City cracks down on graffiti-mural wall
Supporters of a mural painted on the wall outside the Everyday Gas Station on College Drive are hoping to avoid a cover up.

A youth artist group painted the wall during the Open Art Surgery event, sponsored by the Durango Arts Center, in early April. There was confusion about the required permitting process, and the city contacted the station’s owner about a week after the mural was put up informing him that proper permits were not issued and the wall might have to be painted over. The issue is to be considered by the city’s Design Review Board on May 15.

In the meantime, the station has been asking the community what they think of the artwork and collecting signatures in support of it. Everyday Manager Kathy Chastain said they have already collected pages and pages of signatures.

The Durango Arts Center also supports keeping the mural up and has sent a letter to the city stating just that. “We would encourage the city to keep it up,” said Sheri Rochford Figgs, executive director of the Arts Center.

Whether or not the city requires the station to paint over the mural, Chastain said they would like to have artwork on that wall.
“We would like something up there,” she added. “It’s such a perfect canvas.”

Rochford Figgs said the artists whom originally worked on the mural and participated in the Open Art Surgery event were talented and respectful. Their participation was a positive experience, she added, exposing Arts Center patrons to younger artists.

“A lot of the work in public art is a testimony of how people feel about the world,” she said.
The City of Durango did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Lokken lands on U.S. National Team
Durango has spawned yet another worldclass athlete. Last weekend, Durango High graduate Zach “Bug” Lokken was named last weekend to the U.S. National Canoe and Kayak Team. As a U.S. team member, he will have the opportunity to compete for the sole U.S. Olympic berth in the C1 slalom class – not bad for an 18 year-old kid from Southwest Colorado.

Lokken finished third at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials last weekend in Charlotte, N.C. The event, held April 12-14 at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, was the penultimate step of a two-year Olympic selection process that began with last year’s ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships.

Lokken was in fifth place after day one, finished fourth overall on day two, and seized his spot on the 2012 US National Team with a strong third place finish on the final day of competition. “I didn’t paddle as well as I would have liked the first two days, but I pulled it off on the last day,” Lokken said.

Lokken, who does the bulk of his winter training on the flat, cold water of the Animas, said he has traveled to Charlotte to train as often as possible over the last several years. He graduated from Durango High School in November 2011 – two trimesters early – which enabled him to compete and train in Charlotte all spring and focus on his training.

The work apparently paid off. In May, Lokken will join his team mates in Cardiff, Wales, for the slalom World Cup, the final stage of the U.S. Olympic selection process. Though this is Lokken’s first time on the senior National Team, he has had the opportunity to compete internationally as an alternate in the C1 class. “I’m looking forward to seeing how much I’ve improved since last year at the World Cups,” Lokken said. He is also looking forward to the Slalom Junior World Championships, which will be held in Wausau, Wis., July 10-15. This is Lokken’s last year in which he can compete at the junior level.

County medical marijuana ban on hold
Medical marijuana retailers and growers in La Plata County are waiting to exhale as the fate of their business is still on hold.

A public hearing before the Board of County Commissioners to consider a ban of medical marijuana in La Plata County has been postponed a second time, and rescheduled for a May 15 board meeting at the County Courthouse.

The board will instead discuss at its April 24 meeting an extension of the deadline for medical marijuana licensing from its original date of May 1 to July 1, allowing for time to review insurance concerns that sparked consideration of the possible ban.

“We have put a lot of time and
effort in … to have good rational regulations,” said County Attorney Sheryl Rogers. “This is a monkey wrench that has been thrown into it.”
La Plata County spent more than a year developing the rules for regulating medical marijuana, which was passed by the board in December 2011. However, the county recently received a letter from one of its insurers that the county might not be covered when enforcing such regulations.

La Plata County’s primary liability insurer is the Colorado Counties Casualty and Property Pool, or CAPP, which receives secondary coverage from OneBeacon Insurance, a specialty insurance provider. In February, OneBeacon sent a letter to CAPP and La Plata County stating that it could not provide the secondary liability coverage for a medical marijuana hearing officer.

The reason given was that such an officer “would likely be called upon to approve operations that may be illegal under federal law, thus triggering the coverage exclusion,” according to the letter.

As a result, the county is considering a ban on medical marijuana licensing and land-use permitting, which growers need to sell and produce pot in unincorporated areas of the county. All the permits that the county has issued so far would expire by June 30, and businesses would be forced to shut their doors.
The Acceptus Group, a medical marijuana center that opened last fall, is one of the businesses that would be affected by the ban.

According to Adam Gifford, co-owner of The Acceptus Group, the process of starting the business was expensive and there were many unknowns. He called it “a very educational experience” because a business model for medical marijuana growers does not exist.

If the ban passes, it would not directly affect retailers and growers of medical marijuana within city limits. However, many of these dispensaries that grow or buy their product in the county would be forced to look outside La Plata County for supply.

According to Rogers, the county has been looking for alternative forms of coverage since the issue was raised.

“There are different solutions that are out there,” Gifford said. He added that he thinks a solution can be found.

As an alternative, the county has looked at becoming self-insured and having growers provide bonds to cover the amount of the excess insurance. Rogers added that the dispensaries and growers in La Plata County also have offered solutions and the county appreciates that, but so far their efforts have been unsuccessful.

County representatives recently spoke to Colorado Counties Inc., a nonprofit association based in Denver, about the issue.

Rogers said CTSI, or County Technical Services Inc., a parent to CAPP, is also looking into the issue and plans to release a statement to all the counties in the state that it covers. As such, the outcome in La Plata County could be precedent setting.

The county also requested clarification of the issue from OneBeacon, but has yet to hear back.

– Tracy Chamberlin and Missy Votel


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