Craig Press, Craig Association of Realtors to host candidate forum
The Craig Press — in cooperation with the Craig Association of Realtors — will host a candidate forum featuring hopefuls for the April 2 municipal election from 6 to 8 p.m. Monday, March 18, in the Moffat County High School auditorium, 900 Finley Lane.
Candidates for Craig mayor — incumbent John Ponikvar and challenger Jarrod Ogden — as well as candidates for the three expiring Craig City Council seats — Paul James, John Simo, Joshua Veenstra, Steven Mazzuca, Stephen Tucker, and Brian MacKenzie — have all been invited to participate.
The forum will be moderated by Craig Press Editor Jim Patterson and live-streamed on Facebook for those who are unable to attend.
In an effort to cover the topics of greatest interest to voters, the Craig Press is soliciting question submissions from the public for possible inclusion in the forum. To submit a question, email it to jpatterson@CraigDailyPress.com with the subject line “candidate forum,” and please indicate if the question is intended for mayoral candidates or council candidates.
Questions will be accepted through 5 p.m. Friday, March 15, and the newspaper will make every effort to include as many reader questions as possible within the forum's time parameters.
The forum is free to attend, and the public is cordially invited. We hope to see you there.
MCTA pushes for wayfinding initiative throughout Moffat County
CRAIG — The Moffat County Tourism Association and the Local Marketing District are working hard to put Craig and Moffat County on the map.
The MCTA board elected new officers for 2019, and all four have renewed their to service Moffat County's tourism industry.
During a meeting held Wednesday, Jan. 9, Shannon Moore was re-elected board chair. Co-chair John Husband, treasurer Rebekah Greenwood, and secretary Cindy Looper were also re-elected.
According to Moore, MCTA is exploring the idea of a new visitor's center building. The board is in the preliminary stages of planning the retention of the current visitor's center for office space or training and using the old Abbey Carpet building on the 400 block of East Victory Way as the next possible visitor's center.
She said the original presentation for the idea came from the Craig Chamber of Commerce, and MCTA wants to partner with the chamber to explore the idea.
"This is a very early stage of this idea and project, but we do want to explore the future options of sharing services, space, and operating in a more cohesive fashion with our partner organizations," Moore said.
Though MCTA is not officially the lead organization for a countywide wayfinding initiative, the association is working with partner organizations in Craig and Moffat County to assist with the initiative. MCTA is aware the city of Craig and Moffat County will be applying for grants, exploring best practices and areas for the signage, and working with Colorado Department of Transportation to comply with any regulations.
"This is a project that has been identified in multiple studies, and several organizations are taking action," Moore said.
MCTA will hold a committee meeting at 2 p.m. Feb. 7 at the Bank of Colorado office building. MCTA will hold its regular board meeting at 3 p.m. Feb. 14 in the same location.
Local Marketing District
The LMD also has on its radar moving the current visitors center into the old Abbey Carpet building, but several other initiatives were recently funded using hotel and motel tax revenue. These include the following.
• The Bear River Young Life Car Show was granted $3,500.
• Grand Old West Days was granted $16,000. This will be the second year the event will be held at the fairgrounds.
• Whittle the Wood Rendezvous was granted $15,000 to help subsidize several bands, as well as stage costs, such as lights and sound.
• Colorado Great Northwest Fiddle Competition was granted $2,465 for expenses. This is the first year the event will be held in Craig. For more information, call Pam Foster at 970-824-6416.
• Moffat County Balloon Festival was granted $15,000, mostly for balloon pilot expenses, such as hotels, food, and fuel.
• The Craig Historic Ghost Walk was not funded a requested $1,200 and was referred to the MCTA for possible funding.
Craig residents question city council’s choice to convert to monochloramine
CRAIG — About 30 residents attended the first Craig City Council meeting of 2019 and made the most of expanded opportunities for public comment, voicing concerns about the planned use of monochloramine as a secondary disinfectant in drinking water.
"Fish live and breath in water, and if it will kill them, I'm pretty sure it's not good enough for us," said resident Vicki Huyser during a public hearing to inform citizens about water improvement projects.
As reported in the Craig Press Dec. 27, to comply with state law, by April 2020, the city must change how water is treated and moved through the system to maintain a minimum 0.2 mg/L chlorine residual in the system, which is tested at 10 sites across the city.
The city has been out of compliance since a state rural change in April 2016.
"Regulatory violations erode public confidence in the water and in the city," said SGM Engineer Rick Huggins, part of a team hired to help the city develop and implement a solution.
Huggins was the first to speak during the hearing, presenting information about other options tested, as well as health and safety information about monochloramine — commonly called chloramine.
"I can't help feeling there is some bias as SGM is benefiting. … I would like to see a speaker well-versed in the opposition of chloramines to give a presentation, as well," said resident Dave Wallace.
Wallace said he learned from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that other municipalities in Colorado comply without major modifications. He questioned why Craig needed to take additional measures.
Huggins said the Dissolved Air Floatation system used to treat Craig water, as well as the source — the Yampa River, which, due to run-off, requires more treatment than other sources across the state — prevented use of his preferred treatment system.
Wallace asked the city to consider a two-step process, making distribution changes first, then adding chloramine only if those changes don’t result in compliance.
"I think there is more of a methodical approach to coming up with the answer," he said.
Wallace thinks council members should have done more to independently research options.
"I would think you would have a stack of documents based on your own research. I think you've let the community down. You are hearing one biased opinion. Where are your opinions?" Wallace said.
Resident Darrell Sparks also had a list of concerns and questions.
"I'm concerned that we are having this meeting after city council voted 6-0 to approve paying for it. I'm concerned we have been in violation since April 2016, and there's no mention of it on the water quality report or notification," he said.
Sparks’ research showed 17 other cities use chlorine and remain in compliance.
"I'm concerned only data from one source was considered. I hope on Election Day, the citizens of Craig will remember they were ignored on the initial process of this," Sparks said.
The potential for lead leaching and nitrification were two additional concerns raised.
NDMA — a type of nitrosamine — is a carcinogenic chemical and known disinfection by-product of chloramine, which remains when ammonia and nitrogen combine. Nitrosamines are not currently regulated. Regulations are expected in another five to 10 years when the Environmental Protection Agency reviews rules related to disinfection by-products.
Sparks added, "That could make the system obsolete."
He also voice concern about chloramine's impact on lead pipes within homes, a concern shared by Wallace and Huyser.
"What we missed here is the leaching of lead and metals out of the system," Wallace said.
Huggins said state health officials consider Craig at high risk for lead contamination and the city’s water already requires rigorous testing.
He also acknowledged the city is working through an operations manual to address possible corrosion, disinfection by-products, and any biofilm that might be formed when ammonia is introduced into the system.
"I recommend to everyone … testing on their own for a baseline test, then compare into the future to see if there is a change," Wallace said.
Huggins said residents could also remove monochloramine and chlorine from their homes system by using catalytic activated carbon (two-stage) water filters where it enters the home or at tap points within the home.
He showed an example of a filter on sale for $371 that would provide filtration for a year for a family of four with typical water use.
After the public hearing, council members, except Joe Bird, who was unable to attend, unanimously voted to approve two additional measures to pay for the project. They include:
• A loan between the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority and the city of Craig Water Activity Enterprise Fund for $300,000 to upgrade the city’s water treatment plant and distribution system improvements. City Attorney Sherman Romney said the "special loan" will be forgiven once the city receives a $3.2 million bond to finance the project. "It's almost like a grant," he said.
• A letter to engage Lisa Mayers, of Spencer Fane, to act as bond counsel for the water activity enterprise financing at a cost of $13,500 and $380 per hour for additional services.
Council members also unanimously approved the following:
• A consent agenda to renew liquor licenses for Fiesta Jalisco, Loaf 'N Jug, Vallarta's, and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265, as well as a request for modification of premises for City Market.
• A first reading of an ordinance adopting new landfill fees for residential and commercial refuse collection.
• An agreement for added IT support services from Grand Junction-based Pro Velocity in the amount of $20,640.
• A new brewpub liquor license for the Yampa Valley Brewing Company-Barrel Cathedral, to be located at 576 Yampa Ave. Romney said all documentation was in order, including comments from businesses and neighbors within 600 feet of the location. Two of the owners and four citizens spoke in favor of the new establishment during a public hearing before the vote.
• An agreement for advertising with Colorado Mountain News for 2019 for a little more than $25,300.
• Resolutions designating the bulletin board in front of council chambers as the public posting place for notices of meetings, as required under open meetings law, and another designating the Craig Press the official newspaper of the city.
• A lease with Connections4Kids for 2019 for $200 per month.
Economic development was the topic of a workshop held before the meeting.
During the workshop, Brixius presented a list of potential projects
Projects include improvements to signage, infrastructure, and trails, with most offering short-term immediate results.
It was decided that a committee of three council members — Tony Bohrer, Chris Nichols, and Andrea Camp — will meet with city staff to flesh-out plans to offer business matching grant dollars for improvement and expansion projects.
The committee meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Monday, Jan. 14. The workshop will be posted, and the public is welcome to attend.
Moffat County High School robotics team gearing up for Denver
CRAIG — Some of Moffat County High School's smartest minds will be putting their heads together as robotics team number 7485 — the first ever to grace Craig's high school.
"We are a rookie team," said Moffat County School District Superintendent David Ulrich on Saturday. "I know our kids can compete and do this.”
The FIRST Robotics Competition (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, according to the group’s website. The competition pits student robotics teams from across the United States against one another in a pre-determined field designed to challenge robots built by each team from a universal kit.
This year's national high school competition is called “Destination Deep Space” and is sponsored by Boeing. Craig's team will have six weeks, beginning Jan. 4, to build their robots using the same universal kit provided to every team. A manual is provided, which incorporates all the rules of the competition, as well as the dimensions and particulars of the field on which the robots must operate.
The team must complete a series of tasks in a simulated habitat on another planet. Robots and their handlers must brave sandstorms while loading and securing large, spherical cargo and flat, round hatch panels in a harsh environment. Handlers can operate their robots manually with a controller or autonomously using code. Teams score points by feeding the cargo and hatch panels to their robots through universal feeds. The robots are then tasked with loading the cargo and hatch panels onto a ground-level cargo ship, which automatically scores acquired cargo once it's secured correctly.
The field's second obstacle is a small, three-level rocket ship that must be filled with cargo and secured with hatch panels, suggesting robots must be able to deal with higher obstacles.
Other obstacles highlight the need for autonomous operation during a sandstorm; this is accomplished by placing a curtain over the team area so operators cannot see and must depend upon their robot's coded autonomy to complete tasks.
At least four students have dedicated themselves to the team at MCHS, but several others attended Friday who said they were thinking about joining.
Joshua Gumber, a 16-year-old junior at Moffat County High School, was one of those students definitely planning to help his school's robotics team win.
"I think it's really interesting and fascinating, and I'm really proud of our (school) board for bringing this to the high school," Gumber said.
FIRST robotics is one of several new initiatives being undertaken by Moffat County School District after the closure of East Elementary School in Craig to make room in the budget.
"We are able to do new and better things for our kids because of the very tough choices that the board of education has been very supportive of, and FIRST is just one example," Ulrich said.
Gumber said he's taking an AP class on coding and plans to use his coding skills to help automate the school's first robot.
Though they are a rookie robotics team, Gumber said he's just hoping to have fun when the team travels to Denver for the regional finals in March.
"I think we'll do the best we can do," Gumber said. "We're a relatively small community with a small team. I'm just hoping to have some fun with it at the regional competition. Hopefully, we can come out with a win."
A dry, dry year: Craig residents buffered from drought with ample water supply
CRAIG — In the midst of record-breaking heat and drought this year, Craig residents have been blissfully buffered from the water worries of the rest of the county and the state. Even as the Yampa River turned to a trickle by the time it reached Dinosaur National Monument, the City of Craig had all the water it needed.
The reason for this has a lot to do with water rights and good planning on the part of Craig's forefathers.
"Our water rights are pretty senior, so when we got the call, it didn't affect us much," said Mark Sollenberger, the city's water and wastewater director, referring to the first-ever call placed on the Yampa River in early September.
The call resulted in some other Moffat County water users, primarily ranchers, having their ditches shut off due to either junior water rights or a lack of a proper measuring device for their irrigation water. But it was business as usual inside city limits, with residents able to water their lawns and wash their cars as often as they liked.
"We don't have any water restrictions in Craig, and we've got plenty of water … so we weren't really that affected," said Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike, who noted that, if anything, his department used more water this year to keep parks green in the oppressive heat.
The Yampa River is Craig's main source of drinking water. Some of the city’s water rights date back as early as 1883, according to Dan Davidson, director of the Museum of Northwest Colorado. Situated right next to the river, the water treatment plant diverts the water it needs through an intake structure. Even with this year's historically low flows, "there were never any issues drawing water into the plant," Sollenberger said.
And, while the main source is the Yampa, Craig has even more water stored as a backup at Elkhead Reservoir, constituting more than a two year's supply.
"With our senior water rights, coupled with backup emergency storage at Elkhead … we're pretty secure," Sollenberger added.
In the 20 years he's been on the job, Sollenberger said he has never had to draw any water from Elkhead. The reservoir reliably refills each spring with runoff from the 205-square-mile basin that drains into the reservoir (though a string of bad snow years could change that). This year, the reservoir is only slightly lower than usual, at about 14 feet under capacity, compared to a more typical 12 feet for this time of year, Sollenberger said. He added, however, it can look dramatically lower due to the exposed shoreline.
During a time when water worries are skyrocketing statewide, conservation is a hot topic in many municipalities, but Craig is not alone in enjoying water aplenty.
"Water use anywhere in Colorado is really locally oriented," said Jim Pokrandt, director of community affairs for the Colorado River District. "Craig is not unique in that they have great water rights and didn't have to ask residents to cut back. And, you have to remember that they're in the water-selling business, too, so the less water that gets used, the less they make. That’s the case with everybody."
Pike echoed this sentiment, pointing out that Craig's domestic water is an enterprise fund.
"An enterprise fund is set up to make money," Pike said. "We're in the business to make water and sell it."
Even so, the city's water use has decreased in the past two decades, due partly to a slight decrease in population and partly to conservation methods.
"Historically, we're probably producing almost 50 million gallons less a year than we were back in 2002," Sollenberger said, a year that also saw severe drought across the state. "People have started to conserve, so we don't produce as much. … People have changed their method of watering their lawns — they've xeriscaped."
Watering lawns is a more consumptive use of domestic water than running the faucet, Pokrandt noted. While about 90 percent of household water runs down the drain, is treated, then is put back into the Yampa, only about 50 percent of water used on lawns makes it back into the river.
Just because no restrictions were needed this year doesn't mean that won't ever happen. The city does have a drought contingency plan, which would start by curtailing commercial users, such as car washes, Sollenberger said. But, given Craig's wealth of water, it would take what he calls a near "emergency situation."
Nonetheless, another year like this one could begin to deliver just that type of situation.
"All it takes is a couple back-to-back years like that, and we'd have to change," Pike said.
Looking for spring: Though the grass lacked gumption and trees doubted the season, Joel and I wandered our April yard making plans for new additions, forced relocations and merciful deaths: "That daisy struggles every place we've tried it; it's time to put it out of its misery. But the nettle and fall aster do well wherever we plop them. Maybe we should transplant some asters where the tulips have experienced little green deaths. And what is this? Do you remember what we put here? Is it a weed?"
While we debated, a rookie robin, looking like it indulged in one martini too many, landed on the edge of the birdbath, then wobbled and regained its balance before plopping full-body into the water. Frantic, wings flapping and water flying, it struggled to regain the rim, managing to do so after three frenzied attempts. Recovering, it teetered and shook as though thinking, "I'll try bathing again as soon as hell freezes over."
Confirming spring's arrival: In mid-May, trees abandoned their winter costume of bare branches and donned the freshly leafed look of spring. In our yard, aspen, though frail-natured and quaking, managed to produce tier upon tier of trembling leaves. Along the alley, strong-willed Russian olives, prickly and squat, dressed for anonymity in regimented leaves of army green. The neighborhood's veteran cottonwoods — seasoned and efficient — easily produced their full quota of gray-green leaves undercoated with white; and two blocks over, dignified poplars of perfect posture ignored the commotion created by their giddy leaves a-popping into view.
A lady and her dog smelling spring: Strolling through the fragrant air of a Craig spring in full bloom, I saw a frustrated woman scurrying along, one hand covering her nose, the other holding the leash of a happy bulldog intent on sniffing and marking every enticement it encountered. As I approached, the woman attempted to drag her reluctant pet away from a frequently watered rock nestled beneath a blooming bush. "I have to keep him moving," she explained, "I can't stand the smells this time of year; really, it's too much. I have to cover my nose when I pass all this flowery stuff, and he wants to dilly-dally."
I smiled sympathetically and thought, "If I had to trade places with either you or your dog on this beautiful day, it wouldn't be you." And the bulldog winked.
Flowers celebrating the season: The earth, breathing moisture and fertility, wrapped our valley in a mantle of warmth and persuaded the flowers of spring to put on a show. Iris stood at attention, presenting leaves like ceremonial swords and blossom-flags of tender color. Lilacs waved regally, wafting warm perfume to a world renewed. Oriental poppies rippled in time to the rhythms lay down by a sensuous breeze, while high-spirited daisies danced the hokey pokey and shook their heads about.
A family enjoying spring: As I cleared debris from a flowerbed, young parents and a toddler walked by in the gentle sun playing a game familiar to all those who have walked with a child. Holding their laughing daughter's hands, the adults walked in step and chanted, "One, two, three;" then, with a prolonged "whee," they swung her into the air. She chortled, and as her feet returned to the sidewalk, like children throughout time, she demanded, "Again. Do it Again." I heard counting, chortling and demanding far down the block.
Remembering the best day of spring: All day, a hum floated from our flowering trees where swarming bees give in to delirium; an abundant Fortification Creek rushed through the green glow of City Park pretending it was the mighty Mississippi; and, in our arbor, the rhubarb partied.
Janet Sheridan's book, "A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns," is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on the 1st and 15th of every month.
Finley Steven Wilson
Samantha and Jeremy Wilson of Craig are proud to announce the birth of their son, Finley Steven Wilson, at 12:34 a.m. May 21 at Yampa Valley Medical Center. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces and was 19 1/2 inches long. His siblings are Andrew and Noah. Finley’s grandparents are Pam Wilson-Orth, of Craig; and Karl Orth, of Craig.
Craig sees big turnout for Memorial Day ceremony
The honor guard, a combination of the local chapters of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War, played a big part in this year's Memorial Day service, which was held Monday at Craig Cemetery.
Al Shepherd, a member of the honor guard, says the service gets better every year.
Shepherd, a Craig resident, calls himself an "old-timer." He says he knows they're getting better because he's been to a lot of them.
"It went good. We've been improving on this for years," Shepherd said. "It gets a little better every year. We've got a pretty good honor guard."
New Castle, Wyoming, resident Ken Graham was there to honor his father.
"First one I've been to, but it was nice. My father was a veteran of the Korean War. Freedom is not free, so I respect that."
About 200 people, a larger crowd than usual, were in attendance for the ceremony, which included a reading of the names of fallen Moffat County veterans, playing of the Taps and a 21-gun salute.
The local Memorial Day service is old hat for Hurst, Texas, resident Vern McFarland. McFarland has family in this area and property in Colorado.
"I come every year for it. Taps was my favorite part," he said.