2016 year in review | SteamboatToday.com

2016 year in review

A large fissure could be seen cutting across the face of Howelsen Hill in spring 2016. For the second year in a row, the slide threatens lights, lift towers and the Alpine slide.
John F. Russell

Scott Franz’s top stories from 2016

City Council plagued by controversies

The Steamboat Springs City Council hired a new city manager, advanced police station plans and spent many hours discussing the future of Howelsen Hill this year. But it was the council’s decision to call “dibs” on free Strings concert tickets and summer concert VIP lanyards that appeared to draw the strongest reaction from the community. Councilman Scott Ford even labeled the decision as “boneheaded.” After being strongly criticized for the decision, the council did one of its two revotes of the year and voted instead to adopt a new council policy that the city not accept free tickets to events it sponsors with taxpayer money.

The initial story about the council’s dibs decision was Steamboat Today’s sixth most-read story of the year and the top-read story about city government. It was also only one of several stories about ethical controversies on the council.

The council also found itself in hot water concerning potential conflicts of interest that weren’t disclosed and two ethics complaints against Council President Walter Magill.

Steamboat hires new city manager

The Steamboat Springs City Council is hoping Gary Suiter can buck a trend of constant turnover in the city manager’s office. Suiter came to Steamboat after former city manager Deb Hinsvark and the city’s top two police officials had departed in the wake of an internal investigation that concluded a hostile work environment had existed at the police department for years.

Council members who were supportive of hiring Suiter for the permanent manager job praised him for making the decision to hire new Police Chief Cory Christensen. The council also noted Suiter’s wide range of experience, his understanding of the financial challenges facing the city and his tendency to be frank.

Suiter is a management consultant who has spent numerous years managing cities in Colorado. He previously served as the town manager in Snowmass Village, the city manager in Evans and the county administrator in Alamosa County.

Council votes to release summary

Following a public outcry, a new Steamboat Springs City Council reversed its previous decision not to release a more detailed summary of the internal police investigation that rocked the community in 2015.

The investigator who looked into serious accusations against the leaders of the Steamboat Springs Police Department found evidence the city’s former top cops presided over a hostile work environment, in which several employees felt bullied and gender-based harassment had likely been occurring for more than a decade.

The new summary faulted the police department’s former leaders on several fronts and claimed many city policies were violated on their watch. Sexist terminology was used and tolerated by leadership, and several employees believed there was a sense of “bullying” from some supervisors within the department, the investigator found.

Council members who advocated for the release of the summary said it would help guide future policy changes at the police department.

Historic Howelsen Hill plan in works

Howelsen Hill continued sliding in 2016, and the city is working on a long-term plan for how to preserve the historic ski hill and city park. Council members also indicated they want some changes to the joint-use agreement with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club that would limit the city’s financial liability and risk on the hill. But before moving forward with any big changes, the city has invested in a comprehensive soil study that should give the community a better idea of the risk for future landslides and what it might cost to shore up the hill.

New group studies all things dogs

Steamboat Digs Dogs showed that, if members of the public band together and engage, they can enact change. The group formed after numerous residents complained about increased enforcement of local leash laws.

By the end of the year, the group helped the city rewrite its animal code to make Steamboat more canine friendly. The group is also working to secure more off-leash areas for dogs in the new year.

Community members will be able to weigh in on proposed changes at upcoming public meetings.

Downtown work shapes Yampa street

Workman Park was completed, and a new streetscape began to take shape on Yampa Street in 2016. The city will start phase 2 of the project in the spring.

The downtown improvement project is the culmination of years of planning and visions that predate the end of the Ronald Reagan administration. Improvements include new sidewalks, new lighting, raised intersections for traffic calming, a promenade on Yampa and the new riverfront park.

Downtown also saw the return of holiday lights on Lincoln Avenue, thanks to a $35,000 investment from the City Council.

Challenges emerge in Steamboat housing

A tight rental market has forced many community members into uncomfortable living situations. In Dream Island, some residents share small spaces with roommates who sleep on a mattress in the laundry room. And some other community members have left because of the housing challenges. Elected officials will discuss possible proposals to help address housing shortages in several market sectors in January.

Developer aims to build housing West of town

A real estate development firm that has successfully built neighborhoods for locals in Summit County is working to bring a series of new neighborhoods to west Steamboat. Brynn Grey’s conceptual plans include space for a new grocery store and elementary school on a part of the former Steamboat 700 property. The developers will spend the coming months determining whether their plans can become a reality.

In January, the group will discuss how it plans to tackle the water needs for the new neighborhoods.

Council votes against pursuing sin tax

The City Council came within one vote of sending a tax proposal to voters that, if passed, would have placed new taxes on the sales of alcohol, marijuana and smokeless tobacco in the city. Revenue from the tax would have been dedicated to substance abuse prevention and treatment.

The council felt the tax proposal ultimately wasn’t ready for prime time. They also questioned whether the city government should champion the initiative.

A task force that has been working to fight a local opioid epidemic has resolved to try and revive talks about the tax measure in spring 2017.

City transparency issues raised by community

The current city council, which campaigned heavily on building public trust in the wake of the internal police investigation that rocked the community, is on track to meet behind closed doors more than any other council in a decade.

Council President Walter Magill recently told Steamboat Today he thinks the high executive session tally will be eye-opening for the council and that the council has room to improve. He added he thinks the council specifically can do a better job of having more public discussions outside executive sessions and explaining more of what occurred behind closed doors.

The council has also conducted business in ways that concern transparency advocates. It was discovered several council members have regularly been using their personal email accounts to discuss public business. In one situation, several council members held what amounted to a private discussion via email about whether to continue a controversial ski pass perk that had created friction between city staff and council members.

The personal email issue led the council to direct city staff to look into possible changes in email policy. One option the city is looking into would mirror a policy in Fort Collins, where council member emails are regularly and proactively posted online for public review.

Sports Authority closes in Steamboat Springs

There’s a big void to fill at Wildhorse Marketplace after the departure of Sports Authority. The national sporting good chain went bankrupt and closed all its locations in 2016. While some Sports Authority locations have found new life under new ownership, Steamboat’s former location is in the process of becoming a mix of office space and retail. The plans call for offices to be located on the upper floor, with some form of retail on the bottom.

Steamboat Ski Area announces improvements

A new Elkhead Express lift is zipping skiers and riders up the hill faster than before this year, and more improvements are on the way at Steamboat Ski Area. Construction has begun on a new mountain coaster, and a new miniature golf course is in the works. The ski area hopes those improvements will boost summer visitation.

Steamboat-based outdoor retailers undergo change

After a long and tough search, two of Steamboat Springs’ fastest-growing outdoor gear companies found a new headquarters that will allow them to continue their growth in the Yampa Valley.

Big Agnes and Honey Stinger announced in September that their ownership recently closed on the $1.3 million purchase of a 20,500-square-foot building from Vectra Bank on Resort Drive. Some community members had worried the companies might outgrow Steamboat and move to places such as Utah, where access to an international airport is easier.

Local sock company SmartWool also saw some changes with the departure of Mark Satkiewicz, who was a strong advocate for having the company grow in the Yampa Valley. Satkiewicz stepped down to accept a job at TOM’s shoes after 10 years at SmartWool. The company also rolled out a new logo.

Sheraton adopts timeshare model

One of the biggest hotels in Steamboat is changing its business model. The Sheraton Steamboat Resort has gotten the approval to convert more than half its remaining hotel rooms into timeshares.

Some business leaders also believe the hotel is getting out of the conference business. General Manager Dan Pirrallo told Steamboat Today he can’t publicly discuss the plans for the resort yet, because the hotel owners still need to approve them.

Community members have debated what impact the changes at the Sheraton might have. Some worry a departure from the conference business will mean a loss in revenue. But others are hopeful that, by moving to timeshares, the rooms will be occupied more, and spending from timeshare owners could offset the loss in conference revenue.

Police department increases liquor license enforcement

Three downtown bars got into trouble with the city in 2016 for allegedly serving alcohol to patrons who shouldn’t have been served. The citations issued to the establishments marked an increased level of enforcement from the city’s police department.

The violations included alleged over-serving of intoxicated patrons, serving after 2 a.m. and allowing patrons to drink outside.

Police Chief Cory Christensen said when he arrived in Steamboat last year, some community members told him some city liquor license holders were “out of control.”

“I don’t believe that to be true, but we have increased our education with the license holders,” Christensen said. “We’re also holding them accountable when they mess up. We want to work with them.”

Pot sales tax shows huge industry growth

Through July, marijuana dispensaries in Steamboat Springs sold almost $900,000 more in product than they did during the first seven months of 2015. And by the end of the year, city officials are expecting more than $10 million worth of marijuana will have been sold in the city.

Pot sales increased in every month reported so far in 2016. City Finance Director Kim Weber told Steamboat Today in September that, though the new marijuana industry is in a phase of significant growth, she expects the sales growth will eventually slow down.

“At some point, I think it will balance out instead of growing and growing and start to grow at the same rate as our general sales tax,” she said. “What that point is, I think, is difficult to gauge since it’s such a new industry.”

Matt Stensland’s top stories from 2016

Man sentenced to 50 years for woman’s murder

Cole Pollard was only 22 years old when he was sentenced in May to 50 years in prison for the murder of Patricia Richmond.

Richmond was the fiance of Pollard’s cousin, Keith West. She was killed at the West’s home in North Routt County.

Court records show Pollard told deputies he “snapped,” choked Richmond to death and then raped her June 29, 2015. Pollard fled after the killing, and authorities found him hiding in the Flat Tops Wilderness.

“I can’t imagine what happened that day in your mind,” Judge Shelley Hill said to Pollard during his sentencing. “It was … a horrible thing that you did, and you’re paying for it.”

Lucas Johnson gets 34 years in prison

Another murderer was sentenced to 34 years in prison in 2016. In June, Lucas Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and attempted escape from the Routt County Jail in connection with the death of longtime Routt County resident Edward Zimmerman.

A medical examiner determined Zimmerman died of blood loss resulting from multiple sharp-force injuries to the neck. Zimmerman also suffered a single gunshot wound to the left side of the face, and there was evidence he was strangled. His nude body was found wrapped in multiple pieces of plastic and secured with black duct tape in a chicken coop outside Johnson’s home.

Johnson stole dozens of Zimmerman’s marijuana plants, and there was a dispute over money.

Thomas Lee Johnson found guilty again

For the third time, Thomas Lee Johnson was found guilty of murdering Lori Bases in May 2000. Two previous verdicts had been overturned because of faulty jury instructions and constitutional issues.

The most recent trial lasted three weeks. The prosecution argued that Johnson drove from the Front Range to Steamboat Springs in a rental car to kill Bases, because he thought she was interfering with his relationship with Kim Goodwin. A month before the homicide, prosecutors said, Johnson drove to Steamboat to slash Bases’ car tire.

Johnson claimed he acted in self-defense, but jurors found that difficult to believe after hearing testimony that Bases had been stabbed numerous times.

It took less than two hours for the Routt County jury to return a first-degree murder verdict.

Police officer’s son dies from gunshot wound

One of Steamboat’s biggest tragedies in 2016 was the death of 3-year-old Gavin Stiles, the son of Joni and Michael Stiles, a Steamboat Springs police officer.

On the morning of July 14, the Stiles family was at their home in the Stagecoach area when Gavin climbed up in a closet and got his dad’s bag containing his department-issued .45-caliber, semi-automatic Glock. Gavin shot himself, and he died at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Michael Stiles has been on unpaid leave since the incident. The District Attorney’s Office had a grand jury review the case in secret. The grand jury decided neither Joni nor Michael Stiles should be charged with a crime.

Man faces sex, drug, prostitution charges

The allegations against 60-year-old Steamboat Springs resident Miguel Diaz- Martinez are disturbing. Few details about the allegations have been released, but Diaz- Martinez has been charged with 21 felonies related to sexual assault and engaging in prostitution with children.

According to court records, one of the victims reported Diaz-Martinez offered her drugs for sex. District Attorney Brett Barkey has said they have information that shows Diaz-Martinez has been involved in exchanging sex for drugs with underage women.

With a bond set at $1 million, police were hopeful more victims would be compelled to come forward, and they did.

Annette Dopplick hired as police commander

A milestone was reached in June when the Steamboat Springs Police Department hired its first woman to supervise officers. Following a nationwide search, Annette Dopplick was hired as commander, a position that reports directly to the chief. Dopplick was formerly a sergeant at the Vail Police Department. Dopplick oversees records, evidence, investigations and animal control.

Standoff in Yampa ends peacefully

The morning of March 4 in the town of Yampa was tense, when the school was locked down as police guarded the school and tried to track down three juveniles who were suspected of stealing a car in Aurora.

Three suspicious teenagers had been spotted walking on Routt County Road 7 leading to the Flat Top Wilderness. Nearby, police found the stolen car wrecked and stuck in snow. They also found guns.

Police followed footprints in the snow on a driveway at a home that was supposed to be vacant. The teens were inside. A negotiator was able to convince the teens to come out, and they were arrested without incident.

Hayden hires town manager

After being without a town manager for 10 months, Hayden officials were able to hire Aurora resident Mathew Mendisco. For the past nine years, Mendisco has been working with CliftonLarsonAllen LLP in Greenwood Village as a consultant for local governments and private developers in Colorado.

Mendisco started his new job in December, and he has many challenges ahead of him.

Residents voted down tax proposals that would have shored up the town’s finances and made repairs to roads. If the town does not find additional revenue sources, it is expected to run out of money by the end of 2017.

There is at least one possible new revenue source.

Hayden voters approved allowing commercial marijuana cultivation, and the town would receive tax revenues from all the marijuana that is sold to marijuana stores. Three entities are in the process of opening operations.

Hayden eyes new schools

In November, voters in Hayden approved a modest tax increase that would allow the district to buy four new buses, but there might be a larger tax question before voters in November 2017. The district wants to build new facilities that would serve their needs for the next 50 years.

According to state assessments, existing facilities need $26 million worth of work, and it makes more sense to build new ones. Plans call for combining all the schools into a new facility at the existing Hayden Valley Elementary School campus.

The work would come with a hefty price tag, but a state grant could cover cover nearly half of the project cost. Hayden taxpayers would have to cover the remainder.

Tom Ross’ top stories from 2016

Conservancy observes 20 years at Ranch

The historic Carpenter Ranch east of Hayden has served as a model for the ability of a working cattle ranch to coexist with a rare plant community supporting 133 species of migratory birds.

Founded by the Dawsons, the ranch is named after the late Farrington Carpenter, who was the closest thing to a Renaissance man in the pioneer days of Routt and Moffat counties and experimented with raising bulls and different varieties of hay.

So, it was fitting in late spring, that the Nature Conservancy’s forest health program manager for Colorado, Paige Lewis, addressed a gathering of agriculturists and conservationists at the Carpenter Ranch east of Hayden as her international organization celebrated 20 years of stewardship of the ranch.

Liza Rossi, of Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said the bird habitat on the ranch is valued for the dynamic between the Yampa River and the tall narrow leaf cottonwood trees, along with lower-growing box elder and red-osier dogwood that provide ideal nesting opportunities.

Peabody Energy files for bankruptcy

Peabody Energy, the parent company of Routt County’s Twentymile Coal Company, filed for bankruptcy with the federal government in early spring as the company struggled to get out from under $6.2 million in debt.

The news followed Peabody’s inability to close on the anticipated sale of the local coal mine to Bowie Resource Partners for $358 million. Peabody officials said they had arranged for $800 million in debtor-in-possession financing to help their mining operations continue. However Steamboat Today would report in November that production at the mine had dropped to 1.95 million tons through September, with 286 miners on the job.

Declining global demand for coal was part of the issue, but the volume of coal produced compares to the mine’s peak of 9.4 million tons in 2005 and 7.75 million tons in 2012.

Construction of new apartments underway

Construction crews working for Overland Property Group, in collaboration with the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, broke ground in the spring on The Reserves at Steamboat, a two-building, 48-unit apartment building near the intersection of U.S. Highway 40 and Elk River Road. The new construction start put Steamboat and Routt County back in the business of creating workforce housing for people in lower income brackets for the first time in almost a decade.

Occupancy of the two- and three-bedroom apartments, which were nearing completion by year’s end, will be limited to tenants whose household incomes are below the median for the community.

Funding for the public/private project includes monies from the city and county, but the breakthrough came in the form of federal income tax credits awarded by the Colorado Housing Finance Authority. Those credits were sold to American Express for $13 million. That was enough to build the project and also erase about $2 million in Housing Authority debt, effectively restoring that local agency to relevancy.

Newspaper gets new ownership

The Simons family, of Lawrence, Kansas, owners of WorldWest Limited Liability Company, announced June 17 they had sold the Steamboat Pilot & Today and Craig Daily Press to Colorado Mountain News Media, a division of Swift Communications. The Simons family closed on the sale after 22 years of guiding the newspaper through a period of significant growth and change.

The Steamboat Pilot has roots dating back to 1885. Steamboat Today, the company’s free daily newspaper, began in 1989. The newspaper was owned and operated for three generations by the Leckenby family, pioneers in the Yampa Valley. Raljon Publishing, Inc. acquired the newspaper in 1989 and held it until 1994, when WorldWest bought the newspaper.

Swift Communications was established in 1975 and is based in Carson City, Nevada. The company owns more than two dozen regional and local publications. Colorado Mountain News Media is very familiar with Colorado mountain resort towns through its operation of the The Aspen Times, Summit Daily News and Vail Daily.

The sale of the local newspaper marked the end of an era; the newspaper no longer comes off the press in Steamboat but is printed in Gypsum, where the other mountain papers are printed.

Osprey chicks hatch along Core Trail

Birders took notice in early July when it became apparent that all three eggs in an osprey nest occupying a platform sandwiched between the Yampa River and the Yampa River Botanic Park had hatched, and Steamboat’s first-known generation of the fish-hunting raptors was almost ready to test its wings.

Part of a string of successful osprey nesting sites in the Yampa Valley, the platform in the Steamboat city limits had been vacant since being installed in 2013. The botanic park’s Bob Enever, who was instrumental in establishing the platform, wrote in early July, “I saw ‘dad’ bring a fish to the nest, strip pieces off it, which he left on the side of the nest.”

By early September, the hatchlings were learning to fish on their own and preparing to migrate south on their own as far as subtropical Mexico.

Board decides against pursuing tax renewal

The board of the Local Marketing District, which makes recommendations to Steamboat Springs City Council about the use of tax monies to secure commercial airline service here, made the decision to allow a .25 percent city sales tax dedicated to air service to sunset, which, in turn, was confirmed by the council.

The decision was based on the fact that the LMD’s reserve fund was on track to surpass $7 million, and the board did not want to take advantage of the public trust — the tax was originally approved by a 61 percent margin in 2011.

The change means the 2017 budget is the last time, for the foreseeable future, that funding for the airline program will rely in part on a .25 percent general city sales tax to help attract winter flights. The tax sunsets today, but monies collected in 2016 will continue to fund air service in the portion of ski season that ends in April.

Green Creek Ranch sells for $23 million

Emblematic of the changing stewardship of historic ranches in the Yampa Valley south of Steamboat Springs was the $23 million sale in October of 1,500 acres of the 2,000-acre Green Creek Ranch in Pleasant Valley. It had been owned by descendants of a pioneer family.

Much of the ranch off Routt County Road 18C, just upstream from Lake Catamount, is under a conservation easement managed by the Yampa Valley Land Trust. It was previously owned by the late Elaine and Bob Gay.

The new owner, Bruce Grewcock of Trout123 LLC, has since received county approval to manage the ranch for fishing and hunting, along with traditional agricultural operations. He plans to build new bridges over the Yampa River and a ranch manager’s home and convert the historic ranch house into a museum.

Peabody energy taxes, interest collected

Peabody Energy officials confirmed to the Routt County Board of Commissioners that, under the terms of a previously “confidential” agreement with Routt County Treasurer Brita Horn, the company has paid about $1.8 million in overdue 2015 property taxes, as well as a little more than $100,000 in interest on the taxes. In addition, they remitted $65,200 in legal fees Horn had incurred with the law firm Klenda, Gessler and Blue in pursuit of the taxes.

The commissioners and the treasurer had been at odds about Horn’s insistence that state law prevented her from collecting the second portion of the coal company’s 2015 taxes owed to 22 taxing entities both large and small in the county.

As a result of the treasurer’s stance,the South Routt School District borrowed $1 million from the state Board of Education to meet the district’s payroll. In addition, the South Routt Medical Center borrowed $55,000 from Routt County in order to keep its doors open.

Ultimately, Horn, who was a delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention, prevailed while sticking to her principles.

County construction industry rebounds

Routt County Chief Building Official Ben Grush confirmed in November that, through the end of September, this year’s construction industry is $20 million ahead of 2015, with total permit valuation of $96.5 million — the biggest number since 2009 — and surpassed the permit valuation for all of 2015 by $1.6 million.

The resurgence in the local construction industry was fueled, in part, by 13 $1 million-plus home starts as of the end of September.

In the midst of the welcome news, building contractors were bemoaning the dearth of experienced subcontractors in the local construction industry.

Housing group calls for 700 new homes

The final report of the Routt County Community Housing Steering Committee included the ambitious goal of creating 700 diverse new housing units, plus 250 additional beds for seasonal workers in the city and county, by 2020.

Committee Chairman Dan Pirrallo told Steamboat Strings City Council and the Routt County Board of Commissioners that failure to close the current gap in community housing supply would put the members of the middle class, who define Steamboat’s character, at risk.

The study analyzed the housing needs in four categories: rental housing for seasonal workers; working households earning 60 percent of the local median income; the entry level market, comprising people seeking homes that cost less than $310,000; and people in the move-up market who can spend up to $660,000 for a home.

Teresa Ristow’s top stories from 2016

CC4E moves ahead for area education

An 18-member community group, calling itself CC4E, formed in February in response to 2015’s failed $92 million bond measure to build a new high school.

The group held community forums and stakeholder meetings in the spring and summer to gather feedback about the future of the Steamboat Springs School District.

In October, the group presented a new district demographics study, and in November, CC4E gave the public a first look of five pathways for updating and expanding district facilities.

Kindergarten mill levy finds success

Following years of uncertainty about fluctuating tuition for full-day kindergarten in the Steamboat Springs School District, school board members in the summer voted 3-2 to propose to voters a modest mill levy to cover the cost of the program.

Voters in November narrowly approved the mill levy, which will pay for the district’s full-day kindergarten program and free up some funds for deferred maintenance.

The district stopped collecting tuition payments from families immediately following the vote and began to arrange refunds for parents of current kindergartners.

Steamboat school board struggles

Following a contentious election at the end of 2015, the Steamboat Springs Board of Education’s five members have struggled to work together as a team, which has led to heated discussions and multiple split votes.

The board was divided about whether to elect newcomer Margie Huron as board president, whether to approve employee compensation increases and whether to approve the annual budget as a whole. By November, tensions mounted during a videotaped regular board meeting, at which members Joey Andrew, Roger Good and Sam Rush unsuccessfully attempted to oust Huron as president.

In December, Huron voluntarily resigned as president, and the board elected Andrew president and Huron vice president.

School district goes to four-day calendar

The South Routt School District joined more than 70 other districts statewide with its decision to move each of its campuses to a four-day school week, beginning in late summer. District officials surveyed nearly 200 staff, community members and parents about switching the calendar, with 75 percent in favor of moving to a four-day week.

On many of the Fridays, teachers still come to school to engage in collaborative work, and students have taken advantage of new enrichment opportunities around town, including expanded programming from the town of Oak Creek.

Montessori charter school opens

Mountain Village Montessori Charter School opened in September after more than two years of planning and preparation by school founders.

About 140 preschool through fifth-grade students were enrolled during the first week of class. The school is operating in a large portion of the Heritage Park school building, the former location of Heritage Christian School.

In the fall, the charter school launched a $7 million fundraising campaign to build its own campus on a 25-acre parcel of land adjacent to Strawberry Park Elementary.

School closes, new smaller school opens

Heritage Christian School announced in February that, due to declining enrollment and financial constraints, the school would close at the end of the 2015-16 school year after 29 years in operation. The school celebrated its lone 2016 graduate during a ceremony in May.

A new, smaller Steamboat Christian School was opened in late summer by former Heritage Christian School staff with 22 students enrolled. The smaller program utilizes mixed-age classrooms and fewer staff membes than the previous Christian school and rents classroom space in the Heritage Park school building.

Community forms Rx Task Force

Local community members in March kicked off a four-part “Lunch & Learn” series to educate the community about rising opioid abuse, locally and nationwide. Founded by Steamboat Springs resident Mara Rhodes and Northwest Colorado Health’s Ken Davis, the Rx Task Force includes local healthcare professionals, parents and youth advocates interested in raising awareness about the opioid epidemic.

A second round of community presentations took place in May, and a documentary about opioid abuse was screened in July. As of November, Davis said he’d heard of 18 overdose deaths in Routt County in 2016.

YVMC builds cancer center, outpatient pavilion

Yampa Valley Medical Center kicked off a $14.3 million project in late 2015 and into 2016 that included the creation of an outpatient pavilion in the former Doak Walker Care Center and a new 14,000-square-foot building, with the Jan Bishop Memorial Cancer Care Center on its second floor.

The outpatient pavilion opened in November and brings together YampaCare for Women, the Gloria Gossard Breast Health Center and YampaCare Cardiology, as well as office space for visiting specialists.

Construction of the cancer care center, which brings all of YVMC’s cancer services under one roof, wrapped up in December and is scheduled to open to patients in late January.

South Routt protects medical center, more

The South Routt Medical Center lost its full-time dentist in March, and board members spent much of the summer wrestling with how to balance the budget of both its medical and dental programs.

In November, the South Routt Medical Center Health Service District asked the South Routt community to approve a property tax increase to generate an additional $185,000 annually for the center’s operation. Voters said “yes” to the proposition.

In addition to the successful financial news, the center started a new partnership with Northwest Colorado Health and welcomed a new dentist to its staff in late November.

STARS eyes new organizational hub

Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports received final approval in May to move forward with a $5 million, 15,000-square-foot lodge and office headquarters on the outside of Steamboat Springs’ southern border along U.S. Highway 40.

Along with providing ample accommodations for STARS’ clients and offices for a growing staff, organization officials said the STARS Ranch would have far-reaching impacts, including boosting local tourism and the economy.

As of December, the organization had raised $3 million toward the project and expected to decide in February how to begin phasing in construction while continuing to fundraise the remaining $2 million.

District borrows $1M from state Board of Education

The South Routt School District faced a sudden financial crisis this summer after Peabody Energy failed to make its property tax payment, something heavily relied on by the school district.

The State Board of Education in July authorized a $1 million loan from the Colorado Department of Education’s contingency fund to help the district make payroll.

The district finally received its share of the late payment in November and, that month, moved forward with repaying the state more than $500,000 of the loan.

The district is temporarily hanging onto the rest of the loan, which will be used if Peabody doesn’t pay its next tax bill in the spring.

Top entertainment stories of 2016

Hornsby free concert show at Howelsen canceled

Well, that’s just the way it is … when Bruce Hornsby catches a cold and loses his voice. An Aug. 7 Free Concert Series show featuring Hornsby and his new touring band, The Noisemakers, was cancelled at the last minute. The concert was the last show of the 2016 Free Summer Concert Series season and the first cancellation in the series’ 24-year history.

WinterWonderGrass Festival lands in Steamboat

It was announced during the fall that the WinterWonderGrass Music & Brew Festival will be held in Steamboat Springs in 2017. The fifth annual Colorado edition of the festival will take place Feb. 23 with a free concert featuring the WinterWonderGrass Allstars in Gondola Square.

Featuring 26 bands, the festival acts will include headliners Railroad Earth, Leftover Salmon, Elephant Revival and the Infamous Stringdusters and local bands, the Old Town Pickers and Missed the Boat.

The festival will also bring “pop-up” bluegrass jams to Steamboat at various locations on the mountain, accompanied by outdoor fire pits, barbecues and 22 craft brews. Bluegrass will be heard on and off the stage, with workshops and bluegrass picks throughout the base area.

The festival has traditionally sold out and is expected to draw about 4,000 people each day to the main festival venue at the Knoll parking lot.

Historic downtown theater receives prestigious award

The historic Chief Theater was selected as the 2016 Navigator Award’s Business of the Year. This is the first time a nonprofit business has been selected for the honor.

“There’s no other thing like it,” Friends of the Chief board member Alice Klauzer said. “It’s a multi-cultural center.”

Selling out shows, the theater has been packed for performances, with headlining acts ranging from the Wood Brothers, Uncle Lucius, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band founder John McEuen, Tony Furtado and Todd Park Mohr, of Big Head Todd and the Monsters.

The theater realized another milestone in 2016 when a view-obstructing post was removed from the main theater and turned into a bar top. It has taken the vision of community leaders and the drive of Executive Director Scott Parker to transform the theater into the cultural hub it is today.

Arts community seeks Creative District designation

The arts community has regained a renewed sense of identity this past year. Though Steamboat did not make the cut in becoming a certified Colorado Creative District, Kim Keith, executive director for the Steamboat Springs Arts Council, said the community made tremendous strides during its campaign to earn the designation.

Steamboat was named as one of eight finalists in the 2016 Colorado Creative District certification process but not ultimately selected.

“We know Steamboat Springs has what it takes,” Keith said. “This designation puts a spotlight on the economic impact of creative industries in rural Colorado, and we have every intention to enhance Steamboat Springs’ place on the cultural destination map. I am full of gratitude, excitement and have an undaunted vision for our creative future.”

Perry Mansfield embarks on new initiative

In May, the Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp received $10,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to embark on a new community initiative, which brings renowned national, state and local dance, theatre and musical theatre faculty to co-teach in Hayden and South Routt schools during the 2016-17 school year.

According to Perry-Mansfield Executive Director Nancy Engelken, the program integrates performing arts into the core curriculum subjects of English, science, social studies, math and physical education to increase student understanding of key concepts taught in the classroom.

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