Former Garfield County clerk & recorder’s office vital records worker Alicia Macias pleaded guilty late last week to felony embezzlement of public property. Macias was accused of, and admitted to, taking about 18 thousand county dollars for herself, over a 4-year period from 2011 to 2015. With the guilty plea, another charge of felony theft between 5 and 20 thousand dollars was dismissed. She’ll be sentenced in early June. The guilty plea cuts Macias’ risk of serving 1 to 3 years in state prison, but doesn’t remove it entirely, despite no prison being the prosecutors’ recommendation. If Judge John Neiley plans to put her in prison, he’ll have to give Macias a chance to withdraw the guilty plea and go to trial. Not a great record for Garfield County… 2 other ex-employees of the clerk’s office, Brenda Caywood and Robin McMillan, committed similar crimes in the last 5 years. Caywood didn’t go to prison after her guilty plea for stealing about 16 thousand dollars, but in 2014, McMillan drew a 9-year term behind bars. She’d been accused of embezzling some 440 thousand dollars, and admitted to the theft of 20 to 100 thousand, plus filing a false tax return.
We told you at the end of the week about ongoing parental concerns about the Superintendent’s hiring practices in the Roaring Fork school district, despite efforts from a vice-principal and students to calm the waters at the high school. Now, at the other end of the valley, Aspen’s district accountability committee says it’s detected what it calls, in these words, “some worrying trends and important issues that need to be addressed.” The school board asked at the beginning of the 16-17 school year for an evaluation, and the report the committee came up with reportedly came out last week. The panel notes that while still a high-achieving district in standardized testing, student scores have been declining in Aspen the last 7 years. The committee of parents, teachers, and other citizens also recommends the Aspen district make the state Common Core standards that’ve been in place since 2010 the local curriculum, for kindergarten through high school. The panel also questions “monitoring reports” from the board that say progress is being made even when scores stay flat or decline… and expresses concern that spending per Aspen student has gone up 3 times more than in similar districts since 2011, while teacher development spending is far below the average of those benchmark schools.
Either Aspen or Snowmass Village could veto preservation of the historic Rio Grand Trail rail corridor for future use. A recently-updated plan for that preservation has unanimously passed the RFTA board on first reading, and could be approved on the 11th of next month. But it might get de-railed, too. Mayor Steve Skadron of Aspen is one of the officials who says he might vote that way. He wants better assurances that the corridor wouldn’t later get declared “severed.” That could violate federal rules. Skadron says some of the plan’s language is in his opinion, too soft in that way.
One reported economic positive in Aspen is that sales of single-family houses were up there in 2017’s first 3 months, totalling about 136 and a half million dollars, well ahead of just over 101 million for the first quarter of last year. Along with those total sales figures, the city reports real estate transfer tax collections are 79 percent higher in the affordable housing fund, up 76 percent in the fund that benefits the Wheeler Opera House. Uncertainty over the election is thought by some experts to have been the big factor that held some real estate numbers in Aspen down a bit last year.
And of course Snowmass finished the 2016 & 17 skiing and riding season on Easter Sunday. Highlands had shut down last week, Buttermilk and Sunlight the week before. Aspen Mountain’s going to be open this coming week, as are Vail and Breckenridge. If you still need to slide down a mountainside on some snow after that, Arapahoe Basin, up at 12 thousand feet, plans to have runs available through June 11th. Loveland at the Continental Divide says it’ll be open through May 7th, but it’s not clear if they’ll open today. Loveland suffered a power failure Easter afternoon, that forced ski patrollers to evacuate some skiers and riders from the lifts, but no one got hurt.