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Craig’s 13th annual State of the Community set for April 1

The date is set for the 13th annual State of the Community event.

“The State of the Community is a great way to get an overview of important facets of our community,” according to an event announcement from Craig Chamber of Commerce officials.

The chamber will present awards for Businessperson of the Year, Business of the Year, Ambassador of the Year, and special recognition. The evening will also include presentations on the state of the city, county, tourism, and chamber, as well as industry updates from area mines, the Craig Station Power Plant, Yampa Valley Bank, and Memorial Regional Health.

Northwest Colorado Arts Council is also organizing an art show and sale to showcase the work of area artists as part of the event.

State of the Community begins at 6 p.m. Monday, April 1, at Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion. Tickets are $40 and include the program, dinner, and dessert. There will be a cash bar.

Reserve tickets online at craigchamber.chambermaster.com/eventregistration/register/53532.

For more information, contact 970-824-5689 or info@craig-chamber.com.

United Mines Workers of America Union #1799 in Craig gifts $2K to community kitchen

The local mine workers union has made a final contribution to the community ahead of its dissolution.

“Once Fran Lux knew that the local United Mine Workers of America Union #1799 was to be disbanded, he set about wondering how some of the final funds could help support our community,” Diane King wrote in an email on behalf of St. Michael’s Church.

She added that he requested the union donate $2,000 to the Community Soup Kitchen operated at the church, and his request was granted by union members. 

“These funds will help our local community kitchen to continue to serve meals 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and 4 to 6 p.m. Thursdays to anyone who enjoys a good meal and good company,” King said. The kitchen is located in the basement of St. Michael’s Parish, 678 School St.

The community kitchen is funded entirely by donations and volunteers. 

“Thank you, United Mine Union #1799, for supporting this Craig Community Outreach Program," King said. 

Moffat County Economic Trends — Unemployment continues to rise

CRAIG — The unemployment rate for Moffat County rose to 5.2 percent in February, topping the highest rate reported in 2018.

A 4.8 percent rate was recorded in December, compared to a rate of 4.5 percent recorded one year ago.

The current rate translates to an estimated 396 people unemployed and a workforce of about 7,290.

Moffat County's unemployment rate for February was higher than the state average of 3.7 percent, unchanged from statewide averages recorded in January. The national unemployment rate for February decreased two-tenths of a percent in February, ending at 3.8 percent, which was 1.4 percent lower than Moffat County.

Employers in Colorado added 700 non-farm payroll jobs from January to February, for a total of 2,749,600 jobs, according to a survey of business establishments by Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

Private sector payroll jobs increased by 1,200, and government decreased by 500.

For the year, the number of Coloradans in the labor force increased by 84,400, total employment increased 56,900, and the number of unemployed increased 27,500, according to CDLE.

Across the state, the largest over-the-month, private-sector jobs gains were in professional and business services and financial activities. The largest over the month decline was in leisure and hospitality.

There were 146 jobs advertised online in Moffat County as of March 23, according to data from the CDLE.

The same data shows the five employers with the most advertised vacancies in Moffat County included Memorial Regional Health and Moffat County School District; each is seeking 21 employees.

Ace Hardware Corporation was seeking seven employees, and Pizza Hut and Wendy's were each seeking six new employees.

Over the year and across Colorado, the average workweek for all employees on private non-farm payrolls decreased slightly from 33.3 to 33.1 hours, and hourly average earnings increased from  $28.42 to $29.93 per hour.

Moffat County workers’ take-home pay increased slightly from prior months, averaging $23.78 per hour, $951 per week, and $49,452 per year through wages, continuing to trend below state averages.

The non-farm payroll job estimates are based on a survey of business establishments and government agencies and are intended to measure the number of jobs, not the number of people employed, according to CDLE.

Additionally, the unemployment rate, labor force, labor force participation, total employment, and number of unemployed are based on a survey of households. The total employment estimate derived from this survey is intended to measure the number of people employed.

With Bell’s on: Carelli’s hosting launch party in Craig for seasonal microbrew

If you’re a lover of craft beer, there’s a place you’ll want to be next week. And before you say, “I’ll be there with bells on,” that part’s already covered.

On tap, that is.

Michigan-based Bell’s Brewery hosts its annual re-release of its seasonal favorite, Oberon Ale, and part of the pouring effort will be Craig eatery Carelli’s, hosting a special evening with a tap takeover of drinks from the provider.

The night starts at 5 p.m. March 28 and includes the guest of honor, Oberon, as well as several other Bell’s brews coming from the Great Lakes — Hopslam Ale, Flamingo Fruit Fight, Two-Hearted Ale, and Third Coast Old Ale.

Bell’s, which operates out of Kalamazoo and Comstock, Michigan, will also provide a variation on the Oberon recipe with a tangy blend of mango-habañero.

There is no admission charge for the evening, which lasts as long as the kegs keep flowing.

Carelli’s owner Brett Etzler said he has been a fan of Bell’s since his college days when attending Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan.

“It was the early ’90s, Bell’s was just a few years old and a kind of tiny place,” he said. “That was one of the first microbrews I ever had, which is why it’s near and dear to my heart.”

He added that in its inception, Oberon Ale was known as Solsun, before a lawsuit from the makers of El Sol beer forced a name change.

“The quality hasn’t changed much. If anything, they’ve gotten better,” he said.

Etzler first brought in Bell’s inventory last fall as part of his ongoing effort to promote a variety of microbrews on the menu among Carelli’s Italian fare.

“Ever since we’ve started selling, we’ve been one of the biggest sellers in Colorado,” he said, adding that he was thrilled when he was approached about helping to kick off Oberon’s return.

Etzler’s hook-up in the area is Steamboat Springs-based B&K Distributing, with representative Matt Meisegener aiding him in bringing in different kinds of flavor to Northwest Colorado.

“It’s good to see he’s opened the eyes of people to the craft beer world,” he said. “There’s a whole plethora of beers out there.”

Momma Outfitters seeking Moffat County sellers for fundraiser with a twist

In early April, space under the Moffat County Fairgrounds grandstands will fill with “upscale, second-hand shopping” during the first Momma Outfitters Consignment Sale.

Sellers will offer children’s clothing, baby equipment, toys, shoes, home school curriculum, bikes, kids shoes, books, costumes, maternity clothes, video games focused on children, kids furniture, kids room decor, and more.

“Anything related to raising kids,” said Jessie Wenning, a volunteer with Yampa Valley Pregnancy & Family Center, in describing the types of items sought for the sale scheduled to take place Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13.

Organized by Wenning and co-creator and fellow volunteer Amanda Rizzuto, the sale is meant to provide parents and guardians with a place to buy and sell goods while helping raise funds for the pregnancy center.

“Before volunteering, we talked with (Executive Director) Vicki (Van Couvering) about the center and asked where can we plug in. We felt it needed updating and needed a fundraiser to help fund the updates. This town can't handle one more fundraiser,” Wenning said.

The idea for a consignment sale with a kids-focus arose from similar events attended by Wenning and Rizzuto in Littleton. Unlike other fundraisers, while donations are accepted, sellers stand to benefit.

“People think they are donating items. 40 percent (of sales) is a donation, 60 percent they get,” Wenning said. “This gives parents a way to make a little extra money.”

“We aren't just buying their stuff, it's not a garage sale,” Rizzuto said.

They are seeking people with items that are gently used.

“We want moms to know they are going to find quality items. This sale is for the quality stuff,” Wenning said.

Along with the 40 percent commission, sellers pay a registration fee. Sellers registering by March 22 will pay the half-price registration fee of $5. After March 22, the registration fee will double to $10 per seller. Admission to the sale is free.

Fees are used to help offset the cost of overhead such as materials used to build racks that will be used to display items for sale. Individuals and businesses that wish to support the effort but don’t have goods to sell may choose to sponsor a rack.

“Business racks will be acknowledged for their sponsorship of the rack,” Wenning said.

Once registered sellers will receive a packet with complete guidelines, tags, tips for pricing right and selling successfully.

Wenning noted that:

• Items that don't sell can go back to the seller or sellers can choose to donate their items to the pregnancy center.
• Sellers will be paid quickly at pickup or the week after.
• Sellers will be paid in cash and given a tax-deductible receipt for the 40 percent going to the pregnancy center.

“We do all the advertising,” Wenning said.

People volunteering to assist in setting up and running the show will have the opportunity to buy first at a presale event.

“Anyone who volunteers for one whole shift, they get a presale pass for themselves and a spouse,” Wenning explained. Additional passes may also be earned by signing up for more shifts.

The number of sellers, the quality of items offered and interest by buyers will determine future plans.

“If it really takes off we'll look at a semi-annual sale based on the season — fall and winter; spring and summer,” Rizzuto said.

As for the name of the sale, Rizzuto said it was chosen to fit the area.

“We were thinking of a lot of different names. Wanted something that fit Craig, outdoorsy, hunting. Anyone who is a momma is going to outfit her home,” she said.

For more information and to register as a consigner, visit yvcenter4hope.org/events or email info@yvcenter4hope.org.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.

Craig Press provides digital training to enhance local businesses’ online presence

Craig Press recently hosted a digital advertising seminar, a session the newspaper hopes to host again to aid in the promotion of local businesses.

The event, which took place March 12 at Colorado Northwestern Community College, provided area businesses a crash course in how to optimize online opportunities in the digital world to further enhance awareness of services.

“I think advertisers were surprised to learn of all the solutions we offer and how they can implement them into their business,” said Sheli Steele, advertising manager for the Craig Press. “So many local businesses don't even have a website, so learning the importance of some sort of digital footprint was eye-opening to them.”

The newspaper is considering hosting similar sessions based on community interest.

“We were excited for the opportunity to educate our community on the expansive digital product portfolio the Craig Press and Swift Communications offer,” Steele said. “We offer our local business clients the same digital products and services that major markets offer, at prices that work for a variety of budgets. Craig Press is your one-house solution offering integrated traditional print with digital solutions, events and more.”

For more information about digital opportunities through Craig Press, contact 970-875-1788 or ssteele@craigdailypress.com.

Commissioners nearing MOU on gas pipeline

Moffat County commissioners say they're close to signing a memorandum of understanding that would help bring part of a cross-country natural gas pipeline through Moffat County and the Western Slope.

The pipeline would be part of the Jordan Cove Project in Oregon, feeding a new liquid natural gas refining operation there for shipment across the globe, especially to Asian markets.

"We met with a Japanese representative that we've met a couple times in the past," Commissioner Don Cook said of a recent trip he took to Washington D.C.

Commissioners said the parent company behind the project, Pembina Pipeline Corporation, wants to ship liquid natural gas while mostly avoiding the Panama Canal.

Commissioner Ray Beck said the estimated $1.5 billion construction cost may provide a host of economic benefits over the long term, but an economic impact study for the Moffat County area probably won't be done until October.

"Hopefully, it will be a great economic impact," Beck said.

Beck said the pipeline project is already dealing with some 670 landowners.

Most of the natural gas will come from Garfield and Rio Blanco counties, but Cook said Mesa, Garfield, Rio Blanco, and Moffat counties will likely join with other amenable Native American tribes in Utah.

Organizers from Oregon and with EcoFlight organized a rally in Grand Junction in September and have attended public meetings before the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission in opposition to the pipeline, according to reporting from the Grand Junction Sentinel.

According to Jordan Cove's website, the company "has undertaken extensive cultural, biological, and botanical surveys," many of which were to study the pipeline's effects on endangered species.

"These include surveys for threatened and endangered species and their habitat, as well as botanical, mollusk, amphibian, reptile, and fungi surveys along the entire pipeline route and at the LNG Terminal site," according to the website. "These surveys provide the basis to design the project, in consultation with federal and state agencies, to avoid and/or minimize impacts to these resources."

Yampa Valley law enforcement cracking down on counterfeit money

Craig Police Department investigators are working with other law enforcement agencies in the Yampa Valley to keep residents from falling victim to counterfeit currency.

In the last six months, several arrests have been made related to counterfeit currency in Craig and fake bills taken off the streets.

"There are suspects that have been charged," said Craig Police Department Capt. Bill Leonard. "However, right now the plan we are working with is, because there have been cases in Hayden and Steamboat, we're working with investigators in Steamboat and an officer in Hayden to put all the cases together."

According to an analysis of Craig Press police blotter entries for 2018 and 2019, police in Craig reported either confiscating or obtaining counterfeit bills at least five times since October — many of them $100 bills.

The Craig Press obtained three felony arrest records on charges of possession of a forged instrument — arrest records for Fredrick Charles Battle, 47, of Craig, Jessie Allen Grubbs, 27, of Hayden, and Hec Merton Mcentee, 43, of Hayden.

According to an arrest affidavit in Mcentee's case, on Feb. 26 police found five $100 bills with "markings that are not consistent with U.S. currency," in a backpack that allegedly belonged to Mcentee. Mcentee posted a $750 bond Feb. 27. Mcentee also faces other misdemeanor charges and a felony charge of possession of an explosive or incendiary device.

According to an arrest affidavit in Grubbs' case, Craig police found a fake $100 bill in Grubbs' jacket pocket after arresting him on a misdemeanor warrant Feb. 7. Police said they found heroin and items commonly used to smoke the drug, so Grubbs is also facing a felony drug possession charge and a possession of drug paraphernalia charge. Grubbs was freed on a $1,000 public recognizance bond Feb. 8.

There was no arrest affidavit available for Battle, who bonded out on a $1,000 bond March 6.

In an email, Steamboat Springs Police Department Operations Commander Annette Dopplick said their team responded to at least two possible reports of counterfeit currency in the last six months, but none yet this year. Dopplick said SSPD works with federal agencies on counterfeit currency to combat the fly-by-night nature of those often possessing fake bills.

"SSPD collaborates with the U.S. Secret Service very early in any counterfeit investigation," Dopplick said. "In fact, we are usually in contact with our S.S. field agent while on the originating call. In general, counterfeiting crime tends to be transient in nature and offenders move quickly to escape detection."

However, Leonard said any federal involvement in Craig's investigation at this point is "kind of unlikely," because CPD investigators, in conjunction with the district attorney, have already identified state criminal charges for suspects caught with fake bills.

Leonard said it isn't likely someone locally is printing bills. Instead, the bills are likely bought in bulk on a website.

"Most of these bills in these cases are ones purchased online and they're clearly marked — although very small — that they're not intended to be valid currency," Leonard said. "Unfortunately, some people have accepted those as valid and we've had to put out this information. It's frustrating that places can sell real looking currency, that people can buy it online and then use it as real currency and we unfortunately we have people accept it."

In the email, Steamboat police gave residents several tips to avoid being ripped off by fake money:

• An ultraviolet light source can be used to verify authenticity on some notes.

• Report counterfeit attempts immediately. Be attentive to descriptions and vehicles associated to the attempt.

• Bank personnel are experts. If you are accepting cash for a large purchase, consider visiting a local branch of your bank and ask for assistance verifying the currency.

• Security surveillance of point-of-sale locations can be an effective deterrent to fraud, including counterfeit fraud.

• Follow best practices for all personal transactions. Choose a public place (preferably with surveillance), identify all individuals using photo IDs, complete a bill of sale, have a witness, verify currency as authentic, take photographs of the involved property or make a video recording of the transaction. Be willing to stop the transaction. When something feels wrong, it usually is.

• Help the vulnerable in the community protect against fraud. It is especially important to talk to your aging family members about the increasing sophistication in counterfeiting.

• Be a mindful caregiver when monitoring a child's fundraising activities. Help kids learn what to look for.

• Be familiar with legitimate currency. A guide is available at https://www.secretservice.gov/data/KnowYourMoney.pdf. Small business owners are encouraged to order the printed brochure as it can be very useful for employees to have at point-of-sale locations.

In evidence photographs obtained by the Craig Press courtesy of the Craig Police Department, the fake $100 bill appears to bear a small, bright orange symbol “kinda like the head of a dog to the right of the 100,” Leonard said.

The bill also has an Asian seal Leonard said could be Chinese.

With this in mind, Leonard said residents can be on the lookout for the symbols.

"The last time I checked, Benjamins don't have a Chinese seal on them," Leonard said. "I don't think that's what Ben intended."

Craig, Steamboat Kroger stores not impacted by strike vote

Union members who work at King Soopers and City Market voted to authorize a strike Thursday, March 14, and Friday, March 15, following the Kroger company’s latest contract proposal, which stipulates workers must wait up to 10 years to be paid sick leave.

More than 12,000 workers represented by UFCW Local 7 work at 109 King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado.

However, Craig store employees are not union members. Union officials originally said the nearest union store was the City Market in Steamboat Springs, but that proved to be inaccurate.

Those stores are “union-free” and will not be impacted, City Market spokesperson Adam Williamson said during in an interview with Steamboat Pilot and Today.

“It’s going to be business as usual, for sure, in your area,” Williamson said Wednesday, March 13. “They are union-free —  both Steamboat Springs and Craig.”

Union contracts ended Jan. 12, and Local 7 has been engaged in bargaining for new contracts since mid-December.

The vote to strike has not resulted in job action, however it did result in ads for temporary workers and brought Kroger officials back to the negotiating table, according to a letter from UFCW Local 7 President Kim Cordova.

"The hardworking women and men of King Soopers and City Market are standing together for their families, their customers, and their communities,” Cordova wrote in a news release. "We need more full-time jobs, not just for more hours for workers who have earned it, but because you deserve the best customer service when you shop. We need first-day sick pay and access to health care, not just to get better ourselves, but to ensure that the stores are fully staffed when you shop.”

Victory Motors of Craig becomes one of two Ram Agriculture-certified dealers in Colorado

The newly Ram Ag-certified team. Pictured, from left: Jeremy Wilson, finance; Tony Maneotis, fleet manager; Kody May, fleet sales; Eric Garay-Acosta, sales; Wyatt Oberwitte, sales; and Brian Kitzman, sales manager. Not pictured: Craig Reuer, Sandra Lindley and Carl Davis.

Farmers and ranchers are being recognized for their hard work and dedication in a new campaign that Ram trucks rolled out during the Super Bowl, and now a local company is helping fulfill the company’s global promise to support agriculture.

Victory Motors of Craig has become one of two Ram Agriculture-certified dealers in Colorado.

“Appreciation for agriculture’s needs has set deep roots with this dealership, and the Ram brand. We stand ready to offer the industry something no other truck dealer can — a partnership that understands, and delivers to those needs at every level,” said Fleet Manager Tony Maneotis.

Serving producers from I-80 to I-70, from the state lines to the Continental Divide, the program allows the business to offer the Ram AgPack — deep discounts on new vehicles, parts, and service on top of rebates, agriculture-friendly financing options, farm tire rebates, discounts on ag products and more.

Victory Motors of Craig is now a Ram Agriculture Certified dealer, one of two in the state of Colorado.

The program is free to farmers and ranchers, Maneotis said. He added that Ram is working on developing a program for used vehicles.

Both large and small scale producers earning at least $1,000 from production qualify, Maneotis said.

“Even medical marijuana. If you grow something, come see me,” he said.

To become Ram Ag-certified, Victory Motors had to have a minimum of three team members successfully complete a curriculum prepared by agricultural partners. Victory Motors qualified eight of its staff.

“The Victory Motors of Craig Ram Ag Team will now participate in continuing education that extends their knowledge of everything important to Colorado agriculture,” stated program spokesperson Pat Driscoll in a news release. “Ongoing education, combined with what specialists learned through the ag awareness curriculum will allow this dealership to become an educated partner with area agriculture by proactively anticipating, and meeting the changing demands of its family, farm and ranch customers.”

For more information about the certification and Ram AgPack, call 970-824-4422. For a directory of all Ram-certified agriculture dealers nationwide visit ramagdealer.com.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.