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Week in Review

Glenwood Springs sales tax receipts in July and August didn’t increase as much as they did earlier in the year.Although proceeds by month are up from 2006 figures, the increases have slowed closer to budget estimates rather than being well above budget estimates, as they were in the first six months of the year.”The sales tax proceeds in July and August were not increasing at the same rate,” city manager Jeff Hecksel said. “The good news is we’re still slightly above what we anticipated we would receive. The bad news is that difference is declining.”Nothing has been pinpointed as a cause, but there was some thought that in part it could be retail developing in nearby areas, or part of a national decline in economic activity. Hecksel wonders if people who have been affected by mortgage resets on adjustable rate mortgages aren’t spending as much money because their housing payments are larger.If the trend of softening sales tax receipts continues, the city could have less extra cash in 2008 leading to less flexibility and fewer options, Hecksel said.

Glenwood Springs’ affordable housing crisis loomed like a hefty mortgage bill over a debate among City Council candidates Monday night.The five candidates all spoke of the need for the city to try to address the problem, but none of them as persistently as David Blazier, who is making it the central point of his campaign. He said he has a plan to create more affordable housing so businesses can continue to find employees, and not have to exorbitantly raise their prices.”I’d like to be elected and follow this plan through, maybe a little bit at a time,” Blazier said.David Sturges, who is running against Blazier for an at-large council seat, shared his concern about the housing problem, fearing that Glenwood Springs could lose its diversity of income levels among residents.”I really would not want to see a community of haves and have-nots,” Sturges said.Sturges and Blazier’s comments came as part of a candidates forum presented at City Hall by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association. The other three candidates include Shelley Kaup, Russ Arensman and incumbent Bruce Christensen, who also serves as mayor.

A resident living near where a natural gas seep contaminated surface water south of Silt in 2004 is worried about plans to drill 40 wells in the area.However, Lisa Bracken also said she’s glad the company planning the drilling is EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), the company responsible for the seep.”They have really taken leaps and bounds toward better practices,” Bracken said.Still, she fears the possibility of another seep occurring in the area, and also is concerned about the threats to air quality from the 15-month drilling plan.”To me, 40 wells within 15 months is still just an amazing amount of impact that we can expect all at one time. Very concentrated, very intense,” Bracken said.



A man accused of first-degree murder in a fatal West Glenwood Springs shooting has been offered a plea bargain that could greatly reduce his time in prison.The 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office offered Jesus Hernandez de Jesus, 33, the option to plead guilty to second-degree murder. If he does plead guilty, it would reduce his possible range of sentences from life in prison to the death penalty down to 16-48 years in prison. He was previously accused of first-degree murder and a weapons violation for possessing a firearm after a previous offense.Public defender Garth McCarty said Hernandez de Jesus was advised of his right to waive the preliminary hearing in order to keep the plea offer on the table.”He has determined that he would like to waive that right today,” McCarty said.Waiving the preliminary hearing does not mean Hernandez de Jesus accepts the plea agreement, McCarty added.A day-long preliminary hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, but it was shortened to a brief status conference after the public defenders’ office filed a motion to continue the preliminary hearing Friday.

A loading structure for the energy industry may add to visual pollution but its advocates say it will reduce air pollution near Rifle.Garfield County commissioners on Monday approved a facility for unloading natural gas well fracturing sand. The structure will be almost two and a half times the normally allowed height for its location.County planning staff had recommended denial of the project. But commissioners were swayed by the argument that the facility would reduce idling truck traffic, and thus the resulting emissions from them.The project consists of three storage silos to be built by Unimin Corp. on about 10 acres of land it leases from Union Pacific on land just west of Rifle.The normal height limit for the property is 40 feet, but a nearby cement facility is about 100 feet tall and was approved by county commissioners. The silos will be 89 feet high, but an elevator will result in a structure that’s 132 feet high.


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