Monday, July 30, 2018

Independence Center honors veterans with disabilities

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 at 1:15 PM

Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. - COURTESY MATT GETZE
  • Courtesy Matt Getze
  • Mayor John Suthers grants Kim Nguyen, left, and Tara Thomas with an award for the Military Artistic Healing Program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center.

El Paso County has the fifth largest population of veterans with disabilities in the country, Mayor John Suthers said in a speech at the Independence Center's annual ADA Luncheon, Celebrating Veterans with Disabilities.

Out of 100,000 veterans in the county, 37,000 have disabilities, Suthers said. That amounts to more than Cook County, Illinois or New York City.

And that's partly why the community gathered July 26 to recognize the local organizations that do the most to serve those who serve us, on the 28th anniversary of the day President George H.W. Bush signed the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Independence Center's 2018 award recipients:

Colorado Veterans Resource Coalition: This organization works to end veteran homelessness by providing transitional housing. The coalition's Crawford House in Colorado Springs is a temporary, structured environment for those overcoming addiction.

Achilles Pikes Peak: The team at our local chapter of Achilles International provides adaptive recreation opportunities for veterans with disabilities, including cycling, running, hiking, and more.

Military Artistic Healing Program at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center: "The ability for veterans to share their feelings is a vital part of the healing process," Suthers says. These art classes help them to do just that.

Team Rubicon: This organization helps veterans "find a sense of identity through service," Suthers says. Veterans who are part of the program help those affected by natural disasters, using their skills and experience from the military to respond to emergencies.

Home Front Cares: This program helps create a safety net for veterans by providing grants for rent, utilities, car repair and other forms of emergency assistance for those at risk of homelessness.

At the luncheon, the Independence Center also highlighted its Veteran in Charge program, which helps veterans who might otherwise be placed in a nursing home to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. That support includes a flexible monthly budget that allows veterans to choose the services they need, including assistive devices such as chair lifts, meal delivery, transportation and in-home care.
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Friday, July 27, 2018

Manitou Springs declares local disaster after flooding

Posted By on Fri, Jul 27, 2018 at 9:24 AM

The aftermath of a storm July 23 in Manitou Springs. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • The aftermath of a storm July 23 in Manitou Springs.

In spite of the July 23 flood event that resulted in around $1.5 million in damage — about 15 percent of Manitou Springs's general fund — Mayor Ken Jaray wants everyone to know the city is still "open for business."

But Jaray says the aftermath of the storm, which dropped more than 2 inches of rain and hail in 30 minutes, inundating the streets with debris and damaging infrastructure, is more than Manitou Springs can handle alone. He's declared a local disaster emergency, which will allow the city, residents and businesses to be eligible for state and federal relief funding.

Jaray says tourists are as welcome as ever in Manitou Springs.

"We didn’t want people to think that with that declaration that somehow we were not operating normally, and we are operating normally," he said at a press briefing July 26. "We did it because it opens the door for funds, but it wasn’t to dissuade anybody from coming to our town."

Major issues after the July 23 flooding "include Serpentine Road repairs, Schryver Park parking lot, park and bridges, Soda Springs Park, Pawnee Avenue, storm water system repairs, street and bridge repairs, facility repairs, and sediment and debris removal throughout the City," Jaray said in a statement. "We do not have current estimates of the cost to local residents and businesses."

Monday's storm shared some eerie similarities to the catastrophic flooding in 2013 after the Waldo Canyon Fire, which resulted in almost $14 million in damage to city-owned infrastructure, according to Crystal Abeyta, the city's grant administrator.

But since then, the city has completed a range of flood mitigation projects, helped along by state and federal grant flooding, that alleviated much of the danger to residents and businesses.

In 2014, Manitou received $580,000 in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief funding for projects such as a $78,000 wall to protect the foundation under City Hall. The National Resources Conservation Service also awarded over $500,000 in grants to Manitou for flood mitigation and repair projects in 2015. The Department of Local Affairs gave Manitou $643,300 to hire five employees to help with flood projects for two years.

In 2015, the city received $4.9 million more in CDBG Disaster Relief funds, allowing it to replace a damaged pipeline, install a new culvert at Serpentine Road, put in a new culvert under Manitou Avenue at El Monte Place, replace an aging and undersized water line in the Peak View Subdivision for better fire protection, and complete a project in Williams Canyon to protect downtown from flooding.

The city's also received relief over the years from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Manitou Springs Police Department Chief Joe Ribeiro says those projects helped save the city from a repeat of 2013's devastation, even though there was more precipitation this year.

"I think what we saw yesterday was on the scale or larger than the 2013 floods," he says. "If you recall, in 2013, we didn’t have any of our mitigation work done. The Williams Canyon [mitigation project] really did its job in my observation, and it made a significant difference."

Shelley Cobau, the city's public service director, was instrumental in obtaining much of the grant money for the city's dozen or so flood mitigation projects. She says that despite a couple of floodgates that didn't work properly, the "facilities functioned as designed."

"We had a debris net up in upper Williams Canyon that stopped tons and tons and tons of wood and debris from reaching Manitou Springs," Cobau says. "Businesses were just cleaning up water instead of mud and other detritus from their businesses."

There were still some issues. Cobau says a floodgate on Canon Avenue didn't work because of a problem with its structural design, so engineers are planning to fix it. Another gate didn't appear to function because a car was parked over it, one of Cobau's crew members told her. A third gate on Park Avenue also needed adjustments to compensate for road elevation, Cobau says. And some storm drains were clogging.

Much of the federal funding to repair flood damage came as a result of presidential disaster declarations. Ribeiro says the city is in talks with partners at the state who say there's a good chance the damage this year is extensive enough to warrant another presidential declaration, or at least one at the state level.

Ribeiro stressed that the city was committed to making sure flooding wouldn't affect tourism. He says the police department works closely with businesses to make sure they're safe for visitors who may not be used to storm events like Monday's.

"The analogy I use is we treat it a little like an airplane," Ribeiro said. "You get on the airplane, the crew on that airplane’s responsible for your safety. We ask the business community and our residents to help out in that sense, that if a flood warning’s issued and things are going on, that they help people who aren’t from around here to know where it is, what it means to go high and get away from the creek, what the siren means when it’s going off."

Here's the full text of the city's resolution declaring a local disaster:

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Colorado Sports and Events Center stadium, arena to host Switchbacks, Colorado College hockey downtown

Posted By on Wed, Jul 25, 2018 at 2:35 PM

Digital rendering of the proposed outdoor downtown stadium. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • Digital rendering of the proposed outdoor downtown stadium.

The city's new stadium project, which has been in the works for years and generated debate over funding, will consist of two separate facilities — an outdoor downtown stadium that will host the Colorado Springs Switchbacks soccer team and an event center for the Colorado College ice hockey team, the city announced July 25.

The Colorado Sports and Events Center project, one of four elements of the City for Champions plan, will be funded by a mix of public and private money.

State Regional Tourism Act sales tax dollars to the amount of $27.7 million are designated for the stadium. The Colorado Springs Switchbacks will contribute $10 million, and Weidner Apartment Homes will pay $40 million to build an adjacent mixed-use development project, according to a statement from the city. The total cost for the stadium and development is estimated at $60 million.

The indoor arena will cost around $39 million, and will be paid for by $9.2 million from the state and the rest from Colorado College.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of a lot of hard work and incredible collaboration between a number of private partners," Mayor John Suthers is quoted in the statement. "While this project represents a significant benefit to our city’s economy and cultural and sports offerings, we have remained committed to the desire of our voters to accomplish this feat through private partnerships and investments and not with local general fund tax money.”

The stadium, which will accommodate audiences of up to 10,000 for sporting events and up to 20,000 for concert events, will be located on the CityGate property downtown, bordered by Cimarron Street to the North, Moreno Avenue to the South, Sierra Madre Street to the West and Sahwatch Street to the east, according to the city's statement.

The Switchbacks will allow Weidner Apartment Homes to name the stadium and assume a minority ownership position at the soccer team, Greg Cerbana, the company's vice president of public relations and government affairs, said at a press conference July 25.

The Switchbacks' current home at Weidner Field has a 5,000-seat capacity, and average attendance was around 3,500 last season, according to James Ragain, the team's executive vice president.

Josh Keller, vice president of business development for United Soccer League, pointed out the league's growth — nationwide, attendance increased 50 percent since last year, to an average of 5,000 visitors per game — and lauded the city's support of the stadium project.

"USL views soccer-specific stadiums as one of the key drivers of growth," Keller said. "We’ve witnessed how a new stadium can energize both a city’s fan base, as well as the local community."

Digital rendering of the proposed Robson Arena. - CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • City of Colorado Springs
  • Digital rendering of the proposed Robson Arena.

The indoor arena will feature 3,000 permanent seats. Named for Colorado College alumnus Edward J. Robson, it's planned for the block bordered by Nevada Avenue and Cache La Poudre, Tejon and Dale streets.

Representatives from Colorado College emphasized that the arena would continue the school's commitment to sustainability with environmentally friendly architecture, and would include state-of-the-art equipment.

"While it’s been a great two decades at Broadmoor Arena, we need to recognize that Colorado College has sponsored Division 1 hockey for almost 80 years but has never had an on-campus home of its own,"  added Ken Ralph, the school's director of athletics. "And our student body has never had the on-campus athletic experience our peer schools enjoy."

The city's proposal isn't final, and still has to go before the state's Economic Development Commission for approval in September.

"Our undergoing a dynamic transformation, and these projects will only add to the vitality of the heart of our city," Suthers said at a press conference July 25.

City and college officials say they've looked into parking and traffic feasibility near the two facilities. Bob Cope, the city's economic development manager, says the city is "strongly looking into" building a 900-stall parking structure for the stadium across the street from the Olympic Museum. There's currently 8,000 spots within three-quarters of a mile of the stadium, he says.

Colorado College commissioned a parking and transportation study that showed even when the students were in session, there were 50 percent more spaces than necessary for the proposed project, Ralph said in an email. He added that arena parking would primarily be college lots, with some street parking. The college doesn't plan to build a parking structure.

Ralph says the school would also run shuttles to downtown from "a few different spots" and provide incentives for people to use ride-share apps.

"Even though we have enough parking we would still like to utilize multiple options to get people to the site to stay as congestion-free as possible and provide a positive experience for people coming to events," he wrote.

Jeff Greene, the city's chief of staff, said planners believed changing traffic patterns on Cascade Avenue could actually "enhance" the project.

The city plans to downsize several streets in the Old North End neighborhood, including:

• narrowing Cascade Avenue this year to two lanes (from four), adding buffered bike lanes and parking in each direction.
• narrowing Fontanero Street, between El Paso Street and Wood Avenue, to two lanes, adding buffered bike lanes, and a center turn lane in 2019.
• narrowing Weber Street, between Colorado Avenue and Jackson Street, to two lanes, with a center turn lane and bike lanes in 2020.

The City for Champions project, pursued by local leaders since 2013, consists of four planned projects: The United States Olympic Museum, Colorado Sports and Event Center, USAFA Gateway Visitor Center and William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center.

In an interview last week with the Independent, Suthers mentioned that tax-increment financing could play a role in the project. (That local tax money allows developers to apply increases of sales tax revenues in excess of the existing base in the urban renewal area to public infrastructure that enables development of the project.)

However, there was no mention of that type of financing in the official announcement.

More details on funding from the city:

Economic Benefit

Economic impact of the Sports and Event Center project is forecasted at $32 million annually and $1 billion over 30 years. The project is also estimated to generate $1 million dollars in new city sales tax revenue each year and is anticipated to generate over 650 new jobs.
This project impact is a vital part of the combined impact of the four City for Champions projects, which are forecasted to:

· Boost the region’s $1.35 billion annual tourism industry
· Attract about 1.2 million visitors each year
· Add more than 500,000 new out-of-state visitors annually
· Increase retail sales by $140 million each year
· Increase gross metropolitan product by $217 million annually
· Add $4.4 million in new sales tax revenue for the city annually
· Add $2 million in new sales tax revenue for the county annually
· Leverage a $120.5 million state tourism improvement rebate
· Allow 23 local TEAM USA National Governing Bodies to host Pre-Olympic and World Championship events here
City for Champions will brand Colorado Springs as Olympic City USA, and invite national/international sports performance and medicine entities to the city–to compete in events and do business.


The State RTA funding will be approximately $27.7 million over 30 years. Two-thirds of the revenue, approximately $18.5M, will be dedicated to the outdoor stadium and will support a bond of approximately $10M. One-third of the revenue, or approximately $9.2M, will be dedicated to the indoor arena and will be distributed to Colorado College as the revenue is received. Private investment from the project partners will make up the difference to complete the projects.

Downtown Stadium

The cost of the outdoor stadium is estimated at approximately $20 million plus a mixed use development project costing approximately $40 million for a total of $60 million. In addition to the $10 million in state RTA bond funding, the Colorado Springs Switchbacks will be contributing another $10 million and Weidner Apartment Homes $40 million.

Events Center

The indoor events center will cost approximately $39 million with $9.2 million funded by the state RTA bond proceeds. The balance (approx. $30 million) will be provided by Colorado College.
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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

EPA invites community members to speak about PFC contamination

Posted By on Tue, Jul 24, 2018 at 8:57 AM


Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency will visit Colorado Springs on Aug. 7 and 8 to hear from community members about perfluorinated compounds (PFCs), toxic chemicals used by the Air Force for firefighting, that contaminated water supplies in Colorado.

Members of the public who've been affected by PFCs in their drinking water can sign up online for three-minute speaking slots Aug. 7 between 4 and 10 p.m. A working session, also open to the public, is set for Aug. 8 from 9:45 a.m. to noon.

Both events will be held at the Hotel Eleganté, located at 2886 S. Circle Dr.

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition and Fountain Creek Water Sentinels are among organizations speaking at the Aug. 7 event, says Liz Rosenbaum, cofounder of the coalition.

Rosenbaum says the Clean Water Coalition has been working with the EPA to ensure there's plenty of time for residents to voice their opinions.

"I absolutely think something good will come out of this," Rosenbaum says. "Because it’s the first time the community can be heard."

The Fountain Valley Clean Water Coalition was among organizations across the country that protested the EPA's unwillingness to let community groups, journalists and even legislative staff attend a national summit on PFCs in May.

Since then, EPA representatives have visited a New Hampshire community affected by PFCs, and will visit Pennsylvania on July 25.

Aquifers in the Security, Widefield and Fountain areas that were affected by PFCs are now safe for drinking, officials say, after the city of Fountain began treating water through a new process. The Clean Water Coalition is still pushing for health studies to learn more about the effects of the contaminants, Rosenbaum says.

And tests recently showed PFCs in several groundwater wells that supply drinking water to north metro Denver, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced July 12.

The Denver Post reports that South Adams County Water and Sanitation District officials found levels of PFCs ranging from 24 parts per trillion (ppt) to 2,280 ppt in 12 wells along Quebec Parkway near Interstate 70. That's up to 32 times more than the EPA's current acceptable limit for PFCs, which is 70 ppt.

However, a study released June 20 by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry suggests that safe drinking water should contain less than 12 ppt.

All together, the contaminated wells in Denver supply water to 50,000 residents across 65 square miles, the Post reports.
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Monday, July 23, 2018

Springs Utilities to power 30,000 more homes with solar

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 9:25 AM

Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array. - COURTESY OF COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy of Colorado Springs Utilities
  • Clear Spring Ranch 10 megawatt solar array.

Colorado Springs Utilities
 recently signed contracts for two solar energy projects totaling 95 megawatts, enough to power 30,000 homes annually. The Palmer Solar Project and Grazing Yak Project will increase the Springs Utilities solar energy production to 130 megawatts when both projects are online by the end of 2020. That will bring the Springs renewable energy portfolio to 15 percent of summer generating capacity.

The 60 megawatts Palmer Solar Project will be built by juwi Inc. of Boulder, and supply Springs Utilities under a 20-year contract. juwi will develop and operate on a 500-acre site on Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District property in El Paso County, north of Monument. The Palmer Solar Project breaks ground in the first half of 2019 and plans to be online by December 2020.

North America's largest generator of solar and wind power, NextEra Energy Resources, will develop, build and operate the 35 megawatts Grazing Yak Project. That project, beginning in early 2019 and operational by late 2019, will operate under a 25-year contract with Springs Utilities.

Springs Utilities will purchase the energy generated by the new projects for a 20-year fixed rate of less than $31 per megawatt hour. Colorado Springs Utilities spokesperson, Amy Trinidad, tells the Indy the utility does not expect the projects to result in a rate increase from the current $87 per month average electric bill, and any potential increase will not exceed one percent of the current bill.

"We are under guidance from the utilities board that no more than one percent of our customer's residential electric bill can be used for the purchase of renewable energy," says Trinidad. Springs Utilities' Energy Vision's goal of 20 percent renewable energy by 2020 could fall short because of the one percent cap, which the Indy reported on in more detail last December. 

"Well, it's an either/or. It's 20 percent renewables for our generation or we hit that one percent bill impact cap," says Trinidad. Upcoming renewable energy options presented to the Springs Utilities' Board could provide the opportunity to meet that 20 percent.

Colorado Springs Utilities is updating its Energy Vision between now and May 2019 to update renewable energy goals and include long term planning. The public comment period has yet to be announced. 
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RBG packs the house

Posted By on Mon, Jul 23, 2018 at 9:05 AM

  • Rachel Bernstein

Men and women, young and old piled into the Millibo Art Theatre (MAT!) in Colorado Springs on July 11, 12, and 16 to view the twice sold-out documentary RBG about the life and career of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, otherwise known as “The Notorious RBG.”

The three-day film screening was hosted by the Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Institute (RMWFI), a local Colorado Springs nonprofit committed to supporting women filmmakers and home to the longest running women's film festival in North America.

“Bringing this film to Colorado Springs and downtown was something our audience and the community wanted to see,” says Sarah Arnold, Marketing Director for the RMWFI.

The film was originally only supposed to screen on July 11 and 12, but tickets sold out in less than 48 hours.

“We always wanted to do two nights because we thought it would be enticing to our audience, and it sold-out within two days. So that’s when we added a third screening — and that sold out in four hours,” Arnold explains.
  • Rachel Bernstein
Written and directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, RBG provides an intimate look into the personal and professional life of Ginsburg, focusing heavily on her decades-long work on achieving gender equality.

In a class of about 500 men at Harvard Law School, Ginsburg’s experience as one of nine women did not get easier as time passed — even after becoming the first woman to make two major Law Reviews; Harvard and Columbia. Graduating Columbia Law School, Ginsburg found it difficult to find work because of her gender, despite graduating at the top of her class. Her struggle resulted in dedicating her career to breaking legal ground for women and educating those above her about how gender inequality hurts both men and women.

“I’m grateful to Ruth because what she’s done for women also allows me to be a good man — a better man,” Tim Davis, age 70, explains when asked his opinion on the film. “It brings awareness to how far we’ve come, and part of it’s just in consciousness, to have a better world for our daughters—we’re still not there though, and we’re going backwards right now.”

The film speaks to multiple generations—from those who lived through Ginsburg’s most influential cases, including United States v. Virginia, Olmstead v. L.C., and Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Environmental Services, Inc.—to millennials who, in the last few years, helped shape Ginsburg into a pop culture icon. Fans were so excited to see the film, some showed up sporting their “Notorious RBG” T-shirts — some of which had Justice Ginsburg wearing a crown. But overall, residents were thrilled that the film was brought to screen in the area at all. Following the national release in May, RBG showed for about two weeks at only one theatre in the Colorado Springs area.

Along with residents wanting to see the film, the screening couldn’t have come at a more relevant time in national politics, only a few weeks following the announcement of Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s retirement, effective July 31.

Known for helping to keep the court balanced, Justice Kennedy, 81, has been a pivotal swing vote for both liberals and conservatives for nearly three decades. Kennedy has helped cast the deciding vote in multiple pivotal rulings, including Obergefell v. Hodges, the 5-4 decision that paved the way for same-sex couples to marry.

When asked about the conservative shift that’s about to take place on the court, Davis says, “I’m always hopeful that people will be able to, as Ruth did, put these things aside and judge a case on its merit. But it’s scary to me because we’ve come so far in terms of civil rights and rights for women which affect everybody, to go in the other direction would be very sad.”

As Kennedy steps down, the future of the Supreme Court is now in the hands of President Trump who has the power to put a conservative seal on the American legal system and impact American life for generations.

Another cause for concern is Ginsburg’s age. At 85, she is the oldest sitting justice on the high court. But Ginsburg’s age has only made her more relevant and influential as time has passed.

In addition to RBG, Justice Ginsburg will be back on the big screen in December, this time as the subject of the upcoming feature film, On the Basis of Sex, centered on Ginsburg navigating life as a young lawyer to bring the groundbreaking case, Weinberger v. Wiesenfeld, to the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Ginsburg makes it clear in RBG and in recent interviews that she has no intention of retiring and will stay on the Supreme Court bench as long as she can do the job to the best of her ability. As for now, she’s moving full steam ahead.
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Friday, July 20, 2018

Downtown stadium project to be announced soon

Posted By on Fri, Jul 20, 2018 at 11:55 AM

Mayor Suthers is on the verge of a big announcement regarding the downtown stadium and arena project. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • Mayor Suthers is on the verge of a big announcement regarding the downtown stadium and arena project.
During a recent interview, Mayor John Suthers mentioned that a stadium and arena will be the centerpiece for downtown development. The stadium project, one of four funded through the Regional Tourism Act via state sales tax money and called City for Champions, has never gotten off the ground. (The other projects are a sports medicine center at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, an Air Force Academy visitors center and the downtown Olympic Museum now under construction.)

About $27 million of the $120.5 million award from the state Economic Development Commission (EDC) would apply to the stadium, but substantial progress has to be demonstrated by mid-December or the city will lose access to those state funds.

Turns out, an announcement is in the offing, likely on July 25.

Here's what Suthers had to say on the topic:

Indy: You mentioned the stadium. What can you tell us about the status of that project, and who are you meeting with to move this forward, and to what extent are you using your influence to spur progress on that project?

Suthers: Well, obviously it’s a project I want to have happen, so I’ve met with a lot of people. I won’t tell you who I’m meeting with, because you would have a scoop that would make the rest of the city very angry, and we’ll make that known at a public event. When I say public event, all we’re going to say at that public event is, "Here’s the plan that we’re taking forward to the state EDC and asking them to approve."
I mean, it won’t be a done deal at that point, but we’re going to say, "Here’s how we’re going to do the arena, here’s how we’re going to do the stadium, and this is what we’re taking forth to the EDC and ask them to find substantial progress and let’s move forward." But, the whole key to the thing was to find substantial private investment and I think we found it.

You have?

Uh hum.... People are doing conceptual drawings. Architects are involved and all that kind of stuff.

Has the site been chosen?


Is it Citygate, located at the southeast corner of Sahwatch and Cimarron streets?

Citygate is certainly one of the things that’s been seriously considered.

It sits next to Drake Power Plant, however.

It does. Any of this downtown development, whether it be a stadium, whether it be a museum, I think, I can’t speak for the [City] Council and Board of Utilities, but I think that’s all weighing in favor of certainly not delaying [Drake's closure], with the date they’ve got in the sand right now is 2035. I would be surprised if it did not move up, and I’m pretty positive it’s not going to move back, because it would be of help to downtown development for Drake to close. Keep in mind when we’re talking closed, we’re only talking about power generation. There still would be a transmission facility. But it won’t have the smoke stack.

You’ve said no city tax money would be involved in the stadium project. Is that still part of this formula?

Yeah. Yeah. The only way any public dollars, any remotely public dollars would creep in, most of that area down there is in the urban renewal zone, so anybody who built would be able to take advantage of their tax in the urban renewal zone. Obviously there’s the state TIF [tax increment financing], right? As I say, that’s going to be $15 million between the two projects, present value [of the $27 million awarded], and then in that urban renewal zone, they would undoubtedly ask for some portion of the city sales tax. Typical has been 1.5 percent. University Village [urban renewal area] got 2. You’re not going to get a waiver of PSST [Public Safety Sales Tax].

(Suthers was referring to tax increment financing using local tax money, which allows developers to apply increases of sales tax revenues in excess of the existing base in the urban renewal area to public infrastructure that enables development of the project.)

But even a portion of city sales tax or property tax through TIF, that’s still local tax.

Yeah, but this is an area desperately needing redevelopment, and it’s an appropriate urban renewal area, and I don’t see that [TIF] as any public investment other than if anybody built down there they would have the advantage of that.

I guess you found a local investor or a group of local investors?

Not necessarily a local.
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Thursday, July 19, 2018

Recycled goods from Colorado Springs find many end users

Posted By on Thu, Jul 19, 2018 at 12:40 PM

#2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • #2 plastics, mostly laundry detergent containers, likely to become drain material in Ohio.

Recently, we published a post on the ways China's National Sword policy is affecting recycling in Colorado. Now we're looking at where your waste becomes a valuable commodity.

As mentioned, most waste enters the stream via single-stream recycling. From there it goes to a sorting facility where it's separated by a combination of machines and manual labor. The sorted material is bundled together where it's sold and sent elsewhere to become a new product. Most of the time that transaction is facilitated by a third-party broker.

For example, most of Colorado Springs' Bestway Recycling transactions go through Chicago-based National Fiber, which moves 10,000 tons of material per month.

"[Take] a 20-ounce soda bottle, that's PET- polyethylene terephthalate #1," says Clint Cordonnier, Logistics Manager of Bestway Recycling. "I send approximately three loads of that a month to various mills in [places] like Richmond, Indiana, it goes a lot to Mohawk Industries in Athens, Georgia, where they make carpet out of it." Bestway generates about three 40,000-pound truckloads of #1 plastics per month.

Cordonnier says #2 plastics, High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), are separated into two categories: colored and natural. The colored #2s are mostly laundry detergent containers, while milk jugs comprise 99 percent of the naturals. About 40,000 pounds of HDPE plastics leave Bestway every month. Most of it will go to Advanced Drainage Systems in Waterloo, Iowa, to become drain material, according to Cordonnier.

Even before the National Sword policy, Bestway worked to keep products domestic.
Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Cordonnier in front of a bail of #1 plastics, the majority of which will be sent to Georgia to become carpet.
"I personally would prefer to keep it here (the US). It seems the freight is a lot less when you're not sending it to one of the coasts or a port and them putting it on a sea container and sending it to another country," says Cordonnier. "It creates jobs here."

Right now, paper is the only product leaving Bestway that ships abroad. Before standards changed last year, it mostly went to China. Now it ships to Mexico. Cardboard mostly goes to Lawton, Oklahoma, to where it's pulped and turned into drywall.

Marcus Redden, Floor Manager at Bestway Recycling's Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), has a unique perspective on recovered materials. He points at a bundle of crushed can with "702" written on the side and says, "at 45-cents for aluminum and 702 pounds, that's over $300 right there."  

All metal products leaving Bestway stay in Colorado Springs and go to either Western Scrap or Colorado Industrial Recycling. Colorado Industrial Recycling, which processes 60 million pounds of metals per year, sends all of its aluminum cans to Atlanta where Novelis, the world's largest recycler of used beverage cans, turns it into another aluminum can. An aluminum can is infinitely recyclable with an average "can-to-can" lifecycle of two months.

Surprisingly, with all the recent changes, prices have remained consistent for Bestway. However, they have had to purchase a new optical sorting machine to try and get cleaner products.

It all depends on the quality of material according to Cordonnier. "I can speak for this facility," he says. "We invest a substantial amount of time and money on our end to get the best product possible, so we're able to sell it at a higher price."

(The Indy reached out to a number of recycling services for comment on their end users, but citing the competitive industry, many declined to share that information.)
Bails of aluminum. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Bails of aluminum.
Materials not recycled are products wasted. The Integrated Solid Waste and Materials Management Plan estimates Colorado throws $267 million worth of recyclable material into the landfill every year. That's largely because 40 percent of Coloradans don't recycle at all.

"Last year, for the first time ever, Colorado set voluntary recycling goals for the state as a whole and then for the Front Range and rural communities," says Ecocycle Communications Director Harlin Savage. "That was a big step forward because we didn't have goals before that time." Ecocycle's 2017 State of Recycling in Colorado says collecting better data is the number one recommendation for achieving recycling goals.

The Colorado Solid and Hazardous Waste Commission's goal is to meet the national average diversion rate of 35 percent by 2026, and become among the national bests at 45 percent by 2036. Compare that to California, who currently has a 47 percent diversion rate with a 2020 goal of 75 percent.

It's worth noting, the Colorado Association for Recycling (CAFR) chose Colorado Springs for a pilot recycling program starting at the end of last year and aimed at attracting young people to recycle more paper and cardboard. The program shows the clear environmental and economic benefits of recycling.

Colorado Springs does not collect recycling data.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Sky Sox could be renamed for edible testicles and you've got to be kidding us

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 4:42 PM

click image Batter up! ... There's a 1-in-5 chance that the Springs' new minor league baseball team will be named for testicles. What would the team's logo and mascot look like? - PERETZ PARTENSKY / FLICKR
  • Peretz Partensky / Flickr
  • Batter up! ... There's a 1-in-5 chance that the Springs' new minor league baseball team will be named for testicles. What would the team's logo and mascot look like?

Four years ago, my brother, who lives in El Paso, Texas, was beside himself with disgust when the minor league baseball team there changed its name from the Diablos, which is very cool, to the Chihuahuas.

I thought at the time, "That's the worst name I could possibly think of for a baseball team."

Until now.

The Sky Sox, a very cool name for a baseball team, especially one from a city that sits at an elevation of 6,000 feet, has narrowed suggestions for changing the name to five finalists.

All I can say is: "Are you kidding me"?

Here are the finalists in alphabetical order, according to a news release:

Colorado Springs Happy Campers
The Happy Campers: celebrates Colorado Springs' positive attitude and our love of nature, camping and all things outdoors.

Colorado Springs Lamb Chops
This name is a nod to the World Famous Colorado Lamb. We've got the chops!

Colorado Springs Punchy Pikas
A small but fierce critter that calls Pikes Peak home, known for its iconic forceful bark.

Colorado Springs Throttle Jockeys
This is a tribute to our brave pilots who train and call Colorado Springs home.

Rocky Mountain Oysters
"It's a classic Minor League Baseball name in the making, this original cowboy fare has already been made famous at Colorado fairs, festivals and baseball games," the news release states.

And here's where you can vote through August 1.

Our take:

Happy Campers — yawn.

Lamb chops? That name certainly would strike fear in the hearts of their opponents. NOPE.

Punchy Pikas? Too cute, but not really.

Throttle Jockeys — um, don't look it up on the Urban Dictionary. Seriously, don't.

And lastly, do we really want our baseball team named for testicles? We realize that baseball is an all-male sport, but testicles? Geez. It just opens every mention up to "ball" jokes, leaving every pervert with their mind in the gutter to make fly-ball, foul-ball, ground-ball comments and so on.

Don't even get us started talking about how "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" will become adulterated.

Is it too late to head back to the drawing board?

In any event, after this season, the team moves from Triple A status to pioneer league, meaning the season is shortened, and the talent is lower on the totem pole of minor league baseball.
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Pueblo's Energy Future coalition holds municipal energy town halls

Posted By on Wed, Jul 18, 2018 at 10:22 AM

Xcel's Comanche Generating Station. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Xcel's Comanche Generating Station.

Pueblo's Energy Future coalition
 is hosting a series of town hall meetings to engage and inform citizens on a proposed transition to municipal utility. The meetings, which began in January, follow a September City Council resolution stating Pueblo's intent to end a franchise agreement with Black Hills Energy.

"We take this seriously and we're committed to trying to make things better in Pueblo," says Energy Future's Steve Andrews. He says, Pueblo's Energy Future has met weekly for the past six years working toward more affordable and sustainable energy.

The most recent town hall took place June 26 at Rawlings Library and drew 115 attendees. Dan Hodges, Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities's executive director, presented on Colorado's municipal utilities.

According to the Colorado Association of Municipal Utilities, there are 2000 community-owned electric utilities nationally, serving 49 million people or 14 percent of the population. Among the largest are Los Angeles, San Antonio, Seattle and Orlando. In Colorado, 29 municipal utilities serve 17 percent of energy demand, including in Colorado Springs. Public power communities are not-for-profit, have an average 10 percent lower costs than investor-owned utilities and are more reliable, the association says. An elected board makes policy and operational decisions in the best interest of the municipal utilities and the communities they serve. But a community-owned utility does not necessarily mean energy generation. Most buy power through long-term contracts with power authorities, or from wholesale suppliers on the open market.

Pueblo is looking to break free from its current, investor-owned utility, Black Hills Energy. The catalysts for the change are increasing electric prices in Pueblo and a desire for cleaner energy among city council. Pueblo's electricity bills have increased 40 percent or more over the past five years and are now the highest among the 20 largest cities in Colorado, according to And according to the Denver Post, a change to municipal energy would lower costs of electricity and further the Ready for 100% initiative, a resolution passed by Pueblo City Council in February of last year to become 100 percent powered by renewable by 2035. Andrews calls the resolution at this time, "an aspirational effort without a plan."

As for becoming a municipal utility, Pueblo's Energy Future works closely with the Pueblo Electric Utility Commission, a group of government officials and citizen representatives tasked with overseeing Pueblo's feasibility study to end its agreement with Black Hills. The closest possible date to "divorce" from Blacks Hills Energy would be August 10, 2020. Andrews, a retired energy consultant, says a state statute that allows municipalities to leave franchise agreements requires doing so in years 10, 15, or 20 of the agreement. The agreement with Black Hills began in 2010.

A public vote to withdraw from Black Hills could come by November 2019, according to the Pueblo Chieftain. The biggest challenge to withdrawing will be the expense. In March, the paper reported Black Hills refused a $1.1 billion offer from San Isabel Electric Association for the purchase of all assets. The major expenses — purchasing and distributing electricity — would begin once the City applies to the Colorado Public Utility Commission to establish its own utility and begins condemning Black Hills assets, such as transmission lines and distribution network.

The next municipal energy town hall is scheduled for July 24 at 5:30PM at Pueblo County Emergency Services Center. Benoit Allehaut of Capital Dynamics, a firm that invests in municipal utilities, will speak will address the "big money issues," such as purchasing the distribution system, cheaper wholesale energy, and funding the breakaway.
Xcel's Comanche Generating Station. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Xcel's Comanche Generating Station.

Each of Pueblo's Energy Future town halls includes an update of a separate but related issue, Xcel Energy's Colorado Energy Plan. Xcel's Plan would lead to Colorado's energy mix from 29 percent to 55 percent renewables by 2026. For more on that story see this Chieftain article, or this story on the Utility Dive. Andrews says the plan would lead to "breakthrough pricing."

"Effectively, it will be cheaper to install solar and wind with battery backup than to operate older, coal-fired power plants," he says.

On Tuesday, August 7, Pueblo's Energy Future will host a clean energy and economic growth forum to discuss the Xcel's Colorado Energy Plan's economic impact on Pueblo. The plan would close Comanche 1 and 2 Generating Stations, that provide energy to Denver, by 2025. Both Comanche 1 and 2 would be replaced by solar energy with battery storage according to the plan.
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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

NAMI offers free "Mental Health First Aid" events

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 2:00 PM


A series of free events from the National Alliance on Mental Illness-Colorado Springs, better known as NAMI Colorado Springs, will help family, friends and supporters of those dealing with mental illness learn how to best help.

The first, NAMI Bridges of Hope, is geared toward faith communities. At this July 24 breakfast, participants will learn from presenters about how mental illness affects individuals, families, and communities; and how "faith communities can help congregants touched by mental illness," according to an email from spokesperson Lisa Hawthorne. The event is 8:30 to 10 a.m., and location information will be provided upon registration. Call 473-8477 or email to register.

Then there's NAMI's Mental Health First Aid Training, an eight-hour class in partnership with AspenPointe that teaches participants "how to help someone who is developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis," and how to "identify, understand, and respond to signs of addictions and mental illnesses."

Mental Health First Aid trainings are offered in 23 countries, says Madeline Arroyo, class coordinator with AspenPointe. The class helps participants learn to recognize symptoms of major mental health issues including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse and suicide.

Arroyo says the training is best suited to those over the age of 18, because of the emotional toll that comes with interacting with someone in crisis.

Out of everyone else, "there’s not one person that wouldn’t benefit."

"One in five individuals in any given year is faced with a mental health crisis," Arroyo says. "In the course of a lifetime, one in two. And if it’s not us, it’s one of our loved ones."

Those classes are offered on Aug. 24, Sept. 21, Oct. 26 and Nov. 16 (all Fridays) in the Nautilus Room of the Citizens Service Center, located at 1675 Garden of the Gods Road. Register online at

A survey released in June by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that 17 percent of Colorado teens had seriously considered suicide in the past year, 13.3 percent had made a plan to commit suicide and 7.2 percent had attempted suicide, according to a statement from the Jason Foundation.

We recently wrote about NAMI's Below the Surface campaign, which seeks to raise teens' awareness of Colorado's Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 service for people feeling depressed, anxious or upset.

The crisis line, run by Colorado Crisis Services, is free and confidential. Anyone seeking help can call 844/493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255.
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UPDATE: Lamborn silent on Trump embrace of Putin

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2018 at 12:03 PM

Lamborn: Mum on President Trump's performance in Helsinki. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Lamborn: Mum on President Trump's performance in Helsinki.
Rep. Doug Lamborn will face Democrat Stephany Spaulding in the Nov. 6 election. She issued this statement in response to Lamborn's silence.

Doug Lamborn’s decision to refuse to join his congressional colleagues in their bipartisan disapproval of President Trump’s comments about Russia’s hacking of the 2016 election is disturbing.

His district is home to one of the highest concentrations of military in the U.S. and their Commander-in-Chief’s words of support for a dangerous adversary must cause especially deep concern for those who defend our freedom every day.

By putting his finger up to the political winds before making a statement, Lamborn is showing neither leadership nor a grasp of the seriousness of the situation. 

———————ORIGINAL POST 12:03 P.M. TUESDAY, JULY 17, 2018 ————————-

It's been a full news cycle since President Donald Trump sided with Russian President Vladimir Putin over his own intelligence service on July 16 by saying he believed Putin's denial the Russian state had any involvement in the U.S. 2016 elections.

We've heard from Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, Sen. Corey Gardner, R-Colorado, and even Rep. Scott Tipton, who represents Congressional District 3.

But Rep. Doug Lamborn?


Lamborn has yet to make any statement regarding Trump's performance, The Denver Post reports, and there's no statement on his website or Facebook, Twitter or YouTube accounts. Trump's move has been described by numerous pundits and lawmakers as shameful, even treasonous. The Washington Post reported Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who's considering a Republican primary challenge against Trump in 2020, called the news conference “depressing” and “really unlike anything we’ve seen in my lifetime.”

Perhaps that's no surprise, considering Lamborn used photos of himself with Trump in campaign materials to capture the GOP nomination in the June 26 primary as he pursues his seventh term in office. (He'll face women's studies professor Stephany Rose Spaulding, a Democrat, in the Nov. 6 general election.)

We've asked for a comment from Lamborn and will update if and when we hear something.

Here's a recap of comments from others.

Vladimir Putin is not our friend, and there is ample evidence that Russia meddled in our elections. Russia has repeatedly violated international law, shown disregard for national sovereignty, engaged in human rights abuses, propped up state sponsors of terror, and fueled global instability. Russia’s attacks on our electoral system damage the very democratic principles upon which our country was built. I strongly urge President Trump and this Administration to hold Russia and Putin accountable. I will continue to support strong economic sanctions against Russia and measures to protect the integrity of our elections.
Today, President Trump failed to hold Vladimir Putin to account even on the most straightforward national security threats.

By taking Vladimir Putin at his word—when it directly contradicts the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment and the investigations of Russia’s interference in the 2016 election — President Trump not only has failed to protect our democracy, but also has emboldened Russia and other adversaries at the expense of our allies.

President Trump should have used this meeting to hold Putin accountable for undermining democracies around the world, a chemical attack on United Kingdom soil, and the continued illegal annexation of Crimea. Instead, he held a summit with no plan that only served to elevate Putin on the world stage. In the face of attacks on our allies and partners in the European Union and NATO, Republicans and Democrats in Congress must work to protect the international institutions that advance our values and freedoms.

Whether it be chemical attacks on allied soil, the invasion of Ukraine, propping up the murderer Assad in Syria, or meddling in our elections through cyber-attacks, Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains an adversary to the United States. I believe Russia is a state sponsor of terror and I’ve introduced legislation that would mandate the State Department to determine whether Russia merits this designation, along with their allies Iran and Syria that are already designated. Additionally, I will continue to support maximum economic sanctions on Russia, including the full implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) that passed the Senate by a vote of 98-2.

I encourage the Administration to avoid the mistakes of past Administrations in normalizing relations with Russia at zero cost to Putin and his regime. The only ‘reset’ we can have with Russia is when it completely reverses course and begins to act in accordance with civilized norms and international law. Nothing should change as of today – Putin’s Russia is not a friend to the United States.
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Monday, July 16, 2018

Cog deal community meeting announced, ballot measure petition possible

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 4:37 PM

  • Courtesy Visit COS
On June 11, Manitou Springs City Council gave preliminary approval to a 50-year tax subsidy to the Pikes Peak Cog Railway, which is owned by Philip Anschutz, a Denver-based oil, gas, and entertainment billionaire. He also owns The Broadmoor hotel, the Gazette newspaper and Seven Falls.

Two weeks later, the deal was done.

That's too fast, says John Weiss, a Manitou resident who owns the Independent, Colorado Springs Business Journal and the Pikes Peak Bulletin.

Weiss says he was away from the area on a family vacation during the run up to and the final action on the subsidy. But since he's returned, he says he's been contacted by numerous residents, including some past City Council members and mayors who expressed concern at the speed under which the matter was proposed and decided.

"This was passed in 15 days," he says. "It was changed up to the morning of the [June] 26th. This is not a way to make public policy for 50 years."

So Weiss and the Bulletin will host a public meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, July 18, at the Briarhurst Manor Estate, 404 Manitou Ave.

Mayor Ken Jaray has agreed to attend and answer questions, Weiss says.

At issue is a deal in which the city agreed to cap its excise taxes on the Cog Railway, which could mean the city would lose out on many millions of dollars from ticket sales over the years. The Cog closed abruptly in late October 2017 and didn't reopen in March as usual. Cog officials said the railroad needs a major overhaul, which could cost up to $95 million. It will be closed for at least another year, and the Cog has agreed to pay the city $500,000 this year and $500,000 next year to replace the estimated excise tax customers pay.

Weiss notes that residents' concerns don't focus on the question of whether or not the Cog Railway should be rebuilt and remain part of Manitou Springs. "We are in favor of the Cog," Weiss says. "We are not against having the Cog. But we think a 50-year subsidy to a corporation without doing due diligence could have negative unintended consequences that have not been thought through."

Weiss also says citizens would like to see the study of economic impact upon which the Council and mayor relied in supporting the measure.

Weiss says citizens could mount a ballot measure to reverse Council's action by gathering roughly 300 signatures, but that effort won't begin until Jaray has a chance to address questions raised by residents.

To learn more about the Cog issues, go to here to see the Bulletin's coverage.
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National Sword recycling program's impacts on Colorado commodities

Posted By on Mon, Jul 16, 2018 at 2:03 PM

Editor's note: This post has been updated to correct misreported information and figures. We regret the errors.

"The amount (of plastic) that we're producing is supposed to quadruple by 2050. So we're producing this stuff super fast, it never goes away... a lot of it we don't know how to turn into something else, and yet we continue to churn it out at an astronomical rate," says Communication Director Harlin Savage, of Boulder-base Eco-Cycle.

Commenting more specifically on China's National Sword policy, Savage adds, "So that is something that with China doing what it did is kind of a blessing, or a wake up call, that we need to change our relationship to plastic to something that is more sustainable, or healthier, for the planet."

That National Sword policy began on Dec. 31, 2017, banning several types of solid waste, and increasing inspection of recyclable imports to a .3 percent contamination rate. According to University of Georgia research, China has taken 45 percent of the world's plastic waste since 1992. And 4000 shipping containers of recyclables per day from the U.S. alone.

Only nine percent of all plastics ever produced have been recycled the same research shows. Eight million tons of plastic goes to sea every year, according to Ecowatch. By 2050, that will mean more plastic in the ocean than fish. And plastics are six percent of global oil consumption, projected to be 20 percent by 2050. UGA projections estimate the National Sword's restrictions could leave 111 million metric tons of displaced plastic by 2030.

China's reason? Cleaning up pollution issues by reducing the amount of potentially valuable recycling that ends up as waste. Simply put, dirty recycling, a negative effect of single-stream recycling.

The Indy wrote about single-stream recycling when it came to the Springs back in 2009. At the time it led to a 100 percent increase in participation for the simple reason that it's easy to throw all your recycling in one bin and then put it on the curb once a week. Then sorting facilities, aka materials recovery facilities (MRF), separate each individual item of waste, aka commodity.

"We take the separation — I don't want to say headache — out of the customer's hands," says Clint Cordonnier of Bestway Recycling in Colorado Springs. Bestway offers their curbside pick up and sorting service to 50,000 residential customers for an additional $5.50 a month on top of trash.

Bestway relies mostly on manual sorting off a conveyor belt to sort materials. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Bestway relies mostly on manual sorting off a conveyor belt to sort materials.

According to Vice President of Recycling Brent Hildebrand of Denver's Alpine Waste & Recycling, as part of National Sword, China is seeking a .5 percent contamination rate on cardboard and 1 percent on paper.

Bestway's contamination rate is .6 percent. Cordonnier says that's either due to dirty material, or waste that isn't properly sorted. He says they measure by actually opening bundles of sorted material, going through it again and seeing what doesn't belong. So the National Sword's original .3 percent rate was extremely difficult to achieve, that rate changed to .5 percent beginning in March.

Sorting recycling. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Sorting recycling.

"It's kind of hit us in a number of different directions," says Hildebrand, adding that quality restrictions have forced Alpine's Altogether Recycling to slow down its system so materials are easier to sort. On top of slowing down, Hildebrand has had to add labor to help with sorting material. Machines do most of the sorting at Altogether, but they are imperfect and need quality control to pull out any unwanted items. Hildebrand says the recent changes have led to a 15 to 20 percent slow down in production.

Beyond slowed production, an increase in the supply of plastics in the U.S. have driven prices down. "The quality restrictions have created what I would call a glut of tons domestically," says Hildebrand. "So you have local mills that have plenty of materials coming out of them, good material, too. That's driven the price down, of course."

Bestway has seen the biggest impact in the export of paper.

Clint Cordonnier at Bestway Recycling showing how much excess paper he had at one point. - TYLER GRIMES
  • Tyler Grimes
  • Clint Cordonnier at Bestway Recycling showing how much excess paper he had at one point.

"Now paper on the other hand, paper has dropped. You can't send it over there, it doesn't leave you a whole lot of options," says Cordonnier. "So we are still able to move paper like we want to just at less of a price and it's going to Mexico." He says at one point excess paper was backing up his MRF, crowding a bay door and encroaching on the dock. Now two train cars sit outside Bestway filled with paper waiting to be transported south.

Overall, the National Sword's impact on Colorado has been minimal due to the efforts of MRFs to distribute domestically.

"Fortunately, I have worked extremely hard to develop domestic relationships to where it has not his us like it has other people," says Cordonnier. He says for long time he hasn't sent plastics overseas, but kept them in the U.S.

For the time being, Hildebrand says Alpine has avoided any excess supply at their facility. He credits keeping a high quality of material since they opened 11 years ago. "Alpine is known for high quality. So it's material that has a good reputation so typically mills or buyers want our material."

In Colorado, the bigger issue may be the amount going to waste. Estimates by the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment show Coloradans recycle about 12 percent of total waste, well behind the national average of 35 percent. Which makes Colorado one of the 20 most wasteful states in the country, tossing $267 million worth of recyclable material every year.

Colorado Springs may be even worse, Ecocycle's 2017 State of Recycling Colorado estimates El Paso County diverts 11 percent. Those numbers are not clear because the Springs does not track recycling rates. 

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Sheriff Elder fires Duda, after he tells Indy about political "retaliation"

Posted By on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 at 5:27 PM

The El Paso County Sheriff's Office has one less seargent as of Friday, July 13.

Two days after the Independent reported Sheriff's Sgt. Keith Duda was placed on administrative leave, purportedly for politicking on duty, he was canned.

"I've dedicated 12 years to this office," Duda tells the Indy. "I'm a highly decorated deputy. I've done nothing wrong."

Keith Duda is  unemployed as of Friday, July 13. - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Keith Duda is unemployed as of Friday, July 13.
Duda supported Mike Angley in his bid for the Republican nomination for sheriff against incumbent Bill Elder. Elder placed Duda on administrative leave on June 22 alleging he used his position for political reasons. Angley was defeated at the June 26 primary, four days later.

Duda was asked to participate in the county's investigation of his alleged misconduct as well as an investigation of allegations he had made of misconduct by other personnel. Among those was a report that Lt. Bill Huffor sexually harassed a female deputy, for which he was punished in early 2017. Huffor then filed an infraction complaint against Duda's daughter, Caitlyn, who also works for the Sheriff's Office. Caitlyn, too, had previously filed the sexual harassment complaint against Huffor after hearing the female deputy complain about his actions toward her.

Then, a few months later, in spring 2017, Huffor filed a complaint against Caitlyn Duda for cussing in the jail, for which she received punishment she viewed as overly harsh. A few weeks later, Duda advised his daughter to file a complaint about the retaliation, and the very day she filed the report, June 9, 2017, Keith Duda was removed from consideration for a promotion.

Huffor was accused of voter intimidation by several delegates to the Republican county assembly in March, but the Sheriff's Office closed the case due to lack of evidence. He also has enjoyed several promotions since Elder took office on Dec. 31, 2014, and is married to Elder's campaign manager, Janet Huffor, who also serves as Elder's chief of staff.

Both Caitlyn and Keith Duda have filed Equal Employment Opportunity complaints and are contemplating a lawsuit.

Sheriff Bill Elder - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Sheriff Bill Elder
In one July 12 letter that asked Duda to cooperate in the investigations, County Attorney Amy Folsom says, "Legitimate employee complaints of inappropriate conduct, including suspected policy violations, are encouraged by the organization."

"Please appreciate that El Paso County and EPSO expect you to participate in the investigation process, provide truthful and complete information, and treat the investigation as confidential," Folsom wrote.

(Keith Duda's attorney, Ian Kalmanowitz, provided the Indy with those documents, as well as the termination notice posted on this blog.)

In another July 12 letter to Duda, Undersheriff Joe Breister notes, "You are advised the County is investigating allegations that you may have violated the confidentially [sic] requirement regarding workplace investigations."

Then, the letter tells Duda to report to the County Attorney's Office at 10 a.m. July 13 for the interview with employment investigators.

Duda did report. He spent two hours talking to an investigator with Employment Matters LLC/Flynn Investigations Group. When he was finished, the investigator told him that Lt. Michael St. Charles, the professional standards officer, was waiting for him outside.

St. Charles entered the room, Duda says, and handed him the termination notice, saying he needed an answer immediately to whether he would agree to meet with Elder. Duda declined.

Duda tells the Indy that the interview with the investigators was "ridiculous" because Elder had already decided to fire him, evidenced by the termination notice being dated July 12.

"It was already predetermined he was going to terminate me before I was interviewed," he says, referring to the July 13 meeting with investigators.

Here's the termination notice, which Duda said contains allegations with "no merit":
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