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Regional News Roundup – April 2009

Buena Vista developer files for Chapter 7

BUENA VISTA – A major property developer in Buena Vista has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Dean Hiatt, who ran his business as Vista Builders filed for bankruptcy on January 28.

It is estimated he built nearly 350 homes and multiple commercial properties since the early 1990s in Buena Vista, Leadville and Salida. The company was responsible for building extensive subdivisions in Chaffee County.

Spokespersons for the builder claim the slowing economy and the tightening of credit in the Spring of 2008 led to poor home sales and no cash flow.

The Town of Buena Vista hopes to recover funds to complete the infrastructure on unfinished projects. Some homeowners in several of the subdivisions affected have been served with a “mechanics lein” on their property and will have to go to court to fight the claims.

Shooter turns self in

GUNNISON – A man accused of firing a gun into the parking lot at the Monarch Mountain ski area turned himself in to the Gunnison County Sheriffs Office.

Leonard Ray Pringle, 78 of Evant, Texas had gotten into a minor vehicle accident on Feb. 25 with an active duty soldier from Ft. Carson who had been skiing at the area.

After exchanging insurance information the dispute reportedly escalated with the result being Pringle discharging a .40-caliber handgun near the feet of the soldier. He then left the parking lot in his red Chevy pickup. Monarch employees contacted law enforcement and Chaffee County Sheriff’s Deputies, officers from surrounding counties, Salida police, and the Colorado State Patrol attempted to find the shooter. Pringle turned himself in the next day.

Young man sentenced in Salida

SALIDA – An 18-year-old Salida man was sentenced to eight years in prison after accepting a plea bargain in a vehicular homicide case where an 18 year-old mother of two was killed.

Devon Nordby was driving his Ford Bronco along with three passengers at high speed along the power line on Methodist Mountain the evening of October 10, 2008, when his vehicle became airborne for 44 feet and landing at the bottom of a ravine, killing passenger Brittanie Stevenson. Alcohol was involved.

Nordby was on probation at the time of the accident and was also charged with driving under the influence.

CMC Leadville getting new $2.24 million building

LEADVILLE- Colorado Mountain College is planning a $2.24 million building project for it’s Timberline Campus in Leadville beginning in May.

The new building will house two conference rooms/classrooms with a total seating capacity of 120 and will be available for community use. It will also serve as the home for the Outdoor Leadership Program. The building will also house a full-sized gymnasium complete with climbing wall, weight room and dance/yoga studio.The college claims 100 percent of the funds for the new building will be spent with local contractors from Lake and Chaffee County.

Natural Resource Center sought

GUNNISON – A new natural resource information center is being considered for the Gunnison Valley.

Those involved in the project, called the Upper Gunnison Natural Resource Information Center, hope to gather data related to the Upper Gunnison Basin environment and archive it electronically in a searchable web-based database.

The center hopes to work with entities such as the U.S. Forest Service, Western State College, the Bureau of Land Management to help gather data such as snowpack numbers and grazing data.

Tax-deductible donations are being sought by the group to help fund the Center. Checks can be sent to the Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley, P.O. Box 7057, Gunnison, CO 81230. Attach a memo stating it is for the UGNRIC.

Obama plan could nudge hydroelectric planning

GUNNISON – In late February, President Obama talked about efforts to pass cap-and-trade legislation yet this year, in effect imposing a tax on the burning of fossil fuels.

If that happens, the electricity produced by burning coal will become somewhat more expensive, and the electricity gained from renewable sources will look that much less expensive.

In anticipation of such a shifting landscape for prices, local water and energy officials in the Gunnison Basin are investigating whether a 200-foot-high earth dam on the Taylor River built to hold back spring runoff for irrigation purposes later in the season can be retrofitted to generate electricity.

“It seems like a waste of a resource not to tap into hydropower there,” said Mike Wells, chief executive of the Gunnison County Electric Association.

The Crested Butte News suggests $30,000 in local and state funds are being collected for the feasibility study.

For all its falling water and now its wind farms and solar panels, Colorado still gets the majority of its electricity from burning coal, about 70 percent, and most of the rest from burning natural gas. Utah is even higher, with 85 percent of electricity coming from coal, while Wyoming is at 97 percent.

BLM to offer gas leases

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management plans to auction about 58,000 acres of public land for oil and gas development on May 15. The 57 parcels are mostly in Western Colorado.

Sec. Salazar removes protections for gray wolves

DENVER – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar removed gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes of their legal protections under the Endangered Species Act. The Service decided to delist the wolf in Idaho and Montana because they have approved state wolf management plans in place that will ensure the conservation of the species in the future.

“When it was listed as endangered in 1974, the wolf had almost disappeared from the continental United States. Today, we have more than 5,500 wolves, including more than 1,600 in the Rockies,” Salazar said.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter earlier told The Associated Press that he wants hunters to kill about 550 gray wolves once they’ve been removed from the list.

Conservation groups were dismayed by the announcement.

Armed Guards accompany layoffs

GRAND JUNCTION – Workers arriving at Halliburton’s Grand Junction offices were met by pink slips and armed guards on March 5. The company claimed the layoffs were due to the hard economy. They refused to explain the need for armed security guards.

Photographer wins awards

Local Buena Vista nature photographer, Reb Babcock, recently received two awards in international photography competitions sponsored by Outdoor Photographer Magazine.

Reb received the Grand Prize award for the “Celebrate the Seasons” contest for his image, “Dawn-Grand Canyon”, out of 4,000 entries submitted.

He also received an Honorable Mention award in January for the “Nature’s Colors” competition for his image “Mittens Reflection.”

The contests, held over the last six months, drew thousands of photo submissions from around the world.


“If townspeople are looking for someone to blame, they should look to Congress and start with (Massachusetts congressman) Barney Frank.”- Buena Vista Mayor Cara Russell, discussing the economic downturn in Buena Vista after the bankruptcy filing of a developer there.

Chaffee County Times, March 12, 2009

“I would like to bend over backward for this.” – Lake County Commissioner Carl Schaefer discussing funding a new gun range near Leadville.

Herald-Democrat, March 12, 2009

“Jackalopes,” he says. “They come out at night. You see hundreds of them of them after 9 p.m. That’s why we get you to Gunnison before 7, so the driver won’t have to deal with all those jackalopes on the road!” – Black Hills Stage Line bus driver Jesus Rangel.

Gunnison Country Times, March 19, 2009

“Our country must wake up to the fact that people need decent affordable homes –maybe they will when McMansions start selling for the price of a double-wide.”

Kizzen Laki, Editor, Crestone Eagle, March 2009


Representatives of the Nestlés Corporation take notes at a public meeting held at the Salida SteamPlant on March 18. Most in attendance were opposed to the project which involves trucking water from a spring in Chaffee County to be bottled in Denver. For an update on the project, please see John Orr’s column on page 20.
Representatives of the Nestlés Corporation take notes at a public meeting held at the Salida SteamPlant on March 18. Most in attendance were opposed to the project which involves trucking water from a spring in Chaffee County to be bottled in Denver. For an update on the project, please see John Orr’s column on page 20.