The Home Front: ‘Fires are raging across Colorado’ with ‘flames fueled by drought, tinder-dry air and Rocky Mountain winds’

“Wildfire anxiety in Colorado is peaking after a fast-growing blaze west of Silverthorne ignited Tuesday morning and made a hasty run at more than 1,300 houses and condominiums in a pair of neighborhoods, prompting a quick round of mandatory evacuations as authorities rushed to get people out of its path,” reports The Denver Post. “By afternoon, though, officials were optimistic about their battle against the Buffalo fire, which elicited a massive response of firefighters and firefighting aircraft and was burning on about 100 acres in the White River National Forest. ‘Things are looking really good around the two subdivisions at this time,’ Jim Genung, with the Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit, said at a news conference. ‘Things are looking really pretty good right now.’ Fires are raging across Colorado, keeping crews busy as they fight to protect homes from flames fueled by drought, tinder-dry air and Rocky Mountain winds. Springtime predictions of a wild summer of blazes across the state appear to be proving themselves true — and with a fervor.”

“As Colorado Rising gathers signatures in support of its statewide ballot initiative that would place tough new restrictions on oil and gas drilling, the Colorado Association of Mineral and Royalty Owners is letting residents know such restrictions are not in the best interest of the state,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “The ballot measure would increase the required minimum distance between occupied buildings and new wells — known as a setback — to 2,500 feet from the current requirement of 500 feet. The impact of Initiative 97, said Neil Ray, president of the association, would be huge for Colorado’s 600,000 mineral rights owners. The organization, which represents individuals and corporations that own oil and gas rights, released a report Tuesday showing untapped minerals in Colorado’s Wattenberg Field, which includes much of Weld County, could have an expected ultimate recovery of nearly $180 billion over the life of the field. Royalties for mineral owners alone would come to $26 billion. If cities and counties in the Wattenberg Field, or the state of Colorado, effectively ban developing minerals in the Wattenberg Field as a result of the 2,500-foot setback, they could be on the hook for more than $26 billion from successful takings claims, or just compensation for the public use of private property, Ray said.”

“The Grand Valley Drainage District will not appeal a recent court ruling that said a stormwater drainage fee it has been charging for the past three years is actually a tax,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “As a result, the district is to pay back the money it’s already collected because it was done so without voter approval. The district’s three-member board of directors voted 2-1 Tuesday to forego any legal challenge to District Judge Lance Timbreza’s ruling last week, saying there was no guarantee they would prevail in an appeal and they didn’t want to subject district businesses and residents to more legal uncertainty.”

“Longmont City Council members wrestled until late Tuesday night with details and specifics about what an affordable-housing mandate should include,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “A council majority continued to favor, as it did previously in March, the reestablishment of an “inclusionary housing” requirement for new residential development. Council members decided at about 11:45 p.m., however, to table further discussions and informal votes on directives to the city staff for two more weeks and to resume their consideration of inclusionary housing and affordable housing issues on June 26. Under discussion on Tuesday were such issues as exactly what percentage of a housing project’s units should be required to be affordable, what range of household incomes would be eligible to buy those homes, and how or whether developers would be given other alternatives to actually building such units.”

“This year marks the 121st anniversary of Strawberry Days, a festival known for carnival rides, strawberry ice cream and local arts, crafts and food vendors,” reports The Glenwood Springs Post-Independent. “The fair this year will be unaccompanied by the carnival, though, which for nearly a decade took place outside the Glenwood Springs Mall in West Glenwood. For reasons unknown, the mall opted not to host the event this year, and the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association was unable to find an alternative location.”

“The Wild Horse Warriors of Sand Wash Basin called a last-minute meeting Tuesday to coordinate hauling water to the Sand Wash Basin in western Moffat County to alleviate the group’s concerns that wild horses in the basin do not have access to enough water,” reports The Steamboat Pilot. “The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Loudy-Simpson Park near Craig. To haul water, the volunteers would need approval from the Bureau of Land Management, the agency tasked with managing wild horses and burros.”

“After campus police were called to question two Native American teenagers from New Mexico on a tour of Colorado State University, many people thought the teens should receive full-ride scholarships,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “Others accused President Tony Frank of race baiting. Frank responded to that late-April incident with an open letter addressing on-campus issues centering on race and hate. It wasn’t the first time during the year that Frank responded to incidents involving racial strife — perceived, implied, or overt — at CSU or nationally.”

“When the new mayor of Pueblo takes the oath next January, he or she will find that City Council still will have an important say in how the city is run,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “Council passed six ordinances Monday night that underlined its own importance in the future, even though it will be handing the job of providing leadership to the new mayor. First, council will have the power of confirming — or rejecting — the new mayor’s choices for all city department heads.”

“Members of the Loveland City Council have familiarity with cash flow, but not with forecasting trends in city fund balances, said Councilor Don Overcash of Ward IV,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “And that led to some confusion at the council’s study session Tuesday evening about the amount of money stashed in the city’s general fund. Though the presentation by staff seemed to indicate that the city’s general fund balance decreased by more than half between 2017 and 2018, and then would do so again between 2018 and 2019, that is not the case. The questions stemmed from a presentation of a draft of the 10-year Capital Improvement Plan and a draft of the 2019 Financial Master Plan by city budget staff to council. The document shows the city’s early projections for revenue and expenditures in the coming year and the city’s ability to fund capital projects, also known as infrastructure.”

“Between this county’s geographic diversity and tourism-based economy, imposing fire restrictions is serious business,” reports Vail Daily. “Current fire danger is very serious. In the wake of several wildfires sparking in the past few days, county and federal officials on Tuesday, June 12, imposed Stage 1 fire restrictions for all of Eagle County. The restrictions are in effect for all non-federal property in the county and will take effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday, June 15, for land managed by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. That’s more than 70 percent of all land in the county.”

“Tests to study the effects of radon on people in tents may be conducted at the site of a new homeless camp expected to open before the end of the month near the Durango Dog Park,” reports The Durango Herald. “The Durango City Council directed staff to establish criteria for the study at a work session Tuesday evening. The study could eventually go out for a bid for tests at the site, which is near a former uranium mill used during the Manhattan Project. “As elected officials, it is our responsibility to ensure it is safe for humans to sleep there,” Councilor Melissa Youssef said. Use of the area as a homeless camp goes beyond the site’s anticipated recreational uses, which are outlined in an agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy and the city. Youssef worried a differing land use might prompt a legal battle.”

“The Fremont County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday issued a transparency statement regarding Fremont County Clerk and Recorder Katie Barr and the former practice of her office permitting employees to cash checks,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “Chairman Tim Payne said the board wanted to fully disclose the facts and timeline leading to Barr’s recent criminal case as known to them, and he hopes that the public trust across Fremont County will be restored moving forward. “There has been a lot of what we consider misinformation, particularly on social media, that has affected this issue,” Payne said. Barr, who was arrested in March on charges of embezzlement of public property, harassment, intimidation of a witness and fraud by check, pleaded guilty May 30 to the issuance of a bad check, a class 3 misdemeanor.”

“Citing high public support and demand for better, cheaper internet, Boulder’s City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to fund through the issuance of debt the $15 million construction of what will become the backbone of a citywide broadband network,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “In a survey, the results of which were presented publicly for the first time during Tuesday night’s meeting, 90 percent of respondents supported city-owned and -operated internet, and as many said they would be very or somewhat likely to purchase service from the city. Another surprising result was the share of households — somewhere between 4 percent and 7 percent — with no internet service, due to lack of access or affordability. A staff-provided map showed that most of the under-served areas were in low-income neighborhoods.”

“The Manitou Springs City Council gave a unanimous preliminary vote of approval Tuesday night for a deal that would enable the rebuilding of the historic Pikes Peak Cog Railway and keep its train cars chugging up and down Pikes Peak for decades to come,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “Another vote still must be taken on the agreement with Oklahoma Publishing Co., parent company of The Broadmoor hotel and the Cog Railway. Under the pact, the city would give the ownership group two tax breaks, incentives it says it needs to invest $75 million to $95 million to rebuild the railway. In March, Broadmoor President and CEO Jack Damioli announced that the aging railway had “run its useful life,” and a study would weigh whether it should be refurbished or permanently closed. The analysis found that nearly $100 million likely would be needed to restore the system, rebuilding the track and expanding, remodeling or even demolishing the railway’s Manitou depot.”

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