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Operation Christmas Child marks national collection week

As Thanksgiving approaches, Craig families are expressing their gratitude by filling shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to send to children in need around the world. For many of these children, it will be the first gift they ever receive.

During Operation Christmas Child’s National Collection Week, which began Monday, Nov. 12, and will continue through Monday, Nov. 19, local residents will collect shoebox gifts at drop-off locations serving Craig participants. The Samaritan’s Purse project, partnering with churches around the world, will deliver these gifts to children affected by war, disease, disaster, poverty, and famine. The Western Slope Colorado Area Team volunteers hope to collect more than 10,000 gifts during the week.

“We believe these simple gifts have the ability to send a tangible message of hope to children facing difficult circumstances,” said Regional Director Paul Fischbach. “It is exciting to see the Craig community come together to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with millions of boys and girls around the world.”

In 2018, Samaritan’s Purse hopes to collect enough Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts to reach 11 million children.

For more information about how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 303-745-9179, or visit samaritanspurse.org/occ. Participants can donate $9 per shoebox gift online through “Follow Your Box” and receive a tracking label to discover its destination.

Those who prefer the convenience of online shopping can browse samaritanspurse.org/buildonline to select gifts matched to a child’s specific age and gender, then finish packing the virtual shoebox by adding a photo and personal note of encouragement.

Craig Middle School students invite first responders to breakfast

CRAIG — Craig Middle School students, working with Mark Clemmons, MTSS coordinator, will host a first responders breakfast, cooked and served by CMS students.

Breakfast — which will include eggs, sausage, toast, oatmeal, pancakes, orange juice, coffee and fresh fruit — will be served from 8:45 to 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 16, in the CMS cafeteria, 915 Yampa Ave.

All members of Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Office, Craig Fire/Rescue, Bureau of Land Management, Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Parks & Wildlife are invited.

For more information, call Clemmons at 970-826-6306.

Grand Junction man arrested on kidnapping charges in Mesa County

MESA COUNTY — At 2:53 a.m. Monday, Nov. 12, Mesa County Sheriff's deputies were called to a report that a man had broken into a home on the 2900 block of Clarinet Lane and was holding the occupants hostage, according to a news release from the Mesa County Sheriff's Office.

The male victim told deputies he woke up to the suspect holding a knife to his throat. He and a woman who was staying at the home were then held hostage in the living room for about an hour. The male victim was able to escape and run to a neighbor's house to call 911, suffering minor injuries in the process.

The female victim told deputies the suspect then pushed her out of the house, and they both left the area in her car. The female said she was assaulted in the process. Deputies were able to track the vehicle to a parking lot near the Fruita Welcome Center, and the suspect was arrested without further incident.

The suspect, David Gillespie, 31, of Grand Junction, was reportedly known to the victims.

Gillespie is being held at the Mesa County Detention Facility facing charges of two counts of second degree kidnapping, a Class 2 felony; first degree burglary, a Class 3 felony; and aggravated robbery, a Class 3 felony.

He also faces misdemeanor charges including two counts of false imprisonment criminal mischief, second degree criminal tampering, felony menacing harassment, two counts of third degree assault, two counts of reckless endangerment, menacing, and domestic violence.

The case remains under investigation.

Moffat County commissioners to proclaim Veteran’s Appreciation Week

CRAIG — The Moffat County Board of County Commissioners is expected to honor local veterans with a Veteran's Appreciation Week Proclamation when it meets in regular session at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, in Suite 130 at the Moffat County Courthouse, 221 W. Victory Way.

The proclamation, in part, reads: "Now, therefore, let it be proclaimed that we, the Moffat County Board of County Commissioners, by virtue of the authority vested in use by the people of Moffat County, do hereby proclaim Nov. 11 through Nov. 17, 2018, as Veteran's Appreciation Week, and that all citizens observe the same with appropriate ceremonies in honor of those who served to preserve the principles of justice, freedom, and democracy."

Commissioners are also expected to hear a presentation from the Elkhead Wranglers 4-H group about profits generated from a community service fundraiser for installation of fans in the Moffat County Fairgrounds Livestock Barn.

According to an email from Chris Rhyne, co-leader of the group, the club raised $1,000 selling pumpkins during Wyman's Fall Festival and proposes donating these funds to help with the purchase of the fans.

Commissioners will also approve the consent agenda, which includes the following items:

• Approval of minutes from the Oct. 30 commission meeting.

• Approval of a resolution to transfer payroll warrants.

• Approval of a resolution to tranfer intergovernmental funds for November.

• Approve voided warrants for November.

• Approve a resolution to pay warrants.

• Approve a resolution to amend Moffat County financial policies.

• Approve a corrections resolution.

• Approve a land use authorization form for Loudy-Simpson Park parking lot with Hatten Enterprises. The company proposes to use the parking lot for CDL driver skills testing.

• Approve 2019 operating plans for the Chaffee Foster Care Independence Program, a federally funded, county-administered statewide independent living program. The county's CFCIP services plan must be approved annually.

• Approve a renewal and associated adjustments pertaining to Colorado State Patrol's lease at the Public Safety Center.

Also on the BOCC's agenda for Tuesday:

• Commissioners will consider applications to the Moffat County Fair Board. The county has received applications from Karl Huntsman, Kelly W. Hepworth, Megan Kozey, Ian Duzik, and Bryanne Cossey.

• Commissioners will hear a monthly report from the Road & Bridge Department from Dan Miller, director. Miller's report will include updates on final settlements with Stripe A Lot, for a 2018 striping project, and with Kilgore Companies, LLC, Elam Construction, Inc., for a 2018 asphalt project.

• Commissioners will evaluate bids to purchase a 4X2, midsize SUV for the Department of Human Services. Bids include $29,157 for a Ford Explorer from Cook Ford; $28,280 for a Chevrolet Traverse from Cook Chevrolet; $32,495 for a Dodge Durango from Victory Motors; and $28,080 for a Ford Explorere from Larry H. Miller.

• Commissioners will consider and engineering services agreement with SGM for the Maybell Park RV Park project.

• Commissioners will consider an engineering services agreement with Riverwise Engineering for riverbank stabilization at Loudy-Simpson Park.

• Commissioners will hear an update from Annette Burrow, adult basic education director at Colorado Northwestern Community College, about programs offered at the college.

The BOCC's next meeting is scheduled for 8:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 26.

Economic Development Partnership board to meet Wednesday

CRAIG — The Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership Board of Directors will host its monthly board meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in room 175 at Colorado Northwestern Community College, 2801 West Ninth St.

Meetings are open to the public.

For more information, call 970-620-4370 or email director@cmedp.com.

Craig City Council to hold public hearing on 2019 budget Tuesday

CRAIG — Residents will have the opportunity to speak for or against the 2019 proposed budget for the city of Craig when the City Council meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 13, in Council Chambers at Craig City Hall 300 w. Forth St. City staff and council members will meet at 5 p.m. for a budget workshop before the regular council meeting.

Rather than voting for line-items or on sections of the budget, City Council members, after the public hearing, will vote on first reading of an ordinance setting appropriations for the revenues and expenditures and making and fixing the amount of property tax levies for the city of Craig.

Council will also consider the following items:

• An ordinance to increase water and wastewater rates.

• Approval of a bid of more than $500,000 for the Roundbottom Tank rehabilitation project.

• Discussion and possible approval of $15,000 for a shop local incentive program through the Craig Chamber of Commerce.

• A consent agenda that consists of proposed actions on business matters which are considered routine and for which approval is based on previously approved city policy or practice. The consent agenda will be approved by a single motion to Approve the Consent Agenda, and council members will vote without debate. Council members may move to remove a consent agenda matter for any reason and request it be handled separately for discussion and consideration. Matters removed from the consent agenda will be placed on the agenda as an item of "other business" for discussion and consideration.”

The city will also hear the following presentations:

• Jana McKenzie and Kristina Kachur, from Logan Simpson, will review the final draft of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan.

• Annette Burrow, adult basic education instructor from Colorado Northwestern Community College, will give an overview of the ESL, GED, and Read/Write programs offered by CNCC.

• Craig Middle School sixth-grade engineering students will present their ideas about the world's plastics problem.

• Monthly reports.

The city has clarified its process for public comments, making the following note on the agenda:

“Regular City Council meeting agendas and council packets are posted on the city's website to keep city residents informed of City Council actions and deliberations that affect the community. This public comment time is set aside for citizens to address the City Council on matters that are listed on this council meeting agenda. Each speaker is allocated three minutes to speak. Speakers may not cede their time to another speaker. If your comments concern an item that is not on this agenda, please address the council during the public comment period at the end of the agenda. Comments should be limited to matters within the jurisdiction of the city. The City Council can only take action on matters that are on the agenda, but may place matters brought to its attention at this meeting on a future agenda for consideration. If you have documents to present to the City Council, please provide a minimum of eight copies.”

Mayor John Ponikvar said that he is working with city staff and council members to increase the opportunities for public comment and expects to hold more public hearings like the one planned for Tuesday.

To review the complete meeting agenda and associated documentation visit ci.craig.co.us/government/city_council/council_packets/november_2018.

Deposits due Dec. 1 for CNCC students planning to travel to England and France

CRAIG — Adventures await in England and France for those Colorado Northwestern Community College students and travelers who register and pay a $500 deposit by Dec. 1.

In England, walk the streets of London, visit Stonehenge, discover the site of the Battle of Hastings, and explore Dover Castle. In France, stroll the Av. des Champs-Élysées, admire icons such as the Eiffel Tower, and sip coffee at a sidewalk cafe.

The trip includes airfare, lodging, breakfast, guided tours, admission into many of the sites, and transportation.

Class fee is $2,950. Moffat County residents age 62 or older pay $2,750.

The adventure begins Friday, March 15, with travelers returning Sunday, March 24.

For more information, registration instructions or a copy of the itinerary, email Desiree Moore at desiree.moore@cncc.edu.

Marine, wife, mother: Cathie Ennis has seen military service from many perspectives

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The sense of adventure and hard work runs deep in the veins of the Ennis family from Glenwood Springs.

Kirstie Ennis is well known in the Roaring Fork Valley and around the world for her never-ending determination to conquer all that she can, even after a helicopter crash left her severely injured while serving with the United States Marines in Afghanistan.

But where does that drive come from?

Kirstie’s mother, Cathie Ennis, did not know she had an interest in joining the U.S. Marine Corps until after she met and married her husband, Geoff, in 1988. Geoff was in service from 1988-1996 as a Fire Direction Controlman, spending time in Okinawa and serving in the Gulf War.

“I was always proud of my husband for doing what he did and just being around all the other service men and women,” Ennis said.

“I was looking for a challenge, so I decided to enlist,” she added. Though most people run to a crafts or home improvements store when struck with the desire to start a new hobby, Ennis went further.

Being 26 at the time (the cutoff age to join the Marine Corps) and married to a Marine with a dependent child, she was initially turned down by the first two recruiters she went to. The third time was a charm, though, and in January of 1995 she was off to boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.­­­­­­ — the only military base that trains female Marines.

“I loved it,” Ennis said. “There were days where we would wake up and I was completely miserable. We were covered in mud, crawling through barbed wire. Then I would think to myself, ‘where else can you get paid to do this?'”

MATERNAL INFLUENCE

Her daughter, Kirstie, who was 4 years old at the time and being taken care of by Geoff while he was non-deployable, also began an obsession with the Marine Corps at an early age.

“Forget the Disney movies, all Kirstie wanted to watch were training videos,” her mom said.

After basic training, Ennis was transferred to Camp Johnson, North Carolina to attend MOS school (Military Occupational Specialty) before being assigned to Marine Corps Communication and Electronics School at the Air Ground Combat Center in TwentyNine Palms, California. She was in active duty until January of 1999, two years after her second daughter Kaylee was born.

“I just wanted to be a mom growing up. That’s all I wanted to do,” she said. She did in-home childcare for six years before switching and getting a degree in healthcare administration.

“I’m just very adventurous, I guess. I’m always wanting to do something different and new,” Ennis said.

She now works in real estate after moving to the valley last May to live closer to Kirstie, who received a home from the Homes for Heroes program in the Ironbridge subdivision near Glenwood Springs.

“When I enlisted and was at Parris Island it made it easier for me, knowing that my husband walked the same grounds that I was on,” Cathie said. “So, I hope that it was for her [Kirstie] as well, just knowing that her mom and dad had both been there before.”

VETS’ SUPPORT NETWORK

Cathie Ennis started utilizing the Veterans Resource Center in downtown Glenwood recently to get to know new people and hear the stories of other veterans in the valley.

“She started coming here about a month ago with Kirstie and she’s been back every week since,” said John Pettit, co-founder of the Jesse Beckius-Casey Owens Veterans Resource Center.

“It doesn’t matter that she didn’t serve in combat, her daughter did,” Pettit added. “And, she’s had to deal with her daughter having 40 surgeries and the turmoil. Her daughter’s a changed person.”

Kirstie Ennis enlisted in the Marines just after high school and was in active duty as an Airframes Mechanic and Aerial Gunner from August 2008 to May 2014. She was severely injured in a helicopter crash in June of 2012.

“When she was deployed, I really wasn’t too worried,” Cathie Ennis said. “We were able to follow things on the news and she was able to keep in touch pretty regularly.”

The initial information about Kirstie’s injury was downplayed simply for the fact that there was a lack of information. It wasn’t until her parents spoke with Kirstie on the phone that they realized just how bad the injury really was.

“We couldn’t understand what she was saying,” Cathie Ennis said. “Her friend got on the phone and let us know she couldn’t talk, because she had lost numerous teeth and bone in her mouth. That scared me.”

Several major surgeries and hardships later, Kirstie was able to begin the process of regaining the independence she always strived for. The first major milestone came when she received her prosthetic leg and began the process of learning to do simple tasks all over again.

“It just brought me to tears,” Kirstie’s mother said. “To see her have that independence back again, it’s like when she was a child and she took her first step.”

When she goes out in public, people don’t see the whole thing. When she gets home and kicks off the prosthetic and gets in her wheelchair is when she can really relax, she said.

“I think people take for granted how much effort it takes to do simple things,” Ennis said.

“I do think I have a unique perspective on things because I was the military spouse first, then active duty, then the mom of an active daughter,” Ennis said. “I think I had a deeper understanding of what really happens.”

Summit County’s unemployment rate hits an all-time low, vexing businesses struggling to hire

FRISCO — Campaign signs are falling fast after Tuesday’s 2018 midterm elections, but another commonly posted sign across Summit County looks like it’s here to stay for much longer: Help Wanted.

The latest unemployment figures from the Frisco Workforce Center, an organization managed through the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment that’s devoted to helping people find work across the county, have Summit’s jobless rate at 2.1 percent, near historic lows. The all-time low for September came last year at 1.9 percent.

That’s almost two full points below the national jobless rate (3.7 percent) and over one point below the state’s jobless rate (3.1 percent), both of which have been referenced as indicators of a strong economy. In Summit, however, the low jobless rate remains a cause for concern.

Generally speaking, a 3-4 percent unemployment rate is considered a healthy target by policymakers.

When the jobless rate goes too much higher than that, it can stress not only individuals looking for work, but the economy as a whole. High unemployment is often associated with declining living standards, reduced consumer spending and rising debt.

When the rate drops too low, that also creates problems for the economy, as local businesses start running the risk of having their workers come into the bosses’ offices demanding hefty raises — and getting them — or threatening to leave for greener pastures.

Navigating the shortage of local workers is nothing new for many Summit County businesses, some of which have “Now Hiring” and “Help Wanted” signs hanging in their windows almost year-round.

Many of these local businesses have resorted to offering incentives for new hires, such as longevity bonuses in as little as three months or higher-than-normal pay. Others have moved to providing employee housing or even enlisting foreign worker visas just to be fully staffed.

At the Walmart in Frisco, a sign on the entryway advertises the store’s need for cashiers, sales floor associates and second-shift stockers with wages starting at $12.40 an hour, plus an additional $1.50 an hour during the winter season.

Further down, Walmart’s door sign advertises paying the store’s overnight stockers and maintenance workers a starting wage of $14.40 an hour, plus the additional $1.50 seasonal hourly hike, well above the retailer’s $11 starting pay for hourly employees after announcing it was increasing wages earlier this year.

In the same shopping center, the Mexican food restaurant Hacienda Real is looking for wait staff.

The owner and manager of the restaurant, Luis Flores, said he has been doing business in the county for almost 17 years now. While staying fully staffed has always been a struggle, it’s gotten much worse the last couple years.

“It’s hard to hire cooks and dishwashers for the season,” Flores said. For the 2018-19 ski season, he’ll need three hostesses, nine servers, three bussers, five cooks, a prepcook and three dishwashers to keep service flowing smoothly.

One of the biggest strains on the local workforce has to be Summit’s high cost of housing, said Michel Infante, family support program manager for the Family Intercultural Resource Center, where they see the breadth of poverty in Summit County firsthand.

Infante said he has noticed that many of the people coming to FIRC work in the service industry, be it in housekeeping, construction, fast-food restaurants or a host of other service-related jobs.

At FIRC, they know that while many jobs are available in Summit, the hourly rates don’t always cover the cost of living here, specifically for housing. Infante said that’s one of the single biggest reasons the labor market is so tight.

“A lot of times we find that our families are paying over 50 percent of their incomes toward housing, and that is one of the struggles,” he said.

Ex-Vail city employee allegedly slept with child prostitute in Glenwood Springs

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The man charged with soliciting a minor for prostitution in Glenwood Springs is a Gypsum resident and worked for the town of Vail for more than 24 years, the Post Independent has learned.

Ronald Braden, 53, appeared in Garfield County District Court Wednesday on bond, and was released with a court protection order prohibiting him from having contact with children under 18 years of age.

Judge Denise Lynch of the 9th District also ordered Braden to remain in Colorado, unless granted permission to travel from the court, according to case documents.

Braden had led information services for town of Vail since he was hired in June 1994, most recently holding the title of director. Braden’s employment with the town of Vail officially ended Monday, a spokesperson for the town said, and he was placed on leave Oct. 24.

Braden’s charges are included in a larger Colorado grand jury indictment handed down Oct. 22, alleging a prostitution ring operated out of the former Plaza Inn, which is no longer in business, in north Glenwood Springs.

The indictment charges Damara Hester, 25, and Dasjuan Goode, 30, of transporting two juveniles to Glenwood Springs in July 2017 and holding them at the hotel before driving at least one of the juveniles to a sex buyers’ home to perform acts of prostitution,” the indictment said.

Braden allegedly was one of those who engaged in the activities during that time. The pair put ads for the two minors online and exploited them sexually for money, according to the indictment.

On at least one occasion, Braden “met the juvenile at a hotel/motel in Glenwood Springs and paid money to engage in sexual intercourse with her,” according to the indictment.

He is charged with four felony counts, including soliciting for child prostitution, pandering of a child, patronizing a prostituted child, and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

A defense attorney for Braden, Alaurice Tafoya-Modi, said “Mr. Braden looks forward to addressing the allegations in a court of law.”

Hester remains in custody at the Garfield County jail with bail set at $50,000. Goode was arrested Oct. 25 and is currently being held in Brighton with bond set at $100,000, according to Adams County Sheriff records.

Ninth District prosecutors have filed to have Goode transferred from the Adams County jail to face the charges in Garfield County, Assistant District Attorney Ben Sollars said.