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Parker column: It is finished

WASHINGTON — Good Friday provided the language for a week that began with the terrible fire at Notre Dame Cathedral and ended with the long-awaited Mueller report: Jesus’ final words before perishing on the cross: “It is finished!”

The fires have been extinguished and the great cathedral’s two towers still stand. After nearly two years, special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into possible obstruction of justice and collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has finally ended.

There was no collusion.

In the span of a few days, we’ve been joggled between the banal and the sublime, from Trump’s “I’m [effed]” upon learning of Mueller’s assignment to the investigation to the millions who prayed that centuries of beauty be spared by the flames.

And yet, there is hope in the ashes. As Christians celebrate Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Christ, there is talk of rebuilding — another cathedral rising from the ashes. What has been lost can’t be replaced, but a church is not principally an edifice. All those who have labored and convened beneath Notre Dame’s enormous roof left something of themselves behind. Not even fire can destroy the immeasurable power imbued by centuries of meditations, supplications and grace.

Perhaps it is the season of penance and rebirth. But when I read the Mueller report, a redacted version of which was released to Congress and the public Thursday amid a flurry of media-induced hysteria, I saw corruption and misery. Trump, whom I don’t hate, contrary to what some readers say in their profanity-laced emails, is a villain but also a tragic figure. For him, there is never enough of anything — riches, possessions, attention and adulation.

At times, I feel sorry for him, because he has invited the wrath of millions and it can’t be easy to shoulder so much disapproval. When I said this recently to a friend, she replied: “It’s hard to feel sorry for someone who has no empathy.” True, but a person without empathy — the ability to feel what others do — walks a lonely path. Driven by lust for the material, such a person doesn’t know the company of what ancient philosophers called the transcendentals — truth, goodness and beauty, which correspond sequentially to the mind, the will and the heart, and which, according to Christian theology, lead to God’s infinite love.

Trump wages daily war against truth. Examples of his falsehoods and outright lies could fill a doorstop volume. In his report, Mueller further revealed that Press Secretary Sarah Sanders repeatedly lied to the public while accusing the media of producing “fake news.” Deceit begets more deceit.

Goodness is missing everywhere. Trump may have some good qualities, though it is hard to discern them given his propensity for hurtful, divisive rhetoric. To him, goodness is what he wills it to be, that which nourishes his narcissism and appetites, whether the compliance of women or the loyalty of comrades. Ironically, disloyalty may have saved him when aides refused to carry out his orders to obstruct the Mueller investigation.

Beauty, we’re told, is in the eye of the beholder. But is it? The Catholic intellectual tradition teaches that truth, goodness and beauty are “transcendentals” because they transcend time and place. Also, they are all part of and flow into each other. Truth is good and beautiful; goodness is true and beautiful; beauty is true and good.

One needn’t be a theologian, philosopher or Christian to recognize that Trump, defiant before truth and lacking goodwill, knows beauty only as a standard for useful women or towers bearing his name. He worships not in the cathedral of “our lady” but in the House of Gaud. Had Trump tagged along on Indiana Jones’ “last crusade,” we know which chalice he would have thought belonged to Jesus.

Although Mueller ultimately found Trump innocent of collusion, the special counsel made it clear that he was not innocent of obstruction of justice. Because Department of Justice policy prohibits indicting a sitting president, Mueller suggested that “Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President’s corrupt exercise of the powers of office,” in accordance “with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law.”

Most telling of all, however, was Trump’s own exclamation when Attorney General Jeff Sessions told him about the Mueller appointment.

“Oh my God,” he said, according to the report. “… This is the end of my presidency. I’m f—-ed.” Would that his prophesy come to pass and this ungodly episode in American history be finished.

Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

#PostSnaps — Reader-submitted photos from across Garfield County

Reader submitted photos from around Garfield County. Use #postsnaps on Instagram to be featured. This week’s picks:

@juzzigrams

@outsidener

@sethjandersen

@simply.blessings.photography

20 years after school attack, Columbine remembers 13 lost

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — A Colorado community will mark the 20th anniversary of the attack on Columbine High School on Saturday with community service projects and a ceremony remembering the 13 people killed by teenage gunmen.

Saturday’s events in and around the suburban community surrounding Columbine end a three-day slate of somber ceremonies honoring the 12 students and a teacher who were killed and lending support to their families, survivors of the attack and the school’s students and staff.

The days surrounding the anniversary remain emotionally fraught for survivors of the attack, including hundreds who escaped the building without physical wounds. Some describe their response to the month as an “April fog,” dominated by their own memories of the sunny Tuesday in April that shocked the world.

Since 1999, American schools have tried to prevent a threat that had once been unthinkable.

Districts across the country formed teams to assess threats and cooperate with law enforcement on a response. Drills training students to evacuate their school or “lockdown” and hide from a shooter are routine. School security has become a multibillion-dollar industry, adding specialized doors, surveillance video and other technology.

This week brought a new demonstration of that burden as federal authorities led a manhunt for a Florida teen described as “infatuated” with the 1999 shooting who traveled to Denver on Monday and purchased a shotgun.

On Tuesday, authorities published the young woman’s name and photo after learning of her obsession with Columbine and the gun purchase. They said she had not made specific threats but dozens of schools, including Columbine, locked their doors Tuesday.

More than 400,000 kids stayed home on Wednesday when schools shut down across the metro area.

The 18-year-old was discovered dead of an apparent suicide Wednesday morning in the foothills west of Denver, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Columbine.

Long-planned events marking the anniversary continued as scheduled, beginning with a Thursday evening church service and a community vigil Friday night at a memorial constructed within sight of the school.

The Columbine perpetrators, who took their own lives during the attack, have inspired cult-like admirers including some who have committed other shootings or were prevented from doing so.

Officials overseeing security at Columbine and other schools in Jefferson County acknowledged the dark interest this week and warned off those who would treat the school as a destination.

“We are not a place to come visit if you’re not a student, if you don’t have business there,” John McDonald, security chief for the school district, said Wednesday. “We’re not a tourist attraction and we’re not a place for you to come and gain inspiration.”

Security remained heightened at Denver-area schools through the week. People who plan to attend the public remembrance ceremony Saturday afternoon at a park near Columbine also have been warned of security checkpoints.

The school itself will be closed to the public.

Judge denies motion to suppress Miller’s comments in Lake Christine Fire case

A judge Friday denied a motion to suppress statements Richard Miller made to law enforcement officials when he was questioned at the Basalt shooting range immediately after the Lake Christine Fire broke out July 3.

Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman ruled that prosecutors would be able to use Miller’s comment regarding the type of ammunition being fired by the rifle used by his girlfriend, Allison Marcus.

In a hearing Thursday, Heidi McCollum, Assistant District Attorney in the Fifth Judicial District, said Miller initially was uncooperative with investigators about the type of ammo used in the rifle he and Marcus borrowed from Miller’s dad.

McCollum said when an Eagle County deputy sheriff asked to look in an ammunition box, Miller replied, “Well, if I can be honest, it was tracer rounds.”

Investigators suspect that incendiary tracer rounds ignited dry grass on the edge of the rifle range. The fire eventually burned 12,500 acres of national forest and private land.

The attorneys for Miller and Marcus claimed that his comments should be prohibited from use at trial because no law officer read him his Miranda rights, which inform a suspect that any comments could be used in prosecution.

Attorney Stan Garnett for Marcus and attorney Josh Maximon for Miller tried to establish in Thursday’s hearing that deputy Josiah Maner kept the defendants at the shooting range for about 69 minutes before releasing them. That qualifies as police custody and the questioning as “custodial interrogation,” the attorneys argued.

“They’re being ordered by an officer to stay where they are at least five times over a 69-minute period,” Maximon said in Thursday’s hearing.

McCollum countered that Maner didn’t detain Miller and Marcus. He didn’t question them for the entire 69 minutes they were all at the shooting range, she said. He also was assessing the rapidly growing fire and coordinating response with fire and other police officials. He was speaking with Miller and Marcus as conditions allowed, she said.

When McCollum asked Maner why he didn’t read them their Miranda rights, he replied Thursday, “They weren’t in custody. I did not restrain them in any way. I did not put them in handcuffs.”

In his order Friday, Dunkelman wrote Maner did not restrain or restrict Miller in any manner, plus he gave him access to move his vehicle.

“Maner was not confrontational or intimidating towards Miller,” the ruling said. “In fact, he was the opposite. He was sympathetic and to a degree supportive of Miller and Marcus.”

None of Maner’s actions “are consistent with a deprivation of freedom to a degree associated with a formal arrest,” the judge wrote.

The judge’s decision will now require the DA’s office to make a tough call. McCollum had filed a motion to combine the trials of Miller and Marcus into one. Dunkelman on Thursday conditionally approved the request. However, he said if they were combined, Miller’s comments couldn’t be used in the joint trial because it would be prejudicial to Marcus. He gave the DA’s office until the beginning of next week to determine if they want to proceed with a combined trial or keep them separate.

Miller and Marcus each face three charges of fourth-degree arson, a Class 4 felony, and setting fire to woods or prairie, a Class 6 felony. Miller and Marcus are free on a $7,500 bond each.

As the cases stand now, Miller’s trial is scheduled for May 28 to June 7 with the trial for Marcus on June 17–28.

scondon@aspentimes.com

Journalist who covered Columbine reflects on lives unlived

NEW YORK (AP) — Daniel. Rachel. Isaiah.

“You can’t prove a negative,” our teachers and parents sometimes tell us when we’re young.

Yet when I look back upon my time in Colorado covering the almost-adults who were killed in the Columbine High School attack 20 years ago this week, all I can see are the negatives: the people who aren’t there anymore. I think of their names — names I typed and said and thought of, over and over, for a time.

Corey. Kyle. Kelly.

Nearly half my life later, when I think of Columbine, it isn’t what actually happened that occupies my mind. Instead, my brain goes to what’s no longer there. It goes to the undefined, usually unnoticed holes in the fabric of today — the spaces where people I never met are missing from the world for longer than they were here. To the long, silent aftermaths where lives used to be. To the names that fleetingly became part of my moment-to-moment life and then, as for so many, receded and faded.

Cassie. Steve. Daniel again.

So often now, Americans find themselves confronting days in which shots are fired, children fall and futures are stolen. In moments of gunfire, worlds of possibilities are wiped away. Millions of things that would have happened melt into nothingness.

John. Matt. Lauren. Coach Dave.

Covering Columbine, I witnessed that feeling of unthinkable school-day chaos up close for the first time. Looking back, I realize now: It was, really, a preview for an entire era of tears yet to be shed, of unwelcome gaps yet to be created. Of negatives yet to be proven.

I’ve chronicled tragedy for all of my adult life, from rural Pennsylvania to urban China, from Afghanistan to Iraq. During my first job as a police reporter right after college, after I returned from a particularly harrowing murder scene, one of my mentors said to me: “You’ll get used to it.” That turned out to be wrong.

It was never the details of tragedies that lingered with me. It was the quiet aftermaths, the times when families and friends began to let in that a life had ended, that a future so many loved ones had counted on was no longer potential but had become, purely and simply, fiction.

Would one of them have discovered a cure for cancer? Become an NBA star? Traveled the world and learned from its people? Raised a family, been part of a community, paid a mortgage, shopped for groceries on the weekend, coached a youth sports team?

Made the world better, smarter, kinder?

These days, one of the things I sometimes do at work is called a “gap analysis.” It’s corporate jargon for an exercise in identifying the places in a business where things are lacking, or needed, and it’s the first step toward figuring out how to make them whole.

Twenty years later, I still find myself doing a mental gap analysis of Columbine, though nothing can ever make anything whole. What I always come back to, which makes me dizzy, is contemplating what the world is lacking because these 12 young people and this teacher were abruptly removed from humanity’s equation one April morning as the last millennium’s final days waned. All because of two young men who decided that violence would be their final path forward.

I’d like to say that I understand things a bit better now. I’ve written hundreds of stories since then about all corners of the world. I’ve seen parts of the planet I never thought I’d see. And now I have kids in schools that do emergency drills as a matter of routine. It is the background hum of a world that, to them, has always been this way.

I’d like to say those things have helped me make sense of Columbine when I look at it over my shoulder from two decades on. I’d like to say that, but I’d be lying to you. I’m still trying, though. Not as a journalist, necessarily, but as an American.

In daily journalism, the job is often to cover what has just happened, and it is frequently very loud. But more than you’d think, the quieter stories — the more important stories, even — are the ones that didn’t happen. Those are the more complex ones, too. And in the cacophony, they’re harder and harder to find.

But my profession is, at its heart, a quest not only for fact but for context. And that may be where we can actually help.

What we can do is look back on the traumatic things we’ve covered, revisit them, study them to hone and sharpen what we do. We can understand that even as we show the world the facts and the stories behind them, we also can create unintended consequences by amplifying people and actions that can be held up by ailing minds as accomplishments to be replicated. And we can use this information to do it all better the next time.

Coach Dave. Lauren. Matt. John.

“You can’t prove a negative,” they say. Maybe not. But you can notice one, and keep noticing it.

Daniel. Steve. Cassie.

You can remember, as a journalist, the people from the stories you covered who are no longer here. You can wonder about their lives, and the people they left behind, and the ruthlessness of continuity that allows the world to fill in the gaps they left and move on to other spectacles, other triumphs, other tragedies and losses.

Kelly. Kyle. Corey.

And now and then, on a milestone anniversary that is no cause for celebration, you can sit in a quiet room and say, out loud, the names of people you never knew and hear them echo in a world that no longer contains them.

Isaiah. Rachel. Daniel. Again.

___

Ted Anthony, director of digital innovation for The Associated Press, covered the Columbine High School shootings and their aftermath in 1999. Follow him on Twitter at @anthonyted

Motorcycle crash victim identified as 61 y.o. Avon man

The man killed in a motorcycle crash on Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon Friday evening has been identified as Daniel Schaub, 61, of Avon, according to the Garfield County Coroner’s Office.

The wreck happened a little after 5 p.m. Friday in the westbound lanes at mile marker 122 near the Hanging Lake Tunnels, about eight miles east of Glenwood Springs.

The wreck did not involve any other vehicles, but the westbound lanes were closed for more than two hours while the crash was being investigated.

Colorado State Patrol Trooper Gary Cutler said Schaub was ejected from his bike into the median. He was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, according to the coroner’s release. An autopsy is scheduled for early next week.

Eastbound I-70 was closed for a short time immediately after the crash. Westbound I-70 was closed from about 5:30 until 7:45 p.m. when traffic backed up for several miles east of the tunnel was allowed to proceed. Traffic was also being diverted off I-70 at Dotsero.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Colorado River Water Conservation District now heading for 2020 tax ask

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The directors of the Colorado River Water Conservation District supported a recommendation Tuesday from General Manager Andy Mueller to research asking voters in November 2020 to restore a portion of the district’s original property-tax rate, or mill levy, and increase its annual revenue from $4 million to $8 million.

In February, the 15-member river district board was leaning toward asking voters this November to remove the revenue restrictions imposed upon it by the Gallagher Amendment, which was seen as easier to pass than a direct tax increase.

But now the residential taxing rates set by Gallagher appear to have stabilized, putting off a potential $370,000 hit to the river district’s budget for two years.

Plus, there may now be a competing water-funding question on the this year’s ballot. So the district is looking to 2020.

“It alleviates the immediate threat but not the long-term threat to the river district’s property tax-based revenues,” Mueller said of the Gallagher rate.

The district gets 97% of its revenue from property taxes on residential and commercial property, and the expected Gallagher rates would have cut the district’s revenue by 15%.

Mueller said it now makes more sense to ask for an increase in its mill levy from 0.252 mills to 0.5 mills — and possibly to ask voters to eliminate the revenue restrictions in the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR, and include a sunset provision of 10 to 15 years.

If the board does nothing, Mueller said the combined effects of Gallagher, TABOR and a shrinking oil-and-gas sector in western Colorado will cause the district’s property revenue to be less than its expenses, even with more cuts of staff, expenses and the district’s water-project grant program.

“The board and staff are concerned that the perfect storm of negative economic events and constitutional amendments will create a situation where we will be unable to meet our mission,” Mueller said. “We’ve been granted a reprieve to think about it and figure it out, but we are really concerned about having adequate financing to meet our mission. Today, we do a very good job of providing technical advice, legal representation and advocacy, the part that has been left out is actual meaningful cash contributions to projects and efforts by our constituents.”

The river district board also got another reason to avoid this November’s ballot when a bill was introduced in the state legislature Tuesday to ask voters this fall to approve legalized sports betting.

The betting bill is relevant to the river district because it calls for a 10% tax on the gambling revenue, which a 2017 study estimated could be as much as $300 million, and most of the money is to be used to pay for water projects and programs.

“We want to see what happens on that statewide question,” Mueller said in an interview. “Statewide tax measures are really difficult. We don’t want to: A) get in the way of it and contribute it to being defeated; and B) be defeated in its wake. We don’t want to be pulled down with it, if that happens. But either way, we support the effort.”

Mueller serves on an ad-hoc committee that has been exploring financial options for water projects and programs under the auspices of the state’s Interbasin Compact Committee.

“We’re not the architects of sports betting,” Mueller said of the committee.

The sports-betting bill, co-sponsored by state Sen. Kerry Donovan, says 10% of the tax revenue from gambling is “to fund implementation of the state water plan and other public purposes.”

The bill also includes language consistent with a demand-management — or water-use reduction — policy adopted in November by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a state agency in the Department of Natural Resources.

For example, the bill says the money could be spent “to ensure compliance with interstate water allocation compacts” and on “projects and processes that may include compensation to water users for temporary and voluntary reduction in consumptive use.”

Mueller said even if the sports-betting bill passes, it might not meet the Western Slope’s water needs.

“We support a statewide effort, but we also understand the importance of doing things for ourselves on the Western Slope,” Mueller said. “And we understand that we can’t rely on others from the outside to do the things that we need to do to protect ourselves.”

Mueller cited examples of projects consistent with the district’s mission but short on funding, including building a bypass channel around Windy Gap Reservoir to add a more natural flow to the upper Colorado River.

He said building small, multipurpose reservoirs in the headwater counties could help provide water to ranchers, farmers and cities, as well as to downstream sections of rivers and streams stressed by climate change.

“Last year was a perfect example of where our reservoir releases were able to bring down the temperatures in the Fryingpan, Roaring Fork and upper Colorado rivers,” Mueller said, referring to releases from Ruedi Reservoir. “Before we started releasing water, all of those rivers were dangerously close to getting to a point where the fish were going to start massively dying.”

Mueller looked to the district’s history for his mill-levy recommendation, saying Western Slope residents in 1937 went to the state legislature and asked that the river district be created with a mill levy of 2.5% so residents could manage, develop and protect the water supplies and preserve the high-quality trout fishing on the rivers.

“Even back then, they talked about protecting the rivers. It was then recreation in terms of fishing, but that’s what they were looking for,” Mueller said.

Mueller said Western Slope residents knew it would be an expensive venture, but they were willing to tax themselves at 2.5 mills.

“The values have all gone up, but it was the same impact proportionally on each property as 2.5 mills would be today, but we’re now at a tenth of that,” Mueller said.

It’s on to more wine-making for outgoing Glenwood Mayor Michael Gamba

At the age of 5, Michael Gamba crushed grapes with his bare feet and by the time he was 8, the outgoing Glenwood Springs mayor accidentally discovered his love for wine.

“We just thought it was a good tasting punch,” Gamba recalled of the refreshment he dove into at a wedding he attended with his family. “I think that might’ve been the first time I over drank.”

When Gamba’s great grandfather emigrated from Italy to Glenwood Springs a significant Italian population existed in the western town at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.

“It wasn’t a question of if you are going to make wine if you were an Italian family in the area, it was how much wine are you going to make,” Gamba said.

Together, Gamba and his father, the late Jerome Gamba, would go down to the train tracks in town and retrieve wine grapes from the three boxcars loaded to the brim with them.

Today, utilizing Zinfandel and Barbera grapes, the fourth-generation Glenwood Springs resident continues his Italian family’s tradition by producing 1,400 bottles of red wine a year.

Rather than selling it, Gamba instead shares his wine with the community he loves.

“We bring the equivalent of about 10 cases a year to the Italian picnic, which is on the first Sunday in August, and we share it with everybody there,” Gamba said.

Spicy, like the former mayor’s opinion toward a moratorium on vacation rentals and bold like his public stance against Rocky Mountain Resources’ expansion plans for the limestone quarry, Gamba’s wine also yields a fairly high alcohol content.

“The higher the alcohol content, the less likely you are going to get any spoilage in it,” Gamba said of what some connoisseurs describe as a hot wine. “I grew up with it so to me it’s normal, and sometimes I drink commercial wine and think, wow, that’s really weak.”

While Gamba loves making wine as a hobby, he equally enjoys pairing it with his wife Karin’s cooking that celebrates local and international cuisines. Dishes like elk stroganoff, venison stew, Indian chana masala as well as German spaetzle and lentils.

“Dark chocolate goes really great with our wine, too,” Gamba said.

Whether at the Italian picnic or regular church potluck dinners, the former mayor and still-working civil engineer loves sharing his red zinfandel for a number of reasons.

“I think the best thing about wine is, it just brings people together,” Gamba said. “We have friends that we don’t agree with on politics, but whatever. …They come over and help us with the various winemaking steps and then we share our wine with them. It’s a good thing.”

Gamba, who served as the city’s Ward 4 council representative for eight years as well as mayor since April of 2015, also talked about his wine’s other, relaxing benefits; in particular following council meetings that ran past 11 p.m.

When asked if any of his fellow councilors ever made him want to switch to something stronger, Gamba joked, “Oh, there’s a number of them that have honestly made me want to drink more.”

Although Gamba has retired from his role as mayor and councilman, don’t expect the Glenwood Springs native to ever stop making wine and bringing people together over a bottle, or two.

mabennett@postindependent.com

Guest Opinion: Roads are the losers in 2019 Colorado Legislature

Fixing the crumbling and crowded roads across our state has been a talking point for politicians in Colorado for years, as the project backlog has grown to more than $9 billion.

Democrats who control the purse in the legislature don’t seem to feel any urgency to fix the funding issues creating the backlog. In his first address to the General Assembly, Governor Polis spent mere seconds talking about the underfunded transportation infrastructure, offering no real solution.

Even though many legislators made it part of their campaigns, funding for road improvements has unfortunately been a victim of the dysfunction and liberal agenda of the leaders of the Democratic majority. They seem to be counting on the roads getting so bad that Coloradans will approve a tax increase just to fix them.

Last November, Coloradans rejected both a sales tax increase and a bonding proposal that would have made a dent in the backlog of projects. That’s an incredibly clear message to legislators — prioritize our budget to fix critical infrastructure problems across the state.

How did fixing our roads become such an afterthought — allowing so many unfunded projects to back up over the years? Numbers released by the Colorado Department of Transportation calculate that paving one lane of one mile of roadway costs taxpayers $1.5 million, and one lane of widening a roadway will cost us $2 million.

If the current status quo remains, CDOT is projecting a $25 billion funding gap over the next 25 years. Fixing roads ain’t cheap, but they are necessary.

The most significant difference between my political philosophy and that of many of my Democratic friends is in what the ultimate goal and responsibility of government should be. By the votes of last November, it appears that most Coloradans agree with me that it is a basic role of government to prioritize funding infrastructure and fixing our roads and bridges.

Instead of doing the hard work, Democrats in the legislature are heading towards approving one-time minimal funding for road improvements, while developing ideas for “new revenue” (translation: tax increases).

There’s a plan to attempt to dismantle our Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights by asking voters to permanently give back their tax refunds to the state. The proposal would destroy the part of our Constitution that puts spending guardrails on our government, without providing a stable funding mechanism for transportation.

There is also discussion of a gas tax … but they’ll call it a “fee” to avoid asking for taxpayer approval as specified by TABOR.

I live in the Denver area and I’m part of the large number of people who take the opportunity most weekends to get out of the city and head to the mountains, and regularly visit my family on the Western Slope. It’s a lifestyle that usually comes with a choice of waking up long before dawn or sitting in hours of traffic — no matter what season it is.

It’s frustrating to sit in traffic, but the consequences of bad roads can be much more far reaching than getting a late start on a ski day. They get us to work, keep our economy moving, transport medical emergencies and connect Coloradans.

It’s beyond time that the Legislature make it a priority — like many said they would during campaign season — and fix our roads.

Lindsey Singer is communications director for the political action group Colorado Rising Action.

Safety concerns force low-income New Castle residents from home

Residents of the old schoolhouse in New Castle understand the safety concerns leading to the court order to vacate by noon on Good Friday, but grieve the loss of a home and community.

“I feel like there could have been other ways to go about the situation, rather than kicking everyone out into the streets with nowhere to go,” said Kiana Pena.

Pena moved the last of her belongings out of the building moments before the noon deadline, with the help of Jonathan Ford, who assisted other residents, including a family with five children, in the days and hours before police arrived to ensure the structure was empty.

Four New Castle Police officers walked through the red doors of the schoolhouse, plastered with court notices, at 12:01. They exited five minutes later without incident.

SAFETY CONCERNS understood

The New Castle Municipal Court issued the notice to vacate April 11, after previous orders for building owner Rosie Ferrin to fix a slate of “life-safety issues,” code violations including electrical issues, no heating, missing smoke detectors and alarm systems, and blocked emergency exit windows.

The order “says that because of outstanding and long-standing code violations that had to do with safety, the judge felt that it was safer to get folks out of the building until such time as repairs can be made,” New Castle Town Administrator David Reynolds said.

Those who know the building said it was clear that it needed repair.

“It can be touched up. I’m not going to sit here and spackle and paint to make it what it ain’t,” Ford, who came to help the residents move, said of the building.

“But if you’re going to just drop people out of their home, at least give them a place where they can settle,” he said.

Many of the former residents moved to The Ranch, also owned by Ferrin.

“My big concern is for the community. Everybody knows the class of people that live here, and this is a safe place for those people to be,” said Mike Runia, an outreach minister with The Pointe church in Glenwood Springs.

“Now that that’s taken away, I’m curious to see how that affects the community,” he said.

place of recovery

After a court hearing about a month ago when it became clear the notice to vacate was coming, Runia, who lived in the schoolhouse several years ago, helped form a Wednesday Bible study for the residents “to pray, and just get into the world and build our faith up a little.”

The group will continue to meet in the park next door.

On Facebook, many New Castle citizens criticized the building as being a drug den for the people it attracts, something that Pena vehemently disagrees with.

“If you are not helping yourself, Rosie will kick you out,” Pena said. The schoolhouse is a place of recovery, Pena said, “but if you’re not trying, and you’re just using (Rosie), she’s not going to deal with that.”

Pena herself was homeless before she moved into the schoolhouse around two months ago. “Rosie definitely saved me,” she said. Pena did not blame Ferrin for failing to address the code violations, but hopes that the building will get up to code soon.

Until then, Pena is not sure where she will be living. She plans to keep up with the weekly Bible study, however, and hopes members of the broader New Castle community will check it out as well.

tphippen@postindependent.com