In Brief: Black voices in music; slide closes part of quarry; awards, promotion, raises

Wheeler presents black voices in music

Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., The Wheeler Opera House presents Our Song, Our Story: The New Generation of Black Voices with musical direction by Damien Sneed.

Our Song, Our Story is an evening of music highlighting some of the world’s most well-known operatic arias, art songs, and spirituals. It features baritone Justin Austin and soprano Janinah Burnett — two of today’s most exciting operatic talents — accompanied by a string quartet and Damien Sneed on piano.

This production will feature an array of music that pays homage to the legendary contralto Marian Anderson (1897-1993) and soprano Jessye Norman (1945-2019), who were trailblazers and role models for African-Americans in opera. Program selections will include music by Donizetti, Schumann, Strauss, Verdi, Margaret Bonds, Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, Harry T. Burleigh, Hale Smith, Duke Ellington, Nkeiru Okoye, B.E. Boykin, and others. In addition, the program includes a newly commissioned work by Sneed.

For more information about upcoming events and happenings at the Wheeler, visit

Part of quarry closed after slide

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration has shut down a major portion of the Glenwood Springs limestone quarry operated by Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI) following a major rockslide incident last week.

U.S. Bureau of Land Management Upper Colorado River District spokesman Eric Coulter said on Monday that a BLM geologist and inspectors from MSHA visited the site on Transfer Trail following the Jan. 18 incident to assess the situation.

No one was injured in the slide, in which a 200-foot section of the quarry highwall gave way and sent a mass of large rocks and dirt tumbling down to where several pieces of mining equipment were located.

“BLM continues to coordinate with the Mine Safety and Health Administration, Colorado Division of Reclamation, and Rocky Mountain Industrials,” Coulter said. “Safety and resource protection remain the top concerns for BLM.”

In response, MSHA issued a cease-and-desist order for operations on the production bench and highwall where the rockfall occurred, he said. 

The agencies will continue to assess and determine next steps, he said. 

“We will keep the public informed of any changes to BLM management of permitted operations at the quarry,” he said.

RMI representatives did not reply to a second request for comment on the incident placed Monday.

Meanwhile, the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance, which organized a few years ago in opposition to a major expansion proposed for the quarry, on Friday sent a formal letter to state and federal agencies, requesting a full investigation into the incident. The group also asked that the mine be shut down, noting that the BLM has already issued a notice of noncompliance as the mine is operating outside its various permit approvals.

Aspen makes promotion in Utility Department

The city of Aspen on Monday announced Justin Forman as the new director of utilities. Forman’s hire comes after Tyler Christoff, the previous director of utilities, was promoted to deputy director of public works.

“Justin’s skill set will provide us vision and momentum as we continue to deliver our essential services to the community,” said Christoff. “My intention is to stay involved to support Justin in this transition but allow him space and time to put his own touches on leadership of this department.”

Forman began his career at the city eight years ago as a civil engineer. For the past several years, he has served as the field operations manager for the Utility Department. He earned his civil engineering degree at the West Virginia University Institute of Technology.

Aspen Valley Hospital receives national award

Aspen Valley Hospital has been named a 2022 Human Experience Guardian of Excellence Award winner as part of Press Ganey’s annual rankings of the top hospitals and health systems in the country.

Press Ganey, an Indiana-based health-care company that administers patient-satisfaction surveys, based the ranking on performance in patient experience.

The distinction puts Aspen Valley Hospital in the top 5% of health-care providers in delivering patient experience in the last year. The Emergency Department achieved the 95th percentile or higher for any of a set of designated survey measures, including “likelihood to recommend,” “overall rating,” and “teamwork,” according to a news release from the hospital.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our physicians and our staff, and their determination to provide the very best care experience for our patients,” said Dave Ressler, the hospital’s chief executive officer, in a statement. “This is an impressive achievement in an era marked by numerous challenges. Our team has responded with overwhelming resilience while continuing to fulfill our mission of delivering extraordinary health care to the members of our community.”

CMC general counsel retires

After serving for more than eight years as Colorado Mountain College’s first in-house general counsel, Richard Gonzales has retired. His last day at the college was Friday, Jan. 13.

The college’s new general counsel is Lucia Padilla, who begins work this month. She most recently served as assistant attorney general in Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser’s office. 

As an integral member of CMC’s senior leadership team since November 2014, Gonzales was based at the college’s central administrative offices in Glenwood Springs, where he oversaw the college’s legal interests throughout all 11 of the college’s campuses and locations. 

In 2017, he received an additional title of senior inclusivity officer, in which he took on an enlarged portfolio of responsibilities that included diversity, inclusivity, and equity. 

CMC officials said Gonzales’ role became particularly relevant when CMC was designated a Hispanic Serving Institution in 2021, meaning that the college’s student population is over 25% Hispanic. In that position, his responsibilities included developing college-wide diversity and inclusion programs, working with recruiting to develop student and employee pipelines, diversity metrics and reporting and returns on investment, and overseeing training and development programs.

Vail prepares to pop pay for employees

The town of Vail is getting ready to roll out a new compensation and benefits program and strategy in February.

“You have all heard from us the challenge of recruitment and retention in today’s very fast-changing environment,” said Krista Miller, the town’s director of human resources, at the Jan. 17 Town Council meeting.

Last year, the town of Vail tapped a consultant team from OneDigital to conduct an independent review and study of its compensation plan with the goal of creating a compensation philosophy that:

  • Elevates its salary midpoints be between the 65th and 75th percentile to align with the Vail brand
  • Is effective in attracting, motivating, and retaining employees
  • Is based on data and annual evaluations of the market
  • Is flexible and can respond to changing employee demographics

As summarized in a memo, the study is “intended to create a multi-year plan to reach compensation levels that are above the average of the market to help us encourage and motivate great performance, promote long service, and when we need to look outside, will attract candidates that fit our culture, and can be great employees.”

The consultants from OneDigital presented their survey results and findings as well as their recommendations at the Tuesday, Jan. 17 Vail Town Council meeting.

The plan was initially going to be rolled out in two phases: the first in 2023 and the second in 2024. However, given the current workforce environment as well as financial savings from 2022, the Town Council gave direction to staff to implement the plan in full during 2023.

The town is planning to implement this budgeted $2.8-million plan starting Feb. 1. The majority of the program’s cost is going to support salary increases, Miller said, adding that 20% of the monies are “allocated to cover related benefit costs.”

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