Vail ’07: Menconi recall effort begins
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado Summers are usually the time for fun and, of course, the annual Eagle County Fair and Rodeo. The summer just past though, had an extra ingredient: political intrigue. Read on, friends.
Local writer Shirley Welch wrote an extensive biography of Avons Frank Doll, whos pretty much at the top of the list of our favorite people. With someone like Frank, who died Dec. 16, you can feel free to write a lot, and Welch did, chronicling Dolls early days living up Gypsum Creek, his military service during World War II, and, of course, his life and times in Avon, including how he and Allan Nottingham got Eagle County Road and Bridge Department trucks to haul the logs of an old barn from the north part of the county to Eagle. You can still find Franks life story at vaildaily.com. Just type Frank Doll into the search box at the top of our home page. Gerald Fords family put about 500 pieces of memorabilia on the auction block for charity. Items included an autographed University of Michigan football poster, worn golf shoes and a Nepalese carving. Money raised went to the O.K. Corral Camp, a planned camp in the county for sick kids. A small wildfire sparked near Singletree on July 3. The fire came within a mile of the subdivision, which made for a lot of nervous residents. The next day, another small fire started near homes in Eagle. That fire, too, came within about a mile of the closest homes. Although we had what officials called an abnormally dry summer, wildfires werent a big problem, thank heaven.
Another one from the Simmering Controversy file: A group of parents of Battle Mountain High School students were upset to learn that the plans for the new high school in Edwards didnt call for a full-on athletic field. District officials said they planned to use the existing football field and track in Eagle-Vail for the foreseeable future. There was a brief effort by some in the we know whats best for you community to get the speed limit lowered on I-70 between Eagle and Edwards. Statistics were trotted out and people fretted.Among those who fretted and worried was Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi, who also publicly favored lowering the speed limit on Highway 6 between Eagle and Edwards from 55 mph to 45 mph (like anyone could ever maintain 55 mph on that stretch of road). The effort kind of fizzled when Menconi was stopped for speeding on that stretch of road in July, leading to a promise to never speed again. Really? Not even a little? New development in bustling Edwards always raises eyebrows. The West End project just west of the Gashouse restaurant was no different. Developers proposed putting at least some affordable condos into the project, but residents still fretted about traffic, views and the fact the proposed project backed right up to the Eagle River Preserve, the open space formerly known as a B&B Excavating gravel pit. Pine beetles continue to kill more of the local forests. There isnt much to do about the spread of the critters, except around towns and private property, but the U.S. Forest Service is already making plans about growing the post-beetle forest. Thats going to require pulling out beetle-killed timber wherever possible, and managing the trees so we dont end up with what we have now: A forest full of lodgepole pines all about the same age, all equally susceptible to beetle infestations. The Boots on Broadway promotion for downtown Eagle was a huge success, with 12 local artists decorating six-foot-tall boots that were displayed along Broadway, then auctioned for a variety of charities. Some buzz-killer, though, decided he didnt like the boots and in the middle of a July night, tipped over and beat the heck out of seven of the 12 boots. Buyers at the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo still ponied up big bucks for the boots. A heavy truck collided with a minivan along I-70 near Eagle, killing three people and injuring seven in the van. Authorities suspected the van may have been carrying illegal immigrants. Phyllis Sterkel of Eagle, a mom and grandmother, and part of the family that owned Alpine Standard in Vail, and now Performance Automotive in Eagle, died at age 67. A group of local residents decided that Eagle County Commissioner Arn Menconi had to go, despite the fact he had less than two years left on his final term in office. The group launched a petition drive to recall Menconi in July, and came up short of the 4,000 signatures needed to get the issue on the November ballot. The group then spent several more weeks gathering signatures in hopes of forcing a special election.Recall organizers claimed Menconi had ignored the will of the voters after pushing to find money for early childhood programs out of the countys budget after the failure of a property-tax increase ballot measure in November of 2006. The group also claimed Menconi was an irresponsible steward of taxpayers money. After an extra-dry early summer, torrential rains the afternoon of July 19 triggered a large mudslide between Wolcott and Eagle. Both I-70 and Highway 6 were closed for hours. Going home after dark on a motorcycle, not knowing where the slide was, was an adventure.
Bill Hammer, one of the founders of the Stone Creek Elementary charter school, was arrested in the Denver area, accused of stealing about $68,000 in school funds. Some school parents were disappointed, but not particularly surprised by the news. The school had struggled financially since it was founded. Avon police investigators finally found a full set of the schools financial records, which pointed to Hammers alleged misuse of funds. Dick Hauserman, one of the first investors in Vail and perhaps the villages first resident, has been a big part of the valleys life for 45 years. But life at high elevations gets harder as people age, and Hauserman had for years split time between his home in the valley and a home in Florida. The strain of breathing was finally too much, and Hauserman and his wife, Bobba, are now in Florida for keeps.Hauserman has always been an engaging personality, and has shaped a lot of the valley as we know it. Best of luck, Dick. We hope you can visit from time to time. Charles Gross, a longtime valley resident accused of the 2005 murder of Maria Madrid, finally went on trial in Eagle in late July, and was convicted of first-degree murder, which earned him a life sentence without the possibility of parole.Madrid, you may recall, was shot by Gross while she was riding in a pickup with her husband and son. The Madrids were driving away from a picnic area along the Colorado River Road after Gross accosted them and accused them of not picking up their garbage. Gross claimed he shot at Madrid, her husband and teenage son in self-defense. The jury ruled otherwise.
Jeremy Windhams Eagle Scout project turned out better than hed hoped. Windham, a senior at Battle Mountain High School, decided to collect donated books, CDs and other items to send to an army brigade in Iraq. As is so often the case, the community responded in a big way, and by the time Windham was done, he had almost 100 packages to send to the troops. News broke that Minturn Town Manager Ann Capela, who had been on leave since early in the summer, had resigned. Minturn Town Council member Bill Burnett speculated that the pressure caused by the controversial annexation of the Ginn property on Battle Mountain may have driven Capela from her job. In exchange for a pledge not to sue the town, Capela received $48,000 and housing for 60 days after her resignation. An area teen suspected of underage drinking had a little trouble with both his purported age and his identity.The birth date the youngster gave police would have made him 20, not 21 as he claimed. The kid also claimed to be Vail Daily sports reporter Ian Cropp. The bad math and attempted identity switch earned the young man a ticket. The Vail Town Council and the owner of the property where the Wendys restaurant used to sit came to an agreement for the town to buy the land. The land was combined with neighboring town-owned property to create a larger site for a West Vail fire station, which has only been talked about since the 1980s. The annual Eagle County Fair and Rodeo was another big success, although some people complained about being solicited for signatures on the recall-Arn-Menconi petition during the junior livestock auction.
The Eagle County School District announced it had hired John Pacheco as interim superintendent while it searched for a full-time replacement. John Atkins, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team and a trainer at the Steadman Hawkins clinic and Howard Head Sports Medicine Center in Vail, was the latest skiing luminary inducted into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museums Hall of Fame. So was ski industry pioneer Renie Gorsuch. Some people think Seibert Circle at the top of Bridge Street cries out for some kind of public art. The town had already removed a sculpture from the area that mostly looked like a bunch of rocks in the concrete in 2005 and wanted to replace the rocks with some sort of fountain-and-fire project. But the fountain-and-fire thing keeps getting more expensive. In August, the public learned that cost overruns and various whatnot had jacked the price again, this time to more than $1.7 million. Thats a lot of money for a fire-and-fountain thing that anyone who looks south you know, up the ski hill will barely notice. Another crash took the life of one of the valleys young people. Dustin Scriver, 22, of Eagle, was fatally injured in a seven-car accident in Vails construction zone. The chain-reaction accident was triggered when the driver of a Coca-Cola delivery truck allegedly plowed into a line of stopped cars.
After the crash, the Colorado Department of Transportation added more warning signs in the construction zone. Joel and Robyn Hanson of Gypsum acknowledged that being homeless, truckless and dogless sounded like a country song, but were selling their stuff nonetheless. The Hansons are now in Peru on a yearlong mission to work at the Hoga de Esperanza orphanage. The Hansons church, First Evangelical Lutheran in Gypsum, has sent several people to the orphanage, and still does. Folks who have been since the summer say the Hansons are fine, and helping kids who have lost a lot more than a truck or a dog. Keegan Hammond earned a rare honor. Because of her work with the local Whistling Bullets 4-H Club, the Eagle Valley High School senior was named a National 4-H Shooting Sports Ambassador. About two dozen business owners and associates asked the Avon Town Council to dump the towns smoking ban and instead go with the one passed by the state, which is a little more lenient. The council refused. Local school kids headed back to class. A lot of them took tests on their first day back, so teachers could get an accurate picture of just what the little ones needed to learn over the coming months.