NEWS: Tuesday December 8, 2009

Dec 8th @ 6:59 am in News by Scott Staley

A warrant is out for a former Gunnison County Deputy after she neglected to show up to court today. Tawnya Sponable was set to enter her plea this morning in her part of what’s being called a “soap opera” at the county jail.  Sponable has been charged with conspiracy to commit perjury, first-degree official misconduct, conspiracy to introduce contraband, false reporting, theft under $500, and possession of a schedule II controlled substance. Read the stories posted below to get the details behind Sponable’s arrest.

(Originally posted Monday September 28, 2009) What’s sex and drugs without the rock & roll…? Just ask some of the Gunnison County Detention Center employees and they’ll tell you. Affidavits reveal how three Sheriff’s Deputies were engaged in unruly behavior at the jail for well over a year. Behavior that included supposed sex acts with inmates and with each other, missing prescriptions drugs, and cocaine use with a deputy and inmate. Former Captain Michelle Zadra and former Sergeant Melissa Rogers were arrested September 2nd on suspicion of first-degree perjury, conspiracy to commit perjury, first-degree misconduct, and false reporting to authorities. Three others were arrested in the same operation. Zadra and Rogers are set to appear in court October 20th.

(Originally posted Tuesday September 22, 2009) Two former Gunnison County Jail employees appeared in court this morning. Both, Melissa Rogers and Michelle Zadra are accused of official misconduct and false reporting. Earlier this month they were ordered to surrender their keys and passes to the Gunnison County Jail. Today’s arraignment led to another court date of October 10th for both women.

(Originally Posted Tuesday October 20, 2009) The three Gunnison County Detention Officers who were caught up in their own soap opera at the jail appear in court today. Captain Michelle Zadra, Sergeant Melissa Rogers, and former deputy Tawnya Sponable were involved in disorderly conduct at the jail, all circling around one inmate (Joseph Stromayer). The inmate and his ex-wife (Rachel Stromayer) are also facing charges in this saga that involves sex and drugs amongst each other.
Captain Michelle Zadra: suspicion of first-degree perjury, conspiracy to commit perjury, first-degree official misconduct, and false reporting to authorities.
Sergeant Melissa Rogers: suspicion of first-degree perjury, conspiracy to commit perjury, first-degree official misconduct, and false reporting to authorities.
Former Sheriff’s Deputy Tawnya Sponable: conspiracy to commit perjury, first-degree official misconduct, conspiracy to introduce contraband, false reporting, theft under $500, and possession of a schedule II controlled substance.
Joseph Stromayer: introduction of contraband, conspiracy to introduce contraband, conspiracy to commit perjury, third-degree assault, intimidating a witness, and conspiracy to intimidate a witness.
Rachel Stromayer: conspiracy to intimidate a witness.
Source: Gunnison County Court   (Posted 12:38p)

In addition to labor problems, Kroger’s financial situation isn’t looking to rosy either. According to the Montrose Press, The Kroger Co. reported an $875 million loss in its third quarter, blaming tough price competition and the struggling economy’s hit on its grocery business.  Kroger has said shoppers are focused on promotions and price to stretch their food budgets. With an unprecedented number of Americans using food stamps in the recession, big-box stores have begun competing with grocers for their business, too.  And the fact that a strike may be on the horizon has not helped matters. Kroger has some 2,470 grocery stores in 31 states under two dozen local banners that include City Market, Dillons, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Ralphs and King Soopers.
Source: Montrose Press (Posted 5:06p by Jim Kapp)

The Colorado State Patrol says a driver involved in a crash that injured a trooper on Interstate 70 in Jefferson County was going too fast for the conditions. NBC 11 News reports that Trooper Edward Taylor was in his vehicle  off the side of the road with his emergency lights on when a 1996 Dodge Stratus lost control, went off the road and struck the patrol car.  Road conditions and excessive speed were the primary reasons for the accident….
Source: NBC 11 News (Posted 5:02p by Jim Kapp)

Here’s a sobering statistic for residents of Colorado. Fatal drunken driving crashes are up in this state but down nationally.  According to NBC 11 News a new federal report shows that drunken fatalities have fallen in 40 states last year but Colorado along with six other states increased.  Despite the increase Colorado’s rate is still near the national average.  Montana has the highest DUI death rate in the nation…..
Source: NBC 11 News (Posted 3:58p by Jim Kapp)

Tonight the Montrose High School Boys and Girls basketball teams will play host to Delta. During this event the MHS Athletics, the Student Council, and toys for tots are teaming up for special toy fundraiser.  You can get in for free if you can donate a new and unwrapped toy at the door.  All the donations will be distributed to children in need in the Montrose area.
Source: PSA  (Posted 4:00p by Jim Kapp)

Although this most recent snow storm has caused havoc on the roads, skiers are happy. In fact, Powderhorn is opening early! According to NBC 11 News, ski lifts will open at 9am this Saturday.  Sarah Allen, spokesperson with the Powderhorn Ski Resort, says that so far the resort has gotten 28 inches of snow and more is coming….
Source: NBC 11 News  (Posted 3:31p by Jim Kapp)

Tomorrow in Denver Rocky Mtn Regional Forester Rick Cables and Deputy Regional Foresters Maribeth Gustafson and Tony Dixon will recognize the services, partnerships and accomplishments of key local groups and employees that have made significant contributions to land stewardship on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests and to the Rocky Mountain Region. Some of this year’s honorees are the City of Grand Junction Municipal Watershed Group, Delta County resident Walt Blackburn and Sally Crum from the Forest Supervisor’s office for her expertise in Multi-Cultural work with the Ute Indian tribes….
Source: News Release  (Posted 3:32p by Jim Kapp)

Governor Bill Ritter today joined U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce that the U.S. Forest Service has committed an additional $40 million to help fight the bark beetle epidemic in Colorado and other Western states. Ritter thanked Secretary Vilsack and the Obama administration for listening to mounting concerns from Colorado and other states and responding so quickly.  Ritter sent Secretary Vilsack a letter last month (attached) requesting the additional financial support. The beetle already has ravaged 2 million acres of mountain forests in Colorado, with an estimated 3 million more in jeopardy.

“The combined effects of massive bark beetle epidemics, the perennial risk of catastrophic wildfire, and a struggling forest industry have left forests throughout Colorado and other Western states at great risk,” Ritter said on a conference call with Secretary Vilsack and members of the media. “Our economy, communities, water supplies, property and citizens are threatened. Even in a tough economy like this, we cannot afford to ignore these challenges or these risks.

“My administration has been working closely with local government, the legislature and many other stakeholders to address this problem,”  Ritter said. “But state and local action alone isn’t enough to fully address these critical needs. With a majority of forested lands in federal ownership, we need a strong partner in Washington. Today, you’ve shown us what a strong partner you are. On behalf of the citizens of Colorado and my fellow Western Governors, thank you for securing this vital funding. Thank you for listening, and thank you for leading.”

Three Colorado lawmakers who work closely on forest health issues also praised today’s announcement:

“Last summer, state Rep. Christine Scanlan and I traveled to Washington D.C. to ask for the federal government to act,” said Sen. Dan Gibbs. “I’m so happy to see them taking a part in fighting our bark beetle epidemic. Colorado’s landscape, ecology, and communities depend on it.”

“I’m thrilled that Washington, D.C., is finally heeding our warnings,” Rep. Scanlan said. “We have a long way to go, but this funding will provide an important bulwark for our vital watersheds and vibrant mountain communities.”

“This is an important step toward cleaning up our worst beetle-kill forests,” Senator Al White said. “Ultimately this will help reduce the threat to life and property.”
Source: Press Release   (Posted 12:05p)

On Thursday, December 03, 2009 the West End School District completed a multiple year parking lot project at their administration building in Naturita, CO. With the help of San Miguel Power Association, Inc. (SMPA) the district was able to purchase and install two state of the art LED security lights in their bus parking lot. SMPA also equipped one of the new light poles with a meter and plug-in. In total, SMPA donated $2,400 in labor and materials to the project.

According to Ernie Williams, the district’s Bus Mechanic, the parking lot project started a few years ago when the district began expanding the lot to the east. As monies became available, the district continued to add onto the lot until it could accommodate six large buses and five administration vehicles. However, with the expansion came safety issues. A security light which once sat on the eastern edge of the lot, now sits dead center. Part of SMPA’s contribution was removing the old pole and setting in two new poles on each side of the lot.

“With our buses backing-in around that pole, it was an accident waiting to happen,” explained Williams. “We just laid gravel in our added parking space, and the new lights are the final step to making our bus lot safer.”

Previously lit by one 100 watt high pressure sodium lamp, the bus lot will now boast two new 40 watt LED security lights on the north and south edges. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are made of a solid, semi-conductive material called a diode that, when energized, gives of light. Although, LED security lights are just now hitting the mainstream market, replacing the sodium high pressure lamps was relatively painless. Little retrofitting was needed to accommodate the LED bulbs. It was as simple as unscrewing the old bulbs and screwing in the new ones.

For West End Schools Superintendent, Stephen Yost, the newly positioned and upgraded security lights are a major boon for the school district. Drivers will no longer need to maneuver their buses around a pole, and they will have the convenience of plugging in their vehicles to the new outlet. The district anticipates these changes will save in more ways than electricity costs.

Together, the two new LED lights will use 20% less electricity than their high pressure sodium predecessor. The new lights are Clearlight 40W LED Luminaires from Evluma of Seattle, WA. Each light contains 16 white diodes in a weather tight compartment. The lights are durable, shatterproof and are estimated to have a life of 70,000 hours.

The newly added plug-in will allow the district to plug-in all their buses during the winter months. Diesel buses are equipped with an internal heater powered by electricity. The heater keeps the vehicle’s oil temperature up, ensuring the engine will start and warm up quickly each morning. That means a shorter idling time and less fuel waste for the district.

“It’s a tough economic time for everyone right now and we couldn’t have asked for more from San Miguel Power,” said Yost. “We are very grateful for their donation.”

San Miguel Power Association, Inc. is a member owned, locally controlled rural electric cooperative with offices in Nucla and Ridgway, CO. It is the mission of San Miguel Power Association, Inc. to demonstrate corporate responsibility and community service while providing safe, reliable, cost effective and   environmentally responsible electrical service. SMPA serves approximately 9,600 members and 13,000 meters and supports local communities with $200,000 annually in property taxes.
Source: Press Release   (Posted 12:01p)

The Mesa State Associated Student Government approved a new smoking policy for the college. NBC 11 News says the current policy of no smoking in any buildings or dorms is still in effect, but now includes smokers having to stand at least 40 feet from the entrance to any building on campus.  The policy now needs to be approved by the Mesa State Board of Trustees before it can take effect.

A state lawmaker from Denver is proposing stricter regulations on medical marijuana providers and patients. According to the Denver Post, Senator Chris Romer says about half of Colorado’s dispensaries could be driven out of business by the legislation he’s drafting.

The bill would allow dispensaries and growers to be licensed by both the state and local jurisdictions. The Denver Democrat says they should have to show they won’t be harmful to the surrounding community.

Romer wants stricter state rules on who is permitted to use medical marijuana. He also says doctors who are paid by dispensaries shouldn’t be allowed to also clear patients to use medical marijuana. Coloradoans for Medical Marijuana Regulation, a dispensary trade group, opposes the bill in its current form.
Source: Denver Post (Posted 10:41a)

A handful of students from Montrose High School, Delta High School, and Mesa State College will travel to New York next month to perform at Carnegie Hall as part of MidAmerica Production’s annual tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior.  The Montrose students are still in need of funds.  The Daily Press says to date, the students have raised $2,168, but still need almost $3,000 to be fully covered.  To donate call 249-6336 and ask for Cheryl Leu.  The performance takes place on January 18th.
Source: Daily Press (Posted 9:57a)

There is a winter storm warning in effect for Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. Widespread heavy snowfall is expected this morning along I-70 from Rifle, Colorado to Green River, Utah.  Afternoon snowfall will be heaviest in the mountains.  In addition, gusty winds will increase as the cold front passes this morning producing blizzard conditions over the southwest Colorado mountains.  According to the National Weather Service a winter storm warning remains in effect until 6 o’clock tonight.
Source: National Weather Service (Posted 9:57a)

Get a parking ticket in Telluride? Why not take that ticket and go shopping!?  This is the fourth year the Telluride Marshal’s Office has participated in the Toys for Tickets program.  The Daily Planet reports that the office says this is the slowest year they’ve seen.  The program is good until December 19th, and since November 19th, they have only received 13 toys.  The only tickets allowed to be traded in for toys are parking tickets and they have to at least equal the value of the ticket.
Source: Daily Planet (Posted 9:56a)

After more than five hours of closing arguments, the Daily Sentinel says this morning jurors will start deliberations in a Whitewater woman’s murder trial. Miriam Helmick is charged with first-degree murder in her husband’s death, as well as attempted murder related to a car fire in Delta in April, 2008, and 11 counts of forgery.  Alan Helmick was found shot to death in the couple’s home June 10, 2008. Prosecutors pain Miriam as a gold-digger whereas the defense believes she was a victim of law enforcement, which ignored all evidence suggesting someone other than Miriam could have been involved in her husband’s murder.
Source: Daily Sentinel (Posted 9:55a)

Heavy snowfall caused several accidents yesterday in Montrose and surrounding areas. Grand Junction has been under an accident alert since yesterday afternoon.  This means if you’re involved in an accident in Grand Junction that doesn’t require medical attention, exchange phone numbers, driver’s license, insurance, and registration information. You have 48 hours to report the accident at the police station.  And be sure to clear the roadway.  Keep in mind to travel at a safe speed and if you start to skid, remove your foot from the gas and brake and steer in the direction of the skid.  When the vehicle steadies itself, turn the wheels straight and proceed.
Source: Press Release
Source: Colorado Winter Driving Handbook
(Posted 6:03a)

After a four hour standoff in Clifton, one man is in custody and two have been detained. NBC 11 News says Mesa County Deputies attempted to serve Justin Stedtfeld an arrest warrant yesterday evening when he barricaded himself inside an apartment.  The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office used Reverse 911 to alert residents to stay inside.  By 10:00pm, the SWAT team was called out.  Stedtfeld surrendered to law enforcement a short time later.
Source: NBC 11 News (Posted 6:02a)

Enrollment at Fort Lewis College in Durango has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. There were 3,685 students enrolled this fall, down 17% from a high of 4,441 in 2001. According to the Durango Herald, the slide is reducing tuition revenue at a time when Governor Bill Ritter has proposed slashing the college’s funding by $1.1 million in 2010-2011 school year. This year, resident students are paying $2,571 in tuition to attend Fort Lewis. College officials don’t have a clear reason for the drop. Fort Lewis has been toughening admission standards, including raising the index of the grade-point average and ACT scores required to gain admission. Among all Colorado’s 4-year colleges, enrollment rose 3% from 2006 to 2008.
Source: Durango Herald (Posted 6:01a)

The Danish wind-turbine maker Vestas Wind Systems plans to halt production at its Windsor blade manufacturing plant in the first part of 2010. Vestas spokesman Peter Kruse tells KUSA-TV most, if not all, of the plant’s 500 employees at the plant will be placed on furlough. No layoffs are planned. He says the move is a temporary setback.

Kruse says the first quarter of the year is historically slow, but credit markets are also tight and gas prices are relatively low. He says the company is building up slowly due to a lack of orders.

Earlier this fall, Vestas had said the economic slowdown would slow its U.S. hiring and building, with hiring already halted at two plants being built in Brighton.
Source: KUSA-TV (Posted 6:00a)