November 14, 2002

Front Page

County buys out airport base operator

By John M. Motter

Staff Writer

Archuleta County has purchased the assets, including inventory, of FliteCrafton Aviation, the fixed base operator of Stevens Field. The purchase price is $125,000 for FliteCrafton's assets plus $20,400 for consumable inventory, according to Bill Steele, the county administrator.

FliteCrafton has been the fixed base operator at the county-owned airport, responsible for providing fuel, towing services and other services for aircraft using the facility. The county contracts for a fixed base operator, including provision of a lease allowing the fixed base operator to conduct business in Nick's Hangar.

Acquisition of FliteCrafton's assets is a temporary measure which should result in the county selling those same assets, minus certain fueling and service components, to Energy and Engine Technology Corporation for $92,500. A contract has been signed by the county to sell to Energy and Engine Technology Corporation by Dec. 1.

The county will provide fixed base operator services until Energy and Engine Technology takes over, according to Steele.

"I'm not really happy about the deal," said John Crafton, owner of FliteCrafton. "I wasn't ready to leave the business. I got politicked out of my business."

Archuleta County became involved a few weeks ago when county commissioners learned that FliteCrafton was negotiating to sell its assets to Energy and Engine Technology Corporation. At that time, FliteCrafton's contract was with the Archuleta County Airport Authority. The commissioners dissolved the Airport Authority amid considerable protest from the Authority board members and their supporters.

The county's agreements with FliteCrafton and with Energy and Engine Technology Corporation were approved by the commissioners Oct. 31 and consummated Nov. 1, according to Mary Weiss, the county attorney.

A number of executive sessions were conducted by the commissioners prior to consummating the arrangements.

At least one meeting attended by a quorum of the commissioners was conducted without first posting an agenda. On the afternoon of Oct. 24, commissioners Alden Ecker and Gene Crabtree visited John Crafton, at Crafton's Nick's Hangar office.

Colorado's Open Meetings Law stipulates that when a quorum of a public body gathers in one place and discusses public business, a meeting is being held. The same law requires that an agenda be posted at least 24 hours in advance of each meeting to ensure public knowledge of the business being considered.

Crafton said he supplied Ecker and Crabtree with a list of the inventory involved at the meeting.

"We went there because he was negotiating with E.E.T.C. and we were trying to help with the negotiations," Ecker said. "The inventory was a negotiating tool. We were throwing in that stuff, that was the reason for the visit. We had no idea at that time we were going to purchase the business."

The county's whole intention was to make sure fixed base operation services remained available, according to Ecker. For a reason he could not explain, Energy and Engine Technology "could not get here in time." That's when the county decided to facilitate the transaction.

Ownership of certain assets sold by FliteCrafton will be retained by the county enabling the county to provide basic services, even if the fixed base operator stops providing services, Steele said. The assets involved in those services include fuel storage tanks, fuel delivery trucks, a tow tug and other service equipment.

Archuleta County's decision to purchase FliteCrafton's assets was a matter of the two negotiating companies being unable to get together on dates, according to Steele. Energy and Engine Technology Corporation was unable to come to Pagosa Springs until Nov. 1. FliteCrafton was getting out by Oct. 31.

The county lease with Energy and Engine Technology Corporation is a 10-year lease with a 10-year renewable provision. The county will receive $9,600 per year for the first five years. After that, the lease price escalates based on market value. From the sixth through 10th year, the lease escalates at 20 percent a year until market value is reached. After 10 years, the lease rate is tied to the consumer price index. The contract to provide fixed base services and the Nick's Hangar lease are all part of the same package, with the same effective starting and ending dates, said Steele.

If and when the Federal Aviation Administration requires Nick's Hangar to be moved or altered, the county assumes the responsibility for funding the move or alteration.

While fixed base assets are saleable, a future sale cannot be made without county approval, Steele said.


Local schools caught in 'Leave No Child Behind' gaps

By Richard Walter

Staff Writer

The mandates included in President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" educational program, adopted by Congress last year mean, "Education as we know it has changed. We've been challenged. We are good at what we do and now we have to prove it."

That was the comment Tuesday of Duane Noggle, superintendent of Archuleta School District 50 Joint, as he opened a one-hour slide show explaining what the president's program means to the local school district, its staff and its students.

He said the question has been asked time and again, "Why don't we just opt out of the federal funding and go it on our own?"

Not so easy. If you refuse federal funds, you lose state equalization, he said. That means you are already down upwards of $6 million annually, a total you cannot replace with local taxes.

Under the No Child Left Behind program, local districts must, by the end of the first year, show that progress has been made in getting every child in the district up to mandated performance levels. By the end of 12 years, the district must have no student unable to meet federal standards - no exceptions - in reading, mathematics and science.

"We have a huge task ahead," Noggle told the board of education and building principals, who were seeing the slide program for the first time and were taken aback by some of the mandated programs.

Noggle noted a recent national survey revealed 80 percent of Americans feel the public schools are not doing a good job. However, 50 percent of the same persons interviewed said they believe their own school districts are doing a good job and only 20 percent say the individual schools their children attend are not doing a good job.

The figures are disturbing because they seem to counter each other. Yet, the same study revealed 68 percent of Americans do not have children in public schools.

He said the federally approved program obviously was designed for urban schools. "The adequate yearly progress targets the program mandates," he said, "but seem nearly impossible to meet. They do not take into account rapidly changing school population makeup nor the educational facilities demanded to meet their needs.

"What we do have," he said, "is a mandate to perform the impossible.

"We are mandated to provide 'highly qualified' teachers at all levels trained to meet the standards in the congressional bill." Define "highly qualified," he was asked.

A slide showed the federal definition "highly qualified" is holding at least a bachelor's degree in the academic major in which the teacher is employed, with full certification in the first year.

State and local report cards are required on every district, every year. The Colorado School Assessment Project (CSAP) scores suffice for one of those. That first score will come Dec. 17. The second step comes when each school is evaluated on the basis of those scores and a determination is made on whether the school is "showing progress."

"We're caught in a dilemma," Noggle said, "because of our high graduation rate and low dropout rate."

Test results, he said, must be disaggregated on the basis of race/ethnicity, poverty, gender, disability and family income level.

"We must use CSAP and other diagnostic tools to integrate the president's program into our classrooms. We're driven by data now. We need to incorporate all that data into the classroom operation, not collect it at the administrative level.

"Unfortunately," he said, "the congressional mandate shifts education from the local to the national level of control. We have 12 years to make our school meet those standards and many admit they don't have any idea how that can be done."

Noggle said he has talked to area state legislators and has corresponded with some at the national level pointing out the hardships caused to rural districts by the legislation.

"The lone hope I see," he said, "is that it will help us focus on the individual student and that child's personal achievement. We will not be held accountable for anything less. We will have to view test taking as a diagnostic tool, not a polished performance. We will have to use the data to improve the education of every individual child."

That means, he said, that districts like this one will have to relieve principals in individual buildings of "some of the data gathering and number crunching they do now.

"We will need an administrative assistant just to keep all the numbers for all the federally mandated programs," he said. "And we have to keep in mind the potential penalties for noncompliance - if we can figure out what they are."

For example, he said, no one he's talked to seems to know what penalties will be for not being in compliance at the end of the first year. After two years of noncompliance the district would have to adopt a 2-year plan and devote at least 5 percent of all Title 1 funds to professional development for teachers specifically assigned to enrichment programs intended to meet the mandates; would mandate a review within 45 days after notification of noncompliance; and would require the district to transport any student not performing at standard to another school in which the performance level is adequate, if so requested by the child's family.

If a third year of noncompliance occurs, a district would be forced to accept a state-developed list of quality education providers available in the area or somewhere nearby. In the fourth year of noncompliance, a school could be forced to totally revise its leadership program; and in a fifth year, the district would be forced to restructure the schools' staffs and facilities, introduce a new curriculum designed to meet federal guidelines, decrease management authority, extend the school year, restructure internal organization and replace the school board, superintendent and office staff.

If that didn't work, in succeeding years the school could be taken over by the state and reopened as a charter district which, as Noggle pointed out, is not required to have "highly qualified" teachers but can operate with tutors.


Investigation continues in Halloween night fight

By Tess Noel Baker

Staff Writer

The Archuleta County Sheriff's Department is under fire from a Pagosa Springs man who claims to have been assaulted by members of an outlaw biker gang Oct. 31.

Tracy Salazar is handing out fliers, talking to the media and calling for Sheriff Tom Richards' immediate resignation. In a complaint sent to Ken Salazar, Colorado attorney general, he also blames unnamed judges, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the district attorney's office for failing to prosecute violent offenders in the county.

"I feel if the sheriff and district attorney's office had done their jobs in the past, I wouldn't have gotten hurt," he said in an interview Nov. 8.

However, according to the official investigation, it isn't clear who actually started the altercation at the heart of this case. In fact, at least two witnesses, one of whom appears to be a completely independent onlooker, are pointing the finger at Salazar.

A call to dispatch alerted law enforcement to an altercation Halloween evening at the Shell Station at U.S. 160 and North Pagosa Boulevard. According to department reports, when a deputy arrived on the scene, Salazar was bleeding from a wound to his head. An ambulance was called, and the injuries were treated and photographed.

Apparently, the incident started as a case of road rage between the occupants of two vehicles - Salazar's and another containing suspected members of the Sons of Silence motorcycle gang, headed east on U.S. 160. The parties yelled at each other then stopped at the Shell Station where the verbal battle continued. Occupants of a third vehicle joined the argument. Eventually, the verbal confrontation escalated to a physical one in which Salazar reportedly received at least one puncture wound, likely from some kind of spiked jewelry.

When authorities were called, several people are said to have left the scene.

Detective T.J. Fitzwater, who is investigating the incident, said a chapter of the Sons of Silence motorcycle gang does exist in the area. Local law enforcement officials have identified a president and four members of the gang. According to the national Sons of Silence Web site, he said, the group identifies itself as a "one-percenter organization," or among the one percent of motorcycle gangs commonly labeled as "outlaw" organizations.

However, said Fitzwater, the members of the organization here keep a fairly low profile.

"I have no indication of any gang activity or illegal activity at this time," Fitzwater said. In fact, the investigation indicates at least two of the members of the Sons of Silence had arranged to meet at the Shell Station before heading to a Halloween party in another town.

Fitzwater plans to conclude his investigation by the end of the week.

"From there it will be forwarded to the district attorney's office for further review and possible prosecution," he said. The district attorney's office analyzes law enforcement reports to determine the nature of a case and whether charges will be filed.

Sheriff Tom Richards said he has complete confidence in Fitzwater's ability to investigate the case. Sometimes, he said, it is difficult for people to understand that building a case with proof sufficient to take it to trial, or even to establish probable cause for an arrest, takes time.

"We are still gathering evidence," he said.


Ten illegal aliens hurt in accident

By Tess Noel Baker

Staff Writer

A Mexican citizen arrested in Archuleta County after leaving the scene of an accident on Wolf Creek Pass has been charged with one count of transporting illegal immigrants.

Sergio Perez-Amaro, 35, was allegedly driving a 1990 Ford van carrying 10 Mexican nationals about 8 a.m. Nov. 4 when it went off the road near the Wolf Creek Ski Area in Mineral County. According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, the van hit a parked trailer. Upon discovering that possible illegal aliens were involved, the Colorado State Patrol requested assistance from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Ten passengers in the van were treated at the scene by ambulance personnel. Four were transported to a hospital where they were treated and released. Perez-Amaro allegedly fled the accident scene after being checked by medical personnel. A search ensued.

Several hours later, employees at the ski resort notified the state patrol that an individual had called asking questions about the accident and the scene. Although the individual claimed to be calling from South Fork, the telephone number the caller provided was traced to a motel east of Pagosa Springs.

A clerk at The High Country Lodge identified Perez-Amaro from his driver's license and he was arrested there without incident. An Archuleta County Sheriff's deputy provided assistance.

According to the affidavit, nine of the 10 passengers in the van had crossed the border into United States by foot. After that, they were allegedly transported to an "undisclosed safe house" in Phoenix, where they were introduced to Perez-Amaro. All nine claimed they or their family members paid anywhere from $150 up to $3,900 to be smuggled into the United States and transported to a variety of destinations from Denver to New York.

The remaining passenger told investigators he had been a legal resident of the United States for three years. He was reportedly traveling with the group to find employment.

Perez-Amaro told immigration and naturalization representatives he would only make about $300 on the trip. He could face up to 20 years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine, or both, if convicted of causing serious bodily harm while transporting illegal immigrants for the purpose of personal financial gain.



Date High Low Precipitation

Type Depth Moisture












































Wolf Creek snowfall tops 115-inches; cloud seeding effects not yet known

By John M. Motter

Staff Writer

Seasonal snowfall at Wolf Creek Ski Area reached 115 inches by 6:30 a.m. yesterday, according to a report released by the resort.

The early season precipitation on top of the Continental Divide was matched by mixed rain and snow, which soaked the hills and valleys around Pagosa Springs.

Pagosa Springs received 5.75 inches of snow and 1.72 inches of precipitation this past week between Nov. 6 and 12. Most of the snow, 5.5 inches, fell Saturday.

Cloud seeding in the area has been conducted three times since Nov. 1, according to Larry Hjermstad, owner of Western Weather Consultants, the Durango firm hired to conduct the cloud seeding project.

It is too soon to assess the effect of cloud seeding on local precipitation since Nov. 1, Hjermstad said. Assessment of the effectiveness of the cloud seeding operation is normally conducted after the cloud seeding program is ended. Western Weather Consultants will seed clouds in this area through March of next year.

Chances for precipitation during the coming week are slim, according to Ellen Hefferan, a forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction. Today and tomorrow will be mostly cloudy, changing to mostly clear Saturday and through the extended period lasting through Wednesday.

High temperatures will range between 40 and 55 degrees with low temperatures ranging between 15 and 25 degrees.

A weak weather impulse should move through the area today, Hefferan said, but for the most part the Arctic Jet Stream will remain across the northern Rockies, at least until Wednesday of next week. The current westerly wind flow contains little moisture.

November snowfall total in town is 7 inches through Nov. 12, the precipitation total 1.85 inches.

High temperatures last week ranged between 38 and 54 degrees with an average high temperature of 45 degrees. Low temperatures ranged between 16 and 28 degrees with an average low reading of 21 degrees.

Snow depth at Wolf Creek Ski Area Nov. 13 was 61 inches at the summit, 48 inches midway. The Wolf Creek Temperature at 6:30 a.m. was 23 degrees. Tuesday's high was 37 degrees, Tuesday's low 8 degrees.


 Sports Page
Parks & Rec

Youth basketball league play opens tonight

By Junior Lister

SUN Columnist

Youth basketball for youngsters 7-8 years old is off and running with seven teams practicing in the community center.

Games will begin today at 5:30 p.m. This age group was offered so younger children could be introduced to the game, learning fundamentals and skills that will help them become better players down the road.

Special compensations such as lower baskets, smaller basketballs and a shorter court are being made so the children can learn to shoot properly - actually shooting the ball instead of throwing it. The program has been very successful and the kids are having a ball.

Games will be played throughout the season Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Basketball sign-up

Sign-ups for both boys and girls ages 9-10 and 11-13 begin today with the deadline for registration 5 p.m. Nov. 22.

All children interested in playing youth basketball must fill out the proper forms and pay a $20 player fee at Town Hall. A coach's meeting has been tentatively set for 6 p.m. Dec. 3. Any late entries will be put on a waiting list.

Advisory council

The parks and recreation department would like to thank the following volunteers who sit on our council throughout the year. We meet the third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. We discuss program budgets and future of programs. Many hours are donated and we thank them for their input and their efforts.

Board members include David Hamilton, John Perea, Dave Snyder, Sandy Caves, Scott Miller, Ming Steen and Brian Smith. Again, thank you for all your time and input for 2002.

Future sports complex

A new sports complex is in the planning stage, with a landscape architect firm being considered to help with a master plan. Please try to keep informed of future meetings concerning the planning of this endeavor. We would like all the public input possible on this project. We are in need of new baseball, softball and soccer fields, a skate park and intake-outtakes for the river enthusiasts here in town.

If you would like to be part of the planning project, come to the open meetings that will be announced at a later date.


Pirates lose 10-0 to Eagle Valley in quarterfinals

By John M. Motter

Staff Writer

Pagosa Springs' football team splashed to a slip-sliding close Saturday in Golden Peaks Stadium; a 10-0 loss to Eagle Valley in the Colorado 2A football playoffs.

The game was played in ankle-deep mud punctuated by blowing wind and, at various times, rain, sleet, snow and a little sunshine.

Saturday's game marked the second consecutive year the Pirates have reached the elite eight of Colorado 2A football. More than that, Pagosa has won the Intermountain League championship and entered the playoffs for four consecutive years.

Weather dictated play Saturday, but the sloppiness didn't water down the enthusiasm shown by players from either squad. Effective passing was impossible and the number of dropped and fumbled balls was almost more than could be counted.

In the end, an Eagle Valley drive late in the second period proved to be the difference between the two squads. The drive began on the Devil 27-yard line and consumed almost seven minutes. The Pirates had to swallow a heartbreaker because they seemed to have the drive stopped on Eagle Valley's 36-yard line. On fourth down, with 4 yards to go for a first down, J.J. Alvis punted for Eagle Valley apparently giving Pagosa a first down with good field position on their own 35-yard line. It was not to be. A Pirate slid into Alvis giving the Devils a first down on a roughing the kicker call.

Eagle Valley took advantage of the break. Eleven plays later, Alvis pounded into the end zone for the only touchdown of the game. Craig Jagger ran for two, giving Eagle Valley an 8-0 lead with 1:53 remaining in the half.

Pagosa fans screamed the louder, expecting a late game rally to rescue another win, something the gritty Pirates have accomplished repeatedly this season. It was not to be.

The Devils' final score came late in the final period when Pagosa was forced to gamble. Pirate Brandon Charles was tackled for a safety in his own end zone while attempting a flea-flicker pass. Eagle Valley's lead increased a notch to 10-0 with 3:22 left in the game. At that point, Pagosa needed two scores to win, an impossible task as the game wound down.

"I wish conditions could have been better," said Sean O'Donnell, the Pirate coach. "It's hard to blame it on the weather, but with the kinds of conditions on the field, luck played a big factor in the outcome. I think their double-wing offense was better suited to the mud than our triple option. It was difficult for us to do things we normally do."

O'Donnell was large in his praise of the effort put out by the Pagosa team. "I thought the kids battled as hard as they could," O'Donnell said. "They played together well, something they've done all season."

With Saturday's loss, Pagosa finished the season with an 8-3 record, 3-1 in the IML. Their loss to Bayfield in the last game of the season was the first IML loss for Pagosa in four seasons.

Playing their last game for Pagosa were seniors Jared Earley, Jarrett Frank, Justin Bloomquist, Cliff Hockett, Ryan Wendt, Andrew Knaggs, Brandon Rosgen, Brandon Charles, Jason Schutz, Pablo Martinez and Clayton Mastin.

"The future remains bright for next year," O'Donnell said. "It all depends on the amount of dedication the boys show next summer."

If they all come back, Pagosa has 14 returning juniors, 12 returning sophomores and a freshman. The Pirate junior varsity squad won their own version of the IML championship this year, losing only to varsity squads from Dolores and Center during the season.


Pagosa Springs 0 0 0 0 0

Eagle Valley 0 8 0 2 10

Scoring: Eagle Valley: Alvis 4 run (Jagger run 2). Eagle Valley: tackle Charles for safety.


Lady Pirates open basketball practice tonight

By Richard Walter

Staff Writer

Bob Lynch has a not-so-tall problem to tackle.

The new coach of the Pagosa Springs Lady Pirates basketball team finds himself in an unusual situation.

For at least the past eight seasons, Lady Pirate foes have been greeted with squad after squad featuring players over 6 feet tall. This year there are no veterans that height, and maybe a single player just tipping the 6-foot barrier.

What he will have plenty of is experienced young players complementing at least two senior veterans, guard Shannon Walkup and forward Katie Bliss.

Rounding out the returnees will be Lori Walkup, who started at guard as a freshman last year and her freshman running mate Bri Scott, who many believe will be moved to a forward position this year. Another senior veteran, Tricia Lucero, has indicated she may not play this year, choosing instead to focus on soccer. A third veteran from freshman participation last year is Molly Honan and at least four members of last year's junior varsity squad are hoping to break into varsity action.

Lynch and his squad hopefuls start practice tonight, so it will be a while before the rosters are set.

The first opposition will be in the form of a Dec. 3 scrimmage at home against Durango.

The following weekend, the Ladies will get into real action, opening the Buena Vista Invitational against Salida at 4 p.m. Dec. 6. Buena Vista and Battle Mountain of Minturn are in the lower bracket. The winners of the two opening games will play Saturday for the championship. Losers will play Saturday for third place. Boys teams from the same schools have similar matchups.

And then, Dec. 13 and 14, the Pirates will welcome Clear Creek of Evergreen, Gunnison and Jefferson of Edgewater high schools to the annual Wolf Creek Classic. Three days later, Dolores will come to town for a 7:30 p.m. clash.

The Ladies will close out 2002 with another road trip, participating Dec. 20 and 21 in the Rye Classic with La Junta, Manitou Springs and the host school as opponents.

Action in 2003 will open in New Mexico with a trip to Aztec for a 7 p.m. game Jan. 10 followed by a 5:30 p.m. home game Jan. 17 against Bloomfield.

Then the Ladies get into Intermountain League action, hosting always tough Centauri in the league opener Jan. 18 then going on the road to Ignacio Jan. 21 and Bayfield Jan. 24.

February opens with three consecutive home games. Monte Vista comes in on the first, Ignacio Feb. 6 and Bayfield Feb. 7.

The league schedule continues with a road trip to Centauri on the 14th and concludes with a trip to Monte Vista on the 22nd.

The league pigtail game to determine the fourth competitor for the league tournament is scheduled Feb. 25. The league tournament is Feb. 28 and March 1, with the host school to be determined. State playoff action, should the Ladies advance that far, will be March 13-15.



Ben Smith Jr.

Ben Smith Jr., 89, of Vernon, Texas, died Nov. 4, 2002, in Vernon. Funeral services were Tuesday, Nov. 5 in the First Presbyterian Church.

Smith was born Nov. 9, 1912, in Paola, Kan., a son of the late Ben H. Smith, Sr. and Nina Elizabeth Greenup Smith. He served in the U.S. Navy as a chief storekeeper during World War II and married Martha Dell Washington Aug. 24, 1952, in Vernon.

A graduate of North Texas State University, he was a farmer and rancher. He was a member and former deacon of the First Presbyterian Church. He was a summer resident of Pagosa Springs for the last 24 years. He and his wife Martha had many close friends in Pagosa Springs.

Surviving are his wife; two sons, Ben (Trey) Smith III of Denver, and Scott Smith of Grapevine, Texas; a daughter, Pamela Smith McCleary of Vernon; a brother, M.F. Smith of Vernon; and five grandchildren.

Paul Snyder

Paul Snyder, father of Jan Brookshier of Pagosa Springs, died Nov. 6, 2002, in Oklahoma Christian Home of natural causes.

Paul was born Dec. 10, 1907 and lived all but the last year of his life in Piedmont, Okla. He was preceded in death by his wife, Atha.

He is survived by three daughters, Jan, Norma Vandergriff and Marcia Preston of Edmond, Okla., eight grandchildren and 15 great grandchildren.


 Inside The Sun

Golden Peaks Stadium final

pacts total nearly $400,000

By Richard Walter

Staff Writer

The final phase of Golden Peaks Stadium improvement got the green light from the board of education of Archuleta School District 50 Joint Tuesday, a nearly $400,000 phase bringing total cost to just under $1 million by completion.

Added to the bidding, after the current facility was deemed unsafe, was a new press box/storage building.

When completed, the sports complex will have a full high school track operation, with individual stations for all track events. Earlier work put in the drainage and underground wiring for scoring stations at each event site.

The track itself, constructed earlier this year, will get an all-weather surface under guarantee for at least five years and there will be new fencing for the entire facility.

Additional electrical work needed for the new press box facility will be handled in-house because a licensed electrician is on staff. It was not included in the bidding process conducted by architect Julia Donoho.

The Phase II project proposal totals out at $366,069. Added to that amount was $33,448 to meet some unexpected drainage correction needed at the north end of the track adjacent to the high school parking lot. That work is designed to install curb and gutter to prevent erosion of the newly constructed track, with some additional excavation and embankment construction included.

Director Carol Feazel made the motion for project approval and director Jon Forrest seconded it.

After the project approval on a 4-1 vote, with director Russ Lee the lone dissenter, the board was told an accompanying project in concert with the Town of Pagosa Springs will enhance local recreational opportunities.

David Hamilton, athletic director and assistant principal at the high school, said the town is developing a secondary sports complex across 5th Street from the Golden Peaks facility and one of the features will be a walking trail on school property rising to a bluff south of the high school.

When complete, he said, the facility will link the new town park with the existing River Walk and trails traversing the Reservoir Hill recreation area owned by the town.


Rock Ridge decision delayed

By Tess Noel Baker

Staff Writer

After a special meeting of the Pagosa Springs Board of Trustees Tuesday, the fate of a third building in the Rock Ridge Commercial Center on Great West Avenue remains undecided.

At issue is noise and orientation of the structure, slated to become an auto repair shop when completed. As planned, the metal building would face south or southwest, in the general direction of both the Rock Ridge Mobile Home Park and Rock Ridge Estates subdivision.

Neighbors of the commercial center have appeared before the planning commission several times to request the building be turned to face the opposite direction - toward the other commercial developments across the road. That, they said, would help reduce the noise traveling up toward their homes.

Noise seems to be the final sticking point between neighbors and the developers, Michael Branch and Curt Johnson, after months of mitigation on the project. At the October town planning commission meeting, Johnson told commission members that turning the building would increase ice melt problems in the winter and increase the financial burden on developers because of the retaining wall requirements. At that time, building materials had already been ordered to match south-facing specifications.

The planning commission recommended approval of the final plat of the project with a few conditions on future development on the site, including landscaping and screening, but without requesting the developer turn the building. In October, the town trustees, with final say on the project, tabled their vote to give the developer time to mitigate the neighbors' concerns.

At a special meeting Tuesday, the trustees decided to postpone their decision again to allow the developer time for a noise study on the property. The study will try to determine just how much noise will actually reach the neighbors. Jay Harrington, town administrator, said once the noise study is complete, the town will have its own experts take a look at the study, at the cost of the developers, to determine its accuracy. When that process is complete, the trustees will take up the question again.

Harrington said the Rock Ridge Commercial Center will be on the agenda for the town board meeting Dec. 3. It is not known if the noise study will be complete by then.


One in custody, others sought in burglary

By Tess Noel Baker

Staff Writer

Early in October, an estimated $35,000 in property, including a vehicle, was taken from a residence at 159 Edgewater. Sheriff's deputies have one man in custody for receiving stolen property linked to this case, but continue to search for anyone else involved.

Detective T.J. Fitzwater said the burglary was reported Oct. 6. Items stolen included a gold Ford F150 with Texas license plates, numerous fly rods, archery bows with carrying cases, golf clubs, ski clothing, a silverware set, fax machine, answering machine, portable electric room heaters, a television and a telephone. So far, checks with area pawnshops have come up empty.

The television and telephone were recovered earlier this month through a tip received by the Archuleta County Sheriff's Department. Nov. 11, Shawn Webster, 24, of Pagosa Springs, was arrested on charges of receiving stolen property.

Anyone with information pertaining to this case is asked to call Fitzwater at the Archuleta County Sheriff's Department, 264-2131, Ext. 1016 as soon as possible.


Gravel pit wins county approval despite protests

By John M. Motter

Staff writer

County commissioners approved a gravel pit located on the San Juan River just south of Pagosa Springs, despite protests from nearby homeowners. The action took place Tuesday at the regular meeting of the commissioners.

County planning staff had recommended against approval based on a finding that the pit does not conform with the county's Community Plan. The planning staff report said the gravel pit with its rock crusher is not a use compatible with the adjoining residential neighborhood.

The three-man board of commissioners voted unanimously to allow the operation, but added two conditions to the 10 conditions already recommended by planning staff.

The gravel pit and crusher is located on the Mask Ranch south of the old light plant and reached from Light Plant Road. Many residents of the Holiday Acres subdivision located immediately east of the Mask Ranch opposed the permit. They say that, in addition to creating noise and dust pollution, gravel trucks entering and leaving the site will endanger traffic on County Road 119, Light Plant Road, and damage the newly paved road. Finally, they said wildlife will be negatively impacted.

To mitigate the concerns of the residents and planning staff, the county is requiring traffic directors at the gravel pit entrance plus a $200,000 per mile bond to cover possible repairs of CR 119 from the entrance to its intersection with U.S. 84. Flagmen will also be required at the CR 119, U.S. 84 intersection.

Digging and crushing will take place during winter months, ending by April 1, 2003. Operating hours are limited to between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. No work can be performed on holidays. The entire project, including gravel hauling, is expected to be completed by Oct. 1, 2003.

Water, magnesium chloride or other appropriate materials are being required to mitigate dust on roads between CR 119 and the pit.

A report of noise levels will be sent by the crushing entity to the county every two weeks. The noise level limit is 70 decibels measured at a home near a cliff overlooking the site from the east bank of the river.

The site must be restored to its former condition with the exception that a lake of about 5 acres will remain.

Mask Ranch LLC, the owner of the pit, has obtained approval permits from the Colorado Department of Minerals and Geology and the Army Corps of Engineers. Mask Ranch is also the applicant for the county Conditional Use Permit.

Crushing and hauling will be performed by A & S Construction, a Canon City firm. A & S Construction is supplying gravel to the Colorado Department of Transportation for use in repaving U.S. 84 next year.

In response to a county planning department report that the canyon walls of the river and into the Holiday Acres Subdivision amplify sound beyond a reasonable and tolerable level, Mask Ranch manager Dennis Walker reported sound level readings he made with a meter and found proof there is no amplification.

Walker and Paul Kessler, representing A & S Construction, said the Mask Ranch source is the only source of gravel in the area with quality meeting the requirements for mixing asphalt. Apparently, the next nearest source of gravel of equal quality is in the Ignacio vicinity.

Before the commissioner vote was polled, Bill Downey, chairman of the board of county commissioners said, "The Community Plan is designed to protect private rights as long as any adverse affects on other people's rights are mitigated. If we are convinced those affects are mitigated, we have to issue the permit. If they are not mitigated, we can't issue the permit."

"If this was permanent, I couldn't approve it", said Commissioner Gene Crabtree. This will make it possible to haul gravel to U.S. 84 without trucks passing through town, a big plus according to Crabtree. The gravel project benefits the entire community, while the negative impacts only affect a few people for a short period of time, Crabtree said. It is important to give first priority to needs of the entire county, Crabtree said. He added that it is his experience that wildlife will not be adversely affected.

Commissioner Alden Ecker agreed that, if permanent, the project would be unthinkable.

"Quite frankly, I've struggled quite awhile with this," Ecker said. "I'm sympathetic with the Holiday Acres residents, but I think their concerns can be mitigated. I, too, look at the needs of the whole county. This is a very important project for the county, I think we're fortunate to get Highway 84 done. If we make it difficult for CDOT, they may quit coming this way."


County considers hiring dog control officer

By John M. Motter

Staff Writer

Funds for a dog control officer are tentatively allocated in the 2003 county budget.

In connection with that probability, County Administrator Bill Steele and Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association general manager Walt Lukasik have been directed to link minds and develop ideas for an agreement between the two entities concerning dog control activities.

The subject was discussed at Tuesday's regular meeting of county commissioners.

Currently, the county has newly adopted animal control regulations, but no designated animal control officer. Any work to control dogs is being done by the sheriff's department.

"We don't have an officer now specifically assigned to dogs," said Capt. Bob Grandchamp representing the county sheriff. "We handle vicious, dangerous dogs by code. We get a lot of calls, especially barking dogs."

"We adopted a dog control ordinance earlier this year," said Bill Downey, chairman of the board of county commissioners. "We're pretty much committed to hiring an animal control officer for 2003. It's part of the budget we're working on. We need to find out how much money the PLPOA is willing to commit. They may have some equipment and some space."

"I think we can work something out," Lukasik said.

"The bulk of the calls come from Pagosa Lakes," Downey said. "It would help to have an agreement with them if they could help a county officer."

The commissioners accomplished the following additional business Tuesday.

- A second opinion will be sought concerning mitigation of a mouse problem in the county Extension building at the fairgrounds. Last month a pile of dead mice was discovered inside an office wall in the building. As a precautionary move, the building was closed. Alternative offices were found. Four Corners Hanta Clean of Durango was hired to analyze the situation and make recommendations. That firm reports that things are not bad, according to Steele. Steele asked for, and received, permission to obtain a second opinion before acting.

- The commissioners approved an agreement concerning the purchase of aviation fuel at Stevens Field and an expenditure for operating expenses while the county acts as the fixed base operator at the airport.

- Approval was granted to a $25,000 Law Enforcement Assistance Grant which will enable local county and town law enforcement officials to conduct special drinking driver activities this coming year. The grant will reimburse county and town expenditures for the project.

- Certain additions were approved for the new building being erected at the county road and bridge complex.

- Sandra Bramwell and Tom Gibson were appointed to three-year terms on the Upper San Juan Regional Planning Commission.

- A county letter was authorized endorsing county veteran's affairs officer Andy Fautheree for appointment to the Colorado Board of Veteran's Affairs.

- Approval was granted the final plat of Whispering Pines Town-houses Development, Phase II.


Building still at record pace, but sales tax returns drop

By John M. Motter

Staff Writer

Two local economic growth indicators are giving mixed signals concerning the economic health of Archuleta County.

First, the county continues to issue building permits at a record pace, a plus. At the same time, local sales tax collections are slowing down.

Through Oct. 31, the county has issued 540 building permits. Through the same time last year, the county had issued 425 building permits. Building permit activity through October going back to 1995 is: 2002 - 540; 2001 - 425; 2000 - 456; 1999 - 457; 1998 - 470; 1997 - 409; 1996 - 400; and 1995 - 448.

The number of residential permits issued through October of this year is 327, compared with 267 residential permits issued through October of 2001. Residential permits issued through October of each year since 1995 are: 2002 - 327; 2001 - 257; 2000 - 285; 1999 - 210; 1998 - 235; 1997 - 189; 1996 - 189; 1995 - 196.

In addition to residential permits issued so far this year, the county has issued 40 mobile home permits, nine commercial permits and 164 other permits. The other category includes major alterations and additions to existing buildings.

Sales tax receipts for 2002 dropped into the negative range through October, when compared with the same time, year-to-date, for 2001.

October sales tax receipts for 2002 are $490,914. Collections for October 2001 amounted to $551,400. Collections for 2002, January through October, are $4,320,408. Collections for 2001, January through October, were $4,334,235.

Last year, 2001, was a record year for sales tax collections. Even so, this is the first time in many years that sales tax collections have declined from one year to the next. Collections in Archuleta County for 2002 have trailed collections for 2001 for the months of May, June, July, August, September and October.

A 6.9 percent sales tax is levied in Archuleta County. Of that total, 2.9 percent goes to the state, 2 percent to the county and 2 percent to the town of Pagosa Springs.

The town's share is devoted to capital improvement projects. The county's share is divided equally between the general fund and the road improvement fund.

So far this year, the county has split $2,160,204 between the two funds. For all of 2001, the county split $2,564,290 between the funds.


New winter facilities on Forest Service lands

By Jo Bridges

Pagosa Ranger District

Over the last winter and through the summer, a group of dedicated folks has been working on some winter recreation issues that have been raised in the Wolf Creek Pass area.

This year you can expect to see some new recommendations aimed at making the areas safer and more enjoyable for all.

At the Lobo Overlook turnout, there will be an area designated for sledding, separate from the trails for skiers, snowmobilers and snowboarders. A sign will be placed to explain the requested separation of uses.

Snowmobilers are asked to travel only on the roadway up to and at the overlook. Additionally, across the highway, a "slow zone" is requested for machines in the snow play area immediately adjacent to the highway, transitioning into open, on and off-trail opportunities for enjoying snowmobiles.

The "Rock Garden" adjacent to the Wolf Creek Ski Area is inappropriate for snowmobiles and people are being asked to keep machines out of that area.

The combination of increased winter recreationists of all varieties and the moderate to poor snow pack in the low country has led to a lot of people packing a lot of uses into a relatively small area at the top of the pass.

The San Juan and Rio Grande National Forests asked the public for assistance in sorting out some of the issues and suggesting some approaches to sharing the snow and providing a suitable experience for everyone. Individuals volunteered to represent all of the recreation interests and each kept contact with as many who shared their recreation preference as each could reach. After months of meetings, the group made recommendations to the Forest Service for some patterns of use the group felt would be fair to all.

The Forest Service agreed to support those recommendations by asking for the public to voluntarily agree to follow the signs in the pass area. The work group is volunteering to provide signs and on-site public contact to explain the strategy, and monitoring of the public's use and their willingness to cooperate without a more formal regulatory approach.

Monitoring of activity and conducting surveys throughout the winter will help determine whether this type of cooperative approach can be successful and whether any fine-tuning of the initial recommendations is necessary.

When you are in the area, please take the time to fill out the survey and to thank the volunteers for all the time they have put in to make your time outside more safe and enjoyable. Information on trail courtesy will also be provided to encourage an atmosphere of sharing public land.

For additional suggestions on winter use areas and opportunities, contact the Ranger District offices at (970) 264-2268.

Have a wonderful visit in this winter wonderland.


Operation Helping Hand finds donations lagging

Operation Helping Hand has received only two bags of food to date for the 2002 Thanksgiving holiday. More is needed, quickly.

Organizers are collecting donations to provide Thanksgiving baskets for our less fortunate friends and neighbors throughout Archuleta County.

Donations of nonperishable food items such as dressing, canned vegetables, canned hams, gelatin mix or any other nonperishable ingredients for a Thanksgiving dinner may be dropped off at The Pagosa Springs SUN, 466 Pagosa St., 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Monetary donations to be used to purchase turkeys and other food items can be made to Operation Helping Hand account No. 6240417424 at Wells Fargo Bank or mailed to Operation Helping Hand, P.O. Box 1083, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147.

Operation Helping Hand assists our less fortunate neighbors throughout the county during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. Some families and individuals who seek help from this program are victims of domestic violence, children of single parents, physically challenged, mentally challenged or senior citizens living on a limited income.

Families seeking assistance from Operation Helping Hand for Thanksgiving or Christmas may pick up an application from the Department of Social Services in Town Hall on Hot Springs Boulevard. Forms should be completed and returned to the Department by 3 p.m. today for those requesting assistance at Thanksgiving. Persons requesting assistance for Christmas must return their applications by 3 p.m. Dec. 5.

Civic organizations and church groups have united to avoid duplication of efforts and ensure as many holiday season needs and wishes as possible can be accommodated.

Questions about Operation Helping Hand may be directed by the message line, 731-3735. A volunteer will return your call, if necessary.



Brave women

Dear Editor:

I wanted to thank Sarah Joy, a resident of Pagosa Springs, for enlisting in the United States Army. She took her oath right after the Sept. 11 attacks and now is stationed in Korea.

This clearly demonstrates the courage and strength of the women of our country.

God bless her and other brave women like her who have the smarts to know that the U.S. - despite all its problems - remains the greatest country on this planet.

Thank you Sara Joy; we are so proud of you.

God bless America.

Deborah Abben

Stevens Field

Dear Editor:

Concerning the comment made regarding large jets coming into Pagosa: those fears are somewhat unfounded. While they might be a little larger, they are also the newer models and so must meet much more restrictive noise standards.

We also have to take into consideration the terrain around the airport.

This bowl that we live in will preclude having any type of a low visibility approach such as they have in Durango. With that airport that close, and no all-weather capability here, there is little chance that we will ever see any type of scheduled service here.

I don't know who released the story to the paper, but this development has been in the works for several years. I don't know why it has suddenly seen the light of day, but I suspect, that as the Archuleta County government forced the current fixed base operator out of business, they are trying to make themselves look good.

Mr. Crafton had a letter of intent to purchase his business and provide him with a four-year employment contract during the transition. When the Airport Authority tried to get a lease agreement with the buyers, the county supervisors would not let us provide a long enough time span.

After several attempts with the buyers, and several more to sit down with the supervisors and try to get us all going the same way, the Authority was dissolved, the existing lease was canceled, and the new offer on the FBO was about 25 cents on the dollar. The county then offered the new people the same basic lease that we were dealing with, but for a lower lease rate.

Mr. Crafton turned this down and all of a sudden the county is faced with the possibility of an airport with no services (i.e., fuel, maintenance, car rental). The letter of intent covered not only the four-year employment but also a payment schedule for the purchase. A lower figure is proposed but the new buyer does not want to come up with that much money in that short a time frame.

So, our supervisors had an of-the-record meeting at the airport with Mr. Crafton, and then, in an executive session, approved the spending of county funds to purchase the FBO for the county and hopefully sell it to these new folks next month.

For you nonaviation readers, an FBO or Fixed Base Operator, is to aircraft what the full-service gas stations used to be to the cars. Here it has also been collecting the parking fees and 5 cents a gallon on the sales of aviation fuel. With the current operator, we have seen an increase on both of these numbers over the past four years that he has been in operation.

Stay tuned for more of the trials and tribulations of Stevens Field.

Jim Carey

Editor's note: Please see the article concerning Stevens Field in this edition of The SUN.

Breakfast smiles

Dear Editor:

I had the privilege of being served breakfast on Veterans Day by a group of truly terrific young people. These Pagosa eighth-graders cooked and served eggs, pancakes, French toast, bacon and potatoes along with juice and coffee and a lot of smiles. They had important help from some great teachers and parents but it was the young folks' show and they did themselves proud.

There was a large flag on the wall made from squares of red, white and blue paper. Each square contained poems, thoughts, and feelings written in English class by the eighth-graders. I was deeply touched as I read what they had written. One in particular, entitled "We See You," went right to the core of what I believe many veterans need to hear - that these young people have a sense of what it must have been like those many years ago and a deep appreciation of what it cost.

That morning reminded me that we generally fail to adequately show our respect and appreciation to the young people of Pagosa Springs. They are intelligent, enthusiastic, enterprising, caring, and fun to be around. Many thanks to all. You touched my heart.

Bob Fisher

More issues

Dear Editor:

Mr. Margulies' dismay about the higher noise levels of larger jets is more flight of fancy than fact. Most, if not all, of the newer larger jets have engines that comply with more rigorous noise standards and are generally quieter than the small jets we now see at Stevens Field.

Additionally, the greater efficiency of these new engines provides more power which, at a higher elevation airport such as ours, translates to increased, rather than decreased safety factors during landings and takeoffs.

A more compelling reason to be concerned about the article in the Herald is to question its timing. Why did this article just happen to appear when it did? Was it because it would serve as distraction from the fact that the commissioners, in a special meeting, had just approved the expenditure of nearly $150,000 of taxpayer funds to purchase the fixed base operation at Stevens Field?

Did some of the commissioners violate the Sunshine statutes by meeting privately with the owner of the FBO and forging the agreement to buy the FBO rather than facing the issue of a legal battle over the county's probable breach of contract in refusing to extend the hangar lease as required by the contract?

Does it concern you, or any other citizen of Archuleta County, that there has been no mention of the sudden change of ownership of the airport FBO, or the expenditure of a large sum of money to make the county the sole manager of all aspects of airport operations without any public involvement?

The plans to improve the runway at Stevens Field have been in existence for a number of years. Why are these major changes and expenditures being made without any public awareness, input or allowing any recommendations from the aviation community? There are more issues than noise, which you and other citizens should be concerned about.

Ralph Goulds

One girl's opinion

Dear Editor:

This year's Veterans Day breakfast, hosted by our eighth-graders brought out a flood of old guys like me. Looking around a packed gymnasium at 7:30 a.m. on Monday, I had to wonder whether there were any adult males in Pagosa Springs who had not served their country in one or another war.

The small group of veterans I got to talking with at breakfast had been through the worst war has to offer. They agreed that if you've ever seen war, you don't want to see another one, and, if you live long enough, you come to question whether the same amount of money and effort devoted to wars of the last 50 years might have had more lasting effects if invested in meeting the human needs of people who now seem to hate us. (By the way, none, so far as I know, including me, are pacifists.)

So, one of the group asked our eighth-grade hostess how she felt about the prospect of war on Iraq. She was emphatic in expressing her feeling that a preemptive war on Iraq was not the right thing to do. One girl's opinion? The follow-up question was, How many of your classmates do you believe would agree with you? Her replay surprised us. Most all of them, she said.

That exchange, and the comment of a scientist-friend who understands such things, are bringing home to me the fact that as all business is local, so is this war. 9/11 proved it. A handful of terrorists with a supply of the right chemicals could poison the Colorado rivers from here to Mexico, in the opinion of my scientist-friend.

I read that there's a saying going around in the Arab world that for every Arab killed, ten terrorists will take his or her place - and I wonder if any of them will have the bus fare to Colorado.

The major religious bodies in the United States are raising basic questions about the direction our nation is taking. They are, by the way, readily available on the Internet. They speak of conscience, not fear. That's a good place to start thinking about the prospect of sending some of the fathers, or brothers or sisters of the eighth-graders who served us breakfast Monday off to one more war for peace.

Michael J. Greene


Dear Editor:

I believe that your Nov. 7 front page headline on county commissioner election results was a serious mistake in objective reporting. Using "Crabtree ousted" implies bias or editorialized reporting. The term "oust" means a removal from office by legal action, force or necessity. Please do not become a New York Times, Washington Post, et al.

By the way, I am an Independent voter and have always voted for the person, not the party, so I have no political party axe to grind about Republican Gene Crabtree being defeated in this election.


Jim Haliday

Editor's note: According to Webster's Third New International Dictionary "oust" means to take away as a right or authority, to eject from a position or place, to turn out, to expel. According to Random House Webster's College Dictionary, "oust" means to remove from a place or position occupied. These are the two sources we utilize. No offense was intended in the use of the word.

Shop local

Dear Editor,

While I understand the feelings of P. Shoffner about local prices, I would like to offer a different perspective as to why I like to shop local.

I am the executive director of the nonprofit Pregnancy Support Center. Every two years we host a golf marathon in which we raise funds to help us meet our budget for two years. In 2000, following a good year for the economy and for local tourism, we received over $42,000 in donations. A large percentage of that came from local businesses.

This year, in spite of it being a tough year for the national economy and an even tougher year for the local tourism industry, we raised over $41,000. Thirty-six percent of this was contributed by local businesses. Many more businesses donated prizes and gifts for the golfers. Very few businesses turned down our requests for donations, and of those that did, most cited financial constraints.

Our local businesses are very involved in supporting the many things that are going on in our wonderful town of Pagosa Springs. These businesses can't necessarily buy in large quantities and pass the discount on to us directly.

But we are all affected in one way or another by their generosity in supporting our community, and that's something that can't be quantified.

Kathy Koy

Gravel pit

Dear editor:

After sitting through the Oct. 8 and 22 meetings of the county commissioners it is both interesting and sickening to see the "Good Old Boys" in action.

The meetings were as though the Holiday Acres property owners in attendance were of no consequence. It was just a sham that we all had to take part in. The board members (except for Bill Downey) both already had their minds up in favor of Walker's application for a gravel pit and rock crushing facility. The board blatantly ignored the fact that Walker's application for extension predated the Oct. 22 meeting and yet was not delivered till the day before the meeting Oct. 29.

At that meeting, decision was further delayed into November - an obvious ploy to delay a decision until after the election.

All due respect to Bill Downey for trying to do the right thing by not going along with the Good Old Boys. He seems to be the only one with a mind of his own.

Maybe it is time to get serious about Home Rule. At least we would have five board members instead of the 2-1 that we seem to have all the time.

Lolita Manring

A warrior

Dear Editor:

A new generation of young Americans is once again deployed around the world, answering our nation's wartime call to arms. Like so many brave men and women who honorably served before them, these new veterans are fighting, to the death when necessary, for the freedom, liberty and security of all. Like those who fought before them, today's veterans deserve the due respect of a grateful nation.

The young soldier from Pagosa, Sarah Joy, who wrote in her letter to The SUN on Oct. 3, says a lot. Expressing gratitude to her hometown for the September ceremony at the high school, which thanked current members of the armed forces and those veterans residing in Pagosa Springs. She also said, "Fighting for America's freedom is my job. I get up every morning because their support keeps me going."

After reading her letter, I remembered something I read which George Washington said not long after he became president: "The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

So, I would personally like to thank Sarah Joy for placing herself in harm's way in South Korea and defending the many freedoms that my family and I now enjoy. The intense pride, which you display for love of country, will be an inspiration to everyone here in your hometown.

Hopefully, there will be many more Americans who will hold to the ancient wisdom that says hate the war, yet honor the warrior.

Joy is a warrior.

Jim Sawicki

Important point

Dear Editor:

People, patients and even a visiting doctor have noticed that the Dr. Mary Fisher Medical Center has had a strained and unhappy atmosphere this year. The familiar and wholesome atmosphere has been displaced. Employees are trying their best but are working with frayed nerves and fear from a grossly harsh management style that is totally unnecessary and out of place.

The USJHD board has under-funded the clinic for years, forcing it into the red, financially. Rather than accept blame, the board blames the employees, reducing salary and benefits, seeking to make the staff feel guilt, and prompted and allowed management to act in a manor that punishes the employees. Many have quit.

There are many examples of this abusive management style. I choose the simplest one to comment on.

Employees at the clinic have always been dedicated and hard working. The staff worked for years underpaid, while working significant overtime with no pay. For 20 years, the nursing and other female staff rarely took advantage of perfectly legal break time. Full lunchtime was rarely taken and often, when busy, lunchtime was skipped completely.

Into this overworked but smoothly functioning staff, a manager arrived making no effort to know or understand the staff individually, their history, or how this team worked together. Management was either told by board leadership or assumed that the employees were all at fault and began a series of measures that were abusive, disrespectful and insulting. This bombardment came in the form of both direct orders and "mind games" played on the workers. It treated the employees like they were irresponsible and conniving. They weren't!

My simple example: the ladies were ordered not to take magazines into their bathroom, as if they were going to steal a few moments beyond actual elimination time. Isn't that pathetic?

There are many other, considerably more important, provocative and stringent examples. Teamwork suffered and anger, aggravation and fear from threats of job loss, replaced the calm and wholesome atmosphere. It is difficult to have calm in an intensely stressful medical environment. This management style vastly increased stress to unhealthy levels.

The medical center staff are mature and educated people. They can react in a positive way to competent management. They are not at fault for financial and other problems created by the USJHD board.

For years the EMS and clinic staff had a combined summer barbecue and a fun float in the Fourth of July parade. This year they were so demoralized that there was no cookout, no float and no fun. How sad!

Board leadership has been told of this unacceptable and degrading situation, time and time again, and continues supporting this management style. I want to make an important point. The clinic staff are dedicated professionals and vary caring people who are currently providing excellent medical services and are doing so in a friendly and competent way. This is not because of current management and board leadership style, but in spite of it.

Norm Vance

Community News
Senior News

Salute to Patty Tillerson, birthday celebrants

By Janet Copeland

SUN Columnist

The Volunteer of the Month is Patty Tillerson. This wonderful lady is always available to help when and where needed, in many different areas; what a privilege to honor her this month.

Happy Birthday to Stella Carter, who celebrated Friday and to Musetta Wollenweber who will celebrate Nov. 19. Stella has been an integral part of our kitchen staff for many years and we all love her. Musetta is our outstanding director, whom we also love.

Birthday wishes also go out to other members with November birthdays: Johnny Martinez, Alice Young, Harriet Durkin, Dorothy O'Harra, Nancy Ziegler, Jane Martinez, Terrisa Diestelkamp, Thelma Lyda, Lilly Gurule, Wyoma Richards, Betty Lou Reid and Andy Martinez.

Matt Mees donated a beautiful 52-inch television to our seniors. Thanks a million, Matt - we know our folks will really enjoy watching favorite programs and movies on it.

We are so pleased to welcome a number of guests and returning members this week, including Jo and Jerry Arrington, Marjorie Nevitt, Millie Johnson, Eve Kirton, Bill Gibbons, Jerry and Carol Curtis, Virginia Sheets, Tommy and Dareen Cole, Barbara Brasher, Rose Thacker, Shirley Snider, Leah Dain, Donna and Dan Sanders, Ruth Schutz, Al Schnell, Barbara Tackett, Lois Portenier, Cora Woolsey, Josie Rivas, Sand Aguilar, Martina Martinez, Phyllis Haning, Rita O'Connell, Rose Doll, Dee and Frank Anderson, and Marilyn and John Dahm.

It is the time of year when many folks are unable to keep their leaves picked up and snow shoveled from their walks. The Home Chore Program is designed to assist those folks who are not able to complete these tasks or may have difficulty affording hired help. Call Musetta or Laura at the center, 264-2167, for more information.

The Senior Center is in need of a small coffee table and a small end table for our lounge. If anyone has a nice one they would like to donate, call Musetta or Laura.

There is a new class this month designed to help you creatively solve problems, make your own crossword puzzles, and figure out your chances of winning at the casino. Larry Blue has taught people how to exercise their brains in fun and creative ways for many years. The classes started Oct. 29 and will run every Tuesday in November at 11 a.m. Come and reawaken our brain.

Free movies will be offered in the Senior Lounge at 12:45 p.m. the second Friday of each month. The movies are free and the popcorn is 25 cents - a real bargain. Come and enjoy the movies and offer suggestions to Laura for movies you might enjoy seeing. If there is a lot of interest, we may even run they twice a month.

Nov. 18: chair exercises at 10 a.m., bridge for fun at 1 p.m.

Nov. 19: yoga at 9:30 a.m.; problem solving class at 11 a.m.; art classes at 12:45 p.m. in the media room. There is a suggested donated of $2 per class for use of the facility but those who can't afford this should talk to Musetta; 1 p.m., Sky Ute Casino trip with free transportation provided. Leave the center at 1 p.m. and leave the casino to return at 5 p.m. Sign up in advance as this is a popular excursion and frequently fills up early.

Nov. 20: 10:30 a.m. computer class

Nov. 21: 11:30 Qi Gong; 11 a.m., Medicare counseling and blood pressure monitoring by Patty Tillerson.

Veterans Corner

Prep diplomas available for WWII vets

By Andy Fautheree

Operation Recognition is a program to award high school diplomas to deserving World War II veterans, offered by the Colorado Board of Veterans Affairs in cooperation with the Colorado Department of Education.

Eligibility requirements include:

- Honorably discharged veteran who served in WWII between Sept. 16, 1940 and Dec. 31, 1946 who did not graduate from high school.

- Attendance in high school ranging from 1937-1946 with graduation class years of 1941-1950 is required.

- Those who have earned a GED are also eligible and urged to apply.

Diplomas can also be awarded posthumously.

Application form

Required paperwork includes the application for WWII veteran's high school diploma and a copy of Honorable Discharge papers attached to the application. The application form is on hand in the Archuleta County Veterans Service Office.

Upon completion of the application form I will contact the appropriate high school (it does not have to be Pagosa Springs High School) and discuss the matter with the principal of the school on the veteran's behalf. The principal of the high school will set up an appropriate graduation ceremony, which could be a special WWII veteran ceremony or award of the diploma at the regular high school graduation ceremony.

I already have many files on Archuleta County veterans and a copy of their DD214 discharge papers. WWII veterans need only contact me or stop by the office and we can complete the application form.

Durango clinic update

The Durango VA medical clinic has recently experienced staffing problems and Archuleta County veterans may have some difficulty in appointment scheduling, especially if they are trying to transfer their primary health care to that facility. Veterans are frequently reporting to me they get busy signals or an answering machine when trying to call the Durango clinic and often do not get a call back from the clinic.

Please remember the clinic is new, and it will experience startup problems. I personally have been to the clinic several times, and have also had my first physical examination. I can report it was completely satisfactory in all aspects.

I can only advise veterans to be patient, and follow up on their calls or appointments to the clinic to insure proper care needs. The phone number at the Durango VA Clinic is 247-2214. If you leave a message on the answering machine and you do not get a call back in a week or so, call again. Keep trying. These folks are swamped with veterans wanting health care at the clinic and are still training personnel in VA methods and systems. Please feel free to stop by or call me for assistance if you continue to have problems communicating with the clinic.

For information on these and other veteran's benefits please call or stop by the Veterans Service Office located on the lower floor of the county courthouse. The office number is 264-2304 and e-mail is The office is open from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday through Thursday, Friday by appointment.

Chamber News

Methodist elves a Pagosa phenomenon

By Sally Hameister

You know that the holiday season has officially opened when the Methodist elves gather at their headquarters on Lewis Street and begin creating beautiful things with fresh greens, ribbons, pine cones and just about anything the imagination will allow.

The Russ Hill Memorial Bazaar begins Nov. 18, and will continue through Dec. 6, with hours from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-noon. This is your opportunity to surprise friends and family everywhere with unique creations from Pagosa Springs to adorn their doors or tables for the holidays. All of these items can be shipped just about anywhere and make wonderful Christmas gifts.

Table arrangements begin at $15 and wreaths with a 12-inch to 15-inch outside diameter, red bows and pinecones are $19 and medium wreaths 18-inch to 24-inch are $27. Custom wreath orders are always available to you with the ribbons and decorations of your choice with varying prices.

Each day, about 40-50 elves appear at the church to volunteer their time and talents to this very special project with all proceeds going to support the church and local community. Last year all those busy fingers created over 900 wreaths and 250 table arrangements. One of the pieces that really knocks me out about this endeavor is that these folks are fed daily by the kitchen elves that always appear to execute the KP duties. This is truly an amazing Pagosa phenomenon that should held up for all to see as a model for generosity and selflessness. What a group.

Please call 264-4538 for information about the Russ Hill Memorial Bazaar.

Newsletter inserts

Yikes, we're creeping up on deadlines for the December issue of our quarterly newsletter, The Chamber Communiqué, and we would like nothing more than to include your insert in the most popular of our four issues.

Because of the holiday season, our members like to share information about special holiday sales, open houses, visits from Santa and anything and everything pertaining to the holiday season. We at the Chamber use this vehicle to pass along our season's greetings, to introduce our six candidates for the upcoming January board of directors election and to offer our registration form for the ever-popular Parade of Lights, to be held on Dec. 13 this year.

We invite you to join us in passing along the good word about whatever it is you would like to share with 780 other Chamber member businesses. All you need to do is furnish us with 750 copies of your insert, preferably on colorful paper, and a check for $40, and we'll do the rest. There couldn't be an easier, more economical way of getting your information out there, folks.

Call Doug at 264-2360 for more information.

Birkenstock's open

Janae Christians, new owner of Jonina's Birkenstock, was good enough to let us know that they are now open for business at their 215 Pagosa St. location. They held a soft opening Nov. 7, and will hold a Grand Opening Dec. 13, 14 and 15. Please stop by and welcome them to the neighborhood or give Janae a call at 264-9700. Congratulations on your opening, kids.

Free counseling

Joe Keck, current director of the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College will be here at the Visitor Center Nov. 15 to offer free business counseling to all Chamber members. Joe is a prince of a guy with invaluable tips and information about the state of business in the Four Corners region and will be happy to share his wealth of knowledge with you. He will give you all the time you need, so please give Doug a call at 264-2360 to set up an appointment with Joe tomorrow.

Tour of Homes

The second annual Holiday Tour of Homes presented by Seeds of Learning will be held Dec. 5, from 6-9 p.m. with a few new additions that are sure to add to your experience. Not only will you be able to tour four beautifully decorated homes, but refreshments, frozen casseroles, holiday greenery and carolers will await you at select homes. What fun.

The generous folks who have donated their homes for touring this year include Mike and Susan Neder on Piedra Road, Bob and Lisa Scott on Four Mile Road, John and Shirley Nelson on North Pagosa Boulevard and Joe and Carol Davis on Horseshoe Circle in Martinez Mountain Estates. A limited number of tickets are available for pre-sale purchase only at the Chamber of Commerce and Wolftracks Bookstore and Coffee Company and directions will accompany the tickets. You must have a ticket to enter these homes, and tickets will not be sold after 3 p.m. on the day of the event.

All proceeds from this event will go to the Seeds of Learning to continue providing quality care to toddlers and pre-schoolers. These funds are more important than ever to Seeds due to fewer available grants thanks to the slower economy. These grants and donations have allowed Seeds to charge less than their actual costs in the past, so the proceeds of this tour become more important than ever.

Please get your tickets early this year so you won't miss out. There were some mighty disappointed folks last year who waited until the last minute only to discover that they were all gone.


The classic Christmas curmudgeon will join us once again in all his miserly, mean splendor for the Music Boosters' holiday production of the 1843 Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol" with musical adaptation by Michael DeMaio.

A cast of over 40 thespians, including children and high school students, will take to the stage Dec. 5, 7, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. and on Dec. 8, for a special matinee at 1:30, all in the high school auditorium. We can expect to see some of our favorite performers as well as some Music Boosters newcomers. New sets will adorn the stage and costumes from circa 1790-1843 will adorn the players. Musical direction will be under the baton of Melinda Baum with Lisa Hartley acting as Melinda's musical assistant.

We know that we can always count on our Music Boosters for a beautiful, professional, entertaining production, and I am absolutely delighted that "A Christmas Carol" is on tap for our holiday season. Tickets will go on sale Nov. 21, at The Plaid Pony and Moonlight Books and will be for reserved seating only. Adult tickets are $12, seniors with a Senior Card are $10 and children 12 and under will pay $8.

Operation Winter Coat

We've always known that the people in Pagosa are among the most generous on the planet, and it has once again been confirmed by the response to Rotary Club's Operation Winter Coat. You still have time to bring your warm items to the Chamber or Village Texaco, the elementary school, the Lutheran School or the junior high school.

Tomorrow is the deadline for drop-off, and the distribution will take place Nov. 16 at the cafeteria in the junior high school from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. If you are in need of warm clothing for the cold, cold winter, please stop by and pick up whatever you need for no charge. Please call Kathi DeClark at 946-2057 for more information. We're grateful to our local Rotarians for conducting this drive every year.


I'm happy to introduce one new member this week and five renewals. It is always amazing and quite gratifying to continue to welcome new members to our Chamber - we do love it.

Our new member is actually not at all new to us in this community and actually not only holds other memberships, but is a bonafide Chamber board director. I'm referring to none other than Liz Marchand who brings us Reach for the Peaks with offices in her home. Liz has always been our Balloon Rally Queen, so it falls right into line that she would create this nonprofit organization that promotes Pagosa Springs and local community involvement through the Colorfest and Winterfest balloon rallies. Colorfest is held the third weekend in September and Winterfest is held annually on the second weekend in February. If you would like to learn more about Reach for the Peaks, please give Liz a call at 731-5120.

Our renewals this week include Stephen Saltsman with Flexible Flyers Rafting in Durango; Steve Lydon with Fairfield Pagosa; Linda Lerno with Affordable Framing by Linda's Creations; and R. Michael Bell with R. Michael Bell and Associates, Inc. Many thanks to both new and renewal members.

Library News

Definitive cookbook for trout on hand

By Lenore Bright

"Trout," by S. Tennant Jr., is the definitive cookbook for the fish. "Trout in the kitchen are distinguished from all other fish by their unique qualities: their delicate flavor, texture and leanness," Tennant says,

"After 200 years of enlightened trout cookery, those who stand around in the kitchen a lot have isolated a short list of dishes favored by serious diners." The recipes in this book are excellent and will be enjoyed by all trout aficionados.

"Semi-Homemade Cooking," by Sandra Lee has an introduction from Wolfgang Puck. Nothing is made from scratch but everything tastes homemade.

Sandra puts the entire American food industry to work for you. Audiences nationwide know her from her appearances on TV. She's been featured in many magazines. Sandra is a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals and studied at the acclaimed Cordon Bleu.

"Arty Facts - Linking Art to the world Around Us," is a four-book set of art activities for children. These are the days of colds and flu, and mothers come to the library desperate for materials to keep their young homebound invalids occupied. This excellent series covers space, planet earth, animals and plants. There are many things to make. We have many other craft books for children.

Sharee Grazda donated a book authored by her friend, Leni Matlin. "Ripples in a Pond," is a visionary work of fiction telling the tale of our world as it is, and how it might be. "You will laugh, you will cry, but in the end you will never be able to look at life quite the same way again.

"The story takes place in an obscure hamlet in the Pacific Northwest. Events are unfolding there that will rock the world. At the center of this multidimensional mystery is a group of people who will lead you through the corridors of global power within the chambers of the shadow government, and reach to exalted realms of masters and adepts."

Matlin grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He moved to California where he worked primarily as a keyboardist and vocalist. In 1996 he began his first book, "One Soul's Journey," a spiritual memoir published in India in 1999.

Judith Horky, local author, donated her book "Earth Shift." This fictional tale tells what will happen as the result of the Earth's changing vibrations and the dramatic planetary and social changes.

Judith Horky is a former teacher of video production, and had her own TV production company in California. She and her husband now live in Pagosa.

"The Theory of Everything," by Stephen Hawking, presents a series of seven lectures in which Hawking explains more clearly than ever, the history of the universe as we know it. He begins with a history of ideas about the universe from Aristotle's determination that the Earth is round to Hubble's discovery over 2000 years later that the universe is expanding.

Hawking suffers from a crippling disease that leaves him unable to write, or even speak clearly. He is believed to be one of the world's greatest minds. He is able to make theoretical science understandable in broad principle by everyone, not just a few scientists. He has an engaging combination of clarity and wit and is able to illustrate highly complex propositions with analogies from daily life.

Civic Club profits

The Ladies took in over $3,000 from the bazaar. The raffle made $1,440 for the Library. Our thanks to everyone who helped with this annual fundraiser.

Their fund-raising for the library continues with the few cookbooks left to sell. You may pick up a copy for $15.


Thanks for financial help from John Graves and the Film Society. Thanks for materials from Joel Granquist, Linda Gutshall, Denise Pastin, Jim Wilson and Cristie Holden.



Julie Rodriguez received a "My Boss is a Patriot" certificate of appreciation on behalf of the Department of Defense. Rodriguez heads the county building permit department. The certificate was presented by Trista Nauman, an Army Reserve member who works in the building permit department. Nauman nominated Rodriguez for the award because Rodriguez "is continually supportive of my service in the Army Reserve. She offers constant, help, support and encouragement in my military career."

The family and friends of Willie and Phoebe Voorhis will celebrate their birthdays in Laughlin, Nev., Saturday, Nov. 30. Willie will be 85 Dec. 3; Phoebe's birthday is Oct. 25. For more information, call Russell at 731-1238 or Steve at 264-4233. Cards can be sent to Willie and Phoebe Voorhis, 3190 Hwy. 45, No.1707, Bullhead City, AZ 86442.



Buck O'Neal's reputation:

Pagosa's greatest fisherman

By John M. Motter

PREVIEW Columnist

Few old-timers dispute Buck O'Neal's reputation as Pagosa's Country's greatest fisherman.

When local mountains hunker down under a winter-long mantle of snow and old-timers seek refuge and respite by cupping hands around a hot cup of coffee, talk always drifts to the almosts of past fishing seasons. If real old-timers are present, talk soon degenerates to times shrouded in the mists of a long distant past.

Everyone knows that not so long ago, mountains were taller, rivers deeper and fish bigger. Looming through the mist-magnified past of Pagosa Country fishing legends is John Ebon "Buck" O'Neal. O'Neal himself was real, as are his still-living sons. And we have no doubt that, obscured among the many legends, are the real feats of an accomplished outdoorsman.

Today's local folks, those who entered Pagosa Country at 65 miles per hour riding in the comfort of a plush motor vehicle gliding along paved roads, probably didn't know Buck O'Neal. There are plenty of others who do remember Buck and there are plenty of stories.

Smack dab in the middle of Pagosa Springs is O'Neal Hill, and on top of the hill is the O'Neal home, the place where Buck and wife, Nellie, raised sons Gordon and Vernon. Before the O'Neals lived on the hill, it was the location of a famous Pagosa Springs schoolhouse, a schoolhouse that burned during the early 1920s.

Nellie Tallman was a schoolteacher. The couple married at the Toner Ranch Sept. 30, 1930. Buck had deep, pioneer roots in Pagosa Country. His father had been John S. O'Neal, born in Texas in 1847 to George Washington and Mary O'Neal. The first 25 years of his life were spent in the Dublin area of central Texas. In 1875, along with twin brother James O'Neal and others he moved to Colfax County, N.M. The Texas group presumably followed the Goodnight Trail up the Pecos River, driving a herd containing several thousand longhorns. Traveling with the entourage were several families who became Pagosa Country pioneers, including the Keiths, Henry Gordon and others.

While in New Mexico, Mescalero Apaches attacked the party, stealing more than 1,000 cattle and killing one of the herders. New Mexico Bureau of Indian Affairs records show that the O'Neals were paid by the U.S. government for the loss of cattle.

By 1877 or 1878, the O'Neal party was in Pine River near present Bayfield where Buck and twin sister Lucy were born July 4, 1885. By 1888, the O'Neals had moved to Pagosa Springs where Buck grew to manhood. A local landmark on the upper Piedra, O'Neal Park, is named for the O'Neals.

Old newspapers are full of stories built around Buck's hunting and fishing prowess. Perhaps the most colorful story is connected with the opening of Wolf Creek Pass in 1916 when the Colorado governor and a host of dignitaries left the capital to bow and scrape in front of the press, acknowledging their great accomplishment.

Planners of the event decided that the important guests must be fed wild game representative of the great abundance of wildlife in the San Juans, according to the story. Who better to harvest the wild repast than Buck O'Neal, legendary local hunter?

Buck's charge was to harvest grouse, a serving fit for the table of king's. If grouse proved elusive, wild turkey would certainly be a suitable substitute. Not only were local forests full of dainty delectables such as grouse, there were other choices. Turkey wouldn't be bad.

Unfortunately for Buck, as the day of celebration neared, the number of choices narrowed. The grouse seemed to have moved to a far country and as for turkey, where were the turkeys? Buck grew desperate until relief appeared overhead: a number of long-winged, black vultures wheeling in ever shrinking arcs. Nothing left but to bag several of the buzzards and why not? How would the tenderfeet from Denver know the difference?

The tenderfeet from Denver apparently knew little about the difference in taste between turkey buzzard and turkey, according to the story. A great deal of lip smacking and "o'boy, o'boy, whew" accompanied the meal. Soon only bones remained from the barbecued turkey buzzard carcasses. Either the Denver dignitaries liked buzzard or they were afraid to admit they didn't know what they were eating.

The Wolf Creek Pass opening story is but one of many stories told about Buck O'Neal. The man himself was apparently a lover of good stories, and no doubt added his share of tales from the absurd when having coffee with friends on cold winter mornings.

Local newspapers are full of items about Buck O'Neal and his hunting/fishing exploits. Old-timers say O'Neal was an accomplished walker, usually walking from town as far as the upper reaches of the San Juan River and other rivers coursing through Pagosa Country. If anyone dragged a large fish into the presence of the local news editor to have the feat recorded for posterity, the fish was always compared to a fish caught by O'Neal. O'Neal's fishing exploits were the community standard.

Of course, O'Neal found time to raise sons Gordon and Vernon and in other ways serve his community.

Finally, Pagosa's legendary fisherman passed away Jan. 8, 1953. And if all of the tales recounting Buck O'Neal's angling ability were placed between two covers, I suppose the covers would surround a very large book.


Gathering the Greens

By Tess Noel Baker

Staff Writer

"It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

George Ziegler looked up at the large white flakes falling from the sky and stopped to sing a little before picking up a handful of pine branches and dragging them to a nearby truck.

He was one of about 20 Christmas volunteers collecting Douglas and white fir branches Friday for the annual Russ Hill Bazaar set to start Nov. 18 at the Community United Methodist Church. During the bazaar, the boughs will be transformed into holiday wreaths, centerpieces and swags. Proceeds from the event support ministry in the church and many nonprofits in the community.

Gathering the greens is the annual kickoff, but planning for the event, which will last through Dec. 6, takes months. Volunteers must be found, ribbon purchased, pinecones collected, bases for table decorations located. Just the gathering itself requires one or two weekends, depending on the number of volunteers and the amount of greens available in one spot.

Because of the drought, this year may be more of a challenge, Dick Moseley, the group's leader, said. Much of the Douglas fir has brown tips from lack of water. The white fir seems to have faired better. Using the combination will allow for full, beautiful wreaths.

"This is the best place I've found in five different places I went this fall," he told the volunteers assembled Friday on Forest Service Road 656. To fill all the orders, they will need about nine tons.

The group intended to try areas on Plumtaw, Monument Park and at the intersection of William's Creek Road and Piedra Road over the next week or so if need be. Permits to gather the greens, or "forest products," are purchased by the ton from the U.S. Forest Service.

This year crews assembled about 9 a.m. Friday for the first day of gathering. Moseley said work would be focused along the road leading to the picnic area instead of in the picnic area itself.

"Because this is a recreation area we have to be extra-careful how we whack this thing," he told the crew.

Without much trouble, he found examples Douglas and white firs, the only two kinds of trees they want. Absolutely no spruce were to be taken at all, he said, pointing out that spruce needles go all the way around the branches and are sharp-pointed. The firs, he said, are softer with wider needles.

Because of the forest fire danger, Moseley instructed, they could cut down all the white firs with bases six inches in diameter or less. On the larger trees, trimmers were restricted to cutting branches off one-third of the way up the tree.

"Trim everything off, dead and alive, and scatter the dead back into the forest," Moseley said. All this trimming actually improves forest conditions, he added. The small white firs and lower branches are part of the "ladder fuels" that increase the chances of fires moving off the forest floor and into the crowns of the trees. Once in the crowns, the fire becomes much more dangerous.

Moseley instructed the volunteers to load the white and Douglas branches on separate trucks for the drive back to the church and suggested they start uphill and work down to make hauling the branches easier.

Whistling, the group climbed back into their trucks and split into small groups along the road. Out came the chainsaws, the trimmers, clippers and bright orange clothing in case any hunters were scouting the area. After about an hour, it started to snow, first lightly, then harder and harder, making the road muddy. Still, they continued to work, joke with each other and smile. Some had been helping with this project for 20 years or more. One man said when he reached the 20-year mark he stopped helping with the actual gathering.

Instead, he came to offer his truck for loading, smoke his pipe and enjoy the outdoors, snow or no. A father and son duo provided an empty horse trailer to give the group even more hauling capacity and other volunteers provided a hot picnic lunch.

It not only looked like Christmas; it felt like Christmas too.

Over the next few weeks, 40-45 volunteers a day at the church will turn the gathered branches into wonderful holiday decorations combining the white and Douglas firs. Last year's efforts included over 900 wreaths and 250 table arrangements. Over 50 percent of the proceeds were given to nonprofit groups in the community, over a dozen organizations in all. Hours are 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m.-noon Saturday. Prices for basic wreaths of pinecones and red velvet bows are $19 (8-inch inside width) and $27 (14-inch inside width). Table arrangements begin at $15. Orders must be placed by Dec. 3.



Highway help

We should thank our lucky stars much of the recent highway work in the area has been completed. The lifeblood of this community flows through two arteries that bring traffic to us from east and west and from the south, and they have been improved. They are the keys to our economic success.

Appreciate the recent work; you won't see much more for a while.

Regardless of what advocates of other forms of transport might say, U.S. 160 and U.S. 84 are paramount in the local scheme of things; they bring us tourists, new residents and the goods we need to survive. Without the revenues from tourist traffic, and those that spin off the galaxy of activities reliant on a growing population - real estate, construction, et al - we would be a much different community. We know this, others don't.

This year, an 11-mile stretch of U.S. 160, running from downtown Pagosa Springs to a point west of town was resurfaced, with lights, islands and turn lanes added. A major stretch of U.S. 160, from east of the Wolf Creek Ski Area to west of the summit of the pass, was improved and efforts continue to blast a tunnel to carry traffic around the dangerous Narrows on the east side of the pass. Work to mend U.S. 84 began this year and will continue in the spring.

That's probably all she wrote.

We are not likely to experience major highway projects in the near future. The state's budget, and TABOR constraints, won't allow it. It is anyone's guess when the widening of U.S. 160 on Put Hill in Pagosa Springs to four lanes will occur. Some in the know say there could be increased funds available for state highway needs come 2005 or 2006. Some say it will be 2008 before the logjam breaks. There is a chance a significant percentage of the money in a capital expenditure fund will be directed to transportation needs, and excess general fund reserves could be put to the task as early as 2005.

Not enough, and not soon enough.

To complicate matters, there are strategies being mapped to change the way in which transportation funds are divided in Colorado. Last summer, a move was made by elements in the Denver area to alter the allocation of funds to favor metro areas in the state. Our legislative representatives, Rep. Mark Larson and Sen. Jim Isgar combined forces to help fend off that charge. Another move will be made in the upcoming legislative session, says Larson. Greater, more effective defense by rural legislators will be needed to counter the ploy.

It is a shame they need to make the effort.

We are caught in the jaws of irony here. If Colorado's economy is to recover and remain strong, it will not be because of fanciful high-tech industries. It will be because of a revitalized tourist industry. Much of the tourist activity takes place in rural areas such as ours. Most of the tourist traffic makes its way to us on our highways. More tourism equals more revenues. More revenues over time mean more money available for work on roads.

We have snow, and if it continues to fall, our tourist economy can regain its vigor.

With sufficient water and a lower wildfire hazard, the recovery can continue, and visitors will make their way here on our highways in greater numbers. We need more rural highway improvement, and we need it soon.

It is a clear picture. Why is it so many of the state's leaders don't seem to see it?

Karl Isberg

Dear Folks

A memorable departure

(This Dear Folks was first printed Nov. 29, 1990)

Pagosa Springs' welcome for the men and women of the 928th Medical Company ambulance group was special.

Some folks passed up going to church in order to greet the National Guard soldiers. Others missed a few hours of extra sleep. They made the right choice.

Pagosa Springs downtown business district has witnessed many Fourth of July parades. A variety of significant patriotic ceremonies have taken place on this portion of Main Street down through the years.

It is hard to imagine that any of these previous occasions exemplified as strong a commitment to patriotism, or displayed such genuine admiration and appreciation as was demonstrated last Sunday morning.

About two to three hundred people of all ages gathered along the curbs. Some respectfully held American flags. Others held infants or small children so they could watch an event that only additional years will allow them to truly understand.

Days earlier these men and women were "guardsmen." Sunday they were being pressed into regular duty.

This wasn't one of their customary Saturday-Sunday training exercises, they were mobilized and on their way to Fort Carson.

Saudi Arabia was the destination that filled everyone's considerations. But for a brief time Sunday morning these soldiers were the center of attention in downtown Pagosa Springs.

Traffic along U.S. 160 continued almost uninterrupted as the convoy of U.S. Army ambulances and accompanying military vehicles parked along the curb.

For Arthur Maez, Mel Montoya, Tony Read, Chris Ribera and Manual Trujillo, the stop in Pagosa Springs became a lifelong memory as they quickly found their family, relatives and hometown friends.

Children started asking for autographs. The women's auxiliaries busily offered cookies, cakes, coffee and other refreshments.

Some veterans wore American Legion or Veterans of Foreign War caps on their heads.

Other veterans wore stern looks of knowing concern on their faces. It was a genuine gesture when they extended a knowing handshake, gave a pat on the back or embraced their comrades with a hug. Having marched in these soldiers' boots, they wanted it known they cared.

Joe Dan Martinez, a platoon sergeant with the 928th until his retirement three months ago, moved from truck to truck to confer with the members of his former unit.

Most of the soldiers in Sunday's convoy were from the Cortez and Durango areas. Some of them had friends or relatives in Pagosa. All of them were welcomed without reservation.

Families and loved ones from Aztec, Farmington, Shiprock, Cortez, Ignacio and Durango followed the convoy to Pagosa Springs. The trip offered a few more minutes of personal contact with their departing soldiers.

When the second portion of the convoy reluctantly pulled away to continue its journey to Fort Carson, people remained on the sidewalks and continued to talk quietly. There was a hesitancy to leave and get on with the business of the day.

With no brass band, no speeches or proclamations, a block or two away, no one would have noticed the reception.

Folks didn't make a fanfare over patriotism Sunday morning - they simply demonstrated it.

For those who took part, it was an occasion that will be long remembered.

Know you are loved and please keep us in your prayers.

David C. Mitchell



90 years ago

Taken from Pagosa Springs New Era files of Nov. 15, 1912

The cattle shipping season is on in full blast, 101 carloads, or about 2,000 head, of grass fed stuff off the best range in the west leaving the local shipping pens the past few days. When the season is over about 5,000 head will have been shipped from Archuleta County.

Denver Latham has sold his ranch on Sheep Cabin, horses, farm machinery and remaining cattle, about 60 head of yearlings, to J.T. Morgan and Fred Catchpole.

There will be a meeting of the parents of band boys at the courtroom next Friday evening to discuss the welfare of the band and plan for its future. The band has not had the organization and discipline it should have for some time and as a consequence is headed for the scrap heap unless a re-organization is effected.

75 years ago

Taken from SUN files of Nov. 18, 1927

C.F. Devereaux, who had been harvesting his potato crop at his ranch on the Navajo, returned on Wednesday to Del Norte, where he is engaged in the garage business.

We learn that Archie Horn, who was recently arrested here and returned to Ardmore, Oklahoma, for trial on several charges, including auto theft, assault with intent to kill and jail breaking, has received a five-year sentence to the state reformatory.

There are said to be five cases of diptheria in the Trujillo neighborhood, and three deaths have occurred to date, the last one being last Friday.

Some of the eighth graders think it hard when they must have every paper in on time, or stay after school.

50 years ago

Taken from SUN files of Nov. 14, 1952

The first real touch of winter hit Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County Saturday evening when snow started falling. It continued most of the night and until late Sunday afternoon, leaving about .50 inch of moisture and about four inches of snow.

"The San Juan Lookout," magazine section of the Durango Herald-News, this week featured a story on Mrs. Lucy Turner's At Last Ranch, which is very interesting. It describes the ranch which is located on U.S. 160 at the western end of Wolf Creek Pass and goes on to tell about Mrs. Turners's many activities. The At Last Ranch has 1,200 acres in grass, range of 200 head of cattle. Mrs. Turner runs it herself with the aid of her foreman and family.

25 years ago

Taken from SUN files of Nov. 10, 1977

The proposed budget of School District 50 Jt. was adopted by the school board at a special meeting this week. The budget this year is the largest in the history of the district. The enrollment in the local schools is also the largest ever recorded for local schools.

It was a wet weekend in these parts with precipitation in town totaling 1.20 inches in a wet weekend storm. There were some big wet snowflakes in town at times during the storm the first of the week, but all melted as fast as they hit the ground.

The combined deer-elk season opened last Saturday. The deer season portion closed Wednesday. Hunters report good luck when the weather permitted hunting.