Another week in the books, Boulder! 📚 It’s your Friday edition of BRL Today.

Today’s top story from Benjy Sachs looks at the future of Boulder’s curbside composting program in light of a recent warning from local hauler Western Disposal about high levels of contamination in the organic waste stream. As a result, the company has instituted a new policy to crack down on non-compostable items in residential bins, a problem it says is “threatening the program’s very existence.”

Plus all the essential community news you expect from our newsletter — like the new master plan for the Parks and Recreation Department, last night’s structure fire on Fifth Street, the end of universal free meals at BVSD and more.

Until Monday,

– Jezy, managing editor

Rocky Mountain National Park on July 23, 2022. Credit: John Herrick

Quickly

Partly cloudy and warm: Expect highs in the mid-90s today under a mix of clouds and sunshine, with the possibility of an afternoon storm. Things should cool down over the weekend, ending with expected highs around 80 degrees on Sunday.

🔥 Structure fire on Fifth Street: Boulder Fire-Rescue responded to a structure fire at a large residential property on Fifth Street last night. Firefighters put out the blaze and no injuries were reported. The cause of the fire is under investigation. “Due to the size of this residential structure, firefighters will remain on scene for some time to ensure the fire is completely out and monitor for any additional concerns if they arise,” the department wrote in a tweet at 10 p.m. last night.

Parks plan approved: Boulder City Council on Thursday approved a five-year, “fiscally constrained” master plan for the Parks and Recreation Department. The $29 million department oversees the city’s urban parks, three recreation centers and public swimming pools. City officials have said the cost of maintaining facilities and serving a growing number of people is outpacing its funding. So the plan contemplates continuing to increase fees to access services, while maintaining discounts for kids and older adults and keeping current service levels. The Spruce Pool in the Whittier neighborhood remains closed indefinitely.

➡️ Slides closed after staff death: A slide attendant at the city-run Scott Carpenter Pool has died, according to the Parks and Recreation Department. The department said it will “have more information to share when it’s available.” Slides at the pool are closed today, and other water amenities may be limited.

🔇 ‘Unreasonable noise’ update: The Boulder City Council gave initial approval on Thursday to a proposed ordinance to expand the city’s prohibition on “unreasonable noise” to daytime hours on University Hill. The current noise ordinance only applies from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. A public hearing and final vote is planned for Sept. 1, according to a recent city staff memo. (Read more about the noise ordinance here.)

🎗️Officer Eric H. Talley Post Office Building: Boulder’s downtown post office at 1905 15th St. was renamed in honor of Eric H. Talley, the Boulder police officer who was killed in last year’s mass shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers, in a ceremony attended by Rep. Joe Neguse, Gov. Jared Polis and members of the Talley family. “We will never forget the stories of those we lost, and we will never forget Officer Talley’s heroic actions that day. Their memories will live on in our hearts forever,” Neguse said.

🦠 Monkeypox update: Boulder County Public Health, in partnership with Out Boulder County, Boulder County AIDS Project, El Centro Amistad and the Center for People with Disabilities, will host a virtual community update on monkeypox in Boulder County on Wednesday, Aug. 10. The White House declared the virus a national emergency, with cases nearing 7,000 nationwide.

🍽️ No more universal free meals: The program providing free meals for all public school students, which was enacted by Congress in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, will not continue into the 2022-23 school year. Eligible BVSD students may still participate in the district’s regular free and reduced-price meals program. Visit BVSD Meal Accounts to learn more and set up a student payment account. A statewide measure on universally free school meals for all Colorado students will be on the November 2022 ballot.

🚧 Triathlon traffic: The Ironman Boulder 70.3 returns to Boulder County on Saturday, Aug. 6. That means detours and increased travel times if you find yourself traveling in the vicinity of the race. Heavy traffic is expected on CO 119/Diagonal Hwy due to detours. Click here for an interactive map of closures and restrictions.

🚲 E-bike questionnaire (deadline approaching): Got thoughts about the use of motorized bikes on Boulder trails? City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) is seeking feedback on the topic. E-bikes are currently prohibited on open space trails, but are allowed on some multi-use paths managed by other city departments, as well as on these Boulder County Parks & Open Space trails. Read about the different options being considered — including city staff’s preliminary proposal to permit e-bikes on OSMP Plains Trails that already allow bikes and on the Boulder Canyon Trail. The proposal would allow e-bikes on 34 miles of open space trails, representing about 22% of the trail network. You can take the survey here through Monday, Aug. 8.

Top Story

Colorado’s largest compost manufacturer says there’s too much contamination in its organics stream. What does that mean for the future of Boulder’s curbside program?

By Benjy Sachs

Boulder is among a relatively small group of U.S. cities with a municipally run curbside compost program that accepts food waste and compostable packaging. Now, for the first time in the program’s 13-year history, its viability is being threatened by contamination in the organics stream. 

Composting is the process of recycling organic waste and turning it into a finished product that is used to fertilize soil. It’s a great way to reduce food waste – the equivalent of 33 million pizzas a year is wasted in Boulder each year, enough to feed nearly 20,000 people – and slash landfill methane emissions. In 2020, the city of Boulder collected about 11,500 tons of compostables, about a fifth of the city’s total waste. 

But even a few troublesome guests like a broken glass bottle or a rubber glove can spoil the bunch, compromising the quality of the compost or making it unsafe for consumer use. 

A1 Organics, Colorado’s largest compost manufacturer, says the current level of contamination in its organic recycling stream is unsustainable and it is threatening fines. As a result, Western Disposal, which hauls Boulder’s organics to A1 Organics’ facilities, is warning customers it may no longer accept overtly contaminated loads, and says the ongoing problem is “threatening the program’s very existence.”

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BRL Picks

🎸 Rock show at Trident: Don’t miss Minneapolis band Annie and the Bang Bang when they stop by Trident Booksellers & Cafe on Saturday, Aug. 6. “Known for their spirited, potent performances, they genre hop from dreamy folkpop to swampy psychedelic grooves to a grunge-meets-late-sixties vibe, crafting musical gems that value energy, animal intelligence, poetry, and mischief,” according to the Trident website. Show starts at 7 p.m.

🎣 Free demo fly fishing class: Learn the basics of fly fishing with a free Orvis 101 Demo at Front Range Anglers. Head to 2344 Pearl St. on Saturday, Aug. 6, from 10–11:30 a.m. for a crash course on setting up your rod, basic fly casting and more. If you’ve always been curious but never had the equipment to learn, this is a great way to get started on your fly fishing journey.

🎪 Pre-fair kickoff parade: Ready to celebrate the 153rd annual Boulder County Fair on Aug. 11–14? The pre-fair kickoff parade takes place Saturday, Aug. 6, in Longmont. The festivities kick off downtown at 10 a.m., followed by an afternoon of 4-H livestock programs, culminating in the 4-H Freestyle Reining Horse Show in the indoor arena at 6:30 p.m. Check out the full schedule here.

🌮 Boulder Taco Fest: Don’t forget — the city’s tastiest festival returns to Boulder Creek tomorrow, Aug. 6., 12–7 p.m. Enjoy tacos from Boulder County vendors, offerings from craft breweries and a tequila tasting, along with high-flying Luchadores, plenty of live music and kids activities. But grab your tickets now, because this can’t-miss event of the summer has sold out two years running.

Covid-19 Updates: Aug. 5, 2022

  • 118 daily new cases (7-day avg.) Down 27% over preceding 7-day avg.
  • 13 patients hospitalized with Covid (7-day avg.) Same as last week’s high of 13.
  • 30% percent of ICU is occupied. Down from avg. of 67% since July 2020.
  • Note: Stazio Ball Fields in Boulder is now the only free community testing site in Boulder County. It’s open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

What We’re Reading

📖 Pro-gun group threatens lawsuit over new Boulder County gun laws: “Boulder County Commissioners unanimously approved five ordinances related to gun violence prevention at its public hearing Tuesday night. Under the new rules, people under 21 will no longer be able to purchase or sell a firearm in the county nor can people bring firearms to places like playgrounds, government buildings or healthcare facilities. … ‘If you pass these ordinances, Rocky Mountain Gun Owners will add you to the list of places we are suing over this. It has already been established that we will win,’ [Kevin] Lorusso said.” [CPR]

ICYMI from BRL

🏛️ Newly vacated seat at Colorado Capitol sends ripples through the Boulder City Council. Two elected city officials — Boulder Mayor Aaron Brockett and Councilmember Junie Joseph —  swiftly jumped into what could be a crowded race to represent the city at the Colorado Capitol. A group of 68 Democratic party members will decide on Aug. 15 who will represent City of Boulder residents at the state House, according to party officials.

🗳️ Ashley Stolzmann’s victory in the hotly contested race for Boulder County commissioner has officially been certified. Here’s what you need to know about the powerful elected position and why it matters. Responsible for setting the county’s $550 million budget, the three-person Board of County Commissioners is arguably the most consequential local governing body — but its crucial role remains a mystery for many residents

👮 After early growing pains and high turnover, Boulder’s volunteer-led police oversight panel releases its first findings. The eight-member panel summarized 58 complaints of alleged misconduct and how the Boulder Police Department responded. Its recommendations on use-of-force are expected to prompt some reform.

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– The BRL Team

Jezy J. Gray

I’m the managing editor of the Boulder Reporting Lab. In addition to years of writing on the culture, politics and history of my home state of Oklahoma, I was the final editor-in-chief of the Tulsa Voice, a local bi-weekly newspaper where I led a small but mighty team of journalists to regional and national honors in feature writing, diversity reporting, LGBTQ+ coverage and more. I look forward to listening to and learning from the Boulder community as we work together on telling the stories that matter here.