Summit County Peaks & Valleys: Heath care and housing huzzahs (column) |

Summit County Peaks & Valleys: Heath care and housing huzzahs (column)

Peaks and Valleys highlights the ups and downs, tragedies and triumphs of Summit County. Submit your own Peak or Valley to

Peak: Residents of Summit County and other resort towns, including Aspen and Vail, pay health insurance premiums that rank as the highest in the country. Why? The explanation isn’t as simple as, “Well, living in the mountains has always been expensive.” Tony Connecticut neighborhoods populated exclusively with hedge fund managers pay lower premiums. So it isn’t just about the accumulated wealth in a geographic area. The fact is, we really don’t know exactly why residents in a region including Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin and Summit counties pay higher premiums than other regions. That’s why it was a huge victory that House Bill 16-1336 is now on its way to Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk. The bill, if signed into law, will have Colorado’s Division of Insurance begin a study examining what drives the cost of health care based upon geographic region. The idea is to identify what makes costs in the mountains and along the Western Slope so much higher than Denver and other more densely populated areas throughout the state. Summit County political leaders, including Commissioner Dan Gibbs and state Representative Millie Hamner, deserve credit for their roles in rallying support for the legislation, which could give much-needed relief to mountain town residents who see insurance premiums as something close to a second mortgage.

Valley: There’s no upside to the puzzling conclusion to the Frisco Town Council elections. Incumbent councilman Larry Sawyer’s announced this month that he would resign his seat after winning reelection in a crowded and competitive race. We’re sorry to hear that Sawyer’s health problems prevented him from serving another term. He has served ably. However, he knew early on he would not accept an additional council stint, even though his name was on the ballot, along with eight other contenders. He should have shared that information with voters. Let’s hope the council appoints a worthy successor.

Peak: You can feel the excitement building for the Lake Hill workforce project. On Thursday night, eager crowds packed into the Summit County Community and Senior Center to give their feedback, often in Post-It note form, about the 45-acre stretch of land between Interstate 70 and Dillon Dam Road. The county officially purchased the land from the U.S. Forest Service in March with the purpose of building hundreds of workforce housing units. Now comes the planning phase. What will it look like? How many units? What kind of units? If you attended the meeting and shared your two cents, give yourself a high five — you’re part of the solution. We can’t build affordable, workforce housing fast enough.

Peak: Beanies off to Breckenridge for the high arts vibrancy ranking. The Arts Vibrancy Index for 2016 placed the town in the fourth position in the Top 20 vibrant medium and small communities in the U.S., the same ranking received in 2015. Jackson, Wyoming took the No. 1 spot in the study for medium and small communities with populations under 1,000,000. Glenwood Springs, Colorado was No. 2, with Santa Fe, New Mexico at No. 3. Just below Breckenridge was Edwards, Colorado at five, and Bozeman, Montana took sixth, followed by Missoula, Montana. Pretty impressive company.

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.

Valley: Now that the snow is melting we’re starting to see where all the bodies are buried. Old plastic soda bottles, rent garments and dog crap, mostly. Time for spring cleaning, I’d say.

Peak: Summit County Animal Control and Shelter received a $50,000 donation from the trust of former Summit County resident Craig Suwinski. The funds are designated to cover medical expenses for shelter animals to help get them ready for adoption.

Peak: Summit County Government wisely chose Sarah Vaine as its next assistant county manager. Great hire. Vaine, the CEO of the Summit Community Care Clinic since 2008, will replace Scott Vargo, who in February was named to replace outgoing county manager Gary Martinez.

— Ben Trollinger, Editor

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