Fancy garage, wind power, firebombers
What a year it was: From a minor plane crash to start the year to a contentious election that put the board of county commissioners in the hands of three Democrats. We had the tumultuous Crossroads election, the Beaver Creek alpine slide debate, a change of the guard and a corporate move at Vail Resorts, and a pot of money bestowed upon the school district for some new buildings. Babies were born, people died, the Olympics came and went, the Teva Games, the International Dance Festival, the World Cup at Beaver Creek … it’s a busy valley, a busy world.Here’s a look at the year that was in the Vail Valley
3Vail bank robbed a third timeVAIL – An armed man carrying an umbrella robbed the Vail WestStar Bank Monday, the third time the Hanson Ranch Road branch has been robbed in 13 months, police said.The man showed a handgun to one of two employees in the bank and fled on foot with an undetermined amount of money, police said.Neither employee was injured, police said.The suspect, who was carrying a black umbrella, flashed a handgun during Monday heist, police said.He was carrying an umbrella. The man also was unshaven and had a small cut on the left side of his lower lip, police said.3Luxurious plans for Vail garageVAIL – Two developers have big ideas for the Lionshead parking structure.East West Partners of Avon and Open Hospitality Partners/Hillwood Capital of Dallas each submitted proposals for hotels, condos and parking on the site of the garage. The town of Vail will review the proposals, but isn’t committing to doing anything.”We’re not selecting anyone to do anything at this point,” said Stan Zemler, Vail’s town manager. “We’re making a decision on whether we want to proceed to the next step.”The Dallas group wants to put a W Hotel and a St. Regis hotel on the site. The proposal also includes condos, timeshares, restaurants and stores.The proposal would also have about 400 to 700 more public parking spaces than what’s there now, said Mark Masinter of Open Hospitality Group.Each hotel would have more than 100 hotel rooms. The W would also have condos, and the St. Regis would have condos and timeshares.8Truce over alpine slideBEAVER CREEK – Beaver Creek property owners and Vail Resorts have called a truce before a full-fledged battle erupts.The battle, if it comes, will be over the location of an alpine slide. Vail Resorts had plans to build an alpine slide on the Haymeadow ski run. Property owners in the area complained, loudly.Last week, resort company officials sat down with representatives of various homeowners associations, and hammered out an agreement in which Vail Resorts agreed to put off building anything like an alpine slide anywhere at the resort until at least Jan. 31.”We want to spend time with the property owners to review our options,” said John Garnsey, chief operating officer of Beaver Creek.11Solaris wins in landslideVAIL – Build Solaris, Vail voters said overwhelmingly Tuesday.Voters approved the Crossroads proposal with 70 percent of voters casting ballots in favor of the project.”I’m just ecstatic that so many people came out and voted either way for the project,” said Solaris developer Peter Knobel.The election – with Crossroads as the only item – had the highest turnout for any Vail municipal election, with 1,577 voters or 39 percent of the electorate.The proposal includes 69 condos, a three-screen movie theater, a 10-lane bowling alley, an ice rink/public plaza, stores and restaurants.”I think it’ll really bring energy back to Vail, and it’ll give things for families to do,” Knobel said.14Ford celebrates 93rd birthday in VailVAIL – Gerald Ford is America’s most elder, elder statesman.The former president and wife Betty, Vail’s First Family, hit town this week to celebrate Gerald Ford’s 93rd birthday.”He’s had a great day,” said Ford’s spokeswoman Penny Circle. “He’s had calls from all the former presidents, cabinet members and lots of old friends.”The Fords are scheduled to be in the Vail Valley all summer, Circle said.”They’re enjoying being back,” said Circle.The Fords started coming to Vail to visit friends in 1968 when he was serving as one of Michigan’s congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives, a career track he started when he won election in 1948.20Strange object causes bomb scareEAGLE – A green fireworks-type fuse protruded from the object wrapped in black tape delivered by hand Thursday morning to the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.Investigators decided to call the Jefferson County Bomb Squad to figure out what they had.A man, whose name was not available, drove the suspicious potato-shaped object to the Sheriff’s Office after finding it in a former tenant’s vacated Gypsum apartment, said Kim Andree, spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office.Authorities put the object in a concrete drainage ditch behind the Sheriff’s Office on Chambers Avenue, just below eastbound Interstate 70.The bomb squad X-rayed the object in the drainage ditch. Then, eastbound I-70 was stopped while the squad shot the end off the device with a shotgun loaded with a shell containing bird shot and clay, said Lt. Mike William of the Sheriff’s Office25Woman, daughters held hostageAVON – Wendy Davidson had just loaded her two daughters into her white Suburban early Monday afternoon when she realized she’d left her mailbox key in her Avon Crossings apartment. She left the girls in the car as she rushed back inside.Entering her home, Davidson, 36, suddenly realized she wasn’t alone. She turned to find a man standing behind her with a gun in his hand, police said.The man told Davidson he wanted her car, and Davidson told the man he could take her 2005 white Chevrolet Suburban but she wanted her girls, ages 7 and 10, Avon police Chief Brian Kozak said.According to the Avon police report, the suspect is a Hispanic man between 30 and 35 years old. At a height of 5’7″ to 5’9″, he likely weighs about 160 pounds and has brown eyes.He was wearing brown work boots, blue jeans, a gray sweatshirt, black ski mask and back L.A. Lakers or Raiders baseball cap. He had a handgun.The man told Davidson to call her girls back into the apartment, then he took the three into the master bedroom where he made them take the shoelaces out of the shoes in the room, Kozak said.He used tape and the shoelaces to tie them up, all the while shouting commands and profanity at them, Kozak said.The man stayed in the room with the Davidsons for several hours before leaving in the Suburban, Kozak said.
2Wolcott winery could transform areaEAGLE – Wine could transform Wolcott.Patrick Chirichillo is a wine enthusiast. For the past few years he and others have been making wine at 4Eagle Ranch north of Wolcott.That love of fermented grapes has led to an ambitious proposal for property right at Wolcott called the Vines at Vail.The Vines at Vail plan includes: A winery A lodge 18 employee housing units, for-sale and rentals 30 townhomes Commercial space A water tank, treatment plant and sewer systemA plan for the Vines at Vail was worked over for the first time Tuesday by the Eagle County Commissioners. Following Tuesday’s nearly five-hour hearing, the project is probably in for at least a couple more lengthy meetings.
4Amphitheater opens in MinturnMINTURN – Ernie Glesner struts across the wood supports of the “flying nun,” proudly pointing out features of the nearly completed Minturn amphitheater and looking to future construction at the venue.”I think everything will be done by (Sunday),” the contractor and Minturn resident said a half hour before touring the Amphitheater in the drizzling rain Monday. “The rafters are up. I think probably by Thursday it will be buttoned up.”Overhaul of the amphitheater and Little Beach Park – formerly know as La Playuela Park – began with volunteers like Glesner. The Little Beach Park Committee, of which Glesner is a member, raised $400,000 from private and public donors to fund the project.7Town of Vail goes all wind power, tooVAIL – The town of Vail will likely sign an agreement this week to offset 100 percent of its electricity use with wind power credits, Town Manager Stan Zemler said.The agreement follows Vail Resorts’ announcement last week that it will buy wind credits equal to all of its electricity use at its five ski resorts, retail shops, hotels and other properties.The town’s initiative would offset 20 million kilowatt hours of electricity use over three years, Zemler said. Over three years, the credits will take 28 million pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, the equivalent of taking 2,600 cars off the road or planting 3,700 acres of trees.7Death of a forestVAIL – It seems there’s just not much good news for trees these days.Between the mountain pine beetles decimating lodgepole pines across the West to a mysterious illness affecting aspen trees, foresters are already looking ahead to what the landscape will look like in the future.”This mature pine forest is a goner,” said Cal Wettstein, district ranger for the Holy Cross and Eagle ranger districts. “We’re focusing on the next forest.”Asked what the future holds for the Vail Valley’s forest, Wettstein said simply “large fires.”Over the next two decades, the beetle-killed trees will shed their needles and their branches, then fall down and contribute to a tremendous load of fuel on the forest floor, Wettstein said. At that point, he said, it’s a waiting game as to when the combination of fuel, weather and a spark culminates in a large-scale fire.”It’s not if, but when,” Wettstein said. 10Terror worries reach Eagle airportGYPSUM – Forget about bringing that latte or bottle of water on the plane for now.In light of the alleged airplane bombing plot uncovered in Britain Thursday, the security alert level for U.S. airports has been elevated to “orange.” Because the plot involved the potential use of liquid explosive disguised as beverages or other liquids, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration has prohibited airline passengers from carrying any liquids on board aircraft.Even far from the action in Eagle County, airline passengers are being subjected to more intensive searches and being asked to leave liquids behind.
10Hiker found two miles from where friends lost himHOLY CROSS WILDERNESS – Rescuers scoured the Half Moon Trail area Thursday and found 54-year-old Alex Storke disoriented and dehydrated nearly two miles northwest of where his friends left him Tuesday in Holy Cross Wilderness.Rescuers spotted the Minnesota man from a distance. He had managed to walk 2,000 feet lower and 1.8 miles from where he was last seen, said Kim Andree, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office.”He didn’t appear to have any life-threatening injuries,” Andree said. “We were very, very pleased to call his wife and tell him he was OK.”A helicopter transported Storke to Vail Valley Medical Center for treatment, Andree said.On Tuesday, Storke intended to hike 14,005 Mount of the Holy Cross with a Denver friend and two other men from his home state of Minnesota, Andree said. The three friends left Storke at about 11 a.m. on the Half Moon Trail above timberline when he became tired. The trio planned to summit Holy Cross and then meet up with Storke.15Vail council holds off on new bear lawVAIL – Vail Town Councilman Greg Moffet said he knows it would be a hardship for some people to buy a special “wildlife-resistant” trash cans. Still, he said, the cans should be mandatory for town residents.”(The proposal) will more effectively modify animal behavior,” Moffet said.Two other councilmen shared Moffet’s sentiment, but that wasn’t enough to pass the law. After a tie vote, the issue was put off until next month’s meeting.Officials have captured four bears, later euthanizing two of them, in Vail this year. Those incidents have brought the issue of bear-human contact to the forefront in town. Earlier this summer, the council decided to stop giving warnings to violators of the town’s trash rules, instead going straight to assessing fines or jail time.20Stone Creek arrives in AvonAVON – Despite the cloudy, rainy day, parents, children and teachers of the new Stone Creek Elementary charter school showed up in force at a recent ice cream social at Nottingham Park.As the drops started to fall, the adults huddled under the deck’s roof, while the more resilient kids continued to munch on their ice cream cones under the drizzle.”It was great to see some new faces for the first time, but most of us knew who would be going,” said Arch Wright, whose eldest child will attend Stone Creek in September, while a younger pair of twins will have to wait another year to go to school. “They’re an exceptional, passionate group of people with lots of positive energy.”Though shaky in the past, plans for Stone Creek are being firmed up. The school building is scheduled to arrive Monday, staff is wrapping up registration and everyone is tying up loose ends in preparation for the beginning of the school year.25Charter academy bows out of ballotAVON – After months of discussion and countless hours in meetings, the Eagle Valley Charter Academy’s board of directors declined to be part of the Eagle County school district’s ballot question.”There are too many unknowns, and we’re going to move aside,” said Brian Nolan, the charter school’s board president.The ballot question will ask taxpayers for $128 million in November’s elections to fund school expansions and repairs. The charter school had initially wanted to be included in the bond to get money to build a permanent school building. The school is currently housed in modular buildings. 2840-year term in attempted sex assaultEAGLE – Both cried.She cried about what happened on March 12, 2005, in her car at the Vail parking garage. He cried for what he had done to her and another victim.”I have no excuse – sorry doesn’t cut it,” Jonathan Schut, 27, told the judge who sentenced him to 40 years in prison Monday for attempted sexual assault and first-degree burglary.”I can’t remember everything that happened, but I take responsibility,” said Schut, a former Eagle resident.The victim, a 30-year-old Denver woman, cried during most of the two-hour long hearing and her hands were shaking as Vail police officer Robin Fetterolf, described details of her encounter with Schut. She cried again when District Court Judge Russell Granger gave Schut the maximum sentence.28Ford discharged from Mayo ClinicROCHESTER, Minn. – Former President Gerald Ford was discharged from the Mayo Clinic on Monday, nearly two weeks after being admitted for tests and undergoing a pair of heart procedures.Ford, 93, who had been spending the summer at his Beaver Creek residence, flew home to Rancho Mirage, Calif., with his wife Monday afternoon, Mayo spokesman Lee Aase said.Ford received an implantable cardiac pacemaker last week to regulate his heartbeat. Later in the week, he underwent angioplasty, with stents in two of his coronary arteries to increase blood flow.Ford spent a few days in Colorado’s Vail Valley Medical Center in July because of shortness of breath. In January, he was hospitalized for 12 days in Rancho Mirage to treat pneumonia. Five years ago, Ford suffered two small strokes and spent about a week in a hospital.
4Summer business mostly good in VailVAIL – Summer business in Vail seemed brisk by most accounts and while the abundance of construction positively benefited some, it hurt others.”It’s been good,” manager Alex Rebeiz said. “We’re up over last year and that’s a good sign. Even with the construction it hasn’t hurt the guests coming in.”7Murder suspect pleads not guiltyEAGLE – Murder suspect Charles Gross made reference to coming down from the hills and swore he hallucinated nights before he was arrested Oct. 10 for allegedly killing 35-year-old Maria Madrid.This scene played out in a video recording shown in a Eagle County courtroom Thursday, where, during a motions hearing, Gross pleaded not guilty to killing Madrid. He faces charges of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree attempted murder and also second-degree assault.Gross offered few details in the video, only mumbling about the hills, hallucination and not eating much food in the period before Madrid’s death.10Farewell to ‘Vista Bahn’ ValenciaVAIL – The most-asked question at Vail’s Vista Bahn Express chairlift this ski season will surely be, “Where’s Leroy?”The answer, unfortunately, is “He passed away this summer.”Leroy “Vista Bahn” Valencia loaded skiers onto Vail’s most-visible ski lift from the day it opened. He had worked for Vail Resorts, and the Vail Golf Club, even longer. The coming season at Vail would have been his 37th.But that won’t happen. Valencia, 58, was hit hard by a fast-spreading lung cancer this spring, and died at Vail Valley Medical Center on Sept. 3. More than 300 people attended a memorial service for Valencia Thursday at Eagle’s Nest on Vail Mountain.”He’ll be missed,” said Ann Gilmer, who runs chairlift operations for Vail Resorts and worked with Valencia at Vail for 28 years. During that time, she said, Valencia made countless friends. 14Money sought to fix Eagle RiverAVON – Four nonprofit and environmental groups are seeking a share of $2.4 million to try to restore stretches of the Eagle River damaged by a mine spill.The defunct Eagle Mine’s toxic metals leached into the river killing much of the fish in the Minturn area, polluting drinking water and turning the river orange until cleanup efforts began.Media conglomerate Viacom, Inc., which owned the mine, was required to contribute to a National Resource Damage Fund, which has since grown to $2.4 million.Spanning from Minturn to Gypsum, four projects hope to get a piece of the pie. 16Vail Christian opens new homeEDWARDS – After years of fundraising, planning and building, Vail Christian High School is officially celebrating the opening of its new building in Edwards.Although students have been attending classes in the building for weeks, Vail Christian will host its dedication service and open house today. The service will start at 4 p.m. and the open house will follow at 5 p.m.”We’re excited about having a home,” said Vail Christian spokeswoman Linda Isbell. “A sense of place is very important for staff, students and families. When we have homecoming now, we will really have a physical place to have homecoming.”The high school was previously housed in a few modular buildings at the Gracious Savior Lutheran Church in Edwards. Having everyone under one roof has its blessings and challenges, Isbell said.23Shops, restaurants, condos plannedVAIL – The owners of the Holiday Inn in West Vail are planning a major redevelopment with a price tag that’s on par with some of the largest projects in town.Vanquish Vail 1, the Philadelphia-based group that owns the complex, wants to build 200 to 220 condos – including fractional residences and employee housing – about 100 hotel rooms and about 40,000 square feet of shops and restaurants, said Mark Cervantes, director of new development and real estate sales for the group. Cervantes said the redevelopment would cost about $200 million.28Regional drug ring dismantled, cops sayEAGLE COUNTY – Local and federal law enforcement officials ended a ten-month investigation and dismantling of a cocaine ring operating in Eagle, Garfield and Pitkin counties on Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice reported.Six people, including leader Jose Jesus Sanchez-Ceja, were arrested on drug charges this week in a joint effort by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, a collection of local law enforcement agencies.Nearly half a kilogram of cocaine – equal to 453 packets worth of sweet and low – worth $20,000 or more were seized during the investigation, authorities said.Other seizures included $64,000 in cash, $31,000 of which was found at Sanchez-Ceja’s El Jebel apartment, authorities said. 28Vail fire suspects plead guiltyEUGENE, Ore. (AP) – Two people accused of setting the 1998 Vail Mountain fire will be sentenced in December on eight counts of arson stemming from the blaze that caused some $12 million in damage.Chelsea Gerlach and Stanislas Meyerhoff, both 29, were arraigned Wednesday in federal court in Eugene. They are to enter pleas and be sentenced on Dec. 14, when they are also to be sentenced for other arson-related crimes to which they pleaded guilty in July.Under plea deals, both agreed to have the Colorado charges transferred to Oregon to be settled along with their other arson cases.
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