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Ben McCanna

Stories by Ben

'El Diablo es aqui': A firsthand account of NYC on Sept. 11, 2001

For a few minutes on Sept. 11, 2001, I hid. When the second plane struck the World Trade Center, I walked to the nearest bathroom in the Time-Life Building in midtown Manhattan and sat in a toilet stall. In a nearby office, my co-workers continued watching the news unfold on television, but I simply hid. I sat in a trembling heap and silently wondered how many other planes would fall. Twenty? Thirty? More?

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Forest for the trees

Father-daughter hunting team gear-up for a special season

Eight-year-old Tiana Nichols had an early introduction to hunting. Very early. “Four days after she was born, I took her up to where my tree stand was,” father Gary Nichols says. “That kind of gives you an idea.” Gary, 56, is a deputy sheriff with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office. He hunts exclusively with a recurve bow and has been hunting in the area since 1989. He’s involved his daughter in hunts as much as possible since her birth in September 2002.

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Practice makes perfect

NW Colo. home to numerous talented taxidermists

You’re in good hands if you’re looking to preserve your animal in Craig. The town’s taxidermists are in a league of their own, head and shoulders above those found elsewhere in the field. Want proof? In early June, two local taxidermists accomplished something that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Scott Moore and Leland Reinier submitted a collaborative piece to a taxidermy competition and won.

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The Curious Case of Richard Kendall

Craig resident’s trophy bear kill erupts into statewide controversy

It was a shot that reverberated around the state and beyond. In November 2010, Craig resident Richard Kendall crawled to the mouth of a dark cave with a .45-70 caliber lever-action rifle. Inside lurked a 703-pound male black bear. Adrenaline pumping, Kendall glimpsed into the cave with a flashlight and briefly made eye contact with the animal.

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Meeker resident hosts 4th annual Cowboy Church at Moffat County Fair

Fred Ellis stood Sunday morning before a small crowd at the Moffat County Fairgrounds and preached what he believes to be the Word of God. During an hour-long ceremony, Ellis touched on subjects ranging from Genesis, Revelations and horses. The last topic is understandable. Ellis is, after all, a cowboy.

Funeral service in Hayden honors former police officer

A line of men and women stood quietly Saturday afternoon under a light rain, each waiting patiently for a chance to sign the guestbook and enter Hayden Congregational Church. Once inside, an usher directed visitors past a collection of family photographs, rows of crowded pews, and into a back room set up to handle crowd overflow. A big screen television would display live video of the upcoming service, and seats had been arranged in long rows.

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Results of Moffat County CSAP tests made available by CDE

Brent Curtice, assistant superintendent for Moffat County School District, said the results of the 2011 Colorado Student Assessment Program are mixed. “We had some really bright spots, and we had some spots that weren’t so bright,” he said. “We want to take an in-depth look at our achievement and make sure we’re doing the best we can for kids.”

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City of Craig considering Sandrock upgrades

Dave Pike, Craig Parks and Recreation director, strolled Thursday along a dusty, cactus-bordered trail. The Sandrocks loomed above his head. “This is city property along here,” Pike said. “This is what’s called Panorama Park.”

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CNCC to host ribbon cutting, open house Monday in Craig

Gene Bilodeau is hoping for a strong public turnout for Colorado Northwestern Community College’s upcoming open house. “The more, the merrier,” the vice president of administration said. “It’s the community’s college. And, the more of the community that can come and appreciate it, the better.” CNCC officials will cut a ribbon to signal the opening of the college’s new facilities at noon Monday at 2801 W. Ninth St. The event will include guided tours of the facility and light refreshments.

Fatal collision claims former Hayden police officer

One person was killed and another seriously injured in a head-on collision Friday night that closed both lanes of U.S. Highway 40 east of Craig. Trooper Nate Reid from the Colorado State Patrol public affairs office said a black 2006 Mercedes Benz driven by Hayden resident Joshua Ward, 20, attempted to pass in a no-passing zone near mile marker 95 on U.S. Highway 40.

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Wyman Museum hosts Moffat County Mud Runs

Tim Meyer, organizer of the 2011 Moffat County Mud Runs, said 55 drivers competed in the muck and the mud Saturday at Wyman Museum in Craig. About 200 spectators watched drivers plow through two parallel 130-foot mud pits. The pits were manmade, and filled with water pumped from a nearby pond.

Moffat officials react to oil and gas appointments

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced Friday six new appointees to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. And, at least one local government official contends the governor got it right. Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he was “impressed” by the picks.

Fatal collision claims former Hayden police officer

One person was killed and another seriously injured in a head-on collision Friday night that closed both lanes of U.S. Highway 40. Trooper Nate Reid from the Colorado State Patrol public affairs office said a black 2006 Mercedes Benz driven by Hayden resident Joshua Ward, 20, attempted to pass in a no-passing zone near mile marker 95 on U.S. Highway 40.

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Gov. Hickenlooper touts economic development during Hayden appearance

Gov. John Hickenlooper said Colorado is known for its mountains, reliable sunshine and enviable outdoor lifestyle. “But, it’s also a place of innovation,” the governor said. Hickenlooper’s statement served as the crux for a Friday gathering at Yampa Valley Feeds in Hayden.

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Moffat County School District among 119 plaintiffs in school funding trial

Lobato v. Colorado, a court case filed nearly six years ago, is slated for trial Monday in Denver District Court. The Moffat County School District is one of 119 plaintiffs in the case. Children’s Voices, a Colorado-based nonprofit law firm that is handling the case, contends the Colorado school finance system is unconstitutional. Under the state constitution, students have a right to a “thorough and uniform” public education system.

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Craig Police Department releases results of community survey

Walt Vanatta said public perception of the Craig Police Department is less favorable than in years past, but only marginally. On Tuesday, during the regular meeting of Craig City Council, Vanatta shared an overview of the 2011 Craig Police Department Community Survey. The multiple-choice survey – which asked Craig residents to rate police performance, satisfaction with the community and more – was randomly distributed earlier this year to 604 residents; 152 surveys were returned. Similar surveys have been distributed in Craig twice before – in 2006 and 2001.

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Craig Fire/Rescue responds to blaze at Tri-State

No one was injured Wednesday during a fire that shut down Unit 2 at Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station. Craig Fire/Rescue Battalion Chief Dennis Jones said 15 to 20 firefighters responded to the fire, which took place within a large air duct. By the time firefighters were assembled and ready, however, the fire had been suffocated, Jones said. “The fire was out by the time we made all of our arrangements to make sure we were safe,” he said. “We basically investigated.”

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TMH names new chief nursing officer

Lorraine Reinhardt said The Memorial Hospital is a well-run organization. “The care that’s being given is good,” she said. “I’m just here to add some more to that.” On Monday, Reinhardt assumed her new position as chief nursing officer at TMH.

Chicken issue generates squabbles at Craig City Council meeting

Before Jeremy Looper addressed Craig City Council, some adjustments had to be made to the microphone. Looper, an 11-year-old Craig resident and member of Boy Scouts Troop No. 172, could barely see over the podium. After some deliberation, City Manager Jim Ferree decided to hold the microphone so Looper could be heard. Looper attended the council’s regular Tuesday meeting to discuss the ordinance that prohibits chickens within city limits. Several members of the audience spoke for and against chickens, and the council weighed in on the issue, too.

Moffat County School District seeks to fine-tune collaborative time in coming year

Joe Petrone, Moffat County School District superintendent, said collaborative time is here to stay in local schools. “We’re going to have collab time available to teachers because we can’t afford not to,” he said. It’s been nearly a year since the district implemented collaborative time in elementary schools for the 2010-11 school year.

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State capitol to coal capital

State officials tour Craig energy industries, discuss workforce with local leaders

Good workers are hard to find. It’s an adage perhaps as old as business itself. But, it’s a notion the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment seeks to improve. For the past several months, department representatives have been traveling the state, meeting with employers, and listening to variations on that time-honored theme. On Wednesday, a delegation of state officials visited Craig. The visit included tours of Tri-State Generation & Transmission’s Craig Station and Trapper Mine, Inc., as well as an education session.

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Colorado curators critique Craig creations

Not all news is bad in this economy. Gene Bilodeau, vice president of administration for Colorado Northwestern Community College, said the economic downturn meant the bid for constructing the new campus in Craig was lower than expected. And, some of those leftover funds can now go toward purchasing art for the school’s gleaming new hallways and spaces, which will open in early August. “We want to be a part of exposing the community and the students to life that is more than just reading and writing,” Bilodeau said. “Art allows us to understand differences – to understand cultures,” he said.

Social services temp workers approved

Marie Peer, director of the Moffat County Social Services Department, sat Tuesday before the Moffat County Commission and asked for more help. The department needs occasional help to unload, stock and distribute food items bound for area residents in need. The commission approved, 3-0, Peer’s request to hire temporary workers through Flint Personnel — a local temp agency — in Craig.

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TMH executive and deputy coroner, reflects on her commitment to lifelong learning

Years before Beka Warren was born, her family arrived in America with a dream. Chasing that dream meant sacrifices.

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Local nonprofit rolls out Cavity-Free at Three program

Ashley Moon wants to see bright smiles in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties. Moon, a recent graduate from the dental hygiene program at Colorado Northwestern Community College in Rangely, has been chosen to lead a local effort by Denver-based nonprofit organization Cavity-Free at Three.

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Craig Chamber of Commerce celebrates 65th anniversary

On Oct. 16, 1946, The Craig Empire-Courier published a five-paragraph story on its front page chronicling the beginning of a community icon — the Craig Chamber of Commerce. The story said the officers of the newly formed organization met for dinner in the banquet room of the Cosgriff Hotel. Afterward, the “business of the club was discussed until eleven o’clock.”

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New president takes over for Craig Lions Club

Al Shepherd, former president of the Craig Lions Club, said he isn’t sad about stepping down from his post. “Oh, no,” he said. “I’m the treasurer this year, so I’m not really out of it.”

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New president takes over for Craig Lions Club

Al Shepherd, former president of the Craig Lions Club, said he isn’t sad about stepping down from his post. “Oh, no,” he said. “I’m the treasurer this year, so I’m not really out of it.” On July 1, Craig resident Donna Johnson assumed the position. Johnson relocated to Craig from Granby with her husband in July 2010. She owns and operates Technical Support Services, a business that provides safety classes in first-aid and CPR. She is also vice president of the Women’s Auxiliary at the Mark Anthony Evans-Lawton American Legion Post 62.

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Moffat, Craig officials react to conference relocation

Craig City Council member Don Jones expressed concern Tuesday night. “Probably 90 percent of the coal miners live in Hayden, Craig or Meeker,” Jones said. “Nobody lives in Steamboat.” Jones was reacting to a presentation to the council by event planner Gena Hinkemeyer.

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Craig Chamber event a celebration of upcoming anniversary

Plans are underway for the annual Craig Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors Business After-Hours Mixer, but this year won’t be like others, Chamber employee Shannon Russell said. “This year is a little bit special,” she said. “We remodeled — new carpet, new cabinets, new paint and some fun things like that. “And, we’re celebrating our 65th anniversary this year.”

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Moffat County nonprofit group providing assistance to new parents

Katie Grobe, director of the Yampa Valley Pregnancy Center, said she wants to get word out about her organization. “A lot of people don’t know about us and what we offer,” she said. “There are some misconceptions out there that all we offer are pregnancy tests. A lot of people don’t realize that we have a practical needs bank. “We have a lot of food. We’ve got formula, we’ve got baby tubs, we’ve got everything.

Regional coal conference shifts to Steamboat Springs

Next month, the Colorado Coal Power Generation Conference will kick off in an location different than originally planned. The semi-annual conference, which in the past has been hosted in Craig, will take place Aug. 23 through 25 at Sheraton Steamboat Resort in Steamboat Springs. Event planner Gena Hinkemeyer, a Craig resident, said this year’s event was originally scheduled for May at the Moffat County Pavilion, but was postponed due to difficulties booking speakers.

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TMH chief executive officer recognized for bolstering revenue

In March 2006, when George Rohrich assumed the chief executive officer position at The Memorial Hospital in Craig, the organization was in the midst of a rough patch. “The weekend before I started … we had a physician, I believe it was the chief of staff at the time, camping out on the hospital lawn in the snow,” Rohrich recalled. On the new CEO’s third day, during the TMH monthly board meeting, that same physician aired a litany of accusations against the hospital, its board members and staff.

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Twentymile team sets sights on Utah rival

Colorado Mine Rescue Contest slated to begin July 19 in Craig

Mark Beauchamp said the Craig community can expect a small boom in business next week. “We’re bringing in 250 people who will be eating out three meals a day and staying in hotel rooms and buying gas,” he said. “That’s a pretty good little stimulus for the week.” Beginning July 19, 20 teams from the Western states will converge on Craig for the Colorado Mine Rescue Contest, a three-day event. Beauchamp, who serves as team trainer for Twentymile Coal Co., said the event isn’t for everyone.

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A calling followed: Volunteers, cyclists pitch in during cross-country trip

Laura Larson spent most of Wednesday morning scooping piles of fallen branches from a weedy lawn and into a trailer. The yard work, she said, is her ticket across the country. “I love cycling,” Larson said. “I’ve always dreamt of riding across the country on my bike. This is one way to do it, and also do something for society.”

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MCHS student picked for state meth awareness council

Nicole Ferree, an incoming Moffat County High School sophomore, said methamphetamine use is on the rise in Colorado. But, she and 14 other students from around the state are stepping up to do something about it. During the last school year, Ferree was accepted to the Colorado Meth Project’s Teen Advisory Council.

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Weather makes for unusual summer in Yampa Valley

Summer solstice occurred two weeks ago, but Colorado hasn’t responded accordingly. Ron DellaCroce, Yampa River State Park manager, said it’s been an unusual season. “We’re really about a month behind this year,” he said.

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Moffat County greenhouse project receives USDA grant for feasibility study

Marilynn Hill said she has a vision for something big in Moffat County. “There are lots of people that are reaching and wanting something different … something they can support their families with,” she said. “I think this is a project that can do that.” The project is Planet Yampa, a large-scale hydroponic greenhouse complex that could potentially produce mass amounts of fruits and vegetables, manufacture food products, and create 600 new jobs.

Parents weighing option for students at Sandrock Elementary

The parents of Sandrock Elementary School students have a month to make a choice. They have the option to continue their children with the elementary school, or transfer them to another school in the district. Michelle Powers, mother of a fifth-grader, said she’s unsure of what choice her family will make.

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Owner: Craig pawn shop a unique and needed business

Years ago, when Jeff Knights was a deputy sheriff with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, he’d visit the Northwest Pawn Shop to talk with then-owner Otis Fleetwood. “We’d get a theft or burglary or something, and it was just standard procedure to stop in there and say, ‘Hey, keep your eyes open. If something comes up, let us know,’” Knights recalled. Today, Knights is on the other side of the counter. He has owned the shop, 801 E. Victory Way, for six years.

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Fourth of July festivities lined out for holiday weekend in Craig

Johnny Garcia is beginning something new in Craig. This year, the newly elected junior vice commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, is throwing a Fourth of July parade. “This is the first year ever — since I‘ve lived here, since 1963 — that a Fourth of July parade is going on here,” Garcia said. “I really don’t have any idea as to why nobody has done this before. I am hoping this catches on and gets bigger.”

Craig City Council praises changes at Whittle the Wood

Toward the end of Tuesday’s city council meeting, the individual councilors took time during their reports to praise this year’s major changes to the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, which was held earlier this month. Those changes included: prohibiting event-goers from bringing their own alcohol and selling beer and cocktails onsite; and rearranging the layout of artists so they appeared in a single row. Councilor Joe Bird said the decision to manage alcohol consumption was balanced and wise.

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Moffat County Commission approves safety center sublease

The Moffat County Commission approved, 3-0, a final sublease agreement today regarding the Craig Police Department’s use of the Moffat County Public Safety Center. The two-year sublease calls for the City of Craig to pay $60,000 rent per year to the county to continue occupancy. The sum includes the cost of all utilities except telephone.

Craig man remains in critical condition following motocross crash

As of Tuesday afternoon, Craig resident Steven Sharp was still listed in critical condition at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. Hospital spokesperson Deborah Dawes said federal patient privacy laws prevent her from releasing any more information on Sharp’s condition.

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2nd event at Thunder Ridge hampered by low attendance, injury

Under a hot June sun, motocross racers gunned their engines Sunday and kicked up dust at Thunder Ridge Motor Sports Park south of Craig. While the buzz of dirt bikes filled the air, the scene in the stands was mostly quiet. Less than 10 spectators showed up to watch a handful of racers compete at the new track’s second event. Owner Gregg Kolbaba said attendance was lackluster.

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Sunset Elementary students in Craig ship supplies to Solomon Islands

At the beginning of the 2010-11 school year, students in Sheryl Spears’ first-grade class had an eye-opening experience. Sunset Elementary School was paired with Chukopi Primary School in the Solomon Islands, Spears said. “They learned a lot about other cultures,” she said of her students. “They were just kind of shocked. Knowing that (Chukopi students) only had one computer for their village, as opposed to us having five in our classroom. They just kind of stopped. Their mouths dropped.”

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Craig business earns national recognition

Brother’s Custom Processing, Inc., a Craig business, is somewhat off the beaten path. The unassuming processing shop and retail store is located midway down East First Street amid dusty breezes, tightly packed sagebrush and the random signs of industry. It’s an unlikely location for winners of a national competition.

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Student campaign credited for helping lower MCHS dropout rate

In May, 135 Moffat County High School students donned cap and gown and graduated. That number could have been higher, but four students dropped out. MCHS Principal Thom Schnellinger said it’s a tragedy when any student drops out of high school. However, when considering numbers, statistics and trends, four dropouts is an improvement over previous years. “We’ve reduced the dropout rate from year to year, for sure,” Schnellinger said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”

Moffat County School District interested in SB 10-191 pilot program

It’s possible the Moffat County School District will be a testing ground for Colorado Senate Bill 10-191 beginning in August. SB 10-191, also known as the “Great Teacher and Leaders Bill,” or the “Educator Effectiveness Bill,” was signed into law in May 2010 by then-governor Bill Ritter. Although the bill was signed more than a year ago, it won’t go into full effect until 2015.

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Hair or there: Best hairstylist brings worldly style to local salon

Kelsey Bauman had plans to become a physical therapist, but a key part of the job didn’t appeal to her. “I decided that I wanted to make people feel better not put them in pain,” she said. The decision to choose another line of work has paid off. Bauman won best hairstylist in the Craig Daily Press’ 2011 Best of Moffat County contest.