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John Kinkaid: Candidates’ plans raise concerns

After reading the city council and mayoral candidates' plans for the city in the Craig Daily Press, I'm pretty concerned about the future of Moffat County and Craig, specifically.

It seemed like there was a common thread running through all of the candidates’ answers: Build a recreation center and raise our taxes to pay for it. That's after already raising the city sales tax recently. Now, the candidates want to raise taxes again for a recreation center or rec district, that we may not be able to keep the doors open on. It's one thing to get grants and build something, but it's a whole other thing to be able to pay for operations, maintenance, and mortgage payments.

As an aside, Yampa Valley Electric has raised rates twice now in just over a year. My monthly electric bill will be $180 for the next year. A little here and a little there adds up for people. Every week, I work with people who are just barely getting by, by the skin of their teeth. The city should not make the burden worse. We've already seen an increase in trash rates. The new water treatment equipment will likely increase water rates, as well. Just a guess.

What happens when the Hayden Station shuts down and people move or have to cut back on their expenses? Xcel Energy has stated that they intend to close (and profit from) the closing of all of their coal-fired generation power plants.

What happens when Craig Station shuts down Units 1 and 2 under pressure from the feds, the state, and the co-owners? There will be fewer of us to pay the bills to keep government services running. It's likely that our population is going to drop in the next several years. It could easily hit 11,000 in Moffat County.

We should keep working on creative ways to keep the libraries and museum open for business (without raising taxes). That's the priority.

I just don't see how opening a rec center is a prudent financial decision given our present economic forecast. Sure, it would be nice to have a recreation district and a nice rec center, but at the present time, we have an economic contraction staring us in the face. Taking on a large financial obligation is a bad idea at this time. I just don't see how the math works without an undue burden on taxpayers.  Am I wrong?

By the way, I'm still hoping and praying for a serious miracle in Moffat County! We could really use a break.

John Kinkaid

Craig

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. 

Inspire to Lead: Third annual Youth Summit slated for April 6

Middle- and high-school youth will be “Inspired to Lead” during the third annual Youth Leadership Summit, set for 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Colorado Northwestern Community College.

All middle- and high-school-age youth are invited to attend this free, youth-driven event, according to Jill Hunstad, Grand Futures Moffat County youth development coordinator

In April, about 50 middle- and high-school students attended “Inspire to Grow.” During the event, volunteers from Rise Above Colorado encouraged kids to create posters, and the top three posters were reproduced and displayed in schools and throughout the community.

This year speakers will include School Resource Officer Ryan Fritz, Moffat County United Way Executive Director Kristen Vigil, and Rise Above Colorado’s Jonathan Judge. Youth will also lead breakout session activities. Prizes will be offered by Grand Futures.

Transportation sponsored by the Boys & Girls Club of Craig will be provided to the college, with buses being staged at the Safeway parking lot and at City Park.

A continental breakfast will be catered by KS Creations Bakery, and lunch will be catered by Subway.

Grand Futures, the Substance Abuse Prevention Partnership, and Communities That Care are sponsoring the event, with United Way, Boys & Girls Club of Craig, Grand Futures, and CNCC organizing and providing in-kind services.

Registration is at 9 a.m.

For more information, call Jill at 970-824-5752, Reina at 970-699-6778, or Annette Norton at 970-757-0187.

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

Craig City Council will discuss police canine proposal Tuesday

Corporal Grant Laehr, of the Craig Police Department, will present the Craig City Council with a “canine team proposal” at council’s regular meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at City Hall, 300 W. Fourth St.

Other council business may include discussions about City Attorney Sherman Romney’s contract, which will be conducted during executive session toward the end of the meeting.

For more details, see the agenda below.

 

The Network to host Craig candidate meet-and-greet Thursday

Craig residents may have read about them in the newspaper or watched them speak during the recent candidate forum, but now, the community is invited get to know the candidates for municipal office in a more casual setting.

The public is invited to meet the candidates for Craig City Council and Craig mayor in a social gathering, set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 28, at Vallarta’s, 2705 W. Victory Way.

This event is organized by The Network, a membership organization for locals working to positively impact the community. The group hosts a variety of events to give members the opportunity to make social and business connections through professional, fun events and community impact projects.

For more information, visit facebook.com/thenetworkyvyp.

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.

Personnel decisions on agenda for Moffat County School Board’s Thursday meeting

The Moffat County School District Board of Education is expected to take action on recommendations for non-renewal of some staff contacts and consider the adoption of a number of policy changes during its upcoming meeting.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday,  March 28, in the board room of the administration building, 775 Yampa Ave.

A workshop will precede the regular meeting at 4 p.m.

An announcement about the Colorado Northwestern Community College welding program, updates on the facilities master plan, recreation center, and financials also top the agenda.

The school district agenda has a new look after the board adopted a policy to include strategic goals alongside each item. To see the changes and view the complete agenda, click on the document below.

Freedom Hooves Therapeutic Riding of Northwest Colorado: Horses valuable partners in human healing

Did you know that horses can read human emotions, such as sadness or nervousness, even before we've even consciously registered them? Horses are known to provide "mirroring" and biofeedback of human emotions, allowing participants a compassionate partner who responds and reflects in a way that brings awareness, opens neural pathways to healing patterns, and reduces stress and anxiety. Experiencing the rhythmic motion of a horse can be very beneficial, as well. Riding a horse moves the rider’s body in a manner similar to a human gait, so riders with physical needs often show improvement in flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. The research is solid; horses are valuable partners in healing the human body, mind, and spirit.

Through Equine Assisted Activities and Therapies, about 70,000 children and adults, including more than 6,700 veterans, find a sense of health, wellness, independence, and fun worldwide. Freedom Hooves Therapeutic Riding of Northwest Colorado is beginning its seventh year of impacting lives in our region by connecting the healing power of the horse with the needs of our community. Whether it’s a 5-year-old with Down syndrome, a 45-year-old recovering from a spinal cord injury, a senior citizen recovering from a stroke, or a teenager struggling with depression, research shows individuals of all ages who participate in equine-assisted activities and therapies can experience physical and emotional rewards.

Under the helm of our new Program Director Talisha Christiansen, participants and volunteers will engage with horses throughout our 2019 season, running May through October. This year's lineup of programs includes the following

• Therapeutic Horsemanship — Provides therapies for riders with needs (cognitive, developmental, emotional, physical, sensory)

• Ranch Hands — Teaches youth ages 12 to 21 to overcome challenges

• Horsemanship and Job Skills, Horizons Specialized Services — expands opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities

• Family Services — Supports the healing process for family units

• Veterans and First Responders Program — comes alongside heroes through horsemanship activities.

If you or a loved one is facing mental, emotional, or physical challenges, consider participating in one of our programs. If the thought of helping others through horsemanship interests you, please consider serving our community through volunteerism or financial support.

Did you know horses can smile? Join us this year as we share smiles, and learn with us. Community members, regardless of prior experience, are welcome to come and help us train our therapy horses on Tuesday evenings through the season, beginning April 16. Additionally, volunteers to assist participants or to care for our equine partners are encouraged to join our wonderful horse care team. Are you interested in being a participant, but not sure if you qualify? Please connect us for more information.

March 30 claims the date for our annual fundraiser dinner, set for 5 p.m. at the Moffat County Fairgrounds. Join us as we celebrate the beginning of another great season and learn about all we have to offer. Participant and volunteer applications will be available, along with all the fun and activities. If the weather is just right and the stars all align, perhaps our unicorn will make an appearance at this special event.

Save the date of June 1 and join us on our family-friendly trail ride at the Bureau of Land Management's Duffy Mountain along the beautiful Yampa River in Moffat County, Colorado.

For more information, visit freedomhooves.org, come by the BBQ Dinner Fundraiser 5 p.m. March, 30 at the Moffat County Fairgrounds, email freedomhooves@gmail.com, or call 970-701-9085.

Connie Sue Ellis is the facility owner and instructor and was recently appointed executive director of Freedom Hooves. 

Most of Colorado is now drought-free after a few weeks of heavy snowfall

What a difference a few weeks can make. Over the past month, Colorado has gone from nearly 70 percent of the state in drought to less than 5 percent. That drenching happened over the past month, a four-week period that included the snowiest early March that most Summit residents can remember. Yet it remains to be seen whether the season’s precipitation will put much of a dent on the region’s near-20-year drought.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, which uses water flow levels and other data to assess drought conditions across the country, shows that only 6.4 percent of the state’s land area is experiencing drought conditions, with 46.1 percent being considered at least “abnormally dry.” Compare that to the middle of February, when 67.2 percent of the state was in a drought and 91.8 percent abnormally dry.

For Summit County, the difference has been especially staggering. Summit and 39.7 percent of Colorado were experiencing at least a “severe drought” on Feb. 19. Today, the county is back to normal conditions, with only 0.6 percent of the state experiencing severe drought or worse.

The reason for the striking drop in drought area is obvious: it’s all about the snow. The state now stands at 140 percent of normal snowpack. Southwest Colorado, which suffered the most from last year’s arid summer, is seeing anywhere from 150 to 157 percent average snowpack.

Government officials and conservationists worried about the impact one of Colorado’s driest winters on record would have on water levels in reservoirs across the region. The hot, dry spring and summer of 2018 was also accompanied by one of the worst wildfire seasons in state history.

And while the new precipitation is very promising, it is just one drop in the stream of time. According to the drought monitor, Colorado has been experiencing sustained dryness since the late ’90s. Since 2000, the longest duration of drought in Colorado lasted 395 weeks, or nearly eight years, beginning in October 2001 and ending in May 2009.

“The drought monitor is a snapshot of what’s happening now and ramifications into this upcoming summer,” said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District. “But there’s a longer-term picture, the long-term drought from the year 2000 through this year.”

Pokrandt said that since 2000, Colorado has only had four years at or above average levels. The 2018-19 winter will be the fifth, but he said one big year does not end a long-term drought.

“If we have three or four more of these years of average snowpack, we might talk differently,” Pokrandt said. “But I would not say the drought’s back is broken.”

County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier echoed Pokrandt’s words of caution, noting that the drought was so bad just last summer that remnants of Old Dillon resurfaced from the bottom of the lake. There is a lot of recovery left to go, she said.

“We’ve had very high temperatures for March, and the snow is already starting to melt off,” Stiegelmeier said. “Just because we have all this precipitation now doesn’t mean that in two months that we won’t be dry again since we get most of our precipitation in March and April.”

Stiegelmeier said that this snowfall may be a “blip” in the long term, and if the summer is once again hot and dry, Summit might run into the same problems as last year.

“We’re all dealing with less water and higher temperatures because of climate change,” Stiegelmeier said, noting how 40 million people use the Colorado River across the West. “Higher temperatures create so much evaporation, that even with above-average precipitation we’re losing a lot of water to the air.”

Regardless of whether the long-term picture is made any rosier, this upcoming spring will be very muddy, at the very least. Dillon ranger Bill Jackson cautioned residents and visitors to not use muddy trails if at all possible, as they can be deceptively dangerous and use during mud season can contribute to long-term trail damage. Additionally, Jackson cautioned adventurers to avoid crossing creeks and waterways to get where they’re going.

“In the morning, water flows might be low, making creeks easy to pass,” Jackson said. “But in the afternoon, when the temperatures get higher, there’ll be more runoff from the mountains, and you might get cut off.”

Travelers in the area are advised to follow standard precautions in the spring, including notifying someone of where they are heading to and keeping an eye on weather forecasts for potential storms and flash flooding.