News for Saturday, June 9, 2012

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Powerful storms damage homes in Colo., Wyo.

A rare, quarter-mile-wide tornado cut a swath across mainly open country in southeastern Wyoming, ripping off roofs and shingles, destroying outbuildings and derailing empty train cars. The twister, which carried winds of up to 135 mph, was part of a powerful storm system that rolled through parts of Colorado and Wyoming on Thursday, packing heavy rains, high winds and hail. The storms followed a round of nasty late spring weather that pummeled the region. The tornado passed through a sparsely populated area near Wheatland, a small city about 70 miles north of Cheyenne. It left eight structures heavily damaged and caused lesser damage three structures, said Kelly Ruiz of the state's Office of Homeland Security. Some power lines also were downed. Only one person suffered minor injuries. Kim Eike said the tornado went right over her house, which was still standing, though battered. "We lost a camper, it blew out the windows in our house, blew off the shingles clear down to the plywood, but we didn't lose the roof," Eike, whose property is about 8 miles south of Wheatland, said Friday. Eike was watching the twister with co-workers at First State Bank in Wheatland when one pointed out it was near Eike's house. She said the pig barn and door from the main barn also were lost. No one was home at the time, she said, noting that a couple in another house in the area rode out the storm in their basement. Don Farrier, a Wheatland restaurateur, said his house about 6.5 miles from Wheatland was damaged and will need a new roof. He said he lost some trees, and a shed on his property was knocked down. Farrier was at his restaurant when he saw the tornado and decided to drive toward his home. "I stopped and watched it for a while," he said. "It sure wasn't moving very fast, but you could tell it was a big tornado for this part of the country."

3 bodies found in single day in La Plata County

La Plata County sheriff's officials are investigating the deaths of three people whose bodies were found on the same day. Sheriff's deputies investigating a report of suspicious circumstances Friday at a home near the New Mexico border on Colorado Highway 140 found a man's body hanging in a barn in what initially appeared to be a possible suicide. While checking the rest of the property, they found a foot protruding from freshly dug dirt near a riverbank and recovered another man's body. Using information found at the home, sheriff's officials asked police to check on a woman at a home in Durango. Officers found a woman's body there. Investigators wouldn't release other details but say they do not believe there is a suspect at large.

Lindsay Lohan OK after wreck on coastal highway

Lindsay Lohan emerged uninjured from a collision with a dump truck on a coastal highway near Los Angeles on Friday, returning to the set of her new movie hours after the accident left the sports car she was driving crumpled. Santa Monica Police Sgt. Richard Lewis said there was no sign Lohan was driving while impaired and that his agency would continue to investigate who was at fault in the wreck. The truck's driver was uninjured and that driver also showed no signs of driving under the influence, Lewis said. "We're treating this as a regular accident," Lewis said. The accident at around 11:40 a.m. Friday on the Pacific Coast Highway occurred while Lohan was on her way to film scenes for the Lifetime movie "Liz and Dick," which chronicles the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Lohan's publicist Steve Honig said the actress was released about two hours after the accident and was returned to the set to continue filming. "Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the accident," he wrote in an email. Lohan was driving with her assistant, who police said was not seriously injured. "First and foremost, we're concerned about the well-being of Lindsay and anyone else who may have been involved in the accident," Lifetime spokesman Les Eisner said, adding, "Lindsay has been doing fantastic work on the set of 'Liz and Dick.'"

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Moffat County School District reading scores edge upward

The Moffat County School District is seeing gains in third-grade reading scores on the state’s standardized test. According to preliminary data the Colorado Department of Education released last month, 68 percent of the school district’s third-graders, on average, scored proficient and advanced on the Transitional Colorado Assessment Program test. That’s a 4-percent gain from last year’s Colorado Student Assessment Program results. Assistant Superintendent Brent Curtice lauded the students’ performance. “I’m pleased with our third-grade class,” he said. “I’m very pleased. I think they’ve done very well as compared to the third-grade classes before them, as the data represents. “They have a lot of work to go, but we all do.” Launched this year, TCAP is a temporary test “designed to support school districts as they transition to the new Colorado Academic Standards,” the Department of Education reported in a news release. School districts are scheduled to receive official third-grade TCAP reading scores, along with results from all other test areas, in mid-July, said Jo O’Brien, Colorado Department of Education assistant commissioner. Curtice cited Sandrock Elementary School’s scores as a high point. Preliminary results show 71 percent of the school’s third-graders scored proficient and advanced on the reading test, compared to 45 percent in 2010. Sandrock Elementary Principal Kamisha Siminoe was not available for comment Friday. Scores at Sunset and Ridgeview elementary schools were similar, with 74 and 70 percent of students scoring proficient and advanced, respectively. Data was unavailable for Maybell Elementary School. East Elementary School was the sole outlier, with 58 percent of its students scoring proficient or better on the test. That figure falls in line with the school’s third-grade reading score during the past several years. “We’re not happy with our scores,” East Elementary Principal Sarah Hepworth said. “We’re glad they didn’t go down … but we anticipate that they’ll get better because we’re getting better at analyzing the data."

Listen to a veteran — it shows respect

Despite 10 years of continual conflict, the American people apparently are divorced from reality when it comes to those in uniform. The diminishing number of bumper stickers supporting troops does not tell the full story. These and the familiar refrain, “Thank you for your service,” reflect nice gestures, but mask a larger disconnect between defenders and the defended. A survey released by the Pew Research Center in October 2011 shows this beyond a doubt. An astounding 75 percent of Americans believe it's not unfair for the all-volunteer Armed Forces to assume virtually the complete burden of combating Islamic terrorism. After all, said those polled, it's “just part of being in the military.” In other words, the public is perfectly content to let a fraction of a percent of the population shoulder full responsibility for its safety. Members of the military have been all too aware of such sentiments for a long time. Despite the conventional wisdom about what younger veterans supposedly want, there is every indication that they, too, want to share their stories. Invite them to a Veterans of Foreign Wars Post or American Legion event and listen. It shows respect. Provide whatever help you can in our community to those in need. Make sure the disconnect between the public and the veteran does not include the VFW or American Legion. My next article will include facts about American veterans, research programs and information about the Veterans Retraining Assistance Program. New programs available to veterans New programs have recently been implemented for: • Veterans who may qualify for additional education benefits. • Unemployed veterans with a serviced-connected disability who may qualify for additional vocational rehabilitation and employment benefits. • Businesses that hire veterans and may earn tax credits. • Special employers that qualify for incentives. I have information on these programs in my office. Come in and I can give you all the information on any of these programs.

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Parks and Rec director turned passion for outdoors into a career

Dave Pike doesn’t fit the profile of a button-down public official. His skin is tanned to dark bronze, and a baseball cap and sunglasses look as natural on him as a collared shirt and tie would on his colleagues in other Craig City Hall offices. What Pike does for a living doesn’t jive with the popular notion of municipal government, either. City council meetings and budget season factor into his work, but they aren’t what his department is all about. “Everyone says we’re the Fun Department,” the Parks and Recreation director said Friday morning. He’s coached every sports program the department offers — basketball, football, soccer and T-ball are just a sampling — and he’s not shy about officiating if he’s shorthanded, he said. “Whether it’s kids learning to swim or the first time that they get up and get a base hit in baseball … it’s kind of rewarding to know that you were part of that process,” said Pike, 55. He landed in the Parks and Recreation director’s chair after taking a detour that required a uniform and a firm hand. As a newly minted Colorado State University graduate with a degree in outdoor recreation and park administration, he tried being a park ranger at Steamboat Lake State Park. But, as Pike would realize, he wasn’t cut out to be an enforcer. He wasn’t keen on the idea of “writing tickets when people were having fun,” he said. He found his niche in municipal government, taking a job at the Fort Collins Parks and Recreation Department and later landing the director’s role in the Monte Vista Parks and Recreation Department. His career in the field now 28 years and counting, he said, Not long after his arrival in Craig in 1996, he stumbled upon what would likely be a crown jewel in his career. It began with a problem. Trees that had graced what was then known as Craig City Park were dying and posing a hazard to park-goers, he said.

School district budgets for $200K in deficit spending for FY 2013

With enrollment expected to inch downward and state funding still bleak, the Moffat County School District is budgeting to be $200,000 in the red for fiscal year 2013. The school district slashed spending by more than $2.5 million since fiscal year 2011 and hasn’t purchased textbooks or curriculum supplies in two years, Finance Director Mark Rydberg told Moffat County School Board members during a special meeting Thursday. A possible increase in specific ownership tax revenue and future mineral lease royalties could add to school district coffers. But Rydberg didn’t encourage being overly optimistic Thursday as board members conducted a public hearing on the proposed budget. “We’re not out of the woods,” he said. A dwindling student count, coupled with reduced state funding, were the major players in the budgeted $200,000 deficit. Districts receive state money based on a formula that multiples student enrollment by the amount the state pays per pupil. Moffat County’s enrollment continues to decline, and it’s expected to drop by 3 percent in the 2013 fiscal year alone, according to school district budget documents. The negative factor — or the difference between what the state should be paying districts per school finance laws and what it can afford to pay them — also continues to pummel the district’s bottom line. Colorado legislators passed an amendment in 2011 allowing for the negative factor when the state can’t afford to pay its mandated share for K-12 education. The school board will appropriate the school district’s reserves when it adopts the budget June 28, so it won’t be required to pass a budget amendment if it dips into rainy-day funds. Budgeting a deficit was a choice to “support our teachers” and other staff members, Superintendent Joe Petrone said.

Fire training facility to be built on site near Kmart

Craig Rural Fire Protection District officials are in the process of developing plans to build a live fire training simulator on an alternate site near Kmart. Dave Costa, Craig building inspector, said Friday he received a visit from Todd Ficken, of Niwot-based F&D International, LLC, to withdraw the fire department’s application for a building permit on land near Colorado Northwestern Community College and The Memorial Hospital in Craig. F&D International is an architectural and engineering firm and Ficken is serving as project manager for the training tower, which is estimated to cost $1.5 million. “(The fire department’s) engineer was in my office this morning expressing his disappointment that they didn’t get the land transfer at the CNCC subdivision,” Costa said Friday. “(Ficken) indicated to me that he will be submitting a new site plan specific to the land the (fire department) owns on Industrial Avenue on the backside of Kmart.” The decision to move locations was made following Thursday’s CNCC Board meeting, when college officials were expected to vote on a land transfer resolution between CNCC and the fire district. But, the issue never got to a vote. “I’ve never had a situation where we didn’t have a vote because of a lack of a second (to a motion),” CNCC Board Chairman Jim Loughran said. “I think it’s dead, but I’m not sure. “There’s always the potential to bring it up again, but it’s dead. Right now, I would say it’s not going to happen. It’s in (the fire board’s) hands. We’re not going to contact them.” Byron Willems, fire board president, said Friday fire officials do not plan to approach CNCC about a land transfer for the live fire simulator again in the future. “We appreciate their offer of the land, but it’s a little bit of a disappointment that we spent two years working on the project on land that was offered,” Willems said. “I’m sure (the board’s decision) had a lot to do with public pressure. “We’re committed as a fire board to provide the best training for our firemen. We’re moving forward, we’re not looking back.” Fire officials had touted the construction of a live fire simulator on CNCC land as phase one of what would become a second fire station. Willems said the fire board’s long-term vision of building a second station is on hold for now. “It’s not ideal, but it will work,” Willems said. “It’s definitely not ideal for Station 2, not that I am advocating it is in our immediate future, but for our board the focus is the training center.” Willems said some CNCC Board members voiced an interest in discussing a future land transfer agreement for a second fire station in Craig because of the close proximity to the campus and hospital, but other college officials believe future talks are unlikely.

Briefs for June 9: Wild West Weekend today

Wild West Weekend takes place today at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. An old-fashioned barbecue is scheduled for 5 p.m. The meal costs $12 per person, and children younger than 5 eat free. Bronc riding and sheep hooking events take place at 6 p.m. Admission costs $5 per person, and children younger than 5 enter for free. A dance takes place from 9 p.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday and features music provided by Train Wreck, a group from Baggs, Wyo. The event costs $5 per person and $8 for couples. Event passes can be purchased in advance for $15 and are available at Wyman Museum, 94350 E. U.S. Highway 40; Murdoch’s Ranch & Home parking lot, 2355 W. Victory Way; and the Craig Chamber of Commerce, 360 E. Victory Way. Event passes cost $18 at the gate. A portion of event proceeds go to FFA Alumni and Wyman Museum. For more information, call Glenda at 824-8621 or visit www.visitmoffatcounty.com/wild_west_weekend. Adopt-a-thon set for today “Second-chance Saturday,” a discount adopt-a-thon, takes place from 9 a.m. to noon today at Bear Creek Animal Hospital/Craig Animal Shelter, 2430 E. Victory Way. All shelter animals are $60 to adopt. The regular price is $115. The cost includes spay and neuter operations, vaccinations and feline leukemia tests. For more information, call Ann at 620-2014. Pioneer Picnic slated for Sunday in Steamboat Springs The Routt County Pioneer Picnic is scheduled for Sunday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center. Registration begins at 12:30 p.m. Beef and drinks are provided.

Letter: CNCC board made the right decision

To the editor: There is conscience and reality in Craig after all. Big congratulations to the Colorado Northwestern Community College Board for not granting the land to the fire district's out-of-bounds plan. Thank you for actually listening to the citizens that you represent. Kathy Shea

Sports Briefs for June 9: MCHS girls basketball to host games Tuesday in Craig

The Moffat County High School girls basketball team is playing a total of 34 games this summer, and will host a mini-tournament of sorts at MCHS next week. Head coach Matt Ray said the tournament is a means of getting players on the court in game situations. The Bulldogs will be facing all local competition from Hayden High School, Little Snake River Valley High School in Baggs, Wyo., and Steamboat Springs High School. The Bulldogs basketball team is moving down from Class 4A to 3A this season and Ray wants to get as much work as possible in during June and July before volleyball season begins and some players are unavailable. The team is playing all over Northwest Colorado this summer. Legacy High School player named Gatorade Softball Player of the Year Rainey Gaffin was named the 2011-12 Gatorade Colorado Softball Player of the Year by Gatorade and ESPNHS on June 6. It was her second straight year winning the award. Gaffin, a senior pitcher from Legacy High School in Broomfield, led her team to its fifth consecutive Class 5A state championship this season. On the mound, she posted a 22-2 record with a 1.74 earned run average. She also batted .591 with 15 home runs and 48 RBI. Gaffin has won several awards this season. She garnered MVP honors at the Class 5A state tournament, was a First Team All-State selection and was named All-Colorado Player of the Year by The Denver Post. Gaffin earned a 3.37 GPA and helped create a reading program for local elementary school children in her area.

Government Update for June 9: Moffat County Commission meeting

When: 8:30 a.m. Tuesday Where: Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way Agenda: • 8:30 to 8:35 a.m. Call to order, Pledge of Allegiance, moment of silence • 8:35 to 8:45 a.m. Consent agenda: — Review and sign the following documents: resolution appointing members to the northwest regional workforce board; contract with Soilogic for 2012 asphalt projects; contract with D’NT Electric for the electrical work for the replacement rooftop unit at the Moffat County Public Safety Center; library participation form for Across Colorado Digital Consortium; Board of Assessment Appeals stipulation for Highway 13 Lodging, LLC; county-wide fire ban resolution; state public health contract • 8:45 to 9 a.m. General discussion: — Note commissioners may discuss any topic relevant to county business whether or not the topic has been specifically noted on the agenda • 9 to 9:15 a.m. Discussion with Roy Tipton, of developmental services — Request waiving the bid process for engineering services for improvements to Colorado Highway 317 — Present contract with Civil Design Consultants for approval

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Local horse racing aficionado reacts to Belmont news, recalls past local races

The Belmont Stakes run today, but I’ll Have Another will not be racing for a Triple Crown, and will not ever race again. The Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner was the 4-5 favorite to win the Belmont and complete the first Triple Crown in thoroughbred racing since 1978, but the horse’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, confirmed the horse would not be racing due to a “little problem with his left front leg,” on the Dan Patrick radio show. The late scratch came as a disappointment to members of the horse racing community in Craig. “That’s a kick in the side of the head to horse racing,” Craig resident Pete Pleasant said. “Having a horse going for the Triple Crown creates a lot of interest, especially among the media, which creates more interest among the general public. “The TV audience is going to go down and the Las Vegas bookies are going to be disappointed. I would think a lot less money will be bet on that race now.” He added, however, “Those things happen. Those horses are fragile.” Pleasant has been in the area all his life, and was heavily involved in horse racing when it came to Craig in the 1960s. During that era, the state of Colorado organized the Colorado Fair Circuit Racing Association, which sent horses, jockeys and trainers around the state each year starting in May, according to Pleasant. The traveling racers would start in Southeastern Colorado and make their way to cities all over the state, eventually coming through Craig for a few weeks each summer. Races took place at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. Pleasant recalls the first year for racing taking place in the late 60s, and said he was the track announcer that summer. In the following years, he was a member of the local committee which organized the event, found race sponsors and put together programs for each weekend. According to Pleasant, the first day of racing in Craig only took in about $8,000 in bets, but it continued to grow and was regularly boasting numbers from $75,000-$90,000 in bets on a given day. The horse racing weekends in Craig became big enough for restaurants in Steamboat Springs to charter buses to Craig after breakfast on race days, he said.

Editorial: Justice for the peace

Heinous. Vulgar. Predatory. Pick any adjective with the worst connotation, and it still wouldn’t aptly describe the atrocities outlined in court documents concerning the child pornography case against a 39-year-old Craig man. The man, whose name is being withheld until after his Aug. 7 sentencing, was arrested in December 2011. He recently agreed to a plea deal with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office to possession of sexually exploitative material, a Class 3 felony; possession of child pornography, a Class 4 felony; and solicitation to commit sexual assault on a child by someone in a position of trust, also a Class 4 felony. Some of the court documents from early on in the case were enough to make a person’s skin crawl. Luckily this wolf in sheep’s clothing won’t be in a position to reoffend for some time: he will most likely be sent to prison for 12 years and then face a probationary period of anywhere from 5 years to life. Inevitably, this man has family and for them the editorial board offers its condolences. However, the board’s sympathies end there. Our community is a safer place today because the offender is off the streets and behind bars. Our state is, too, and given the man’s crimes extended to cyberspace, it’s easy to believe the world is better with him stripped of his freedom. There is a child out there today, or children, who won’t be exploited, or at least not by him.