Laura Palmisano

Senior Reporter

Laura is a senior reporter for KVNF Community Radio. She covers eight counties on Colorado's Western Slope. You may also on occasion hear her host Morning Edition and Local Motion on KVNF. Laura has worked at public radio and television stations in Phoenix and Tucson. Her work has aired on NPR, the BBC, Harvest Public Media and the Rocky Mountain Community Radio exchange. She's a 2015 fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism's fellowship on immigrant families. She also has experience as a producer, videographer and video editor. Laura graduated summa cum laude from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. While attending ASU, she reported for Cronkite News and the State Press. She was also a Scripps Howard intern for ABC15 in Phoenix. 



12:17 pm
Tue June 30, 2015

Colorado Needle Exchanges Grow To Meet Demand

An example of injecting supplies available at the syringe exchange in Grand Junction.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Needle exchange programs in Colorado are expanding.

The programs are designed to keep illegal drug users from sharing used needles and spreading deadly diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. And, not too long ago they were illegal in this state. 

Five years ago only one needle exchange operated in Colorado and it was illegal. 

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6:17 pm
Thu June 25, 2015

97-Years-Old And Still Spinning Tunes On Public Radio

Felix Belmont, 97, of Paonia, Colorado might be the oldest volunteer DJ in public radio and the maybe world.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Guinness World Records lists a 95-year-old woman from Ohio as the world’s oldest professional DJ. However, KVNF’s Felix Belmont turns 97 Sunday, June 28.

Felix has been a volunteer DJ at KVNF for over 35 years.

He hosts a program called Stop Time where he plays big band music from the 20's, 30's and 40's. And, he might just be the oldest volunteer DJ in public radio and...maybe the world.

KVNF’s Laura Palmisano spoke to Felix ahead of his birthday. 

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1:41 pm
Tue June 23, 2015

Delta County Sees First Human Case Of Tularemia, Health Officials Concerned

Tularemia is caused by bacteria found in the environment. It’s contracted through cuts, insect bites, handing infected animals, eating or drinking contaminated food of water, or by inhaling it.
Credit NRCS Soil Health

A Delta County man is recovering after contracting tularemia. Although it’s the first reported case of the disease on the Western Slope this year, health officials are concerned.

Last year in Colorado 16 people were diagnosed with tularemia.

That's the second highest number of cases in Colorado since 1983 when there were 20 cases, according to the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

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6:18 pm
Fri June 19, 2015

Paonia Could Get Waldorf Focused Education Program

The inspired by Waldorf program would be part of Paonia Elementary.
Credit Laura Palmisano

The Delta County School Board has approved a Waldorf inspired education program in Paonia.

For the past three years, a group of parents and educators in the North Fork Valley have tried to open a Waldorf inspired charter school.  

The school board and the state board of education denied their charter recognition.

However, the group worked with district officials and school administrators to come up with a compromise.

It would create a K-4 program inspired by the Waldorf model at Paonia Elementary School. 

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4:16 pm
Fri June 19, 2015

FERC Gives DMEA Greenlight To Buy More Local Power

Credit Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

A federal decision issued Thursday says the Delta-Montrose Electric Association is obligated to purchase power from qualifying facilities.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission decision means DMEA can buy more locally produced power.

Previously, the electric cooperative could only buy five-percent of its energy from providers other than Tri-State, a wholesale power supplier in four states.

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10:25 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Black Canyon Astronomy Festival Kicks Off

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park at night.
Credit Courtesy of Greg Owens

The sixth annual Black Canyon Astronomy Festival starts today and runs through Saturday, June 20. 

The festival takes place at the south rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park outside of Montrose. The event is put on with the help of the Black Canyon Astronomical Society.

KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Art Trevena, the group’s vice president, to learn more about this year’s festival. 

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10:03 am
Wed June 17, 2015

Ride The Rockies Stops In Hotchkiss

Ride the Rockies participants end the second day of the bike tour in Hotchkiss.

Ride the Rockies kicked off its second day with a 96 mile ride from Grand Junction to Hotchkiss on Monday.

Hundreds of riders braved the heat and a steep climb over the Grand Mesa. 

The ride ended in Hotchkiss where cyclists didn’t descend onto the town all at once. Some rode in small groups and others were riding solo.

Carrie Yantzer, the principal of Hotchkiss K8, and a few other supporters greeted people as they peddled past.

Yantzer said she’s happy to see Ride the Rockies return to town. 

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3:22 pm
Fri June 12, 2015

Rainbow Trout On The Rebound In Colorado

Credit Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation

State wildlife officials say rainbow trout populations in Colorado are finally on the rebound after they were hard hit by whirling disease in the 1990's. KVNF’s Laura Palmisano spoke to Eric Fetherman, an aquatic research scientist for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, to learn more about the recovery of the fish. 

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10:31 am
Fri June 12, 2015

Olathe Gets $226K Grant For Walkway Expansion Project

Olathe got a $226,000 grant to help fund a walkway expansion project from the elementary school to the middle and high school in town.
Credit Flickr/jstephenconn

The town of Olathe recently received a large grant for a walkway expansion project.

Olathe got nearly $226,000 through the federal Transportation Alternative Program. The Colorado Department of Transportation distributes the funds to communities.

"The scope of the project is to provide additional walkway for a section of town that has a high volume of pedestrian traffic," Patty Gabriel, Olathe’s town administrator, said.  "And, it would connect our Olathe Middle & High School with our Olathe Elementary School."

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5:18 pm
Wed June 10, 2015

Wet Weather Could Lead To More West Nile Cases, Health Officials Say

Credit Mesa County Health Department

May was the wettest month on record, according to federal data. Colorado also saw its fair share of precipitation last month. 

This increased moisture could mean more mosquitoes and this has health officials concerned. 

The insects reproduce in standing water so when it rains a lot in can create ideal breeding habitat for them. 

Thomas Orr, a regional epidemiologist at the Mesa County Health Department, says more mosquitoes could lead to more cases of West Nile.

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5:09 pm
Mon June 8, 2015

A 'Higher Expectation' Was Part Of One Refugee's Journey From Myanmar To Colorado

Htoo Ler Moo, middle, with his parents at a scholarship award ceremony in Delta, Colo.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

Across the United States, millions of high schools seniors have just graduated. With diplomas in hand, they are getting ready for what’s next. 

In the rural community of Delta in western Colorado, three Karen refugees recently graduated from the local high school. Their families had to leave behind their homeland in Myanmar, once known as Burma, where the Karen people face violence and persecution.

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5:15 pm
Fri June 5, 2015

Gov. Hickenlooper Inks Cottage Foods Expansion Bill

Bread made in a home kitchen under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act.
Credit KVNF / Laura Palmisano

A bill signed into law Friday broadens the state's three-year-old cottage foods act. 

House Bill 1102 expands the number of homemade items people can make and sell under the Colorado Cottage Foods Act

It adds pickled vegetables, tortillas, fruit empanadas and flour to the list.

Earlier this year, Monica Wiitanen of Delta County spoke in favor of the measure to state lawmakers in Denver.  

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11:05 am
Fri June 5, 2015

Hantavirus Kills Three In Colorado, Sickens A Fourth

Deer mice are the primary carriers of the hantavirus in Colorado.
Credit John Good / National Parks Service

Health officials said a Garfield County man who contracted hantavirus is now recovering at home, but the disease has killed three others in Colorado so far this year.

The Sin Nombre Virus is a strain of hantavirus found in the Four Corners states.

"Rodents, deer mice in particular, shed the virus in their urine and droppings," said Thomas Orr, a regional epidemiologist at the Mesa County Health Department, "and then when humans come in contact with those droppings they breathe in the virus." 

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9:58 am
Wed June 3, 2015

Local Nonprofit Now Providing Legal Aid For Immigrants

Credit Jake Ryan / KVNF

Two employees of the Hispanic Affairs Project, a Western Slope nonprofit, recently got certified to offer legal aid to immigrants. 

The organization is helping people who can’t afford to hire an attorney.  

"I’m an immigrant myself and I know how difficult, complicated and sometimes very frustrating the immigration process can be," said Marketa Zubkova with HAP. 

It took her two years to become an accredited legal representative.

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12:09 pm
Mon June 1, 2015

Program That Teaches How To Eat Healthy Locally Expands

AmeriCorps VISTA Michelle Amiott, center, works at a community garden in Montrose County, Colo.
Credit Valley Food Partnership

A program that teaches families in Montrose and Olathe about eating healthy locally is expanding.

Local Farmacy Rx started last year.  

"The meaning behind [the name] is your food is your medicine, sort of speak,"said Abbie Brewer, a coordinator for LiveWell Montrose Olathe.

The organization oversees the program. 

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5:00 pm
Wed May 27, 2015

State's Immigrant Driver's License Program Reopens Offices, Takes New Appointments

The state program allows undocumented immigrants in Colorado to get a driver’s license, learner’s permit or ID card.
Credit Flickr/cryptozoologist

The state’s Division of Motor Vehicles immigrant ID program is once again scheduling appointments. And next week the DMV will reopen two locations to handle applicants. 

The program started last year. It allows undocumented immigrants in Colorado to get a driver’s license, learner’s permit or ID card. 

Originally, five DMV locations offered these IDs . And, the program is self-sustaining through fees.

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9:55 am
Wed May 27, 2015

Local Motion: Seed Libraries, Seed Saving

Sarah Pope shows off seed packets available at the North Fork Seed Library, which is inside of the Hotchkiss Library.

This week on Local Motion, we'll learn about seed libraries and seed saving.

KVNF's Laura Palmisano interviews seed librarian Sarah Pope about the North Fork Seed Library in Hotchkiss. She also talks to Mark Waltermire of Thistle Whistle Farms, based in Delta County, about seed saving and attorney Neil Thapar with the Sustainable Economies Law Center about challenges seed libraries are facing.

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3:13 pm
Tue May 26, 2015

Paradise Theatre Named Historic Landmark

Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The Paradise Theatre in Paonia is now a Historic Landmark. Last November, the Friends of the Paradise Theatre applied for the designation. And, last week the Delta County Commissioners approved it. KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Tom Stevens, the vice president of the theatre's board, about the designation.

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5:19 pm
Fri May 22, 2015

West Slope Homeless Shelter To Stay

Haven House is a long-term homeless shelter that serves families and individuals in six counties in western Colorado.
Credit Haven House

A transitional housing program for homeless families on the Western Slope now has a permanent home. 

Haven House will remain in Olathe. 

"We are happy to report that the housing authority that owned the building has agreed to our contract for the purchase," Larry Fredericksen, the executive director of the nonprofit faith-based shelter, says. "The closing is set for May 28."

Earlier this month, Haven House got a notice from the Montrose County Housing Authority saying it had sold the two-acre site.

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4:10 pm
Wed May 20, 2015

West Slope College Goes Tobacco-Free

More than 1,000 colleges and universities across the U.S. are tobacco-free, according to the American Nonsmokers' Rights Foundation.
Credit Flickr/smartsignbrooklyn

A college on the Western Slope is joining the growing number of higher education institutions that ban tobacco products.

The Delta-Montrose Technical College will be a tobacco-free school.

"All forms of tobacco products including smoking and smokeless tobacco or chew and e-cigarettes are banned," John Jones, the college's director, said.

He said it was a two-year process to get the policy in place.

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4:41 pm
Tue May 19, 2015

Western Slope Communities Get Workplace Wellness Grant

Delta County will oversee the $630,000 state grant to create a regional workplace program in six counties.
Credit flickr/ashkyd

Six counties on the Western Slope have received a large grant to promote workplace wellness.  

The $630,000 grant is from the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment.

Over the next three years, Delta, Montrose, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Ouray, and San Miguel counties will share the funding to create a workplace wellness program. 

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11:52 am
Tue May 19, 2015

Haven House Nears Goal To Buy Property, Keep Shelter Open

Credit Haven House

The future of a transitional housing program for homeless families on the Western Slope is uncertain. 

Haven House needs to raise $345,000 by Friday to buy the property where it operates. 

The shelter opened in Olathe four years ago. It has 30 units where homeless families and individuals can stay for an extended period.

"Certainly between Grand Junction and Durango there is nothing like it," Larry Fredericksen, the president of the nonprofit faith-based shelter, said.

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4:59 pm
Fri May 15, 2015

Rep. Coram On The 2015 State Legislative Session

Don Coram talks about House Bill 1006 at its signing ceremony in Montrose on Tuesday, May 12, 2015.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The 2015 state legislative session has come to an end. KVNF's Laura Palmisano caught up with Republican Rep. Don Coram at a recent bill signing event in Montrose. He represents House District 58, which covers Montrose, San Miguel, Dolores and Montezuma counties.

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4:17 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Grand Junction Photography Project Looks Beyond The Badge

Suzette Freidenberger is a patrol officer with the Grand Junction Police Department.
Credit Nathan Lopez Photography

This week is National Police Week. It is an occasion to honor officers who died in the line of duty. 

The time of remembrance this year comes on the heels of protests against police in major cities across the U.S. and a national debate on police tactics. 

In a local effort to increase understanding between law enforcement and the public, a Western Slope photographer is trying to get people to look beyond the badge and see the person in uniform.

Photographer Nathan Lopez moved to Grand Junction seven months ago from Oregon.

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5:02 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Montrose Library District Faces Grim Budget Deficit

The Montrose Library in downtown Montrose, Colo.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The Great Recession officially ended in 2009, but communities on the Western Slope are still feeling its effects.

In Montrose County, unemployment remains high and property values have not returned to pre-recession levels.

Paul Paladino, the director of the Montrose Regional Library District, said low property values affect the libraries.

"We are funded 90 percent from property taxes," said Paladino.

He said since 2013, the library system has faced a $420,000 budget deficit and is dipping into reserves to help make up for that loss.

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3:37 pm
Wed May 13, 2015

Gov. Hickenlooper Signs Bill To Fight Invasive, Thirsty Plants

Governor John Hickenlooper talks about House Bill 1006 at the bill's signing ceremony in Montrose.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

On his tour of the Western Slope this week, Governor John Hickenlooper signed a bill to create a grant program to help communities fight invasive plants that threaten riparian areas in Colorado.

House Bill 1006 creates the Invasive Phreatophyte Grant Program.

Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill at a ceremony in Montrose on Tuesday.

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5:25 pm
Fri May 8, 2015

Grant Will Boost Shooting Range, Gun Center In Cameo, Once A Coal Town

The state gave Palisade a $2 million severance tax grant to help fund a regional sports shooting complex at Cameo.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The state collects severance taxes from companies that extract nonrenewable resources in Colorado. Some of this money goes to communities in the form of large grants. Most of these grants go to communities to help build fire stations, upgrade water systems, restore historic sites, and aid with other infrastructure or economic development projects. The program is also providing funds for a shooting range on the Western Slope. 

Roger Granat is the 73-year-old mayor of Palisade. He grew up there. And as a boy, he would often visit the neighboring community of Cameo. 

"The general store and the post office sat over here on our right," Granat said on a recent visit to the old town site.  

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5:26 pm
Thu May 7, 2015

Severance Taxes Critical To Colorado Communities

Ouray got a $200,000 grant from the state to develop a master plan to reconstruct its hot springs pool with the help of severance tax dollars.
Credit Laura Palmisano / KVNF


Severance taxes are a vital source of funding for communities across Colorado. This tax applies to revenue the state collects from mining and energy extraction. Half of these funds go directly to communities affected by those activities. The other half goes towards grants for infrastructure and economic development.  

"We have just under a million gallons of hot, natural spring water that flows into the pool," said Patrick Rondinelli, the city administrator of Ouray, while visiting the city's hot springs pool. 

"There’s always been ponds in the early years that were in this location and then finally in the late 1920’s a formal swimming pool was built on this very site," he said.  "And, it’s been maintained in that condition in some variation. There’s been some changes made to it but basically in this same very site all these years."  

Rondinelli said Ouray closes the pool in the spring for about a week to clean it and do basic repairs. The site attracts about 135,000 visitors a year and is a major tourism draw for the small mountain community.

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11:24 am
Wed May 6, 2015

Local Motion: Reporting On Immigrant Issues

Credit Laura Palmisano

This episode of Local Motion is a reporter's notebook from Atlanta. KVNF's Laura Palmisano traveled there last month for fellowship training. She is one of 15 journalists from across the U.S. selected by the Institute for Justice & Journalism (IJJ) for its 2015 fellowship on immigrant families.

In Atlanta, the fellows attended workshops and presentations put on by immigration experts, reporters and advocacy organizations. Palmisano brought her recording gear to interview presenters and other journalists. 

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4:38 pm
Tue May 5, 2015

District 51 Buys Food Truck To Feed Needy Students

A design of what District 51's new food truck might look like.
Credit District 51

In Mesa County, 42 percent of children qualify for free or reduced lunch.  

During the summer, many of these same kids qualify for a meal program when school is out. 

Usually Mesa Valley School District 51 offers this program at four or five schools, but this year there’s only enough funding to have it at two.

However, this summer the district plans on bringing meals to some students.

With the help of a $50,000 grant from the Western Colorado Community Foundation it purchased a food truck from Denver. 

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