Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Mountain Town News


Carbondale board tilts against Home Depot

CARBONDALE, Colo.--In a non-binding 4-3 vote, Carbondale town trustees have indicated they wouldn't allow a Home Depot into the town. The Valley Journal reports that the contentious issue may yet be given directly to voters for resolution.

The issue of big box stores has been debated for several years in Carbondale, located 30 miles down-valley from Aspen. In the latest planning, a developer is proposing a major shopping complex that includes a 60,000-square-foot grocery store.

At issue is whether the town will also accept an 80,000-square-foot Home Depot as part of the complex. The grocery store, although nearly as big, and also presumably of a national franchise, seems not to be controversial.

Those favoring Home Depot cite the tax revenues. The commercial complex with a Home Depot is projected to yield $1.7 million annually for the town treasury, $700,000 more than a commercial area without the Home Depot.

Steamboat ponders cause of thick haze

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.--The haze in the Steamboat Springs area was thick enough last week that people were asking where the fire was. It wasn't anywhere in Colorado, though there was some speculation that the opacity was the result of wild fires in California.

However, a scientist at the Storm Peak Laboratory, which is maintained by Reno's Desert Research Institute, theorized that the haze was the result of pollution and biomass aerosols from Denver and other cities along Colorado's urbanized Front Range corridor.

"It's definitely some sort of regional aerosol contribution," Ian McCubbin said.

Aerosols are particles suspended in a gas, which can include oxygen.

Conflict of interest rife in case of hotel proposal

ASPEN, Colo.--Small towns have a perennial problem of finding elected officials without conflicts of interest. Everybody wears many hats.

But even Aspen, with 6,000 residents, sometimes has a hard time getting enough council members to review proposals. Such is the case with an 80-room hotel proposed by Centurion Partners that has been in the review pipeline for four years.

The Aspen Times reports that only three council members were available at the meeting to review the project, and it was clear that two would likely reject it because of its size and construction impacts. With that in mind, the developers asked for, and received, a continuance until late June, when several new city council members will be on board. But depending upon whom is elected, that council may not sustain a quorum to review the project, because of conflicts of interest.

Gilletts continue to plug for Targhee real estate

DRIGGS, Idaho--George Gillett's family continues to make the case for a major real-estate addition to the Grand Targhee Resort.

The family's representative, Geordie Gillett, told the planning commissioner in Teton County that the Gillett family cannot continue running the ski area with financial losses.

"If Alta, Idaho, or Teton County, Wyo., doesn't want us to succeed, if it wants to legislate us into mediocrity and ensure a second-tier resort, that's fine," he said. "There is more than greed at work. There is survival, competitiveness and economic realities."

The Gilletts want to expand the amount of real estate, currently 96 units, to 725. This is part of a push begun about 20 years ago by the ski area's prior owners, Morey and Carol Bergmeyer.

While Grand Targhee is in Wyoming, it is located in the valley that is primarily in Idaho's Teton Valley, one of the West's fastest-growing places. Towns include Driggs and Alta.

Labor pool continues to tighten in Jackson Hole

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo.--Judging by the advertisements in the Jackson Hole News & Guide, the labor shortage has increased 20 percent from last year. The newspaper explains the listings occupy eight pages, compared to six pages last year.

Many employers continue to look abroad, using the popular--but increasingly slow--H-2B visa program. Labor officials blame a 30 percent increase nationwide in applications for slower responses to applications.

In Jackson Hole, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Service has received applications for 1,682 workers this summer.

Ned Brown, a restaurateur who applies for the workers each summer and winter, says getting the foreign workers is expensive. He pays hundreds of dollars per worker, plus a $1,000 fee to the federal government to expedite his application.

"For three months it's a pretty steep price, but I don't have another option," he said.

But the Grand Teton Lodge Co. received approval for about 200 guest workers without complication. Bob O'Neil, director of human resources, said his company is experienced and it also rehires employees season after season, allowing it to avoid the federal caps on H-2B workers.

Last surviving WWI vet born in Colorado

RICO, Colo.--The last known World War I veteran from the United States died on Feb. 22, and it turns out he was a native of Rico, a small mining town south of Telluride.

Howard Verne Ramsey was born in Rico in 1898, but moved with his family when he was 15 to Portland, Ore.

The Rico Bugle reports that Ramsey was in the Army's transportation corps, owing to his ability to drive automobiles, a rare skill at the time, and put that skill to use at the front lines in France.

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