Western Slope Round-Up: What Do a Camel and Ritter Have in Common?

If your answer was: “they were both in the Rifle area,” you would be correct!

Take a trip around the West for a couple of minutes and learn about what some of your state legislators and the governor have been up to out here and how “man camps” may be the solution to the West’s housing problems. Oh, yes, and about that camel….Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketRifle Becomes Ritter’s “Official” Western Pit Stop
Governor Bill Ritter spent Tuesday on the Western Slope, journeying west on I-70 to sign various bills with Grand Junction as the last official destination. However, Ritter’s scheduler and Rifle native Scott “Hutch” Hutchings had one more visit planned before the Ritter entourage drove to Denver. In the Rifle area, there was an oil and gas bill signing party with friendly West Slopers, cold beer and a roasted pig picnic. Ritter’s twenty-minute break lasted two relaxing hours.

Anyway, Ritter asked Hutch if his Western Slope travels were always going to include a stop in Rifle for whatever reason. “Well…” Hutch admitted sheepishly, “you know it is my home town.”

“Heh, OK. Good to know that from now on,” Ritter replied.

Camel Sends Rifle-ite to Hospital
Glenwood Post Independent–A camel sat on his Rifle owner requiring an emergency hospital stay. From Wednesday’s paper:

The bull camel involved in the incident is a 19-year-old dromedary, or single-humped camel.

According to people who are familiar with the accident and asked to remain anonymous, the camel reportedly bit, kicked and lay down on owner Eric Kallstrom, who was able to extricate himself from underneath the animal. Dromedaries can weigh more than 2,000 pounds and can be taller than 10 feet.

Kallstrom was taken to the Grand River Medical Center emergency room Monday evening and was airlifted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction because of the severity of his injuries. He is currently in the intensive care unit of the hospital, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Kallstrom is also a horse shoer by trade, so he has been pretty used to getting bitten, kicked and mangled. But, there are few 10 foot horses around that like to pancake people.

What someone is doing with camels in Rifle will be another story; however, can you imagine the 911 call to Rifle dispatch….“Help! A one-humped, one-ton, son of a gun camel just used my husband as a mattress!”

Republican Legislator Announces Recall Effort Against Democratic Commissioner
Montrose Daily Press–Rep. Ray Rose (R-Montrose) chose the setting of the Republican Party luncheon to declare a recall effort had started against Montrose Commissioner Bill Patterson, a Democrat. Rose had received a letter and a copy of the petition, but denied he was part of the recall.

The letter attacked Patterson over financial decisions made by the Montrose County Building Authority regarding the Montrose Regional Airport. The “Concerned Citizens of Montrose” are sponsoring the petition. Patterson denied the allegations in the petition and claimed Rose’s announcement of the petition a political ploy.

Durango Looking for Housing Solutions
Durango Herald–Durango’s housing market is hot, but not necessarily for the locals who can’t afford the high prices. Like most Western Slope communities, Durango has a shortage of affordable housing. The paper reports:

The regional housing authority, created in 2004 to help La Plata County and the cities of Durango and Ignacio ease residents into homeownership, will unveil a new strategic plan at a workshop on June 8. The agency operates on an annual budget of $325,000.

The agency director said if they can acquire land at less than the going price, it can pass along savings to developers in exchange for a number of affordable units in their subdivisions.

The goal of the housing authority is to have 100 new “opportunities” a year– an opportunity for down-payment aid or a new unit, either in the rental or ownership market.

Statistics from the Colorado Division of Housing show that La Plata County is less vulnerable to foreclosures than other areas of the state like Weld County that has 1 in 124 households in foreclosure, compared to 1 in 1,126 households in La Plata County.

Housing authorities in counties across the Western Slope are trying to cope with the need of affordable housing with no quick fix in sight. Garfield County has just approved regulations for “man camps” to assist the oil and gas industry with their housing shortages. Are man camps for fast food workers far behind?

Jobs, Jobs…But No Housing…Hits Steamboat Springs, too
From the Steamboat Pilot–

Truck driver, carpenter, excavator driver, welder, house framer, heavy equipment mechanic, diesel mechanic, project foreman, concrete foreman, electrician, service technician, laborer, hauler or finisher…

These positions were advertised this week in Steamboat Today, which contained 30 columns of employment ads compared to six columns of housing rentals. Construction ads alone covered more than two columns, not including construction-related openings that spilled into other categories of the classifieds. At the beginning of an unprecedented period of local construction, the labor market in Steamboat Springs is already outpacing the labor pool.

When will the mega-Metro housing developers with their self-contained crews figure out thar’s gold out West? But where would they house their workers? Refer to the “man camp” solution above. (Who doesn’t love camping in the Wild West?!)

Speaker Andrew Romanoff Speaks a Good Speech
Grand Junction Daily Sentinel–Who would make a good commencement speaker? Montrose High School senior class president Sarah Berry was stumped. She hoped to find a politician who was entertaining, thought provoking and short winded. Now, those qualifications really narrowed the field. Her grandmother, one of the few Democrats in Montrose, suggested Speaker of the State House Andrew Romanoff– no doubt she heard him auction at the last JJ Dinner. Berry sent the invite and Romanoff was on his way to Montrose for his first ever commencement speech.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSurely, Romanoff will now be forever on the commencement speech circuit. He was brief, he didn’t offer advice and he compared life to a camping trip: “You will find a great place for a tent and then wake up the next morning to a foot of snow on the ground.” (Better note that to the occupants of the man camps.)

Romanoff gave the Montrose High School graduates three wishes that will hopefully infect everyone else around the state: make time for your family, be true to yourself and make the world a better place to live.

Top photo: Gov. Ritter did alot of smiling during his visit to the Western Slope. Was he relieved to get out of Denver or was it because he didn’t have to wear a tie?

Bottom photo: Unllike at the Democratic JJ Dinner a few months back, Andrew Romanoff did not hand out “Cheney Awards” at the Montrose High School commencement.

Photos and story observations by Leslie Robinson.