Local government

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

CSPD honors officers for valor, courage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Utilities helps convert to LED holiday lights

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

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

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

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

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

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Drake Power Plant meetings slated to talk about sidelining

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 10:37 AM

Drake Power Plant's lifetime could be shortened. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant's lifetime could be shortened.
Want to have your voice heard about the future of the downtown Drake Power Plant?

Colorado Springs Utilities is hosting a telephone town hall meeting and an actual town hall meeting in the weeks ahead.

City Council, which acts as the Utilities Board, has decided to decommission the plant by 2035, but there's reportedly interest in speeding up that time table. Drake is one of the city's pivotal sources of power, so it will be no small task and expense to find another way to generate power.

Here is the information about the meetings:
Telephone Town Hall Meeting
· Wednesday, Nov. 29 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
· By registering you will receive a phone call that will connect you to the conversation.
· Or participate in this event online.

In-person Town Hall Meeting
· Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 6:00 p.m.
· City Hall, 107 N Nevada Ave #300

Nov. 14, 2017 — The Colorado Springs Utilities (Springs Utilities) Board voted in 2015 to decommission the Martin Drake Power Plant no later than 2035. As community perspectives on this topic have evolved, Springs Utilities is now studying earlier decommissioning alternatives, including replacement generation scenarios.

There are a range of items being considered in each of these scenarios, including rate impacts, utility uses for the Drake location and downtown revitalization plans. In addition, each scenario comes with its advantages such as potential site redevelopment and greater flexibility to meet the community’s electric needs in the future.

These scenarios can be broken down into three categories:

· Replacement generation inside the service territory (at Drake or at our Birdsall location on North Nevada).
· Replacement generation outside the service territory.
· A combination of generation inside and outside the service territory.

Renderings available at csu.org depict possible futures for the Drake location to include a new natural gas power plant and the addition of solar energy to assist with Springs Utilities’ renewable energy goals.

Attend one of the town hall meetings listed above for an important community conversation about the Drake Power Plant.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Housing and Building Association stormwater measure's biggest donor

Posted By on Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 11:17 AM

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Final campaign finance reports for the Nov. 7 election's city issue on stormwater fees aren't due until Dec. 7, but reports filed just before the election show the "vote yes" committee raised nearly 13 times as much as the "vote no" committee received.

Invest COS, run by the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce & EDC's Rachel Beck, brought in $447,645, while Springstaxpayers.com raised only $35,635, a big chunk of which came from Americans for Prosperity.

The biggest single donor to Invest COS appears to be the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, a group of builders, developers and other businesses involved in development.

The HBA gave $37,500 to the stormwater "vote yes" group. In 2015, when voters approved the 2C road tax, the HBA gave $10,000 to Springs Citizens Building the Future, the "vote yes" group.

Some observers have argued that had the city not given developers a pass on stormwater infrastructure over the years, we wouldn't be in the predicament we're in — facing a backlog of some $400-plus million in drainage needs. The counterpoint argument notes that several decades ago, drainage strategies were dramatically different than best practices today.

Back then, the idea was to get rid of runoff ASAP, which meant building concrete channels to funnel water to streams and creeks. Today, urban designers says it's a better practice to hold the water back in drainage ponds and wetlands, which reduces the sediment that washes into creeks and, ultimately, rivers.

Regardless, we asked the HBA's CEO Renee Zentz why the HBA pumped so much money into the stormwater measure, which, starting July 1, 2018, will charge every household $5 a month, and owners of nonresidential property $30 per acre per month.

She says via email:
The Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association supports many community initiatives that will improve our City. Not only did CSHBA support 2A, our Board of Directors also voted to support other ballots issues such as:
- Issue 1A and the RTA Override to improve Interstate 25
- School District 11, 3, and 12

CSHBA has always been an active supporter of ballot items that will benefit the community. Specifically related to storm water, a significant number of the 71 projects listed are for locations within existing neighbors that were developed decades ago without the current City standards. These improvements benefit the City as a whole. This was a widely endorsed initiative from diverse groups/organizations, I would hope that is story worthy. 

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Monument woman sues city for defamation over Drake Power Plant

Posted By on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 at 5:22 PM

Drake Power Plant south of downtown is at the center of a lawsuit. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Drake Power Plant south of downtown is at the center of a lawsuit.
Leslie Weise, a Monument resident whose son attends school in Colorado Springs, filed a federal lawsuit today, Nov. 13, against the city of Colorado Springs and others accusing them of going after her for contempt of court after she gave an interview with the daily newspaper about an air quality study.

The issue involves the downtown Drake Power Plant, which Weise contends has violated air quality regulations.

She's been cross-wise with Colorado Springs Utilities over that contention. The city claims the air quality report she's tried to obtain, and did obtain accidentally, is based on modeling rather than actual scientific data.

In any event, she claims the following in the lawsuit:
48. In conjunction with its filing of the “Cross Motion for Order to Show Cause,” which sought punitive sanctions against Ms. Weise, multiple Colorado Springs officials made numerous false and defamatory statements about Ms. Weise and her speech regarding the Air Quality Study to members of the public, including statements made to the Colorado Springs Gazette, to concerned citizens, and during public meetings. These false and defamatory statements were intentionally made with malice or, at the very least, made negligently. The statements were part of a campaign by Colorado Springs officials to publicly discredit Ms. Weise, and vilify her within the Colorado Springs community, in the hopes that the alarming results of the Air Quality Study Colorado Springs Utilities had commissioned using public funds could be swept under the rug.

49. In furtherance of these goals, Andres Pico, a member of the Colorado Springs City Council and former Colorado Springs Utilities Board Chair, stated intentionally and with malice, or at the very least negligently, in an email communication dated November 30, 2016, to a Colorado Springs resident and concerned citizen Nicole Rosa that Ms. Weise’s statements about the Air Quality Study that were reported in the Colorado Springs Gazette were “not true.”
Weise alleges she was defamed, among other things, and is seeking, according to the lawsuit, damages for emotional distress, loss of reputation, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, and other pain and suffering on all claims allowed by law in an amount to be determined at trial, as well as punitive damages and attorney fees.

Also named as defendants are the nine City Council members who served prior to the April election, a Utilities employee, Amy Trinidad, and City Attorney Wynetta Massey.

Here's the lawsuit.

We've asked Utilities for a comment and will circle back if and when we hear something. A spokesperson for City Council says members can't comment on a pending case.

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Friday, November 3, 2017

CSPD Chief Carey: city needs more than 100 more officers

Posted By on Fri, Nov 3, 2017 at 5:23 PM

There's been some back and forth over how many police officers Colorado Springs should employ, especial
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ly in light of the city's stormwater fee measure on the Nov. 7 ballot.

Some argue that Mayor John Suthers is pulling a bait and switch — get the new fee money and apply it to cops and firefighters — because the city's general fund already spends about $17 million a year on stormwater needs.

Suthers has repeatedly cited figures saying the CSPD is short handed.

Now, we have a memo from Police Chief Pete Carey to Councilor Don Knight fully explaining the shortage in terms of population, which should shed some light on the debate:

Mr. Greene asked me to respond to your question about CSPD staffing.
The chart below shows the overall data shown in the Governing magazine article you referred to in your email to Chief of Staff Greene.

Although the average number of police officers employed for every 10,000 residents by localities with populations of at least 50,000 is 16.6, that is not the data most relevant to the City of Colorado Springs. Given that 584 of the 690 localities cited in the article have populations at or below 200,000 (nearly 85%), the overall average number of officers employed is obviously skewed toward those smaller localities. The more relevant figures are those shown in bold for jurisdictions with populations of 200,000 to 500,000. That data indicates the average number of officers employed for every 10,000 residents in those jurisdictions is 18.6.

Population numbers are estimates, and I don’t know what source Sarah used to provide the population estimate for Colorado Springs that you cite in your email. I will note that the City’s 2018 Annual Budget publication estimates a 2017 population of 466,846 and a 2018 estimated population of 473,894. Additionally, the 2016 FBI Crime in the United States report estimates a 2016 population of 464,113 for Colorado Springs, and the Colorado State Demography Office 2016 population estimate for Colorado Springs is 460,953. I respectfully suggest that a current population estimate of approximately 460,000 is more realistic for this purpose.

At our recent CSPD annual supervisors conference held last month, Mayor Suthers said he thought the average number of officers per 10,000 residents for cities our size was around 17.5. As shown above, that figure is actually a little low according to the Governing magazine article. However, that number in conjunction with a population estimate of 460,000 results in a total of 805 officers (17.5 x 46 = 805). That is 119 more positions than we are currently allotted (805 - 686 = 119). Using a different estimated population number will obviously have an impact on the total number of officers that is calculated. I believe the Mayor is simply being realistic in seeking to move us most, but not all, of the way toward the average number of officers per 10,000 residents that the article suggests we should have (18.6).

I’d note as well that even the population estimate you cite in your email results in a total of 817 officers if we use the average for cities with populations of 200,000-500,000 (43.9706 x 18.6 = 817.8). That is 131 positions above our current authorized strength of 686.

Lastly, I’d like to point out that the FBI has recently released their 2016 Crime in the United States publication. That data indicates the average number of officers per 1,000 residents is 1.8 in the West/Mountain Region for cities with populations above 250,000. Using a population estimate of 460,000, to be average for our region, CSPD would have to have 828 officers or 142 more than we have now (1.8 x 460 = 828). The same publication indicates that the national average for cities with populations above 250,000 is 2.6 officers per 1,000 residents. Being average from a national perspective would mean that CSPD would have 1,196 officers. That’s 510 more officers than we have now.

While adding 120 officers won’t completely get us where we need to be, at least with respect to our region, it gets us in the ballpark.
Thanks,
Pete 
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Here's Knight's email to Chief of Staff Jeff Greene that triggered Carey's explanation:
Jeff,

I am getting ready for the budget mark up in a couple of weeks figuring we are going to fund new police officers regardless how 2A comes out. I am not finding how the Mayor came to the 120 figure though.

According to Sarah Johnson in her redistricting last Nov, our City population was 439,709 people. According to Governing magazine: “Cities' police officer per capita rates vary depending on a range of factors. In 2015, police departments serving cities with populations exceeding 50,000 employed an average of 16.6 officers and 21.4 total personnel for every 10,000 residents”

Multiply 16.6 in 43.9706 means we would need 730 officers to be at the National average. With 686 sworn billets today, that leaves us 44 short. How does the Mayor come up with 120 please?

Don Knight
Colorado Springs City Council, District 1

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Colorado Springs Councilor Avila named a Trailblazer

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 3:58 PM

Avila will receive the Trailblazer award.
  • Avila will receive the Trailblazer award.
Colorado Springs City Councilor Yolanda Avila has been awarded the 2017 Trailblazers Award by Emerge America, a national organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office. In April, Avila unseated incumbent Helen Collins.

Avila, who is legally blind, advocates for accessibility issues and for revitalization of her southeast district. “Our country continues to fall behind in women’s representation, at all levels of government,” Andrea Dew Steele, founder and president of Emerge America, said in a release, “and our decision-making bodies desperately need more of the unique talents and perspectives women like Yolanda bring.”

Avila will receive the award at a luncheon in California on Nov. 17.

Here's the news release:
Washington, D.C.—Today, Emerge America, the nation’s premier organization that recruits and trains Democratic women to run for office, announced that Colorado Springs City Councilmember Yolanda Avila will receive their 2017 Trailblazers Award. The accolade, which recognizes a woman who saw a need and didn't let the fact that no woman had come before her stand in the way of fixing it, is one of three Emerge America bestows to its alumnae each year as part of its Ambition to Action Awards. Avila, who is legally blind, advocates heavily for accessibility for all and is committed to the revitalization of her district. Additionally, she was the only Democrat elected to the Colorado Springs City Council and was one of three women nominated for the honor out of Emerge’s more than 3,000 alumnae. The winners were chosen through an open voting period, in which the public voted for their favorite nominee.

“We’re thrilled that we are able to recognize Yolanda’s accomplishments, because she exemplifies the very principles of Emerge America and our network,” said Andrea Dew Steele, Founder and President of Emerge America. “Our country continues to fall behind in women’s representation, at all levels of government, and our decision-making bodies desperately need more of the unique talents and perspectives women like Yolanda bring. We hope that her groundbreaking work and uplifting story will inspire more women to run for office.”

Avila, a 2016 graduate of Emerge Colorado, pulled a huge upset earlier this year in conservative Colorado Springs when she won her city council race, unseating an incumbent. Avila campaigned with her guide dog Puma by her side and won despite being heavily outspent in a three-way race. In 1998, Yolanda was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that has a prognosis of blindness. She slowly lost her sight, and stopped driving in 2000. Her experience made her a strong advocate for improving the infrastructure in Colorado Springs, including a robust transit system. In addition to her advocacy, Yolanda is also committed to economic development and bringing jobs to her district.

“Believe in your worth - even when underestimated - because that is where the space for success is created.” -Councilwoman Yolanda Avila

The voting and awards will culminate with Emerge America’s annual Ambition to Action Luncheon in Silicon Valley on Nov. 17. Avila will be a guest of honor at the event and receive her award on stage. 

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Monday, October 30, 2017

AFP donates to committee opposing Colorado Springs' stormwater ballot measure

Posted By on Mon, Oct 30, 2017 at 5:24 PM

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A "vote no" committee opposing the city's proposed stormwater fee on the Nov. 7 ballot has raised $35,635, with the largest single donation coming from Americans for Prosperity, according to a campaign finance report filed today, Oct. 30.

AFP, which gave $15,000, is a national conservative organization funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, who represent the ultra conservative wing of the Republican party.

We've reached out to the Colorado office of AFP by email and voicemail and will circle back with its comments if and when we hear something.

The city is seeking voter permission to impose $5-a-month fees on all households and $30 per acre on commercial property to fund stormwater projects. Another class of payer is owners of more than five-acre parcels that are undeveloped; those fees will be set by the stormwater manager. The money is needed, the city argues, to fund a $460-million deal with Pueblo to better control the city's runoff. The ballot question is known as 2A.

The second biggest single donor to Springstaxpayers.com is IACE (I Am Created Equal), which is overseen by Laura Carno, a seasoned political operative who ran Steve Bach's successful mayor campaign in 2011. It gave $13,000.

Third largest donation is from Tim Hoiles, a member of the Hoiles family that owned Freedom Communications, which owned the Gazette for decades before selling it several years ago. He's given two donations totaling $6,000. When his family owned the newspaper, the Gazette's editorial pages reflected the Libertarian philosophy of limited government intrusion and participation in public business. He recently spoke before City Council about special districts' debt limits.

Other donors gave small amounts, including former City Councilor Helen Collins, who gave $50.

The committee has spent most of the money on Facebook ads and media buys.

Invest COS, the "vote yes" committee, has raised $311,290 but has not yet filed the report covering the second half of October. It's due Friday, Nov. 3.
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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Utilities will fund water and sewer relocations for Olympic Museum area

Posted By on Tue, Oct 17, 2017 at 5:14 PM

Construction is under way on the Olympic Museum at Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Construction is under way on the Olympic Museum at Sierra Madre Street and Vermijo Avenue.
Colorado Springs Utilities is preparing to spend $1.3 million on water and wastewater line replacement and relocation to accommodate the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame and other development in the lower downtown area.

On the Wednesday, Oct. 18, Utilities Board agenda, Utilities proposes to fund 55 percent of a $1.9 million relocation of a wastewater line from the alley between Sahwatch and Sierra Madre streets to Sahwatch between Colorado Avenue and Cimarron Street.

The remaining cost, $875,000, would be paid by adjacent property owners, which is comprised mostly if not all by Nor'wood Development Group. Nor'wood is the master developer of the Southwest Downtown Urban Renewal Area.

The existing pipe is old and doesn't meet current standards, Utilities CEO Jerry Forte said in a memo the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council.

An eight-inch water main in Vermijo Avenue needs to be relocated due to its age, the memo says, which will cost about $275,000, all of which would be funded by Utilities under an executive agreement with the city.

The idea is to authorize the projects so they can be coordinated with streetscape work next year, to be funded with Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and city funds.

Or as the memo says, "Future cost savings and extending infrastructure integrity can be achieved when City or private sector-required utility modifications are collaboratively addressed to minimize or eliminate future street cuts...."

The Olympic Museum, which broke ground in June, is slated to open in mid-2019.




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Monday, October 16, 2017

Firefighters seek collective bargaining, raise money for campaign

Posted By on Mon, Oct 16, 2017 at 12:26 PM

The Waldo Canyon Fire roars into the city in June 2012. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • The Waldo Canyon Fire roars into the city in June 2012.

Local firefighters aren't giving up on their desire to secure the right to collectively bargain with the city on pay and benefits.

As we reported in June, Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association Local 5 wants to be able to negotiate on behalf of its members. The city says it considers a state Senate bill that enables collective bargaining not applicable, because it is a home rule city.

Nevertheless, Local 5 is proceeding toward a ballot measure to put the question to voters, and firefighters are willing to put their money where their mouths are.

From Dave Noblitt, president of Local 5, via email:
We did have a special election over the summer to support a $200,000 plus assessment of our members to fund the measure. With a self imposed 51% participation of members involved for the vote to be considered valid, we were supported by almost 70% with over 220 members voting and a unanimous "yes" vote in moving forward. With the state association and the International lending their support, we are looking at a half million dollar campaign budget in moving forward. 

Noblitt goes on to say Local 5 will seek support from City Council in 2018 and community groups for its ballot measure, which might appear on either the November 2018 ballot or the city ballot in April 2019.

A slight pay raise for firefighters is included in Mayor John Suthers' proposed 2018 budget. If voters approve on Nov. 7 of a proposal to charge residents stormwater fees, that would free up general fund money for additional raises and to add personnel to the Fire Department, starting when the fees would begin, July 1, 2018.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Firefighters back stormwater measure

Posted By on Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 2:29 PM

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On Wednesday, Oct. 11, the Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF-Local 5, announced it has endorsed the city's stormwater fee measure, 2A, on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The measure, if approved, would impose fees starting July 1, 2018, of $5 per month on all households, including renters, and $30 per acre on non-residential developed property. Tracts five acres and larger would be assessed based on impervious surface and assigned fees by the city's stormwater manager.

The fees would raise about $17 million a year, which would be used for stormwater in place of the currently budgeted $17 million in the general fund, thereby freeing that money for spending on other city needs.

Mayor John Suthers has said he would reallocate general fund dollars to hire more cops and firefighters, improve parks and upgrade the city's vehicle fleet.

Local 5's release:
Local 5’s Political Action Liaison, John Roy, mentioned that, “After careful consideration, our association has chosen to support the stormwater campaign. We have chosen to do so because we believe that this enterprise will ultimately make Colorado Springs safer and it will allow our firefighters the ability to more effectively do their job. Due to the lack of a dedicated stormwater fee, general fund dollars have long been repurposed from their original intent to pay for stormwater. As such, we have seen our equipment, staffing levels, and employee package suffer due to lack of funding. The Mayor has committed to making public safety a top priority if general fund dollars can be used for their original intent. This would mean better service delivery for the citizens and a better work environment for firefighters. With that focus in mind, we support this initiative.”

The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighter’s President, Dave Noblitt has been a firefighter in the city for over 20 years. When asked about the current state of the department Noblitt stated that, “Our staffing levels are far from adequate. Historically, we have approximately the same number of firefighters that we did in 2008. However, we run approximately 30,000 more calls a year than we did in 2008. This means that firefighters are attempting to do more with less and that is taxing on our employees. This measure would ensure that the city has the financial capacity to support public safety from falling further behind in its ability to provide adequate response capabilities.”

The Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters view this ballot initiative with a linear focus: “What is best for the safety and welfare of the citizens of Colorado Springs and their firefighters?”. Question 2A has a direct impact on how the fire department will continue to operate and as such, the support of this initiative is seemingly what’s best for public safety.
Disclosure: The Indy's owner, John Weiss, is a board member for Together for Colorado Springs, which has also endorsed 2A.
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Monday, October 9, 2017

Stormwater fee's "vote no" committee political operative doesn't live in the city

Posted By on Mon, Oct 9, 2017 at 4:36 PM

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When it comes to political campaigns, should someone be allowed to run one or fund one if they don't live in the jurisdiction affected by the campaign?

Laura Carno says yes, and she has and is currently doing so.

Running a campaign, that is.

Carno set up springstaxpayers.com to oppose the city's stormwater fee — measure 2A on the Nov. 7 ballot — which would impose $5-per-month charges on all households, including renters, and $30 per acre per month on owners of nonresidential property. Owners of undeveloped property or nonresidential land over five acres would pay fees based on impervious surface as determined by the city's stormwater manager.

But Carno doesn't live in Colorado Springs. She lives in Black Forest, so she won't be directly affected if the measure passes.

As Rachel Beck, who's running the "vote yes" campaign committee, Invest COS, says via email, Carno "is a voice of dissention [sic] in a matter that has no effect on her. While her anti-everything positions may serve her purposes, Colorado Springs city voters will decide for ourselves what is best for our community."

But Carno, a political strategist who ran former Mayor Steve Bach's campaign in 2011, says she does have a stake in the outcome.

"Even though I don’t live in the city of Colorado Springs, it is where I do all my business," says Carno, reached by phone. That means doing most of her shopping in the city. "Anything that hurts any businesses there, I am a customer."

In addition, Carno defines her campaign as one advocating for good government. Her website says this about the Colorado Springs measure:
Reasons Voters Are Saying NO to Colorado Springs Ballot Issue 2A
• The city has record revenues. It can adequately fund stormwater repairs on existing tax dollars
• This is the 6th time in just over 2 years that the Mayor has asked for more money
• Fee starts at $5 per month for residential customers, regardless of the size of the property
• Non-residential customers – including churches and non-profits – pay $30 per acre per month
• Fees can be increased without a vote of the taxpayers
• Owners of undeveloped land are exempt from this fee
• Owners of undeveloped land are among the largest donors to the Yes on 2A effort

"I would say to the other side," Carno says, "they are accepting money from people who don’t live in the city to pay for their mailers. They’re OK with out of town donors."
Carno ran former Mayor Steve Bach's campaign in 2011. - LAURACARNO.COM
  • lauracarno.com
  • Carno ran former Mayor Steve Bach's campaign in 2011.
And so is she, because Carno says everyone has skin in the game to advocate for fiscally responsible government.

Carno, who filed paperwork for her committee on Oct. 6, won't have to disclose the names of her donors until Nov. 3, four days before the Nov. 7 election. But she tells the Indy, "So far, my donors are in the city of Colorado Springs."

To read who's endorsed a "no" vote, go here.

It's true that Invest COS has accepted money from people who don't reside in Colorado Springs. Among those are Spencer Fane LLP, a law firm in Denver, which gave $10,000; K.R. Swerdfeger Construction, Inc., Pueblo West, $5,000; Wagner Construction, Aurora, $1,000; Tyrone Rice, Fountain, $1,000; Colorado Association of Mechanical & Plumbing Contractors, Denver, $5,000; Issues Mobilization Committee, Englewood, $10,000 (this committee can't be found in Colorado Secretary of State Records but shares an address with the Colorado Association of Realtors); Andrew Klein, Glendale, $500; JE Dunn Construction Company, Denver, $1,500; Dan Malinaric, Monument, $500; Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck law firm, Denver, $1,000; A-1 Chipseal Co., Denver, $5,000.

Together, that's $40,500, or just under 13 percent of the $320,000 raised so far by Invest COS.

Beck explains, "Our donors, which include residents, businesses, and trade associations, are contributing to a viable solution to a real problem. Included in that group of more than 100 contributors are nine companies or member associations that have significant operations in Colorado Springs and are headquartered in Denver."


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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

D-11 and stormwater issue to be discussed at Oct. 17 forum

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 5:09 PM

City stormwater manager Rich Mulledy stands amid one of the "urban canyons" created by stormwater erosion across the city. This setting is in Pine Creek. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • City stormwater manager Rich Mulledy stands amid one of the "urban canyons" created by stormwater erosion across the city. This setting is in Pine Creek.

Two key ballot measures will be debated on Oct. 17 at a public forum at the MCI/Verizon Building, located at 2424 Garden of the Gods Road. The forum will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Mayor John Suthers will promote the city's proposed stormwater fee. If 2A is approved, it would require every household to pay $5 a month on their water bill to fund stormwater projects, and owners of nonresidential property to pay $30 per acre per month. Property owners of developed land larger than five acres would pay fees set by the city’s stormwater manager, based on impervious surface.

Taking the "vote no" position will be political strategist Laura Carno, who's mounting an opposition effort.

In addition, Lauren Hugg with Friends of D11, will promote the virtues of Colorado Springs School District 11's mill levy override measure, which aims to raise about $42 million in property taxes. The district hasn't had a tax increase since 2000, while districts throughout the metro area — such as Academy District 20, Falcon District 49 and Cheyenne Mountain District 12 — have had several. Who will debate the "anti" position on the D11 measure hasn't been determined.

The forum is being sponsored by the Leadership Pikes Peak Alumni Association, Colorado Springs Rising Professionals, the Independent and the Colorado Springs Business Journal.



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City vehicles are old and need to be replaced

Posted By on Wed, Oct 4, 2017 at 9:51 AM

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In the Oct. 4 issue of the Independent, we report the city of Colorado Springs' fleet is aging and needs an infusion of money. That could come if voters approve a stormwater fee on the Nov. 7 ballot, because money now spent on drainage projects — $17 million a year — would then be applied to other city needs, including fleet. The fees would charge all households $5 per month, while most nonresidential property owners would pay $30 per acre.

As we went to press, we heard some of the details of fleet problems from Corey Farkas in Public Works, who writes via email:

• In the last two seasons we have had three plows towed back to the shop, after breaking down on their routes.

• Since January 2016, Public Works Operations and Maintenance conducted welding on 27 pieces of snow and ice control equipment in order to keep these items "mission ready". The cost of this work ... was roughly $11,000 in materials alone...this does not include labor hours.

• In the 2015/2016 snow season, we had 17 trucks go down during one week. With another impending snow event coming, we had 3 days to get as many trucks functional as we could. This puts us in an extremely vulnerable situation.
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In addition, city communications chief Jamie Fabos tells us that the city currently has four hybrid-electric vehicles and "are continuing to investigate additional fuel efficient vehicles that are financially feasible."

Lastly, Ryan Trujillo, sustainability and support services manager, reports that the city has had to replace nine engine and transmissions since 2015. Others needed such treatment, but due to the age and condition of those units, the city opted to dispose of them "instead of throwing good money after bad," he says.

He also says, via email:
I think it’s important to note that while the need for a fleet overhaul is becoming urgent, the city has put off this cost by taking measures to extend its capabilities in the absence of budget availability over the past five-plus years. Through creative measures such as our 5-year fleet replacement strategy, we’ve been able to increase the number of vehicles immediately available without the need for special budget appropriation.

While we are proud of those efforts, and will continue to pursue the most economical options for fleet maintenance, we need to embrace a long-term strategy and the budget numbers I provided you will get us well on our way.
 

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Monday, October 2, 2017

Stormwater issue "vote yes" committee raises over $300K

Posted By on Mon, Oct 2, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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Invest COS, the "vote yes" committee for the city's stormwater fee measure on the Nov. 7 ballot, has raised $311,290 so far, according to the latest campaign finance filed today.

But the committee has spent only $38,446 — mostly reimbursement for individuals' work time on the issue or consultants.

Mayor John Suthers tells the Independent he's been designated the "focal point" of the campaign and cut some radio ads last week that will begin airing soon.

"One of the things polling showed is people were more inclined [to support the measure] if the mayor is in favor of it," he says. He also said polling shows citizen trust in city government is the highest it's been in years.

The latest report shows money coming from developers and related trades and businesses.

Schmidt Construction of Colorado Springs ponied up $25,000, as did the business activist group Colorado Springs Forward.

Giving $10,000 each were Issues Mobilization Committee of Englewood, Pikes Peak Association of Realtors, High Valley Land Co. Inc., and The Broadmoor resort.

The committee hopes to spend about $500,000 on the campaign, and with about five weeks to go, might hit that target.

Meantime, there still appears to be no organized opposition that's filing campaign finance reports on its spending, though anti-tax activist Douglas Bruce has sponsored a "vote no" website.

(Disclosure: Independent chairman and founder John Weiss is helping with the "vote yes" campaign.)




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