| VailDaily.com

Eagle County municipal election petitions available Jan. 7, due Jan. 27

EAGLE COUNTY — An April election day seems a long way off, but anyone interested in running for a seat on the Eagle Town Board, Gypsum Town Council or Minturn Town Council needs to start their campaign in the next couple of weeks.

Municipal elections in the three communities are planned Tuesday, April 7, but candidates can pick up nominating petitions beginning Tuesday, Jan. 7. Completed petitions are due Monday, Jan. 27.

Eagle Town Board

In Eagle, voters will elect a mayor and three Town Board members to four-year terms.

The Town Board seats are currently held by members Kevin Brubeck, Mikel “Pappy” Kerst and Paul Witt. Anne McKibbin is Eagle’s incumbent mayor. Town Board members receive monthly compensation of $250 and the mayor receives monthly compensation of $400.

Candidates can obtain official nomination petitions from Eagle Town Clerk Jenny Rakow. They must collect signatures from 10 registered voters and return the completed petition forms by 5 p.m. on Jan. 27.

For more information about mayor and Town Board responsibilities, visit townofeagle.org. For more information about the municipal election contact Rakow at 970-328-9623 or jenny.rakow@townofeagle.org.

Gypsum Town Council

In Gypsum, voters will elect three Town Council members to four-year terms.

The Town Council seats are currently held by Tom Edwards, Chris Huffman and Marisa Sato. Town council members receive monthly compensation of $300.

Candidates can obtain nomination petitions from Gypsum Town Clerk Danette Schlegel. They must collect signatures from 20 registered voters and return the completed petition forms by 5 p.m. on Jan. 27.

For more information about Town Council responsibilities visit townofgypsum.com. For more information about the municipal election, contact Schlegel at 970-524-1738 or danette@townofgypsum.com.

Minturn Town Council

In Minturn, voters will elect three Town Council members to four-year terms, one town council member to a two-year term and a mayor for a two-year term.

The Town Council seats are currently held by Terry Armistead, George Brodin, Eric Gotthelf and Chelsea Winters. John Widerman is Minturn’s incumbent mayor. Town council members receive monthly compensation of $200 and the mayor receives a monthly compensation of $400.

Candidates can obtain official nomination petitions from Minturn Town Clerk/Treasurer Jay Brunvand. They must collect signatures from 10 registered voters and return the completed petition forms by 5 p.m. on Jan. 27.

For more information about the responsibilities visit minturn.org. For more information about the municipal election, contact Brunvand at 970-827-5645 Ext.2 or treasurer@minturn.org

Vail Valley’s top stories of 2019: Battles over Booth Heights, Avon barn top local headlines

For a small community, we have a lot going on. 

From big business to small-town arguments over big-money disputes to everyday life, and death, 2019 was a busy year in the Vail Valley. Here is a look at some of the top stories of the year.

And yes, we’ve probably missed a few.

East Vail controversy

The saga of a workforce housing project in East Vail — and the possible fate of a herd of bighorn sheep — isn’t yet settled. Expect the arguments about it to continue.

The property in question — a 23.3-acre parcel just north of the Interstate 70 exit in East Vail — was rezoned in 2017 for both workforce housing and preservation.

A plan for a combination of deed-restricted and free-market housing on the steep site was approved in August on a 4-3 vote by the Vail Planning and Environmental Commission. The Vail Town Council in October, on another contentious 4-3 vote, denied an appeal of that decision.

The survival of a bighorn sheep herd in East Vail has been at the center of a charged debate over a workforce housing project in East Vail known as Booth Heights.
Debbie Eno | Special to the Daily

In November, a group of local residents brought a legal challenge to that decision, so the courts now have the issue.

Work could begin in the spring, or not. Stay tuned. 

Avon’s barn boondoggle

In February, Avon taxpayers rebuked a plan to move the 110-year-old Hahnewald barn to a new location in the town core for a cost of $1.6 million by nearly an 8-to-1 margin.

The Avon council had previously approved a plan to move the barn, but a community survey designed to mimic an election revealed a strong distaste among the public for the idea, which received 104 votes in favor and 891 against.

Avon officials count survey ballots in April. Avon taxpayers soundly rejected moving the 110-year-old Hahnewald Barn.
Chris Dillman | Vail Daily

The decision was the second council action to be reversed by the community in recent years. The Town Council made the results of the recent barn election official in April, taking action to discontinue financial efforts to save the 110-year-old structure, which was torn down in August.

Minturn, developer plan divorce

The Minturn Town Council in August rejected a deal that would have supplied water to a portion of the Battle Mountain property, the developer announced the company would seek to separate the lower portion of the property from Minturn. That property was annexed in the later years of the previous decade.

It’s going to take some time to finalize a divorce between the town of Minturn and the developers of the Battle Mountain property.
Special to the Daily

The de-annexation request is complicated and would put approval of a project that includes more than 700 homes into the hands of Eagle County. 

This is one to watch in the coming months. 

Berlaimont ballyhoo

Wildlife also plays a role in Berlaimont Estates, a controversial proposed development near Edwards.

The proposal calls for dividing a 680-acre property into 19 parcels of 35 acres or more. Parcels of that size exempt the property from county zoning review. But the developers are proposing a new road into the property, and that road has to cross property managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The Forest Service has to approve that road. That agency hasn’t yet issued a decision on the road request.

There has been stiff opposition to the proposal, with residents claiming that the homes and new road would have an impact on wildlife movement and populations in the area.

Wildlife woes

The bighorn sheep herd in East Vail is struggling. Meanwhile, elk populations have also seen a steep decline. 

According to state wildlife managers, the number of elk counted between Vail Pass and Wolcott dropped by roughly two-thirds between 2002 and 2016.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has cut the number of hunting licenses issued in those hunting units, hoping to spur recovery of the herds. That hasn’t happened. 

The number of elk between Vail Pass and Wolcott has dropped by roughly two-thirds.
Daily file photo

Bill Andree was the area’s wildlife manager for nearly 40 years, and has recently retired. Now free to speak his mind, Andree believes that changes in public policy are about all that’s left to try to rebuild the herds.

In a phone interview following a March wildlife forum, Andree said, “If the public decides wildlife is a priority, elected officials will have to start making tough decisions and saying ‘no.’”

First half of March buried in avalanches

Between March 1 and 14, Colorado experienced the most dramatic avalanche cycles the state has seen in decades — one that avalanche experts are still trying to fully understand.

Courtesy of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center

The Colorado Avalanche Information center recorded nearly 1,000 avalanches during that time, though Brian Lazar, CAIC’s deputy director believes that up to five times more may have occurred.

Some avalanches buried our highways, and others made their ways inbounds at ski resorts across the state. Locally, a scare on the Minturn Mile left us relieved that no one was buried in an avalanche that occurred on the popular backcountry run.

Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow

It was a huge offseason for Vail Mountain. Vail Resorts not only completed the long-discussed expansion of Golden Peak, widening its boundaries by 68 acres in the resort’s first expansion since Blue Sky Basin, but it also pulled off the largest snowmaking project completed in a single season in North America.

The upgraded the snowmaking system on Vail Mountain is designed to cover more terrain, and more terrain at higher elevations. That’s going to help in the coming years if Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate with corporate plans. 

Vail Resorts’ new snowmaking system on Vail Mountain covers more terrain, more efficiently.
Daily file photo

This year, the mountain opened Nov. 15, on schedule. But instead of early mountain access from Lionshead, skiers started their season from Vail Village, riding Gondola One to Mid-Vail, then downloading back to Vail Village.

Vail Resorts touts the new system as more efficient, and more effective than the old system.

New leaders at local mountains

Beth Howard and Nadia Guerriero took different paths to their careers with Vail Resorts. Now they’re working together again.

In February, Howard was named the new vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, moving over from the same position at Beaver Creek. Guerriero, the general manager at Northstar, was named to replace Howard at Beaver Creek. Both moves became effective in May.

The moves represented a homecoming of sorts for both women. Howard started her long Vail Resorts career at Vail, landing an internship in food and beverage before moving her way up to management.

For Guerriero, coming to Beaver Creek was a move back to her home state after 20 years away. She grew up in Boulder and graduated from the University of Colorado.

Vail Health makes $60M pledge

Confronted with the enormity of Eagle County’s behavioral health needs, local residents and agencies knew what they needed.

Months of discussion revealed they needed just about everything — programs, professionals, beds and resources. Most of all, they needed a champion — an entity that was willing to lead the charge both organizationally and financially to make meaningful inroads in the effort to improve behavioral health services for local residents.

In early April, Vail Health announced it would be that champion.

The local hospital and health care provider says it will commit $60 million in funding over the next 10 years to transform behavioral health services in the Eagle River Valley. In partnership with Eagle County and other community groups, a new nonprofit collaborative will be created to build needed facilities, improve access to providers and lower barriers to accessing behavioral health care across the valley.

Vail loses two icons

In the span of less than a month, Vail mourned the passing of two of its most celebrated figures. Pepi Gramshammer, who died in August at 87, was the first professional skier to call Vail home. He and his wife, Sheika, were among the town’s first hoteliers. Both said coming to Vail fulfilled their dreams of coming to the United States. 

Pepi Gramshammer is as synonymous with Vail as the resort’s famed Back Bowls.
Special to the Daily

Pepi and Sheika played hosts to President Gerald Ford and other notables, and both were renowned for the spirit and verve they brought as Vail turned from a fledgling ski area with gravel streets to the world-famous resort it is today.

Pepi’s passing was marked by both private and public celebrations — and parties, the way Pepi would have wanted it.

In early September, Sanford Morris “Sandy” Treat Jr., who lived every minute of his 96 years, died. He was a regular fixture in local veterans organizations and one of the original members of the famed 10th Mountain Division.

Sandy Treat, a member of the famed 10th Mountain Division, died at 96. He was a regular fixture at the Colorado Snowsports Museum with his Tales of the 10th.
Special to the Daily

Among his many contributions to the Vail community, Treat hosted the Colorado Snowsports Museum’s Tales of the 10th Mountain Division, a weekly series of talks by members of the famed division. The standing-room-only crowds almost always greeted Treat with a hero’s welcome.

High water claims man’s life

A rafting accident in early June claimed the life of Nikolay Pezhemskiy, 29. The Russian man and four friends started down the Eagle River at EagleVail on a sunny afternoon. The raft hit a tall wave and flipped, throwing all five men into the runoff-swollen river. Four made it to the safety of the riverbank. Pezhemskiy didn’t.

Nikolay Pezhemskiy was killed in a river accident in early June when his boat flipped near EagleVail.
Special to the Daily

While emergency crews were on the scene in Avon within moments, attempts to revive Pezhemskiy were unsuccessful.

Traffic stop shooting

An early December traffic stop in Avon turned deadly when officers shot a gun-wielding man.

A Colorado State Patrol officer pulled over a U-Haul truck that was eastbound on Interstate 70. The driver pulled off at the Avon exit and pulled into the Walgreens parking lot.

A Nevada man was shot and killed in Avon after reportedly refusing to drop his gun and pointing it at officers during a standoff.
Photo by Ross Leonhart

Witnesses and law enforcement officials say Alvern Donell Walker, 58, got out of the truck and was waving a pistol toward himself and others. Officers made several attempts to get Walker to put down the handgun. He was shot when he refused to put down the weapon and continued waving it around.

Walker was pronounced dead at Vail Health Hospital.

Banks hit in Edwards

On the first day of May, a woman walked into two Edwards banks and handed over a note demanding money. She walked out of the US Bank location after tellers were confused by the note and into the Wells Fargo where she made off with cash.

By June, the FBI had Karen Hyatt, her fiancé, Craig “Lucky” Dickson, and the couple’s sidekick Christopher Lutz in custody. The FBI, in an arrest affidavit, reported that Hyatt and Dickson announced their engagement on April 8, 2019, in a Facebook post. They were part of five bank robberies in the next 30 days: Denver, Boulder, Centennial and the two in Edwards.

On May 1, Karen Hyatt walked into two Edwards banks in a three-minute span and demanded money from both.
Special to the Daily

In November, Hyatt, Dickson and Lutz all pleaded guilty in federal court to the springtime bank robbery spree. Sentencing is scheduled for January. All three face up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

Edwards comes full circle

After months of road construction, Edwards finally got the first iteration of its roundabout at its main intersection in August. The one-lane roundabout eventually became two lanes during the fall, and construction went on hiatus in late November with the project largely complete.

When construction began at the roundabout in the spring, Edwards motorists braced for a long summer. Early on, lengthy traffic jams were reported at the site.

Cars circle the new roundabout in Edwards at the intersection of Highway 6 and Spur Road. Construction on the roundabout is mostly done.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

Project crews will return in March 2020 to launch construction of the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge along the Spur Road.

“We have finalized our agreement with the Union Pacific Railroad so we can start to do that work,” said Matt Figgs, project manager from the Colorado Department of Transportation. “But next summer will be much less impactful than this year was. The roundabout construction was significantly impactful.”

Superintendent ousted

In late January, Eagle County Schools’ seven-member board unanimously decided that Dr. Carlos Ramirez would no longer be superintendent just eight months after being hired.

“Remain calm,” said Kate Cocchiarella, the board president. “We have a strategic plan for the district and for each of the schools.”

It took longer to find Ramirez — through a national search — than he spent leading the district, and many of those same members voted unanimously in March 2018 to hire him when he was an assistant superintendent in the Houston Independent School District.

Ramirez’s departure came at a cost to taxpayers — $195,000 in severance pay plus six months of health insurance.

The move drew considerable criticism, but the tempest eventually dissipated as the district moved forward with the promotion of assistant superintendent Phil Qualman in April. Qualman beat out two strong outside candidates for the job.

“I love this community. I’m committed to this district. I’ve given my professional heart to the organization and I want it to be as good as it can be,” Qualman said.

Prosecutor dismisses case against sheriff

James van Beek’s petty offense case was quietly dismissed earlier this month.

In his motion to dismiss the case, special prosecutor Ben Sollars said there was “no reasonable likelihood” of convicting the sheriff of Eagle County of the misdemeanor charge.

Eagle County Sheriff James van Beek enters court in September in Eagle, flanked by his attorney, David Kaplan, on the left. Van Beek’s legal trouble is behind him after his petty offense case was dismissed earlier this month.
Mort Mulliken | Special to the Daily

District Attorney Bruce Brown, a Democrat, presented the case that convinced a grand jury to hand down a petty offense indictment against van Beek, Eagle County’s only elected Republican.

At issue was a county fund containing money seized by the Sheriff’s Office. Brown convinced a grand jury that van Beek might be improperly spending money from that reserve fund and the grand jury indicted van Beek with a misdemeanor petty offense. Brown claims he should have been part of any spending decisions.

Van Beek called the indictment “unwarranted, a “personal attack,” and an attack on the “men and women of the Sheriff’s Office.”

“I am pleased with the result. It is unfortunate the taxpayers of both Eagle and Garfield counties had to fund a case that resulted in the dismissal of an ill-conceived petty offense charge,” van Beek said in a written statement. “I not only looked at this as an unwarranted attack on me personally, but an attack on the fine men and women who commit their energies to the Sheriff’s Office.”

Pam Boyd, John LaConte, Randy Wyrick, Sean Naylor and Nate Peterson also contributed reporting to this story.

Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy honored for 100% voter registration among eligible students

Nicholas Ebner decided his classmates’ voices should reach beyond their classrooms, so he convinced them to register to vote and now they do.

Ebner, a Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy senior, registered every eligible VSSA student to vote. That made VSSA the first Colorado school of the 2019-2020 school year to earn the Eliza Pickrell Routt Award from the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.

“Young people have the opportunity to help shape the future of our state and our country with their vote, no matter what political party they identify with, or the issue that inspires them most,” Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold said in the announcement.

To earn the award, schools must register at least 85% of its eligible students to vote … but why stop there, Ebner decided, when he could get them all.

“I’m passionate about politics and I was looking for something I could do in the community,” Ebner said.

He had volunteered to work on a couple of campaigns and decided to take it to the grassroots level.

“Voter registration seemed like something I could do,” Ebner said.

So he did. He signed up VSSA’s entire senior and junior classes.

“I was registering myself to vote and I saw you could also hand in peer voter registration forms. It encourages people to sign up to vote,” Ebner said.

‘Spirited’ political discourse

Eric Rippeth is a VSSA social studies teacher. His students spend lots of time in “spirited” discussions focusing on current events, especially local events, as well as the national and international political climate. There’s a lot to talk about currently, and passionate students argue all sides, Rippeth said.

The voter registration drive was Ebner’s idea for part of his senior project.

Ebner came to Rippeth with all the applications and forms from Colorado’s Secretary of State office to register students to vote. When he was finished, every single VSSA student eligible to vote was registered.

“I was inspired,” Rippeth said.

Colorado first First Lady, first female voter

The award, created in 2016, is named after Eliza Pickrell Routt, the first woman registered to vote in Colorado after Colorado passed women’s suffrage in 1893.

Routt was Colorado’s first First Lady. Her husband John Routt was Colorado’s first governor, elected in 1876, the year Colorado became a state.

As First Lady Pickrell Routt dedicated herself to equal rights for women and the passage of women’s suffrage, Routt helped Colorado become the second state to allow women to vote, the first by popular vote. Wyoming was the first state to grant women the right to vote.

To honor her commitment to the passage of women’s suffrage, Routt was the first woman registered to vote in Colorado.

The Eliza Pickrell Routt Award was launched in 2016. By the end of the 2017-19 school year, 26 awards had been presented to 17 schools across Colorado.

Vail Town Council keeps Dave Chapin as mayor, picks Kim Langmaid as new mayor pro tem

VAIL — Dave Chapin will serve the next two years as Vail’s mayor.

The Vail Town Council every two years chooses a mayor from among its seven members. Chapin, who has been mayor the past four years, was unanimously chosen Tuesday to serve in that role for the next two years. At that point, town term-limit regulations will prohibit him from seeking another term.

The council Tuesday also unanimously chose council member Kim Langmaid as mayor pro tem. That means Langmaid will handle mayoral duties if Chapin is absent. Langmaid was elected Nov. 5 to a second term in office.

The council made those decisions to kick off its Nov. 19 meeting. One of the first things the group did in its evening session was to once again appoint Buck Allen as the town’s municipal judge. Allen has served in that position since 1979.

“It’s truly an honor to have you here,” Chapin told Allen. “We hope you’re around for a while — that’s your decision, not ours.”

Allen replied he believes he’d like to serve another four to six years, adding that “If I’m not the longest-serving judge, I’m close.”

New council member Brian Stockmar asked to make the motion to re-appoint Allen for another two years on the town’s bench. Both Allen and Stockmar are Denver natives, and the families were close. Stockmar has known Allen virtually all his life.

That vote also was unanimous.

Kevin Foley, top vote getter in Vail Town Council race, spent $3.25 on his campaign

VAIL — Kevin Foley has a simple strategy for seeking local elective office: If people know you, then you don’t have to spend any money.

For this year’s just-completed Vail Town Council election, Foley received the most votes — 760 — and spent all of $3.25. Foley spent more for a council run in 2015 — $3.86.

That spending went toward poster board for Foley’s one and only campaign sign. That sign, with Foley attached to it, could often be found at the town’s roundabouts while he was out campaigning.

Kim Langmaid earned the second-most votes Nov. 5 — 729 — and also kept her spending modest. While Langmaid spent about $538 on newspaper advertising this year, her most recent campaign finance report filed with the town indicates that she neither raised nor spent any money between Oct. 16 and Oct. 31.

Jen Mason also didn’t receive or spend any money during the second half of October.

Those three candidates, all incumbents, on were re-electe Nov. 5 to four-year terms on the Vail Town Council.

Brian Stockmar is the sole newcomer to the council this year and spent more than $5,000 of his own money on his campaign. Most of that spending went toward newspaper advertising.

Biggest spenders

The most spending in this year’s council race was an independent group, Citizens for Responsible Government. That group supported the four eventual winners this year, all of whom opposed Booth Heights, the proposed workforce housing development in East Vail.

That group raised and spent roughly $6,800, most of it on newspaper advertising.

Jonathan Staufer is the registered representative for Citizens for Responsible Government. He said he believes the four candidates who won — especially Foley — would have won with or without that group’s support.

But, Staufer said, his group’s efforts and a donor list that includes 24 individuals and couples — helped express some strong opinions.

“There was a clear mandate for change,” Staufer said, adding that many people in town are “sick of closed-door sessions and backdoor deals.”

Foley said he’s grateful if the people on the donor list voted for him, but said he believes there’s more to running for local office.

“Your friends and neighbors should know you before you put your name on the ballot,” Foley said.

That recognition in the community is why he spends virtually nothing running for office.

“I had a few people comment that I didn’t have yard signs,” Foley said.

But, he added, a lot of yard signs end up just being litter, and he doesn’t want to do that.

Foley recalled that he bought bumper stickers and buttons one year — he’s run for council several times, and was once elected to a seat on the Vail Recreation District board of directors — but he gave out very few of them.

“I don’t like to take money,” Foley said of his virtually no-budget campaigns. “Once you get above the municipal level, money is what’s ruining politics.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com and 970-748-2930.

Vail, Eagle County voter turnout was light this year

EAGLE COUNTY — Voter turnout in odd-year elections is generally lighter than in even-year elections. That held true this year in Eagle County.

In addition to two state ballot issues, there was only one countywide ballot question, along with a number of special-district ballot issues.

According to Eagle County clerk and recorder Regina O’Brien, active voter turnout on Nov. 5 was 38.56%. That percentage is based on 32,543 active voters in the county and 12,549 ballots returned.

That’s about in line with the turnout in the 2017 election, when 32% of county voters returned ballots.

In contrast, the 2018 general election, with state and federal offices on the ballot, had a turnout of just less than 62.5%

While county ballots could be mailed, most ballots — 53% — arrived on Monday and Tuesday of this week, with 40% of ballots coming on Election Day.

While this year’s Vail Town Council election seemed contentious, turnout wasn’t much higher than normal.

According to an email from Vail Town Clerk Tammy Nagel, this year’s council election brought a 25.5% turnout, with 1,102 votes cast from a base of 4,316 registered voters.

Of those who voted, 607 came to the polling place in Town Hall. Another 495 voted by mail, via absentee ballots.

The 2017 and 2015 council elections had a turnout of 22%. The highest turnout rate this century was in 2005, when 36% of the town’s voters went to the polls.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.

Eagle County’s new $4 per pack tobacco tax will go into effect Jan. 1

EAGLE — Tuesday night the voters of Eagle County overwhelmingly approved a $4 per pack tax on cigarettes. That fee will take effect Jan. 1.

Ballot question 1A passed with nearly 70% approval, higher than pre-election polling suggested. The hefty tax on tobacco and nicotine product sales is a 40% tax on the sale of all tobacco and nicotine products and translates into 20 cents per cigarette. The new tax will not be levied on smoking cessation products such as nicotine patches and gum.

“This really was a public health issue, particularly as it relates to youth vaping,” noted Eagle County Manager Jeff Shroll.

Chris Lindley, chair of Healthy Eagle County, the group that lobbied in favor of 1A, said the tax should generate significant revenues for the Eagle County Public Health Fund. But with any luck, those revenues will dry up, rather than increase, over time. That’s because the real goal of 1A is to decrease local tobacco use. That makes 1A one of the more unusual tax increase propositions to pop up on a ballot.

“In Eagle County, we want to be the healthiest place to live, work and play and with this vote, in my opinion, the public is saying ‘Let’s do it,” Lindley said.

Where will the money go?

There are some jurisdictional issues with 1A tax money. The tax will be charged by retailers who are located in unincorporated areas of the county. If a retailer is located within a municipality, and that town has already enacted a tobacco/nicotine sales tax, the municipal charge will be imposed rather than the county charge. If a municipality has not enacted a tax, the county tax will be imposed.

As Lindley indicated, the money will go to the Eagle County Public Health Fund for youth substance abuse programs and health education.

“This will be greatly needed funding to provide more public health advocacy across this community,” Lindley said.

Third prong

While the tobacco/nicotine tax has generated the most public interest, Tuesday’s vote was actually the third and final initiative the county has championed to cut use and improve public health.

Earlier this fall, the county passed a measure that raised the legal age to purchase tobacco/nicotine products to 21 years old. That regulation, referred to as T-21, took effect Nov. 1 and is enforced throughout unincorporated Eagle County. Several individual communities have also instituted similar T-21 programs. The exceptions are the towns of Vail and Eagle. Eagle will reconsider a T-21 resolution next week.

“We are hoping all the communities pass this because we want parity across the county,” Lindley said.

Additionally, on Nov. 1, a new county licensing provision went into effect for tobacco/nicotine retailers. The intent of the regulation is to ensure every business that sells such products abides by the same regulations.

“This was a very strategic, three-pronged approach to prevent the use of these products,” Lindley said. “For all three to be enacted at the same time shows we are using strong policy to push public health initiatives in the community. I really see this effort as something other communities will be following next year.”

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s landslide win, Lindley said he was excited to see such overwhelming support for 1A.

“I was thrilled because this is really the community saying loud and clear that youth health is a key priority for all of us,” he said.

Proposition DD narrowly squeaks by to legalize sports betting in Colorado

Colorado voters have narrowly passed a measure that will legalize sports betting and use the taxes raised to fund projects outlined in the Colorado Water Plan.

As votes trickled in Tuesday night, the measure remained too close to call; at some points, the margin was just a few hundred votes. By just after 9 a.m. Wednesday, with all 64 Colorado counties reporting, the “for” votes had pulled decisively ahead.

The unofficial results from the Colorado Secretary of State website show that 50.48 percent of voters supported Proposition DD and 49.52 percent were against it —a difference of 13,141 votes.

Pitkin, Eagle and Summit counties passed the measure, with 61 percent, 59 percent and 58 percent of voters, respectively, supporting it. Fifty-two percent of voters in Garfield County voted against Proposition DD.

The state is now authorized to collect a 10 percent tax up to $29 million (but probably closer to $15 million) a year from casino’s sports-betting proceeds. The money will go toward funding projects that align with the goals outlined in the water plan, as well as toward meeting interstate obligations such as the Colorado River Compact.

The funds would be administered by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, a statewide agency charged with managing Colorado’s water supply.

District 5 State Sen. Kerry Donovan, who was a sponsor of the legislation behind Proposition DD, said going into Election Day she wasn’t sure whether it would pass. With Colorado’s growing population and the looming threat of climate change, the Western Slope will see an increasingly large burden when it comes to water supply, she said.

“As a rancher and a Western Slope native, I am really excited the state has decided to invest in the future of water in Colorado,” she said.

Funding the water plan could mean a number of things. Outlined in a 567-page policy document, the water plan does not prescribe or endorse specific projects, but, instead, sets Colorado’s water values, goals and measurable objectives. According to the water plan, there is an estimated funding gap of $100 million per year over 30 years, but CWCB officials have said that number is an estimate and not precise.

Some of the projects outlined in the water plan stand in opposition to one another — for example, stream-restoration projects with an emphasis on environmental health and building or expanding dams and reservoirs that would divert and impound more Colorado River water.

CWCB director Becky Mitchell highlighted that the money could indeed go toward many different types of projects.

“I think the most exciting thing for us is that we will have a more permanent pool of funding and it will support all types of projects,” Mitchell said. “So, whether it’s a watershed health or agricultural project or storage project or recreational project, the benefit of a more permanent source of funding is to have secure funding for all types of projects.”

In addition to being distributed in the form of water-plan grants, the revenue could also be spent to ensure compliance with interstate compacts and to pay water users for temporary and voluntary reductions in consumptive use. That could mean a demand-management program — the feasibility of which the state is currently studying — in which agricultural water users would be paid to leave more water in the river.

The measure had received broad support from environmental organizations, agriculture interests, water-conservation districts and even Aspen Skiing Company.

Glenwood Springs-based Colorado River Water Conservation District also supported Proposition DD. While the estimated $15 million a year is a good start, river district community affairs director Jim Pokrandt stressed it’s not enough to implement all the projects outlined in the water plan.

“What this does is creates a funding stream,” he said. “And it’s really only a down payment. What we don’t want to see is the other funding streams diminish because everybody will say ‘Oh, you got (Proposition DD).’”

Although there wasn’t much organized opposition to Proposition DD, the measure asked voters to consider three complex topics in one question: a new tax, legalizing sports betting and funding the water plan.

Political Action Committee Yes on Proposition DD spent more than $2.3 million, which came mostly from casino and gaming interests, on its campaign. The only registered group in opposition was small-scale issue committee Coloradans for Climate Justice, which argued that fossil-fuel companies should pay for the damage to water-supply systems caused by climate change.

Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism collaborates with The Aspen Times and other Swift Communications newspapers on coverage of rivers and water. For more, go to aspenjournalism.org.

Race for contested Roaring Fork school board seat tightens

The three-way race for a Roaring Fork School District Board of Education District D was too close to call Tuesday night as ballots continue to be counted.

With unofficial results still being tallied in Garfield County and the portions of the school district in Eagle and Pitkin counties, as of 10:45 p.m., incumbent District D representative Shane Larson and challenger Jasmin Ramirez were in a virtual dead heat at 38% of the vote each.

Larson had a razor-thin lead of 13 votes over Ramirez. Challenger Amy Connerton was a distant third with 24% of the vote.

There was minimal contest for the two other open seats on the local school board, which governs public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

Natalie Torres will take the District B seat formerly held by Matt Hamilton, who moved away and stepped down from the seat in June. Write-in candidate Matt Cova did receive a handful of votes in the election.

Maureen Stepp will take the District C seat on the school board, as current board member Mary Elizabeth Geiger is stepping down. A write-in candidate for that seat, Molly Peterson, also garnered some votes.


Marianne Virgili edges out Mary Nelle Axelson for CMC Board of Trustees District 2 seat

Marianne Virgili has been elected to represent District 2 on Colorado Mountain College’s Board of Trustees. 

Virgili earned nearly 53 % of the vote whereas her opponent, Mary Nelle Axelson, had garnered just over 47% as of 9 p.m. Tuesday.  

“I am just so grateful for people who voted for me, wrote letters of support or helped with my campaign,” Virgili said. “I am so grateful to have a chance to encourage affordable education, workforce training and lifelong learning.”