Before we get too far into 2009, let’s start with a little acknowledgment for a few people and issues hanging out there.

Congratulations to the Crested Butte Community School, recognized by the state as one of the best in Colorado. Receiving top marks of “excellent” for grades six through 12 and a mark of “high” for grades one to five, the school is showing that it is a quality institution. The teachers care, the students learn and the community benefits.

Congratulations to the Foothills annexation developers. What?! Has the Crested Butte News lost its mind actually congratulating a developer? Though it is clear that no one knows what it will eventually mean, just the idea of striving for a “carbon neutral” neighborhood is a good step. Let’s not forget that it’s not the only step, and while that is just one in a vast number of issues for the annexation, the fact that the Foothills developers are at least talking about real sustainability standards is an excellent sign. They got bruised up pretty good this summer in public hearings and at least had the smarts to turn that black and blue into “green.” Now they need to make it real. It may not be enough to get the okay, but it is a great step toward a real discussion.

Congratulations to the Town Council of Crested Butte for again looking at revamping horizontal zoning. This ordinance has been shaky from the beginning, and while I am not opposed to regulation, the idea of expecting government regulation to suddenly bring in flower shops, furniture stores and knick-knack retailers to Elk Avenue is a bit absurd, especially at the far west end of Elk. Horizontal zoning is a dog. The real focus should be spent on getting people to Elk Avenue to begin with, whether it is from Denver, Dallas or three miles away from Mountaineer Square. So congratulations to the council for at least instructing the town staff to come up with options to ease the burden of this ordinance.

Congratulations to the people of Gunnison for figuring out how to pay for, build and operate an indoor ice rink. It’s a nice facility. Now it is up to the skaters in Crested Butte to figure how to at least put a roof and some glass at Big Mine Ice Rink. When Gary Garland left town, he also left a $200,000 deposit on steel meant for an ice facility. That money is still there and it would be crazy if it were not used. The town of Crested Butte estimates it could cost up to a half million dollars to bring Big Mine up to standards with a roof, new boards and glass. If someone is giving you 40 percent of the cost of a project, shouldn’t the community be pursuing that?

In the same vein, congratulations to the Mountain Express for almost getting a new bus barn. The lease between the town and the bus system is finally complete and the building should be finished early this year, but now the Mountain Express is out of available cash on hand. The problem is that the fleet is getting old and there is a grant out there now that would essentially pay for two new big buses with a 20 percent match. For about $58,000 in local money, the system could acquire two $145,000 buses. That is a good deal, and perhaps Crested Butte or one of the local banks can front a loan for the buses while the opportunity is there. After all, the Mountain Express buses are the pipeline bringing people from the hotels in Mt. Crested Butte to the shops and restaurants on Elk Avenue and beyond.

And finally, a huge congratulations to the CBMR ski patrol for getting the Extreme Limits terrain open. Despite company PR touting that this year’s snow conditions were on par with last season’s phenomenal snow, we now understand the danger that came with this year’s weird snowpack. So it was no easy chore prepping some of the steepest in-bounds terrain in Colorado. Thanks for expanding what to most locals is the best part of the mountain.

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