Courtroom cash |

Courtroom cash

Matt Zalaznick
Dominique TaylorPacific Northwest ballet dancer Batkhurel Bold performs "Caught," a stobe-lit dance by choreographer David Parsons, at the Ford Ampitheater as part of the Vail International Dance Festival.

Eagle County – Making more room for judges, deputies and inmates in Eagle County’s justice center will cost $4 million more than originally planned.

The $24 million price tag, however, is a big drop from the $50 million county officials wanted to spend before a survey showed voters wouldn’t have approved a tax increase to pay for the expansion.

The price had fallen all the way to $20 million, but officials said they would have had to leave some important things out ” like landscaping and upgraded heating and cooling systems.

Just about everyone who works in the Justice Center ” judges, police, prosecutors ” say the buildings are cramped. The jail doesn’t have enough room for all of its prisoners, and court employees have to share a small space.

The jail expansion will have 32 to 36 more inmate beds, and $1 million will go toward renewable energy.

A bigger building may again be too small in the next six to eight years.

The resort company last week won a lawsuit involving a Beaver Creek ski instructor who had been accused, but found not guilty, of sexually assaulting a girl he had taught.

The woman claimed she was assaulted when the instructor, David Lorenzen, brought her back to his apartment after a morning of skiing that was not an official lesson. The instructor was later found guilty of contributing to the delinquency of a minor for buying the girl alcohol.

The woman and her mother accused Vail Resorts of not adequately checking the instructor’s criminal record. The instructor’s arrest record, dating back to 1989, included charges for the suspicion of possession of marijuana, criminal mischief, trespassing, vehicle theft and contempt of court, as well as drunken-driving charges in 1994, 1995, 2002 and 2003.

The jury found Vail Resorts wasn’t negligent in employing the instructor.

“It was a very, very hard decision for us to make because we really felt for (the woman),” juror Debbie Woodward said. “The bottom line is, Vail could not have, at any time, controlled David Lorenzen doing what he did.”

Cyclists ” and the drivers trying to avoid them ” have long demanded more space to share the county’s roads.

A flashpoint has been the stretch of Highway 6 between Edwards and Eagle. The good news is that crews have begun widening the shoulders at the Eagle end of the sometimes-crowded highway.

While the road closer to Edwards is in worse condition, the Eagle portion is the simpler terrain and easier to do construction on, county engineer Ty Ryan said.

“We’ll use that stretch to make sure the design and such work out,” he said. “The other portions are tougher. There are cliffs, and it’s narrower.”

The agreement with the state is that the county will pay for the shoulder widening and the Department of Transportation will pay for the repaving. The shoulder additions for this summer’s project will cost about $300,000. The next two phases are estimated to cost the county a total of $2 million.

Standardized test scores released Tuesday show that the Eagle County School District is meeting several of its own goals, missing quite a few, improving dramatically in several areas ” especially reading ” and still struggling with an overwhelming number of students who aren’t proficient in English. Eagle County’s scores on the Colorado Student Achievement Program, known as CSAP, are competitive with state averages ” sometimes higher, but often lower.

Complicating scores is the fact that 33 percent of students in the district know little or no English, a number that grows every year. Eagle County has the seventh-highest percentage of students learning English in the state.

This is why, when examining test scores and setting goals, school officials look to the English-speaking students, believing they’re a better reflection of how teachers and students are progressing.

“It isn’t enough to be able to speak English in order to perform on the test. You must be able to read and write in English as well,” said Heather Eberts, director of elementary education and curriculum.

English-speaking students beat state averages in every grade and subject.

Far below U.S. Highway 24, in a deep canyon south of Minturn, you’ll find the rickety ruins of Belden, a long-abandoned work camp for the river-polluting, trout-killing Eagle Mine.

Railroad tracks wind through the narrow valley alongside the Eagle River. Rows of rusted buildings are still there, surrounded and filled by junk and debris, looking as though they’ll collapse at any second. Rock walls tower above you, and the ghost town of Gilman is perched 1,000 feet above on the cliff side.

Look up the slopes, and you’ll see some more antiquities ” wooden “cribs” built by miners decades ago to hold tons of useless rock they pulled from the mine. And now, 24 years after the Eagle Mine shut down, river advocates are worried that all the rock still trapped on the cliff poses an environmental threat to the Eagle River below.

If someday those deteriorating cribs fall apart, all that rock, which is contaminated with toxic metals such as zinc, would end up falling into the river. It could have a catastrophic effect on the ecosystem and kill wildlife that’s sensitive to zinc, such as trout.

The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing a plan to prevent that from happening. As early as this month, the agency could begin building a couple of concrete walls in the canyon to catch any contaminated rock that might fall in the future.

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