Laura Palmisano

Senior Reporter/Producer

Laura is a senior reporter and producer 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 (Arizona PBS & KJZZ) and Tucson (Arizona Public Media). 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 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. 

  

Ways To Connect

Stephanie Helleckson, North Fork Community Chorus
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The North Fork Valley now has a community chorus. KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Stephanie Helleckson, the music director and conductor, of the new vocal group. 


bull moose
Kent Miller / NPS

The moose population on the Grand Mesa is growing. The area is home to more than 400 of the large animals. This Saturday, July 25 is the sixth annual Grand Mesa Moose Day event. 

Mesa County Health Department

Mosquitoes in Mesa County tested positive for West Nile Virus.

Local officials say this is the first confirmed activity of the virus in area mosquitoes this year. 

However, other counties across Colorado have already reported positive tests to the state health department. 

Jennifer House is a state public health veterinarian.  

"We've recently had an increase in the number of positive mosquitoes," House says. "So far we have been able to find West Nile Virus positive mosquitoes in Boulder, Denver, Larimer, Mesa, Pueblo, and Weld counties."

bus, sucap, rroad runner stage lines
SUCAP

This month, marks the one-year anniversary of a regional bus service that connects Durango to Grand Junction. 

The Southern Ute Community Action Programs started Road Runner Stage Lines after Greyhound stopped running the route several years ago. 

KVNF's Laura Palmisano spoke to Clayton Richter, the division director of SUCAP’s Road Runner Transportation, about the service. 


students, nature
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

In science class students learn about the world around them. However, getting kids to make a connection to nature without them experiencing it firsthand is a challenge. That’s why a Western Slope school district in partnership with a state wildlife agency is taking middle school students to the woods. 

Stacy Lischka, a scientist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, is surrounded by 15 sixth-graders in a forest on the Grand Mesa. 

She's leading them in lesson on stream ecology. The students are looking for macroinvertebrates, animals without a backbone, in Mesa Creek. 

Creamery Arts Center
Creamery Arts Center

The Creamery Arts Center in Hotchkiss is closing after nearly a decade of operation in the North Fork Valley.

The nonprofit will shut its doors in August. However, this isn’t the end for it. 

Joanne and Linda Tullis, who founded the arts center and own the building, plan on reopening it under a new business plan.  

Pennie Alexander, the Creamy's current co-manager and co-director, says the center will close for the winter, but reopen in the spring with new hours and art offerings and a coffee shop. 

Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles

As of Wednesday, it’s more expensive to get a driver’s license in Colorado.

The Colorado Division Motor Vehicles raised fees for driver services across the board.

It’s now $25 to get a driver’s license. It went up by four bucks. 

It also used to be free to retake the knowledge test or the driving skills test. Now, people have to pay to redo those exams. 

Additionally, the price of a license for an undocumented immigrant increased to about $80, nearly $30 more than last year. 

Paonia Elementary
Laura Palmisano

A Waldolf-inspired education program in Paonia is a step closer to reality. 

The proposed North Fork School of Integrated Studies has enough students signed up to move forward. 

Delta County Assistant Superintendent Kurt Clay says it will be a school within a school. 

"We are looking at trying to combine that within Paonia Elementary School as a different program or different option for students in the North Fork Valley," said Clay. 

Intent to enroll forms for the K-4 program were due earlier this month. 

construction, North Fork Valley
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

A few years ago, a grassroots program started in Portland to encourage people to adopt solar power. That idea spread across the county and inspired similar initiatives like one in a rural community in western Colorado. 

A crew of six is working to install mounts for solar panels on a residential rooftop in Delta County. 

This home sits atop a mesa that overlooks the North Fork Valley. And, it’s the first to get a sun-powered system through a local pro-solar campaign.  

Mesa County Health Department

Colorado has its first human case of West Nile virus this year. 

Health officials say a Mesa County man hospitalized after contracting the virus is now recovering at home. He’s the first person to be diagnosed with it in Colorado so far this year, according to the state. 

Thomas Orr is a regional epidemiologist at the Mesa County Health Department.  

Millie Hamner
milliehamner.com

Representative Millie Hamner, D-Dillon, was the vice chair of the Joint Budget Committee this past session and will chair the committee in 2016. KVNF's Laura Palmisano recently interviewed Hamner about the past session, the state budget, educating funding, severance taxes and the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, known as TABOR. 

West Creek Ranch, Unaweep Canyon
Josh Duplechain

A new conservation agreement will permanently protect a 780-acre working ranch in the heart of Unaweep Canyon. 

Mesa Land Trust worked for three years to make the deal happen.  

Ilana Moir with the trust describes why the nonprofit wants to preserve West Creek Ranch, which is along the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway.

hash oil
Andres Rodriguez via Flickr

A new law that makes it illegal for individuals to use hazardous materials to make hash oil went into effect on Wednesday.  

Republican Representative Yeulin Willett of Grand Junction co-sponsored the measure. He said it targets ‘home cookers’. 

"We had a problem with explosions all over the state from people trying to manufacture marijuana concentrate using dangerous, explosive, volatile substances such as butane," Willett said. 

Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery, rainbow trout
Laura Palmisano / KVNF

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has 70 fish hatcheries across the country.

In Colorado there are two of these facilities. One is in Leadville. And, the other is outside of the town of Hotchkiss along the banks of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.

This week on the program, we take a tour of the Hotchkiss National Fish Hatchery

medical, syringe, IV drug use, WESTCAP, needle exchange, syringe exchange
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. 

Felix Belmont
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. 

soil, dirt
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.

Paonia Elementary
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. 

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.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
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. 

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. 

rainbow trout
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. 

downtown Olathe
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."

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.

Htoo Ler Moo, Karen refugees
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.

Pumpernickel bread
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.  

deer mice, deer mouse
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." 

gavel, courtroom
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.

Gardening, AmeriCorps
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. 

driving
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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