County Gov

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Maketa comments on fire report

Posted By on Tue, Jun 3, 2014 at 4:13 PM

The Black Forest Fire sent a plume seen for miles around. - STEVE AND MARY SNYDER
  • Steve and Mary Snyder
  • The Black Forest Fire sent a plume seen for miles around.

With all the hubbub about allegations of Sheriff Terry Maketa's relationships within his office, we got to wondering: Where the heck is that Black Forest Fire report? The fire, which destroyed more than 500 homes and charred some 14,000 acres, broke out on June 11 last year and we haven't seen an after action analysis yet.

So we asked the sheriff, who had this to say in an e-mail to us:
I just finished my review of the final draft for the AAR. I provided three separate items for clarification and returned it to Chief Harmon Monday morning. He is expecting my requested amendments to be completed by tomorrow and then add in the supporting documentation which will not be a major task. The Investigation of the BBF is nearly complete and being prepared for presentation to the District Attorney. In addition to the DA review I am under the impression a third party "peer review" is being conducted and I am not sure exactly where that process is. The bottom line is we are very close to that investigation being completed and nearing public review; I just do not have a date.
If you were one of those people who were affected by the fire, the county is urging you to take this survey about your experience navigating the insurance claims process and the status of your recovery. The information will be used to help those affected.

Also, the county issued an announcement of a party to mark the one-year anniversary:
El Paso County is hosting the Black Forest Community Picnic from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., on Wednesday, June 11, at Black Forest Regional Park. The picnic marks the one-year anniversary of the Black Forest Fire.

Commissioner Darryl Glenn said, “This is a great opportunity for the Black Forest community to gather, remember and reflect on the challenges over the past year. We’ve made significant strides in the rebuilding process but there’s more work that needs to be done. Now it’s time for our community to come together and reconnect with volunteers, friends and loved ones.

The picnic includes live music from the J. Miller Band, a Home Depot Kids’ Project, a special Thank You from El Paso County and the Commissioners’ Ice Cream Social (free while supplies last) with Rizuto’s Ice Cream, featuring a new Black Forest flavor just for the picnic. There will also be booths with information on rebuilding and recovery efforts as well as short tours hosted by Parks staff showing mitigation and recovery efforts around the park.

Three food trucks will be on site, Za’s Pizza, Fire House BBQ and Merken Chilean Style Sandwiches. If attendees do not want to purchase food and drinks, it is perfectly fine to bring a picnic basket.

The Community Picnic is sponsored by FedEx, which is the ‘Partner in the Park’ for Black Forest Regional Park.

Lawn chairs, blankets, picnic games and other items are welcome. The Playground is open again, thanks to Pikes Peak Community Foundation and student volunteers from Pine Creek High School, The Classical Academy and Ashton Ruff’s Eagle Scout Project.

Alcohol is not allowed in the Park.

Leashed pets are allowed, but Park staff asks that attendees to pick up after their pets. 

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Primary ballots are in the mail

Posted By on Mon, Jun 2, 2014 at 12:16 PM

On June 24, voters will choose nominees for a number of state and local races, and in some cases will determine who holds the office.

For example, two Republicans, Mark Lowderman, currently serving his second term as county assessor, and former county commissioner Duncan Bremer, are running for county treasurer. No Democrats are running, meaning whoever wins the primary wins the seat.

So, look for your ballot, which county officials said is now in the mail, and then be sure to mail it in or drop it at one of the places noted below, as outlined by the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office in this news release:

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s Office has mailed 214,133 ballots to voters for the 2014 Primary Election being held on June 24. In accordance with Colorado law, the ballots were mailed only to voters affiliated with one of the three major political parties— American Constitution, Democratic, or Republican Party.

All eligible affiliated voters will be mailed a Primary Election is an all-mail ballot election and the Clerk’s Office has worked hard to give voters many convenient options to return their ballot. Voters are urged to return their ballot early by mail, drop-off box, or at a Voter Service and Polling Center (VSPC). If a voter chooses they may return their ballot by mail ($0.70 is likely adequate postage), but it is not suggested that a voter attempt to return a ballot by mail after Thursday, June 19. A full list of 24/7 ballot drop-off boxes and VSPCs can be found below.

All ballots must be received (not postmarked) by 7:00 PM on June 24.

“We’re excited to be offering such a large number of customer-friendly options for voters to return their ballots in this and all future elections,” said Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams. “We worked hard to ensure that the vast majority of people were within a short drive of one of our drop-off locations. I am happy to report that 93% of all voters are within ten minutes of one of our eleven 24/7 drop-off boxes. We are extremely appreciative of the cooperation of the various leaders that made it possible for us to establish these eleven permanent locations; namely Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder, Fountain Mayor Gabriel Ortega, Monument Mayors Travis Easton and Rafael Dominguez, Falcon Fire Chief Trent Harwig, and the Pikes Peak Library District.”

The eleven 24/7 ballot drop-off locations are as follows:

1. Main Clerk’s Office at the Citizens Service Center, 1675 West Garden of the Gods Rd, Colorado Springs, CO 80907 (drive-up)
2. Downtown Centennial Hall Clerk’s Office, 200 South Cascade Ave, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
3. Southeast Powers Clerk’s Office, 5650 Industrial Pl, Colorado Springs, CO 80916
4. North Union Town Center Clerk’s Office, 8830 N. Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80920
5. East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd, Colorado Springs, CO 80918 (drive-up)
6. Charles C. “Chuck” Brown Transportation Complex, 3275 Akers Dr, Colorado Springs, CO 80922
7. Department of Transportation Substation, 1010 Golden St, Calhan, CO 80808
8. Falcon Fire Department, 7030 Old Meridian Rd, Falcon, CO 80831 (drive-up)
9. Fountain Police Department, 222 North Santa Fe Ave, Fountain, CO 80817
10. City of Manitou Springs, 606 Manitou Ave, Manitou Springs, CO 80829
11. Town of Monument, 645 Beacon Lite Rd, Monument, CO 80132

Aside from the 24/7 drop-boxes, there will be four Voter Service and Polling Centers (VSPCs) available for the Primary. These VSPCs will be able to accommodate changes in voter registration for unaffiliated voters wishing to participate in the Primary, supplying replacement ballots for any voter that needs one, and assisting with other voting related situations. The following locations will be open as VSPCs for the respective dates and times:
Main Office at the Citizens Service Center
1675 West Garden of the Gods Rd, Suite 2202
Colorado Springs, CO 80907
Open June 2-June 24; Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Saturday, June 21, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Election Day 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Downtown Centennial Hall Office
200 South Cascade Ave
Colorado Springs, CO 80903
Open June 16-June 24; Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Saturday, June 21, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM; Election Day 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM

Southeast Powers Office
5650 Industrial Pl
Colorado Springs, CO 80916
Open June 16-June 24; Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Saturday, June 21, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM; Election Day 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM

North Union Town Center Office
8830 N. Union Blvd
Colorado Springs, CO 80920
Open June 16-June 24; Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM; Saturday, June 21, 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM; Election Day 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
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Thursday, May 29, 2014

BOCC asks for Maketa's resignation

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 1:30 PM

Commission Chairman Dennis Hisey said it was with a heavy heart he voted to call for Sheriff Maketa's resignation.
  • Commission Chairman Dennis Hisey said it was with a heavy heart he voted to call for Sheriff Maketa's resignation.
El Paso County commissioners voted unanimously at 1 p.m. today to say they have no confidence in Sheriff Terry Maketa's leadership and asking him to resign effective immediately.

Maketa said in a statement Tuesday he would not resign.

After a 95-minute executive session, Commission Chairman Dennis Hisey read a statement in which he said that when an elected official allows his or her behavior to become a distraction to delivery of services to citizens, "it begs the question of what is best for the community."

Just before the vote was taken, Hisey said, "It is with a heavy heart I have determined it would be in the interest of citizens of El Paso County for the sheriff to resign."

Commissioner Amy Lathen read from the sheriff's own policies governing his employee's behavior that their "personal behavior must be beyond reproach."

Statement on Sheriff Maketa.pdf

She said commissioners believe Maketa's activities, some of which were first reported by the Independent four years ago and more recently by the Gazette, have caused a disruption to the operation of the department that only his resignation can cure.

Other commissioners made similar statements.

Commissioner Darryl Glenn said he spent two hours on Wednesday reading a stack of emails and text messages between Maketa and sheriff's comptroller Dorene Cardarelle. "In my opinion, it does confirm there was an intimate and consensual relationship between the sheriff and an employee." He also noted there can be no expectation of privacy when using taxpayer-funded phones and computers, which is where the messages were found by IT.

Indeed, hundreds of messages between the two discuss how much they love each other, that they're married to the wrong people and that they want to be together. Maketa signed many of his messages xoxoxox, the symbols for kisses and hugs. Some are quite explicit, describing their desire to make love.

Should Maketa resign, it's likely sheriff's candidate Bill Elder would be chosen to step in. He is the only person running for sheriff, having defeated two Republican candidates at the Republican County Assembly in March. The procedure calls for county commissioners to appoint a successor when a county-wide elected official resigns, according to Republican Party executive director Danny Cole.

The last time a sheriff resigned in El Paso County was in the 1980s, Cole says.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

UPDATE: Shifting political winds

Posted By on Wed, May 28, 2014 at 4:58 PM

Sheriff Maketa was once a popular elected official and made the rounds to schools as a role model. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Maketa was once a popular elected official and made the rounds to schools as a role model.
Update: We've heard back from a couple of people mentioned in this blog, so here's the update.

From Amy Folsom:
Mr. Jensen is incorrect. I did not receive a phone call from the Sheriff at the time Ms. Cardarelle was injured while skiing, or anytime thereafter seeking my advice on obfuscating his presence. It follows that I did not so advise him. I also at no time was "offered the position of Undersheriff."

Regarding the request for County Attorney's "recusal." I reiterate that on May 13, 2014 the Board directed that all matters of representation of the County be handled by outside counsel. The law firm of Sherman and Howard was immediately retained for this purpose. Sherman and Howard has further contacted an independent investigator employed by Mountain States Employer's Council. Sherman and Howard, and not the County Attorney's Office, will be directing the independent investigation. By design created before the request for "recusal," the role of the County Attorney's office will be severely limited at best.

As is customary in most independent employment investigations, neither the County Attorney assigned as the point of contact for this matter (usually our employment attorney, Diana May,) nor the BoCC, nor staff will be privy to interviews, statements or conclusions until such time as the investigation is concluded.
Teri Goodall also sent us some information, as follows:
You are correct, I was his agent for his 2010 campaign and did that job willingly. I saw Terry changing in different ways over the last 4-5 years. My watershed moment when Terry was no longer my friend, was when he told me he "had" to endorse John Anderson. I knew Terry disliked Anderson immensely. When I questioned him why he was doing this, he told me he offered Jim Reid a "deal" for his endorsement, but Jim would not commit. Terry said he offered Anderson the deal and Anderson took it. Reliable sources told me that one of the conditions of the deal involved Terry contracting with the Sheriff's Office after his term was up. I believe it is highly unethical to give a conditional political endorsement which allows you to benefit financially in the future. Anderson publicly stated there never was any deal, but those were Terry's words to me. One of them wasn't being truthful. 
On that note, it's odd Anderson would cut a deal with Maketa after Anderson didn't endorse Maketa in the 2010 election, but chose Todd Evans instead. Evans is now Fountain police chief who hired Bill Elder under a contract as deputy chief in Fountain. Elder is the presumed next sheriff, having defeated Reid and Anderson at the county assembly.

Here's what Anderson said four years ago about his endorsement, from our Jan. 28, 2010, story:

"I was prepared to support this candidate [Evans] regardless of an incumbent or not," says Anderson, sheriff from 1995 to 2003. "I clearly believe we need a new direction, and I think Todd can provide that direction because of Todd's background, character and integrity and vision for the future. The organization will benefit from new blood and new ideas. The time was right for a change."

———ORIGINAL POST 4:58 PM, WEDNESDAY, MAY 28, 2014———

As Sheriff Terry Maketa hunkers down to defend himself against an onslaught of criticism, investigations and possible legal action, we all should be reminded that not too awfully long ago, Maketa served as one of the most powerful political leaders in the community.

This fact was underscored on Tuesday when attorney Erin Jensen showed up at the Board of County Commissioners meeting with allegations that Maketa has been tromping on employees' rights for awhile now and that some commissioners chose to turn a blind eye to all that.

In a letter to commissioners, Jensen notes that a complaint from a citizen in 2010 about Maketa's activities was sent to Commissioner Sallie Clark who simply forwarded it to Maketa. Maketa, in turn, fired off a nasty response to the citizen. End of story. Never mind also that issues raised about Maketa's oversight of his department and his dalliances were reported more than four years ago by yours truly.

Jensen also states in his letter that Clark, Commissioner Amy Lathen and County Attorney Amy Folsom have ties to Maketa through friendship, as well as politics.

Now, all these people are in a position to guide, oversee and judge the results of a county investigation into Maketa's department and his actions.

Jensen goes on to request that Clark, Lathen and Folsom recuse themselves from this investigatory process in the interest of avoiding the appearance of bias.

Folsom, for example, Jensen notes, was the recipient of the first phone call Maketa made during a "lover's getaway" ski trip when his purported lover, sheriff's department comptroller Dorene Cardarelle, became injured and needed medical attention.

From Jensen's letter: "Ms. Folsom is said to be the very first person that Sheriff Maketa reached out to in a panicked phone call to assist in getting advice in covering up the situation."

Moreover, Folsom gave Maketa a $200 campaign contribution in 2010.

In addition, Clark, Lathen and Commissioner Peggy Littleton have enjoyed Maketa's endorsement in their runs for public office, with Lathen listing Maketa second on her list of endorsements in 2012, right behind Attorney General John Suthers.

Now, Clark, Lathen and Folsom apparently believe they can be unbiased in the new sheriff's investigation. None told Jensen they shared his concerns or would step aside from the investigative process.

We sent them an e-mail asking several questions, including asking them to describe their relationships with Maketa and whether the appearance of bias might taint the investigation. So far, we've heard only from Lathen, who says this:

I have a working relationship with Sheriff Maketa. I believe he supported me in both of my general elections, and I have supported him as Sheriff in at least two of his election cycles.

I have never traveled with him. I have consumed food with him seated at the table only in conference settings with numerous staff and other elected officials included; i.e. awards banquets or budget conferences - two of those, I believe. I do believe Vicki was there for one of those events. I may have eaten a muffin next to him at a county assembly over the years. I have not associated with him socially outside of political or work events.

I have the same working relationship with Sheriff Maketa as I do with Clerk and Recorder [Wayne] Williams or Treasurer Bob Balink or Commissioners [Darryl] Glenn, [Dennis] Hisey, Littleton or Clark, or any other of our elected officials, several of whom I've supported over the years in various elections and vice versa. Several of those folks have also supported or been supported by Sheriff Maketa.

There is absolutely zero conflict of interest or appearance of bias. In addition, commissioners will not be performing any aspect of any investigation and therefore there is no opportunity for anything to be "tainted" as you put it. 
Here's Jensen's letter:
Jensen_letter.pdf
Meantime, here's another about-face of note. In today's Gazette, former undersheriffs Teri Goodall and Larry Kastner wrote a scathing letter to the editor shaming Maketa.

The letter said, in part:
We supported you because we believed you were the best person to lead the sheriff's office. Your hard work and leadership was an inspiration to us, your staff, the entire office and the citizens of El Paso County.

How did you get to where you find yourself today?

Somewhere along this almost 12-year journey you lost sight of the oath you swore to uphold. You arbitrarily exempted yourself from policy. Rules that applied to all personnel no longer applied to you.

Your time as sheriff has run its course.
Not only did both donate money to Maketa's campaigns, but Goodall was the Maketa campaign's registered agent in 2010, after the Independent reported on his questionable activities. In this role, she filed campaign finance reports. She was an insider, in other words.

Politics. Go figure.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Maketa says he won't resign

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 3:58 PM

Maketa: He's staying put. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Maketa: He's staying put.
County Commissioner Peggy Littleton, fresh from a trip out of the country, Tuesday morning blurted out that she wants Sheriff Terry Maketa to resign his office. Her comments came during the regular El Paso County Board of County Commissioners meeting.

In response, Maketa issued a news release this afternoon, saying he has no plans to resign and will finish the final seven months of his third four-year term:
Many inquiries have been made to the Sheriff's Office asking for public comment from Sheriff Terry Maketa concerning statements made by one of the County Commissioners at this morning's Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) meeting.

As each of you know, there is pending litigation and there are ongoing investigations involving El Paso County, the Sheriff's Office and individual deputies.

Sheriff Terry Maketa will not be commenting on the litigation, the allegations or the investigations. Sheriff Maketa is committed to a fair and impartial investigation based on facts and law and asks all responsible parties to respect the legal process.

Sheriff Maketa was duly elected by the citizens of El Paso County and has seven months remaining in his term. His intention is to complete the term to which he has been elected.

All members of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, both sworn and civilian are committed to serving and protecting the citizens of this county. All will continue to perform their duties and serve with the utmost professionalism and level of care the citizens of El Paso County deserve.
Meantime, KOAA-TV is reporting that attorney Erin Jensen spoke to commissioners saying his client submitted a complaint about the sheriff to Commissioner Sallie Clark in 2010, the same year the Independent reported Maketa's involvement with two female employees, and other matters.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

UPDATE: Commissioners investigating sheriff's activities

Posted By on Fri, May 23, 2014 at 3:38 PM

UPDATE: Here's the latest statement issued by county commissioners:

The Board of El Paso County Commissioners has directed the County Attorney’s Office to coordinate an independent review and investigation into employment complaints at the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office.

The law firm of Sherman and Howard, which has extensive expertise in employment law, was retained earlier this week to assist with the review and investigation in conjunction with preparations to represent the County and the Sheriff's Office in any possible future litigation, and to protect the rights of the employees involved.


Today, the Board further directed the County Attorney’s Office to retain separate outside legal counsel to act as counsel for the Sheriff’s Office. “We want everyone to understand that the Commissioners are extremely concerned about these allegations and are committed to a thorough and independent investigation of these complaints in full compliance with all applicable laws,” said Commissioner Amy Lathen. “While we find it troubling to allocate taxpayer resources for these investigations and possible litigation, we recognize the need to find the truth for all people involved and are obligated under state law to defend the county and its elected officials. We will expedite all matters related to this investigation as quickly as possible,” Lathen concluded.

While the Board of County Commissioners was aware of media reports, rumors and innuendo related to the Sheriff’s office several years ago, a letter received May 12, 2014, was the first such complaint brought to the attention of County administration by a county employee and pursuant to county policies. Commissioners conferred with the County Attorney the next day, May 13, 2014, and the Sheriff was sent written notification on May 16 of the Board’s decision to retain outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation.

The Office of the Sheriff is an independent statutory county office under Colorado law. The Board of County Commissioners has no authority to remove any sitting elected official. The Board of County Commissioners has statutory responsibility for financial oversight of all County offices. The Board does not manage the Sheriff's Office budget directly, but the budget is audited annually by the Board. If the Office of the Sheriff becomes vacant for any reason, the Board of County Commissioners has statutory authority to make an appointment to fill the vacancy.

———————-ORIGINAL POST, 3:38 P.M. MAY 23, 2014——————————————————————-

Reacting to a May 12 complaint letter from several sheriff's commanders, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners has directed an investigator to look into allegations against Sheriff Terry Maketa made by those officers.

Maketa: Under fire, again.
  • Maketa: Under fire, again.
At a news conference this afternoon, attended by every media outlet in the region, Commissioners Amy Lathen and Darryl Glenn tried to put as much distance as they could between themselves and the beleaguered sheriff, whose bare-chested selfie was featured in the daily newspaper today. The photo accompanied a story that explored Maketa's alleged philandering and other issues, many of which were first reported by the Independent in March 2010.
 
"He's accountable to his constituents," Glenn said. "We are not in a position where we can demand his resignation."

Well, Lathen added, commissioners could demand it but there would be no force of law behind such a demand.

So the sheriff can either be recalled or resign, they said, unless there's a crime involved in which case authorities could make a move against the sheriff by charging him.

Lathen said the commission held an executive session on May 13, the day after receiving the commanders' complaint, and followed up with a letter to the sheriff, which was delivered May 16. Here's that letter:

Letter_to_Maketa.pdf  

Commissioners met in "emergency executive session" this morning after the daily newspaper's story came out to "receive legal advice," Lathen said, but didn't explain why commissioners would need legal advice because of the story.

Commissioners released the following statement today, saying it was sent to the daly newspaper on Thursday, but somehow wasn't received, leading the paper to report that commissioners refused to comment. Here's the statement:
The El Paso County Employee Manual establishes a process for employees to bring workforce complaints to their supervisors or directly to the county's division of Employee Benefits and Medical Services. The Office of the County Attorney has also historically accepted employment related complaints.

While the Board of County Commissioners and County Administration is aware of rumors and speculation in print media reports several years ago, there were no related workforce complaints received. Absent any such complaints, the Board believed that it would be irresponsible to use public resources to take action based solely on gossip, rumors and innuendo.

A workforce complaint was received by County Administration on May 12, 2014. The Board scheduled a conference with the County Attorney the next day and the Sheriff was formally notified in a letter (attached) from the entire board, delivered on May 16, 2014 that an independent employment and personnel investigation would be launched immediately to determine if there is any veracity to these complaints. The law firm of Sherman and Howard has been retained by the Board of County Commissioners to offer additional legal expertise.

The Office of the Sheriff is an independent county office under state statutes. The Board of County Commissioners has statutory responsibility for the oversight of all county budget and financial operations.

A routine annual county audit is currently in progress. It should be noted that at least a month before any of these complaints were received the Sheriff had requested an additional "transition" audit be conducted into the financial operations of his Office as soon as possible to assure an orderly transition for the incoming Sheriff.
This statement was released by the sheriff, according to local news outlets:
At this time, upon the advice of legal counsel, Sheriff Terry Maketa has no comment. An independent outside investigator is conducting the investigation and the Sheriff plans to fully cooperate in every way, both legally and with the investigation. Once the investigation is completed, then any comments or statements will be forthcoming.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

One in 8 people here need help with food

Posted By on Thu, May 22, 2014 at 11:50 AM

Despite what some might see as the economic recovery, residents in El Paso County are hurting, as demonstrated by the continued growth in their reliance on food stamps, officially known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The number of cases and the number of clients have increased, while the actual dollars have declined.

Roughly 11,500 more people were on food stamps in March, a total of 72,749, according to the most recent data available, than were in March 2011. That total is roughly 12 percent of the county's population.

The reason the issuance amounts have declined has to do with a change in how much people are able to qualify for.

Jennifer Brown, spokeswoman for the county's Department of Human Services, explains it like this:
As part of the economic stimulus package passed in 2009, Congress temporarily boosted Food Assistance benefits to help needy families get through the recession. That temporary increase expired the end of October 2013, and benefits were cut by about 5 percent.

Here you can see household size and amount of monthly reduction
1 $11
2 $20
3 $29
4 $36
5 $43
6 $52
7 $57
8 $65

Also, as the COLA raises the gross income limits every October, more households qualify, but may qualify for a small benefit amount due to their income being close to the income limit. Also as the economy is slowly improving, households income is increasing and reducing their benefit amounts.

There is no relationship between the size of our caseloads and the amount of benefits that clients get. The amounts are based on household size and income as calculated per Federal Food Assistance regulations.  
Food stamp cases are escalating:
Screen_shot_2014-05-22_at_11.02.59_AM.png

So are number of clients:
Screen_shot_2014-05-22_at_11.04.25_AM.png

Dollars, though, are showing a slight decline:
Screen_shot_2014-05-22_at_11.06.07_AM.png

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

County Commissioners keep leadership in place

Posted By on Tue, Jan 14, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Screen_shot_2014-01-14_at_4.43.48_PM.png







The El Paso County Commissioners today voted to keep Commissioner Dennis Hisey as the board chair, Commissioner Amy Lathen as vice chair and Commissioner Sallie Clark as third chair.

The trio has long been in leadership positions, effectively blocking out Commissioners Darryl Glenn and Peggy Littleton. Glenn objected to the move.

"We're moving in the right direction as far as — I look at how well we work together as a board compared to some other governmental entities, and even when we disagree I think we're very respectful when we do that," he said. "Unfortunately, I'm going to disagree with this. There are some critical issues that I believe are coming forward and I think it's important to make some changes."

He said that as a veteran, he thought he could provide leadership on military issues. Glenn also noted that he's a former City Councilor, and said he felt he could help improve relations with that body.

Littleton also objected to the arrangement. She said she believed that it was important that "others be able to rise to leadership positions." She noted that leaders get to know staff, and she said that allowing junior members to serve in leadership position assured smooth transitions in future years.

The board voted 3-2 to keep the current leadership.


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Friday, December 20, 2013

County offices announce holiday closures

Posted By on Fri, Dec 20, 2013 at 5:18 PM

ZECHARIAH JUDY
  • Zechariah Judy

Planning to visit a county  office soon? Better check here first.

El Paso County offices will be closed for various days during the holiday season. Read on for the details:


El Paso County, CO, December 17, 2013 – El Paso County administrative offices, elected administrative offices and county affiliated agencies (except the Office of District Attorney and El Paso County Combined Courts) will close at 3 p.m. Monday, Dec. 23, 2013, and remain closed through Wednesday, Dec. 25, for the Christmas holiday.

The 4th Judicial District Attorney and El Paso County Combined Courts will be open regular hours Monday, Dec. 23, and Tuesday, Dec. 24; closing only Dec. 25 for the Christmas holiday.

All County administrative and elected administrative offices, including 4-th Judicial District Attorney and Combined Courts will be closed, New Years’ Day, Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.

County affiliated agencies with this schedule include; El Paso County Public Health, Department of Human Services, the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, CSU Extension, El Paso County Public Trustee and the Small Business Development Center.

On Monday, December 23, 2013 the Clerk and Recorder’s Office will operate only the Main Office at the Citizens Service Center; all branch offices will be closed to the public. All Clerk and Recorder services, including motor vehicle registrations, driver’s licenses, marriage licenses, elections and recording services will be available to customers Monday at the main office in the El Paso County Citizens Service Center at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road from 8 a.m. 3 p.m.

The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder’s North Motor Vehicle Branch in the Union Town Center at Research Parkway and North Union Boulevard will be open as usual on Saturday, Dec. 28, from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Clerk and Recorder services including Recording and Elections are available at the Union Town Center location.

The regularly scheduled Board of County Commissioner meeting for Tuesday, Dec. 24 has been cancelled. The Board of El Paso County Commissioners resumes its regular schedule with meetings on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, and Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Time for the county to deal with C4C (with a twist)

Posted By on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 4:40 PM

Now that the state Economic Development Commission has handed Colorado Springs everything it asked for to build four tourism venues, it's time to get down to it.
A rendering of the Olympic museum in the foreground and the stadium in the background. - C4C WEBSITE
  • C4C website
  • A rendering of the Olympic museum in the foreground and the stadium in the background.

One of the steps toward making City for Champions happen is an official vote by the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, which already has committed to forking over $42 million during the next 30 years in county tax money for the downtown stadium/events center without a vote.

(When did that meeting take place where a majority of five made this decision? Colorado open meetings laws bar meetings of and decisions by a quorum from taking place in secret.)

Commissioners stated in three different letters to the EDC they support the project. The most recent, Nov. 7, contained the tax revenue pledge.

Anyway, county spokesman Dave Rose says that money will come from sales tax revenue, but he adds this cautionary note in a Nov. 22 e-mail:

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.

In any event, County Administrator Jeff Greene tells the Independent — after yesterday's news conference called to celebrate the EDC's decision to give the city the entire request of $120.5 million — that commissioners will now schedule a vote. But not before a financial analysis is done for whether it's a wise and prudent investment for the county, Greene notes.

And who's doing this assessment? Wait for it: Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., the same consultant that advised the state EDC to give City for Champions only $53.1 million, not the higher amount. EPS has said the effort probably won't attract the out-of-state tourists the city claims it will.

Of course, the county's criteria doesn't include attraction of "net new" out of state visitors, which is a requirement of the state Regional Tourism Act, under which the money was awarded to the city. But still.

In addition, do you recall it was EPS that handed the county an economic analysis of Copper Ridge shopping center that led commissioners to deny a request for tax increment financing in March 2011?

So it will be interesting, indeed, to see the outcome of the latest EPS analysis, and to see if, like the EDC, the Board of County Commissioners ignores the findings in order to make good on their already decided position to pump county tax money into the downtown stadium projects, as stated in the letter to the EDC.

The other three City for Champions venues are a downtown Olympic museum, sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and a new visitors center at the Air Force Academy.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

UPDATE: Downtown DMV reopened

Posted By on Mon, Nov 25, 2013 at 10:02 AM

You could be waiting a long time downtown. - ROBERT S. DONOVAN
  • Robert S. Donovan
  • You could be waiting a long time downtown.
Well, that was quick: 

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.

——- ORIGINAL POST, 10:02 a.m. MONDAY ——-
Going the the Department of Motor Vehicles is miserable enough. So do yourself a favor today and don't go to the downtown DMV; it's closed.

County officials say an equipment malfunction is to blame for the closure. They'll update us when the office reopens.


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.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Glenn to hold town hall on transportation projects

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 4:38 PM

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn is holding a town hall this Saturday to discuss upgrades to roads in his district. If you want to attend here are the details:

Darryl Glenn
  • Darryl Glenn
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

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Monday, October 7, 2013

Black Forest road improvements finally underway

Posted By on Mon, Oct 7, 2013 at 5:58 PM

news1-1_blackforestgraph.jpg
Before the fire and the floods, the people of Black Forest's top local concern was probably the condition of their roads.

You see, Black Forest has grown a lot over the years — to fully understand this, check out our cool maps — but its roads haven't followed suit. Many are still unpaved and lack lights, which can lead to a lot of confusion, hassle, and some dangerous accidents. Because of this, the El Paso County commissioners agreed to pay for some road improvements in the area — just in time for our own mini apocalypse.

As it turns out, all of this flooding, which is worsened by the blackened hillsides, isn't conducive to road work. The good news: The weather is finally allowing improvements to be made. Read on:

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).

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

County Commissioners [heart] the NRA

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 11:30 AM

El Paso County Commissioners pose with an NRA spokesperson.
  • El Paso County Commissioners pose with an NRA spokesperson.

Continuing a long tradition of unabashed support for the National Rifle Association, the El Paso County Commissioners today accepted a $3,500 donation from the NRA Foundation to the sheriff's budget.

Commissioners chimed in with thanks and praise for the NRA during the acceptance. Chair Dennis Hisey noted he was a "lifetime member" and said to an NRA representative in the crowd, "I do attend your annual fundraising here and have a great time and usually come away with a trinket of some sort — some of them bigger than others.”

The comment elicited knowing chuckles.

Sheriff Terry Maketa took it a step farther saying, "The NRA is painted out to be this evil entity, but the reality is it’s a culmination of us, it is our community ... The NRA is the citizens of El Paso County; we are the NRA.”
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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Foreclosures remain on the low side

Posted By on Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 11:21 AM

After years of many people losing their homes to foreclosure in El Paso County, the public trustee's office reports the numbers have fallen and are staying relatively low this year. Here's a chart that shows that:

Screen_shot_2013-09-03_at_11.04.48_AM.png

All that said, we still lead the state in foreclosure starts, just as our unemployment rate is higher than that in points north, such as Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins.

Here's more detail about the latest numbers for August from Public Trustee Tom Mowle:

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.

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