Friday, April 28, 2017

St. Francis Medical Center set to expand

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 4:38 PM

St. Francis Medical Center is set to grow. - COURTESY CENTURA HEALTH
  • Courtesy Centura Health
  • St. Francis Medical Center is set to grow.
You can tell from reading this news release from Centura Health that something BIG is coming.

Centura's hospital in north Colorado Springs, St. Francis Medical Center, is planning a groundbreaking of a significant addition, or, as the release says, BIG expansion.

St. Francis Medical Center has exceeded expectations since its grand opening on Aug. 8, 2008, rising to meet the health care challenges of the Colorado Springs community as it continues to grow at lightning speed. Penrose-St. Francis Health Services is committed to evolve to meet the health care demands and needs of future generations.

A BIG groundbreaking ceremony will be held at St. Francis Medical Center (SFMC) to celebrate the BIG expansion project for a BIGGER Emergency Department, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and Surgical Unit. It’s going to be a really BIG show!

When: May 1, 10 – 11 a.m.
Where: St. Francis Medical Center, 6001 E. Woodmen Rd.
Who: Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers, Penrose-St. Francis President and CEO Margaret Sabin, SFMC Chief Administrative Officer Mark Hartman. KKTV Anchor Dianne Derby will serve as master of ceremonies.
RSVP: Call (719)761-9390 or email for all inquiries and requests.

The SFMC expansion project – expected to be an investment of about $100 million – includes the construction of 168,000 square feet of additional hospital space as a four-level addition on the west side of the campus. The project features:
Expanding the Emergency Department (ED) by adding an additional 17 beds, bringing the total ED capacity to 40 beds.
ED volumes have almost doubled since 2009.
Adding new operating rooms with shelled space for additional operating rooms in the future.
Surgery volumes at SFMC have increased 63% since 2009.
The new Total Joint & Spine Center has substantially increased surgical cases.
SFMC continues to be the destination hospital for many surgeons performing a large volume of robotic-assisted surgeries.
Expanding the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), doubling the capacity to 50 beds.
The number of babies admitted to the NICU per day has more than doubled since 2009.
St. Francis Medical Center has the largest NICU in Centura Health.
On average, eight babies each month are transported to the NICU at SFMC from hospitals throughout southern Colorado.
Additional parking.
Parking for associates is a challenge, and with increasing patient volumes, additional parking is paramount on the campus.

SFMC opened in August 2008, as a 156-bed, full-service hospital, with several “shelled” spaces for future use. Those spaces have all been built out, adding additional patient rooms, operating rooms, cardiac services and GI services. Once the expansion is complete, SFMC will grow to around 225 licensed beds.
SFMC recently received the prestigious international recognition as a Baby-Friendly Designated Birth Facility. SFMC is the only hospital in Colorado Springs, the second hospital in the Centura Health system and the tenth hospital in all of Colorado to receive the designation.

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As Denver mulls sanctuary policy, Springs just a step behind

Posted By on Fri, Apr 28, 2017 at 4:30 PM

  • Siena Mann

On the night of April 27, a coalition of immigrants, their advocates and lawyers gathered at the Denver Inner City Parish to unveil a months-in-the-making proposal to make Denver a "sanctuary city" — a dubious term that's been subject of a political windstorm since President Donald Trump took office. In general, the term means a local jurisdiction that doesn't participate in immigration enforcement (a federal function), but the details get a lot more complicated.

Mayor Michael Hancock has said Denver is a "welcoming" city but not a "sanctuary" city. You can watch his meticulously ambiguous statement below.

But, in practice, both Denver and Colorado Springs have policies and practices that the administration's new Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security could consider providing sanctuary. That includes not honoring warrantless detainer requests (that have been ruled unconstitutional) and not participating in the 287g program that cross-deputizes officers to perform immigration duties. The cities have shirked the "sanctuary city" label, however, because the President threatened to withhold federal grant monies from such jurisdictions (though a U.S. District Court judge recently blocked that portion of the executive order on the basis that only Congress can make spending decisions.)

Regardless of financial risk, immigrants and their advocates want city governments to take a stronger position on behalf of those at-risk of deportation. The policy now under consideration in Denver — with backing from the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition (CIRC), Mi Familia Vota, the Colorado People’s Alliance, Together Colorado, Padres y Jovenes Unidos, the Meyer Law Office, the American Friends Service Committee and the University of Denver’s Criminal Defense Clinic — may be the most progressive in the country, according to a CIRC representative. You can read the proposal below.

346620872 the Draft Sanctuary City Policy by Natalie Stein on Scribd

Here in the Springs, the Green Party of the Pikes Peak Region has been developing their own sanctuary city policy for months now too. Karyna Lemus, party chair, said she used San Francisco's ordinance as a model, but anticipates tailoring it to fit local needs. Though several CIty Councilors have voiced support, she has yet to secure a sponsor. But with election season now in the rearview, Lemus hopes that her petition of about 600 signatures will convince one of the more progressive councilors to pick it up.

"I know it's difficult because of the current political climate with so much anti-immigrant rhetoric, but we're counting on our representatives to have the courage to speak out," says Lemus. "Sanctuary [status], is symbolic in a way — it's like the city saying, 'You don't have to live in the shadows.'"

Find her draft proposal below.

Sanctuary City Proposal 1 by Natalie Stein on Scribd

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Gen. Michelle Johnson announces retirement

Posted By on Thu, Apr 27, 2017 at 1:52 PM

Johnson: Hoping for a civilian higher ed post. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Johnson: Hoping for a civilian higher ed post.
Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson announced her retirement via a news release Thursday, though no date was given. She came to the academy in mid-2013.

Johnson was announced as a finalist for the chancellor job at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs a week ago.

She spoke to faculty and staff on Wednesday at UCCS.

The release:
The Air Force announced April 27 that the superintendent of the Air Force Academy will retire from military service later this year.

Lt. Gen. Michelle, a 1981 graduate of the Academy, is the first woman to lead the Academy. She's also a Rhodes scholar and command pilot with more than 3,600 hours in various aircraft.

Among her Air Force assignments, she was an aide to two presidents at the White House, and, at the Pentagon, the Air Force’s Director of Public Affairs, and later, Deputy Director for Information and Cyberspace Policy on the Joint Staff. She spent two years as Director, Strategy and Policy, Programs and Logistics, U.S. Transportation Command, and two years as the Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations and Intelligence, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Belgium.

The official date of Johnson's retirement and the name of her successor is
pending official announcement.
The chancellor post was vacated with the retirement in February of Pam Shockley-Zalabak.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Rodeo foundation wants to lasso convention business

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 2:11 PM

The indoor arena at Norris-Penrose Events Center today. - CASEY BRADLEY GENT
  • Casey Bradley Gent
  • The indoor arena at Norris-Penrose Events Center today.
The latest issue of the Independent takes a close look at plans to expand the Norris-Penrose Events Center's indoor arena. ("Western expansion," Cover, April 26, 2017)

As noted in the story, there are some hills to climb for the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Foundation, which runs the center. Chief among them is persuading the El Paso County commissioners to release the county's first right of refusal on the property, so banks will loan the foundation money for the $4 million project.
The renovated indoor arena as envisioned in an artist's rendering. - COURTESY CSNA ARCHITECTS
  • Courtesy CSNA Architects
  • The renovated indoor arena as envisioned in an artist's rendering.
Commissioners are mulling the possibility. County spokesman Dave Rose sets out these points being taken into consideration via an email after commissioners held an executive session to discuss the matter on April 20:

• The Commissioners have indicated that they recognize the tradition of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo and they want the Rodeo to succeed as both a region event and a philanthropic organization.
• The Commissioners want to do what they can to assure that the primary use of the property for recreation and equestrian purposes is preserved.
• They want to do what they can to assure that future construction is done with proper testing and monitoring in place to minimize the environmental risk. As you know, there was a gold extraction mill on the site (the Portland Mill) from the late 1800’s and early 1900’s and later it functioned for a number of years as a city dump.
• County Attorney will make an effort to incorporate those objectives into discussions with the lawyers for the Rodeo Association and if they are able to reach some sort of agreement, I would look for any proposed Agreement to come back to the Board within a few weeks and we will absolutely let you know when (if) that gets scheduled.

Our coverage in this week's edition also delves into the property's legacy as a gold refining area, as well as recaps contributions made by the Rodeo Foundation.

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Gazette reportedly lays off newsroom employees

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 12:19 PM

Here's a sobering statistic: Between 2005 and 2015, the number of newspaper reporters and editors declined by 25,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

It's no secret that the local daily newspaper, the Gazette, has seen its share of layoffs, starting in 2007 when about 40 people, many from the newsroom, were sent packing. Layoffs continued at regular intervals until 2012 when Clarity Media, owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz bought the paper. (Anschutz also owns The Broadmoor.)

But now, word is spreading there's been a layoff in the newsroom of at least four journalists, several of whom were long-time Gazette employees, which likely means their pay was on the higher end of the scale.

Sources tell us that the layoff stemmed from a desire to improve the bottom line, a common strategy in any business.

Official details are hard to come by about the layoff. We've been told by sources that's because the separation agreements contain non-disclosure clauses, meaning if those who were laid-off discuss the terms, they'll have to forfeit whatever benefits they've being provided — which also is typical for many businesses and even government agencies.

We asked the daily's editor Vince Bzdek and publisher Dan Steever to comment on the layoffs. Bzdek deferred to Steever, who writes in an email:
The Gazette does not comment on specific internal HR issues. However
we are fortunate, and unique, in that as a daily newspaper our
newsroom staff remains larger today than it was in November 2012 just
prior to the paper being purchased by Clarity Media. Our ability to
grow core news reporting staff in part is what enabled us to garner 54
awards this week from the CPA and AP including top awards in key
reporting categories, and a Best In Show award.
Steever was referring to the Colorado Press Association and Colorado Associated Press Editors and Reporters contests, the results of which were announced last weekend.

More from the rumor mill: Longtime photographer Mark Reis, who is retiring soon, won't be replaced. There's also been a lot of gab about the possible reassignment of Billie Stanton Anleu from covering City Hall as a reporter to editing feature and news copy. Steever didn't address either of those issues either.

Anschutz isn't the only billionaire in the newspaper business. Read this story and this one and this one and this one about why the uber rich are drawn to invest in newspapers.

(Disclosure: I worked for the Gazette for 16 years and left on my own accord in August 2009 to accept my current position with the Independent.)

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More on fatal crash involving El Paso County GOP chairman

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 10:22 AM

The dismissal of charges against El Paso County GOP Chair Trevor Dierdorff has been a big story for local media. We report on the issue in Wednesday's Independent.

As the story notes, Dierdorff backed up his vehicle with such speed on March 28 that the collision with Mel Tolbert dented his Toyota Land Cruiser's tailgate.

Here's what that looked like, next to the taillight: 
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Police Department
Tolbert died from his injuries five days after the crash.

Colorado Springs Police Department provided these statistics for fatality crashes investigated by the major accident unit in the last three years, along with the charges filed by police.

2017: 11 fatalities
3 charged with careless driving involving death (including Dierdorff)
1 charged with vehicular homicide
7 deceased party was at fault

2016: 34 fatalities
5 charged with careless driving involving death
3 Hit & Run involving fatalities
4 vehicular homicide
20 deceased party was at fault
2 victim deceased was the 'at fault' party, so no charges filed

2015: 29 fatalities
3 charged with careless driving involving death
5 charged with vehicular homicide
19 deceased party at fault
2 charged with vehicles turning left

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UPDATE: Cleanup costs for Colorado Springs downtown land: $4.4 million

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:19 PM

City Council just voted 8-0 in favor of the land swap, which will place the cleanup burden on the downtown master developer, Nor'wood Development Group.

Speaking in support were Council of Neighbors and Organizations executive Dave Munger, Chamber and EDC executive Dirk Draper, Downtown Partnership executive Susan Edmondson, contractor and neighboring landowner Chuck Murphy.

When a woman spoke against the project as sending contamination down Fountain Creek, Council President Richard Skorman told her she was wrong.

"You don't know what you're talking about," Skorman said. "The mitigation is going to happen. That’s why we’re here. It’s going to be approved by state authorities and go through a rigorous process. I don’t want you misleading the public."

Councilor Bill Murray, who has been critical of the land swap, wasn't present for the vote.

—————ORIGINAL POST 2:19 P.M. TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2017————————

A land swap is on the City Council agenda for a vote today (Tuesday) that would sell city pr
The green and pink properties are now owned by the city but if owned by the developer would speed development around America The Beautiful Park. The orange portion is now owned by the developer, and the city wants to acquire it for a trail and stormwater facility. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • The green and pink properties are now owned by the city but if owned by the developer would speed development around America The Beautiful Park. The orange portion is now owned by the developer, and the city wants to acquire it for a trail and stormwater facility.
operty adjacent to America the Beautiful Park to entities controlled by Nor'wood Development Group, which is owned by David Jenkins, the region's biggest developer.

Nor'wood is the master developer for the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area where the property is located.

Appraisals conducted by the city of two city-owned tracts and a tract owned by Jenkins were obtained by the Independent.

A vacant parcel at 125 Cimino Drive is valued at $1,118,500. A neighboring parcel directly north is valued at zero, because of contamination. (More about that in a bit.)

The Jenkins parcel at 301 Cimino, which the city says it needs to create a trail in tandem with the Cimarron and Interstate 25 interchange, is valued at $904,000.

Those appraisals were done in February by East West Econometrics of Louviers, Co.

The reason for the zero value is that the two city tracts are polluted with various contaminants left over from the use of that property decades ago for a coal gasification plant. The city is being sued over contamination from the north parcel.

LT Environmental Inc., Arvada, was hired by the city to provide an estimate to clean up the toxic sites. In a Feb. 14, 2017, report to the city, LT put the cleanup cost at $4,455,612. That breaks down to $722,521 for the 125 Cimino property and $3,683,091 for 25 Cimino.

Council wants Jenkins to indemnify the city against problems arising from the pollution, and a presentation to Council states the developer will assume that obligation.

Here's the city's overview of the deal, according to backup materials provided for today's Council meeting:
As part of the CDOT I-25 /Cimarron Improvement Project (“Project”), CDOT is required to construct a trail and stormwater BMPs in conformance with the City’s Drainage Criteria Manual, Vol. II. CDOT proposed a trail and stormwater vault in the existing Cimarron right of way. The trail proposed by CDOT was ADA compliant, but not truly accessible and not preferred by the City’s Park Department. The BMP proposed by CDOT is a vault which will take significant City resources to maintain. If the City obtains the property at the northeast corner of I-25 and Cimarron Street, known as 301 Cimino Drive (the “CSJ Property”), CDOT has agreed to install a trail that the City Parks Department believes will be more accessible and a water quality pond that will require less maintenance effort from the City. The CSJ Property is owned by CSJ No. 7, LLC and Urban Enterprises, LLC. An independent appraisal of the CSJ Property was obtained by the City and indicates the CSJ Property has a fair market value of $904,000.00.

The City wishes to exchange two (2) City-owned properties in the immediate vicinity for the CSJ Property (see Figure 2). These properties are identified as 25 Cimino Drive and 125 Cimino Drive (the “City Properties”). The City Properties are currently vacant. An independent appraisal of the City Properties was obtained by the City and indicates the City Properties have a combined fair market value that is $543,600.00 less than the value of the CSJ Property.

On November 26, 2006, City Council adopted a Statement of Intent (SOI) in support of the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area. On August 26, 2008, City Council adopted a new SOI in support of the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area, which replaced the previous SOI. The 2008 SOI provides, among other provisions, for the transfer of half of 25 Cimino and all of 125 Cimino to the CSURA in support of the Urban Renewal Plan. The remaining half of 25 Cimino was to be converted into parking. Under the 2008 SOI all of the City Properties were intended to be part of the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Project. The land exchange will accomplish one of the purposes of the 2008 SOI by making the City Properties available for redevelopment in support of the Urban Renewal Plan.

CSJ No. 7, LLC and Urban Enterprises, LLC desire to exchange the CSJ Property for the City Properties. A condition of the land exchange would be that CSJ No. 7, LLC and Urban Enterprises, LLC will assume the responsibility for and release the City from any necessary environmental remediation of the City Properties.

The proposed land exchange would offer the following benefits to the City:
• Acquire needed property for bike/pedestrian trail from Midland/Greenway Trail intersection;
• Relieve the City of any environmental remediation obligations it may have with respect to the City Properties;
• Support the implementation of the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Plan and fulfill the intent of the 2006 SOI and 2008 SOI; and
• Exchange can be completed with no financial obligation from the City.

The City, in accordance with the Real Estate Manual, obtained appraisals for all three (3) properties. Environmental studies and cost estimates have also been completed. These costs were supplied to the appraiser. Based on the amounts of these costs the appraiser has valued the CSJ Property and the City Properties accordingly. A financial evaluation of the land exchange is shown in Table 1. As can be seen from this table, the CSJ Property’s value exceeds the City Properties’ value by $543,600.00.

CSJ No. 7, LLC and Urban Enterprises, LLC are not seeking remuneration for the difference in the values of the properties; however, they would like the difference recognized by City Council as a donation. As such, if Council approves this land exchange, the Division Manager of Traffic Engineering will bring a resolution to Council after the land exchange has closed in order for Council to accept the donation in accordance with section 4.4 of the Real Estate Manual.

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El Paso County looks to off-load detox facility

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 2:19 PM

Detox currently is located next to the Criminal Justice Center on East Las Vegas Street. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Detox currently is located next to the Criminal Justice Center on East Las Vegas Street.
After AspenPointe bailed on the "Lighthouse" detox facility in 2008, no one stepped up to provide an alternative. The hospitals were screaming about it, because their emergency rooms were filling up with drunks.

Then-Sheriff Terry Maketa solved the problem by erecting what's called a sprung structure, funded, in part, with money he received from the federal government for housing deportees in jail pending deportation. Hospitals also have helped pay to run it. (Maketa has since fallen from grace and faces trial next month on several charges arising from a grand jury indictment.)

The last time we wrote about the detox program was last year when the county quietly transferred the program from the sheriff's office to community services. ("El Paso County hopes to improve access with new oversight," News, Jan. 6, 2016)

The county's release:
At the regular meeting of the Board of El Paso County Commissioners today, Commissioners listened to a report proposing a change of direction for the County Social Detoxification Program.

The County has gone above and beyond for the past eight years to provide this community benefit, even though the service is not Statutorily required. When the County took on the program it was intended as a “temporary solution.”

As El Paso County continues to grow, hospitals and doctors have expressed concerns that a purely social detox model is not sufficient to meet the needs of the community. Experts in the medical community have suggested that El Paso County needs a medical model detox center staffed by medically trained experts able to assist individuals to move toward long term sobriety.

“We recognize that there is a growing need in the County, but we do not have the proper facilities, expertise, staffing and statutory designation to provide a more medically based model,” said Julie Krow, El Paso County Department of Human Services executive director. “Based on the general direction offered by the Board of County Commissioners today, we look forward to working with leaders in the medical community, law enforcement, non-profits and others to establish a detox model with more robust medical and clinical services to better serve our community.”

In 2016, the operational cost of the El Paso County social detox problem was just over $2 million. El Paso County contributed about 25 percent of that total cost. The Penrose-St. Francis healthcare system, Memorial Healthcare and Aspen-Pointe (Managed Services Organization for State funds) contributed the rest of the funding.

El Paso County will continue its financial support for Detox services and is committed to working with the state and its providers as well as the local hospitals through a smooth transition to a new and enhanced medical and clinical model for detox. Administration proposes that the County no longer manage the social detox program.

Not only will a true medical services provider will be able meet longer term needs of patients, it may also be able to bill Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance carriers to help pay for those services; something which the County cannot do.

AspenPointe, formerly Pikes Peak Mental Health, used to run the “Lighthouse” facility, which struggled for years to maintain operations due to funding issues. In 2008, the facility closed with only two months’ notice. Without a legitimate community detox program, emergency rooms filled up with people who were intoxicated. The county jail, which was at full capacity, was not able to accept such individuals. Law enforcement officers spent time many nights driving patrol cars with individuals who were intoxicated in the back seat.

Area hospitals and the community approached the County and asked for a solution. In 2009, a Community Social Detox/Triage facility was established in El Paso County. The County has operated the licensed facility, with Certified Addiction Counselors (CAC), providing admission, assessment, detox treatment/service plan, and discharge after care plan for individuals. However, detox is not a statutory function of County government so, from the very start in 2009 it was thought that this should be a temporary solution to address and urgent need in the community.

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UPDATE: Second round of 2C road work begins in Colorado Springs

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 12:23 PM

While potholes might not be as abundant, the city's streets are still a wreck. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • While potholes might not be as abundant, the city's streets are still a wreck.
Good news. Pikes Peak is slated for work this year. From the city:
That portion of Pikes Peak will be repaved as a roadway construction project because the road condition requires they mill much deeper down than when 2C paving work is conducted. That project is similar to work done on Centennial between Fillmore and Garden of the Gods. Work should start later this year.

———ORIGINAL POST 12:23 P.M. TUESDAY, APRIL 25, 2017————————-

'Tis the season for road work, and the city is announcing its second year of 2C taxpayer funded road projects throughout the city.

The project list includes portions of Pikes Peak Avenue through downtown, but does not include doing something about the pothole-filled street running east of downtown to at least Union Boulevard. We've asked about that and if there's something new to report, we'll update.

2C was approved by voters in November 2015, giving the city sales tax revenue totaling $250 million over five years to tackle the city's crumbling road system.

Here's the news release:
The second year of 2C-funded paving operations is underway, thanks to voter support of the temporary 0.62 percent sales tax dedicated solely to road repairs. Today, Mayor John Suthers, City Councilmember Yolanda Avila and several City and community leaders kicked off the 2017 2C paving work at a special event on Foxridge Drive commemorating the second of five years of 2C roadway improvements.

“With the start of our second year of 2C paving, we are building upon the significant progress made in 2016 with almost 230 lane miles paved. Our citizens made a commitment to move our city forward when they approved Issue 2C. We still much work to do to improve the overall condition of our roads, but the return of cone zones throughout Colorado Springs signals that we are well on that path,” said Mayor John Suthers.

City Continues with Local Companies for Concrete and Paving Work in 2017
The City has contracted again with Martin Marietta Materials and Schmidt Construction to pave an estimated 224 lane miles for the 2017 paving season. Paving work officially began with milling operations April 17. Click here to view the 2017 list of scheduled streets to receive 2C-funded paving.

Concrete work for 2017 also continues with the same five local companies that provided 2016 pre-overlay concrete work.

AA Construction Company, Inc.
Blue Ridge Construction, Inc.
CMS of Colorado Springs, Inc.
DRX Enterprises, LLC
Even-Preisser, Inc.
Trax Construction, Inc.

Planned concrete work for 2017 is on schedule and projected to be complete in late August. Upon completion of the 2017 concrete program, crews will focus on the 2018 list as funds are available. Crews will conduct concrete repair work simultaneously with paving operations as weather permits.

Foxridge Drive between Drennan Road and West Monica Drive, which connects to several residential streets, is on the 2C paving list for 2017. Estimated completion date is April 28, weather dependent

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Monday, April 24, 2017

Odds and ends from Colorado Springs to La Junta

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 4:36 PM

Kara Skinner is Boulder-bound.
  • Kara Skinner is Boulder-bound.
From City Hall to La Junta, here's a few tidbits of news.

City CFO resigns
Kara Skinner, chief financial officer for the city of Colorado Springs, has resigned.
Skinner says she’s accepted a job as assistant finance director for the city of Boulder and that the move is “in line with our long-term family plan.”

She replaced Terri Velasquez, who was forced out in 2011 just before Steve Bach took office and later sued, collecting a $250,000 settlement from the city.

Here's a news release:
With the pending departure of City of Colorado Springs Chief Financial Officer Kara Skinner, the City will begin recruiting for the position in the coming weeks. Mayor Suthers offered his appreciation to Skinner, who has accepted a job out of town.

“Kara is an extremely intelligent, credible and respected individual and while we congratulate her on the new position, we will absolutely miss her talents and presence here in Colorado Springs. Kara has consistently led the city through complex budgeting challenges and has done so with a sophisticated and professional approach. We wish Kara and her family only the best in their move.”

Skinner joined the city staff in 2006 and worked as a principal analyst and interim finance and budget director before being appointed CFO in 2012.

Given the timing of Skinner’s departure, the City will temporarily divide the responsibilities of her position between Nancy McCauley from the Colorado Springs Police Department serving as interim finance director and Charae McDaniel serving as interim budget director.

The City expects to retain a recruiting firm to fill the position of CFO, while delaying the open position of Assistant Director of Finance until the higher position is filled.

Updated job postings are available at

City seeks dismissal of Serco suit
The city of Colorado Springs wants a lawsuit filed by fleet maintenance contractor Serco Inc. dismissed.
Police cars like this one are maintained by Serco. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Police cars like this one are maintained by Serco.
In a motion filed April 19, the city argues the lawsuit should be dismissed, because not all avenues to resolve disputes as specified in the contract have been exhausted.
Serco filed suit on March 6 alleging it should be paid more, because it’s losing money. (“Colorado Springs faces lawsuit over out-sourced fleet maintenance contract,” April 5, 2017)

But the city asserts the contract contains an alternative dispute resolution process involving a panel comprised of city officials and an outside attorney to hear and rule on disputes. The contract itself contains no pay clause for the fourth and fifth years on the five-year contract, because Serco persuaded the city to omit that, arguing it hoped to lower its charges. The contract also allows for a consumer price index increase, but Serco has sought a 22 percent pay hike for 2017, to $8.2 million.

The dispute panel has not yet rendered a decision on the pay disagreement.

Sprout sprouts homes
Homes like these are gaining traction. - JEREMY PETERSON
  • Jeremy Peterson
  • Homes like these are gaining traction.
Sprout Tiny Homes of La Junta will collaborate with WeeCasa on a tiny home hotel and resort on the Saint Vrain River in Lyons, the company said in a news release.

Also, Sprout has acquired 19.2 acres in Salida and plans a development there. Called RiverView at Cleora, it will consist of 140 long-term lease properties and 60 overnight rentals.

Last year, Sprout designed, built and delivered six homes to Aspen Skiing Company to help fill an employee housing shortage. The company reports a new focus on commercial needs to serve larger clients.

Grants for health
Grants totaling $1.4 million have been awarded in El Paso and Teller counties by the Colorado Springs Health Foundation, created with proceeds of a lease of city-owned Memorial Hospital to UCHealth.

The grants target the foundation’s priorities, including access to care for those in greatest need; workforce shortage of primary care or psychiatric providers; suicide prevention, and school-based healthy eating and/or active living efforts for children and families.

The top five amounts awarded to the 35 recipients were Springs Rescue Mission, $80,000; Colorado Springs Fire Department Community & Public Health Division, Early Connections Learnings Centers, and Atlas Preparatory School, $75,000 each, and Regis University, $67,211.

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

AFA chief wants UCCS chancellor job

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 5:08 PM

Lt. Gen. Johnson: Hoping for another university job. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lt. Gen. Johnson: Hoping for another university job.
The Air Force Academy superintendent apparently wants to remain in Colorado Springs for awhile.

Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson is a finalist for the chancellor job at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, according to an internal letter to the faculty obtained by the Independent.

Johnson will finish her assignment at the AFA in summer, after four years.

The other finalists to succeed Pam Shockley-Zalabak, who retired in February, are:

• Dr. Venkat Reddy, interim chancellor and dean of the College of Business Administration and associate vice chancellor for online initiatives.

• Dr. Havidán Rodriguez, founding provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

The letter to faculty, from Bruce Benson, president of the CU system, said:
You can read full biographies and curriculum vitae, as well as a full schedule of campus meetings, here. I appreciate your involvement in the process to select the next leader for the campus. You will have opportunities over the next two weeks to meet the candidates, hear their ideas about advancing UCCS and share your views.

Your feedback is an important part of the process. It will inform my decision-making as I consider the final selection. I invite you to share your views with me via the form on the website. This is a critical position for the future of the campus and I appreciate your involvement and your input.
Benson said in the letter he hopes to name a new chancellor "in the coming weeks."

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UPDATE: Colorado Springs reaches settlement in racial profiling case

Posted By on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 at 10:15 AM

Ryan Brown and his brother, Benjamin, have settled their case with the city of Colorado Springs. - SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton
  • Ryan Brown and his brother, Benjamin, have settled their case with the city of Colorado Springs.
This is just in from the Colorado Springs Police Department:
The Colorado Springs Police Department, together with the Office of the City Attorney, made the difficult decision to settle the Brown case. Although CSPD sincerely believes the claims of racial profiling were unfounded, the decision to settle was based on comparative analysis of the high cost of legal proceedings and the risk of financial liability in the event the city did not prevail in every aspect of the lawsuit. However, there has been a complete and thorough Internal Affairs investigation of this incident, and it was determined that the actions of the officers did not violate Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) policy.

On several occasions, the ACLU has inaccurately portrayed CSPD as a department that routinely violates citizen’s rights. The public is invited to review CSPD’s most recent Annual Use of Force report ( to gain an informed and fact-based opinion of the level of restraint, accountability, and transparency that is central to how CSPD delivers police services.

In the past, the ACLU has failed to “set the record straight” when allegations of misconduct were disproven, as in the Tally case in July 2015. Today’s ACLU announcement follows that same unfortunate practice.
(See Cases of Interest at

Moving ahead, CSPD has issued over 450 body worn cameras which will be able to provide additional information through video footage of patrol officers’ interaction with citizens from initial contact through conclusion. Body worn cameras provide protection both to citizens and to officers in these types of cases and accusations.

The Colorado Springs Police Department remains committed to consistent, fair, and even-handed enforcement of the law. To accomplish that objective, CSPD takes steps to mitigate bias through hiring practices, training, policies, and outreach to diverse communities. Equally important to these steps is the department’s robust internal accountability system. In the event of a complaint of racial bias, the department thoroughly investigates the complaint and takes appropriate action if a policy violation is found.

—————-ORIGINAL POST 10:15 A.M. THURSDAY, APRIL 20, 2017——————-

Remember Ryan and Benjamin Brown? They are the brothers who were stopped by police and pulled from their vehicle for no apparent reason.

We wrote about their case in this cover story in 2015, ("Obstructed view," Cover, Nov. 18, 2015), and also reported when the ACLU of Colorado sued on their behalf.

The city has agreed to pay $212,000 to settle the case and also make changes in procedures. Here's the news release:
The City of Colorado Springs has agreed to pay $212,000 to settle a racial profiling lawsuit brought by the ACLU of Colorado alleging that Ryan and Benjamin Brown were pulled over because of their race, handcuffed, searched, and detained at gun point and taser point, all without legal justification.

Along with monetary compensation, the Colorado Springs Police Department has agreed to several revisions of its policies on stops, searches, and recording officers.

Ryan Brown posted a video of the 2015 stop online, where it has been viewed more than 165,000 times.

“The racial profiling that Ryan and Benjamin Brown endured is still, unfortunately, all too common for young men of color,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “The difference in this case is that Ryan preserved video evidence of the officers’ aggressive escalation and heavy-handed use of force. Although the police department initially refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing, city officials ultimately did the right thing by agreeing to fair compensation.”

In March 2015, Ryan and Benjamin Brown were driving just a block away from their home in a predominantly white neighborhood when they were pulled over by Colorado Springs police. To justify the stop, an officer later claimed that the men had been observed driving slowly through “a high crime area,” terminology that the lawsuit alleged is law enforcement code for “driving while black.”

A taser-wielding officer ordered Benjamin Brown, the driver, out of the car. He was handcuffed, searched without cause, and detained in the back of a police vehicle, even though he had been cooperative, no weapons or contraband were found, and there was no evidence to suggest that he had been involved in a crime.

Ryan Brown then began recording the scene on his phone. His repeated requests for the officers to identify the reason for the stop were ignored. Officers worked together to force him out of the car, push him to the ground, face down in the snow, search him, and cuff him, all the while at gunpoint. Officers grabbed his phone, stopped the recording, and threw it in the snow.

Brown filed a complaint with CSPD following the incident. He received a brief boilerplate letter in June 2015 informing him that the Department had conducted a “complete and thorough” investigation into the incident and concluded that the officers’ conduct was “justified, legal, and proper.”

In October 2016, the ACLU of Colorado filed the lawsuit in federal court, which began nearly 6 months of negotiation between the parties around policy changes and compensation.

“I knew that what happened to my brother and me was wrong, and that I needed to speak up,” said Brown. “I am grateful to the ACLU of Colorado for holding the police accountable, for standing up for our rights, and for winning policy changes that will hopefully prevent others from having their rights violated.”

Multiple Colorado Springs Police Department (CSPD) policies have been improved as a result of the settlement. Official CSPD policy now clearly identifies the constitutional requirements that must be met before an officer may conduct a pat-down search. CSPD removed policy language that gave undue weight to an individual’s refusal to cooperate as a factor in establishing probable cause for a search or arrest. CSPD policy on recording police was also strengthened to reflect constitutional and statutory protections against unjustified seizures of electronic devices.

Colorado Springs will make available online all of the changes to its policies as a result of the settlement by July 1, 2017. The Chief of Police has also agreed to meet in person with Ryan and Benjamin Brown to discuss the incident.

Ryan and Benjamin Brown were represented by Silverstein and ACLU of Colorado Staff Attorney Sara Neel, as well as cooperating attorneys Darold Killmer and Andy McNulty of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP.
Here's a link to the settlement agreement.

The agreement states the ACLU Foundation of Colorado will receive $58,707.40, while each of the Brown brothers will be paid $76,646.30.

In case you've never seen it, you can view the video of the stop here.

We've asked the city for a comment and will update if and when we hear something.
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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

GOP chair charged, but hours later DA's Office dismisses charges

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 5:17 PM

The Colorado Springs Police Department no more than announced the filing of charges against a man who struck his friend crossing a street last month than the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office dismissed them.

On March 28, El Paso County GOP Chair Trevor Dierdorff, 45, put his vehicle in reverse to try to snag a parking place outside the El Paso Club downtown. His vehicle struck Melvin Tolbert, 79, who was crossing the street. Both were headed to an event at the club and knew one another. Tolbert ran Platte Floral for many years.

On April 2, Tolbert died of his injuries.

"Mr. Dierdorff was charged with Careless Driving Causing Death, a Class 1 Misdemeanor Traffic Offense, and Drivers to Exercise Due Care, a Class A Traffic Infraction," the CSPD announced in an email at 12:53 p.m. today, April 19.

At 4 p.m., the DA's Office issued a news release saying:
According to Colorado state law, it is not illegal to drive in reverse on a roadway. In addition, “Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.” (C.R.S. 42-4-803)

Additional investigation revealed that Mr. Dierdorff did check his rear view camera while reversing and that Mr. Tolbert was not in his path when he started reversing.

In reviewing applicable law, the District Attorney’s Office has concluded that charges are not appropriate in this case. The charges filed against Trevor Dierdorff will be dismissed.

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Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site hosts big Army drill

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 2:39 PM

A dusty landscape is seen at the training ground, dated in 2003, before the Army intensified its use of the PCMS. - PHOTOS COURTESY NOT 1 MORE ACRE!
  • Photos courtesy Not 1 More Acre!
  • A dusty landscape is seen at the training ground, dated in 2003, before the Army intensified its use of the PCMS.
In this week's edition, we report on one of the biggest exercises ever to be held at the Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeastern Colorado.

More than 5,000 soldiers have gathered there to conduct drills with Stryker vehicles, helicopters and other equipment.

Here's a description from Fort Carson:
Approximately 5,000 Soldiers from 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, 4th Sustainment Brigade as well as other Fort Carson units and about 750 Soldiers from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Fort Bragg, North Carolina and Fort Hood, Texas, are participating in Operation Raider Focus exercise at Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site (PCMS) from April 18 to May 6. The training at PCMS is to prepare Soldiers for any possible mission should the unit be called to support contingencies around the globe. During the exercise, crews will train against each other using different scenarios to build team cohesion and ensure task proficiency. Approximately 1,500 military vehicles, to include 300 Stryker fighting vehicles, and 30 helicopters, to include UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-64 Apaches and CH-47 Chinooks, will be used in the exercise. Many of the vehicles will convoy to and from the training site starting on April 18. Equipment and vehicles that cannot be driven on roadways will be transported via railway to and from PCMS. Approximately 685 tactical vehicles in the 1st SBCT are equipped with Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below with Joint Capabilities Release (FBCB2/JCR) computer systems which will have a resource protection map as the background map image as Soldiers navigate across the terrain. The system with the background maps is intended to allow Soldiers to track friendly and hostile force movements while ensuring archaeological site protection and safety during the exercise.
The Mountain Post also says it's committed to being a good steward of the environment. Here's more on that from Carson:
Environmental personnel are involved in all levels of planning for military training, construction and other activities that could affect the PCMS environment. All cultural and environmental sites will be marked with awareness signs which will be placed along main supply routes and tank trails to provide an additional level of awareness to vehicle drivers, commanders and crews. Seibert Stakes will mark areas that are dangerous to vehicle travel or areas that need protection from vehicle traffic due to excessive erosion, areas that are environmentally or culturally sensitive, have been repaired and re-seeded after training use or are being rehabilitated for other reasons. Boulders will be placed around sites determined more sensitive and need more protection from vehicle traffic.

After Operation Raider Focus is completed, there will be an immediate basic remediation work plan implemented and a full assessment for longer term remediation. Soldiers will lead the remediation with the engineer assets that are in place in the unit. Funding is not required at this time for the remediation since it is being done by Soldiers. Fort Carson will use its two re-seeding vehicles to immediately repair any future land damage that results from training at PCMS. We are continually working to maintain the natural resources at PCMS.
Of course, not everyone agrees that Carson and the Army have done a good job, or that it's even possible to reclaim prairies that have been severely damaged by heavy vehicles.

Here's another photo that critics say shows the impact of the training:
Trails left by the Army's vehicles in one training area at the PCMS.
  • Trails left by the Army's vehicles in one training area at the PCMS.
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Who thinks we should honor coal?

Posted By on Wed, Apr 19, 2017 at 8:35 AM

Wind power is growing across the globe. - VIVIANDNGUYEN
  • viviandnguyen
  • Wind power is growing across the globe.
Some who truly care about the environment feel that the era of fossil fuels is drawing to a close, not withstanding President Trump's embrace of coal.

And a lot of progress has been made in shifting the emphasis from coal and natural gas to cleaner forms, like solar and wind.

The Institute for Energy Research reports that about 9.9 percent of all energy consumed in the United States in 2015 was from renewable sources, and they account for about 13.4 percent of the nation’s total electricity production.

While it's still a small portion, interest in renewables is growing, leading those at the spear of energy research to dismiss the idea of coal making a significant comeback, though there are those who continue to campaign for dirty energy, among them our very own daily newspaper.

The Gazette's recent editorial on Earth Day, a time we reflect on what we've done and can do to spare Mother Earth from ourselves, said this:
On a day we celebrate the Earth, it is reasonable for people to also acknowledge the role fossil fuels play in helping maintain and even improve our planet's condition.

Fossil fuels continue providing most of our energy and will do so for generations to come. Without fossil fuels, we cannot build a single solar panel or wind turbine....

We cannot function without fossil fuels, let alone improve our environment and perfect the harnessing of sunshine and wind.

That may explain why the Denver-based Independence Institute has made national headlines by sponsoring an "Earth Day Fossil Fuels Art Contest."
It's worth noting the newspaper is owned by billionaire Philip Anschutz who is building what reportedly will be the biggest wind farm anywhere in Wyoming.

Here's more on the contest
, which offers a $100 gift card to the winner to spend on gasoline.

Here's some more on the Independence Institute, which is sponsoring the contest. This comes from the report:
A tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization, the anti-government group has an annual revenue of about $2 to 3 million. Though they are not required to disclose their donors, public records show much of their money comes from several of the most infamous donors to the nation’s right wing and climate science denial movements.

A ThinkProgress review of the Independence Institute’s funders (according to data provided by Conservative Transparency, Guidestar, and CitizenAudit) revealed that since 2001, its funders included at least:

• $146,000 combined from the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and David H. Koch Charitable Foundation, a pair of tax-exempt foundations controlled by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch and the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation and the Center to Protect Patient Rights, entities closely tied to the brothers.

• $2,565,766 combined from DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, two affiliated donor-advised funds that funnel donations from supporters to non-governmental organizations that promote limited government and free enterprise. According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the Koch brothers and “other ultra-wealthy industrial ideologues appear to be cloaking an untold amount of their donations to conservative political outlets” by using these funds as pass-throughs. A 2015 investigation by the Guardian revealed that the two secretive organizations had directed roughly $125 million over three years to spread disinformation about climate science and fight President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

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