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Regional Roundup

Brief by Martha Quillen

Local News – February 2009 – Colorado Central Magazine

The Bus Stops Here

Bus service from Gunnison to Denver is available again. According to the Gunnison Country Times, round-trip service will happen Thursday through Sunday, departing from Gunnison at 7:15 a.m. and arriving in Denver at 12:15 p.m. The bus leaves Denver at 2 p.m. and returns to Gunnison at 7 p.m. There will be no Tuesday service, and on Mondays the bus will only go to Denver, and on Wednesdays it will only return from Denver. The fare is $32 one way.

For the first leg of the trip, a 15-passenger van operated by the Chaffee Shuttle will travel from Love’s Gas Station in Gunnison to Salida, and from Salida a 47-passenger coach operated by Black Hills Stage Lines will go on to Denver and drop passengers at Union Station and Denver Greyhound Station (where hourly connections are available to DIA).

Bus stops along the way include Poncha Springs, Salida, Buena Vista, Fairplay, Jefferson, Grant, Pine Junction, and Cold Spring Park and Ride.

Tickets can be purchased from ticket agents at each station or the Black Hills’ website, www.blackhills- For more information call the Black Hills Stage Lines at 877-779-2999 or the Chaffee Shuttle at 719-530-8980.

Coyote Ugly

Pine resident Dudley Tolar, an 8-year-old Yorkie/Chihuahua mix, was killed by a coyote in his yard in mid-December, which prompted the Fairplay Flume to run a front-page story reminding locals of the dangers presented by coyotes and cougars.

DOW officer Jennifer Churchill told the newspaper that “people need to be extra vigilant about letting their pets out at night … Coyotes don’t see a difference between pets and other animals they can eat — and they’re everywhere.” (And that includes Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, other front range communities and even L.A. and New York City according to other reports.)

Dudley’s owners, Mable and Pete Tolar, were particularly devastated. “We’re 83 and 84,” Pete told the Flume, “and he was our baby; he went everywhere with us.”

From the tracks, Pete assumes that the dog was taken by a coyote, but Churchill warned that cougars also hunt in our region. She said residents should never let coyotes hang around their property and should routinely scare them away. Also, do not leave pet food or bird seed out because they attract rodents which in turn attract coyotes — which is also good advice later in the year when the bears come out to play.

Gunnison Gone Solo

In December, Gunnison County Commissioners decided to quit Club 20, and that seems to be happening in other Colorado communities, too. The organization, which bills itself as the “Voice of the Western Slope,” purports to represent western Colorado’s political interests. But numerous Western Slope communities are not sold on Club 20’s positions.

Gunnison’s commissioners took issue with the organization’s policy which made “any due-paying member … entitled to one vote, regardless of whether the person represents a county, a business or solely him or herself,” according to the Gunnison Country Times. The dues of Club 20 in light of what a member gets in return were also an issue. Many believe that the organization is too allied with oil and gas interests; while others feel it strays from important issues.

Gunnison Commissioner Hap Channel, for example, said the organization was “basically a chamber of commerce for the Western Slope.”

The hope expressed by most of the commissioners from various communities who were quoted by the Times — whether they supported quitting Club 20 or thought it was important to stay — is that Club 20 needs to reform.

Local Woes Play On

In 2007, Hartsel Fire Chief Jay Hutcheson faced charges of theft and embezzlement after a bookkeeper who had admitted her financial malfeasance claimed that he was also guilty of irregularities. The charges were later dropped, but the fall-out continued.

Soon after Fire Chief Hutcheson was charged, his wife Rebecca, better known as Becky, was fired from her position with the DA’s Office for the 11th Judicial District which serves Custer, Fremont, Chaffee and Park Counties.

Then in January of 2008, Becky Hutcheson filed a wrongful termination suit against Molly Chilson, the District Attorney for the 11th District.

According to the Fairplay Flume, subsequent judicial findings concluded that Hutcheson had a plausible claim that her 14th Amendment right to due process clause had been violated and that statements made by Hutcheson would suggest that Chilson intended to interfere “with the familial relationship between Mrs. Hutcheson and Chief Hutcheson.” Claims, counterclaims, court procedures and legal wrangling also made the firing seem unnecessary — since Jay Hutcheson’s case was assigned to a special prosecutor because of his relationship with local law enforcement.

Chilson, however, maintained that she had actually terminated Becky Hutcheson’s employment due to “issues of confidence.”

Last fall, Molly Chilson, the District Attorney for the 11th Judicial District said she wouldn’t run and pledged her support to Thom LeDoux (who will soon assume the office). Chilson, however, said her decision not to run was unrelated to the Hutcheson lawsuit. And, of course, the case persisted.

It was beginning to appear that this matter might consume yet another year, but in mid-December the wrongful termination suit brought by Rebecca Hutcheson against D.A. Chilson was settled for $100,000.


* The controversial mining operation proposed by New Horizon Uranium Corp. and fought by the local Save Our South Park Water organization was chucked, and the mining claims northeast of Hartsel abandoned, due to a recent drop in uranium prices.

* He had definitely gotten his goat, but…. Burt Vincent of Jackson, Michigan was convicted in Chaffee County Court and fined $15,000 for charges brought for killing a mountain goat in nearby Lake County without a Colorado license. And a Florissant couple was ordered to pay another $10,000 for misdemeanor charges related to the Vincent case.

* All’s well that ends well (kind of — except for long days and chilled would-be rescuers). For two days, a team of seven snowmobile riders with Lake County Search and Rescue searched unplowed county roads looking for the vehicle of 22-year-old twins who’d been reported missing by their mother on Monday, January 1. But their vehicle wasn’t found, nor was the snowhut that they had reportedly built to live in and save money. The boys were found in Frisco on Tuesday after they’d charged their cell phone.

* A Leadville mother called the Lake County Sheriff’s Department to report her 13-year-old daughter missing and gave them the number of someone the girl had met on My Space and had recently started calling. Authorities traced the number and went to the cell phone user’s home, where they found the girl in a state of undress in a bedroom. According to the Herald Democrat, Nicholas Hess, the 28-year-old resident, is being charged with several counts of sexual assault, enticement of a child, sexual exploitation of a child, and harboring a minor.

* A Crested Butte house that was for sale for a little over $5.4 million was torched in early December. “We know gasoline was used as an accelerant — quite a bit of it,” the Crested Butte Police Chief announced.

* Snowboarder Michael Bowen, 36, of Crested Butte was killed in an avalanche on December 17. The backcountry terrain where he was killed is considered extremely dangerous, and the CB Avalanche Center reported a rating of “High” had been issued for areas above timberline that day due to the unstable early snowpack conditions.


“Last year at this time we were waiting for the mine to open. This year we still are waiting for the mine to open. In fact, if there’s one thing we can be certain won’t happen in 2009, it’s the opening of the mine.”

Marcia Martinek, Editor,
Leadville Herald Democrat, Jan. 1, 2009

“You have received a marketing call from Kay Designers. We are sorry, but there is no representative available at this time.”

Telemarketing call received
at Central World Headquarters, 8:10 p.m. Jan. 14, 2009

“I wish I could say that I am relieved that the economic downturn is behind us, but I don’t believe that, and I’m pretty sure you don’t either.”

Cara Russell, Mayor of Buena Vista,
Chaffee County Times, Jan. 8, 2009

“… my husband asks, ‘So what do you think. Is this scene bleak or beautiful?’

“I answer that it depends on whether you are inside looking out, or you (like livestock huddled heads low with butts to the wind) are outside — too miserable and numb to dream of warmer days to come.”

Doris Dembosky, Wet Mountain Tribune, Jan. 8, 2009

“There’s a new, multi-lingual posse in town that is dicing it up at the new sushi bar at City Market.”

Michelle Burkhart,
Gunnison Country Times, Jan. 1, 2009

“When I was about 10 or 11 … news from Denver ran articles about the world coming to an end. Several days before the date, Mother had Marie (my sister) and I busy cleaning house. Why the house should be sparkling, I have no idea…. The world was ending at 11 o’clock….

“During my lifetime, the world was coming to an end several times, but I never again had a sparkling clean house for the end of the world.”

Irene Gray, The Saguache Crescent, Dec. 25, 2008

“Dear Santa,

“I would like to have more friends in Denver even though I live in Westcliffe. I am moving. The other thing I would like is the right house….

“Love, Noah”

Wet Mountain Tribune,Dec. 25. 2008