| SummitDaily.com

Summit school board split on extending superintendent contract

Summit School District Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. stands outside the school district administration building in Frisco on July 22. It is unknown at this time whether his contract will be renewed.
Photo by Libby Stanford / Summit Daily archives

The Summit School District Board of Education was split Thursday on whether to negotiate an additional employment contract with Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. for a second year of service leading local public schools.

Following an executive session at Thursday’s special superintendent evaluation meeting, three board members — Consuelo Redhorse, Isabel Rodriguez and Gloria Quintero — voted to enter into negotiations with Smith for a contract to serve as the district’s superintendent for the 2021-22 school year. Three board members voted against, including President Kate Hudnut, Chris Alleman and Tracey Carisch.

Prior to the vote, no members of the public sought to comment and there was no discussion by the board. The board is permitted by state law to enter into an executive, or secret, session to discuss personal matters.

Smith was hired by the school board as superintendent in May, succeeding Kerry Buhler, who resigned in early 2020. His one-year contract began July 1.

Following the split vote, Hudnut said the board would reconvene at a future meeting “to discuss next steps.” The board is scheduled to have a special meeting and executive session April 26 “regarding negotiations.” The board’s next regularly scheduled meeting is May 13.

The seven-member school board currently comprises six people after the resignation last month of former school board secretary Virginia “Gini” Bradley.

On Tuesday, Bradley said she resigned for “personal reasons and some family and life situations that just changed my ability to serve.” In her March 12 resignation letter, Bradley said she was resigning “due to COVID, family events, and assessment of my skill set, my priorities have shifted, and I can no longer offer 100% to the job of school board member.”

Hudnut on Tuesday said the board will appoint a person to fill Bradley’s vacancy at its May 27 meeting following interviews with three candidates and a subsequent vote at the May 13 meeting. Both meetings are open to the public. The newly appointed interim board member will serve until the seat goes to public vote in the November election.

Hudnut said Tuesday that the board will share “in the very near future” more details on the remaining timeline and process for determining the superintendent’s future with Summit School District.

Hudnut declined comment on why she voted against the board entering into negotiations with Smith. Hudnut said the superintendent serving the district for the 2021-22 school year would begin the role July 1.

A phone message left with Smith was not returned as of Tuesday evening.

Obituary: Egon Gerson

Egon Gerson

January 15, 1921 – April 4, 2021

Egon Julius Gerson, 100, of Dillon, Colorado passed away on April 4, 2021. Egon was born on January 15, 1921 in Dresden, Germany to Hans and Emma Gerson. In 1938 Egon emigrated to the US, where he sought out family members in Chicago, IL. While in Chicago, Egon met the love of his life, Elaine Judith Topper. They married on Christmas Day, 1942. As war broke out, Egon entered the US Navy, serving in the Pacific arena at Guam and on the USS Ashland from 1944-1946.

Upon his return stateside, Egon and Elaine started their family with the birth of their first daughter, Lizbeth Jean on November 6, 1949 followed by twin girls Nancy Jessica and Carol Francis on July 22,1952. While in Illinois, Egon and Elaine were very involved with the ARC and National Ski Patrol. After retiring in 1977 from his career as Plant Manager for Illinois Tool Works, Egon and Elaine moved to Summit County where they resided for the rest of their lives. They were notable volunteers in many areas of the county. Egon taught for the ARC, was a Volunteer Ambulance driver and worked at the Keystone Clinic.

In May, 1996 Egon lost the love of his life, Elaine, but he remained true to the spirit of Summit County. The county asked him to be the representative for Summit County by carrying the Olympic Torch for the 1996 Summer Olympic Atlanta Torch Run. As the years passed, Egon stayed connected to the ARC. “For fun”, Egon worked at the Dillon City Market for almost 25 years, retiring this year in January 2021.

Egon is preceded in death by his wife, Elaine; a daughter, Carol Guttenberger; a son-in-law, Les Ronto. He is survived in death by his daughter and her husband, Lizbeth and David Bishoff; daughter Nancy Ronto; son-in-law Jeff Guttenberger; his grandchildren Eric Bishoff (Heather), Tiffiny Stewart (Todd), Monika Wesorick (Adam), Paul Ronto (Stephanie), Scott Guttenberger, Doug Guttenberger;and many great and great-great grandchildren.

Thank you for being his loyal friends. Due to Covid restrictions, no memorial plans have been made at this time. Gifts in memory of Egon Gerson can be made to:

1. American Red Cross:

506 Gunnison Ave., Grand Junction, CO 81501 or www.redcross.org

2.Summit County Library:

Summit County Library Foundation, P.O. Box 770, Frisco, CO 80443 or www.summitcountylibraries.org/get-involved/library-foundation

3.Summit County Rescue Group:

Friends of Summit County Rescue Group, P.O. Box 1794, Breckenridge, CO 80424 or

www.scrg.org

One year later, Dillon’s Uptown 240 development remains stalled

The Uptown 240 development in Dillon is pictured Oct. 21. Construction began in June 2019 but was put on hold after financing fell through during the pandemic. Nearly two years later, it’s still unclear when work will resume.
Photo by Libby Stanford / Summit Daily archives

It’s been a year since work stalled on the Uptown 240 development in Dillon.

The project, which broke ground in summer 2019, was put on hold because it lost financial backing due to the pandemic. According to previous reporting by the Summit Daily News, the financial group that supported the project faced hardships due to COVID-19 and was no longer able to continue with development.

In the months following, Danilo Ottoborgo, who will serve as the owner and operator of the complex along with family members, has worked to secure capital. Ottoborgo would not confirm details Tuesday about whether the project had financial backing and said only that construction would resume “soon.”

He would not provide any other updates.

Ottoborgo previously told Summit Daily that construction was supposed to resume in November and then again in February. He declined to answer why the project was still on hold or when it was expected to be completed.

When it’s finished, Uptown 240 will feature 80 units ranging from one-, two- and three-bedroom layouts. According to the project’s website, units start at $450,000 and go up to $1.4 million.

Amenities of the property will include a 4,300-square-foot outdoor community courtyard located on the third floor, a hot tub, two fire pit lounge areas, two outdoor kitchens with a barbecue grill and bar, two dining areas, outdoor TVs and heaters, a coffee and wine bar, business center, conference room, fitness room and more.

The development is also slated to have restaurant and retail space on the ground floor.

The project’s completion is highly anticipated, in part because developers are required to complete a number of infrastructure projects on Lake Dillon Drive and Buffalo Street, including improvements to roadways, drainage, sidewalks, lighting and more.

In an email, Dillon’s Town Manager Nathan Johnson said the project is still within the specified timeline for completion. According to previous reporting, the development agreement gives Ottoborgo and his team until Sept. 30 to complete the development and all public improvements related to it.

The project was originally slated to be completed this summer.

For Ottoborgo, the development is personal. It’s on the site of what was formerly Adriano’s Bistro & Deli, which was owned by his family. According to the project’s website, the Ottoborgo family moved to Dillon in the 1980s.

Summit County prepares to replace Frisco Transit Center

The current Frisco Transit Center is pictured Tuesday, April 20.
Photo by Sawyer D'Argonne / sdargonne@summitdaily.com.

Summit County is set to begin construction on a new Frisco Transit Center building this year, and officials are hopeful the building will better facilitate the future growth of ridership in the area and encourage new users to try out the county’s public transportation for the first time.

The county recently completed a request for bids on the second phase of the project. The first phase began in 2019 and has already been completed, according to Summit County Transit Director Chris Lubbers, who characterized the initial phase as the civil engineering side of the project that included new bus shelters, street lights, wayfinding, parking upgrades and new drainage, plumbing and electric infrastructure on site.

Phase 2 will include the demolition of the existing Frisco Transit Center building at 1010 Meadow Drive and the construction of a new 3,600-square-foot facility at the same site.

“I believe the desire and the intent for this project was to first and foremost enhance access to transit, and build in the ability for transit to grow and for ridership to grow,” Lubbers said. “The current building served its purpose. It had limited space for passenger queuing, fairly limited space for all the different routes, including private sector, Bustang as well as Greyhound.”

The county received a pair of qualified bids on the project, including a $5.1 million bid from MW Golden Constructors and a $4.9 million bid from Saunders Heath. Both bids came in above the county’s cost estimate of about $4.4 million. The project is being funded via an 80-20 split between the state and Summit County government, according to Lubbers.

Lubbers said county officials haven’t yet signed anyone on to complete the work but that the project could begin soon. Lubbers said demolition of the existing building could start within the next 60 days. The county hoped to have the new structure erected sometime in November, though Lubbers noted there was a chance construction could move deeper into the winter if necessary. While construction is ongoing, Lubbers said a temporary building would be set up to create a safe place for passengers to wait.

The transit center facilitates normal routes for the Summit Stage, along with commuter routes from Leadville and Park County. The center also serves as a hub for the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bustang service, Greyhound buses, private shuttle services and a Hertz rental car service. Once completed, the new building should provide additional space to accommodate ridership growth and any changes to the larger transit landscape over the coming decades.

An electric vehicle charging station is pictured at the Frisco Transit Center on Tuesday, April 20.
Photo by Sawyer D'Argonne / sdargonne@summitdaily.com.

“A recently completed short-range transit plan stated that post-COVID, we could expect 15% transit growth annually moving forward,” Lubbers said. “…The very detailed and lengthy planning that went into this looked carefully at potential transit growth and wanted a facility that could accommodate this portal to transit easily for the next 20-plus years. …

“I think as new modes of transit are developed over the decades, this space will adequately serve them. Whether it’s autonomous vehicles, bike-share, ride-sharing services, we’re looking forward to serving all the different modes of transportation that will present themselves.”

Lubbers said officials also plan on expanding the number of electric vehicle charging stations at the site over the coming years. The new station is also expected to help convert “choice riders” to frequent users of public transportation.

“It has exceeded its ability to provide a safe and comfortable and attractive place for transit users to access transit,” Lubbers said. “Being an attractive place would help us gain what we call ‘choice riders’ in the industry. … We do that through placemaking. So we’re killing two birds with one stone, the other bird being that the space was just not adequate for current ridership, as well.”

 

Florida man arrested after allegedly attacking victim with ski pole, knocking out teeth

A Florida man is facing an assault charge after allegedly striking a man in the face with a ski pole at Keystone Resort earlier this month.

Guido Diaz, 42, was arrested on a charge of second-degree assault after a violent confrontation on the ski slopes left another man with broken teeth and cuts on his face, according to an arrest affidavit.

On April 2, deputies with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to Keystone to respond to a fight. The deputies spoke at the Keystone Medical Center with the individuals, who gave conflicting reports of the incident.

The alleged victim in the case said he was snowboarding down the Frenchman run through a blind curve and over a peak. He told deputies he saw Diaz and two children standing below the peak and was able to make a quick turn to narrowly avoid hitting one of Diaz’s daughters. He called the incident a “close call,” though he said nobody was knocked over, and said he turned around to say he was sorry.

The man told deputies he continued about 300 yards down the hill and dropped onto his knees facing uphill to wait for his girlfriend. Once she joined him, the man said Diaz skied by his left side and struck him in the face with a ski pole. The man alleged the strike was intentional and that Diaz said, “That’s what you get for doing that to my daughter.”

The man said he could feel broken teeth in his mouth and spit them onto the snow. He continued to argue with Diaz until ski patrol arrived, according to the report.

The man’s girlfriend told deputies a similar story while at the medical center. She said that while she was speaking with him, a ski pole slashed across his face “like it was wound up,” breaking her boyfriend’s goggles, splitting his lip and knocking out several teeth. Both the victim and his girlfriend said he was hit with the bottom of the ski pole.

When questioned by deputies, Diaz said the snowboarder hit his daughter when he was coming down the mountain, so he skied after him to confront him about the incident, according to the affidavit. He told deputies he was not a good skier and lost control as he approached the man. Diaz said he attempted to regain his balance with his hands out in front of him and fell into the other man. He continued to say that he hit him with the handle of his ski pole but that it was an accident.

The victim told police Diaz never fell into him or fell onto the ground after striking him. The girlfriend reported seeing Diaz standing just downhill from them afterward attempting to put one of his skis back on.

The report noted that the victim had one tooth that was torn out at the root along with three other broken teeth. The man also had lacerations to his upper and lower lip, which were “consistent with the angle in which the basket of the ski pole would have contacted” his face. Deputies said the lens was missing from the man’s goggles, and there was a small scuff mark on his helmet.

Deputies placed Diaz under arrest and took him to the county jail in Breckenridge. Diaz is scheduled to make a court appearance on bond May 26 at the Summit County Justice Center.

Summit County leaders sign letter of support for proposed ‘civilian climate corps’

Breckenridge Mayor Eric Mamula and Summit County commissioners Elisabeth Lawrence and Tamara Pogue joined other elected leaders in Colorado in sending a letter to President Joe Biden in support of the proposed “civilian climate corps.”

According to a news release from the office of Rep. Joe Neguse, the 21st Century Conservation Corps Act would invest billions of dollars into reforestation, wildfire resiliency and watershed mitigation efforts. In the release, Mamula said it “would ensure that we can continue to protect both our community and our public lands.”

The civilian climate corps would be modeled after the 1930s New Deal program and is intended to provide civilian jobs as well as support Colorado’s outdoor recreation industry and address future wildfires.

Tickets on sale for Breckenridge Wine Classic

The Breckenridge Wine Classic is returning this summer, and tickets are now on sale. From Sept. 16-19, guests can experience more than 100 food artisans, wineries, breweries and distilleries with seminars, tastings and luncheons.

Two, two-hour tasting sessions will be held outside of Beaver Run Resort at 1:30 and 5 p.m. Sept. 17 and 18. Attendees can purchase an extra 30 minutes to extend their experience with winemakers and sommeliers.

Tickets for the tastings start at $99 and can be purchased at BreckenridgeWineClassic.com. A percentage of sales will benefit the National Repertory Orchestra. A full schedule of events, including pairings and seminars, will be released in May.

Bessie Minor Swift Foundation awards more than $81,000 to 34 organizations

The Bessie Minor Swift Foundation — formed by the owners and founder of Swift Communications, the company that owns and operates the Summit Daily News — announced recipients for its latest round of grants. More than $81,000 was awarded to 34 organizations in five states.

The grants focus on programs that promote literacy as well as science and interdisciplinary areas. Locally, five organizations in Summit County received funds.

Education Foundation of the Summit received $2,800 to purchase up to two books per month for 250 students at three elementary schools. The Mountain Top Exploratorium got $3,000 for a tutoring program. The Summit Historical Society will use its $2,150 for a hand-on education program focused on Ute history. The Summit County Library’s $3,000 will go toward a computer and bilingual literacy. The Silverthorne Elementary School received $3,000 for a bike maintenance lab and $870 for the Reading Milestones program.

Those that were not selected this year are encouraged to submit applications in the future. Applications will be accepted again starting Jan. 1. For more information, visit BessieMinorSwift.org.

Monday night storm brings as much as 10 inches of snow to Summit County ski areas

Fresh snow is pictured at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Tuesday, April 20.
Photo by Spence Linard / Breckenridge Ski Resort

Monday night’s storm delivered on its promises of decent snow accumulation, bringing up to 10 inches of snow to local ski areas.

According to reports from the Dillon weather station, there was an inch of new snow Tuesday morning. As predicted, Monday brought a rapid drop in temperatures with a recorded high of 50 degrees and an overnight low of 2 degrees. Monday night’s low temperature deviated 18 degrees from normal for this time of year but did not break any records.

While Dillon saw only an inch of snow, the ski areas picked up more. Breckenridge Ski Resort reported 10 inches of accumulation on Tuesday morning. Spokesperson Nicole Stull wrote in an email that this brings Breckenridge’s total for the past week to over 2 feet of snow. For the previous 24-hour period, Copper Mountain Resort and Loveland Ski Area each reported 6 inches of snow on Tuesday morning, and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area reported 3 inches.

Snow showers are in the forecast for the rest of the week. According to the National Weather Service’s Frisco forecast, there is a chance of snow Tuesday night, and then snow showers are likely Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday, there is a 40% chance of snow before sunny skies set in on Saturday.

Colorado House bill calls for public option if health care industry can’t reduce premiums 20% by 2024

Rep. Dylan Roberts speaks on Feb. 1, 2019, at a town hall meeting in Frisco about the high cost of health care in Colorado mountain communities. Roberts is a sponsor of House Bill 21-1232.
Photo by John Ingold / The Colorado Sun

EAGLE — State Rep. Dylan Roberts said he’s “feeling good” about the prospects of the standardized benefit and public option health insurance bill that he helped sponsor after hearing more than 10 hours of testimony before the House Health and Insurance Committee on April 9.

The committee delayed its vote on the bill, giving Roberts and other sponsors time to negotiate possible amendments to consider before a committee vote, Roberts said.

“I was listening closely to everyone who testified, and I appreciate everyone who took the time to do that, if they support the bill or not,” Roberts said about the hearing, which lasted well into the evening.

The voices that resonated the most with Roberts are the same voices that prompted him to introduce House Bill 21-1232: people and small businesses struggling to afford high health insurance costs, in some cases as much or more than rent or mortgage payments, and high out-of-pocket costs as well as others who are going without insurance or health care because it’s too expensive.

“Even those who opposed the bill, almost everyone acknowledged health care costs are too high,” Roberts said about the hearing.

The bill would require Colorado’s insurance commissioner to create a standardized benefit plan, negotiated through a stakeholder engagement process, to be offered by health insurance carriers in the individual and small group markets and on the state’s health insurance exchange, Connect for Health Colorado. Carriers would be tasked to offer the standardized plan for 2023 at a rate that is at least 10% less than their premium rates in 2021 and at least another 10% less the following year, limiting rate increases to the consumer price index plus 1% for future years.

If the carriers do not meet those premium rate goals on average statewide, the state would be authorized to create a Colorado option authority: a nonprofit, quasi-governmental entity that would offer the standardized plan for purchase as a public option in those health insurance markets. As written, the bill would require health care providers and facilities to serve people with any benefit plan offered by the authority, though that’s expected to be the subject of a possible amendment.

The goal is to let the health care industry decide how to achieve needed price reductions, Roberts told the committee.

“We’re not telling them how to achieve that goal,” Roberts said. “If they’re going to be successful, it can’t come just from insurance carriers. The hope is it drives all people to the table to collectively negotiate and talk about how they can achieve savings to meet the goal.”

A concerning status quo

Roberts said when hundreds of thousands of Coloradans lost their jobs due to the pandemic, they lost their health insurance, too.

“Can you imagine going through COVID without health insurance? Because hundreds of thousands of Coloradans and their families did, and we need to create a way for an affordable health insurance product to be available that’s not connected to your employment status,“ Roberts said. ”That’s what this bill does.”

The committee heard from dozens of people who stepped forward to testify about the proposed bill, coming seemingly from every side of the controversial and complex issue of health care. Nearly everyone seemed to agree something needs to be done to reduce insurance costs, improve access to care, and make the system more equitable racially and geographically. But opinions varied widely on whether House Bill 21-1232 is the right bill to do that.

Some, like Adam Fox, deputy director of the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, spoke in strong support of the bill. Fox said he hears daily from people struggling to afford their health insurance or out-of-pocket costs.

“This bill improves health equity by beginning to address some of the racial and geographic inequalities in health care by providing better value, better affordability and better access. It gives the health care industry a chance to bring more affordable, quality coverage to Coloradans, with a backup plan if they fail or refuse to do so,” Fox said, noting a 2019 report that found Colorado hospitals have some of the highest prices and profits in the country with “some spending only 54 cents of every dollar on patient care.”

Some small businesses owners said they could use all the help they can get affording health insurance for themselves and their employees, even as some business groups came out against the bill.

The health care industry itself stepped forward with a lengthy list of concerns about the bill, the level of savings targeted and where they would come from, and the impact on the health care industry, innovation and patient services.

Opponents and supporters

The measure is opposed by the Colorado Hospital Association, Colorado Medical Society and Colorado Association of Health Plans. The groups argued that the industry has already reduced premiums by nearly 30% over two years and that the bill threatens to stymie that progress and set up a public option that would not be a fair competitor.

Dr. Richard Zane, chief innovation officer for UCHealth, said the proposed bill would stifle the system’s ability to innovate, educate and do research. Dr. Margaret Reidy, its chief medical officer, said the bill would “cost jobs, lessen our ability to recruit excellent clinicians and ultimately erode the quality of care our patients deserve.”

Others involved with rural health care providers and systems that operate on tight, if not negative, margins, questioned where they would be able to find savings to meet the proposed premium reduction targets or how they would be able to treat another tier of customer if the public option’s reimbursements and cost schedules don’t cover costs.

Not all opposed the bill, however. Ross Brooks, CEO and patient at Mountain Family Health Centers — which offers medical, dental and behavioral health services in Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties — urged the committee to pass the proposed bill. Brooks said western Colorado has some of the highest health insurance costs in the nation, with a lack of competition, and said more than 7,500 of the 21,000 patients that Mountain Family serves still lack access to affordable health insurance.

Vail Health, which did not testify at the hearing, said it opposes the bill, though it recognizes the need to continue to work to make health care more cost effective.

“We believe it is an overreach by the government with many unintended consequences and that it does not acknowledge the progress that has been made since 2019, wherein premiums on the exchange have been reduced by approximately 30%,” it said in a statement.

Vail Health noted it has significantly lowered its MRI pricing, enhanced its direct contract relationships with self-funded employers, and enhanced access to behavioral health care through both a $160 million commitment and integrated services with Colorado Mountain Medical.

“Vail Health is dedicated to providing access to higher quality, more affordable health care, and we believe the two most effective ways to reduce more costly care is to focus on total health care for our community, with the intent of keeping people healthy and getting upstream and ahead of chronic health conditions, and working collaboratively to find meaningful solutions through market-driven, public-private partnerships, such as the Mountain Healthcare Coalition led by the Vail Valley Partnership,” it said.

Others speaking before the committee argued a 20% reduction should be manageable for the industry. They noted that Peak Health Alliance in Summit County was able to reduce insurance premium costs by 38% through a purchasing alliance.

Others argued that most of the premium reductions seen in Colorado have come from the reinsurance program that state legislators passed in 2019 and continued last year, noting that it is a temporary program.

About 10 counties still have only one company offering health insurance plans on the Colorado exchange. In Eagle County, the benchmark silver plan on the exchange is $424 per month for an individual and more than $1,600 per month for a family of four before any federal subsidies.

Michael Conway, Colorado’s insurance commissioner, spoke in support of the proposed bill. He said the state’s health care industry has long touted its ability to reduce costs without government intervention. “The problem is they have not delivered on that promise,” he told the committee.

“Reps. Roberts and (Iman) Jodeh are giving the health care market another opportunity to fulfill that promise, but if it fails to deliver, the representatives have also created a means to hold them accountable and increase affordability for Coloradans with a quasi-governmental entity that would be established if the market fails,” Conway said.

Some who testified, including unions and health care workers, also questioned the extent to which any health care cuts would fall on exhausted front-line health care workers, rather than well-paid executives or hospital profits, and requested additional protections to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Roberts said he and other legislators are negotiating possible amendments to put in safeguards for rural and independent hospitals and service providers, ways to make the premium reduction targets even more achievable on a statewide level and ways to make sure it’s not the jobs or hours of front-line health care workers that get cut. The goal, Roberts said, is to make sure more people have access to affordable insurance and can get care, and to make sure providers are paid for that care.

Roberts said he heard some hyperbole from a well-funded health care industry at the committee hearing, noting that he had already seen $2 million worth of opposition TV ads before the bill was even introduced. But Roberts said he also heard some valid concerns that he wants to see addressed before the bill is put to a vote.

“We want a bill that can get passed and work for a long time. We have the potential to do something big and want to make sure we get it right,” Roberts said about the legislation. “I’m confident we can arrive at a bill most people will support and have a real impact for people who need lower prices to buy insurance.”