2012: Windsor’s top stories of the year | MyWindsorNow.com

2012: Windsor’s top stories of the year

T.M. Fasano
Jason Pohl

EDITOR'S NOTE: The Windsor Now staff selected the top stories for 2012 that made news in and outside of Windsor. In no particular order, here are the top stories of the year.

— Interstate 25/Colo. 392 interchange construction project complete

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Nov. 30 for the completion of the $20 million Interstate 25/Colo. 392 interchange construction project.

The project, in which Windsor and Fort Collins contributed $2.5 million each and the Colorado Department of Transportation funded $17.5 million, replaced the old two-lane bridge on Colo. 392 over I-25 with the current four-lane bridge — two lanes in each direction — as well as a left-turn lane in each direction.

A 6-foot bike lane and a 6-and-a-half foot sidewalk were also added on each side of the bridge. The frontage road on the west side of the interchange was realigned, and the ramps were designed to accommodate more traffic. A 90-space carpool lot was built at the southwest corner of the interchange.

Officials said the interchange will not only ease traffic congestion in the area, but it also will help enhance the area's economic competitiveness and improve safety by accounting for a projected 30 percent decline in crashes.

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There is still some landscaping around the interchange left to be finished in spring 2013.

— Windsor graduate Greg Myers inducted into College Football Hall of Fame

Windsor High School graduate Greg Myers was inducted into the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame in New York City on Dec. 4.

Myers' 2012 class was inducted at the 55th National Football Foundation annual awards dinner. Myers and the 2012 class will be guests at the National Hall of Fame Salute at the All-State Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on Wednesday (Jan. 2, 2013), and officially enshrined in summer 2013.

Myers, a 1991 Windsor graduate who is a board-certified anesthesiologist at Denver Health Medical Center and an assistant professor through the University of Colorado residency program, was a two-time All-American safety at Colorado State University and was drafted in the fifth-round in 1996 as a safety by the Cincinnati Bengals. He was one of 14 players and three coaches named to the 2012 class. The only way a player can be named to the College Football Hall of Fame is to be a first-team All American. Myers was a star in football and track and field at Windsor before his playing days at CSU. Myers also played for the Dallas Cowboys.

Myers was also inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and the Windsor High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. Myers lives in Morrison with his wife, Kara, and their daughter, Avery, and son, Dagan.

— Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District changes elementary school boundaries; school enrollment at all-time high

The Windsor-Severance Re-4 School Board unanimously approved new elementary school boundaries for the 2013-14 school year at its Dec. 10 meeting.

On the recommendation of the District Long Range Facility Planning Committee, Tozer Primary School, Mountain View Elementary and Skyview Elementary schools will add more students from the Promontory and neighboring Greeley areas, while Grandview Elementary School will lose around 200 students with the potential of adding more students in the future due to single-home construction in the Grandview neighborhoods.

Grandview was at near-capacity enrollment, and the other three schools were well under capacity.

As far as district enrollment numbers in 2012, almost 4,800 students (4,795) walked through the front doors of the Re-4 schools on the first day of school Aug. 14. That number is the most ever in the Re-4 district. The first-day count was a 4.65 percent increase (213 more students) over the previous year's Oct. 1 enrollment count of 4,582 students.

— Windsor Middle School principal arrested

Doug Englert, the principal at Windsor Middle School since 1994, was arrested and accused of assaulting his wife in November.

Englert was arrested Nov. 8 on suspicion of punching his wife during an argument police said took place two days earlier at his Windsor home. Englert faces one count of felony second-degree assault, and one misdemeanor count of harassment. Both charges are designated as domestic-violence related.

Englert, who made a base salary of $110,208, was placed on paid administrative leave by the school district until he resigned and retired as principal effective Dec. 10.

Englert will return to Weld County District Court at 3:30 p.m. Jan. 17 for a disposition hearing, at which time attorneys will have discussed possible plea bargains, or whether Englert will fight the charges and take the case to trial.

— Windsor's downtown business area is full

For the first time in at least a decade, the downtown business area in Windsor has no occupancy.

The buildings on Main Street from 2nd to 7th streets are all occupied. An ice cream shop and coffee shop, restaurants, hair salons, spas, hardware store, antique shops, newspaper offices, tire and auto repair store, eye care and vision center, a boutique and other retail outlets have lined Main Street.

Events such as the Windsor Farmers Market, the Summer Concert Series at Boardwalk Park and the attraction of Windsor Lake also brought people downtown in 2012.

— Windsor High School names new principal

Windsor resident Michelle Scallon was named the new principal of Windsor High School in June.

Scallon, a former dean of students at Northridge High School in Greeley, replaced Jeannie Findley as principal, Findley retired after three years as principal.

Scallon was one of 25 candidates who applied for the job, and one of five candidates who interviewed for the position that pays $81,978 annually.

Scallon is the fourth principal at Windsor High School in the last seven years.

Scallon taught family and consumer sciences for 12 years in north Dakota, and 11 years at Northridge before serving one year as dean of students.

— Windsor wrestlers win second straight state title

The Windsor High School wrestling team captured their second consecutive Class 4A State Wrestling Championship at the Pepsi Center in Denver on Feb. 18.

The Wizards, coached by Monte Trusty, clinched their second straight title before the championship matches started.

The Wizards, who didn't have an individual state champion, had a perfect season the whole way through going undefeated in dual meets with a 23-0 record, 7-0 in league competition.

— Tozer Primary School's Shelly Prenger named principal of the year in Colorado

Tozer Primary School principal Shelly Prenger was awarded the 2012 Reba Ferguson Memorial Rookie of the Year Award for elementary school principals, an honor given by the Colorado Association of School Executives to just one elementary school principal in Colorado.

The award recognizes a Colorado administrator in his/her first three years as an elementary school principal.

Prenger, a preschool and kindergarten teacher for 20-plus years including 14 at Tozer before being hired as Tozer's principal, received the award July 26 during the 43rd annual CASE Educational Leadership Convention in Breckenridge.

— Windsor football standout signs with Ohio State

Windsor High School offensive lineman Joey O'Connor signed a national letter-of-intent to Ohio State University on Feb. 1.

The 6-foot-3, 305-pound O'Connor was one of the nation's top recruits. He was a four-star (out of five) recruit and an Under Armour All-American. O'Connor was ranked as the 102nd best player in the country by Rivals.com, and No. 104 in the ESPNU 150. He was the first Windsor lineman to receive a Division I football scholarship since Broc Finlayson signed with Colorado State University in 1997.

O'Connor missed his entire freshman season this past fall at Ohio State because of a knee injury. He was expected to see some playing time at center or guard. He will be granted a medical redshirt because of the injury, and will still have four years of eligibility at Ohio State.

— Windsor-Severance ambulance saga

Through much of summer, Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue negotiated with Banner Health about how to best fulfill residents' needs for emergency medical services after a springtime switch from Weld County Paramedics.

It wasn't until the department announced in November it was entering into negotiations with University of Colorado Health — formerly Poudre Valley Health Systems — when the conversation really got interesting. In the month since that announcement, debates hinging on response times and cost have been catapulted to the table.

Fire officials maintain they are seeking the best options for Windsor residents, regardless of what the name on the side of the ambulance says. Weld County commissioners, have expressed concerns about the search and have called into question the true need of a switch.

Additional conversations amending the county's ambulance code have also come up in recent weeks, angering many close to the negotiations. The story continues to develop and is bound to be one of the most complicated and divisive during the opening weeks of 2013.

— Vestas Blades layoffs trigger turbulence

It was a turbulent year for Vestas Blades, marred with layoffs and hours cuts to many of its worldwide plants, including those in Windsor and Brighton.

Because of a slowdown in the wind-energy market, partially because of potential tax credit changes, the company decided to completely reinvent itself, meaning cuts — lots of cuts.

About 300 jobs in Weld County and as many as 1,000 positions across the world were axed in 2012, and thousands more internationally are on the chopping block for 2013, officials have said. Beyond the job loss, remaining employees saw significantly reduced hours in a cost-cutting move company leaders said would ease budgetary pressures and reduce more sweeping layoffs.

Currently, about 500 people work at the Windsor plant — down from 700 earlier this year. Officials have remained mute about whether more layoffs locally are on the horizon.

— Dangerous summer on Windsor lakes turns deadly

Summer took a tragic turn after two young men drowned on Windsor's lakes and another close call captivated the town.

Joshua Sajous, 22, from New York drowned after he became tired while trying to fetch an inflatable raft on Habitat Lake in Water Valley. Reports indicated someone tried to hand him a paddle, but he was already too tired. It was already too late.

In another case just a few weeks later, Tyler Roggy, the 25-year-old son of longtime Greeley West football coach Mark Roggy, drowned while on a camping trip at Whitney Reservoir.

Reports indicated that he had a seizure while in the water. His body was found just 12 feet from the shore, police said.

In yet another incident, 2-year-old Cameron Garcia nearly drowned July 14 during a family outing at Windsor Lake. A trio of bystanders leapt into action before emergency crews could arrive.

Cameron has since made a full recovery, and the efforts of Tim Ault, Kerry Phillips and Robert Linder earned them Citizen Lifesaving Awards from Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue at a ceremony in the fall.

— New fire station takes off in Severance

Windsor-Severance Fire Rescue took a step forward in the fall when it picked the architect to design its new 9,400-square-foot Station 2 in Severance.

The new fire station will replace the existing facility — an old pole barn that was never designed to house crews. It is expected to closely mirror Station 3 in Windsor with state-of-the-art living quarters and environmentally conscious construction.

Allred & Associates will design the facility, which is being paid for through a series of refinancing moves that freed up necessary funds. Construction is expected to last about 18 months.

— Windsor Lake contaminated, seven sickened

Officials shut down the town's go-to heat-beating hangout spot for several days during the height of summer after at least seven people were reportedly sickened and waters tested positive for elevated levels of E.coli.

Levels were back to normal a few days after the initial reports, and it was not known what caused the elevated measurements, though some believed soil bacteria may have been to blame after a series of heavy rains in the area.

Even after the lake reopened, residents were wary and opted out of fun in the water, even in the 90-plus degree days.

— Local military serviceman killed in Afghanistan

Windsor lost one its own in 2012 when Army Sgt. Christopher Birdwell was killed after taking enemy small-arms fire during an Aug. 27 incident in Kalagush, Afghanistan.

Birdwell, 25, enlisted in the Army when he was 18 and was the oldest of four children, all graduates from Windsor High School. He graduated from the Army Airborne School and had just completed the Army Sniper Training School where he was at the top of his class.

Though the tragedy gripped the community, it was the outpouring of support that really stuck out for many across the town. As news spread, so too did the generosity. From community gatherings to a supportive crowd at the funeral, virtually everyone was emotionally impacted.

The Windsor Town Board contributed $10,000 to a series of charities in Birdwell's name and remains in talks with the family about how to commemorate his life with a planted memorial in town.

"Sgt. Birdwell was an athlete. He was a great student," Scott Romme, family spokesman, previously said. "When the news broke that Chris had been killed, there was an outpouring of different information coming from counselors, former students, teachers and staff. They all remembered him as a wonderful young man and the kind of person that if you could choose someone for your team or choose someone to be a friend to your son, that would be the kind of guy that you would choose.

"That's how Chris is remembered here in Windsor."

— Proposed Boardwalk Park beer ban goes under microscope

In a back-and-forth discussion among town Windsor officials, staff and residents, a Boardwalk Park beer ban was one of the most divisive issues during the final months of 2012.

Staff including Police Chief John Michaels recommended in October that the board amend the rules at Windsor's flagship hangout spot in an effort to curb increasing gang activity. By banning 3.2 percent beer — the only kind allowed during non-special events — and eliminating portable grills, staff said gangs would have less incentive to use the park.

Even if delinquency did continue, they said new rules would give them legal ground to stand on.

Boardwalk Park is the only park in the region that allows beer consumption, though it is already heavily regulated.

The decision looked to be all but approved with John Vazquez often the singe dissenter, but community outrage turned the table as people argued the issue wasn't booze and was instead the swim beach.

During the most recent town board work session, the issue was back on the table with board members disappointed in lack of ideas from residents. Instead, they entertained ideas some viewed as outlandish including a security fence around the lake or charging for the swim beach, lessening the appeal to outsiders.

Staff is expected to come before the board with any new ideas or scenarios in the first part of 2013. If any consensus is reached, new rules would likely go in place for summer, 2013.

— Town re-elects mayor, brings on three new board members

Though 2012's presidential election captivated millions while bombarding Coloradans with an onslaught of campaign visits and a slew of negative ads, Windsor brewed its own political contest throughout the spring.

After weeks of door-to-door canvassing and a lively debate with former Mayor Pro-Tem Matthew O'Neill, John Vazquez was picked to lead the town for a second term, earning about 60 percent of the votes.

"I want to continue to help and continue to do the great things over the next four years that we've done over the last four," Vazquez said shortly after winning in April. "I just ask that they (residents) hopefully give me a chance to show them I can represent Windsor as well as they want to be represented in the future."

Three new faces came to the Windsor Town Board – Myles Baker, Jeremy Rose and Ivan Adams. Each from a different background, they've embraced leading districts 1, 3 and 6 respectively.

Robert Bishop-Cotner was also picked in a tight race to represent District 5 for another four years.

There was little time to revel in victory with pressing decisions to be made about water rights, booming development and a series of controversial oil and gas applications.

Though there's always a chance for special elections, the next town board election cycle won't be until spring 2014.

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