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Top Stories of 2012

Posted: Saturday, Dec 29th, 2012

Gov. John Hickenlooper makes the name change official in May. A memorial for three Alamosa youth still remains at the corner of Northern Avenue and Pueblo Boulevard in Pueblo where they lost their lives on April 28. Alamosa 3A supporters celebrate at the Alamosa Court House on election night. The scene of the Glen Olivas homicide in Alamosa.

Adams State named university, other firsts

ALAMOSA — Adams State upgraded to university status this year, giving the community a great reason to celebrate.

Throughout the early summer, students, staff and even Gov. John Hickenlooper gathered on campus to embrace the change. Before spring graduation, students thronged the Student Union Building to enjoy cake and get their free “Adams State University” t-shirt. President David Svaldi and student Jenny Carter cut a cake emblazoned with the new Adams State University logo. Carter was among a group from Adams State who testified on the justification of the name change before the House Education Committee in March. Shortly after, the governor and other elected officials came to together for the official signing of House Bill 12-1080 legally changing Adams State College to Adams State University on August 7 at a special ceremony on the McDaniel Hall lawn.

Formerly known as the Education & Social Sciences (ES) building, The McDaniel Hall, located at First Street and Richardson Ave., reopened for Adams State’s 2012 spring semester.

The $11.4 million project was funded by students, who four years ago approved a capital construction fee to upgrade student housing and academic buildings. IN 2011, McDaniel Hall was completely gutted and renovated to be more welcoming to students and incorporate the latest in teaching technology.

The McDaniel Hall renovation caps $62 million worth of campus improvements begun in 2008. The North Campus Transformation was completed in 2010, featuring The Residences at Rex student apartments and new stadium facility, as well as a landscaped walkway and green area along what previously was the southernmost block of Stadium Drive.

In addition, the ASU Adams State University (ASU) Board of Trustees approved the school’s first Ph.D program in December.

The counselor education graduate program now awaits additional approval before rolling out next fall, the university is already anticipating its first doctorate program will be a positive addition.

Three teens killed by drunk driver in Pueblo

ALAMOSA — Alamosa teenagers Serina Sena and Selena Mascarenas, both 14, and Anisa Montoya, 18, were killed by an alleged drunk driver in Pueblo on April 28. The girls had just attended a church event when their car, driven by Montoya, collided with a vehicle driven by Pueblo resident Gilbert O. Sanchez, 36, who allegedly sped through a red light. The three Alamosa teens died at the scene.

Sanchez was charged with three counts Felony 3 vehicular homicide-driving under the influence causing death and three counts Felony 4 vehicular homicide-driving in a reckless manner causing death in connection with the deaths of the three San Luis Valley teens. He was also charged with felony vehicular assault and child abuse related to injuries suffered by two young passengers in his vehicle.

Anisa was Alamosa High School senior class president and would have graduated on May 26. Serina was an eighth grader at Sangre de Cristo, and Selena was an eighth grader at Ortega Middle School.

Sanchez has appeared in court in Pueblo for motions hearings, and decisions on some of those motions were pending at the conclusion of 2012. Pueblo Judge Thomas Flesher set a two-week trial to begin April 2, 2013.

New solar projects shine bright in Valley

VALLEY — SolarReserve, a California-based solar company, and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar took giant steps for renewable energy projects in the Valley this year.

In March, the Saguache County Commissioners approved SolarReserve’s 1041 permit application to pursue construction of a 200-megawatt solar power-generating 100 percent clean energy facility north of Center consisting of two 100 MW 656-foot tall solar thermal power generating units based on emerging concentrating solar-thermal power technology.

The project is based on innovative concentrating solar-thermal power generation technology that concentrates the sun’s rays, heating a working fluid (molten salt) that captures and stores the heat. Heat is used separately to create steam to drive a conventional turbine-generator to produce electricity. The proposed concentrating solar-thermal power technology uses heliostats (tracking mirrors) arranged in a roughly circular array around a central tower to focus sunlight onto a thermal receiver at the top of the tower.

The molten salt storage provides a buffer, capturing and storing thermal energy when the sun is shining or during cloudy and overcast days in a process that is decoupled from electricity generation. The stored thermal energy allows the generator to produce electricity when needed to meet demand on the electricity grid, not only when the sun is shining.

In addition to taking advantage of the Valley’s vast solar resources, SolarReserve is providing opportunities for the community to get involved. The development agreement stipulates that SolarReserve will make “reasonable efforts to hire applicants” through the six Valley counties for construction jobs; the company will pay a $50,000 one-time operational shortfall fee if there not enough local hires; and $200,000 for local training programs to develop skills essential to the project. The company will also provide $175,000 for a Visitor Information Center (VIC) in the town of Center; furnish an annual VIC operating budget of $50,000 for a period of four years, starting when the first tower begins drawing revenue; and provide signs on the highways and in the town of Center. Other project benefits include $425,000 annual property taxes; voluntarily reducing water use at the site; bringing 50 full time jobs per tower to Saguache County; and hiring 40 percent Saguache County residents for operational jobs.

In additional solar developments this year, Alamosa county commissioners approved another solar facility in May. San Luis Valley Solar Farm LLC will be located between County Lane 8 North and County Lane 9 North near existing solar facilities and the SLV substation owned by Public Service Company, Xcel and Tri-State.

To be developed in phases, the solar farm is proposed to be 30-50 megawatts initially and 150 megawatts when fully developed.

In addition, in June, Salazar released the final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for potential utility-scale solar development on public lands in the west including solar hot spots in his native land.

The Final PEIS identifies 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands in six western states as priority areas for utility-scale solar development. The six states are Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

Four of those zones are located in Colorado for a total of approximately 16,300 acres, all within the San Luis Valley.

The Solar PEIS planning effort focused on locations on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands most suitable for solar energy development characterized by excellent solar resources, good energy transmission potential and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.

Projected megawatts of solar power development by 2030 on the SLV acreages is 2,194 MW on BLM lands and 731 MW on non-BLM lands. This estimates nine acres of land use per megawatt.

In total, the Final PEIS estimates a total development of 23,700 megawatts from the 17 zones and variance areas, enough energy to power 7 million American homes.

Voters support mill levies for Valley schools

ALAMOSA — After a loud campaign that tipped the vote, the Alamosa Mean Moose are now looking forward to a new athletic facility and vo/ag facility in 2013.

In November, Alamosa voters approved the $4.9 million tax extension, 3,166 to 2,872. Supporters consider the win a mighty feat since in 2011 a similar mill levy was placed before the voters and defeated by 443 votes. This year, the voters approved to increase existing debt with a repayment cost of $7.9 million to fund the entire project.

The year-round facility will include improvements such as an eight-lane track with synthetic turf; a stadium; lights to accommodate night games; and a facility for agriculture and vocational education programs, which now are housed off campus at Ortega Middle School.

Next year, the mill levy will decrease, according to a RBC Capital Markets bond summary. In 2012, taxpayers will pay 15.591 mills and in 2013 they will pay 15.290 mills. At most, a property owner will pay 15.339 mills in 2017 and the mills collected will drop to around 8.2 in 2023, the year after the complex service is paid off.

According to a GE Johnson Construction Company report, the mill levy dollars will break down accordingly: $3,075,000 will fund the track and field; bleachers; press box: a ticketing and concessions building; bathrooms; first aid office; an officials building and the “Walk to Glory,” a path from the school entrance to the complex. $580,000 will fund locker rooms and an athletic storage building and other dollars will be earmarked for roadwork, sports equipment and OMS facility upgrades. The vo/ag building cost is under $1 million.

Reasons supporters like AHS booster club Maroon Pride wanted to build the facility included, but were not limited to, increasing local business revenues; giving student athletes and the community a place for Friday Night Lights; giving all community members a place to recreate; providing a competition location to bring teams to the Valley, which could cut down on Alamosa travel costs; and having a quality athletic facility that could attract new residents to the area.

Additional 3A supporters included the Alamosa School Board, the Alamosa City Council and the Alamosa County Commissioners, who all approved resolutions supporting 3A.

In Del Norte, voters also passed a 3A ballot measure to increase taxes $832,600 in 2012, with collections in 2013. The taxes will support general funds to restore critical budget cuts, mitigate future cuts, purchase textbooks, computers and other resources, support programs to prepare students for the future, enhance safety and security of students, staff and school property, and maintain competitive salary and benefit levels to retain and attract high quality teachers.

Homicides strike Valley

VALLEY — The San Luis Valley experienced two incidents of homicide involving three victims in 2012. The murders remained unsolved but under investigation by the end of the year.

On February 13, John Raymond Salazar, 54, and Sarah Janay Beasley, 29, were murdered at their Monte Vista home. Both were shot to death, Salazar outside the home at approximately 4:18 a.m. and Beasley inside the 530 Lyell Street residence. Both were pronounced dead at the scene. Salazar was a custodian with the Monte Vista school district. Beasley was a student at Trinidad State Junior College in Alamosa, and her three sons lived with the couple.

No suspects were in custody for the double homicide by the conclusion of 2012.

The Valley experienced another homicide later in the year when Glen Olivas, 55, was found dead at 401 11th Street in Alamosa on October 28. Alamosa firefighters discovered Olivas’ body when they responded to a fire at that address early Sunday morning, Oct. 28. Firefighters discovered a fully engulfed structure fire and the body of a deceased male later identified as Olivas.

The Alamosa Police Department and Colorado Bureau of Investigation were summoned to investigate the homicide/arson. No suspects were in custody for Olivas’ apparent murder by the end of the year.

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