GetaHold: A piece of rebar gets ready to do some heavy lifting in south Durango./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Two democrats vie for Joswick's seat

Democrats have joined the race for one of the two La Plata County Board of Commissioners seats that will be up for election this November. This week, Wally White and David Black both declared their candidacy for the seat held by Josh Joswick. Term limits prevent Joswick from running for reelection. Republican William Holmes has also announced his interest in filling Joswick's shoes. Commissioner Bob Lieb's seat also is up for election, but the county clerk's office has yet to receive any candidate affividavits for the seat.

Grandview resident Wally White recently rose to prominence as the founder of the Friends of Grandview, a group watch-dogging the Southern Ute Indian Tribe's Three Springs Development. White has served on the La Plata County Planning Commission, the Florida Mesa District Planning Commission, the County Predator Control Committee and was a 1991 graduate of Leadership La Plata. White said that growth is the issue that most influenced his decision to go for the seat.

"Certainly, the growth and transportation issues facing the county are at the top of my list," White said. "Other interests and concerns that I have are health care and the idea of a health district, oil and gas rigs of course, living wages and affordable housing."

Bayfield resident David Black is also an advocate of sustainable growth. Black currently sits on the La Plata County Planning Commission and the Bayfield Planning Commission and also is a graduate of Leadership La Plata. Black said he is most concerned about growth, health care, a housing authority, open space and continuing the discussion of transferable development rights. Black added that the planning process is key to all of these issues.

"I'm big on planning," he said. "I think it's important to elect someone who believes in the integrity of the planning process."

Whether White or Black gets on the ballot for Joswick's seat hinges on a decision by the La Plata County Democratic Party. That decision will be made during the caucus on April 13.

Organic garden gifted to Manna

Fort Lewis College students are currently working to enhance the offerings of the Manna Soup Kitchen. A sociology class is in the process of installing an organic vegetable garden outside the soup kitchen. The effort began last semester and is intended to improve Manna's self sufficiency.

"Our hope is to get it started and hand it off to the Soup Kitchen," said Fort Lewis College student Dedra Wallace.

Thus far, seeds have been ordered and vegetable beds have been created. This month, the group will work to build a fence around the plot and is looking to the community for support.

"We do have a small budget to work with, but we're looking for community support," Wallace said. "The next project will be building a fence around the plot this March."

Wallace added that the plan is to have the project eventually network the community with the everyday clients of the Manna Soup Kitchen. With this in mind, Wallace said that the group is seeking volunteer labor, contributions and donations of supplies. For more information, call 259-4764.

Grant jumpstarts power plant project

Efforts to convert the abandoned 1893 Durango Power Plant into the Durango Children's Museum moved forward this week. The State Historical Fund recently granted $210,000 to the Children's Museum of Durango to help renovate the structure located at the corner of Main Avenue and Camino del Rio.

The construction project will attempt to preserve various aspects of the landmark's traditional structure by removing the stucco to reveal the original brickwork and reconstruct certain architectural features such as the wood-framed window panels.

"Our first goal is to rehabilitate the original interior and clean up any hazardous ground materials," said Jama Kolosick, the project's fund-raiser and organizer.

The City of Durango will also begin a powerhouse project of its own in late spring. "The city is intending to replace the existing roofing on the building," said City Engineer Greg Boysen. "It's more of a stabilization of the building, however, we are using a more historical roofing material."

The city has agreed to donate the powerhouse to the Children's Museum, assuming certain funding goals are met by the museum. Plans are for the historic structure to become the Durango Discovery Museum, which will offer hands-on learning experience highlighting the scientific and technological innovations made in the area.

"The Children's Museum does have to meet some funding requirements by this summer," said Assistant City Manager Greg Caton.

However, Caton added that the project has strong positive momentum. He noted that Kolosick and Mayor Virginia Castro will be in Denver this week to request another $300,000 grant for the project.

"I think everything's very positive but they still have a lot of money to raise," Caton said. "We continue to work very closely with them and think they have a nice plan."

The total cost of the powerhouse renovation is estimated at $5 million.

"We hope to raise enough money through grants and local dollars from the community to complete the project over the next three years," said Kolosick.

Kolosick said initial construction should begin this April.

Average wildfire season forecasted

Above-average moisture this winter should make for an average wildfire season, according to current projections. However, drought is persisting throughout the West, and precipitation over the next few months will be the final determinant.

"It's a little hard to predict anything until we see what happens over the next few months. A lot is dependent on the moisture we get in April and May," said Pam Wilson, fire information officer for the San Juan National Forest.

Current projections are for the 2004 fire season to mirror last summer. Wilson noted that in spite of appearances, last summer was actually fairly active with firefighters battling 500 wildfires in the area. Still, it was nowhere near the record 2002 fire season, which was highlighted by the Missionary Ridge and Valley fires.

Wilson concluded that there is cause for optimism because of the good winter, but added that the drought and beetle kill continue to impact the area.

"We're still playing catch up after five years of serious drought, and there are a lot of dead trees out there," she said. "There's a strong probability of an active fire season."

compiled by Will Sands & Mary Jane Carroll





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