A big year for Rifle, New Castle and Silt
As we start the new year, it’s not only a time to set goals but also to reflect back on what has happened over the past year.
The following are some of the top stories in western Garfield County in 2014, in no particular order.
DEATH OF NC CHIEF CHRIS SADLER
Residents, first responders and law enforcement personnel from around Garfield County turned out for the funeral of Police Chief Chris Sadler, who died unexpectedly on March 15, 2014, of an apparent heart attack. He was 52.
Sadler had worked for the New Castle Police Department since 1995, first as a reserve officer and the last 12 years the department’s chief. Sadler was remembered for his sense of humor, compassion, patience and integrity.
NEW UTE EVENTS CENTER OPENS
After several years of planning by the city and the New Ute Theatre Society, the doors opened in May to what is now called the New Ute Events Center on East Fourth Street and has since been the site of numerous local events and activities. The city purchased the building in 2011 and renovation work, that included grant money from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District, along with city and other funds, totaled about $1.6 million. The building received the 2014 Governor’s Award for Downtown Excellence in August in the category of “Best Adaptive Reuse and Rehabilitation.”
WATER TREATMENT PLANT
For more than six years, the city of Rifle has been talking about building a new water treatment plant. In December, the town finally broke ground at the 4-acre site at 100 Hospital Hill Road, just north of Highway 6 and 24. Planning for the treatment plant began in 2006 after a 3/4-cent sales tax referendum was passed by residents in November 2012 to pay back loans associated with the project. However, in June, bids came in $8 million to $11 million over the anticipated construction costs and the city chose to go with a “sole-source” approach, allowing the general contractor to also act as the construction manager.
The new Rifle Regional Water Purification Facility, which will eventually replace the Graham Mesa and Beaver Creek water treatment plants, is expected to take about 18-24 months to complete.
GRAND RIVER HEALTH EXPANSION
The hospital started an $18 million expansion project in late summer that is expected to be done in two phases. The projects will add an “anti-aging” institute and women’s health services on the third floor of its main building in the first phase and two new surgery suites and supports services in the second phase. The expansion will add more physicians and create approximately 20 more jobs. Construction is being done by FCI Construction out of Grand Junction and the majority of the workers employed are from the local area.
The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by early 2015.
NEW CASTLE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE
It’s been talked about for years, but the town finally achieved its goal of bridging the gap, literally, between the north and south ends of town with a new pedestrian bridge crossing railroad tracks, Interstate 70 and the Colorado River.
A dedication ceremony was held in December for the Flat Tops Bridge and Talbott Trail, attended by more than 200 residents and government officials. The trail will run from the Apple Tree mobile home park along the bank of the Colorado River connecting to the bridge.
Glenn Woods, an Apple Tree resident and City Market employee, led the procession across the bridge after the dedication. Woods had been walking to work for nearly 18 years along the highway and overpass bridge used by vehicles.
BEARS TO STATE TITLE GAME
The Rifle High Bears had a great season in 2014, going all the way to the Colorado Class 3A football state championship game at the end of November. The team went up against Pueblo East at the Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo, but lost 30-14. It was the second time in three years the Bears reached the state championship game. In Rifle, nearly 300 people gathered at the New Ute Events Center to watch the game, which was streamed live on a theater-sized screen.
RIFLE WRITER’S ANGEL STORY
Elizabeth Veldboom was 5 years old when she saw two angels on each side of her younger sister’s crib. Her sister, Rachel, had been diagnosed with a respiratory syncytial virus, a potentially deadly disease for babies. Veldboom described the angels as having “big feet and big wings” and said they were “forms of light.” Elizabeth told her mother, Robin, about what she’d seen. When they heard about a call for submissions to the latest “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Touched By an Angel,” the mother/daughter team decided to submit their story. It was included in the book under a chapter called, “Breath of the Heavenly.” Veldboom did a book-signing at the Rifle Branch library in September, where copies of the book are also available.
NC TOP GUN PILOT KILLED
About 900 people attended a funeral service at Rifle High School for Air Force F-16 fighter pilot Capt. William “Pyro” DuBois, who died Dec. 1 when his jet crashed in Jordan early in a flight that was to be an attack on ISIS targets. The 30-year-old New Castle native and 2003 graduate of Rifle High School received military honors that included a flyover by F-16s from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. DuBois was a member of the 77th Fighter Squadron. He had twice been named the top fighter pilot in his class and was also an F-16 flight instructor, flight lead and combat commander. Flags flew at half-staff throughout Colorado in honor of Capt. DuBois.
A story broken by the Post Independent in June about a small local restaurant called Shooters in a city named Rifle about waitresses who pack heat on the job received national attention throughout the year from local, national and international media. Owned by Lauren and Jayson Boebert of Rifle, the media attention sent business sales soaring and drew in tourists from around the nation. The Boeberts said they were simply promoting Second Amendment rights and not engaging in a marketing gimmick.
RIFLE MAN WINS POWERBALL
It didn’t take long for the buzz around town to determine that Rifle resident Al George had purchased the winning $90 million Powerball ticket in August. George, a Rifle High School graduate and former employee of Rifle Towing, purchased the ticket at the Kum & Go convenience store in north Rifle. The store received a $50,000 check from Colorado Lottery officials for selling the ticket. George claimed his winning ticket at the Colorado Lottery claims center in Grand Junction.
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Over 75,000 hikers visited Hanging Lake during this year’s peak season. Via signage, the city hopes to point more of those hikers also in the direction of downtown Glenwood Springs.