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Is 2023 the year we begin building the new swimming pool in Eads? Featured is a swimming pool in Cimmaron, KS.

Letter from the Publisher as We Begin Our 8th Year

By Betsy Barnett

February 1, 2023

Eight years ago, I was working as an administrator at Eads High School and loved my job. My favorite part had always been working with the kids and leading a talented and dedicated group of educators. I was naïve in some ways—battle worn in others. But one thing was constant—I had a burning desire to help make our community and southeast Colorado the best it could be. When the local newspaper stated at the end of 2015 that they had printed their last edition I was scared for our community and decided it was time to step into the world of media in order to continue the community’s conversation with one another and what was happening around us.

Since that time, I’ve learned a lot about journalism, how newspapers work and how important it is to maintain a local voice in these small communities. Over the past six years I’ve watched area newspapers that had long been the foundation of a community be bought up by large corporate megamedia organizations where they closed the newspaper offices, fired the staff, continued to collect the advertising revenue, and offer canned state and national news that had little meaning to local readers. That’s what is happening to most newspapers these days because it costs way too much for printing and distribution so they go digital, can their news, and continue to collect their advertising and subscription money. They don’t serve the community.

We here at the Independent are dedicated to staying local. We want to highlight Kiowa County, Cheyenne County, Prowers and Bent County, and their communities with small schools like ours that surround us. We strive to provide content that is about the communities we live in. We strive to provide content that informs us, but also makes us think about what we’re doing well—and not so well. We highlight the good, we painfully report on the bad, because it is all important for these communities to have the power of a voice.

We will continue to highlight us, this rural part of the state of Colorado, and do it proudly.

There’s a lot to be proud about despite the fact that the entire world is still struggling to emerge from the grip of a recession and COVID policies that we now see, in hindsight, to have been at the best unhealthy for our citizens and at the worst unconstitutional. We’ve written so many “COVID stories” that we’re sick of them, but we continue to try to inform you on what we read, what we learn is happening in our own communities, and what it means for us. We don’t always please our readers, but we try to look at every point of view, and we respect everyone’s opinion because those opinions—all of them—is what makes this such an awesome place to live.

In looking forward into the next year we have a feeling we will be quite busy informing you of good news and probably still news that makes you angry or sad. But that’s okay as the conversations are able to continue between us and our readers.

We still haven’t come to the closing chapter of the officer involved shooting of Eads resident Zach Gifford that occurred in April of 2020. Now, in 2023, we are awaiting as to whether Kiowa County residents will once again, for the fourth time, bear the burden of seeing the final trial take place, or will the entire case be moved into another jurisdiction. We are waiting and watching and will continue to report on this sad chapter in our collective history until we have seen it come to a conclusion. We hope, for the sake of all involved, 2023 will be the year we can move forward from those dark days of 2020.

We also hope to report on progress being made in building the new swimming pool in Eads. That has been a long story, as well, and since 2020 the community has not had a swimming pool for the children. The Town of Eads continues to inch forward with plans, occasionally taking a detour, but staying the course nevertheless. Will 2023 be the year the actual work will begin? If it is or if it isn’t—the Independent will be there reporting on what is happening.

This year is also the year we will find out if our neighbors to the south, the McClave School District, lands a BEST Grant and begins work on building a brand new PreK-12th school building. The Independent will continue to follow that story as in the next week the application will be submitted and by early May that school district will have their answer. We’ll be there to inform our readers on their progress.

We’ll continue to report on the state of housing this year. Currently, both housing projects in Eads are about to come to a conclusion. The affordable housing project located just across the street to the west from the historic barn on Lowell Street is scheduled to complete work in February or March. Two duplexes, or four housing units, have been stick built there and a third duplex had its foundation poured with a future build date to possibly commence in 2023.

Then there’s the workforce housing project that represents perhaps one of the most unique projects the state has ever seen. In this project 70 new homes are being built across southeastern Colorado, much like a housing development in Denver, using economy of scale. This means, for instance, that Eads is getting a duplex (2 housing units) and two new houses located in available lots along Cactus Drive in the Kiowa Estates area. The beauty of this project, despite being conceived and put into action during one of the highest inflation periods we’ve ever seen, is that it is creating a future housing market for these rural towns. Long gone are the days where we could buy a house for $75,000. That, in a way was affordable, but in another way, it established long-held comparisons that stymied the housing market for nearly three decades. With this project alone, the comps will advance to a level where in the future new houses can be built and successfully financed with appropriate appraisal prices.

According to Stephanie Gonzales, Director at SECED, they are now looking for people interested in buying a new home. Financing is available through this project, and it is an amazing opportunity to get yourself into a brand new, beautiful home for about $155 per square foot. The average cost to build a new house is now at $200-$220 so this housing project represents a real opportunity for those who are willing to check into it. The hospital here in Eads is building a duplex for their own workforce. Two other homes are just about completed with one currently for sale. Perhaps you want to invest in your future and your community by checking into this opportunity.

Kit Carson is also attacking the problem of the housing shortage in another unique way. The Independent hopes to report on their progress into February and March as five new homes will soon be ready for sale or rent. The way these homes were manufactured is a story all its own.

A new transmission line built by Xcel Energy will be coming through Kiowa County, as well as other neighboring counties, including Cheyenne County. Now that the permits for Tri-State Energy and Xcel Energy have been approved by Kiowa County, we will continue to report on the progress of the project including when actual construction commences. The work may begin as early as the end of this year and soon transmission lines will be available that presumedly will attract the development of renewable energy including a large number of wind towers, solar farms, and energy storage facilities. With the infrastructure of transmission lines more energy projects will follow and that means good-paying jobs will also follow.

Along with the development of a renewable energy industry in Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Prowers County we will also look to see if the railroad will develop as it finds new markets and new products to haul. Look to the Colorado Pacific Railroad to provide more jobs in the near future. We’ll be waiting and watching for that development. We will continue to ask the questions and report on how the railroad will play a crucial role in the overall development of Kiowa County, Crowley County, and beyond.

There’s also a series of high rises being erected on the plains of eastern Kiowa County just east and north of the Plainview School. We originally reported that the new elevators at Weskan Grain Company would be able to store one million bushels of grain. Now, we’ll be exploring the expansion of that project as we are hearing the current work being done will result in a facility that can store three million bushels at one time. That is a whole lot of grain, and that is a project that the Independent hopes to be able to report on soon.

Now more than ever there are businesses that are interested in settling in these small towns. The pandemic has shown them that there is freedom here and that it really doesn’t matter where you conduct a lot of the business since many, if not most, jobs can be done remotely. Kiowa County has joined with the other southeastern Colorado counties in developing better broadband in its communities. This development will be vital to attract all levels and types of technical business and industry. We will continue to report on these ideas as they develop.

Eads citizens have been watching, fascinated, as a new building is going up, actually being stick built, in the lot on Maine Street where the old Rialto Hotel was razed about six years ago. This business will be a multi-service salon that will be owned and operated by young people who have moved back to town with families of their own and who are all extremely talented individuals. We’ll be reporting on that new business as we continue to watch the progress of the building.

The tourism industry in this part of the world will only grow as we now have a trifecta of amazing historical sites including the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site east of Eads, Bent’s Fort National Monument in Las Animas, and the Amache National Historic Site and Visitor Center in Granada. These sites reflect the amazing diversity present in southeastern Colorado and the visitors who are interested in the history that shaped us will be coming to see for themselves. We should welcome them with open arms through developing food, lodging and activity services. The Independent will be reporting on these opportunities and we hope you’ll join in on that conversation.

Finally, we will be examining how the topic of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is changing all elements of life as we know it. Just since November of 2022 a new application called ChatGPT has exploded onto the scene and will soon change the way we do school, journalism, medicine, farming, livestock production, and any other service or skill you can think of. The Independent will be examining the rise of ChatGPT, tell you what it is—and isn’t—and try to conduct a discussion about the ethical and moral issues we will soon be facing. Stay tuned for life-changing conversations.

Yes, Year 8 at the Kiowa County Independent is shaping up to be one for the record books. Over the past several years people ask us all the time, “How do you find things to write about? Nothing ever happens here.” Oh, contraire dear readers, there is always something worth thinking about and talking about here in rural Colorado—and to be sure we are raring and ready for you to read all about it.

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