Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Who has the highest water rates in Colorado?

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 10:56 AM

A company based in Austin, Texas, has performed a comparison of water rates in Colorado, and guess what. Colorado Springs has the highest rates, according to LawnStarter Lawn Care, a for-profit company that says it helps people find, schedule, pay for and manage lawn care services.
The nearly $1 billion Southern Delivery System that brings water from Pueblo Reservoir was completed in April. This photo shows pipeline construction on the city's east side in 2010. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The nearly $1 billion Southern Delivery System that brings water from Pueblo Reservoir was completed in April. This photo shows pipeline construction on the city's east side in 2010.
From the company's blog about that:
For Colorado Springs, the annual residential bill was $469.73 for 60,000 gallons of water. That bill was 56 percent higher than the state average among surveyed systems and 39 percent higher than the national average, according to LawnStarter’s review of Food and Water Watch data.

Meanwhile, residential customers of the community water system in the Denver suburb of Centennial enjoyed the state’s lowest bills, at $183 a year.
Read the entire blog here.

We asked LawnStarter why it did the comparison and heard back from spokesman John Egan: "We are going to be entering the Denver market in the near future, and we were curious about water bills in various communities around the state. Since we're a lawn care startup, we have a keen interest in water usage and costs."

Springs Utilities told LawnStarter that one reason rates are higher in Colorado Springs stems from the fact the city is not located on any major waterway, meaning the city has to import water from elsewhere. That includes a transmountain pipeline, and those don't come cheap. The other is a 50-mile pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, recently completed.

Here's a listing provided in the blog of highest to lowest rates in Colorado:
Colorado Springs Utilities: $469.73
City of Aurora: $460.92
City of Greeley: $376.80
City of Fort Collins: $347.76
City and County of Broomfield: $292.20
City of Aspen: $285.00
City of Boulder: $277.20
City of Westminster: $270.24
City of Arvada: $246.78
Denver Water: $245.88
City of Thornton: $242.04
Board of Water Works of Pueblo: $220.80
Centennial Water District: $183.00
Water rates here will take another leap if a rate increase is approved next month by City Council.

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Turmoil in transportation agency

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 10:29 AM

In this week's Independent, you can read about some waves being made at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. The agency oversees regional transportation improvements, among other things.

With all the turnover at PPACG in the last couple of years, about half of the staff has been there less than five years, as shown on this graphic provided to the board by Executive Director Rob MacDonald.

An investigation into turnover and other issues is under way. A report on its findings is expected within a few weeks.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How will you vote on judges?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2016 at 11:19 AM

In all the hubbub surrounding presidential politics and the U.S. Senate race in Colorado, it's likely voters haven't given a second thought to the fact that many judges are up for retention.

To find out more about how the judges were rated by attorneys and non-attorneys, go to this link.

Here's an explanation of the process used to rate judges:
The judicial appointment and retention process in Colorado is one of the best merit based systems in the country, and it has been around for 50 years. Many states have direct elections of judges, opening the judicial system to all the corruption and influence of big money in politics we see in legislative, congressional and presidential elections. In these states judicial decisions can essentially be bought and sold.

Colorado county, district and appellate judges are appointed by the Governor based on bi-partisan nominating commissions, which use a merit based process to recommend three names for each open judgeship, from which the Governor makes an appointment. Periodically, judges are required to stand for retention elections. Voters decide whether each judge should stay on the bench or be removed.

To help Colorado voters make informed decisions, the state Judicial Performance Commission and local JPCs in every judicial district, conduct a thorough evaluation process of judges facing retention elections. This evaluation involves extensive surveying of attorneys, jurors, court staff, other judges, civil litigants and others who can provide direct input on a judge's performance; court room observations; review of authored opinions; an interview by the JPC of each judge and other input from the public about a judge’s performance.

A report is then generated for each retention judge and provided to voters online by the Colorado Judicial Performance Commission and the Colorado Legislative Council's "Blue Book" which is mailed to voters and available online. This report identifies each judge's strengths and weaknesses and makes a recommendation to voters to either retain (keep a judge on the bench) or not retain that judge so Colorado voters have direct, informed decision making authority on our judges.
To access those reports, go to the link provided above.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

State lawmaker files suit over ballot selfies

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 4:21 PM

For the life of me, I don't know why anyone would want to take a selfie of their ballot. I mean, must everything be shared via social media?

Hill: Asserts that sharing a picture of your ballot is a freedom of speech issue. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Hill: Asserts that sharing a picture of your ballot is a freedom of speech issue.
Apparently so, some think, so this has become an urgent enough issue that Republican State Sen. Owen Hill filed a lawsuit today to try to undo that prohibition.
Today, State Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs) took the initiative to file a lawsuit against an outdated regulation that makes taking a picture of your ballot and sharing it on social media illegal in Colorado.

The law has drawn increasing statewide attention this election cycle, especially on social media networks where new and young voters in particular are sharing who they voted for and encouraging their friends to do the same.

Hill has witnessed a myriad of Colorado voters, friends, and constituents alike excitedly sharing their choice of candidates and initiatives on social media.

“And while exercising free speech, they now have to be worried about being prosecuted for participating in the political process or for encouraging discussion on the important civic choices facing our State,” Hill said. “We need to stand alongside all Colorado voters by fighting for this reform.”

“My generation, millennials, are sometimes known as the ‘selfie generation.’ That last thing we need is a law on the books that discourages voter participation and makes people afraid to share in political discourse in Colorado,” Hill pointed out.

Hill believes the lawsuit is an important step to protect voters’ free speech rights while still continuing to safeguard privacy and other necessary voter protections. There is also an opportunity to address this issue in the upcoming 2017 legislative session.

Michael Fransisco of MRD Law, the attorney who filed the documents this morning, is confident the case is both needed and straightforward:

“Everyone in Colorado should have the right to speak about their voting decisions, including the ubiquitous use of cell phone pictures to express a point,” Fransisco noted. “The First Amendment protects this valuable form of political discourse.”

“Courts across the country are recognizing that broad laws prohibiting ballot pictures are unconstitutional and we look forward to adding Colorado to the list of states where free speech about a voted ballot can be shared without fear of criminal prosecution,” Fransisco concluded.

The lawsuit explains that: “Speech about how one votes in an election rests at the core of political speech protected by the First Amendment. One particularly vivid way to speak about a decision to vote or not vote is to later share a picture of a marked ballot that has been turned in. Taking a picture of a voted ballot is increasingly popular.”

Unfortunately, Colorado has an outmoded statute making it a crime to “show” a ballot to “any person” in such a way “as to reveal its contents.”

“In a classic case of an overbroad law that restricts vast swaths of legal, protected speech in the name of preventing discrete bad acts, Colorado has chilled the Plaintiffs and countless other voters from being permitted to engage in the simple act of posting a photo of a ballot as a political expression,” the filing argues.

Senator Hill is joined by another plaintiff, Scott Romano, on the lawsuit. Romano is an 18-year-old University of Denver student who is voting for the first time in this election - he is also a registered Democrat.

“I believe this is a key way for common sense to prevail in Colorado politics. This isn’t a partisan issue - it’s about upholding our constitutional rights and advocating for the full participation of every registered Colorado voter,” Romano said.

“I’m grateful for Senator Hill’s lead on this important issue and I’m happy to join him as a co-plaintiff in the case.”

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Emerald Valley Ranch noted for historic renovation

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2016 at 4:15 PM

The main lodge. - FILE PHOTOS
  • File photos
  • The main lodge.
The Broadmoor's Ranch at Emerald Valley was one of the winners of the historic preservation awards announced last week by the Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs.
Interior of the lodge.
  • Interior of the lodge.

The makeover of the ranch created a forest getaway worthy of The Broadmoor label.

The alliance also honored other work. Here's the news release:
The Historic Preservation Alliance of Colorado Springs celebrated its fifteenth Preservation Awards Gala on Oct. 19th at the historic Patty Jewett Clubhouse. The event celebrates the preservation work of our community in a gala dinner and awards ceremony in which projects were judged this year by Cathleen Norman from Monument, CO and Cindy Nasky from Denver. Cathleen is an author and preservationist and project director for Donner Publishing Co. Cindy Nasky is a preservation services director for Colorado Preservation, Inc.

The evening awards began with a recognition of a District 11 teacher, Dedra Montoya for her many years of teaching a block of study about the Victorian Era to second graders at Steele Elementary. Some of her students were present and in costume.

The awards were presented in the HPA’s traditional competition in the following categories, a tie award for:

Excellence in a Historic Residential Restoration: Mr. Vic Appugliese for his Historic Williams House restoration at 222 E. San Miguel St., Architectural Historian: Jennifer Lovell.

Excellence in Historic Residential Restoration: The First Sharp Residence, 1609 N. Nevada Ave. to Peter Frantz and Jill McCormick owners, Tony Peterson, General Contractor.

Award for Excellence in an Historic Commercial Restoration: The Ranch at Emerald Valley, owner: The Broadmoor Hotel, Architect: OZ Architects, GC: Bob McGrath Construction.

Award for Excellence in an Historically Compatible Landscape: The Historic Reverend Dicky Residence, 1206 N. Cascade Ave., owners, landscape designers and laborers: Rob and Mary Ellen Harrison, and their daughter Elizabeth.

Award for Excellence in Preservation and Stewardship: Grace and St. Stephens Episcopal Church Exterior Stabilization Project, 601 N. Tejon St., Architect: RTA Architects, GC: Bon McGrath Construction.

Award for Excellence in Historically Compatible New Construction: Porch Additions to 1323 N. Tejon St, owners: Amanda Puskar and Guillermo Rojas, Architect: J. Mark Nelson, GC: Charlie Paterson Construction.

Award for Excellence in Historically Compatible New Construction, Runner-Up, A Spanish Colonial, owners Tony and Vicki Batman, 24 Broadmoor Ave. Architect: J. Mark Nelson, GC: Bob McGrath Construction

Award for Excellence in Trades and Crafts of Preservation: Queen Ann Porch Restoration Project, 1601 N. Nevada Ave., performed by Mr. Ed Rinker and Mr. Rock Wiley, owners: Charles and Cordelia Martin.

Special recognition was made of retiring vice president of the HPA, Mrs. Sherry Neese, for her dedication and stewardship of the organization since 2003.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Grand Canyon Prep, Part IV, and more

Posted By on Sun, Oct 23, 2016 at 9:07 AM

With about a week to go before I hike down to the Phantom Ranch in the Grand Canyon, my preparation for the trip is starting to pull together.

I've packed the new back pack full of everything on the checklist, plus a pro-grade DSLR camera body, a couple of lenses, and a lightweight carbon-fiber travel tripod. The loaded pack comes in at around 22 pounds, and I'm still working on paring that down a bit. I've done a number of hikes of varying distances and elevation gains with the fully loaded pack and found that even with the extra weight, I'm able to be at or near my usual pace of about 3 mph. My assumption is that we won't be hiking at that pace on the trek, so I'm feeling pretty good about how I'll do. With a week still to go, there will be more hikes before the actual trip.

In Parts I and II of this series, I wrote about getting a knee treated with hyaluronate, once it was approved by my insurance carrier. I've had the treatment, but I didn't go into much explanation about what it is. Hyaluronate, is similar to hyaluronic acid which is a substance produced naturally in our bodies and serves a number of uses, including joint lubrication. For some people such as myself with osteoarthritis in their knees, injections of hyaluronate into the knee joint helps to alleviate pain, most notably felt when walking downhill or stepping down steps. Hyaluronate injections don't work for everyone, and they're only done for knees, but they've worked for me for many years.
My knee being injected with 3ml of hyaluronate.  The skin is numbed and then the substance is injected into the joint.  It's surprisingly painless - BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
  • My knee being injected with 3ml of hyaluronate. The skin is numbed and then the substance is injected into the joint. It's surprisingly painless
Obviously, consult with your family doctor or orthopedist to see if this will work for you.

Now some trail news:

The perennially popular 7 Bridges Trail (Forest Service Trail 622) has re-opened after the much needed replacement of bridges three and seven.  All of the bridges have also had numbers affixed to them to better help you determine where you are.  

The recent wildand fires in Pueblo and Custer Counties and the smaller fire this past week near Rampart Reservoir serve as a reminder that wildland fire danger persists well in to the fall.  Please, be careful and heed any fire warnings and restriction that may be issued.

If you're planning on visiting Rocky Mountain National Park between now and next May, take note that road work on U.S. 34 between Loveland and Estes Park will be closed to through traffic from mile marker 77 to mile marker 80.  Simply put, you won't be able to travel between RMNP and Loveland through Big Thompson Canyon until sometime in May.

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website ( E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob:
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Friday, October 21, 2016

At Springs rally, proud 'deplorables' confident in their losing candidate's prospects

Posted By on Fri, Oct 21, 2016 at 10:50 AM

Usually we’re the tellers of stories, not the subjects of them. But the notebook-toters and camera-slingers in the press pen weathered some uncomfortable attention as Donald Trump directed his followers to howl at “the dishonest media” at his Tuesday rally in Colorado Springs at the Norris Penrose Event Center.

“They’re liars,” the Republican nominee declared as the riled up crowd turned around to boo and jeer at the fenced off section of journalists, local and traveling. The media — which, for the record, is not a singular, unified entity — is “rigging the election,” Trump told his supporters, by “telling totally false stories.” In particular, he bemoaned coverage of the recently surfaced hot-mic tape that unwittingly captured the then-59-year-old reality TV star bragging about “grabbing women by the pussy.” Multiple women have since come forward with allegations of sexual assault which Trump has threatened to sue the New York Times for publishing.

“I have been under constant attack” a blustering Trump exclaimed, adding that “they even want to try to rig the election at the polling booth where so many cities are corrupt. So corrupt.”

For the younger amongst us, this election will be the benchmark. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • For the younger amongst us, this election will be the benchmark.

Worth noting is that general elections, like this one, are administered on the state, not municipal, level. Also worth noting is that the two elected officials who oversee the election here — El Paso County’s Clerk and Recorder Chuck Broerman, whose office gathers votes, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office processes them — have both adamantly rejected the notion that funny business of any consequence is remotely possible. They’re both Republicans.

Trump encouraged his followers to trust neither members of their own party who say “everything is just peachy-dory” nor independent polls that show him down by double digit percentage points in some cases. “I hear we’re doing great in Colorado,” Trump noted with smug defiance. “So it doesn’t matter what they’re saying. My people say we’re going to win Colorado.”

These rally-goers asked if this reporter would vote for Trump. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • These rally-goers asked if this reporter would vote for Trump.

Many attendees shared these seemingly contradictory sentiments — that the election is “rigged” against their candidate, but that he’s surely headed toward victory.

Christine Chapman, who travelled from Rocky Ford and wore head-to-toe American flag garb, told the Indy she’s concerned about voter fraud, like dead people on the rolls and “illegals” who don’t have to show ID. Nonetheless, she believes Trump will come out on top. “I can’t understand why he wouldn’t ... I mean, look at the reception he gets,” Chapman said gesturing behind her to all the other fans waiting to get in the door on the windy fall afternoon.

An employee of Trump’s casino in Cripple Creek, James Sober, who donned a t-shirt that read “Hillary for Prison” from the conspiracy theorist website,, showed an even more cynical attitude. “Oh, I know my vote won’t count,” he said, “I’m just here to show my support.” And when, as he anticipates, Clinton takes office and “goes after our guns,” Sober added, “things will get ugly.”

This rally-goer brought his homemade "Crooked Hillary" ventriloquist dummy. It was a hit. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • This rally-goer brought his homemade "Crooked Hillary" ventriloquist dummy. It was a hit.

Trump’s professed skepticism of the democratic process stole headlines after he wouldn’t commit to accepting the result of the election on the debate stage Wednesday night. “I will keep you in suspense,” he declared ominously — a statement that elicited horror from all those who believe in the peaceful transfer of power according to voters’ will as a constitutionally enshrined pillar of the American system of government.

But at the rally Tuesday, attendees readily admitted this is an election like no other.

“I work for a company that’s closing, moving all our jobs offshore. And if we get Hillary, that’s going to keep happening,” said Joe Hutchcraft, an independent who registered as Republican this year to support Trump’s candidacy. “If I live in a country where they try to take all our jobs, our rights, our guns, own my house, my car and give me rations for what I can eat, then yeah, I believe there would be a revolution.”

(For the record, seizing private property is not one of Clinton’s stated policy proposals. Similar fears about the Obama administration have not come to pass either.)

And whether “revolution” means an armed insurrection Hutchcraft did not specify, but the idea that this election is a kind of last stand against globalist neoliberalism seemed well accepted at the rally.

“If we lose, it’s over,” predicted Jonathan Reed, a Trump campaign volunteer. “The country will slide into socialism forever because of immigration.” Repeating the incorrect assertion that Clinton wants to “blow open the border completely,” he commented that “all you need is 10 million more third worlders — and I know that’s a pejorative — but all you need it 10-15 million more people with no stake in the game other than they want a check from the government to swing the elections forever in this country.”

Meanwhile, ballots have dropped and voting has begun in Colorado, where Clinton is clocking a healthy lead in the polls. Other swing states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and Nevada are also leaning her way according to nearly every poll.

Nonetheless, rally-goers spilled back out into the crisp autumn afternoon Tuesday, excited for impending victory.
The wind blew presciently. - NAT STEIN
  • Nat Stein
  • The wind blew presciently.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

UPDATE: Is this your ring?

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 2:14 PM


CSPD Lt. Howard Black says the search is over for the owner of the ring. According to this news report, the owner has been found in Indiana.

Black reports to the media via email:
 A school class ring was discovered in the course of a motor vehicle theft investigation. We wanted to find the owner, so we posted a message on Facebook and Twitter with photos of the ring. Response was immediate and the Facebook post reached 140,664 and was shared 2,331 time and had 105 comments. It was liked and retweeted on Twitter as well. The post was shared in Lafayette, Indiana.WTHR-TV in Indianapolis and WLFI TV in LaFayette shared the story as well. 

——-ORIGINAL POST 2:14 P.M. THURSDAY, OCT. 20, 2016———————

Colorado Springs Police are trying to reunite a class ring found during the investigation of a motor vehicle theft with its rightful owner.

The ring is dated 1964 and from Lafayette (Indiana) Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School. It's a female ring.

If you recognize the ring, contact Detective Marcus Yanez at 444-7234.

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Trinidad settles lawsuit stemming from bad arrests

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 at 12:18 PM

  • houstonDwiPhotos
The ACLU of Colorado just announced that the city of Trinidad agreed to pay $375,000 to settle a lawsuit involving two women who were arrested based on bogus information.

The case was thoroughly reported by Alan Prendergast in Westword back in 2014. Prendergast, with Westword since 1995, is a gifted writer and diligent reporter, who periodically teaches journalism at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. From Westword's website:
Prendergast reported on this issue two years ago. - COURTESY ALAN PRENDERGAST
  • Courtesy Alan Prendergast
  • Prendergast reported on this issue two years ago.
His stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies, including the 2012 true-crime anthology Seven Sins, The Best American Crime Reporting 2008 and The Best American Sports Writing 2009. He has also written for Rolling Stone, Outside, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Men’s Journal and other national publications and is the author of a book about child abuse and parricide, The Poison Tree.
The ACLU's news release:
DENVER – The City of Trinidad has agreed to pay $375,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Colorado on behalf of Danika Gonzales and Felicia Valdez, two innocent women who were wrongly arrested and prosecuted for crimes they did not commit in a reckless 2013 “drug sting” where police relied on the false accusations of an untrustworthy confidential informant.

The ACLU filed suit in January 2015 alleging that Trinidad detectives incentivized a confidential informant, Crystal Bachicha, to make false, self-serving accusations. To obtain arrest warrants, the detectives deliberately concealed facts that they knew would destroy the informant’s credibility, including Bachicha’s convictions for fraud and drug crimes, her known biases against the people she claimed to have sold drugs to, and numerous documented instances in which Bachicha lied to law enforcement officers.

“Trinidad detectives allowed a devious snitch to frame our innocent clients for crimes they did not commit,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “With this settlement, our clients have been vindicated, and Trinidad detectives have received a clear message that the uncorroborated say-so of a shady snitch cannot justify destroying the careers and reputations of innocent members of the community.”

Overall, 40 individuals were arrested during Trinidad’s widely-publicized 2013 “drug sting,” on the basis of false, deficient, and misleading arrest affidavits. None of the 40 arrests resulted in a drug-related conviction.

“At the time Trinidad police tapped Bachicha to be an informant, they knew that she was a convicted felon, a liar, a drug user, and had a history of providing false information to law enforcement,” said ACLU staff attorney Rebecca Wallace. “Yet, over and over again, the police took Bachicha at her word as she falsely accused many of her enemies of selling drugs.”

Gonzales, who had been Bachicha’s probation officer, lost her job as a result of the false arrest. Valdez was fired from her job with the Trinidad School System, and she and her children were evicted from their federally-subsidized housing.

“This incident was traumatic for me emotionally and financially, and I lost my sense of normalcy and confidence. The reckless actions of the Trinidad Police Department have caused irreversible damage to my career, my family, and my trust in law enforcement,” said Gonzales. “However, I am relieved to have finally gotten to this point of closure. I am so very thankful for the continued hope and support given to me by my family, friends, and all of the outstanding attorneys with the ACLU of Colorado and Baker/Hostetler.”

The City of Trinidad has not conducted its annual drug sting since the 2013 debacle, and the two lead detectives have since retired, according to a recent report in Pueblo Chieftain.

“Our investigation into this case revealed a police department whose repeated use of unreliable confidential informants had caused it to lose the trust of the community it served,” said ACLU cooperating attorney Paul Karlsgodt of BakerHostetler. “Trinidad police acted under constitutionally-deficient procedures which gave untrustworthy informants an open invitation to lie, divert buy money, skim drugs for their own use, and use their positions as informants to settle personal scores against their enemies.”

“The settlement helps to repair some, but not all, of the lasting damage caused by these practices, and we hope it has also given the department an opportunity to self-reflect and make necessary changes to ensure this never happens again,” said cooperating attorney Casie Collignon of BakerHostetler.

Gonzales and Valdez were represented by Silverstein, Wallace, and ACLU staff attorney Sara Neel, as well as a BakerHostetler team led by Karlsgodt, Collignon, and former associate Nathan Schacht.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

UPDATE: Peterson AFB announces week-old pollution discharge

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 3:23 PM

Peterson Air Force Base's 21st Space Wing reports today that there was a significant discharge of contaminated water on Oct. 12.
  • Peterson Air Force Base's 21st Space Wing reports today that there was a significant discharge of contaminated water on Oct. 12.
Peterson Air Force Base got back to us late yesterday with additional information in response to our questions, as follows:
It's important to note that this discharge was unplanned and even though there are no EPA mandated reporting requirements, as good neighbors and residents of the community, we reported the unplanned discharge to CSU within 24 hours after discovery. Our environmental professionals are working with their counterparts at CSU to explore the notification process moving forward.

To answer your question, the tank is visually inspected quarterly, and
before and after any training at the simulator. The last quarterly
inspection was conducted 29 July, and the last training was held 22 Sept before the discharge was discovered. 
Also, KRCC reports, quoting a Peterson source, that it wouldn't be simple to drain the tank, because that requires opening not one, but two valves as well as activating a lever. Officials are investigating the cause of the discharge.

——-ORIGINAL POST TUESDAY, OCT. 18, 2016, 3:23 P.M.———————-

Peterson Air Force Base says 150,000 gallons of water containing "an elevated level" of perfluorinated compounds were discharged into Colorado Springs Utilities' sewage system, unbeknownst to the base, sometime prior to Oct. 12.

To put that into perspective, that's enough water to fill about a quarter of an Olympic size swimming pool.

The water went through CSU's Las Vegas Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is not equipped to remove those compounds from the water before it's dumped into Fountain Creek. From there it flows to Pueblo where the creek meets the Arkansas River as it flows to Kansas and beyond.

Pueblo Board of Water Works was not notified of the discharged, says CSU spokesman Steve Berry. It's the responsibility of the discharging agency, not CSU, to make notifications, he noted.

"It's kind of hard for us, because it was limited what we can do as a utility," Berry said. "By the time Peterson notified us — they did notify us within the 24-hour requirement — it had already gone through our system and through the Las Vegas treatment plant."

He adds that he's not aware of any treatment plants in the country that remove PFCs, "unless they're using some sophisticated reverse osmosis" process.

CSU received notification from Peterson verbally and in an email on Oct. 13. The base is required to file a report with the state and the EPA, Berry says.

Here's Peterson's release, which is sure to ramp up concern over the PFCs, which already have triggered lawsuits and outrage in the Fountain Valley due to contaminated wells that residents fear will permanently affect the values of their properties, not to mention pose a risk to their health.
An unplanned water discharge from a Peterson fire training area was discovered Oct. 12.

About 150,000 gallons of water being held in a fire training area retention tank was discharged into the Colorado Springs Utilities sewer system sometime in the last week. The tank held water that contained an elevated level of perfluorinated compounds, a residual component of aqueous film forming foam, a firefighting foam historically used at the base for emergency response.

Air Force officials reported the discharge to Colorado Springs Utilities within 24 hours after discovery, and an official report was made within a five-day window, as requested by CSU.

Authorities at Peterson discovered the discharge during a routine tank inspection Oct. 12. The tank is part of a system used to recirculate water to the fire training area.

"We take this type of event seriously, and will work diligently to determine the cause," said Lt. Col. Chad Gemeinhardt, 21st Civil Engineer Squadron commander. "We are committed to upholding environmental stewardship policies and procedures."

An investigation into the incident is ongoing to determine how the discharge occurred and a review is underway to determine if there are gaps in procedures or training.

"Peterson Air Force Base and the U.S. Air Force are committed to protecting the environment and communities in which we call home," said Col. Doug Schiess, 21st Space Wing commander. "We take all environmental concerns seriously, and have opened an investigation to determine the cause of the discharge and to prevent it from happening again."

When PFCs were discovered earlier this year in well water south of the base, the Air Force proactively provided $4.3 million to filter and provide drinking water to affected residents while an investigation of potential source areas is conducted. Officials are confident these ongoing mitigation strategies are sufficient to address any potential contamination from the discharge.

We've contacted Peterson and asked when the water was discharged, how often the tank in question is inspected and why Pueblo authorities weren't immediately notified. If and when we hear back, we'll update.

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Political activist asked to resign for not endorsing GOP candidate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 12:51 PM

Kanda Calef, a longtime loyal Republican, is being chastised for choosing someone other than GOP nominee in the U.S. Senate race, Darryl Glenn, and telling people about it. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Kanda Calef, a longtime loyal Republican, is being chastised for choosing someone other than GOP nominee in the U.S. Senate race, Darryl Glenn, and telling people about it.
A squabble has arisen within the El Paso County Republican Party due to an endorsement of a non-Republican.

As first reported by the Colorado Independent, Kanda Calef got taken to the woodshed by party chairman Jeff Hays after she announced she'll support Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Lily Tang Williams rather than Republican nominee Darryl Glenn, an El Paso County commissioner.

Here's the message she received from Hays on Oct. 13:

Although as a private citizen you may obviously express your opinion as you wish, as a precinct leader there are restrictions within our bylaws, Article VIII, paragraph G.4, that expressly forbid your endorsing non-Republican candidates in an election where there is a Republican candidate running.

Your Facebook post and included press release endorsing Lily Tang Williams for US Senate clearly stated that you were a precinct leader and a member of our executive committee, so it appears you have violated that section of our county bylaws.

I hope you will publicly reconsider your position; if not, I hope you will please submit a letter of resignation as precinct leader in lieu of going through the process of being removed described in the subsequent section of the bylaws.

Sincerely and respectfully,

Jeff Hays
Chairman, El Paso County Republican Central Committee

Calef, a party activist, says she won't resign, because the party is run by "a bunch of hypocrites" who themselves have violated the endorsement rule. Besides Hays and others openly endorsing Tom Tancredo who switched to the American Constitution Party to run for governor in 2010.

Calef also points to the 2013 City Council race in which then-GOP party executive Bill Roy and Hays gave the impression they had endorsed Angela Dougan over Joel Miller. ("Joel Miller cries foul over non-endorsement endorsement," March 20, 2013.) Both are Republicans, and the party's bylaws bar endorsements in contests in which Republicans vie with one another, such as primaries. It's worth noting that City Council elections are considered non-partisan. Miller won the seat.

Here's Calef's statement:
A longtime Republican, committed to cleaning up the corruption inside the Republican Party, I have become another target of the establishment of the Republican Party. After endorsing Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate Lily Tang Williams due to Darryl Glenn’s hypocrisy of expecting Republicans to vote for him, while he stated that he would not support the Republican Presidential candidate, I have been sent the email below from the El Paso County Chair, Jeff Hays, threatening to kick me out as a Republican precinct leader. Darryl Glenn is also a precinct leader, so I will be interested to find out if he is also being asked to resign his position, since his non-support of Trump is an implied endorsement for a candidate who is not Republican.

I have my doubts that they will do anything to Glenn, since the rules for the elites in the Republican Party are not the same as the rules for the average citizen who chooses to participate in the political process.

It should be noted that when Tom Tancredo ran for Governor as an American Constitutional Party candidate in 2010, a huge number of Republican elected officials, executive committee members, and precinct leaders endorsed him against the Republican candidate, Dan Maes. To my knowledge, nobody was asked to give up their positions and my understanding was that the bylaws were the same in 2010 regarding this situation as they are now. To my recollection, Jeff Hays, the current El Paso County Chairman who is requesting my resignation, was a sitting precinct leader and Executive Committee Member who was openly a Tom Tancredo supporter. Selective prosecution seems to be the standard.

While Darryl Glenn has followed the path of the other establishment Republicans like John McCain and Paul Ryan and rejected the Republican Presidential candidate, Donald Trump, he is still being promoted by the El Paso County Republican Party and the other elites from around the state. Yet, when a low-level precinct leader, like me, takes a stand against the hypocrisy of the establishment, I am threatened. Like the special treatment given to Hillary Clinton when she broke the law, it appears that the requirements for the nobility are not the same as those for the serfs.

The Chairman of the El Paso County GOP should spend more time helping to make sure Colorado’s electoral college votes do not go to Hillary Clinton and not waste his time fighting one of Colorado’s most outspoken conservatives.
Glenn has since reversed gears and says he's supporting Trump. Calef, too, says she supports Trump.
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Colorado State Forest Service: Use more local wood

Posted By on Tue, Oct 18, 2016 at 9:26 AM

click image Well, it's certainly one solution to forest fires. - NEIL TURNER
  • Neil Turner
  • Well, it's certainly one solution to forest fires.

Well, this is something you don't see every day: The Colorado State Forest Service urging all of us to kill more trees. 

But with fires burning near Rampart Reservoir and in Custer County, the Forest Service is blaming large-scale wildfires on overgrown forests. 

According to Ryan Lockwood, the Service's Public and Media Relations Coordinator, "[H]aving a robust wood products industry results in healthier forests and reduced wildfire risk." And indeed, it's hard to argue that there are fewer fires where there are fewer — or no — trees. 

Here's the release:

2016 Colorado Wildfires Highlight Need to Use Local Wood

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – October 17, 2016 – The large and destructive wildfires in Colorado this year, from the 38,000-acre Beaver Creek Fire still burning in beetle-kill timber in northwestern Colorado to the 16,000-acre Hayden Pass Fire southeast of Salida, are in part due to unhealthy forest conditions that made them prone to intense fire behavior. And with this week being National Forest Products Week, the Colorado State Forest Service wants to emphasize how having a robust wood products industry spurs not only widespread forest management, but the healthy forests and reduced wildfire risk that result from them.

“If we could increase the share of locally produced wood products that are purchased by Coloradans, the benefits would accrue not only to family-owned businesses, but to our forests themselves,” said Tim Reader, CSFS utilization and marketing forester.

More than 90 percent of the forest products purchased by Coloradans currently are imported into the state.

Kristina Hughes, another CSFS forester, is the program administrator for the Colorado Forest Products™ program, which encourages consumers to purchase locally made wood products from one of the state’s many wood-based businesses. She says that by purchasing locally harvested and produced wood products, citizens support the sawmills and other businesses that are improving forest health and protecting communities, property and critical infrastructure from wildfire.

Consumers looking to buy locally produced wood products or businesses interested in joining the Colorado Forest Products™ program can go to Coloradoans also can learn more about the way they can contribute to the wood products economy and how the state is supporting these businesses by visiting

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Monday, October 17, 2016

Fire breaks out near Rampart Reservoir

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 3:47 PM

The Custer County fire has been labeled the Junkins Fire. - FREMONT COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Fremont County Sheriff's Office
  • The Custer County fire has been labeled the Junkins Fire.
On the heels of a fire igniting in Custer County early this morning and spreading to 13,000 acres within 12 hours, fire has broken out near Rampart Reservoir west of Colorado Springs.

El Paso County said in a news release that campgrounds and trails around the reservoir have been evacuated. The fire started off Rampart Range Road near Forest Service Road 953.

Other evacuations have taken place in areas south of Loy Creek and the Farish Recreation Area.

"Fire fighting teams, including crews from Colorado Springs Utilities and El Paso County Wildland Fire, are working, while evacuations are progressing," the release said. "As of 3 p.m., the size of the fire was estimated to be 10 acres and water was being dropped on the blaze."

To follow the county's updates, go to 

The Sheriff's Office announced the fire restrictions were imposed today. The release:
Due to the continued dry conditions and the National Weather Service forecast for continued dry and warmer than normal conditions, resulting in very high to extreme fire danger ratings, Deputy Fire Warden John Padgett has ordered Stage I Fire Restrictions for all of the unincorporated areas of El Paso County. The Stage I Fire Restrictions shall go into effect immediately and the following are prohibited:

1. Open burning, excepting fires and campfires within permanently constructed fire grates in developed
campgrounds and picnic grounds; charcoal grills and wood burning stoves at private residences in areas
cleared of all flammable materials.

2. The sale or use of fireworks.

3. Outdoor smoking except within an enclosed vehicle or building, a developed recreation site or while stopped
in an area at least three feet in diameter that is barren or cleared of all flammable materials.

The Stage I Restrictions shall remain in effect until such time the restrictions are modified pursuant to El Paso County Ordinance #15-001.

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UPDATE: Road sign disparages Clinton

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2016 at 10:27 AM

This just in from CDOT, "From our preliminary investigation, the variable message sign on southbound I-25, south of Rockrimmon, was broken into, by someone who was not authorized to use the board, sometime over the weekend. The signs have been changed back to their original message and have been secured."

The CDOT spokesperson didn't mention whether the unauthorized use has been reported to law enforcement.

———————-ORIGINAL POST 10:27 A.M. MONDAY, OCT. 17, 2016————————

The Colorado Department of Transportation is investigating the possible hacking of a portable sign on the southbound side of Interstate 25 after a motorist reported seeing the sign say "Hillary for Prison" early Saturday morning.

"We're investigating," CDOT spokesman Bob Wilson says via email. "Our portable signs have been hacked before."

Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president. The GOP nominee, Donald Trump, has empowered his supporters with vitriolic commentary about Clinton's use of a private email server while she served as Secretary of State, saying she should be imprisoned.

According to the motorist, who was driving home from work in the Denver area early Saturday,  
"I saw a flashing road sign - typical construction sign low to the ground and flashing between 2 two-line messages: "Hillary for Prison" and someone's name" that she couldn't make out.

"This might be some construction worker's idea of a funny prank, but there are too many crashes on I-25 right now and a construction warning sign should only be for that purpose," the motorist tells the Independent via email. "This is an inappropriate use of a construction alerting sign and a danger to the traffic on I-25."

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Grand Canyon Prep Part III; new trails in Staunton State Park

Posted By on Sat, Oct 15, 2016 at 10:17 AM

  • Bob Falcone
As my hike to the Grand Canyon's Phantom Ranch gets closer and closer, I've done more preparation for the adventure. 

The hike consists of two trails: the 7-mile South Kaibab Trail for the hike down, the 10-mile Bright Angel Trail for the hike back up. Given it's shorter distance, one would initially think that the South Kaibab Trail would be the better choice for the hike up, but there are a few reasons why this routing is used and recommended by the National Park Service.

The South Kaibab Trail is shorter because it's steeper, and while this doesn't make it a much of a joy for the downhill section, it would make going uphill even tougher, obviously — it's like going up the Manitou Incline vs. Barr Trail. Also, the Bright Angel Trail has shaded areas and fresh water, making the more strenuous and longer uphill section somewhat more comfortable.
The Phantom Ranch, located at the confluence of the Bright Angel and Phantom Creeks, was built in 1922, although, there's evidence that the location was used by Native Americans going back as far as 1050. John Wesley Powell, during his historic rafting trip through the Grand Canyon, was the first non-Native American to set foot at the site in 1869. It became popular with prospectors in the 1920's and exploded as tourist attraction after the prospectors left. The site now consists of a number of stone and wood buildings including cabins, men's and women's dorms, a dining hall, medical facility and even a helipad. Reservations are required to stay at the ranch, and are typically sold out over a year ahead of time.

As a photographer, I'm planning on taking plenty of pictures while on the trail and at the bottom, and the timing couldn't be better. The weekend of my trip coincides with the new moon, and while that means there won't be any full moon pictures, conditions will be perfect for taking photos of the Milky Way while it's overhead. (I learned how to take those kinds of photos earlier this year and look forward to putting that education to good use.)

As you can tell, I'm planning to make this trip more than just a hike.

Some local trails news:

  • Bob Falcone
  • Elk Falls
Last year I wrote about hiking the Elk Falls Overlook Trail at Staunton State Park, the newest  in Colorado's state park system. It's a gem of a park and continues to add outdoor recreation opportunities. I recently returned with a few friends to explore the new Chimney Rock and Elk Falls Trails, the latter of which takes hikers to the bottom of Elk Falls.

The trails are excellently constructed, and although the flow over the falls was much less than it would be during the spring, it was still pretty impressive. From Elk Falls we hiked to the Elk Falls Overlook, then back to the trailhead for a total of about 12.5 miles. Other trails have been built or re-routed and more trails are planned. Many of the trails in the park are multi-use, so bring your bike or your horse if you prefer. 

Happy Trails!

Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor, business owner and author of Hiking Bob's Tips, Tricks and Trails, available via his website. He has lived in Colorado Springs for 25 years. Follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), Instagram (@HikingBob_CO) or visit his website ( E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob:
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