Bidding farewell to 2016 and welcoming 2017

RBC | Contentious, tumultuous and full of surprises are all ways to describe 2016. It was “the best of times, and the worst of times.” Here’s a brief glimpse at some of the things that transpired during the last 12 months in Rio Blanco County.
– Pioneers Medical Center welcomed a new general surgeon, Dr. Asem Bakkar.
– Consumer Affairs.com ranked Rangely No. 3 in Colorado for the lowest odds of being burgled.
– A Tabernash, Colo., small plane pilot died in a crash about 15 miles west of Meeker.
– An 18-mile span of land on the White River between Meeker and Rangely sold for $9.5 million.
– Heavy snow in February caused a roof to collapse on a mobile home in Meeker. No one was injured.
– Russell George announced his resignation as CNCC president after five years in the position.
– It was a great year to be a Meeker Cowboy. The Meeker High School wrestling team brought home its eighth state team wrestling title. MHS senior T.J. Shelton became the 19th wrestler in Colorado history to win four individual state titles and was named the 2A outstanding wrestler. Head coach J.C. Watt was named the 2A coach of the year.
– The new Rio Blanco County Justice Center opened for business.
– The “Open the TANK” fundraising event topped the amount sought, raising $61,315.
– At the start of March 2015, the Rio Blanco County Board of Commissioners, comprised of Shawn Bolton, Jeff Eskelson and Jon Hill, announced that the account balance in the Rio Blanco County Capital Improvement Trust Fund was at its highest level since 1983, with $19.9 million in the account.
– Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue celebrated 83 years of service to the community.
– Three Meeker teens were seriously hurt in an automobile accident on Flag Creek Road.
– Rangely got a new mayor in Joseph Nielsen, and new town council members in Andy Key, Trey Robie and Tyson Hacking.
– Meeker re-elected Regas Halandras for a second term as mayor, and chose Travis Day, Wendy Gutierrez and Melissa Kindall for board seats.
– Incumbents Rick Dodds, Sherri Halandras and Doug Overton were re-elected to the Meeker fire board.
– The long-awaited Rangely Automotive Museum opened publicly in May to rave reviews for owner Bud Striegel.
– Rangely High School graduated 19 students for the Class of 2016.
– MHS graduated 37 students in the Class of 2016.
– Ethel Starbuck and Joe Sullivan were the oldest couple at the annual Old Timers dinner and dance.
– The bodies of a husband and wife were discovered at a private residence in Rangely in June.
– Ronald Granger of Wyoming was named the new president of the CNCC campuses.
– Former Rangely Area Chamber of Commerce Director Kristin Steele was charged with theft and computer crimes.
– WREA opened the Meeker Solar Garden just south of the high school.
– Meeker hosted the second annual Meeker Classic National Cattle Association Finals.
– Former sheriff Si Woodruff and Rangely businessman Jeff Rector beat incumbent county commissioners Jeff Eskelson and Jon Hill in the Republican primary, making them the new commissioners come January.
– ERBM celebrated its 35th anniversary.
– The fourth annual Wagon Wheel OHV Rendezvous in July had more than 160 vehicles registered for the event.
– U.S. Senator Cory Gardner visited Meeker in August.
– An 86-year-old mystery was solved when DNA testing on a human skull that had been sitting on a shelf in the sheriff’s office since 1957 was identified as “Hermie” Park, who went missing in eastern Rio Blanco County in 1930.
– Economic development became a hotly contested topic of discussion this year, with proposals from Better City consultants to build an “Outdoor Adventure Center” in Meeker at an estimated cost of $10 million, among other ideas county-wide.
– Half a dozen young Meeker thespians went to New York City to experience Broadway, attend classes and audition individually and receive feedback from Broadway casting director Michael Cassara.
– A poker run was held in August to raise funds for Bradi Bland’s medical expenses. Bland was one of the three teens involved in the car accident in April.
– OHV trail rides were added to the slate of events at Septemberfest in Rangely.
– The Bettis family sold the Herald Times to Pat and Niki Turner and their daughter Caitlin Walker in September. The Bettis’ had owned the paper since 2001.
– The Meeker School District dedicated the renovated Bob King Track at Starbuck Stadium. The district will be able to host track meets again in 2017.
– The Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials celebrated its 30th anniversary.
– The Meeker Cowboys football team started the season strong and ended it by hosting the state championship game against the Strasburg Indians. Both teams went into the game undefeated for the season. The Indians won 34-14.
– The Lost Solar Fire east of Meeker filled the valleys with smoke and closed a number of trails in the area.
– Two adults were charged with providing alcohol to minors in Meeker.
– The Meeker Housing Authority was named in a federal civil suit citing violations of the Fair Housing Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which provides civil rights for people with disabilities.
– Konnie Billgren, formerly from Louisiana, was hired as the new Rangely Area Chamber of Commerce director.
– A new reservoir has been proposed between Meeker and Rangely just north of Highway 64. The Wolf Creek Reservoir would be the largest in the region, with a capacity of up to 90,000 acre-feet of water.
– Rangely’s Tom and Dorothy Collins received the Jack Snow Award for Outstanding Volunteers at the Colorado Tourism Conference.
– The county’s broadband project took giant steps toward completion in 2016, including the installation of wireless towers in Meeker and Rangely.
– The Meeker School District was ranked ninth in the state of Colorado.
– RBC voters opted, as usual, for a straight Republican ticket in the November election.
– The Town of Dinosaur voted to approve the sale and production of recreational and medical marijuana.
– A Michigan hunter who went missing east of Meeker was found safe after three nights in the wilderness.
– Rangely hosted the second annual Polar Plunge in November to raise funds for Special Olympics.
– Meeker Volunteer Fire and Rescue hired a new fire chief.
– Senior citizens united against a proposal to change the location and staff for meal preparation for the senior nutrition program in Meeker. The county had suggested the plan as a way to cut costs.
– For the first time in 42 years Nichols Store in Rangely closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
– U.S. Senator Cory Gardner visited Rangely to discuss economic development issues, expectations for new presidential administration.
– The TANK released a CD of Christmas carols, and was featured on a number of local, national and international media.
– Debbie Cook, former Meeker coach, will be inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in January in honor of her more than 40-year career.
– RBC Commissioner Shawn Bolton is in the running for a position in President-elect Trump’s administration as director of the Bureau of Land Management.
– Rio Blanco County announced they are facing a $19.4 million deficit in the 2017 budget.
– The Town of Rangely and the Rangely Development Authority continue pursuing plans to bring a full-scale grocery store back to the town as part of their economic development plan.
– Members of the Ute Tribal Council announced a proposal, with the Town of Dinosaur, to build a casino in the Dinosaur area.