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Ben McCanna

Stories by Ben

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Body and soul: Moffat County’s best nurse tends to patients’ physical, emotional well-being

If you’re a patient under the care of nurse Dave Higgins, it’s a safe bet you’re probably going through a rough patch. Higgins, 48, is the clinical lead in the emergency department at The Memorial Hospital in Craig. He also oversees the hospital’s new infusion clinic for chemotherapy patients. This year, Higgins was named best nurse in Moffat County in the Craig Daily Press’ 2011 Best of Moffat County contest.

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Humble health care: Dr. Dennis Kinder earns title of county’s best physician

Dr. Dennis Kinder offered a practical explanation on why he was named Moffat County’s best physician. “I’ve been working here for quite a while now, and I have a fair population of patients,” Kinder said. It’s an appropriately modest response from the humble internist. While it may be true that Kinder has grown his list of patients over the years, his response overlooks the compassionate and good-humored care Kinder is known for.

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City decides placement of new Whittle the Wood sculptures throughout Craig

Dave Pike, Craig Parks and Recreation director, said the finished works from this year’s Whittle the Wood Rendezvous have been removed from Craig City Park, delivered to new locations, and will be permanently installed within the next few weeks. Typically, the carvings would stay at City Park for a longer duration, but two factors intervened, Pike said. First, the wood used at this year’s event — beetle-kill pine — is prone to cracking. Second, many of this year’s works were delicately carved by artists.

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American Legion Post 62 in Craig elects new commander

Longtime post leader stepping down after lengthy tenure in position

Mel Shockley has served as commander of the Mark Anthony Evans-Lawton American Legion Post 62 for the better part of a decade. “Seven years and three months,” Shockley said. “A pretty long run.” But, all things must end someday, and Shockley is slated to retire from the position July 1.

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5 MCHS students return from national speech and debate tournament

Five Moffat County High School students returned this week from the National Forensics League’s national tournament in Dallas. The event, which ran from June 14 to 18, hosted 2,600 students from all 50 states. MCHS students Matt Balderston, Collin Dilldine, Ben East, Derek Maiolo and Ryan Zehner attended the tournament after qualifying at different events throughout the spring semester.

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Carvers earn accolades at 12th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous

Renaissance-era artist Michelangelo, when remarking on one of his sculptures, said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” On Saturday, Craig played host to 11 artists during the 12th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous. Although the artists use chainsaws on pine logs 10 feet tall and 3 1/2 feet in diameter, the insight Michelangelo shared 500 years ago still rings true today.

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Whittle organizers: New alcohol policy had little impact

Dave Pike, Craig Parks and Recreation director, said the policy to limit alcohol at this year’s Whittle the Wood Rendezvous was inevitable. “The BYOB thing was too good to be true,” he said. “We were probably the last venue in the state that allowed that.” Pike was referring to a tradition as old as the Rendezvous itself: visitors being allowed to bring their own alcohol to the event.

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Former Craig man to share experience of African mission

Former Craig resident Harvey Craft said a recent mission in Africa changed his perspective on Western culture. “Nobody over here is happy,” he said. “Everybody has everything in the world and nobody is happy.” Things are different half a world away, he said.

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BLM in Craig adds new officials

The Bureau of Land Management’s Little Snake Field Office in Craig has added three new officials in the last five weeks. Matt Anderson, 31, joined the local field office five weeks ago as associate field manager. Three weeks ago, Ed Hendricks, 41, joined as a law enforcement ranger, and Colt Mortenson, 42, became interagency fire management officer.

Livestock, marijuana highlight reports at Craig City Council meeting

After wrapping up the voting at Tuesday’s Craig City Council meeting, Mayor Terry Carwile invited staff reports. Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta gave his. “Mr. Mayor, council, just kind of a heads up,” he said. “We’re starting to get a lot more chickens in town.”

Moffat County Commission approves youth camp permit

Approval for Browns Park camp comes with stipulations

The Moffat County Commission approved, 2-0, a conditional use permit today for Mountain Homes Youth Ranch to operate in Browns Park. The vote comes a week after the commission hosted a public hearing on the matter. More than 20 community members attended the hearing to speak in support and opposition of the outdoor program for troubled teens. Commissioner Audrey Danner, who was absent from last week’s meeting, recused herself from today’s vote, but not from discussion.

Market share report shows favorable growth for TMH

A study of 2010 patient numbers indicates The Memorial Hospital in Craig gained market share from other hospitals in the region. The study was commissioned by Tennessee-based Quorum Health Resources, a hospital management and consultant group. The study tracked numbers of discharged patients, and the services they’d received from regional hospitals.

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Craig taxidermists partner to win big at state competition

Earlier this month, two local taxidermists accomplished something that, within their trade, would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Scott Moore and Leland Reinier submitted a collaborative piece to a taxidermy competition and won. Their entry — a life-size African lion mounted on a rock cropping called “Can’t Kill the King” — won first place in the collective artist division at the Colorado State Taxidermy Competition from June 2 through 4 in Salida.

Moffat County School District budget nearing approval

Mark Rydberg said the fiscal year 2012 budget proposal for the Moffat County School District is an attempt to make the best out of an unfavorable situation. “We’ll have $2 million less than what the state should be giving us,” the finance director said. “So, we have to make cuts. We have to live within our means. We have deficit spending this year, but really only because we had such a huge windfall.” At Thursday’s special school board meeting, Rydberg introduced three additional changes to the fiscal year 2012 draft budget proposal that was initially unveiled in late February.

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Moffat County School Board honors outgoing assistant superintendent

Christine Villard accepts position with Poudre School District

The Moffat County School Board concluded its special meeting Thursday with a fond farewell to a longtime district administrator. School Board President Jo Ann Baxter approached outgoing assistant superintendent Christine Villard with a wrapped gift. “In recognition for all your years of service, and appreciation for all that you’ve done for us, we got this small gift … so you’ll be certain to remember us,” Baxter said.

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Moffat County School Board proposes budget

Jo Ann Baxter, Moffat County School Board president, began Thursday’s public hearing on the proposed budget with an explanation. Baxter said the special meeting was a forum for community members to address concerns about the budget for the 2011-12 school year. This year, after facing $2.2 million in cuts from the state, the school district has proposed reductions for full-time equivalents, transportation and more.

Moffat County Tourism Association reopens search for new director

The Moffat County Tourism Association is taking another crack at hiring a new director. At its regular meeting today, the MCTA Board voted, 7-0, to reopen the group’s search for a new director. The group began its search after director Marilynn Hill announced in April her resignation from the post.

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Craig mother, daughter qualify for national pageant

Craig resident Cathy Sonntag is 41, a single mother, and a reluctant beauty queen. “It’s my daughter’s fault,” Cathy said. “She’s the one who roped me into it.” In March, Cathy and her daughter, 14-year-old Rachel Sonntag, traveled to Denver to participate in a Dream Girls USA pageant. The Sonntags took top honors in their respective divisions and qualified for the Dream Girls USA 2011 Nationals from July 14 through 17 in St. Louis.

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Yampa River station recording highest flows since 1984

Jason Back, head professional at Yampa Valley Golf Course in Craig, said there were more water hazards on his golf course than usual Wednesday. “Hole number two has a lake on it,” Back said. The golf course is one example of flooding in the region from the Yampa River. Michael Lewis, associate director of hydrologic data at the U.S. Geological Survey's Colorado Water Science Center in Lakewood, said the flows on the Yampa River are historic.

Moffat County Commission considers permit for Mountain Home Youth Ranch

The Moffat County Commission hosted a public hearing today to review a conditional use permit application by Mountain Home Youth Ranch. The ranch, which has operated in Greystone for 11 months without a permit, “is a therapeutic growth program for troubled teens (co-ed ages 12 to 17),” according to the group’s website. The commission did not make a decision on the application today. Commissioner Tom Mathers said a decision would be announced at next week’s commission meeting.

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Solace of the open road

Cyclists seek peace, pancakes during 25th annual “Where the Hell’s Maybell?” bike ride

Thirty miles of highway lies between Craig and Maybell. The road is often straight and the landscape is often empty. For cyclists like Craig resident Tony Tennyson, who pedaled between the two locations Saturday, the vast open space doesn’t offer a lot to look at or think about. “Not much, and that’s why I do it,” Tennyson said. “It’s relaxing.”

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Fishing in style

58th annual Huck Finn, Kids, Cops and Vets fishing day

When two-year-old Caiden Sadvar reeled in a 10-inch trout Saturday, he achieved two distinctions. First, he caught his first-ever fish. Second, he became the youngest angler to catch a fish during the 58th annual Huck Finn, Kids, Cops and Vets fishing day at the Little Rascal Pond in Craig.

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Innovation invitee list expands

Two more area teachers picked for Microsoft’s U.S. Innovative Education Forum

Two area teachers received welcome news Thursday morning from Microsoft. “I was surprised because there were a lot of teachers who applied,” said Laura Voorhees, a Craig resident and kindergarten teacher at Hayden Valley Elementary School. “I thought it was kind of a long shot.”

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The Twentymile titles

Winning tradition continues for mine rescue team

It’s inaccurate to say safety is a priority at Twentymile Coal Co. General manager Jason Davis prefers to put a finer point on it. “Safety is a value,” he said. “Priorities change, values don’t.” The statement is supported by evidence — trophies in Twentymile’s main building in Routt County. Shelves upon shelves in the building’s main corridor are occupied by bronze trophies.

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Signature museum painting reaches 20th anniversary

The Museum of Northwest Colorado in Craig is not a particularly small building. The depth of the exhibit hall extends nearly a full block from its entrance on Yampa Avenue toward an alley out back.

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Huck Finn Kids, Cops and Vets fishing day set for Saturday

This season’s high water has delayed the annual opening of the Little Rascals Pond for fishing. But, not for much longer. On Saturday, the pond, which is located behind the Moffat County Public Safety Center, will open for the 58th annual Huck Finn Kids, Cops and Vets fishing day.

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Bicyclist stops in Craig as part of cross-country awareness ride

Eight years ago, Florida resident Glenn Fenster had a moment to remember. He was playing tennis with his son, Nyle Fenster, who was nine years old at the time. Suddenly, Nyle had a seizure and fell to the ground. The elder Fenster ran over and offered his son a hand.

MCHS student to attend seminar at U.S. Naval Academy

John Kirk, a Moffat County High School student, is preparing for a college visit this week. It’s not unusual that a student between his junior and senior year would visit a college campus. But, the circumstances of Kirk’s trip are out of the norm. “It’s not just touring the campus,” Kirk said. “We’ll wake up at 5:30 (a.m.) every morning, do calisthenics, run two miles … then we do marching and drills.

VFW, American Legion to host Memorial Day events today in Craig

Mark Wick, commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, said Memorial Day is more than just a day off from work. “You know, these holidays aren’t just dates on a calendar,” he said. “These are events that people went forward to give us.” Today, the VFW and American Legion Post 62 are combining forces to commemorate the fallen in four separate events.

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MCHS graduates 136 seniors from the Class of 2011

During her commencement address, Moffat County High School senior Lauren Roberts evoked the first day of kindergarten. “This day was far from our minds,” Roberts recalled. “But, on that day, when our moms dropped us off at the door and went to the car to cry, we took our first steps on the road that would eventually lead us to this day.” On Saturday, roughly 3,000 area residents packed into the MCHS gymnasium to watch 136 seniors stride across the stage and become graduates.

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TMH mulling hospitalist proposal

Sukhbir Pannu sat Thursday night before The Memorial Hospital Board and recounted his experiences of raising a family in a rural setting. In particular, he discussed the quality of medical care in areas off the beaten path. “The system doesn’t think we deserve the same kind of care,” he said of small towns. “The best physicians, the best providers are at large hospitals in urban settings.”

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Moffat County School District pays tribute to 20 retiring employees

Delaine Voloshin has spent the past 14 years helping students at Moffat County High School make transitions. “I helped students who are transitioning out of school get into employment,” she said. Now Voloshin herself is transitioning, out of MCHS and into retirement.

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MCHS student carries on after losing her father

When Britteny Ivers graduates from Moffat County High School today, an important figure in her life sadly won’t be there. Steve Ivers, Britteny’s father and a respected community member, died of lung cancer in May 2008 at the age of 37. “It’s sad because I want him to be there,” Britteny said. “But, you can’t think like that.”

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MCHS senior returns from semester-long teaching opportunity in Mexico

At this time of year, parents of graduating seniors will face a period of adjustment. Their kids have grown up, and many of them will soon leave home to pursue college, careers and lives of their own choosing. For Craig resident and mother Lynae Ellgen, the experience of letting go came a few months earlier. In December 2010, Lynae helped send her daughter, Katie Ellgen, away to Mexico for four months.

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10 MCHS seniors receive college-level credentials before their diplomas

Today, the graduating seniors of Moffat County High School will stride across the stage, collect their diplomas, and toss their caps skyward. For six of those students, however, the ceremony may seem like old hat. They will arrive at their high school graduation having already earned college degrees. MCHS Counselor Paula Duzik explained.

Moffat County School Board reaches consensus on MCHS swimming pool

Moffat County School Board President Jo Ann Baxter summarized the results of a board work session Thursday. “We’re going to keep the pool open,” she said. “It’s not on our cuts.” The announcement follows a nearly year-long study of the Moffat County High School swimming pool by a commission known as the Swim Pool Task Force.

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MCHS graduation ceremony set for Saturday

Moffat County High School seniors had one final order of business Thursday — graduation rehearsal. For nearly two hours, the 136 students of the Class of 2011 received pointers on attire, poise and how to turn their tassels. The graduation ceremony begins at 10 a.m. Saturday in the MCHS gymnasium, 900 Finley Lane. The public is welcome to attend the ceremony in the 3,000-person-capacity gym.

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Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265 seeking new members

Guy Bradshaw stands out among fellow members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265. While many group members are veterans from the Vietnam era or older, Bradshaw, 34, was involved in the Iraq War. As such, he might just be the youngest post member. “Yep,” Bradshaw said. “Pretty much.” But, Bradshaw won’t hold that distinction for long. Not if he can help it.

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MCHS, Twentymile award scholarships to students for wearing seatbelts

Earlier this semester, Moffat County High School junior Adam Foster noticed there were student council members patrolling the school parking lot and making note of drivers who were wearing their seatbelts. Foster, who said he always wears his seat belt, wondered if the student council members had noticed him. “I guess they did,” he said.

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Annual Hometown Heroes Community Picnic in Craig pays tribute to veterans

Despite intermittent rain, the Hometown Heroes Community Picnic soldiered on Saturday. U.S. Army Ranger veteran Bob McConnell stood at a microphone under a tent at Craig City Park and thanked the crowd for braving the elements. “This is what we call ‘Ranger weather,’” the guest speaker said.

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Nearly 100 Western Slope athletes compete in Craig Special Olympics

Jesse Middlebrook snapped through the ribbon at the end of a 400-meter dash with his face beaming. Middlebrook, 17, had just beaten his nearest opponent by several yards. After the race, he slowed to a walk, and caught his breath before speaking. “It feels pretty good,” the Olathe resident said of his win.

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Moffat County students share memories of CMS band teacher Craig Smith

The sun had set and the crowd had broken away, but a small group of Moffat County High School students remained on an empty and darkened football field Thursday. They huddled together against a sharp breeze and shared stories about the Craig Middle School band teacher who had been memorialized minutes earlier. Craig Smith was the reason the friends had gathered. But, perhaps more importantly, Smith was the reason they are all friends, some said.

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TMH in Craig has biggest month ever

Bryan Chalmers said The Memorial Hospital broke a new record earlier this year. “March was an amazing month,” Chalmers, TMH’s chief financial officer, said. “Our (patient) volumes were up substantially. This was the first time it was ever so high.” In March, the hospital saw 906 adjusted patient days — an accounting expression that combines inpatient and outpatient services into units — and grossed more than $4 million, Chalmers said.

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8 cases of equine herpes confirmed in Colorado, none in Moffat County

Veterinarian Kelly Hepworth stood in a corral Wednesday at Bear Creek Animal Hospital and vaccinated his own horse against EHV-1, or equine herpes virus. Hepworth said he has received numerous phone calls from horse owners interested in the same vaccination.

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Humane Society offering reduced-cost adoptions in face of rising numbers

Carol Scott, treasurer for the Humane Society of Moffat County, said the number of animals that end up in the Craig Animal Shelter seems to be on the rise. To cope with the numbers, the Humane Society is offering a reduced-price adoption event, something they have done several times this year. From 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the animal shelter, adopting a pet will cost $60. The usual fee is $114.

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Museum director discusses possible uses for $1.2 million windfall

Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, sat Friday in his sunny corner office and crunched numbers into an adding machine. “It appears to be over $1.2 million,” he said. “It’s a nice windfall.” That windfall is the result of mineral leasing activity in late 2010 and early 2011 in Northwest Colorado, he said.

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Craig Middle School band teacher Craig Smith dies at 64

Linda Smith said her husband, Craig Smith, would want to be remembered for his music and teaching. “All he talked about was his band succeeding,” she said. “He loved it. He just loved to be a teacher — a musical teacher.” Craig Smith, who taught band at Craig Middle School for nine years, died Sunday of a brain aneurysm at St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. He was 64.

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FFA students prepare projects for auction

Amid the buzz of angle grinders and the blinding blue light of acetylene torches Friday, the annual Moffat County High School FFA Auction was taking shape. Literally.

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MCHS speech and debate students share thoughts after studying U.S. troop deployments

Four members of the Moffat County High School speech and debate team sat at a table in the school library Friday. In a few short weeks, they, along with another member of the team, will travel to Dallas, Texas to compete in the National Forensics League’s National Tournament. The four students — Matt Balderston, Collin Dilldine, Ben East and Ryan Zehner — qualified for nationals for their work in the cross-examination category of speech and debate.

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MCHS sending 5 students to national competitions in FBLA, speech and debate

Krista Schenk said the Future Business Leaders of America program at Moffat County High School is making history. In June, three MCHS students will participate in an FBLA National Competition “This is the first time,” she said of MCHS’ presence at FBLA’s annual national event.