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Record profits for VR

Sarah L. Stewart
Kristin AndersonA dog jumps after a toy thrown into the water by its owner while competing in the big air DockDogs competition at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail.
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Vail – Epic, indeed.

Vail Resorts announced last week that it had a record-breaking year for profits.

The company reported $87.3 million in profits for the third quarter, which runs February through April. That’s a record for the quarter, which is generally the ski company’s most lucrative.

The company had $114 million in profits for the first nine months of its fiscal year, also a record.

Despite the record profits ” and this year’s record snow ” skier visits were down this year at Vail Mountain. The company’s flagship mountain had 1.57 million skier visits, dipping 2.4 percent from last year. Beaver Creek saw a 3.1 percent increase in visits, to 918,000 for the season.

“All of this growth was achieved on an organic basis at our existing resorts,” said CEO Rob Katz.

Eagle County – A Denver district judge’s recent ruling that the statewide school district mill-levy freeze is unconstitutional could have a big impact on Eagle County taxpayers.

Gov. Bill Ritter ordered the freeze on school district mill levies. County residents paid more than $8 million this winter in extra property taxes, as property values rose yet the mill levy, or property tax rate, didn’t change. The result meant taxpayers contributed a larger chunk of money to public schools.

Before the freeze, which was enacted as part of the annual school finance act, the mill levy would automatically go down when assessed values go up.

The judge determined that the freeze should have been approved by voters under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, known as the TABOR amendment. If the state Supreme Court upholds the decision, taxpayers could be due a refund.

“They went too far in freezing the mill levy,” said Singletree resident Buddy Sims. “This is a pretty expensive place to live, and every dollar helps.”

Eagle County – County health officials are hoping the federal government will recognize the need for a public health center and hire more doctors and nurses to serve the county’s medically uninsured residents.

The health center would be federally funded and would help meet 80 percent of the area’s uninsured medical need in 2010, said Jill Hunsaker, Eagle County public health manager.

Right now, only about 50 percent of that need is being met.

The center would not only accept Medicare and Medicaid, but would receive better reimbursement for the policies.

“Eagle County has a high number of providers, but many don’t accept Medicare and Medicaid,” Hunsaker said. “They just can’t afford to make it financially if they do because of the high costs of living here.”

The health center would be similar to the public health center in Summit County, which is federally designated as a “medically underserved” area.

Avon – Students who are falling behind at Avon Elementary will soon get a longer school year.

The school, where only 14 percent of students are fluent in English, is testing a longer school year for students who aren’t reading in English at grade level. These students will end up attending 25 to 30 more days of school than other students and will have a shorter summer vacation. Instead of beginning Sept. 1, these students will begin in August with 15 extra days of intense reading classes in which they’ll get one-on-one attention with teachers. About 140 students will be a part of the extended year in August.

“What we’re trying to do is get them caught up more quickly,” said Principal Melisa Rewold-Thuon. “And what they need is extra time.”

Eagle-Vail – After more than two months of closure due to a retaining wall collapse, U.S. Highway 6 through Dowd Junction is open from 6:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. and all day Sundays.

The road remains closed during the day as crews continue to strengthen the wall between the highway and Interstate 70 by installing 300 anchors 100 feet deep along 500 feet of the hillside.

The Colorado Department of Transportation expects the daytime closures to continue at least until August 1.

Summit County – Arapahoe Basin, the state’s last remaining open ski resort for the season, closed this week with a few inches of fresh snow.

The ski area was the first to open for the 2007-2008 season on Oct. 10, logging 243 ski days, according to chief operating officer and general manager Alan Henceroth. A-Basin has seen steady growth in skier visits the past few years and is probably headed for another record season: Skier visits grew by about 10 or 15 percent, thanks in part to the addition of Montezuma Bowl, which added 80 percent to the ski area’s total skiable acreage.

“It’s been awesome. This is the best powder season I’ve had,” said snowboarder Tina Cartwright on closing day.

Edwards

School makeovers

The county’s newest school, June Creek Elementary, is on schedule to open in August, relieving some of the pressure from near-capacity Avon Elementary and Edwards Elementary schools.

June Creek will pilot a program for so called “21st Century Learning,” said John Kuglin, director of technology for the district. Many of the computers that would normally be placed in large computer labs will be in the classrooms, he said.

June Creek isn’t the only school district project underway this summer.

Work has begun on the new Battle Mountain High School, which is expected to be complete in October of 2009. Eagle Valley High School is undergoing asbestos removal, as well as construction of a new gym, new student commons area, a lofted entry way, auditorium and a technology wing. And renovation work has already begun on what used to be the Eagle Valley Medical Center building on Chambers Road in Eagle, which when finished will be the new school district headquarters.


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