

As far as the FERC approval goes, Hinrichs sounded cautiously optimistic.

“I am confident in our applications this time around,” he said. “The comments that came through during the last permitting cycle, we are now anticipating.”

When asked his elevator pitch for the project, Hinrichs said Jordan Cove presents the opportunity to market Colorado gas around the world.

“The more voices the merrier, and to keep that consistent would be great,” he added.

The symposium continues Thursday, including a keynote address from Randall Hyer, deputy director of the Center for Risk Communication and principal of CrisisCommunication.net, speaking about tools for local governments to address oil and gas risk perceptions.

Also, Nathan Perry, associate professor of economics at Colorado Mesa University, will talk about the economic contribution of the oil and gas industry in northwestern Colorado’s Piceance Basin.


Glenwood, Rifle, water works projects win FMLD awards

Two major water system improvements, one in Glenwood Springs and one in Rifle, were the top recipients in the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease spring grants announced on Wednesday.

Rifle is to receive $400,000 for a range of water works improvements, while Glenwood Springs was awarded $200,000 to be used for a drainage and water line repair project in the Cedar Crest Subdivision in West Glenwood

The Glenwood Springs Public Works Department is planning those improvements for spring and summer of 2020.

According to a city press release, the improvements will include new drainage systems, roadway repairs, and water system improvements within the Cedar Crest Subdivision, including Tanager Road, Cardinal Lane, Cedar Crest Drive, Ptarmigan Lane and Ptarmigan Drive.

“This area is in particular need for repairs due to aging water lines, roadway surfaces and poor drainage,” according to the release.

“This investment by the Federal Mineral Lease District will help the City rebuild important infrastructure in West Glenwood,” Mayor Michael Gamba said. “We are excited to begin this project next year with the help of this grant money.”

Also receiving FMLD traditional (large) grants this cycle are:

• Roaring Fork School District, safe route to Riverview School project — $200,000

• Garfield County Housing Authority Valley Senior Housing and Valley Senior Center Renovation — $150,000

• Silt Eighth Street/Front Street water line replacement — $150,000

• Parachute, completion of splash pad at Cottonwood Park — $75,000

• Rifle Housing Authority, Kendall Heights grounds improvements — $50,000

• New Castle street maintenance — $50,000

• Battlement Mesa Metropolitan District, Arroyo Drive street improvements — $50,000

Several awards were also made in the FMLD mini-grant ($25,000 grant) program, including: Carbondale, Miner’s Park playground improvements; Garfield County Public Library District, public computers and internet; Parachute, shade structures and landscaping for dog park and rest area; Rifle, sanitary sewer inspection; Silt, senior housing facility boiler replacement.

Grants awarded for the spring 2019 cycle totaled $1,450,000. The fall 2019 grant cycle will begin in August, with award announcements anticipated in October.

And, the FMLD expects to release applications for its new Joint Grant Program on July 1.

PREP ROUNDUP: Rifle’s Masi Smith wins Rifle Invitational; Roaring Fork baseball tops Coal Ridge

Teeing it up on her home course Tuesday morning, Rifle’s Masi Smith stood a good chance of winning the 10-team Rifle Bears Invitational.

Smith, one of the top golfers on the Western Slope, came through with the individual win for the Bears, shooting a +10 at Rifle Creek Golf Course, holding off Grand Junction’s Brittlynn O’Dell for the win.

Grand Junction ended up winning the team portion of the tournament with a combined +67, holding off Palisade in second with a team score of +81, Aspen in third (+82), Eagle Valley in fourth (+87), and Glenwood Springs in fifth (+103) on the day.

Smith’s round of +10 helped the Bears finish sixth as a team with a combined scored of +107, while the Coal Ridge Titans finished eighth at +108.

Behind Smith and O’Dell atop the leaderboard, Aspen’s Zoe Guthrie finished tied for third with Glenwood’s Lisa Kelley as the two shot a +18 on the course. Grand Junction’s Jenna Greenlee rounded out the top 5 at the invitational with a round of +25.

Rifle’s Breanna Seay finished tied for 16th with a round of +33, while teammates Caroline Hays (+64), and Ashley Jewell (+68) finished tied for 40th and 48th, respectively.

For Glenwood, Maggie Friemel finished 20th for the Demons with a round of +34, while Emma Price finished 34th with a round of +51. Kaitlyn Brennan finished 45th with a round of +66, while Mabel Ellison shot a +66 to finish 50th.

Coal Ridge’s Jaelyn Price finished tied for 14th with a round of +32, while Grace Gonzalez finished tied for 24th with a round of +39. Sterling Brintnall shot a +43 to finish 28th, while Isabelle Brintnall finished 32nd with a round of +47. Kallie Bumgardner shot a round of +56 to finish 37th.


Roaring Fork 10, Coal Ridge 4

Hosting the Coal Ridge Titans Tuesday at Ron Patch Memorial Field in Carbondale for a 3A Western Slope League battle, the Roaring Fork Rams baseball team picked up a key 10-4 win, breaking a 3-3 tie in the third inning by scoring one run in the fourth inning and six runs in the fifth inning.

Junior Eli Nickamin started the game quickly for the Rams with a leadoff walk and a stolen base before coming in on an RBI single by senior Layne Crisp, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Crisp and senior Dawson Kuhl later scored on a two-run single by sophomore Graham Pietsch to give the Rams a 3-0 lead after one inning of play.

The Titans battled back with three runs in the top of the third inning as sophomore Colton Westphal led off with a single, and junior Lane Stecklein walked. Nolan Simpson then singled in a run before Jackson Wade drove in the second run with a sacrifice fly to make it 3-2. Sophomore Carson Miller then tied it with an RBI single.

In the fourth, the Rams added a run as Nickamin tripled and then scored on an RBI triple by Crisp. In the fifth, the Rams caught fire, plating six runs as Finn Leahy singled home two runs, freshman David Good doubled home a run, and Nickamin doubled home a run.

The Titans added one more run in the top of the seventh inning as Stecklein scored on a single by Wade, but the late run wasn’t enough in the 10-4 loss.

With the win, Roaring Fork improves to 2-6 (1-1 in 3A WSL) on the season. Coal Ridge falls to 4-7 (0-2 in 3A WSL) on the year. The Rams travel to Moffat County Thursday, while the Titans host Meeker.

Moffat County 5, Grand Valley 4 (8)

Grand Valley 8, Moffat County 2

Battling the Moffat County Bulldogs Tuesday afternoon in a 3A Western Slope League doubleheader, the Grand Valley Cardinals baseball team split with the Bulldogs, dropping the first game 5-4 in eight innings, before bouncing back in the second game for an 8-2 win.

In Game One, the Cardinals had a 3-0 lead heading into the top of the seventh inning, but the Bulldogs plated four runs to take a 4-3 lead. Grand Valley forced extra innings with a run in the bottom of the seventh, but the Bulldogs scored a run in the eighth and shut down the Cardinals in the bottom of the frame to pick up the win in extras.

As a team, the Cardinals pounded out eight hits in the Game One loss, led by sophomore Luke Smith’s three hits. Junior Garrett Blair added two hits in the loss. Senior Marco Rojas, junior Isaiah Tigert, and junior Austin White recorded RBIs in the loss.

In Game Two, the Cardinals scored six runs in the third inning to take a 6-0 lead, before adding two in the fourth. Moffat scored two in the top of the fifth inning, but that would be all as the Cardinals rolled to the 6-run win.

Rojas led the Cardinals with two hits and three RBIs in the win, while White tripled.

On the mound, Rojas worked five innings, allowing just two earned runs on three hits, striking out five.

Grand Valley (3-6, 1-1 in 3A WSL) travels to Olathe Saturday for a league doubleheader with the Pirates.

Rifle 14, Meeker 1

Taking on the Meeker Cowboys Tuesday, the Rifle Bears baseball team rolled to a 14-1 win.

Senior Eddie Medina worked four innings on the mound, allowing just the one run. Medina also added three hits, a double, two runs batted in, and a run scored.

Senior Randy Starks added two hits and three runs scored, while senior Wyatt Warfel added two hits and three runs scored.

Holden Stutsman added two hits and three RBIs.

Rifle improves to 8-3 on the year.


CMC Rifle first Fire Academy to graduate this May

Colorado Mountain College’s Rifle campus will celebrate its inaugural Fire Academy I graduating class of nine this May, after a partnership with the Garfield Fire Training Consortium. The Fire Academy I certification program prepares cadets with the fundamental skills and experience to pursue entry-level fire service positions.

The class has participated in live fire training courses, alongside area fire departments, for the past several weeks. All of the lead instructors and fire science technician staff are CMC employees as well as employees with local fire departments.

On April 2, the academy spent the evening at the Glenwood Springs Fire Department training facility near the municipal airport. They trained for the scenario of a structure fire, learning basic firefighting methods conducted in a safe manner.

“It’s a pretty exciting thing for all of us,” said Denny Hostetler, who is a lead instructor for the program, and a lieutenant with the Glenwood Springs Fire Department.