Friday, May 31, 2019

City Council approves Maverik gas station next to Cheyenne Creek

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 4:53 PM

Maverik’s Fillmore Street location opened in 2018. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Maverik’s Fillmore Street location opened in 2018.
City Council voted unanimously May 28 to approve a gas station and convenience store in a streamside overlay zone, despite protests from Ivywild residents over traffic and environmental concerns.


The project, which will be Maverik's third location in Colorado Springs, was approved by the Planning Commission in April at the recommendation of staff. City Council's approval was also required because the company had to apply for a variance to vacate an existing alleyway on the project site at Tejon Street and Motor Way.

But the more contentious issue to residents was another variance allowing a gas station next to Cheyenne Creek, in a streamside overlay zone where city code explicitly prohibits convenience stores with fuel sales.

At the City Council meeting, city planner Matt Fitzsimmons defended the project, explaining that none of the gas station components would be inside the streamside buffer zone 70 feet from the creek.

As part of the site itself falls within that buffer, the entire property is also designated as streamside overlay. That designation will require Maverik to make improvements along the creek by adding a trail and vegetation.

Maverik representatives argued that their state-of-the-art system for trapping runoff and fuel spills, including detention basins and triple-walled pipes, would keep contaminants out of the water. They also cited a traffic study that found most customers would come from adjacent streets, and wouldn't go out of their way to visit the store — meaning traffic wasn't likely to increase by much.

But for Valerie Fix and her son, Alexander Fix, both of whom testified at the meeting, those statements were dubious.

"Though they assure us they have the best of facilities and detention basins, even the best of detention basins could not stand up to a flood," Alexander Fix said, pointing out that the property is downhill from the rest of the neighborhood. He added that the city should wait until a different traffic study for the area is finished before approving new development.

"I support infill and smart development in our communities. This is just the wrong thing in the wrong location," Valerie Fix said. She recounted a recent episode in which one of Maverik's underground fuel tanks at its store in Lander, Wyoming, leaked into the Popo Agie River. The company was ordered to make repairs and pay $1 million on top of the $1 million provided by a financial assurance account, K2 Radio reported in April.

Landscape architect Chis Lieber countered that the improvements Maverik has made to its system since then would prevent such a situation from occurring in Colorado Springs.

While the Fixes were the only two people who testified against the project at the meeting, Fitzsimmons said he received 30 letters from residents opposing the project, and just three letters from people supporting it.

Eric Wyatt, who said he had lived in the area for 50 years and owned 13 local properties, argued in defense of the Maverik store.

"Going inside of the Kum 'n' Go convenience store and the Maverik convenience stores, I really notice the Maverik stores are a lot nicer," Wyatt said. "... I am for Maverik and what they’re doing there. I think they’re doing a first-class job, and I say a win-win."

In the end, city councilors also sided with the developers.

"I’m not crazy about the notion of a national chain, another national chain store in an area that’s kind of a strip for that," Council President Richard Skorman said. "That whole South Nevada corridor is almost all national chains, and I’m not crazy about the notion of another one, but that’s not my criteria to be able to weigh in on this."

Councilor Bill Murray said he was more worried about fuel leaks with gas stations that use older equipment than Maverik stores, which use newer fuel infrastructure.

"Make a mistake, you’re going to pay big time," he added. "And we all know that. So I’m going to support it."

Editor's note: The original version of this web story didn't include the proposed Maverik gas station's location at Tejon Street and Motor Way.
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President Trump delivers commencement speech at AFA

Posted By on Fri, May 31, 2019 at 4:35 PM

SEAN CAYTON
  • Sean Cayton

About three hours after tweeting heated remarks about Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his report, President Donald Trump addressed the United States Air Force Academy’s graduating class. He used the platform to pay his respects to the 991 graduates and the U.S. military in general, to promote his plan for a Space Force and to proclaim a battle cry.

For Trump, it was a remarkably traditional speech.

 “You are the ones who will secure American victory all the time,” Trump told the sold-out crowd, which included many his supporters. “To dominate the future, America must rule the skies, and that is what your time at this great academy has been all about.”

He continued, “[It’s] preparing you to do whatever it takes to learn, to adapt, and to win, win, win — to win so much, you’re going to get so tired of winning, but not really.” 

Members of the class laughed.

“We never get tired of winning, do we?” Trump asks. 

“NO!” the cadets roared.

Here’s some takeaways from the May 30th speech:

Trump hearts Space Force

In his speech, the president pushed for further U.S. militarization, specifically citing the need for a Space Force. Colorado is home to four of six finalist locations for U.S. Space Command, including three locations in Colorado Springs. The command, created in 2018, takes charge of all space operations in the military, and is already temporarily located at Peterson Air Force Base. It is a first step on the way to the president’s planned Space Force.

Trump told the graduate that Space Force was a needed response to the U.S.-China shadow space war. He told the crowd that a space force was his idea and boasted that many people were just now getting on board with the concept.

He added, “In this stadium today, are many of the future leaders who will develop the doctrine, strategy and technology to restore America’s legacy ... of leadership in space.”

Trump said many countries have weaponized space with their technologies, which are capable of blinding satellites and disrupting communications. Trump noted, with pride, that the country had increased defense spending and hinted at new weapon development, saying America was developing weapons “the likes of which you’ve never seen, the likes of which you can’t even conceive.”

Offering a final remark on the Space Force, Trump said, “Hopefully, we never have to use it. Peace through strength.”

Trump congratulates cadets

Trump praised graduates for their work at the Academy, saying they have truly earned their wings.

He lavished praise on the graduates, and even noted that they were “a lot of good-looking people in this school.”

Trump called two graduates to the stage to congratulate them for their hard work while at the Academy. Nic Ready, who became the first graduate of a military academy to win the College Home Run Derby, and Parker Hammond, who battled cancer during his time at the Academy, briefly joined the president on the stage for a handshake.

After the cadets were seated, Trump returned to a favorite theme: the importance of winning. Addressing a commander who was on stage with him, he asked, “We are always ready, right general?”

“Yes,” the commander replied.

“I wonder how that’s going to be viewed — that statement tomorrow in the press. You can imagine, and that’s OK,” the president said. “Let them think whatever they want to think.”

Trump added that he faces strong opposition from many parties, “which I’ll always have.”

In conclusion

“The sound of American warplanes is the righteous sound of American justice,” Trump proclaimed to the crowd. “Nothing will stop you from victory. Nothing will stop the U.S. Air Force. And with your help, nothing will ever, ever stop the United States of America.”

Trump concluded his speech by congratulating the Class of 2019 once again. “God bless you,” he said. “God bless America and god bless the Air Force.”

Trump stayed for the ceremony to shake every graduating cadets’ hand. 

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Wednesday, May 29, 2019

District judge: Coroner wrongfully withheld autopsy reports in deputy's death

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 5:27 PM

The media prevailed in a lawsuit on May 29 over then-El Paso County Coroner Robert Bux's  refusal to release autopsy reports for Deputy Micah Flick and suspect Manuel Zetina last year.

Micah Flick was killed in a gun battle on Feb. 5, 2018. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE
  • Courtesy El Paso County Sheriff's Office
  • Micah Flick was killed in a gun battle on Feb. 5, 2018.
District Judge Michael McHenry awarded attorney fees that are approaching $30,000 for the Independent, Gazette and other local media, said media attorney Steve Zansberg of Denver.

"The media's first responsibility is to our readers, which includes shining a light on government activities," Indy Publisher Amy Sweet said. "The Indy will always fight for the public's right to know."

The case stems from the fatal shooting of Flick by Zetina during a Feb. 5, 2018, attempted take-down of the suspected auto theft at an apartment complex at Murray Boulevard and Galley Road. Three other officers also were injured by Zetina, who also shot bystander Thomas Villanueva, 29, who was left paralyzed from the chest down and has filed a lawsuit against various agencies seeking millions of dollars in damages.

After the Indy and Gazette sought the autopsy reports on several occasions following the shooting and were denied access, Bux filed a petition with the court seeking to withhold the reports citing several reasons, including the emotional impact their release would have on Flick's family.

The Independent and the Gazette hired Zansberg (other media outlets — KDVR, KUSA-TV, KOAA, KKTV, and Fox21 —  joined the fight shortly after), who argued the law requires a coroner to cite substantial injury to the public interest under a unique and extraordinary set of circumstances as a basis for withholding the reports.
Thomas Villanueva and his friends and family protested outside the Coroner's Office on Aug. 15, 2018, demanding the autopsy reports be released. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Thomas Villanueva and his friends and family protested outside the Coroner's Office on Aug. 15, 2018, demanding the autopsy reports be released.
In response, Bux eventually released the reports on September 7 after the District Attorney's Office released its report on August 21 and Colorado Springs Police Department, which investigated the shooting, released its report on September 5.

Zansberg tells the Indy that, had the county not challenged the media's attorney fees, the bill might not have exceeded $1,500. But the media sought to recover its fees, triggering two protracted court hearings that ran up the attorney bill to more than $20,000.

It's unclear whether the county will appeal the judge's ruling.

“El Paso County has a long and proud tradition of transparency. When making the decision to withhold Deputy Flick’s and Mr. Zetina’s autopsy reports, the Coroner’s Office consulted with the Flick family, the Colorado Springs Police Department, the El Paso County Sheriff, and the District Attorney," an email from El Paso County Spokesperson Ryan Parsell stated."The County weighed the law along with the integrity of the investigation with the media and the public’s desire for more information.

"We made the decision to litigate in good faith, and while we respect the court’s opinion, we are considering our next legal steps.”

Recapping Judge McHenry's ruling, Zansberg says, "He basically said that the coroner's decision to withhold these two autopsy reports in their totality on July 12 was not proper, particularly because all the officers involved in the incident had already been interviewed and videotaped during those interviews way back on February 8 and 9."

McHenry also noted he agreed with the media's argument that Bux "had been receiving erroneous advice about what standard needs to be met to withhold autopsy reports," Zansberg says.

While the case won't have binding authority on future cases, Zansberg noted it's a welcome finding, especially in light of the fact that Bux had repeatedly withheld autopsy reports attached to criminal cases over the past year, leading the Gazette to fight for the reports in court over and over. He noted that means that Bux's denial of access to the public reports was "a recurring practice."

Bux retired recently and Dr. Leon Kelly was elected as county coroner in November.
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Mental Health Colorado "scores" state lawmakers

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 5:03 PM

TERO VESALAINEN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
  • Tero Vesalainen / Shutterstock.com
Each legislative session, political groups and advocacy organizations release "legislative scorecards," which assign lawmakers a "score" or "grade" based on the way they voted on issues.

Mental Health Colorado, a nonpartisan 501(c)3 organization that advocates for mental health, led the pack this year in releasing its scorecard May 21. El Paso County representatives and senators got scores that ranged from 38 (Republican Rep. Dave Williams) to 100 (Democratic Reps. Tony Exum and Marc Snyder, and Sen. Pete Lee).

Obviously, the legislators scored worst by certain organizations will probably end up scoring highest with others. For example, Williams got an A+, 93 percent rating last year from libertarian group Principles of Liberty. Lee earned an F from that group as a state representative.

Using data from Colorado Capitol Watch, Mental Health Colorado assigned scores based on state lawmakers' votes on eight bills that were part of its legislative agenda. They were:

House Bill 1009: "Substance Use Disorders Recovery" expands the state’s housing voucher program to include people with substance use disorders. It also requires that recovery facilities have a state license, and creates an “opioid crisis recovery fund” for settlement money the state receives from suing pill manufacturers.

The bill appropriates $1.1 million next year to multiple state agencies.

House Bill 1044: "Advance Behavioral Health Orders Treatment," according to Mental Health Colorado, "allows Coloradans to create a psychiatric advance directive to specify their preferred methods of treatment in the event of a mental health crisis that prevents them from making decisions for themselves."

House Bill 1193: “Behavioral Health Supports For High-risk Families” provides access to intensive substance use treatment to women up to one year after giving birth, and creates pilot child care programs for women in treatment.

This bill appropriates $500,000 next year to the Department of Human Services.

House Bill 1269: The “Behavioral Health Care Coverage Modernization Act” is intended to strengthen enforcement of parity laws for both commercial insurers and the state’s Medicaid system, with the goal of making sure Coloradans can get mental health and substance-use help just as easily as physical treatment.

The bill appropriates around $420,000 next year to multiple state agencies.

House Bill 1287: "Treatment for Opioids and Substance Use Disorders" directs the Department of Human Services to implement an online behavioral health capacity tracking system to show available spots at mental health facilities and substance use treatment programs across the state. It also creates a grant program to fund substance use treatment programs in underserved areas of the state.

This bill appropriates $5.7 million next year to multiple state agencies. Most of that money comes from the Marijuana Cash Tax Fund.

Senate Bill 10: "Professional Behavioral Health Services for Schools," according to Mental Health Colorado, "updates and improves the School Health Professionals Grant Program and includes an additional $3 million in time-limited funding to schools to increase the presence of school health professionals to support the behavioral health needs of students."

The bill appropriates $3 million next year from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to the Department of Education.

Senate Bill 222: "Individuals At Risk Of Institutionalization" creates incentives for providers who treat individuals with severe mental health or substance use disorders, and creates a "safety net system" to expand high-intensity behavioral health treatment programs.

This bill appropriates $370,000 next year to multiple state agencies.

Senate Bill 223: "Actions Related to Competency to Proceed" requires the Department of Human Services to develop an electronic tracking system for defendants whose mental state may not allow them to stand trial. It also requires DHS to convene a group of experts to create placement guidelines for referring defendants to restoration services, and work with a higher education institution to develop and provide training for mental competency evaluations.

This bill appropriates $6.5 million from the state's general fund this year, and $9.1 million next year to multiple departments.

Here's how our local legislators scored. (Committee votes were included as well as votes of the full House and Senate, which is why some lawmakers who voted for the same bills have different scores.)

• Rep. Terri Carver (R): 90

Carver voted for all of the bills except HB1009.

• Rep. Tony Exum (D): 100

Exum was absent for HB1009 but voted for all of other the bills.

• Rep. Tim Geitner (R): 67

Geitner voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Rep. Lois Landgraf (R): 82

Landgraf voted "no" on HB1009 and SB10.

• Rep. Larry Liston (R): 66

Liston voted "no" on HB1269 and SB10. He was absent for HB1009.

• Rep. Shane Sandridge (R): 63

Sandridge voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Rep. Marc Snyder (D): 100

Snyder voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Dave Williams (R): 38

Williams voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269, HB1287, SB10 and SB223.

• Sen. Bob Gardner (R): 82

Gardner voted "no" on HB1009 and SB10.

• Sen. Owen Hill (R): 44

Hill voted "no" on HB1009, HB1269 and SB10.

• Sen. Dennis Hisey (R): 80

Hisey voted "no" on HB1009.

• Sen. Pete Lee (D): 100

Lee voted for all of the bills.

• Rep. Paul Lundeen (R): 88

Lundeen voted "no" on HB1009.
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Mobile home park demolished

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 3:01 PM

Bud Calhoun points to the creek and its eroding banks. - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Bud Calhoun points to the creek and its eroding banks.

Years after the ground under Riverside Mobile Home Park began seriously eroding, El Paso County has demolished the park on a cliff overlooking Fountain Creek.

In 2013, flooding caused “significant erosion along Fountain Creek which led to the crumbling of the bank and a road in the mobile home park,” notes a statement from the county. The 30 or so families living there received financial assistance from the federal government to help pay relocation costs. 

Michael Paul Lemay was recently sentenced to prison for scamming four of those families out of $100,000 in relocation assistance funds.

The county plans to turn the area into open space once the homes are removed. 

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Colorado AG opposes ‘refusal of care’ rule

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 2:59 PM

COURTESY PHIL WEISER CAMPAIGN
  • Courtesy Phil Weiser campaign

Colorado’s attorney general joined a multistate lawsuit challenging a federal rule expanding the ability of health care providers to refuse care based on personal or moral objections.

“A patient’s access to quality, affordable healthcare should not be driven by the personal beliefs or the discriminatory practices of one individual or organization,” Attorney General Phil Weiser stated in a May 21 release.

The rule is set to take effect in July. It allows anyone, from an ambulance driver to an emergency room doctor, to deny care to a patient.

Colorado could lose billions of dollars in health care funding if it does not change state laws and regulations to comply with the rule, the statement says. 

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Colorado Springs invests in sun power

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 2:57 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock

A Boulder contractor, juwi Inc., broke ground earlier this month on the 60-megawatt Palmer Solar Project on 500 acres east of Colorado Springs Utilities’ Clear Springs Ranch, 10 miles south of the city.

Due online next year, it’s one of three solar projects that will up the city’s solar power generating capacity by 245 megawatts.

NextEra Energy Resources begins constructing a 35-megawatt array this summer at a 270-acre site near Calhan, called the Grazing Yak Project, due to hook to Utilities’ grid later this year.

A third array, Pike Solar Project, will be built around the Palmer Solar Project and include battery storage, adding 150 megawatts of solar power. It’s due for completion in 2023.

Utilities’ interest in solar power coincides with plans to shutter the 200-megawatt downtown Drake Power Plant, fired by coal, by 2035, though some Utilities Board members want an earlier date.

Meantime, Gov. Jared Polis is to appear May 30 at JeffCo Community Solar Garden, built by SunShare, a company that originated in Colorado Springs, to sign several bills adopted by the 2019 General Assembly that focus on renewable energy. 

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Policy could exclude trans homeless

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 2:49 PM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock

On May 21, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson told Congress that he had no intention of rolling back an Obama-era rule that protected homeless transgender people seeking services at single-sex shelters. 

But on May 22, HUD released a list of proposed rules, including one that directly contradicted Carson’s claim. This proposed rule would allow shelter providers under HUD programs or that receive HUD funds to refuse to provide services to someone based on their gender identity. The policy would apply if that person was attempting to use gender-specific or sex-segregated facilities. 

“The proposed rule permits Shelter Providers to consider a range of factors in making such determinations,” the rule abstract states, “including privacy, safety, practical concerns, religious beliefs, any relevant considerations under civil rights and nondiscrimination authorities, the individual’s sex as reflected in official government documents, as well as the gender which a person identifies with.” 

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Shuttles return to Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak

Posted By on Wed, May 29, 2019 at 2:40 PM

Memorial Day kicks off a pilot project of running shuttles in Garden of the Gods. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • Memorial Day kicks off a pilot project of running shuttles in Garden of the Gods.

Free shuttles went into service at Garden of the Gods Park on May 25 and will operate daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Aug. 21. They’ll also run Labor Day weekend.

Two 14-passenger vans will run a loop including the Rock Ledge Ranch parking lot, the Garden of the Gods Visitor & Nature Center, the intersection of Gateway Road and Juniper Way Loop, and Rock Ledge Ranch when it’s open.

The city and the Garden of the Gods Foundation fund the shuttle, in its second year, that’s operated by Adventures Out West.

Meantime, shuttle service resumed to Pikes Peak starting May 24 during construction of a new Summit House project. It’s free, but visitors must pay the normal Pikes Peak Highway fee. The shuttle service ends in mid-October. 

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

El Paso County sheriff's deputy fired in wake of sexual assault allegation

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2019 at 5:28 PM

FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office fired a deputy on May 21, a week after receiving a claim notice from a woman who states through her attorney that the deputy sexually assaulted her on Christmas Day last year, sheriff's spokesperson Jackie Kirby tells the Independent.

A notice of claim letter is usually the first step toward a lawsuit. The woman is seeking $10 million in damages.

The deputy in question, David Kwiecien, joined the department in 2016, Kirby says.

"I can tell you that the criminal investigation is in the DA's [District Attorney's] office's hands, and we're waiting for them to make a ruling [on whether criminal charges will be filed]," Kirby says.

According to the May 13 claim letter, from attorney Timothy Bussey, Kwiecien made contact with the woman, whose name is redacted from the claim letter, in the early morning hours of Dec. 25, 2018, initiating an investigation to determine if she was intoxicated.

The deputy then cited her for DUI. After she finished giving a blood sample at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, she was released into the care of her son, the letter says.

Later that night, Kwiecien contacted the woman via text message and visited her at her residence, the letter says. "Deputy Kwiecien then visited [redacted] a second time at [redacted] residence," the letter says. "During this second visit Deputy Kwiecien took advantage of his position as a law enforcement officer and his knowledge of [redacted] intoxicated state to sexually assault [redacted]."

There was another deputy on the initial DUI call, but the  the letter says it's unknown to what degree, if any, he was involved in or aware of the incident. Kirby says the second deputy is not under investigation.

The Indy reached out to the DA's Office to inquire about the investigation and will circle back when and if we hear something.
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Study looks at feasibility of Front Range passenger rail

Posted By on Tue, May 28, 2019 at 12:44 PM

COLORADO STATE DEMOGRAPHY OFFICE
  • Colorado State Demography Office

As the population on the Front Range grows, it's time to find a way to move people without making highways even wider.

Enter the Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission. The commission has teamed with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to request proposals to study the feasibility of a passenger rail line, and other multimodal options, to link Pueblo, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins to Denver.

The 173-mile corridor contains 85 percent of the state's population, so the study would look at how the railroad could support future growth and provide reliable transportation, the commission said in a release.

screen_shot_2019-05-28_at_11.21.36_am.png
“The Commission is excited to explore how passenger rail can bring sustainable and real congestion relief along our Front Range,” Colorado Springs City Councilor Jill Gaebler, Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Chair, said in the release. “As our population grows, the I-25 corridor will continue to be a vital link to our economy, moving people and goods while improving connectivity and allowing Colorado to flourish.”

The study would:
• Identify different multimodal options to expand transportation options.
• Consider a range of technology alternatives for expanding transportation options.
• Streamline multiple required review processes, including the rail passenger service development plan document mandated by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

“To meet the growing needs of our state, Colorado needs a robust, energy efficient, sustainable transportation system that incorporates different modes of travel and provides more choices for the movement of people and goods,” CDOT Executive Director, Shoshana Lew, said in the release.

The commission noted the Front Range's population is forecast to grow from 4.9 million people in 2020 to 6.6 million in 2045.

El Paso County will see growth of 39 percent from 0.7 million to over 1.0 million, and Pueblo County will grow 27 percent from 0.17 million to 0.22 million.
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Friday, May 24, 2019

Springs City Council eyes incentives for engineering and defense contractor

Posted By on Fri, May 24, 2019 at 6:03 PM

Would you shell out $94,300 to get almost 10 times that amount back?
PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
That's the deal the city might make with Project Fusion, an engineering and equipment manufacturer, who's moving its entire company here and promises to add 59 new full-time employees over the next four years at an average wage of $98,554 a year, according to city records.

City Council is set to receive a briefing on the deal at its meeting Tuesday, May 28, which gets underway at 9 a.m. at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

Specifically, an economic analysis conducted by city staff shows the return for the city of $925,700 over four years, in exchange for giving tax breaks on the city's sales tax collections.

Here's a description of the company from the meeting's backup materials:

Project Fusion is an advanced engineering and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) that provides specialized hardware and software solutions to the Department of Defense and commercial customers associated with advanced satellite communications and assured position, navigation and timing. The company’s core competencies span several mission areas, including space situational awareness, electronic warfare, antennas, custom trailers, technical support services, and other synergistic products and services.

Project Fusion is relocating its corporate headquarters to Colorado Springs for the community’s economic environment and growth of the region’s space operations industry. The company currently employs 73 people in Colorado Springs and 128 company-wide. The company is currently located in several facilities across Colorado Springs, and desires to expand its number of full-time employees and invest in manufacturing equipment and construction materials for its facilities. The Executive Branch is recommending that the City provide certain performance-based incentives for company investment and job growth.
City staff say Project Fusion will invest $13.5 million by buying construction materials, manufacturing equipment, and furniture and fixtures.

Here's the recommended incentive:

• Sales and use tax rebate on purchase of business personal property — 50% of the City’s 2% General Fund rate, or a 1% rebate.

• Sales and use tax rebate on purchase of construction materials — 100% of the City’s 2% General Fund rate, or a 2% Total Rebate on first $5 million in investments.

• Sales and use tax rebate on purchases of construction materials — 50% of the City’s 2% General Fund rate, or a 1% total rebate of remaining investments.

That will add up, staffers predict, to a payback to the local economic development picture over four years of 391 jobs, including jobs from expansion and retention, and $135.2 million to the Gross Metropolitan Product.

The numbers for 10 years are even more generous.

Incentives for businesses are fairly rare. The most recent, for more than $16 million, came earlier this year for Scheels All Sports.

City Council gave a different type of incentive of $40 million in this case.
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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Colorado Gives Local Governments Controversial Powers To Regulate Oil and Gas Industry

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Back in April, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed Senate Bill 19-181, which gives local governments more power to regulate, inspect, and fine oil and gas projects throughout the state. SB 19-181 is welcome news for environmentalists, Democrats, and local stakeholders who believe the oil and gas industry has been holding Colorado politics hostage for far too long.

In short, the new law gives local governments the power to regulate oil and gas facilities in their backyard.

Previously, local governments could only wield these regulatory powers after the Colorado Oil And Gas Conservation Commission said they could. According to the state legislature's official website, the law prioritizes "public safety, health, welfare, and the environment" over the interests of the oil and gas industry. It's a major win for environmentalists and politicians who believe local governments should be able to push back against oil and gas extraction activities in their own backyards.

In states like Texas, where oil and gas companies have a lot of political and economic power, similar efforts have failed. In Denton, Texas, voters rallied together to block hundreds of fracking operations. Even though these voters successfully passed a fracking ban, the state government quickly overruled the ban.

Now that Governor Polis has signed SB 19-181 into law, Colorado has instead given local governments new tools to stop potentially harmful oil and gas activities.

The bill was controversial from the start, as the oil and gas industry has a $31 billion annual economic impact on the state. Not surprisingly, oil and gas companies are worried about the ramifications of the new law. In addition, the bill directs the state's air quality commission to review its air quality testing rules. It also restores local county's ability to regular noise pollution caused by oil and gas production, which used to be exempt from these rules.

Proponents of the law note that this will make for an industry that's safer for everyone, but there are plenty of naysayers who warn that the passing of the bill represents greater governmental control and impending doom for the industry.

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Americans rely on oil and gas products in many facets of daily life, often in ways they don't realize. Petroleum products are used in a number of industries, from industrial applications to the food and beverage and cosmetics sectors. Petroleum products, in concentrations ranging from 1% to 99%, are also found in skin creams, lotions, sunscreen, lipstick, and countless other cosmetic products. Approximately 86% of lubrication professionals consider an oil's viscosity index when selecting a lubricant, which are used in consumer vehicles, heavy equipment, and industrial machines alike. Gas products also have a wide range of applications, from energy production and transportation to the specialty pure gases used in medical treatments. Because oil and gas is so essential to modern life, any increase in costs will affect consumers — and the millions of Americans employed by this mammoth industry.

Still, that doesn't mean that accessing oils or gases is safe for people or for the planet — and state lawmakers decided they no longer wanted to be held hostage by the industry. Unsurprisingly, the law's adversaries aren't willing to give up without a fight. The bill was passed along party lines, and the powerful oil and gas lobby is already planning to punish some of the bill's supporters. Although critics of SB 19-181 have said they won't attempt to overturn the law this year, they've indicated they may try to do so in 2020. What's more, the industry has threatened to recall Colorado State Representative Rochelle Galindo, whose seat happens to be in the county where 90% of the state's gas and oil is pumped, due to her support of the bill.

While environmentalists are celebrating a rare victory, these tensions aren't going away. And while the bill probably isn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, even those in Colorado's oil and gas industry admit that many lawmakers put a lot of hard work in to ensure that they took industry input into account.

Still, noted the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, "While we appreciated and supported a few critical amendments that were added to address some of our concerns and that provide a degree of certainty for our member companies, we still oppose the legislation... We are committed to being an engaged stakeholder and constructively working with the governor’s administration to try and get it right."

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Pueblo jury awards $2.8M to paralyzed man

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2019 at 9:43 AM

SHUTTERSTOCK
  • Shutterstock

A Pueblo jury returned a $2.8 million award to Samuel Chifalo, who was permanently paralyzed after being prematurely discharged from Parkview Medical Center’s emergency room, his attorneys said in a May 20 news release.

The award, which attorneys David Woodruff and Henry Miniter of Denver labeled as among Pueblo County’s highest, followed a nine-day trial.

After a fall, Chifalo went to Parkview on Feb. 11, 2016. Evidence showed Parkview’s employees failed to identify his spinal cord injury as repairable with neurosurgery before discharging him, the release said. Chifalo, 63 at that time, returned to the ER the next morning, but it was too late. He lost use of his legs and left arm and has limited sensation in his right arm, the release said.

A spokesperson for the nonprofit Parkview declined to comment, saying, “We are reserving comment until we can explore some of our options.” 

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Colorado Springs scores so-so in parks

Posted By on Wed, May 22, 2019 at 9:38 AM

Bear Creek Dog Park - ELLY STEWART
  • Elly Stewart
  • Bear Creek Dog Park

Colorado Springs scored better in parks for dogs than playgrounds for humans in The Trust for Public Land’s 2019 Park-Score® Index, released May 22.

Overall, the city placed 50th out of 100 cities in the nation. The index is based on access, acreage, investment and amenities. The agency measured access by percentage of residents who live within a 10-minute walk of a park. For Colorado Springs, it was 74 percent, giving it a score of 62.5 points out of a possible 100.

Other categories: 52.5 points for acreage; 42.5  for investment, and 42 for amenities. In subcategories, the city scored 75 points for dog parks but only 50 points for playgrounds and 15 points for senior recreation.

A map of Colorado Springs’ index shows underserved areas scattered across the city.

Washington, D.C., scored highest, followed by St. Paul and Minneapolis. For details, see tpl.org

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