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Photo by Tracy Ihnot Julia Lange, Juliette Lockwood and Rosa Alvarado-Garcia display the Business of the Year plaque awarded to Taco Hut by the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Bill Long presented Wendell Koontz with the Citizen of the Year award, as well as Reese’s, one of Koontz’s favorite sweets.
Photo by Pat Sunderland Sue Whittlesey, chairman of the Friends of the Hotchkiss Library, accepts the Nonprofit of the Year award on behalf of staff members (from left) Sarah Pope, Terry Johns and Tracy Ihnot (with baby Teagan), and volunteers Joe Colwell, Katie Gnauck and Ruth Pettigrew.

Hotchkiss chamber honors community champions

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The stability that is a hallmark of the Hotchkiss Community Chamber of Commerce was sustained during the chamber's annual meeting Nov. 7.

Tracy Ihnot, Nathan Sponseller, Sue Whittlesey and Bill Long were re-elected to two-year terms on the board. Sponseller has served on the board for 22 years, including 14 years as board president. Long was elected to the board 11 years ago and is currently vice president. Whittlesey, board treasurer, and Ihnot, recording secretary, have each committed several years to the chamber. Together with Katherine Colwell, communications secretary, and board members Lynda Cannon and Robbie Winne, they form a cohesive team dedicated to the chamber's mission of promoting business and the quality of life in Hotchkiss.

The meeting, held at the Doc Maloney house on the county fairgrounds, also provided an opportunity to recognize Nonprofit of the Year, Citizen of the Year and Business of the Year.

Tracy Ihnot, an employee of Delta County Libraries, was thrilled to honor the Friends of the Hotchkiss Library, "a wonderful, wonderful group of library lovers and community supporters."

This group of library lovers has no meetings, no dues and no minutes. They devote their volunteer efforts to biannual book sales, book sorting and an in-house book store, with "every last penny" going directly to the Hotchkiss Library.

Library friend Sue Whittlesey said the group has several projects planned, including a display to showcase the new books in the nonfiction area. The most recent book sale generated about $1,100, which will fund that project and others.

Bill Long presented the Citizen of the Year award to Wendell Koontz, Hotchkiss mayor. Koontz, a geologist by profession, served on the planning commission before being elected to the town council in 2006. In 2010 he was elected mayor. His second four-year term ends next spring.

Koontz doesn't restrict his service to once-a-month town council meetings; he supports a wide range of community and school events throughout the North Fork. He is also active in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and the Hotchkiss Elks.

Sponseller noted the town and chamber have worked very well together, largely due to Koontz's interest in collaborating with the chamber and other community organizations.

The annual meeting was catered by Taco Hut. While owners Julie and Butch Lange were not able to attend, Lynda Cannon recognized the restaurant as a popular gathering place with terrific food and consistently good service. Although the restaurant keeps them very busy, they're strong community and school supporters. There are a lot of great businesses in Hotchkiss, Cannon added, and they all contribute to a strong community.

Delta County Commissioner Mark Roeber was asked to provide an overview of issues of interest to the Hotchkiss business community. He touched on several topics:

• The county GIS department reports 117 new addresses in the first eight months of the year -- 15 in Paonia, 19 in Hotchkiss and 31 each in Cedaredge and Delta.

• County sales tax collections are higher than anticipated and are running about 3 percent above last year.

• While Delta County may be considered rural in nature, it actually ranks 19th out of 64 for total population in Colorado. Roeber observed that urban vs. rural interests are often the source of conflict in Delta County.

• Delta County's budget equates to about $1,045 per person -- 25 to 30 percent less than counties of similar size and about half of Montrose County's per capita funding.

In response to a question about the county fairgrounds, Roeber said a committee has been formed with the goal of increasing utilization. Mayor Koontz represents the Town of Hotchkiss on that committee.

Nathan Sponseller provided a recap of 2017 -- an unusual year, he said, because the town did not host any major bike rides or car tours. The Colorado Grand is expected to return in 2018, with a lunch stop on Sept. 14.

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North Fork
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Chamber of Commerce, Hotchkiss
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