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The year was filled with surprising twists and turns and tragedy. Here’s a look back at the top stories of 2010.
Missing Brighton woman safe; suspect dead
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The year was filled with surprising twists and turns and tragedy. Here’s a look back at the top stories of 2010.
Missing Brighton woman safe; suspect dead
The search for a Brighton woman and her ex-fiancée ended New Year’s Day in Wyoming and in Fort Collins.
Julie Kilgore, 48, taken from her home Dec. 28, turned up safe in a Laramie, Wyo., hotel room. Later that afternoon, the man suspected of kidnapping her, 50-year-old Dennis Cox, died after he was shot near Fort Collins’ Old Town.
Published reports said Kilgore escaped from a hotel room and hid behind a desk. After a short visit to a hospital, Kilgore returned to Brighton over the holiday weekend.
Cox ditched his car in downtown Laramie and made his way to Fort Collins. According to Fort Collins Police Department spokesperson Rita Davis, three officers stopped Cox shortly before 4 p.m. in the 200 block of North College Avenue. Cox pointed a gun at police. Officers shot Cox, who died a few hours after the incident. Laramie County Coroner Patrick Allen, who identified Cox Saturday afternoon, said Cox died of multiple gunshot wounds.
The three officers, who were placed on paid administrative leave, were not hurt.
Media reports said Kilgore broke off her engagement with Cox Christmas weekend. Cox showed up at Kilgore’s home, hoping to reconcile the relationship. Kilgore, who was watching her 7-year-old niece, told the girl she’d be back in 15 minutes. When the girl’s father came to pick up his daughter and realized Kilgore was gone, family members called police.
Platteville officer shoots, kills man
Platteville police shot and killed a man after a short chase.
Weld County Undersheriff Margie Martinez said the victim’s name was Matthew Herrera, 30.
The incident happened just before dawn in the 700 block of Grand Avenue. Martinez said officers received a call about a suspicious vehicle. A short chase ended when the car left the city limits.
Twenty minutes later, officers saw the car returning to the registered owner’s home. A Platteville officer tried to stop the vehicle a second time. Martinez said Herrera didn’t pay attention to the officer’s commands and was “moving the car toward the officer.”
After the shooting, Herrera was airlifted to North Colorado Medical Center, where he died later in the day. Police and the Weld County Sheriff’s Office continued their investigation.
Officer Jim Torrez, formerly police chief of Frederick, was later cleared in the shooting.
Family ties severed: Enander murder trial begins in Adams County
Testimony began in the trial of Kara Lounsbury, accused of two counts of first-degree murder in the 2009 shooting deaths of her father and stepmother, Harold “Hap” and Velva “Sue” Enander.
A jury of nine women and five men, two of whom are alternates, was seated Feb. 2. Prosecutors presented their case all last week and were expected to continue this week.
Lynda Higgins, next-door neighbor and wife of the Enanders’ pastor was the first witness to take the stand for the prosecution. She recounted the Enanders’ uncharacteristic absence at church the evening of Jan. 14. She said she stopped by the Enander residence on the morning of Jan. 15, knocked on the door and waited briefly before entering the home. She found the home in disarray, accompanied only by the sound of what she described as a “radio that maybe had fallen and sounded like it was between two stations.” Drawers were pulled out and tossed aside, papers strewn haphazardly about, Sue Enander’s prized china scattered and shattered, lying in pieces on the floor. Asked by the prosecution if the scene resembled a robbery, Higgins said that she felt it was much more personal.
“It wasn’t like that. I felt hate, I felt anger,” Higgins said.
When Higgins reached a bedroom at the end of the house, she said she struggled to overcome a fear to enter. She said she didn’t want to walk in but felt she had to. Discovering Sue Enander’s body curled on the floor, Higgins called her name but received no response.
“I knew she was gone,” Higgins said.
Fort Lupton Internet luring case leads to charges
The Weld County District Attorney’s Office charged a 43-year-old Strasburg man with internet luring of a child and internet sexual exploitation of a child. Both are felonies.
Kelly Hyatt’s first court appearance is set for 8:30 a.m., March 1, for an advisement hearing.
Fort Lupton police arrested Hyatt in February. The district attorney’s office said Hyatt had been communicating with a 14-year-old girl when he arranged to meet her for sex.
When he arrived in Fort Lupton for the meeting, police arrested him. Detective Crystal Schwartz posed as the minor while communicating with the suspect.
As of late last week, Hyatt was in the Weld County Jail on a $50,000 bond.
Breaking the code: Disgruntled city code enforcement officers claim city acting unfairly
Cutbacks to the city’s code enforcement staff have brought allegations of administrative abuse, favoritism and retaliation to Fort Lupton’s city hall.
Fort Lupton’s two code enforcement officers found their hours reduced by half beginning Saturday and benefits eliminated under what city officials label budgetary cutbacks.
However, officers Joseph Brooks and Dana Maher claimed in a joint release to the media that they are being unfairly targeted after testifying against their direct supervisor, Fort Lupton Police Cmdr. Maria Moll. Moll alleged last year she was sexually harassed by Fort Lupton Police Chief Ron Grannis while on duty. In a statutory claim filed with the city and the EEOC, Moll alleged the harassment began shortly after her promotion to department commander in April 2008 and continued through January 2009. Grannis dismissed the charges and said a city investigation found Moll’s claim to be entirely without merit.
It was during the course of that investigation that Maher and Brooks said problems began to arise for them, according to the release. The pair were called on to testify against Moll to city officials, notably City Administrator Mike Konefal. The pair also signed a letter of no confidence in Moll.
Brooks and Maher said their outspoken criticism of Moll left them in a precarious position on duty and he situation reached a breaking point when requests to move them under a different supervisor were denied by Konefal.
Grannis said he was unaware of the content or the release said he “does not condone, or authorize” Brook’s and Maher’s allegations against the city, or any actions that they are taking to support their claim.
“I have no involvement or knowledge of that, and I would not if I did, because of my position with the city,” Grannis said.
Konefal confirmed that the officers hours and benefits had been cut back as of Feb. 27. He indicated that the reductions had occurred as a result of cost cutting by the city beginning in the summer 2009, along with freezes in hiring, pay raises and cost-of-living adjustments.
Aims explains decision to close automotive program in Fort Lupton
Aims Community College president Marsi Liddell and most of the community college’s board of trustees did their best to explain the decision to thrown the college’s local automotive technology center in reverse and close it in June.
If Aims representative expected a showdown over the closure from the city council, it didn’t happen.
They told city council members they didn’t back out because they aren’t committed to the Aims-Fort Lupton branch.
Liddell explained the college was watching expenses and couldn’t keep both automotive programs. Liddell said she anticipated that state funding to the college would be cut by $2 million next year, and as much as $6 million the following year. She stopped short of a guarantee the Fort Lupton campus would not be further downsized.
“I wish I could guarantee that we’ll keep open lots of things, but the reality is I don’t know,” Liddell said. “But it is truly our intent to make sure we do everything that we can to keep the Fort Lupton campus intact.”
Back in the saddle, home on the range
Getting back to business, not going out of business, is the plan for JB Saddlery, 435 N. Denver Ave. and that may best be accomplished by closing the doors their downtown doors.
Store proprietors Jerry and Barbara Kaufman are switching back to the roots of their business, moving the inventory of their custom leather and saddle shop back to their original location next to their home.
Jerry said the closure was all based on the economy.
“It’s (business) just gone really downhill in the past couple of years,” he said, speaking from the lobby of the Denver Avenue store four days before the location closed March 13. “2007 was really good year. Then in January of 2008 at the Western Stock Show, we noticed things were off.”
For the Kaufman’s, the downturn at the show was an ominous sign. A regular at both the Western Stock Show and Cheyenne Frontier Days for the better part of two decades, JB’s Saddlery depends heavily on the events for marketing as well as sales.
The downturn worsened that spring, Jerry said, when sales were noticeably off, reflecting the fall for the economy, and customers began exercising caution particularly in custom work.
The culmination for the Kaufman’s to close the retail location came and went with this year’s Western Stock Show, when the saddlery failed, for the first time in 20 years, to sell a single saddle, down from an average of six to seven in a normal year.
“We had decided to see how the beginning of the year went, then decide. That was the end for us,” Kaufman said. “There has been a gradual downturn, but this year was just dismal.”
Vehicle emission tests get go ahead
After a 10-hour public hearing the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission voted last week to expand emissions testing programs from seven Denver metro area counties into most populous areas of Weld and Larimer counties as of Nov. 1.
The seven counties are currently out of compliance with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s ozone standards.
The mandate came despite testimony that Weld County’s current readings are within the EPA’s ozone standards and because of testimony saying ozone originating in Weld affects the entire Denver Metro area.
Compliance is based on a three- year average and, in Weld’s case, from a tower in Greeley that county officials said recorded steadily dropping numbers over the past three years. The state based its average on 2006-2008 statistics, which were above allowable ozone standards. County officials contended 2007-2009 figures, which are below allowable averages, should be used instead.
“We believe we are doing our part,” Weld commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said.
Kirkmeyer and citizen activist Evelyn King both put much of the blame of high ozone readings on other sources. Kirkmeyer said 60 to 75 percent of the Front Range’s ozone comes from outside Colorado and King cited studies that show biogenic sources, such as trees and crops, contribute 59 percent of the compounds.
Representatives from Denver, the EPA, and the city of Fort Collins said the reason for including parts of Weld and Larimer county were their computer models showing emissions contributing to ozone that are produced in Weld County don’t necessarily stay in Weld, but are pushed up against the foothills by easterly winds.
“The highest ozone readings are along the western foothills,” said Garry Kauffman, mobile sources program director for the Colorado Air Pollution Control Division. “It doesn’t mean Weld County is not a significant source. We must be able to show compliance at each and every monitor each and every year.”
Jury reaches guilty verdict in Abundez trial
A Fort Lupton man will spend the rest of his days behind bars, the result of a love triangle turned deadly.
Following a seven-day trial and a short, four-hour deliberation, jurors found Norberto Abundez, 43, guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Jesus Abundez-Plige. Abundez-Plige, Abundez’ cousin and the man reportedly intimately involved with Abundez’ wife, Mary Jo Abundez. Weld County District Judge Tom Quammen subsequently sentenced Abundez to life without the possibility of parole, the only possible sentence under Colorado state law. The jury also found Abundez guilty of violating his bail bond conditions and violating a protective order regarding his cousin because of an earlier incident.
Bujanda pleads guilty to negligent homicide in DUI death
Following a plea deal struck with Weld prosecutors, a drunk driver, is facing four years in prison for the August traffic death of a Brighton woman. According to police, Angelica Bujanda, 36, was in the process of an illegal u-turn on U.S. 85 near mile marker 237 near Brighton in Weld County, when her Kia Sorento collided with a silver Honda Accord driven by Crystal Herman, 32.
Herman, whose car veered off the road down a steep embankment, was not wearing a seatbelt and was pronounced dead at the scene. Both of Bujanda’s passengers, 13- and 7-year-old girls, were injured in the crash.
Bujanda was originally charged with vehicular homicide/driving under the influence, which carries a four to 12 year sentence if convicted. She also faced a felony charge of aggravated driving with a revoked license as a habitual offender and misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and failing to signal. Due to the passengers, she was also charged with two counts of child abuse/criminal negligence resulting in injury.
Police nab suspected robber after Dale’s Pharmacy holdup
Quick-thinking police officers nabbed a suspect in the robbery of Dale’s Pharmacy last week and might have also collared the same suspect in a similar robbery the week before at a Brighton pharmacy.
As of early this week, Kyle Joseph Johns, 20, was being held in the Weld County Jail on suspicion of aggravated robbery and robbery of drugs after he was apprehended March 24. Brighton police also suspect Johns was involved in a March 19 robbery at Beattie’s Pharmacy on Bridge Street in Brighton.
According to Fort Lupton police, the suspect, wearing a black hoodie, black baseball cap and a white T-shirt, walked up to the pharmacy counter of Dale’s Pharmacy, 237 N. Denver Ave., shortly before noon March 24 and demanded all of the store’s drugs. He specifically demanded the narcotics Oxycontin and oxycodone. The person working the counter handed over an undetermined amount of vials, and the man fled the store.
Fort Lupton Code Enforcement Officer Dana Maher spotted the suspect as he left the store. She radioed in the suspect’s position and directed police to the area, including Officer David Hemphill. A foot chase started, and Officer Scott Wagner found the suspect running in the alley between Main Street and Denver Avenue and made the arrest.
“The Fort Lupton police officers’ quick response and coordinated effort enabled us to apprehend an alleged armed robbery suspect,” said Police Chief Ron Grannis said. “The officers did a great job.”
Police Chief positive on 2009 crime numbers
Overall crime percentages dropped in 2009 but police did see a spike in several areas including the number of reported theft and fraud cases.
Police saw 165 incidents of theft in 2009, up from 128 in 2008. Assaults spiked as well, showing a boost of 15 incidents for a total of 80 in 2009, up from 65 in 2008 and 50 in 2007. Robberies dropped from three incidents to one, returning to 2007 levels. Motor vehicle thefts dropped substantially, continuing a downward trend from 15 in 2007, 13 in 2008 and leveling at eight incidents in 2009. Forcible sexual assaults held at 10. Homicides remained at zero, where they have remained since 1989.
As Fort Lupton Police Chief Ron Grannis predicted at a December 2009 Fort Lupton Chamber of Commerce luncheon, fraud saw a hefty spike, more than doubling from 28 cases in 2008 to 67 in 2009.
On the code enforcement side of the house, summonses were down by half, totaling 155 versus 322 in 2008. Grannis attributes the drop to the no-tolerance policy instituted in 2008, when city code violators were aggressively targeted under a plan to reduce repeat violations and improve the city’s appearance.
“We are down in most categories and the ones that are up are insignificant except for crimes related to theft, shoplifting, and fraud,” Grannis said. “Fraud has been a thorn, it’s has been pretty bad. I’m sure it’s been due to the economy, and it’s also been due to the proliferation of the Internet. That’s how people are getting in contact with victims, how they are getting their Social Security numbers and things of that nature.”
NISP costs continue to rise
There is another anticipated bump in the cost of the controversial Northern Integrated Supply Project.
Latest figures for the regional water supply show a rise of 15 percent since 2006 due to inflation, bringing projected costs for the beleaguered Glade Reservoir to $490 million. The total is set to be spread across 11 cities and four water districts, including Fort Lupton and Frederick.
In addition to inflation, the revised estimate includes increases in capacity of pump stations and pipelines at Galeton Reservoir, which would be built near Greeley as part of the project. Glade Reservoir would hold water from the Cache la Poudre River, which opponents argue would irrevocably damage a critical Fort Collins watershed area and riparian environment.
If completed, the project could supply 40,000 acre-feet of water per year, enough for 80,000 to 120,000 households, according to estimates. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is working on a supplemental draft Environmental Impact Statement on the project. The additional study was deemed necessary after a draft EIS was released last year, raising additional questions about the feasibility of the project. A final decision on the future of NISP could come as early as 2012.
Prisoner break a bust
Last week’s inmate uprising at the barely five-month-old private Hudson Correctional Facility appears to be more of an opportunity created by either a glitch in the prison’s computer system or human error than an organized attempt to escape, according to a prison spokesman. Charles Seigel, a spokesman for prison owner Cornell Co., said a handful of the 877 adult male Alaskan prisoners incarcerated at the isolated medium security prison, west of the town of Hudson, were in the Security Housing Unit pod - a segregated area of inmates with discipline issues. The doors to 41 cells were unlocked at about 1:30 a.m. April 14.
“They may have heard the click of the doors opening,” Seigel said. “They came out and started causing trouble.”
Some number of inmates between eight and 12 – the exact number won’t be known until video tapes are reviewed – smashed machines, attempted to break windows and set off fire sprinklers which flooded the area and prompted a response by the Hudson Fire Department.
“Others either stayed in their cells or told us what was going on,” Seigel said.
Two prison guards barricaded themselves in a nearby office until the disturbance was quelled by a special tear gas wielding emergency response team of prison employees about six hours later. “Within two to three minutes, they had it in control,” Seigel said.
He added none of the prisoners escaped from their pod.
“As much as they wanted to get out, they couldn’t,” he said.
The time, it may be a changing
An 87-year-old tradition may become history Wednesday when the city council votes on Ordinance 2010-914, changing the day of the week they gather for meetings and workshops.
The council will vote on whether to move the regular meeting day from Wednesdays, where it has been since 1923, to Mondays.
Not every Monday, however. Whenever Mondays are legal holidays, or if it’s a furlough day, the council will meet Tuesday. If that interferes with Tuesday planning commission meetings, council meetings will be the next day unless the planning commission directs otherwise.
Waste not: Fort Lupton mayor sees no benefit from planned Metro Wastewater facility
Mayor Tommy Holton sees no benefit and the potential for negative consequences from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District’s newest wastewater facility on the southern edge of the community.
“I’m not pleased with the way they did it,” Holton said from his city hall office April 19. “My understanding is that they have seven condemnations going on right now. I do not like that. I mean, work with the landowners and make them a deal. I realize they don’t have unlimited funds, but get them all together and, if you are going to move people off their ground, pay them for it. I do not like the condemnation deal.”
Plans for the plant, targeted for the east side of U.S. Highway 85 north of Weld County Road 2, encompass some 90-plus acres alongside the South Platte River. In order to build the facility, several businesses and landowners will be displaced, as well as the Sylmar Manor mobile home park, currently home to several hundred residents.
An additional concern for the city, whose own wastewater treatment is downstream from the Metro site, is the quality of water subsequently flowing into Fort Lupton and the possibility of an increase in detectable contaminants.
“We are concerned about their effluent being dumped in above our plant and how that is going to affect tests just below ours,” Holton said, about the possibility of a jump in measurable effluent residuals further along the river. “We definitely don’t want that to happen, to start taking the blame.”
Holton believes, once again, a metro Denver entity appears to be shifting its less-than-desirable processes northward, just over the county line.
“It bothers me that metro Denver has come into Weld County with all of their mess instead of keeping it down in Adams County,” Holton said. “That is where it is all coming from, and it would be nice if they kept it down there.”
Veteran teacher, coach remembered as ‘genuine guy’
Dick Stalcup always shared positive words of encouragement with his students and fellow teachers.
In the longtime Fort Lupton football coach and teacher final moments, it was his family’s reassuring words that put him at peace.
“Our daughter talked to him and told him there was nothing to worry about,” wife Cindy Stalcup said. “I started talking to him and told him everything was going to be fine, that there were a lot of people who loved us and who were going to watch out for us. I told him everything was going to be OK.
“His heart rate was slowing down,” she continued. “He hadn’t opened his eyes. Then, they opened. I said, ‘I love you. You have been the love of my life. I’ll be OK. It’s OK for you to go.’ He took his last breath, and he was gone. But I could see a tear flowing down from his eye.
“The nurse and the chaplain told me that was something they had never seen,” Cindy Stalcup continued. “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. And because of that, I know I’ll be OK. Most people wouldn’t feel that way. But for us, it was so beautiful. For him to go that way, it was the most perfect way.
“The Lord gave him to us. We enjoyed him, and we gave him back.”
Stalcup died May 30 following a stroke. He would have been 63 years old June 12, the day of a planned celebration of life service at 10 a.m., at the Floyd Acre Gym at Fort Lupton High School.
Weld Re-8 moves forward on budget
Years of declining enrollment in the Weld Re- 8 School District produced financial challenges for staff and faculty.
It may have also prepared the district for the worst economic recession in more than 60 years.
Weld Re-8 Superintendent Mark Payler said the district’s budget for the 2010-2011 school year has moved from the concept of saving jobs and providing services to students to a reality.
“We’ve always been a district that has been in a decline in enrollment,” Payler said. “We’ve always had to look at opportunities. When someone retires or somebody leaves, we don’t automatically fill the position. We look at it and say, ‘do we have to fill it?’ And if we do, we absolutely fill it with the best person that’s out there. We don’t just take new, inexperienced people right out of school because they’re the cheapest. We want the best person for the position.”
The budget anticipates an increase to the predicted drop in enrollment from 40 students to 50 students, a move Payler said was necessary to avoid deficit spending.
“This budget reflects what we talked about in theory months ago,” Payler said. “It actually started off in a conversation in October when the administrators got together, and we talked about, ‘Okay, we know it’s not going to be good, there’s no indication we’re going to see an increase at all but we need to prepare.’ So we did what is called scenario-based planning, which is essentially where we ask, what if we have to reduce the budget by 5 percent, 8 percent, 10 percent, and then prepared for those scenarios.”
Payler said the district would see an increase in funding for the student base of .4 percent, but this would not significantly offset a 6.35 percent decrease in state funds.
The cut in funds, which is estimated at about $1 million, is the result of efforts to stabilize the Colorado state budget in the wake of the diminished tax revenue.
“Other districts might base their economic model on growth and anticipate an increase in enrollment,” Payler said. “The problem with that is that if you anticipate, say, 20 percent growth and you build a budget on that, and it comes out as a 10 percent growth, then you’re in trouble.”
Surge of roofers prompt Fort Lupton response
City staffers held an emergency meeting June 9 to address the issue of unlicensed roofing contractors soliciting work in the area following a severe hail storm May 26.
Fort Lupton City Administrator Mike Konefal said the strategy formed by the emergency meeting, which included members from the city planning office, city police, code enforcement and the city attorney’s office, would help to protect citizens and crack down on illegal contractors.
“Two weeks ago, on May 26th, there were two storms in the area,” Konefal said. “There were was an afternoon storm that mainly impacted the Commerce City, Brighton area. Later on, in the evening, there was a major hail storm in Fort Lupton.
Konefal said the hail storm resulted in quite a bit of roofing damage to numerous homes.
“If you drive around the city now, you can see hundreds of homes have had damage, either from the hail or from the high winds from that event,” he said. “Part of the reason you see a lot of damage is that a number of the homes had older roofs already, so they were close to the end of their lives as roofs so this was the final straw.”
Sylmar residents offered relocation package
Residents of a local trailer court targeted for a new regional wastewater treatment plant may get at least some measure of financial relief.
Sylmar Manor mobile home park tenants face an approximate one-year deadline to move or be moved, in order to make way for the 90-acre Northern Treatment plant slated for the northwest corner of the U.S. 85 and Weld County Road 2. During a June 2 meeting with the residents of Sylmar Manor, Metro District staff outlined the specifics of a district-provided relocation package.
“It’s never easy when people have to move as part of a public project that will benefit the broader community,” said Metro District Manager Catherine R. Gerali. “But, I believe Metro has put together a package of financial and other assistance that will make this transition as smooth as possible,”.
According to the district, the new facility has been in the works for more than four decades and is expected to open in 2015. A June 3 press release following the meeting stated that ‘The (Brighton) site was selected after a thorough evaluation of 11 potential locations. This site stood out as the best location for the NTP because, in addition to meeting all basic requirements, it avoids acquiring productive agricultural land, eliminates rather than adds wastewater pump stations, and has room to meet the clean water needs of the community now and in the future.’
During the first phase, the new facility will treat 24 million gallons per day and provide service to 300,000 residents in portions of the cities of Aurora, Brighton, Denver, South Adams County (Commerce City) and Thornton.
Bennet praises Salud on 40th birthday
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., praised the employees of the Salud Family Health Clinics during an employee picnic in Fort Lupton Friday afternoon.
The facility is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
“It’s a privilege to salute you and those who came before you,” Bennet said. “They never believed you’d be serving the number of people you’re serving.”
Bennet, who was appointed to replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy on the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, said Salud’s premise of service “is who we are as Americans.”
“My mother and grandparents survived the (second world) war in Poland,” Bennet said. “They came to this country by way of Sweden, Mexico and then New York. My mother was the only one who spoke English. They were able to re-establish themselves and build their small business. That’s who we are.”
Fort Lupton Chamber loses friend and partner with Johnke’s departure
That’s the reason the Fort Lupton Chamber of Commerce will soon be without chamber administrator Sheryl Johnke.
Johnke, who held the position for the past two years, is moving to the Tampa, Fla., in order to help her sister care for Johnke’s nephew, John ‘J.T.’ Doody. Doody, a veteran of the Marine Corps in Iraq, suffered wounds last year in the line of duty. A subsequent infection caused massive strokes and left him disabled and requiring 24-hour care. With his father often on the move for business, supporting the soldier can often be overwhelming and that is where Johnke feels she can do the most good.
“I visited (my sister) in February, my daughter and I, and it just broke my heart,” Johnke said. “It’s awesome that he is around and doing better, but she just needs so much help with him.”
Johnke, whose twin sons start their freshman year in the fall, says she is leaving based on the Tampa area school schedules to lessen the shock of the move. She will be making the move with kids in tow, with husband Jeff to follow when he retires from Qwest in January. It’s a move he looks forward to just to get out of the snow because his work is mostly outside. According to Johnke, roles will reverse in their household as he picks up Mr. Mom duties and she looks for work as a medical transcriptionist, her profession before taking on the chamber duties.
While she knows that the moisture in Florida will literally lead to ‘greener’ pastures for her family and days at the beach sound like heaven in Fort Lupton’s current heat wave, Johnke carries a heavy heart leaving the city, a place she planned to spend the families’ future.
“I love this job,” Johnke said. “I’m so sad to be leaving. And I love this town.”
Experimental aircraft crash kills Brighton man
It was a familiar sight for Wayne Henke as he looked skyward from the seat of his tractor at his Van Aire home June 23 to see the brightly colored, orange and yellow Windsport Edge experimental aircraft of his friend, Jonathon Wenzel, sail across the blue sky.
Henke waved at Wenzel and took note of the time, 10:30 a.m.
The significance of the moment wouldn’t register until hours later.
“I had no idea that would be the last time I would see him,” Henke said.
Sometime shortly after noon, Wenzel’s aircraft plummeted from the sky into an open field near Weld County Roads 20 and 31, northeast of Fort Lupton. The crash killed Wenzel, 86, a resident of rural Brighton. He was the only person on board the aircraft.
A medical helicopter found the crash site near a turkey farm. Fort Lupton firefighters and Platte Valley Ambulance paramedics also responded to the scene.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation by the FAA early this week. Weld County Undersheriff Margie Martinez said witnesses told deputies the pilot was doing aerial maneuvers when the wings collapsed. The plane went spiraling to the ground.
“It was turning on the side with one wing down, one wing up,” Martinez said.
Another person at the scene suggested the plane might have clipped a power line prior to the crash.
Ron Grannis was abruptly relieved of his duties as the town’s police chief Friday.
Word of Grannis’ dismissal came via a city press release the same day that indicated that law enforcement veteran Leo Carillo Jr. was the city’s interim police chief effective immediately.
Grannis confirmed Friday afternoon he’d been “let go” but said he would not comment further as he awaited advice from his attorney.
The city press release indicated Carillo Jr. has more than 35 years of law enforcement experience. His resume includes a 13-year stint as police chief for the city of Lafayette from 1987 to 2001 and 18 years in the Boulder Police Department from 1969 to 1987.
“The city is committed to ensuring the safety of its residents and the security of local businesses,” the city release stated. “There are no major crime issues in the city.”
The release said Carillo Jr. would be expected to help guide the department through city-wide budget cuts.
“Chief Carillo will assist the city in making decisions with respect to future budget cuts while maintaining acceptable levels of service,” it said.
Vestas nacelles plant opens on schedule, hiring resumes
Business remains solidly on track for Vestas Wind Systems.
The company announced July 13 the opening of its Brighton Nacelles Plant and the hiring of hundreds of new jobs. Vestas, which currently employs more than 1,000 people across Colorado, said it would hire an additional 850 persons, mostly production staff, with 750 of those hires at the Brighton blade facility and another 100 at the Windsor blade plant.
Speaking before a throng of reporters, nacelles factory manager Torben Poulsen said that, in addition to those currently on staff, the company “continues to seek qualified people to fill a number of job openings for a variety of positions in our factories.” Part of the renewed vigor springs from a 250-megawatt order placed by Enbridge/Renewable Energy Systems Americas that will require some 139 Vestas turbines to be installed in the Cedar Point Wind project across Lincoln, Elbert and Arapahoe counties. All of those turbines are slated for construction in the existing Colorado plant, the largest of its kind in the corporation, possessed with the latest technology, according to Poulsen. The renewed interest in wind energy orders is a boon to a company Poulsen said remains committed to the Colorado economy and alternative energy.
“Vestas never backed down from our stated commitment to bring our three factories online in Colorado in 2010,” Poulsen said. “Instead, Vestas invested significantly in our factories, and we have been hiring.”
Planned Dry Creek Subdivision meets local resistance
Southern Weld County simply doesn’t need another subdivision.
That was the crux of the message July 26, when a group of about 50 landowners and local residents gathered in the Wattenberg meeting hall for an informational session on the Dry Creek rural urbanization area, a large-scale development planned for southern Weld County. (See map)
A key speaker at the meeting was Weld County Commissioner Barb Kirkmeyer, a landowner within the service area the district would occupy if formed, and the sole commissioner currently on record as opposed to the development.
Kirkmeyer also mentioned several family members potentially impacted by the project, including her daughter and brothers. Speaking in an informational capacity, Kirkmeyer explained the ins and outs of the RUA process to the attendees, noting that the county’s comprehensive plan must be amended to allow for the area, a matter that came before the board for first reading July 12. During that session, the board moved to allow the RUA to proceed to a second reading, voting 4-1 for the measure, with Kirkmeyer dissenting. The second reading is slated after press time Aug. 4, again in the Weld council chamber in Greeley. The third and final reading is Aug. 23. According to Kirkmeyer, should the comprehensive plan be amended the next step in the process would be a determination of land uses within the RUA boundaries.
“In their application to amend the comprehensive plan, they have to meet certain requirements,” Kirkmeyer explained. “They have to demonstrate that there is a need for this change to our comprehensive plan, they have to talk about the number of jobs that will be created, what the land uses are around it … essentially, why we need it and why it should be in this area.”
‘Hometown heroes’ the theme of Trapper Days
A salute to Fort Lupton’s hometown heroes is the theme of this year’s Trapper Days celebration. It’s a four-day event that begins Sept. 9 at Coyote Creek Golf Course and ends with the annual duck race at Weld County Roads 6 and 19.
Dry Creek RUA amendment passes second reading, final decision August 23
Plans for a controversial subdivision west of the city took another step forward Aug. 4 when Weld County commissioners voted 3-1 in favor of the project during a second reading of an ordinance to amend the county’s comprehensive plan.
With Commissioner David Long in absentia due to family issues, Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer found herself once again the lone holdout against the amendment reaching a third reading, now on the agenda for Aug. 23. The vote is the second step in the approval process of a regional urbanization area for the largely residential Dry Creek mega-development, planned for the southern end of the county. Located equidistantly between Brighton, Fort Lupton and Dacono and roughly a mile from the community of Wattenberg, the 2,000-acre Dry Creek development has the potential for 6,600 homes housing up to 20,000 residents. It would be on a population par with the city of Windsor. The Todd Creek Metropolitan District, developers of Todd Creek North, is promoting the project.
Asian Tiger Mosquito makes return appearance in Fort Lupton
It’s a most unwelcome returning visitor to Weld County in general and Fort Lupton in particular.
Weld County health officials are keeping an eye out for the Asian tiger mosquito, a mosquito that carries diseases not familiar to the United States.
It’s been spotted in the northern areas of Fort Lupton near the South Platte River and west of U.S. Highway 85. Some employees in the Weld County Health Department say the mosquito has bitten them when they were not near Fort Lupton.
“We’re pretty sure it hasn’t established here, but we’d like to prevent that,” said Sara Evans, environmental health manager for the Weld County Health Department. “We don’t want a lot of people to be concerned or to be running around looking for the mosquito. It’s limited to this one area, which is not near homes.”
Investigation into toddler’s death continues
The Weld County Sheriff’s Office continued to investigate the death of a 13-month-old boy early this week.
Joseph Johnson was found face-down in a bathtub Sept. 20. He died later at Children’s Hospital.
Fort Lupton police and rescue crews were two doors away at an unrelated call. But despite their efforts and an airborne medical flight to the hospital, Johnson died at 4:30 p.m.
Suspended Fort Lupton teacher may face additional child sex charges
Ray Brown, a veteran Fort Lupton High School teacher and former track coach, remains on administrative leave facing sexual assault charges in Adams County, and additional charges are now expected in Weld County.
In August, the Adams County District Attorney’s office charged Brown, 56, with sexual assault on a child between the ages of 15 and 18 by a person in a position of trust.
‘We need our Fort Lupton Police Department’
Tempers didn’t flare and voices were only raised to be heard over the din of two large fans inside the middle school cafeteria but residents were loud and clear during a community meeting.
They want their police department left just the way it is.
Mayor Tommy Holton prefaced about 90 minutes of open public comment with a reiteration that no decision had been made on a proposal to shift police services to Weld County. He added that no decision would be made anytime soon and the meeting would be the first in a series of opportunities to share public input.
“At this point it’s just a conceptual idea,” Holton said. “That’s why we’re going to the public right now to get input from you guys if this is really a direction we want to go or if we want to go another direction. All of your help is going to help us put this either to rest or help us put it together.”
If the public forum - moved to Fort Lupton Middle School because of the crowd of about 200 people - is any indication, residents favor the former, not the latter. About 50 people, one-by-one, strode to the microphone to voice their opposition. They cited a number of concerns including public safety, the ability to showcase their community as one amenable to growth and the potential for decreased service levels.
Fort Lupton woman, son die in collision
Sometimes a community’s heartbeat can be best measured in the face of tragedy.
Fort Lupton’s heart was broken but still beating strong as the community mourned the death of a mother and son.
Christine Prieto, 40, died when her Ford Taurus collided with a pick-up truck near Weld County Road 6 and Colorado Boulevard in Dacono. Salvador Prieto, 9, later died of his injuries at Children’s Hospital in Aurora.
Among the ways the community honored Christine and Little Sal was with a memorial balloon release. Little Sal was a fourth-grade student at Butler Elementary.
“The last time I saw Little Sal, he walked into Butler last Thursday morning with his friends and he stopped, turned around and he waved good morning to me,” said Butler Elementary lead secretary Angela Cardenas. “Little Sal holds a special place in the heart of every person here today and we will miss him greatly.”
City administrator ousted just shy of contract end
Mike Konefal’s nearly three-year tenure as city administrator came to a surprising, abrupt end during a special city council meeting Oct. 27.
The Fort Lupton City Council voted unanimously to terminate Konefal without cause, effective immediately, following an executive session. The decision to end Konefal’s service came just three months shy of the end of his three-year contract. Konefal began his work for the city in January 2008.
The decision sat poorly with a handful of Konefal supporters. They turned out in defense of the beleaguered manager after they heard rumors that he would be fired. Some called the termination personal and others said it was a political move. Each person who spoke on Konefal’s behalf cited his professional integrity as unimpeachable.
Konefal cleared out his office after the meeting and left City Hall about 30 minutes later with his personal effects. He declined comment. City finance director Claud Hanes has been named interim city administrator. He held the same position prior to Konefal’s hire in late 2007.
Speaking from his office Friday afternoon, Mayor Holton reiterated that he feels the city needs to move in a different direction, one that he said focuses more on new business acquisition and economic development. He stopped short of saying Konefal didn’t meet his expectations. Holton said the city “just needed a new skill set.”
He added the city would wait until after the holidays to seek a permanent replacement for Konefal. When the search begins, Holton says they will be looking more local this time around.
Police to remain in city employ
City councilors – citing significant citizen opposition, announced Oct. 27, they dropped all consideration of moving the city’s police services to the Weld County Sheriff’s Department.
During the Town Hall portion of a special council session, Mayor Tommy Holton passed out a prepared statement. He noted the large turnout at an Oct. 7 public meeting covering the issue and the opposition to moving the department.
“At the Federal level of government over the past years where the citizens input is not valued and not considered, we as a council after considering the public input can not in good conscience replace our police department with the sheriff’s office,” the statement read. “I, as Mayor, represent the entire city and whether or not I may have a differing opinion, I need to represent the needs and values of the residents that have put their trust in me. There will have to be changes made within the Police Department to get the budget in line with the goals of the city, but at all times during the budget process, Council considers the health, safety and welfare of the residents while making these tough choices.
Holton declining to note what those changes might entail and said no cuts are currently planned. He expects that may change during the council’s budget retreat, slated from 8 a.m. to noon, Nov. 6 at City Hall. The retreat follows statewide elections, specifically the outcome of ballot measures 60, 61 and 101, which may directly impact city funding.
Open for business: City hopes added pipelines spur industrial growth
Fort Lupton is adding some sorely needed infrastructure south of town, and the price tag for the upgrade is the best part:
City council members unanimously approved an agreement Nov. 22 to provide water and sewer line extensions south of the city to a point located at the approximate intersection of Weld County Roads 27 and 8, Details within the approved action memorandum from the meeting name a “provider’ as wiling to finance the lines, under the umbrella of a reimbursement agreement that repays their financing through future tap fees along the line, plus annual interest at prime plus one percent, until the initial amount is repaid.
Public records show Halliburton as the financier of the upgrade, though company officials aren’t seeking recognition.
“It’s public knowledge that it’s Halliburton, but they want no fanfare, no groundbreaking, no big headline in the paper,” Holton said. “You would think they would want some good press, because they are helping out Fort Lupton, and making it more viable for everybody along that whole corridor.”
Just in time financing
Fort Lupton’s Bach Composite is first in line for a new loan program created by the state to sustain and create jobs in the clean energy sector. Earlier this month, Gov. Bill Ritter announced $3.26 million in loans to the Vestas supplier, who creates fiberglass components for wind turbines.
The funding is intended to bolster the company’s operations until the employee count at the factory numbers 150. The loan comes at the right time for Bach, who paid cash for facilities and remodeling at the site, in an effort to speed production up for an April 2010 timetable. Shortly after, the company hit a credit wall, in part due to being tagged as a foreign startup. That’s when the state stepped in, and may well have been the difference between continuing to grow the business or shutting the doors at Bach, due to unwillingness on the part of bank funding for the company.
“This loan is critical to helping us maintain our cash flow, keep our employees on the payroll and to expand,” said Sabrina McLaughlin, Financial Controller at Bach. “I want to thank Gov. Ritter, his Energy Office, CHFA and the U.S. Department of Energy for stepping up to help us when we really needed assistance.”
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