City Gov

Friday, January 13, 2017

U.S. Olympic Museum wants money from Colorado Springs

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 3:26 PM

An artist's rendering of the project. - U.S. OLYMPIC MUSEUM & HALL OF FAME
  • U.S. Olympic Museum & Hall of Fame
  • An artist's rendering of the project.
The U.S. Olympic Museum & Hall of Fame wants tax money to help build the museum southwest of downtown, according to a recent filing.

The museum has filed an application for Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax money from the city, seeking $500,000 over three years.

Using LART money for capital improvements isn't unheard of — upgrades to tennis courts to be used for pickle ball is one example — but it's rare.

The museum, part of the city's City for Champions tourism venture that features four venues, needs money fast. It lacks some $8.6 million of making its $75.3 million goal. Projected completion is sometime in 2018. The museum and other three projects — a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, an Air Force Academy visitors center and a downtown stadium — must see substantial progress within five years in order to receive state tax money under the Regional Tourism Act. The state granted the city $120.5 million in December 2013.

Here's a description of the LART program:
The City of Colorado Springs’ Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) fund is administered by City Council, with the guidance of the LART Citizen’s Advisory Committee. LART funds are required to be used for tourism or economic development purposes — events, projects and services that attract visitors or enhance the economy of the City and Pikes Peak Region.
Read the application here:
USOM_-_2017_lart_application_-_SMALL.pdf
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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Colorado Springs parks report shows good value

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 5:04 PM

Parks Director Karen Palus gives media interviews at The Broadmoor regarding a new study that shows parks are a gem for the city, including for economic development. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Parks Director Karen Palus gives media interviews at The Broadmoor regarding a new study that shows parks are a gem for the city, including for economic development.
Thursday, the city participated in what seems like a futile exercise by introducing an $85,000 study called "The Economic Benefits of Parks and Recreation in Colorado Springs."

The study was funded and conducted by the Trust for Public Lands, a nationwide conservation organization that's done many such studies.

The study was unveiled at a gathering at The Broadmoor, which recently closed on its land-swap deal with the city that's in litigation.

But why the study?

City Council recently voted 6-3 not to place a small sales tax hike on the April city election ballot to fund parks maintenance. The three who were interested in a ballot measure were Tom Strand, Bill Murray and Jill Gaebler.

As one park supporter who showed up said, "If parks are the golden goose, why would you starve it?"

So promoting the parks system as a boon for the city at this point in time seems to be inconsequential. (Some say the study was done in order to provide ammo to persuade voters to cough up another .1 of a percent sales tax.)

But don't say that to Karen Palus, parks director, who says it's important for citizens to understand how valuable parks, trails and open space are to them and the business community.

"It's an important message for our community," she tells the Independent.

You can view the report here.

But here are a few highlights:

• There are 38,900 homes within the city limits that sit within 500 feet of parks, and those homes have a value that's enhanced by that location by $502 million.

• Parks, trails and open space have the capacity to remove air pollution. That tallies to 338,000 pounds of bad stuff ranging from carbon monoxide to ozone.

• Direct travel spending by visitors comes to nearly $1.5 billion; of that, $135 million is how much tourists spend a year whose primary reason for coming here is to visit parks, trails, open space and "facilities."

• People can save $1,180 per year on medical costs by exercising regularly, presumably in parks, on trails and in open spaces.

• More than 45,000 people use parks, trails and open spaces here regularly every year, a total health care benefit topping $50 million.


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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

UPDATE: Parks benefit Colorado Springs economically, study shows

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 11:06 AM

The Broadmoor is hosting a meeting that will likely lay the groundwork for a sales tax increase proposal. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • The Broadmoor is hosting a meeting that will likely lay the groundwork for a sales tax increase proposal.
UPDATE:
Regarding the question of who's funding the use of The Broadmoor for this event, the city communications office offers this:

El Pomar’s Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism Heritage Series is hosting the release event for the TPL economic benefit study and has arranged for the space. The TPL economic benefit study was privately funded for the City of COS. No City funding has gone into this program.

—ORIGINAL POST 11:06 A.M. TUES., JAN. 10, 2017—

A report showing how important parks are to economic development will be unveiled on Thursday at The Broadmoor, likely part of the effort to place a tax hike on the April city election ballot for parks maintenance.

Parks advocates apparently want to raise the sales tax by 0.1 of a percent, though no official presentation has been made to City Council so far.

We sought the economic development report, dubbed "Economic Benefits Study," last week under the Colorado Open Records Act, but the city denied access on both Friday and Monday saying the report remained in draft form at that time. Here's the city's denial:
A search of City files located no record responsive to your request, which we interpret as a request for the final Economic Benefits Study. At this time, the requested record is in draft form and has not been finalized by the third parties who are completing the study. However, it is the understanding of the City that a final report will be available on
January 12, 2017.
So if you want to see the report when it's presented on Thursday, feel free to attend, because the event has been posted as an open meeting for City Council, many members of which are likely to attend. The meeting notice is the third one down.
screen_shot_2017-01-10_at_9.20.33_am.png

Here's the city's news release announcing the meeting at The Broadmoor on Thursday:
The City of Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation System’s Economic Benefits Study will be released on Thursday, Jan 12 from 4-6 pm as a part of El Pomar Foundation's Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism’s Heritage Series. The event will take place at The Broadmoor, Little Theater, 1 Colorado Ave. Colorado Springs, CO 80906. The report will be presented by the Trust for Public Land followed by a panel discussion.

A new report by The Trust for Public Land shows that the parks and recreation system in Colorado Springs generates hundreds of millions of dollars in economic benefits each year. “The economic benefits study gives us quantifiable information on the benefits of our park system that we have long recognized but considered too difficult to quantify. The report will be an asset for promoting Colorado Springs as an incredible place to live, work, and vacation,” says Mayor John Suthers.

Colorado Springs’ public parks and recreation system includes nearly 14,370 acres of parks and open spaces, over 150 miles of trails, and numerous recreation and cultural facilities. These amenities include: Garden of the Gods Park, Monument Valley Park, Red Rock Canyon Open Space, Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, Meadows Park Community Center, Starsmore Discovery Center and many more.

The parks and recreation system provides seven major economic benefits that are measureable: health, tourism, economic development, property value, stormwater infiltration, clean air, and recreational use. “The strong results of this analysis demonstrate that the parks and recreation system in Colorado Springs provides real economic value to the community’s residents and businesses,” says Karen Palus, City of Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director.

The report was prepared for the City of Colorado Springs by economists at The Trust for Public Land. "For years, we have talked about the intangible benefits of the park and recreation system in Colorado Springs, but until now we have never had an economic analysis that put a dollar value on the benefits of the parks, trails, open spaces, and recreational facilities," says Jim Petterson, The Trust for Public Land’s Colorado State Director.

“El Pomar Heritage Series seeks to bring together key organizations, stakeholders and leaders to discuss how the region can best promote and protect recreation and tourism in a diverse economy with high quality of life,” says R. Thayer Tutt Jr. President and Chief Investment Officer, El Pomar Foundation.

About The Heritage Series

Utilizing the Penrose Legacy to inspire discussion, understanding, and promotion of our regional outdoor assets, El Pomar Foundation launched the Pikes Peak Recreation and Tourism Heritage Series in 2015. The intent is to increase knowledge and interest in an important part of the region's economy and quality of life.

About The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.
It's worth noting that The Broadmoor just closed on a land swap deal with the city in which it acquired the controversial 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space. One argument for trading it to the resort focused on the city's limited resources available to maintain the property.

We've asked how much the city is paying, if anything, for use of The Broadmoor space for this event and will circle back if and when we get an answer.
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Friday, January 6, 2017

UPDATE: Will Colorado Springs' mayor be tapped for federal judgeship?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2017 at 10:59 AM

Will Mayor Suthers be waving goodbye to his mayor's job? - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Will Mayor Suthers be waving goodbye to his mayor's job?
UPDATE 10:59 A.M. THURSDAY, JAN. 12:

Mayor John Suthers, appearing on the Richard Randall show on KVOR radio, apparently gave a stronger response to the idea of being tapped for a federal judge position than he gave us. He tweeted: "Richard, I am not going after a federal judgeship. Have people called me & asked if I was interested? Yes. But I said, 'No, I'm not.'"
——————————
UPDATE:
Glenn Sugameli, of Washington, D.C., who's headed the Judging the Environment judicial nominations project since 2001, set us straight on openings on the federal bench. He noted the openings referred to in the 10th Circuit are on district court benches, not the appeals court:
... they are all on the district courts within the Circuit- including Judge Blackburn's seat in Colorado- there are no vacancies on the U.S, Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit itself (unlike the four on the 9th circuit indicated by CCA for Circuit Court of Appeals).

More importantly, Senators Bennet and Gardner jointly recommended and strongly pushed for action on a nominee. There is every reason why they should continue to do so given the caseload and need to move quickly to fill this seat that they both cited, and the continuing need for both home-state senators to approve any hearing (scroll down).
See these press releases:

Sens. Bennet, Gardner Urge Judiciary Committee to Consider Regina Rodriguez Nomination: President Nominated Rodriguez in April Following Bennet, Gardner Recommendations
(Republican - Colorado) 07/12/16
Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner today urged the Senate Judiciary Committee to work swiftly to consider the nomination of Regina Rodriguez to fill the vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado. The Colorado senators wrote to Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley and Ranking Member Patrick Leahy urging them to schedule a hearing and a vote on confirmation as soon as possible.... "Given the court's caseload, it's crucial that the Judiciary Committee move quickly and thoroughly to consider this nomination," Bennet said. "Regina Rodriguez is eminently qualified to serve on the District Court. We're confident that her impressive background in both the public and private sectors will serve her well on the federal bench." "Regina Rodriguez has a long record of service to Colorado," said Gardner. "She is immensely qualified to serve on the federal bench, and I'm certain that her broad experience will allow her to better serve Coloradans in a new capacity as a judge on the U.S. District Court for Colorado."

—————————-ORIGINAL POST 10:59 A.M. FRI., JAN. 6, 2017————————-

News over the past two months has focused on who Donald Trump is choosing to fill various cabinet and other posts.

Now, we hear that our own Mayor John Suthers might be in line for a presidential appointment, and he's not denying that he might be interested.

After he takes the oath of office on Jan. 20, Trump will nominate people to fill 114 judgeships across the land, as reported by CBS News.

Word is that Suthers is currently being vetted by the Republican Attorneys General Association, though RAGA has yet to confirm this to the Independent. When we hear back, we'll update.

A place on a federal bench would be a natural culmination of Suthers' career. He's served as district attorney, U.S. Attorney, Colorado Department of Corrections chief and Colorado Attorney General. He was elected mayor in mid-2015.

Trump is looking for people who "will reflect conservative opinions on a wide array of issues, from gun control and abortion access to regulatory reform," according to CBS News, and Suthers seems to fit that bill perfectly.

He's adamantly opposed to recreational marijuana, for example, and his Catholic background translates to opposition to abortion.

When we posed the question of a federal court appointment to the mayor's office, we got this response from city spokeswoman Kim Melchor:
Mayor Suthers has had several inquiries about his interest in various positions. This is not uncommon after a Presidential election. But as he has indicated in the past, there are very few positions he would seriously consider at this point in his career. The press would undoubtedly become aware if he was being considered for a position he was interested in. 
According to this website, there are six vacancies with the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, Denver.

So what if Suthers is chosen and answers the call? The City Charter says Council President — currently Merv Bennett, former CEO of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region — steps into the mayor's shoes.

The Charter says:
If a vacancy occurs in the office of Mayor, duties and responsibilities of that position shall transfer according to section 4-20 of this Charter, and Council shall call an election within ninety (90) days, unless a general municipal election will occur in one hundred eighty (180) days and nominations for the office of Mayor can be timely filed in accord with municipal election law, for the purpose of electing a qualified person to the unexpired term of the office of Mayor. If a general municipal election will occur within one hundred eighty (180) days, the provisions of section 4-20 of this Charter shall apply until a successor of the Mayor last elected pursuant to the provisions of section 2-10 of this Charter is elected and qualified, in accordance with this Charter. (1909; 1961; 1975;
1987; 2010)
And here's section 4-20 from the Charter:
(a)Whenever the Mayor is unable, from any cause, to perform the duties of the office for more than a temporary or short-term absence, the President of the Council shall be the acting Mayor and shall hold such office until a successor of the Mayor last elected pursuant to the provisions of section 2-10 of this Charter is elected and qualified, in accordance with this Charter, at which time the President of the Council may return to his or her seat on Council. (2010)

(b)If the President of Council refuses or is unable to discharge the duties of the Office of Mayor, the Council shall elect one of its members acting Mayor, who shall hold such office until a successor of the Mayor last elected pursuant to the provisions of section 2-10 of this Charter is elected and qualified, in accordance with this Charter. (2010)

(c)Whenever the President of Council becomes the acting Mayor, Council shall elect a new President of Council to serve during the absence as provided in this Charter. (2010) 

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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Monument woman goes to court over Drake emissions

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 2:27 PM

Drake Power Plant - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant
A "squeaky wheel" complainer about emissions from Colorado Springs Utilities' downtown Drake Power Plant is due in court Friday to defend herself against allegations she mishandled a confidential court document.

Leslie Weise, a Monument resident who's an attorney, though not licensed in Colorado, is being taken to task for releasing information from a document erroneously sent to her as part of a Court of Appeals case.

Weise contends the report she was inadvertently given proves the Drake plant is poisoning the air. Colorado Springs Utilities argues the report is based on modeling, not actual data, and that scrubbers have been added to Drake, and one unit decommissioned, to improve air quality.

We asked Springs Utilities about all this and received this statement via email:
This hearing tomorrow is being held because the Court of Appeals has determined that Ms. Weise may have violated its court order when she publicly discussed documents sealed by the District Court after she inadvertently received the information. The attorney representing Colorado Springs Utilities will be requesting an evidentiary hearing on this matter.

We want to clarify information regarding the impact of the Martin Drake Power Plant on air quality. This plant meets all Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) air regulatory requirements. Official air quality reports are public information and available through CDPHE.

Here's the news release issued by the Weise camp:
Denver, CO – On Friday January 6th, at 10am, El Paso County resident Leslie Weise has been ordered to appear in the Colorado Court of Appeals to determine if her efforts to seek truth and transparency regarding a damning air quality report that Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) has prevented the public from seeing will be met with sanctions and fines from the Court. Weise was inadvertently given access to the secret report after she filed a petition in District Court for release of the report under the Colorado Open Records Act. CSU has requested the Court of Appeals to punish her for speaking about it.

Who: Three-judge panel at Colorado Court of Appeals will consider if concerned parent Leslie Weise should receive sanctions and/or fines for whistleblowing Colorado Springs Utilities’ Air Quality Violations; many Weise supporters plan to be in attendance wearing red.

What: Colorado Court of Appeals to consider if Weise should be punished for whistleblowing Colorado Springs Utilities’ Air Quality Violations.

When: Friday, January 6th, at 10am

Where: Colorado Court of Appeals, 1st floor of the Ralph L. Carr Judicial Center at 2 East Fourteenth Ave, Denver 80203

Why: More than 1,400 Coloradans have signed a petition and over 45 business and community leaders have signed a group letter asking Colorado Springs Utilities to release the air quality report showing non-compliance of sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions and drop their threat of sanctions, fines and imprisonment against Leslie Weise. Dozens of community members protested outside the Utility Board meeting last month and 15 residents spoke during the public comment period of the meeting, calling for transparency and dropping charges against Weise. A separate letter was sent by the City of Manitou Springs Mayor and City Council expressing their concerns over the air quality impacts to their community located just west of the Martin Drake Plant.

Nevertheless, CSU and the Utility Board appeared unmoved and are proceeding with their legal force to silence and punish Ms. Weise. CSU’s CEO Jerry Forte continues to claim that SO2 emissions from the coal fired Martin Drake Power Plant have been in regulatory compliance despite all of the multiple professionally-completed air models revealing dangerously high spikes in SO2 along the foothills of the Pikes Peak region. The EPA designated the region “unclassifiable” for the SO2 standard for safe levels of air quality. Nearly 300,000 people and 120,000 children live within a five mile radius of the Martin Drake Plant.

The combination of CSU withholding the air quality report whose non-compliance results were made known through Weise’s Court filings and the media and CSU filing for sanctions and fines against Weise has many citizens questioning the management and operations of their municipally-owned “schoolyard bully” Utility and its governing Board. Many supporters of Weise’s efforts plan to attend the court proceedings Friday, in what they consider to be a David vs. Goliath fight, with the City of Colorado Springs trying to silence a brave, single mother concerned for the public and the safety of her son attending elementary school near the Martin Drake Plant.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) has been found by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to cause severe health impacts in concentrations as low as 75 parts per billion. Exposure to SO2 for as little as five minutes can cause respiratory distress, increased asthma symptoms, and aggravate heart disease; impacts are felt most acutely by children, the elderly, and asthmatics.

While the air quality report (created by AECOM under contract from CSU) applies only to SO2 concentrations, many local residents are concerned about other by-products of burning coal, some of which can cause cancer, birth defects and respiratory ailments, and are pushing for Colorado Springs Utilities to transition to clean renewable power sources, which are now at cost-parity or in some cases cheaper than fossil fuel energy. Residents and local leaders are demanding transparency via the release of air quality reports from Colorado Springs Utilities and dropping legal action against Leslie Weise for bringing air quality violations to the light of day.


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Save Cheyenne appeals ruling in Colorado Springs land swap case

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 2:21 PM

citysigns.jpg
If you've been keeping up with the Save Cheyenne court battle over the city's swap of Strawberry Fields to The Broadmoor, listen up.

The nine-page appeal sets out 20 possible bases for appeal. We'll copy the first three here:
(A) In granting the Defendants’ motions to dismiss Save
Cheyenne’s first claim for relief, did the District Court err in declining to
apply the common law doctrine regarding the dedication of parks, as
delineated in McIntyre v. Bd. of Comm’rs, 61 P. 237 (Colo. App. 1900), and Friends of Denver Parks, Inc. v. City and County of Denver, 327 P.3d 311 (Colo. App. 2013), which holds that the municipality to which land has been dedicated as a park holds it as trustee, solely for the benefit of its citizens, and mandates that it may not impose upon it any burden or servitude inconsistent with park purposes, nor may it alienate the ground, or relieve itself of the authority and duty to regulate the park’s use?
(B) Did the District Court err in holding that the City does not hold
Strawberry Fields as a trustee, solely for the use and benefit of its citizens as a park, based upon a misperception that the Save Cheyenne’s argument is based upon a “public trust doctrine,” existing in Pennsylvania and some other states, but not Colorado, as opposed to the application of the terms of a common law dedication articulated in McIntyre and Friends of Denver Parks?
(C) Did the District Court err in concluding that, because the
Colorado Springs City Council in 1885 had dedicated the lands including Strawberry Fields as a park, and stated that Council may always “direct any act or thing to be done concerning said parks, which they may deem best for the improvement of said parks,” it had thereby abrogated all the terms of a common law dedication, including the restrictions on conveyance, use, and the requirement that the City retain regulatory authority over the park?
To read the entire appeal, here you go: SaveCheyenneAppeal.pdf
As we reported in our newspaper this week, and on our blog on Dec. 31, the city closed on the deal on Dec. 19, the same day The Broadmoor filed its conservation easement with Palmer Land Trust.


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UPDATE: Colorado Springs, El Paso County face another lawsuit over stormwater

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 12:21 PM

This image of the Mountain Valley Preserve, outlined in black, comes from a Sept. 17, 2015, city Planning Commission agenda. The property ultimately was annexed by the city in early 2016. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • This image of the Mountain Valley Preserve, outlined in black, comes from a Sept. 17, 2015, city Planning Commission agenda. The property ultimately was annexed by the city in early 2016.

UPDATE:
Late yesterday, we received this explanation via email from Richard Mulledy, the city's stormwater division manager:
The City anticipates that construction of a full spectrum detention pond in accordance with the Professional Engineer's design plans will be in place in February. This permanent detention on the Mountain Valley Preserve subdivision will appropriately manage the runoff from the new development and accommodate for significant flood events.

Throughout construction of the subdivision temporary stormwater controls have been in place. The City of Colorado Springs will continue to work with Mountain Valley Preserve throughout construction and will inspect all drainage aspects of the project as they are completed.

————ORIGINAL POST 12:21 P.M. THURSDAY, JAN. 5, 2017—————
"Our subdivision is not to be used for the city's stormwater sewer."

Thus ends a four-page claim filed by dozens of homeowners in Toy Ranches Estates subdivision against the city of Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Tim McConnell, an engineer with Drexel, Barrell & Co., the city director of public works Travis Easton, Mayor John Suthers, the county's planning director Craig Dossey, FEMA, and Newport Center, LLC, the developer of the subdivision that's allegedly causing flood damage to Toy Ranches, or threatens to.

Newport Center's registered agent is long-time developer Leroy Landhuis, and the development in question is called Mountain Valley Preserve. The 44.71-acre subdivision has 41 single-family residential lots, landscape tracts, detention areas and public roads, and is located east of Marksheffel Road and south of Dublin Boulevard, according to city records. See the City Council action here:

Legislation_Details__With_Text___11_.pdf file:///Users/pamzubeck/Downloads/Legislation%20Details%20(With%20Text)%20(9).pdf" target="_blank">
Council annexed the property and approved zoning about a year ago.

(Landhuis tangled with Colorado Springs Utilities last year over value of land required for the Southern Delivery System. He sought $39 million in damages, and won $378,000.)

Toy Ranches, a square-mile subdivision in the county, is located adjacent to Mountain Valley Preserve.

The city, already facing a federal lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Water Act due to neglect of its stormwater system, doesn't need more evidence that it's dropping the ball in controlling flood waters.

But the Toy Ranches letter, dated Dec. 11 and titled "Notice to Cease and Desist," alleges the Landhuis development's detention ponds don't work and threaten life and property in Toy Ranches from flooding.

The letter accuses the city of "flawed interpretation of its own drainage criteria manuals," and claims the outfalls from the Mountain Valley Preserve detention ponds are faulty, leading to "significant erosion" to neighboring properties.

Worse, if the erosion affects natural gas and petroleum product pipelines in the vicinity, the letter says, "There could be a major catastrophic failure which could result in not only extensive property damage but also human physical harm or even loss of life."

Toy Ranches residents also allege a constitutional violation, because the flooding could constitute "an uncompensated taking" of their properties.

We've asked both the city and county for a comment on this, as well as the developer, and are awaiting word. We'll update if an when we hear back.

We also reached out to the resident who mailed the letter and will update if and when we hear from him.

Meantime, we asked City Councilor Andy Pico, who represents that area, for his thoughts, and he says via email, "First I've heard of it." A few hours later, he reported he'd consult an engineer on some of the technical aspects of the allegations.

Read the entire letter here:
Toy_Ranchs_NOC.pdf


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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Colorado Springs city election gets under way

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 5:09 PM

Crow-Iverson: business experience on Council missing. - COURTESY CROW-IVERSON CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy Crow-Iverson campaign
  • Crow-Iverson: business experience on Council missing.
Those wishing to run for Colorado Springs City Council can pick up a petition starting today. Click on this for more information.

Deadline for filing is Jan. 23.

Already, a race is shaping up in the central District 5 between incumbent Jill Gaebler and Lynette Crow-Iverson, who recently resigned from Colorado Springs Forward, a politically active group that's sure to spend freely on the April 4 city election.

Another race is in the making as well between challenger Yolanda Avila and incumbent Helen Collins.

Here's Crow-Iverson's announcement:
Lynette Crow-Iverson a community leader who led the effort to pass Referendum 2C (the “Pothole Fix”) in 2015 is an entrepreneur and innovator. Iverson as a single mother raising 2 girls on her own built a successful franchise business in the medical field which continues to expand today. Conspire! provides industry compliance for a safe and drug free workplace.

“Noting the lack of many business experienced Members currently serving on City Council many of my colleagues have encouraged me to run. In a competitive environment and the need to lift our community in so many ways the feeling in the community and in the District is one of disappointment at the lack of leadership,” noted Iverson “I believe my experience and my innate leadership skills will be a good addition on Council and to support Mayor Suther’s vision for our City going forward.”

A community activist Lynette Crow-Iverson currently serves as a Trustee for the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, Vice Chair for the Pikes Peak Work Force Board, serves for Chancellor Shockley-Zalabak’s Regional Connect board, is a Member of the Regional Leadership Forum and past Chairwoman for Colorado Springs Forward.

“As a businessman and a colleague of Lynette’s I was thrilled to hear that she was running for City Council. I have served with Lynette on the Colorado Springs Health Foundation and I know firsthand her business acumen and creativity,” stated Jon Medved “Lynette Crow-Iverson is a first class leader and exactly what our City Council needs.” Jon Medved is a Co-Chair on the Friends for: Lynette Crow-Iverson Committee.

City Council District 5 includes much Colorado Spring’s Old North End, the Patty Jewett neighborhood and runs as far east as Powers Blvd.

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Saturday, December 31, 2016

City closes deal with The Broadmoor for Strawberry Fields

Posted By on Sat, Dec 31, 2016 at 3:20 PM

Richard Skorman gave tours of Strawberry Fields last spring and summer. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Richard Skorman gave tours of Strawberry Fields last spring and summer.
Without issuing a notice to the public, the city apparently quietly closed the deal on Strawberry Fields with The Broadmoor in recent days.

More on that is below from an email sent by Parks Director Karen Palus to various parks officials and others on Friday.

Richard Skorman, former vice mayor and president of nonprofit Save Cheyenne, which is opposing the land swap, says the closing doesn't stop the group's efforts to undo the May 2016 City Council vote. Save Cheyenne had filed a lawsuit objecting to the trade of 189-acre Strawberry Fields open space, which was purchased by the city in 1885 after voters voted in favor of acquisition. District Judge Michael McHenry recently ruled against the group, however.

But Save Cheyenne will file its appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals next week, Skorman says.

"If we are successful on appeal, we're going to ask the court to reverse this deal," he tells the Independent in an interview on Saturday. "We want to make sure there's no major construction [in the meantime]. The good part is The Broadmoor will have to go through the planning process before they start moving dirt."

Pending further advancement of the trade, Skorman says Save Cheyenne might ask the district court to stay progress pending the appeal.

Palus' letter:

I wanted to let you know that the land exchange with the Broadmoor has been closed. All necessary documents, including the conservation easement held by the Palmer Land Trust, have been executed and recorded.

Through this exchange, the City gained 371 acres of property and 115 acres of new public trail easements that include an expanded North Cheyenne Cañon Park, secured property for the Manitou Incline, expanded Bear Creek Park, and secured easements for the Chamberlain Trail, Barr Trail, South Cañon Trail, and trails to Hully Gully.

The land exchange from the City to The Broadmoor includes 180+ acres of the area called Strawberry Hill, as well as .55 acres adjacent to the Cog railway. A conservation easement has been placed with the Palmer Land Trust upon the 180+ acres of Strawberry Hill that was transferred to The Broadmoor; the public will continue to have access to all but 8.5 acres of the Strawberry Hill property to ensure conservation and recreation values are protected and public access is provided to the property in perpetuity. The conservation easement defines only an 8.5 acre private building envelope within the 180+ acre parcel to develop a picnicking area, horse stables and trail. In addition, the City received a public access easement over the entire parcel except the building envelope.

Public park master plan processes for the Strawberry Hill property and North Cheyenne Cañon Park will begin in 2017.

I want to personally thank you all for your engagement, thoughtful dialogue and creative approaches to the success of this project!

I hope each of you have a very Happy New Year!

Have a great day!

Karen



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Thursday, December 29, 2016

Update: Tim Mitros leaves his city job

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 2:48 PM

This flooding on Pope's Valley Drive is an example of the headaches that marked Tim Mitros' years with the city. - COURTESY DEAN LUCE
  • Courtesy Dean Luce
  • This flooding on Pope's Valley Drive is an example of the headaches that marked Tim Mitros' years with the city.
UPDATE:
According to the city's severance agreement with Tim Mitros, he's required to provide the city a letter "announcing his retirement effective Jan. 13, 2017."

He'll get six months of his annual salary of $117,051.43 in severance pay and other benefits if he abides by the agreement:
If Employee signs and does not revoke this
Agreement, and executes the Supplemental Release attached hereto as Exhibit A on or after
the Separation Date and does not revoke it, the City agrees: (i) to pay Employee an amount
equal to 6 months of Employee’s current base salary, to be paid within 5 working days following
the date the Supplemental Release becomes binding and non-revocable; (ii) to pay the
employer’s share of the cost of premiums to continue Employee’s current medical and dental
coverage through July 31, 2017, so long as Employee timely pays Employee’s share of the
contributions to the City; and (iii) to allow Employee to continue, if currently enrolled, in the
vision plan through July 31, 2017, so long as Employee timely pays the cost of the premium. All
payments shall be subject to legally-required withholdings. Further, the parties agree that no
PERA contributions will be made on these payments as they do not constitute salary for PERA
purposes. 
If he violates the agreement, he has to pay the city $30,000. Here's the non-disparagement section:
Mutual Non-disparagement. Employee shall not make negative or disparaging
comments relating to the City, its elected officials, employees or representatives, its services, or
Employee’s employment with the City. In addition, Employee will not disclose to any person or
entity the circumstances surrounding Employee’s departure from the City’s employment. The
City shall not make negative comments relating to Employee’s employment with the City or the
circumstances surrounding Employee’s departure from the City’s employment. All parties
acknowledge the City is subject to the CORA. Notwithstanding the foregoing, if either party is
subject to a valid subpoena or court order, or is otherwise required by law, to provide truthful
testimony in a proceeding, such testimony will not be a violation of Section 7 of this Agreement.

Here's the entire agreement:
Mitros_20161229135039.pdf
——————-ORIGINAL POST 4:03 P.M., TUESDAY, DEC. 27, 2016———————-

Tim Mitros, longtime city employee who worked on stormwater issues for many years, ends his service with the city today, he tells the Independent.

"Yes, I'm retiring from the city," he says — though it appears that he is being forced out.

Mitros came into the spotlight in recent years when the city got into a jam on failure to deal with its sizable stormwater drainage system.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a second report in August 2015 — the first came in early 2013 — blasting the city's failure to deal with drainage. Suthers has since struck a deal with Pueblo County in which the city agrees to spend $460 million in the next 20 years, much drawn from the city's general fund. Colorado Springs Utilities also will contribute.

But after that 2015 EPA report, Mayor John Suthers reassigned Mitros to the Office of Emergency Management as its engineering program manager. Many thought that Mitros, who was the city's development review and stormwater manager, was scapegoated for a funding problem for stormwater over which he had no control.

Mitros has been hailed by citizens as a hard-working, deeply caring city employee who worked long hours helping citizens understand the city's stormwater needs and finding ways to ease the impacts of the city's substandard system.

Mitros, 57, served for 25 years. He says he's prohibited from discussing his departure agreement or saying "anything that will disparage the city."

"I've enjoyed working for the city, and basically I've enjoyed serving the city of Colorado Springs," he says. "That's my joy."

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Should city ask voters' permission to keep refund? Murray says "no."

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 1:00 PM

Councilor Bill Murray is raising a lot of questions. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Bill Murray is raising a lot of questions.
Next month, Mayor John Suthers plans to ask City Council to place a measure on the April 4 city election ballot seeking voter approval to let the city keep excess revenue.

Suthers says he wants the roughly $7 million collected in 2016 above caps imposed by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights to be spent on flood control. The measure would also ask voter approval to allow the city to keep excess revenue collected in 2017 for the same purpose. That estimated dollar figure hasn't been disclosed publicly.

Seems like a no-brainer, given the city's enormous backlog of stormwater projects, but at least one city councilor isn't capitulating automatically.

Councilor Bill Murray writes in a message to other Council members that he wants more information before placing the measure on the ballot. (The Independent obtained the message from a source other than Murray, and Murray confirms he did, in fact, send it.)
Mayor John Suthers: Voters should weigh in only when necessary. - FILL PHOTO
  • Fill photo
  • Mayor John Suthers: Voters should weigh in only when necessary.
Murray also notes that Suthers has said he believes anything that doesn't require a vote of the people should not be placed on a ballot. This comment came amid debate over whether it's a good idea to let voters have a say in selling or trading city park land. Suthers opposes giving the public a vote. The debate grew from Suthers' plan to trade the city's Strawberry Fields open space to The Broadmoor in exchange for acreage for trails and a wilderness area. Council approved the move in May 2016.

Now, Murray says that given Suthers' stance, why would the mayor ask voters' permission to keep the money? TABOR requires excess money collected above caps based on growth to be automatically refunded to voters, unless approved by voters to be retained by the city.

As Murray says, "TABOR refunding does not require a vote of the people. Keeping it for city use does require a vote. In summation, it should not be a ballot issue."

Murray goes on to raise questions about just how much long-range future planning is going on in the halls of the City Administration Building.

His letter:
Council Members: 12/28/2016
Subject: Contradictions in the City's de-TABORING presentation
After our discussion of what to do with the excess funds, we learned that the number had jumped from $2 million to between $7-$9 million, and only learned of this change during the Council meeting. This creates issues of contradiction and concern. The first, that we were given incorrect or at least inaccurate information. This impacted our discussion and how we saw the issues. Second, that we were only given the corrected information during its presentation to the Council. This clearly put us at a disadvantage in discussing the full scope and issues surrounding this windfall.
Clearly, this Council needs to come to terms with its contradictions. I suggest, we decide to either vote to change TABOR's language and therefore its effects on our financing, or we return the funds which TABOR requires. The Mayor has stated that it is a matter of city public policy that anything that does not require a vote of the people, should not be sent to the people. TABOR refunding does not require a vote of the people. Keeping it for city use does require a vote. In summation, it should not be a ballot issue.
In addition, to suggest that it should be committed to storm water projects rather than current debts or acceleration of projects in the best interests of the city is disingenuous at best. We know there are bills coming due from Parks and Recreation water, additional legal work for storm water related issues and C4C infrastructure requirements. In addition, this return of TABOR money is without a commitment against the accrual of a storm water fee after the April election.
The Council at the insistence of the Chief of Staff, after lamenting that he could not balance the budget without taking $500,000 from the police and firefighter's salaries, allowed this transfer. The City failed to mention returning these funds when discovering this windfall. Don't we want to take care of our city employees first? What about accelerating the Comprehensive City Plan? What about the museum, bridge and infrastructure costs associated with C4C? What is the overall mayor's plan for storm water? A series of de-TABORING band-aids until a fee is assessed? The City deserves better.
The Council's primary function is to help strategize the city's growth and progress. The mayor's solution in taking this to the ballot for only Storm water issues does neither. We should expect accurate numbers, a comprehensive plan from the Chief Executive of the City and transparency to the public.
I supported this amendment at the $2 million level because it was more cost effective to ask for the money to remain with the city rather than the cost of returning it. At the $7 million plus level, it needs to be returned to the citizens. They will need it when they receive their storm water fee!
V/r bill murray 12/28/2016

William 'Bill' Murray
City of Colorado Springs, Councilmember At-Large
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Friday, December 23, 2016

City kills bike lanes on Research Parkway

Posted By on Fri, Dec 23, 2016 at 3:25 PM

The map shows a city-organized "Ride on Research" meant to promote the new lanes. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • The map shows a city-organized "Ride on Research" meant to promote the new lanes.

The bike lane demonstration project on Research Parkway in northern Colorado Springs has proved a PR disaster and will be terminated.

It's too bad because the protected lanes were a new kind of infrastructure for Colorado Springs —  one cyclists have longed for. But, in my humble opinion, the project seems to have fallen victim to two fatal flaws.

First: Location. Research Parkway isn't exactly the heart of the bike commuter universe here in the Springs, so it's unreasonable to expect that the lanes would be heavily used by cyclists or embraced by the car-dependent neighborhoods nearby. Most of the city's bike infrastructure should be in places where people already ride bikes — design should follow function. And if drivers are already battling bike traffic on a particular road, there's a good chance that they will embrace bike infrastructure because it stands to make their drive easier.

Second: Misunderstanding. When the project was unveiled, city staff tried to explain that the lane being closed on Research that would then accommodate cyclists, wasn't closed to accommodate cyclists. The lane was being closed because traffic engineers felt the road was oversized and that the extra lane was making Research less safe. The bike lanes just seemed like a cool project to put in that extra space. That's a key distinction — and one that the public never seemed to fully grasp. In fact, the lanes on Research Parkway may have served only to fuel resentment from motorists toward cyclists, because they mistakenly believed they were being forced to give something up so that cyclists could take it over.

Anyway, let's hope that the lesson that the city takes away from Research Parkway isn't that protected bike lanes are a bad idea. As a cyclist myself, I think they're a great idea. However, in the future, picking a strategic location where the lanes are likely to be embraced and heavily used, as well as communicating with people who live in the area, will be key to gaining acceptance.


City of Colorado Springs Will Terminate Research
Bike Lane Demonstration Project
Public Input, Traffic Data Contribute to Decision


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo – The City announced today that the bicycle lane demonstration project along Research Parkway will be terminated. The bicycle lane striping and vertical delineators will be removed as soon as weather permits.

For the safety of the travelling public, the outside travel lane will continue to be a designated bicycle lane until lane markings can be changed to reflect vehicle travel.

In an effort to manage traffic speeds on Research Parkway, the Traffic Engineering Division implemented a demonstration project to “right size” the corridor between Austin Bluffs and Chapel Hills drive from six to four travel lanes and repurposed the outside travel lane as a buffered bike lane. The project’s goals were two-fold: To manage excessive traffic speeds and to utilize the remaining pavement to create additional bicycle connections along the corridor.

“The purpose of a bicycle lane demonstration project is to assess public sentiment as well as vehicle and bicycle traffic impacts,” said Mayor John Suthers. “The Traffic Engineering Division has prepared a report on the Research Parkway demonstration project. The bottom line is that the vast majority of residents in the area of the demonstration project are opposed to the project and the vast majority of people who support it do not live in the affected area. The amount of local resident use, even in favorable fall weather, was not significant.”

The study completed by Traffic Engineering reported that changes in vehicle speeds resulting from the lane reduction did not meet expectations and was not consistent with typical results from such an effort. The city plans to address excessive vehicle speed on Research through traffic enforcement.

“Colorado Springs will continue to promote bicycle transportation because we have a large number of residents and visitors who ride bicycles for both recreational and transportation purposes. We believe the city’s attraction to cyclists will be a growing part of our tourism economy going forward and providing multi-modal transportation options will make our city more attractive to a vibrant workforce. For this reason, I continue to support the development of the 2017 Bike Master Plan. With that, the city will continue to conduct demonstration projects to assess viability of routes and locations, while assessing levels of community support or opposition.”

The City encourages the public to provide input on projects that affect traffic flow, and offers multiple opportunities for engagement, including neighborhood meetings, City Council presentations and SpeakUp!, the city’s online survey tool. Prior to implementing the demonstration project the City conducted three neighborhood meetings in Spring 2016 to notify the public of the plan and gather input.

“With projects such as this one, there are a number of factors that determine outcomes, but be assured, public input is a major element of our decision-making,” said Jay Anderson, Citizen Engagement Specialist for the City of Colorado Springs. “While community meetings have been a long-standing method for such engagement, we are pleased to continue offering new ways for citizens to engage directly with the city.”

The Ride on Research demonstration project generated over 1,300 responses, which were an impactful element of determining the path forward. Metrics are as follow.

SpeakUp! Survey on Demonstration project:
1,347 people participated
· 63 percent of respondents lived in neighborhoods surrounding the demonstration project
· 37 percent of respondents lived in other neighborhoods

Overall response to the demonstration project:
· 80.5 percent of respondents said they want the project reversed
· 14.3 percent of respondents said they really like it, and remaining respondents said they felt it required some changes to make the project more palatable.

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Thursday, December 22, 2016

City rakes in $4.9 million from state for City for Champions

Posted By on Thu, Dec 22, 2016 at 12:12 PM

In the first two years of state sales tax rebates for the city tourism venture known as City for Champions, the city has received $4.9 million.

The city receives a cut of sales tax revenue that exceeds the amount collected in the base year, which started Dec. 1, 2013, and finished Nov. 30, 2014, within the so-called regional tourism zone. The zone in this case is almost the entire city.

The Office of Economic Development and International Trade reports that last year, the extra sales tax over the base year was $2,167,944.

This year, the figure is  $2,726,156.

In December 2013, the Colorado Economic Development Commission approved the city's proposal for the money to fund its City for Champions tourism attractions. Venues include a downtown Olympic Museum; downtown sports and events stadium; sports medicine and performance center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and an Air Force Academy visitors center.

The reason these dollar figures are important? Because this is a key part of the financing for the city's proposed tourism venues.

If you just consider that in the first two years, the city averaged $2.5 million in state revenues, you might figure the city would be looking at $50 million over the 20 years — far short of the goal.

However, if one assumes that every year the tax will increase by the 25 percent leap it took from Year 1 to Year 2, then in the 20th year, the city share would be $96.8 million.

And, during those 20 years, the state tax rebate would total $473.9 million. Of which, only a quarter would have been paid out to the city.

Now that would be evidence of a good investment on the part of the state. But of course, it's unlikely the tax will increase by 25 percent in each and every one of the coming 18 years.

Meanwhile, the actual projects are off to a slow start so far. The museum is the farthest along, but the Gazette is reporting the effort is short in fundraising and groundbreaking has been delayed, with a March 31 deadline for a financing deal tied to donations. Some progress has been made on the UCCS project, but the other two ventures have stalled.



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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

More on mPACT, the local federal action coalition

Posted By on Wed, Dec 21, 2016 at 9:25 AM

Councilor Gaebler: Still looking for accountability. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Gaebler: Still looking for accountability.
Today, the Indy published a shorter version of a blog posted last week about mPACT, Pikes Peak Federal Action Coalition, and a dustup that's arisen about whom it answers to.

Just to be clear, the Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC isn't exactly the parent organization overseeing mPACT, although it works in tandem with the group. The agency works on federal legislation, as well as local concerns, that can help improve the local economy. Toward that end, it's hired a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm.

"We serve as a fiscal sponsor of sorts – sending the invoices to members, holding the funds in a separate account, and issuing checks — but do not administer the lobbyist contract, group membership, or meetings. We are members of the coalition, with a single vote, just like the other funders," the Chamber and EDC's Rachel Beck says via email.

mPACT came into the spotlight after City Councilor Jill Gaebler asked for a briefing to Council, noting the city's elected leaders had never been told about the group's mission and how that fits with the city's strategic plan. The group is a combination of government agencies, businesses and nonprofits.

But mPACT spokeswoman Stephannie Finley Fortune says Council members who are involved in the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, also an mPACT member, have been briefed, including Gaebler.

"I am very puzzled why Jill Gaebler told you that she didn’t know of the existence of the Coalition when she was present at two of the PPACG briefings, making a statement during one of the briefings, plus she was in D.C. on one of the annual trips when its existence was briefed and the lobbying firm presented during the Day on the Hill," Finley Fortune says in an email.

Those meetings took place in February 2014, January 2015 and December 2015, Finley Fortune says. She also notes elected officials have served on the coalition — including El Paso County commissioners  Mark Waller, Dennis Hisey and Sallie Clark, and Green Mountain Falls city official Tyler Stevens.

That said, the coalition hasn't included an elected city official.

Gaebler responded to Finley Fortune's comments via email, telling the Indy:

I appreciate that Stephannie is trying to show mPACT’s efforts at communications, but I still have significant concerns about their transparency. To be specific, as an organization that uses public dollars, I would appreciate mPACT not just speaking out during the public comments portion of one public entity (PPACG) but actually providing information about its accomplishments, effectiveness, and measurable outcomes, that would be included as an item within an agenda packet … not just for PPACG, but also for the City and CSU [Colorado Springs Utilities]. Every time I learn more about this organization I only find I have more questions, like:

1. Who signs contracts on behalf of mPACT?
2. How are funds authorized and spent?
3. How are the private groups, like Bryan Construction and United Way, chosen to participate, at the exclusion of many other nonprofits and developers?

The fact remains that mPACT has not been transparent with local government about how it spends its funds and how effective it has been with public dollars. I hope this will change now that you [Independent] have put a spotlight on this organization.


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Monday, December 19, 2016

Time to comment on cable franchise agreement

Posted By on Mon, Dec 19, 2016 at 2:23 PM

Comcast's new franchise agreement is up for public comment. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • Comcast's new franchise agreement is up for public comment.
Colorado Springs City Council is nearing a decision about renewing Comcast's cable franchise with the city and has planned two hearings to hear public comment.

Both will be held at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. The first is at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19. The second will be at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31.

To comment by email: ComcastComments@springsgov.com

By mail: City of Colorado Springs Communications
30 S. Nevada Avenue, Suite 606
Mail Code 606
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

The proposed agreement is available at the link provided above, or in hard copy at the City Clerk's Office at 30 S. Nevada, and at the security desk on City Hall's first floor.

The proposed 10-year agreement permits Comcast to use city rights-of-way to construct, operate, and maintain a cable system in exchange for a percentage of Comcast’s gross revenues.

Here's the pertinent part of the agreement dealing with franchise fees:
As compensation for the benefits and privileges granted under this Franchise and in consideration of permission to use the City’s Rights-of-Way, Grantee shall continue to pay the City the sum of one dollar twenty cents ($1.20) per Subscriber per month as a franchise fee (“Franchise Fee”) until ninety (90) days after the Effective Date or July 1, 2017, whichever is later (“New Payment Date”). Commencing on the New Payment Date, Grantee shall pay the City an amount equal to three and one-half percent (3.5%) of Grantee’s Gross Revenues as a
Franchise Fee. The Franchise Fee shall be increased to four and one-half percent (4.5%) within one (1) year after the New Payment Date and shall be increased to five percent (5%) within two (2) years after the New Payment Date, provided that all other Cable Operators providing Cable
Services in the City are required to pay the same Franchise Fee rates (i.e. percentage of Gross Revenue and increases in such percentage) and commencing on the same dates as set forth in this Section 3.1. The Franchise Fee may be recovered from Subscribers by Grantee in accordance with Applicable Law. 
The 89-page agreement will not dictate rates, and the company will have to answer complaints from customers.

The agreement was due for renewal last year but was delayed while City Council worked out details of the new contract's provisions.

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