Rifle adding inclusive playground equipment to Centennial Park

Rifle is adding an inclusive “We-Go-Swing” to Centennial Park, a city news release states.

“The swing allows individuals of all abilities to play together,” the release states. “The innovative equipment can be used by multiple people at the same time and doesn’t require transfer from a mobility device or additional assistance from caregivers, thus encouraging independence.”

The swing will be fully operational at the end of next week, and people are encouraged to come down to Centennial Park and check it out, the release states. City staff will have a formal dedication and ribbon cutting after the Fourth of July weekend.

Adding inclusive equipment was a longtime goal of Rifle Assistant Parks and Recreation Director Austin Rickstrew. After much research, Rickstrew decided the We-Go-Swing was the best fit for Rifle. 

According to Rifle Parks and Recreation Director Tom Whitmore, the swing is going to be a great addition to the park, and people were excited even before construction began. 

“Austin recognized a gap in what we had and what we needed,” Whitmore said in the release. “We really appreciate his hard work in bringing this to fruition.”

Rickstrew volunteered for many years with the Riding Institute for Disabled Equestrians (RIDE) in Silt, which helped inspire his desire to add more opportunities for people of differing abilities. 

“I looked at our own equipment and realized that we needed to be at the forefront of making change,” Rickstrew said in the release. “I am excited for the area and the region since this swing has great developmental benefits.”

For updated information on all city matters, visit www.rifleco.org or the city’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Blues, soul and Southern Roots: Atlanta-based Eddie 9V brings rhythm twang to Rifle’s Ute Theater

In any performance by original blues-rock-guitarist Eddie 9V, all bases are covered.

“The sax player in our band says everybody gets a piece,” Eddie 9V front man Brooks Mason said. “It’s a whole stacked band.”

Consisting of Mason’s inflecting hoarse voice and his blues guitar scribbling through the acoustics, Eddie 9V brings this musical ethos to Rifle, performing live at The Ute Theater and Events Center at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets can be purchased online at https://utetheater.com/event/eddie-9v/ or at the box office.

Typically complete with keyboards, saxophone, drums, bass and raspy riffs from Mason’s guitar, the Atlanta-based artist furnishes his performances with a fast-paced, bluesy atmosphere reminiscent of Muddy Waters on pep pills. 

“It’s just a whole lotta energy,” Mason said of the upcoming performance. “Basically, the band fires off and on all cylinders, man.”

Eddie 9V is a product of the roots-and-blues-clubs circuit in Atlanta. Inspired by legends like Al Green, Percy  Sledge and of course Muddy Waters, Brooks began emulating these sounds in Southern barbecue venues at age 15. Mason has since then released two albums: 2019’s “Left my Soul in Memphis” and, more recently, “Little Black Flies.” 

Mixed into his formula is Mason’s unique ability to turn his lyrics into something one of a kind. Mason originally began as a drummer, and his uncle, Uncle Brian, would improvise and slur new lyrics as the family lead vocalist. 

“He’d get a few drinks in him and start making up words to the songs,” Mason said of Uncle Brian. “I really learned how to talk to an audience in front of him.”

This marks Eddie 9V’s fourth time playing in Colorado and his first appearance at the Ute Theater.

Ute Theater Manager Anna Kaiser said Tuesday the Western Garfield County venue is happy to bring back original blues and rock bands with the likes of Eddie 9V.

“That was a good spring lineup, but I think getting back to our blues and country and rock acts is going to be a nice little change,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of other blues/rock bands that have graced our stage, and he’s kind of a new upcoming younger artist that we’re happy to welcome.”

There’s no hiding that Rifle is pretty busy this upcoming weekend. Downtown has its annual farmers market. The city’s Little League baseball circuit is scheduled. This could affect ticket sales and attendance.

Kaiser said this reality could also give Friday concert goers a more personal experience when Eddie 9V starts to jam.

“Definitely,” she said. “And our theater only holds about 300 people, so it’s definitely an intimate experience every time you come.”

Mason said the clean air and the rugged mountains are why it’s one of his favorite regions of the U.S., he said. But while he looks forward to coming back, he really looks forward to performing his Southern Comfort to the music lovers of Rifle.

“It’s gonna be a fun event for all,” he said. “If you dig roots music and soul music and blues, you can’t miss it.” Check out more of Eddie 9V’s music at https://www.eddie9volt.com/about

If you go

What: Eddie 9V performance

Where: The Ute Theater and Events Center, 132 E. Fourth St., Rifle

When: Doors open 6:30 p.m.; band performs at 7:30 p.m.

How much: $20-$35; tickets can be purchased online at https://utetheater.com/event/eddie-9v/ or at the box office

Rifle asked to pay more for senior meals program

Inflated food prices are causing meals offered through the Rifle Senior Center Meal Program to cost more for the city of Rifle, an official said.

Rifle Senior Center Director Tami Sours told Rifle City Council on Wednesday these factors mean the city is obligated to appropriate an additional $10,609 toward the service.

The Rifle Senior Center Meal Program offers free hot meals to seniors in Rifle, as well as Parachute, Silt and New Castle. From July 2021 to April, the service fed 10,926 clients in all cities combined.

“There are seniors that go to have a meal every day,” Sours said.

The service is also partnered through Garfield County, which contractually provides a meal reimbursement rate of $10.25. But, over the past 10 months, average senior meal costs have risen to $11.22 per meal, according to city documents.

Since New Castle, Silt and Parachute aren’t contractually obligated to cover any extra costs incurred after the county’s reimbursement rate is reached, that means Rifle is covering an extra 97 cents per meal.

Rifle City Council Member Clint Hostettler questioned why the city is covering the extra costs.

“We’re paying the extra costs for all three towns,” Rifle City Council member Clint Hostettler said.

Sours said the terms of this current agreement were reached in the 2021-2022 contract. Partnering cities used to split the difference, but Rifle City Council decided to take on any extra expenses because they were minimal, Rifle City Attorney Jim Neu said.

With the contract now up for renewal this summer, Rifle has to decide if it wants to continue being the sole agent paying extra for each meal. The added 97 cents for each meal would hike up the annual cost for Rifle to $12,718.

“I’m OK with $12,000,” Hostettler said. “But I’m worried about it going up.”

Meanwhile, the county covers about 92% of costs associated with the senior meals program, with a current annual cap set at $169,125. The county has offered a slight annual cap bump — $175,223 — for the 2022-2023 contract renewal.

“I think the county’s pretty fixed on what money they have for this program,” Neu said. “And, from their perspective, they think they’re contributing plenty.”

Rifle City Council proposed making an amendment to a new contract, saying it can speak with partnering towns about them also covering increasing costs for meals.

“We can go back to the county for a negotiated price per meal,” Sours said.  

The city of Rifle hopes to approve a negotiated Senior Meals Program contract with partnering entities with the inclusion of an escalation clause by July.

Volunteer drivers needed for Grand River Health’s Meals on Wheels program

Jack Wigington sat at his kitchen table Friday morning cursing the sticky heat and, more importantly, his air conditioning not being on.

He was waiting for midday, a time when a volunteer delivery driver from Grand River Health drops off a free meal to his front door. The service is Rifle hospital’s Meals on Wheels program, which is in its 46th year.

Each day, Grand River Health supplies up to 100 free meals to homebound seniors interspersed throughout Parachute, Rifle, Silt and New Castle. Some are disabled, others are in hospice care. 

In Wigington’s case, he is a widower. He lives alone in a bungalow on a dusty ranch perched atop a mesa overlooking Rifle toward its east.

Whenever the 89-year-old former sheep farmer wants food, he drives nearly 2 miles west, navigating a steep hill on East 16th Street before reaching City Market.

“I come right back,” he joked. “I don’t want to drive into somebody.”

At least 72 meals-on-wheels volunteers take turns completing delivery routes in each city, making stops for people like Wigington, who was literally born on his ranch.

“I never did like change,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”

But factors like aging volunteers, Garfield County’s growing aging population and, unsurprisingly, record high gas prices, have led to a driver shortage. 

“I don’t see how they can afford to pay $5 a gallon for gas just to feed me,” Wigington said.

For now, Grand River Health Director of Volunteer Services Kaaren Peck is helping fill in the blanks. Since the service increased from providing 6,676 meals in 2006 to 21,397 in 2022, either current volunteers pick up extra shifts or hospital administrators fill in directly. 

Peck said Meals on Wheels, offered five days a week, may have to cut down on driving days if volunteers continue to dwindle. 

“I still need nine drivers,” she said while looking at a computer screen in her office. “This has never happened to us so much where we have such a high need for drivers.”

Drivers are usually retired. They range anywhere from former nurses and public school employees to information technologists. People like Garfield County Coroner Robert Glassmire and Kristine Coombs, wife of Grand River Health CEO Jim Coombs, also help out sometimes.

Pat Owen, 72, is a retired computer programmer analyst who used to also teach computer technology to students at Cactus Valley Elementary School. Closing in on nearly 15 years, she’s become one of Meals on Wheels longest-standing volunteers.

Rifle resident Barbara Pina-Brainard sits inside her home Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

“It’s a positive experience,” she said. “And we’re there for them. When somebody isn’t there, you immediately call and say, ‘OK, no one answered the door.’”

Barbara Pina-Brainard, 90, likes the company. The retired psychiatric technician, who formerly worked in a hospital caring for mentally ill men, lives alone at a senior housing unit in Rifle.

Her son, Rifle Police Officer Diego Pina, keeps his mother’s freezer full with microwavable meals, and the only time she really gets out is when Diego brings her to the mountains.

“I’m frustrated at times because I can’t do what I want to do,” she said. “I have this stupid walker that I have to use. I can’t go anywhere without using it.”

But when Grand River comes by, her mood changes.

“Some of them are very friendly,” she said. “They’re fun to talk to.”

Every meal is cooked inside Grand River Health’s kitchen. Right around 10 a.m. weekdays, nutritional service workers Irma Borja and Elvira Loya Villalobos then transfer the meals into a stack of coolers. Peck estimates that Villalobos herself has helped cook and distribute at least 750,000 meals.

Grand River Health Meals on Wheels veteran volunteer Pat Owen kneels down to lift a 20-pound cooler of food Friday.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

Volunteers then load the coolers into vehicles provided by the hospital or their own, with Grand River Health reimbursing gas mileage.

Volunteer Linda McFarland, 68, is a retired nurse of 40 years. She drives from New Castle maybe once or twice a month, she said.

“It’s 70 or 80 miles that I’m driving,” McFarland said. “That’s why I don’t want to do it every day.”  

“We definitely need more volunteers.”

Interested in volunteering?

Call the Grand River Health Meals on Wheels program at 970-625-6215 or email Peck at kpeck@grhd.org

Peck said drivers can work monthly or every other week. All applicants must first pass a background check in order to qualify for volunteering.