County Commission Chair Amy Lathen reports that the stormwater task force met today and expects to continue working as planned, despite reports that Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach sees stormwater as a city issue.
"This whole thing has been a regional effort from the beginning and it can’t work if it’s not regional," Lathen says in an interview. "The problems are about stormwater and drainage. It’s a fact we have to deal with. Our first order of business was to collect data from all entities throughout the county: what are the problems and what are the resources, so we can begin to sort through it."
Although task force members say Bach ordered them not to, Lathen says two task force subgroups will give their reports to commissioners Jan. 17, as scheduled. She also says the task force will meet Thursday as planned at the City Administration Building at 1 p.m.
"This task force is not owned by anyone. This is all of our issue," Lathen says. "I think the whole group agreed we need to proceed as we have been."
We asked Bach's communications director, Cindy Aubrey, for a comment from Bach this morning. We hadn't heard from her as of 5:40 p.m.
———————————ORIGINAL POST MONDAY, JAN. 7, 11:44 A.M.——————————————
Mayor Steve Bach summarily dismissed citizens from a task force on stormwater management needs last week, and declared that city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities would be responsible for the city's stormwater work, according to a community volunteer and others who attended a meeting Friday in Bach's office.
Jan Doran, who has volunteered for community and city committees for at least two decades, says in an interview she's never been treated so shabbily. "Basically, we were chopped liver," she says.
Doran also says the task force has been seen as a regional panel since it was formed months ago, and its membership reflected that, with County Commission Chair Amy Lathen and City Councilor Brandy Williams serving, as well as citizens from both the city and county, and Colorado Springs Utilities representatives.
As County Commissioner Sallie Clark says in a Facebook post, regional entities "must collaborate, especially at the forefront of the watershed and flooding issues post Waldo Canyon Fire. While the City of CS is an important component, it is not an island. The regional approach that is currently underway is appropriate and necessary."
But Bach told those at the Friday meeting otherwise, according to Doran and others.
"We were told this was a mayor's task force, not a regional task force," Doran says, adding that Bach demanded the task force not present its findings publicly to City Council, as scheduled Jan. 22, or to the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, which is to hear the presentation Jan. 17. (A high-ranking county official says the presentation will, in fact, be presented to commissioners as scheduled.)
"We were pretty well put into place," Doran says. "This was the mayor's task force and we weren't really needed. As a person who has volunteered for many years, I felt like I was being reprimanded. I've never been talked to like that."
She described Bach during the meeting as "stern, angry and very much in control," and said he "spoke in a voice that got our attention. It wasn't a friendly conversation across the table."
Robin Roberts, a member of the stormwater task force, also was at the meeting. Here's her account posted on Facebook in a discussion of what transpired:
I was on this committee and in this meeting on Friday. The way Jason [Hann, another committee member whose own Facebook post is included below] is reporting it is accurate, although I do remember that the suggestion of Utilities taking over the storm water function was just a suggestion, an option thrown out there. Here's my thing. Actually a couple of them. I volunteered (key word) to serve on this committee because I knew very little about storm water and wanted to learn more as well as do something for my community. What I learned is that storm water is a very big issue and really is crucial to this region. 889 million [dollars] in needs because we have not maintained our infrastructure in 20 years is unacceptable. Keep in mind that the 889 million does not include what is needed after the fire. We have GOT to address this issue as a REGION and stop playing petty politics over who has control of the money or who pays more into what.
Second, I will NOT be talked to by a city employee or elected official the way we were in that meeting ever again. As I have said before, they work for us, we do not work for them. The arrogance, the suggestion that we volunteers had hidden agendas, the insistence that no tax was going to be supported, the obvious beef with the utilities folks in the room, the absolute denial that a regional solution is required, and the dismissal of our volunteer hours and time was disgusting and offensive. It will be a cold day in hell before I volunteer my time on a committee for this city again.
The bottom line is that this region has significant storm water needs and instead of fixing the problem, they are making this a political issue and putting things off until the economy gets better and utilities scrubs their budget. I heard a lot of "the voters won't approve that." Hey voters, are you going to let them decide what you approve or won't approve? I sure don't want these people thinking for me.
When someone is so arrogant that no one else in the room can speak or have an dissenting opinion, there is a real problem. And the problem is with them. I wonder what it is?
Bach also told the citizen members on hand that their work was done. They were not to disclose the aggregate stormwater needs figure (apparently $889 million) and are not to pursue research on possible funding sources.
Because City Attorney Chris Melcher, who also attended the meeting, said the city's portion would be funded with money earmarked for installation of the Neumann Systems Group's emissions technology on Martin Drake Power Plant, Doren says.
"If the Neumann project is stopped, we will have more than enough to do the city's portion" of stormwater projects, Doran quotes Melcher as saying.
Accounts of the meeting shared with David Neumann, owner of Neumann Systems Group, prompted Neumann to send a letter to Melcher on Sunday night, saying:
You are being quoted by a number of sources as expressing extreme prejudice toward our company and CSU as part of a Storm Water meeting last Friday which was presided over by the Mayor and held in the Mayor's office.
Additionally, we are in receipt of a letter from you to two council members which instead of providing them with legal guidance on how to determine conflict of interest you single out the employees of our company and employees of CSU as being the definition of a conflict of interest.
Further evidence of your extreme bias toward our company and CSU is shown in your negotiating a deal with the Sierra Club that involved damaging our company and a CSU project approved and budgeted for by the CSU Board. You attempted to cut a deal with a radical environmental group that could have resulted in a $400 million loss in ratepayer assets and a 30-50% increase in electric rates and may have prevented the Drake plant from receiving required emissions controls.
Additionally, we expect that any meeting discussing the merits of our contract or our company's past, present or future relationship with CSU will be discussed openly with an opportunity for public comment. Furthermore, we demand that you release to the public the records of past private meetings dealing with our contract with CSU so that the public may determine whether your conduct is appropriate to your position.
Finally, based on information from two separate Council Members, your alignment with Councilmember Leigh has become clear and it appears that you are attempting to stonewall or deflect the Ethics investigation of Councilmember Leigh.
We can only wonder why you have not taken action directly against Councilmember Leigh when you have explicit examples of his providing false information to the public and the Board. It is obvious that you have examined our contract with CSU in detail. Therefore, when Councilmember Leigh says the contract title says it is for "Experimental" equipment you know that is false. When he says the CEO did not sign it you know that is false. When he says there are no specs, you know there are over ten pages of specifications. We are prepared to present over twenty separate counts of ethical and legal violations by Councilmember Leigh should we be given the chance.
Request that you explain to the public how your actions above and other related actions you have done as required by the Mayor are consistent with the appropriate conduct of the City Attorney. Perhaps you can also explain the responsibilities any lawyer has to avoid conflicts of interest. How is it possible for you to do the will of your boss the Mayor under threat of termination, while simultaneously representing the best interests of the City, the Council and Colorado Springs Utilities when their interests are in conflict?
David K. Neumann
Here's how Jason Hann, the aforementioned task force member who didn't attend the meeting, reacted to accounts of how Friday unfolded. This is posted on Facebook:
As part of the Stormwater Business task force for Colorado Springs I've spent a few days in meetings and several hours working with many in the business community on our Stormwater issues. Recently our team was asked to provide a debrief to Bach, Melcher, Neumann and few others. Utilities were also present and the chair of the Stormwater task force. As reported back to us on the task force so unfortunately I don't have direct quotes...
Melcher stated that NO regional cooperation would take place and if there were collaborative efforts for projects the City would be at the helm. Bach commanded that he knew there were several agendas at the table and that he was going to tell us what our agenda is. Bach stated there will be NO tax recommendation and that while his administration existed, CSU was going to be responsible for paying for stormwater. That CSU needed to "scrub" their budget again (despite the City not being able to execute a zero-based budget themselves). That the Neumann cleaner technology should be removed and that would provide millions right away and for years to come.
After continually being "dressed down" and told the group's task was NOT to provide solutions, that is what the City is for and would do (yet hasn't done for years), and that we were only supposed to give information regarding the metrics/numbers, our research, time and work was a waste. Many volunteers from the community gave our time and expertise only to be addressed like employees and yet it is the other way around. Melcher and Bach work for us! The City, despite ample hours being spent on analysis and research by City and County engineers, plans to hire a consultant to confirm the information provided by the task force (which was already completed once) - more money wasted. Bach then stated your services here are done and left the room, ending the meeting. Appalled and infuriated many of us are! The condescending tone and arrogant nature in which Bach and Melcher conducted themselves told many of us we will NEVER volunteer for the City again.
Everyday, it seems, we hear of an infrastructure failure like a water main break or leak that impacts homes, businesses and transportation. Why? Because the region is looking at a $889 MILLION dollar infrastructure issue. What was put out publicly to the community is NOT accurate. Bach specifically told the chair that she will NOT release this number publicly until confirmed by the outside agency. Well, I don't work for Bach and believe we should all know what we face as a community.
You want to know what is really going in your local government…please, please dig into more than what the media shares. They do a great job but often there is so much that goes on behind the scenes even they can't report on the REAL reason our community isn't realizing our full potential. Our leaders are corrupt and act upon personal agendas NOT our best interest. Demand for better Colorado Springs…we live in an amazing place and if we aren't willing to protect it, guide it and care we do not deserve it.
You want transparency…there some of it is. Yes, this is the type of "leadership" we are saddled with. "Are you not entertained?"
We've asked Bach's communciations director to seek a comment from the mayor about the meeting. If and when we hear back, we'll update our post.
Everyone enjoys a good list, right? Such a fun, easy way to say a lot about something with absolutely no need to use a boring narrative. David Letterman's nightly Top 10 List is a cultural touchstone; the editors at Buzzfeed and Cracked have basically made careers out of their list-making skills.
Well, bowing to public pressure, El Paso County Public Health has put out its own Top 10 list: Top 10 Local Public Health News for El Paso County in 2012!
Granted, it doesn't sound as funny as Letterman (or maybe it does) or as zeitgeist-y as Buzzfeed, but it is certainly filled with interesting info, such as:
Reported cases of Pertussis (whooping cough) are on the rise in Colorado. As of December 27, El Paso County had 73 confirmed cases of Pertussis.
Read on, after the jump:
One in 28 residents of El Paso County has a concealed handgun permit (CHP), and the Sheriff's Office has been flooded with new applicants since the July 20 Aurora theater shooting, and more recently, the Dec. 14 massacre of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
As of Dec. 4, there were 22,341 active CHPs in our county of 636,000 people (according to July 2011 Census numbers). That's the most permits of any county in Colorado, says Sheriff's Lt. Jeff Kramer.
On Tuesday, the department received so many calls about getting a CHP that there was a 106-call backlog by the end of the day. Kramer didn't know how many people called to set up appointments during the entire day.
The New York Times issued a breaking news alert today, saying:
President Obama said Wednesday that he will submit broad new gun control proposals to Congress no later than January and will commit the power of his office to overcoming political opposition in the wake of last week’s school massacre.
Kramer, who's worked in the CHP office since May, says the office has been "going from busy to extremely busy."
Asked what he attributes the uptick to, he says, "I think when people see news like out of Connecticut, all of us have an emotional response to that. For some people, they think with this type of violence in our society, especially in places we like to assume are a safe environment, 'I'm going to choose to purchase a firearm and get a permit and protect myself if I were in one of these environments and something like this occurred.'
"Another segment of folks, they want to get a permit so they might be able to intervene in a situation that comes up."
Be aware that the process for obtaining a CHP isn't quick, and involves background checks and required gun training. More information on the process is here.
Although more residents here have concealed carry permits than elsewhere, they seem to be a law-abiding group. Kramer says he's unaware of any CHP holder who's been arrested for a gun-related crime.
The county's active concealed carry program was launched by then-Sheriff John Anderson in the 1990s and has since been continued by Sheriff Terry Maketa.
Yesterday, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners gave the preliminary OK to two measures restricting the use and sale of recreational marijuana.
The first resolution, which passed unanimously, banned the use or possession of marijuana on county property. So regardless of Amendment 64, you still can't smoke a joint at the county courthouse or in a county park.
The second resolution, Ordinance 13-01, which will prohibit "the Operation of Marijuana Cultivation Facilities, Marijuana Product Manufacturing Facilities, Marijuana Testing Facilities, and Retail Marijuana Stores in Unincorporated El Paso County," passed by a 4-1 vote.
The lone dissenting vote came from Commissioner Peggy Littleton.
"I made my case yesterday: It did pass in the state of Colorado and it did pass in El Paso County," she says in an interview with the Indy. "In my district, Commissioner District 5, which encompasses almost all of the city, it passed by over 54 percent. I told my constituents, while I personally voted against [Amendment 64], I told my constituents that I would collect data and make well-informed decisions.
"At this point in time, it is pre-emptive for us to rule on this without getting information from the governor's council, which should have some of its findings in the middle or end of January."
In the wake of the passage of Amendment 64, Gov. Hickenlooper formed a task force to "consider and resolve a number of policy, legal and procedural issues, involving various interests and stakeholders, to implement the new constitutional amendment."
"I don't want to act in haste and repent in leisure," Littleton says. "I want to collect data and information and see how other governing bodies act and respond to this amendement."
The next reading of the ordinance will take place the second Thursday of January.
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, the Board of El Paso County Commissioners will take up two proposals relating to Amendment 64, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use as approved by statewide voters in November.
The commission wants to ban marijuana possession, display and use from county property in a resolution that finds such a ban is in the "best interest of the public safety, health and welfare."
A related ordinance also up for consideration on Tuesday goes further, banning the cultivation and sale of marijuana in the unincorporated portion of the county, arguing that:
The Board of County Commissioners of El Paso County (“Board”) finds that the licensing and operation of marijuana establishments provided for in Amendment 64, by making marijuana more readily available in the community and facilitating the recreational use of marijuana, presents a threat to the health and education of El Paso County’s children, to the safety of the workplace and the travelling public and to the public health, safety and welfare as a whole.
Under provisions of the ordinance, the ban would become effective Feb. 15, after duly required votes and publications.
Colorado Springs City Council members have expressed a desire to enact similar bans.
El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has announced that he will be seeking a second term representing District 1.
The Air Force Academy grad and attorney was elected to the Colorado Springs City Council in 2003, serving until 2011, when he moved to the BOCC. He also served for a spell as the vice-chairman of the local Republican Party.
From his press release:
It’s truly been an honor to serve as the El Paso County Commissioner for District One.
Over the past few years, we’ve been participating in a polarizing national debate over the core principles that govern our Country. The Presidential election is over and we must look in the mirror and face the fact that we have unprecedented national debt, a greater dependency on government programs and new strategic challenges impacting our national security objectives. The future of our next generation will depend on our commitment to remain engaged in resolving these issues.
However if we’re going to resolve these issues nationally, we must implement local policies based on our core principles of personal responsibility, individual freedom, property rights, market economics and responsible limitations on government intervention. I’m prepared and willing to accept this challenge. If you share these concerns, I’m respectfully requesting your support for my reelection. As your Commissioner, I’ll continue to communicate the importance of the adoption of the following strategic vision:
SUPPORT AND DEFEND OUR RIGHTS UNDER THE CONSTITUTION
• Recognize that powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States or to the people (10th Amendment)
• Support the adoption of fiscal policies that appropriately balance the general health, safety and welfare of our citizens
• Government agencies must be held to the same fiscal constraints and scrutiny being faced by the very citizens it’s been empowered to serve
• The use of taxpayer dollars is a privilege and not a right
PROMOTE REGIONAL COLLABORATION, INNOVATION AND PARTNERSHIPS
• Properly identify citizen services that should be taxpayer supported
• Support opportunities to consolidate services with other governmental entities to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of these services
• Promote community collaborations and private sector partnerships
WE HAVE A CRITICAL ROLE IN THIS NATION’S HOMELAND SECURITY
• Develop and maintain strong military partnerships
• Support the implementation of national defense policies that enhance our security
• Support the service members that protect or have protected our way of life
CHAMPION THE AMERICAN DREAM
• Support policies and regulations that preserve individual freedom, liberty, property rights and market economics
• Recognize that there are responsible limitations on government intervention
• Honor and learn from the sacrifices made by previous generations
If you’d like additional information about campaign events and/or volunteer opportunities, please feel free to contact our campaign team directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also receive updates on Facebook (look for glenncampaign), Twitter (http://twitter.com/glenncampaign), or simply go to our web site (www.electdarrylglenn.com).
DARRYL L. GLENN
El Paso County Commissioner District #1
Mr. Glenn is a graduate of Doherty High School in Colorado Springs. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Air Force Academy, a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Western New England College and a Juris Doctor degree from New England School of Law.
Mr. Glenn retired from the United States Air Force as a Lieutenant Colonel after 21 years of combined active duty and reserve military service. During his military career he was recognized for his superior leadership and ability to save taxpayer dollars:
He led a $19 million dollar Iceland Command and Control Enhancement Program and implemented performance standards that saved the taxpayers $400 thousand dollars
He was personally selected to serve as the Program Manager for a $5 billion dollar weapon system program office responsible for creating and implementing a base realignment and closure plan
He led the management of 35 combat communication system programs valued at $1 billion dollars and developed a support plan that saved $20 million dollars while providing 40 percent more equipment for our warfighters
Mr. Glenn was appointed to the Colorado Springs City Council as the District 2 representative in June 2003. He was then elected to serve a four-year term in April 2005 and reelected to another four-year term in April 2009. As a City Council Representative, he served as a member of a board of elected officials responsible for overseeing a $350 million dollar municipal operating budget, a $1 billion dollar four-service municipal utility company and a $600 million dollar municipal health care system. On November 2, 2010, Mr. Glenn was elected to serve in his current position as the El Paso County Colorado District #1 Commissioner. As a County Commissioner, Mr. Glenn is a member of a board of elected officials responsible for overseeing and implementing all federal and state requirements impacting County financial operations serving over 600 thousand residents.
Private Sector Work History
Mr. Glenn is the Co-Owner of the Glenn Law Firm P.C. specializing in Family Law, Public Policy and Campaign Management consulting.
Personal and Professional Affiliations/Accomplishments
Christian, New Life Church member
Former Vice Chairman El Paso County Republican Party
Republican Precinct Committee Leader
Member of the Colorado and El Paso County Bar Association
Personal Fitness Trainer
Certified Nutrition Coach
Former President of the Douglass Valley Elementary Parent Teacher's Organization
3-Time Collegiate National Powerlifting Champion
The multi-jurisdictional agency that oversees emergency ambulance service in El Paso County will revisit its previously approved recommendation to extend American Medical Service's contract by two years after Colorado Springs officials said they're in private talks with AMR that some area officials fear could lead to the contract's demise.
AMR's contract is due to expire in December 2013, and the Emergency Services Agency which oversees the contract wants to extend it to December 2015. But the city has refused, and the city, having the highest volume of 911 medical calls, is in the driver's seat.
Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown appeared before the ESA board this afternoon to say the city is negotiating with AMR to find efficiencies. Translated, that means the city is trying to extract $2.4 million from AMR as a sort of franchise fee, though such a fee isn't contained in AMR's contract with the ESA.
The issue bubbled to the surface a couple months ago when the Independent reported the secret talks. Some ESA board members learned of the wheeling and dealing from the Indy's story and expressed concern about the opaque nature of the city's talks and intentions.
Brown assured the board the city doesn't intend to take down the ESA or erode service or drive rates up.
But ESA members expressed concern that if they don't find out the city's deal until June, and if it results in the city pulling out of the ESA, that gives the ESA only six months to find an alternative to the current arrangement.
In the past, ESA contracts have taken from a year to 18 months to negotiate. When City Councilor Merv Bennett, an ESA board member, said he doubts it would take that long, considering the city worked out a lease for city-owned Memorial Hospital earlier this year in only nine months, ESA vice chair Carl Tatum noted there are 27 entities who participate in the AMR contract deal under the ESA. They include El Paso County, several cities and fire districts, and getting everyone on board could take awhile, he said.
When ESA pressed Brown on moving quicker on the city's deal, he wouldn't budge, saying he would be back to the ESA in the first half of 2013. He said it's the city's intent to explore other possibilities, other models and "look at the system from the top down."
"Whatever negotiations have been going on, I find it disturbing," said ESA member John Scorsine.
ESA board member Jeffery Force said "there's a trust issue," and asked for the city to approve a one-year extension to the contract, rather than the two-year extension approved in June by the ESA board with city member Deputy Fire Chief Tommy Smith joining in the unanimous vote. Since then, the ESA has been told the City Council wouldn't approve the two-year extension, to December 2015, so it's never appeared on a Council agenda.
And today, Brown refused to say he would make such a recommendation.
After Brown left the meeting, though, Bennett offered to take a one-year extension to the Council for consideration. But first, the ESA board must approve a one-year deal, which was scheduled for January. Thereafter, the measure would go to the Board of County Commissioners and the City Council.
The reason this is such a big deal to the county and smaller members, such as fire districts, is that they believe it would be difficult to find a contractor to take on the rural areas where call volumes are low if the city isn't included in the mix.
The city has made overtures about running its own ambulance service, though Brown stopped short of saying as much today. Only yesterday, the city won licensing from the county for two squad vehicles the Fire Department uses to transport patients to the hospital, for which the city charges nothing.
To take over the ambulance work, the city would likely need to sink millions of dollars into equipment and vehicles and personnel.
After running emergency transport on medical calls for several years without a license, the Colorado Springs Fire Department won approval today from El Paso County commissioners for licenses for two squad vehicles.
We wrote about the city's squad fleet here.
Commissioner Sallie Clark quizzed firefighter and paramedic Lt. John Aker, asking if the city's applications for licenses signals plans to expand its transport operation. Aker said no.
He said the squads transport in two circumstances: (1) if a firefighter becomes injured on a fire, and (2) if the county's emergency ambulance contractor, American Medical Response, doesn't have any vehicles available, which is commonly called Level Zero.
When asked, Aker said the city won't bill for its transport services.
Clark also raised questions about the city's plan to wrest $2.4 million from AMR and whether that might jeopardize the contract, which requires AMR to respond countywide without paying a franchise fee of that nature, although AMR does pay at least $200,000 annually for administrative costs. Clark is concerned because if the area-wide contract falls apart due to the city's monetary demands of AMR, the county would be hard-pressed to find a contractor willing to service only the county's low volume of calls.
Springs Fire Deputy Chief Tommy Smith said Fire Chief Rich Brown will present a overview of negotiations to the multi-jurisdictional Emergency Services Agency, which administers the ambulance contract, at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Pikes Peak Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle.
Clark can't attend that meeting so she sent the following message to ESA board members:
I will unfortunately be unable to attend the meeting on Wednesday, so would like to pass on a few thoughts.
The purpose of the ESA was to have a uniform fee based and privatized system that included accountability and public safety coordination to serve ALL of El Paso County at a fair pricing to citizens and at no additional subsidy to the fire districts, departments and County. I am increasingly uncomfortable about the impression that individual entities are negotiating in private with the contractor outside of our normal and public hearing process. I have heard that CS may ask for an extension of the contract renewal for several months to continue their negotiations. If at the end of their negotiations, no resolution is achieved, then it puts all the other agencies in a position of a short timeline. What will kicking the can down the road get us in terms of continuity of service?
If the city desires to negotiate a franchise fee to help pay for health clinics at fire stations (this is what I've heard) then that cost would be passed on to ambulance rates and city residents. How would that affect rates to city residents and what would that increased cost be to ambulance transport rates? To other parts of the county? How would insurance reimbursements be impacted and would the difference be covered or passed on to the patient?
How do negotiations with individual fire districts/departments on separate franchise agreements with the contractor improve our system of coordination?
Do we want to encourage individual fire districts and departments to enter into side negotiations (in between contracts) that may impact the rates to all El Paso County citizens on ambulance transport?
If CS wants to provide a government based transport business, then shouldn't we as a community have that discussion to weigh the cost to taxpayers and potential impact on both city and county residents?
If we do not renew the contract and open up a new RFP process, what is our timeline and the cost to the ESA for issuing the new RFP? Does this leave the smaller districts and the county at a disadvantage to renegotiate?
I have heard from several CS council members a comparison to Aurora and the $1 million franchise fee the city receives through their contract. If this is being used as a comparison, how do transport rates compare to the ESA's and what is their service area and call volume? How does Arapahoe County, its other municipalities and fire districts provide ambulance service and what are those rates and service parameters? If we are going to compare apples to apples, we should have access to this information.
Thanks for allowing me to comment in advance of the meeting. Please feel free to contact me at 6515030 if anyone has questions regarding my comments. In closing, our system seems to be working well and I'm unclear as to what we're trying to fix.
El Paso County Republican Party Chairman Eli Bremer did his best to keep the crowd upbeat.
In the ballroom at the DoubleTree Hotel, the Republicans had hung a stage-wide flag. FOX News was on the TV as results rolled in.
Bremer called up to the stage the Republican candidates present who sailed to easy victories: County Commissioners Dennis Hisey and Amy Lathen, and state House Rep. Janak Joshi.
"God bless all of you for being here," Lathen told the crowd.
But there weren't very many high notes for the beleaguered Republicans. Before it was clear that they had lost the race for the White House, it was becoming clear that they were going to lose their one-seat majority in the state House.
In the two competitive House races the Republicans faced in the Pikes Peak region, they lost by sizable margins: Incumbent Rep. Mark Barker fell to newcomer Democrat Tony Exum Sr. in House District 17, while Jennifer George, the first-time candidate who raised an eye-popping $180,000 from 800 donors, failed in her bid to unseat Democratic Rep. Pete Lee in House District 18.
George's campaign wasn't here tonight; it opted to hold its Election Day party at the Ritz downtown.
County Commissioner Sallie Clark faced a challenge from former Democratic Party county Chairman John Morris but pulled off a victory, securing her place for a rare third term. Rare, because the voters also voted overwhelmingly in favor of ballot initiative 1B, which undid the 2010 term-limits ballot initiative that allowed for three terms.
Not many people were fazed by the result of 1B; County Commissioner Peggy Littleton pointed out that she always thought that the voters would vote to strike the term-limit extension. Lathen put it bluntly: "You can't spend two years telling the public how evil we are, and not expect that outcome."
"We put it back on the ballot for folks to get a second try at it," said Clark. "Obviously, my constituents felt that I have done a good job, and I will continue to do a good job for my constituents that I represent."
And Clark said she's excited to do that job.
"There are so many things going on," she said, such as the recovery from Waldo Canyon Fire, "that I want to see move in the right direction."
Clark pointed out that there were reasons to celebrate, including passage of the ballot initiative supporting the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority extension as well as the tax increase for the El Paso County Sheriff's office. "If people see a value in paying more taxes, and you put it on the ballot," she said, "they will vote in support."
And then, of course, there was the confirmation that House District 16 incumbent Joshi and newly elected HD 21 Rep. Lois Landgraf would be headed to the state Legislature — albeit in the minority party.
"We knew we had a lot of work ahead of us," said Joshi. "This just means that we have a lot of extra work."
When Emergency Services Agency members heard that the city of Colorado Springs was working a side deal with ambulance contractor American Medical Response, they were curious.
Now, they're mad.
The ESA called a special meeting today at 3 p.m., and the two regular reps from the city — Deputy Fire Chief Tommy Smith and City Councilor Merv Bennett — didn't show. In June when the ESA board approved a two-year extension to AMR's contract for exclusive 911 ambulance runs throughout the county, neither of them raised a question. The vote to approve was unanimous.
Now, the city is working with AMR directly, and neither party will tell the ESA anything about it, other than to assert that the side deal won't change rates or response times.
In fact, the city is trying to wrest $2 million to $2.4 million in "efficiencies" from AMR in exchange for time spent on-scene by firefighters who respond to medical calls and sometimes arrive first. This clearly means AMR, and perhaps the city, will be axing jobs as they work a deal to "share" shift supervisors, trainers, fleet maintenance workers and others to deliver emergency medical care. (We outlined the issue in a story last week.)
In his place, Bennett sent alternate member Councilor Bernie Herpin, who said Council would approve the extension when it's presented at a future unknown date, and that the Fire Department and AMR would outline their deal at the Dec. 5 ESA board meeting.
Herpin didn't say how he knew the Council would approve the extension. In Colorado, it's illegal for elected bodies to make decisions in private. The ESA extension has never appeared on a Council agenda, so it's curious how Herpin knew the outcome of a future vote.
Later, after the meeting, Herpin said Council is powerless to do anything having to do with the ESA contract: "As a Council, we have no say in it." That's because the strong mayor form of government, in place since mid-2011, gives all contracting authority to the mayor, he added.
However, it's the Council, not the mayor, who's party to the intergovernmental agreement that created the ESA more than a decade ago, and the IGA pre-dates the strong mayor charter change. So it's unclear whether the mayor could usurp the Council's power. That would be a question for the city attorney, but Chris Melcher was hired by and works for the mayor. Any bets on what his legal opinion would be?
Anyway, Deputy Chief Smith said nothing during meetings of the Pikes Peak Fire Chiefs Forum last spring when the extension was discussed. Suffice to say, the chiefs aren't very happy about the latest development, leaving some to wonder if all the fire departments in the region will now try to cut their own deal with AMR.
When asked to comment on not coming to the meeting, Smith told us via text message, "The board was aware that I wasn't going to be at this meeting."
But ESA board members seemed to be quite puzzled at his absence. Several commented on it and expressed "disappointment."
"I'm wondering why there's not someone from the Fire Department to explain what's going on," El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark said. "I think we need to bring this discussion into the light of day."
Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells said if there are going to be side deals, then an ESA member should at least be included in those discussions as they're happening.
Oh, but there is an ESA member involved in the EMR/city deal, Herpin quickly chimed in: Smith, he noted, is an ESA board member. Another member, naturally, then wondered if Smith is dealing with AMR as an ESA rep or as a city rep. And when Herpin said there is "not a big urgency" to the matter, ESA Vice Chair Carl Tatum, Hanover fire chief, pointed out, "We have 25 other players that need to start planning if we don't have a contract." The last ESA contract took 18 months to negotiate.
There have been hints that Colorado Springs wants to pull out of the ESA all together, which could strand the rural areas without emergency coverage, because ambulance companies may not find the low-volume call area attractive.
Another ESA board member said the deal being negotiated between AMR and the city benefits one party to the ESA agreement, and that's not right. The members should be "all in or not," meaning that whatever AMR pays to the city should also be paid to the other members based on their participation in the system.
But while there was a lot of griping during the 90-minute meeting, the ESA didn't do anything, other than ask the staff to put together guidelines for handling such ad hoc negotiations in the future so that, as Tatum said, "it doesn't happen again."
After a delay of several months, El Paso County announced Friday that it has sold the former Department of Human Services building at 105 N. Spruce St., which will be repurposed into an 80-room Holiday Inn Express hotel.
The buyer is the Jarosz Family Partnership, which runs the Clarion Hotel nearby at Bijou Street and Interstate 25.
The partnership has indicated it will invest about $4 million to renovate and furnish the building — expected to open next summer, the county says in a news release.
The county sold the property for $2.4 million, which will be used "to retire lease-purchase securities associated with facilities provided to the Department of Human Services." Translation: The county borrowed against the building several years ago, and will pay off that debt.
From the news release:
"The County no longer needs this building and we're excited to see a local company put it to good use,” said Commissioner Sallie Clark, who represents the area in District 3. “With the official closing now behind us, the building is under private ownership. The reconstruction and renovation is starting soon and will immediately generate a hundred or so construction jobs with another 40 or so permanent jobs projected for the operations of the hotel. It’s good for the taxpayers, good for the county, good for business and good for the neighborhood.”
The city was aware that having three Councilors on the trip to Washington, D.C., would require notice of meetings. Those notices, however, might not have been posted in a timely way, because the person in charge of doing that was out of the office due to illness.
We've not heard back from the county.
———-ORIGINAL POST, MONDAY, OCT. 1, 2:35 P.M.—————
Don't go looking for members of the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners this week. Four of the five are in Washington, D.C., on a trip hosted by the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, formerly the Chamber and EDC.
Commissioners Amy Lathen, Sallie Clark, Peggy Littleton and Darryl Glenn are there through Thursday, along with communications director Dave Rose. Only Dennis Hisey stayed home.
Colorado Springs City Council members Merv Bennett, Val Snider and Brandy Williams also are attending.
Which raises the question of whether these folks will form a quorum at any time during the five-day trip when they meet with lawmakers or regulators. The Colorado Open Meetings Act defines a meeting as "any kind of gathering convened to discuss public business." It further states that all meetings of a quorum, or three or more members, whichever is fewer, at which public business is discussed or formal action might be taken, are considered open. An open meeting requires 24 hours public notice be given.
For commissioners, four definitely creates a quorum. For councilors, the rule of three applies. We've asked the county and city to explain how meetings during the trip are being handled so that the open meetings law isn't violated. We'll let you know what we hear back from them.
Meantime, Rose says the priorities for commissioners include lobbying for more money from the Natural Resource Conservation Service, which already has provided $200,000 for reclamation of the Waldo Canyon Fire burn area on private land. But it's not just money they're asking for. "We also want their planning and expertise," Rose says in an interview.
Commissioners also want the federal government to fund the Interstate 25 and Cimarron Street interchange.
The highest priority, though, is sequestration — the Budget Control Act of 2011 — the automatic cuts in defense spending due Jan. 2 unless a different budget bill is passed. The bill was approved by lawmakers as a condition of allowing the government to increase its debt ceiling.
"We believe 18,000 Colorado jobs are at risk," Rose says, referring to military positions. An additional 42,000 jobs created because of those military jobs also could disappear, he says.
"The military is already in the process of trimming its ranks," he says. "We know it, because we're ending up with more 25-year-olds at DHS [the Department of Human Services]" seeking benefits such as food stamps.
"We want Congress to not do the automatic sequestration," he says, but rather find other ways to cut.
According to the Southern Colorado Economic Forum report issued last Friday, active-duty and civilian employment at military installations grew to 61,501 in 2011 from 61,192 in 2010. Fort Carson is due to see 2,700 soldiers moving here late this year and early next to staff the newly created Combat Aviation Brigade.
Moreover, "federal expenditures account for approximately 50 percent of the Gross Metropolitan Product in El Paso County," the economic forum report says. "The community appears to have a disproportionately high dependence on the military."
That's why the Budget Control Act of 2011 is such a scary thought. To comply with the act, Congress will have to cut $1.7 trillion, half of which would come from the military, the economic forum reports.
With just over five weeks to go until the Nov. 6 election, El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa has picked up some crucial endorsements for his tax increase.
The newly named Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance voted on Thursday to back the .0023 percent sales tax hike to pay for additional deputies and equipment, as did the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs. In addition, a group of small-town mayors in the county also have endorsed the tax hike, Maketa told about 25 citizens who showed up at the Stetson Hills Police Station on Friday night for Commission Chair Amy Lathen's town hall meeting.
"It's been positive from community groups," Maketa said, adding he's spent nights and lunch hours meeting with citizens to promote the tax hike, which would raise about $17 million annually and sunset after eight years.
What's surprising about the Business Alliance's endorsement is that the group, formerly the Chamber and EDC, has generally been in lockstep with Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach — yet Bach has indicated he opposes the tax hike. He even raised concerns that the county's use of the police station for a town hall meeting to discuss the tax increase would suggest to voters that the city supported it, Maketa tells the Independent.
Friday night, Maketa talked about the dire straits of his budget, noting that he has no more deputies on patrol today than in 1990, though the population has grown 61 percent. Since 1997, he said, calls for service have exploded by 137 percent. Yet, El Paso County's per capita spending on law enforcement is the lowest among comparable Colorado counties, and even with the tax hike would remain the lowest, Maketa said.
"All I'm asking is that we support those who go out and protect us," he added, noting that deputies often are in remote areas of the county where backup is a half-hour away. "We're asking them each night to make sacrifices and keep us safe."
Earlier, County Administrator Jeff Greene, who emphasized he was appearing at the meeting on his own time, said, "Things are not safe. If you think we're living in a really safe community and everything is going well, that's a complete falsehood."
Lathen also said she supported the tax hike, though she is "a very, very conservative Republican." She also said the resolution behind the ballot measure assures there would be maintenance of the sheriff's budget — meaning commissioners wouldn't bait and switch the voters by claiming for general-fund purposes the new tax revenue.
"I'm standing here saying I know what the numbers are," she said. "I know what's happening within the budget of El Paso County. I will stand in partnership with [Maketa]."
Voters will get a chance to decide whether to give the El Paso County Sheriff's Office an additional $16 million annually to hire more jailers and patrol deputies; fund jail repairs; answer growing jail medical and food requirements; and meet other law enforcement needs.
After a three-hour discussion today, county commissioners told staff to prepare a ballot question for the Nov. 6 ballot to raise the county's sales tax by just under a quarter of 1 percent.
The tax hike request comes from Sheriff Terry Maketa. Meanwhile, voters will also mull whether to extend the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority tax first enacted in 2004. It expires in 2014.
Maketa painted a dire picture of his department, noting he expects his medical contract for the jail to increase by up to $800,000 next year. Besides that, since 2007, gasoline has gone up 37 percent, ammunition 30 percent, and crime lab costs, 18 percent, according to his presentation to the county's Citizens Budget Oversight Committee last week.
Issues that have been ignored for years have come to a head, Maketa told commissioners, such as the need for a new industrial-sized dishwasher at the jail and a kettle and ovens to assure utensils are sanitized properly and that food is cooked properly.
"It's been repaired and repaired and repaired for years," he said of the dishwasher. "It's just worn out."
The number of patrol deputies has been the same for 20 years, leaving deputies without backup.
"We're staffed for a time when we almost had no calls for service in the eastern part of the county," he said. "Those days are gone."
But hiring to fill one position means adding six people to cover shifts and for sickness and vacations. Maketa's tax proposal would enable the addition of 120 positions, he said. Those are:
40 patrol deputies
7 records clerks
7 emergency services dispatchers
1 finance clerk
1 HR tech
1 administrative employee
42 detention deputies
8 security techs
2 inmate classification counselors
2 intake release specialists
2 wildland fire managers
1 hazardous materials tech
1 arson investigator
2 emergency services planners
"I'm asking for your support to work with me to find a way to address what I've been talking about for 10 years," Maketa said.
Commissioners acknowledged they've known for years about the sheriff's needs, but simply haven't had the money to fund them. A ballot measure in 2008 that would have raised $75 million annually failed as the recession was setting in.
Maketa said he's tried to be creative through the years, even adding a citizens patrol using volunteers. But volunteers have limitations. Days into the Waldo Canyon Fire, for example, there were wildland fire trucks available but no volunteers to take them out; having already lent much time to the firefighting effort, those volunteers had been called back to their paying jobs.
Part of the sheriff's woes stem from recession-caused budget cuts from 2006 to 2009, when commissioners reduced spending by $45.2 million, finance director Nicola Sapp said.
Several members of the Citizens Budget Oversight Committee spoke in support of Maketa's proposal, but District Attorney Dan May expressed reservations, saying there are mountains of regional law enforcement needs that will go unmet if the tax increase is directed only to the Sheriff's Office.
He noted his office must wait from nine to 12 months to get DNA lab results back from the state, and that there's no lab in southern Colorado. He says officials in Pueblo and Canon City have expressed a desire to work together on that need.
May said the Colorado Springs Police Department also has severe shortages. For example, when two murders happened simultaneously some months ago, the CSPD had to send a sex crimes unit to one of them, because a second major crimes unit wasn't available. And then the CSPD asked Maketa's force to cover calls that night because police lacked personnel to handle it.
Agencies might save money by working together, instead of independently, on training academies, dispatch and evidence storage.
He also noted that budget cuts have caused the city and county to pull out of the District Attorney's Office's economic crime unit, resulting in a sharp downturn in prosecution of economic crime and minor identity theft cases, because "nobody can do it because of budget constraints."
May also noted that if the sheriff's office gains personnel, he will gain more cases. But will he have sufficient budget dollars to handle the caseload? Perhaps not.
"The No. 1 purpose of government is public safety," he said. "There are needs throughout the region in law enforcement."
Anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce spoke against any tax increase, saying "that's an awful lot of money to suck out of the economy in a recession."
He also said the measure, which would sunset in eight years unless voters renewed it, is "just a foot in the door," similar to the PPRTA road and bridge tax.
To which Commissioner Sallie Clark said, "Are you suggesting this should be an ongoing tax?"
Bruce: "If I'm asked if I want to be poisoned or strangled, my answer is neither." He also questioned if 10 weeks is enough time to mount a campaign.
"I think you've made a good case," Clark said.
Commissioner Amy Lathen called for the ballot measure to contain "very specific items" identified for funding, and told Maketa, "You've been elected three times, and you're asking for access to the people."
Commissioners indicated they will provide him with that access by placing a measure on the ballot on Thursday during their 9 a.m. meeting at Centennial Hall. Commissioner Darryl Glenn, who opposes putting the issue on the ballot, was doing a ride-along with the Black Forest Fire Department this morning and didn't attend the meeting.
If commissioners vote Thursday to place the tax hike on the ballot, a second reading and vote would take place Sept. 4.
Here we go with more term limit shenanigans.
After concerns bubbled up from voters some weeks ago about how the term limits ballot issue was worded, it was changed. We explained the problem in this story, which essentially stemmed from wording that called for an action to take place from a "no" vote. State law prevents a "no" vote from having any impact whatsoever.
Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams urged commissioners to do the right thing and change the language. Apparently they have and here's the proposed measure that's due for referral to the ballot this Thursday buy commissioners, two of whom (Sallie Clark and Dennis Hisey) are hoping to capture a third term in the same election:
SHALL THE VOTERS OF EL PASO COUNTY PROHIBIT ANY PERSON
ELECTED TO THE OFFICES OF COUNTY CLERK AND RECORDER,
COUNTY SURVEYOR, COUNTY ASSESSOR, COUNTY TREASURER,
COUNTY COMMISSIONER, IN ANY ELECTION HELD AFTER THE
NOVEMBER 6, 2012 GENERAL ELECTION, FROM RUNNING FOR AND IF
ELECTED SERVING A MAXIMUM OF THREE CONSECUTIVE FOURYEAR
TERMS, THEREBY DENYING THE CITIZENS OF EL PASO
COUNTY THE OPPORTUNITY TO RETAIN THE HOLDERS OF THESE
OFFICES FOR 12 YEARS IF THE VOTERS SO DESIRE, WITH THE
UNDERSTANDING THAT A VOTE OF “YES” WILL REDUCE THE
EXISTING THREE-TERM LIMIT TO TWO CONSECUTIVE FOUR-YEAR
TERMS AND A VOTE OF “NO” WILL PRESERVE THE CURRENT VOTER APPROVED
LIMIT OF THREE CONSECUTIVE FOUR-YEAR TERMS?
We couldn't help but boldface that one phrase to underscore that these commissioners seem to be completely self-involved to write such a thing. "Boo hoo," the voters wail, according to them. "We won't get to have Dennis Hisey anymore. Woe is us. No more Sallie Clark. Goodness me, what will ever become of us without them leading the way?"
This whole deal started in 2010 when county commissioners Clark, Hisey, Amy Lathen and Wayne Williams voted to submit a question to voters entitling them to run for a third term. Commissioner Jim Bensberg opposed the measure.
Problem is, the measure, and two others for other county elected officials, asked if their terms should be restricted to three, four-year terms, instead of extended.
Get it? Use tricky language to get what you want. It worked. Voters fell for it, but later many complained they felt manipulated. (Then County Attorney Bill Louis acknowledged the language was intentionally deceptive to elicit a "yes" vote; now he's gone, having resigned to go into private practice.)
Anyway, Commissioner Darryl Glenn is still not happy. He says he'll make a last stand to impose a requirement that no currently serving official can serve three consecutive terms, but he predicts it will be a 3-2 vote, with Commissioner Peggy Littleton siding with him.
"In no way would the community expect a couple of people would be exempt" from the limit of two, four-year terms, he says. Notice the ballot language has been manipulated to allow Clark and Hisey a third term.
"We're going to go 3-2 on this one, but I'm going to make the argument," Glenn says.
He also notes the new ballot measure lumps all elected officials in together, unlike the vote in 2010 that started the whole fiasco when voters could extend the limit by one term for the commissioners in one measure while voting separately on the term limit matter for the treasurer, clerk and recorder and assessor. The district attorney was yet another separate vote. That position isn't included in the new measure, because the DA is elected by voters in El Paso and Teller counties, and Teller County commissioners refused to put it on that ballot.