Local Government

Friday, July 19, 2019

Water woes: Pricey pools, a splash pad, and a little girl with hand, foot and mouth disease

Posted By on Fri, Jul 19, 2019 at 8:10 AM

Monument Valley Pool - J. ADRIAN STANLEY
  • J. Adrian Stanley
  • Monument Valley Pool

Colorado Springs's city pools are far more expensive than those in Denver, Pueblo, Fort Collins and Boulder. How expensive? Try $35 for a family to go to the pool for a single day.

For comparison's sake, in Denver adults pay $3.50 each and kids, $1. Denver seniors and Denver Public School students get in free. I wrote about the discrepancy in prices here.

But here's a little twist: When asked about expensive pools, city officials pointed out the city has several spray grounds and splash parks that kids can go to free of charge. Then, last week, a local mom went viral on social media and made the TV news with claims that her 2-year-old, Athena, likely contracted hand-foot-and-mouth disease at John Venezia Community Park's spray ground.

Meantime, local dad Ryan Brown — who you might remember as the black man that Colorado Springs Police say they did not racially profile and then arrest with excessive force, though they paid $212,000 to settle his case — says he plans to speak to City Council on July 23 about the high fees.

Brown says he's called around since our story ran and isn't satisfied with the reasons he's been given for the high price tags. To him, city pools ought to be affordable for all families.
“It ’s discrimination," he says. "It’s not based on in the '60s, like this is white only, it’s based on class.”

Brown, who plans to bring along his 7-year-old son, says, “I would say 60 percent of the people in this town can’t afford to do that.”

Given the current heat wave, many families that can't afford pools will be heading to those aforementioned spray grounds. Which might seem a little questionable to some parents after that viral story about little Athena. (Who wants to trade a $35 pool entrance fee for hundreds or even thousands of dollars in medical bills and a suffering child?)

So, here's the deal: Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is a common childhood ailment. Considered mild, it causes a rash, blisters, and flu-like symptoms and is generally spread through feces, saliva, fluid from blisters, snot, etc.
Athena clearly contracted a severe case. Her body was covered in painful-looking blisters. "She's barely eaten, barely drinking. She's drinking enough to where she's hydrated. She's itchy, she's miserable," Molly Jenig, Athena's mom, recently told KRDO.

News outlets generally noted, and El Paso County Public Health confirms, that while it's possible little Athena got sick at the spray ground, it's unlikely.

"HFMD is most commonly spread a person-to-person via saliva, blister fluid and feces. It is possible a child/person can be exposed by swallowing recreational water, but most likely exposure would be from another person. The incubation period for HFMD is 3-6 days which means a child could come into contact with the virus days prior to infection in a variety of different locations and circumstances (especially if the child mingles with others under the age of 5)," Public Health's Matt Steiner notes.
City spokesperson Jamie Fabos says that the Venezia spray ground was cleaned with a Purell product after the reports from Jenig, in an abundance of caution, but also says that the spray grounds are regularly cleaned:

Here is our protocol:

• Water is tested initially at approximately 7:30 each morning, seven days a week. We test for free chlorine, total chlorine, Ph and alkalinity.

• The test goal is to have between 1 and 5 parts/million of chlorine. If necessary, adjustments are made. Adjustments are necessary infrequently at best.

• The filter system is backwashed twice a day.

• After the initial morning water test the water will be tested two more times during the day for free chlorine, total chlorine, and Ph.

• All protocols are performed per State Health Department guidelines.

• Logs are kept on site of the testing performed (we have them going back to the first day the spray ground opened).
So is that enough to keep kids safe? Maybe. Public Health notes:

• The use of chemical disinfectants in recreational bodies of water are intended to reduce the risk of disease transmission and ensure that a safe and healthy environment is available for use. Two chemicals, chlorine and bromine, are recognized as the only primary disinfectants and approved for use in recreational water. Through numerous scientific studies and data these chemicals are shown to provide effective disinfection for most pathogens of concern in recreational water. While the use of chemical disinfection is important, it really is the use of chemical disinfection in conjunction with recirculation and filtration that provide the greatest decrease in recreational water illness.
In other words, there's always a risk, but your kids are probably fine at the spray grounds. And they're certainly a cheaper choice than the city pools. 
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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Polis and local officials: Build more roads for military bases

Posted By on Wed, Jul 17, 2019 at 4:41 PM

Fort Carson's access via public roads is a priority for state and local officials, as are other roads serving military installations. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Fort Carson's access via public roads is a priority for state and local officials, as are other roads serving military installations.
Gov. Jared Polis unveiled a new transportation plan on July 17 that would pump $128 million dollars into highways and bridges in the Colorado Springs area to support military installations.

At a meeting at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, Polis said the state has applied for a $25 million BUILD grant (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development) to help fund four projects identified in El Paso County. The state and "local partners"  have committed to fund the balance, the Colorado Department of Transportation said in a release.

The four projects:

• State Highway 94: Safety improvements on Highway 94 east of the city and construction of a westbound passing lane about a mile long starting five miles east of the U.S. 24 junction. ($7.5 million) Schriever Air Force Base is reached via Highway 94.

• South Academy Boulevard:
Widening approximately 1 mile of South Academy between Interstate 25 and Bradley Road from two to three lanes to ease congestion. ($23 million)

• I-25: Safety and infrastructure improvements between the South Academy and Santa Fe Avenue (U.S. 85 — Fountain) interchanges, about 7.5 miles, including median barriers, inside and outside shoulders widened to 12 feet, replacement of two bridges crossing South Academy, rehabilitation of six additional bridges and installation of "intelligent transportation system components." ($84.2 million)

• Charter Oak Ranch Road: Improvements to the Santa Fe Avenue intersection and reconstruction of Charter Oak Ranch Road between Santa Fe Avenue and Fort Carson’s Gate 19. ($12.6 million).

“The vitality of the Pikes Peak Region is key to the state’s continued success,” Polis said in a news release. “With military personnel we host and support, along with 100,000 veterans living in El Paso County, it’s imperative that we hear their perspective and, more importantly, that we take real steps, such as applying for the BUILD Grant, to help ensure that our military installations can be safely and predictably accessed, even with the challenges of our growing population.”

CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said in the release: “Our national highway system, since its inception, was envisioned as a network intended to support national defense, and in that spirit, it is especially important that we continue to prioritize access to Colorado's military installations."

It wasn't outlined where the rest of the money will come from beyond the BUILD grant, if the state lands it.
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Monday, July 15, 2019

El Paso County jail inmate sent to hospital after assault by "more than six other inmates"

Posted By on Mon, Jul 15, 2019 at 9:50 AM

A ward much like this one served as the scene of an inmate fight that sent one inmate to the hospital. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • A ward much like this one served as the scene of an inmate fight that sent one inmate to the hospital.
An inmate at El Paso County's Criminal Justice Center was beat up by fellow prisoners so severely, he was shipped to a local hospital — after jailers discovered his injuries hours after the assault, according to sources and an investigative report obtained by the Independent.

In fact, a source familiar with jail operations tells the Indy the injured inmate was obscured after being stuffed under a bunk. Jailers missed him during at least two head counts, the source, who asked to remain anonymous because they aren't authorized to speak about the incident and fear retaliation, says.
 
When asked about the incident, Sheriff's Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby initially said via email, "There is nothing which happened at the jail as you describe. It is nearly an impossibility for this to happen and be missed for such a lengthy period of time and without the knowledge and involvement from staff."
After the Indy provided Kirby with the name of the injured inmate, Dante Cedillo, Kirby said in an email:
Due to the severity of the allegations in your email yesterday, I kept looking into this. There was an assault/fight which occurred on Saturday, June 29, 2019. There are several inaccuracies in the information you were given. This is still an active investigation and information cannot be released at this time. 
The Indy's source tells us that Cedillo bore serious injuries to his face, including swollen jaws, lips and blackened eyes on June 30 around the time breakfast is served. Cedillo was conscious when found, but the source said it appeared the inmate was beaten prior to the lunch meal the prior day, June 29. It's unclear how jailers didn't know he had been assaulted when serving lunch and dinner that day.
A worker prepares to deliver meals to inmates.
  • A worker prepares to deliver meals to inmates.
The source says standard procedure is to conduct a "face check" on inmates at mealtimes to verify they're OK. The Sheriff's Office wants "to know if someone has been beat up," the source says.

According to a report of the incident, Cedillo told deputies he "got jumped" around noon on June 29 in a cell next to the shower facility on the upper tier of the ward. "I walked in a cell and I don't remember much after that," the report quoted Cedillo telling the deputy.

Cedillo, who had been booked into jail on a robbery charge, also told deputies the fight was over gang members "disrespecting" his gang. Video footage showed another inmate "popping out" of his lower tier cell at 12:02 p.m., and going up to the upper level where Cedillo was located. He's then seen on video talking to other inmates before returning to his cell and "popping" back in, the report said.

The source says locks on cells are easy to jimmy open with "a cardboard toilet paper roll."

Other inmates told deputies that Cedillo was "calling out" the Crips, Bloods, Gangster Disciples and the "Serenos" gangs. Despite other inmates telling him him to stop, Cedillo continued and even challenged other inmates to a fight. Later, Cedillo was "jumped by more than six other inmates," the report says, quoting an inmate.

When asked to identify his attackers, Cedillo wouldn't cooperate and said, "the beef was over and he didn't want to talk any further with the Police," the report said.

The sheriff's report said due to Cedillo's lack of cooperation, "no criminal charges are pending at this time" and that the report was "for informational purposes."

Cedillo was treated at Memorial Hospital and returned to jail that same day. He was released July 3.

The source familiar with the jail says the incident demonstrates lack of sufficient staff training, high turnover and short staffing, facility shortcomings, such as poorly lit wards and locks that can be easily unlocked by inmates, and inexperienced jail staff who are "overwhelmed."
Sheriff Bill Elder announced in June 2018 that he would reduce the amount of training provided to newly hired jailers to save money and allow him to get more deputies at work in the jail because of a shortened training schedule.

The Sheriff's Office maintains there's no chronic staffing shortage at the jail but that issues surround a growing inmate population and societal challenges such as drug and alcohol addiction and gang violence.

The jail has seen numerous problems in recent years, including inmate deaths, disputes with the medical contractor, Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., which has sought not to renew its contract at year's end, assaults on deputies, and a riot over bad food served by a contractor, Trinity Services Group.

Asked about all that, Kirby says in an email, "The investigation is not complete so we do not have a comment at this time."
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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Airbnbs are commercial properties, assessor says. The fallout could be huge.

Posted By on Wed, Jul 10, 2019 at 2:02 PM

Assessor Steve Schleiker says shifting how short-term rentals are assessed for tax purposes could have far-reaching consequences. - COURTESY EL PASO COUNTY
  • Courtesy El Paso County
  • Assessor Steve Schleiker says shifting how short-term rentals are assessed for tax purposes could have far-reaching consequences.
In an explosive move with potentially devastating consequences for some, the El Paso County Assessor’s Office plans to tax short-term rentals, often simply called by the brand name Airbnb, as commercial properties.

The change opens a can of worms regarding how those properties are handled by city and county officials, insurance companies and lenders. It also means hefty tax bills for local short-term rental (STR) owners. While the residential assessment rate is 7.15 percent of assessed value, the non-residential assessment rate stands at 29 percent, meaning property tax bills on STRs could quadruple.

The revelation comes after Colorado Springs City Councilor Wayne Williams asked County Assessor Steve Schleiker how short-term rentals are assessed, and Schleiker responded in a July 9 email obtained by the Independent.

Asked to comment, Schleiker tells the Indy via email: "Short term rentals and Airbnbs have been a topic of discussion over the past several years at the State Capital and throughout all 64 county assessor’s offices on the challenges of discovering and valuing these types of properties, and the voices from hotel/motel/and bed & breakfast properties throughout the State have been loud requesting fair and equal valuation and taxation."

So far, Schleiker has made no changes, but he says that assessing single-family properties as  short-term rental commercial properties could have other major consequences.

Those include:

Homeowners could face major problems with their mortgages. Many lenders require "owner occupancy" and for the home to be used primarily as a "single-family home." In the worst case scenario, a commercial STR designation could lead a lender to "call the note," meaning the full loan would be due immediately. There's a chance that this could even impact a home that is a main residence. Consider, for instance, soldiers who lists their homes as an STR while they're deployed.

Utilities bills could change. Once a home is converted to nonresidential use as a short-term rental, Colorado Springs Utilities or other utility providers in El Paso County could consider charging those properties commercial rates.

Homeowners might need to buy different insurance. Most homeowners pay homeowner's insurance. But if an STR is a commercial property, the insurance needed to protect it could change.

More paperwork could be required, and it could mean a larger tax bill. Non-residential property owners must submit an annual Business Personal Property Tax (BPPT) declaration form that lists business equipment associated with the business. While the city and county no longer collect the BPPT, the assessor is still required to gather the information and value it for school districts, fire districts, the library district and the like. "The current State of Colorado BPPT Exemption is $7,700, which means any Business Personal Property that has an actual value of less than $7,700 is exempt from this tax," he says.
City Councilor Wayne Williams - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • City Councilor Wayne Williams

Homeowners could be in trouble with their HOAs. Some of STRs may be in violation of their homeowner association covenants and city and county zoning. Is it proper to operate a commercial short-term rental in a single-family residential neighborhood?

Schleiker also notes that his office's task of running down all the properties being used as short-term rentals could be a nightmare. While the city licenses short-term rentals, and could merely hand over the list to the Assessor's Office for changes in taxation, the county requires no such license, making the tracking of unincorporated STRs difficult.

Schleiker says he plans to host a series of community meetings to explain what's going on and why. He also tells the Indy that property is assessed as it stands on January 1, not willy nilly throughout the year as properties shift from one use to another. And since not all STR owners keep their properties listed all the time, the exact time that the property is listed could also have a big impact.

We'll update when more information is available about the meetings.

In a related action, City Council on July 9 approved a change to the short-term rental (STR) ordinance that requires STR operators to first pay sales tax due on past rentals when applying for an STR  license. The vote was 8-0 with Councilor Andy Pico absent.
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Monday, July 8, 2019

State agrees to pick up the $3.1M tab on stormwater detention pond

Posted By on Mon, Jul 8, 2019 at 5:24 PM

MAP AND PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Map and photo courtesy city of Colorado Springs
A stormwater detention pond that caught the attention of federal and state water quality regulators as faulty will get a makeover, thanks to a deal the city plans to make with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The Flying Horse Pond No. 1, built by Classic Homes in 2005-06, met the city's design criteria at that time, the city's stormwater manager Rich Mulledy tells the Independent by phone.

"At the time, our manual allowed it to be built in the middle of the creek," Mulledy says.

But the city's new Design Criteria Manual, adopted in 2014, no longer allows ponds to infringe on state waters, which the detention pond does, he says.

Another problem arose when the state's water engineer notified the city in April 2016 that the pond was "injuring" downstream water rights holders by retaining water and impeding those users' rights to that water.

In November 2016, the EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sued the city alleging violations of the Clean Water Act due to the city's neglect of its stormwater system and inappropriate structures, including the Flying Horse pond and a similar pond built by Nor'wood Development Group along Sand Creek near Powers Boulevard and Constitution Avenue.
screen_shot_2019-07-08_at_4.49.57_pm.png

Specifically, the lawsuit said this:
During the 2013 Audit, the EPA identified at least two water quality control structures that had been placed in State waters at the Flying Horse Pond Filing 26 and the First and Main Town Center developments. Neither of these developments provided for treatment of stormwater prior to the discharge into State waters.

The First and Main Town Center development drainage report for Filing 16 was received by the City on February 2, 2012. In the water quality section of the drainage report, it stated that water quality measures for this site were provided within Sand Creek Detention Pond No. 1.

Sand Creek Detention Pond No. 1 is a massive 250 acre-foot detention basin along Constitution Avenue that has been filled with a roughly estimated 15,000 to 25,000 tons of sediment. The City took over Sand Creek Detention Pond No. 1 from the developer in 2005 to serve as a regional stormwater detention basin and enhance water quality in the lower reaches of Sand Creek downstream of Constitution Avenue.

By placing water quality control structures in State waters, the City failed since at least February 4, 2013, to minimize water quality impacts.

But now, the Flying Horse pond has been added to the city's project list in its 2016 Intergovernmental Agreement with Pueblo County that requires the city to fix its stormwater system.

All the better, the city will pay only the design cost of the revamped Flying Horse detention pond, $197,200, while the state picks up the construction cost of $3,148,236 via a water quality grant. That's because the pond is located near the extension of Powers Boulevard from Highway 83 to Interstate 25, and will serve as a drainage way for runoff from the highway, says city stormwater engineer Jeff Dunn in a July 8 briefing to Council.

Because Classic and Nor'wood built the ponds in compliance with rules in place at that time, the city accepted them for maintenance and never attempted to make the developer revisit the ponds' design.

Councilor Bill Murray chokes at that idea.

"The developer was not accountable whatsoever for the mis-building of this pond? Why didn’t we hold the developer accountable?" Murray asked, referring to the Flying Horse pond.

"We didn’t say there was a faulty dam," mayor's Chief of Staff Jeff Greene told Murray. "It met the criteria at that time."

Mulledy told the Indy the same thing earlier in the day, and also noted the city disputes the ponds' construction violated water quality guidelines in the first place. That's why the city is litigating the EPA lawsuit rather than simply acknowledging the problems and admitting guilt, he says.

"If we didn't think we did the right thing, we wouldn't be in trial [the lawsuit]," Mulledy says.

Councilor David Geislinger, an attorney, noted the ship has sailed on recovering from the developers.

"If we accepted this project 14 years ago," he said, "the reality is there is no process for redress."

The city is slated to approve the agreement with CDOT at its July 23 meeting.
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Friday, July 5, 2019

Nearly 900 Springs drivers get red-light camera warnings

Posted By on Fri, Jul 5, 2019 at 5:02 PM

CSPD
  • CSPD
If anyone doubts Colorado Springs drivers push their luck, the Colorado Springs Police Department quells those doubts with data from the first month of its red-light camera data.

From April 9 through May 8, there were 1,128 possible violations notched by the cameras.

Of those, 898 were sent warning violations.

Here's the startling figure: Of those who were sent warnings, 839, or more than 93 percent, were snapped at the Platte Avenue and Chelton intersection, while the rest, 59, were captured at the Lexington and Briargate boulevards intersection.

The warnings ended in no fines being imposed — it was a warning period, after all — but in the last two months, tickets have been issued that cost motorists $75.

The CSPD publishes updated monthly statistics here, for those who want to keep tabs on the program.

The CSPD says it takes 60 days for a month's worth of violations to be processed by the vendor, the department and the courts.

The city will release statistics from May, the first month tickets were issued, in August.
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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Construction begins at Garden of the Gods, stalls at Strawberry Fields

Posted By on Wed, Jul 3, 2019 at 9:27 AM

Work has begun at Garden of the Gods.
  • Work has begun at Garden of the Gods.

As promised, the city's contractors are digging at Garden of the Gods to build a detention pond designed to quell the possibility of flooding during heavy rains. (We wrote about the project in mid-June.)

Meanwhile, across town, a private project made possible by public/private deal, apparently has stalled. Strawberry Fields, the former 189-acre city-owned open space, remains untouched by construction equipment.

Here's a look at both projects.

Garden of the Gods

The city says the Garden of the Gods detention pond is needed. It will cost $8.9 million, and is funded mostly with Federal Emergency Management Agency money but also state and local funds. From our story:

The detention pond will harness and gradually release flood waters, the city says. The pond’s dam will be topped with a trail, and, as city engineering programs manager Mike Chaves noted in a statement, the area will be seeded “with native grasses and shrubs similar to the existing vegetation,” allowing the pond to “blend into the natural environment to the extent practical.” 

Some residents, including members of the Friends of Garden of the Gods, opposed the project, saying other mitigation measures should have been allowed to demonstrate their effectiveness before the city gouged into the Garden's meadows.

They lost. Dump trucks are hauling the extra dirt to Red Rocks open space about five miles away, a city spokesperson confirmed.

Here's what the park looked like before the bulldozers showed up.
PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
Here's what it looked like on July 2.
detentionpond2.7_2_19.jpg


Strawberry Fields

In 2016, the city traded Strawberry Hill Open Space (better known as Strawberry Fields, and located just south of North Cheyenne Cañon), to The Broadmoor in exchange for several trail connections and a few hundred acres of wooded wild lands.

Catch up on the background here.

Vocal locals organized in opposition to the move, filing a lawsuit that challenged the city's authority to give away land that the public had voted to make a public park. (Strawberry Fields was approved for purchase by voters in 1885.)

The citizens lost. In September 2018, the Colorado Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of a state Court of Appeals decision, which sided with the city and the resort on the land swap. The high court's refusal to entertain the appeal cleared the way for construction of a stable and picnic facility, as articulated by the resort as its plan, on about eight acres in the open space's meadow. But nothing's happened.

Here's a turnout where a trail leads to that meadow. No sign of construction activity.
  • Here's a turnout where a trail leads to that meadow. No sign of construction activity.

Per the agreement with the city, the area that wasn't slated for development — 181 acres — remain under a conservation easement with the Palmer Land Trust.
Candice Hall, the trust's director of land stewardship, tells the Independent she can't say much, because the land remains privately owned and she can't publicly disclose information, such as whether the owner has complied with the easement's restrictions. "It's really between us and them," she says.

But she does note: "We have complied with every bit of responsibility we have, which would include enforcing the terms of the conservation easement. They [The Broadmoor] have turned over quarterly reports. We’ve reviewed them."

We've reached out to The Broadmoor for an update of where plans stand for Strawberry Fields. We'll circle back if we hear something. 
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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Feds propose new plan to manage millions of acres in Colorado

Posted By on Tue, Jul 2, 2019 at 9:57 AM

A federal management plan available for public comment covers the eastern half of the state. - COURTESY BLM
  • Courtesy BLM
  • A federal management plan available for public comment covers the eastern half of the state.
A federal agency that oversees issues like drilling minerals and livestock grazing on virtually the entire eastern half of Colorado has opened a public comment period for its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Eastern Colorado Resource Management Plan.

The Bureau of Land Management has planned seven public meetings, including one in Colorado Springs at 5:30 p.m. on July 22 at Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St.

Go to this site to access all the reports associated with the BLM's preferred alternative, which will allow development of "energy and natural resources and increasing access to minerals, renewable energy, livestock grazing, right-of-way development, and recreation," according to a news release.

In a sentence, the BLM describes the impact of its preferred alternative like this:

Overall, the Preferred Alternative would increase access to public
lands for recreational and hunting and fishing uses and by increasing areas available for rights-of-way and mineral development. In addition, it would decrease regulatory burden and improve management efficiencies by minimizing right-of-way avoidance areas and fluid mineral restrictions.
Wildlife need conservation efforts to preserve their habitat. - BLM PHOTO BY BOB WICK
  • BLM photo by Bob Wick
  • Wildlife need conservation efforts to preserve their habitat.
Take note of that phrase, "decrease regulatory burden."

In a news release, Wild Connections, an environmental watchdog group, expresses suspicion that the BLM won't be looking out for the best interest of those who can't speak for themselves, like wildlife that rely on natural settings to live and thrive.

"The low-elevation lands affected by this resource management plan are particularly important as wildlife habitat since they form crucial links in the mountains-to-plains ecology of our region, through which many of our species migrate annually," Wild Connections president Jim Lockhart said in a release. "Protecting this network of wild areas therefore must be given the highest planning priority.”


PHOTO BY BLM
  • Photo by BLM
From Wild Connections' news release:

The BLM’s preferred alternative (Alternative D) fails to conserve the area’s wildest lands and natural resources. For example, BLM has identified 190,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands (LWCs) in the planning area. Yet, BLM only includes 1,300 acres of lands with wilderness character, and does not include appropriate management to protect their wild values, making them vulnerable to fragmentation and development. Additionally, BLM reduces other conservation management across the planning area, such as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). The preferred alternative would reduce existing ACEC designations by more than 20,000 acres, even while BLM found that more than 100,000 acres of public land meet the agency’s criteria for designation – meaning they have significant natural resource values that are at risk without protective management.

“If we leave these BLM public lands unprotected, we risk losing critical fish and wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and local wild and scenic areas, along with the sustainable tourism dollars and economic benefits that accompany these values,” Aaron and Brenda Cromer, owners of Bighorn Sheep RV Park, said in the release.

Similar planning initiatives envelop millions of acres of land in Oregon, Montana and Alaska.
Conservationists fear the draft plan will lead to opening federal lands to additional mineral mining and other issues, such as over-grazing.

The BLM's plan will replace two prior plans and bring new types of management to 658,200 surface acres and 3.3 million acres of mineral estate in 37 counties in eastern Colorado.

Besides the Colorado Springs meeting, feedback will be sought during these meetings, all of which begin at 5:30 p.m.:

• July 8, in Salida at the SteamPlant Event Center, 220 West Sackett Avenue
• July 9 in Cañon City at The Abbey, 3011 East Highway 50
• July 11 in Fairplay at the Foss Smith Multipurpose Room, 640 Hathaway Street.
• July 15: Walsenburg at the Washington School, 201 East 5th Street
• July 18: Golden at the Denver Marriott West, 1717 Denver West Boulevard
• July 23: Greeley at the Greeley Recreation Center, 651 10th Avenue

Citizens can comment on the management plan by going here. Deadline is September 20.
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Monday, July 1, 2019

City's coal plants cost more to run than wind and solar, study says

Posted By on Mon, Jul 1, 2019 at 11:40 AM

Drake Power Plant south of the downtown area costs more to run on coal than if replaced with renewables, clean-energy advocates say. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Drake Power Plant south of the downtown area costs more to run on coal than if replaced with renewables, clean-energy advocates say.
The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign staged a rally at Colorado Springs Utilities' customer service office, 111 S. Cascade Ave., on July 1 to highlight findings of a new study by Strategen that shows wind and solar power are cheaper than Martin Drake coal units 6 and 7 and the Nixon power plant 10 miles south of Colorado Springs.

Colorado Springs Utilities runs both plants, and the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council members, has targeted 2035 for closing Drake. There's no closing date for Nixon so far.

The Drake units, which came online in 1968 and 1974, would cost $42.5 million more over 30 years to run compared to wind and solar, the study found.

If the social cost of carbon is added, the total is $862.4 million.

"The social cost of carbon," the Sierra Club's Sumer Shaikh tells the Independent, "provides a monetary estimate of the damages wrought by climate change, such as costs associated with wildfires damages or pollution induced illnesses. The Sunset Public Utilities Commission Act requires the utility to calculate the societal impacts of carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels, using a minimum value of $46 per short ton of carbon dioxide emitted in 2020."

But Drake isn't as bad as some other plants in the state, as demonstrated by this illustration contained in the study.
screen_shot_2019-07-01_at_11.18.42_am.png

In a statement, the Sierra Club said Springs Utilities' "coal-heavy energy portfolio is economically unviable, burdening customers with extra costs when compared to renewable energy resources in southern Colorado."

The nonprofit environmental group also noted that Springs Utilities hasn't added wind to its energy arsenal.

But the city-owned utility is investing in solar power by recently investing in three sun-powered projects.
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Friday, June 28, 2019

City Council delays decision on Ivywild music venue parking

Posted By on Fri, Jun 28, 2019 at 4:51 PM

Joseph Coleman wants to create a commercial center in the old Blue Star Restaurant building. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Joseph Coleman wants to create a commercial center in the old Blue Star Restaurant building.

Once again, Ivywild neighborhood residents clashed with a developer over a proposal to skirt city code requirements.

At the conclusion of a hearing that ended after 8 p.m. June 25, City Council decided to bookmark the debate until July 9 — prolonging the fight further.

The proposal in question comes from Joseph Coleman of Blue Star Group, which developed the Ivywild School in partnership with Bristol Brewing Company, and operates the Principal's Office and Ivywild Kitchen inside the former school. Coleman wants to convert the warehouse next to Edelweiss Restaurant, which once housed the Blue Star Restaurant, into a commercial center containing a small music venue, medical marijuana dispensary and retail space.

Sound familiar? That's because earlier this year, Coleman and business partner Marc Benning discussed turning the building into a music venue that would accommodate 500 people. But they didn't want to add any parking to the building's existing 26 or so spots.

After that idea met with opposition from residents and neighboring businesses, Coleman proposed the commercial center idea. City code would normally require such a facility to have 46 spots, but the development's proximity to a bike lane on Tejon Street allows a five percent reduction in parking requirements, lowering the quota to 44 required spots.

Urban planning manager Ryan Tefertiller says the developer secured an additional 11 on-street spots for the exclusive use of the commercial center's customers, bringing its total up to 37 spots. But the seven-spot shortage meant Coleman had to apply for a parking variance, which city staff approved administratively.

In May, the neighboring Edelweiss Restaurant and owners of five other surrounding properties appealed staff's decision to approve the parking variance. Here's where it gets complicated. The Planning Commission approved the appeal, and Coleman appealed their approval — sending the parking variance to City Council. (Another appeal, of staff's administrative decision to allow the dispensary less than 1,000 feet from an existing dispensary, was denied by Planning Commission.)

The end result of all those appeals: Councilors found themselves on June 25 debating whether to let Coleman avoid having to add parking for his proposed commercial center.

For the longtime family owners of Edelweiss Restaurant, the issue is deeply personal. Former manager Norman Moss told the Independent in February that over the years, his family had bought four additional lots, and razed five houses and a two-car garage to add enough parking to accommodate their customers.

Edelweiss kept this sign when Blue Star closed. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Edelweiss kept this sign when Blue Star closed.
In the meantime, the family was frustrated by the city's decision to grant Coleman a parking variance for Blue Star Restaurant when it operated in the warehouse building. They say they were forced to defend their own hard-earned parking when the restaurant was open between 1998 and 2017, hiring parking attendants and “booting” people who parked at Edelweiss and ate at Blue Star.

But at the Council hearing, Andrea Barlow, who represented Coleman, described the conflict between the two business owners as a "private matter."

"We have an office building downtown, and we have people in the neighboring residential units parking in our parking lots all the time," says Barlow, co-owner of planning firm N.E.S. Inc. "It happens to every business. You have the means to enact your own enforcement of that as that private property owner."

She added that since the Planning Commission's May decision, Coleman had reached an agreement with a neighboring property owner who said the commercial center could use 13 of his parking stalls in the evening, which would more than satisfy the 44-spot requirement.
Barlow also said creating additional parking went against her client's philosophy.

"They don’t want to tear down buildings to create parking," she told Council. "They want to contribute to a sustainable urban environment."

At the hearing, Moss argued Coleman was "manipulating the code to minimize parking requirements," and feared he would switch out the businesses operating in the commercial center after getting the variance approved, to other uses that would normally have stricter parking requirements.

A handful of Ivywild residents also spoke out against Coleman's appeal, including Marybeth Tryba, vice president of the Ivywild Improvement Society. She said the parking issue was not just about "property owners feuding," but affected the entire neighborhood by flooding the streets with traffic and consuming on-street parking.

"Yes, those streets are public parking," Tryba said. "We understand that. But our streets are narrow. We don’t have sidewalks."

City economic development officer Bob Cope spoke in favor of the appeal on behalf of Jariah Walker, executive director of the South Nevada Urban Renewal Authority. He said Walker believed the project would benefit both the Ivywild neighborhood and South Nevada Urban Renewal Area.

Ultimately, Councilor Don Knight moved to uphold the Planning Commission's decision, and deny Coleman's appeal, saying that it seemed to him that the project would create an adverse impact on the surrounding community, and that denying the parking variance would not unreasonably restrict the uses of the property.

But before Council could vote on that motion, Councilor Wayne Williams moved instead to continue the discussion at a hearing July 9. Council voted 4-3 in favor of that motion, with Councilors Yolanda Avila, Andy Pico and Knight opposed.

Councilors Jill Gaebler and David Geislinger, along with Council President Pro Tem Tom Strand, voted with Williams to continue the discussion. Council President Richard Skorman had recused himself from the discussion given his close relationship with Coleman. Councilor Bill Murray was absent.

The councilors requesting the delay wanted Coleman to provide a more formal, enforceable agreement with the property owner who would allow the use of 13 stalls after 6 p.m. They also wanted to know whether bike racks could be added on the property, as well as signs telling customers not to park in Edelweiss' lots.

Finally, some councilors wanted a restriction on the variance approval requiring "submittal and public notice and a formal approval in order for uses of the property to change over time," Tefertiller says — though he points out that a commercial center designation usually allows tenants to change without having to go through a new approval process.
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Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Nor'wood business district withdraws Scheels request

Posted By on Tue, Jun 25, 2019 at 11:26 AM

Scheels All Sports store will remain within a business improvement district, at least for now. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Scheels All Sports store will remain within a business improvement district, at least for now.

Interquest Marketplace LLC, an entity controlled by the region's biggest developer, Nor'wood Development Group, has backed out of its request to exclude Scheels All Sports store from the business improvement district Nor'wood also controls.

Russell Dykstra, an attorney in Denver who represents the district, sent an email notification to city officials at 4:15 p.m. June 24, saying the petition for exclusion from the Interquest North Business Improvement District (BID) submitted March 26 was withdrawn.

"The intent of withdrawing the petition at this time is to allow additional opportunity for the petitioners and the Interquest North Business Improvement District to further evaluate the overall financial structure of the project and the public improvements yet to be built and financed by the District and the impact of the exclusion," Dykstra wrote.

The last-minute withdrawal came less than 24 hours before City Council was to take up the exclusion on June 25, and after several stories by the Independent raised questions about the accuracy of the financial data submitted to the city on the BID's behalf. After those stories appeared, Dykstra wrote to the city saying a key figure presented in support of the exclusion was wrong.
Scheels, which plans to build a megastore in north Colorado Springs, was given a $16.2 million sales tax incentive spanning 25 years in February. The BID followed up in March asking that the retailer be excluded from the BID, thereby giving it a pass on the BID's 51-mill property tax levy. The BID also collects a 1.25 percent Public Improvement Fee on sales, and it's unclear whether Scheels will collect that PIF on behalf of the district. However, the city's $16.2 million incentive deal also allowed Scheels to collect its own PIF.

The Scheels store will be built on property now owned by entities controlled by Nor'wood, which is owned by long time developer David Jenkins.

Councilor Bill Murray: Let's take a closer look at that. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Bill Murray: Let's take a closer look at that.
Although the exclusion petition has been withdrawn, the issue regarding developer control of some taxing districts might get further scrutiny.

Councilor Bill Murray, who's out of town attending the National League of Cities, tells the Indy by phone he wants to know more about the Interquest BID and others.

"I'm calling for a review of all the BIDS," he says. "We want to see exactly what they [developers] have been doing with this money and the taxing authority we've given to them. The whole idea is this money is for public improvements. It's now being used as a financial mechanism to wheel and deal."

Tim Leonard owns Deepwater Point Co., a development management company that represents the two business in the BID that opposed the Scheels exclusion — BWR Investors LLC, owner and operator of the Burger King, and Riverside Restaurant Group LLC, owner of the Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.

He's glad to see the item withdrawn.

"Withdrawal is prudent for the developer and Scheels, because an analysis has finally been done that shows it's more beneficial for Scheels to be included and have taxes reduced for everyone than it is to give corporate welfare to the largest retailer [Scheels] in the district," he says. "The property owners in the district are adamantly opposed to using district taxpayer money for the special benefit of a single retailer."

That analysis to which he refers, by the way, was conducted by Leonard, not the city.

Leonard also notes that the district now has a fund balance of $4 million. Should a project arise that the BID wants to fund — such as Scheels' parking lot — it has adequate funds to undertake the project without issuing new debt, which would require the City Council's permission. Spending the money on such a parking lot, however, does not require Council approval.

It's unclear if all district members support spending the district's money in that way.

We've left a message for Chris Jenkins, president of Nor'wood, seeking a comment and will update if and when we hear back.
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Monday, June 24, 2019

City Councilor: It's not honest to say Air Force Academy area is "blighted"

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:36 PM

A rendering of the visitor center project and accompanying buildings. - COURTESY AIR FORCE ACADEMY
  • Courtesy Air Force Academy
  • A rendering of the visitor center project and accompanying buildings.
True North Commons Urban Renewal Area, some 88 acres surrounding the entrance to the Air Force Academy, promises to trigger billions of dollars in economic development as well as millions in tax dollars.

But one City Councilor asserted the area is far from blighted as required by the state's urban renewal statute.

The economic predictions came from city economic development officer Bob Cope during his pitch at City Council's June 24 work session where he outlined why the city should allow the developer to use city tax money to develop the project under urban renewal status.

The plan, by Blue and Silver Development Partners, calls for building a new visitors center, hotel, retail and office space as part of the city's City for Champions tourism venture being partially funded with state sales tax rebates. Other projects include a sports medicine venue at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, a downtown soccer stadium, a hockey arena on the Colorado College Campus and the Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame under construction in the downtown area.

Cope said the city would contribute $23.5 million in tax money to the project but would reap $49.7 million in taxes over a 25-year period. Calling it a "legacy anchor tourism project," Cope said it would add $2.6 billion in economic activity locally over 25 years, and bring more than 1,000 construction jobs and a like number of permanent jobs.
 
But Councilor Don Knight shot down the idea, saying the land fails to meet the definition of blighted, as required by statute. He added it's not honest to pretend that it does.

Noting his 26 years in the Air Force, Knight said the service follows three core values: "Integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do."
Noting the first tenet, he said, "I just don’t see how with any integrity we can stand up and say this is a menace. I just can’t do that. This does not constitute the definition of a blighted area."

Moreover, Knight noted that "new revenue" for the city has appeared as a "tagline" in Cope's presentations for "at least a half dozen projects" in the last year. He also said the city's gaining an average of $1 million a year from the project doesn't warrant allowing it to be called an urban renewal area so developers can seize tax money to fund development costs.

"The loss of this doesn't mean the city is going to be going hungry," he said. "We have a lot of other projects. There's so many things about this that bother me."
A concept development plan for the project. - COURTESY BLUE AND SILVER DEVELOPMENT PARTNERS
  • Courtesy Blue and Silver Development Partners
  • A concept development plan for the project.
The state statute at issue says this in defining what constitutes a candidate property for urban renewal:
(1) "Agricultural land" means any one parcel of land or any two or more contiguous parcels of land that, regardless of the uses for which the land has been zoned, has been classified by the county assessor as agricultural land for purposes of the levying and collection of property tax pursuant to sections 39-1-102 (1.6) (a) and 39-1-103 (5) (a), C.R.S., at any time during the five-year period prior to the date of adoption of an urban renewal plan or any modification of such a plan.

(2) "Blighted area" means an area that, in its present condition and use and, by reason of the presence of at least four of the following factors, substantially impairs or arrests the sound growth of the municipality, retards the provision of housing accommodations, or constitutes an economic or social liability, and is a menace to the public health, safety, morals, or welfare:

(a) Slum, deteriorated, or deteriorating structures;

(b) Predominance of defective or inadequate street layout;

(c) Faulty lot layout in relation to size, adequacy, accessibility, or usefulness;

(d) Unsanitary or unsafe conditions;

(e) Deterioration of site or other improvements;

(f) Unusual topography or inadequate public improvements or utilities;

(g) Defective or unusual conditions of title rendering the title nonmarketable;

(h) The existence of conditions that endanger life or property by fire or other causes;

(i) Buildings that are unsafe or unhealthy for persons to live or work in because of building code violations, dilapidation, deterioration, defective design, physical construction, or faulty or inadequate facilities;

(j) Environmental contamination of buildings or property.
The mayor's Chief of Staff Jeff Greene asked Knight if he would oppose the urban renewal designation based on whether the land is a menace or not, and Knight said, "yes," noting if that's allowed, "You can take the most pristine forest anywhere in the state and declare it an urban renewal area."

Council President Richard Skorman backed the developer, saying the land may not fit the normal description of blight, "But I feel like we need to do everything we can to make this happen, because the value is potentially tremendous."

Not only will the visitors center attract more tourists, Skorman said, but the hotels will draw meetings and conferences. "We’re talking about trying to make this the space capital of the United States. I think this is a piece of it, and I can tell you the people I’ve talked to, the professors at the Academy are excited to have their conferences next to the Academy."

He added, "I don’t want to be too negative. Let’s find out if urban renewal is possible.
I think we have to go into this with an open mind."

The developer Dan Schnepf, himself an Academy grad, took umbrage at Knight's remarks.

"I am modestly offended if you think this is not an honorable development," Schnepf said. "If this was a project by which we were going to define the statute, I’d be right there with you. I’m responding to a statute put in place in 1958 and used hundreds of times. I’ve looked at those blighted elements, and we meet at least four, maybe more. But I do respect your opinion. That’s an argument to have at the statute level, not here on this project."
Councilor Wayne Williams, who's a lawyer, also backed the developer. "Do I wish the Legislature had used a word other than blight? Sure. Within the wording of the law, this fits the requirement."

Greene then reminded Council of Mayor John Suthers' stance on the proposal. "The administration is very proud of this project," Greene said. "The mayor is very proud of this project. He has advocated for this project. The city needs all the revenue it can generate."

Councilor David Geislinger said he, too, struggles with the definition of urban renewal area, and asked Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Area director Jariah Walker, "Assuming we’re saying this is urban renewal to bulldoze these 88 acres, how is that going to change, if at all, the understanding of Colorado Springs of your group, as to what urban renewal is, going forward?
There are areas that would qualify for blight. I would be concerned if the URA said we’re now going to be focusing on these projects rather than those areas of town that are truly blighted."

Walker vowed the URA would "absolutely focus on those areas," and is "not just interested in pushing north or northeast."

Greene promised to obtain a legal analysis of the statute for Council, although Knight said he based his remarks on City Attorney Wynetta Massey's briefing to Council at a previous recent work session.
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Transit hub, nearly 20 years in the making, still just a vision

Posted By on Mon, Jun 24, 2019 at 5:06 PM

Looking northwest from the corner of Sahwatch and Cucharras streets, the preferred location for a new transit hub. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Looking northwest from the corner of Sahwatch and Cucharras streets, the preferred location for a new transit hub.

An update from city administration about building a new city transit hub drew strong words from City Council at its June 24 work session, with Councilor Tom Strand noting the Council has been toying with the project for nearly 20 years.

"We've spent enough heartbeats on this," he said. "We need to move forward."

And that very well might mean taking the property by eminent domain, several councilors said. Eminent domain is the process in which private property is taken at market value by a government entity to serve a public purpose.

Studies have concluded the top three choices, in order, are:

• Three quarters of the block bounded by Colorado Avenue, Sahwatch Street, Cucharras Street and Sierra Madre Stree.
• Three quarters of the block bounded by Cucharras, Weber Street, Vermijo Street and Nevada Avenue. (The Independent is located in this city block but is not part of the desired property.)
• Pueblo Avenue right-of-way between Nevada and Wahsatch Street.

The first choice, though, comes with a limiting caveat: The owner, shown on county property records as Supperstein Family Trust, doesn't want to sell but rather wants to pursue "a joint development project and wishes to retain ownership," the staff said in a written report for Council. "Under this approach, the City and the property owner would follow the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTAs) joint development requirements," it said.

As Mountain Metropolitan Transit manager Craig Blewitt told Council, under a normal public/private partnership, the government owns the property and engages a developer to help develop it. "This is the other way around," he said, noting that even if a deal could be reached, it would take two years to complete the hub terminal.

Blewitt said the next step should be for the city to get an appraisal of the property, but if the owner still isn't interested in selling, "Then we're probably looking at renovations to the existing terminal." The transit hub sits on the southwest corner of Nevada Avenue and Kiowa Street.

Several Council members made it clear they want to press forward with the top-ranked site.

"It seems to me the preferred site is the one that will enhance accessibility for those using the transit system," Councilor David Geislinger said. "Is there any thought about taking the next step and doing eminent domain?"

At that, Jeff Greene, Mayor John Suthers' chief of staff, jumped in. "The mayor has been very clear. He does not support [eminent domain]. We would assess the legal options and then look at other options that would provide a stop gap..."

Councilor Jill Gaebler noted the Southwest Chief & Front Range Passenger Rail Commission on which she serves is "really really moving" forward, not only with a local rail line between cities, but also possibly luring the Amtrak's Southwest Chief, which travels from Chicago to Los Angeles, to come to Colorado Springs from Pueblo before heading south.

"I want Colorado Springs to be poised and ready," she said, adding that the preferred site is the only one that makes sense for accommodating Bustang, a commuter shuttle service that runs between Front Range cities, in pulling off and back on Interstate 25.

To which Strand said, "It just seems like we're paralyzed. Constituents don't think the current site is at all appropriate. Actually, it was a previous Council that started this. This is the eighth different time in 20 years [the city has studied a site for a new transit hub]."

Councilor Wayne Williams said although he's "not enamored" of the eminent domain process, it doesn't make sense to locate a transit hub east of Nevada, because it's too far away from a potential rail hub.

For Council President Richard Skorman, the issue is compelling. "This is a really important site that will determine the future of maybe millions of travelers over time," he said, noting several costly projects, including the $100-million Cimarron/I-25 interchange, anticipated a hub in that vicinity.

"It's an issue we've been talking about for decades," he said. "I'm not pleased. We were able to tell the landowner this is where we want to be, and we're sort of being held hostage. I think we need to look at eminent domain as a tool in the tool chest."

Greene subdued further debate by promising a new report in 30 days, but warned Council, "On property negotiations, be careful what you're stating publicly. It's a very sensitive process."

The Indy couldn't reach Supperstein Family Trust for a comment but will update if we hear back.
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Friday, June 21, 2019

Business district now admits Scheels sales figure "was wrong"

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 3:08 PM

Aquariums are one attraction that appear in some Scheels stores. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy city of Colorado Springs
  • Aquariums are one attraction that appear in some Scheels stores.

A low-ball estimate of annual sales expected from the proposed Scheels All Sports store in north Colorado Springs, "was wrong," says an attorney representing the Interquest North Business Improvement District (BID).

The Independent reported on June 14 that the BID, controlled by Nor'wood Development Group via seats on the board, submitted a document on May 16 that stated Scheels' annual sales would total $20.4 million. That's a third of the $60-million estimate previously provided to the city in support of a $16.2 million sales tax break for Scheels. City Council approved the incentive in February. The city also confirmed June 13 the $60 million is correct.

Three days after the Indy's blog post, Russell Dykstra, with Spencer Fane LLP law firm in Denver, wrote the city an email on behalf of the petitioner, Nor'wood — which is owned by developer David Jenkins — in which it corrected the figure.

"Of note, the prior information as to the impact of the Scheels store in relation to comparable commercial property in the Interquest North Business Improvement District was based on erroneous information (the projected annual sales amount was wrong) and should be disregarded," Dykstra wrote.

He then notes that Scheels stores "can do sales of $60 million a year or more," which would mean the BID would receive "$750,000+ per year from the PIF (public improvement fee, which is collected like a sales tax) alone."

Read the email here:

Two businesses oppose the exclusion, arguing that removing Scheels from the BID means Scheels wouldn't have to pay 51 mills in property taxes and the 1.25 percent PIF. Together, those levies would bring in roughly $1 million a year — an amount that the remaining BID members would have to pay.

Tim Leonard owns Deepwater Point Co., a development management company that represents the two opponents, BWR Investors LLC, owner and operator of the Burger King, and Riverside Restaurant Group LLC, owner of the Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen.

Both lie within the BID and oppose excluding Scheels.

Leonard notes in an outline provided to the Indy that if the BID continues to collect its mill levy and PIF, with Scheels in the district, it would receive $2.8 million a year toward payment of bond debt of $972,000 per year. (The BID has issued debt totaling $11.3 million that's earmarked for public improvements such as sidewalks.) He further notes the BID's fund balance this year would swell to $4.1 million.

But, Leonard also says, if the mill levy and PIF were lowered to 5 mills and 1 percent, respectively, the district still would collect ample funds, $1.25 million a year, to meet its debt payments.

"So the issue is not whether Scheels should be subsidized by all the smaller businesses," Leonard says, "but why does the Board not lower the mill levy as its tax base expands?"

Councilor Bill Murray: Council didn't know about opposition. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Councilor Bill Murray: Council didn't know about opposition.
Leonard has said his clients and other businesses in the BID were not notified of the exclusion request prior to a May 28 briefing by city staff to Council. According to a certificate of mailing recently submitted to the city, Spencer Fane mailed notices to all BID members on June 13.

That's two days after Council was originally slated to consider the exclusion request (June 11) but delayed it after receiving a June 6 letter from Leonard expressing opposition. Councilor Bill Murray has said Council wasn't told of any opposition until it received Leonard's letter.

Now, Council is poised to make a decision on the exclusion on June 25.

The BID is controlled by Nor'wood through seats on the board. Hence, Nor'wood controls issuing debt, which Nor'wood, in turn, has purchased through entities created by Jenkins and his son, Chris, president of Nor'wood. Those entities are Enterprise Fund No. 6 and Enterprise Fund No. 8. The Nor'wood-controlled board also sets the BID's property tax rate.

We reached out to Dykstra, inviting him to explain how the $20.4 million sales figure came to be submitted to the city in error, and asking him to comment on any part of the exclusion request he wishes. We'll circle back when we hear something.

We've invited Nor'wood and Scheels to comment a couple of times in recent days and never heard back.
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Deputy fired for alleged sexual assault is not charged

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2019 at 1:00 PM

An El Paso County Sheriff’s Office deputy won’t be criminally charged in connection with an allegation of sexual assault, the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office announced June 20 on Twitter.

Deputy David Kwiecien was fired on May 21, a week after a May 13 notice of claim was submitted to the county.

According to that letter, from attorney Timothy Bussey who’s representing an unnamed female (her name is redacted from the claim letter), Kwiecien made contact with the woman 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, the claim letter says, 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 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.

On Twitter, the DA’s Office said:

Following a thorough review of the events that occurred on Dec. 24-25, 2018 involving former El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Deputy David Kwiecien, the 4th Judicial D.A.’s Office has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to file criminal charges under Colorado law.
“While off-duty, Mr. Kwiecien engaged in inappropriate relations with a citizen he had arrested hours earlier for driving under the influence. An investigation has determined that the conduct occurred when the woman was no longer in custody and had returned to her home, and, while his actions were highly inappropriate and unprofessional, they do not rise to the level of criminal charges under Colorado law.

Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jackie Kirby says via email, “We cannot comment on pending litigation. He was terminated from the Sheriff’s Office almost a month before the DA made their ruling.”

————ORIGINAL POST, 5:28 PM MAY 28, 2019—————-
sheriff_soffice.pamzubeck_1_copy.jpg
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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