Monthly Archives: August 2006

Public picks up more of hospital tab

Medicare and Medicaid programs paid for more than half of all patient days at Colorado hospitals in 2005, fresh evidence that taxpayers are increasingly picking up the tab for health care at hospitals.

Data released by the Colorado Health and Hospital Association show Medicare and Medicaid combined to pay for 52 percent of patient hospital days in Colorado – the highest percentage ever reported for the state by the association.

Medicare, a federal program that covers people over age 65, paid for 34.2 percent of patient days statewide last year. Medicaid, a program for the poor that is equally funded by the state and federal taxpayers, picked up the tab for 17.8 percent of patient days, the report showed.

The balance of patient days are paid by private insurance, individual payments and other forms of payment such as workers’ compensation.

The government programs, especially Medicaid, do not fully cover the costs for hospital stays. As a result, hospitals are forced to shift the financial burden to private-paying patients and employers through higher insurance premiums, said Stuart Guterman, director of the Medicare’s Future program at the Commonwealth Fund, a Washington, D.C., foundation.

There are an estimated 46 million uninsured Americans. That includes about 767,000 people in Colorado, or 17 percent of the state population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Read the full article in the Denver Post . . .

New Castle is booming

Another small town on the Western Slope is booming.

The town of New Castle, 10 miles west of Glenwood Springs along the I-70 corridor, is growing and it’s expected to more than double in size when all of the current platted land is developed. The town currently has around 1,300 residential units within town limits. With four subdivisions now in development, that number will increase to approximately 3,740 if it reaches full build-out.

The subdivisions include:

  • Castle Valley – 1,400 total units, 620 built or currently under construction.
  • Lakota Canyon – 827 total units, approximately 90 built or currently under construction, half of the land is already platted.
  • River Park – Approximately 150 units when complete
  • Castle Ridge – 67 total units, 12 currently built or under construction.

According to Steve Rippy, former town administrator and current community development consultant for New Castle, the town is experiencing little strain on the water and waste water facilities because the town began expanding the facilities to accommodate the anticipated growth in 1999 and 2001.

The $1.2 million final phase is scheduled to begin around mid-September. This upgrade is an efficiency upgrade to the clarification system that returns solids back into the aerobic system for further breakdown. The addition of an automated grit removal system will increase the efficiency of the filtration system by mechanically removing solids before they reach the plant.

Expansions of the water plant started in 2001 with the addition of three water filtration units. Another filtration unit will be added to the plant this winter – the third upgrade in a six-year plan is scheduled to conclude in 2007.

Read the full article in the Post Independent . . .

Mining Gypsum: Developers see gold in tiny town west of Vail

Eagle County has exploded in recent years, doubling in population from 1990 to 2000, and reaching an estimated 47,530 people in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Gypsum has mirrored that trend, growing from 1,750 residents in 1990 to more than 5,200 today – and its not finished yet.

The old mining town, 35 miles west of Vail, is home to several major new projects, including:

  • The Brightwater Club, which soon will hold 535 single-family homes, a Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course, 27 acres of lakes and a village that will offer restaurants, a gourmet market, and a fitness center and spa. With homesites starting at $300,000, more than 120 lots have sold to date and 45 more are under contract, totaling more than $80 million in sales. The average Brightwater home ranges from $1.1 million to $2.1 million.
  • A 155,000-square-foot Costco store, scheduled to open Oct. 20, expects to draw shoppers from as far as Vail, Aspen and Steamboat Springs. The store will employ 160 people and is expected to generate more than $3 million in annual sales-tax revenues.
  • The Tower Center, which includes 475,000 square feet of retail, including at least two big-box stores, 330 housing units and at least one hotel. Tower Center is expected to generate at least $5 million in annual sales-tax revenue for Gypsum.

The town’s coffers have been swelling for several years. Gypsum’s real estate transfer tax grew from $704,800 in 2004 to $1.48 million last year. Sales-tax revenues grew from $1.46 million in 2004 to $2.33 million last year.

Sales-tax revenue from the new projects will help Gypsum pay off its new $12.2 million recreation center – scheduled to open in November – in less than 10 years.
Read the full article in the Denver Post . . .

Local governments join together to build affordable housing

In a unique partnership, Mountain Village, Telluride and San Miguel County have joined together to develop and construct an affordable housing project.

Called the Sunnyside Affordable Housing project, it is planned for immediately west of Eider Creek, and will include some 48 units. The parcel is owned and will be spearheaded by the county, but Mountain Village and Telluride are chipping in on access, water and sewer.

 

Telluride Mayor John Pryor said the fact that all three governments have joined together to work to mend this urgent regional issue is remarkable.

“The Town of Telluride is very excited to be at the table and working hard at providing more affordable housing with this Sunnyside project with our two other local governments,” Pryor said.

 
 

Although the governments have signed on and much groundwork has been laid by the sketch plan, the project is still in its early stages and many details remain to be hammered out.

Read the full article in the Telluride Daily Planet . . .

Google creates free wi-fi in hometown

Google plans to offer free, high-speed Internet access to everyone in its Silicon Valley home town — a hospitable gesture that the online search leader hopes to see spread to other parts of the country.

The new wireless, or “Wi-Fi,” network, is believed to establish Mountain View, Calif., as the largest U.S. city with totally free Internet access available throughout the entire community, according to both Google and city officials.

St. Cloud, Fla., a suburb of Orlando with a population of about 28,000, had claimed that mantle earlier this year after it launched a free Wi-Fi network.

About 72,000 people reside in Mountain View, an 11.5-square-mile city located about 35 miles south of San Francisco. As the home to major companies like Google and VeriSign, Mountain View’s daytime population can swell above 100,000.

Google invested about $1 million to build the Mountain View Network and expects to have to spend far less than that each year to keep it running. The financial commitment represents a pittance for Google, which has nearly $10 billion in cash.

Powered by 380 radio antennae, the Mountain View Network is supposed to surf the Web at speeds comparable to the Internet connections delivered by digital subscriber, or DSL lines. It will be slightly slower than a high-speed cable connection.

Read the full article in USA Today . . .

Meeting of the mayoral minds

Mayors from Aspen to Grand Junction joined together on the morning of August 3rd to take a flyby airplane ride of the Roaring Fork and Colorado River Valley and discuss regional issues. The flights were provide by the nonprofit Eco-Flight and the day was organized by Healthy Mountain Communities and Silt Mayor Dave Moore.

Mayors met at Garfield County Airport in the morning to get an aerial view of the valley’s oil and gas wells, oil shale projects, gravel pits along the Colorado River and the Interstate 70 corridor. Afterwards, the group met at Silt Town Hall for an informal discussion about various issues.

“It was very beneficial,” said Rifle Mayor Keith Lambert. “We found a lot of commonality in the issues that are before us. I’m very proud to be working with this group of people. There’s a strong possibility of productive outcomes to be had from this group.”

The mayors will be meeting in Aspen during September to continue discussing issues facing the region.

Read the full article in the Post Independent . . .

Carbondale uses energy franchise fees to finance energy plan

Carbondale town trustees unanimously agreed last month to move ahead with the town of Carbondale Energy and Climate Protection Plan (energy plan) by allocating $140,000 in the 2007 budget to fund the initiative.

The money comes from franchise fees paid by Xcel, Holy Cross and KN Energy to operate in town. The fees vary every year but usually come out to about $150,000.

The Carbondale Environmental Board came up with the energy plan and originally presented it to the trustees in May. It is a comprehensive document that includes facts and figures on the town’s consumption of energy and things that can be done to minimize Carbondale’s effect on global climate change.

In May, the trustees directed town staff to come up with a strategy to implement the energy plan. Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker agreed with the recommendation from the Environmental Board that a staff person must be committed to implementing the plan and money allocated for the plan to be successful.

Baker recommended that the town contract with the non profit Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) to implement the plan instead of hiring another town employee.

The town has also applied for more that $1.5 million from the federal government in Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREB). The interest on the bonds would be paid by the government as part of the 2005 federal energy bill.

The town would need to put the question to the voters if they decide to pursue the bonds, and they have taken the necessary steps with the Garfield County Clerk to ensure that the question could be on the ballot this November.

Read the full article in the Valley Journal . . .