2015 was a busy year for Rio Blanco County and the towns of Meeker and Rangely. In this final 2015 edition of the Herald Times and again next week in the first issue of 2016, we will review some of the biggest news events of the year.
• Katelin Cook, a member of the Meeker Town Board since August 2007, has resigned her position on the town’s governing board, and the town has already started the process to find a new board member.
Cook wants to spend a little more time at home with her baby daughter, Carson, who was born in August 2014.
• Elaine Jordan enjoys her dancing, and she is good enough at it that she won a cruise line competition tied to Dancing with the Stars, including making it to the finals for the competition.
• Dinosaur National Monument turned 100 years old. On Oct. 4, 1915, 80 acres of fossil-rich land in Northeast Utah were set aside as Dinosaur National Monument to protect “an extraordinary deposit of Dinosaurian and other gigantic reptilian remains of the Jurassic period.” A second proclamation in 1938 recognized the surrounding area’s spectacular scenery, geology, ecology and rich cultural history and expanded Dinosaur National Monument from 80 acres to more than 210,000 acres, spanning the Utah-Colorado border.
• The Meeker Police Department announced that on Jan. 21 Meeker police officer Gardner Mendenhall developed information that led to locating Matthew Finley, 28, who was wanted out of Mesa County on a nationwide no-bond warrant for charges related to dangerous drugs.
With assistance from the Rio Blanco Sheriff’s Office and the Colorado State Patrol, Finley was taken into custody at a Meeker apartment complex without incident. Finley was also charged with felon in possession of a dangerous weapon stemming from the arrest in Meeker.
• At an executive session of the Meeker School District Board of Education on Jan. 20, the board upheld the year-long expulsion of two female students at Barone Middle School.
The students were implicated in the two incidents reported last month of non-prescribed prescription narcotics being provided to other students at Barone, resulting in three students being hospitalized.
No names have been nor will be released as all are juveniles.
• Mark Meyer, the superintendent of schools in Meeker, kicked off an open public forum at the Meeker Board of Education meeting in February by reading a letter of resignation to the board, the few teachers and a gathering of citizens who were present.
• The Meeker Town Board raised water rates in February at a level slightly higher than had initially been proposed. The present board members, with Danny Conrado and Rodney Gerloff absent, adopted Plan B of the resolution because of the potential the town faces for major repairs, infrastructure improvements and the possibility of having to install a water purification plant in the not-too-distant future.
• In a preliminary hearing in Meeker in February, Public Defender Elise Myer entered a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity” on behalf of her client, Logan Piper, in the stabbing of former Rio Blanco County Sheriff Si Woodruff in the parking lot of Pioneers Medical Center on Aug. 21, 2014.
• The Meeker Town Board gave its approval Feb. 3 to the Rio Blanco County Historical Society (RBCHS) to proceed with a long process that could end with part of downtown Meeker being listed on the National Register of Historical Places.
• On Feb. 3, Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) President Russell George and paleontologist Elizabeth “Liz” Johnson, together with Ruth Welch, the Colorado state director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), signed an agreement to officially make the CNCC Craig Campus a federal fossil repository.
• Thoughts of an undefeated basketball season by the Meeker High School boys’ basketball team ended with a defeat by the Paonia Eagles, making for a split as the boys had defeated Hayden by a wide margin.
• Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton announced to the Rio Blanco Stockgrowers on Feb. 7 that the county is naming the indoor arena at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds the C.W. “Bill” Brennan Arena in honor of the late former county commissioner and Piceance Creek cattle producer.
• While the hills near the launch site for the memorial “I Ride With James” snowmobile and poker run on Sunday were quite bare, County Road 8, beginning at the Lost Creek Trailhead, had sufficient snow for the snowmobilers to head up to higher altitude where there was quite a bit of snow. That made for a successful three-hour ride in James Sizemore’s memory. Money raised by the Sizemores and friends at the ride helps fund a junior snowmobile and two $1,000 scholarships for Meeker High School seniors—one boy and one girl. Other funds go to assist Rio Blanco County Search and Rescue.
• At a sentencing hearing Feb. 6 at the Rio Blanco Courthouse and as a result of a plea bargain, 21-year-old Rangely resident Michael Miner was sentenced to nine years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for the July 2014 rape of a 12-year-old Rangely girl.
• At their work session on Feb. 17, the Meeker Board of Education began discussing the budget for fiscal year 2015-16. School district superintendent Mark Meyer reported that the four-day school week produced a savings, from July through December, “not necessarily all-inclusive,” of roughly $70,000.
• The Meeker Board of Education on Feb. 17 made a $120,000 commitment toward the resurfacing of Starbuck Stadium track in 10 to 12 years if the effort led by the the Eastern Rio Blanco Metropolitan Recreation and Park District (ERBM) to refurbish the track and football field comes to fruition.
• The Meeker Cowboys qualified nine wrestlers, all won at least one match, six earned medals, including an individual champion, the team finished second in the state and it was the final “Big Show” for former wrestling coach Bill Turner, who passed away Sunday from complications of a fall suffered while in Denver.
“I was glad coach Turner got to watch the team and his grandsons (Sheridan Harvey and Casey Turner) wrestle at state,” Meeker head wrestling coach J.C. Watt said. “The strengths of our wrestling program over the years; strong community support; and guys who have been through the program, coming back to help how they can, started with Bill Turner. The Meeker wrestling program owes a lot to coach Turner and his family.”
• “T.J. is at another level than most of the kids he wrestles,” coach Watt said. “He became Meeker’s fourth three-time state champ (Keenan Turner, Brandan Stewart and Joe LeBlanc are the others) and he has a chance to be Meeker’s first-ever four-timer and the state’s 19th.
T.J. Shelton won one match by technical fall (15-0) and pinned his other three opponents, including a 50-second pin over Jose Cisenros of Centennial in the championship match.
“He just dominated everyone,” coach Watt said.
• This year marks the 125th anniversary of the charter for Meeker’s Rio Blanco Lodge No. 80 and members look forward to a new year of brotherly love, truth and charity.
• The Rangely FBLA chapter competed at districts at Colorado Mesa University and of the 15 students who competed, 11 qualified for state.
• Rangely head wrestling coach Jeff Heinle and assistant coaches Gary Bennett and Blane Warrier stood next to senior Ethan Allred, the only Panther to qualify for the 2015 Colorado State Wrestling Championships. Allred won a match in the 2A, 170-pound bracket before being eliminated.
• The regional champion Meeker High School basketball boys won both regional games over and advanced to the district finals against District 3, No. 3 seed Ridgeway at Grand Junction Central High School.
• Highway 40 was closed in both directions approximately 8 miles east of Dinosaur in response to an officers-involved shooting incident that left one man dead.
• Rangely District Hospital planned a public meeting for the third week of March to discuss budget cuts and the possible impact of those cuts on the community.
Hospital board chairman Steve Petersburg said the hospital is looking to eliminate approximately $1 million from the budget. However, Petersburg and hospital CEO Nick Goshe want the public to know that despite the cuts the hospital is not closing.
Goshe said, “We are belt tightening, just like everyone else in town.”
• The Meeker High School boys’ basketball team won both of its games at the regional tournament in Grand Junction, and the Cowboy cagers emerged as regional champions and will play in the state tournament in Denver. Meeker was selected as the No. 5 seed by the state tournament seeding committee and opened their tournament play against Simla. The Cowboys go into today’s contest with a season record of 22-1.
• The new 2,700 square-foot addition to the Meeker Library has been a long time coming, but library director Mike Bartlett is happy to say that the addition is now open.
• A Meeker man was killed in a single-vehicle accident along Highway 64 between Rangely and Meeker, the public information officer of the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) released Monday morning.
According to the public information officer on duty, a 19-year-old man identified as Tayler Slaugh of Meeker, died at the site of the accident at mile marker 45 on Highway 64, after his 1994 GMC pickup, being driven eastbound toward Meeker, failed to complete a right hand turn, proceeded to travel off the left side of highway, traveled down a steep embankment then hit another embankment head on.
• The Meeker High School boys’ basketball team wrapped up a successful season in Pueblo with weekend play at the Class 2A State Basketball Tournament, where they ended up No. 6 in the state.
• At the Meeker Board of Education (BOE) meeting on March 17, Meeker Elementary School Principal Kathy Collins, acting as interim superintendent in the absence of Mark Meyer, requested board approval of resignations from high school principal Kim Ibach and 26-year chemistry and math teacher Bev Devore-Wedding.
• Rangely Town Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Brad Casto submitted a letter of resignation from his position on the council. Casto had served on the council for seven years.
• For the first time in 15 years, the Rio Blanco Fire Protection District has a new fire chief. Marshall Cook will also take over the title of EMT (emergency medical technician) chief, succeeding longtime chief Steve Allen.
• Colorado Northwestern Community College equine instructor and IHSA Coach Stacey Bailey accompanied Tasha Gibson to El Reno, Okla., to compete in the third and final IHSA semifinals, where she qualified for the IHSA Nationals in open reining.
• A Rangely area man died following an accidental gunshot wound, according to the Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Office.
According to Undersheriff Brice Glasscock, the Rangely Police Department received a 911 call at approximately 1:50 p.m. Thursday in reference to a report of an elderly male, identified Monday as Jarrell Massey, 85, with a gunshot wound to the head.
• Rio Blanco County, the Meeker Chamber of Commerce and the Rangely Chamber of Commerce are combining efforts to develop Rio Blanco County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) satellite offices to serve Northwestern Colorado.
• After extensive interviews, the Meeker Board of Education (BOE) announced its selection of Christopher Robert Selle of Westcliffe, Colo., as the new Meeker School District superintendent to begin work July 1.
Selle, whose name is pronounced with two syllables, is completing his third year as superintendent of the Custer County Consolidated C-1 School District. Selle will turn 40 next month. He grew up in Wray.
• Longtime Meeker wrestling coach Bill Turner, who passed away Feb. 22, had a passion for the sport and his community, which had far-reaching effects on those who knew him. The Rangely youth wrestling staff’s dedication of April 4, 2015, as the “Bill Turner and Family Legacy Day” was one way to acknowledge that.
“The definition of a legend is a story handed down for generations among family or people and believed to have a historical basis,” Rangely Youth Wrestling Program head coach Jeff LeBleu said. “Today we are celebrating a true legend and his family’s legacy.”
• About 5 miles south of Meeker on Highway 13, Andrew Lawrence, 24, of Meeker and his 24-year-old wife, Brittany Walsh, who was driving in slushy and wet roads, drove off Highway 13, rolling to a stop at the bottom of a steep ravine. Lawrence was unhurt, but Walsh was trapped in the SUV and had to be extricated. She was taken to Meeker’s Pioneers Medical Center then airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction. Walsh, in her eighth month of pregnancy, gave birth to Scarlett Rose Lawrence, who weighed 5 pounds and 10 ounces. Mother and daughter are reported to be doing fine and are in good shape. Walsh was loaded into the ambulance at the accident scene by Meeker EMTs.
• The present occupant is Mountain Valley Bank, but the old IOOF Building in downtown Meeker turned 118 years old on May 1, while the bank celebrated with an open house to mark the first anniversary of being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
• At about 3 p.m. on April 22, a home at 1107 Pinyon St. in Meeker was reported on fire. The fire quickly consumed the home of Glen and Rose Abbott, but no one was home and no one was hurt. Meeker Fire and Rescue was able to save the garage, just a few feet southwest of the home. The home was destroyed, but a cause has not been determined.
• An iconic Rangely landmark has a new home. A replica of the Raven A-1 pumping unit, the first “wildcat” deep well in the Rangely Weber Sand Unit drilled by the California Oil Co. in 1931, was moved from the wellhead site to the Rangely Museum on April 10.
• Meeker Schools Superintendent Chris Selle recommended the board hire current Meeker Superintendent Mark Meyer to fill the academic coordinator position beginning July 1. With no further discussion, the board approved Selle’s recommendation on a 5-2 vote with board members Bud Ridings and Todd Shults voting “no.”
• Thirteen Meeker High School athletes qualified for and competed in the 2015 Colorado State Track and Field Championships in Denver, and more than three-quarters of them returned with medals.
• The Rangely High School Panthers track team took off with 13 athletes and three managers for the state track meet in Lakewood. During the meet, several members earned finishes that placed at the meet.
• “Commencement” is defined as “the beginning,” and there were 29 members of the Rangely High School Class of 2015 who were anxious to reach that point of graduation and commence with the rest of their lives.
• To begin commencement at Meeker High School’s Starbuck Stadium on Saturday, members of the senior class marched down the track on the way to their chairs for the graduation ceremony. There were 38 seniors who were graduated on Saturday.
• Taking on Town Hall is never easy, but Rangely resident and gardener Jeremy Coleman has decided it’s worth the fight to try to save what has become his controversial garden.
Coleman’s garden is not typical. He makes extensive use of tree branches and even an old boat to grow more than 100 species of plants and provide habitat for insects and birds. However not everyone sees the value in his garden, instead seeing danger.
On May 17, Coleman received a notice from Town of Rangely Code Enforcement informing him that he had 10 days to clean up his yard or face fines and penalties.
• On May 20, Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) maintenance crews reported the failure of a downhill Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) retaining wall on State Highway 13 at mile marker 29, causing the roadway to sag up to five feet in the area adjacent to the wall.
• The Meeker FFA Agricultural Team claimed the state title and won Team Gold for addressing the wild horse situation in Western Rio Blanco County. They will represent Colorado at the national competition in Louisville, Ky., in October.
• Rangely’s White River Market is looking at some major changes in the next few weeks, with a soft opening set for July 4, when the market will have been downsized and an Ace Hardware store will have been added. Rangely’s store is the second of six stores owned by The Market chain to have added an Ace Hardware.
• For many years now, the distinction of being the senior members in attendance at the Oldtimers’ Dinner and Dance has gone to Ethel Starbuck and Joe Sullivan. This year saw Starbuck, who is 97 and Sullivan, only 94, shaking a leg on the dance floor again.
• There was a full field of mid-distance runners on hand for the triathlon competition that combined swimming, bicycling and cross country running from the hosting ERBM Recreation and Park District’s Meeker Recreation Center on the northeast side of Meeker with the finish line at the west end of Ute Park, just west of town. The runners were spread over a good amount of time, but the men’s winner was Meekerite Steve Green, and the winner of the women’s competition was Lisa Belmonte, also of Meeker.
• Weather, dogs and a friendly spirit of competition marked a great day for the Meeker Classic Cattledog Trials.
As volunteers greeted the sunrise tidying up from Meekerpalooza festivities, handlers walked the course with trial officials to learn the scoring and rules for the day.
• The work is progressing in satisfactory form to install sidewalks and curbs on the north side of east Market Street in Meeker although repeated rains have caused the entire project to be delayed a couple of weeks, Meeker Town Administrator Scott Meszaros said.
“We are really close to finishing the sidewalks, roughly only one block left,” he said. “But there is still a lot to be done after the walk is complete.”
• The face of medical care in Rio Blanco County has taken on a new look as approximately 500 people attended the grand opening celebration of the new Pioneers Medical Center (PMC).
The facility is located off Highway 13, just northeast of Meeker, at 100 Pioneers Medical Center Dr.
• The new home of Meeker Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 5843, VFW Ladies Auxiliary No. 5843 and American Legion Post No. 74 had several visitors as the groups held a combined open house for folks interested in seeing the facility or interested in joining one of the groups.
The open house ran from 1 to 6 p.m. at the home of the organizations, 290 Fourth St. in Meeker.
• After rumors had been circulating in the community since late last week, new Meeker Superintendent of Schools Chris Selle emailed the high school staff on Monday to inform them Kelly Boren, who was hired as the new Meeker High School principal by Selle and the Meeker Board of Education (BOE) on May 5, has resigned.
Boren will not be coming to Meeker, Selle said.
• Within the next year, Rio Blanco County will begin construction on its prepared plans to greatly increase communication capabilities countywide through the installation of broadband Internet and potential cell phone services.
“We’ve got to have communication ability to entice any new companies into the county,” said Rio Blanco County Commissioner Jon Hill.