Tag: Local concerns

No help for flooded out Paradise Hills homeowners after massive June 20 deluge

An intense and fast-moving storm on June 20, 2024 in Grand Junction caused a massive flood in the Paradise Hills subdivision, filling residents’ homes, back yards, basements and crawl spaces with muddy water, ruining their drywall, carpeting, cupboards and flooring, crashing down fences in yards and drowning backyard chickens. Senior meteorologist Tom Renwick of the National Weather Service in a story on Colorado Public Radio called the storm “incredible.” He said, “We couldn’t see more than maybe five feet out the door. It was remarkable.”

Remarkable, indeed.

One affected resident, Darla Green, attended a Paradise Hills HOA meeting right after the flood and estimated that 60-70 homes were involved and the damage they described cost well over a million dollars.

So far though, Paradise Hills residents have been left totally on their own to recover from what was essentially a man-made flood caused by totally inadequate drainage.

None of the affected homeowners had flood insurance, so they are spending their savings or retirement funds to try to remediate their homes. One owner’s whole first floor was filled with mud, forcing the family to live on the second floor of their home since the flood. Darla Green said she spent $15,000, all of her savings, on cleaning up just her crawl space. She pointed out that crawl space remediation in the area costs more than it might normally be because many owners had radon mitigation measures, like plastic lining and electric fans, in their crawlspaces to keep them ventilated. The flood also rendered a large number Paradise Hills home unsellable because the inadequate drainage poses an ongoing threat of another flood whenever the next big downpour hits. Homeowners are petrified that after spending their savings and retirement funds on remediating the damage from this event, another storm will devastate their homes again.

Google Earth photo of the area affected by the Paradise Hills flood and the drainage that caused the flood (outlined in yellow lines). The storm water flowed off the city-and- county-owned G.J. airport property. The drainage on the residential side adjacent to the Highline Canal starts off big — about 50 feet wide and 20 feet deep — but narrows to just 4-5 feet wide and 3-4 feet deep by the time it hits the first bend, forcing the water and mud that poured off the adjacent desert to spill out into homes in Paradise Hills.

Trying to find help is greatly complicated by all the entities that contributed to the flood and the fractionated nature of the affected areas.

Mud and debris at this abandoned home on Catalina Drive in Paradise Corner shows the height the flood waters reached there on 6/20

The waterline at Jim Ciha’s house on Malibu Drive in Paradise Hills. So far he and his wife have paid $2,100 to get the crawl space cleaned and he admits he had far less damage than many other homeowners in the area. The entire first floor of his neighbor’s house was flooded with muddy water, and those neighbors are now living on the second floor of their home.

The water that flooded Paradise Hills came off the city-and- county-owned Grand Junction Regional Airport. For years the airport has been expanding west towards Paradise Hills and for the last several years its ongoing runway construction project has been altering the topography at the west end of the airport. The June 20 stormwater flowed off airport property into a retention pond the City of Grand Junction built around 2012 on land maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The purpose of the City-built retention pond, according to Chapter 4 of the Airport’s Environmental Assessment for the its runway expansion project, was to protect Paradise Hills from stormwater runoff, but it is clearly failing. After filling the City’s inadequate retention pond, the June 20 stormwater traveled under the Highline Canal through a concrete drainage structure built by the Army Corps of Engineers and into a channel created by the developer of Filing 7 of Paradise Hills, Robert L. Bray and Bray & Company Real Estate, circa 1993-94. The drainage is labeled in the original subdivision plans as “Private Open Space,” making it the property of the Paradise Hills Homeowners Association (HOA), which claims its only mandate is to manage the subdivision’s irrigation system, not any open space or drainages.

Further complicating things, Paradise Hills is made up of more than just one subdivision. Some parts are wholly separate subdivisions, like Paradise Corner, built in 1994 and formerly called “The Moses Subdivision,” which consists of 11 homes off the intersection of Catalina Drive and 26 1/2 Road, and a 4-lot subdivision adjacent to Paradise Corner called North View, built in 1978.

1993 plat map for Paradise Hills Filing #7. Arrows point to the faulty drainage channel (labeled “Tract A”), created by the developer that spilled flood water throughout the neighborhood in the June 20 storm. Note that the drainage channel is labeled “Private Open Space,” while the Paradise Hills HOA seems unaware it owns any private open space.

So far the City of Grand Junction hasn’t lifted a finger to help the affected Paradise Hills homeowners. The Grand Valley Drainage District and Army Corps of Engineers also disavow any responsibility for the flood, and the Department of Local Affairs has been useless despite having a “Disaster Recovery and Resilience Program.” In March, 2024, FEMA started a program to help individual property owners recover from natural disasters, but in order for homeowners to be eligible for it, the President has to declare the area a disaster area, and no government entity has requested it.

Making matters worse, back in 2016 the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce and Mesa County teamed up to sue the Drainage District to block a $3/month per homeowner stormwater fee the Drainage District had levied to generate funds to beef up stormwater drainage in the area north of the Colorado River. The Chamber and County called it an “unconstitutional tax,” won a court judgment against the Drainage District and forced the District to refund all the money it had collected to homeowners and businesses. After this, no entity in the County ever took any steps to improve the drainage situation in the area, leaving residents facing disaster.

Paradise Hills HOA President Austin Erickson seemed completely unaware that Paradise Hills owns any private open space, telling a KREX-TV reporter on June 26 that “he plans on appearing before Grand Junction City Council to learn who might be responsible for maintaining that creek.”

Given all of the entities that contributed to the flood — the city and the county via ownership of the expanding G.J. Airport adjacent to Paradise Hills, and the Bray realtors who developed Paradise Hills — and all the different entities affected by the flood, including residents of Paradise Hills, Paradise Corner and the North View subdivisions, it’s clear that this is a vastly complicated situation that will take a government to step in and coordinate assistance and modification of the drainage, and help the affected homeowners get help to fund their recovery.

By all rights that entity should be the City as the one unifying entity in all of this.

Grand Junction City code says,

28.16.120 Drainage facilities maintenance.

An important part of all storm drainage facilities is continued maintenance of the facilities to ensure they will function as designed. Maintenance of drainage facilities includes a number of routine tasks, such as removal of debris and sediment, and nonroutine tasks, such as restoring damaged structures.

All drainage facilities will be maintained to preserve their function, and shall:….

…Be maintained by the property owner, the developer and/or a homeowners’ association. Should the property owner fail to adequately maintain drainage facilities, the right is reserved [by the City] to enter the property, upon proper notice, for the purpose of performing drainage maintenance. All maintenance costs shall be assessed against the owner(s) of the property.”

So under its charter, the City can step in, do the maintenance on the drainage to prevent more damage to homes in Paradise Hills, and then levy the cost of the maintenance against all the homeowners in all the affected subdivisions.

But so far no entity has taken any steps to help the struggling homeowners, even in a non-monetary way. They’re all just turning a blind eye to the homeowners’ plight.

Paradise Hills is in City Council District B, and Jason Nguyen is their City Councilman (970-244-1504 is the City Council Comment Line) and it is in County Commissioner District 2, represented by Commissioner Bobbie Daniel. Her phone number is 970-244-1885 or you can contact her with this contact form.

Affected homeowner Jim Ciha took the video below of the flood in his backyard on June 20. He admits the damage he sustained to his yard, fence and crawlspace were far less than that other homeowners incurred:

Red Rock elevates former owner, who presided over frauds and arrests, to General Manager over all five dealerships

Red Rock Nissan at 2582 Highway 6 & 50 in Grand Junction

In February, 2024, the sole local owner of Red Rock Auto dealerships, Bryan Knight, was removed from the Auto Industry Division’s list of owners of the business. The change came about after two years of customers and former employees  speaking up about the questionable business practices the dealerships were found to be using under Knight’s ownership. Yet despite Knight getting booted as an owner, he was reportedly still present and working at the dealerships. So with all that has been revealed about how Red Rock was operating in Grand Junction to the detriment of the community, why would the other owners of Red Rock Auto decide to push Knight out, only to keep him around with a hand in the business?

New information explains why.

City Councilor says he sees cronyism creeping into G.J. City Council

Scott Beilfuss

At the regular May 1 meeting of Grand Junction City Council, Councilman Abe Herman was voted in as the new mayor of Grand Junction and Randall Reitz as Mayor Pro Tem for the next year by all attending city council members present except one, and that hold out was perhaps the more important story that Grand Junction citizens should know about.

The vote was 5-1, with current Mayor Anna Stout absent from the meeting.

The lone hold out vote was Councilman Scott Beilfuss.

Curious about the vote, I contacted Beilfuss to ask why he didn’t vote for Herman and Reitz along with the rest of Council.

D-51 employee raises a red flag about the way D-51 conducts lockdown drills compared to other school districts

A highly experienced School District 51 employee who came here from the front range with over 20 years experience in conducting lockdown drills in other school districts is raising red flags about the way D-51 conducts its lockdown drills, and the trauma it is causing students. The employee describes a heartbreaking experience during a lockdown drill with a room full of kindergarteners during the 2023-2024 school year and the lasting  effects it had on students. The employee has brought the problem up with school counselors, the D-51 School Board and Tim Leon, Director of Safety and Security for District 51, and even proposed different ways to conduct these drills that are used in other school districts that don’t traumatize students the way D-51’s drills do, and offered research by the National Association of School Psychologists on how to mitigate the negative psychological effects that lockdown drills have on young kids, but the employee’s urgings have been ignored at every turn.

Mesa County Commissioners ignoring safety concerns & quietly working to tweak land use code to advantage large scale solar development, citizens say

Commercial solar development on east Orchard Mesa (Photo: High Noon Solar)

On January 9, Mesa County Commissioners Janet Rowland, Cody Davis and Bobbie Daniel voted to put a moratorium on large-scale solar development in the County supposedly to take time to address the community’s growing concerns over these developments. Citizens are worried that the current county Land Development Code (LDC) contains no provisions protecting agricultural and irrigated land, wildlife, water sheds and view sheds from these developments, as well as no requirements for fire protection, buffers, setbacks or plans to decommission these installations that will assure solar plants that get destroyed by inclement weather or live out their expected life spans are cleaned up in a way that minimizes  environmental harm and expense to local taxpayers.

Don’t leave money on the table. Get an $800 TABOR refund, even if you don’t have enough taxable income to file a state tax return!

People who lack enough taxable income to file a state tax return may still be able to get an $800 TABOR refund this year, but if you want to get it, you have to tell the state Department of Revenue (DOR) where to find you. You do that by filing a state tax return.

Most poor or retired people don’t file tax returns because they don’t have enough taxable income (like wages or tips), but many people who could really use that $800 may not get it because they didn’t file.

Don’t leave money on the table!

News anchor Bernie Lange leaves KKCO, moves to KREX

Welcome to KREX, Bernie Lange

Award-winning, long time local news anchor Bernie Lange has left KKCO and will start working at KREX-TV Channel 5 on Monday, March 25 as the station’s main anchor for their 5:00, 6:00 and 10:00 p.m. newscasts. He has more than 20 years experience in broadcast journalism.

Turn out to help save the much-loved Orchard Mesa Pool at two important meetings this month

Citizens attend a meeting on 3/13 to discuss how to save the much loved and needed Orchard Mesa Pool.

The Save the Orchard Mesa Pool Committee asks everyone who wants to save the OM pool from destruction to mark their calendars and attend the next city council meetings about the pool, and wear blue to help show solidarity for saving the pool:

The next meeting is March Monday, 18th at 5:30 p.m. at the downtown fire station at 625 Ute Ave., right by the Grand Junction Police station. This is a listen-only meeting, but the Orchard Mesa community needs to show a big presence. All you need to do is show up and wear blue!

Then after that, on Wednesday, March 20 at Grand Junction City Hall, 250 N. 5th Street, at 5:30 p.m. The Committee needs a HUGE CROWD to attend this meeting because City Council may be voting on the fate of the pool at this meeting. The public can weigh in at this meeting.

United Way to host Poverty Immersion Experience to increase understanding of what life is like for people living in poverty in Mesa County

The Poverty Immersion Experience allows participants to spend a simulated month in the life of an individual who is experiencing poverty in Mesa County. It is an interactive event that promotes awareness of poverty in Mesa County, increases understanding of people facing poverty situations and that will inspire local change. The intent is to shift the belief and paradigm about poverty from being seen as a personal failure or character flaw to the understanding that poverty is a systemic and societal issue.

The experience offers a unique opportunity to step into the shoes of a low-income family, navigating life with limited resources, while providing for their children and accessing essential community services.

The Orchard Mesa Community Center Pool is barely afloat

Orchard Mesa Pool

Guest blog post by Mariann Taigman, co-founder of the Save the Pool Committee, and Nick Allan of Orchard Mesa United

Three different agencies—the school district, the city, and the county—are involved in managing the Orchard Mesa Community Center Pool (OMCCP).

Prior to 2020, a Pool Board was created that was comprised of one official from each of these entities to discuss the pool at joint meetings. In 2020, the pool board convened to discuss the pool’s future, including the possibility of demolition, marking the last “official” meeting of the Pool Board before it dissolved. In response, the Save The Pool Committee emerged as a grassroots effort, championed by concerned community

Kids and adults enjoying the OM Pool

members passionate about keeping the OMCCP operational.  During that final Pool Board meeting, the Save The Pool Committee presented proof to the three entities that the community wanted the pool to remain open.  Our efforts included: obtaining 7,000 online petition signatures and 1,000 paper signatures; collecting over 70 letters from school children; encouraged community engagement by distributing flyers as to the fate of the OMCCP, and having groups of community members speak at city council meetings.

Rally for the Grand Junction Post Office Monday, Feb. 19, & find out more about changes proposed to mail service

The drive-up mail boxes at the postal sorting annex at 602 Burkey Street, off Patterson and 25 1/2 Road

Local postal employees are inviting members of the community to join them at a rally tomorrow, Monday, February 19, from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. at the Grand Junction Mail Processing Facility at 602 Burkey Street to hear about changes being proposed to local postal services in Grand Junction and show support for keeping mail operations in town.

In January, Grand Junction postal employees warned of changes being proposed that could further slow mail delivery and eliminate postal jobs in Grand Junction.

The national Post Office is considering moving the sorting of local mail to Denver. This means local mail would be collected, put on trucks, driven to Denver, sorted at a processing facility in Denver, then put back on trucks and driven back to Grand Junction for delivery. With I-70 being closed more often due to inclement weather, accidents, rockslides, mudslides and other calamities, this could cause further unexpected and unpredictable delays in mail delivery in Grand Junction.

The change could also eliminate anywhere from 12-20 jobs at postal facilities in Grand Junction.

What’s all this about a severed head found in a freezer in garage at a house on Pinyon Ave.?

2019 photo of the house at 2988 Pinyon Ave. where the severed head was reportedly found in a freezer in the garage. (Source: Google Street View)

UPDATE 1/18/24 @ 11:48 a.m.: The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) issued an update today on the case of the severed head. It says, “The autopsy by the Mesa County Coroner’s Office occurred yesterday and has confirmed the human remains found at the address on Pinyon Avenue on January 12, 2024, are a human head and human hands,” and “we have no other definitive answers until further testing can be completed.” 

[Note: this story was updated with additional information received on 1/16/24@11:45 a.m. that has been added in blue text, below.]

Multiple people are reporting on social media that a severed head and possibly additional body parts were discovered in a freezer in the garage of the home at 2988 Pinyon Ave. on Friday, January 12. The story has been confirmed by multiple sources and people have been posting photos documenting the incident.

Here’s what is known so far:

Local Postal workers warn of changes coming that will further slow mail delivery

A brand new sorting machine lies in a dumpster at the Postal Sorting Annex on Patterson Rd. and Burkey St. on August 24, 2020. Employees said it was ordered dismantled and disposed of by Postmaster Louis DeJoy, who has been carrying out changes that are leaving the U.S. Postal Service in disarray

Local Postal Service workers shared a memo distributed to employees at the Burkey Street Sorting Facility on January 10 that warns changes are likely coming to the Burkey Street facility that will threaten jobs and further slow mail delivery by moving mail processing and distributing (PD&C) out of these facilities to Denver.

The 6 page memo, called a “Stand Up Talk” (pdf), warns of an impending facility review that will likely lead to consolidation of plant operations here in Grand Junction and the relocation of parcel operations from here to Denver. It indicates Trump-appointed Postmaster Louis DeJoy will likely take steps that will further erode mail service in Grand Junction and mountain towns. A veteran postal worker said the plan “will definitely slow down mail processing and probably cost some jobs in our areas,” adding that “They seem to cut service then lower their standards so it looks like they are ‘fixing things’.”

Schwenke is helping realtors and developers oppose City plan for more pedestrian & bike-friendly development

Many Grand Junction streets lack curb, gutters, sidewalks and other pedestrian and bike-friendly amenities. City Council is trying to fix this by making transportation corridors safer and more user-friendly for pedestrians, bicyclists and people using public transportation. Realtors and developers oppose the effort, assisted by former Chamber president Diane Schwenke.

Former Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke, who has a consulting business now called “Schwenke Solutions,” is working as a consultant for the Grand Junction Area Realtors and Homebuilders Associations, helping them oppose the City’s new proposed Transportation Engineering Design Standards (TEDS) that are designed to make streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and people taking public transportation.

Diane Schwenke lobbies against higher wages

Former Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke appears in a 2016 TV ad opposing an increase in Colorado’s minimum wage

To that end, Schwenke authored a strange letter to the editor to the Daily Sentinel November 26 that praised a new housing development on former farmland in Nebraska that lack curbs, gutters and walkable sidewalks. She praises the beautiful agricultural setting of the development, saying it has “a layout that maximizes the view of fields of corn and soybeans on the adjourning hillsides,” but doesn’t seem to understand that such developments destroy the lovely fields and farms she likes to look at, and will cost taxpayers in the long run as cities have to add curb, gutter, drainage, adequate sidewalks and other amenities to make them safer and more attractive.

District 51 quietly working on plan that involves firing over 50 teachers in Fruita

Fruita 8/9 School, August 2022 (Photo: Facebook)

AnneLandmanBlog received the following communication this morning titled “A Huge Concern,” from a D-51 teacher who wants to get word out about the School District quietly moving forward with a plan to fire over 50 Fruita-area teachers, many of whom have over 20 years of experience:

KREX TV explores how the County seized control over all of Mesa County Public Health Department’s contracts when it only contributes 4.2% of the agency’s budget

KREX reporter Michael Loggerwell’s story about Mesa County’s new Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Health Department- Part 1

KREX-TV News recently did a two-part series about the Mesa County Commissioners’ new, post-Jeff Kuhr Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) that more tightly regulates the County’s relationship with the Public Health Department (MCPHD), and how it differs from the old 2012 agreement in important ways that could negatively affect public health and safety in the county.

Why are the Mesa County Commissioners sending taxpayer money out of town?

The Commissioners used a roofing company in Keenesburg, Colorado to replace the roof on the Old County Courthouse on Rood Ave., instead of a company located in Mesa County

The Mesa County Commissioners recently had the roof replaced on the Old Courthouse at 544 Rood Ave.

They gave the job to Better Line Roofing, LLC in Keenesburg, Colorado, 279 miles from here, instead of a local roofing company.