Kim Ruble, who died in a Dec. 12 accident, went from one adventure to the next, making friends with seemingly everyone he met along the way. [Photo courtesy of Redtail Aviation]

As 2016 comes to an end, the Moab Sun News is taking a look back at some of the top stories of the year.

The first nine months were sometimes turbulent at Moab City Hall, as more department heads parted ways with the city under then-Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson, and some residents questioned the city’s decision to hire a company that had ties to Davidson. In September, Davidson’s time with the city ended abruptly, when she was first placed on administrative leave, and her three-year contract was then terminated less than 18 months after she took over as the city’s top administrator. Just days after the city placed her on leave, Davidson sued five citizens and one publication for defamation and other claims, seeking $5 million in damages. A judge later dismissed the defamation claims against two local residents, but the case has not been resolved.

Public lands continued to be another point of contention in 2016, as Utah’s congressional delegation finally released its long-awaited eastern Utah Public Lands Initiative. Meanwhile, tribal leaders urged President Barack Obama’s outgoing administration to declare a 1.9-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument in San Juan County – a proposal that Utah’s congressional delegation strongly opposes.

Concerns about visitor-related strains on aging infrastructure grew this year, driving efforts to build a new regional wastewater treatment plant, and leading the city to impose a short-term moratorium on sewer connections for new commercial projects.

The Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project began 2016 on a high note, reaching the halfway cleanup mark by moving 8 million tons of material to a long-term disposal cell near Crescent Junction, while celebrating 2.5 million hours without a lost-time accident. But obstacles followed, starting with the announcement of a planned 10 percent cut to the project’s budget, and continuing with the layoffs of 31 employees, reductions in tailings shipments to the disposal cell and an August accident that left a crew member with significant injuries.

Throughout the year, the community mourned the loss of local residents and visitors who were killed in accidents on area roads and in the backcountry near Moab.

Brody Young returns to scene of 2010 shooting

Five years to the day after Brody Young came home from a lengthy hospital stay, a co-worker told him something he wasn’t sure he’d ever hear: Someone found the remains of the man suspected of shooting him nine times in November 2010. While media outlets around the state were clamoring to hear Young’s reaction to the news, the former Utah State Parks ranger kept quiet until the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner could confirm that the skeletal remains belonged to suspect Lance Leeroy Arellano. When that confirmation finally came through on Jan. 6, Young returned the next day to the same trailhead where authorities say Arellano tried to kill him for no apparent reason on Nov. 19, 2010. Young repeatedly thanked the community and everyone who came forward over the last five years to show their support. He expressed his condolences to Arellano’s family, but he said that he is grateful for the closure the discovery brings to his life.

Tribes quit lands initiative process

Frustrated by the pace of the Public Lands Initiative process, the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition ceased negotiations with Utah’s congressional delegation, and instead encouraged the Obama administration to designate a national monument in southeastern Utah. The coalition cited missed deadlines, a lack of substantive comments to its proposal and “raw, heavy-handed, political overreaching,” as reasons for its withdrawal. The Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition, which includes members of the Hopi, Navajo, Ute and Zuni Pueblo tribes, is seeking the protection of 1.9 million acres of federal public lands in San Juan County.

UMTRA cleanup reaches halfway mark, safety milestone

The Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action Project (UMTRA) reached an historic milestone in late January 2016, as crews removed the eight-millionth ton of material from the pile just north of Moab, and reached the estimated halfway cleanup mark. At the same time, the project team commemorated a new safety record that was about 2,200 days in the making. As of late December 2015, crews at the tailings pile and the long-term disposal cell near Crescent Junction put in 2.5 million hours without a work-related lost-time injury or illness.

Judge overturns city’s B&B decision

After more than a year of legal back-and-forth, a district court judge in late January struck down the Moab City Council’s November 2014 decision that rejected a couple’s application to operate a bed-and-breakfast facility on Arches Drive. Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson directed an attorney for Jeramey and Mary McElhaney to prepare a proposed court order that requires the city to issue a Conditional Use Permit for the business “without further delay.” The judge found that the council failed to show that the B&B would have an undue increase on traffic or other negative impacts on the quiet neighborhood, and instead responded to “public clamor” against the proposal.

La Sal man dies in car accident

A 68-year-old La Sal man was killed in a Feb. 2 traffic accident on U.S. Highway 191 south of Moab. Steve Barnett was passing a slower-moving semi-truck in a double-lane passing zone. The Utah Highway Patrol reported that Barnett’s car drifted over into the northbound travel lane, striking another semi-truck head-on. Barnett was killed upon impact, while his wife was subsequently flown to Grand Junction, Colorado, for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Politicians urge Obama not to declare monument

Utah’s congressional delegation urged President Barack Obama not to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to designate a national monument on federal lands in San Juan County. The calls from the state’s four Republican congressmen and two U.S. senators came on the heels of the president’s designation of three new national monuments in southern California’s Mojave Desert. The move amplified the Utah delegation’s fears that a 1.9-million-acre Bears Ears National Monument may be next on the president’s agenda. The representatives are urging the president to let legislative action determine the fate of public lands.

Council baffled by elements of Bishop’s PLI draft

Utah’s congressional delegation likes to say that its Public Lands Initiative is a locally driven effort that was built from the bottom up. But in Grand County, the initial recommendations that Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz included in a draft version of the bill often go against the council’s formal proposals to the delegation, or ignore them entirely. Among other things, the draft omitted wilderness areas that a majority of council members would like to establish in the eastern Book Cliffs, and created a Book Cliffs transportation corridor that the same majority opposes. It also carved out new wilderness in areas where the council expressly opposes the designation, including the lower section of the popular Whole Enchilada mountain biking trail, and nearly all of the already-protected Arches National Park. Council members asked the all-Republican delegation to review some of the key discrepancies they identified.

City’s public works director resigns

Moab City Public Works Director Jeff Foster stepped down in February as the City of Moab’s public works director, becoming the latest department head to leave the city under now-former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson’s leadership. Foster told the Moab Sun News that he felt he could no longer work under the conditions that management created. Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison and Davidson said that Foster had many opportunities to voice his concerns before he tendered his resignation, but there were no outward signs that he was unhappy, they said. Davidson said she had no idea how to respond to concerns that the loss of prominent, longtime city employees created a climate of “fear and paranoia” among others.

Community mourns loss of GCHS student

Kayden Cresswell loved horses, riding dirt bikes and playing football for the Grand County High School Red Devils. But all that ended in a split-second tragedy on Feb. 25, when the vehicle he was driving crossed over the center line and collided head-on with another vehicle, killing him upon impact. At a Feb. 27 candlelight vigil held on the Grand County High School football field, Cresswell was remembered as an aspiring athlete, a cheerful young man and someone who was always ready to lend a hand. His father Matt Cresswell addressed the assembled crowd at the vigil and thanked everyone for their support. “I want you to know that your kind thoughts and prayers have been felt by us and helped get us through this grief and heartache,” he said.

UMTRA budget cut proposed

Just weeks after a top federal official reiterated her agency’s commitment to future funding for the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project, her office subsequently announced that it is proposing to cut the project’s budget by 10 percent. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Environmental Management said it is seeking a “modest” $3.86 million in budget cuts for the 2017 federal fiscal year, which runs from October 2016 through September 2017. In response, the Grand County Council voted unanimously on March 1 to send a letter that asks Utah’s congressional delegation to intervene for a reallocation of project funding, which topped $38 million this year.

Report details sexual harassment in city’s public works department

A city-commissioned report found that some employees within Moab’s public works department created a hostile work environment for others, with numerous employees complaining of inappropriate behavior and crude remarks by some of their colleagues. But the employees told investigators that no steps were taken to address or correct the behavior until someone informed now-former Moab City Public Works Director Jeff Foster about it in December 2015. The report found that one female employee repeatedly told her co-workers about her sex life in graphic detail, and made double entendres that left little to the imagination. The Moab City Recorder’s Office spent more than $18,400 on the investigation; attorneys involved with the investigation earned $370 per hour, and $255 per hour, respectively.

Boutique launches local flights

Eleven months to the day after former Essential Air Service carrier SkyWest Airlines flew its last plane out of Moab, Boutique Air began direct passenger airline service between Canyonlands Field Airport and Salt Lake City and Denver. The first “soft opening” flight arrived at Canyonlands Field on March 30. Boutique won the federal contract to serve Moab’s airport after Great Lakes Aviation formally backed out of its contract. Great Lakes had been scheduled to begin service on May 1, 2015. However, not one Great Lakes flight got off the ground at Canyonlands Field before that company pulled out of its agreement. SkyWest, meanwhile, declined to comply with federal transportation department orders to continue its local service until a new airline was in place, claiming that it no longer had the ability to serve Moab’s airport.

Company buys Fidelity’s local assets

Fidelity Exploration & Production’s local oil and gas assets are under new ownership. Joint venture partners Kirkwood Resources and NERD Energy bought the Moab-area leases and interests in the Big Flat area, after Fidelity’s parent company MDU Resources got out of the exploration and production business for good. The assets span across more than 50,000 acres of federal and state lands around state Route 313 northwest of Moab, and include the Cane Creek Unit 12-1 oil well – the top-producing onshore site in the contiguous U.S. four years ago.

Report clears Jackson of ethics allegations

Grand County Council member Lynn Jackson never tried to hide his past consulting ties to the potash industry. But he could have done more to make it clear that he has no conflict of interest on any related issues that come before the council. Those were the findings of a third-party investigation that the Grand County Attorney’s office commissioned in response to an ethics complaint alleging that Jackson failed to disclose his relationship with the industry. The complaint from Living Rivers Conservation Director John Weisheit was the third one that has been lodged against Jackson during his first and only term in office, only to be dismissed after lengthy legal investigations.

Vandals hit Frame Arch

One of the latest and most extreme examples of vandalism on public lands appeared this spring at Arches National Park’s Frame Arch, where someone etched the words “STATEN 2016” and “ANDERSEN 16” into a fragile sandstone wall just above the Delicate Arch Trail. Deep Desert Expeditions owner Mike Coronella said he first noticed the damage as he was leading a group hike to Delicate Arch, and the sight caused him to gasp in shock. “It’s the worst (I’ve seen) in a park setting,” he said.

UMTRA contractor lays off 31 employees

Lead contractor Portage, Inc., laid off 31 of the 113 crew members at the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project site on April 26. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Moab Project Director Don Metzler said the previously announced cuts reflected the fact that the project team spent more money than it planned to this year to maintain its aging equipment and facilities. A longtime Moab resident who was, in the contractor’s words, “involuntarily separated” from his job, said that little consideration was given to local employees – some of whom relocated to town, or bought houses here. Instead, the man said those employees were let go, while out-of-town crew members who live as far away as Salt Lake City; Price; and Grand Junction, Colorado, held onto their jobs.

Teen killed in traffic accident

A 15-year-old Texas teenager was killed in a May 14 traffic accident near the entrance to Arches National Park. Hannah Greening and her family were traveling from San Angelo, Texas, to pay a surprise visit to their family members in Washington state when their family’s car collided with another vehicle that was attempting to pull out of the park’s main entrance off U.S. Highway 191. Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Ty Roberts called the incident a tragic accident that occurred due to a blind spot at the busy intersection.

Arsonist’s jail sentence tied to restitution

A district judge tied a convicted arsonist’s jail sentence to the amount of restitution that he is able to pay his victims. Edward “Dawson” Moddrelle was ordered on May 17 to pay a projected $3,500 in restitution to Skyline Storage owner Diane Child and the Moab Folk Festival between the date of his sentence and Nov. 1, when he was scheduled to report to jail. For every $50 that he pays his victims, he will spend one less day behind bars. Moddrelle pleaded guilty on April 19 to third-degree felony arson, admitting that he deliberately set fire to his girlfriend’s storage unit at Skyline Storage just before Thanksgiving 2015. No one was injured during the incident, but the flames quickly spread and damaged or destroyed 10 units at the 73-unit facility. The defense and the prosecution calculated that Moddrelle owed $5,750 to the folk festival, and $3,540 to Child; other amounts of restitution ranged from $294 to $1,750.

“Voice of Canyonlands” dies at 72

Southeastern Utah lost one of its greatest voices on May 18. KCYN General Manager Phil Mueller passed away peacefully at his Blanding home, following a five-and-a-half-year battle with cancer. He was 72. Doctors first diagnosed Mueller with stage-four colon cancer in March 2011; at the time, they told him that he had six months to a year to live – perhaps slightly longer if he fought it. “He fought it,” longtime friend and KCYN colleague Dan Mick said. Mueller worked a demanding schedule of 14- to 15-hour days, and Mick said he believed that his friend’s devotion to KCYN and its listeners kept him going.

City police chief retires; film commission chair resigns

Two longtime city employees parted ways with the City of Moab this year, albeit for different reasons. Moab City Police Chief Mike Navarre privately announced his retirement from the job he held since 2000, while former Moab to Monument Valley Film Commission Director Tara Penner resigned in late May, following a dispute with city administrators. In a public message to her Facebook friends, Penner said that the city forcibly placed her on an unpaid leave of absence on April 8 due to her health-related problems. Navarre, who joined the city’s police department in 1988, subsequently postponed his resignation until late September. Local officials and others initially received an email from a Moab City Council member which claimed that Navarre had not resigned. But according to a Sept. 21 statement from the city, Navarre tendered his resignation in May. At Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison’s request, Navarre agreed to stay on in his position as a “convenience to the city,” the statement said.

Utah delegation revises draft lands bill

The controversial draft version of eastern Utah’s Public Lands Initiative got a makeover in early June. Four months after a majority of Grand County Council members raised concerns about the proposal, representatives from Utah’s congressional delegation outlined changes to the draft that address many – but not all – of the council’s initial recommendations. Among other things, they noted that they revised contentious language that would have cleared the way for the development of a paved highway through the rugged Book Cliffs of northeastern Grand County. In its place, they inserted a broader reference to a proposed utility corridor through the area. In another significant revision, the delegation eliminated a proposal to do away with the BLM’s separate Master Leasing Plan for more than 700,000 acres of lands it administers in southern Grand and northern San Juan counties.

Feds order coal plants to cut haze pollutants

Clearer skies around Moab are on the horizon, although they could come at a higher cost to Rocky Mountain Power’s customers, barring future legal challenges. In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered power plant operator Rocky Mountain Power to install additional pollution controls at the company’s Hunter and Huntington coal-fired power plants in Emery County within five years. The EPA says it expects that its final order will cut the plants’ emissions of haze-forming nitrogen oxides by 9,885 tons per year, which could improve the views in Moab and at Arches and Canyonlands national parks by 2021. In the past, company officials have estimated that it could cost $700 million to upgrade the generating units at Hunter and Huntington.

Report finds no wrongdoing in city hiring of I.T. firm

An independent accountant’s report found no evidence of procedural wrongdoing by the City of Moab when it contracted a computer technology and consulting firm with ties to now-former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson. But certified public accountant Russell Olsen added that the scope of the report was very limited. The city requested an audit in response to Grand County Council member Chris Baird’s allegations that Davidson failed to disclose a conflict of interest regarding her connections to the IT securities firm Tayo, Inc. The computer technology firm was formally registered at Davidson’s address; her then-housemate Tara Smelt co-owns it. Niyo Pearson, who is a past associate of Davidson’s, performed the bulk of the consulting work. Moab City Recorder Rachel Stenta told the city council on June 7 that she hired Tayo Inc. under an “emergency situation” exemption that allows the city to authorize expenditures without having to advertise and solicit sealed bids.

Interior Secretary visits Moab, Bluff

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell led a federal delegation on a mid-July visit to many of the sites that would be included in the Bears Ears Inter-Tribal Coalition’s proposal for a 1.9-million-acre monument in San Juan County. The visit, which included stops in Moab and Bluff, coincided with the long-awaited release of the eastern Utah Public Lands Initiative (PLI) – a congressional plan that aims in part to stave off the monument designation by balancing conservation with recreation and development. “I would say that you don’t get a sense of what is here until you get out on the landscapes; until you meet with the people who are of these communities, and that has been a very rich and heartwarming experience,” Jewell said.

Master Leasing Plan released

After four years of effort, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) Canyon Country District Office released its proposed Master Leasing Plan for more than 785,000 acres of land it administers in southern Grand and northern San Juan counties. BLM officials said their plan to guide management activities over a 15-year period strikes a balance between conservation and recreation on the one hand and mineral development on the other. Outdoor recreation-oriented groups hailed the proposal as a plan that would remedy federal lawmakers’ failure to give equal consideration to their interests. But critics said it threatens the future of resource-extraction industries that have traditionally offered area residents well-paid jobs, while bolstering local government revenues through property tax payments and mineral lease revenues.

County formally opposes PLI

By now, Reps. Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz likely know that a majority of Grand County Council members oppose the latest version of their Public Lands Initiative. Just in case the message didn’t get through to them, though, the progressive-leaning majority fired off a letter in mid-August that outlines their concerns about the congressional proposal to manage federal lands in seven eastern Utah counties. Council members Chris Baird, Jaylyn Hawks, Mary McGann and Elizabeth Tubbs voted in favor of Baird’s Aug. 16 motion to send the letter, while Ken Ballantyne and Lynn Jackson opposed it. The letter said the county cannot back the bill as it was written because it included major departures from the council’s previously submitted recommendations to Utah’s Republican congressional delegation. However, it suggested that Bishop could win the council’s full support by amending provisions that dealt with everything from wilderness and wildlife management to state primacy, or control, over mineral development permitting on federal lands.

Accident halts shipments at UMTRA site

Cleanup work at the Moab Uranium Mill Tailings Remedial Action (UMTRA) Project site ground to a halt in late August and early September, following a truck accident that left the driver with significant knee injuries.The unidentified contractor from Grand Junction, Colorado, was bound for the project’s rail-loading facility above Potash Road with a sealed container full of uranium mill tailings on Aug. 29. As his truck rounded a corner, it tipped on its side, and the container opened, spilling an estimated one-third to one-half of its contents into a nearby ditch. The driver, who reportedly sustained minor bumps to his head, was transported to Moab Regional Hospital’s emergency room for treatment of his injuries; he was released later that day. Others who were responsible for handling the containers at the project site about 4 road miles north of downtown Moab were reportedly sent home until Sept. 6.

Two killed in UTV accident

Two Arizona women died on Sept. 2 in a utility-terrain vehicle (UTV) accident at the Sand Flats Recreation Area. Destiny Dixon, 28, and 51-year-old Debbie Swann set out on the famed Hell’s Revenge Trail with a group of other UTV riders. Dixon was driving a Polaris Ranger UTV uphill when it reportedly tipped on the right passenger side and slid an estimated 25 feet down the slickrock along the Tip Over Challenge section of the trail. Grand County Sheriff’s Lt. Kim Neal said the vehicle burst into flames within moments, adding that neither woman would have had time to react.

Davidson sues citizens for defamation

Now-former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson filed suit against one publication and five people who have frequently questioned her ties to a computer consulting firm that the city hired in 2015 on a short-term basis. Davidson, along with her housemate Tara Smelt and IT consulting firm Tayo, Inc., “demanded” a jury trial in 7th District Court to determine “reasonable” punitive and general damages against the defendants. Davidson and Smelt claim they suffered damages to their personal and professional reputations, based on the statements that the various defendants have made. Among other things, the documents also allege that those statements caused Davidson personal humiliation, mental anguish and emotional distress, while damaging Tayo’s reputation and its ability to find work in the community.

BLM replaces Negro Bill signs; thief steals them

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) installed new “Grandstaff Trailhead” signs at the Negro Bill Canyon recreational area on Sept. 24, as part of a broader project to update its signs along the state Route 128 corridor. Within a matter of days, however, the signs were stolen and subsequently found damaged in the Colorado River. The signs, which replaced the recently vandalized “Negro Bill Canyon Trailhead” sign at the mouth of the canyon, memorialize early African American settler William Grandstaff, who lived in the Moab area from 1877 to 1881. The BLM spent more than $1,600 to install the signs; the agency is planning to replace them.

Davidson fired “without cause”

After less than 18 months on the job, Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson was fired in late September from her position as the city’s top administrator. The Moab City Council voted 3-1 during a special meeting on Sept. 30 to terminate Davidson’s three-year contract “without cause,” or for reasons that are not related to misconduct. The move came just 17 days after Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison placed Davidson on paid administrative leave, pending an outside legal counsel’s investigation of unspecified “internal issues.” Davidson’s time with the city was marked by controversy, starting with the high-profile dismissals of two longtime city employees, former Moab City Economic Development Specialist Ken Davey and former Moab City Community Development Director David Olsen. The criticisms of Davidson continued when former Moab City Public Works Director Jeff Foster resigned, telling the Moab Sun News that he could no longer work under the conditions that “management” created.

City hires interim manager

Former Moab resident David Everitt is back in town to serve as interim city manager, after the Moab City Council voted 4-1 on Oct. 6 to hire him on a temporary basis. Everitt replaced former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson. His employment agreement with the city will run for up to six months, and council members could choose to extend it on a month-to-month basis as they search for a new full-time city manager. Until January 2016, Everitt served as Salt Lake City’s chief operating officer, as well as former Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s chief of staff, for eight years. Before then, he worked as the Youth Garden Project’s director of development from 2003 to 2005, and as a Canyonlands Field Institute educator for four years.

Record election turnout

Grand County’s voters took their civic duties seriously this year. More than nine out of 10 registered voters in and around Moab cast their mail-in ballots on or ahead of the Nov. 8 election, setting an apparent record in the state, according to Grand County Clerk Diana Carroll. With the election of Grand County Council candidates Evan Clapper and Greg Halliday, progressives will expand their presence on the council to five of its seven members. Conservative Curtis Wells was also elected to fill outgoing council member Lynn Jackson’s seat, and incumbent council member Rory Paxman will be returning to the council in January 2017. In the top-ballot race, Republican President-elect Donald J. Trump, who won the Electoral College vote but lost the popular vote nationwide by nearly 3 million votes, came out ahead locally with a mere 15-vote lead over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

City imposes moratorium on new commercial sewer connections

Moab’s aging wastewater treatment plant is operating on the verge of noncompliance with the Utah Clean Water Act, and the Moab City Council voted 3-2 on Nov. 8 to impose a moratorium on new sewer connections until it’s guaranteed that the facility is operating within the law. The ordinance exempts “Priority Connections,” which will be granted for projects approved by the city prior to the effective date of the moratorium. Also exempted are any future applications for “Primary Residential Use,” or homes built for people who intend to live in Moab most of the time.

Judge dismisses defamation claims in Davidson suit

Former Moab City Manager Rebecca Davidson’s lawsuit against two local residents faltered in November, when a district court judge dismissed her defamation claims against them. Davidson and her co-plaintiffs are seeking nearly $5.5 million in damages from Annie Tueller Payne, Janet Buckingham and four other defendants. The plaintiffs claim that they suffered damages to their personal and professional reputations, based on past statements the defendants made about Davidson’s ties to Tayo, a computer consulting firm that the city previously hired on a short-term basis. Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson said he “thinks” he understands the plaintiffs’ allegations that the defendants’ statements were not true. But he ultimately rejected those arguments. “When the citizens are talking to their governing bodies, they need to be able to speak about facts using words – sometimes colorful words – and they shouldn’t have to tone it down to such an extent that we take all of the life out of the process,” he said.

City signs wastewater treatment agreement

The Moab City Council approved an interlocal agreement with the Spanish Valley Water and Sewer Improvement District that establishes an $11 million wastewater treatment plant as a regional treatment facility. The agreement establishes the financial and technical details of the district’s expected contribution to the construction and future use of the new plant.

Whooping cough outbreak hits high school

The number of reported whooping cough cases in a month-long outbreak climbed in November to more than 20. The county’s first significant outbreak of whooping cough – or pertussis – in eight years was largely centered around Grand County High School, where 14 students, three faculty members and an unspecified number of parents were diagnosed with the highly contagious respiratory infection. Southeastern Utah District Health Department Environmental Health Director Brady Bradford said the outbreak appeared to be largely confined to the high school because more time had elapsed since students there were vaccinated against the disease. Between Friday, Nov. 18, and Tuesday, Nov. 22, hundreds of middle and high school students and family members flocked to a vaccination clinic at Moab Family Medicine, which offered free shots to those who were unable to afford them.

U.S. Oil Sands announces more layoffs

For the second time this year, the Canadian developer of a proposed oil sands mine in the Book Cliffs has scaled back work on the controversial project, leading to the temporary layoffs of most company employees. U.S. Oil Sands of Calgary announced in early December that as it seeks additional funding for its PR Spring Mine, it is deferring work on the project. The company said that with the exception of project-financing personnel, the layoffs will affect the bulk of its 34 or so employees, who are almost evenly divided between Utah and the company’s home province of Alberta.

Moab pilot killed in accident

Sixty-five-year-old Redtail Aviation pilot Kim Ruble was killed on Dec. 12 when his plane crashed into a power line near Canyonlands Field Airport. Ruble had just taken off to perform a contracted delivery for United Parcel Service when his single-engine Quest Kodiak 100 plane struck the power line, causing it to break. At that point, the plane crashed to the ground and became engulfed in flames. Friends and acquaintances remembered Ruble for his kind and generous spirit, and his upbeat personality.