Regional Roundup

Brief by Martha Quillen

Local News – December 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

Creepy Crawlies

Water samples taken from Tarryall Reservoir, southeast of Jefferson, contained Quagga mussel larvae, which indicates that there are a substantial number of adult mussels in the lake despite the boat inspection program there.

The tiny organisms can completely alter an eco-system by removing plankton and harming other small organisms. They also attach themselves to any hard surface, thereby damaging water intakes, boat motors, and hydroelectric equipment. The mussels likewise damage fisheries and adversely affect agriculture — by interfering with irrigation.

The DOW urges boaters to be vigilant about cleaning, draining and drying boats whenever they leave lakes.

[Railroad bridge at Milepost 213.83.]

Misadventures Over Memorial

Last year Courtney Curtis died when she fell under the wheels of a homecoming float on Main Street in Westcliffe. Afterwards, Custer County students built a memorial featuring a cross and flowers in the 100 block of Main Street in her honor. But controversy over the memorial and its effect on local businesses built as the months passed.

This fall, town Trustee Wanda Johnson led an appeal to remove the memorial, but Custer County High School students pleaded with the board to reconsider. Action on the matter was delayed until the November meeting, but following the October meeting Johnson resigned, and on October 15 the memorial was removed.

According to the Wet Mountain Tribune, town manager Bob Squire announced, “There was so much controversy and I was getting pressure, so I polled the board and they agreed to get it down.” Squire noted the polling was via telephone.

The high school students were informed of the board’s decision and that a sidewalk plaque would be installed to replace the memorial.

BV Trustees Call for Mayor’s Dismissal

On November 10, the Buena Vista Trustees voted 5-1 to sign and present a letter calling for the removal of mayor Cara Russell from office. So what had she done? Repeatedly missed meetings? Been chronically late? Lied? Stolen? Embezzled?

Nope, none of the above. Russell had merely written her regular column for the Chaffee County Times explaining why she didn’t support an annexation the Trustees had approved. The Times printed the following charges presented in the letter:

“1) public opposition of duly passed board resolution using a forum dedicated exclusively to the mayor, potentially influencing a ballot initiative (Mayor’s Focus column that was in Chaffee County Times dated Oct. 30); publicly criticizing the board of trustees as being “poor leaders,” poor risk takers, and not being prudent (Chaffee County Times and; and 2) improperly undermining the authority of the board of trustees in the local newspaper and on

“The letter states the removal will be effective Nov. 25.”

Elsewhere the Times reported that one commissioner had said he felt compromised with the “negative feeling” of the mayor’s article. Another said “The placement of that letter vocally and its style violates our trust to have confidence in you as our leader for our town. …”

Given the magnitude of the response, this was one column we had to read. And were we surprised. It was certainly no Rush Limbaugh style rant. Mayor Russell wrote:

“There are those who are willing to take a big risk if it means a big payoff and those who are more prudent with their resources, even if it means the payoff will be more modest.

“I believe how local residents will vote on Ballot Question 2H regarding the annexation of the Meadows at Cottonwood largely depends on which of the two above categories they fit in most comfortably.

“There is a lot to recommend the proposed development, including an assisted living center, community-supported agriculture, trails, an amphitheater, mixed-use neighborhoods and a traffic signal at Crossman and the highway. The risk-takers focus on these amenities.

“They also worry that if the annexation is not approved, Buena Vista can forget ever again attracting the attention of other creative developers….

“The more prudent types, however, consider the effects on the Town of Buena Vista if the developer’s plans do not turn out as expected. In short, they focus on the water deal, which does leave the town unprotected if the economy slows, stalls or falls, and the Meadows doesn’t develop as planned….”

Russell wrote more, of course, regarding what she didn’t like about the proposed development. But was she insulting? “Negative?” Name-calling? Hardly.

We know nothing about politics in BV, and admit that for all we know the mayor may be weird, difficult, or rude. But we were shocked to find out that she was prohibited from expressing a free and independent opinion on a ballot initiative — regardless of her public office.

For all we know, the relationship between the Trustees and the Mayor may well be antagonistic (or not). But whatever their relationship, the mayor’s column merely told us why she was against what the Trustees were for, without undue meanness, negativity, or personal commentary, which apparently isn’t okay in Buena Vista.

BV has numerous amenities: multiple river parks, great views, good community facilities, and a marvelous museum building. It’s enough to make neighbors a little envious on occasion. So we thank the BV Trustees for reminding us what a privilege it is to live in Salida, where citizens feel free to grouse about developments.

Sticky Wickets Abound

Denver’s Channel 4 News aired a multi-part segment about local reaction to the presence of a Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS) group that has settled in rural Custer County. One featured member of the church claims they are being unfairly targeted and have been repeatedly persecuted. But Custer County Sheriff Fred Jobe maintained that the community has legitimate concerns about the legality of the group’s practices (which have historically included polygamy, bigamy and early marriage).

The polygamous sect has been much in the news since September 2007 when church leader Warren Jeffs was convicted of being an accomplice to rape in connection with the forced marriage of a 14-year-old girl to her 19-year-old cousin.

And last spring, a judge ordered a raid on a FLDS ranch in Texas due to suspicions of child abuse. The highly publicized raid led to the forced removal of the group’s children, but reports soon surfaced indicating that the raid was based on scanty evidence and may have been instigated by a false report of abuse by a young women claiming to be a 16-year-old victim. The Texas Supreme Court later determined that the raid was unwarranted, and the children were returned to their parents.

Religious freedoms are protected by law, and so are children. By law, underage girls cannot be forced into marriage, no matter what their parents believe. But agents of the state do not have the right to dictate anyone’s religious faith, nor to subject anyone to unreasonable search and seizure or deny due process.

An FLDS member interviewed by Channel 4 admitted that the group was polygamous, but indicated that members were trying to comply with state laws (presumably in regard to age of consent issues, although there was no attempt to clarify which laws she meant).

But concerns about the group continue.

Although many in the Westcliffe community feel that FLDS practices are not anyone’s business, others contend that polygamy, bigamy, and child-marriage are against the law, and must be addressed.

Clearly, like it or not, this is a sticky matter that undoubtedly has to be determined on a case by case basis in accordance with evidence (rather than hearsay) — which is pretty much what the Texas Supreme Court contended.


* Frank Wolking, 53, founder of Sons and Brothers bluegrass band, died after a two-year battle with cancer on October 15, 2008. Wolking, a resident of Custer County, performed around the world with his three sons, yet their band remained a frequent and beloved attraction here at home in rural Colorado. Despite his illness, Wolking performed at a bluegrass festival in San Francisco less than two weeks before his death.

* The First Lutheran Church of Salida has been sending goodwill boxes to twenty soldiers from the Arkansas Valley who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The monthly cost for mailing the boxes is about $200. On December 9th, the church plans to send two boxes apiece, containing needed items like gloves and scarfs, and also goodies such as hot chocolate packets, candies, and cookies. People interested in donating should call 719-539-4311.

* Matthew Sandberg, 20, of Leadville, was scheduled to deploy to Iraq this year, but was killed in a training accident at Fort Hood, Texas on October 9. Sandberg leaves behind a saddened fiance, family and community.

* The Park County jail was expected to lose one million dollars in 2008, and $850,000 in 2009. The jail has adopted various cost-cutting measures, including cutting staff, to reduce expenses.

* Whatever happened to all those visions Coloradans fashioned for the new millennium? A Fairplay Flume article indicates they may have taken the same turn as the rest of our nation’s best-laid plans. The October 31 Flume reported that the treasurer of Park County’s Vision 20/20 group was ordered to repay ten thousand dollars she embezzled between December 2005 and December 2007 from the local non-profit volunteer group.

* The Durgan case has gone to court in Canon City. Salidans Kristin Durgan, 40, her alleged boyfriend Andrew Tanner, 22, and friend Brian Folsom, 29, are charged with first degree murder and four other felony counts in connection with the murder of Kristin’s estranged husband, James Durgan, 37, whose body was found in the Arkansas River July 19, with three gunshot wounds to the head.

* Jeff Hawn, the Texas businessman who was charged with arranging an illegal hunt that killed 32 bison in South Park last March, pled guilty to one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty on November 3 as part of a plea agreement. Hawn will have to make $83,362.28 restitution to the owners, pay a $4,000 fine to the county, and donate $70,000 to local animal protection organizations; he also faces a possible 10 days in jail. Sentencing is scheduled for January 28.

* A 32-year-old Breckenridge man was charged with third degree assault, false imprisonment, felony menacing, harassment and second degree kidnapping after allegedly binding a 27-year-old Fairplay woman in duct tape and holding her for approximately four hours in her residence. The suspect reportedly told the woman he would detain her for several days, and also pushed, shoved, confined, detained, and attempted to suffocate her. Bond was set at $6,000 and the suspect promptly bonded out.

* The BLM is seeking public commentary regarding the proposed Over the River project. Comments must be submitted in writing by December 15 and mailed to: Field Manager, Royal Gorge Field Office, Bureau of Land Management, 3028 E. Main St., Canon City, CO 81212. For more information call Joe Viera at the Royal Gorge field office, 719-269-8708.


“There is no joy in Leadville….

“I kept thinking of the poem `Casey at the Bat,’ Monday after hearing the news that the Climax Mine opening will be delayed. Only we hope that Mighty Casey hasn’t really struck out, but is just in a temporary slump.”

“Perhaps we all have been denying to some extent that the global financial meltdown would touch Leadville….”

Marcia Martinek, editor,

Leadville Herald Democrat, November 13

“I have lived in Buena Vista going on three years. No better place on earth for my last stop, this time.”

Joseph Aceves, The Chaffee County Times, October 23

“Mission Wolf knows a wolf when they see one.

“But wolves come in many guises.

“While everyone has been pointing his finger at predatory bankers who promoted high-risk loans, some have dared to suggest that we need to assume some personal responsibility.

“I agree….

“… The banks are not blame-less, but like Little Red Riding Hood, we should have noted their big teeth.”

Doris Dembosky, columnist,

Wet Mountain Tribune, October 16

“Well, every coin in human life has a flip side. Now I realize that if the Amendment [48] does absurdly pass, in spite of my vote against it, I can legally go have a few dozen eggs fertilized, and freeze those “persons,” and claim a few dozen tax deductions!”

Robert Powers, Wet Mountain Tribune, October 30

“Did you ever think of you being a nobody? Well it happened to me! Everyone in my family got an election ballot except Jack, my husband, and I. I have … voted a ballot since I was 21, the legal age to vote at that time and voted ever since and have worked on the election team many times. We have lived in the same house, same block for over 50 years…. And I am listed among the missing.”

Irene Gray, Saguache Crescent, October 23, 2008