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Routt County Coroner will become a full-time position with full-time pay

The elected office of Routt County Coroner is now considered a full-time job, bringing the pay for the position up to what the county commissioners, treasurer, assessor and clerk are already making.

Routt County Commissioners approved the change on Tuesday, Sept. 27, which will increase the salary for Coroner Mitch Locke from $66,680 a year to $109,374. The change will take effect next year at the beginning of the coroner’s new term. Locke is running unopposed in the Nov. 8 general election after being appointed to the role in June.

“I’m looking at this at being a full-time position,” Locke told commissioners Tuesday, adding that his duties take priority over running the Yampa Valley Funeral Home, which he owns. “In the two-and-a-half months that you guys have appointed me, we’ve had 13 deaths, and I’ve done them all but one.”

The conversation — one that commissioners and Locke agreed was awkward to have — stems from a law the Colorado legislature passed last year that elevates coroner to a full-time role in category II counties such as Routt unless commissioners voted to decline the change for cause.

Commissioners voted unanimously not to decline the change.

Locke said there are several changes he wants to make at the coroner’s office, mainly around documentation of cases. He also said he is on call pretty much all the time unless he plans to leave the county. Even an hour-long trip to Craig requires him to have a deputy coroner on call, Locke said.

Many other counties have a full-time person in a chief deputy coroner’s position, Locke said, but there isn’t a similar role in Routt County.

He explained that a straightforward death can take about eight hours to investigate, but others can take much longer. He estimated that on average, each death investigation requires about 30 hours of his time.

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“The coroner’s job is absolutely a full-time position, just as the clerk, treasurer and assessor are,” Locke wrote in a letter to commissioners. “We not only cover the daytime hours these offices cover, but we are more like the sheriff that covers every minute of every day.”

Commissioner Tim Corrigan said his main concern is that he has heard from commissioners in an “unnamed county” that their coroner never responds to deaths and passes off that work to deputy coroners who are paid hourly.

“We certainly don’t think you’re going to do that, but whenever we talk about employment decisions, it’s never about the individual — it’s about the position,” Corrigan said.

While Locke said he will continue to have deputy coroners work with him, he added that he intends to handle about 90% of death investigations.

Another concern from commissioners was Locke’s ownership of the Yampa Valley Funeral Home and whether he would devote the time of a full-time job to coroner. Locke responded that his wife has taken on a larger role in the business, and his duties as coroner will be the priority for him.

“If I’m doing my other job and I am on-call (as coroner), my other job takes the hit,” Locke said.

Commissioner Beth Melton said Locke’s answers convinced her the change would be appropriate. She said her problem with the legislation is that it puts the decision in commissioners’ hands, and it’s a decision they only have with the coroner and no other elected offices.

“I get it, full time for an elected official does not look the same as full time for a lot of our other employees — we have a lot of flexibility about what that means,” Melton said. “The question that was in my mind was how can you run the funeral home and do this full time. To me, I think you answered that question to my satisfaction.”

Grand County homicide case trial ends in hung jury

HOT SULPHUR SPRINGS — After nearly a week of court proceedings and more than 14 hours of jury deliberations, the case against a hunter accused of negligent homicide for fatally shooting another member of his hunting party in Grand County ended in a mistrial.

Harry Watkins, 52, was accused of shooting and killing 26-year-old Simon Howell of West Virginia on Nov. 9, 2020, while they were hunting outside Kremmling.

Prosecutors have indicated that charges were brought against Watkins because they believe he behaved recklessly leading up to Howell’s shooting death. Watkins pleaded not guilty in May 2021, setting up the trial.

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, 14th Judicial District Judge Mary Hoak read a note from the jury around 10:35 a.m. saying that jurors were unable to come to a unanimous decision.

Hoak asked the attorneys how they would like to proceed, and Chief Deputy District Attorney Kathryn Dowdell deferred to the court while defense attorney David Jones moved for a mistrial.

Hoak said the court would declare a mistrial and spoke about the case before bringing the jury back into the courtroom.

Addressing the courtroom, Hoak said jury service is hard work, especially in a unique case like this. She said the question in this case was different than one asking if a defendant stole a car because it was more subjective.

After bringing the jury back into the courtroom, Hoak thanked the jurors for their service and told them she sometimes struggles with decisions herself when there is no jury.

She told the jurors they could talk about the case if they want to, but if they speak with either counsel, they need to speak to both sides.

Hoak dismissed the jury for the last time, telling them they are welcome to call her if they want to discuss the case. A status conference is scheduled for Oct. 6 to discuss how to move forward.

Steamboat Food and Wine Festival brings top tastes to Steamboat this weekend

The Steamboat Food and Wine Festival arrives in Steamboat Springs this week with a full menu of great food prepared by top chefs and a wine list that is sure to please the most discriminating taste buds.

The festival has been coming to Steamboat Springs since 2019, was able to carry on through COVID-19, and the event’s founder, Nicole Jarman, is excited about what this year’s event will offer to those who participate.

“We have a handful of our chefs and winemakers coming in from Mexico, which is so fun and I’m really excited about,” Jarman said. “We have a chef coming in from Guadalajara, a chef from Mexico City, and then a couple coming in from the Baja and then a winemaker from Valle de Guadalupe region on Mexico’s Baja peninsula … I’ve been wanting to introduce people to wines from Mexico for a long time.”

The event will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 29, with Guided Fishing and Sipping on the Elk River and a welcome party where participants can mingle with chefs and wine producers.

The next four days will be filled with 26 world class chefs, butchers and a pastry chef. There will also be mixologists, winemakers, a sommelier and a pastry chef.

There will be 10 seminars put on by experts from around the country, featuring amazing dinners created by the chefs with great wine pairings. Those events will be set in places like Alpine Mountain Ranch, Marabou, Primrose, Truffle Pig, Yampa Valley Kitchen, Snow Bowl Steamboat, Laura the Butcher’s MEATBAR, Jace Romick Gallery, Standard Gallery and the Zandee Gallery.

“We really do try to showcase Steamboat and let people know that Steamboat is not just the mountain and that Steamboat is not just downtown,” Jarman said. “We have roughly 10 venues, so we try to move people around town. We like them to see the galleries, we like them to see the restaurants and obviously to see the ranches … and let them experience all that Steamboat has to offer.”

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It will feature wine from many of the most notable places in the world along with a few upcoming regions that the organizers believe will soon be household names.

“I am really getting excited about showcasing these wines from the Baja. It is a new region that we’re not talking about that much for wine,” Jarman said. “I’ve got a couple of winemakers coming in from Paso Robles, which is just another region, that is not as familiar as say Napa or Sonoma.”

She added that this is the Steamboat Food and Wine Festival’s biggest year yet, and for those that have not purchased tickets, time is running out. Many of the seminars and dinners have already sold out, but there is still some availability.

“This is certainly our biggest year yet,” Jarman said “A handful of the dinners, we have eight dinners through the weekend, are sold out or close to being sold out as are some seminars. The grand tasting and the brunch still have some tickets available, but again, this is the highest ticket sales we have ever had.”

Anonymous tip leads to arrest at Steamboat Springs High School

On Monday, Sept. 26, Steamboat Springs police received a “Safe 2 Tell” complaint via 911, and an arrest was made on Tuesday, Sept. 27, in the Steamboat Springs High School parking lot.

According to a police department news release, the caller described a male who posted a picture of himself carrying a weapon that resembled an AR style rifle, along with a message saying, “full on drive by (expletive) right here.”

“We take potential threats and threats of violence very seriously,” Police Chief Sherry Burlingame said in the release. “We immediately began investigating the incident and attempting to locate the suspect.”

Early Tuesday, police identified the suspect as 18-year-old Zachery Durham. After contacting staff at the high school, police found Durham and 19-year-old Damion Rhodes in the school parking lot, where Rhodes was allegedly seen loading a magazine into what appeared to be a rifle.

Officers approached Durham and Rhodes and reportedly found an Airsoft gun, as well as a machete and three ornamental blades, concealed in one of their vehicles. Police declined to specify who the car belonged to.

“We’re glad officers were able to intercede and that the concerned party shared the tip,” Burlingame said.

Durham and Rhodes were arrested on charges of interference with an educational institution and attempted felony menacing. Both were booked into jail.

Durham is not a student at Steamboat Springs High School, but Rhodes does currently attend SSHS, according to police.

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The school was placed in “secure perimeter” for approximately 18 minutes.

During a secure perimeter, all students and staff outside the building are brought indoors and all exterior doors are closed and locked while normal activity continues inside the building.

According to Laura Kubitz, the school’s director of communications, students and staff didn’t panic during those 18 minutes.

“As far as I could tell, the students were going on about their days, and they were sitting out in the common areas, you know, studying or socializing with one another,” Kubitz said. “I think the level was pretty calm at the school at that time.”

This was the second secure perimeter the high school has experienced in the past week, according to Kubitz. On Tuesday, Sept. 20, SSHS went into a secure perimeter for 10 minutes after a mountain lion was spotted near the campus. 

“It’s not as serious as a lockdown,” Kubitz said of the secure perimeter designation. “It is just a safety precaution.”

Safe 2 Tell is an anonymous way for students, parents and the community to report safety issues. Reports can be made over the phone at 1-877-542-7233 or online at Safe2Tell.org

PHOTOS: Sailors cross country runners dominate and Rams progress at Craig Invite

The Steamboat Springs cross country team put on a show in Craig during the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, with a first place showing from the girls and fourth place from the boys.

Three Steamboat girls found their way in the top-10 to cement an incredible 13 point victory over second place Uintah.

Senior captain Autumn Oslowski took first place for the ladies with her sister, freshman Ayla Oslowski slotting in at third. Sophomore Grace Olexa was not far behind in ninth place, putting the Sailors in the driver’s seat to win the event.

In the boys race, senior captain Trevor Harms crossed the finish in ninth place with senior Olin Webster in 11th. Overall, the boys scored 104 points, putting them in fourth place for the event. 

Steamboat has strung together some impressive races this season despite competing in a strong 4A region. The Sailors look to continue their improvements and push hard through October for the final four races before regionals. 

For Soroco, junior Alan Mayer placed 16th in the boys race, but his strong standing was not enough for the Rams to get out of 8th place at the invitational. Sophomore Isaac Perez was the only other Rams finisher inside the top 50, earning 38th place.

Only two Soroco girls competed in the event, making the team ineligible to score points. Senior Trinity Delto and junior Makayla Lacovetto placed 34th and 41st respectively.

Both the Sailors and Rams will compete at the Copper Mountain Cup on Saturday, Oct. 1, where they will have a chance to continue their successes this season. 

Steamboat Varsity Girls Finishers: 1. Autumn Oslowski, 19:53.60. 3. Ayla Oslowski, 21:20.20. 9. Grace Olexa, 22:38.60. 13. Meaghan Maitre, 23:02.20. 16. Novella Light, 23:41.70. 17. Lillian Hammer, 23:50.50.

Steamboat Varsity Boys Finishers: 9. Trevor Harms, 18:26.30. 11. Olin Webster, 18:33.60. 20. Michael Hagney, 19:23.60. 36. Asher Rowan, 20:50.30. 42. Aslan Armstrong, 21:34.80. 43. Thomas Reilley, 21:34.80.

Soroco Varsity Girls Finishers: 34. Trinity Delto, 25:24.40. 41. Makayla Lacovetto, 26:49.60.

Soroco Varsity Boys Finishers: 16. Alan Mayer, 18:59.80. 38. Isaac Perez, 20:59.60. 55. Cohen Williams, 22:35.70. 57. Wyatt Trout, 22:50.10. 74. Carmine Mallozzi, 28:25.70. 76. Jensen Oliveras, 34:59.20.

The Steamboat Springs and Soroco girls cross country teams take off at the start of the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig. Steamboat finished first as a team in the five-team field.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Springs senior Autumn Oslowski leads the way early in the girls race at the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig. Oslowski finished first overall with a time of 19 minutes, 53 seconds.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
A pack of Sailors runners including, from left, Avery Olson, Katie Castor, Lillian Hammer, Alex Hanna and Nikita Andre run in a tight pack during the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Craig.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Springs sophomore Makena James runs past Moffat County cheerleaders during the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Loudy-Simpson Park in Craig.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Soroco boys cross country team runs side by side at the start of the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Craig.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Soroco junior Cohen Williams runs ahead of Steamboat’s Erick Yeiser, center, and Aslan Armstrong early in the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Craig.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat freshman Nikita Andre runs up a hill during the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Craig. Andre finished the race 28th with a time of 24 minutes, 39 seconds.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
The Steamboat Springs boys cross country team huddles before the start of the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Craig. The Sailors finished fourth as a team.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat Springs senior Trevor Harms pushes toward the finish line at the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Craig. Harms turned in Steamboat’s top time in 18 minutes and 26 seconds and finished ninth overall.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today
Steamboat junior Michael Hagney nears the finish line during the Moffat County Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Craig. Hagney finished 20th with a time of 19 minutes, 23 seconds.
Eli Pace/Steamboat Pilot & Today

The Record for Sept. 19-25

Monday, Sept. 19

4:32 p.m. — The Steamboat Springs Police Department responded to a burglary in the 700 block of Pine Street. 

4:56 p.m. — Police responded to a report of trespassing in the 3200 block of South Lincoln Avenue. 

6:47 a.m. — The Routt County Sheriff’s Office was called to investigate a suspicious vehicle parked overnight at South Routt Elementary School. The vehicle was gone by the time deputies arrived. 

8:20 p.m. — Police investigated a possible drug violation in the 2800 block of Riverside Plaza. 

Tuesday, Sept. 20

10:36 a.m. — Police responded to a reported stolen vehicle at the 3200 block of South Lincoln Avenue. 

5:38 p.m. — The sheriff’s office responded to a reported trespassing on County Road 27 in Oak Creek. The suspect was issued a trespass notice and the reporting party did not want to press charges. 

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Wednesday, Sept. 21

2 a.m. — Police investigated a bear call at Dream Island Plaza. 

10:47 a.m. — A caller told police about an intoxicated pedestrian at Central Park Plaza. 

11:55 a.m. — Police responded to a report of shoplifting at a retail store in the 600 block of Lincoln Avenue.

2:23 p.m. — Th sheriff’s office responded to a report of lost property out of Yampa. The reporting party had lost their license plate on the drive from Salt Lake City to Yampa, having gotten to their home in Yampa and realized their license plate was gone.

7:47 p.m. — Police investigated a theft report in the 100 block of Lincoln Avenue. 

10:49 p.m. — Sheriff’s deputies investigated a suspicious vehicle parked overnight in a business parking lot along County Road 27. The man turned out to be an employee of the business and wasn’t given a citation. 

Thursday. Sept. 22

11:38 a.m. — Police investigated a report of fraud in the 1100 block of Lincoln Avenue.

2:01 p.m. — A bicycle was stolen at Strawberry Park Elementary School. The sheriff’s office was notified and opened an investigation. 

2:27 p.m. — Police assisted a motorist near the intersection of Mount Werner Road and South Lincoln Avenue.

Friday, Sept. 23

4:49 p.m. — Police responded to an animal complaint in the 600 block of Evans Street.

5:34 p.m. — The sheriff’s office responded to a motorcycle crash near Slater Park. The rider was flown via helicopter to Loveland for treatment.

Saturday, Sept. 24

11:32 a.m. — The sheriff’s office assisted with a missing person’s case involving an overdue hunter. The hunter was located at the Dry Lake Campground. 

12:57 p.m. — Police responded to a report of assault at a business in the 700 block of Lincoln Avenue.

3 p.m. — The sheriff’s office assisted the Hayden Police Department with a reported theft at the Kum and Go in Hayden.

6:48 p.m. — An intoxicated pedestrian was reported near the 1800 block of Ski Time Square Drive.  

10:28 p.m. — A caller reported smoke near mile marker 146 on U.S. Highway 40. However, deputies only found legal campfires that were being properly maintained. 

10:31 p.m. — The sheriff’s office responded to a disturbance on Forest Service Road 302. The reporting party claimed some people drove into their campsite, accused them of stealing some items and drove off.

Sunday, Sept. 25

12 a.m. — Police responded after a bear was spotted near a business in the 800 block of Oak Street. 

11:14 a.m. — Police responded to a report of trespassing on Walton Pond Circle. 

3:23 p.m. — The sheriff’s office responded to a missing person reported at the Stagecoach Lake boat ramp. The missing person was later contacted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers.

3:36 p.m. — A woman came home to find an unknown intoxicated man in her home on Stagecoach Trail. The woman gave the man a ride to his house nearby.

8:37 p.m. — Police investigated a reported trespassing in the Ore House Plaza.

From Sept. 19-25, first responders in Routt County received a total of 361 calls including:

• The Steamboat Springs Police Department responded to 175 calls.

• The Routt County Sheriff’s Office responded to 113 calls.

• Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue responded to 62 calls.

• West Routt Fire Protection responded to five calls.

• North Routt Fire Protection responded to one call.

• Oak Creek Fire Protection responded to three calls.

• Yampa Fire Protection responded to zero calls.

• Routt County Search and Rescue responded to two calls.

Information for The Record was gathered from local law enforcement. The Record offers a glimpse of police activity and is not a comprehensive report of all police calls. Calls such as domestic violence, sexual assaults and juvenile situations typically do not appear in The Record.

Expanded protections for Colorado mobile-home owners start Oct. 1

A new law providing expanded protections for mobile-home owners — but not the key rent stabilization provision that supporters and some legislators had sought — goes into effect Oct. 1.

HB22-1287, officially dubbed “Protections for Mobile Home Park Residents,” passed the legislature in early May and was signed by Gov. Jared Polis two weeks later. Championed by Fort Collins Democrat Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, the bill came as mobile home residents warned of escalating rents, the increasing presence of private equity and poor state oversight. As out-of-state owners took control of more parks, rents increased and the parks became less affordable for their residents, who own the homes in which they lived but not the property beneath them.

The law builds on previous mobile home legislation and gives tenants 120 days — up from 90 — to buy the parks from landlords looking to sell the land, as well as a right of first refusal. If landlords don’t maintain their park, they will also be responsible for resulting damage caused to homes, and they’re required to meet with tenants twice per year at residents’ request. If the landlords change the use of the park — if they develop it into apartments, for instance — then they must compensate their residents.

The law will also give the attorney general the ability to enforce protections, and regulators can take immediate action if there’s an imminent threat to residents. A state report released in January found that 75% of mobile home residents’ complaints were unresolved and that most residents weren’t even aware of a oversight program that had been established a year earlier to protect them.

Relaunched Routt County conservation district looking for sustainable funding

When the Routt County Conservation District Board worked to reconstitute in 2019, the budget was just a few thousand dollars, President Lyn Halliday said.

In order to change the district’s bylaws, Halliday explained that the group needed to get funding from the state to send out a mailer to inform local residents of changes considered. The dwindled three-person board didn’t even have enough members to hold an official vote.

“From that time until now, we’ve been able to bring in some outside funding,” Halliday said. “Some bits and pieces as we build and grow.”

Members of the district’s board met with Routt County Commissioners on Monday, Sept. 26, to see what support, if any, the county might be able to provide. Without sustainable funding, board member Cam Kuelthau said the funding opportunities tend to lead the way when it comes to the work the district does.

“It’s almost like grants determine where your programs go instead of you determining where they go,” Kuelthau said. “The search for sustainable funding is the single thing that we could do that would have the most impact on our ability to serve long term.”

The district had essentially disappeared before a new board was elected in 2019, and now Halliday said they hope to expand and become one of the go-to resources for local landowners, especially amid a decades-long drought brought on by a changing climate.

The conservation district works closely with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resource Conservation Service. Since 2019, they have signed up 25 local ranches to test the soil health in hopes of better informing land management decisions that could improve drought resiliency.

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The district was also one of five in the state to participate in a pilot program called Saving Tomorrow’s Agricultural Resources, which aims to get landowners to voluntarily test their soil, institute strategies to improve it and periodically see how those strategies are working.

Halliday said the district has been chosen to continue in an expanded version of the program that provides ranchers with funding to implement some of these strategies.

In October, the district hired a part-time manager to take on some of the duties that had become too much for the seven-member volunteer board. Halliday said they hope to extend that position to full-time and potentially add a district conservation technician to increase capacity.

“There are three basic entities that receive calls from landowners where there’s some agriculture or land related issue — (Routt County’s Colorado State University Extension Office), Community Agriculture Alliance and the conservation district,” said board member Kent Sandstedt. “We want to be that first top-of-mind call.”

But to do that, the district — one of 74 in Colorado — needs to find some source of sustainable funding, Halliday said.

There wasn’t a dollar amount attached to Monday’s ask and commissioners didn’t make any indication on whether they could provide funding, though they made it clear the county couldn’t be the source for sustainable funding in the future, as the county is “subject to the whims of the current board of county commissioners.”

Commissioner Tim Corrigan said he is sometimes frustrated because of what seems like a “scattershot process” with a plethora of groups  — he came up with 14 during the meeting —working on similar issues.

“How are we persuaded that all of this stuff ties together in some kind of rational way so that we’re not just, we’ll throw a few bucks here, we’ll throw a few bucks there and hope that something good comes from it?” Corrigan asked.

Commissioner Beth Melton said it is difficult to have a discussion about the county’s wiliness to provide any funding until a specific request has been presented. She encouraged Halliday to get the district’s numbers together, look at what support other districts get from counties and explain how a county contribution would add value to what other groups are already doing.

Melton said it would be nice to also see how any potential funding could be leveraged for more dollars elsewhere. Halliday said there are funding opportunities through the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act the district may be able to go after.

“I think we’ve come a long way in a few years, and we’re not going to stop here,” Halliday said.

Community Agriculture Alliance: The moral in our wolf story

A black wolf photographed in the North Park area near Walden on Aug. 21, 2022.
Colorado Parks And Wildlife/Courtesy photo

Fables are used early in our lives to teach lessons to children in a way that is both entertaining and educational. There’s typically something or someone “bad” in the story, something or someone “good,” and a choice that needs to be made between the two. The story wraps up at the end with a lesson, or “the moral of the story.”

Wolves have played a role in several fables, including “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” In both of these fables, the wolf is big and bad, either a menace to the community flock or to humans themselves. The wolf literally and figuratively represents a threat, an evil-doer who is out to destroy.

In the past nine months, several articles have run in this paper about wolves and their devastating impact on a cattle herd in North Park. The ranchers who own the herd didn’t know that it would host the first reported wolf pack of the past 80 years and that their story of wolf interaction would serve as a modern-day story with lessons to be learned.

When Proposition 114 was passed by Colorado voters in 2020, it dictated that wolves be reintroduced to Colorado’s West Slope by the end of 2023. The movement of the pack into North Park brought matters to a head for area livestock owners sooner than December 2023 for sure, and those of us trying to figure out how our ranchers can protect their livestock have been a bit behind the eight-ball, so to speak.

Wolf advocates, who want to make sure wolf reintroduction goes as well as possible for both the wolves and the communities they will live in, were also caught a bit off-guard. The time to figure out how everything was going to work out was fast-forwarded two years.

Locally, CSU Extension hosted a workshop for livestock owners last February to learn what we could about how to protect animals from wolves. Soon after, Extension and the CSU Center for Human-Carnivore Coexistence brought together wolf advocates, livestock owners and supporters, and educators to answer a simple question: What could we do, as a disparate group of concerned people, to help make sure wolf reintroduction in Colorado goes as well as possible, given all the challenges posed?

Out of that meeting was born an idea to bring wolf advocates to Routt County to see how ranchers live and work and hear first-hand what their concerns were. Two weeks ago, more than three dozen people from wolf advocacy groups and several local ranch families got together and had honest, meaningful conversations about people’s hopes, concerns and fears.

Most importantly, friendships between people of very different viewpoints were formed, and relationships were created that will help build a foundation from which more hard conversations can be had … and solutions can be figured out.

This week, CSU Extension educators and ranchers are in Montana learning from ranchers who have dealt with wolf interactions for years. We hope to learn more in an effort to help our producers prepare for what’s coming.

If we can prepare ourselves, perhaps our worst fears will be somewhat minimized. While a fairytale ending isn’t likely, there is a moral to the story nonetheless: Hard problems are better solved when both sides get together and build relationships to solve problems. That’s a moral many people in our world could learn right now.

Todd Hagenbuch is the ag and natural resources extension agent for the Routt County CSU Extension. For more, CommunityAgAlliance.org.

Routt GOP: Making progress on housing crisis requires good policy

Housing has been a challenge here in the Yampa Valley since the late 1970s. Perhaps because we live in such a beautiful and desirable county, it may always be an issue.

But just because the goal seems insurmountable, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to help our community. Think of the old-fashioned barn raising where neighbors gathered to help each other build something.

There are several housing programs that align with Republican values, specifically those involving either self-help or private sector development and partnerships.

Eighteen families funded by the USDA, along with the former nonprofit Regional Affordable Living Foundation, built homes in Steamboat Springs, Hayden and Oak Creek. This group build concept is alive and well throughout the U.S.

Another “self-help” model is the internationally known Habitat for Humanity, which built 10 homes and duplexes here in Steamboat Springs from 2000 through 2010. Community volunteers pounded nails and hung drywall alongside future homeowners.

Another successful program that Routt County has utilized is the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, or LIHTC. This highly competitive program, created under the Reagan administration has recently funded the 48 unit Reserves apartments, the 72 unit Alpenglow and the 90 unit Anglers 400. By offering tax credits to the private sector via a public market, The Yampa Valley Housing Authority has partnered with a private developer to build and manage these income restricted units.

Four years ago, voters in Steamboat Springs were given the opportunity to tax themselves 1 mil for a 10-year time frame to support the Housing Authority plan, in accordance with TABOR rules. The voters overwhelmingly voted in support of this tax.

The Brown Ranch is being developed with the vision of the West Steamboat Area Plan and the new Routt County Master Plan. Housing and transportation go hand in hand as both issues need solutions.

Food and shelter are basic human needs. To ensure the people who represent the essential core of Routt County, our teachers, firefighters, other first responders, nurses and service industry employees should have the option to live in the communities where they work.

There is one candidate who has been working on these problems the better part of her professional and volunteer career scanning almost 50 years. Elect Kathi Meyer, candidate for Routt County commissioner, and she will make sure that Routt County, working collaboratively with its municipalities, continues to make progress on its housing challenges.

This column was provided by the Routt County Republican Central Committee. For more, go to RouttGOP.com.