Stormwater on fed radar
Colorado Springs' long-neglected stormwater problem now threatens to bring federal fines, says Mayor John Suthers, although the cost of those fines hasn't been released.
Suthers says in a statement that the city received a letter from the Department of Justice's Environment and Natural Resources Division about "potential violations" of the Clean Water Act under the city's stormwater discharge permit. "We take this issue seriously and will work very hard to resolve it," he says.
The problem was exacerbated when voters approved a 2009 ballot measure requiring City Council to abolish the Stormwater Enterprise.
Suthers, who took office in June, and the Council have earmarked $19 million annually starting in 2016 for stormwater projects. Former Mayor Steve Bach opposed a November 2014 ballot measure that addressed stormwater. The measure ultimately failed. — PZ
Francisco Vasquez, a three-year deputy of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, was placed on administrative leave and charged with two misdemeanors in connection with an incident of brutality at the jail, according to the Sheriff's Office.
The use-of-force incident took place on Sept. 29 in the Criminal Justice Center's "Intake and Release" area. "Information regarding this incident was reported and then given to the District Attorney's Office for review," the Sheriff's Office said in a news release. "A criminal investigation was initiated due to the actions taken by Deputy Francisco Vasquez, in his official capacity as a Deputy Sheriff."
Vasquez was charged on Nov. 19 with third degree assault and official oppression. The oppression charge is defined in criminal statutes as when a public servant, acting under color of his office or employment, intentionally subjects another to mistreatment or arrest, detention, search and seizure; or intentionally denies another their exercise of any right, or intentionally subjects another to sexual harassment.
The office refused to release further information. — PZ
Roads panel chosen
True to his word, last week Mayor John Suthers announced his appointment of a five-member panel that will keep tabs on the money from a new sales tax dedicated to road work. On Nov. 3 voters approved an additional .62 of a percent in sales tax for five years beginning in 2016. The estimated $250 million is exclusively slated for repairing the city's crumbling roads.
The panel members are: City Council President Merv Bennett; City Councilor Don Knight; former Pennsylvania Department of Transportation pavement expert Barry Falkenstine; Ent Credit Union executive Barb Winter; and former Springs public works director Dave Zelenok, currently with HR Green, Inc.
Suthers says in a release that the panel will ensure the money is spent efficiently and effectively while communicating progress to citizens. — PZ
Give! is in need
The Independent's Give! campaign aims to raise $1.8 million for 88 local nonprofits this holiday season. As of Monday, Nov. 23, the campaign had raised over $310,000, nearly on par with last year's numbers by that date. The 2014 Give! campaign eventually raised more than $1.5 million for 75 nonprofits, exceeding its goal of $1.4 million.
Give! distinguishes the various nonprofits by assigning each to one of the following categories: animals; a hand up; home safe; inspired learning; see art, make art; big ideas; build community; veterans and their families; youth in action; get well; and great outdoors. As of Nov. 23, the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (animals category) was the top fundraiser, with $13,300 toward its $53,000 goal.
While the money continues to flow to these worthy causes, most of the participants have a long way to go toward their goals.
Visit indygive.com to lend a hand. — JAS
Indy CEO bids adieu
Fran Zankowski has announced his departure from the Colorado Publishing House, effective Jan. 1.
Zankowski, 61, is CEO and minority shareholder in the company, which owns the Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal, among other local publications. Zankowski will continue to serve in the role of Senior Consultant to the company, but he will no longer be responsible for day-to-day business. His plans, according to a letter sent to staff, include "traveling overseas, building community vegetable gardens at Episcopal churches, consulting for other alternative newspapers, etc."
Zankowski began his employment with the Independent in October 2004 as a part-time consultant, and has been one of the guiding forces of the paper and the company over the past 11 years — a time of growth and change. For the past four years, he worked with then-publisher and Independent founder John Weiss to plan a leadership succession. Recently, that plan came to fruition with the naming of Carrie Simison as publisher of the Independent and Jen Furda as publisher of the Colorado Springs Business Journal.
"It's a bittersweet leave-taking," Zankowski says. "I'm so incredibly proud of the work and successes of these papers. I'll miss the great people I work with, but look forward to new and exciting adventures." — JAS