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Area takes a heavy snow hit last weekend PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Huge snowflakes accumulated for 8 inches of snow and more in a solid spring snowstorm Friday and Saturday, April 29-30.

Tree branches fell on power lines, causing power outages, and the town was in a frenzy.

How much snow did Holyoke receive? “That’s a good question,” said weather recorder Dan Kafka, who reports for the National Weather Service.

In his Saturday morning measurement at 7 a.m., his instruments showed 7.9 inches. But snowfall started up again Saturday, and white filled the air a good share of the day. Because it melted right away, the actual snowfall measurement was impossible to take.

Through the two-day snowfall, Kafka said a total of 1.76 inches of nice moisture was recorded.

Huge flakes fell Friday, and the heavy weight of the snow had area residents out shaking trees to try to deter branch splitting. But the effort proved futile for the most part.

A tour of Holyoke Saturday morning showed branches of all sizes littering the streets and yards, perching on parked vehicles and still hanging from trees.

By Monday morning, few traces of actual snow remained, just the aftermath of broken trees and branches.

Countless branches met their demise Friday night and Saturday morning, April 29-30. This scene on South Phelan Avenue, pictured before cleanup began, was one of many similar sights throughout town. City street crews cleared the branches that were in the middle of streets Saturday. They then started pickup of all those that residents piled curbside, a process that continued into early this week.  

—Johnson Publications photo

Power outages numerous

Fire sirens summoning the Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department sounded at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. Friday and again at 5:55 a.m. Saturday.

HVFD fire chief Stacy Rueter said they had numerous calls about downed power lines all over town and they just started dispatching from a vehicle.

Sparks were caused by trees hitting power lines due primarily to the weight of the snow, as well as a little wind. Crews couldn’t put water on the electrical sparks but were on duty to make sure fires didn’t erupt.

Rueter commended the city crews for getting power back as quickly as possible.

City Superintendent Mark Brown said the biggest problem in terms of power outages involved lines from homes to the meters.

Power in the downtown area flickered just a little and was out probably only five minutes. However, the outage in the rest of the town ranged from six to 23 hours, said Brown.

The last line energized was in the alley between Bowman and Sherman avenues, and homes in that area were without power for 23 hours.

Brown emphasized that they don’t re-energize service drops until an electrician either repairs or confirms that it is safe for the home to do so.

So electricians also joined the “busier than ever” crews. As of Monday morning, Brown said that three homes were still without power, waiting for electricians to give the go-ahead.

Highline Electric Association operations manager Rance Ferguson said Highline had a lot of broken crossarms and conductors that burned down but lost probably only six poles in their whole territory. Lines slapped together, causing wires to short out. Wires burned in half, then fell down, explained Ferguson.

One of the bigger trees that bit the dust in last weekend’s heavy snowstorm is pictured on South Belford Avenue Saturday morning.  

—Johnson Publications photo

That HEA area spans from the south edge of Chappell, Neb., to 23 miles south of Holyoke, and from Imperial, Neb., to 14 miles west of Sterling.

Phillips County didn’t fare as badly as Ovid, Sedgwick, Crook and Iliff, along the South Platte River Valley, said Ferguson.

Outage times varied, with some HEA customers being without power for a couple of hours and others for a couple of days. North of Padroni lost power Friday night, and it wasn’t restored until Sunday around noon for the worst-case scenario, said Ferguson.

He noted that some outages occurred as ice formed on the wires, while others happened when the ice was falling off.

HEA and City of Holyoke crews were out all night Friday, worked nonstop Saturday and continued most of Sunday.

Now in cleanup mode, the crews continue to pick up the debris and make needed repairs.

Brown said he pulled in the city street crew Saturday morning to start cleanup by picking up branches that had fallen in the streets and were blocking traffic.

That cleanup continues this week as city crews pick up the branches that residents have placed curbside.

Many Holyoke residents have taken care of their own branches, depending on the size of the downed limbs. There are two licensed tree trimmers who can be called for assistance through the City of Holyoke. They are Jason Anderson of Enders, Neb., and Brad Lightsey of Fleming. Their information can be obtained by calling the city office at 970-854-2266.

This vehicle parked on the west side of South Belford Avenue caught the wrath of a downed tree branch in last weekend’s storm.  

—Johnson Publications photo

Many cooperate to assure safety and comfort

Emergency services provided by the City of Holyoke, Highline Electric and Holyoke Volunteer Fire Department only touch on the community effort that goes into battling the aftereffects of storms such as the one that hit the area last weekend.

Electricians, tree trimmers, snow scoopers and plowers, and numerous other volunteers who assist with outages and cleanup make this a community of support.

Even after spending countless hours for most of the weekend servicing the community, the city expressed thankfulness for all the assistance they received, including those who delivered food and drinks to the workers.

April certainly went out with a roar this year.

Holyoke Enterprise May 5, 2016

Arena fundraising efforts begin with $1 million goal PDF Print E-mail
Written by Darci Tomky   

Two newly formed committees have their sights set on nearly $1 million as they kick off fundraising efforts for the proposed Phillips County Fairgrounds pavilion and education center.

Phillips County commissioners gave an update on the committees at their regular month-end meeting Friday, April 29.

Grants are the focus of the first committee. Committee members will be exploring potential grant funding, with each person asked to contact a foundation about the project.

The second committee, chaired by Mendi Lutze and Tim Becker, will be planning fundraising events and encouraging donations from county residents.

Total project cost is estimated at $1.4 million, with approximately $423,000 already pledged. Committee members have set a goal of an additional $225,000 to be raised from donations/pledges and $75,000 from fundraising events. They hope to see the rest come from grants.

Commissioners were pleased to note that the project has been approved as an Enterprise Zone project, giving any donor a 25 percent credit on their state taxes. They also noted the project will allow pledges to be made over a five-year period.


New weeds added to noxious weed list

After an April 19 public hearing, the board of commissioners approved changes to the Phillips County Noxious Weed Management Plan.

The changes extend the life of the Phillips County Weed District to June 20, 2022.

While revising the plan, several weeds were added to the county’s noxious weed list. They are common mullein, bull thistle, scotch thistle, wormwood, Chinese clematis, yellow toadflax and palmer amaranth.


Reynolds resigns from Human Services position

Phillips County Department of Human Services director Jacalyn Reynolds submitted a letter of resignation, effective July 15, 2016.

Commissioner Joe Kinnie said the board noted their appreciation for her faithful service, and they thanked her for giving sufficient notice to provide an adequate search for a new director.

Reynolds held the director position for about six years before a seven-year hiatus. She returned to Phillips County Department of Human Services in January 2013.

Last month, commissioners approved moving part-time dispatcher Jill Anderson to a full-time position at the county communications center. This change — in addition to updated equipment at the comm center — was made possible because of an increase in the 911 surcharge as well as increased support from Haxtun and Holyoke.

The 911 surcharge increase from $1.25 per month to $1.75 per month took effect May 1.

Additionally, commissioners recently appointed John Heermann of Haxtun to a six-year term on the West Phillips County Cemetery District board. Brad Michael serves as another board member, and commissioners are currently looking for one more person to serve on the board.


Other business

In other business in the month of April, the board of commissioners:

—signed a one-year contract through April 12, 2017, with Hart InterCivic for the current voting equipment the county is using.

—approved a proposal by Blue Spruce Painting of Haxtun to paint the basement of the Phillips County Courthouse for $5,535 plus the cost of paint.

—approved the installation of a network at the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office with equipment and installation provided by New Age Electronics for $2,308.

—approved three road occupancy agreements for NE Colorado Cellular Inc., dba Viaero. The company planned to bury fiber-optic line from a point north of U.S. Highway 6 heading south along County Road 37, crossing two county roads.

—approved a road occupancy agreement for Dustin Schnel­ler for a crossing on County Road 55 between County Road 16 and County Road 18.

—approved the Haxtun ambulance service license renewal to operate from April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017.

Holyoke Enterprise May 5, 2016

New recruits sought at Melissa Memorial PDF Print E-mail
Written by Karen Ortner   

From med school students to pharmacist candidates, staff recruitment was a major highlight of the Tuesday, April 26, East Phillips County Hospital District Board meeting.

In his administrative update, CEO Trampas Hutches reported that discussions were “heating up” with University of Colorado Medical School over the possibility of establishing a residency program at Melissa Memorial Hospital.

“They can send first- and second-year and some third-year residents out here,” said Hutches, adding that he and Dr. Aaron Wilson are still going over the handbook to see if the arrangement will be a good fit.

Wilson was also present for the Tuesday meeting. “It would be a good recruiting tool to get people out here,” he said. “That’s a huge thing.”

Full-time physician recruitment continues to be a challenge. Two candidates that MMH administration had looked forward to have recently withdrawn their interest in the positions open for various reasons.

“Some providers want to work in the clinic, some want the emergency department. It’s hard to get someone who wants both,” said Hutches.

For the full-time pharmacist position, Hutches reported that they have conducted the first interview with a prospective candidate and will soon have another interview. About 10 applicants have applied for the position so far.


MMH makes people the focus in efforts for growth

Hutches’ update Tuesday also emphasized community needs, marketing and relationships with neighboring hospitals as part of his plan for the hospital’s growth.

Besides establishing a group of community members who meet to identify area needs and how MMH can effectively help meet them, the administration looks forward to analyzing its community surveys, which are available online and also went out as an insert in last week’s Holyoke Enterprise.

“It will help us determine what to provide for the community,” said Hutches, who also mentioned a “strategic plan” coming up in June.

Marketing MMH in general has also received renewed focus, as Hutches is working on a committee with public relations specialist Megan Sprague, administrative assistant Diana Baeza and radiology manager Tim Johnson, chosen for his graphic design skills, to develop a 10-point plan to present to the board.

Branding and public relations will be key components in this effort, right down to the logo for MMH.

Hutches inquired as to whether there was any history behind the hospital’s current logo. “The goal of a logo is to differentiate ourselves from our competitors,” he explained. “Currently there is another hospital with a similar logo.”

Other public relations efforts include a discount memorandum of understanding with Regent Park, with the promise of meeting with large employers in the community to offer similar agreements.

Hutches has also started traveling to meet with CEOs from surrounding hospitals. The Eastern Plains Healthcare Consortium took place in Hugo for the purpose of discussing purchasing power and the sharing of staff such as doctors and EMS personnel.

“It’s exciting to see what we can do by collaborating in eastern Colorado,” said Hutches.


New systems in place help with education and accountability

Also announced at the April 26 meeting, two new all-electronic tracking tools and a new “financial scorecard” chart will be in play at MMH, helping staff and board members keep track of certifications and policies and MMH’s financial standing as compared to other successful hospitals.

For one, the hospital has invested in a system called Swank Health Care, an education and tracking tool. This tool will track staff member certifications, help with annual trainings and reduce continuing medical education expenses by providing CME resources.

“This has great potential to help staff move forward with their education,” said Chief Nursing Officer Deanna Stryker.

MCN Policy Manager is another electronic tool to be implemented at MMH, enabling policies to be tracked, updated and even created, providing 3,500 policy templates commonly found in health care. It will help ensure policies are updated on a yearly basis and can also help with staff accountability.

If a particular policy is not being followed, it will be an easy step to send a reminder notification to staff through email to help reinforce it.

Hutches also introduced a financial scorecard to the board at the meeting. The color-coded chart summarizes the current month, previous month, year-to-date and year-to-date budget amounts for cost categories, cost ratios, growth/stability, financial strength and staff turnover rates.

Categories are then compared to set benchmarks from high-performing hospitals. The summary is meant to clearly and concisely show how MMH fares in comparison to other hospitals. It was well-received by board members, whose only suggestion was to use it as a quarterly rather than monthly report.


$4,000 to be issued in 2016 MMHF scholarships

Steve Young reported on behalf of the MMH Foundation at the April 26 board meeting, announcing that the Foundation budgeted for an additional scholarship for a total of eight $500 scholarships available for students this year.

Board member and high school counselor Angela Powell stated, “Anything helping encourage students toward the medical field is greatly appreciated by the seniors and by the school district.”

Young also informed the board that MMHF has raised $50,000 so far toward its goal of $300,000 in three years for the hospital construction project. “We’re well on our way,” he said.


New statements to appear by end of month

As part of the effort to reduce the number of days outstanding bills spend in accounts receivable, the revamped in-house billing system should be in full swing by late May, according to Tuesday’s meeting.

After numerous struggles with the outside First Party billing system that enabled single-statement billing, and much investigation into other options, MMH will finally be able to send out its own new, clearer-format statements.

In the meantime, statements will be sent out continuously through the month of May in their current form.


Other business

In other business at the April 26 meeting, the board:

—toured the construction progress at MMH in a work session prior to the meeting.

—reviewed Policy 2.3 on medical staff relations.

—approved two new appointments, Kristie Borne, P.A., in dermatology and Jody Halcott, FNP, in family medicine; three reappointments, Richard Kap-lan, M.D., in radiology, Gary Kliewer, CRNA, in anesthesiology and Emily Lampe, M.D., in teleneurology; and two resignations, Delane Wycoff, M.D., in pathology and Alison Lauber, M.D., in family medicine.

—agreed to split the cost of the Hospital Employee Appreciation movie at the Peerless Sunday, May 22, 50-50 between MMH and MMHF.

—discussed board committee principles and structure.

—entered into a 29-minute executive session for the purpose of receiving legal advice.

Holyoke Enterprise May 5, 2016

Teachers hired for 3rd grade, JH/HS P.E. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

Two more teaching positions for the 2016-17 school year were filled at the May 2 meeting of the Re-1J Board of Education.

Christina Lucero was approved for a third-grade position, teaching third-grade reading and third- and fourth-grade science. Wyatt Jiru was hired for the JR/SR high physical education teacher position.

Lucero graduated from the University of Northern Colorado last December with an elementary teaching degree, with a minor in teaching reading. She has been a full-time fourth-grade teacher in Fort Morgan this semester.

Jiru received his Bachelor of Arts degree in physical education from Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. He completed his master’s in teaching at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan., and has just finished his student teaching in both an elementary and high school setting in Arkansas City, Kan.

He was a member of his college football team as an undergraduate and served as a student assistant coach his senior year. He also served as an assistant football coach at Mayville State University in Mayville, N.D., for a year and at Southwestern College for two years.


Life skills classroom proposed

An outline of a proposed Experience Classroom was shared with board members at this week’s meeting. The life skills classroom is designed to address the unique learning needs of students with disabilities who have the most significant support needs.

The Experience Classroom will focus on teaching everyday skills for participating students.


Graduation requirements reviewed for changes

While changes will still be forthcoming, the school board approved first reading of changes in Policy IKF on graduation requirements.

The sample policy reviewed by the board includes the content that the Colorado Association of School Boards believes best meets the intent of the law.

That includes several cut scores on various assessments to demonstrate both readiness in English and also competency in math.

The policy also incorporates the credit requirements adopted for Holyoke School District in 2011, as well as the valedictorian/salutatorian class rank criteria as approved two years ago to encourage more rigorous student class schedules.

Principal Susan Ortner highlighted and explained the proposed requirements, which will begin with the Class of 2021, or this year’s seventh-graders. She noted that the revised policy has built in all the guidelines that the state has required at this point.


Student focus groups like shared leadership idea

Superintendent John McCleary reported via conference call on student focus groups he’s conducted.

Using a word cloud, he keyed in words that kids said during their sessions, and a conglomerate of words in varying sizes was made. Words that were repeated the most were in larger type. “Supportive” stood out loud and strong in the word clouds from grades 7-8, 9-10 and 11-12. McCleary still plans to hold a fifth-sixth-grade focus group.

In these student focus groups, McCleary said students really want a voice — not just a token voice, but one that is really listened to. He said they liked the idea of a shared leadership group, perhaps meeting once a month. Ideas will be considered in order to have a plan to start something next fall.


Parent response small in 2016 school survey

While overall parent feedback from the 2016 school survey was positive, results were very limited, according to the report presented to the board from the Standards of Excellence Committee.

Parent survey responses were solicited at recent parent-teacher conferences, and the number of responses was very low.

Parent, student and staff feedback was addressed in the summary report from the committee.

In reviewing the report, the school board talked about ways to potentially give feedback on the survey and to show that the concerns that have been related are being addressed.

Discussion and results of the surveys led the Standards of Excellence Committee to consider focusing on connecting with Spanish-speaking parents, improving school-to-home communications and mixing up teaching strategies to avoid Chromebook fatigue.

Another general comment from the committee cited that next year they should perhaps have the surveys for parents be sent home with students on their Chromebooks for a reward, such as a candy bar.

The idea of presenting a more detailed report of the survey results in The Holyoke Enterprise or in the annual newsletter published by the school each fall were shared as further suggestions.


Contracts/employment recommendations made

Prior to approving staff contracts for the 2016-17 year, the board accepted the resignation of JR/SR high science teacher Havilah Andersen.

Approval was given for probationary and nonprobationary teacher renewals, as well as notice of employment for classified employees.

Probationary teacher renewals were approved for first-year teachers Rebecca Brandt, Debra Colglazier, Brittany Dirks, Joann Goss, Kaitlin Hansberry, Nicole League, Andrea Schlachter and Amber Schroetlin.

Also second-year teachers Sam Distefano, Cody Jiru, Cristine Mallari, Josh Schroet­lin and Greg Wakeman; and third-year teachers Cynthia Bahler and Nancy Miles.

Contracts for 2016-17 were approved for the following nonprobationary teachers:

Allie Balog, Nic Balog, John Baumgartner, Cindi Beavers, Yesenia Bencomo, Kimberlee Bennett, Stefan Betley, Heather Bieber, Ashley Clayton, Marcia Dalton, Carly Daniel, Scott Dille, Kerri Gardner, Wendy Grothman, Maury Kramer, Laura Loutensock, Christina Martinez, Angela Powell, Tarah Priddy, Sandra Rahe, Crystal Rigel, Kari Sandquist, Lynn Schneider, Rhonda Smith, Theresa Tharp and John Zilla.

Classified staff recommended for employment in 2016-17 include secretaries, Tancy King, Stacey Krogmeier and Brenda Krueger; HR/payroll clerk, Joan Price; budget and finance director, Sharon Thompson.

Director of technology, Perry Ingram; district technology instructional coordinator, Chandra Parker; maintenance/repair, Stan Kreider; grounds, Dusty McConnell.

Custodians, Emma Cruz, Elva Montes, Guadalupe Montes, Albino Nuñez and Rosa Ronquillo; transportation, Mark Groshans, Fletcher Hinck, Dave Johnson, Helen Miller, Scott Murray and Kimberly Young.

Paraprofessionals, Terri Biersdorfer, Tracey Cordova, Yazmin Diaz, Natali Goytia, Melisa Hunter, Jessica Johnson, Aydaly Juarez, Tina McNulty, Johana Nevarez, Leticia Penzing, Christy Shafer and Ana Trejo.


Other business

In other business at Monday night’s meeting, the school board:

—acknowledged a scholarship donation from the family of Ida Mae Skipworth for a $1,000 scholarship to be awarded to a graduating senior each year.

—noted appreciation for the Heginbotham Trust for money for the elementary math intervention materials.

—heard from BOCES board representative Nici Akey, who gave a recap of the recent board meeting. She cited some changes coming in the alternative teacher licensure program. In partnering with the Boettcher Foundation, the program may allow time spent on the alternative teacher licensure process to apply toward a master’s degree.

Holyoke Enterprise May 5, 2016