| VailDaily.com

VP Mike Pence to attend Aspen fundraiser Monday

Monday’s $35,000-a-couple fundraiser starring Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to take place at a private club in Aspen owned by two gay men, sources said Friday.

The Caribou Club in Aspen’s downtown core is set to host the VIP reception with Pence, according to sources who declined to be named. Billy Stolz, one of the owners of the club, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Bob Jenkins, vice chair of Pitkin County Republicans, said Friday that he expects about 25 couples to attend the $35,000-per-couple VIP reception with Pence starting at 5 p.m. on Monday.

Jenkins, however, said the location of the event will not be released to the public.

“If people know, there will be protests,” he said. “It increases security (demands) drastically. Why do we Republicans want to create extra costs for the city of Aspen?”

Jenkins, who said he didn’t know the location of the event, also declined to say who is hosting the event.

Jenkins said he’d heard rumors of about four different locations in downtown Aspen for the fundraiser, though he doubted it would actually take place in that area.

“We are trying to have the event happen without messing with businesses in Aspen,” he said. “I don’t expect it will be at any of the rumored locations in downtown Aspen.”

Asked about Pence’s possible appearance at a gay-owned business, Jenkins said if it were true it would be immaterial.

“(The gay issue) doesn’t affect whether we’re at the Caribou Club or we’re not at the Caribou Club,” he said. “What’s that got to do with anything?”

Throughout his career in Congress and as governor of Indiana, Pence repeatedly opposed efforts to legalize gay marriage and other measures meant to improve the lives of gays and lesbians. President Donald Trump even joked in 2017 that Pence “wants to hang” all gay people.

The last time Pence visited Aspen — in December 2017 — neighbors of the Owl Creek-area home where he stayed displayed a rainbow “Make America Gay Again” banner on a pillar near the home’s driveway.

Regardless of the fundraiser’s location, Trump and the Republican Party stand to reap quite a windfall after Pence’s visit.

Out of each $35,000 donation, Trump will receive the maximum allowed donation of $2,700 per person, while the Republican National Committee gets the rest, Jenkins said. A joint fundraising committee made up of those two entities called Trump Victory is sponsoring the Aspen event.

Pitkin County Republicans received an invitation from Jenkins to the event with Pence earlier this week.

“This event is an intimate high dollar reception, and we would like you to participate if possible,” according to the invitation. “Additionally, please quietly spread the word.

“Additional details will be provided upon RSVP.”

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, RNC Co-Chairman Tommy Hicks Jr. and National Finance Chairman Todd Ricketts “cordially” invited the donors to the Pence event, according to the invitation.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said Friday he didn’t know where the fundraiser would be held or who was hosting the event. He said he was attempting to locate the host so he can send the expected $10,000 to $20,000 bill for security his deputies will have to provide.

What does Denver park goose taste like? Denverites ask after culling and cooking

In recent weeks, local and federal officials captured and slaughtered 1,662 Canada geese hanging out at four Denver parks. The goal was to shrink the goose population and then use the meat to feed the hungry. Government officials probably thought their plan was a win-win. Some others? Not so much.

Nutritionist and chef Robert Russel, with ...
RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post Nutritionist and chef Robert Russel cooks goose meat at Metro Caring in Denver on July 19, 2019. The goose meat comes from the euthanized Denver park geese and is served free to the public.
What does Denver park goose taste like? Denverites ask after culling and cooking

Sure, we could debate this controversial program some more — and I’m pretty positive we’ll continue to do so — but among all the questions that #GooseGate has inspired, one stands out.

What does Denver park goose taste like?

The answer, I learned, is like ground beef crossed with dark-meat turkey. It’s not at all gamey or fatty or reminiscent of whatever geese eat in Denver parks. It was good. And in its ground form, I would have sworn it was regular old hamburger with a nice, firm crumble.

I tried the goose at Metro Caring, an anti-hunger organization that received the slaughtered, ground goose meat to distribute to its patrons. The non-profit operates a no-cost supermarket at its headquarters on 18th Avenue and Downing Street, where 100 families a day come in for groceries like fresh produce, meat and eggs. As of this past Monday, USDA-processed and inspected ground park goose was just another butcher-wrapped protein that patrons could grab from the market’s meat counter.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Summit County leaders, activists push for ski area fees be used for forest health, not just skiing

For years, Colorado ski areas have been heavily pushing the passage of the Ski Area Fee Retention Act in the U.S. Congress, a bill that would allow forest service districts in ski areas to retain 50% of permit and lease fees ski areas pay to use federal land in the forest districts they originate from, money which usually goes directly to the federal treasury.

But local conservation groups and government officials in Summit County have raised concerns about the bill, saying it is far too narrowly tailored to serve ski areas and their quest to rapidly improve their resorts, with no money going to preventing wildfire or protecting forest health in the communities the ski areas do business in.

Ski areas across Colorado pay about $25 million annually in permit and leasing fees to the federal government. The $25 million from Colorado ski areas represent the vast majority of the $37 million annually sent to Washington by ski areas nationwide. Currently, all of that money goes to the feds for forest service projects across the country, not just the forests the money comes from.

Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced the bill in Congress in their respective chambers last year, and reintroduced the bill again this session.

“The Forest Service is a critical partner to Colorado communities and our outdoor recreation industry,” Bennet said in a press release when the bill was reintroduced last month. “By retaining some of the ski area fees for use in our local national forests, we can strengthen the Forest Service’s ability to serve our mountain towns and the businesses that drive our economy.”

“It’s important that our skiing communities don’t just send money to Washington and not fully benefit from fees they generate for the federal government,” Gardner said in the same release. “My bipartisan legislation with Senator Bennet will make it easier for our skiing communities to make the capital improvements they need by keeping the fees they generate.”

The ski resort industry was also effusive about the introduction of the bill, which they heavily lobbied for. In a Denver Post article, a ski industry lobbyist said the retained money would be used primarily for the benefit of ski areas and their guests.

“Ultimately resort guests benefit from ski fee retention,” said Geraldine Link, policy director at the National Ski Areas Association, the main federal lobbyists for ski areas in Washington. “It will help move the process along when a ski area wants to upgrade its lifts or add snowmaking or invest in a mountain bike park.”

Link referred to the fact that the bill — introduced this session as H.R. 2509 in the House and S. 1723 in the Senate — specifically allocates the retained fee money for ski area improvements and expedition of federal approval of capital improvements to ski areas.

The bill specifically prohibits funds from being used for “wildfire suppression” or “biological monitoring” of forest service land.

The specific exclusion of funding for forestry projects outside of ones that benefit ski areas is what drew consternation from Summit County’s Forest Health Task Force, a local forest conservation council.

The task force’s concern is drawn primarily from the massive slash to the budget of the White River National Forest, the most visited national forest in the nation, over the past decade. The funding for the district has been decimated from $270,000 in 2008 to $40,000 in 2018.

The organization sent a letter to both senators on July 5 asking language to be modified to allow using retained funds for wildfire suppression and forest health projects.

“My major issue with this well intended bill is that the the scope of the fund usage by land managers is very limited,” said Tom Koehler, a member of the Forest Health Task Force who contributed to the letter. “It would be great to have more funds to take care of the public land parcel, for wildfire suppression, and preserving the adjacent ecological system.”

The letter follows similar letters sent last year to the senators by regional government organizations, including the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the Colorado Association of Ski Towns.

Those organizations include Summit County government and every town government in the county, where residents have paid millions of dollars over the years to do wildfire mitigation work on land owned by the Forest Service to do work they are unable to do because of budget cuts.

“The language in the ski area fee retention bill kind of flies in the face of the real needs and priorities here,” said County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier. “We support the concept of having ski fee retained in our forest district, but we also want the priorities and needs for the money to be determined by forest supervisor or district ranger, not exclusively the ski areas.”

An argument may be made that ski areas are justified in retaining money for their own use, given that they are the ones giving the money to the feds in the first place. But that is not how local conservationists see it.

“While they’re the biggest payers of these fees for using public land, they’re not the only ones,” Koehler said, pointing out that anybody who does business on federal land pays the same kind of fees. “It’s a reasonable mechanism to pay the public for use of public land, which they profit off.”

“Even though they pay the fees, those fees are supported by patrons, users and the community in various ways,” Forest Health Task Force president Howard Hallman said. “Without the community infrastructure and blessing, the ski areas wouldn’t be able to generate the income they generate in the first place.”

There is also concern that if 50% of the retained fees are specifically earmarked for the benefit of ski areas instead of general forest service use, as it works now, that money would be taken out of the pool for wildfire suppression and forest health projects nationwide, compounding the problem of dwindling forest service budgets.

“Were this legislation to go into effect, it would preclude using half the money for wildfire mitigation, and that can actually put us in a worse position when it comes to funds for wildfire suppression,” Stiegelmeier said. “That’s taking away potential funds that could be used for preventing wildfire and building healthier forests.”

Requests for comment from the senators about pushback to the bill were not available as of publication.

El Chapo arrives at Supermax in Florence, Colorado Friday morning

NEW YORK (AP) — Only hours after receiving a life sentence, convicted Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was forced to make a sudden departure to the highest-security prison in the U.S. to serve the term, his lawyer said Thursday.

A government helicopter whisked the narco, notorious for his daring jailbreaks, out of New York City on Wednesday after the sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn, said defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman. The lawyer said he was informed that his client was en route to the supermax facility in Florence, Colorado.

For most defendants, there’s a lag between sentencing and a decision by the Bureau of Prisons on where to house them. In Guzman’s case, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan agreed at the close of his sentencing to recommend to the bureau that it let Guzman stay at a federal jail in Manhattan for two more months to help his lawyers mount an appeal.

It’s now clear that behind the scenes, there already was a plan in place “to get him out of the city as soon as possible,” Lichtman said.

Prison officials and prosecutors wouldn’t talk about Guzman’s whereabouts on Thursday.

The 62-year-old Guzman had been the subject of extreme security measures carrying an untold cost ever since his extradition to the U.S. in 2017 to face drug-trafficking charges. Authorities were determined to prevent any repeat of Guzman’s legendary jailbreaks in Mexico, including the one in 2015 involving a mile-long (1.6 kilometer-long) tunnel dug to the shower in his cell.

Guzman was put in solitary confinement in a high-security wing of the Manhattan jail that has housed terrorists and mobsters.

“I drink unsanitary water, no air or sunlight, and the air pumped in makes my ears and throat hurt,” he said at sentencing. “This has been psychological, emotional and mental torture 24 hours a day.”

For pretrial hearings in Brooklyn, authorities transporting Guzman to and from jail shut down the Brooklyn Bridge to make way for a police motorcade that includes a SWAT team and an ambulance, all tracked by helicopters. Once the trial started, they secretly kept him locked up in the bowels of the courthouse during the week to make the logistics less arduous.

The apparent next — and last — stop for Guzman: a prison sometimes called the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Oklahoma City bombing accomplice Terry Nichols are among those who call it home.

Rare burn morel mushrooms popping up in Colorado

From the pine cones, leaves, weeds, sprouts, twigs, brush, pine, dirt and ash — 50 shades of brown, really — burst morel mushrooms. Specifically, burn morels (or fire morels), which flourish the year after large wildfires.

The spongy, hollow, honeycombed little weirdos are the Cadillacs (or the Teslas, depending on your generation) of mushrooms. They’re coveted for their meaty, umami-rific taste, and they’re hard to find. Unless it’s the year following a forest fire, in which case it can be a burn morel bonanza.

Last summer, the Spring Creek Fire burned 108,045 acres in southern Colorado, making it the third-largest wildfire in state history. It crept very close to little La Veta, population 779, but spared the town. What I was scouring the earth for up at Old La Veta Pass are the silver lining of that devastation.

“I’d always heard of fire morels but never had the opportunity to find them,” said Bob Kennemer, professional naturalist and director of La Veta’s Francisco Fort Museum and my guide for the foraging. “The year after the fire, they’re the most prolific, and then they fade out the years after that. We’ve got a lot this year.”

No one really knows why fire triggers the mushrooming of the mushrooms.

Read more via The Denver Post.

Remember the Fort Collins trail runner who killed an attacking mountain lion? Here’s what his life has been like since.

Travis Kauffman says he’s glad his 15 seconds of fame has come and gone.

Five and a half months after he killed a mountain lion with his bare hands during a trail run in Fort Collins, Kauffman says he’s back to being an ordinary guy. The injuries the 32-year-old environmental engineer suffered during the Feb. 4 incident have healed without lasting problems, the local and international notoriety has subsided and he’s happily blended into the background of daily life in Fort Collins.

Although he has several physical scars from the incident, including a faint slash across his left cheek where the lion’s claw opened a big cut on his face, he doesn’t carry any lasting anxiety or PTSD. He hasn’t had any bad dreams and has largely forgotten about it despite often running on the same trail.

“It’s one of those things where time has passed and it’s become a distant memory and everything has returned to normal,” Kauffman said recently in Fort Collins. “But looking back, it’s still crazy to think about how the whole thing went viral overnight.”

Read more via The Colorado Sun.

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Summit County group launches overnight parking pilot program for working homeless

FRISCO — A new pilot program is hoping to change the culture surrounding the county’s working homeless.

Earlier this week, a new local organization called Good Bridge Community — in cooperation with the Summit Colorado Interfaith Council and partners around the county — launched a local overnight parking pilot program, meant to provide a safer and more supportive environment for individuals living in their cars.

Raychel Kelly, Good Bridge Community’s founder, said the idea stems from her own experience as a working homeless person in Summit County and a desire to create better living conditions for people trying to work their way back into permanent housing.

“This November will be my third year up here, and basically three years since I moved into my car,” said Kelly, an Ohio native with a college degree in fashion design. Kelly said she moved to Summit County with an agreement to crash with friends for a few months until she was settled, though a series of events — including a death in her friend circle — contributed to her decision to move into her car.

“Long story short, I didn’t really know the challenges of this community,” Kelly said. “I moved into my car. That July, I broke my wrist, and it kept me in my car a lot longer than I thought I would be there. And I’m still there today. … That’s why I started the Good Bridge Community, and it’s in focus of the working homeless and non-working homeless. It’s really focusing on economic struggle on all its levels. We are dealing with that in every community across our nation. It changes from community to community, but the overall struggle is relevant everywhere.

“I had some people show up to some Good Bridge meetings that were in the network with the Interfaith Council. And since I’ve met other people that are interested in this topic, we’re making headway.”

On Monday, following negotiations with Kelly and the Interfaith Council, a local house of worship kicked off the new pilot program, allowing individuals living in their cars to utilize the facility’s parking lot each night. Stakeholders involved in the project asked the Summit Daily News not to print the location of the lot, citing concerns that individuals without permits might show up, potentially jeopardizing the project.

Participants in the pilot are required to follow a strict set of stipulations in order to maintain their permits. Before joining, individuals must fill out a questionnaire, including place of employment and a personal history. Participants also must agree to a set code of conduct, which includes rules preventing fighting, littering, camping and more. There is also a small monthly fee involved.

Individuals chosen to participate are given a permit to hang in their cars and will be allowed to inhabit the parking lot from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. daily. The facility also will provide a portable restroom and snow plowing during the winter. The group said 10 individuals would be allowed to take part in the pilot. Two permits have been issued, and three to four more will be issued next week.

Aside from providing a better living situation for the county’s working homeless, individuals involved with the pilot hope it can serve as a proof of concept and convince other organizations to open up their parking lots to expand the program.

“It’s designed to be successful and to be an exportable product that we can get other people to do when we know it works,” said Susan Knopf, a representative with the Interfaith Council and contributor to the pilot. “We’ve approached other churches, government agencies — all over — and they all told us no. Maybe if we can show them that it’s clean and orderly, if we show it can work with the right kind of intake, maybe we can find other places for people to park.”

A bigger problem than parking

Along with not having permanent housing, Kelly said there are many additional concerns for people living in their cars that the program could help to address.

One issue is that parking overnight in most areas of the county isn’t legal, meaning that police officers knocking on windows and asking them to move is a common occurrence — another wake-up call in a night full of waking to noises outside, bright lights or the cold.

Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said it’s an issue his deputies deal with often. In lieu of a citation, individuals typically are directed to an area where parking is permitted.

“I would say it’s nightly,” FitzSimons said. “I think the homeless problem in the county is bigger than people want to acknowledge. But I prefer engaging these folks and finding out what their story is. I always want to inform and educate people, but at the same time, I have a duty to enforce the law. We tell them where they can go at that particular time, which isn’t always convenient for them.”

FitzSimons said deputies would drop by the pilot location on occasion to help assure a safe environment.

Kelly said that by allowing individuals living in their cars to stay in one area, it also would allow for a better support system and communication on important issues in the community.

“We need to be able to communicate with people on the ground level,” Kelly said. “We want to develop that support group for the homeless, where you can get a sense of camaraderie, inspiration and motivation, and you don’t feel like you’re alone. … If they’re in one spot, you can help each other out a little, hand out responsibility and accountability.”

The pilot program — and its expansion to other areas of the county, if successful — is a big step in the right direction, Kelly said, but it’s only a short-term solution to bigger issues facing the community. Working homeless often get caught in a loop, where low wages mix with unexpected costs like storing belongings or paying for showers at a recreation center.

Several stakeholders feel there’s a need in the community for a basic needs facility. Kelly pitched an idea where tenants would have their own small room with a bed and closet, and the rest of the building — including any recreation areas and restrooms — would be communal to keep down on square footage and cost.

“We’d be bringing people together economically, but we’d also be able to inspire and motivate each other,” Kelly said. “You’re providing for your community, and you’re coming away with a profit. … We want to be able to afford our life. We don’t care if it’s small; we just want to be able to afford it.”

Former Kennedy Space Center engineer Tom Collins of Rifle commemorates his space program career on the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11

More than a half century has gone by, but there is still a sparkle in Tom Collins’ eyes and a grin on his face when he starts to reminisce about the space program.

The 78-year-old Rifle resident first set foot on Florida’s Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center in 1963.

“There wasn’t much to see. Back then, it was still palm trees, and they were still building everything, including the VAB (Vehicle Assembly Building),” Collins said.

“It was one of the world’s largest buildings, but it was still just under construction, as were all the pads.”

Collins recalled that it was an interesting time. They were launching Gemini’s at the time, and the Mercury program had just wrapped up, he said of the earlier manned spacecraft programs that preceded the Apollo Program.

“Very interesting as a matter of fact. When I first went down there I was in charge of a lab, and I sampled space suits for Gemini,” Collins said.

“I got to meet a lot of the Gemini astronauts. In fact, I probably met them all but I don’t remember,” he said. “It’s been too many years.”

GROUND FLOOR OF APOLLO

Soon after, Collins began working on the Apollo Program as a fluids engineer on the Saturn V rocket.

Collins did maintenance on all the hydraulics, hypergolic, pneumatic and cryogenic systems — anything that had fluid, he worked on it.

“I loved my job. I really enjoyed it,” Collins said. “It was very time-consuming, and there weren’t any experts in any of these fields, so we had to work a lot of hours to make up for that.”

Of all the people working on Apollo 11, Collins said the average age when it took off was 28.

“I was 28, as matter of fact ­— kind of a funny,” Collins said.

Because of what he was doing and where he was working, he had opportunity to meet the Apollo 11 astronauts.

“They were all really nice guys,” Collins said.

Reminiscing about the day of the launch, on July 16, 1969, Collins remembers he wasn’t allowed in his office that day.

“My office at the time was between the VAB and pad A, right on the crawler way as matter of fact,” Collins said.

“So, we couldn’t even go out there and work — that was within the blast limit. We were hanging back at the LCC (Launch Control Center),” he said.

Collins watched Apollo 11 blast off from the front of the LCC, more than 3 miles from the launchpad.

For Collins and the other employees behind the scenes at the time, it was just another launch.

“I’d already watched so many of them go up. We had already gone to the moon, but we hadn’t landed. You have to remember, of course, Apollo 8 was the one that just circled and took pictures, and we saw the moon rise,” Collins said.

“Apollo 10, the “Lem” (Lunar Module) went down close to the moon and came back up, just checking docking and to see if everything worked.

“So the launch wasn’t exactly a big deal for Apollo 11, except we did know it was going to the moon and landing — hopefully — and it did.”

COMMEMORATING MOON LANDING

As the anniversary approached, Collins recently visited the Rifle Branch of the Garfield County Library to inquire if they would be interested in displaying his collection.

After learning it was the Rifle Heritage Center that is in charge of the displays, Collins offered to loan his own memorabilia that he has kept over the years.

“I forget now what percentage of Americans, or even earthlings, weren’t even born when this happened,” Collins said.

Working for the Kennedy Space Center for 33 years and 37 years with the space program overall, Collins collected a lot of memorabilia, certificates and mementos along the way.

“I kept most of it. This is actually just a small portion of it,” Collins said.

He never kept track of how many launches he took part in and watched first hand over his three decades in the space program, but he says there is nothing like it.

“It rocks everything, vibrates the whole earth. It’s amazing,” Collins said of the launches.

“I used to attend Firecracker 400 at Daytona. If you go and watch, it’s a whole different experience,” he said of the popular longtime NASCAR event.

“The rockets are the same way. You can watch it on TV, but it’s certainly not the same.”

The library display includes all the patches from the Apollo program, plus the certification and awards Collins received working on the different missions.

“The Apollo program wasn’t just the lunar landings. We had Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz project (the docking of an Apollo Command/Service Module and the Soviet Soyuz 19 capsule) — the mission where we linked up with Russia,” Collins said.

“I worked on all those, and there were three missions to the Skylab.”

Collins really hopes younger people will come to the library, and get an interest in the space program.

“I think we’ve lost a lot of interest in it, and it gave us so many things that we wouldn’t have had if not for the program,” Collins said.

“I would like to see more people take an interest in what we did, and what’s coming in the future.”

Collins plans to stay close to home this week, but thought about going down to the Cape for the anniversary. But he said there is nothing there for him all these years later.

The display will continue for the next two months in Rifle.

kmills@postindependent.com

Former Glenwood Springs City Councilor, colleague admit to bid rigging

Former Glenwood Springs City Councilor Todd Leahy and his real estate colleague both admitted rigging trustee foreclosure auctions on a few occasions, but took plea deals for lesser charges in a court hearing Thursday.

Leahy, 54, and James Gornick, 49, were each charged with bid rigging, a class 5 felony, through a grand jury indictment filed May 23.

Leahy, who finished his final term on City Council in April, and James Gornick, both pleaded guilty to second-degree perjury, a misdemeanor, and were sentenced in the same hearing to three years probation and 100 hours of community service.

They also paid restitution, in the form of payment to a Roaring Fork Valley charity, for what prosecutors called their “ill-gotten gains.”

As a stipulation of their plea deal, Leahy paid $16,000 and Gornick paid $7,278. Judge Denise Lynch did not impose any additional fines.

As part of the lesser perjury charge, Leahy and Gornick’s plea stipulated that they had intended to mislead in an official proceeding.

As a result of their pleas, both Leahy and Gornick are barred from serving in an elected office by the state constitution.

Robert Shapiro of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office argued that Leahy and Gornick deserved punitive sentences with jail time for violating the public trust.

The indictment details several cases of bid rigging that occurred in 2013 and 2017, but Shapiro told the court that he doesn’t believe that those were the only questionable auctions Gornick and Leahy were involved with.

“This was not a one-time incident,” Shapiro said.

Garfield County Treasurer Karla Longhurst (formerly Bagley), who runs the public trustee auctions for the county, spoke during the sentencing portion of the court hearing.

Leahy and Gornick “undermined the integrity of the foreclosure sale and system,” Longhurst said.

“It’s my opinion that the acts of the defendants were outrageous, and occurred over a period of four years or more,” she said.

Expressions of remorse

Both Leahy and Gornick, who have been partners for years and recently joined other realtors to form Integrated Mountain Properties, apologized for their actions and accepted responsibility for rigging the auctions.

After reflecting over past several months, Gornick said he has realized, “I’m the one that has caused undue stress to my family, business partners, and my real estate clients.”

“I can’t tell you how humiliating that is to me,” Leahy said. He then apologized to his family, friends and the greater community.

“Nobody deserved this humiliation except myself,” he said.

The maximum sentence for second-degree perjury is 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine, but lawyers for both Gornick and Leahy pushed for sentences without jail time.

“We weren’t able to find, in the last 15 years, any prosecutions for bid rigging,” attorney Kevin McGreevy said.

The lawyers also stressed that neither man had a criminal record, and both had strong ties in the community.

Several community members, including an unnamed former mayor of Glenwood Springs, wrote letters attesting to Leahy and Gornick’s ties to the community.

 “We understand and we agree, that interfering with the trustee (auction) process is problematic, and illegal,” said attorney Rick Kornfeld, representing Leahy.

Kornfeld asked that Judge Lynch consider the greater context of Leahy’s work for the community.

“Public service courses through his veins,” said Kornfeld of Leahy.

Both men also had been punished, though not officially, due to their loss of reputation, the defense lawyers said.

Judge Lynch declined to impose punitive jail time or additional fines, saying that serving their community was appropriate.

“You’re going to suffer some collateral consequences, I’m sure, and you already have,” Lynch said.

Both Leahy and Gornick are at risk of losing their state licenses to practice real estate.

“This has been a very public case, so I’m sure your reputation in the community has been damaged,” Lynch said.

She added that no one likes to be on the front page of the paper.

“I don’t even like it when they cover my courtroom,” Lynch said.

tphippen@postindependent.com

Minturnites skeptical of water deal

MINTURN — Minturn residents’ water rates will rise significantly over the next decade, no matter if they take the Battle Mountain developer’s “interconnect” offer or choose another path to fix the town’s water infrastructure, according to a consultant’s analysis.

Minturnites packed Town Council chambers Wednesday night to consider Minturn’s water future, including the developer’s deal, which was proposed with now-or-never urgency.

The town needs millions in water infrastructure improvements, but doesn’t have the money to pay for them. Plus, Minturn can’t grow significantly without more water.

After hours of public comment, the council said it would take up the issue again at its next meeting.

The proposed deal would be a three-way agreement between the town, the developer and the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District. The developer would pay for a $5.6 million pipe that would connect Minturn’s water system with the district’s, allowing the town to buy extra water and have a secondary source. The developer could then build 712 homes. The district would be able to build a reservoir at Bolts Lake.

Other scenarios were presented, including Minturn continuing to use only its senior water rights on Cross Creek. Or developing wells using the town’s junior conditional water rights on the Eagle River — but that could be costly, and provide a limited amount of water.

Residents were largely opposed to the interconnect deal, saying it was a bad deal for the town.

“This is not a good idea,” said former Minturn mayor Hawkeye Flaherty. “The only people that win here are Battle Mountain and Eagle River (Water and Sanitation District). Minturn is losing their shorts in this poker game.”

‘Our soul’s up for sale’

Some attendees chafed at the developer’s demand for action; others voiced indifference toward the town having to solve the developer’s water needs.

“As a water professional, the overall plan of interconnect is sound and would be very presentable under different circumstances,” said Rod Cordova, a 61-year Minturn resident. “But being approached as a take or leave it? Sorry, not in my mind. This town needs time to study. Totally wrong way of doing business.”

Tim McGuire, vice president of development for Battle Mountain Resort, said the company never intended to frame the deal in that way; they simply wanted the community to come give their opinions to the council.

But some residents said Minturn should focus on fixing the water infrastructure issues itself instead of becoming further entangled with a developer.

Several advocated for Minturn to explore grant opportunities — even after a town consultant said most of the applicable grant sources have dried up.

“I think we can fix our own stuff,” said Minturn resident Darin Tucholke. “It just seems like we’re at the point where our soul’s up for sale. It’s been up for sale before, and we’re lucky we got it back.”

‘Not our friend’

Many did not want the town to give up water rights, including its interest in Bolts Lake. Under the plan, Minturn would give up its storage rights in Bolts Lake and its interest in Bolts Ditch, and subordinate its junior conditional water rights on the Eagle River to the district when the district would need to fill the reservoir. However, the town has historically not used those junior water rights.

The deal would allow the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District to build a reservoir at Bolts Lake. Battle Mountain would give the land, as well as its own water storage rights there, to the water district.

But several residents cited bad blood with the district, stemming from 1990s-era litigation between the town and a consortium that included the district and Vail Resorts. Minturn ended up losing water rights in the settlement.

“Eagle River Water and Sanitation District is not our friend,” said former councilwoman Shelley Bellm.

Others saw benefits of the interconnect agreement, or at least some type of compromise. Some defended the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District Board, noting that it now does provide sewer service to the town.

Brian Sipes, a board member of the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District and Minturn resident, acknowledged that the town is subordinating some junior water rights as well as giving up storage rights — but in a reservoir that doesn’t exist and that someone else owns, “in exchange for a pipe that would deliver water on the day it was built. You’re getting something concrete vs. something that is a might-have in the future.”

Four scenarios

Minturn provides its own water — separate from the water district, which provides water from East Vail to Wolcott.

Under the proposed deal, the town could buy water from the district for $11.11 per thousand gallons. The district would waive all the tap fees to serve Minturn’s existing users. The town would own the interconnect, and need to maintain it. The developer says it would provide $9 million in total water upgrades for the town.

But even if the new water deal is signed, the agreement would later become null and void if Battle Mountain doesn’t get its desired approvals for its scaled-back project.

Alternatively, the town could use its junior water rights on the Eagle River to develop new wells to draw more water. However, the town would also be on the hook to augment water downstream, depending on calls from more senior rights holders. Water for augmentation can be expensive and hard to find.

Four scenarios were presented:

• Continuing to use Cross Creek for water, and making infrastructure fixes. This would allow for some modest develop within town, but no more. Construction cost: Just over $8 million.

• Continuing to use Cross Creek for water, developing Eagle River wells, and making infrastructure fixes. This would allow for more development within town, but not Battle Mountain. Construction cost: $14 million

• Continuing to use Cross Creek for water, developing Eagle River wells and making infrastructure fixes, but at a level that would allow Battle Mountain, too. Construction cost: $15 million

• Continuing to use Cross Creek for water, building the interconnect and making infrastructure fixes. Construction cost: $2.8 million — but the town would have to buy pricey water from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District.

Rate hikes envisioned

Under all four scenarios, a typical home would pay somewhere between $150 and $164 per month after 10 years, compared to less than $90 per month now, according to the analysis, presented by town consultant Jim Mann of Ehlers.

If the town chooses the interconnect option, it would have to borrow less money, but it would have to buy water from the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District at a higher price than what Minturn is paying now to produce water. And the interconnect option would push back a water plant replacement that will be needed down the road.

“Battle Mountain isn’t building us a water plant,” said former councilman Tom Sullivan. “We need to improve the plant or get a new plant — we still have to do that.”

Given a chance to speak, the council members offered little comment.

“It’s just water, but, my, it’s complicated sometimes,” said Councilman George Brodin.