Some of the most-read popular stories on The-Journal.com in 2016 dealt with ongoing issues such as the decline of energy giant Kinder Morgan’s business in the area or the potential closing of County Road BB. Some had to do with national issues, such as the Dakota access pipeline and the 2016 election, that affected people in Montezuma County. Others were more personal, dealing with individual losses that impacted the whole county.
Elections settle a year of debateThe tumultuous elections wrapped up in the wee hours of morning following the Nov. 8 elections as Montezuma County filed its votes about 5:40 a.m., the last county in the state to hand in final results.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump won all but one of Montezuma County’s 11 precincts on Tuesday, claiming 60 percent of the total vote to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s 30 percent.
U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, (R-Cortez) kept his seat, defeating Democratic challenger Gail Schwartz 55 percent to 41 percent statewide. In Montezuma County, he defeated Schwartz 59 percent to 36 percent.
Democrat Michael Bennet kept his U.S. Senate seat, but the majority of Montezuma county voters favored Republican challenger Darryl Glenn, who got 60 percent of the votes compared with Bennet’s 34 percent.
Closer to home, one of the biggest issues for Cortez voters this year was the potential demolition of the retired Montezuma-Cortez High School building. A referendum allocating $1.8 million for the demolition passed with 63.51 percent of the vote, and the demolition is set to begin in the spring.
Montezuma County voters also voted to opt out of the restrictive state telecommunication law SB 152, voting 8,469 to 3,628 and showing that local control of improved internet was a priority.
Community grieves after two kids take their livesTwo juvenile suicides, one in Cortez and one in Dolores, shook Montezuma County in October.
More than 400 people attended the funeral of one girl, Alana Nowlin, and the two deaths sparked ongoing conversations in the Dolores and Cortez school districts about bullying, mental health and the need to reach out to hurting children in the community. Montezuma County Sheriff Nowlin vowed to lead the charge in revising policy on bullying, and Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 has announced that it will review its policy on bullying.
A couple loses their son to addictionJust a few months earlier, another tragedy drew the community’s attention for different reasons.
Chance Davidson, 18, was one of at least six people in the county to die of a drug overdose this year. After his death in August, his mother spoke out through an interview with The Journal, sharing her shock of finding him and telling parents to talk to their children about drugs, and reminding them that what happened to Chance could happen in any family.
County looks to life after Kinder MorganIn 2015, about half of Montezuma County’s budget was funded by property tax revenue from the Kinder Morgan CO2 industry, which supplies oil companies.
But this year, a downturn in the oil energy sector led to reduction in the company’s operations, and a subsequent drop in revenue.
As a result, Montezuma County commissioners ended up cutting $1.3 million from their 2017 budget, citing the decline in tax revenue for the oil and gas industry.
100 march against Dakota Access PipelineIn September, Cortez residents showed their support for the Dakota Access Pipeline protest happening nearly 1,000 miles away at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.
Marchers held a peaceful rally in Cortez City Park to support the Sioux effort to block construction of an oil pipeline that would cross under the Missouri river. Construction on the pipeline is currently at a standstill after the Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for construction of an important segment.
County, CDOT plan to close Road BB at U.S. 491The Colorado Department of Transportation and Montezuma County have offered a preliminary proposal to close Road BB at the intersection with U.S. Highway 491 next year, directing highway traffic to meet up with Road CC.
The area of the intersection between BB and 491 is reportedly one of the most dangerous in the state, and has been the site of at least two fatal accidents in the past four years. But the decision to close the intersection has stirred up controversy, especially among Pleasant View residents, who fear that directing traffic to Road CC will bring it too close to the Pleasant View School.
Plans for a permanent solution to the dangerous intersection have not been finalized.
City faces lawsuit in Make My Day case In January, a Denver attorney notified Cortez city attorney Mike Green that the family of Shane French, who was arrested in February 2014, would likely bring a lawsuit against the Cortez Police Department for the alleged “unlawful actions” of several officers on the night of French’s arrest.
French, 39, spent some 10 months in jail while facing charges of attempted first-degree murder, first-degree assault, criminal mischief, attempt to disarm a peace officer, obstruction, resisting arrest, reckless endangerment and menacing. A jury acquitted him of criminal wrongdoing based on what was called excessive police force and an unlawful entry.
City Manager Shane Hale and attorney Green have declined to comment about the suit.
Master lease plan angers commissionersUse of county land was on many county residents’ minds in 2016.
The Bureau of Land Management proposed a master lease plan for Southwest Colorado in August, but it drew opposition in Montezuma County from oil and gas companies, as well as county commisioners, for placing more regulations on the oil and gas industry.
The plan passed in December, after the acreage it covered was drastically reduced.
Kemper kids plant White House gardenFive fourth-graders from Kemper Elementary got a chance to meet the first lady in April during a trip they took to Washington, D.C. as part of the Montezuma School to Farm Project. They were invited back on June 6 to help harvest the garden vegetables they planted on the White House lawn.
City council supports new airlineIn June, the city council voted to approve Boutique Air’s bid for a two-year contract providing three daily flights to Denver and one daily flight to Phoenix from the Cortez Municipal Airport.
Boutique replaced Great Lakes Airlines as the city’s airline of choice after many years. It held a grand opening ceremony on Oct. 12 at the airport.