Year in review: Grand Junction, a landscape for change in 2013
Editor’s note: With New Year’s Eve mere days away, the Free Press staff compiled a short list of local stories we consider big news for 2013. We’d love for you to do the same; write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with impressions of the year (wins, fails, special people, stories to watch heading into 2014), and we’ll run your Letters to the Editor in the Free Press opinion section.
Happy New Year!
Throughout the Grand Valley, 2013 was marked by new development, business and construction.
Grand Junction’s City Council was rocked twice — first with the arrest of newly elected councilman Rick Brainard, then with the death of beloved community servant Harry Butler.
And the Affordable Health Care Act was implemented locally with the help of Hilltop.
That and more marked a busy year for Grand Junction and the Free Press.
Here are our top story picks for 2013:
Construction on Grand Junction’s historic Avalon Theatre kicked off in late June 2013, with a ground-breaking ceremony accompanied by ongoing private fundraising. Most recently, the Avalon was awarded a $1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program.
Funding the Avalon upgrade on Main Street is presently a three-pronged effort between City of Grand Junction, the Downtown Development Authority, and the private sector. The city committed about $3 million to address structural issues with the city-owned building. Another $3 million was given by the DDA (an equal partner in the project). Including the new grant, a little more than $2 million has come in from outside resources.
According to the Avalon Theatre Foundation website, another $500,000 still needs to be raised to meet the $8.5 million goal.
Ground broke on the project earlier this year, and construction will likely be done in June 2014.
Donations for this round of construction is still needed, Avalon Cornerstone Project development director Robin Brown said.
For more information on how to donate to the Avalon Cornerstone Project, visit http://www.avalontheatrefoundation.org.
After years of planning and months of building, Kannah Creek Brewing Company opened a second, much larger, location — Edgewater Brewery — in May 2013.
Located on Grand Junction’s riverfront at 905 Struthers Ave., the 14,000-square-foot brewing and bottling facility also boasts a tasting room with a full restaurant menu, behind-the-scenes tours, plus indoor and outdoor seating. Over the summer, Edgewater also began bottling and distributing two beers — Standing Wave Pale Ale and Lands End Amber. It recently bottled a winter seasonal.
The vision for Kannah Creek’s bottling facility has long been in the works, since the Jeffreys family purchased the land by the Colorado River in 1998.
“I think it’s going to be an attraction for Grand Junction,” Kannah Creek owner/brewer Jim Jeffreys noted. ”We have a good reputation, it’s right on the river, and we’re the only bottling facility of this size in the Grand Valley.”
Creating more jobs and commerce for the area is important to Jeffreys, too.
“Grand Junction needs more manufacturing, and we’re manufacturing happiness,” he said
To reach Edgewater Brewery, call 970-243-3659.
GRAND VALLEY SAYS ‘NO’ TO COMMERCIAL MARIJUANA SALES
Though many Colorado municipalities OK’d retail pot shops in 2013, Grand Junction, Mesa County and Fruita said “no thank you” to retail sales and marijuana product manufacturing facilities. Palisade also delayed its decision, with a new moratorium on commercial marijuana business expiring Jan. 15, 2015.
CHILD & MIGRANT SERVICES CLOSES FOR WINTER
After 13 years of serving farm workers year-round, Child and Migrant Services Hospitality Center in Palisade closed at the end of October, with plans to reopen in the spring. The center had served migrant and seasonal farm workers and their families, mostly from Mexico and Central America, throughout the year since 2000.
“We’re reverting to an earlier stewardship model from 1954-2000, when CMS provided services only during the growing season,” CMS Executive Director Claudia McClintock said. “We’re going to use our more limited resources when the population is the greatest. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a smaller year-round farm worker population with needs, but we have to be good stewards with our funding.”
Like many other nonprofit organizations nationwide, funding for CMS has dropped since the recession, McClintock said.
Child and Migrant Services was founded in 1954 by a small group of farmers’ wives who sought to help farm workers who temporarily left their homes and families for work in Palisade. Farm workers and their families come to the center Monday through Friday for English language classes, holiday socials, help with translation, and hot meals served during the growing season.
WHITE HALL TORN DOWN
Originally built in 1923, White Hall — a stately church remembered for its white pillars and red bricks — was the site of many marriages, funerals, christenings and general community fellowship for close to nine decades. After a mysterious fire caused its ultimate destruction in 2011, the city tore it down in 2013 in hopes to make way for new development.
The partial demolition and cleanup of White Hall kicked off May 13, 2013, and it lasted about a month. Part of the structure still stands; the Downtown Development Authority is currently researching whether it could use the site as an area of mixed-use development, including residential.
CENTRAL LIBRARY RE-OPENS
When recently retired Mesa County Libraries Director Eve Tallman set out to create a new Central Library, she and the library board of trustees sought to be good stewards of both taxpayer dollars and the planet.
Upon completion of construction this past summer, Grand Junction’s new Central Library was awarded a “Three Green Globes” rating for energy efficiency and sustainability. The rating is considered comparable to a “Gold” rating under LEED, a similar energy-efficiency evaluation system. Green Globes evaluates building projects across the United States and Canada.
Even with an expanded library of 9,000 additional square feet, Tallman expects lower utility bills.
“We had three buildings — now we just have one, and it’s more efficient,” she said. “We’ve completely overhauled our cooling and heating,” plus the library contains a lot of natural lighting.
It was always the intention of the library board to create a model building for downtown Grand Junction, one that reduces the library’s impact on the environment, Tallman noted.
WATSON ISLAND DISC GOLF COURSE
After two years of planning, Watson Island’s new disc golf course opened this past November. It was the vision of Russ Hamilton, a member of Grand Valley Disc Golf Association (GVDGA). He’s played disc golf for 35 years and had long imagined a course on Watson Island amidst the cottonwood trees just south of the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens, 641 Struthers Ave.
Hamilton, Brian Seeman and a handful of other volunteers, mostly members of the GVDGA, have spent the last couple of years hauling out more than 40 semi-truckloads of debris — brush, cut-down tamarisks, old tires, radiator hoses — in preparation of building a fairway in the spot.
Hamilton and Seeman designed and built a 13-hole course that will eventually include 18 holes.
“It’s my way of giving back to the sport,” Hamilton said. “I’ve had so much fun playing it.”
The City of Grand Junction’s Park and Recreation department pitched in roughly $400 per basket, and $150 per tee pad to build the course, said Hamilton, who raised an additional $1,500 toward the project by asking for business donations. He’s also working with the Riverfront Commission, where people can make tax-deductible contributions for the course.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IMPLEMENTED LOCALLY
Connect for Health Colorado — the state-run marketplace for implementing the Affordable Care Act — recently fixed a problem that had left clients unable to complete the enrollment process this fall.
Some individuals who had created accounts in early October were not seeing expected tax credits, although it appeared they were eligible. The problem stemmed from a computer “lock-up” of accounts statewide, said Jackie Sievers, Hilltop’s director of community programs.
The problem has been remedied; accounts are unlocked; and “several satisfied, happy customers (have found they qualify for) substantial advanced tax credit premiums,” Sievers said.
For insurance coverage starting Jan. 1, the application and enrollment process, plus payment of the first month’s premium, was due Dec. 23. To have coverage starting Feb. 1, the enrollment process must be completed by Jan. 15.
Hilltop’s Health Access Connect for Health Colorado office is located at 602 Bookcliff Ave. in Grand Junction. To reach a guide, call 970-244-0850. Drop-ins are welcome.
GJ CITY COUNCIL SEES BIG TURNOVER
Grand Junction City Council positions left vacant — from the death of Harry Butler and the July resignation of Rick Brainard — meant big changes for the city mid-year. A council vote favored appointing new members, rather than holding an election to replace the two councilors.
Grand Junction City Councilmember Rick Brainard resigned from city council, citing a number of personal reason including his disillusionment with the current council and his April domestic violence arrest. He tendered a resignation letter dated July 18, that was released to the public July 22.
City councilman and longtime community volunteer Harry Butler died unexpectedly on Sunday, June 2, of natural causes. He was 69.
New councilmembers appointed in their place include Duncan McArthur, District E, and Barbara Traylor Smith, District at Large.
Free Press writer Sharon Sullivan contributed to this article.
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