Pitkin County and DEA still at odds

ASPEN – The story about a recent cocaine bust in Aspen gets ever more interesting, with new evidence that the local sheriff attended a birthday party for one of the accused drug traffickers several weeks before the arrests.

Federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials have alleged that Aspen was the end-stop for a cocaine ring that operated out of Los Angeles and had connections to Mexican drug cartels. They claim that more than 200 kilograms were transported from L.A. to Aspen over the past 15 years. In May, they arrested six people from Aspen and Snowmass Village – but pointedly did not let the local cops know their intentions.

Why didn’t the feds let the locals know of their plans? Because, according to the DEA team, both current Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and his predecessor, Bob Braudis, were pals with at least some of the defendants.

Both DiSalvo and Braudis acknowledge knowing several of the defendants, but say that in a smaller community, that’s not unusual. And they deny close relationships.

The federal drug agents and local accomplices from nearby towns disagree. They point to a 65th birthday party in April for one of the defendants, who previously had been arrested elsewhere in Colorado on a cocaine charge.

Both DiSalvo and Braudis admit that they had attended the party, held at the Hyatt Grand Aspen, but only briefly, 15 minutes in the case of DiSalvo. “I saw Wayne and we shook hands,” he toldThe Aspen Times. “I knew he was going away for a long time, and we shook hands and I left.” Braudis said much the same thing. They deny the “close ties” alleged by the DEA.

The Pitkin County commissioners unanimously have asked the DEA to cooperate with local law-enforcement agencies when conducting operations within Pitkin County.

Mountain biker dodges mountain lion

WHISTLER, B.C. – A mountain biker training for a race called Test of Metal was riding up a trail near Squamish, west of Whistler, when he saw something brown pounce off a mossy knoll behind him.

“The next thing I know, I’m crashing off the trail,” explained Dean Linnell. “I think it missed me and got the back of my bike.”

It was a mountain lion. Linnell did what all wildlife experts say people should do if confronted by a cougar: he got aggressive. He picked up his bike overhead, but the cougar, which was several feet away, wasn’t retreating very far.

Soon, Linnell’s riding buddies caught up with him. They started throwing rocks, almost nailing the lion in the head. The cat didn’t flee. It just casually left.

“The main thing is to make sure in that situation you don’t run away or show the cougar your back,” said Linnell. He toldPique Newsmagazine that he believes the cat was 8 feet long, from nose to tail’s end.

Similar advice was offered by wildlife authorities in Steamboat Springs after a lion was sighted near the top of a ski lift.

Affordable housing prices buck trends

SUMMIT COUNTY – Not all home values have been shrinking. Deed-restricted homes appreciated 2.5 percent during the Great Recession while single-family homes declined 21.6 percent.

This is based on data from June 2008 - June 2010, reports theSummit Daily News.

Of course, deed-restricted housing never had the huge gains enjoyed by free-market housing because, by definition, the deeds restrict the resale price. Many affordable housing projects restrict appreciation to 3 to 5 percent annually. In contrast, free-market housing prices rose anywhere from 2 percent to 35 percent annually since 1989, the last time housing prices declined in Summit County.

What’s going on? David O’Neil, developer of two affordable-housing complexes in Summit County – the Wellington

Neighborhood in Breckenridge and the Peak One Neighborhood in Frisco – says it’s simple. “We have real people, buying real homes, with real dollars. As a result, it is a very stable market.” And it’s a much safer investment than unrestricted market homes, he said.

Hailey weighing a plastic bag ban

HAILEY, Idaho – Paper or plastic? If a group of students from Wood River High School gets its way, the only answer in Hailey will be paper – and then at an added cost of 15 cents each.

The Hailey City Council had adopted a resolution discouraging use of disposable plastic bags. But the band of local students wants the City Council to take an additional step. The council may ask for an advisory opinion from voters at the November election.

Hailey is the largest town in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area.

The Idaho Mountain Express notes that a new market in Ketchum does not give out plastic bags. But the largest grocery store in Hailey, while rewarding customers who use reusable shopping bogs, opposes a ban.

So do several readers of the newspaper. In the blog, one reader bemoaned the “enviro-social engineering.” Another reader reported using reusable bags consistently, but does not like being told by a government that reusable bags must be used. “Am I also going to be regulated in the diapers I choose?” asked the reader.

Aspen sells out wine and food festival

ASPEN – While doubts remain about the strength of the recovering economy, this summer theFood & Wine MagazineClassic in Aspen had to turn away significant numbers of people willing to pay top dollar to taste wines and hear top chefs talk about their craft. Few rooms were available last weekend, reportsThe Aspen Times.

“People are in disbelief, so I hope they realize that they can’t wait until the last minute next year, as this could be signaling a slow return to the old days,” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass. It was, he said, the first time since 2008 that guests were turned away.

Ketchum engages in three-ring debate

KETCHUM, Idaho – The big top was scheduled to arrive in the Ketchum-Sun Valley area last week, and one local resident contactedTheIdaho Mountain Express to urge a boycott because of the abuse of elephants and other circus animals.

A representative of the circus, Carson and Barnes, denied any abuse. “There are bad people out there, but it doesn’t mean everyone is bad,” said David Rawls.

The newspaper also talked with Ted Friend, who leads an animal well-being program at Texas A&M University. He and several students traveled with Carson and Barnes and four other circuses over the course of two years.

“There was nothing different than what we would do with horses or show dogs. It would be illogical to condemn circuses if you didn’t also condemn kennels and horseback riding with trailers,” Friend said.

Whistler makes new homes solar-ready

WHISTLER, B.C. – Whistler and 35 other town and cities in British Columbia have agreed to require all new single-family homes built within their boundaries be “solar hot-water ready.”

Solar thermal eliminates burning gas or electricity to produce hot water. In some cases, hot water produced by roof-top and other solar-thermal collectors is used for space-heating purposes.

Pique Newsmagazine notes that solar hot water collectors will not be required. The added installation could cost $6,000 to $8,000, according to one local building contractor.

Baked in Telluride rises from the ashes

TELLURIDE – Baked in Telluride has risen from its ashes, opening just in time for the bluegrass festival. The bakery, the oldest continuously operating restaurant in Telluride, having opened in 1977, burned down in February 2010. The exterior of the building looks much like the old one, reportsThe Telluride Watch, although ample daylighting has created an airier ambience.

– Allen Best

In this week's issue...

March 17, 2022
Critical condition

Lake Powell drops below threshold for the first time despite attempts to avoid it

March 17, 2022
Uphill climb

Purgatory Resort set for expansion but still faces hurdles

March 10, 2022
Mind, body & soul (... and not so much El Rancho)

New health care studio takes integrated approach to healing