City Gov

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Officer charged with felonies got to keep his badge and gun

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 12:56 PM

Dave Henrichsen faces felonies, and has retired from the CSPD. - DOUGLAS COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Douglas County Sheriff's Office
  • Dave Henrichsen faces felonies, and has retired from the CSPD.
In this week's edition of the Independent, we provide further information about a former Colorado Springs police officer who's charged with multiple felonies after working for years on a counterfeit sports gear scheme. ("Taking leave.")

Dave Henrichsen was deeply involved for many years, he told investigators, and even after his involvement apparently surfaced, was allowed to continue collecting his pay. He needed five more months to become vested in the pension plan, and he was paid during that time leading up to his voluntary retirement.

One loose end of the story left dangling because the Colorado Springs Police Department failed to respond to an Indy request submitted on Sept. 7: Was Henrichsen allowed to keep his badge and gun after retirement?

Yesterday after the Indy's press time, Lt. Howard Black said via email: "Both gun and badge were given to Hendrickson (sic). The Chief waited several months wanting to see the outcome of the investigation. With still no info on the investigation, he allowed the items to be released based on our matrix."

Here's the matrix he's speaking of:

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Pollution control equipment protested

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 10:21 AM

Drake Power Plant: A workhorse but also an albatross? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant: A workhorse but also an albatross?
An electric ratepayer of Colorado Springs Utilities has filed a notice of claim with Colorado Springs Utilities demanding tens of millions of dollars be refunded to customers due to an alleged faulty decision on pollution control equipment at the Martin Drake Power Plant.

Nicola Rosa said in an Aug. 11 letter, submitted by attorney Perry Sanders representing her, that she believes the amount due "will be tens of millions of dollars on the low side and in excess of 100 million dollars on the high side."

At issue is the Utilities Board's decision in 2009 to award a sole-source contract to Springs-based Neumann Systems Group for pollution control equipment at Drake, which is required to meet EPA standards beginning next year. The equipment was experimental in nature, although numerous tests conducted at Drake over several years proved the equipment feasible.

The letter asserts that other companies were able to provide the equipment in the small footprint at Drake, but that wasn't the case at the time, according to statements made by Utilities staff and Utilities Board members at the time.

It's no secret that Rosa has dogged Utilities on emissions levels from Drake for several years. She's among those who want Drake removed. The plant supplies roughly a quarter to a third of the city's power and burns coal, although it's able to burn natural gas. The Utilities Board has voted to decommission the plant by 2035, but that's not soon enough for many critics.

Read the letter here:
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CSPD announces "do it yourself" policing policy

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2016 at 10:19 AM

Chief Carey: Trying to restructure his department. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Chief Carey: Trying to restructure his department.
Citing "diminishing" resources, the Colorado Springs Police Department on Tuesday announced "alternative response strategies" that consist mostly of having citizens fill out their own crime reports without the expectation of an officer responding.

The change comes after the revelation that the number of cops on the streets had dwindled to the lowest level in years while crime rates are surging significantly. Police Chief Pete Carey earlier announced he would beef up patrols by dissolving several specialized units and reassigning those officers to patrol.

Read all the details here:

The department also yesterday demonstrated how its body cams work and promised to roll them out soon. This comes nearly a year after the CSPD initially said they'd implement body cameras, as reported here. The release:
On Tuesday, September 20, 2016, the Colorado Springs Police Department began the roll out of the Body Worn Cameras that will be assigned to each patrol officer. During the press conference held this morning, a demo of the Body Worn Camera was conducted. Attached to this release, please find a short clip that was recorded during that demonstration. This footage will be typical of the type of video that the cameras can produce.

Note to Media: There is an email address that is contained in the watermark of the video. This is an accountability measure and is not related to the video itself. We are also in the process of being able to condense the video clips, however, on this first clip; there is a small amount of superfluous footage. The first 30 seconds of the video is the portion that was intended for media use.

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Friday, September 16, 2016

More CSPD cops shifted to patrol

Posted By on Fri, Sep 16, 2016 at 11:34 AM

Three weeks after the Independent reported dire crime rate numbers, a shortage of patrol officers on the streets and the slowest response time to top priority calls recorded in years ("Are we less safe?" Aug. 24, 2016), Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey announced dramatic changes.

The report was based on a mid-year crime rate report the CSPD refused to release but was obtained by the Indy through other sources. The Indy also reported that workload was a top concern among members of the Colorado Springs Police Protective Association, according to a survey conducted in June. The Indy obtained the report through sources other than the PPA and subsequently also obtained a copy from the city via the Colorado Open Records Act.
SurveyResults.pdf Among those are several steps to beef up patrols on the streets, a move long awaited by officers who say the numbers are so thin that rarely can they count on backup and often respond to calls hours after they're received.

Carey's statement, issued on Thursday:
I am announcing several organizational changes. These changes come after much deliberation over several months that included discussions with the PPA [Police Protective Association] Board, officers in lineups, and Staff. These changes are designed to enhance our ability to respond to calls for service more quickly, maintain adequate officer safety, and reduce the overall wear and tear on employees of the Patrol Operations Bureau. The individuals most directly affected have already been informed of these changes by their respective chain of command.

It has become increasingly difficult to maintain our necessary staffing levels. Despite hiring 135 new recruit officers during the past couple of years and another 47 starting next month, we continue to struggle to keep pace with the number of retirements and resignations. While staffing challenges exist across the department, they are currently most critical in the Patrol Operations Bureau. Staffing shortages are related to a variety of outcomes including longer response times, reduced officer safety, and a variety of additional difficulties for employees (e.g. increased overtime, trouble getting days off).
I am announcing several organizational changes. These changes come after much deliberation that included discussions with the PPA Board, officers in lineups, and Staff. These changes are designed to enhance our ability to respond to calls for service more quickly, maintain adequate officer safety, and reduce the overall wear and tear on employees of the Patrol Operations Bureau. The individuals most directly affected have already been informed of these changes by their respective chain of command.

1. Effective September 18, 2016, Impact Team officers and Gang Unit officers will return to patrol sector assignments.

2. Effective January 1, 2017, officers currently assigned to traffic accident investigation within the Patrol Bureau will return to sector assignments.

3. Several alternative call response protocols will be implemented. These protocols will come out soon.

4. Modifications will be made to the types of calls that Community Service Officers are authorized to respond to (e.g. burglary investigations).

5. Effective January 1, 2017, the duties of Motor Unit officers will change. Unit members will split time between traffic enforcement duties and traffic accident investigation duties in support of the Patrol Bureau.

6. The number of citations referred to in the 2016 traffic performance goal for the Patrol Bureau will be removed; it will no longer be in effect for the remainder of this year. Traffic safety remains a top priority for me and for the community, but I understand the additional pressure a specific ticket count has put on officers.

7. Effective January 1, 2017, DUI Unit officers and their sergeant will again report administratively to the Patrol Bureau rather than to the Operations Support Bureau.

8. Specialized unit vacancies will remain unfilled until at least January 1, 2017. There will be exceptions to this general rule if the deputy chiefs and I agree that leaving a particular position vacant will have a severe negative impact on department operations.

My decision to move certain officers from their current assignments back to patrol sector assignments is in no way related to the importance, or the quality, of the work they currently do. We do not have anyone in our department performing unimportant work.

The changes outlined above are made in recognition of two key facts:
1. Patrol Bureau response to citizen generated calls for service is the most essential and time critical component of police service delivery to our community.

2. Our staffing shortages in the Patrol Bureau have reached a critical level. Officers need cover cars when they respond to potentially dangerous calls for service. And quite frankly, we aren’t meeting that need right now. My hope was we’d see a lower volume of calls as we came to the end of the summer, but that has not happened.

The changes above will result in an additional 30 positions being assigned to patrol sector responsibilities (not including supervisors). This means 20 more officers will be in Patrol this month because two positions are vacant; and another 8 in January. Additionally, there are currently 41 officers in field training who will soon be assuming independent patrol sector duties. I think these additional officers, in combination with the other changes I’ve noted, will have a significant, positive impact on patrol operations. Specifically, I want to see that we have more officers available to cover each other on calls. We will evaluate the impacts of these changes and make adjustments as necessary.
In an earlier Chief’s Corner article, I committed to work harder at communicating with all of you about decisions I make and projects we are working on. I know some of you might disagree with these changes. You might have other ideas in mind for which units should be folded back into patrol. I recognize that reasonable people can disagree about what should be on the list. When I made this decision, I did so recognizing that any decision will have downsides. I also know you may have a lot of questions about the timing of these decisions, how they were made, and why they were made.
Over the next several weeks, I intend to write a series of Chief’s Corner articles that further elaborate on the changes I’ve discussed in this article as well as the rationale behind them. I also intend to provide you with detailed information about our recent staffing and budgetary history that you may not be aware of.
I hope this information will allow you to better understand the steps we have taken to address our staffing shortages and help you put our current departmental challenges into perspective. I believe this information will also show that we have been thoughtful and diligent in our approach to the staffing difficulties facing our department. Unfortunately, these are complex issues that cannot be addressed by the mere application of simplistic formulas. I know that all of you are busy with your work, but I hope you take the time to read these upcoming articles and engage in constructive dialogue as together we continue to find creative ways to provide the best level of police service possible to our community. Thank you for what you do.

Chief Pete Carey     
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Thursday, September 15, 2016

UPDATE: Regional Building takes second look at questionable deal

Posted By on Thu, Sep 15, 2016 at 10:32 AM

This vacant lot in lower downtown was one of two properties Regional Building planned to use to partner with Nor'wood Development Group. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This vacant lot in lower downtown was one of two properties Regional Building planned to use to partner with Nor'wood Development Group.

UPDATE: It's worth noting that we've found out that the proposal for the land development deal was submitted verbally, not in writing, to the Regional Building Department board. This, along with the recent determination that the deal might not be legal, raises questions regarding El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey's statement in which he asserts "a great deal of research, due diligence and negotiation has gone into this Participation Agreement."

————-ORIGINAL POST 10:32 A.M. THURSDAY, SEPT. 15, 2016—————————

A deal reported in this week's edition of the Independent, "Partnering up," that would give Nor'wood Development Group control of $2.1 million worth of property in the lower downtown area is undergoing further examination for its legality.

The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department had agreed to pursue a "participation agreement" in which it would place two properties it owns near the Olympic Museum site into a new entity with Nor'wood properties. The new entity, with Nor'wood having a 63-percent stake, would then develop the property and have first right to buy the Regional Building land.

Now, Regional Building Official Roger Lovell tells the Indy the deal is on hold.

"We are investigating right now," he said today, "and it appears we may, indeed, have a problem here. We're starting back at square one to be sure we didn't miss something. We may have a violation [of state statutes] here. Initially, it appears we can't do this. State statutes prevent us from doing it. If that is the case, we are not going to push it."

Lovell didn't elaborate on which statutes are at issue, but state law dictates what government agencies can and cannot invest in.

When the Regional Building commission — comprised of El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey, Springs City Councilor Larry Bagley and Green Mountain Falls town trustee Tyler Stevens — approved moving forward with the agreement on Aug. 24, officials weren't aware of the law, he says. (All of the commissioners voiced support of the deal, saying it would help economic development and be good for the community.)

"I thought what we were doing was in the best interest of the community, but if it's illegal, it doesn't matter what our intentions are," Lovell says. "No way in hell are we going to move forward until we know this is fully vetted and legal. We're digging into it and researching it, and if we did made an error, we're going to make it right."

Regional Building is represented by attorney Todd Welch.

The reversal, he says, stems from the Indy's story, which triggered a bevy of emails to him, but he didn't disclose what those emails said or who they were from.

County Attorney Amy Folsom says via email she was not asked for legal advice on the agreement prior to its approval, nor should she have been. "The Regional Building Department has independent legal counsel so the County Attorney was not — nor should it have been —consulted," she says.

The City Attorney's Office hasn't responded to a similar question posed by the Indy on Wednesday.

Nor'wood is the biggest developer in the region, with projects under way throughout the city. Such an agreement between it and Regional Building would place the latter in a position of conducting building inspections and issuing permits to its business partner, which Colorado Ethics Watch's executive director Luis Toro says constitutes the appearance of impropriety.

Lovell didn't give a timeframe for determining whether to move forward with or scrap the agreement.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

3 ways Nor'wood is locking up lower downtown

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 10:49 AM

This building at 101 Costilla St. would be placed in a new entity with controlling interest held by Nor'wood Development Group under a deal given preliminary approval last month. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • This building at 101 Costilla St. would be placed in a new entity with controlling interest held by Nor'wood Development Group under a deal given preliminary approval last month.
Wednesday, the Independent reports on the latest maneuver by Nor'wood Development Group to control property in the lower downtown area known as the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area.

Our story explains a "participation agreement," which won preliminary approval from the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, would allow Nor'wood to take charge of the agency's two properties located in the URA. (Note the sidebar on how the agenda item was handled.)

This would add to the amount of property Nor'wood, headed by long-time developer David Jenkins ("Building an empire," Nov. 19, 2014) controls in the roughly 100-acre URA and enable the developer to advance plans to convert the largely dormant area into a mixed use urban setting.

The other two ways are:

• Persuade the city to build an underground parking garage beneath a city block owned by Nor'wood interests. ("Going underground," July 6, 2016)

• Enable the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame to be built on 1.7 acres Nor'wood has pledged to donate in the immediate vicinity of the garage and the Regional Building property. Nor'wood also has made a play for city-owned property next door.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Two ways Strawberry Fields swap has been forgotten already

Posted By on Tue, Sep 13, 2016 at 12:58 PM

Strawberry Fields: Already forgotten. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Strawberry Fields: Already forgotten.
Remember when the city of Colorado Springs called The Broadmoor land swap an "exciting opportunity" that would "enhance the city's park system" and "achieve several major goals" of the city's parks master plan? That wording appeared in the initial news release, issued Jan. 14, about the deal, and we followed with this story that ran on Feb. 10, the first of many.

Remember when Mayor John Suthers was so adamant that the deal be approved that in April he called every Parks Advisory Board member to twist their arms?

Then, remember how on May 24, when City Council voted 6-3 to approve the deal, Councilor Tom Strand asserted that the majority of Springs residents supported the deal? (Though he didn't cite a source, and other yardsticks, such as email to council members, showed the opposite.)

In any event, the land swap was extolled as a wonderful thing for the city, with Suthers and others acting as if the very future of the city was riding on the deal.

Hundreds of citizens disagreed, arguing it was wrong to give away 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space, which was acquired by the city in 1885 after a public vote, even though the city would acquire more than 400 acres of trail easements and wilderness property from the resort in the trade.

But officials dismissed those concerns and pushed the land swap through, arguing that it was a great thing for the community.

But just three short months later, the land swap was totally ignored in two official recaps of city accomplishments of the last year.

First, Suthers didn't mention it in his state of the city address on Sept. 8 as he outlined his and Council's noteworthy achievements over the last year, which ran the gamut from roads to the airport to you name it. But nary a word about the swap, even though the luncheon was held at the city's land swap partner's place, The Broadmoor.

Then, on Monday, City Council gave the nod to its "Report to the Citizens, 2015-16," with Council President Merv Bennett saying the staff did "a fabulous job" on it.

Except that, again, there's no mention of the land swap. CouncilAnnualReport.pdf
Be aware that the land swap was described by Council members themselves as having energized more people to attend more public meetings and write more letters and emails to Council than any other issue the Council had faced in more than a year. 

Yet, it apparently doesn't warrant a mention in a briefing on major changes over the last 12 months.

It's worth noting the Council listed among its efforts to make Colorado Springs a better place its imposition of severe restrictions on the voter-approved legal marijuana business and the adoption of the sit-lie ordinance. Both issues have triggered significant opposition.

All that said, the Council's "report" ends with this:
"We want to hear from you! Was this report informative? Should it include different or additional information? Let us know your thoughts! Contact Communications at 719.385.5482."

So feel free to provide feedback.

And by the way, the land swap is being challenged in a lawsuit filed by opponents in late July. So maybe it really is too soon for the city to celebrate.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Why City Council might have snubbed the Open Meetings Law

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 2:59 PM

Lawsuit anyone? 

A legal action might be warranted, based on the Colorado Springs City Council's failure to abide by the Open Meetings Law, which requires executive items be announced in some detail.

Specifically, the law states that when an executive session is announced, the public body must provide the topic and "identification of the particular matter to be discussed in as much detail as possible without compromising the purpose for which the executive session is authorized."

  • Ed Schipul
Keeping that in mind, here's the wording on Monday's Council agenda (all emphasis added):
The matters to be discussed involve: (1) legal advice on a specific legal matter, developing strategy for negotiators and instructing negotiators. 
Now, that would seem like the epitome of vagueness and actually raises a lot of questions, because the Council in the past has announced closed session topics in some detail.

In January 2015, Council held a session after announcing the topic this way:
The issue to be discussed involves legal advice and consultation with the City Attorney regarding a new litigation matter pertaining to former employees of the Memorial Health System.
Here's a notice from May 2015:
The issues to be discussed involve: (1) legal advice and negotiation strategy consultation with the City Attorney regarding a land acquisition matter for Woodmen Road Expansion Phase II, and (2) legal advice and consultation with the City Attorney regarding a lease matter related to Memorial Health System.
Here's one from Feb. 8, 2016, that's vague, like the one for Monday's meeting:
The issues to be discussed involve: (1) legal advice and negotiation consultation with the City Attorney regarding the purchase and acquisition of real property; and (2) legal advice and consultation with the City Attorney regarding First amendment questions
(Sort of ironic, huh, that discussion of the First Amendment required the Council to hide their discussion from the public?)

More vagueness from a March 2016 meeting:
The issues to be discussed involve: (1) legal advice and consultation with the City Attorney regarding settlement of a potential litigation matter; and (2) legal advice and consultation regarding a personnel matter. 
Then, in April 2016:
The issues to be discussed involve: (1) legal advice and negotiation consultation with the City Attorney regarding a pending litigation matter; and (2) legal advice and consultation with the City Attorney regarding ordinances
Surely the Council could have told citizens which ordinances.

From the April 25, 2016, agenda:
The item to be considered is a personnel discussion regarding Council appointees.
From the Aug. 8, 2016, agenda:
The issues to be discussed involve 1) legal advice, consultation and negotiation strategy discussion with the City Attorney regarding a potential acquisition or purchase of railroad real property, 2) legal advice, consultation and negotiation strategy discussion with the City Attorney regarding a potential litigation matter and the purchase of real property for South Tejon Street improvements, and 3) legal advice, consultation and negotiation strategy discussion with the City Attorney regarding a potential litigation matter and a special district exclusion.
So the only thing that can be said for sure is that City Council is inconsistent in announcing its executive sessions. Sometimes they're OK with the public knowing what they're up to, and other times they're not. Makes you wonder what's going on in those vaguely announced sessions, eh?

In any event, when we challenged the notice given for Monday's meeting, we received this explanation in an email from Council staffer Travis Duncan:
I spoke with City of Colorado Springs Legislative Counsel David Andrews about your question concerning the Executive Session in today’s Council Work Session Meeting. Andrews informed me that our notices follow the statute authorizing Council to meet in Executive Session by identifying the particular matter to be discussed in as much detail as possible without compromising the purpose for which the executive session is authorized.
Does Mr. Andrews and City Council really think that there's specificity to this: "legal advice on a specific legal matter, developing strategy for negotiators and instructing negotiators"? 

Here's a list that what that "specific legal matter" could include: A deal with a citizen over police brutality; a deal with a developer over the Banning Lewis Ranch annexation agreement, a deal with female cops over their lawsuit regarding physical ability testing, a deal with The Broadmoor over swapping more open space, and on and on.

As it is we'll just have to guess, unless someone wants to file a lawsuit...

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UPDATE: Citizens challenge EPA over Drake Power Plant

Posted By on Mon, Sep 12, 2016 at 1:37 PM

Drake Power Plant south of downtown. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Drake Power Plant south of downtown.
Here's what Colorado Springs Utilities had to say about allegations that Drake Power Plant violates pollution regulations:
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) recommended to the Environmental Protection Agency an unclassifiable designation for Colorado Springs for sulfur dioxide (SO2) citing “disparate monitoring and modeling information.”

As part of this designation, an extensive public process was held that allowed citizens to comment. As part of its evaluation, CDPHE noted, “Historical ambient monitoring in the Colorado Springs metropolitan area and current ambient SO2 monitoring near the Drake Power Plant shows that the 1-hour SO2 NAAQS (National Ambient Air Quality Standards) has not been violated.”

We support CDPHE in its efforts to gather additional information to determine attainment for Colorado Springs by:
· announcing the shutdown of Drake Unit 5 by the end of 2016; and
· supporting the collection of meteorology data to be used to evaluate ongoing air quality monitoring or used to model air quality.

Over the last few decades we have dramatically reduced SO2 emissions from both our coal-fired power plants and are projecting even further decreases with the improvements we are making now to comply with Colorado’s Regional Haze Rule by installing SO2 scrubbers.
——-ORIGINAL POST 1:37 P.M. MONDAY, SEPT. 12, 2016—————————

A group of people campaigning to shut down the downtown Drake Power Plant in Colorado Springs has appealed a ruling by the Environmental Protection Agency in July that inadequate data is available to measure air quality around the plant.

Named as plaintiffs in the action are Sam Masias, Jacqueline Ostrom and Jim Riggins. Read the appeal notice here:
Colorado Springs Utilities' board, comprised of City Council, has voted to close Drake by 2035, but that's not soon enough for some citizens. A unique pollution control device known as the NeuStream scrubber is being installed on Drake, and is due to begin operations next year. The project has run millions of dollars over budget.

Here's the news release from the citizens seeking a review of the EPA's determination:
A coalition of citizens who reside in the Pikes Peak region filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) over the US EPA’s failure to properly protect residents from harmful sulfur dioxide (SO2) pollution that has been demonstrated to exist in levels in Colorado Springs that can cause asthma attacks and even death. The appeal challenges a determination made by the US EPA in July, 2016 that insufficient data was available to accurately measure the air quality surrounding the Martin Drake Power Plant, and thus an unclassifiable designation was set by the US EPA. This designation, which means the owner of the polluting source will have to do nothing to stop dumping its pollution on residents of Colorado Springs, was made despite several independent studies of the air quality using US EPA’s own computer model and weather data from the nearby Colorado Springs Airport which all showed severe exceedances of US EPA’s air quality standard for sulfur dioxide in the Pikes Peak region.

“The EPA needs to take more responsible action to enforce the SO2 limits set forth in the Clean Air Act, to protect the health of citizens in the Colorado Springs region," said Sam Masias, a named petitioner in the appeal. Jacquie Ostrom, also a petitioner who has asthma and lives to the west side of the Martin Drake Plant demonstrated to be an area with the deepest concentrations of SO2 pollution it emits, stated “those of us already affected by the pollution from this power plant don’t have the luxury of waiting, when air quality around it has already been shown to be in violation of federal health based standards.”

Despite not having conducted any of its own air quality analyses, Colorado Springs Utilities, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the US EPA unfairly dismissed those studies.


The Clean Air Act requires the EPA to set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for six common air pollutants, including particle pollution, ozone, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, lead and sulfur oxides. Strong correlation has been proven to exist between sulfur dioxide exposure at high levels for even a short five minute duration, with increased incidences of asthma, shortness of breath, heart attack and reduced lung functioning causing increased hospital visits and even premature death.

According to the American Lung Association, coal-fired power plants, such as Martin Drake, remain one of the biggest sources of sulfur dioxide in the U.S. The plume from a coal-fired plant touches down at ground level during high wind conditions or gets trapped by inversions in the atmosphere. People who live and work nearby these large sources get the highest exposure to SO2. 

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Friday, September 9, 2016

Strawberry Fields trade featured in WSJ

Posted By on Fri, Sep 9, 2016 at 3:37 PM

Residents protested the city's deal to trade Strawberry Fields open space for other property owned by The Broadmoor. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Residents protested the city's deal to trade Strawberry Fields open space for other property owned by The Broadmoor.
The battle over Strawberry Fields has made it to the East Coast where the controversy is featured in a story posted on line by the Wall Street Journal.

The story looks at several examples of public property being sold or traded to for-profit interests, as was the case with the 189-acre open space called Strawberry Fields. The city traded it to The Broadmoor for several hundred acres of trails easements and wilderness land.

The deal was approved in May and in July, opponents filed a lawsuit.

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Thursday, September 8, 2016

Things are getting better, mayor says

Posted By on Thu, Sep 8, 2016 at 4:24 PM

It was a full house to hear Mayor John Suthers report how the city's doing. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • It was a full house to hear Mayor John Suthers report how the city's doing.
Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers reported today to roughly 650 people at The Broadmoor that the state of the city is getting better.

Last year during his State of the City address, he called conditions good. This year, he says the city is making progress.

"A year ago, I reported the state of the city was good but the potential was great," he said. "Today, I'm very pleased to report that in the last 12 months our city has moved forward significantly on the continuum from good to great."

Among the advances:
• The mayor's office and City Council get along better.
• Voters approved 2C last November, a sales tax to raise $250 million to fix the city's abysmal roads.
• He and Council put in place an intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County to spend $460 million in the next 20 years on stormwater drainage projects and maintenance. (Suthers also reported that the Justice Department's possible lawsuit against the city for failing to meeting requirements for its federal stormwater discharge permit remain unresolved.)
• The Southern Delivery System pipeline project, some 20 years in the making, went on line in April.
• Nearly 9,000 jobs were created in El Paso County, and unemployment has fallen from 9.6 percent in 2010 to 3.4 percent this year.
• The local real estate market is one of the hottest in the nation.
• The city's reputation as Olympic City USA is getting traction, as is its efforts to become the cybersecurity capital of the nation.
• Tourism is up.
• Frontier Airlines has started flights to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Orlando from the Colorado Springs Airport.
• Nearly $1 billion worth of construction in the health care industry has been announced.

(It's worth noting that Suthers failed to list among his accomplishments a land swap in which he and Council agreed to swap 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor for trail easements and wilderness property totaling about 400 acres, a deal that's triggered a lawsuit by opponents who protested trading the open space.)

Looking ahead, Suthers says he wants to see a homeless campus built but didn't say where; he wants a Mountain Metropolitan Transit hub built but didn't say where, and $25 million needs to be raised to fund construction of a new Summit House on Pikes Peak.

He did reveal, without disclosing the donor, that the $10 million gap in funding for the Olympic Museum to be built southwest of downtown had been closed to $6 million. Construction will begin this fall, he said, with work on utility lines.

Suthers also recognized George Fellows with a Spirit of the Springs lifetime achievement award. Fellows served as city manager from 1966 to 1985.
Here's the entire speech:
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Airport director flies the coop

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 2:38 PM

An executive lounge added at the airport some time ago in efforts to build the number of passengers who use Colorado Springs Airport. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • An executive lounge added at the airport some time ago in efforts to build the number of passengers who use Colorado Springs Airport.
Dan Gallagher, Springs Airport aviation director, is leaving his post for a similar job with the Massachusetts Port Authority, the city announced in a news release Wednesday.

Gallagher rose to his current position after former Mayor Steve Bach canned then-airport director Mark Earle in March 2013, one of many direct reports who left during the Bach years. Most were paid generously for their departures, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Here's the release:
Mayor John Suthers announced today that Colorado Springs Airport Aviation Director Dan Gallagher will leave his position in early October. Gallagher departs Colorado Springs to accept the position of Director of Aviation Business and Finance with the Massachusetts Port Authority. Current Assistant Aviation Director Troy Stover will serve as Interim Director while a national search is conducted for Gallagher’s replacement.

“It should be no surprise to us given Dan’s success and contributions over the past three years in this role, that larger cities would be interested in acquiring his talents,” said Mayor John Suthers. “Dan has had an incredibly positive impact on the Colorado Springs Airport and has set us on a track toward continued growth and success that I am confident will continue in the future. While we hate to see him go, we thank him for his leadership and wish him the best in Boston.”

Gallagher spent a total of six years at the Colorado Springs Airport, including three in his current role. Prior to taking over as Director, Gallagher was Assistant Director of Aviation for two years, and served as Interim Director for one. In his new role, Gallagher will fulfill similar responsibilities for three airports, including Boston’s Logan Airport, L.G. Hanscom Field and Worcester Regional Airport, with an emphasis on budget, air service and business development.

“The opportunity to transfer my skills to a market such as Boston was one I could not pass up, and one that is an excellent fit for me both personally and professionally,” said Gallagher. “That said, it was a very difficult decision largely because of the enormous opportunity that lays before Colorado Springs Airport based on the support of elected officials, staff and the community. The potential for growth at COS is truly boundless, be it through expanded air service, job creation or commercial development. This has been an incredible six years for my family and the Colorado Springs Airport, and I am excited to continue to watch its success from afar.”

Stover will become interim director in early October, bringing a long track record of success as aviation director with Jefferson County Airport. From 2002 to 2005, Stover served as the airport manager for Jefferson County Airport located in Broomfield, Colo. Stover also worked as the assistant airport manager, maintenance and operations manager and held various administrative and maintenance positions during his 18 years at Jefferson County Airport. Stover has over 29 years of progressively responsible aviation experience and airport management. He served as maintenance manager at COS from 2005 to 2007, operations manager from 2007-2014 and assistant aviation director from 2014 to present.  

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City makes a warranty call on failing pavement

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 10:23 AM

Problems with paving work on Austin Bluffs Parkway east of Union Boulevard will be the topic of a meeting between the city and Lawrence Construction of Littleton on Sept. 12, says Lawrence project manager Don Hanneman.

"We warranty materials and workmanship," Hanneman tells the Independent. "We will  have a conversation with them [city officials] and decide what's their's and what's ours and go from there."

The issue stems from a warranty call the city made earlier this year on the paving job, completed about a year ago.

We report on this project, as well as the city's inspection methods, in this week's Indy

City engineering and street workers report they have a robust inspections program to assure taxpayers they get what they pay for.

The city's 2C roads maintenance program is made possible by approval of a .62 of a percent sales tax approved by voters in November 2015. The work planned for the coming two weeks can be found here.
A depiction of the 2016 roads work plan:
Go to this link for a key for what each color shows.

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Cops welcome body cams, survey shows

Posted By on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 at 2:08 PM

  • File photo
This week's Independent features a story about how Colorado Springs Police Department officers feel about their jobs and the administration. It's not all hearts and flowers. The story is a companion piece to the main story about how crime rates are soaring, but the CSPD doesn't want the public to know about that.

The Colorado Springs Police Protective Association survey found that at least a quarter of officers don't feel supported by the command staff, including the chief, and it also included officers' sentiments about body cams, which the city has been talking about instituting for at least a year but still hasn't.

Last September, the CSPD said that all officers would be wearing the cameras by February. Well, that didn't happen, despite the funding being in place.

The most recent missive on body cams came from Lt. Howard Black on Aug. 5 via email to media:
Body Worn Camera roll-out; we are currently installing the routers that help run the system in the vehicles at Gold Hill. This is going well, however, the vendor (Utility) and Verizon have to work out a certification issue that would allow us to upload the amount of data that we need for the body cameras. This will take approximately 30 days. As a result, we have scheduled the initial roll-out of the 65 cameras at Gold Hill during the week of September 19th. Gold Hill will pilot the system for 30 days. We will then roll-out the rest of the Department.
So the department, overseen by Police Chief Pete Carey, is way behind its original time line.

Which is too bad, considering police seem to be generally supportive of them.

The survey's results:

1. Will body cams at CSPD make your job: easier (23.36 percent); more difficult (29.91 percent), or no different (46.72 percent).

2. Will body cams (officers were instructed to check all that applied):

80.9 percent — help officers if a citizen makes a complaint against them.
74 percent — reduce citizen complaints against officers.
54.6 percent — improve trust between police officers and the community.
18.2 percent — help officers provide better service to the community.
10.1 percent — improve communication between officers and supervisors.

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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

5 things to know about rising crime rates

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2016 at 11:39 AM

In this week's issue we report on a report of crime rates in Colorado Springs where a decreasing number of police officers are trying to respond to a growing number of calls for service.

Here are five things you might want to know:

• Rape, aggravated assault, larceny and motor vehicle theft have shown double-digit percentage increases in the first half of 2016 when compared to the first half of 2015, as well as the five year average (2012-16).

• Colorado Springs Police Department's budget has soared by 21 percent since 2012, compared to the 12 percent rise in the city's general fund budget during the same period.

• There were 313 officers assigned to patrol in 2012, but only about 260 today, according to officers and city records.

• The average response time to a Priority 1 call — a crime against a person in progress — was 13 minutes, 8 seconds in the first half of this year, the slowest in years.

• A Colorado Springs Police Protective Association survey conducted in June shows a chasm between cops and command staff. While nearly 93 percent said their sergeant supports them some or all the time and about 90 percent said that about their lieutenant, a quarter said the command staff and chief didn't support them at all. Also, 41 percent said the CSPD leadership doesn't understand what they do at their jobs.
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