Thursday, August 22, 2019

City chooses Danish firm for ambulance contract

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 3:34 PM

We received this statement from AMR's vice president of operations, Rocky Mountain Plains, Scott Lenn:
We are clearly disappointed in this decision. As we have for the last 40 years, AMR will continue to provide excellent patient care to the citizens of Colorado Springs. We also currently provide EMS services to the county (through a separate ongoing contract) and provide interfacility transport services to a number of hospitals and will work with our customers to continue providing those services. We will work with the city and all stakeholders and are reserving our right for potential protest.
————-ORIGINAL POST 3:34 P.M. THURSDAY, AUG. 22, 2019———————————

A Danish-owned company, Falck Ambulance, has been chosen for further negotiations for the Colorado Springs emergency ambulance contract, the city tells the Independent.

That means that long-time ambulance provider, American Medical Response (AMR) of Greenwood Village, would be cede the contract to another provider on Jan. 1, 2020.

In a statement, city spokeswoman Jamie Fabos said four companies and the Colorado Springs Fire Department submitted proposals. CSFD's insource proposal was eliminated due to concerns over the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights limitations and other issues, as we previously reported.

Fabos did not name the other bidders, but noted this criteria was used by an evaluation committee, in order of importance:

• Project approach / Compliance with the Statement of Work
• Organizational background and overview
• Qualifications and Experience / References
• Proposal Presentation
• Exceptions and Insurance
Fabos said the city sought the "best value" and interviewed contenders.

"Upon evaluation of the proposals and interviews, Falck Ambulance emerged as the highest-ranked candidate in the proposal process," she said. "CSFD will begin contract award negotiations soon with the top scoring candidate. Residents of Colorado Springs may be assured that there will be no gap in ambulance service during the contract negotiation period."

Falck provides emergency ambulance service in Aurora and many other American cities.

She also said in her statement:
The City recognizes that it is essential for a quality EMS system to provide rapid EMS care, and therefore requires specific response times for ambulance providers. After reviewing performance metrics over the past five years, CSFD sought with this proposal process an improved response model for the EMS contract.

During the finalization of the contract award, the City will have no further public comment and no additional information will be released. At the conclusion of the contract award, CSFD looks forward to working in conjunction with the successful bidder in joint pursuit of continued ambulance service improvement.
David Patterson, CEO of Falck Rocky Mountain, tells the Indy via email, "We are honored and excited about the recommendation of award for the City of Colorado Springs ambulance contract. We look forward to partnering with the community on the delivery of ambulance service in the near future."

When AMR's first contract was approaching expiration at the end of 2018, the city sought proposals which led to negotiations with Priority Ambulance. But AMR protested, which led to a new round of solicitation. The city contracted with AMR for additional time until the renewed process is completed.

We've asked AMR for a comment and will update when we hear back.
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Polis: Maybe the DA should hand off the Bailey shooting to another agency

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 2:44 PM

Suthers to Polis: Keep politics out of it. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Suthers to Polis: Keep politics out of it.
Gov. Jared Polis said in a statement on Aug. 22 that District Attorney Dan May's office should think about turning the Aug. 3 police shooting death of De'Von Bailey to another agency. That idea triggered a strong reaction from Springs Mayor John Suthers.

In the statement, Polis said the 4th Judicial District should "consider turning the investigation's findings over to another local jurisdiction for independent review, and if warranted, additional information gathering," according to

Bailey, 19, was killed after two Springs police officers approached him for questioning in an armed robbery that had happened minutes before Bailey was stopped by officers. As an officer approached him, Bailey ran, arms dropping toward his waistband, according to police body camera footage released last week. Officers fired and shot him four times, three times in the back.

"Given how the events have unfolded surrounding the death of De'Von Bailey — the public details and video that have been shared and the questions that have been raised by the general public — I hope that El Paso County takes steps above those legally required to additionally maximize the public trust in the investigation," Polis said.
Polis: Maybe the DA's office should think about recusal in the Bailey case. - FILE PHOTO
  • File photo
  • Polis: Maybe the DA's office should think about recusal in the Bailey case.
Suthers wasted no time responding, issuing a statement at 2 p.m., about two hours after Polis' statement topped news feeds.

Said Suthers:
The Fourth Judicial District protocol for investigating an officer involved shooting is in accordance with the law passed by the legislature, and the governor cites no legal or ethical basis that should cause the fourth judicial district (which includes El Paso and Teller Counties) district attorney charged with the responsibility to make a charging decision to recuse himself. In this instance the governor appears politically motivated. Of note, he does not take the position that every district attorney in every judicial district in Colorado, including Denver, Boulder and Pueblo, should recuse themselves from making decisions in officer involved shootings in their districts.

I'm concerned that he suggests a precedence with impacts he has not yet considered and does not understand, to include undermining the will of the people, who elected the public officials charged with carrying out legal responsibilities.

Some in our community are experiencing a great deal of emotion. I recognize that and empathize with all impacted. But this is a  time for healing and allowing legal processes to run their course and not to act with political expedience.
Here's a timeline of events of the Bailey shooting and its aftermath.
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Polis pitches Impossible Burger, and people are mad

Posted By on Thu, Aug 22, 2019 at 9:21 AM

Burger King recently began serving Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger. - COURTESY IMPOSSIBLE FOODS
  • Courtesy Impossible Foods
  • Burger King recently began serving Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger.

"Have you tried Burger King’s new Impossible Burger?" Gov. Jared Polis wrote in an Aug. 15 Facebook post. "Right now it costs $1.00 more than a beef [W]hopper, and like many consumers, I can’t tell the difference on taste; but with new technology and efficiency it’s only a matter of time until a similar product costs less than beef."

Polis recently met with state Department of Agriculture staff and encouraged them to think about ways to address market demand for plant-based proteins, Colorado Politics reports. He didn't issue any specific directives, but offered meat-free Impossible Burgers to staff at the department's new research facility.

Some Colorado ranchers took the comments as a slap in the face.

The Colorado Livestock Association, for one, released a statement with the headline: "Colorado Governor starts food fight with farmers and ranchers."

"For the Governor to suggest that Colorado agriculture begin focusing on growing vegetables for plant-based proteins is confusing to the farmers and ranchers who have worked the land in rural Colorado for decades," the statement says. "Not only because Colorado’s arid climate doesn’t allow for growing the extensive list of ingredients in plant-based burgers and alternative proteins, but also because Colorado’s beef industry contributes so much to the state’s economy."

Impossible Foods' "Impossible Burger," which Burger King recently began serving (Bloomberg reports it's available in 15,000 restaurants and food service locations), contains soy and potato proteins, coconut and sunflower oils, and methylcellulose, a common culinary binder. The company, one of several rapidly growing plant-based protein companies, is valued at around $2 billion, Bloomberg reports.

The Impossible Burger could soon come to supermarkets as well — the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently gave preliminary approval to the company's use of soy leghemoglobin, a color additive, for retail sales.

In 2017, agriculture (including livestock, agricultural soils and rice production) contributed to 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Livestock account for about a third of agriculture-related emissions, due to the methane they produce as part of their digestive processes.

But the Colorado Livestock Association argues that ranchers can't just switch from cattle to soy and potatoes.

"Livestock producers utilize grazing land that is too mountainous, dry or nutrient poor to be farmed and would otherwise go unused," its statement says. It adds that the technology used in beef production today is the "most efficient and sustainable in history."
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Colorado Springs Utilities Board tackles how or whether to stretch its water supply

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 2:31 PM

This map shows the reach of Springs Utilities' services into surrounding areas and military bases. - COURTESY COLORADO SPRINGS UTILITIES
  • Courtesy Colorado Springs Utilities
  • This map shows the reach of Springs Utilities' services into surrounding areas and military bases.
This week's Independent features a cover story that delves into the scarcity of water in our region and whether regionalizing Colorado Springs Utilities water supplies and delivery systems might make sense. We also takes a look at how one district dealt with dwindling water supplies, and Springs Utilities sales of water to outsiders.

Colorado Springs City Council, sitting as the Utilities Board, took up those questions on Aug. 21, beginning a process that will span the next eight months and lead to policies that will dictate how and whether outlying areas will be able to avail themselves of city water and wastewater service.

A few highlights of the Aug. 21 commentary from board members:

David Geislinger:
I'd like to see a real deep dive into what are the practical limitations of the areas around us going forward — the enclaves, the external groups.... Whether it’s 60 to 150 years from now, sooner or later I think they’re going to be coming to Utilities. And it’s incumbent on us now to say, "If you want to come to us then, these are the things you need to start doing now." What type of requirements do we want to put on now? 
Wayne Williams:
Seeing the long history we have of various cooperative agreements, while I don’t feel bound by what past Councils did, I want to be informed about what they did. I’m curious as to when we made the agreements, whether with Green Mountain Falls, Cascade or Manitou Springs, what the terms were and what the drivers were. As we look at potential other agreements, what’s our history been? To what extent did they [pay a premium] informs where we go forward. Utilities customers paid for certain development costs, so I want to make sure our current customers and citizens are treated fairly and not disadvantaged in the process. But I also recognize that when our neighbors lose water and can’t drink, that has impacts on Colorado Springs, and a large portion of our sales tax, for example, comes from our neighbors who live outside the city limits.
Richard Skorman:
We may decide down the road to help some of the outlying communities [with water and wastewater service]. Are we going to be putting more volume into Fountain Creek because of it? I just want to understand if there’s an implication of the volume and flow of Fountain Creek and some of these districts that are outside of that basin.
Don Knight:
The decisions we make here — 20 years from now I hope the people sitting here will be thanking us and not cussing us out. I’m glad you’re doing this whole thing. As you went around the region, I’d like to see what is the time criticality of these places? I'd like more information on the aquifers themselves. How do they get recharged? That bottom layer — once it’s dry, it’s dry?

Richard has said we need to store [water] under ground to avoid evaporation. Can you pump in as well as drill out? Is that useful or a viable approach? When these other districts do run out of groundwater, even if they started today, what are their alternatives? They don’t have the money to buy the water rights. What I’m worried about is 20, 30, 50 years from now, poor foresight on their part will impact our customers. Because of their poor planning, our folks have to go on water rationing.
Mayor's Chief of Staff Jeff Greene:
I am very concerned about outlying areas. There are opportunities there and how we look at development. The area around there, there’s over 4,000 units that are not within Colorado Spring. The county continues to approve developments. I want to be super clear. The county ensures they’re [developers] meeting legal requirements (300 year water rule). The county’s been very clear they support the city to annex. But one of the things that’s going to be very, very important: The county is looking at comprehensive plan strategies, looking at consolidating plans into one plan that will govern their development practices. The city and county have to come to agreement and define the planning areas for the city and county, and through that mutual agreement, we make the determination if you develop and build in that planning area, you may have an application submitted to the county, but you agree to annexation to the city ... ensuring a healthy tax base.
See the staff briefing report here:
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Activists want fracking ban reinstated in Longmont

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:20 AM

It's still unclear how the passage of Senate Bill 181 will affect the oil and gas industry. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER
  • Matthew Schniper
  • It's still unclear how the passage of Senate Bill 181 will affect the oil and gas industry.

An attorney for Colorado Rising, the group behind Proposition 112 (an unsuccessful 2018 ballot initiative to increase setbacks for oil and gas drilling), filed a motion in Boulder District Court with activist group Our Longmont in hopes of reinstating Longmont’s ban on fracking.

The ban was approved by voters in 2012, but overturned in 2014 and 2016 court decisions. The activists hope that with the passage of Senate Bill 181 — which allows more local control over oil and gas drilling — the fracking ban will now pass legal muster, the Denver Channel reports.

However, it’s still unclear how much the new law will allow jurisdictions to regulate the oil and gas industry. Weld County commissioners, for example, are fighting the opposite battle.

They recently created an internal county oil and gas department to process their own permits. The Colorado Oil and Gas Commission, which Senate Bill 181 restructured to give less power to industry, pushed back with a warning that all permits must be approved by the state.
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10 local stories making headlines this week

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:20 AM

  • Gribov Andrei Aleksandrovich /

The city proposes to require bear-resistant trash cans west of Interstate 25. Have your say at public meetings, which begin at 6 p.m. on Aug. 22 at Fire Station 18, 6830 Hadler View, and Aug. 29 at Westside Community Center, 1628 W. Bijou St.

Former Gov. John Hickenlooper ended his presidential bid on Aug. 15 and now is being eyed to take on Republican Cory Gardner in the U.S. Senate race in Colorado.

On the heels of the city closing Prospect Lake due to blue-green algae, Colorado Springs Utilities announced Aug. 14 that Pikeview Reservoir tested positive for the algae. Humans and pets are banned, though fishing is still allowed.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office announced that 16 deputies graduated from its training academy to work in the crowded Criminal Justice Center, which has made headlines for assaults and inmate deaths.

Colorado Springs Airport received a $9,000 grant from the Colorado Energy Office to build a Level 2 dual-port electric vehicle charging station, to be completed in early 2020.

The Rocky Mountain Vibes baseball team will bury a time capsule next month, after the final home game of their inaugural season. The time capsule will be opened April 27, 2069, (the birthday of mascot Toasty).

The Bureau of Land Management anticipated no significant impact in Fort Carson’s request to use 43 sites in Teller, Fremont and Park counties to practice helicopter landings.

Planned Parenthood said Aug. 19 it will forgo federal Title X funding, which helps low-income people access contraception, rather than comply with a Trump administration-imposed “gag rule” it called “dangerous, unethical, and harmful to patients.” The rule prohibits the agency from providing abortion referrals.

A bat with rabies was found at the Rainbow Falls Historic Site on the western edge of Manitou Springs, El Paso County Public Health reports. If you know of a person or pet that came in contact with a bat in the area call 578-3220 immediately.

The city will host an open house at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27 at the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum to present a draft historic preservation plan update, HistoricCOS.
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Road tax and TABOR question likely to appear on city ballot

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:10 AM

Voter-approved sales tax 2C funded removal of a median on North Carefree Circle. - COURTESY CITY OF COLORADO SPRINGS
  • Courtesy City of Colorado Springs
  • Voter-approved sales tax 2C funded removal of a median on North Carefree Circle.

City voters will be consulted on two tax measures in the Nov. 5 election.

Referred unanimously by City Council on Aug. 13, one issue seeks extension of the city’s 2015 voter-approved sales tax for roadwork for another five years, at .57 percent — lower than the current .62 percent.

Mayor John Suthers has vowed to tackle residential roads with the tax, if approved. The current tax raises about $50 million per year.

Voters also will be asked to allow the city to keep $7 million in 2018 excess revenue to spend on parks. The Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights requires revenue collected above a certain cap to be refunded unless voters allow the government to keep it. In this case, the measure’s failure translates to $30 per household refunded on utility bills. Council referred the measure 7-2, with Councilors Andy Pico and Don Knight opposed.
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Manitou Springs hires interim city administrator

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:10 AM

Denise Howell will serve as an interim city administrator for Manitou Springs. - FAITH MILLER
  • Faith Miller
  • Denise Howell will serve as an interim city administrator for Manitou Springs.

It took more than a year and a half, but Manitou Springs City Council appears to have finally found a new city administrator. Or at least an interim.

Council offered the city’s top job to four others, all of whom turned them down, before announcing that Denise Howell will serve as an interim through Jan. 30, 2020. Howell was formerly a customer service manager with Fountain’s utilities department and a community liaison with Colorado Springs Utilities, the Pikes Peak Bulletin reports.
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Conservative nonprofit presents Freedom Conference

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM

Then-Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visits Hobbs, New Mexico in February. - TAMI A. HEILEMANN DOI
  • Tami A. Heilemann DOI
  • Then-Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visits Hobbs, New Mexico in February.

A range of political thinkers — from oil lobbyist turned Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to democratic socialist magazine editor Bhaskar Sunkara — will gather in Steamboat Springs Aug. 22 to 24 at the Freedom Conference and Festival, presented by the conservative nonprofit Steamboat Institute.

Speakers include lawyer Alan Dershowitz, a Democrat who has defended President Donald Trump, including against impeachment for obstruction of justice; former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint; Hadley Heath Manning with the conservative Independent Women’s Forum, and actor Kevin Sorbo, who endorsed Trump for president, telling Fox News that “Jesus would have voted for Trump.”

The conference also will feature figures involved in the movie The Creepy Line, about the societal influence of Google and Facebook, and Ted Trimpa, with the Trimpa Group, a consultant who works to advance progressive political and societal issues.

El Pomar Foundation of Colorado Springs is a sponsor.
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Importing drugs from Canada may be a pipe dream

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:00 AM

  • Shutterstock
Colorado’s effort to legalize the importation of drugs from Canada as a cost-saving measure for patients could be in trouble.

Canadian officials say they haven’t been consulted on the program, which also is being pursued by Florida, the Colorado Sun reports.

Our neighbor to the north could pass a law blocking prescription drug exports or add the drugs to its export control list, which would complicate Americans obtaining drugs from Canada.

Not surprisingly, PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry trade group, and the Healthcare Distribution Alliance, oppose it.

Even without those roadblocks, several steps remain for approval by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, including drafting rules, taking public comment and finalizing those rules.

On the other hand, the Trump administration appears to support creating rules for states to set up programs to import prescription drugs from Canada.
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

City and EPA say they're working on "a global settlement" to end the stormwater lawsuit

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2019 at 12:58 PM

An example of the city's stewardship of drainage canals, viewed in 2017. - PHOTOS BY PAM ZUBECK
  • Photos by Pam Zubeck
  • An example of the city's stewardship of drainage canals, viewed in 2017.
Look for the city of Colorado Springs and environmental regulators to reach a "global settlement that encompasses an agreement on relief for all violations" in the Environmental Protection Agency's 2016 lawsuit against the city for failing to comply with Clean Water Act regulations.

That "global settlement" also could come with higher stormwater fees, because the stormwater fee measure voters approved in November 2017 contains a clause allowing the city raise the fees to satisfy a court judgment.

On Aug. 19, parties to the case filed a statement in federal court saying they've "made significant progress toward settlement" but not revealing the details.

Rather, the statement said, "For the past nine months, the Parties have been working toward a global settlement that encompasses an agreement on relief for all violations alleged [in the lawsuit].... and are continuing their work."

Considering the statement says a settlement could cover all violations, it wouldn't be surprising to see Colorado Springs agree to spend more to correct its long-neglected stormwater system.

On July 24, the court granted a motion to vacate further litigation deadlines and stayed the lawsuit until Nov. 22.
A stretch of drainage way running through the city, as seen in 2017.
  • A stretch of drainage way running through the city, as seen in 2017.
A status conference was to take place Aug. 20 in U.S. District Court, Denver.

The EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment sued the city in November 2016, alleging violations of the city's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit, which befouled creeks and, ultimately, the Arkansas River.

Pueblo County and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District later joined as plaintiffs.

A trial in September 2018 ended with a ruling from U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch, now deceased, that the city did violate the permit by improperly waiving permanent stormwater best management practices (BMP), failing to oversee and enforce temporary BMP requirements, and improperly approving the design and installation of and failing to ensure the long-term operation and maintenance of a detention basin. The allegations were specific to certain sites. (Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane apparently has replaced Matsch in the case.)

The city's stormwater ballot measure, which imposed residences $5 per month via their utilities billings and non-residential properties $30 per developed acre starting in July 2018, included this provision:

"... such fees may be thereafter increased by City Council by resolution only to the extent required to comply with a valid court order, federal or state permits, federal or state laws, and intergovernmental agreements [IGA] of the city entered into before June 1, 2016." (The only IGA that qualifies in that provision is the April 2016 agreement with Pueblo County to spend $460 million over 20 years on the city's stormwater drainage system.)

Read the Aug. 19 court filing here.
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El Paso County will sue over ACLU victory on ICE holds

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2019 at 12:56 PM

Sheriff Bill Elder at a news conference last November regarding drug busts. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Sheriff Bill Elder at a news conference last November regarding drug busts.
El Paso County announced Aug. 19 it will appeal a district court judge's ruling from last December that bars Sheriff Bill Elder from holding illegal immigrants in the Criminal Justice Center at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

You can read about that judge's ruling and its history here.

But now, the county will challenge that decision, noting in a news release that its appeal "underscores how strongly both El Paso County Commissioners and the Sheriff feel that appellate courts must provide clarity."

Although the news release doesn't state which court the appeal will be submitted to, it would likely go before the Colorado Court of Appeals.

The release:

The Board of El Paso County Commissioners has directed the County Attorney’s Office to appeal an ACLU lawsuit ruling last year regarding the Sheriff’s policy of holding inmates for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The ACLU initiated the lawsuit against Sheriff Bill Elder (18CV30549) Cisneros vs. Sheriff Bill Elder.

“As a Board, we’re absolutely united and committed to pursuing appeals as far as the Courts will allow,” stated Board Chair Mark Waller. “This is about standing together for the safety of our community and doing the right thing. By the judge’s own admission, higher courts need to weigh in on this in order to provide certainty. That is why we need to follow this through.”

“I’ve been supportive of an appeal since the ruling last year,” Sheriff Bill Elder said. “I truly believe my office did the right thing by cooperating with ICE officials. I believe an appeal will show my officers acted lawfully. I sincerely hope our actions will be vindicated by a successful appeal.”

Judge Eric Bentley previously granted a permanent injunction prohibiting the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office from holding undocumented individuals under an ICE hold. After this ruling, the legislature adopted—and the Governor signed— House Bill 19-1124, prohibiting state and local law enforcement officials from arresting or detaining an individual on the basis of a civil immigration detainer request. The mere fact the legislature passed new law on the matter highlights how unsettled the legal system was when the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was enforcing ICE holds. 
We've asked for a comment from the ACLU and will update when we hear back.
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Monday, August 19, 2019

Should you buy a Breathalyzer?

Posted By on Mon, Aug 19, 2019 at 4:47 PM

  • Shutterstock
Should you buy a Breathalyzer?

If you've ever asked yourself that question, now might be your best chance to answer in the affirmative. A device that measures your blood alcohol content can keep you out of jail — and more importantly, save lives — if you heed its warning before getting behind the wheel.

Plus, the Colorado Department of Transportation has partnered with BACtrack to offer Coloradans a 50 percent discount through September, or while supplies last, on personal Breathalyzer-type devices.

The BACtrack Mobile Pro device for sale is not necessarily cheap — $49.99 after the discount — but it just might be worth it.

I mean, think about the possibilities. Not only can you make sure you aren't too drunk to drive, but you can annoy all your friends at parties by forcing them to test their blood alcohol content before they leave.

State and local agencies across the state are conducting extra enforcement operations to catch impaired driving between Aug. 16 and Sept. 3. Last August and September, 44 people were killed in crashes involving impaired drivers — accounting for more than 20 percent of impaired driving-related fatalities for the year, according to a statement from CDOT.

During last year's Labor Day DUI enforcement period, 936 impaired drivers were arrested in Colorado.

Colorado laws specify that a BAC above 0.05 percent can land you a citation for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI), and a BAC above 0.08 percent equates to a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) citation. (If you have consumed any amount of alcohol, and appear impaired to a police officer, you can get a DWAI citation even when your BAC is below 0.05 percent.)

BACtrack's personal device integrates a police-grade device with a mobile app, and it looks pretty nifty. It'll even help you estimate how long it will take for your BAC to hit 0 percent. Check it out here.

Not in the market at the moment? The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility offers a "Virtual Bar" to provide estimates of what your BAC could look like after consuming different amounts of alcohol and food, based on your height, weight and age.

For example, if I took a shot of tequila right now, the Virtual Bar estimates that my BAC would be 0.068 percent — enough for a DWAI. But if I'd had some pepperoni pizza 15 minutes before drinking, it would be around 0.047 percent. (Probably still a little too close for comfort.)

If you're bored at work, it doesn't hurt to check out the Virtual Bar. And if what you find surprises you, maybe you should buy a Breathalyzer.
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Friday, August 16, 2019

Council debates adding new short-term rental requirements

Posted By on Fri, Aug 16, 2019 at 6:05 PM

Some councilors say more regulations are necessary to prevent renters from throwing large, noisy parties in residential neighborhoods. - GOODSTUDIO VIA SHUTTERSTOCK
  • GoodStudio via Shutterstock
  • Some councilors say more regulations are necessary to prevent renters from throwing large, noisy parties in residential neighborhoods.

Colorado Springs City Councilors recently engaged in yet another spirited debate over short-term rentals (STRs), which are usually booked through sites like Airbnb and VRBO. This one addressed occupancy and density, two issues have been repeatedly brought up by residents who desire more restrictions on the rentals.

There was no consensus among Council at the Aug. 12 work session — other than the decision allow an opportunity for the public to comment on the proposed changes.

The meeting began with Principal Planner Morgan Hester explaining staff's proposal for regulating the number of occupants an STR can have. Under city code, no more than five unrelated people can stay in a single-family residence at any given time. And through a combination of housing and fire codes, code enforcement can say no more than 16 related people can occupy a residence. But in a short-term situation, these regulations become difficult to enforce, Hester said.

So, staff proposed limiting the number of people over the age of 12 who can stay overnight in an STR to two. There would be no limit on younger children.

That proposal got a mixed reception from councilors.

Councilor Don Knight suggested the age should be lowered to 2 years old, the age "when you go from a crib to your own bed," he said.

Councilor Wayne Williams agreed. "Otherwise you wind up that the neighborhood has, in this two-bedroom house, a couple [Boy Scouts of America] Scoutmasters, and 30 11-year-old scouts, which has a significant impact on the neighborhood," he said.

But Councilor Andy Pico said he was "queasy" about adding an occupancy requirement that could be difficult to enforce, and Councilor Jill Gaebler was staunchly opposed.
"I think [the proposed ordinance] is completely complicated and unenforceable," Gaebler said. "...We’re being completely inconsistent across housing types."

"If I have a two-bedroom house and somehow have five, six, seven, eight, nine, kids, should I be able to live in my house? Should I be able to visit a house that has two bedrooms?" she asked.

Councilor Bill Murray suggested instead adopting a regulation like one he said he had experienced while staying in Breckenridge, where any complaint against an STR that led to a call to law enforcement simply incurred a fine. Councilor Yolanda Avila agreed with that suggestion.

Staff's second STR proposal would add density requirements; namely, that only a certain number of STR permits could be issued to homeowners in a particular area.

City staff's recommendation was that "no short term rental unit shall be located within five lots along the same block face of another short term rental unit." But Hester presented Council with two other options.

One would be to issue short-term rental permits only to residences outside a 500-foot buffer surrounding the closest permit holder. Another would be to only issue one permit per block face. (Existing permit holders would be grandfathered in under all three proposed options.)

"This is unwieldy, to say the least," Councilor Murray said of the density proposal. "It picks winners and losers. It really doesn't, I think, resolve the overall problem of concern of misuse of the particular property at the disadvantage of your neighbors."

"I would rather us concern ourselves with performance — are you trashing up your neighborhood? ... Instead of sitting here and saying, 'Well, you can have [a permit], but I'm sorry, you're 500 feet away, you can’t have it,'" he added.

Councilor Tom Strand, who was also skeptical about the proposed occupancy requirement, thought the density restrictions could be problematic.
"I think we have to decide: Is this a problem that is in search of a solution, or the reverse?" he said. "[The density requirement] might work in some neighborhoods where it would allow people to have, you know, a reasonable use of their property, and in other neighborhoods it would be too restrictive."

Councilor David Geislinger seemed open to both the density and occupancy proposals, more aligned with Knight and Williams than the other councilors.

Council President Richard Skorman proposed having a public meeting on the proposed occupancy and density requirements in September, and starting that meeting earlier than normal to accommodate plenty of time for comment.

When City Council last passed an ordinance regulating STRS in September of 2018, City Council Chambers were overflowing with impassioned residents on both sides of the issue.

The ordinance that ultimately passed (and went into effect Dec. 31) limits the number of STRs per lawful dwelling unit and per property; bans STRs in trailers, tents and other mobile or temporary structures; requires that neighbors be given an emergency contact available 24/7; allows the city to shut down or suspend nuisance rentals; requires an annual $119 permit and the payment of applicable taxes (those who use sites other than Airbnb need a sales tax license); and sets forth a variety of other standards and rules meant to enhance safety and promote neighborhood tranquility.

Opponents, led by the Neighborhood Preservation Alliance, had hoped for changes to the proposed ordinance that would have banned non-owner-occupied STRs and capped the number of STRs in the city.

The Neighborhood Preservation Alliance's leader, Michael Applegate, told the Indy in July that he was still pushing for those additions, as well as a guest registry (so police can track STR users) and better enforcement of a limit on unrelated people staying in the same home.
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City fire department won't get ambulance contract

Posted By on Fri, Aug 16, 2019 at 4:58 PM

The Colorado Springs Fire Department won't be chosen to provide emergency ambulance service in vehicles like these. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • The Colorado Springs Fire Department won't be chosen to provide emergency ambulance service in vehicles like these.

Mayor John Suthers has notified the Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD) he's eliminated the "insource" option for taking over emergency ambulance service in Colorado Springs.

The CSFD was among those submitting proposals after the city re-opened the selection process last year, as we reported here and, most recently, here.

David Noblitt, spokesperson for the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 5, tells the Independent the notification cited three reasons why the city chose to rule out in-sourcing ambulance service by firefighters:

• The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights' limits. TABOR caps the amount of new revenue the city can collect annually, unless voters allow the city to keep the excess.

• Issue 300, adopted by city voters in 2009, which bars the city from transferring money to and from enterprises, such as the Stormwater Enterprise Fund, which was defunded following the 2009 vote.

• Rules of enterprises. Again, TABOR dictates what type of service can be considered an enterprise based on how much money an enterprise received from the city.

All three issues cited result from the activism of local anti-taxer Douglas Bruce, who authored and petitioned for the passage of TABOR and Issue 300. The city hasn't released the notification, which we assume would provide more details of their reasons for not pursuing the public option.

"If these things were already rules in play from before this process was undertaken ... why would they allow the time, energy and resources to move forward [with a CSFD proposal] when they knew they would shut it down?" Noblitt asks.

"To me," he adds, "that doesn't speak too well for the leadership of the city administration and Fire Department. The question to labor [Local 5] is why would you undertake a process when you knew it wouldn't conform to the rules in the first place?"

Asked about that, Mayor's spokesperson Jamie Fabos said in a statement:
The City felt it had a responsibility to examine all options in order to identify the best model for the community. And the City considered the factors you reference, but chose to fully investigate to see if there was a way this model could work despite or within the confines of Issue 300 and TABOR.
Fire Chief Ted Collas calls the solicitation "a fair process, with the intention of securing the best EMS system for our citizens."

He disagreed that the Fire Department's proposal was a waste of time and resources.

"The time, energy and effort of the employees on the Insource Team are to be commended," he says. "For reasons stated in my email to CSFD personnel, the Insource option was ultimately eliminated."

The selection process continues with the city analyzing for-profit companies' proposals. The identity of the bidders hasn't been released officially, but American Medical Response (AMR) of Greenwood Village, the current provider, along with past bidder Priority Ambulance of Knoxville, Tennessee, have told the Indy they’re vying for the contract.  
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