Mountain Town News

Allen Best

A charter school geared specifically toward Hispanics and others who have difficulty with English will open later this summer in the Eagle Valley. Targeted will be students aged 15 to 21.The school, operated by New America, will be located on the second floor of a business in Gypsum, 37 miles downvalley from Vail. There will also be classrooms in Avon and Edwards.Hispanics comprise 40 percent of Avon’s full-time population, 31 percent in Gypsum, 27 percent in Edwards, and 25 percent in Eagle.The school offers flexible, work-friendly class schedules Monday through Thursday, and stipends of $200 per month for students with children to defray child-care costs.Principal Kathy Brendza realizes many students school won’t be interested in college. The idea is to give those students the ability to function in an English-speaking work force. “If you’re going to be a housekeeper, be the best-educated housekeeper you can possibly be,” she said.

It’s high season in Jackson Hole, where summer is far busier than winter at such properties as The Four Seasons. But employers who have come to depend upon seasonal workers from Mexico and other countries are hard-pressed. The H2B visa program has been sluggish in delivering workers; by one estimate, the program is 30 percent backlogged.The Four Seasons, reports the Jackson Hole News&Guide, is asking employees to work overtime, and has shipped in employees from Scottsdale and Philadelphia. Jackson Mayor Mark Barron, who owns a dry-cleaning business, was denied the 20 visas he applied for.”Two, three, four years ago, the H2B program was meant to supplement the work force, but now it is a core element of our work force that we are dependent on,” said Tim O’Donoghue, executive director of the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “When there are changes in the program, there are significant ripple effects.”

British Columbia has become the first jurisdiction in North American to mandate that older diesel trucks become less polluting. The regulations require trucks dating from 1989 to 1993 be outfitted with filters that reduce emissions by 25 to 50 percent. Pique notes that the older heavy-duty diesel trucks can emit up to 60 times the particulate matter of newer models.

Revelstoke continues to plot its future as a major destination resort. Most recently, municipal officials have been aiming for provincial funding to be used to develop tourism infrastructure and expand marketing. To do that, local hoteliers had to agree to an additional 2 percent tax on top of the existing 8 percent tax, reports the Revelstoke Times Review.

Canmore is getting ready for a major community discussion about whether it will adopt a policy that makes it difficult for big-box national and international retailers such as Wal-Mart to set up shop in town. The council, reports the Rocky Mountain Outlook, ordered a law be drafted to restrict big boxes in all commercial areas, with the hopes it will spark a more definitive discussion.

Ahhhh summertime, and in Vail, the living is … noisy. Interstate 70 slices through the town, groaning with ever-more traffic every year.The annoyance worsens in summer, when the natural tendency is to open windows to take in those lovely nighttime breezes. Julie Hansen, who lives along the highway at the foot of Vail Pass, says it’s hard even to fall asleep with windows open.Hansen distributed petitions signed by 200 people calling on town officials to get noise barriers erected as part of highway reconstruction. A third lane, to allow for slow-moving trucks, is being planned on the approach to Vail Pass. The hope is that state funds will pay for the barriers, as town officials believe noise walls are too expensive.Another ambitious plan was introduced last year. Jim Lamont, a former municipal planner who now represents many property owners in the town, returned from a visit to the Alps with visions of tunnels in his head. He has proposed a tunnel through Vail Mountain, forcing people in a hurry to bypass the town.Lamont says he believes that quality of life, instead of economic development, is now emerging as the key issue in Vail. An environment free of noise is one of the key issues. He says the tunnel idea remains, and that power players within the community are deciding whether they’re going to take up the idea.

Real estate agents, lawyers, bankers and mortgage brokers – or at least new offices for them – have once again been declared persona non grata from the ground-level storefronts in Crested Butte’s main tourist-friendly shopping district along Elk Avenue. Following the lead of Vail and several other ski towns, Crested Butte last year banned the offices. That initial ban was opposed, but this new ban grandfathers in offices at existing locations.While Crested Butte’s real-estate economy has done back-flips during the last several years, its retail economy has snoozed. The Crested Butte News reports that town and business officials also plan to hold a farmers market and special evening activities in the hopes of restoring vitality – and competing with new businesses planned at the nearby town of Mount Crested Butte, located two miles away at the base of the ski mountain.”This is about the character of the town,” said councilman Skip Berkshire. “If there were two or three of the real estate stores scattered on Elk, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.”Another council member, Margo Levy, said that the move helps “set the table” for the 600,000 annual skier days anticipated by a possible expansion of the ski area. The ski area is currently doing 300,000 to 400,000 skiers per year.

Confusion reigns about whether motorized uses are allowed on several trails on U.S. Forest Service land west of Rico.The Rico Bugle explains that three trails – Bear Creek, Ryman Creek and the Calico Trail from Cayton to Priest Gulch – are identified on maps as open to motorized vehicles.However, the San Juan National Forest listed the trails in 1992 as open only to semi-primitive, non-motorized use. That use allows bicycles, horses and foot traffic, but not motorized dirt bikes or Jeeps.The Forest Service can provide no evidence of doing the environmental analysis required by federal law to allow motorized use.Steve Beverlin, manger of the Dolores District Field Office, said it was not clear why various maps issued for the public lands have been inconsistent, but that a travel management plan revision now under way will address the matter.Mike Curran, a board member of the Rico Alpine Society, which publicized the inconsistencies, wants the trail use returned to non-motorized while the new plan is being prepared. Many motorized users already think their rights are being taken away, he said. “But what if the rights they think they have never legally existed in the first place?” he asked.

Oh what a tangled web the Idaho Mountain Express reports in a matter of rundown housing in Ketchum. If only by association, the web in this case reaches the graft-tainted Bush administration.The story begins with the importing of Thai marijuana in the 1970s by two local men, who also bought 14 housing units in a project called Bavarian Village. After the handcuffs fell on their wrists several years ago, the U.S. Attorney General attempted to sell the condominiums. The Attorney General’s office usually splits the proceeds from ill-gotten drug deals with local law-enforcement agencies.An auction was held in adjoining Sun Valley. The minimum bid set by the U.S. attorney was $3.4 million, which estimated the potential value at $14 million. The only bid was $2.3 million from a local affordable-housing organization, which was to have been aided by the local public housing authority.The U.S. attorney accuses both Ketchum and Sun Valley of informing prospective rival bidders that they would have a hard time getting a development plan through Ketchum’s planning process.”Baloney,” said Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson.”It’s simply not true, period,” added Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall. Hall also says the minimum bid price was unrealistic, given how dilapidated the condos are.Ketchum has now hired a former congressman, George Nethercutt Jr., who is being given $25,000 and unlimited airline travel, if approved in advance. His job? Knock on the right doors in Washington to find a federal grant to buy the condominiums for local affordable housing. The hope is that he can take this case to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who has been having his share of problems. But the company Nethercutt has been keeping hasn’t exactly embellished his reputation. The Express notes that Nethercutt was a partner with Steven Griles.Griles was the No. 2 man in the Department of Interior from 2001 to 2005. As such, he was the point man for President Bush’s plans for federal leases on gas, oil and coal deposits beneath public lands. He has now been sentenced to 10 months in prison for influence peddling. Seems he was getting $285,000 from former clients while arranging meetings between these former clients and partners with other officials in interior. Another partner was Andrew Lundquist, who led Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force in 2001. The task force met in secret and then called for increases in gas and oil drilling on public lands.Allen Best compiles Mountain Town News. He can be reached at


Hanukkah has arrived in Aspen

Members of the valley’s Jewish community gathered at the Albright Pavilion at Aspen Meadows Thursday for their second annual menorah lighting ceremony to celebrate and acknowledge the first day of Hanukkah.

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