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Forecast Sunny and mild west wind 5-10 mph.

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Owning a home is still part Local mountain biker rides Trans Andes of the American dream

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TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2011

Vol. 131, No. 182

The Voice of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Valley

50 cents

Rock slide blocks U.S. 50 by Dick Dixon Mail Copy Editor A rockslide including a 20foot boulder and deep broken rock about a mile west of Cotopaxi buried U.S. 50 about 5 p.m. Monday. Bob Wilson, Colorado Department of Transportation public information officer, said the slide also knocked down power lines. Sangre de Cristo Electric personnel confirmed “significant power outages” in Howard, Coaldale and Cotopaxi. By 7:45 p.m. at least some residents in the Coaldale area reported power was restored, but Cotopaxi residents remained in the dark. As darkness fell, officials said little could be done to clear the slide until after rock stopped falling. They indicated assessment of clearing U.S. 50 will begin today. A witness headed for Cotopaxi School was stopped by the slide moments after it happened. He reported rock covered the highway “almost to the (Arkansas) River. He said there was at least

one rock the size of a small to medium size house on the road among a large quantity of broken rock. Officials allowed local traffic only from east and west approaches via U.S. 50 to near where the road was blocked. Ves Gulliford, a Cotopaxi resident who works in Salida, lives about a mile east of the slide site. He used the alternative route north and east from Salida and Colo. 9 through Guffey to reach U.S. 50 atop Parkdale Hill and continued west to his home. The detour took about two hours, he said. At 5:30 p.m. officials at the scene termed the slide “active” because rock and debris continued falling intermittently. Westbound traffic on U.S. 50 was detoured to Hartsel via Colo. 9, to U.S. 24/285 to Johnson Village and to Poncha Springs by way of U.S. 285. Eastbound traffic from Salida was advised to use U.S. 285 to U.S. 24/285 via Johnson Village and Hartsel, to Colo. 9 toward Cañon City.

Commissioners approve landfill per ton increase Torch Club gives valentines

Photo by Cailey McDermott

by Jessica Wierzbinski Mail Staff Writer A $1 per ton increase for waste disposal at the Chaffee County Landfill was approved by Chaffee County Commissioners Monday. The increase will become effective April 1. The action came during the landfill committee meeting preceding the commissioner’s work session. During their presentation, landfill committee personnel told commissioners the state is increasing rates charged to the landfill by $1.06 per ton and 32 cents a cubic yard. Landfill supervisor Shannon Wilcox recommended those rates be passed on to landfill consumers and “rounded up.” He proposed increasing rates by $1.25

a ton and 50 cents a cubic yard. Committee members said they wanted to avoid “counting pennies” because of the increase. They said the dumping cost hasn’t been increased for three years. Commissioners, however, voted to “absorb” part of the state increases, rejecting the committee recommendation to raise the consumer rate by more than the state increase. April 1, dump rates for individual consumers will increase from $30.25 to $31.25 per ton and from $33 to $33.25 per cubic yard. Commissioner Dave Potts said the increase highlights the importance of recycling. He said he hopes it will encourage citizens to use recycling programs available.

Florence Naccarato received a heart-filled Valentine’s Day card from a Torch Club member while awaiting dinner Monday evening. Torch Club focuses on community outreach, leadership and character building. See more photos page 5.

County discuses building department process by Jessica Wierzbinski Mail Staff Writer Efforts to streamline processing of building permits and inspections were discussed by Chaffee County officials during the commissioners’ work session Monday. Chief building official Bill Paradise explained “fast track” processing and creating a new, part-time position in the building department. In response to complaints

about turnaround time for building permits, department officials created a list of “fast track standards” to help builders ensure permit requests are complete and eligible for faster processing. Paradise predicted fast track processing could reduce permit turnaround time as much as 50 percent. He said department officials are seeking to hire a part time employee to help with residential and commercial plan

review and inspections. Paradise said applicants have been screened and “two good candidates” are available for the job. The department has two full-time employees. Paradise said he is worried the department won’t have adequate personnel to meet summer and fall building season demands. He cited the new high school and the hospital expansion project, among others.


Forecast Partly sunny, 30 percent chance of p.m. snow.

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County pledges $500 to Buena Vista Demons scorch Salida Spartans philanthropy event See page 3

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WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2011

Vol. 131, No. 183

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The Voice of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Valley

50 cents

Photo by Cailey McDermott

Freshly exposed rock is scratched white by boulders as they fell from this rock face near Coaldale. Work crews will begin scaling the rock today. Colorado Department of Transportation public information director Stacey Stegman said this is among the largest scale slides she has seen.

Photo by Cailey McDermott Photo by Bruce Dunavin

Fremont County Sheriff Deputy stands in the road on the east side of the rock slide between Coaldale and Cotopaxi Monday.

Boulders and rubble block U.S. 50 Tuesday. The cliff face on the right slid loose, falling across U.S. 50 and into the Arkansas River. This view on the west side of the rock slide shows boulders 20 feet in diameter. The boulder on the far left is estimated to weigh 60 tons, CDOT junior foreman Gene Hapl of Salida said.

CDOT estimates 3-4 days cleanup by Cailey McDermott Mail Staff Writer Although U.S. 50 may remain blocked three-four days while workers clear a major rockslide, electric service to nearly 1,200 area residents was restored within about 14 hours. Gene Hapl of Salida, junior foreman with the Colorado Department of Transporta-

tion, said at least three 60ton boulders and thousands of tons of broken rock fell from a 200-foot cliff face, burying mile post 244 about 4:12 p.m. Monday. He described the slide as about 100 feet wide with debris spanning the width of the highway and spilling into the Arkansas River. Stacey Stegman, director of public information for the Col-

orado Department of Transportation, said Yenter Companies, Inc. of Denver arrived about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and personnel began climbing the slide to assess the situation. Stegman said the specially trained workers were scheduled to start scaling the cliff face to remove loose rock early today. Hapl said, “I won’t put my men and my equipment in

there (to begin debris removal) said the slide interrupted seruntil it’s definitely safe.” vice to about 1,200 customers By late Tuesday afternoon, in Howard, Coaldale, Cotopaxi Stegman said department per- and several subdivisions. sonnel were selecting a conAssociation workers restored tractor to begin cleanup oper- service within two hours to ations. She said rock from the about 800 customers in the site would likely be removed to Howard and Coaldale areas. They worked until 6 a.m. sites along the highway where it will be out of the way. Tuesday to reroute the power Mike Miller, chief opera- line before restoring service to tions manager for Sangre De the remaining 400 customers Cristo Electric Association, Please see COTOPAXI, back page


PAGE 16 — THE MOUNTAIN MAIL — SALIDA, COLORADO — WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 16, 2011

City council approves geothermal grant by Cailey McDermott Mail Staff Writer A $50,000 geothermal energy grant for the cityowned Poncha Hot Springs was unanimously approved by Salida City Councilmen Tuesday. The grant from the Governor’s Energy office will be

used to explore the site for geothermal potential. Grant money was awarded in August 2010, but the National Environmental Policy Act process stalled state authorization, city administrator Jack Lewis said. Jim Miller, of Salida, who helped develop a small geo-

thermal electric system in the San Luis Valley, said he would like hydroelectric possibilities to be investigated. In other business council:

• Unanimously approved mutual aid agreements with Northern Saguache Fire Protection District and Northwest Fire District. • Adjourned to executive

session to seek legal advice from city attorney Karl Hanlon regarding medical marijuana, the wastewater treatment plant and Unique Theater.

Salida fire chief explains mutual aid agreements by Cailey McDermott Mail Staff Writer Mutual aid agreements among fire departments were explained to Salida City council members during a work session Tuesday morning. Salida Fire Chief Don Taylor said the agreements were requested by Salida Fire Department, Northern Saguache Fire Protection District and Northwest Fire District. Northwest Fire District is the regional hazardous material team. Northern Saguache Fire Protection District has offroad water tenders “that could be very helpful,” Taylor said.

“For huge incidents, it helps to have an outside resource,” Taylor said. “(Mutual aid) provides the legal backing to support other agencies. It also supplies written guidelines.” Mayor Chuck Rose asked if there would be additional costs for the city. Taylor said, “Day-to-day there will be more mutual aid going out than coming in, but it’s reciprocal and in the past, mutual aid hasn’t impacted our overtime hours.” Both agreements were approved unanimously by council members during the regular meeting Tuesday night.

Cotopaxi schools remain closed following slide Continued from FRONT page

in and near Cotopaxi. Hapl reported some telephone lines remained dead by 4 p.m. Tuesday, but said many people were using cell phones. Chuck McKenna, Cotopaxi school principal for student services, said the school was closed Tuesday and it will remain closed through Thursday. The slide cut the school district roughly into east and west halves. Hapl reported children from Cotopaxi School who live in Coaldale were bussed about

180 miles via a looping detour to reach their homes Monday night. Rockslides aren’t common, Hapl said, but they do happen. He recalled two other slides that temporarily closed Bighorn Sheep Canyon during the past five-six years. Hapl said he believes the slide was triggered by normal freeze-thaw cycles of snow water in rock cracks. Hapl said road surface damage under the rock fall may require temporary patching.

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Forecast Mostly cloudy, 40 percent chance of snow.

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Bride injures herself after Monarch wedding

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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2011

Vol. 131, No. 184

Gnomes, flamingos are garden pop-culture

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The Voice of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Valley

50 cents

Salida public schools face funding cuts by Jessica Wierzbinski Mail Staff Writer Funding cuts for Salida public schools could be nearly twice as much as district officials anticipated, based on state budget numbers unveiled by Gov. John Hickenlooper Tuesday. As early as November, school-board members said they anticipated budget cuts of more than 6 percent, but the budget proposal Hickenlooper revealed Tuesday amounts to an 11.1 percent cut for Salida, district business manager Yvonne Little said Wednesday. If Hickenlooper’s revised budget gains the approval of the Joint Budget Committee, it would result in a $332 million net reduction in funding for public schools. Salida’s share in that reduction would amount to $806,911, Little said. However, the district has some federal money to offset a portion of that amount, bringing the cut felt by the district closer to 7 percent, or about $513,179. The district never spent the one-time sum of $211,298.04 in educational job funding it received as a result of a bill President Barack Obama signed in August 2010. “We weren’t sure what the future looked like,” Little said, explaining that district officials made a “proactive” decision to hold onto that money. The district is also slated to receive an additional onetime sum of $81,372.88 in federal money for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stabilization funding. However, that money has not yet been received and could end up being rescinded, Little noted. “The bottom line is this means an 11.1 percent cut to our total program funding,” Little said. Discussions about how to handle budget cuts have been ongoing among district officials for several weeks, but those talks will become more specific in light of revised budget plans, superintendent Darryl Webb said.

District officials have almost finalized their discussions of “phase one trims,” Webb added. Phase one refers to cuts that do not directly affect employees or operations. Results of those discussions will be presented at accountability meetings that are tentatively scheduled for Feb. 28. The meetings will be open to the public, and specific times and locations will be announced when they are determined. Phase two cuts will be the subject of discussions in the coming weeks, Webb said, and could include things like staffing cuts and converting to a four-day school week. Other budget cuts Hickenlooper’s budget plan for the 2011-12 fiscal year (which begins in July) is a revision of one proposed by Gov. Bill Ritter in November 2010. Hickenlooper’s plan adds approximately $570 million in budget cuts on top of those originally proposed by Ritter. In addition to public school funding cuts, Hickenlooper’s revised plan includes cuts to higher education funding, a reduction in take-home pay for state employees and the closure of four state parks and one prison. The revised budget would decrease funding for higher education by $36 million compared to the amount proposed in Ritter’s plan. It would also raise the amount taken from state workers’ paychecks to go toward pensions. That amount has been 2.5 percent during the current year, and the revised budget would increase the amount to 4.5 percent. The new plan would also close Bonny Lake State Park near Burlington, Harvey Gap State Park near Rifle, Paonia State Park near Paonia and Sweitzer Lake State Park near Delta. The plan would also close the 485-bed Fort Lyon Correctional Facility east of Pueblo and relocate Fort Lyon inmates to other prisons.

Photos by Cailey McDermott

After rappelling from above, a scaler uses a bar to pry a loose rock chunk free from the cliff face. Scalers worked while suspended from ropes and harnesses.

Scalers dislodge rock from 200-foot cliff by Cailey McDermott Mail Staff Writer Rock scalers started about four hours ahead of schedule Wednesday dislodging loose rock from a 200-foot cliff beside U.S. 50 and expected to finish by dark. With loose rock removed from above, Gene Hapl, junior foreman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, predicted rockslide cleanup could begin today. He told The Mountain Mail four specialized scalers from Yenter Companies, Inc. of Denver began about 10 a.m. “They were definitely ahead of schedule,” he said. Scalers suspended from ropes and harnesses worked from the top down, moving back and forth across the cliff face which spawned the slide that closed U.S. 50 about 4 p.m. Monday. They stabbed steel scaling bars into cracks behind rocks, prying boulders and smaller debris loose to fall free to the rock pile below. By about 1 p.m. Wednesday, Hapl predicted scalers would clear the cliff face by the end of the day. He said Kiewit Construction Co. of Colorado Springs has the contract to clear thousands of tons of slide debris. Please see FRIDAY, back page

Rocks loosened by a scaler from Yenter Companies, Inc. fall from the cliff face to clatter and crash onto boulders below in Bighorn Sheep Canyon Wednesday. Loose material from the 200-foot high face had to be removed before cleanup of thousands of tons of debris on U.S. 50 could be cleared.


PAGE 16 — THE MOUNTAIN MAIL — SALIDA, COLORADO — THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2011

Friday opening remains target Continued from FRONT page

The Kiewit crew and their machinery arrived Wednesday on the east side of the slide. Hapl said scaling must be complete before they could start. Before scalers began work, a remote-control helicopter photographed the entire rock face to locate problem areas for scalers. Hapl said electronic monitors were placed in rock gaps to detect rock movement as a safety measure for scalers and personnel on the ground. Monitors will issue warning of any rock motion. Hapl said Friday remains the target to reopen U.S. 50, but added, “I don’t think it will (be ready).”

Bypass of rockslide opens A four-wheel-drive bypass of the rockslide blocking U.S. 50 was opened Wednesday by crews working jointly from Chaffee and Fremont counties. The route connects Salida on the west side of the rockslide with Cotopaxi on the east side. Because of areas of mud and snow, only four-wheel-drive vehicles will be allowed to use the route. Chaffee County Road and Bridge Department personnel opened Ute Trail, CR 175, north and east to the county line. Fremont County workers opened Fremont County Roads 2, 11 and 12 from the county line to Cotopaxi. For people traveling to Cañon City from Salida, officials said U.S. 285 to Johnson Village, U.S. 24/285 to Hartsel and Colo. 9 south to U.S. 50 remains the best route.

TIME TO RENEW YOUR SUBSCRIPTION? Call Sandra at 539-6691 Today!

Photo by Cailey McDermott

A scaler checks below himself seeking the safest route before rappelling lower on the cliff face to pry loose more rocks.


Forecast Partly sunny, 10 percent chance of rain.

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‘Jailbirds’ raise $13,000 Tenderfoot Climb kick-off in ‘bail’ money for MDA attracts 200 supporters See page 8

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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2011

Vol. 131, No. 185

The Voice of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Valley

50 cents

Commercial rafting volume increases by Kevin Hoffman Mail Staff Writer

Photo by Cailey McDermott

Gene Hapl, Colorado Department of Transportation junior foreman of the Alamosa office and Chuck Klien, department junior foreman of the Pueblo office survey progress a Kiewit frontend loader scoops broken rock into a waiting truck. Blaze orange paint in the foreground marks remains of at least two 60-ton boulders shattered by dynamite Thursday afternoon and pushed aside.

Workers expect U.S. 50 to reopen Sunday-Monday by Cailey McDermott Mail Staff Writer Workers from Kiewit Construction Thursday removed about 20 percent of the rock debris that fell Monday afternoon from a 200 foot cliff, burying about 100 feet of major east-west U.S. 50. Gene Hapl, junior foreman for Colorado Department of Transportation, told The Mountain Mail during a tour of both sides of the slide that the road is expected to reopen Sunday or Monday. Hapl said work slowed midday Thursday when dynamite necessary for blasting a num-

ber of massive boulders failed to arrive when expected. Massive boulders, estimated at about 60 tons each, were blasted before 3 p.m. Larger pieces were moved to the side to accommodate a Caterpillar 980G front-end loader and a parade of tractor-trailer enddump trucks. The loader filled each truck with broken rock in about 10 minutes as another backed into place beside the pile. When the loader dumped rock into an empty trailer, the rumble of rocks hitting metal and the roar of diesel engines echoed through Bighorn Sheep Canyon. West wind whipped

dust over the rock pile, creating almost zero visibility. Hapl said Kiewit workers planned to work into the night Thursday using lights on equipment. He said lightplants would arrive today and be set up to allow operations, possibly around-the clock, to continue. Walking around the north point of the slide, beside the Arkansas River, offered views of both sides for the first time. Walking was treacherous on loose rock, but close to the river footing was better. It appeared about a half dozen rocks from the slide made it into the river.

Commercial rafting numbers increased 3.4 percent from 2009 to 2010 according to the Colorado River Outfitters Association annual report to the state released earlier this month. The Commercial River Use in the State of Colorado report said the number takes into account all commercial user days on each of 17 commercially rafted rivers in Colorado. The increase is more than the 2.5 percent increase reported by Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area in its preliminary December count. Recreation area numbers, however, included commercial river guides and safety kayakers while the Colorado outfitters total didn’t. Neither report represents private river users. The outfitters association report refers to a user-day as the number of paying guests on a river for any part of a day during the rafting season. The Arkansas River from Buena Vista to Pueblo accounts for more than 40 percent of all commercial traffic in Colorado. Adjusted association figures reported a jump from 205,876 in 2009 to 211,150 in 2010. The increase of 5,274 user days is comparable to the approximate 2.5 percent increase. The outfitters’ report showed the number of commercial user days throughout Colorado was up from 490,795 in 2009 to 507,392 in 2010. Within that count, commercial rafting companies in Colorado realized a 16,500

user-day increase accounting for the 3.4 percent jump from 2009. Information showed the Colorado and Arkansas rivers experienced the largest increases from 2009 to 2010 and demonstrate excess capacity to allow for more visitors. Many other rivers in the state have limits on increased use and the report indicated those numbers stabilized. The report estimated combined economic impact of commercial-river rafting in 2010 at $150.3 million, up 4.9 percent or about $7 million from the 2009 season. Economic impact figures were the second-highest total recorded by the outfitters association since it began calculating impact in 1988. The $150.3 million recorded in 2010 was behind the record $154.5 million year in 2007. Association chairman Johnny Cantamessa said, “Rafting has always been a cost-effective way for outdoor enthusiasts to indulge themselves in nature and for families to vacation together. “(And it’s) a great venue for team-building outings by everyone from corporate groups to scout troops. When times and budgets are tight, the thrill-per-dollar ratio becomes more important, as evidenced by the industry in 2010.” Commercial rafting figures exceeded 500,000 user-days for four years from 2005-08 before taking a temporary dip in 2009. Cantamessa said diversity offered by Colorado rivers means most state residents and many from neighboring states are within an easy daydrive of a rafting location.

Harriet Alexander Field receives $3.6 million FAA grant by Cailey McDermott Mail Staff Writer A $3.6 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration was awarded in August to Harriet Alexander Field for upgrades to the runway, taxiway and apron interior. Jack Lewis, Salida administrator, said during the city

council work session Tuesday the city-county jointly owned airport, is the only small airport in Colorado this year receiving federal money for a large paving and rehabilitation project. Lewis said upon reviewing upgrades necessary to get Harriet field “off the radar” of the Federal Aviation Administration, it was learned $3.6

million wouldn’t be enough to cover more than repaving the runway and portions of the taxiway. Lewis said aviation administrators told him they thought they could find an “extra million” to complete the project. “Based on my history with the FAA,” Lewis said, “when they say ‘we’ve got an extra million,’ you can pretty much

count on it.” He said the $4.6 million project will cost Salida $27,600. “We budgeted $46,000.” Council members asked about future maintenance. Mayor Chuck Rose said with every new capital improvement, council should determine long-term cost of upkeep. New light-emitting diodes

are a lighting upgrade the federal administration believes is important, Lewis said. Although the new lights are more expensive to replace, he said there is no option when the federal administration wants them. Councilman Keith Baker mentioned merging the airport at Buena Vista with Harriet Alexander Field to boost activity for both.


Forecast Mostly sunny, becoming partly cloudy.

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Mountain Mail wins four Spartan boys basketball press association awards team repels Savage attack

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MONDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2011

Vol. 131, No. 186

The Voice of Salida and the Upper Arkansas Valley

50 cents

U.S. 50 opens by Paul J. Goetz Mail Managing Editor

Photo by Kevin Hoffman

Buena Vista senior Corbin Bennetts embraces his coach, Jared Todd, after winning his third consecutive wrestling title at the 3A Wrestling State Championships Saturday at the Pepsi Center. Bennetts and teammate Oliver Reed won championship titles; however, the victory eluded Salida senior Clint Myers who lost a 3-2 decision to Berthoud’s J.T. Pickert.

Bennetts wins title by Kevin Hoffman Mail Staff Writer DENVER – The Demons claimed two state crowns and the Spartans fell shy in the finals at the wrestling State

Championships held Feb 17-1 in Denver. Buena Vista senior Corbin Bennetts won his third consecutive championship and teammate Oliver Reed claimed his first.

Salida senior Clint Myers lost his final round at 215pounds by one point settling for second. Spartans placed ninth as a team last season, but of five wrestlers competing at state

this year, Myers was the only competitor to place. In the championship Myers experienced his first defeat in two high school seasons to Please see PICKERT, back page

U.S. 50 between Cañon City and Salida reopened at 12:20 p.m. Sunday after workers finished removing rockslide debris that buried the highway west of Cotopaxi Valentine’s Day. Kiewit Construction finished loading trucks about 11 a.m. Chuck Kline, Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance supervisor of Pueblo, said. The road was inspected and found in good shape before reopening. “There was nothing we could patch but a few scrapes in the road,” Kline said. “We will come back over that (later) with an asphalt overlay. Cold prevents application of asphalt during the winter. Kiewit Construction will do the work when it’s warm enough, Kline said. “We didn’t realize there were so many large rocks in the slide,” Kline said. A hammer drill and dynamite were used to break large boulders. The biggest rock was more than 20 tons – “bigger than a pickup truck,” Kline said. “A lot of 2-8 ton rocks we had to break. On the big ones our hammer drill wouldn’t break we had to use dynamite.” Rock from the slide was hauled about 12 miles east of the site and stored on state property. Kline said the slide had no effect on the Arkansas River. He said the department and Kiewit made a decision early not to attack the rockslide from east and west sides. Because equipment arrived from Colorado Springs and Pueblo, cleanup was worked from the east side. “It may have been faster (to work on it from both sides) but we were using dynamite and safety was a concern,” Kline said. “Overall it went well. I know it was an inconvenience to everyone. But there were no incidents or accidents during the work. Thanks for being patient with us while we got it done.”


rock slide