Wednesday, December 20, 2017

UPDATE: PPACG names finalists for executive director

Posted By on Wed, Dec 20, 2017 at 3:21 PM

PPACG soon will have a new director. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • PPACG soon will have a new director.
UPDATE:
This just in from the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments on its hiring offer:

Mr. Andy Gunning accepted the position of the PPACG Executive Director. He will begin work on February 20th, 2018 after completing a final project in Rockville, MD.

Mr. Gunning comes to us from the City of Rockville, MD where he serves as the Acting Director of Planning and Development Services. Previously he worked with the Pima Association of Governments in Tucson AZ for nearly 12 years, leading the agency through transformational changes including the creation of a regional transportation authority that was approved by voters.

“The Board of Directors and staff of PPACG and the community are all looking forward to Mr Gunning’s arrival and his joining our team here” says PPACG Board Chairman and Colorado Springs Councilmember Andy Pico

Acting Executive Director Rick Sonnenburg will remain in place until Mr. Gunning arrives. 
His salary will be $154,000 a year.

—————ORIGINAL POST 4:04 P.M. THURSDAY, NOV. 30, 2017—————————-

Four finalists have been named for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments top slot, according to a news release from the organization.  Only one of the candidates currently lives in Colorado.

The PPACG board is seeking a successor to Rob MacDonald, whose contract wasn't renewed last January. Go here for the latest on the search prior to naming four finalists.

The four finalists:

• Denise Balkas, owner of Independent City Planning and Development Consulting, Denver.
• David Fraser, recent city manager for Boulder City, Nev.
• Andy Gunning, acting director of Planning and Development Services for City of Rockville, Md.
• Gena McCullough, planning director for Bi-State Regional Commission, Rock Island, Ill.

The PPACG board will meet Dec. 13 to interview the finalists and will settle on a its top pick at that time.

PPACG serves as a consortium of 16 local governments and works on regional issues like transportation, aging, military impact and water quality.
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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Mark Waller tagged for statewide honor

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 4:01 PM

Mark Waller is honored by Colorado Counties, Inc. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Mark Waller is honored by Colorado Counties, Inc.
This blog has been updated to show the correct date Amy Lathen left office.

———————————————

Mark Waller, in his first elected term on the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, has been named the Freshman Commissioner of the Year by Colorado Counties, Inc.

Waller, a former state representative who replaced Amy Lathen on the commission when she resigned in mid-2015 2016, was elected to a four-term term in November 2016.

In a release, Waller said his work on obtaining funding to expand Interstate 25 where it narrows between Monument and Castle Rock was one reason he was honored. Voters passed two questions in the Nov. 7 election that will provide a local match for the state project.

He shares the award with Byron Pelton of Logan County and is the second El Paso County commissioner to win the award. Dennis Hisey won it in 2005.

From a news release:
Waller said his role in the campaign by the County and other municipalities along the Front Range to secure funds for the future widening of the I-25 Gap from Monument to Castle Rock was a big reason he was recognized by CCI on Tuesday at the Hotel Elegante in southern Colorado Springs.

“All the work that we’ve done together as a county on I-25 definitely contributed to it,” Waller said. “This is truly a team effort, from my fellow Commissioners to all the County staff members that helped out as well.”

CCI said that Waller’s leadership in 2017 also led to his honor. Waller was chosen by fellow Commissioners in January to serve as President Pro Tempore of the Board. He is Co-Chair of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and serves on multiple boards in the community.

Waller said his experience as a State House Representative helped him in his role in the preserving funding for County child protection efforts. His work with El Paso County Department of Human Services Executive Director Julie Krow, and other elected officials saved state funding that directly impacts families and children in need. He continues to be a strong voice for counties in their critical child protection efforts on the statewide Child Welfare Allocation Committee.

“We were able to insure that counties and children are treated fairly by the Colorado Department of Human Services,” Waller said.

CCI also handed out its Commissioner of the year award to Larry Don Suckla of Montezuma County. And Commissioner John Martin of Garfield County was given the Distinguished Service Award.

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Incline Friends releases fundraising calendar showcasing region's favorite hike

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 2:59 PM

COURTESY INCLINE FRIENDS
  • Courtesy Incline Friends
The Manitou Incline is undoubtedly one of the region’s most popular hikes. Known for its difficulty, the famous stairs gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation over less than a mile, with 2,744 steps, making it one heck of a workout. Those who take the challenge frequently are well aware of the trail’s popularity, and anyone who has scaled that first step can attest to its beauty. If you want a little taste of the Incline without having to bust your lungs on it, Incline Friends has come out with a calendar showcasing the trail in all seasons.

Incline Friends, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping the Incline sustainable and open to the public, will receive $3 from each calendar sale to continue their work.

Bonus: this 13-month calendar includes December, so you can start using it now.

See below for some of the calendar’s coolest photos.


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UPDATE: Dobson endorses Roy Moore for Senate

Posted By on Thu, Nov 30, 2017 at 11:36 AM

Dr. James Dobson - WIKIMEDIA
  • WikiMedia
  • Dr. James Dobson
UPDATE: This blog has been updated to reflect a correction about the timing of Dobson's endorsement ad. It was, in fact, released prior to the allegations of sexual misconduct against the Senate candidate.

—— ORIGINAL POST: 11:36 A.M., THURSDAY, NOV. 30 ——

There's an important election coming up in Alabama. Voters in the predominantly Republican state will choose a successor to U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by former Sen. Jeff Sessions upon his confirmation as Attorney General.

The Republican candidate, endorsed by President Donald Trump, is Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who was twice removed from that post for defying court orders. (Once for refusing to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments from the judicial building and once for continuing to enforce the state's ban on same-sex marriage that had been deemed unconstitutional.)

Roy Moore - WIKIMEDIA
  • WikiMedia
  • Roy Moore
Moore is a staunch evangelical who believes Christianity should be enmeshed with public policy. That includes, according to the website of his nonprofit, Foundation for Moral Law, opposition to: women's right to choose abortion, any civil rights or protections for LGBTQ people, and science curricula including evolution in public schools.

That's probably what endears him to Dr. James Dobson, founder of the socially conservative church, Focus on the Family. Dobson is apparently so fond of Moore that he released an ad for television and radio endorsing him for Senate. Dobson told listeners in Alabama that Moore is a "man of proven character and integrity."



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Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Planned Parenthood offers free testing for World AIDS Day

Posted By on Wed, Nov 29, 2017 at 10:02 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com

According to the Center for Disease Control, about 36.7 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2016. Moreover, between the start of the pandemic and the end of 2016, AIDS-related illnesses reportedly took the lives of 35 million people worldwide, according to amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. Many HIV-positive people, both in the U.S. and abroad, do not have access to treatment.

In order to draw attention to the virus and its effects, World AIDS Day was established in 1988 — the first global health initiative. On Dec. 1, 2017, people worldwide will be encouraged to use World AIDS Day as an opportunity to educate themselves about recent medical developments, get tested, and lend vocal support to those living with HIV/AIDS.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains will once again participate in World AIDS Day by offering free testing at seven health centers across the state, including their Colorado Springs Center on Centennial Boulevard. The CDC claims that 15 percent of the roughly 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the U.S. are unaware of their status, so getting tested may mean discovering the virus early enough to mitigate its prevalence.

To learn more about where and how to get tested in the state of Colorado, see the full release from Planned Parenthood below.

DENVER, CO— On December 1, 2017, in recognition of World AIDS Day, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains (PPRM) will continue their commitment to raising awareness of HIV and AIDS across their four-state region. Complimentary testing will be available at seven health centers throughout the day.

“As a leader in the field of HIV prevention, PPRM is committed to implementing and expanding access to HIV testing and PrEP services. PPRM recognizes this unique moment in time where on this World AIDS Day 2017, we are in a position to help end HIV. We stand in solidarity with the communities we serve, and renew our promise to be strong allies in the fight,” said Martin Walker, Director of HIV Programs, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

On December 1, Planned Parenthood will offer free HIV testing at seven health centers across the organization’s four-state region. Participating sites include: Salida, Colorado Springs, Greeley in Colorado, Flamingo and Charleston in Las Vegas, and Farmington and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This is the fifth consecutive year PPRM will participate in this campaign. PPRM works tirelessly to train current and new volunteers to be able to provide HIV education and testing which increases PPRM’s capacity to serve every patient who seeks an answer to their HIV status.

For more information about the program and testing locations, telephone 1.800.230.PLAN, visit us online at pprm.org.

Disclosure: Alissa Smith, the Indy's Culture and Calendar Editor, volunteers with Planned Parenthood as a Health Center Activist.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Banning Lewis Ranch: $49 million in tax revenue over 30 years

Posted By on Tue, Nov 28, 2017 at 3:02 PM

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Banning Lewis Ranch has long sat largely undeveloped, the result of restrictive rules that force  developers to foot the bill for so many public improvements that a major project was deemed unprofitable. Now, a study conducted by TischlerBise, an economic forecasting consultant, says loosening the rules for the 18,500 acres on the city's east side would enable the city to collect up to $49 million over 30 years.

The presentation on the Banning Lewis Ranch came at the City Council's Nov. 27 work session, which got off to a rocky start when two councilors complained they'd received the study just moments before it was presented.

"I want the public to know we never received that except a minute ago," Councilor Bill Murray said. "We're playing stump the dummy here, buddy."

Jill Gaebler reminded city Economic Development Officer Bob Cope that the Council requires back-up materials to be made available 24 hours before a meeting. "Being caught off guard really isn't proper," she said. "We should have received it in advance of the meeting."

But Council President Richard Skorman called the presentation "informational" and noted "we're going to have lots of opportunities" to review and comment at future meetings.

Banning Lewis Ranch was annexed in 1988 under an agreement that calls for developers to foot much of the bill for infrastructure, including fire and police stations, parks and roads. Not much has happened since then, with developers complaining the costs, estimated a decade ago at more than $1 billion, were a barrier to development.

Several years ago, Ultra Petroleum of Houston bought the property in a bankruptcy sale with plans to drill. Test wells proved lackluster, however, and Ultra sold the land in 2014 — minus the mineral rights — to David Jenkins, owner of Nor'wood Development Group, the region's biggest developer, for $28 million. Since then, Jenkins collected $2.4 million from Colorado Springs Utilities for 146 acres of that property needed for a the Southern Delivery System pipeline.

The TischlerBise analysis shows that while the city's net tax revenue gain for development of the ranch would total only $1 million in the first 10 years, over a 30-year span, net tax revenue would come to $49 million.

Included in the analysis was costs to the street department, police and fire and other city services.

Murray noted that while streets interior to Banning Lewis Ranch will be built by developers, the main arterials likely would need upgrades that will be paid by the city's taxpayers. The study didn't account for those costs, he said.

"Marksheffel [Road] and others will bear higher traffic," he said. "There's tens of millions not included in this. The rest of it is on our dime."

Cope and mayoral Chief of Staff Jeff Greene said there will be numerous points in coming months when Council will weigh in. Cope nsaid that because development has hopscotched over Banning Lewis Ranch due to its onerous 1988 annexation agreement, the city has lost 2,700 jobs, 1,191 temporary jobs and $4.5 billion in economic activity.
 
He also noted that although Mayor John Suthers soon will propose incentives for infill development, "that will do only so much." He noted the city needs 5,400 new jobs per year to sustain existing economic activity, and predictions call for the population to swell to 1 million by 2045. "Without land for future development, we will not have supply keep up with demand," he said.

Councilor Don Knight had mixed feelings about the study. "I’m a little worried about the costs to serve [BLR] in the first 10 years when we’re only looking at $100K coming in, and there could be $200K on the negative [expense] side," he said. "Overall this does give me comfort that development is basically going to pay for itself. It’s not a windfall and it won’t break the bank."

It's early in the process of approvals necessary, including changing the ranch's master plan, but Council President Skorman was upbeat about the project.

"We have a role to play in how we develop as a region. What I saw was a burdensome annexation agreement that created leap frog development over it," he said. "I’m excited we’re moving this forward. We will have a lot of good discussion as we move forward. This is really an exciting opportunity, the beginning of something really positive for the community."

Here's the city's press release:
Modification of the annexation agreement for Banning Lewis Ranch would spur development and generate $49M in net revenue for the City over the next 30 years according to an economic and fiscal impact report presented to City Council today. Further, the projected growth would add $41 Billion to the city’s economy over the same period. The study also indicates that development would bring $434 Million in additional net revenue to Colorado Springs Utilities. The analysis was prepared by TischlerBise, a national leading fiscal, economic and planning consultant.
screen_shot_2017-11-28_at_10.11.19_am.png
Projected growth in Banning Lewis includes 24,000 new homes for 62,000 new residents over 30 years. The area is also expected to generate 35,000 new jobs during that time. Net fiscal impact numbers were derived by considering the additional costs of service to the area (e.g. emergency services, infrastructure), against the potential revenues (e.g. sales tax) generated by the annexation.

“Putting an appropriate annexation agreement in place for Banning Lewis that pays for the cost of development and stimulates economic growth has been a priority over the past year. We know that development is currently leap-frogging the area and creating a donut effect, with business and residential development occurring in unincorporated El Paso County, rather than Banning Lewis Ranch,” said Bob Cope, economic development officer for the City of Colorado Springs. “The analysis indicates that future development in Banning Lewis Ranch will more than pay for itself over the short, intermediate and long term and will create significant positive economic growth for the city.”

Banning Lewis Ranch was annexed into the City of Colorado Springs in 1988. Since 1988, very little development has occurred. A major factor deterring development activity has been the Annexation Agreement put in place in 1988. This has resulted in lost economic opportunity, lost municipal tax revenue and lost utility revenue.

City Council will be presented with an opportunity to approve a modification to the existing BLR Annexation Agreement at future City Council meetings. 
Here's the presentation:
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Monday, November 27, 2017

Regional Building donations program takes some heat from City Council

Posted By on Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 4:12 PM

An ad hoc charitable donations program by the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department came under fire Monday, Nov. 27, when the department presented its 2018 budget to Colorado Springs City Council.

The program, which doled out nearly $1 million in 2016 and 2017, has no guidelines for who can apply and for what purpose.

RBD argues it had to get rid of money because a July 2016 hail storm triggered an avalanche of re-roofing jobs that filled the agency's coffers with lots of cash it didn't need. To lower the amount held in reserve, RBD cut certain permits by 20 percent on April 1, which gobbled up about $1.2 million. But it still had extra cash.

Councilor Andy Pico said he will vote "no" on the $14.5 million budget proposal for 2018 because of the donations program.
Children's Hospital of Colorado, which is building a facility in north Colorado Springs, received a $150,000 donation from RBD without competing with any other applicants. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Children's Hospital of Colorado, which is building a facility in north Colorado Springs, received a $150,000 donation from RBD without competing with any other applicants.
"That’s not the business of regional building at all," he said. "When you have excess revenue, that’s not the way to deal with it, so I will oppose the budget or any budget that has that opportunity in it.... I keep hearing a lot of good things were intended. I don’t want to disparage anyone. But I’d like to reiterate, I don’t think that’s what regional building should be doing at all."

He was referring to the intergovernmental agreement that includes seven entities, the city included, which limits the amount RBD can hold in reserve. From the Indy story:

Neither the website nor the IGA mention donations. The IGA states, “It is the intention that the Department shall be self supporting, but not profit-making, and to that end, such fees shall be established and from time to time reestablished as herein set forth as the need shall become apparent to the Commission.”

In other words, if revenues surge above the amount needed to run the agency, with a comfortable cushion, fees are to be lowered. The IGA defines that cushion as a cash balance that is “no less than 25 percent, nor more than 50 percent of the annual budget.”

Due to the July 2016 hail storm and other major projects, such as Children’s Hospital, the cash balance as of October 20 was 63 percent of the 2017 budget.

When the $3.1 million from RBD’s sale of downtown property to Nor’wood Development Group, which is developing the Olympic Museum area, is added, the cash balance reaches 83 percent of budget.
Councilor Don Knight shared Pico's concern. "There’s nothing in this budget that says you’re going to make a charitable contribution. My question is, if there’s nothing in this year’s budget or last year’s budget that mentioned donations, what gives the right for the board to spend money that was not specifically identified in the budget?"

Knight proposed adding language to Council's approval of the RBD budget that would specifically prohibit contributions to charitable organizations unless it came to Council for approval.

Councilor Tom Strand, a member of the three-member RBD commission, promised the commission will "look at this policy."

Actually, RBD has no policy at all guiding its decisions to give away money.

Councilors Jill Gaebler and Bill Murray also expressed concerns about RBD's practice of giving away money, but Council President Richard Skorman didn't share those concerns. "Whatever your [RBD] board decides is what will happen. I want to go on record saying you can’t keep the money [when there's excess cash generated], so what are you gonna do? You’re giving to charities, and we may not have this kind of situation again."

Regional Building Official Roger Lovell explained that while the fee schedule is set up to cover costs and not turn a profit, "When we have an unanticipated event like the hail storm, it generated an enormous amount of revenue. That can make it tricky."

Council will vote on the RBD budget on Dec. 12.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Manitou Incline reopens after repairs

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 5:21 PM

BOB FALCONE
  • Bob Falcone
After a round of heavy-duty repairs, the beloved Manitou Incline is open ahead of schedule, the city announced today, Nov. 22.

The city will mark the reopening with a ceremony at 8 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 1, at the base of the incline.

It's been closed for past three months for a third phase of repairs that began at the false summit and continued to the top.

From the city's news release:
The Incline project had four major goals: improve safety, enhance the user experience, improve the trail’s long-term sustainability and increase accessibility. Work included removing and replacing damaged retaining walls, cleaning up the exposed rebar and loose debris, anchoring the existing ties, stabilizing the surrounding slopes, and replacing failed drainage structures and adding more drainage structures. The new drainage structures will greatly help to reduce the velocity of runoff water, which is a critical factor in reducing erosion and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Incline.

The project was completed at a final cost of approximately $2 million. Funding was made possible by a $2 million Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. The City of Colorado Springs is responsible for the general oversight, trail enhancements, general maintenance of the Incline and to apply for grants to fund improvements, per the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with Manitou Springs. For more information on the construction project,www.coloradosprings.gov/incline" target="_blank"> www.coloradosprings.gov/incline

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CSPD honors officers for valor, courage

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 4:56 PM

medal_of_valor_luncheon_2017_1.jpg
Once a year, the Colorado Springs Police Department honors officers who show extra courage  in the face of grave risk.

Here's a list of recipients this year, who were honored at The Broadmoor earlier this week.

And here's an accounting of the incidents that resulted in the awards, as provided by the CSPD:

1-ON NOVEMBER 10, 2015, AT 5:14PM, OFFICER MATTHEW PETERSON AND OFFICER DEREK WILSON WERE DISPATCHED TO A DISTURBANCE CALL. THE REPORTING PARTY ADVISED THAT A MALE SUBJECT WAS VIOLENT AND OUTSIDE THE RESIDENCE WITH A RIFLE.

2-ON JANUARY 5TH, 2016 THE CSPD TACTICAL UNIT SET UP SURVELLIANCE, FOLLOWING UP ON INFORMATION THAT TWO SUSPECTS, WHO WERE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS AND WANTED FOR ATTEMPTED FIRST-DEGREE MURDER AND FIRST DEGREE CRIMINAL TRESPASS WERE LOCATED IN AN APARTMENT ON THE SOUTHEAST PART OF TOWN.

3-ON JUNE 22ND, 2016, AT APPROXIMATELY 7:22AM, OFFICER WILLIAM WATSON WAS DISPATCHED TO DELTA DRIVE AND SAN MARCOS DRIVE TO A MALE WALKING WITH A PISTOL POINTED DOWNWARD IN HIS HAND AND A BEER IN HIS OTHER HAND.

4-ON SEPTEMBER 16, 2016 AT APPROXIMATELY 12:30PM OFFICERS FROM THE TACTICAL ENFORCEMENT UNIT WERE PREPARING TO EXECUTE A SEARCH WARRANT FOR THE EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE IN THE 5000 BLOCK OF WHIP TRAIL. THE SUSPECT WAS WANTED ON MULTIPLE FELONIES AND HAD BEEN IDENTIFIED AS AN ARMED AND DANGEROUS FUGITIVE.

5-ON OCTOBER 23RD, 2016 AT APPROXIMATELY 3:30AM THE TACTICAL ENFORCEMENT UNIT SET UP SURVEILLANCE IN THE AREA OF 800 NORTH CHELTON ROAD IN RESPONSE TO A SHOOTING THAT OCCURRED THE DAY PRIOR. A SEARCH WARRANT WAS EXECUTED IN AN ATTEMPT TO LOCATE AN ARMED AND DANGEROUS SUSPECT.

6-ON JANUARY 12TH, 2017 AT APPROXIMATELY 9:14PM OFFICER D’AGOSTINO LOCATED A SUBJECT WHO WAS ACTING SUSPICIOUS AT A 7-11 LOCATED IN THE 600 BLOCK OF WEST GARDEN OF THE GODS ROAD. OFFICER D’AGOSTINO ATTEMPTED TO CONTACT THE SUBJECT WHO CONTINUED ACTING SUSPICIOUS AND WALKING TOWARD THE ARBY’S RESTAURANT. HE THEN REQUESTED A BACK UP OFFICER TO BE DISPATCHED TO HIS LOCATION. SHORTLY AFTER OFFICER DRYMAN ARRIVED ON SCENE, THE OFFICERS DISCOVERED THE SUBJECT WAS ARMED WITH A HANDGUN AND WANTED ON AN OUTSTANDING FELONY WARRANT. WITHOUT WARNING, THE SUBJECT REACHED INTO HIS WAISTBAND, RETRIEVED A HANDGUN, AND FIRED A PROJECTILE AT LEAST ONCE IN THEIR DIRECTION.

BOTH OFFICERS WERE ABLE TO RETURN FIRE, STRIKING THE SUBJECT MULTIPLE TIMES. THE OFFICERS’ QUICK DECISION MAKING AND QUICK REACTIONS PREVENTED ANY INJURIES TO INNOCENT CIVILIANS AND/OR CUSTOMERS AT THE ARBY’S RESTAURANT.

7-ON FEBRUARY 21ST, 2017 AT APPROXIMATELY 5:04PM OFFICERS RESPONDED TO THE AREA OF 2900 ILLINOIS AVENUE TO LOOK FOR A FUGITIVE WANTED FOR AN OUTSTANDING WARRANT RELATED TO A FELONY DOMESTIC VIOLENCE INVESTIGATION.

8-ON MARCH 24TH, 2017 AT APPROXIMATELY 6:46PM OFFICER JEFFERY EDMONDS AND OFFICER ROBERT THYMIAN RESPONDED TO AN IN-PROGRESS BURGLARY IN THE 4400 BLOCK OF LAREDO MEADOW POINT.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Utilities helps convert to LED holiday lights

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 1:22 PM

LUKE JONES
  • Luke Jones
It doesn't get any better than this: Take your junky holiday string of lights in for a coupon to buy updated energy efficient ones.

Colorado Springs Utilities has put together a program that benefits anyone who exchanges their old lights for a coupon at the Conservation and Environmental Center, 2855 Mesa Road, and it benefits Project COPE, which provides utility payment help to those struggling with financial issues.

Here's the info:
From now until Dec. 24, Springs Utilities electric customers can bring in up to three light strands to our Conservation and Environmental Center. For each strand, customers will earn a $5 off coupon for LED holiday lights at local ACE Hardware stores, while supplies last. There is a limit of three coupons per customer, for a total savings of up to $15. LED holiday lights use up to 90 percent less energy, last 10 times longer and are safer than traditional ones.

Springs Utilities will recycle the old lights and donate the proceeds to Project COPE, which provides utilities payment assistance to families and individuals struggling financially due to a personal crisis or emergency. Last year 4,308 pounds of old holiday lights were collected and more than $5,000 raised for Project COPE, the only local organization that dedicates its entire funding to utilities payment assistance year-round.

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Switchbacks FC gain TV deal with Fox 21 for 2018 home soccer matches

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 8:30 AM

COURTESY SWITCHBACKS FC
  • Courtesy Switchbacks FC
Earlier this morning, on Nov. 21, Colorado Springs’ soccer team, the Switchbacks FC, announced a new partnership with FOX 21’s SOCO CW to broadcast all 17 home games for the 2018 season. Those are played Saturday nights, April through October, at Weidner Field (6303 Barnes Road), typically around 6 p.m.

“It means a lot for us and the community,” says James Ragain, executive vice president of Switchbacks FC. “It brings a little more legitimacy of the type of professional athletes we’re bringing... and it exposes us to a bigger network so that people really understand who we are and what we’re about, and the kind of entertainment we bring.”

The 2018 season will be the Switchbacks’ fourth as an organization, all as a member of the nationwide United Soccer League, which hosted 30 teams in 2017. That’s up from only 12 teams in 2012 — a testament to the sport’s growth in popularity, despite recent upset over the U.S. national men’s team’s failure to qualify for the next World Cup. (Side note: the U.S. national women’s team stands as the most awarded in international play, holding three Women’s World Cup wins and four Olympic golds.)
COURTESY SWITCHBACKS FC
  • Courtesy Switchbacks FC
Ragain cites average attendance of 3,500 fans this past season, admiring clubs like FC Cincinnati, who broke USL attendance records with upwards of 24,000 fans at their matches. (Weidner Field’s current capacity is only 5,000.) The Switchbacks finished in 9th place in 2017, down from 3rd and 4th places in their first two years. Though not terrible to hit the top third, Ragain, hopeful for the season ahead, says make no mistake, “we’re here to win.”

Here's the full press release:
The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC officially announced today that the local Fox 21 CW affiliate will broadcast all 17 of the Switchbacks USL home games.

The Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC will be entering their fourth season playing in the United Soccer League, the largest second division soccer league in the world. To better serve its fans, the Switchbacks have partnered with FOX21 and SOCO CW to give local fans a unique viewing experience of their home matches. The Switchbacks are excited about the partnership with FOX21 and SOCO CW as they hope the partnership will also help them reach an unprecedented number of fans throughout southern Colorado.

The Colorado Springs Switchbacks Football Club began playing in the USL during the 2015 season after officially announcing the franchise on December 5th, 2013. The Switchbacks led a successful 2015 campaign, finishing 3rd in the Western Conference and reaching the Western Conference semi-finals. The Switchbacks followed up their inaugural campaign with a consecutive top-three finish and reaching the playoffs in the 2016 season. The club set numerous attendance records during the 2017 season, playing at newly-named Weidner Field. The Switchbacks will continue to compete in the Western Conference alongside 33 other teams including expansion franchises, Fresno, Las Vegas, Nashville, and Atlanta. Austin, Birmingham, and Memphis are all set to join the league in 2019.

FOX21 News has provided news and weather information for southern Colorado since 2001. Broadcasting over an antenna located atop Cheyenne Mountain, FOX21 reaches Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and southern Colorado on over-the air channel 21, Comcast channel 3, DirecTV channel 21, and Dish Network channel 21. FOX21 produces nearly 38 hours of local newscasts every week, in addition to showing FOX network entertainment and sports programming. The station shares a studio in southeastern Colorado Springs with sister station SOCO CW. In 2013, the FOX21 News team won the national Edward R. Murrow Award for Continuing Coverage for its coverage of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

The Switchbacks will kick their 2018 USL campaign the weekend of March 16. Season tickets are on sale now and can be purchased here.
COURTESY SWITCHBACKS FC
  • Courtesy Switchbacks FC

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Uber hit with $8.9 million civil penalty

Posted By on Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 5:22 PM

Uber is slapped with a civil penalty for drivers' violations. - DANIEL R. BLUME
  • Daniel R. Blume
  • Uber is slapped with a civil penalty for drivers' violations.

Colorado authorities hit Uber's parent company with an $8.9 million civil penalty for allowing drivers with motor vehicle offenses or without valid licenses to drive for the company.

Uber issued this statement to The Denver Post, which produced this extensive story about Uber's record in other states:
We recently discovered a process error that was inconsistent with Colorado’s ridesharing regulations and proactively notified the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). This error affected a small number of drivers and we immediately took corrective action. Per Uber safety policies and Colorado state regulations, drivers with access to the Uber app must undergo a nationally accredited third-party background screening. We will continue to work closely with the CPUC to enable access to safe, reliable transportation options for all Coloradans.

Here's the state Public Utilities Commission's Nov. 20 news release:
DENVER - Criminal investigators with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) today issued a Civil Penalty Assessment Notice (CPAN) totaling $8.9 million to Rasier, LLC, the parent company of Uber, for allowing individuals with disqualifying criminal or motor vehicle offenses, or without valid licenses, to drive for the company.

The CPAN listed violations involving 57 Uber drivers over the last year and a half who should not have been permitted to drive for the company. The company was cited $2,500 a day for each day a disqualified driver was found to have worked.

PUC transportation enforcement staff launched an investigation earlier this year after a referral from the Vail Police Department about an Uber driver accused of assaulting a passenger. In cross-checking driver records produced by the company with information obtained from the Colorado Crime Information Center (CCIC) and court databases, PUC staff found that Uber allowed individuals to drive with previous felony convictions, major moving violations (DUI, DWI, reckless driving, driving under restraint), and numerous instances of individuals driving with suspended, revoked or cancelled driver’s licenses.

“We have determined that Uber had background check information that should have disqualified these drivers under the law, but they were allowed to drive anyway,” PUC Director Doug Dean said. “These actions put the safety of passengers in extreme jeopardy.”

Under Colorado law, a Transportation Network Company (TNC) must perform a criminal history record check prior to allowing a person to act as a driver for the company. The company must also obtain and review a driving history report for individuals before they are allowed to drive. Drivers must have a valid driver’s license.

TNCs are required to disqualify drivers who have been convicted of specific offenses listed in statute – such as felony convictions, alcohol or drug-related driving offenses, unlawful sexual offenses, and major moving vehicle violations.

“PUC staff was able to find felony convictions hat the company’s background checks failed to find, demonstrating that the company’s background checks are inadequate,” Dean said. “In other cases, we could not confirm criminal background checks were even conducted by Uber.”

Among the findings of the investigation were 12 drivers with felony convictions; 17 drivers with major moving vehicle violations; three drivers with interlock driver’s licenses, which are required after recent drunk driving convictions; and 63 drivers with driver’s license issues.

Uber’s background checks also failed to identify a number of aliases used by their drivers, including one driver who was a convicted felon, habitual offender, and at one point in his past had escaped from the Colorado Department of Corrections. Nevertheless, after he was released from prison, he became a driver for Uber.

Under PUC rules, Uber can pay 50 percent of the CPAN amount within 10 days to resolve the case. Or the company can request a hearing before an administrative law judge to contest the CPAN.


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Friday, November 17, 2017

CASA moves to new location on Weber Street

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 12:49 PM

CASA has moved a brick building on  418 S. Weber St. - ZAHRIA ROGERS
  • Zahria Rogers
  • CASA has moved a brick building on 418 S. Weber St.
CASA of the Pikes Peak Region now has all five of its programs under one roof after having three separate locations.

The organization relocated to a larger renovated spot on 418 S. Weber
St. Nov. 11, propelling it closer to its goal, of serving all children in need of an advocate, by 2020.

Currently, there are only enough CASA volunteers to serve 70 percent of foster children in El Paso and Teller Counties, but the new facility holds a vast amount of space for training future advocates. Prior to the move, the nonprofit rented offsite space for volunteer training, which proved costly, according the communications manager Keri Kahn.

“Before we could only maybe train 20 people at a time. Well, in this training room we actually train between 50 and 60,” says Mittie Pedraza, interim director.

The new location also has enough room to house The Hanger, a donation-based boutique where teenagers in the foster system can pick out clothes for free, and an area for parents to have supervised visits with their children as part of the Supervised Exchange and Parenting Time (SPET) program.

Pedraza says CASA received several donations during the move, but the organization is still in need of volunteers.

To become a CASA volunteer, visit casappr.org or call 447-9898.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Transgender Day of Remembrance to be observed Nov. 20

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 5:12 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Shutterstock.com
This week we observe Transgender Awareness Week, culminating on Mon., Nov. 20 with the Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Transgender Awareness Week encourages the LGBTQ community and its allies to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of transgender individuals, while recognizing the discrimination and harassment they still face and discussing long-term solutions. Ideally these conversations will last longer than seven days, providing sustainable support to transgender people in our community.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, advocates tracked at least 23 deaths of transgender people due to violence in the U.S. in 2016. This year, we have already seen at least 25. Since many transgender individuals remain closeted, it is impossible to say for certain how high these already disturbing numbers might truly be.

On Nov. 20, locals will honor these lives lost, and come together in support of our transgender friends and family. See below for a list of local vigils, to be updated when/if we learn of any more, and check out One Colorado's list of TDOR events throughout the state.

Local events:
https://events.uccs.edu/event/transgender_day_of_remembrance_observance_4423" target="_blank">Hosted by UCCS' LGBT Resource Center: 7 p.m., Kraemer Family Library, 1420 Austin Bluffs Pkwy. Contact: 255-3319

Hosted by Trans-Generations of Pueblo, and Christ Congregational Church: 6 p.m., Christ Congregational Church, 1003 Liberty Lane, Pueblo. Contact: 544-0746.



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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Help Nate Feola get a service dog named Chunk

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 1:19 PM

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Nate Feola has lived 9 years, and the odds, it seems have never been in his favor.

Born four months early, weighing only 1 pound, 8 ounces, he spent his first five and a half months in the NICU, fighting for his life. When he was finally released to go home, his biological parents beat baby Nate so severely that they almost killed him. Nate survived. But the trauma to his tiny body left him permanently disabled.

Nate went into foster care. Thankfully, a new mom and dad fell in love with him and adopted him, even though they knew he'd need constant care and probably never be able to leave home. They've given Nate a happy childhood in Colorado Springs, against all the odds.
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But Nate is getting older, and it's hard for him to rely on his mom, who sometimes carries around the heavy oxygen tank he needs to breathe. Nate's parents are hoping to add a new member to their family: A service dog that can help Nate carry his oxygen. Nate has already named the dog "Chunk" (even though the trainer hasn't even found the puppy yet) and his mom, Lisa, says her other two adopted kids, both of whom have special needs, are already jealous that Nate is getting a dog.

The only problem is, the Feolas can't afford the dog. They need $14,000, and so far their YouCaring account has only brought in a little under $4,000.

Are you crying yet? Yeah, I know you are. Let me tell you more. Lisa and her husband have four biological kids between the ages of 17 and 25. None of them have disabilities. But about a decade ago, they decided to become foster parents, and when little Nate, a baby with multiple broken bones, needed a place to go, they took him. Lisa is a nurse, so she knew she could help Nate in a way other foster parents couldn't.

Nate was just nine months old. After that, the Feolas were often asked to take in foster kids with special needs. And they ended up adopting two more kids. Nate's siblings are an 11-year-old girl, who uses a wheelchair and functions on the level of a small baby, and a four-year-old boy, who is likely the highest functioning of the three kids. All the kids need extra love and care, including taking meals through a tube in their tummies.

Nate still bears a lot of the scars of abuse, his YouCaring page notes:

Due to prematurity and physical abuse Nate now has chronic lung disease, poor vision, right side weakness, poor balance, sensory issues, severe ADHD, and reactive attachment disorder. Nate requires constant medical supervision and is developmentally disabled and he will never be able to live on his own. Although Nate's very small compared to his peers, he is a very active and social 9 year old who loves to meet and talk to people. Due to Nate's chronic lung disease he is required to wear oxygen all the time. 

Nate or his mom carry his oxygen in a backpack that weighs 10-15 pounds. It's a lot for Nate, who only weighs about 50 pounds himself.

“My shoulders and back get sore so I can’t imagine how he feels,” Lisa says.

Despite all the challenges he's faced, Nate is a happy little boy who likes playing baseball and practicing Taekwondo. With the help of Chunk, Nate should be able to do all of those things a little easier.

If you want to help Nate and Chunk with their little holiday miracle, you can give here.

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