Highlights from the 

Herald Democrat

10 years ago

District successful in quest for BEST grant

by Danny Ramey

Herald Staff Writer

July 5, 2012


The Lake County School District is slated to receive a pair of BEST Grants, assuming the community can come up with the matching funds.

The grant applications were turned in back in March, and the outgoing superintendent traveled to a conference on Thursday and Friday to present to the grant board. The board then made its recommendations on Friday.

“That was a good day when we got that news,” Lake County School Board President Keith Moffett said. “It just goes to show how hard Bette works for this district.”

One of the grants will help fund a renovation of the high school, said Bette Kokenes, whose last day as district superintendent was Friday.

The grant will cover 57 percent of the project and come out to around $15 million, Kokenes said.

The district will be required to match 43 percent, or about $11.3 million, of the $26 million required for the project.

Basically, the renovation will modernize the high school, Kokenes said.

It will add eight new classrooms, upgrade existing classrooms and redo a great deal of the infrastructure, among other things.

“It’s major because that one (grant) will be like a new school,” Kokenes said. “The kids will have all they need in a high school.”

The other grant will fund a portion of repairs to the heating and water system at West Park Elementary.

The West Park grant will come out to about $800,000 and cover 57 percent of the project’s expenses, Kokenes said.

The Lake County School Board had already set aside money for the West Park project because of its importance, Kokenes said. Thanks to the grant, though, the board will no longer have to deplete its reserves as much to complete the project.

While the district’s two projects have been selected by the BEST board, the district does not have the money yet.

The board will now submit each selected project to the Colorado Board of Education and recommend that those projects receive grants.

In almost every case, the state board follows the BEST board’s recommendation, Kokenes said.

After that, though, there will be one more obstacle for the high school project — finding the matching funds.

It will be up to the board to determine where matching funds will come from, Kokenes said.

Because of the amount of money needed to match the grant, the most-likely possibility is that the board will ask Lake County voters to approve a bond issue in November, Moffett said.

“That is not a gimme,” he said. “There’s still a lot of work ahead.”

Treasure Fire fully 

contained; train to begin running

by Danny Ramey

Herald Staff Writer


Fire crews achieved full containment of the Treasure Fire northeast of Leadville on Sunday.

The fire, which started June 23, had burned 420 acres by the time it was fully contained.

Of the acreage burned, 300 were burned on the fire’s first day. Most of the rest of the acreage came from burnouts that fire crews burned to help contain the fire.

The U.S. Forest Service will continue to patrol and monitor the fire, but a majority of the crews have been called off, Sarah Gallup, public-information officer for the fire, said.

With the fire now contained, crews that are still on the scene are getting a break, Lake County Emergency Manager Mike McHargue told the Lake County Commissioners at their regular meeting.

Altitude sickness and many of the firefighters’ inexperience in working at such an altitude have been major obstacles in fighting the Treasure Fire, he said.

Now that the fire is contained, those crews will be able to get some rest.

McHargue also stressed that although the fire is contained, it will still be smoldering for quite a while unless the county receives a substantial amount of rain.

An investigation into the fire’s cause was conducted but came out inconclusive, Gallup said.

The cost of fighting the fire was estimated to be $600,000 as of Monday morning.

The Leadville Colorado and Southern Railroad, which had been shut down because of the fire, announced on Monday that it would resume its normal schedule on the Fourth of July.

The railroad had begun to lay off some of its employees because of the closure. However, those employees who had been laid off have been offered their jobs back, and most are expected to return, Kirstin Ayers, director of sales and marketing for the railroad, said.

“The community’s been great,” she said, noting that many of the employees who had been laid off had found part-time jobs while the railroad was closed.

The railroad has also implemented a fire plan to work within the different stages of fire bans that could be enacted, Ayers said.

One major component of that plan is having a water tanker truck that follows the train up and down the mountain on each trip.

“We have 125 gallons of water following the train up and down the mountain, and we feel much safer with it that way,” Ayers said.

The road from Mosquito Pass down into Birdseye Gulch remains closed indefinitely.

Mike Bradley’s home destroyed by fire

by Danny Ramey

Herald Staff Writer

July 12, 2012


An early morning fire tore through a house at 201 Chestnut St. on Saturday morning.

Homeowner Mike Bradley said he woke up around 2:30 a.m. to the sound of glass breaking. He thought that someone was breaking into his house and then found flames while investigating.

By the time Bradley exited the house, the police had already arrived on the scene, he said.

The emergency call came through around 2:36 a.m. Fire crews arrived on scene about two minutes later, according to the fire report.

The fire had probably been burning for a little while before that, Leadville-Lake County Fire Chief Dan Dailey said.

“For the homeowner to hear glass breaking, it had to have been burning for a while,” he said.

Upon arriving at the scene, fire crews broke down a pair of doors and entered the house. They were initially stopped by a collapsed ceiling.

Crews attempted to battle the fire from inside the house multiple times, but were hindered by a false ceiling and objects cluttering the floor and blocking doors.

“The complexity of this fire fight was compounded by what appeared to be numerous renovations and building construction types,” Dailey wrote in a letter he sent to the Herald. “The interior crews were trying to pull ceiling and attack the fire with hand lines with little success, and at some point as a commander on scene I have to make the difficult decision to pull all personnel out of a structure for life safety reasons.”

Power was shut off west of Harrison Avenue from 3 a.m. until about 11 a.m. because of safety concerns.

There were electrical poles adjacent to and above the house, Dailey said.

“If lines are impinged by fire, they will snap, and you have an electrical problem,” he said.

Another major concern for fire crews was a second house adjacent to the burning home.

Fire crews sprayed the small space constantly and were able to prevent the fire from spreading.

“The weather and winds were cooperative,” Dailey said. “If we had had a hot and windy day, we would have had more problems.”

He noted that under drier and windier conditions embers from the fire would have likely ignited anything they landed on.

One other issue crews faced in fighting the fire was a pair of faulty fire hydrants.

A crew from the Eagle River Fire Department attempted to tap into a hydrant at the intersection of Second and Pine streets, but discovered that it was not functional.

The crew was able to tap into a hydrant one block farther down on Pine.

Dailey acknowledged the failures and noted that Leadville’s system is rather old, with some parts of it being built in the 1800s.

“We’re going to have failures,” he said. “When you have old, outdated equipment, it’s going to happen whether they’re checked or not.”

The cause of the fire is undetermined, and an investigation will not be conducted because the fire did not appear to be suspicious, Dailey said.

In addition to the crew from Eagle River, crews from Chaffee County, Vail, Copper Mountain and Dillon assisted in fighting the fire.

Railroad tunnel cave-in on U.S. 24 just keeps growing

by Danny Ramey

Herald Staff Writer

July 19, 2012


Repairs on a sinkhole that opened underneath U.S. 24 began on Wednesday.

Repairs are likely to cost about $1.5 million including the cost of repairs, traffic-control design and other expenses, according to a press release from the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Repairs will be performed by Hayward Baker Inc., which entered a low bid of $829,748.65, the release said.

The department hopes to have the repairs finished by Aug. 6, CDOT spokeswoman Ashley Mohr said.

To help keep the contractor to this schedule, CDOT is offering incentives. If the road is reopened early, the contractor will be paid $5,000 per day ahead of schedule, and if the road is reopened late, the contractor will be assessed a $5,000 penalty per day behind schedule, the release said.

On this schedule, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, scheduled to travel over U.S. 24 on Aug. 23, will not be affected by the sinkhole.

However, weather, natural disasters or other unforeseen circumstances could delay the repairs.

While the Pro Challenge might not be affected by the sinkhole, another bike tour will not be so lucky.

The Courage Classic, scheduled to start in Leadville on Saturday, announced a new route on Monday for the first leg of the tour.

The original first leg would have taken riders over Tennessee Pass, through Vail and then on to Copper Mountain.

The new route will take riders on a loop of Turquoise Lake and then up over Fremont Pass to Copper Mountain.

Those riders looking for a longer ride will have the option to ride to the top of Vail Pass and back down to Copper Mountain.

U.S. 24 has been closed since July 10 and will remain closed until repairs are made. The closure area begins at mile marker 166 just below the top of Tennessee Pass, and extends to mile marker 162.

The sinkhole, which opened on July 9, has continued to grow over the past week.

“The hole is growing slowly and surely everyday,” Mohr said.

As of Friday the hole was 30 by 30 feet wide and 100 feet deep.

The width of the hole is what continues to grow, Mohr said. CDOT does not expect the hole to get any deeper because it has reached the bottom of an old railroad tunnel under the road.

The tunnel, which collapsed in the early 1900s, has been identified as the cause of the sinkhole.

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