Thursday, December 29, 2011

Summit County Year in Review: October-December 2011

Max Dercum, A-Basin and Keystone co-founder, dies at 98

Co-founder of two of Summit County's four ski resorts and local legend Max Dercum died Sept. 30 just days shy of his 99th birthday.

Dercum passed away at a retirement home in Evergreen, where he died of natural causes.

The champion skier, former forestry professor and visionary, along with his wife, Edna, was among a group of seven who started Arapahoe Basin in 1946 and was the driving force behind the founding of Keystone Resort in the early 1970s.

Woman killed in collision with moose near Frisco

A 31-year-old woman from New Castle was killed the night of Oct. 2 when the vehicle she was in struck a cow moose on Interstate 70 near Frisco.

The moose was killed in the accident, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said, adding that the meat was donated per protocol. Tishe Marie Quintana was the passenger in the vehicle. The driver was taken to Denver Health Medical Center and was released with minor injuries, according to Colorado State Patrol trooper Nate Reid.

On Sept. 25, a young bull moose was hit and killed in a traffic collision in nearly the same spot, though it was on the eastbound side of I-70. The car was totaled but there were no injuries. There have been six moose killed along Summit County's roads this year, including the two along I-70.

Others have been hit on Highway 9 both north and south of Silverthorne.

Dirt bikers seek Tenderfoot terrain near Dillon

October became a big month for off-road motorcycle riders on Oct. 11, as the Forest Service initiated the evaluation process for the Tenderfoot Mountain Motorcycle Trails System, which could add nearly 30 miles of trail on Tenderfoot Mountain to the recently revised White River National Forest travel management plan.

Due to an oversight in the travel management plan process, 15 to 20 miles of existing trails on Tenderfoot Mountain weren't inventoried along with the roads and the rest of the travelways in the White River National Forest and therefore weren't considered for inclusion, Dillon Ranger District recreation staff officer Ken Waugh said.

Now, he's working with Summit County Off-Road Riders (SCORR) to design an approved trail system in the area.

CDOT gives I-70 pacing green light for 2012

The Colorado Department of Transportation plans to implement a pacing program, intended to keep traffic moving smoothly, on eastbound Interstate 70 on peak Sundays next year, officials announced Oct. 18.

In a Sept. 25 test of the program — also known as rolling speed harmonization — traffic slowed from 60 mph down to approximately 30 mph when the test ended near Empire Junction.

CDOT and local law-enforcement agencies will pace traffic primarily on Sundays from 1 p.m. until approximately 5 or 6 p.m. as needed.

During rolling speed harmonization, law-enforcement vehicles pull in front of traffic with emergency lights activated and lead cars at a steady speed through a specific stretch of highway.

A new middle school for Summit County?

A new private middle school is being developed as an educational option for Summit School District families.

The idea is to start with grades 6-8 before expanding one grade each year to include grades 6-12 within five years. Roughly a dozen people are working on details ranging from admissions and enrollment to curriculum and accreditation to tuition and tuition assistance.

The Peak School's lead organizer, Chris Renner, said creating the school has nothing to do with current issues in the school district — such as contention about equal access, multiple initiatives being implemented at once and more.

$60 million approved for Twin Tunnels widening

The $60 million widening of the eastbound Twin Tunnels near Idaho Springs is a go, after members of the Colorado Transportation Commission approved a plan to fund the project along with several others Oct. 20.

The budget supplement approved by a unanimous vote distributes $222 million in found dollars statewide, furnishing Summit County's CDOT region 1 with $76 million for the Twin Tunnels project, surface treatment work and other regional priorities.

Crackdown coming on booze, tobacco sales to kids in Summit County

For the first time in years, tobacco and alcohol compliance checks are happening in Summit County.

The initiative, which started in November, is a collaboration between local law enforcement and the Summit Prevention Alliance in an effort to prevent local retailers from selling such products to minors.

“We're pretty confident (selling to youth) is actually taking place — it's not unlike anywhere else,” Summit County undersheriff Derek Woodman said. “We know that's an ongoing issue and it has not been really monitored over the past few years. It's time for us to re-educate the retail market and make sure we get everybody in compliance.”

Student-led equal access petition submitted to Summit School Board

Eighth-grader Jackie Myers was among eight students to stand before the Summit School District Board of Education during the Oct. 25 meeting to present more than 2,000 signatures agreeing with a petition against equal access.

Equal access is an instructional method implemented school-wide at Summit Middle School and in some classes at Summit High School that puts students of all learning levels in the same classroom to be taught high-level curriculum. Teachers then divide students into ability levels to work together on the material and form assessments by ability. The practice is in contrast to the traditional model — where honors and other high-achieving students are taught separately.

“The majority of honors students feel we are being cheated out of the education we could have without equal access,” Myers read to board members. The Summit Honors Alliance letter stated that assignments are average, curriculum is explained repeatedly and non-honors students seek to use honors students as a source for answers, which they say is distracting.

Voters shut down DA's bid for a third term

Summit County voters shut down District Attorney Mark Hurlbert's bid for a term-limit extension to three terms, with 60 percent voting no on ballot question 1A.

In Eagle, Lake and Summit combined, close to 66 percent of voters opposed extending term limits for the district attorney.

“I'm disappointed, but also I appreciate that (the question) got to a vote,” Hurlbert said. “Part of being a prosecutor is the will of the people, whether it's a jury or in politics. I always defer to the will of the people, and I'm glad we got this to a vote.”

With the Nov. 1 electorate decision, Hurlbert will be term-limited in 2012 and will leave office in January of 2013.

Summit School Board incumbent ousted; new board takes shape

Election results showed a close race for the four vacant seats on the Summit School District Board of Education.

Incumbents Alison Casias and Erin Young and newcomers Dave Miller and Sue Wilcox won seats on the new board, while incumbent Brad Piehl trailed in early results and lost in the final results, totaling 17.9 percent of the vote.

Frisco, Breck voters give pot tax the thumbs up

More than 70 percent of voters in both Frisco and Breckenridge supported ballot questions proposing 5 percent excise taxes on the sale of medical marijuana.

Both towns said the taxes were needed to help offset the administrative, legal and enforcement costs brought on by the centers and the still-changing regulations on medical marijuana coming down from the state and federal levels.

The taxes will go into effect in January.

Outlets at Silverthorne working to attract more stores

Despite the departure of a few big-name stores and a vacancy rate of 22 percent, the Outlets at Silverthorne is slowly recovering from the economic downturn and stepping up its game to attract more “quality brand names” to the center.

Outlet sales and foot traffic are up within the past year, and sales tax revenue for the town was up 1.38 percent in November, even with the store closings.

Today, the outlets make up 35 percent of the town's total sales tax revenues.

Dillon's town manager leaves for Front Range post

After four-and-a-half years in the town's top post, Dillon Town Manager Devin Granbery is moving on.

Granbery recently accepted a position as city manager of Sheridan, a role he stepped into Dec. 5. His last day with Dillon was Dec. 2.

“I'm definitely going to miss Dillon, and I'm really going to miss working with the great Town of Dillon staff. They're one of the best staffs I've ever worked with.” Granbery said prior to his departure. “It's bittersweet, but at the same time, I'm excited at the opportunity in Sheridan.”

Summit County wins lawsuit against same-sex couple

After only a few hours of deliberation, a seven-member jury ruled in favor of the Summit County government Nov. 10 in a discrimination lawsuit brought by a same-sex couple, who claimed officials delayed the construction of their house ultimately causing foreclosure.

Hazel and Rodgers accused specific county officials of treating them differently from straight couples in similar situations when resolving problems that arose with the installation of the septic system in the couple's house and with the damage of surrounding wetlands.

The county claimed there had been no discrimination, but that the plaintiffs were inexperienced homebuilders who got themselves into a mess they could not afford to get out of.

Silverthorne: ‘Walkway' definition under contest in Blue River Trail trial

In Day 1 of a two-day trial concerning whether the Town of Silverthorne can build a multi-use trail in its “public walkway” easement across private land, plaintiffs — who are property owners in the Blue River Mesa Subdivision — brought Metro State College linguist Marina Gorlach to the stand Nov. 15.

Much of the day was spent establishing the definition of the term “walkway” as plaintiffs understand it, because the language of Silverthorne's easement through the Blue River Mesa Subdivision states the easement is for the purpose of “installation, use and maintenance of public utility services, drainage services and public walkways.”

Dillon bank robber pleads guilty, gets 10 years

The man who pleaded guilty to robbing Alpine Bank in Dillon in November 2010 was sentenced to 10 years in prison, the minimum mandatory sentence for his crime, District Attorney Mark Hurlbert announced Dec 1.

Lincoln Carpenter, 24, entered a guilty plea to charges of aggravated robbery in September.

He will serve his sentence in a state prison.

Carpenter, originally from Massachusetts, was arrested two days after he entered Alpine Bank in the fall of last year, demanded money from a teller and threatened to use a weapon.

ATM Bandit nabbed in Avon

A man authorities believe to be the so-called ATM Bandit was arrested in Avon Dec. 1 on suspicion of involvement with as many as 35 burglaries over the last two years, police said.

Eric Callaghan, 24, is being held in the Eagle County jail on $100,000 bond while the district attorney's office compiles the charges against him.

“He's looking at a significant amount of jail time,” DA Mark Hurlbert told the Vail Daily.

Callaghan is thought to be the same individual who broke into at least six ATMs in Summit County and several in Eagle County earlier this year, Hurlbert confirmed Saturday. He is suspected of involvement in dozens of burglaries totaling an excess of $100,000 in damages and losses.

Fugitive Breckenridge lawyer Scoop Daniel nabbed in Calif.

Almost five years after he disappeared with more than $500,000 of his clients' money, notorious Breckenridge attorney Royal “Scoop” Daniel III was arrested Dec. 7 as he crossed into the U.S. from Mexico.

Daniel was extradited from San Diego and is being held on a $500,000 bond at the Summit County Jail. He faces eight counts of felony theft and five counts of commercial bribery.

Daniel went missing April 27, 2007 after, it was later discovered, he allegedly bilked clients out of hundreds of thousands of dollars through real estate exchanges, which allowed him to hold large sums of money during property transfers.

Walgreens wall debacle reaches a conclusion in Dillon

The Town of Dillon is being partially reimbursed for its costs associated with fixing the 2010 Walgreens wall failure, which released about 170,000 gallons of water onto Little Beaver Trail below.

Town council voted unanimously Dec. 13 to approve a proposed settlement, in which Dillon is splitting $1.625 million with Walgreens and Pace Dillon, the owners of the property.

The town's take is $623,350, or 78.5 percent of its out-of-pocket expenses related to the incident, which amounted to an estimated $793,258 for staff time, emergency water line installation, road closure expenses, wall installation and legal counsel.

The wall failed in May of 2010 after a push-on joint in an underground water line separated and released about 170,000 gallons of water, spilling onto Dillon Valley's Little Beaver Trail below. The road, one of two entrances to Dillon Valley, was shut down to stabilize the wall and move debris before opening up as one lane. The road closed again earlier this year for reconstruction, which finally finished up a few months ago.

Silverthorne Lowe's opening delayed until summer

Frigid temperatures in Summit County are causing construction projects in Silverthorne, including Lowe's, to be delayed.

Lowe's anticipates pushing back its opening several months to late June or early July, according to spokeswoman Stacey Lentz. The home improvement warehouse was originally slated to open toward the end of January or early February.

“This delay is due to two reasons beyond Lowe's control. The initial construction was delayed due to the pending resolution of the original lawsuit against the town concerning the town's approval of our project,” Lentz said. “The second delay has been weather conditions that make certain construction materials and activities either infeasible or cost prohibitive.”

Breckenridge marks 50 years of skiing Dec. 16

The morning itself may have been similar to Dec. 16 half a century ago, but celebrated skiing pioneer Trygve Berge noticed quite a few changes.

In particular, he was treated like a celebrity. And, as he skied the fresh corduroy he's come to enjoy, he pointed out that the soft, man-made snow churned up by groomers was a commodity not available in 1961.

There were just a handful of Breckenridge celebrities gathered for the “understated” start of Breckenridge Ski Resort's 50th birthday, spokeswoman Kristen Petitt-Stewart said, but it was great to see Berge doing what he's been doing for the last 50 years. He rode the first chair along with his friend Greg Gutzki; Nancy Macy, who rode the first chair in 1961 and still skis four days a week; and Bob Brown, who was born on Dec. 16, 1961 and was granted the wish to ride first chair.

The Breckenridge Ski Resort is celebrating its semi-centennial anniversary by granting birthday wishes, offering giveaways and focusing on the guests this season. The town threw a birthday celebration Dec. 16 complete with fireworks, a concert and a champagne toast to those who have been a part of Breckenridge from the beginning.