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December 30, 2012
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Summit County's top stories from November & December 2012

Democrats from President Barack Obama to County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier won decisive victories in Summit County.Local voters had backed Stiegelmeier, the incumbent, for a second term on the Summit Board of County Commissioners over GOP challenger Kevin Mastin. More than 60 percent of local voters cast their ballots for the president and incumbent Congressman Jared Polis, also a Democrat, won Summit County with 58 percent of the vote. Rep. Millie Hamner, a Democrat from Dillon, won Summit County with 57 percent of the vote, and came out ahead of Republican Debra Irvine across the district. Democrat District Attorney hopeful Bruce Brown also got the nod in Summit.

As President Barack Obama racked up electoral votes in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the Democrats in Colorado were racking up seats in the state House of Representatives this November. Democrats reclaimed several seats from the GOP, while others like Rep. Millie Hamner (D-Dillon), managed to hang on to their positions securing at least a 36-seat majority for the party. The election again puts the Democrats in control of both the state House and Senate, opening up new possibilities for newcomers like Hamner, who served her first term in a GOP-dominated House and a split Legislature.

Having outgrown its current facilities at 1200 Ski Hill Road, staff members of the Breckenridge Nordic Center began construction that will expand current facilities to four times its current size.Throughout the construction, the Nordic center will remain open with skiing and snowshoeing and retail sales, snow permitting.Completion of construction is anticipated for the spring, according to Gene Dayton.The Nordic center offers 25 kilometers of groomed classic- and skate-skiing trails and 15 kilometers of snowshoeing.

Gregory Scott Gavin was sentenced to 12 years in prison in November for the brutal murder of local forest-dweller Karl Kohler at his Peak 9 campsite in May. Gavin struck a plea deal with the district attorney's office agreeing to make a statement revealing the details of the crime in exchange for a reduced charge and a maximum sentence of a dozen years in prison. The 50-year-old local, who also made his home in the forest prior to his arrest, was quiet and subdued in court Thursday, taking a moment to control his emotions before making a short, remorseful statement. "I didn't want this to happen," Gavin said. "I want to say to the Kohler family and his friends, I'm sorry for what I've done." He pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree murder, heat of passion in September, after admitting to beating Kohler to death with a baseball bat when he arrived at Gavin's campsite unannounced in the early hours of the morning.

Less than an hour after longtime local Lee Gilbert learned his wife, Brittany, had been in a bike accident leaving her with a massive head injury, doctors delivered a second shock: Brittany was pregnant. And both her life and the baby's were in serious danger. But in the last three months, the woman friends call "miracle girl" has made a faster recovery than anyone dared to expect. Doctors say her baby boy is perfectly healthy and due to arrive in April. "It's a miracle inside a miracle," Brittany Gilbert said.

Five sets of skis were stolen from the base area at Breckenridge Ski Resort's Peak 8, four of them over the Thanksgiving weekend, prompting local authorities to encourage skiers to take precautions to protect their gear. Breckenridge police say it can't necessarily link the thefts, but Vlkl brand skis left unattended near restaurants in the Peak 8 base area seem to be the hot target. "We don't have a high enough volume right now to say that it's one make or one model, but there is a favored ski," Breckenridge detective Alex Blank said.

Supporters are calling it a meaningful and necessary commitment to sustainability. Opponents condemn it as government overreach. But on both sides of the issue, a proposal to ban or impose fees on single-use bags in Breckenridge is eliciting strong opinions from members of the community. More than 30 people, both for and against the bag ban, turned out for a public open house at the Breckenridge Recreation Center in November for a heated discussion that raised issues from visitors' response to marketing opportunities for the town in the form of reusable bags.

Former teacher and Summit School District superintendent Millie Hamner, of Dillon, will take on a new title next year - chair of the state House Education Committee. Hamner was named to the committee she served on during her first two years in office after Democrats won back control of the state House. The education committee monitors issues involving K-12 public schools - such as educational accountability and school finance - as well as higher education, from administration and governance to tuition and financial aid.

The decision by the U.S. Forest Service to approve the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Resort has been upheld after rejecting two appeals, carrying endorsements by 45 individuals and environmental groups. The Forest Service reviewed the appeals, which were filed Oct. 9, and concluded that the approval of the 550-acre expansion did not violate any federal laws, regulations or policies and recommended upholding White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams' decision.

Peak 8 base area residents turned out in force at a public meeting to oppose a development proposal for a 75-unit time-share resort they say would limit mountain views and access. Dozens of people packed the auditorium at Breckenridge Town Hall to weigh in on the project at an emotionally charged planning commission meeting. Despite heavy criticism from the audience, the revised and slightly smaller plan presented won considerable support among planning commissioners, who sent it back to developers for further tweaks before the next hearing.

Busting misdemeanor marijuana offenses has never topped Summit County Sheriff John Minor's list of priorities.So Gov. Hickenlooper's executive order this month officially making marijuana possession and consumption legal for adults over 21 won't drastically change his law-enforcement policies, at least in the short-term. "It's still a low priority for us, and we'll probably ramp it down even further," Minor said. "Keep it out of sight, out of mind. Don't bring attention to yourselves."The same goes for Breckenridge, where voters approved a measure in 2009 decriminalizing cannabis. "This isn't going to impact us as greatly as it may other jurisdictions," Breckenridge Police Department spokeswoman Kim Stremel said.

Breckenridge officials hit the brakes on a master plan proposal for the northern McCain property, which would have ended a long-standing lease with an iconic business while making room for other development, including a gas station or convenience store. Members of the Breckenridge Town Council decided to pull the master plan proposal being considered by the town planning commission to allow themselves more time to discuss the details of the document early next year.

Breckenridge will host both the Stage 2 finish and Stage 3 start of the seven-day USA Pro Challenge bike race in August 2013, race organizers announced. The race, which drew millions of spectators in its first two years, will start its third year in Aspen, with teams touring through Breckenridge to Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Vail and Loveland-Fort Collins before heading into Denver for the Stage 7 finish.

Approximately 40 people were evacuated by rope from the Peak 8 SuperConnect at Breckenridge Ski Resort this month after a mechanical error stalled the lift with skiers and snowboarders on board. The mechanical difficulties were reported at around 1:30 p.m. and the rope evacuation was completed at 4:15 p.m.There were no injuries.


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 31, 2012 01:01PM Published Dec 30, 2012 09:41PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.