City council race leaves the gate

Six names are now officially in the hat for election to Durango City Council. John Gamble, Volunteers of America division director and a former Durango city councilor and mayor, was the last to declare his candidacy.

While Gamble lost his reelection bid two years ago, he said that he would like to get back on board this year. "It's not true of everyone, but I quite enjoyed my time on council," he said. "It can be painful, but I found it to be very rewarding on a personal note."

Gamble said that the stand-out issue for his campaign is affordable housing. He admitted that he has deep concerns but is still working up solutions.

"I want the city itself to make a much more serious financial commitment to affordable housing," Gamble said. "I would like to see the city expend a half million dollars in 2006, $750,000 in 2007 and $1 million in 2008 so we can bring to the table something that can be meaningful. One of the mistakes we've made is that we've tried to put most of the burden of affordable housing on the development community."

Gamble said that he is also throwing his support behind Referendum 2A, which proposes a half-cent sales tax hike to fund open space, parks, trails and other capital expenses like a new library.

"I see Referendum 2A coming up, and it's something I strongly support," he said. "I'm really in this election campaigning for my election and the passage of 2A. I see it as a marvelous opportunity."

The window to submit nominating petitions closed Tuesday, and candidates have started to conduct flash campaigns. City voters will receive their mail-in ballots between March 11 & 21 and have until April 5 to complete them. The mail-in ballot will ask city voters to choose three council members and also vote on Referendum 2A. In addition to Gamble, five others have announced their intention to seek election to the City Council. They are: Virginia Castro, an incumbent who has served as mayor; Renee Parsons, the president of the Friends of the Animas Valley; Doug Lyon, a Fort Lewis College professor; David Burke, an information-systems manager; and Jim Schneider, who works in office equipment sales. There are a total of three seats available including those of Castro, Aaron Tucson, who has decided not to run, and Joe Colgan, who is term limited.

Durango Nordic takes Colorado Cup

The Durango Nordic Ski Team has again been a dominant force in Colorado Nordic ski racing. For the third consecutive year, the local team has been awarded the coveted "Colorado Cup" based onthe team's World Cup race pointsaccumulated throughout the ski season.In addition, the squad is sending 10 Durango High School skiers to the Junior Olympics, which take place March 7-12 in Truckee, Calif.

Coach Mike Elliot applauded the team's Colorado Cup achievement, saying, "This is the third year in a row the Durango Nordic has won the Colorado Cup.This is the ninth year of the Cup being awarded, and Durango Nordic Ski Club has won it four times.We consider it to be a very prestigious award and something all ski teams strive for."

The team sealed the Cup last weekend at the Vail Kids' Championship and Festival.Paige Elliot, brothers Rogan and Cully Brown, and siblings Alicia-Rose and Gino Pastore had strong weekends and emerged as Rocky Mountain Division Age Group State Champions. The skiers dominatedtheir Nordic Pursuit Race in a format that included aclassic race in the morning, followed by a "hunting start" skate race in the afternoon, where the morning's faster skier is sent out first.In addition, Sarah Zemach earned a bronze medal and Hannah Madden skied to a fifth place finish. Other Durango Nordic top10 finishes includedKara Wright, Kelsey McLean and Joe Casey.

Paige Elliot, Alicia-Rose Pastore and Cully Brown earned double gold in Vail by dominating the Skate Sprint Races on Sunday. Both Gino Pastoreand Hannah Madden skied to bronze in their skatesprint finals, and Rogan Brown sprinted to fourth.

Thehigh point of the Nordic season is still coming for the 10 DHS skiers who were named to the 2005 Rocky Mountain Division Junior National Team. They are:Tiffan Wannamaker, Krysia Crabtree, Tad Elliott, Maggie Casey, Caitlin Cassidy, John Gerstenberger, Ryne Olson, Erin Casey, Katie McLean and Holland Breed.

"In their respective classes all the skiers from Durango have a potential to be in the top 10," Elliot said of the racers' prospects.

The race schedule includes a Skate Sprint Race on March 7; Skate Race on March 9; Classic Race on March 11; and Team Relays on March 12. For real time results, go to

Lead found in three schools' water

Lead concentrations in the water supplies of three area elementary schools have exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency's "action level." This week, the Colorado Department of Health notified Durango School District 9-R that water samples taken from the Florida Mesa, Fort Lewis Mesa and Sunnyside schools in October exceeded the EPA standard of 15 parts per billion.

Florida Mesa's water sample showed a concentration of 18 parts per billion; Fort Lewis Mesa's sample showed 19 parts per billion; and Sunnyside's water sample showed a level of 20 parts per billion. This is the first time tests have shown an elevated concentration of lead that exceeds the EPA's action level.However, 9-R stressed that the water at every school is safe to drink. When lead concentrations increase to "action level," EPA regulations require the school district to increase water testing, to develop a plan to reduce concentrations and to provide users with information about lead exposure and how to reduce exposure in their lives.

The district immediately sent home notices with students and conducted additional water tests. It is also working on an action plan to reduce lead concentrations and will send it to the Colorado Department of Health no later than April 15 of this year. The district also began flushing school water systems and reported that lead concentrations have since dropped below the EPA's action level.

"We are taking every precaution recommended by the EPA and the Colorado Department of Health to ensure a safe water supply," said Director of Business Services Diane Doney, who oversees the district's facilities. "What we would really like for our families - and the public - to know is that lead exposure occurs throughout the environment. We hope they will take this opportunity to reduce their exposure to lead where it may occur elsewhere in their day-to-day lives."

Search party finds missing skiers

A ducked rope at Durango Mountain Resort turned into a long, cold night for two local skiers. Two 16-year-old Durango High School students, Eli Stein and Logan Jameson, were reported missing last Saturday afternoon but were spotted by aircraft early the next morning approximately 2.5 miles southwest of the ski area. The La Plata Search and Rescue helicopter was able to land and retrieve Stein and Jameson, transporting them back to the resort and their waiting families. The two were cold but otherwise unhurt.

In total, five individuals skied out of the resort area boundary at 2 p.m. on Saturday and split up shortly thereafter. Three retraced their tracks and were able to make it back to the base of Purgatory's Lift 8, at which point they notified mountain patrol concerning the other two. Resort search procedures were implemented, and La Plata County Search & Rescue was notified. In a combined effort, several sets of tracks were found and followed via snowshoes, telemark skis, snowmobiles and snowcats until 1 a.m., at which point the search was suspended, except for two members of the San Juan Sledders who continued until 4 a.m. The full search resumed at first light, and, once spotted, the skiers were returned to the resort within an hour.

"We are extremely pleased with the positive outcome of this search, especially for the two families," said DMR General Manager Bill Rock. "The expertise and efforts of the Purgatory Mountain Patrol and La Plata County Search & Rescue made possible the safe return of Stein and Jameson."

Rock stressed the importance of respecting ski area boundaries, noting that DMR recently increased signage along the area boundary to avoid this kind of situation. The cost of the rescue totaled approximately $3,000 for the resort alone. A decision has not been made as to whether Stein and Jameson will be charged.

- compiled by Will Sands




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