Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Frontier Airlines lifts COS traffic upward

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Frontier Airlines passengers are helping Colorado Springs Airport build traffic numbers. - NATE LAVIN
  • Nate Lavin
  • Frontier Airlines passengers are helping Colorado Springs Airport build traffic numbers.

We've all done it — driven a friend to or from Denver International Airport, gnashing our teeth all the way.

Well, it appears those anxiety-laden trips are giving way to Colorado Springs residents looking for a more convenient way to fly.

The Colorado Springs Airport reports a 31 percent increase in passengers through November, for a total of 1,532,822 passengers, compared to the same time in 2016. In the month of November, 145,573 passengers departed or arrived at COS, an increase of 18.8 percent over November 2016.

Part of the surge was due to Frontier Airlines adding numerous destinations in the last year, including Chicago O'Hare; Los Angeles; San Diego; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Fort Myers, Florida; and Tampa Bay, Florida. Before those additions, Frontier already flew from COS to Las Vegas, Phoenix and Orlando.

Thus, Frontier reported 209,562 passengers in year-to-date traffic through November, an increase of 291.2 percent from the previous year.

From an airport news release:
November’s year-to-date load factors (the percentage of seats filled with paying passengers) remained steady. Delta reported a 93.0 percent load factor, followed by American at 86.8 percent, United at 85.9 percent, Frontier at 84.7 percent, and Allegiant at 79.7 percent.

COS currently serves 13 nonstop flights with 5 airlines. Service to Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas begins April 8, 2018, with new routes to Minneapolis-Saint Paul, Minnesota and San Jose, California beginning April 9.

COS encourages residents in southern Colorado to “look before you book,” and offers simple parking, easy check-in, and a short drive home.

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Maketa, Presley dismissed from federal lawsuit

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 3:34 PM

Maketa pictured during his last term in office. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Maketa pictured during his last term in office.

As prosecutors gear up for a retrial of former El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a lower court ruling in a civil case brought by five sheriff's personnel accusing Maketa and others of taking illegal "adverse employment actions" against them.

A three-judge panel ruled in a decision filed Jan. 17, that Maketa and then-Undersheriff Paula Presley, also named in the lawsuit, are entitled to qualified immunity from the claims.

The 2015 lawsuit was filed by Commanders Mitch Lincoln, Rod Gehrett and Rob King, and Lt. Cheryl Peck and Sgt. Robert Stone. Here's an account of their claims before the lawsuit was filed.

They also named the Board of County Commissioners, Sheriff's Office, current Sheriff Bill Elder and current Undersheriff Joe Breister. The Sheriff's Office, Elder and Breister have since been dismissed.

Andrew Ringel, a Denver attorney who represented Maketa, says the ruling means Maketa and Presley have qualified immunity against all claims so the claims have been dismissed. He declined to comment further.

Maketa, who served as sheriff from 2003 to Dec. 31, 2014, faces criminal charges filed in May 2016 alleging he threatened to end a jail contract if the contractor didn't terminate an employee who wasn't Maketa's political ally, among other allegations. A trial in July ended in acquittal on witness tampering, conspiracy to commit witness tampering and official misconduct charges. Several other charges ended with a hung jury. A new trial begins Jan. 23.

As for the civil case brought by the employees, U.S. District Court Judge Christine Arguello originally ruled in March 2016 that claims in the lawsuit would be dismissed except:
a. One consolidated claim for relief for retaliation related to the EEOC
complaint and the BOCC request for investigation by Plaintiffs Lincoln, King, and Gehrett against Defendants Maketa and Presley;

b. Plaintiff Peck’s Third Claim for Relief for retaliation asserted against
Defendant Maketa;

c. Plaintiff Stone’s Fourth Claim for Relief for retaliation asserted against Defendant Maketa; and

d. Plaintiffs Lincoln, King, and Gehrett’s Sixth Claim for Relief for Title VII retaliation asserted against Defendant Board of County Commissioners of the County of El Paso. 
That meant that the plaintiffs could have pursued those claims in court and possibly prevailed, but since Maketa and Presley appealed that ruling, and it was reversed, the plaintiffs can't be pursued for those claims because they have governmental immunity.

The five employees (the plaintiffs), all of whom remain employed at the Sheriff's Office with the exception of Stone, who retired, variously claimed Maketa and Presley punished them for:

• favoring a sheriff's candidate the two didn't support,
• for not giving a scripted account regarding a so-called missing internal affairs file for Elder during his tenure in the 1990s,
• for making complaints about Maketa that indicated the sheriff showed favoritism to employees based on sexual favors
• and creating a hostile work environment based on that favoritism and other actions.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled:
The assertion of qualified immunity imposes a heavy burden on the plaintiffs, requiring them to point to existing precedent or the clear weight of authority establishing the existence of a constitutional violation. None of the plaintiffs has met that burden. Lt. Peck has not demonstrated that her statement to the media was clearly made as a private citizen rather than as a public employee. Nor has Sgt. Stone or the Commanders shown that the defendants’ alleged conduct would clearly constitute adverse employment actions. Accordingly, Sheriff Maketa and Undersheriff Presley were entitled to qualified immunity on all of the claims.
El Paso County spokesperson Dave Rose sent the following response on behalf of the county:

El Paso County is still studying the ruling and evaluating its options going forward.

The county applauds the court for clarifying the complex legal concept of “qualified immunity” as it relates this case. The county also notes that in its decision the court affirmed the county’s employment related actions to ensure that these individuals were placed on administrative leave so they would not lose pay and benefits pending the outcome of an outside legal review of facts and circumstances in the Sheriff’s Office during that difficult time period.

Local attorney Ed Farry who represented the five sheriff's personnel did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Read the ruling here:

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Archer Park drainage plan given go-ahead by the city

Posted By on Wed, Jan 17, 2018 at 1:16 PM

A development in the Broadmoor area can move forward after the city approved a drainage plan last week that remains a point of contention with neighbors. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • A development in the Broadmoor area can move forward after the city approved a drainage plan last week that remains a point of contention with neighbors.
Back in August, we reported on the development of 4.7 acres dubbed Archer Park in the Broadmoor area. Neighbors of the proposed development had a litany of complaints, chief among them that the developer's drainage plan — still in limbo — would be inadequate and lead to stormwater flowing onto their properties.

Dr. James Albert, who lives just east of the proposed development, filed a lawsuit in July to try to reverse the city's approval of the subdivision.

The developer, Richard Delesk, on the other hand, said he has a long reputation of developing quality homes in the neighborhood and that he was upset by what he viewed as outrageous opposition by a group of neighbors intent on ruining his project simply because they wanted the land next to them to remain undeveloped.

Now, the subdivision's drainage plan has been approved by city of Colorado Springs' engineers, clearing the way for development to begin.

In the way of a little more background, from our earlier story:
At issue is a pasture in the Broadmoor area that soon could give rise to a verdant enclave of million-dollar homes called Archer Park, or, as some neighbors see it, a flood-water and traffic nightmare.

While it’s not unusual for City Council to encounter citizen outcry over developments of hundreds of homes or apartments, Archer Park covers only 4.7 acres. But the small development has drawn outsized opposition from dozens of neighbors who’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on studies, consultants and top environmental engineers to refute the developer’s claim the plan won’t flood adjoining properties and adjacent streets.

As Les Gruen, a consultant hired by the neighbors, says in an interview, “I thought this was going to be a pretty straightforward deal, and I ended up working on it for a year.”

Even the developer himself, Richard Delesk, acknowledged in an email to the Independent, “I have never seen anything like this opposition. This is well-funded NIMBYism against a development that is rigorously documented, thoughtfully planned and which has passed all regulatory hurdles with flying colors.”

But that’s not really the case. Although City Council OK’d the subdivision 7-2 on June 27, a final drainage plan remains in flux, and Council specified it must be approved by city planners before the final plat is recorded.
The Indy asked Delesk for a comment on Jan. 17 about the city's approval of his drainage plan and his next steps, Delesk says via email:

Yes we have been informed of the approval and are thrilled as you might imagine. As far as a start date on the project we don’t currently have a schedule. There is a lot of utility work that has to be designed and installed prior to starting any building. That said we are currently keeping ourselves busy with a fantastic Parade Home we’re starting construction on in our Marland Park Subdivision.

Regarding an IM maintenance plan – According to City Code §7.7.1527(C)(1), an inspection and maintenance plan “shall be developed by the owner concurrently with the design of the facility and submitted with the erosion and stormwater quality control plan for approval by the City Engineer.” So you see, one is not due yet nor is there a deadline for the erosion and stormwater quality control plan.

As far as neighbors’ concerns to future flooding, I maintain the belief that the City Engineers that strenuously reviewed and subsequently approved our plan know what they are doing. We’re going to be adding drainage infrastructure where none currently exists. I think that’s a huge positive to the neighborhood. Since the Albert's are suing the City (and City Council and myself and my company) I'm sure the validity of their concerns will be evaluated in our court system.
Albert wrote a Jan. 17 email to the Independent, saying he was not backing down.

"The city approved changing a plat underhandedly without a public process," he wrote. "They called a 250 yard by 7 foot wide by 3 foot wide concrete trench a 'minor change.' No safety fences no discussion. They are not requiring drainage easement which would allow each buyer to fill in the trench making the proposed system unless."

In a Jan. 16 letter to the neighbors' attorney, Jonathan Steeler of Denver, Assistant City Attorney Anne Turner says, "The drainage swale constructed on the property will be private infrastructure that will be the responsibility of the owner."

She also says that it "was not feasible" to grant a request from the neighbors to meet with city officials prior to the drainage report's approval.

Read Turner's letter here:
The drainage issue dates back several months as the drainage report was drafted, submitted, returned to the engineer with suggested changes and then approved.

In September, neighbor Diane Matsinger wrote to the city noting the drainage plan as initially proposed didn't contain a maintenance agreement. "At the City Council hearing," she wrote, "we were assured by the applicant’s attorney that the agreement was being drawn and would be submitted with the final drainage plan. Now he is still saying that he will do so at the time of 'permitting.' Maintenance is a serious concern and the City Drainage Criteria REQUIRES that a maintenance agreement be submitted WITH a final drainage plan."

This concern also was addressed by Turner's letter:
The maintenance plan for the storm water infrastructure is not yet due. According to City Code § 7.7.1527(C)(1), an inspection and maintenance plan (“TM plan”) “shall be developed by the owner concurrently with the design of the facility and submitted with the erosion and stormwater quality control plan for approval by the City Engineer.” There is no deadline for the erosion and stormwater quality control plan. The maintenance plan will be publicly available once it is received by the City.
In an interview last month, developer Delesk said his plans have complied with all city requirements and pointed to his long-time success record in developing housing projects that date back more than three decades. He declined to elaborate on plans to develop Archer Park at that time.

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