There is the added caveat that in no event will the County’s proportional amount be greater than either that of the City of Colorado Springs or the State.
That [$1.4 million per year or $42 million] over 30 years could change as more information is available on both the total and the proportional amount of the state award, the city’s acceptance of the award and the County’s acceptance of the agreements needed between it and the “district” or “zone” established to develop and own the facilities.
Centennial Hall Office Reopened
[Colorado Springs, Colo. – November 25, 2013] Effective immediately, the Centennial Hall office has reopened. The equipment failure has been repaired and the office is now fully operational.
“I’d like to thank everyone that worked hard to get the Centennial Hall office open and operational,” stated Chief Deputy Chuck Broerman.
Equipment Malfunction Delays Opening of Centennial Hall Motor Vehicle
[Colorado Springs, Colo. – November 25, 2013] An unforeseen malfunction of equipment has delayed the opening of the Centennial Hall Motor Vehicle Department. Citizens wishing to use the Centennial Hall location are unable to perform any motor vehicle, recording, or elections related transaction at this time. Until the office is ready to open, the Clerk and Recorder’s Office recommends using the Citizens Service Center at 1675 West Garden of the Gods Rd, though all other offices are open as normal.
“We appreciate everyone’s understanding as we rush to fix the problem and reopen the Centennial Hall office as quickly as possible,” stated Chief Deputy Chuck Broerman. “We understand that these sort of unforeseen issues have an impact on the people that had planned on using that site today, and we regret any inconvenience.”
The Clerk and Recorder’s staff hopes to reopen the Centennial Hall office within about two hours.
Commissioner Darryl Glenn Hosts Town Hall Meeting
Update on District 1 Transportation Projects Will Be Primary Focus
El Paso County, October 8, 2013 – El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn will host a Town Hall style meeting at the Black Forest Community Center on Saturday, October 19, 2013.
Items scheduled for discussion include updates on significant projects such as Hodgen Road, Vollmer Road, the intersection at Burgess and Black Forest roads and as well as public infrastructure challenges resulting from the Black Forest Fire and subsequent flooding.
Residents are invited to attend and participate in Commissioner Glenn’s Town Hall Meeting:
When: Saturday October 19, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.
Where: Black Forest Community Center 12530 Black Forest Road
Weather Finally Cooperates for Black Forest Road Projects Delayed by Fire and Floods
El Paso County, CO., October 7, 2013 – The catastrophic Black Forest Fire and post-fire flooding have caused significant delays in the schedule of several important transportation improvement projects in the Black Forest area northeast of Colorado Springs. County Engineer Andre Brackin says contractors are hoping for good fall weather to wrap up several of these major construction projects. “Several projects are behind schedule because of the fire and floods and we really appreciate the ongoing patience of motorists through these delays,” he said.
Contractors continue paving operations at the Black Forest and Burgess Road intersection. The final installation of traffic signals will complete the required safety improvements at that location. The intersection is part of a 3.65 mile section of Black Forest Road where surface improvements are being made. “A two-inch overlay is needed to extend the life of the road,” Brackin said.
Drivers are typically experiencing 15 minute delays during peak driving times through this area of Black Forest but, weather permitting, contractors are expected to complete most of the remaining work on the intersection and the overlay in October allowing for the return of normal traffic flow.
When finished, the new Black Forest at Burgess Road intersection will be much safer for traffic needs. Safety improvements were necessitated by the number of turn movements in all directions through the intersection. They include upgraded signal operation, better lighting, signing and striping that is more visible day and night, safer clearances for pedestrians and those on bicycles and upgrades to drainage. Electric lines and above ground natural gas transmission facilities have also been moved to reduce crash hazards.
Safety improvements are also in focus for the construction on Hodgen Road which will be closed to traffic from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. starting Monday, October 7 and continuing through Friday, October 11 between Meridian Road and Northcliff Road.
The project includes rebuilding the road, realignment, paving the shoulders, and intersection and drainage improvements. A hill near the Meridian and Hodgen intersection will be lowered to improve lines of sight. The flashing signal will be removed and left turn lanes will be added. Construction on Hodgen Road is expected to continue later into the fall.
Funding for these projects is provided through the voter approved Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA).
Workload in this office continues to be very stable. 154 notices of election and demand were recorded by this office in August, the lowest monthly total (by 1) of the year, but not much different from prior months. Year-to-date, foreclosures are down 43% from last year and the County is almost certain to have the lowest number of annual foreclosure starts since 2003. The only gray cloud in this good news is that year-to-date El Paso County also appears to have the highest number of foreclosure starts in the state. Over the last several years, Adams, Denver, and now Arapahoe have dropped below the El Paso totals. Since our County has the largest population in the state, this is neither surprising nor completely alarming – we have 9% more people than Arapahoe, but only 2% more foreclosures than they do – but the trend from 4th highest to 1st highest is further evidence (along with jobs data) that the recovery in Metro Denver has so far been more robust than it has here.
Four foreclosures with outstanding balances over $1 million were filed in August: Whispering Pines Apartments and Alvarado Place Apartments, both in the Pikes Peak Park area; Fillmore Business Park, at Arcadia; and a collection of vacant lots mostly in Manitou Springs.
Releases of Deeds of Trust increased this month to 3911, which is a bit lower than the monthly totals for most of this year. In the first 8 months of 2013 we have released 33,526 Deeds of Trust, more than the total released in all of 2011. Usually, El Paso County has the highest number of releases in the state, but so far this year Jefferson County has had more releases.
The fund that El Paso County workers rely on for retirement benefits had a good year in 2012, but it's still trying to climb out of the bog it fell into due to the 2008 recession.
In a newsletter to members, the El Paso County Retirement Plan reports assets increased by $27 million last year to $280.1 million, a return of 12.5 percent. The rise stemmed from improved market conditions.
But it will take years to recover from the $105 million loss suffered in 2008 when markets dropped amid the recession brought on by the housing crisis.
That's not the only problem. The fund reports that benefit liabilities continue to grow, causing the funding ratio to decline from 91 percent to 67 percent since 2008. Funding ratio reflects how much the fund has compared to how much it owes in benefits to members.
"We've made progress in leaving the 2008 financial crisis behind us, but we're not out of it yet," the newsletter reports.
To assure benefits will be available when employees are entitled to them, several rules have been changed. For one, employees hired after Dec. 31, 2012, will have to work longer to become eligible for benefits, and the maximum benefit was lowered from 75 percent of final average monthly pay to 60 percent starting this year.
But more changes would need to happen for the fund to pay off as promised to all its members. The annual required contribution from the county and employees must be 18.9 percent of payroll to make ends meet, but it's only 15 percent. Such a gap has existed for years and will contribute to the decline in the plan's funding ratio if something isn't done.
"In the years to come," the newsletter says, "additional changes will likely be required to help ensure that these benefits are sustainable for all future members." Those changes could include increasing retirement eligibility requirements, including a minimum retirement age, and decreases to the amount paid to retirees.
The fund also provides benefits to 3,963 current and retired employees of the county, Pikes Peak Library District, El Paso County Health, 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office and retirement plan, the plan's executive director Tom Pfeifle says.
He says the plan will assess the most recent actuarial data before deciding whether to seek any change in employee and employer contributions.
Instead of complaining about how politicians manage our tax money, see if you could do it better. People have actually had a chance to play with the state budget online for quite awhile by using the Backseat Budgeter (backseatbudgeter.com) tool, a creation of Denver-based public policy strategy firm Engaged Public. Now the same tool is available online for the El Paso County budget, thanks to a partnership with the Colorado Springs Business Journal.
No, you won’t be making any actual changes to the budget. The tool simply gives citizens a chance to tinker with the numbers and get a better idea of just how difficult setting financial priorities can be for state officials. It also helps citizens to be more informed, so that they can offer better input at public meetings.
“The El Paso County Backseat Budgeter is a user-friendly tool that allows county residents to test how they would manage the budget,” Brenda Morrison, partner at Engaged Public, stated in a press release. “The Backseat Budgeter also is designed to look and feel like an online game, which helps break down the complexities of the budget in a fun and interactive way.”
Some homes that survived the first assault from the Black Forest Fire were wiped out today when winds shifted and caused the flames to double back over the large-lot subdivision, Sheriff Terry Maketa said during a 5 p.m. news briefing.
"We started at 4 a.m. driving down the streets and checking homes," he said. "But information is changing as we speak. The fire doubled back on homes that were standing [early this morning] but now are burning."
Though Maketa couldn't say with certainty how many homes have been destroyed, he announced that officials identified 92 homes earlier today. The best place to get information as it's updated is in a live document on the sheriff's website.
There have been no fatalities or injuries identified as of yet, but Maketa described a dangerous environment wherein multiple-story homes have caved in on themselves and remain on fire, making searches difficult, if not impossible.
Winds shifted to both the northwest and northeast through the day, but the size of the fire is still being pegged at 8,500 acres. Maketa predicted the fire could grow by 3,000 more acres in coming days. He declined to estimate whether there is any containment of the fire so far.
Up to 9,500 people have been affected, Maketa said, adding 3,400 homes and 150 commercial properties are at risk. He noted the National Guard is assisting with security, along with numerous law enforcement agencies in the state. The fighting force includes 487 firefighters from 28 fire districts, towns and cities, including Colorado Springs.
Springs Interim Fire Chief Tommy Smith said the Flying Horse subdivision within the city has been placed on voluntary evacuation, and six engines and a battalion chief are working to protect structures there. Dozens of other Springs firefighters on seven engines are battling the blaze. Total dedicated to the fire: 68, including eight who joined up with Black Forest Fire Protection District personnel on the district's equipment.
Maketa said officials are in planning stages to place areas west of Highway 83 under voluntary evacuation orders if necessary. He also noted that the Gleneagle subdivision is threatened.
The evacuated area is bounded by Walker Road on the north, Highway 83 on the west, Eastonville Road on the east and and area that lies south of Burgess Road.
Federal Type 1 Team Incident Commander Rich Harvey, who directed the Waldo Canyon Fire effort a year ago, arrived Wednesday with his second in command, Maketa said, but they're still awaiting the arrival of the rest of the team and additional resources.
Maketa said the fire will officially be passed from the federal Type 3 team to Harvey at 6 a.m. Thursday.
Already, Fort Carson has sent helicopters and air tankers from Peterson Air Force Base to fight the fire.
El Paso County will open services to those evacuated or who lost their homes at the Citizens Service Center, 1675 Garden of the Gods Road, tomorrow morning.
Meantime, six white trucks marked with "FIRE" in red letters, with a Mount Rushmore decal on the door and South Dakota plates were headed south of Colorado Springs on I-25 at 6 p.m. If they were headed for the Royal Gorge Fire near Canon City, it could be a signal that the two fires may compete for resources.
For the second time this year, an oil exploration company has bagged efforts in El Paso County. Hilcorp Energy Company of Houston told the county's local government designee Diana May it's pulling out of the area.
Now Hilcorp has made the same discovery, or non-discovery, perhaps.
May says a Hilcorp official said the company "won't be drilling the State well," she says, "and they would not be doing any additional business or drilling here in El Paso County."
"I took from that, logically, their results from the Myers well must not have been promising," she says, quickly adding, "but they didn't tell me that."
One other well is in the process of being permitted in El Paso County, which the NexGen Oil and Gas company plans to drill. It's located in the far northeast portion of the county, next door to Lincoln County.
"We were very aware that the drilling by Ultra and Hilcorp were exploratory wells, so we weren't shocked by the fact that Ultra isn't drilling any further," she says. Ultra performed hydraulic fracturing on its Olive Oyl well, she says.
An oil and gas meeting is slated for 2 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.
Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican? Crazy. Why don't Republicans brag about that constantly?
It's in the Our Party section of the site that former party vice-chairman Dave Williams has found his chance for outrage.
What Williams said on Facebook:
I'd really like to support the local party, but it becomes more and more difficult when it tries to subtly undermine our platform. Please don't beg me for money if this is what you're selling.
Oh no, what vile thing could the GOP possibly be selling? Two paragraphs noting the rare instances in which Republicans have shown cordiality to gays and lesbians. These two graphs — one of which notes that young Republicans and conservative independents tend to support gay marriage — are tucked into the nearly 7,000-word essay, borrowed from Wikipedia, on the history of the Republican Party.
Groups advocating for LGBT issues inside the party include the Log Cabin Republicans, GOProud, Young Conservatives For The Freedom To Marry, and College Republicans of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. A poll in March 2013 found that 34% of Republicans supported same-sex marriage, with 52% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents between the age of 18-49 years old supporting same-sex marriage.
Notable Republicans who support same-sex marriage include former Vice President Dick Cheney, former first lady Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former GOP national chairman Ken Mehlman, Jon Huntsman, Jr., Rob Portman, Meg Whitman, Tom Ridge, William Weld, Jane Swift, Paul Cellucci, Christine Todd Whitman, and Theodore Olson. The last figure has co-led the legal campaign against Californian anti-gay marriage measure Proposition 8. More than 100 former Republican lawmakers, leaders and governors signed an amicus brief calling for California's ban on same-sex marriage to be overturned.
Williams has a history with homosexuals.
For those of you who don't remember, he first got media attention after he attempted to use his position as student body president to torpedo an LGBT event at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
And last year, he riled many in his own party when he booed a fellow Republican at that party's state convention.
“I did boo,” said Williams, who’s the current Vice Chair of the El Paso Country Republican Party. “I booed because the Log Cabin Republicans were advocating something that was contrary to Republican platform. It had nothing to do with who they are. It had nothing to do with their sexuality.”
When asked about Williams' criticism of the county party's new site, Chairman Jeff Hays responded:
The El Paso County Republican Party is a diverse organization representing a variety of citizens of many viewpoints. Our supporters disagree on some issues, but we recognize and applaud their rights to their opinions and hold dear our common love for individual liberty, constitutional integrity, and limited government.
Once the Waldo Canyon Fire breached Rampart Range Road, there was no hope of stopping the fire from blazing into Colorado Springs, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa said today.
That's because the road provided the only access point for firefighters to battle the blaze on that side of the fire, one of several weaknesses identified in Maketa's After Action Report of the fire, which destroyed 347 homes in Colorado Springs and killed two people in June.
Maketa said local officials should try to work with forestry agencies to secure fire breaks near the forest so that firefighters can better access rugged wildlands during fires that threaten population centers.
The sheriff also said people working the fire sometimes didn't communicate resource needs through Incident Command, causing confusion, and emergency operations centers set up by the county, Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs Fire Department and possibly other agencies proved difficult to manage and staff. There should be fewer EOCs, he said, possibly just one where all agencies work together.
"We have already started these discussions with the fire department, police department and Bret Waters [city chief of emergency operations management] because they realize the same," Maketa said.
Those are but a few findings in the AAR, which officials said would be posted at the sheriff's website, if not today, soon.
El Paso County has finished a draft master plan for its parks, and is seeking the public's input on the document. Interested folks may comment via e-mail or at a meeting coming up on Thursday, April 18.
Read on for more details:
El Paso County staff, consultants and citizens have been working together since mid-2012 to update the Parks Master Plan, a guiding document for improvement and acquisition of parks, trails and open space. Many people took advantage of surveys and meetings last year to express their views on parks and recreation issues and needs.
The draft Master Plan is now available for public review here.
Citizens can see how their concerns have been addressed and to comment on recommended actions and projects.
El Paso County Parks will be holding a Public Open House for the Parks Master Plan Update on Thursday, April 18, 2013, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, in the Hearing Room on the second floor. The address is 2880 International Circle, Colorado Springs, CO 80910. Staff, consultants and Master Plan Committee members will be available to provide information and receive citizen input.
Following the Open House, the Master Plan will be refined based on public and committee member comments and will be presented to the El Paso County Park Advisory Board on May 8. A work session with the Board of County Commissioners is also tentatively planned in May. The Park Advisory Board will make a recommendation to the Planning Commission, which has the final approval authority.
Public input is encouraged through April 19 and may also be provided to email@example.com.
American Medical Response might not be running emergency ambulance calls in Colorado Springs for too much longer, so it might be a good time to take a look at how it has served the area for more than a decade under the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency, a multi-jurisdictional group that oversees the AMR contract.
In its "Colorado Springs Community Report," AMR notes the company began serving the local community in 1979 and has contracted through the ESA since 1999. It reports:
AMR’s 250 local caregivers and support staff are proud to provide state-of-the-art medical care and transportation to the citizens of and visitors to El Paso County. We appreciate the confidence shown by the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency in selecting AMR to provide service. AMR Colorado Springs meets the industry “gold standard” by maintaining Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services certification.
The report also talks about its community service and its response time record. This chart goes from the most rural areas covered by the AMR contract, called Frontier, to the most dense (Urban 8), that being Colorado Springs:
And when things got dicey due to the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer, AMR says, it swung into action:
On the evening of June 26th, as the Waldo Canyon fire exploded onto the west side of Colorado Springs, AMR pulled together more than 50 units (AMR units from Denver, Pueblo and Canon City, as well as city busses and other private resources from Colorado Springs and Denver area) to evacuate Mt. St. Francis skilled nursing facility on the west side of town. This facility had 108 residents that were all moved to safety within two-and-a-half hours. As flames approached, this multijurisdictional task force remained in place until all residents and staff were enroute to safety. An AMR Operation Supervisor assumed the transport command role leading two task forces throughout the night assisting three more nursing homes and several assisted care facilities that were in the pre- evacuation areas.
During the week while the fire was most active AMR maintained the multijurisdictional ambulance task force and was also asked to help rehabilitate firefighters and police officers, as well as set up medical triage at the evacuation centers. AMR also maintained extra staff to run the 9-1-1 and non-emergency calls throughout the city and county. Not a single call went without a response; AMR was able to respond to all calls, freeing the Colorado Springs Fire Department to be on modified medical dispatch throughout most of the Waldo Canyon fire, allowing them to focus all resources on the fire.
This is confirmed in the city's Waldo Canyon Fire Final After Action Report, released Wednesday, which states that AMR was asked to take on additional duties the very first day of the fire. "CSFD [Fire Department] District Chiefs conferred and decided to use modified dispatch procedures, diverting several medical calls to American Medical Response (AMR) ntil 0300 the following day [June 24, the second day of the fire]."
Read the entire report here:
But AMR's days in Colorado Springs might be numbered. Mayor Steve Bach has notified the ESA the city will pull out of the regional organization and bid its own contract with an emergency provider. It's unclear if Plan B, turning emergency transport over to firefighters, is still under consideration, because city officials refuse to speak publicly about their plans other than through prepared statements.
Fire Chief Rich Brown's statement to the ESA board:
A Fire Department-based system was rejected several years ago due to the high cost (about $5 million) to capitalize the service, as well as other issues, which we reported here.