County voters tap Riddle

La Plata County voters have spoken, and the balance has swung back to the Democratic Party locally. Democratic candidate Joelle Riddle received the nod from local voters on Tuesday, edging out incumbent Sheryl Ayers and creating a Democratic majority on the La Plata County Board of Commissioners.

Riddle, a La Plata County native, received 9,453 votes to Ayers’ 8,480. Third party candidate, Paddy Lynch, took home 1,058 votes. During the local Democratic Party celebration at the Abbey Theatre on Tuesday night, Riddle commented, “I’m amazed at the turn-out, excited about the community’s involvement, and I think that it is a sign that people are ready for new vision and leadership from the county commissioner.”

Riddle will join Democrat Wally White and Republican Bob Lieb on the county commission.

Republican Ellen Roberts triumphed in another heated local race. The Durango attorney claimed 52 percent of the vote to beat out Democrat Joe Colgan for a seat in the Colorado State House. Roberts will take over the seat vacated by Mark Larson. Democrat Jim Isgar soundly beat Republican Ron Tate to retain his state senate seat, with 63 percent of district voters giving the Hesperus rancher their vote. In addition, U.S. Rep. John Salazar retained his seat in the House of Representatives by a wide 60 to 40 percent margin over Republican Scott Tipton.

In other local ballot news, La Plata County voters approved a controversial central fire district but rejected the tax hike that would have funded it. Ballot issue 4A, which officially merges the City of Durango Fire Department, the Animas and Hermosa fire protection districts, and Mercy Medical Center paramedics, passed by a margin of 51 to 49 percent. Ballot issue 4C, which would have created a single, districtwide property tax to fund the district, failed 65 to 35 percent.

Local voters also approved the City of Durango selling bonds to finance the construction of a new library at the old Mercy hospital site. More than 85 percent of local voters were in favor of issuing $15.9 million in bonds for the new facility. The bonds will be paid off by the “Open Space” half-cent sales tax at a later date.

Lastly, Republican Linda Daley, the woman responsible for putting on Tuesday’s election, retained her job as La Plata County Clerk. Daley won 54 percent of the local vote to Democrat Jean Walter’s 46 percent.


Panel tackles uranium boom

A local panel is hoping to shed some light on the uranium boom in the region. On Thurs., Nov. 9, at 7 p.m., a discussion on “The West’s Newest Energy Boom” will take place in Chemistry Hall 130 on the Fort Lewis College campus. 

Fueled by a national call for more energy and a resulting hike in prices, nearly a dozen uranium mines in western Colorado have reopened or will be back in business by early 2007. The White Mesa uranium mill, located in Blanding, Utah, is also scheduled to reopen late next year, and the Cotter Corp.’s mill in Cañon City is actively stockpiling ore from newly reopened mines in the vicinity of Dove Creek and Naturita. Meanwhile, speculators have filed thousands of mining claims in San Miguel, Mesa and Montrose counties, all in an effort to get a piece of the pie.

This Thursday’s discussion, part of the Fort Lewis College Common Reading Experience, will explore the potential impacts of this new boom as well as the legacy of past mining activities in the region, for both Native and non-Native communities. 

Panelists will include: Travis Stills, attorney with Energy Minerals Law Center; Norman Brown, Native American environmental activist and filmmaker; Phil Harrison, advocate for Navajo uranium workers and their families; and David Miller, Durango site lead, Department of Energy, Legacy Management Program.

The panel will also discuss the upcoming World Uranium Summit, to be held in Window Rock, New Mexico from Nov. 30-Dec. 1.

This event is free and open to the public.  For more information, contact the Environmental Center at 247-7676.


Lynx shot near Purgatory

A hunter’s bullet went badly astray near Durango recently. The Colorado Division of Wildlife is seeking information about a lynx that was shot and killed during the last week of October in the Hermosa Park area, about 30 miles north of Durango. The lynx, a 9-year-old male, which was transplanted from British Columbia, was known to have ranged in a wide area between the Purgatory ski area, and the towns of Rico and Telluride. DOW officials were alerted when they received a mortality signal from the radio collar that had been placed on the cat when it was first released as part of the reintroduction effort in 2000.

A wildlife officer and a lynx researcher located the cat on Nov. 2. It was found in a heavily-wooded area in big game management unit 74. The lynx was killed sometime during the second big game rifle hunting season, which ended Oct. 29. “We are hoping that an observant sportsman might have seen something that can help us solve this crime,” said Patt Dorsey, area wildlife manager for the DOW. “We’d like to know the circumstances of why a lynx was killed. It’s possible that this is a mistake or an accidental kill and there is a regretful person out there who would feel better making this right.” The DOW is in the process of reintroducing lynx to the mountains of Southwest Colorado. The first lynx were released in 1999, and close to 200 lynx are believed to be alive in Colorado’s southern and central mountains.   

Anyone who has information about the Hermosa Park shooting is asked to call the DOW office in Durango 247-0855 or Operation Game Thief at (877) 265-6648.


Mercy’s lab receives top honor

Local medicine has received prestigious recognition. Mercy Regional Medical Center’s microbiology laboratory was awarded the 2006 Sentry Award by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Last year’s Sentry Award was given to the microbiology lab at Denver Children’s Hospital.

The award recognizes the lab’s “conspicuous effort in the accurate and timely detection of biologic agents of infection, the reporting of significant laboratory findings, and referral of biologic pathogens and specimens.”  The lab was specifically cited for recently reporting six cases of bubonic plague in humans.

“We recognize the importance of doing timely and thorough testing of specimens and quickly reporting results to the local and state health departments – especially in cases that can pose a threat to public health,” said Laboratory Director Jessica Baken.

Mercy analyzes everything from tissue samples to blood and other body fluids. In addition to presumptively identifying and referring for confirmation four cases of human plague in the last four months, Mercy’s lab also has identified 12 cases of pertussis, or whooping cough.

In addition, Mercy’s lab performs nearly 300,000 tests for hospital patients, walk-in patients and physician offices located throughout Southwest Colorado.

– compiled by Will Sands


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows