2015 Year in Review: Part 2

It was a busy Labor Day weekend in Rangely as the annual Septemberfest celebration kept Rangely residents hopping for four days. Above, members of the Rangely Rock Crushers off-road jeep group, showed off their stuff as part of the Rangely Septemberfest Parade down Main Street. A wide variety of Range activities kept the Rangely residents and visitors occupied and entertained for four days.

On Sept. 17, more than 200 drivers, car owners, team and family members converged on a wet and rainy Meeker for the annual Colorado Grand auto tour of Northwestern Colorado. Several activities were planned this year including the Meeker Lions Club fixing lunch for the crowd. But the inclement weather restricted visitors to the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds to see the cars while the Lions fed those with the tour.
On Sept. 17, more than 200 drivers, car owners, team and family members converged on a wet and rainy Meeker for the annual Colorado Grand auto tour of Northwestern Colorado. Several activities were planned this year including the Meeker Lions Club fixing lunch for the crowd. But the inclement weather restricted visitors to the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds to see the cars while the Lions fed those with the tour.
RBC I This is part two of our annual “year in review,” covering news and events that occurred between July and December 2015.

• New Meeker School District Superintendent Chris Selle announced that his choice for Meeker High School principal for the 2015-16 school year is Amy Chinn.
Chinn had been serving as the high school’s counselor.
• Rangely Town Hall underwent major changes in its appearance and function. In addition to providing space for Rio Blanco County offices in the building, the current spaces were due for some updating.
• Natural Soda President Sara Schaeffner told local government officials that “within 10 years we will disrupt the global sodium bicarbonate market with the resources here in Northwest Colorado.”
One way to accomplish this is by expanding current operations. Natural Soda is in the final stages of an application process with the BLM to double their production to 500,000 tons per year, effectively making them the largest stand-alone facility in the world.
All with what Schaeffner calls a “very low environmental footprint.”
• “It was about time we won again,” Robby Elam said after golfers from Rangely, playing on their home course, won the Rio Blanco County Cup back from Meeker, where it had been the past two years.
• The CNCC science classes, which are utilizing the site as an educational opportunity for students, could be literally the door way to an ever-growing future in the world of paleontology for Colorado Northwestern Community College. The college has a facility in Craig that has been designated as a federally certified clearing house and fossil depository for digs in the area. Without that designation having been received, all fossils found in this area would have to be shipped out of Colorado to an approved facility in another state.
• Holliday’s and Chipper’s in Meeker were also taking part in the boycott of New Belgium Brewery products because of the brewery’s past support of the WildEarth Guardians, the group that has sued and is trying to shut down the ColoWyo mine, where more than 200 area jobs could be lost.
• Meeker High School alumnae Deena Norell won the breakaway roping at the Colorado Professional Rodeo during the 130th annual Range Call celebration, the oldest continuous rodeo in the state of Colorado.
• The Rio Blanco County Historical Society celebrated 130 years of the Meeker Herald in July with a potluck lunch in the courtyard of the garrison. Guest speakers included several of the past publishers (owners), including current owner Mitch Bettis, who is also in the newspaper business in Little Rock, Ark.
• For a fourth year in a row, Rangely’s William Scoggins has won the annual Run For Your Life 5K held in Meeker during the 130th annual Range Call Celebration.
• At several Meeker Board of Education (BOE) meetings, Dr. Bob Dorsett asked the board to identify the “more than $130,000 in grants for various educational and academic improvement programs in the 2013-14 academic year” that High School Building Accountability Committee (BAC) co-chairs Robert D. Amick and Stacy Hudelson and BAC member Laurie Zellers stated then that high school principal, Kim Ibach, had obtained. Selle assured Dorsett that there are no “missing funds” as far as the school district is concerned.
• In July, Colorado State Patrol troopers were dispatched to a single-vehicle accident on Moffat County Road 7, near Milepost 7. A former Meeker man, Hunter Zellers, 24, died from injuries sustained in the accident, and the driver, from Craig, was transported to The Memorial Hospital in Craig.
• Participants ran from the Rio Blanco County Courthouse lawn to the 6th Street Field, where they completed an obstacle course and got colored with dye. The end of the event, which was part of the ERBM Recreation and Park District’s Meeker Appreciation Day, featured a “color explosion,” in which each participant threw a cup full of dye into the air to create the colorful display. More than 50 runners took part.
• A 20-year-old Rio Blanco County man died of injuries sustained Sunday while hiking with friends on Himes Peak, 46 miles northeast of Meeker near Trappers Lake, just over the Rio Blanco County line in Garfield County.
Rio Blanco County sheriff’s deputies, Rio Blanco Search and Rescue and Meeker Fire/Rescue responded to the accident scene along with Classic Lifeguard helicopter out of Steamboat Springs. Jake Massey died at the scene after emergency responders arrived at the site.
• The District Attorney for the 14th Judicial District released a statement on Thursday stating that the use of deadly force was justified in the shooting of James Damon on March 9 outside of Dinosaur.
Damon was killed during a confrontation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer Nathan Martinez of Rangely and Moffat County Sheriff’s Deputy Bhrent Shock.
• Rio Blanco County Commissioner Shawn Bolton dedicated the indoor arena in the county multi-purpose building at the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds to the memory of C.W. “Bill” Brennan, while several members of the Brennan family looked on. The building was constructed in 1978. Brennan was a driving force behind development of the fairgrounds in Meeker. He was born in Rifle to Mike and Helen Brennan and was the sixth of eight children. Brennan, along with commissioners Dale Frisby and Roy Kenney, could see the value and impact an indoor arena and multi-purpose building would have on Rio Blanco County, and they were instrumental in building this new facility to serve many generations of future Rio Blanco County citizens.
• Matt Scoggins, the superintendent of Rangely’s school district, is looking eagerly toward the beginning of classes.
Scoggins is entering his third year as superintendent of schools in Rangely, and he said he is looking at a continued challenge to make the schools the best they can be.
• Rangely’s Heritage Building and Home Center will begin liquidating its store inventory with plans to close its doors in September.
• The only things that remain to complete Phase I of Meeker’s Market Street Sidewalk Project, Town Administrator Scott Meszaros said, is to install a hand rail at School Street, for CenturyLink to bury a line and to finish the crosswalk on Third Street.
However, the town has already started work on Phase II of the project, which will extend the sidewalk from Fourth Street, where Phase I ended, to 11th Street on the west end of Meeker.
• The seated members of the Meeker Town Board gave unanimous approval to the annexation of the Curtis Creek Industrial Park, which encompasses 35 acres on the east side of Highway 13, opposite the new Pioneers Medical Center.
• A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Meeker Town Park to mark the start of the Rio Blanco County-wide construction on a broadband Internet system for all parts of the county.
• Strawberry Fire scorched 130 acres, 12 vehicles; homes saved. Just about an hour after first being reported, the grasslands around the Onea Miller and Grant Rozier residences are entrenched in smoke and fire, about 3.5 miles north of Highway 64 on County Road 7. Miraculously, despite the fact that nearly everything was scorched black, neither one of the homes was damaged despite flames coming within feet of the structures.
• “One more than last year,” defending Meeker Men’s Golf Club champion J.C. Watt said after winning the championship flight for a third year in a row, but not knowing how many times he has won the championship overall.
• Flora Bella florists in Meeker threw a thank-you exhibition for its customers at Meeker Town Park, and well in excess of 100 people watched and joined in the entertainment provided by the Polynesian Fire Dancers.
The duo offered dances from the South Pacific islands of Hawaii, Samoa and New Zealand, getting several women and girls in the audience to learn the hula and a couple of local men to learn a Maori chant from New Zealand.

It was a busy Labor Day weekend in Rangely as the annual Septemberfest celebration kept Rangely residents hopping for four days. Above, members of the Rangely Rock Crushers off-road jeep group, showed off their stuff as part of the Rangely Septemberfest Parade down Main Street. A wide variety of Range activities kept the Rangely residents and visitors occupied and entertained for four days.
It was a busy Labor Day weekend in Rangely as the annual Septemberfest celebration kept Rangely residents hopping for four days. Above, members of the Rangely Rock Crushers off-road jeep group, showed off their stuff as part of the Rangely Septemberfest Parade down Main Street. A wide variety of Range activities kept the Rangely residents and visitors occupied and entertained for four days.
• Roughly 950 Rangely residents and visitors took part in and enjoyed the annual Rangely Elks Club barbecue at Rangely’s Elks Park, the central location for activities that wrapped up four days of Septemberfest. Besides the hugely successful barbecue, Elks Park played host to a large arts and crafts fair that lined the park except for the northwest portion, which played home to the annual car show that featured several dozen vehicles on display to the public. Well in excess of 1,000 people were in attendance at Elks Park for all the activities being held.
• The 29th annual Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials began at Ute Park, west of downtown Meeker. Dave Imus and his dog, Tip, who hale from Olympia, Wash., were one of the first teams to hit the course, coming up just a couple feet short of the pen when time ran out. The trials run with the qualifying rounds Wednesday, Thursday and Friday while the semi-final round is Saturday with the top 20 dogs and finals Sunday with the top 12 dogs.
• A lawsuit was filed in federal court by The Cloud Foundation (TCF), Wild Horse Freedom Federation (WHFF), The Colorado Wild Horse and Burro Coalition (CWHBC), Dr. Don Moore and Toni Moore of Fruita, Colo., and Barb Flores of Greeley, Colo., to block the Bureau of Land Management’s proposed roundups of horses from northwestern Colorado’s herds.
• The U.S. Department of the Interior has approved and signed a modified mine plan for Colowyo Mine, which was subject to a federal district court order requiring the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSM) to update its environmental review of the mine.
In addition to the new mining plan, on Aug. 31, the OSM completed a new environmental assessment for the mine, resulting in a finding of no significant impact on the environment from mining operations.
• Several hundred folks gathered outside the door of The Tank in Rangely during Septemberfest to hear the sounds produced inside. The number of visitors stayed steady and they were not disappointed with what they heard. All who enter The Tank must remove their shoes so as not to damage the acoustical padding on the floor.
• It was the first home game of the season, which turned into the first win of the season for the Meeker High School football team, as they defeated the 2A Coal Ridge Titans 36-6 in Starbuck Stadium.
• On Sept. 9, nearly 100 cars of all colors, sizes, makes and nations were rounded up in the Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds exhibit hall as more than 90 drivers and 200 total persons from Colorado Grand converged on Meeker for their annual tour. Inclement weather changed everyone’s plans late in the morning as the drivers, their cars and their teams were initially going to meet on the courthouse lawn.
• The Bureau of Land Management finished up day six of the wild-horse gather in the West Douglas Herd Area. With a total of 141 horses rounded up, the federal BLM will continue the gather into the week, as they plan to gather up to 167 of the 365 horses in the area.
Local ranchers who were present at the gather were pleased to see some of the horses removed from the range.
• Bailey Franklin, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife District Wildlife Manager from Meeker, has been named the agency’s 2014 John D. Hart Wildlife Officer of the Year.
• The weather was perfect for the dedication of the Milk Creek Battlefield with more than 300 people in attendance.
Throughout the event, the Rio Blanco County Historical Society hosted many Ute friends and VIPs from all over Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, authors of books on the Milk Creek Battle, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and the VFW Post No. 126 of Fort Duchesne, Utah, local leaders, Colorado State dignitaries, and New York film makers.
• The Panther football team did not disappoint its alumni or the hometown fans in the 2015 homecoming game against the Hayden Tigers, which Rangely won 32-8, in the first league contest of the season.
• Meeker seniors Kash Atwood, Dillon Frantz, Devon Pontine and T.J. Shelton were the team captains for the 2015 homecoming football game against the Lake County Panthers. The senior captains led the Cowboys to a 45-14 victory in the first league contest of the season.
• On Oct. 12 at 1:53 p.m., Janna Polgar of Dillon, Colo., gave birth to a 6 pound 9 ounce, 21 and a half inch baby boy, making this the first birth at the new Pioneers Medical Center in Meeker.
• The Meeker Board of Education will take on a new look, the Rangely School Board will remain the same, the mil levy tax override for added Rangely school funding failed and county voters told the state to keep its excess marijuana tax money and use it for education, law enforcement and other state needs. There were 3,587 ballots sent out by the Rio Blanco County Clerk’s Office, and 1,720 were returned for a voter turnout of 47.95 percent.
• Meeker High School turned 60 years old, having been dedicated on Nov. 10, 1955, as Rio Blanco County High School. Elliott Roosevelt, a son of former U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, gave the dedication’s keynote address then. Meeker High School and the school district administration held a 60th anniversary recognition celebration in the high school gym.
• Sophomore Patrick Scoggins was the lone runner to represent Rangely High School at the Colorado State Cross- Country 2A Championship Meet in Colorado Springs, finishing in the top 10 in the state.
• The Rangely Community Gardens wrapped up a diverse and fruitful season with its annual pumpkin giveaway to all children in Rangely and Dinosaur.
The Gardens grew more than 500 pumpkins on site and 300 more were donated by Rio Blanco County’s Colorado State University Extension Office/4-H Clubs, led by Bill Ekstrom.
• King Triton, played by Zagar Brown, discussed with Ursula the sea witch, played by Mason Holliday, the situation between his mermaid daughter, Ariel, played by Annelise Amack, and human Prince Eric, played by Cooper Main, during Saturday afternoon’s performance of The Little Mermaid. There were 51 roles and 27 jobs on the production staff of the musical, put on before packed crowds at Meeker High School by the Meeker Arts and Cultural Council, the Center Stage Youth Theatrical Group and the ERBM Recreation and Park District.
• Meeker High School football coach Shane Phelan said he “appreciated each one,” of his seniors and the effort they have given the past four years. Meeker senior captains: Jacob Nielsen, Zachery Medlin, Conner Pfister, Dillon Frantz, T.J. Shelton, Devon Pontine and Kash Atwood played their final football game in Starbuck Stadium, as they lost to Resurrection Christian in the quarterfinals of the 1A Colorado State football playoffs.
• Rangely District Hospital long-term care patient Don Worrall and registered nurse Irene Kilbane, along with R.N. Wendy Campbell, will travel to NASCAR’S Daytona 500 in Daytona Beach, Fla. this February. The trip, which Kilbane planned after Worrall expressed a lifelong dream to attend the race, has been largely funded through a GoFundMe campaign. To donate, go to www.gofundme.com/donworrall
• At the Rio Blanco County Commissioners meeting Nov. 23, Chris McCourt, who is manager of the Colowyo Mine, presented a check for $5,000 to Rio Blanco County. Colowyo made the donation as a way of saying “thank you” to the community for ongoing support over the life of Colowyo operations and the support shown during the recent Office of Surface Mining process concerning the environmental assessment to re-evaluate environmental effects of the originally proposed and currently approved mining plan modification for the South Taylor/Lower Wilson Permit Expansion Area at the Colowyo Coal Mine. Donated funds will be used to make enhancements to the county fairgrounds facilities in Meeker.
• In a small town, licensed daycare options for working parents can often be limited. Unfortunately for Rangely, if the financial situation at the non-profit Giant Step Preschool and Child Care Center doesn’t change, those resources could become even more challenging for parents. “Our current financial position is dire,” said Giant Step director Ingrid Reed.
• The Meeker Cowboys won 36 matches in the 2015 Warrior Classic, 24 by pin, which earned bonus points, enough for Meeker to be the “Best Small School” team and fifth overall. Meeker’s three-time state champion T.J. Shelton won his first individual Warrior title and was named “Outstanding Wrestler” in the upper weights. Head coach J.C. Watt said he was “really proud of all the kids” and the Warrior Classic was a “good confidence builder” for his team.