Sunday, April 28, 2019

Recycling in Summit County and across the country keeps getting harder and more expensive

#Summit Count #Colorado
Summit Daily

American consumers throw tens of millions of items into the recycling stream every year. For decades, an “out of sight, out of mind” attitude has prevailed, with most of us assuming that once something is chucked into the green or blue bins with the “chasing arrows” symbol on them, the item will wind up in the “right place.”
For most of that time, the right place was China. Until 2018, the Red Dragon’s industry consumed half the world’s recyclables to remake into consumer products. But after getting fed up with contaminated, disorganized and unsorted recyclables from the rest of the world polluting its own country, China closed the floodgates.
“On average, 15% to 20% of recyclables that go in the stream are contaminated,” Summit County Resource Allocation Park director Aaron Byrne told Summit County’s commissioners during their regular work session Tuesday morning. “Since last year, China is only accepting a contamination rate of half a percent.” 
Byrne was explaining to the county commissioners how the downstream effects of China’s decision were creating rapid changes in the recycling industry. The industry has never been lucrative, and once the largest market for recyclables all but shut down, commodity prices on processing items like plastic and cardboard have been plummeting month after month since last January.
“The most dramatic change has been single-stream recycling,” Byrne told the Summit Daily. “At one point in 2017, we were actually earning $29 a ton. Today we have to pay $38 a ton just to process that same material. It’s almost a swing of $70 a ton from positive to negative. That’s been a huge expense increase to us.” 
Combined with increasing freight costs, the recycling market has become a black hole for the budgets of many towns and counties. For some, it’s become too much to bear.
Since last year, towns and counties from Oregon to Maine have shuttered their recycling programs. The city of Philadelphia has resorted to burning hundreds of tons of contaminated recyclables a day — or half of what Philly citizens have been throwing into recycling bins — for energy.
Summit County, already behind the curve of the growing problem, approved Ballot Initiative 1A last year, which earmarked $1.7 million a year for funding existing and new recycling and diversion programs.
But Byrne admitted to the commissioners that, whereas it was estimated that $500,000 would be needed to fund existing programs, the market changes meant that’s now up to $750,000 a year.
That is $250,000 less to fund new facilities and programs, such as a new convenience and drop-off facility at the entrance to the SCRAP to make it easier for residents to drop off heavy recyclables such as appliances.
While Byrne and county public works manager Tom Gosiorowski said they did not anticipate needing to ask voters for more money, they do ask residents to help with the recycling market woes by doing their part by carefully reading recycling instructions before throwing something in.
The county, for example, does not accept glass in single-stream recycling. Pizza boxes are also a big nuisance, as the grease and food particles render them impossible to recycle. Single-use plastics and packaging are a global scourge, but they’re also difficult to recycle in the county. And with a down cardboard market, the countless shipping boxes from companies like Amazon become a burden. And, finally, when it comes to containers — like cans, jugs and bottles — to wash them out and dispose of unrecyclable items like caps and tops before putting them into recycling.
Given the limited capacity in the county and worth of recyclables, Gosiorowski also encouraged residents to put more emphasis on the first two “Rs” in “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
“The big message is to ask everybody to recycle everything they can, but try and reduce their usage of materials as well,” Gosiorowski said.
And while the economic issues are hurting his industry, Byrne looked at the situation as a big opportunity to reform it.
“I think that the big thing for us in this community and this industry is starting to recognize that this is the best thing China could have done; to push back so we’re not shipping trash overseas,” Byrne said. “It allows the recycling industry to focus on the problem at hand and figure it out. We’ll be so much stronger as an industry going forward, and that’ll present a lot of great opportunities for the state to look into creating more end uses for recyclables and recycling markets.”
Courtesy Summit Daily.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Redfin: This is how much an open house can boost your home sale

Technology has transformed the housing market by digitizing almost every aspect of the home buying process.
In 2019, Americans are able to sell, purchase and finance a property all from the comfort of their own home.
However, despite these technological advancements, data suggests that traditional selling methods might still have the upper hand.  
According to a recent analysis by Redfin, American home sellers are now making $9,046 more on average just by hosting open houses.
“Holding an open house is an efficient way for sellers to get more eyes on a home, and a bigger pool of potential buyers can help lead to a higher ultimate sale price,” Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather said. “In many areas, homes that are already primed for competition tend to be the ones with open houses because the listing agent knows it will attract a lot of attention and wants to set up a convenient way for multiple potential buyers to pop in at once instead of making several appointments for private tours.”
One of these highly competitive markets includes San Francisco, where homes with open houses sold for 7.9% more than their counterparts.
Redfin Agent Miriam Westberg said this is because San Francisco's real estate culture is dominated by open houses.
“The majority of my clients attend open houses because they know it’s their best chance to see a competitive property or multiple properties on the same day,” Westberg said. “If a home in the area doesn’t have an open house, it’s often because it’s either owner-occupied or tenant-occupied. Those homes tend to sell for a bit less than comparable homes with open houses because they’re difficult to show and don’t get as much traffic or as many offers.”
While a larger payoff might be incentive enough for some homeowners, Redfin’s data notes open houses are also correlated with faster sales.
In Miami’s metro, homes that have an open house during the first week on the market typically go under contract within 27 days, compared with 38 days for those without an open house.
Additionally, homes in the Miami area with an open house during week one sold for 1.2% more relative to their list price than homes that sold with no open house, according to Redfin.
“Open houses can help homes sell faster,” Redfin Agent Jessica Johnson said. “When homebuyers see other people at an open house, it can motivate them to place an offer more quickly than they otherwise would.”
NOTE: This analysis is based on home listing data from 2018. Only open houses held within one week of a home going on the market and homes with no open house at all were included in the report, according to Redfin.
Courtesy:  HousingWire Newsletter

Summit County recpath network opens for 2019, with certain exceptions

#Summit County #Colorado
Summit Daily

The Summit County Recreational Pathway System is now open for the 2019 season. With the exception of the Ten Mile Canyon section between Frisco and Copper Mountain, and the Vail Pass section between Copper and Vail Pass, the county’s 38-mile network is now fully plowed and swept.
“The opening of the recpath is one of the most celebrated signs of spring in Summit County,” Open Space & Trails senior resource specialist Jason Lederer said. “There has been a lot of anticipation this year, following an extremely snowy winter. Backcountry trails will likely remain snowpacked and wet for several more weeks, so we ask people to stick to the recpath for now in order to avoid damaging natural surface trails while they dry out.”
The Ten Mile Canyon Recpath typically opens significantly later than other stretches of the system as it runs beneath numerous avalanche paths in the Tenmile Range. This stretch of the pathway will likely open even later than usual this year because of large amounts of heavy debris from more than 20 avalanches that covered the pathway in March. 
Although the recpath system is open, wet and icy spots are likely, and users may encounter workers and maintenance vehicles. Recpath users are urged to exercise caution and slow down when approaching work areas or vehicles.
For more information about the Summit County Recreational Pathway, contact the Open Space & Trails Department at 970-668-4060, or visit
Courtesy Summit Daily.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Recession fears diminish as the nation approaches a Goldilocks economy

Friday’s Gross Domestic Product report produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis signaled the economy was strengthening. In fact, Q1's readings even surpassed the 2.4% growth estimate produced by a poll of economists conducted by CNBC and Moody's analytics. 
According to the Bureau's advanced estimate, real GDP increased at an annual rate of 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019, compared with a gain of 2.2% in the prior three months.
This marks the first acceleration of growth since mid-2018, highlighting economic improvement.
The data may be showing that the economy is growing, but not fast enough to spark a level of inflation that would force the Fed to hike rates. That balanced state of "not too hot, not too cold" is known as a "Goldilocks economy," a phrase coined by economist David Shulman in the 1990s.
“First, inflation was low, indicating that the Fed had no reason to raise rates that could tip the economy into a contraction. Second, while the headline number was 3.2%, after backing out trade and inventories the number was just 1.3%, showing the economy isn't overheating, which again could prompt the Fed to raise rates," Frick said. "Finally, while the 1.3%, as measured by 'final sales to privated domestic purchasers' is a low number, it will rise with the recovery of consumer spending and some other factors. So a reasonable forecast for GDP this year is 2% to 2.5%, which, together with a strong jobs market and rising wages, point to a healthy Goldilocks economy with no looming economic issues in sight."

Thursday, April 25, 2019

U.S. Homeowner Vacancy Rate: It’s back to the 90s

Rate of 1.4% is the lowest since 1994.

Remember when O.J. Simpson fled police in his white Ford Bronco? Or, when figure skater Nancy Kerrigan was clubbed in the knee in the “whack heard round the world?” Or when Major League Baseball was cancelled for a season because of a strike?
If you go by home vacancy data released today by the Census Bureau, we’re all the way back to 1994 when those events happened. The rate of vacant homes dropped to 1.4%, the lowest level in almost a quarter of a century. The rate measures privately owned homes standing vacant, typically because they’re for sale or because new owners haven’t moved in yet. In 2008, during the foreclosure crisis, it reached a record 2.9%.
Other than the notable low in the vacancy rate, the dryly titled “Residential Vacancies and Homeownership Report” had little new information for the home-sale market. The homeownership rate was 64.2%, matching the year-ago quarter and not far from the 64.8% in 2018’s final three months. 
For Americans under age 35, the homeownership rate was 35.4%, not far off the 35.3% from a year earlier. The share for the 35-to-44 age group was 60.3%, up from 59.8%. For 45- to 54-year-old Americans, it was 69.5%, down from 70%, and for people over 65 years old, it was 78.5%, matching a year ago.
There were 77.5 million homes occupied by owners in the first quarter and 43.3 million lived in by renters. Those number didn’t budge much.
Lower mortgage rates will help to support the housing market this year, which will keep vacancy rates low, economists say. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.2% this week, compared with 4.58% a year ago, according to Freddie Mac. While the rate was slightly higher than last week – rising from 4.17% -- it’s low enough to prod housing demand, Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement today.
“Despite the recent rise in mortgage rates, both existing and new home sales continue to show strength – indicating the lagged effect of lower rates on housing demand,” he said. “This, along with improved affordability, should push housing activity higher in the coming months.”
 Courtesy HousingWire Newsletter.


Frisco weighs water rate increases to combat rising operating costs, aging infrastructure

#Frisco #Colorado

The town of Frisco is pushing forward with plans to adopt a new water rate structure. The town’s hope is to introduce the new fees in an ordinance early next month and implement a change in the fourth quarter of this year.
The town completed a 10-year rate study in 2006, which remained in effect through 2016, meaning there’s been no changes to rates in more than two years. Although a new pay structure is in the offing as Frisco seeks a means to keep pace with rising operating costs, fund conservation programs and modernize its aging infrastructure.
At Frisco’s Town Council work session on Tuesday evening, town staff introduced a number of potential alternative rate structures the town could use. Staff also detailed a number of conservation programs and capital projects the price hike will help to fund. 

Conservation Programs

Over the next five years, the town is planning on funding at least four separate conservation programs requiring an estimated $1.7 million.
“These conservation incentives are all tied directly to the water efficiency plan (the council) approved last fall,” said Jeff Goble, Frisco’s public works director. “All of these plans were in there in one form or another, and allow us to meet the water savings goals we want to have.” 
The first conservation program aims to replace the 150 old analog meters left in town with new automatic meter reading systems. Because the old meters are no longer considered accurate, the new meters are expected to reduce water usage by 3 to 5 acre-feet of water a year. (An acre-foot is the equivalent of about 326,000 gallons of water.) Completing the town’s meter upgrades will cost about $150,000.
“Slow the Flow” provides subsidized irrigation system audits to anyone requesting one. Starting in 2020, when grant funding runs out, the town estimates the program will cost $10,000 over five years and save 10 acre-feet of water a year.
The Water Smart Program will allow customers to see detailed usage reports in real-time, allowing them to compare their usage to their neighbors and other customers. The program is expected to save about 5 acre-feet of water a year, but cost about $10,000 a year.
The most significant conservation program, “Start at the Tap,” involves offering rebates to customers willing to replace old fixtures with new, Water Sense fixtures. The program is pricey, at an estimated $300,000 a year for the town, but should save between 6 and 8 acre-feet of water a year. 

Capital Improvement Projects

As part of the study, town staff also dove into what projects would be needed to maintain the town’s water system over the next several years.
“We went through knowing the council’s goals and vision to create a good infrastructure,” said Goble. “We reevaluated some things and got all of the water staff involved to figure out what needed to be done.”
While some are easy and relatively inexpensive — such as relocating a fire hydrant for $35,000 — others are considerably more involved and costly. The most significant project listed by the town is the Creekside water main replacement, estimated to cost $1 million.
In total, the town is prepared to pull the trigger on almost $4 million in capital investments into the water system by the end of 2023. 

Proposed Rate Structure

With the town expecting to pour about $5.7 million into its water system and conservation programs in the coming years, town officials say higher water rates are necessary.
But if conservation efforts pay off, and residents and businesses are using less water, the town is also anticipating a substantial hit to its water revenues, meaning the town is hoping to create rates that provide a more steady revenue stream.
Staff offered six different alternatives. By the end of the meeting, both council and staff agreed to move forward with a structure that includes a $45 base rate per equivalent residential unit per quarter, $1.12 per 1,000 gallons for individuals using up to 8,000 gallons, $2.24 per 1,000 gallons for those using between 8,000 and 16,000 gallons, $4 per 1,000 gallons for those using between 16,000 and 50,000, and $5 per 1,000 gallons for anyone using more than 50,000 gallons.
The rates are expected to increase between 3% and 5% per year. Additionally, it’s expected that tap fees will increase by 10% each year, from $4,730 in 2019 to $6,925 in 2023.
“This encourages conservation, and it also doesn’t include usage in that base rate of $45,” said Bonnie Moinet, Frisco’s finance director. “I can’t tell you how strongly I feel about the fact that we would at least have a steady flow of income. If we are successful at getting people to conserve water our revenues will go down. So it seems like we probably need some stability in our revenue stream, and this would certainly be one way of doing that.”
An ordinance outlining the proposed rate structure is expected to make its way to the town council sometime next month.
Courtesy Summit Daily

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Summit County approves the use of Class 1 e-bikes on the county rec path system

Summit Daily

Pedal-assisted e-bikes without a throttle and a max speed limit of 20 miles per hour will now be allowed on the county-managed rec path network. Summit County’s board of county commissioners opened up the recapth to Class 1 e-bikes during its regular meeting on Tuesday.
The decision is a year in the making, with commissioners and residents expressing initial concern about the safety and traffic impact the battery-powered bicycles would have on recpaths. Class I e-bikes have a small electrical motor powered by a battery which give a “boost” to pedaling that makes climbing hills and covering long distances easier to manage.
Those concerns were largely assuaged for the commissioners, who voted unanimously to remove Class 1 e-bikes from county regulations defining “motorized vehicles” banned from riding on recpaths. Class 2 and Class 3 e-bikes — which have a throttle increasing speed without the need for pedals and higher speed limits — are still considered motorized vehicles and banned on recpaths. 
Allowing e-bikes on the recpaths would align Summit County’s regulations with neighboring Vail and the state, which allow Class 1 and 2 e-bikes on bike, multi-use and pedestrian paths.
Colorado changed its law to allow Class 1 and 2 e-bikes in the same places regular bicycles are allowed back in 2017. However, the law allows for local jurisdictions like Summit to make their own e-bike regulations in accordance with community desires. 
After numerous public meetings, work sessions and staff reports, the commissioners agreed that it was safe and appropriate to allow Class 1 e-bikes on the recpaths. One of the concerns with allowing e-bikes on county recpaths was how to enforce regulations, but that task is made easier given Class 1 e-bikes don’t have a throttle.
“One of the positives of the Class 1 e-bike only approach is that it has to be pedaled,” Summit County Open Space and Trails resource specialist Michael Wurzel told the commissioners. “If you saw someone on flat stretch of recpath moving forward without pedaling, you know they are Class 2.”
Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence said she favored allowing e-bikes given what she had heard about how it may be a great commuter tool for Summit County residents. However, she and other commissioners noted that residents also voiced concern on making the high traffic volume on recpaths worse.
As it turns out, none of those resident complaints were heard Tuesday, as the only members of the public to comment on the new ordinance were a Breckenridge couple who supported it.
The ordinance goes into effect on county recpaths immediately, however, the towns are still working on their own ordinances.
On Tuesday evening, Breckenridge was to perform a second reading of its own e-bike ordinance meant to align its rules with the counties, while Wurzel said that the staffs of other towns have indicated they, too, will create regulations to align with the county’s. Wurzel said that when no town ordinance applies, regulations default to the state’s standards of allowing Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on multi-use paths.
The county will be working on an education campaign to inform residents and visitors of the new rule, and will perform outreach with local bike retailers and rental shops to encourage them to only rent or sell Class 1 e-bikes.
Courtesy Summit Daily

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Breckenridge aims to start building its own high-speed internet network soon

Getty Images

Breckenridge is pushing forward with an “aggressive” timeline for the installation of a town-owned, high-speed fiber network in hope of getting the first cables in the ground on May 22.
In October, Breckenridge Town Council approved spending $8 million on the first phase of construction for the “backbone” of a high-speed fiber network and some connections to the town’s businesses and residents. The budget allocation came after council supported a resolutionin September expressing the town’s intent to finance up to $25 million for the entire project.
As town staff continues working on the design and construction of the fiber network, they’re preparing for the coming launch of network operations and have even secured a partnership with a service provider. Meanwhile, the first phase of construction is set to begin this spring before pausing for the winter and picking up again next year. 
“We are really hoping to be in the ground on May 22, but that is a very tight timeline,” explained Shannon Haynes, assistant town manager. “We are hopeful we can make that happen, but it’s contractor and probably a little bit weather dependent.”
The planned construction of the fiber network will cover a portion of the Summit County Recpath going from the Justice Center on Airport Road up to Adams Avenue in Breckenridge. 
While the construction of the network should allow businesses and residents in the town core to start tapping into high-speed internet service as early as this year, it will also force a temporary closure of that piece of the recpath when the fiber is laid under existing streets and paved pathways in town.
The portion of recpath is expected to remain closed until roughly July 1 with Park Avenue and Airport Road being the likely detour while the recpath is tied up.
The town previously contracted with Foresite Group for a feasibility study and subsequent engineering work on the fiber network. Now, ALLO Communications has been selected to operate the network and provide service.
According to a memo produce by town staff, Breckenridge’s fiber will connect to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s fiber that’s being leased by Summit County. Once complete, the network — which will be called “Fiber9600” — is slated to become part of the larger network that will create a loop of fiber running along Interstate 70 from Denver up to the northwest corner of Colorado before going back to Denver through Steamboat Springs.
The memo says the county’s fiber lease will give Breckenridge’s network access to the fiber from I-70 south to Breckenridge, and Fiber9600 will connect to a “Meet Me Center” that’s going to be built by the Justice Center on Airport Road.
Breckenridge is also putting together promotional materials with Launch Advertising to help brand the network, in addition to producing other creative materials for marketing and community outreach purposes. A press conference is set for 4 p.m. on June 3 to announce the town’s partnership with ALLO Communications.
“We are very pleased so far with our selection and feel very comfortable with them,” said town manager Rick Holman, adding that ALLO has brought a certain “level of experience” of the table that’s really helped Breckenridge move forward with the fiber project.
ALLO was founded in Nebraska in 2003. The company has made recent headlines in Colorado after building a fiber network for Fort Morgan, a small city in northeastern Colorado with a heavy agrarian influence and a population barely over 11,000 people.
According to the company, ALLO also provides broadband, telephone and video services throughout a number of cities in Nebraska, including Lincoln, North Platte, Ogallala, Bridgeport, Scottsbluff, Gering, Hastings and Alliance.
“We’re not new at this,” said Brad Molina, founder and president, as he was introduced to town leaders earlier this month and said that ALLO has 550 employees and 65,000 customers in nine markets.
For Fiber9600, Breckenridge has dictated five “zones” scheduled to get fiber connections in the 2019 construction plan. Town staff would prefer to have the zones covering downtown and the recpath outside the Riverwalk Center done by July 1, though Haynes acknowledged that could be a tough task under such a tight timeframe.
If construction in the downtown area goes beyond July, the town could look to take a short hiatus to ease the strain around the Fourth of July holiday before starting up again when the region isn’t so busy.
Provided everything goes according to plans, customers could be signed up for service as early as this fall.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Piece of ‘Americana’ still exists in Summit County at Maryland Creek Ranch

Summit Daily
The hands and managers at Maryland Creek Ranch are watching their expecting mothers around the clock, as the historic cattle ranch in northern Silverthorne can’t afford to lose a single head.
Resting on roughly 1,200 acres along Highway 9 and Maryland Creek, the working ranch has buildings dating back to the 1800s on the property.
The ranch is just now coming out of the spring calving season, when the herd re-ups on its numbers by delivering anywhere from one to two dozen newborns, each representing an investment worth a few thousand dollars. 
Naturally, the calves are somewhat clumsy and unable to fend for themselves at such an early stage in life. They would make for a tasty, easy meal for predators such as coyotes and mountain lions.
“You see that AR-15 right there?” asked Leo Causland, who owns High Country Highlands at Maryland Creek Ranch and has a fold of uncommon cattle on the ranch. “That’s what that’s for. We’ve had issues with mountain lions, but we’ve never had to kill one.” 
The ranch resides on land owned by Tom Everest and the Everest family while the business aspects are managed by Causland and his partners — Mike Bohrer, Beau Nulik and Renei Bohrer — all of whom are longtime residents of Summit County.
Maryland Creek Ranch stands as one of only a few working ranches that is still breeding, raising and selling cattle as beef in the Blue River Valley. As a point of interest, Causland said the ranch actually has some of the longest-standing water rights in the state.
But it’s far more likely that the cows that grow up on the ranch sandwiched between a plush, residential neighborhood and a mining operation are going to draw the most attention.
That’s because one of the breeds the ranch specializes in — Scottish Highland cattle — is known for having wooly coats and exceptionally long horns. Because the cows’ hides make them look “fuzzy,” some might even think they’re cute, but the breed is rather unique among commercial outfits. 
“The knock on the Highlands is that it takes them a little bit longer to mature and get them to market, so our market is completely different than the Angus market,” Causland said.
But the Scottish Highlands also produce better beef products, he said, as he likened the breed of cattle to deer or elk, which rely on heavy fur coats — not fat — to stay warm throughout the winter in colder settings.
“They’re perfectly suited for this environment and that makes them really lean,” Causland said. “We come in 92% lean naturally, so we’re low in fat, low in cholesterol and high in all the good omegas because they’re grass-fed here on the ranch.”
No doubt, the ranch is targeting a niche market with its premium beef. It doesn’t sell for $5 a pound at local grocery stores, but is closer to $8.50 per pound and available at specific locations.
But “the beef is so much better than what you get at the store,” Causland said, adding that it’s produced without any growth hormones or animal byproducts and remains an all-natural product meant for consumers who care about the food they eat.
They have two herds at Maryland Creek Ranch, a fold of Scottish Highland cattle and another herd of a Simmental Angus cross.
The Scottish Highlands tend to be a little smaller than other breeds of cow and will weigh about 1,100-1,200 pounds once fully grown. They come in a variety of colors, and one of this spring’s newborns at the ranch is silver, something that Causland hasn’t seen in about a decade.
Causland’s cows have been displayed at the National Western Stock Show, and they all “have a really good life” at the ranch, he said while he handfed one of the heifers and combed her with a brush.
Reflecting on the business, Causland believes ranching remains an important piece of American history — “part of Americana” — but it’s one that’s slowly fading away with the tide pulling younger generations in different directions.
Perhaps it’s the nature of the business and all the hard work required that has left fewer people wanting to get into it, Causland guessed. Regardless, he said he hopes to keep raising the unique, fuzzy breed of Scottish Highlands at Maryland Creek Ranch for as long as he can.
For more information about Maryland Creek Ranch or the Scottish Highlands raised there, go to
Courtesy Summit Daily.