Regional Roundup

Brief by Ed Quillen

Local News – January 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

Money to burn?

When an election is very close, there’s an automatic recount, paid for by the government. In Colorado, the margin is 1/2 of 1% of the highest vote total in the contest. If Candidate A got 1,000 votes, and candidate B got 990, there would be no automatic recount because the difference of 10 votes is more than 1/2 of 1% of A’s 1000 — 5 votes in this example. A candidate can, however, get a recount at his own expense, no matter what the margin.

Regional Roundup heading, photo of Round Mountain from Poncha Loop
Regional Roundup heading, photo of Round Mountain from Poncha Loop

That’s what happened in Chaffee County. Preliminary returns had Republican Sheriff Tim Walker winning a second term by defeating unaffiliated challenger Jon White. It wasn’t anywhere near close, with Walker getting 5,356 votes and White 1,763.

Nonetheless, White paid $4,500 of his own money for a recount, charging that “I am entitled to have an advocate watch the counting on election night, and [County Clerk Joyce] Reno wouldn’t allow me to do that.” Reno said White never requested a “watcher certificate,” and no one without such a certificate could watch the counting.

The recount was completed on Nov. 30, and Walker was still the winner by a handsome margin. Referring to White, he said “I think he just has $4,500 he wants to throw away.”

Merger shouldn’t affect Climax plans

Phelps Dodge made a lot of Lake County people happy last summer when it announced plans to renovate the Climax Molybdenum Mine atop Frémont Pass, which has basically been closed for the past 20 years, and restart production in 2009.

But in November, Phelps Dodge was acquired by Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold for $29.5 billion in cash and stocks with the deal expected to close in early 2007.

“We don’t anticipate any changes in Phelps Dodge’s operations or planned operations,” said Bill Collier, Freeport vice-president for communications. That’s probably because there’s very little overlap; Phelps Dodge is primarily a copper producer with operations in North and South America, while Freeport’s major operations are in Indonesia and Spain.

For decades, the Climax Mine was owned by Climax Molybdenum Corp. Then came a merger that resulted in American Metals Climax, renamed AMAX, followed by a merger that produced Cyprus-Amax, and then the Phelps Dodge acquisition before Phelps Dodge was swallowed by Freeport.

Return of MA to WSC?

Western State College in Gunnison may soon be able to offer graduate degrees again. It had for years, but in 1986, the state legislature eliminated WSC’s ability to offer graduate degrees even though other small state schools, like Adams State and Mesa State, continued to offer them.

Now the stage is set for a return. When the legislature convenes on Jan. 10, Rep. Kathleen Curry plans to offer a bill allowing Western to offer “limited graduate programs,” and Gail Schwartz, who was just elected to the state senate, will carry the bill in the upper house. The other small state colleges, which might have seen WSC as a competitor, have announced their support.

Attractive Schools

Buena Vista’s public schools this year have drawn 95 students from outside the school district, according to a report issued by Superintendent Tina Goar. State law allows for open enrollment, although transportation is up to the students and their families.

The district has nine students from Salida, up from five last year; 53 from Lake County, up from 48 last year; and 33 from Park County, up from 26 last year.

But the public schools are not attractive to all district residents. There are 38 home-schooled children this year, up from 30 last year.

War on Christmas?

In 2005, the commentators on TV’s Faux News (some spell it “Fox News” ) made much of a “War on Christmas” that few others noticed. In 2005, Christmas apparently triumphed.

But recently we read of a theft in Leadville. The Golden Burro Café had a “Tree of Sharing” piggy bank where people dropped contributions, and the small porker was stolen, probably on the night of Nov. 19.

People told police they had seen a man with a backpack hanging around, and on Nov. 21, Leadville Police Officer Tony Lobato saw a man matching that description, complete with backpack, filling out a job application at the local Pizza Hut. Lobato asked some questions, and the piggy bank emerged with $71 inside. Brian D. Gaines was charged with theft.

But in the meantime, a replacement piggy bank at the Golden Burro had quickly filled with money for children’s holiday gifts, according to co-owner Jane Wright. So the Christmas spirit also seems to be winning in the Cloud City.

The Return of the Tonto Apache

About five years ago, there was a proposal to open a mica mine near the summit of Poncha Pass.

The Tonto Apache tribal government, based in Payson, Ariz., was behind it then; when local opposition developed and the Chaffee County Commissioners asked for more detailed plans, the tribe dropped the application.

But now it’s reviving the effort, gathering information for a new application with the county and state governments. Tribal controller Jerry Holland said “There’s a lot of money invested in the mining claim,” and “I don’t think anyone would buy it unless they wanted to open it.”

Bob Gomez, who lives near the site, led opposition the last time around, and plans to do so again. “It’s a quiet neighborhood and we never thought it would turn into some industrial park. I think every neighbor up there will do whatever we can to fend them off.”

Just how industrial it might get depends on whether the owners decide to process the mica on-site, which means a mill and potential dust issues, or at some other location, which means more truck traffic.

Colorado’s Best Rancher

Lawlor Wakem, who ranches near Jefferson in South Park, was named “commercial producer of the year” by the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association. He raises Angus, and is committed to environmental stewardship. He uses electric fences to keep cattle out of the creek, and has installed dozens of structures along Tarryall Creek to protect the banks and improve vegetation.

His stream enhancement project began on his own land. The neighbors have joined in, and it now stretches for about 20 miles.

An elevated LA?

Car-chases and gang rumbles are a staple of news from Los Angeles, and now they’ve appeared in Leadville.

In late October, a sheriff’s deputy tried to pull over a speeding truck. The vehicle took off on a course around town, across lawns and down alleys, reaching speeds of up to 75 mph on Harrison Ave. Once the vehicle was stopped, the driver took off on foot, but was caught before he could get over a tall wooden fence. He was charged with just about everything except leprosy, ranging from “failure to drive in a single lane” to DUI and resisting arrest.

As for the rumble, some school-age kids from Summit County were exchanging some heated words in Leadville on Nov. 8. Police were called, and tracked down the kids, who said it all began with a dispute at the Frisco Wal-Mart. There was no brawl, but the nine Summit County kids were suspended from school for five days for truancy.

An excess of honor?

There’s the fictional Lake Woebegone, where all the kids are above average. And then there’s Fitzgerald Middle School near Bailey in Park County, where 100 of the 320 — about 31% — students were named to the honor roll during the first quarter of this school year.

That seems a little high to us, since a grade of 82% is enough to win “Bronze Academic Achievement” on the honor roll, but at least it’s not like Needham High School in Massachusetts, which decided to quit publishing the honor roll in the local newspaper because it created stress for students who didn’t make the list.


“Is it hunting to chase elk in a pickup truck? Shoot them in the road? Be on private property hunting without permission. Whatever happened to getting up early, climbing up a mountain, sitting until sunrise and waiting until an elk came by?”

Mary Smith in the Leadville Herald-Democrat, Nov. 16, 2006

“The Gunnison Valley has an excellent base of restaurants, hands-on workshops, and culinary events to promote itself as a unique and memorable food-and-drink destination for visitors.”

Jane Chaney in the Gunnison Country Times, Nov. 30, 2006

“At a Christmas party a few years back for a major national environmental organization, I was naively shocked to see that major members of the local group — a family of four, as I recall — owned a vast house (I’m guessing at around 8,000 square feet) outside of Rapid City and invasively nestled in a prime portion of the Black Hills. A large outdoor swimming pool, a large stable, a number of horses, several vehicles and not all of them fuel-efficient. We can see the enemy, see it clearly, and it is us, too.”

David Cremean in the Canyon Country Zephyr, Dec. 2006-Jan. 2007

“I’ve been a Republican for 25 of the past 26 years, but I changed this year, because I had enough of bad governing.”

John DeStefano in the Fairplay Flume, Dec. 1, 2006

“If you don’t like a community where people handle their business, help out the neighbors, and use their ability to think rather than react like preprogrammed automatons, you can always go back to the city.”

Don Wilcox in the Wet Mountain Tribune, Nov. 30, 2006.

“Please show my views of objecting to an increase of POA [Property Owners Association at the Baca Grande] dues to $438 [from $260]. I don’t know what our POA is thinking, doing this to a community that is living on the edge and mostly limited-income and retired. It would be sad if these increases cause the whole system in our community to collapse.”

Carol Nichols in the December, 2006, edition of the Crestone Eagle.

“And don’t forget the cold. Got to be thankful for it, too. Without it, where would we be? The cold helps define the Gunnison Valley. It adds to the long list of things that make us unique. It brings us the joy of hockey and wood heat; of snow and sliding.”

Funny bumper sticker on Saguache door
Funny bumper sticker on Saguache door

Chris Dickey in the Gunnison Country Times, Nov. 23, 2006