Voters weigh in on local races

Local voters grappled with a complex ballot last Tuesday and put an end to a long season of campaigning.

In a tightly contested match, Republican Sheryl Ayers beat out Democratic opponent Jean Walter for Fred Klatt’s La Plata County commissioner seat, which he is vacating because of term limits. Ayers earned 8,313 votes to Walter’s 7,405.
Incumbent Sheriff Duke Schirard soundly beat write-in candidate Steve O’Neil with 12,096 votes to 1,018. Schirard has always been confident, commenting last week, “I’m just looking forward to the election being over so I can get back to my job.”

Referred measures 3A and 3B, also known as the school bond issue, both passed by margins of 7,969 to 4,291 and 7,585 to 4,667. The measures are actually a $84.5 million bond issue (3B) and a $2.4 million annual mill levy override (a tax increase in laymen’s terms).The $84 million generated by the two measures will go toward school upgrades and renovations and, in the case of Riverview Elementary, a whole new school.

Incumbent State Senator Jim Isgar, of Hesperus, retained his seat against Republican challenger Kay Alexander, of Montrose. Isgar carried La Plata County overwhelmingly with 10,535 votes to Alexander’s 5,095. Statewide, Isgar captured 18,966 votes to Alexander’s 14,536 with 76 percent of precincts reporting.

County assessor incumbent Craig Larson retained his seat over Patty Dressel, a nine-year assessor’s office employee. In La Plata County, voters strongly defeated Amendment 31, a proposal to end bilingual education, by 9,727 votes to 5,765. The measure failed statewide. At the county level, voters decided to de-Bruce for the third time in less than 10 years. By de-Brucing, the county will be allowed to use all of its tax revenue collections in subsequent years.

Silverton awarded 40 trips a day

As it waits for final Bureau of Land Management approval, Silverton Mountain Ski Area has been permitted to guide 40 skiers on 1,600 acres per day for the coming season.

Brill owns 350 acres of old mining claims on the 13,487 foot Storm Peak, located roughly six miles from Silverton. However, he has gone after a permit to allow skiing on 1,300 adjacent acres of public land. Last fall, as Brill was making the push toward opening day, the BLM decided a rigorous environmental impact statement would be necessary prior to issuance of the permit. Consequently, the resort was limited to 20 guided tours per day when it opened Jan. 19. Last month, Brill said that this year he had hoped to up the number of guided tours to 99 and drop the ticket price while waiting for the findings of the environmental study. However, Brill added that he expected the BLM to allow him 40 guided tours per day.

“I can pretty much say I’m not going to get 99,” he said. “It’s about 99 percent sure that we’re going to get 40 per day. But 40 is better than 20. And $99 is still a steal compared to cat or heli skiing.”

In a letter last week, Brill announced that Silverton Mountain had received permission for 40 tours per day. “This year, we will continue to provide GUIDED ONLY skiing at the cost of $99/day, with a maximum of 40 people spread over 1,600 acres . . . we’ll let you do the math,” he wrote.

Brill’s long-term dream of unguided skiing on Silverton Mountain will have to wait until next season.

County begins revamping regs

La Plata County has started down the long road toward mending its development review process, a process outside consultants recently cited as being seriously flawed.

A study by Clarion Associates, Alan Richman Planning Services and the Four Corners Planning and Design Group has been ongoing since this summer in an effort to reveal and fix weaknesses in La Plata County’s land-use system.
Chris Duerkson, of Clarion Associates, said that a great deal more than tweaking will be necessary. “The whole development code needs to be revised,” he said. “It’s just not very user-friendly.”

Clarion Associates has revamped land-use regulations in Arapahoe County, Mesa County and Gunnison County, among others. Duerkson said that his chief criticism of La Plata County’s review is a lack of standards.

“The number one thing is the tremendous uncertainty in the system because of the lack of any types of standards to govern development reviews,” he said.

Joe Crain, director of County Planning Services, concurred, saying, “It leaves a lot to be desired ... Right now, our code has a number of good standards that are only encouraged and not required.”

The planning staff will be looking to county commissioners to choose from three potential options: a point system, a code with stringent standards on use and density, or a system where the county is strictly zoned for different uses.
“The next step is to get some direction from the commissioners in terms of what course to follow,” said Crain.

Once that direction has been established, the long revision process will begin. “It’ll probably be at least a year before we get something adopted,” Crain said.

Sexual assault suspect a juvenile

Shortly after midnight on the night of Halloween a Fort Lewis College student was sexually assaulted in a vehicle in the 6500 block of Florida Road, just outside city limits. The woman was asleep in the car, which was parked roadside and woke up during the assault.

The suspect was described as a dark-complected, approximately 20-year-old male, wearing a Winnie the Pooh costume. He allegedly had very short hair and possibly a shaved head. The suspect was apparently at a large, nearby party with another male of a similar age, wearing a Tigger costume.

After investigating many leads called in by concerned citizens in the area, La Plata County Sheriff investigators contacted a juvenile male in Durango. The boy and his mother were interviewed, and the juvenile admitted to being at the party and in the vehicle with the Fort Lewis College student. Further investigation is continuing.

The La Plata County Sheriff’s Office said it appreciates the public assistance in the case.

FLC celebrates start of a new era

Fort Lewis College welcomed its new Board of Trustees and thanked its former governing board for nearly a century of service Nov. 6 in the Community Concert Hall.

Prior to the event, Acting-President Robert Dolphin, Jr. commented, “After nearly a century of dedication and governance by the State Board of Agriculture, Governor Bill Owens appointed a new Board of Trustees.”

Governor Owens signed legislation June 5 creating a new Board of Trustees for Fort Lewis College. The Governor appointed Linda Campbell, Peter Decker, Rita Kahn, Ronald Pettigrew, Michael Pugh, Sally Schaefer and Leonel Silva as the seven voting members of the Board of Trustees on July 3. Faculty members and students elected Susan Moss and Ian Lyle as nonvoting members of the board.
The legislation that Owens signed June 5 declared Fort Lewis College to be Colorado’s public liberal arts college. Fort Lewis College is one of 16 member institutions in the national Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges.

USFS seeks comments on thinning

The San Juan National Forest is currently considering a number of local logging projects that would amount to fuels reduction. The Columbine Ranger District is seeking public comment on issues to be studied during the environmental analyses of four proposed projects.

The first proposal calls for the thinning of ponderosa pine and gambel oak four miles north of Durango. The work would take place on 40 acres of national forest and other private land all next to the Falls Creek subdivision, near this summer’s Valley Fire.

A second proposal would thin white fir and ponderosa pine on 200 acres of national forest and Bureau of Reclamation land along the eastern edge of Vallecito Reservoir. The work would take place between and within the Forest Service campgrounds along County Road 501A.

Two final proposals would thin forest near Bayfield. The first would thin ponderosa pine on 180 acres of national forest seven miles north of Bayfield, adjacent to Forest Lakes subdivision and other private land. A second would thin and hydromow pi`F1on, juniper and mixed brush on 923 acres of national forest about four miles southeast of Bayfield, next to private-land boundaries.

The Forest Service asks that written comments be sent by Fri., Nov. 29, to Columbine District Ranger, P.O. Box 439, Bayfield, CO 81122. Copies of project proposals, including photos of each project area, are available. Call 884-2512 for more information.

-compiled by Will Sands





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