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Brian Smith

Stories by Brian

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Moffat County resident reflects on great-grandfather’s life, Civil War service, struggle for independence

Leonidas Osbert Clements signed up to fight in the Civil War at the tender age of 16. The Georgia native joined Company G of the Georgia Calvary’s second regiment in the Confederate Army to fight for Old Dixie. He spent the next two-and-a-half years fighting in battles and raiding masses of Union troops near Chattanooga, Tenn.

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Couple from Baggs, Wyo., gives birth to son on side of highway

Mark-Lee Curtis has always heard the phrase, “You have to do what you have to do.” On April 17, however, Mark-Lee found himself doing something he never thought would fit into that expression. At 9:23 a.m., the Baggs, Wyo., native held his son, Parker, in his arms as he took his first breath of life.

Companies gear up for summer oil exploration

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner considers it the commission’s job to pay attention to the future of energy development and the extraction industry in the county. That’s why Danner said she and the rest of the commission are keeping an eye on developing interest from oil companies in drilling a local portion of a geological layer known for its oil called the Niobrara formation. “This opportunity of increased energy development and extraction is part of our economy,” she said. “I want to support it as long as those companies are respectful of the rules and work within our community as good corporate citizens.”

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Moffat County resident recognized as United Way’s 2010 Volunteer of the Year

Lorrae Moon had to make a quick detour before Wednesday’s volunteer luncheon. She’s tasked with keeping an eye on her son’s flock of sheep during the day. But, as she drove by on her way to town, she noticed some newborn lambs were huddled among the rest of the sheep, separated from their mothers. So, Moon stopped to lend a hand. Although she would have rather not gotten dirty just before lunch, she jumped in to help because it was needed, she said.

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Moffat County Commission updated on carbon sequestration project

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said there’s a reason the commission is keeping the issue of carbon sequestration in its sights. “If it works, it’ll keep our coal industry alive,” he said. “Because then, they can take the carbons that come out of the stacks and put it in the ground, and therefore coal is the cleanest burning energy out there.”

Efforts underway to honor Craig Medal of Honor recipient

A “heroic American.” An “inspiration to every citizen.” A man who showed “conspicuous gallantry.” Craig resident Larry Neu contends those are all accurate descriptions of Major William E. Adams. But, they aren’t Neu’s words.

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Moffat County begins process of demolishing old jail

The fate of the old Moffat County Jail has been a conversation topic since before Tom Gray was elected to the Moffat County Commission, he said. But, nobody was quite sure what to do with the metal, modular-constructed space connected to the north side of the courthouse and vacated in 2001 when the Moffat County Public Safety Center was built with a new jail facility, Gray said.

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Tea party hosts tax day freedom rally on courthouse lawn in Craig

Steamboat Springs resident Lisa Watts recited a poem Friday she said captured the spirit of why she and many others were standing on the lawn of the Moffat County Courthouse. “They tax our land, they tax our bed, tax the table at which we are fed,” she said, clad in an American flag shirt. “They tax our work, they tax our pay, we work for peanuts, anyway.” Watts was speaking at the 2011 Tax Day Freedom Rally hosted by the Bears Ears Tea Party Patriots at the courthouse. The event featured speakers, music and prizes including a wide array of messages centered on the Federal government and taxation.

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Moffat County Commissioners, environmental rep divided on wildlands funding

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said two rounds of voting Thursday in Washington, D.C., proved to be “real good news” for Northwest Colorado. Mathers was referring to Congress’ approval of the 2011 budget and more specifically a provision in it to eliminate funding for an order given by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to inventory wildlands across the country.

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A dog on a hog

Motorcycle duo — Craig resident and his dog — becoming local celebrities

Alvin Fenstermacher once rode his motorcycle 157 miles in one day. It was a benefit poker run for a girl with leukemia in Dinosaur, and it took Alvin in a loop around the countryside. After the exhausting day of churning out miles of pavement, he was rewarded with a seat at the bar and a plate of pulled pork with all the fixings.

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Dirt developments: Craig native making progress on motor sports park

Gregg Kolbaba said he heard a lot of feedback last winter when he announced his intention to turn a hillside south of the Moffat County Landfill into a large-scale motor sports park. But, that community chatter died down quickly after, the Craig native said. “It’s been pretty quiet — people here have an ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ kind of an attitude,” he said. “Well, it is there for them to see now.”

Commission mulling electronic mineral ownership records

Moffat County Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock recently addressed the need for updating the county’s current system of keeping mineral ownership records. “The big reason the time is right in my mind is we have more people than in history that are working through those books, tearing them up and these are physical things and we have people standing in lines waiting,” he said. “In this modern day and age it ought to be done at their home computer over the Internet.” Comstock’s thoughts were echoed by a group of county employees from various departments who spoke Tuesday to the Moffat County Commission about the need for making electronic those records, which are currently kept in large, worn books in the Moffat County Assessor’s Office.

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New Craig City Council officials sworn into office

Joe Bird, a newly elected Craig City Council member, said he had a distinct feeling as municipal court judge Kevin Peck swore him into office for the first time Tuesday. It was a feeling of gravity and awareness of what was expected of him as a public servant, he said. “There was a real keen awareness of what I was getting into when I listened to the words that were being administered,” he said.

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Craig resident reflects on family ties in Japan following earthquake

On March 11, the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s history struck off its coast. The 8.9-magnitude earthquake caused a powerful tsunami that cut through cities and farmlands in the northern part of the country, leaving more than 12,000 dead and the same amount or more missing, according to reports. However, the disaster’s effects reached further than its aftershocks for Craig resident Atsuko Fording.

Food stamp need continues to rise in Moffat County

Social services responding to increase in demand, cases, but director optimistic

In the 42 years Marie Peer has been working for the Moffat County Department of Social Services, she has seen several tough economic eras. They’re hard to tell each other apart, the department director said. “When you are in them, they each seem like they are the worst ever,” she said. But since 2008, Peer’s employees have been faced with meeting demand caused by growing numbers of applications and funding given out to those needing help in tough economic conditions. That’s evident in the federally funded food stamp program, she said.

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Craig native builds home for family in Mexico, relishes life-changing trip

Last month, Morgan Cobb crossed the border. On one side of the fence that separates Mexico and the U.S. were beautiful buildings, modern luxuries of civilization and signs of extravagance, she said. On the other side, a slum in Juarez ruled by feared drug cartels.

Club 20 recognizes Rio Blanco official for work on Western Slope issues

Ken Parsons contends he isn’t a typical politician. “Usually a lot of people who are engaged in politics are not the kind of numbers-geeky kind of guy like I am,” the former college math professor said. The 64-year-old Rangely resident has served as a Rio Blanco County commissioner since 2004.

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Moffat County Commission to host night meeting

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said government’s role is to make sure it is accessible to constituents. That’s why Gray and the rest of the Moffat County Commission have decided to host a night meeting Tuesday to tackle some of the bigger issues in the county.

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Area legislators partnering on mineral lease revenue bill

If passed, bill could place $1 million more annually in Moffat County coffers

State Sen. Jean White contends Northwest Colorado has been hit hard by the economic downturn. Having funds like severance tax and federal mineral lease revenues — portions of which are usually returned to local counties — held back by the state to supplement the general fund doesn’t help either, she said.

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Craig voters elect new mayor

Terry Carwile secures 63 percent of the vote, outpacing opponent Frank Moe

Terry Carwile had a familiar feeling Tuesday night — the anticipation of election day results. The 63-year-old mayoral candidate compared the feeling that sometimes goes along with learning one’s political fate to another activity.

Moffat County Commission: Strategic planning focusing on the ‘big picture’

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner said there’s a reason behind recent county focus sessions aimed at developing long-term strategic plans. Those plans, she said, will allow the commissioners and various departments to set sights beyond the county’s day-to-day operations, and focus on the “big picture” down the road.

Organizers confirm Craig coal conference

Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association, contends the public doesn’t fully understand the intricacies of the state’s mining industry. “I think there is much that is not understood about our industry and it is interesting because Colorado has undergone such incredible demographic changes in the last decade and a half — increases in population (and) political transformations,” he said. “

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Performers audition for spot in annual Talent Show

It’s a song that took Bill Ronis about 10 minutes to write, but it was more than 17 years in the making. On Saturday, the 56-year-old Ronis walked onto the Moffat County High School auditorium stage with a guitar and foot-operated tambourine in hand.

MCTA director announces resignation

Marilynn Hill, Moffat County Tourism Association executive director, announced Sunday she would soon be leaving the organization. In a letter addressed to MCTA Board Chairwoman Kandee Dilldine and copied to the Moffat County Commission, Hill wrote that her last day would be May 19.

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The case for station no. 2 in Craig

Chris Nichols, a Craig Rural Fire Protection District Board member, was recently posed a question. “Somebody once said, ‘We live in a one-horse town (so) why do we need two fire stations?’” he said. Nichols, the former chief of Craig Fire/Rescue, had a response.

Moffat County contracts for GIS map service

For the last several months, Moffat County GIS technician Nancy Miles has been keeping busy. However, the work she’s been doing lately isn’t quite what she was hired to do, she said. “I’m supposed to be drawing and I’ve been helping people,” she said.

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Second mineral auction nets Moffat County $1.3 million

Mineral lease prices average $1,233 per acre

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he recently saw something he has never seen in the county. That surprise came Tuesday when the Moffat County Commission, Natural Resources Director Jeff Comstock and others opened sealed bids on 1,055 mineral acres owned by the county and the Museum of Northwest Colorado.

Tourism officials comment on Maybell Cultural Heritage Days cancellation

Kandee Dilldine, Moffat County Tourism Association Board chairwoman, said the Maybell Cultural Heritage Days event has recently grown in both size and prominence in the area. “It brings awareness to the other half of our county and it is not even the other half because really that is our county, that is the rest of our state out there,” Dilldine said.

Moffat County unemployment hits 10.6 percent

Area economist optimistic county headed toward job balance

Craig resident Justin Meisner has been looking for steady work for the last six months. Several years ago, he wound up on the wrong side of the law and spent some time in prison. As he continues his daily job hunt, he has found his background hurts his employment chances despite his shift in attitude. “I’m not against the law, I’m with it now,” he said.

Moffat County Commission takes action at Tuesday meeting

At its regular meeting today, the Moffat County Commission: • Approved, 3-0, a resolution for transfer of payment of warrants totaling $290,676.89. • Approved, 3-0, a resolution for payment of payroll warrants totaling $669,776.02.

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Craig city candidates meet potential voters

AARP chapter hosts forum with mayoral, council contenders

Craig resident Marlene Griffin has yet to fill out her ballot for Craig’s municipal election. The 74-year-old Griffin said it'll be hard to sit down and pick which candidate should be Craig’s new mayor, as well as decide between six candidates vying for three council positions in the April 5 municipal election. However, she said attending Monday’s candidate forum hosted by Craig AARP Chapter No. 1418 at Sunset Meadows I would help her make a decision on the city offices.

Craig City Clerk pleased with ballot returns so far

Two weeks after mailing out ballots to active, registered Craig voters, the Moffat County Elections Department has received 880 ballots as of Friday. Moffat County Elections Supervisor Stephanie Beckett said the city has mailed out 3,150 ballots since mid-March. As of Friday, there were 5,895 registered voters in the city, but only 3,150 are considered active. In late February, the Craig City Council voted to conduct a mail-in election in hopes of boosting voter turnout.

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Craig man incorporates community service into weight loss goal

The number was shocking — 248. That’s what Craig resident Dave Seed saw when he stepped on the scale a few years ago. The 62-year-old was embarrassed, dejected and “totally humiliated,” he said.

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Mineral leases, prices rising in Moffat County

Moffat County Clerk and Recorder Lila Herod said her office fills up “like a swarm of bees” in the afternoon. It has consistently for the last six months, she said. The activity comes from the 15 to 30 landmen flooding the office each day in hopes of locating and contacting mineral owners so oil companies can negotiate mineral leases.

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Craig City Council member concludes eight-year stint

Craig native Joe Herod said there was a distinct philosophy he carried while serving on the Craig City Council for the last eight years. It was, simply, to listen. “I have a hard time listening to people so I had to learn to listen to people and try to understand why things were happening the way they happened,” he said.

Craig City Council gives money to help land rodeo finals for 2 more years

Dave Fleming said last year was the first time the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association finals have been hosted on the Western Slope in more than 30 years. Last June, that rodeo came to Craig and will again this summer.

Moffat County Commission disputes city’s safety center claims

The Moffat County Commission responded Tuesday to a recent Craig City Council work session concerning negotiations for the Moffat County Public Safety Center. At its regular meeting, commissioners discussed what they felt were misrepresentations by the city council, namely regarding the financing of the safety center, as well as use of sales tax money collected to pay for construction of the center.

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Congressman seeks to free up gas reserve money

Possible legislation could provide windfall to Moffat County

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Gray said he is optimistic recent federal legislative activity surrounding an oil shale development issue near the Roan Plateau could land the county anywhere from $1 million to $2.5 million. “The take home message is don’t give up hope because we haven’t,” the commissioner said. “And obviously Congressman (Scott) Tipton hasn’t.”

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Wool worth the wait: Recent spike in wool, lamb prices helps ranchers through tough economic times

Tom Kourlis has continued to run his father’s sheep operation on the same ground it was founded on about 90 years ago. But, a few years ago the legacy of lamb and wool production at the Harry Kourlis Ranch almost came to an end. With slumping wool and lamb prices, the 60-year-old Kourlis started developing a “phase out plan” for the ranch 30 miles south of Craig. The business that had put his two girls through college and kept food on the table just wasn’t profitable anymore, he said.

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Former Northwest Colorado resident returns home to lead local BLM Office

Wendy Reynolds is Colorado girl at heart. Her roots, she said, are firmly set in Northwest Colorado. But, she would have grown up a city girl in Denver if it hadn’t been for her father showing her the lands, wilderness and issues she would once make her living in.

Moffat County Commission satisfied with county’s financial health

Moffat County Commissioner Tom Mathers said he was pleased with a Tuesday presentation about the county’s finances. “We’ve accomplished what we have set out to do and what we are going to continue to do and that is to keep the county healthy and not have to go through a series of cuts and layoffs like other counties are having to do,” he said.

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DOW moves forward with bear hunting rule

Craig resident cited for using artificial light during November 2010 hunt

The Colorado Division of Wildlife is proceeding with a draft regulation that would prohibit the hunting, killing and harassment of bears in dens. During a March 10 meeting in Denver, the Colorado Wildlife Commission directed the DOW to move forward with draft language of the regulation, which states that “no person shall hunt, take or harass bears in a den,” DOW spokesman Randy Hampton said.

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Craig City Council talks safety center

Craig resident Andy Bullen attended a Craig City Council work session Tuesday for just the second time in the more than 30 years he has lived in the city. The 66-year-old Bullen was one of about 20 residents that attended the meeting. He hoped to find answers to some serious questions he formed after reading about negotiations between the city and Moffat County Commission concerning the Moffat County Public Safety Center. It was a measure he voted in favor of more than 10 years ago.

Moffat County greenhouse project gets feasibility study grant

A business project spearheaded by Craig resident Marilynn Hill has taken the first step toward development. Hill announced March 8 at the Craig City Council meeting that Planet Yampa, an idea for a large-scale, hydroponic food business, has received pending approval for a grant to determine if the project is viable.

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Craig resident serves by assisting veterans on Honor Flight

Joe Booker found himself in front of an iconic image. Six bronze men stretched into the summer sun, frozen in time while raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. Booker, then an 85-year-old Fruita resident, was in the shadows of the Marine Corps War Memorial, near Arlington National Cemetery.

State of the County event attendance rule questioned

Craig resident Ken Wergin appealed to the Craig City Council on Tuesday night. His request regarded the Craig Chamber of Commerce’s State of the County 2011 event Wednesday at the Holiday Inn of Craig. Wergin asked council members to do something about a Chamber board decision that would have prevented him from attending the event. After discussion, the city council stated that State of the County was the Chamber’s event and not under the city’s authority.

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Moffat County Commissioner outlines 2011’s priorities

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner delivered a simple message Wednesday night about what the commission’s philosophy was last year. “Moffat County Commissioners are committed to cost effectively prioritizing revenues and expenditures to reflect our goals,” she said. “And those are, very simply, providing services in a fiscally responsible manner without raising taxes and delivering the highest level of customer service we can within our budget.

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Economy highlights governor’s visit to Craig

As Gov. John Hickenlooper was getting in the back of a Colorado State Patrol car to be whisked away to his next speaking engagement Wednesday in Craig, he hit his head on a piece of metal. The blow required a trip to The Memorial Hospital’s emergency room for stitches. The incident reminded the governor of a recent, hot-button state political issue, he said.

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Candidates confirmed for Craig election

Craig City Clerk Shirley Seely said candidates in this year’s municipal election have officially been set. There are two candidates running for mayor and six candidates running for three city council seats in the April 5 mail-in ballot election. City council member Terry Carwile and former Moffat County Commission candidate Frank Moe are the two mayoral candidates.

Craig City Council meeting at a glance

At its regular Tuesday meeting the Craig City Council: • Approved, 7-0, Feb. 22 meeting minutes. • Approved, 7-0, February bills totaling $435,256.64.