die in Florida Road car wreck
Three people died on Nov. 30 at 12:10 a.m. after a BMW traveling
north on Florida Road drove off the west side of the road and
down an embankment, Durango Police reported. The car was apparently
traveling at 88 mph when it crashed and claimed the lives of
47-year-old Durango resident Dr. John R. Starns, 55-year-old
Durango woman Anne M. Glover and Gilbert Castro, 30, Westminster.
Police said they believe that the vehicle was attempting to
pass another vehicle when the driver, Starns, lost control.
The vehicle apparently spun sideways, counter-clockwise, and
crossed the roadway before crashing into three separate stone
pillars that supported a guardrail. According to police, the
vehicle then sheered off a light post, became airborne and slammed
into a large tree before coming to a rest on a street below
Florida Road in the Island Cove Trailer Park.
The roof of the vehicle was torn off in the crash. Starns was
ejected from the vehicle. Glover, the only person wearing a
seat belt, was pinned in the vehicle. Castro was partially ejected
from the vehicle.
The La Plata County Corner Dick Mullen pronounced all three
people dead at the scene. Durango Police said it was unknown
at this time if alcohol was a factor and toxicology results
should be received in coming weeks.
A memorial service was held for Starns on Tuesday at Miller
Church fire under investigation
Durango Fire & Rescue responded to a fairly involved fire
at the Unity Church of Durango, 3170 East Fourth Ave., at 12:26
a.m. last Monday. The first responders arrived to find heavy
smoke with the glow of flames visible through the windows.
“It was nasty in the sense that it had been burning for
a while and had built up smoke and heat, but we were prepared
to handle that,” said Dave Abercrombie, public information
officer for Durango Fire & Rescue.
Abercrombie added that there is a danger of backdraft in such
cases, where the introduction of oxygen creates an explosive
situation. Luckily, in the case of the Unity Church, the fire
had not progressed to that point, and firefighters were able
to quickly knock down the flames with a water stream through
Another fortunate side of the fire, according to Abercrombie,
was that no one was living in the church. Firefighers had identified
a room that looked like it may have been an apartment and initiated
a search for people. The search was quickly called off.
“We were relieved when we realized it was not inhabited
in any way,” Abercrombie said.
Dense smoke and heat hampered early efforts to control the
blaze, but ventilation fans were set up to push the smoke and
hot gases out. The fire was eventually contained.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, and a damage
estimate was not available at press time.
LPEA cuts new-line extension subsidy
La Plata Electric Association is continuing its quest to save
dollars. The local electrical cooperative recently decided to
cut the subsidy it offers for new line extension, noting that
new growth in La Plata County no longer needs to be subsidized.
LPEA had credited builders $8,000 toward the cost of extending
a power line to new construction. After Jan. 1, builders will
be able to receive a maximum of $1,280.
“What primarily motivated our decision was our desire
to save some money,” said LPEA spokesman David Waller.
“We also would have never recuperated that $8,000 over
the lifetime of the service. It wasn’t a good thing for
the membership as a whole.”
Waller added that a number of LPEA members have been asking
“why are we subsidizing new growth?”
He said that subsidizing new lines is a traditional rural electric
philosophy. However, he said such a dramatic incentive is no
longer necessary. “It’s kind of an outdated policy
now,” he said.
Cutting the subsidy will save LPEA $212,000 in the first year
and $3.3 million overall by 2008. LPEA also will be raising
electric rates for residential customers by $5.90 per month
beginning after the first of the year, making for an average
bill of $64.90.
Of the $4.3 million the co-op expects to generate from the
2003 rate increase, $2.67 million would cover the cost of power;
about $900,000 would cover inflation and operating costs; and
between $700,000 and $800,000 would be spent on interest and
principal debt service from subsidiary losses.
LPEA is currently repaying $8 million on its failed telecommunications
company, REAnet, spent before declaring bankruptcy in 2001.
The co-op also will be repaying a $5 million loan in 2003 taken
out by its line-installation subsidiary, Western Energy Services
of Durango (WESODI). As to the current state of the troubled
arm of LPEA, Waller commented: “WESODI’s financials
are kept pretty much under wraps. Let’s just say they’re
not doing great.”
City raises water rates by 10 percent
Durango residents can expect a slight jump in another utility,
the water bill, beginning next year. Last Monday, members of
Durango City Council signed off on a 10 percent increase in
water fees which will help fund a $14 million upgrade to the
city’s water treatment plant.
Rates were raised by 10 percent last year, will be raised by
10 percent in this coming year and should see another 10 percent
jump in 2004, according to Durango Public Works Director Jack
Rogers. Even with the increases, Rogers said that Durango’s
rates are still low relative to surrounding municipalities.
The increases are necessary to fund improvements to the city’s
water treatment plant.
“We just have a lot of infrastructure improvements to
make in the next few years,” Rogers said.
While some of the improvements are tied to last summer’s
wildfires, Rogers said the main reasons for the upgrade are
the growth in population and deferred improvements.
“The fire is not insignificant, but the need to expand
the water treatment plant to serve an expanding community and
deferred improvements are really the driving forces,”
In addition to a 10 percent jump in municipal water bills,
the cost of extending service will go up by 4 percent. Rogers
said the smaller increase is related to an already high charge
for new service.
As for the 10 percent jump, Rogers said, “For our average
customer, it will mean about a $2 increase.”
Turtle Lake development gets nod
Developer Jim Whitley, a Durango native, received accolades
and county approval for the preliminary plan of his 11-unit
development centered around Turtle Lake last Monday. Whitley
owns 115 acres surrounding the lake adjacent to Junction Creek
Road. He plans to develop only 72 acres of the property, and
the remaining 43 acres have been permanently preserved via a
Joe Crain, director of La Plata County Planning Services, said
that for the most part, people left the meeting satisfied.
“All in all, people were fairly happy with what came
out of Monday’s meeting,” he said. “I think
the developer bent over as much as he could to satisfy neighborhood
concerns up there. There was actually kind of an audience applause
at the end of the meeting.”