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Holyoke gas prices drop considerably PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

Even though Holyoke gas prices have fallen quite a bit over the last few months, they still linger between $2.35 and $2.50 per gallon for unleaded gasoline.

Colorado, however, has a statewide average fuel price that has dropped below $2.00, reaching $1.91 for unleaded as of Monday, Jan. 19, according to reports from the American Automobile Association. The state average price for premium unleaded sits at $2.20, and diesel is at $2.90.

This state average price is $1.29 lower than the same day last year. Colorado is the No. 9 state experiencing the largest year-to-year savings on gasoline.

Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Kansas, Maine and Missouri — in that order ­­— are the top eight states ahead of Colorado in price drops, and Iowa follows close behind to round out the top 10.

Gas prices at Holyoke’s Kwik Stop Monday are pictured. Local fuel costs remain higher than state and national averages, but consumers are grateful for the savings they are seeing so far.   

—Enterprise photo

National average prices per gallon of unleaded were sitting at $2.06 Monday, down 39 cents from just a month prior and down $1.22 from a year before.

Consumers and fuel station workers in the Holyoke area are certainly enjoying the lower prices.

“People are glad prices keep going down,” said Kellie Berthiaume, manager at Kwik Stop. “Of course the lower the price, the better it is for business, too.”

Even though local gas prices have been holding at 45-55 cents higher than the Colorado average, Gabriela Amaya said prices in Wray are typically 6-7 cents higher than they are in Holyoke.

“I’ve always driven a smaller car because I drive to Wray for work,” said Amaya, who works at the Wray hospital. “But I still can’t remember when I last filled my tank for $30.”

Amaya said she usually fuels up twice a week, and she is grateful for the savings she is seeing from the lower prices.

“I just hope it lasts,” she added.

AAA estimates that Americans saved about $14 billion on gasoline in 2014, or, looking at savings in another way, over 40 percent.

Holyoke fuel stations are always busy places, but they have been seeing extra customers at the pumps lately. Even though Holyoke gas prices are higher than the state and national averages, the lower costs are still greatly welcomed by fuel customers, particularly those with larger vehicles and who commute out of town to work.  

—Enterprise photo

Summer and Shawn Maloney said their family road trip to California for Christmas cost them right around $400 in gas in their Chevy Suburban. The round-trip journey was approximately 2,200 miles, plus some light driving around Los Angeles.

And that was while national average gas prices were dropping across a range of $3.70 for a high last April to $2.26 for a low on Dec. 31. Now, with prices approaching or dropping below $2.00, the savings across the country could be even better for the year ahead.

Even in California, where gas prices reached a high of $4.65 per gallon in October 2012, prices have now moderately settled in the $2.60 range.

Nationwide, prices have been falling steadily since late September, and though uncertainties in the crude oil market make it difficult to predict future gas prices, AAA remains optimistic for this year’s fuel savings.

“2015 promises to provide much bigger savings to consumers as long as crude oil remains relatively cheap,” said AAA spokesman Avery Ash. “It would not be surprising for U.S. consumers to save $50-75 billion on gasoline in 2015 if prices remain low.”

Holyoke Enterprise January 22, 2015

Hospital facility plans shared PDF Print E-mail
Written by Isaac Kreider   

A desire to inform the Holyoke community about the scope, extent and rationale behind an upcoming construction project prompted the Melissa Memorial Hospital Foundation and board of directors to hold an informational town hall meeting Thursday evening, Jan. 15, in the MMH group room.

During the meeting, facility plans for planned expansions and remodeling were presented.

“A main purpose for this meeting is to share what we’re doing, why we’re doing it and how we plan to do it,” said hospital administrator John Ayoub.

Twenty-four Holyoke community members were in attendance for the presentation. Hospital board president Steve Young opened the presentation with some background on how the project came about.

Melissa Memorial Hospital administrator John Ayoub stands to present the hospital’s expansion and remodeling plans to Holyoke community members at the town hall meeting Thursday, Jan. 15, in the MMH group room. The meeting was held to share the scope and rationale of the project. Data collection is currently under way, and construction is planned to begin in August or September.  

—Enterprise photo

Young said that approximately two years ago, the need for updated housing for traveling and specialty physicians, on-call staff and others was becoming an important matter. This need led to further evaluations and planning sessions with the Neenan Company that eventually developed into the current plans.

Citing the facts that health care and technology have changed and continue to change, Ayoub discussed why the hospital board and foundation have developed the project.

“Our direction must continually evolve to meet the needs of our patients and the community,” Ayoub said. “Going back to our mission statement, we need to always focus on how we can provide the most efficient care possible.”

Ayoub went on to describe each of the six main segments of the plan.

Expansion of the specialty clinic is a large focus of the project. Ayoub noted this expansion is necessary to help meet the needs of patients and providers, saying, “We continue to see growth in this service. Use of the specialty clinic has shown a 50 percent increase over the last six years.”

The expansion will move into the family practice clinic, necessitating a structural change of that clinic as well.

Harvey Colglazier questioned whether the family clinic would be expanded also.

“While a building expansion will need to be made, the clinic overall will not increase by much, if at all,” Ayoub said. “However, efficiency will increase.

He added that the revamped clinics will help further the staff’s team-based care approach.

On-site housing is the next most significant part of the project. As the hospital’s current housing options are located partway across town, building new housing facilities on campus will provide easier accessibility for rural residency program participants, specialty physicians, traveling doctors, on-call staff and EMS members and others who may utilize the housing.

According to Ayoub, this consolidation of properties will generate savings on utilities and overall operating costs. The old houses would then be sold to help offset the expense of building new housing.

A third segment of the facility plan involves enclosure of the ambulance drop-off area. By enclosing the current awning, comfort and safety will be improved for both patients and staff. A decontamination shower will be added to the area as well as a documentation area and storage for ambulance supplies and equipment.

In conjunction with the ambulance drop-off area, an on-site ambulance shed also will be built. Having the ambulance nearby will increase access and decrease response times and improve security of vehicles and equipment. Currently, when hospital staff members are called out for EMS services, they must travel through the school zone to reach the ambulance, creating a notable safety concern.

Other portions of the project include restructuring of the lab and old obstetrics area. A new pathway to the lab is planned that is expected to cut patients’ walk time in half.

A large majority of the audience voiced its agreement that this has been a flaw in the hospital’s operation that has generated numerous complaints and is an important correction to make. The old obstetrics area will be made into additional office space.

Tom Bennett asked if obstetrics will ever be coming back to MMH.

“Never say never, but I don’t foresee it coming back,” Ayoub replied. “There wasn’t the demand, and our first point will be finding someone for the rural residency program.”

Ayoub mentioned that an emergency room has always been maintained for emergency deliveries and will continue to be in the future.

“Small communities just don’t see OB as much these days,” Young added. “Another doctor is our priority.”

A final addition to the facility plan is the relocation of the helicopter landing site. The proposed placement is expected to increase access to and from the site, allowing for increased efficiency and safety.

Total construction costs amount to approximately $2.95 million. The clinic expansion and on-site housing construction make up the bulk of the project, carrying costs of $1.32 million and $747,000 respectively.

Payment options were covered by Ayoub, noting the financial side of such a project is always a big question and concern for community members. He listed potential options, including MMHF fundraising, grants and donations from other foundations or philanthropic entities, opening the mortgage, operational revenues, cash in the bank and accessed capital from local financial entities.

Ayoub was adamant about the point that there will be no mill levy increase.

Colglazier summed up his thoughts on the presentation by saying, “The concept is very well planned.”

A tentative timeline for the building project has contract and data collection being conducted over the next few months, followed by design and engineering beginning in April. Permitting is planned for June and July, and the estimated start of construction is between August and September.

Holyoke Enterprise January 22, 2015

Schafer joins Paoli team as Miller retires PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   

In sort of a changing of the guard setting, Paoli Town Clerk/Treasurer Marilyn Miller relinquished her role to retirement after 38 1/2 years. Taking on the reins Jan. 1 was Joy Schafer.

“I’m excited to be doing this,” said Schafer, acknowledging that other people her age are retiring, but she’s just starting this new fun venture.

She sees her role as being the information person to pull things together for the Paoli Town Board — or maybe the jump-starter.

Schafer sees the job, which is approximately quarter time, as being perfect for her.

Even though Paoli is a very small community, it still has all the workings of a larger town.

There are more than 20 customers to bill for trash, water and sewer services. Additionally, there are finance details with regard to highway user fund, cigarette tax, county treasurer budget funds and conservation trust funds (lottery). Schafer will also serve as secretary for the Paoli Town Board meetings.

Marilyn Miller, pictured at right with the Paoli town seal, has retired from her position as town clerk/treasurer after 38 1/2 years. Also pictured is new Paoli Clerk/Treasurer Joy Schafer and Virgil Harms, who has served as Paoli mayor for 53 years.  

—Enterprise photo

Miller worked extensively with the Colorado Department of Health and Environment for a grant to update the town’s water system. Schafer counts on continued communication with the retired clerk/treasurer for details for grant compliance.

Recently, Paoli received a grant through the Department of Local Affairs for a new town hall, which will be constructed right across the street to the southeast of the current town hall at the corner of Highway 6 and Lohn Street. That will be a major project as Schafer begins her new position.

One role looking to shift with this changing of the guard is the go-to person for Paoli. With Miller living right in Paoli, it was convenient for people to just drop in to tell her of issues with town services.

The new go-to person will be resident Jim McBee, who serves as mayor pro-tem for the Paoli Town Board. Virgil Harms, who has served as mayor for 53 years, will continue in that role.

Since no one who resides in Paoli was interested in the clerk/treasurer post, it became something that intrigued Schafer.

Miller said she has leaned extensively on Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer, Joy’s husband, for various budget things and more during her tenure.

“He has a heart for Paoli,” said Joy, who noted he will assist her to get on board with the relative paperwork, as he has a lot of information.

When Randy was a Yuma County 4-H member years ago, he and Marilyn’s husband Leland Miller met at State 4-H Conference and Camp Tobin at the state fair. Leland then asked Randy to speak at a Memorial Day program in Holyoke when he was in college.

Later, when Randy came to Phillips County to interview for his job with the county, Leland was a county commissioner. Joy said her husband credits Leland with his endorsement for moving them to this county.

That was in 1974, and the Schafers moved to their home eight miles north of Paoli in 1976.

Schafer grew up in northwest Illinois and moved to this state when she married Randy, a Colorado boy. She started college in 1968 at Huntington College in Indiana. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Ashford University in Clinton, Iowa, in 2012.

When asked what she has been involved with in the past, Schafer simply says, “I keep the home fires burning.” She does coordinate the monthly food pantry and senior commodities for Phillips County.

Schafer got her financial training under Josephine McWilliams during the four years she worked as a clerk and in the loan department at First National Bank of Holyoke in the late 1970s.

Schafer remembers one week when they had to find a one-penny discrepancy. She said she often goes back to that memory which taught her that accounts have to eventually balance.

She has also worked at the two newspapers in Phillips County and wrote a weekly column for 15 years. Schafer has helped her husband with research in a mapping business and worked with Phillips County Extension with the 4-H program for six or seven years.

The Schafer family includes daughter Naomi of Holyoke, who works at Busy Buddies Learning Center and the school cafeteria; and son Joshua and his wife Brechen, who live and work in Aurora.

Miller tenure covers close to four decades

Miller’s service to the Town of Paoli as clerk/treasurer spanned almost four decades. “She’ll be totally missed,” said McBee.

Taking over her role in July of 1976, Miller remembers one of her first endeavors was helping to plan and coordinate the Bicentennial Blowout that year.

Much business has transpired in her 38 1/2 years as clerk/treasurer.

A clear memory for Miller is when the town got general obligation water bonds. Someone had to go to Denver to a bank on 17th Street, she said. She carried the Paoli town seal down 17th Street, and the guys in the office “about died laughing,” she related.

Apparently the seal was quite antiquated then (around 1978), but it’s still being used today.

The sewer and water system cost around $70,000, and Miller is proud to point out that the $40,000 in water bonds were paid off ahead of schedule.

Miller fielded many calls and much attention back in late 2011 when Harms reached his 50th anniversary as mayor. The event made local, state and national news.

Miller and her husband Leland moved to their home in Paoli in 1962 with two young daughters and 3-month-old twin sons.

Leland died in 1986. Daughter Melinda Groshans is postmaster in Haxtun; daughter Melissa Evans and husband Ron live in Nebraska, where Melissa is Extension educator with Deuel and Garden counties; son Mike farms near Holyoke; and son Mitch (a marketing director) and his wife Julie live south of Bennett. She has seven grandchildren and one great-grandson.

Miller served as postmaster in Paoli for 40 years, starting in 1971 until her retirement in 2011.

She said she wanted to hit at least 40 years as town clerk/treasurer, but her failing eyesight with macular degeneration forced her to retire sooner than she wanted to.

Schafer said she’s kept the phone line to Marilyn hot, and she’s grateful that Miller is only a phone call away.

Holyoke Enterprise January 22, 2015

Holyoke Chamber announces Gala award recipients PDF Print E-mail
Written by Holyoke Enterprise   

Holyoke Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its 22nd annual Gala Awards Dinner Monday, Feb. 2, at Phillips County Event Center.

Those being honored at the 2015 Gala have been recently announced and include Holyoke Post Office, business of the year; Shirley Krogmeier of Phillips County Family Education Services Inc. and Brenda Daniel of Holyoke General Store, employees of the year; Wyatt Powell, youth of the year; Brooke Dirks, citizen of the year; and Jim Gribben, citizen of the years.

The Star of the Year Award will be announced at the Gala.

The evening includes a social at 5:30 p.m. and a dinner at 6 p.m., followed by the awards program. A silent auction and entertainment are also part of the Gala.

To RSVP, please call Mary Tomky at the Chamber office at 970-854-3517 by Monday, Jan. 26.

Holyoke Enterprise January 22, 2015