Summit County Year in Review 2010: May-August |

Summit County Year in Review 2010: May-August

Daily News staff report

Frisco officials encouraged by new development

FRISCO – With 11 construction projects under way – from initial designs to groundbreaking ceremonies to finishing touches – Frisco’s development climate may finally be moving past the recession.

“I think that, from everything we’ve seen, it says good things about where we’re going,” said Mark Gage, Frisco’s director of community development.

With new ventures spanning affordable housing, condos and mixed-used buildings to a new recreation area complete with a tubing hill and a day lodge, there’s definitely an uptick in the town’s construction activity.

“Transfer fees are up, meaning units are changing hands,” added town manager Michael Penny. “It’s a good start for the year.”

Gage said developers are working hard to make projects happen by securing presales and financing, and construction already put on hold due to the tough economy may be starting up again.

Copper Mountain ‘Snow Day’ campaign wins accolades

COPPER MOUNTAIN – Along the I-70 corridor, Copper Mountain is sandwiched among ski industry giants, including Breckenridge and Vail. But a nimble campaign of clever marketing succeeded in turning heads toward Copper this season among the public and industry insiders alike.

Copper’s “Everyone Deserves a Snow Day” campaign won the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) 2009-10 award for best marketing by a ski area with more than 500,000 skier visits.

The resort built its marketing program around the concept of the “snow day” and the associated feelings of youthful delight and unexpected freedom over hearing a radio DJ announce school is canceled. The campaign sported retro 70s imagery and design, further fostering nostalgia for childhood.

Summit Schools cut $867,000 from next school year’s budget

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit School Board completed a grim task April 28 in cutting $867,000 from local schools. The slow economy and reduced state tax revenues forced the board’s hand, with impacts to everything from academic programs to athletics to teacher pay next year.

“This is not my favorite day,” said Summit School Board President Jon Kreamelmeyer, as he cast his vote.

The board approved the 2010-2011 budget revisions unanimously, if begrudgingly, lamenting the reduction in resources to the community’s public education system.

Assistant superintendent Karen Strakbein provided a bit of good financial news at the meeting’s outset, allowing the district to steer clear of a proposed districtwide staff reduction of 3.3 percent. The district’s employee health insurance program performed better than expected this year, thus reducing monthly premiums for next year. The cost to both employees and the school district will go down. The district will also eliminate all contributions toward health insurance premiums for employees’ spouses and children. The subsidy elimination for dependents and the reduced premium costs will together reduce the district’s overall health insurance costs by $301,000.

Summit County sees spike in the social services demand

BRECKENRIDGE – Demand for social services in Summit County is higher than ever, and county staff are asking for help as federal stimulus finances expire at the end of June.

Local child care spending and Medicaid cases have about doubled in the past five years. Issuance of food stamps has increased six-fold since 2005, according to county records.

Stimulus funding that has helped support social services is to be eliminated after the state fiscal year ends June 30, said Tom Griffiths with the county’s department of social services.

Frisco greenhouses over budget, in need of money

FRISCO – The Summit Prevention Alliance’s new “ultra-local” food movement has hit a snag. Its Frisco community greenhouse project is way over budget, and alliance staff need to raise $10,000 by June 1.

“We have a $20,000 LiveWell grant fund that is paying for the materials and construction,” said project coordinator Joanna Rybak. “However, we were hit with additional charges that we weren’t expecting such as Frisco Sanitation District fees, and additional costs for materials and construction. We don’t have any funds for extra tools and equipment that we need such as solar fans, hoses, a tool shed and other gardening tools.”

Alliance staffers, with the help of Alpine Earth Center in Silverthorne, recently built its garden beds and three greenhouses near the Summit County Community and Senior Center – the concept was created last year to give low-income families and seniors access to healthy, fresh vegetables. But now the local nonprofit lacks funds for much-needed tools and garden equipment. Any tools, trellises, gardening benches, watering pitchers, hoses, and other garden-related accessories would be gladly accepted by the community garden.

Vail Resorts upgrading amenities this summer at Breck and Keystone

BROOMFIELD – Vail Resorts Inc. says it plans to spend between $75 million and $85 million on high-profile amenities this calendar year as it gets ready for next ski season.

Vail Resorts operates Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone resorts in Colorado and Heavenly in the Lake Tahoe area.

Summer projects include replacing the High Noon lift on Vail Mountain with a high-speed quad lift, a new restaurant at Heavenly, expanding a tubing hill at Vail, renovating rooms at the Keystone Lodge and upgrading snowmaking equipment.

A new alpine coaster at Breckenridge is set to open in August. A new luxury lodging property is set to open in June at Breckenridge and this fall at Vail.

New fishing regs possible for Green Mtn. Reservoir

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Colorado Division of Wildlife is proposing to increase the daily catch limit on lake trout at Green Mountain Reservoir as part of a regular update to fishing regulations there.

The Division reassesses its fishing regulations every five years.

“We look at how we manage the fishery,” said Division of Wildlife fisheries biologist Jon Ewert. “We look at harvest rates and how the fishery is performing and then figure out if we can improve it.”

Green Mountain Reservoir is home to lake trout, rainbow trout, brown trout and Kokanee salmon. The Division of Wildlife stocks the reservoir with both rainbow trout and Kokanee salmon, partly to serve as food for lake trout. In the fall of 2007, officials began receiving reports that the salmon were infected with a parasite called gill lice. Since then, fishing for salmon has been inconsistent or consistently poor.

Breck considering lodging tax increase

BRECKENRIDGE – Breckenridge faces both short- and long-term revenue needs, but council members are cautious about asking the voters for tax increases.

“We’re pretty sensitive with the economy right now. It’s not a good time to ask for more money,” Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said.

The town transferred about $600,000 extra to its marketing fund last year to be competitive with other tourism destinations – an approach town officials say is unsustainable.

Council members are considering an increase of about 1 percent to the accommodations tax to help support marketing, provided local lodging businesses show support.

The existing tax is 2.4 percent, and it generated about $1.8 million for the town in 2009. The increase could add an extra $700,000.

Blue River resident challenges town’s solar policy

BLUE RIVER – A Blue River property manager is challenging the town government’s denial of a residential solar-panel application based on appearance.

Michele Tonti had planned to install a pole-mounted, 16-foot by 16-foot photovoltaic panel outside a property her company manages along Highway 9. When the town turned down the proposal earlier this year, she filed a lawsuit.

Town trustees said the installation, which would be mounted to stand nearly 20 feet tall, was in contradiction with town architectural guidelines, out of proportion with the home and not “aesthetically pleasing,” according to a court filing by town attorney John Dunn.

Spills begin from Dillon Reservoir into Lower Blue

SUMMIT COUNTY – Water from Dillon Reservoir began flowing through the morning glory spillway into the Lower Blue River at 5 a.m. May 26. Water spills through the “glory hole” when the reservoir’s water level reaches its full elevation of 9,017 feet.

Water also flows through the waterworks and into the Blue River from the bottom of the dam. The spillway ensures water never flows over the top of the dam.

Youths spark S’thorne wildfire

Ten Lake Dillon firefighters attacked a small wildfire that started in some willows in Silverthorne on the evening of Jun 6. The fire appears to have been sparked by youths playing with matches.

A makeshift willow-branch fort and matches were discovered near the origin of the smoky blaze, which covered less than one-tenth of an acre on county property just south of the Smith Ranch.

The fire, which was reported at 5:55 p.m., caused minor property damage, but fire officials feared that it could have spread rapidly toward an apartment complex and homes up on the hillside and called in an engine crew and a wildland-fire crew to fight it.

“If we had been experiencing our afternoon winds, it could have worked its way toward some structures,” said Deputy Chief Jeff Berino. “Don’t let the green grass and willows fool you: This was green, and it still burned fairly aggressively.”

Xcel leaves downed trees at Peak 7, angering Breckenridge residents

SUMMIT COUNTY – Peak 7 residents are upset that Xcel Energy is cutting trees and not hauling them away, but a spokesman for the utility company said it’s doing them a favor.

“What we’re removing here is by far dead – or soon to be dead – trees,” Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz said of the lodgepole pines infested with mountain pine beetles.

He said the utility isn’t required to clear the debris after trees are cut, and the residents eventually would have had to remove them anyway.

A-Basin says goodbye to its Exhibition lift

ARAPAHOE BASIN – Little remained of Arapahoe Basin’s Exhibition chairlift June 14, as a K-Max helicopter soared overhead, carrying the lift’s 5,000-pound towers from their pads and depositing them in the Early Riser parking lot.

Crews from chairlift manufacturer Leitner-Poma brought the helicopter to A-Basin in one of the final steps to make way for the ski area’s newest lift – the Black Mountain Express, a high-speed quad that will bring skiers and riders from the base area to mid-mountain.

Free surgery day serves 13 uninsured patients

FRISCO – A local ski coach without health insurance received free knee surgery June 12 at Peak One Surgery Center in Frisco.

“I’m excited to get back to work,” Tyler Conway, 30, said in the surgery prep room. “I’ve been not able to do anything.”

Conway damaged his meniscus overshooting a jump on skis two months earlier. After the surgery to repair damage, he plans to teach skateboarding and snowboarding at Woodward at Copper – an indoor training center – this summer.

He was one of 13 patients to receive free outpatient surgeries .

Summit County denies request for pot grow ops, troubling dispensaries

SUMMIT COUNTY – Local dispensaries could be trucking medical marijuana from the Front Range by September as they struggle to comply with new state laws.

Summit County Commissioners voted 2-1 Tuesday to continue a freeze on medical pot growing operations, meaning it will be a year before any more start in unincorporated areas.

“It’s completely ridiculous,” said Jerry Olson, owner of Medical Marijuana of the Rockies in Frisco. “They’re not concerned about Summit County businesses, jobs or land owners with vacant rental property.”

Existing dispensaries will soon be required to produce 70 percent of the marijuana they provide to patients, whether it’s grown on-site, in a nearby warehouse or another county.

Breck grows more bike friendly

BRECKENRIDGE – Freshly painted bike lanes along Main Street and other roads reflect town efforts to become one of the state’s most bicycle- and eco-friendly communities.

Soon, the north and south Highway 9 entrances to Breckenridge are to include large signs boasting the town’s accessibility to cyclists. Smaller signs throughout the town are planned to help guide people to their destinations.

These changes are anticipated to boost the town’s ranking with the League of American Bicyclists, which rates communities from bronze up to silver, gold or platinum based on how cyclist-friendly they are.

Summit County Schools’ superintendent to retire

SUMMIT COUNTY – Summit School District superintendent Millie Hamner announced that she will retire at the end of the 2010-2011 school year, after serving in the district’s top office since 2004.

Hamner, 57, will serve in her current role until July 1, 2011.

“We are very grateful for Millie’s dedicated service to our staff and students these past nine years,” School Board President Jon Kreamelmeyer said. “Her passion for excellence has defined a level of public education that few districts can boast in this state. We are very proud of the district’s accomplishments under her strong and committed leadership.”

Frisco’s BBQ contest sees attendance jump 12 percent in 2010

FRISCO – The town’s prayers were answered when Frisco’s 17th annual Colorado BBQ Challenge welcomed 35,000 people to its Main Street festival June 18 and 19. With a 12 percent spike in attendance, Frisco’s signature summer event experienced a record year.

Not too shabby, considering 2009 also reported top numbers. Around 31,000 people attended the barbecue fair last year.

“We’re up 32 percent in two years,” said Suzanne Lifgren, Frisco’s marketing and events director. “We didn’t expect growth because we reduced the advertising budget a little, but it’s not shocking. It’s a pleasant surprise.”

Sewer expands into Blue River as town paves road

SUMMIT COUNTY – Sewer service expanded into Blue River in July as the town of about 680 residents began phasing out septic systems.

About 100 lots are to have access to sewer service after the first round of construction ends in November.

“We already have quite a few who want to connect up immediately,” said Andy Carlberg, manager of the Upper Blue Sanitation District.

Construction begins this month at the intersection of Blue River Road and Mountain View Trail, where the town has already been making road and bridge improvements.

Summit County dirt bike park nears opening as county OK’s rules, fees

BRECKENRIDGE – The dirt bikes may again be humming through the Summit County Landfill property August 7 following county approval of a set of rules and fees for its use.

Members of the local riders’ group have been working since January to open the park with minimal impacts to the environment and nearby neighborhoods.

“It has been amazing. It’s been a privilege to work with homeowners, with the county – everyone has had an open mind,” said Mary Patterson of Summit County Off-Road Riders Group.

Keystone, Summit County strike deal with Denver Water to safeguard resort snowmaking

SUMMIT COUNTY – Snow will blow as scheduled this season at Keystone Resort, thanks to a deal among the ski area, Summit County government and Denver Water.

The resort relies on water from the Roberts Tunnel, owned by Denver Water, to blanket its slopes in white every year through early-season snowmaking. Keystone is allowed to pump as much as 1,500 acre feet from the tunnel between Sept. 1 and March 31 each winter.

Denver Water needs to make repairs on the Roberts Tunnel, which draws about 54,000 acre feet per year from Dillon Reservoir to supply municipal water to the Denver Metro Area. The tunnel is 50 years old and requires valve replacements at its east end – a project that must be performed while the tunnel is drained, thus rendering water unavailable for Keystone during construction. The repairs were originally scheduled to begin on Nov. 1 and last throughout the winter until April 4, 2011.

“That would impact an entire season of Keystone’s snowmaking, which is essential to guarantee good snow by the holidays,” Summit County manager Gary Martinez said.

Judge rules in favor of yacht club

DILLON – After months of angst and disagreement over the fate of parking at Dillon’s Yacht Club condominiums, District Court Judge Terry Ruckriegle ruled in favor of the homeowners association. The Yacht Club homeowners association and the Town of Dillon have been awaiting a ruling in the parking dispute since January.

According to Yacht Club’s attorney Ed Gassman, the judge “did not provide specifics (on how to deal with the parking disagreement) because in our complaint we did not ask for specifics. He did say the town could not prohibit Yacht Club from parking in the town right-of-way adjacent to and in the vicinity of Yacht Club.”

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