Congress to


A-LP overruns

Cost overruns associated with the Animas-La Plata project will be the subject of congressional hearings in the coming year. Pete Domenici, a Republican Senator from New Mexico, announced that he plans to convene hearings and determine why the project costs have jumped so dramatically.

In late July, the Bureau of Reclamation announced that the project's original estimates of $338 million had jumped by nearly 50 percent to $500 million. At that time, Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton commissioned an internal review of the overruns. On Nov. 26, the Bureau released a report reviewing the excesses.

Based on this report, Domenici, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and longtime A-LP supporter, has called for a series of Congressional hearings. Domenici's press secretary, Chris Gallegos, commented, "They've put out a report on the cost overruns, and he wants to have a closer look at them."

Gallegos added that the intent of the hearing is not a punitive one. "The intent of the planned hearings would be to assess the overall situation of the project and determine how best to move forward in a timely and the most cost-effective way possible,"he said.

Recreation Center to raise its rates

The cost of using the Durango Community Recreation Center will be going up after the first of the year. Kelli Jaycox, Rec Center manager, said that the increases will cover increased maintenance and utility costs, new equipment and salary raises.

Daily fees will go up 50 cents across the board and annual passes will jump by $10 for individuals and $30 for families. An annual pass for an adult will now cost $290 and a family will be charged $460. An adult 20-punch pass will go up, from $56 to $65. Child care will also go up 50 cents an hour to $2, and locker rental will also see a slight spike from $60/year to $75. Three-month passes are the only charge that isn't increasing and will remain at $85 for an adult and $125 for a family.

Jaycox said that the increases are a response not only to growing expenses but also to a survey of other recreation centers throughout the state. "We did a survey and realized that our salary rates are quite a bit lower than other centers around the state," she said. "The survey also showed that we charge considerably less than other rec centers. We'll still probably be the lowest-priced rec center in the state."

Local flu vaccine becomes limited

With the current strong influenza season, local supplies of flu vaccine are getting lean. As a result, the San Juan Basin Health Department and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are asking for community support in targeting remaining vaccine to high-risk populations.

According to Dr. Julie Gerberding, Director for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), "This year it appears that many more people than in recent years received a flu shot during October and November, and unlike other years, there is a high interest in obtaining flu shots in December."

Because of the demand for the vaccine, supplies have become limited. The health department is asking that vaccines be given only to very young children ages 6 months to 23 months, adults older than 65, and people with chronic illness, underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. These high-risk populations are more likely to contract

the flu and to develop life-threatening complications due to influenza. Also, children under 9 years old who received their first-ever flu shot this year will be offered the required second dose of vaccine.

The health department urged others to take standard precautions: make sure to wash your hands frequently and avoid people who are ill.

Durangoan enters race for Congress

Durango attorney Doug Sitter announced his candidacy in Colorado's Third Congressional District last Monday. As Republican candidate for Scott McInnis' seat, Sitter will be campaigning with a conservative reform platform. Tax reform, restoring traditional values, a balanced approach to the environment and an aggressive stance on the war on terror highlighted Sitter's announcement.

"I support President George W. Bush and his efforts in the war against terror, including Iraq," Sitter said. "I will fight shoulder to shoulder with him to see our enemies defeated."

Conservative health-care reform is also atop Sitter's domestic agenda. "The fundamental problem with our current health-care system is that third-party providers and government bureaucrats direct all our families' health-care decisions," he said. "We need to return control to patients and doctors."

Sitter is a partner of the local law firm Rasure, Sitter and Whistler LLC, and his practice focuses on representing small business including farmers and ranchers. Sitter and his wife, Suzanne, have two children and live in Durango.

Grand Canyon waitlist put on hold

Grand Canyon National Park is placing a hold on adding new members to the noncommercial river permit waitlist while it revamps its policy. As part of the current Colorado River Management Plan (CRMP) planning effort, park staff and planners are examining and considering alternatives to the current waitlist permit system. An overwhelming majority of public comments stated the opinion that the permit system should be overhauled. With this in mind, park management said it does not want to perpetuate the current system while other alternatives are being considered.

There are now more than 8,000 people on the waitlist with more than 1,000 typically added each year.

Until a record of decision is made by Dec. 31 of next year, current waitlist members will be served in the same manner as they have been in the past. They will soon receive the familiar annual letter regarding waitlist procedures, the schedule of release dates and other topics.

- compiled by Will Sands





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