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Vol. 10 No. 1 - January 9, 2010


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School District 38 Board of Education, Dec. 17: Board votes to close Grace Best, reconfigure others

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Photos by Harriet Halbig

Below: At the Lewis-Palmer School District 38 summit on financing Dec. 10, Jon Hutchison, a music teacher at Creekside, spoke.

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Right: Board member Mark Pfoff responded to questions. 

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Below: More than 250 people attended the summit Dec.10.

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Below: Grace Best Elementary School in downtown Monument is slated for closure. Photo by Mike Wicklund.

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By Harriet Halbig

The Board of Education voted at a public meeting on Dec. 17 to close Grace Best Elementary School, moving all students from that facility to Creekside Middle School’s campus. All district elementary schools will accommodate pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students, and all seventh- and eighth-graders will attend Lewis-Palmer Middle School, beginning in the fall of 2010.

Lewis-Palmer High School and Palmer Ridge High School will remain ninth- through 12th-grade campuses, with a minor boundary adjustment to balance enrollment between the two.

Although it has the largest student body of any elementary in the district, Grace Best was slated for closure due to structural issues that would cost over $2 million to correct. Moving all Grace Best students to Palmer Lake Elementary would have made that campus exceed its capacity. The decision to move the students to the Creekside campus reflected the fact that the Jackson Creek area does not have an elementary school, prompting parents in that area to send their children to District 20 schools.

This measure, following over 40 meetings between school officials and staff, teachers, community groups, committees and parents, represents the first major step in cutting $3 million from the district’s budget in 2010-11. Nearly $2 million in additional cuts have yet to be determined.

During December, the Board of Education conducted two work sessions and two community budget summits. The summits were each attended by over 250 people, including parents, students and teachers. One was held in subzero weather on Dec. 8 at the district administration building, on the evening of a day when schools were closed. The other, on Dec. 10, was held at Creekside Middle School.

There were several recurring comments from the audiences at these events:

  • If a school is to close, the decision must be made early so that the transition can be made smoothly and without delays.
  • If reconfiguration is necessary, it is preferable to have sixth-graders in elementary school rather than fifth-graders in middle school.
  • Try if possible to keep the Grace Best students together to minimize social trauma.
  • Avoid eliminating transportation, because that would present a safety concern.
  • Parents who may wish to move their children to another district must decide by mid-January, so they would like to know the decision before then.

All parents who commented supported the district and praised the teachers they have worked with. All seemed to agree that the people rather than the building comprise a school community, and the district’s staff could make any changes work.

All measures that were considered (including models that would close two schools and reconfigure boundaries), are available on the district website, lewispalmer.org. Additional information is also available in the December edition of OCN.

The summits were attended by some or all members of the Board of Education. The Dec. 17 meeting at Grace Best was attended by all board members and all district school principals so that any questions could be addressed promptly.

At the conclusion of the Dec. 17 meeting, members of the public were thanked for their participation and reminded that significant further cuts were necessary.

**********

The Board of Education of the Lewis-Palmer School District meets on the third Thursday of each month at the district’s learning center, 146 Jefferson St. in Monument. The next meeting will be Jan. 21 at 6 p.m.

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D-38 Special Education Advisory Committee, Dec. 9: Committee discusses position statement, extended school year option

By Harriet Halbig

Encouraged by the extensive conversation with School Superintendent Ray Blanch at a recent meeting, the Special Education Advisory Committee discussed and refined its position statement and vision statement during its December meeting.

Elements of the position statement included the process of transitioning from year to year and especially between schools; summer support through the extended school year program; inclusion of parents in the team working with each student; results-based accountability; and several other goals.

Interim Special Education Director Mary Anne Fleury said that transitioning should begin in the spring, with students and parents able to meet with present and future teachers to ensure that all pertinent information is conveyed. She also said that it is sometimes possible for a student to do a "walk through" of his or her day before school starts to minimize insecurity on the first day of school. High school teachers are often on campus during registration, making it possible to meet with them.

Regarding the extended school year program, the committee stressed that parents should never consider their child ineligible for the program. Fleury commented that the program could include not only academic classes in schools but also counseling and other activities at community facilities such as the YMCA.

One parent said that the state stresses only retention of learning from one school year to the next rather than continued progress during the summer. She stated that this policy should be changed, allowing the students to progress further toward the goal of grade level proficiency.

Several parents commented that they had encountered resistance from school officials when they advocated for their student, especially at the high school level. For this reason, the committee included a statement that all students in the district are legal minors and that therefore the parents have a right to advocate and intervene on their child’s behalf when they feel that a school is not acting effectively to further the child’s education. Parents should also have access to all student records and be notified of any special consultants or tests involving their child.

Results-based accountability involves daily or weekly progress reports for each child. Training should be offered to staff and parents so that techniques used by both are consistent, according to a committee statement.

Each student should have a district Individual Literacy Plan with the belief that every child is capable of learning, and if a child is not at grade level, the school has not yet found the appropriate method of teaching the child, Fleury said. A school must find a method that will allow the student to bridge the gap between the student’s present level and grade level. Every child should be reading at grade level.

In response to parent comment, Fleury said that one of her priorities is to standardize best practices across the district so that all students have equal opportunities for success. Following up on Blanch’s comment at an earlier SEAC meeting, she said that an inventory must be made of the tools, teacher talents, and other resources available within the district.

Committee member Marie Jackson said that she is forming a subcommittee to explore the extended school year program and is in need of parents and teachers at the high school level to participate.

Robb Pike, vice president of the Board of Education, attended the meeting as an observer. He suggested that the committee prioritize its positions and be specific about actions needed. Due to the necessity of cutting $3 million from the district’s budget for 2010-11, the board must be made aware of specific needs as it makes its decisions, he said.

Jackson commented that the district has been substandard in two categories for two years, and she fears that the district will lose funding if this rating continues. One of the issues is an overly large number of English Language Learners within the special education program. There is a question of whether some of these students have an additional learning disability or are primarily slowed by their language deficiency. Perhaps being more specific in creating an Individual Education Plan would alleviate this problem, Jackson said.

Fleury stated in a brief report that financial stimulus funds have been used to purchase a van for transporting students to vocational training classes in the transition program for ages 18 to 21, and that improvements have been made in the kitchen at Lewis-Palmer High School.

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The Special Education Advisory Committee meets on the second Wednesday of each month at the Learning Center at 146 Jefferson St., Monument. The next meeting will be held on Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m.

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Donala Water and Sanitation District, Dec. 3: District reviews survey results, plans Jan. 13-14 community meetings

By John Heiser

At the Dec. 3 meeting of the Donala Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors, the board reviewed the results of the public opinion survey conducted in November by Floyd Ciruli’s company, Ciruli Associates.

A principal purpose of the survey was to assist the board in deciding whether to place a measure on the May 2010 ballot and, if so, whether the measure should seek authorization to increase property taxes as well as increase the district’s debt. If the board decides to go ahead with the ballot measure, it would be intended to finance improvements to the district’s systems over the next 10 to 15 years and to purchase additional renewable water. The board needs to make a decision on the ballot measure by February in order to include it in the May 4 election.

The telephone survey conducted by Ciruli Associates in November included responses from 324 registered voters who receive water service from Donala. Floyd Ciruli said the results have a statistical range of accuracy of plus or minus 5.4 percentage points. Some highlights:

  • The Donala district was viewed favorably by 89 percent of the respondents, with 8 percent viewing it unfavorably.
  • Ninety-six percent of the respondents said a dependable water supply is important to protect long-term real estate values.
  • Although 60 percent of respondents said they believe the drought is over, 88 percent said they feel there will be another drought and it is "important to find additional supply." By 60 percent to 33 percent, the respondents said they believe there will be a shortage of water in the next 10 years. Forty-five percent said protecting the groundwater and extending the life of the aquifers is a top priority. Forty-eight percent said it is an important priority. Four percent said it is not a priority.
  • Seventy-six percent of the respondents said the Southern Delivery System being developed by Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) is a good project and will help add to the water supply for El Paso County residents.
  • Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they are opposed to annexation to Colorado Springs. Eighteen percent said they are in favor of annexation. If annexation were to result in significantly lower water rates, the number opposed dropped to 44 percent with 49 percent in favor.
  • The water pipeline project to connect Donala to CSU was supported by 59 percent of the respondents and opposed by 27 percent. The survey question noted that the project could lead to a long-term relationship to move water Donala owns on the Arkansas River or to purchase water from CSU.
  • A majority of voters expressed support for a $20 million bond initiative for access to renewable water with or without a property tax increase. Fifty-nine percent said they would support the ballot measure without a tax increase, with 25 percent opposed. If a property tax guarantee of up to 5 mills were added to the ballot measure, support dropped to 51 percent, with 44 percent opposed. The survey question stated that a 5-mill increase would add $10 per month to the property taxes for a $300,000 house.
  • When asked why they support the project, 31 percent of respondents said the area needs the water, 29 percent said the project is a good idea, 11 percent said the water supply must be managed, and 9 percent cited water shortage and drought.
  • The survey noted that the Donala district is raising its rates 10 percent to finance projects to replace water from the depleting groundwater aquifers. Sixty-three percent of respondents expressed support for increasing water rates to pay for renewable water. When offered a choice, 69 percent of those surveyed selected "to pay something extra to have a reliable source of water in a drought or as the aquifer declines" whereas 25 percent selected "Water from CSU is too expensive and not worth it."
  • Ninety-five percent of the respondents said they favor reuse of wastewater effluent. Two percent said they are opposed. When the question was made more specific to domestic use of reuse water, 58 percent favored it with 36 percent opposed.
  • Ninety-one percent strongly endorsed the water providers in northern El Paso County working together to bring renewable water to the area.

Ciruli concluded that voters within the Donala Water and Sanitation District are aware of the vulnerable water supply and are supportive of acquiring renewable water and connecting to CSU. He said there is support for financing the CSU connection infrastructure and obtaining renewable water. He added that most voters realize the cost of water is increasing, but there is resistance to additional property taxes.

If the Donala board approves putting a measure on the May 2010 ballot, the district will then be precluded from expending funds to promote the measure. Residents have formed a committee to help encourage voters to approve the measure if one is put forth.

Community meetings to be held Jan. 13-14

Dana Duthie, Donala’s general manager, will hold community meetings at the Gleneagle Golf Club, 345 Mission Hill Way, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 13 and 14. The same presentation will be made at both meetings and will address "Water for the Future." In announcing the meetings, Duthie said, "The purpose of these meetings is to describe the projects involved and the funding requirements we will have. We plan to bring the question of debt to the voters in May, and hopefully they will have an appreciation for the issues after these meetings and a special edition newsletter during the first week of January."

Increased water rates for 2010 approved

The following residential water rates for 2010 were unanimously approved:

Water

Rate per 1,000 gallons/month

Range (gallons)

Old rate

New rate

Increase

0-10,000  $     3.00  $    3.30 10%
10,001-20,000  $     3.90  $    4.30 10%
20,001-30,000  $     4.40  $    4.85 10%
30,001-40,000  $     5.50  $    6.05 10%
40,001-50,000  $     7.70  $    8.50 10%
Above 50,000  $     8.80  $    9.70 10%

The minimum water service fee, which provides no water, increased to $13 from $12, with $3 of that fee designated for water development.

The water rates for townhome complexes match the above residential rates up to 40,000 gallons per month. Over 40,000 gallons, the rate is $7.70 per 1,000 gallons per month (up from $7 per 1,000 gallons in 2009), or $6.70 per 1,000 gallons per month for those townhome projects that have made significant reductions in their irrigated landscaping.

The rate for reuse water for the golf course is $2.48 per 1,000 gallons per month, up from $2.36 per 1,000 gallons per month in 2009. Untreated water from the district’s wells is proposed to cost the golf course $3.60 per 1,000 gallons per month, up from $3.30 per 1,000 gallons per month in 2009.

The sewer fee was increased from $26 to $27, with $2 of that fee designated for sewer development and used to help pay off the debt for the expansion of the wastewater treatment plant.

No changes were made to the water and sewer tap fees and water and sewer development fees charged to developers.

Availability of service fees charged to owners of vacant lots remains unchanged at $300 per year.

2010 budget approved

The board unanimously approved the 2010 budget. Total projected annual revenue for 2010 is $4.686 million. Some of the larger amounts are $1.815 million from water sales, $1.222 million from property taxes, and $893,000 from sewer service.

2010 expenses for operations and administration are projected at $4.098 million. Some of the larger amounts are $640,608 for wastewater plant operating expenses, $490,075 for repayment of loans, $480,000 for salaries, $400,000 for repairs and maintenance, and $350,000 for utilities.

Capital project expenses are estimated at $2.5 million, including $1 million for connection to CSU at Northgate Road and $1 million for renewable water and infrastructure. Duthie noted that the connection at Northgate Road is in design and engineering. The district is also working with the developer who mitigated the protected mouse habitat in that area.

The projected ending total fund balance for 2010 is $4.906 million, down $2.644 million from the projected starting fund balance for the year of $7.552 million.

The board unanimously approved no changes to the property tax mill levies of 16.296 mills for those customers receiving water and sewer service and 8.148 mills for those customers who receive only water service.

Mount Massive Ranch update

Mount Massive Ranch is in Lake County about seven miles southwest of Leadville. The district purchased the ranch to gain access to its water rights. Duthie reported that the engineering work needed for the water court case is almost completed. The water court date is set for March 8-11, 2011. Duthie said that by that time he hopes to have an agreement with CSU in place to move the water. Duthie added that the district must obtain as much as 800 acre-feet of storage rights in Turquoise Reservoir. If those rights cannot be obtained, the district may need to construct a 400 acre-foot pond on the ranch.

Other matters

  • During the three months from Aug. 1 through Oct. 30, the district’s $4.741 million in investments managed by Davidson Fixed Income Management showed a yield of 1.10 percent, achieving a goal of beating the Colotrust Plus fund, which yielded 0.27 percent during the same period. The weighted average maturity of the district’s investments is 2.1 months.
  • Water sales from January through October averaged 22 percent less than budgeted. Duthie noted that Donala customers used 100 million gallons less water than the corresponding period in 2008. Board President Dennis Daugherty congratulated Duthie for cutting costs to respond to the reduced water revenue.
  • Jackie Sipes was appointed as the election official for the May 2010 election.
  • Duthie distributed copies of his notes from the Nov. 4 and Dec. 2 Colorado Springs Utilities Policy Advisory Committee (UPAC) meetings. In February, the UPAC is scheduled to provide to the Colorado Springs Utility Board a recommendation on policy changes regarding providing service to areas outside the city limits.

Following the public meeting, the board went into an executive session to discuss personnel and negotiation issues.

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The Donala board will hold its next regular meeting on Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. at the Donala office, 15850 Holbein Drive. Meetings are normally held at 1:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.

Community meetings on water will be held Jan. 13 and 14, 7 p.m., at the Gleneagle Golf Club, 345 Mission Hills Way.

The district’s Web site is at www.donalawater.org

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Woodmoor Water and Sanitation Board, Dec. 10: Board approves budget, discusses project

By Harriet Halbig

The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation Board heard year-end reports from its staff and voted to approve its 2010 budget at its December meeting.

Vice President Jim Whitelaw reported that the Joint Use Committee had passed its annual budget and that all water quality tests were favorable. The committee revised its agreement to raise the minimum amount required for any expenditure to be automatically considered a capital improvement from $2,500 to $5,000. Capital expenditures are divided equally, in thirds, among the three owning districts of the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility, while operating expenses are divided based on the volume and strength of the wastewater that Woodmoor, Monument Sanitation District, and Palmer Lake Sanitation District deliver to the facility. Woodmoor is much larger than the other districts and pays roughly 60 percent of operating costs.

Woodmoor board President Benny Nasser said that he will no longer attend the Joint Use Committee meetings now that its organizational document has been updated and approved.

Woodmoor Water manager Jessie Shaffer reported that the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA) continues to monitor discussions by Colorado Springs Utilities’ Utilities Policy Advisory Committee (UPAC) regarding possible sales of water to areas outside the city limits. He said that a final decision on the matter had been postponed until early 2010, but that there is optimism that Colorado Springs will be a willing regional partner.

In his operations report, Assistant District Manager Randy Gillette reported that water demand remains steady and sales are down from last year due to abundant rain. He said there were 24 calls during the year for district employees to repair problems, several involving main breaks during subfreezing weather. He praised the staff for its promptness and willingness to work under those conditions.

Gillette also reported that there were no violations in water quality during 2009.

Regarding construction projects, Gillette said that the contractor will be unable to resurface the roads involved in the White Fawn/Deer Creek sewer project due to frost as deep as 18 inches below the surface. He said that the contractor must maintain the surface until the asphalt can be applied.

Gillette also reported that there had been a recent commercial filing at Village Center for future development.

Shaffer reported that there have been improvements to the district’s website to make more information available to the public. A new server has been purchased. He also announced a workshop to be held between members of the board and the public relations consultant regarding interactions between the board and the media on water issues.

In presenting the budget for a vote, Shaffer said that $70,000 will be carried over to cover the paving of the White Fawn/Deer Creek project when possible. He said that the county will be the enforcer of the contract.

The budget was approved and the board went into executive session to discuss water and storage rights, well 22 site acquisition, and personnel and legal issues.

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The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation Board usually meets at 1 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month at the conference room at 1855 Woodmoor Drive. The next meeting will be on Jan. 14 at 1 p.m. Information: 488-2525.

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Monument Sanitation District Board, Dec. 17: Residential fees increase $3 per month beginning April 1

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Below: Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility Manager Bill Burks gives his annual report to the directors of the Monument Sanitation District, Palmer Lake Sanitation District, and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District at the annual Joint Use Committee meeting on Dec. 8. Photo by Jim Kendrick.

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By Jim Kendrick

On Dec. 17, the Monument Sanitation District Board unanimously approved an increase in all user fees of $3 per month to $25 per month and a commercial rate increase from $4.23 to $4.50 per 1,000 gallons (over 5,000 gallons) that will take effect on April 1. The fee increases are required to balance the 2010 district budget and offset the district’s increased share of Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility costs.

The board also approved the 2010 district budget and 2010 appropriation of funds. The board did not have to certify a mill levy for 2010 because the district has no debt.

All board members were present for the meeting.

Factors leading to Monument fee increase

Monument’s Tri-Lakes facility costs increased in 2009 and will increase further in 2010. District Manager Mike Wicklund said that the final revision of the Amended Joint Use Agreement was approved at the Dec. 8 annual Joint Use Committee (JUC) meeting, with an effective date of Jan. 1. The revision amended the language, changing some specific facility costs from operational costs to capital costs. Capital costs are equally divided among the three owner districts. This revision makes future capital cost splits clearer and fairer, Wicklund said.

The other Tri-Lakes facility owner districts are Palmer Lake Sanitation District and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District.

Operating costs are divided by formulas based on the total volume and strength of the wastewater the districts deliver to the facility each month. Woodmoor is about three times larger than Monument and Palmer Lake. Woodmoor’s share of operating costs is about 60 percent. Monument’s and Palmer Lake’s shares are about 20 percent each. The agreement revision expands the list of capital costs. Woodmoor will now pay only 33 percent of the new items on this capital cost list. Monument and Palmer Lake will now have to make up the 27 percent difference.

Part of this capital cost increase in 2009 resulted from the substantial new cost for legal and environmental consultant fees regarding stricter dissolved copper limits that have become part of the renewal of the facility’s expiring five-year discharge permit. The state Water Quality Control Division has not begun the permit review cycle, and the future costs of this review process are unknown.

The facility’s staff must now run both aeration basins and clarifiers to the maximum extent practical for the foreseeable future to maximize copper removal, which substantially increases pumping and electricity costs as well as equipment maintenance costs. No further improvements in copper elimination are possible by the plant in the near term.

About $500,000 has been spent for environmental studies and legal representation fees for renewing the facility discharge permit for 2010-14—costs that have never been required but are likely to increase.

Wicklund also noted that the JUC, which acts as the board of the Tri-Lakes facility, had approved the facility’s 2010 budget on Dec. 8, based on the three owner district boards individually approving the facility’s budget at their November board meetings.

Total facility expenditures increased $185,000 from 2008 to 2009. While total facility expenditures will drop from $773,115 in 2009 to $694,524 in 2010 due to elimination of many proposed capital projects, Monument’s share of facility costs actually increases about $40,000 in 2010.

District factors affecting the 2010 budget

The district’s budget also included higher costs for reinstituting the program of rehabilitating some of the vitrified clay collection lines with Insituform and a new program to begin lining manholes to extend their service life and avoid having to dig them up to replace them.

Wicklund also noted that use fees collected in 2009 were $40,000 less than budgeted due to reduced water use by the district’s commercial customers. The staff had tightened the budget for 2009 expenses after the loss in revenue was discovered. Most of these total 2009 costs were less than the total originally budgeted in December 2008. In addition, the district was debt-free for another year.

There were no citizen comments during the open portion of the public hearing on the fee increase. The board unanimously approved the fee increases, then unanimously approved the 2010 budget once the source of revenue to ensure that it would be balanced had been approved. The board also approved the 2010 appropriation to spend the amounts of money listed in the 2010 budget. The budget and appropriation documents were forwarded to the state.

Meeting schedule approved

The board unanimously approved the 2010 meeting schedule, which continues the practice of holding meetings on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. in the district conference room. The posting places for meeting notices were also unanimously approved and will continue to be the district offices at 130 Second St., Town Hall, and the Monument Post Office.

Wakonda Hills project update

Wicklund updated the board on the progress of the Wakonda Hills collection system expansion project. The Brannan construction crews continue to make good progress. Brannan has requested to continue operations despite lower temperatures. Wicklund noted that Brannan has been instructed to segregate and not use soil with frost in refilling excavations. Soil with frost will be stored is separate piles for future re-use in the spring. Construction will cease when frost in the ground becomes too pervasive. Once terminated for the winter, construction will resume in the spring when weather permits.

Wicklund also reviewed the changes that engineering consultant firm GMS Inc. will make to the original installation design, saving money and improving the effectiveness of the collection system.

Other matters

Jim Kendrick, Operations, reported that on Dec. 14, the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission approved a three-year extension of the temporary modification of copper restrictions in the current Tri-Lakes facility discharge permit. The owner districts and the Tri-Lakes facility—as well as the Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, Security Sanitation District, and Fountain Security District—had requested a five-year extension.

The Tri-Lakes discharge permit expired on Dec. 31, and there is no way to know what the rules and restrictions will be for the next five years. The EPA and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have repeatedly delayed publishing guidance and regulations on most stream antidegradation issues other than stating that copper limits will be drastically restricted. Copper is still undetectable in Monument Creek at Baptist Road, about one mile south of the Tri-Lakes discharge.

The facility’s environmental attorney, Tad Foster, explained the specific timing issues and overwhelming costs that are involved in the permit process for small special districts, noting that the EPA did not want to recognize or accept them. An EPA representative at this hearing countered that the temporary modification should expire on March 31, 2010, then admitted that none of the information needed by Foster’s clients could possibly be available before mid-summer at the earliest. Foster persuaded the commissioners to overturn the EPA proposal. The expiring permit will be extended until the Water Quality Control Division acts on the overdue five-year renewal.

Kendrick also noted that on Dec. 16, the Colorado Water Quality Control Division provided its final recommendations for a July rulemaking hearing for the Arkansas River basin to the Water Quality Forum’s Antidegradation working group. The working group accepted the division’s recommendations while reserving the right of all affected parties to provide comments prior to the Water Quality Control Commission hearing and/or make statements during the July hearing.

Director Chuck Robinove proposed that the district’s representative to the JUC propose at the January JUC meeting that Bill Burks research the availability of federal Department of Homeland Security grants for studying options for security improvements to the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility. Kendrick provided a list of grants available from the state for similar research grants for 2010. Robinove noted that a completed study could then be used to apply for a larger construction grant in the future for the recommended security improvements.

The meeting adjourned at 9:36 p.m.

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The next board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 21. Information: 481-4886.

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Woodman Hills joins PPRWA

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Below: Larry Bishop, manager of the Woodman Hills Metropolitan District. At the Nov. 18 regular monthly meeting of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA), the Wooman Hills Metropolitan District was formally accepted as a member of the PPRWA. The other members of the PPRWA are the Cherokee Metropolitan District, the City of Fountain, the Donala Water and Sanitation District, the Town of Monument, the Town of Palmer Lake, and the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District. Photo by John Heiser.

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Triview Metropolitan District Board, Dec. 22: District OKs 2010 budget

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Below: Steve Burks is sworn in on Dec. 8 as the newest director of the Triview Metropolitan District board by Monument Town Manager Cathy Green at Town Hall. Burks was appointed to replace former director Julie Glenn. Photo by Jim Kendrick.

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By Jim Kendrick

On Dec. 22, the board of the Triview Metropolitan District unanimously approved the 2010 budget and the 2010 appropriation of funds. The board also unanimously approved a four-month contract extension for snow removal and street sweeping with the current district contractor, Vision Designed Homes Inc. The terms for the contract extension remained the same as those in the 2009 annual contract.

Note: On Dec. 8, the board held a special meeting to certify the 2010 mill levy to meet the county’s Dec. 15 deadline. The mill levy remains at 35.00 mills. The board also approved an intergovernmental agreement with the town’s Public Works Department at the Dec. 8 meeting to continue operation of the Triview water treatment plant, wells, and sanitary sewer collection system at the same rates and total cost as in 2009.

All board members were present at the meeting.

2010 budget

Monument Treasurer Pamela Smith reviewed the forms and assumptions for her first Triview budget. She noted that the budget assumed that December 2009 would be similar to the average of the first 11 months of the year. Actual final figures for 2009 will be calculated by March or April when final 2009 sales tax figures are known for Triview and Monument. Any needed corrections to the 2009 budget will be made at that time and provided to the auditor. Once the audit confirms the final 2009 totals, the 2010 budget will be restated at mid-year to reflect the actual amounts rolled over in the various funds from 2009.

She noted that the district’s general fund balance will increase from $7,428,307 at the start of 2010 to $8,133,294 at the end of the year. The water and sewer enterprise fund balance will start at $2,070,063. Expenditures will exceed revenues, and the balance will drop to $1,615,943. The balances for the debt service fund and the capital projects fund will start and end at zero. Total district funds at the start of 2010 are $9,498,937 and are expected to rise to $9,749,237.

2010 appropriations

Smith noted the 2010 appropriations for the four funds:

  • General fund—$2,991,872
  • Debt service fund—$2,697,941
  • Water enterprise fund—$1,887,838
  • Capital projects building fund—$848,827

The board approved three payments over $5,000:

  • $42,259 to The Copestone Co. for the third payment on Misty Creek Park construction
  • $52,947 to Vision Designed Homes LLC for monthly district services
  • $68,031 to The Copestone Co. for the fourth payment on Misty Creek Park construction

The board unanimously approved an agreement to hire Gary Shupp as the district’s new attorney. Shupp currently also serves as Monument’s attorney. Shupp stated that if there would ever be a conflict in representing the town vs. the district, Shupp would be obligated to provide the services of another attorney from his firm to Triview. However, Shupp did not expect that to be likely.

Town Manager Cathy Green advised the board that she had researched the terms of the board members. Three director’s terms will expire in May: Steve Hurd, Steve Cox, and Robert Eskridge. The terms of Robert Fisher and Steve Remington expire in May 2012.

Green and Shupp updated the board on the status of purchasing water rights for Triview from the Phelan brothers, who created Triview and Jackson Creek. The staff’s position is that the Nov. 1 bill for $112,732 received from the Phelans’ Centre Development Co. is not valid because they changed the terms in the Feb. 2, 2009, water purchase agreement and the water purchase agreement is no longer valid. Shupp said he would immediately draft a letter stating this position for board signatures and then send it to the Phelans to establish a record in case this issue leads to litigation.

Operations report

Public Works Director Rich Landreth noted that water production is down about 24 percent from last year, reflecting a wet October. November production was down only about 10,000 gallons, however. All the water meters at the district well sites have been replaced. Calibration of the meters will be completed by the end of the year, Landreth said.

The Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility expansion is now complete. General contractor Weaver Construction is wrapping up all administrative items as well.

Misty Creek Park construction is nearly complete, and the park is already in use. The inspection of the I-25 Baptist interchange expansion has been completed, and the new Valero truck stop sanitary sewer service line installation has also been inspected.

The meeting adjourned at 6:33 p.m.

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Academy Water and Sanitation District, Jan. 6: Missing 2007 documentation troubling

By Susan Hindman

At the December inspection of the Academy Water and Sanitation District’s wastewater facility, the district was asked to produce three years of third-party records for influent/effluent calibrations for partial flume (flow measurement devices). The state requires this documentation, but the 2007 records are missing. Operator Anthony Pastorello could not find any documentation or paid invoices; the previous operator and engineer were contacted, who also could not confirm that calibration was performed. Pastorello was told that it is possible it was overlooked because the person who usually performed the calibration died in that year.

But the missing documentation is a violation of a state regulation. Pastorello told the board at its Jan. 6 meeting that he is continuing to work with GMS Engineering on a solution to the problem.

Also in December, the motor in well 2—which had been replaced in July 2009 after a lightning strike—failed. It was pulled and sent to the manufacturer, but in the process, the contractor discovered that the ground wire in the cable that feeds the pump motor was "bleeding power." Because of the potential damage to a new motor, the wire had to be replaced at a cost of more than $5,000.

Treasurer’s report

Overall in 2009, the district brought in $640,000 in revenue but paid out more than $700,000 in expenses, largely due to the unanticipated cost of sludge removal, according to Treasurer Walter Reiss.

Nine letters were mailed to residents with past-due accounts. The district is owed $4,000 from residents, down from a high of $11,000 in 2009. Reiss credited the increase in collections to the mailing of letters after accounts are delinquent 30 days and to follow-up by Pastorello.

A transparent district

For the first time, the district is being required to mail out a "Special District Transparency Notice," which director Ron Curry has spent a great deal of time preparing. The notice, which will be mailed out to district residents by Jan. 15, includes information about the district, its meetings, and board members. It also notes the board seats that are up for re-election in May. If no other candidates come forward, the election will be canceled and incumbents will retain their seats.

By-law revision

The board voted to change the bylaws to allow landlords to pay an annual fee to receive duplicate copies of bills when their tenants are delinquent on their water and sewer bills. This would immediately alert the landlord to the problem, allowing time for the landlord to take action against the tenant, and would reduce the potential liability from the tenant’s unpaid bills. There will be an annual charge of $60 for the service.

Source Water Protection Plan

The board continues to debate the idea of a Source Water Protection Plan, a program created by the Colorado Rural Water Association and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as a tool for communities to use to reduce the risks to their drinking water. Among the goals would be to create a contingency plan in the event that the district’s safe water supply is disrupted or contaminated.

"We do have some issues out in the district with potential cross-connection of homes," a problem that can show up during a hydrant flush, said Pastorello. Having the protection plan in place "would help develop an awareness program." The "stakeholders" such as neighboring districts and the county "would develop an emergency response plan with us." He added, "The state very heavily recommends this." Up to $5,000 in grant money would be available.

Implementing the program would require district residents to step up and volunteer to serve on a committee. The board expressed concern over finding residents willing to do this but agreed the idea is worth pursuing.

Backflow problem

The district is addressing a deficiency discovered in August during the State Sanitary Survey of Community Water Systems. The issue regards potential backflow of the recycle waste valve at the water treatment plant. "So if we get a backup, it will back up in the manhole and into the building." Pastorello has been working with Roger Sams of GMS Engineering to resolve the problem, and it was agreed that rerouting the discharge piping to the primary lagoon would allow for an air gap, which the state wants. However since that time, Pastorello said he thought of a possible cheaper alternate: putting a perforated cap on the existing manhole, so any backup would pump out the manhole. He will discuss the idea with Sams and let the board know.

Weed problem

CBOD numbers had spiked in November because of duckweed. Pastorello pulled it out by hand, resulting in lower numbers in December, putting the lagoons in compliance.

**********

The Academy Water and Sanitation District board usually meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month at the fire station on Sun Hills Drive. The next meeting is Feb. 3.

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Monument Board of Trustees, Dec. 7: 2010 budget narrowly approved

By Jim Kendrick

On Dec. 7, the Monument Board of Trustees approved the 2010 budget and appropriation by a 4-2 vote, with Trustees Gail Drumm and Jeff Kaiser opposed. The board unanimously approved an annual renewal of its intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with Triview Metropolitan District to have town employees from the Public Works Department operate Triview’s water treatment plant. Town Manager Cathy Green reported that Arbor Mountain Senior Living Facility developer Tim Irish had once again not followed through on any of his most recent promises made to the board on Nov. 16. Trustee Rafael Dominguez was absent from the meeting.

Mayor Travis Easton asked the board to add an executive session item to the agenda at the end of the meeting to receive legal advice. Town Attorney Gary Shupp reported that Kalima Masse, former owner of the concrete batch plant property on the northeast corner of Highway 105 and North Washington Street, was continuing her action to sue the town for damages because the town refused to renew her defunct business license. A motion to amend the agenda was unanimously approved.

Note: Masse has sold the property, and the new owners’ application to the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees for a planned development site plan for an office park on this property have already been approved.

Trustees’ comments

Easton asked if Arbor Mountain Senior Living Facility developer Tim Irish had submitted any of the required documentation as he had promised the board at the Nov. 16 meeting.

Cathy Green reported that the staff had submitted a letter to Irish answering all the questions Irish raised to the town on Nov. 16. However, Irish had still not resubmitted the planned development site plan with the required corrections. Also, Irish had not submitted paperwork to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development as he told the board on Nov. 16 he would do.

The Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District has submitted the finalized wording of its proposed water agreement with Arbor Mountain to Irish and has also notified Irish that the district’s December meeting was his last chance to lock in the 2009 water rights rates. Irish has not responded to the Woodmoor letter. Irish has never paid for the surplus town water rights that the town donated to the Woodmoor district for the senior living facility project so that the district could provide water service for the high-density residential use in an otherwise single-family home development. The requirement for Irish to pay for the additional required water rights is one of several conditions of approval for construction on the land that the town conditionally donated to Irish for this project.

Note: The Arbor Mountain water sale was not discussed at Woodmoor’s Dec. 10 meeting.

Easton also noted that the town’s Web site is still inoperative.

Kaiser and Trustee Tommie Plank commented on the Police Department’s Santa on Patrol, Small Town Christmas, and other charitable events. See photo.

Final 2010 budget approved

Town Treasurer Pamela Smith presented the final draft of the 2010 budget, noting that it could be approved at this meeting or at the scheduled regular meeting on Dec. 21 since the 2010 mill levy had already been certified at the Nov. 16 board meeting at 6.289 mills, unchanged from 2009 in accordance with TABOR and the Gallagher amendment.

Smith also noted that final sales tax revenue figures for 2009 would not be available until mid-February. She said she expected sales tax revenue to be level for the final three months of 2009 and for 2010, with the addition of new businesses offsetting the slight decrease for two months from existing business. Smith added that the final increase in staff health benefit costs for 2010 had been decreased from 15 percent to 8.9 percent. The beginning General Fund balance for 2010 is $565,364, and the ending balance is $90,360.

The major assumptions Smith used in finalizing the budget were:

  • General Fund revenues will increase 0.61 percent.
  • General Fund expenditures will increase 1.48 percent without including capital expenditures, but will decrease 14 percent when capital expenditures are included.
  • Salaries and benefits for staff will increase 1 percent, based on cost of living increases.
  • No additional staff positions are planned.
  • All expenses are based on a projection from the first 11 months of 2009.

For several minutes, Drumm disputed the figures Smith had used in preparing the budget but offered no evidence that they were incorrect. Smith corrected each erroneous assertion Drumm made during a lengthy exchange. Smith noted that she had managed private commercial medical costs for 25 years before becoming town treasurer, and those costs involved average increases of 15 to 25 percent per year.

There was no public comment on the 2010 budget during the open portion of the public hearing. The final 2010 budget was approved 5-1, with Drumm opposed.

The resolution and ordinance authorizing implementation of the 2010 budget was then approved 4-2, with Drumm and Kaiser opposed. Kaiser did not explain why he had voted in favor of the final 2010 budget and then immediately voted against the ordinance that authorized implementation of the budget.

The board next approved 4-2 the 2010 appropriation ordinance, which lists the identical figures in the 2010 budget for the nine town funds. Drumm and Kaiser opposed the appropriation.

St. Peter school bonds approved

The board unanimously approved an ordinance authorizing the town to issue not more than $2 million in tax-exempt development revenue bonds from Colorado State Bank at a reduced interest rate for the nonprofit St. Peter Church school expansion project. The town is not legally liable for the church’s debt under Colorado statutes. The closing for the bonds was scheduled for Dec. 9. Construction of the expansion has been completed.

Amendment 2 of the Monument Ridge preliminary PD site plan approved

Monument Ridge landowner SWAT 14 LLC of Colorado Springs applied for a change in the use of Lot 10 from medium density multi-family residential to three commercial lots. SWAT 14 also requested a clarification of the previously allowed uses on Lots 6 and 7 by adding restaurant and commercial to the approved list of possible uses. The Planning Commission had unanimously approved this amendment on Nov. 10.

Lot 10A on the west end is 2.6 acres, with proposed uses of a sit-down restaurant, retail, office, day care, hotel, and medical/dental.

Lot 10B in the center is 2.0 acres, with proposed uses of a sit-down restaurant, retail, office, day care, and medical/dental. The site is currently proposed to be a Primrose Daycare facility. Layout, utility, grading, and landscaping information for this lot has been added to the preliminary PD site plan. Once this change is approved by the board, a final PD site plan for this lot can be approved administratively by the town staff.

Lot 10C is the remaining 3.6 acres on the east end, with proposed uses of a sit-down restaurant, retail, office, day care, and medical/dental.

More details are posted at www.ourcommunitynews.org/v9n12.htm#monpc regarding the town’s previously approved restriction on using Lot 10 for commercial purposes.

Tom Kassawara, director of Development Services, presented the staff report on the major site plan amendment that proposes three commercial lots. He noted that the applicant had added a 50-foot landscape buffer between Lot 10 and adjacent Chaparral Hills properties. He also reviewed the staff’s analysis of how the proposal conforms to each of the town’s preliminary PD site plan and Comprehensive Plan review and approval criteria.

Kassawara discussed the staff’s analysis of how the applications met all the town’s applicable review and approval criteria. He noted that the proposal added 50 feet of landscaping buffering for the adjacent county residential lots in Chaparral Hills.

Kassawara had initially recommended four conditions of approval, noting that the fourth condition was initially added by the Planning Commission based on an adjacent Chaparral Hills property owner’s comment and written comments received from the owners of three adjacent Chaparral Hills properties. Those conditions are:

  1. Any necessary technical corrections shall be made by the applicant and approved by staff.
  2. All referral agency comments shall be resolved prior to recordation of the site plan.
  3. Adequate documentation will be provided by the Triview Metropolitan District that there is an adequate water supply to serve this site and from the landowner that these water rights have been deeded to the town.
  4. No auto-related uses, car washes, fast-food uses, or drive-throughs shall be permitted on Lots 10A, 10B, and 10C.

There were no citizen comments during the open portion of the public hearing. The board unanimously approved Amendment 2 with all the recommended conditions.

Note: Following the approval, the staff will now be able to administratively approve the final specific PD site plan for the day-care facility on Lot 10B.

Monument Ridge replat 3 approved

This replat subdivides Lot 10 into the three lots noted above and deletes the pocket park that the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees had previously required for children living within the previously approved residential area. Kassawara reviewed the staff’s analysis of the review criteria for plat applications in the subdivision regulations.

There were no citizen comments during the open portion of the public hearing.

Drumm objected to the developer using Lot 10B for the day-care facility but did not state the reason for his objection. Swat 14’s consultant engineer, Virgil Sanchez of M&S Civil Consultants Inc., stated that Primrose Daycare chose Lot 10B.

Drumm also criticized "the driveway situations and turning lanes" in Monument Ridge. "It’s a fiasco in my estimation." None of the applicant’s representatives responded to Drumm’s statement.

Trustee Stan Gingrich questioned the adequacy of parking. Kassawara noted that the staff had added parking to Lot 10B based on the recommendations of the town’s traffic engineering consultant.

The replat was unanimously approved with three conditions:

  1. Monument Ridge Preliminary PD Site Plan Amendment 2 shall be approved and recorded prior to recordation of the replat.
  2. Any necessary technical corrections shall be made by the applicant and approved by staff.
  3. All referral agency comments shall be resolved prior to recordation of the replat.

Mail ballot election approved

The board unanimously approved a mail ballot election for the April 2010 trustee election. Costs are about 30 percent lower for mail-in ballots in elections. Town Clerk Scott Meszaros noted that only 56 voters took part in the last polling place election and that mail-in ballots may increase participation.

Water IGA with Triview approved

Public Works Director Rich Landreth proposed keeping the rate paid by Triview for Public Works employees the same as in 2009, $17,822 per month. The board unanimously approved the intergovernmental agreement for 2010.

Liquor licenses approved

The board unanimously approved a new liquor license for Eric’s Monument Grille Restaurant at 1455 Cipriani Loop in the Tuscan Hills Center off of Knollwood Drive.

The board unanimously approved a transfer of the existing liquor license from the former owners of Rotelli’s Pizza Pasta to the new owners of Borriello Brothers NY Pizza at 15910 Jackson Creek Parkway in the Monument Marketplace.

Other matters

The board also approved a payment of $5,760 to Central Colorado Construction Co. for removal of 37 loads of excess clay and dirt created during the installation of new stormwater drainage, paving, curb, gutters, and sidewalk on Third Street between Front Street and Beacon Lite Road.

Kassawara reported that general contractor Pioneer Sand had completed the construction one month early. When all the final inspections and state paperwork have been completed by the town staff, the state’s Department of Local Affairs will pay the final $12,000 of Monument’s $120,000 grant for the Third Street improvements.

There may be as much as $82,735 left over for irrigation and landscaping of Third Street and other improvements. Kassawara said he would prepare options for the board to determine what further improvements will be sent out for bid to be completed in May and June of 2010.

There was consensus of the board to cancel the Dec. 21 regular meeting unless some important issues arose that needed to be addressed promptly.

The board recessed at 7:30 p.m. before going into executive session to receive legal advice from Town Attorney Shupp regarding town litigation. No actions or votes occurred after the board came out of executive session to adjourn.

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Monument Board of Trustees, Jan. 4: Board approves AutoZone store in Monument Ridge Center

By Jim Kendrick

On Jan. 4, the Monument Board of Trustees approved three applications for construction of a one-story, 7,000-square-foot AutoZone store on the northeast corner of Monument Ridge, at the intersection of Baptist Road and Provident Point next to the Walgreens store. The board approved:

  • Amendment 3 to the Monument Ridge preliminary planned development (PD) site plan.
  • The fourth replat for Monument Ridge for subdividing Lot 5 into three lots.
  • The preliminary/final PD site plan for the AutoZone property.

The board unanimously continued a hearing on an amendment to the town subdivision code regarding land dedications and zoning because the Planning Commission had continued the hearing on these items from Dec. 9 to Jan. 13.

The board also unanimously reappointed four planning commissioners to new two-year terms through January 2012: Ed Delaney, Kathy Spence, Chuck Baker, and Dave Gwisdalla.

All trustees were present.

Volunteers for Planning Commission sought

The town staff continues to try to recruit a seventh unpaid town resident volunteer to fill the vacant seventh seat on the Planning Commission. Any Monument resident who has lived in town for at least one year and is interested in serving on the Planning Commission should contact Town Manager Cathy Green at 884-8017 to fill out an application and schedule an interview.

New AutoZone store approved

Director of Development Services Tom Kassawara gave essentially the same presentation to the board that was presented to the Planning Commission on Dec. 9 by Principal Planner Karen Griffith.

See the planning commission article for details of the proposal, the town staff’s recommendations and proposed conditions of approval, and the commissioners’ comments leading to approval of these three proposals.

There were no citizen comments on any of the three proposals during the board’s public hearing on each of the three ordinances.

The board unanimously approved Amendment 3 to the entire Monument Ridge PD site plan and Replat 4 for Lot 5 along with the staff’s recommended conditions for each without discussion.

Contentious AutoZone site plan discussion precedes approval: During board questions and comments on the AutoZone PD site plan proposal, Trustee Gail Drumm asked Kassawara several questions about the layout of the private roads in Monument Ridge.

Note: On Jan. 16, 2007, Drumm voted in favor of the Monument Ridge preliminary PD site plan, which defined the existing private street network. The county’s mandated constraints on traffic flow on Baptist and Struthers Roads were well known and fully discussed by the Planning Commission and the board at the hearings on the development’s site plan. Both roads are county major collector roads with medians.

Note: There were lengthy discussions at these two hearings regarding the requirement for the median that blocks left turns onto Baptist Road at the Provident Point intersection due to the steepness of Baptist Road at that intersection and the county’s minimum spacing requirement of one-half mile between traffic signals on the county’s major collector roads. The county Department of Transportation built the median at the Provident Point intersection specifically to prevent left turns onto Baptist Road, because the intersection is too close to the traffic signal at Baptist and Struthers Roads.

See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v7n1.htm#monpc and www.ourcommunitynews.org/v7n2.htm#botjan16 for details of the commission’s and board’s approval of the Monument Ridge center PD site plan.

The following are Drumm’s questions about the AutoZone site plan proposal and the associated responses:

"Which lot is it on?" Kassawara replied, "Lot 5A."

"How do you get people to find it?" Kassawara replied that there were signs for the development on Baptist Road and that the AutoZone parking lot as well as Lot 5B and 5C can be accessed directly from Provident Point.

"When you get to Lot 5A or 5B, how do you get westbound on Baptist?" Kassawara replied that due to the county’s restriction on having a full-motion intersection at the Provident Point intersection motorists cannot turn left onto westbound Baptist. Motorists would exit the AutoZone as they would for any other store in Monument Ridge—by using the center’s access on Struthers Road to drive north to the Baptist Road intersection.

"When you get to Lot 5A or 5B, how do you find your way to Struthers?" Kassawara said motorists would follow the directions on the traffic signs installed throughout Monument Ridge.

When Drumm said the signs "don’t work," Trustee Rafael Dominguez said that Drumm and other people could be more attentive when driving through the center. Dominguez added, "The signs are out there."

Drumm then commented that the center had a poorly designed parking lot and asked Kassawara how he planned to develop the rest of Monument Ridge. Town Manager Cathy Green interrupted Drumm’s questioning of Kassawara at this point and referred this matter to consultant landscape architect Jeff Cramer of the developer’s land planner firm Thomas and Thomas. Cramer used a very large diagram to show Drumm step-by-step where he should turn to drive to Struthers Road from within Monument Ridge. Dominguez added this comment for Drumm, "It’s the same direction everybody takes from McDonald’s and Chase Bank."

Before the board’s vote on the AutoZone PD site plan for Lot 5A, Drumm commented that "It’s fun to watch people try to get out" and "evidently the signs aren’t visible enough, especially at night." He added, "I know the signs are up there but you can’t see them." Drumm continued, "They should be rewritten so that they would be easier to see at night" with "something that you could see quickly, not that you have to sit there and read you know and have to try to figure out what that actually meant."

Mayor Travis Easton, who is also a member of the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority board, stated that he supported the left-turn restriction at Provident Point as a safety measure because there is not enough room for stacking cars for left turns in all directions for a four-way full motion traffic signal at this intersection. Drumm replied, "I agree also. I don’t see how it could have been done any different. I’m just glad that Walmart’s not there."

The board then unanimously approved the AutoZone PD site plan and the staff’s proposed conditions.

April mail-in election approved

The board unanimously approved a resolution to submit a ballot question to the voters in a mail ballot election on April 6. The question asks for permission to save tens of thousands of dollars per year by allowing the staff to publish only the titles of ordinances in the paper and direct interested parties who might want to read the ordinance to the town’s Web site or to visit Town Hall. Green noted that the final wording of the ballot question would be brought to the board for approval at a later board meeting. If an election is required for selecting trustees, that would be included on the mail-in ballots.

The board also unanimously approved the funding required to appoint, train, and pay one alternate and four primary election judges.

Town Clerk Scott Meszaros noted that citizens seeking re-election should turn in their petitions to him at Town Hall before the end of February.

Payments approved

The board unanimously approved two payments over $5,000:

  • $112,188 to Triview Metropolitan District for October sales tax, November motor vehicle tax, and October and November Regional Building sales tax
  • $190,361 to Pioneer Sand Co., Inc. for pay request No. 5 for Third Street construction.

Old Denver Highway pavement recommendations

Kassawara reported on the study of road conditions that Drumm had requested and the findings of geotechnical consultant Geocal Inc.’s four core samples taken from Old Denver Highway at the entrance to R-Rockyard and the No-Name Creek crossing, located between Trails End and the hockey rink, to determine the structural soundness of the roadway and the No-Name Creek culvert. These two locations were deemed by the board in previous board meeting discussions to be the most likely places to need substantial repairs in the near term by the town’s Public Works Department. The area around the No-Name Creek crossing has flooded frequently during heavy thunderstorms.

Background: On Apr. 7, 2008, the board voted 6-1, with Drumm opposed, to take the county’s title to the 1.6-mile portion of Old Denver Highway south of the Pastimes development, and the town is now responsible for all of its maintenance and repairs. There was a lengthy and occasionally testy discussion between then Mayor Byron Glenn and Drumm. They each accused the other of being "short-sighted" about the factors affecting the town’s decision.

Drumm said the county should completely repair the highway, including removal and replacement of the failed portions of asphalt caused by heavy county truck traffic. He said the county should also transfer the sales tax revenue from the owners of these trucks as a source of revenue for repairing future damage these heavy trucks will cause. Drumm stated that one heavy gravel truck trip does the same damage as 7,000 car trips and that he was tired of offering the county good will that would not be reciprocated. "This road is not going to stand up."

Drumm suggested that the board table the issue until Public Works Director Rich Landreth could provide an accurate estimate of total costs for removal and replacement of failed roadway, as well as the cost for adding lanes for new developments. "We have no idea what this is going to cost to upgrade it" or maintain it.

Note: The most severe asphalt damage at that time was apparent at the access to the R-Rockyard landscaping business, where delivery trucks make 90-degree turns on Old Denver Highway with very heavy loads, creating very high shear forces that crack the surface. This company’s access is just south of the town’s boundary with the county. Other asphalt damage is apparent in both lanes south of this access, particularly in the southbound braking area in front of the Santa Fe Trailhead near the Baptist Road intersection. See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n5.htm#bot0407  for details.

Later in 2008, Landreth directed the temporary repair of the three worst portions of the highway to make the road "drivable" at a cost of about $15,000 from the department’s contingency fund, $5,000 for each. No additional temporary repairs were made in 2009.

Study findings reported: Kassawara reported that the new study "determined that the roadway pavement and base course are generally substandard from Baptist Road all the way to Second Street." He added that the road was "pretty well under-designed for the type of loading that it is experiencing" and "has a fair amount of truck traffic."

Note: Old Denver Highway terminates at Santa Fe Drive. The section of road between Santa Fe and Second Street is the new portion of Beacon Lite Road that was installed seven years ago by the Monument Sanitation District to connect Old Denver Highway to Second Street when the district was installing new collection lines in that area. The district also installed the new section of Second Street between Beacon Lite Road and Highway 105, along with new collection lines. Both of these sections were designed by the district to support truck traffic. The town paid for the cost of the hot asphalt and base course materials that the district installed.

However, the asphalt overlays the district installed on the remainder of Beacon Lite from Second Street up to the north end of Wakonda Hills, at district expense, were not designed for truck traffic. Heavy trucks continue to frequently use these non-truck-rated sections of Beacon Lite Road for through traffic to avoid inspections and delays at the weigh stations on I-25.

Kassawara also reported that the worst part of Old Denver Highway is the section "from approximately the south property line of the Trails End subdivision down to Baptist Road." He added, "At the culvert crossing, testing showed that there is no correlation between the presence of the culvert underneath the roadway and the condition of the pavement and supporting soil above" and "there are no serious pavement or embankment problems that would cause the town to be required to take immediate and significant steps to effect repairs."

Kassawara noted that the estimated cost of removing and replacing the disintegrating paving with the four-lane road in the town’s capital improvement plan is about $9 million. He said the staff "hopes" that the owner of the vacant land between I-25 and Old Denver Highway, Phoenix-Bell of Tucson, begins development. It would have to pay for the new road as part of its development plan. There is no way to finance construction of this new road until then.

Kassawara then stated that Geocal’s recommendations for removing and replacing the failing sections of existing asphalt and base course with new roadway that would last about 10 years in these two locations were very costly and "just didn’t seem to make a lot of sense."

Kassawara reported that consultant firm Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. had recommended an alternative as a more affordable maintenance plan for Old Denver Highway for the next five years. Some of the specific recommendations from Geocal and Jacobs were:

  • Install a two-inch asphalt overlay in distressed areas as necessary.
  • Perform proactive crack sealing along the entire corridor to prevent further distress in other areas.
  • Perform chip sealing or slurry sealing on the areas that have been overlaid in the past five years.
  • Install a protective headwall and trash guard at the No-Name Creek culvert inlet.
  • Consider enforcing weight restrictions.

If trucks were prohibited and a two-inch asphalt overlay were installed in the portion of Old Denver Highway north of Trails End, pavement life would be extended by five to seven years. If trucks were prohibited with no resurfacing, the pavement life could be extended only one to three years.

If trucks were prohibited south of Trails End, including the entrance to R-Rockyard, where the pavement is very thin, and a two-inch overlay were installed, the life of the pavement would be extended by two to four years. The existing asphalt is too thin to be milled. The remaining pavement life without resurfacing could not be estimated. Kassawara also noted that R-Rockyard trucks and other trucks cannot be totally prohibited on Old Denver Highway.

Kassawara recommended that the town install "No Thru Trucks" signs at the north and south ends of Old Denver Highway to minimize further damage to the existing substandard portions of the road and extend its life as much as possible.

Trustee Stan Gingrich asked about the cost of the recommended plan and the town’s liability for lack of painted crosswalks on Old Denver Highway from the four subdivisions to the Santa Fe Trail. Landreth said the annual cost for Jacobs’ five-year plan would remain within the normal $40,000 allocated to Old Denver Highway maintenance and repairs in the town’s 2009 budget. He and Kassawara suggested $50,000 per year for the next five years.

Green and Landreth noted that the cost of a solar-powered or regular traffic signal for a crosswalk had been too high. Landreth said that four signs and striped crosswalks would be too many for this type of road. Town Attorney Gary Shupp said it is hard to know how many painted crosswalks are required to "pass the reasonableness test" for liability.

Monument resident James "Dutch" Van Kekerix, owner of R-Rockyard and a former town trustee, then discussed the issue with the board. Some of his comments were:

  • Currently his truck traffic is down to three trips per day because he’s lost 60 percent of his business due to the recession.
  • Most truck traffic was being generated by construction for Town Hall, Second Street, and St. Peter Catholic Church.
  • Five years ago, Old Denver Highway had 3,600 vehicle trips per day with trucks making up less than 1 percent.
  • These proposed restrictions will mostly affect R-Rockyard.
  • R-Rockyard is not responsible for the county’s road not meeting structural specifications for a truck route or the county not maintaining the road for 12 years.
  • The town previously declined taking ownership of Old Denver Highway from the county 10 years ago when it would have cost $3 million to replace.

After considerable further circular discussion about what constitutes road failure, predicting when failure will occur, and how much it costs to prevent it, the board approved by consensus Kassawara’s recommendation to make budget-driven "piece-by-piece" repairs of about $50,000 per year on Old Denver Highway for the time being.

Town Web site

Easton and Dominguez asked about the status of the town’s Web site. Green said the test version of the new site is available for testing, evaluation, and comment by trustees and town staff members. Green will respond to each of their recommendations, then open the Web site to the public.

Staff reports

Green suggested that the board have a workshop on water issues, particularly on those related to buying rights for supplementary surface water, before starting a review and reprioritization of water and the other items listed in the town’s capital improvement plan. There was consensus to start with workshops on water issues first.

Police Chief Jacob Shirk reported that the Monument Department’s Santa on Patrol program on Dec. 19 had been very successful—"It was pretty spectacular." The department had received hundreds of toys, bicycles, coats, mittens, and gloves in the last week of contributions from Grace Best Elementary fifth-graders, Lewis-Palmer Middle School, and the Highway 105 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Participating in the distribution of all these items in Monument and Palmer Lake were volunteers from the Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department and Police Department, the Monument Police Department, and the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District.

The board adjourned at 7:53 p.m.

**********

The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, due to the Martin Luther King holiday, in Town Hall. Meetings are normally held on the first and third Monday of the month. Information: 84-8017.

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Monument Planning Commission, Dec. 9: AutoZone site approved for Monument Ridge center

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Below; Principal Planner Karen Griffith briefs Ed Delaney, Glenda Smith, Becki Tooley, and Chuck Baker of the Monument Planning Commission and Gary Shupp, town attorney, on Dec. 9 in Town Hall about the site plan for a new AutoZone store in the Monument Ridge Center. Thomas and Thomas Inc. owner Leslie M. Thomas, landscape architect Jeff Cramer, and consulting engineer Virgil Sanchez of M&S Civil Consultants, Inc. look on. Photo by Jim Kendrick

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By Jim Kendrick

On Dec. 9, the Monument Planning Commission approved three applications for construction of a one-story, 7,000-square-foot AutoZone store on the northeast corner of Monument Ridge, at the intersection of Baptist Road and Provident Point next to the Walgreens store. The approved applications are:

  • Amendment 3 to the Monument Ridge preliminary planned development (PD) site plan.
  • The fourth replat for Monument Ridge for subdividing Lot 5 into three lots.
  • The preliminary/final PD site plan for the AutoZone property.

The commission continued an amendment to the town subdivision code regarding land dedications and zoning. All six commissioners were present at this meeting.

Volunteers for Planning Commission sought

The town staff continues to try to recruit a seventh unpaid town resident volunteer to fill the vacant seventh seat on the commission. Any Monument resident who has lived in town for at least one year and is interested in serving on the Planning Commission should contact Town Manager Cathy Green at 884-8017.

New AutoZone store approved

Principal Planner Karen Griffith gave an overview of all three proposals and how they met town review and approval criteria.

Monument Ridge site plan amendment 3 approved: Landowner SWAT 14 LLC submitted a proposal for a major amendment to the Monument Ridge PD site plan for development of vacant Lot 5. The Monument Ridge commercial center is located on the southeast corner of Baptist and Struthers Roads, opposite the King Soopers center. Amendment 3 is a major amendment, because the proposed change in land use requires Board of Trustees approval.

The proposal called for changing all of Lot 5 from its originally approved use and configuration as a single strip center building with several bays by subdividing the lot into three pad-size lots for separate free-standing commercial buildings. The proposal also calls for a minor change to the list of approved uses for Monument Ridge Lots 3, 5A, 5B, 5C, 6, 7, and 8, adding restaurant, office, day care and medical/dental.

Note: On Dec. 7 the Monument Board of Trustees approved the same additional uses for Lots 10A, 10B, and 10C as well as a similar replat that subdivided Lot 10 into three lots. The board also approved rezoning Lot 10 from medium-density multi-family residential to commercial.

The application conforms to the nine preliminary PD site plan review and approval criteria of the municipal zoning code.

Griffith recommended three conditions of approval:

  1. Any necessary technical corrections shall be made by the applicant and approved by staff.
  2. All referral agency comments shall be resolved prior to recordation of the site plan.
  3. The additional planned uses in Amendment 2 for Lots 10A, 10B, and 10C that were approved by the Board of Trustees on Dec. 7 must also be added to Amendment 3.

Amendment 3 was unanimously approved.

Replat 4 (a replat of Lot 5): The size of the originally approved Lot 5 is 3.53 acres. SWAT 14’s proposed subdivision creates three unequally sized commercial lots: Lot 5A on the northwest corner is 1.01 acres, Lot 5B on the northeast corner is 0.73 acres, and Lot 5C on the south half is 1.78 acres. Currently there are only plans for AutoZone to develop Lot 5A. The proposed replat conforms to the 12 criteria in the purpose statement in the town’s subdivision regulations. All additional easements required for utilities and vehicular access and circulation were included in the replat.

Note: Motorists can enter Provident Point by taking a left turn from westbound Baptist Road. Motorists can proceed westbound on Baptist Road from Monument Ridge only by leaving the center on northbound Struthers Road.

Griffith recommended three conditions of approval for the replat:

  1. Monument Ridge Preliminary PD Site Plan Amendment 3 shall be approved and recorded prior to recordation of the replat.
  2. Any necessary technical corrections shall be made by the applicant and approved by staff.
  3. All referral agency comments shall be resolved prior to recordation of the replat.

Commissioner Chuck Baker recommended two additional conditions for the replat to require the addition of missing technical surveying requirements regarding more complete specification of where the lot corner locations are set and dimensional ties to the land lines, section corners, and associated offsets prior to recordation.

Replat 4 was unanimously approved with the five conditions noted above.

Preliminary/final PD site plan for Lot 5 approved: SWAT 14 has proposed building an AutoZone parts retail store on Lot 5A. No vehicle repairs would be performed at this store.

Griffith noted that "Lot 5B is a fairly small narrow lot, and we were a bit concerned that it could really be developed and meet landscaping and parking requirements." She added that the AutoZone site plan includes a conceptual layout of the adjacent Lot 5B that is supposed to show how Lot 5B could be developed within this narrow space and still meet town regulations. Lots 5A and 5B share two rows of parking spaces between the two proposed building locations.

Note: The location of the rear half of the proposed conceptual building on Lot 5B, as shown in the preliminary grading plan (page 4 of the PD site plan) is in the middle of the existing very steep slope of graded dirt that rises to the east up to the existing west parking lot of the Family of Christ Church. The current level of the ground where the rear wall of this planned store is supposed to be located is about nine feet higher than the floor of the store.

Note: The church parking lot is depicted to be about 20 feet higher than the building’s main floor in the site plan’s grading plan. This steep existing hill will require construction of a very tall retaining wall when Lot 5B is developed, so the church can share the AutoZone parking lot. The edge of the church parking lot is about 40 feet east of the back wall of the conceptual building. This tight fit is similar to the one that was rejected by the county when construction of Walmart building was originally proposed for this vacant lot several years ago. After the county rejected the Walmart and the similarly tall retention wall, the Monument Ridge developer’s request for annexation was accepted by the town.

Note: Amendment 3 of the Monument Ridge center site plan and Replat 4 of Lot 5 do not address the need for this very tall retaining wall if Lot 5B is to be developed. The location of the building on Lot 5B and the depicted very tall retaining wall are not being approved in this first version of the Lot 5 site plan. Development of Lot 5B and Lot 5C as well will have to be addressed in the future. Proposals for these two lots may be administratively approved if future uses require no major changes that have to be approved by the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees, including the issue of the retaining wall.

However, Griffith said that the site plan conforms to the 10 review and approval criteria for preliminary PD site plans and the four review and approval criteria for preliminary PD site plans of the town’s municipal zoning code.

Griffith described the lengthy negotiations with AutoZone to get it to upgrade all four sides of the building’s exterior design and materials to meet the planned development design guidelines for Monument Ridge so that they are consistent with the other buildings already in place.

Griffith initially had recommended three conditions of approval for the replat:

  1. Any necessary technical corrections shall be made by the applicant and approved by staff.
  2. All referral agency comments shall be resolved prior to recordation of the replat.
  3. Signs shall be posted stating that no auto repair or parts installation is allowed in the parking lot.

Griffith stated that the third condition was dropped, since a note requiring that "a sign shall be provided in the parking lot which restricts the servicing of vehicles in the parking lot" had already been added as a note to the latest revision of the Lot 5 site plan. This is the new General Note 12 on page 1 of the plan.

Commissioner Kathy Spence asked about parking for lot 5B, which "looks really small." Griffith said the staff would do a full review of the proposed site plans for lots 5B and 5C to ensure they meet all PD requirements prior to approving them. Lot 5A has 35 parking spaces.

Commissioner Dave Gwisdalla asked many questions of the developer’s consultant, landscape architect Jeff Cramer of Thomas and Thomas Inc., and consultant civil engineer Virgil Sanchez of M&S Civil Consultants Inc., particularly about control of storm water drainage and oil leaks on lot 5A, on-site trash containment, and the community’s need for another auto parts store in Monument.

Sanchez noted that Gwisdalla’s concerns about overnight traffic on Lot 10, voiced at the previous commission hearing on Nov. 10, had been incorporated. Griffith said that similar vehicular restrictions were not needed on the other lots.

The AutoZone site plan for lot 5A was approved 5-1, with Gwisdalla opposed.

After a lengthy staff presentation and discussion, the commission unanimously continued the hearing on amendments to the town code to clarify requirements and eliminate inconsistencies in it regarding land dedications that are required of developers for parks, trails, and open spaces and planned development regulations. The commissioners needed to give themselves more time to read and prepare questions and comments on the numerous extensive revisions proposed by the town staff. This hearing will resume during the next commission meeting on Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

The meeting adjourned at 7:53 p.m.

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Palmer Lake Town Council special meeting, Dec. 3: Water rates increased to pay for plant expansion loan; Moreland sworn in as police chief

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Below: Palmer Lake Police Chief Kieth Moreland. Photo by Mike Slavick, Monument Police Investigator.

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By Jim Kendrick

The Palmer Lake Town Council unanimously approved two motions Dec. 3 to pay for the Colorado Water Resources Development and Power Authority loan of up to $2 million for expanding and upgrading the town’s water treatment plant.

The board unanimously deferred scheduled votes on the ordinances for the 2010 budget and appropriation of funds until the Dec. 10 regular meeting. Trustee Nikki McDonald’s absence from the meeting was excused.

Palmer Lake Police Chief Kieth Moreland was sworn in by Town Clerk Della Gray. His wife, Kathy, pinned on his new badge. Moreland recently retired from the Los Angeles Police Department with almost 33 years of service and then joined the Monument Police Department in August 2008. Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk had been serving on a part-time basis as Palmer Lake’s interim police chief. Moreland, who was selected from 11 applicants, thanked Shirk and Monument Police Sgt. Steven Burk for their support of the Palmer Lake Police Department after Palmer Lake Police Chief Gene Ferrin resigned in February.

The council unanimously approved a one-year increase of $6.54 per month in the basic water rate, which will raise about $65,000 to create the cash reserve required for the town to remain qualified for the state loan and its reduced interest of 2 percent per year. This temporary fee increase will be in effect throughout 2010 only. The $6.54 figure is based on regular water bill payments from only 830 water users. Approximately 113 town water users are not paying their bills.

The council also unanimously approved a 20-year increase of $11.51 per month in the basic water rate to make the semi-annual principal and interest payments on the state loan. The rate increase will be terminated sooner if a future council is able to pay off the loan early. The $11.51 figure is also based on the 830 users who regularly pay their water bills, to ensure that there will be enough money for the payments.

The rate hikes together total an increase of $18.05 per month in the basic water rate for 2010.

During public comments, Planning Commissioner Jen Martin complained about the $18.05 in 2010 being a problem but offered no alternative method to raise the required revenue to preserve a secure water supply for the town. County resident Jeff Hulsmann, who operates a business in Palmer Lake, noted that the improvements to the water treatment plant will slightly reduce total treatment costs because more surface water will be able to be treated and distributed, avoiding some costs for pumping groundwater from the town’s wells.

Mayor John Cressman noted that the town is pressing forward in meetings with the state to increase the amount of water that can be annually diverted from Monument Creek to raise the water level in Palmer Lake.

The board held a lengthy technical discussion on the 2010 budget, primarily focusing on a staff request for an across-the-board increase in medical benefits of $50 per pay period for each employee. The staff last had an increase in benefits in 2008. Staff salaries have not been increased for several years.

Trustee Jan Bristol expressed concern about the town being able to sustain the requested benefit increase in 2011 if property tax revenues decline due to falling property assessments. Trustee Bryan Jack asked for additional information from the Colorado Municipal League on small town pay and benefits around the state.

Town Clerk and Treasurer Gray was directed to prepare two ordinances for the 2010 budget and two ordinances for the 2010 appropriation of funds for the Dec. 10 meeting, with and without the benefit increase.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

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Palmer Lake Town Council regular meeting, Dec.10: 2010 budget approved

By David Futey and Jim Kendrick

The Palmer Lake Town Council unanimously approved the ordinances for the 2010 budget and appropriation of funds on Dec. 10, after deferring the originally scheduled vote on Dec. 3. All council members were present at the meeting.

2010 budget and appropriation of funds ordinances approved

Town Clerk and Treasurer Della Gray presented two balanced budgets—with and without an increase of $50 per pay period for tax-free benefits that had been requested by town employees. This led to an overview by Trustee Bryan Jack on the town’s benefits offered to employees compared with similar entities.

Jack reviewed salary and compensation information from the 2009 Colorado Municipal League wage and salary survey and 2009 Mountain State Employers Council (MSEC) wage, salary, and benefit survey. Jack said it was difficult to match jobs, because some town positions have multiple responsibilities that would scale across positions in those surveys.

Jack said the town offers a "$7,800 ‘cafeteria’ plan that is currently provided to employees, along with FICA and Medicare, and death and disability" insurance. In his review of the MSEC survey and legally required payments, retirement, and health insurance, he noted these benefits are equal to about 30.4 percent of the average annual salary.

Using the same model, Jack said similar benefits provided by the town are equal to about 31.43 percent of the average annual salary. He noted that for the town’s fixed benefit package, "this percentage would vary dependent on the employee’s salary." The percentage would be lower for a higher than average salary and higher for a low salary.

Jack also noted that the town’s vacation and sick leave benefits are "comparable or better" than those of most towns. He suggested that the town might need to evaluate salary compensation, because 50 percent of the town staff positions are paid less than the average of minimum available salaries for comparable jobs throughout the state.

Jack recommended that the council not approve the $50 benefit payment increase per pay period. He said he wants to review potential costs savings from insurance providers that might be achieved, and those funds could possibly be applied toward salary increases.

Jack also brought up concerns on possible state legislation such as Proposition 101 and Amendment 60, which restores TABOR tax limits, and Amendment 61, which requires voter approval for borrowing money and places a limit on repaying loans within 10 years. Jack said that if "Amendment 61 had been in place today, the water loan would not have been possible."

By unanimous decision, the council approved the budget and appropriation ordinances without the requested benefits increase for the staff.

Mayor John Cressman commended Jack on his efforts and said the town is financially fortunate at this time.

Committee reports

Trustee Jan Bristol reported that the Palmer Lake Fire Department had 18 calls in November, including a call for support in fighting a structure fire in Black Forest. She said the department raised $3,800 from the Chili Supper held on Nov. 28. She also said Modern Woodmen of America will provide a matching grant for the first $2,500.

Trustees Gary Coleman and Nikki McDonald presented their report on Parks and Recreation and Economic Development. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to beautify homes with energy efficient products is proceeding. Applicants will need to meet certain qualifications.

Bristol said evaluation of the housing section of the CDBG requests received to date had not started yet. There has been considerable citizen interest in the grants. A review of the housing applications will begin in two weeks. Bristol said she feels confident that the requested funds will be received. The first step is getting through the application process, with the board making recommendations to the county. Bristol said the council will ask for $5,000 for funding of a part-time code enforcement officer for the town’s "nuisance ordinance" in the town code to address "junk yards."

Ron Heard of Palmer Lake Historical Society said he wanted to meet with the county and council members because Monument Hill Sertoma wants to help take over the Bill Crawford Memorial Garden and expand it into a war veterans memorial and peace garden in January.

Jack said he had met with newly hired Palmer Lake Police Chief Kieth Moreland on budgeting and related matters. Some personnel changes have been made in the Police Department. Officer Alan Sekowski resigned and was reinstated as a detention deputy with the El Paso County’s Sheriff Office. Phil Donner is now an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office. Part-time Officer Robert Stewart resigned from the department. Caleb Vance had returned to the department as a part-time officer but resigned again shortly thereafter. Monument Officer Samantha Griebel was hired as a part-time officer. At the time of the meeting, the department had two full-time officers.

Trustee Max Stafford said winter water use was down to typical levels of approximately 13 acre-feet per month. One acre-foot equals about 325,851.4 gallons of water. Stafford said the department had recently received $1,620 in late charges. He commended Gray and the administration staff on being aggressive in collecting the charges.

Stafford said that in November, the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority discussed negotiations with Colorado Springs Utilities to deliver surface water to the region’s special water districts. The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board selected Gary Barber as interim manager and adopted its 2010 budget.

Cressman asked Town Attorney Larry Gaddis about the issue of non-payment of water bills for about 113 accounts. Cressman said the council is frustrated, and it is a lot of unpaid money for a small town to shoulder. Cressman asked Gaddis what options were available to collect the late fees. Gaddis responded that the following mechanisms are in place:

  • If payment is not made in 30 days, there is a $15 charge. Gaddis said that increasing that charge might encourage earlier payment.
  • If payment is not received in 30 days, a termination of service notice can be sent or the town could file a notice of unpaid assessment or file a notice of lien.
  • If payment is not made in 60 days, the fee is 5 percent of the bill for each month, up to 25 percent of the total bill.
  • If a second shutoff notice is sent within six months, a $175 cash deposit can be required as additional security.
  • If payment is not made in more than 60 days, an additional 18 percent in interest can be added to the charge.
  • Late charges could be included in the county’s tax bill that goes out after the first of the year. The county could collect the payment and charge an additional percentage fee for collection.

Gaddis concluded that there are "devices" to get payment for water bills. Cressman asked if any amount paid on a late bill would mitigate this process. Gaddis said he had not yet found any statute related to that as a policy. Cressman also said it is important to develop a benevolent fund, because "there are some people who frankly cannot afford to pay."

Gray asked how town staff might determine who cannot pay the bill. Gaddis said that is a Water Committee decision. Gaddis cautioned that water bills are confidential and privileged under public records law. The town can send letters about turning off the water, but the information cannot be publicly disclosed.

Gray asked whether the Health Department would have to be notified if the water is shut off after the shutoff notice payment deadline is not met. Gaddis said the Health Department does have to be notified.

Gray said that a benevolence fund should be up to the Water Committee and that some people receive assistance through Care and Share to pay water bills. Bristol said that the public should be made aware of the consequences of nonpayment after 30 days and 60 days, and that this information should be included with the water bill. Gray asked Gaddis to write up information on the ordinance and consequences for nonpayment to distribute to town water users.

Gaddis suggested the council might consider annualizing the bill as Colorado Springs Utilities does to make payments the same amount each month based on the previous year’s average use.

Stafford provided the council with a list of water projects, which was prepared for the trustees by Palmer Lake Water Superintendent Steve Orcutt, showing which projects are in progress and which have been completed.

Trustee Dan Reynolds reported on Roads Department activity in November. The construction contract for the Safe Route to Schools grant will be going out to bid and be published three times in December. Grant funding must be committed by the end of February. Reynolds anticipated that construction will begin in February. He attended a pre-construction meeting with the developer’s engineer regarding the Surrey Street paving project.

Water rate increase questions

At the special council meeting on Dec. 3, a number of questions were posed to the council about the water rate increase. Stafford compiled answers, but those who had asked the questions were not present at the Dec. 10 regular council meeting. Stafford said the document of question and answers would be reformatted to a "frequently asked questions" document. Stafford will e-mail the document to council members for further review and comment prior to finalizing the information in a document to be sent out with water bills, along with Gaddis’s written summary on late payment procedures.

The meeting adjourned at 8:23 p.m.

**********

The next regular council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 14 at Town Hall. Information: www.ci.palmer-lake.co.us or 481-2953.

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Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Board, Dec. 9: 2010 budget approved; funds authorized

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Below: New TLMFPD administrative assistant Jennifer Martin at her desk in the fire district’s office. Martin was previously employed as the director of Social Services at the Pikes Peak Care and Rehabilitation Center in Colorado Springs. Her husband, Richard, is a Denver firefighter who works part-time for the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire District. They have three children attending D-38 schools. Martin has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from California State University, Long Beach. She is also an active volunteer with many Tri-Lakes social assistance programs in addition to her position as a Palmer Lake planning commissioner. Photo by Bernard Minetti.

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By Bernard L. Minetti

The Dec. 9 meeting of the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Board opened with a discussion of the 2010 Capital Improvement Program. Chief Robert Denboske explained that $98,500 in asset sales came from the sale of a fire truck. An expense of $300,638 was the down payment on the new fire truck. The total cost of the truck is $824,000.

The beginning 2010 budget balance for the district’s Capital Improvement Program was $150,722. Expected expenses were $29,600 for communications and $22,000 for fire equipment. The projected budget end balance for 2010 Capital Improvement Program was $99,122.

Director Charlie Pocock discussed the lack of firefighter pay raises in the 2010 budget and the history of pay raises in the district. It was mentioned that there had been no raises for the last three years. Pocock made a motion that a pay raise of 2 percent be awarded to the firefighters. Director Roger Lance seconded the motion. Directors John Hildebrandt, Rick Barnes and Tim Miller were opposed. They stated that while they favored a pay raise for the firefighters in principle, the 2010 assessed valuation for the properties in the county cast doubt on the availability of funds for this purpose due to the sour national economy.

Barnes said it would be irresponsible to initiate a pay raise under these circumstances. Denboske advised the board that a 2 percent pay raise equated to an additional $44,162 in payments. Miller recommended that the item be reconsidered at the 2010 August or September board meetings, when there would be a clearer picture of the availability of funds.

Following this discussion, the board unanimously approved the 2010 budget without a pay raise for firefighters.

Treasurer Hildebrandt discussed the mill levy and proposed that it remain at the previous level of 8.5 mills. The board unanimously approved the mill levy certification.

The board considered a proposed resolution that would authorize the appropriation and expenditure of funds allocated to the district. Hildebrandt explained that the General Fund item for current operating expenses amounted to $3,832,173, with a capital outlay of $51,600 and a debt service amounting to $214,829. The total General Fund authorization was $4,098,602. The proposed resolution included an authorization for use of reserve fund balances to cover continued operation of the district in the event of revenue shortfalls. The board unanimously approved the motion.

A summary report stated that $2,164,767 remained in the budget at the end of August 2009. This amount equated to approximately six months of operating capital. It also specified that the district purchased an ambulance and a new ladder fire truck during 2009 and that the monthly expenses over the eight-month period averaged $329,505.

The summary also delineated the income and expenses that were associated with a SAFER (Staffing Assistance for Firefighter and Emergency Response) grant. This federal grant was applied for and received in 2005. Over five years, it has allowed for the hiring of seven new firefighters, providing for full staffing at all three district fire stations and for the hiring of a fire mechanic. The total of the federal share of the grant was $700,000, and Tri-Lakes was responsible for $933,574.

Denboske submitted the board meeting schedule for 2010. Through October, the meetings are scheduled on the fourth Wednesday of each month. In November, the meeting occurs on Nov. 17. The December meeting is scheduled for Dec. 8. All meetings will be held at 7 p.m. at Fire Station 1 on Highway 105, just west of the railroad tracks.

Battalion Chief Greg Lovato advised the board that the present ambulance rates fell short of covering expenses. The problem revolved around collections from uninsured parties. He advised the board that the ambulance billing service had recommended a 14 percent increase in rates. The board discussed the issue and approved a 7.5 percent increase, noting that there had not been an increase in rates for at least three years.

Denboske then advised the board that a fire truck had been sent to Denver for repair of a wheel seal. He said there would be no end-of-year party for the firefighters due to a shortage of welfare and morale funds. The balance was $1,000, and at least $3,000 was needed. Instead, he allocated approximately $300 per shift for an in-house dinner for each group.

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December Weather Wrap

By Bill Kappel

Some temperatures were well below normal for the month. The average high temperature of 31°F was the coldest since at least 1900, beating out 1983’s 32.1. These cold temperatures were helped by two big pushes of Arctic air moving in; one at the beginning of the month and another through the Christmas holiday week. Outside of these two cold snaps, the weather was very quiet, with mainly sunny skies and seasonal temperatures.

Winds were well-behaved during the month, with no high wind events and hence no Chinook warm-ups. This helped the snow pack stick around, making for a nice, white Christmas. Precipitation, including snow, was below average for the month, with just over a foot accumulating for most of us. For the year, seven months saw below average temperatures and eight months saw above normal precipitation—overall a cool, wet year.

The first week of December was cold and snowy, as a series of Arctic air masses moved through the region and an extended period of light snow kept things white. The first cold front moved through the region during the afternoon of the 1st. This didn’t do much for us, but it did open the door for a series of successively colder surges to move through. Low clouds and fog filled in that evening, with light snow falling and briefly becoming heavier the next morning.

Temperatures continued to tumble on the 2nd, with a high of 13° reached at midnight on the second. Most of us picked up 2 to 3 inches of new snow by the time the snow stopped on the 3rd. Temperatures tumbled below zero during the evening of the 2nd and reached only the single digits for highs on the 3rd. Lows were again well below zero on the 3rd and 4th.

A brief break from the Arctic air mass swept through during the afternoon of the 5th, as southwesterly winds allowed temperatures to hit the upper 30’s and low 40’s (about average) for a couple of hours before the next surge of cold air raced back in. around 1pm on the 5th. Temperatures again tumbled and light snow redeveloped through that evening and continued through the 6th, with highs again reached at midnight and daytime temperatures not getting out of the single digits and low teens.

Very cold air stuck around for the second week of December, with highs barely above zero on the 7th and 8th and overnight lows in the teens below zero. Along with the very cold temperatures, light snow fell at times. A slow moderation in temperatures began on the 9th. Temperatures managed to reach the low 20s on the 9th and 10th. Finally, some westerly winds kicked in on the 11th and helped to scour out the last of the Arctic air.

Temperatures rose above freezing around 10 a.m. on the 11th. This was the first time we managed to go above freezing since 5 p.m. on the 1st, with the exception of four hours on the 5th. Definitely a cold stretch for us in early December. The second weekend of the month turned out quite nice around the region, with normal temperatures and sunny to partly cloudy skies. Temperatures were in the 40s and morning lows were in the 20s. This felt quite warm compared to the extreme cold of the previous week.

There was nothing unusual during the week of the 14th around the region, with temperatures holding right around normal. Highs fluctuated from the upper 40s and low 50s on the 16th to the low 30s on the 18th under clear to partly cloudy skies. The week was dry for all of us, which isn’t too out of the ordinary, since the first half of December is normally very dry around here.

Even with the dry and mainly sunny conditions, the snow that had piled up from late November through the first week of December didn’t melt too much. It’s awfully hard to melt snow effectively this time of the year without sustained westerly Chinook winds because the sun angle is so weak. Only snow that’s in direct sunlight most of the day ends up losing the battle.

Winter made a return appearance just in time for the Christmas holiday, as snow and cold returned from the 22nd through the 26th. The week started quietly enough, with highs reaching the low 50s for only the second time this month on the afternoon of the 21st as southwesterly winds kicked up ahead of the next surge of cold air. Clouds increased most of the day on the 22nd, with snow finally beginning to fly around 6 p.m. that evening. Light snow continued off and on through early Christmas Eve, with 4 to 6 inches accumulating for most of us. Temperatures were chilly as well, dropping below zero on the 24th and 25th and highs only reaching into the teens. Another round of light snow fell the day after Christmas, with 1 to 2 inches of fluffy powder piling up. Temperatures did not reach above the freezing mark from the 22nd through the 27th, the second long stretch of chilly weather this month. However, there was plenty of sunshine to end the Christmas holiday weekend.

The month ended on a quiet note, with temperatures holding below average as highs reached the 20s and 30s. A weak system did move through overnight on the 30th and brought a few flurries early on New Year’s Eve.

A look ahead

January sees the coldest average temperatures of the year, but precipitation is on the low side, with amounts generally less than an inch. The month experiences numerous sunny and windy days, with quick shots of snow in between. The last few Januarys have generally been warmer than normal, with near normal precipitation and snow. January 2006 received more snow than normal, and last year was about average. The official monthly forecast for January 2010, produced by the Climate Prediction Center (www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/30day/), is calling for better than average chances of above normal temperatures and equal chances of above or below normal precipitation. For a complete look at monthly climate summaries for the region, please visit www.thekappels.com/ClimateSummary.htm

December 2009 Weather Statistics

Average High 31.0° (-6.8°) 100-year return frequency value max 50.5° min 32.6°
Average Low 8.0° (-4.0) 100-year return frequency value max 22.4° min 5.4°
Highest Temperature 52° on the 21st
Lowest Temperature -18° on the 9th
Monthly Precipitation 0.63" (-0.48". 43% below normal) 100-year return frequency value max 2.82" min 0.00"
Monthly Snowfall 12.5" (-4.1", 33% below normal) 
Season to Date Snow 53.3" (+7.6", 14% above normal) (the snow season is from July 1 to June 30)
Season to Date Precip. 11.58" (-0.35", 3% below normal) (the precip season is from July 1 to June 30) 
Heating Degree Days 1404 (+167)
Cooling Degree Days 0

For more detailed weather information and climatology of the Palmer Divide and Tri-Lakes region, please visit Bill Kappel’s Weather Web page at www.thekappels.com/Weather.htm

Remember, weather affects all of us every day and is a very important part of life for us on the Palmer Divide, and we want to hear from you. If you see a unique weather event or have a weather question, please contact us at billkappel@ourcommunitynews.org

Bill Kappel is a meteorologist and Tri-Lakes resident.

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Top weather events of 2009

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Below: The table details the 2009 yearly weather summary for the Palmer Divide region. Note that the weather station is located one-half mile east of Highway 83 off Walker Road at an elevation of 7,371 feet. Be sure to check out the weather section of my Web page at www.thekappels.com/Weather.htm for more weather fun and facts.

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the weather charts as a PDF file. This is a 92 Kbyte file and will take about 30 seconds to download using a dial-up modem. Click here for help with PDF downloads. To view and print the file, you will need to download and install the free Acrobat Reader Program.

By Bill Kappel

Record cold October: Temperatures averaged over 6° below normal for the month, with record cold during the second week of the month and again during the week before Halloween. Heavy snow accompanied the second surge of cold air, with 15 to 20 inches falling on the 28th and 29th.

Cold December/white Christmas: Just as in October, temperatures for the month were over 6° below normal, again with two distinct periods of very cold weather and light snow. The first surge of Arctic air moved in during the evening of the 1st, and temperatures tumbled well below zero with light snow. The cold air stuck around through the second week of the month. The final surge of cold air during December moved in a few days before Christmas with more snow and sub-zero temperatures. Further, there was a lack of any sustained warmth during the month, with only four days above the daily average and the highest temperatures only reaching the low 50s.

Mild and dry start to the year: 2009 started off quiet and mild, with above normal monthly temperatures during January, February, and March. Snowfall was also below normal each of these months.

Cold and snowy April: On the heels of mild and dry weather, a significant pattern change occurred during the last week of March and continued through April. The first in a series of snowstorms dropped over a foot of snow to end March, and snow continued to pile up during April. Over 50 inches of snow accumulated during the month, including over 5 inches of precipitation. This was of great benefit to the plants at the start of the growing season.

Cool and wet summer: June, July, and August were cooler than normal and received above normal precipitation. In fact, we didn’t hit the 90° mark during June and July, only touching 90° on the afternoons of Aug. 22nd and 23rd. During an average summer, we reach 90° or warmer nine times.

Snow to start off fall: The first day of fall was greeted with our first snow of the season, as a trace to an inch of snow fell around the region. Cold, wet weather stuck around from the 21st through the 25th with at least a trace of snow falling each of those days. The heaviest snow was on the 23rd, when 1 to 2 inches fell.

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Letters to Our Community

Chili Supper raises $5,590

The Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department would like to thank all who supported the 2009 Chili Supper and Star Lighting. Due to your generosity and a matching grant of $2,500 from the Modern Woodmen of America, we were able to raise $5,590 to maintain the star.

A special thank you to our local businesses for their continuing support, and to the eighth-graders from Lewis-Palmer Middle School who helped prepare for the record crowd.

We invite all to join us again next year!

Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department

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Woodmoor board members on the right track

We just received our annual assessment from the Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA), and for the second year in a row, it remained unchanged. This is unbelievable!

The past year has produced unbelievable changes for the good. WIA is building trails, hosting community events, and lowering fees. These are things we never thought would happen. We sincerely appreciate the efforts of the board to change to a focus on resident services.

Hopefully, the incumbent board members will be re-elected so we can continue this new philosophy.

Drew Walton

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A letter to Woodmoor residents

As a past Woodmoor Improvement Association president and resident of Woodmoor for nearly 22 years, I find it inappropriate that WIA funds—those funds that belong to each and every resident—were used by President George McFadden to endorse two of the current members of the board who are running for re-election.

In the December WIA newsletter, Mr. McFadden specifically calls them by name and states, "I sincerely hope to see them back next year." While they are certainly entitled to run for re-election, using the front page of the newsletter to endorse them while not giving the other candidates an opportunity to state why they should be elected instead, is highly unethical. In 20-plus years, I’ve never seen a board president endorse candidates using WIA funds. Imagine if your school board or other elected officials used public funds to endorse candidates. They’d be in violation of state law.

As far as the WIA newsletters go: Reader beware. While everything seems so wonderful in these newsletters, there are many issues that are not discussed and are regularly whittling away at why many of us bought in a covenant-protected community. I quote the October 2009 WIA newsletter: "This board has undertaken the task of paring down the exhaustive and intrusive R&R and DSM with the intention of restoring the original intent of Woodmoor—to ensure lasting beauty and home value, with as few restrictions as necessary."

In a day and age where property values are on all our minds, now more than ever is the time to make sure the high standards that have been synonymous with Woodmoor for years are preserved. I encourage you to vote for Jim Hale, Nick Oakley, and Paul Lambert when you receive your ballots in January, or come to the annual meeting on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. at Lewis-Palmer Middle School.

Beth Courrau
Past WIA president/resident

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Woodmoor directors anger resident

I’m angered by how the Woodmoor Board of Directors manages Woodmoor’s paid staff. I’m speaking of a "majority" of board members who vote together and control Woodmoor with decisions not always in the best interest of Woodmoor. The Woodmoor administrative staff and Woodmoor Public Safety perform vital functions to protect residents and uphold property values.

This "majority" is proud that they have not raised annual assessments for three years, but won’t admit the staff has not received a pay raise for three years. This "majority" rewrote the WIA Employee Handbook, which limits how vacation carryover must be used, eliminates choice of health care plans, reduces sick leave accrual from 144 hours to 80 hours, cuts holidays from 11 to eight, changes the bad weather policy (WIA previously closed or delayed according to Lewis-Palmer D-38 weather decisions), and changes the pay structure from salaried to hourly for nine of 10 employees. One staff member’s hours were cut from 40 hours a week to 32.

This board espouses Section 2 of the covenants, which states "assessments levied by the Association shall be used exclusively to promote the recreation, health, safety and welfare of the residents.…" Unfortunately, they stopped reading after "recreation" and spent over $9,000 for free parties that served alcohol, a $1,000 popcorn machine, and $20,000 for an unnecessary and unsightly trail and parking lot in the Marsh. This is fiduciary irresponsibility!

I’m all for recreation and common area maintenance, but the budget should balance available dollars to take care of employees along with other programs. If Woodmoor does not take care of its professional staff, they might quit, and the "majority" could easily vote to turn over administration to a management company. Management companies just don’t care.

Votes for Hale, Lambert, and Oakley will ensure a dedicated WIA professional staff.

Jim Hale

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Support Woodmoor Public Safety officers

I have been a Woodmoor resident for over 10 years, and believe that sometimes we take the work and efforts of our Woodmoor Public Safety officers for granted. I had the pleasure of being the director of Public Safety as a Woodmoor Improvement Association board member from 2003 to 2005, and had the pleasure of seeing how hard-working these fine men and women are on a daily basis.

As a private homeowners association, we have the opportunity to determine how our annual dues are spent. I believe that the modest amount of money we spend to ensure we have 24/7/365 coverage of our neighborhood is a very wise investment. We enjoy one of the lowest crime rates in El Paso County, even when compared to other neighborhoods directly next to us. Our officers also have an ear to the ground and know how to stop crime—whether it involves juvenile offenses, break-ins, etc.—as they are in our neighborhoods on a daily basis and know most of us through vacation checks or other contact.

I will be on the Woodmoor Homeowners Association ballot this year. (You will receive a ballot the first week of January.) I am running for the board again as I have concerns that Woodmoor Public Safety is not receiving the support they deserve from some members of the current board. It is important that we ensure we are giving our Public Safety Officers a fair wage with the proper benefits to recognize the important work they do for us.

I would ask each of you who are Woodmoor residents to support me and my running mates Nick Oakley and Jim Hale for the three open WIA board positions this year. We are each committed to giving Woodmoor Public Safety the support they need to continue their important work.

Paul J. Lambert

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Woodmoor board out of touch?

The recent WIA Board of Directors meeting was a real eye-opening experience. I had always felt that the "majority" of the current board was out of touch with the residents, but this meeting confirmed this.

The main issue presented by the residents was the construction of a 4,300-foot walking trail and adjoining parking lot on the Marsh Common area that borders Top of the Moor and Woodmoor Drive. This project will cost $20,000 when completed. The residents who spoke were all opposed to the project, and their major issue was that they had never been involved in the decision-making process for this project.

The residents asked the following: "What is the process for notification and involvement of residents in projects of this magnitude?" The response of George McFadden, board president, was basically that there was no process for involving the residents in projects of this magnitude. Further, after reviewing the covenants and bylaws of the community, McFadden concluded there was nothing that required the board to check with the community and get their approval before making decisions. He went on to say that once we elect members to the board, it is up to them to decide what is best for the residents. He even likened the board to the U.S. Congress and stated that once we elect members to Congress, they can pass any laws they want regardless of how these laws are perceived by the people.

This leaves me wondering about what kind of board we currently have. Are they working for the residents or themselves? Since four of the nine current board members were appointed to the board by the board, I think that the current board is working for themselves and not the residents.

Edward S. Miller

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Board action hurts Woodmoor residents

In November 2009, the Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA) Board of Directors passed a resolution to no longer support Woodmoor’s Firewise Committee and its status as a Firewise Community, which will negatively impact Woodmoor’s property values and the ability for residents to participate in future cost-share fire mitigation grants.

Since 2001, WIA has received nearly a quarter of a million dollars in fire mitigation funds to manage and disburse to the residents of Woodmoor who are proactive in making their properties fire-safe. Being fire-safe and thinning the forest improves property values for all of Woodmoor. The director of Forestry and the Forestry Committee volunteers have spent countless hours assisting the residents in understanding grant rules and fire mitigation techniques so the residents could participate in and receive federal grant funds administered by the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS).

Recent competition for state and national fire mitigation grants has been keen; so, to improve Woodmoor’s chances for receiving future grants, the Firewise Committee was formed under the director of Forestry. You can go to www.firewise.org and click on "Communities/USA," then select "Community Stories" and read "Woodmoor’s Story." Firewise USA is part of a worldwide organization, and status as a Firewise Community has real clout when it comes to being considered for grants.

This fall, WIA was awarded a $37,500 grant from the CSFS through the efforts of the Firewise Committee. The WIA Board jeopardized the ability for residents to receive money from this grant and the possibility of any future grants when they voted to dissolve the Firewise Committee in November.

The WIA Board election will be held Jan. 25. The incumbents running for re-election voted against the Firewise Committee and grant funding for the community in November. If you or your neighbors have benefited from past grants and Forestry volunteer services, or just care about property values, please go to www.savewoodmoor.org to become an informed voter before you cast your ballot. Or, feel free to call me at 488-1317.

Marian Taylor
Current member, WIA Forestry Volunteer Committee
Former member, Firewise Volunteer Committee

Note: The Woodmoor Improvement Association will hold its annual meeting on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. at Lewis-Palmer Middle School.

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Between The Covers at the Covered Treasures Bookstore: Great reads for cold nights

By the staff at Covered Treasures

With the holiday rush over and snowflakes falling, it’s a good time to snuggle up with a good book. We think you might enjoy some of these enticing new "reads."

La’s Orchestra Saves the World
By Alexander McCall-Smith (Pantheon), $23.95

McCall-Smith has created a delightful and moving story that celebrates the healing powers of friendship and music. In 1939, Lavender (La to her friends) decides to flee London, not only to avoid German bombs, but also to escape the memories of her shattered marriage. As the war drags on, La needs some diversion and wants to boost the morale of the small town where she settled, so she organizes an amateur orchestra, drawing musicians from the village and the local RAF base. Among the strays she corrals is Feliks, a shy Polish refugee who becomes her most prized recruit—and the object of feelings she thought she’d put away forever. With his all-embracing empathy and gentle sense of humor, McCall-Smith makes of La’s life—and love—a tale to enjoy and cherish.

Remarkable Creatures
By Tracy Chevalier (Dutton), $26.95

From the first page of Chevalier’s novel about fossil hunter Mary Anning, the reader is drawn into this remarkable story. On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, Mary learns that she can find what no one else can see. When she uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton, she sets the scientific world alight, but, in an area dominated by men, Mary is barred from the academic community. Luckily, she finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a recent exile from London, who also loves scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy. This is a stunning novel of how one woman’s gift transcends class and social prejudice to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the 19th century. Above all, it is a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage
By Elizabeth Gilbert (Viking), $26.95

How can a divorce-scarred feminist make a case for marriage? After Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love falls in love with Felipe, an older, divorced Brazilian, she begins a study of marriage and divorce. For the first year, Felipe and Gilbert live apart, travel the world, or spend time in the U.S. This arrangement comes to an abrupt halt when Felipe is detained upon their return to Dallas Airport and told by the Department of Homeland Security that he cannot re-enter the country unless he marries Gilbert. The couple’s relationship is strained by a year in exile, but, ultimately, the choice of the right mate is what matters most as this hesitant bride heads for the altar again.

SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance
By Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner (William Morrow), $29.99

Levitt and Dubner mix smart thinking and great storytelling like no one else, whether investigating a solution to global warming or explaining how a street prostitute is like a department store Santa. Four years in the making, SuperFreakonomics asks not only the tough questions, but also the unexpected ones: Why is chemotherapy prescribed so often if it’s so ineffective? What’s the best way to catch a terrorist? Can eating kangaroo save the planet? This sequel to Freakonomics is even bolder, funnier, and more surprising than the first.

The Help
By Kathryn Stockett (Putnam), $24.95

In Jackson, Miss., in 1963, there are lines that are not crossed. With the civil rights movement exploding all around them, three women start a movement of their own, forever changing a town and the way women—black and white, mother and daughter—view one another.

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan & Pakistan
By Greg Mortenson (Viking Books), $26.95

The author of the No. 1 bestseller, Three Cups of Tea, offers the continuing story of this determined humanitarian’s efforts to promote peace through education. Filled with rich, personal stories and insights into the Middle East, this book is an inspiration—and a call to action.

An exciting new assortment of entertaining, thought-provoking books offers a perfect way to fill these long January evenings and begin a new year. Until next month, happy reading.

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Bird Watch on the Palmer Divide: Greater sage grouse

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Below: Painting of Greater Sage Grouse by Elizabeth Hacker. 

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By Elizabeth Hacker

During the dark days of January, when bad weather limits opportunities to venture outdoors, I plan trips to locate birds that I want to add to my life list. Although I have logged about 150 birds, Colorado is home to more than 400 bird species, so I have a ways to go. One bird that I have yet to see is the greater sage grouse.

The greater sage grouse is the largest North American grouse. A large cock may weight as much as 5 pounds, while the females generally weigh 2 to 3 pounds. They both have dark gray plumage with a long, pointed tail. The showy male has a black neck, white breast, and black belly. The white breast looks a bit like a feather boa during breeding season when the underlying air sacs are inflated.

It was called "cock of the plains" by Lewis and Clark in 1805, and the men on this expedition hunted, cooked, and ate it. Lewis, who often dined at the table of Thomas Jefferson, renowned for fine food and wine, did not care for the taste of this bird.

As its name implies, the great sage grouse depends on upland sagebrush for food and cover. In winter, 100 percent of its diet is derived from the sage plant. In summer, insects are consumed for added protein, but sagebrush is still this grouses’ primary food source. That probably gives the grouse a turpentine-like flavor and may explain why Lewis didn’t care for it.

In late winter, males begin to gather on traditional strutting grounds called leks. These areas are located on high, arid, wind-swept steppes where sagebrush is the predominate plant. The biggest populations are found in North Park, but smaller leks have been reported in other open areas of Colorado. They are not found in forested areas of the state.

This game bird is not easy to spot even during its courtship ritual, which is performed for a short time at sunrise. In the spring, the males perform elaborate courtship rituals, strutting and puffing up the two large yellow colored sacs on their chest. Rhythmic soft drumming sounds can be heard as the inflated sacs move around while the males strut their stuff. Female grouse begin to arrive a week after the males. The females walk around the lek as the males strut and puff. A female chooses the most attractive male as her mate. Often only a few male grouse are chosen, and they mate with all the females. As the sun rises above the horizon, the birds disperse and take cover under a large network of sagebrush shrubs.

Females that have successfully mated will lay seven to nine eggs and incubate them for three weeks. Chicks hatch within a few hours of each other when the female moves them near water where insects and tender shoots are plentiful. The chicks are on their own from day one and are not fed by their mother. The chicks stay with the female for several weeks until their flight feathers develop. The males are never far away, but they do not participate in nesting or raising the young chicks.

Greater sage grouse do not migrate but may move to a lower elevation within a region for greater protection during a harsh winter. Once common over much of the West, the number of sage grouse has declined as habitat degradation, largely due to overgrazing and invasive plants, has occurred over the last 200 years. It has been estimated that there were millions of sage grouse at one time. Today their numbers are estimated to be less than a half million. While not considered endangered, they are carefully monitored. Colorado’s recent drought reduced the grouse population, and last year birders were discouraged from visiting sensitive sites.

Today as I sit at my computer, I’m looking for a guided tour to a greater sage grouse lek. I’ve been told that the time to see the best displays is in April during a full moon. On a clear day, it is possible to hear the drumming up to two miles away, so it isn’t absolutely necessary to take a tour to see them. However, given the fact that the displays occur for a short time early in the morning, by the time the lek is located, I may miss all the action. I think I’ll rely on the experience of an outfitter for this bird.

Elizabeth Hacker is an artist in the Tri-Lakes area. Her bird prints are available on her website www.ElizabethHackerArt.com, with proceeds benefiting habitat preservation. E-mail her at elizabethhacker66@yahoo.com with your questions and bird stories.

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Woodmoor Holiday Party, Dec. 6

Below: Tri-Lakes Community Hand Bell Choir. Photo by Elizabeth Hacker.

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Art Matters: Creative community legislation

By Janet Sellers

Happy New Year! Happy new year’s resolutions, anyone? I’m signing up for mine to be active the whole year. Our local community has the second-most sunshine-y days in our nation, the first is San Diego, Calif. With shorter days, though, this time of year we still spend more hours in the dark than in sunshine.

I’ve often thought that people of these colder climes tend to be more introspective and get busy with cultural activities than the beaches-and-deserts crowd. (Some friends think folks of the warmer climes have let the heat go to their heads). I admit cooler weather keeps me more active indoors than out—no sitting around in the cold for me unless it’s on a toboggan.

The fact remains that we seek things to do and enjoy differently this time of year, and the creative urge is still strong in our community for the artists and art lovers. In our area, footprint-wise, we seem to have more footprints in creative enterprises than many others, block for block. Our local venues offer us year-round access to our creative community in every neighborhood and in our schools. It seems we are the happier for that.

I would like to encourage us all to take more interest in the arts here, and actually make some ourselves this season as well as visit it over a nice glass of wine (Second Street Art Market) or cup of tea (Wisdom Tea House) or stroll through town (30-some venues have art to view). It is good for your mind, your heart, your blood pressure, and, yes, your wallet.

Research at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has determined artistic men are less likely to be depressed than artistic women. Professor Jostein Holmen and others studied the lifestyle and mental health of 50,000 folks. While men and women benefited from attention to music, literature, and painting, it was the men who ended up sunny and optimistic. From a psychologist’s point of view (I asked a pro), it is because men tend to have fewer creative outlets, and so greatly respond to those they do have. From an artist’s point of view, I would offer that women have more global challenges than men by virtue of how their respective brain functions manifest, and with that in mind one could say that creative thinking is not as much a novelty for them.

In any case, the creative community carries a powerful wallop in terms of "love of place" and quality of life. Additionally, the creative sector will offer the people of our town and Colorado in general strategies for keeping Colorado competitive economically. Gov. Bill Ritter will announce this month legislation to benefit creative industries. Late last month, the Colorado Council on the Arts sent me a report stating numerous details on how the arts enrich the bank accounts of Coloradans.

Colorado’s creative enterprises alone employed over 122,000 individuals in about 8,000 establishments in 2008. This accounted for 3.9 percent of the state’s estimated 3.2 million jobs, making it Colorado’s fifth-largest employment sector, almost as large as biotechnology/biomedical and IT and telecommunications, and larger than defense and security and agribusiness, food processing and technology. Employee earnings in these jobs, including employee benefits, were about $5 billion. Another 64,000 individuals worked in creative occupations in noncreative enterprises.

"This research clearly demonstrates that the creative sector is a large and important sector of Colorado’s economy," said Lt. Gov. Barbara O’Brien. "Our next step is to more fully understand the challenges in each industry sub-group and identify areas of opportunity."

Ritter will announce his proposed legislation to promote and support Colorado’s creative industries. The legislative initiatives that will be announced are first steps toward strengthening Colorado’s creative economy as a strategy for keeping Colorado competitive.

The creative industries include commercial businesses, artist-entrepreneurs, and nonprofit institutions in the fields of design, literary, and publishing, film and media, performing arts, visual arts, and heritage. Colorado is a magnet for creative talent, ranking second in the nation in concentration of architects, fifth in concentration of artists, seventh in concentration of writers, designers, entertainers and performers, and eighth in concentration of photographers. Read more about Colorado’s creative economy at www.coloarts.org/programs/economic/co_creativeconomy/index.htm

Colorado legislators recently passed HB 09-1105, creating the Colorado Innovation Investment Tax Credit (CIITC). CIITC provides an income tax credit for investing entities that make investments during 2010 in small, innovative Colorado companies that are involved in research and development or manufacturing of new technologies, processes, and/or products.

The tax credit is equal to 15 percent of the investment, up to a maximum tax credit of $20,000 per investor. The maximum tax credit amount for the program for the 2010 tax year is $750,000.

Requests for tax credits will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. As such, it is important to get the word out to potential investors and small businesses about this opportunity, especially since there is an annual limit of $750,000. The CIITC fact sheet, application, FAQ’s, and other relevant information will be published on the OEDIT Web site at www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/OEDIT/OEDIT/1165009699726

Take a look at the pages of calendar events here in OCN and choose some artful events to enjoy. That’s a New Year’s resolution we can keep. We can keep it all year and enjoy it with each other!

Janet Lee Sellers is an American painter, sculptor and writer working in the mediums of canvas, concrete/mixed media, and paper. Her work supports natural habitat for rural and urban wild (and human) life.

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Snapshots of Our Community

Monument celebrates Small Town Christmas, Dec. 5

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Photos by David Futey

Below: The Lewis-Palmer High School Choir, comprised of students from grades 9-12 and led by Choir Director George Douthit (in back with guitar), did a little caroling to the delight of many during Monument’s Small Town Christmas.

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Below: Dwight Hopper of Goodman & Sons offered Christmas revelers an old fashioned hay ride through the streets of Monument during the Small Town Christmas event on December 5.

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Below Kelly McGuire (L) and Mary Russelavage (R) played Santa and Mrs. Clause much to the delight of many children including little Bjorn Moon. Children could have their picture taken with the Clause’s and they also received a goodie bag of treats after telling Santa their wish for a present under the Christmas tree.

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Below: At High Country Home & Garden, children were provided with icing and other confectionery goodies so they could decorate their own holiday cookie.

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Pageant puts audience in holiday spirit, Dec. 10-13

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Photos by David Futey

Below (L to R): Alina Burgos, Norris Croom IV, and Anne McGhee-Stinson play members of the Bradley family as they discuss the Herdmans in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

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Below: Portraying pageant director Grace Bradley, Anne McGhee-Stinson, at far right, informs the children of the pageant’s roles and attempts to get them interested in participating. But only the Herdmans express an interest. 

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By David Futey

In "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," performed by the Castle Rock Players (CRP) at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) Dec. 10-13, the six Herdman siblings are "those kids" who strike fear in other children. However, a change in the Herdmans begins to occur once they learn that free refreshments and snacks are provided at the church for those rehearsing for the Christmas Pageant. It is through their eventual participation in the pageant, bullying their way into key roles, that the Herdmans learn the Christmas story of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.

This stage adaptation is based on the book of the same name written in 1972 by Barbara Robinson. It is the signature show for the CRP, which has performed it six years in a row. The CRP is a 501c-3 nonprofit, founded by Meg Truhler 13 years ago, and it employs actors and actresses of all ages but emphasizes developing child actors.

With a mission of "Enriching life through a quality performing arts experience," Truhler said this performing arts organization "builds teamwork, leadership and other skills, from eye contact to articulating words, in its young actors," and also instills that "art is not age-related, as a 6-year-old could perform better than a 60-year-old."

As a nonprofit, CRP has thus far relied on donations and proceeds from its performances to make its way, as various funding requests to the city of Castle Rock and Douglas County have gone unfulfilled. As a result of their financial situation, the CRP does not have a home per se, but performs in various locations. This production was its first at the TLCA.

Sandy Haworth, CRP board president, said the CRP was "very excited" to be at the TLCA, because it provided the opportunity for a new audience to enjoy the group’s efforts. Those efforts sometimes result in making a difference in the lives of those who pass through the group. As one example, this production was directed by John Antonio Lech, a 19-year-old University of Denver sophomore who started out acting with the CRP six years ago. Former members of the group are now performing on stages worldwide.

Information about the Castle Rock Players can be found at www.crplayers.org. Information on upcoming events at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts is at www.trilakesarts.org.

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Gleneagle holds First Annual Festival of Lights, Dec. 12

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Below: The Knotty Pines of the Tri-Lakes Women’s Club was one of several choral groups who serenaded participants at the Gleneagle Golf Course Club house. Photo by Jim Kendrick.

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Below: The Gleneagle Golf Course and Gleneagle Civic Association provided cookies and hot beverages in the clubhouse for all those who attended. Photo by Dave Futey. 

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Below: The Van Wyhe family warms up in the Gleneagle Golf Course Clubhouse after taking a hay ride around all 18 holes to see the Festival of Lights. Left to right are Matthew, Tracey, Alan, Garrett, Kathy, Mark, and Chloe. Photo by Jim Kendrick. 

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Below: Eager participants get ready for a brisk moonlit hayride tour to enjoy the decorations of the homes lining the Gleneagle Golf Course. Photo by Jim Kendrick.

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Below: Homes along the Gleneagle Golf Course were decorated on all sides. Photo by Dave Futey.

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Chuck Pyle and John Fielder combine for an evening of song and imagery, Dec. 15

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Photos by David Futey.

Top right: Chuck Pyle performs one of many songs as photos from John Fielder’s book, Ranches of Colorado, are displayed on screen.

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Below: John Fielder provides the background on one of the 250 photos he showed during the event. Fielder also raised awareness of development occurring on ranchlands across Colorado.

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By David Futey

On Dec. 15, a sold-out audience at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) was entertained with an evening of song and imagery by two of Colorado’s finest while receiving information on a critical issue facing the future of the state’s landscape.

Singer-songwriter and "Zen Cowboy" Chuck Pyle and nationally renowned Colorado nature and landscape photographer John Fielder combined their collective talents on stage and screen as they brought a heightened awareness to the present and future state of Colorado’s ranchlands and the effects of development on those lands. Pyle and Fielder demonstrated their individual talents throughout the evening as they traded off their respective expertise.

Pyle performed a range of his songs that describe the cowboy life and the related pastoral scenery. This event was Pyle’s final stop in a 90-date concert tour schedule for 2009, and it was the second time in his career that he has collaborated with Fielder. Pyle met Fielder at Monument’s Covered Treasures Bookstore a few years ago and kept in touch. Their first collaboration occurred in 2007 when they performed a similarly styled show at the TLCA.

In 2010, Pyle will be preparing for the release of his next CD, Spaces Inbetween, along with a CD release party scheduled for the TLCA and numerous concert dates in and out of state. Fielder was promoting his latest book, Ranches of Colorado. This was the 30th performance in which he has interlaced his photos with music. At previous venues, Fielder used the music of Aaron Copeland to underlie the slide presentation of 250 of the 375 photographs in the book.

The book is part of a collaboration among Fielder, the Colorado Coalition of Land Trusts, the Colorado Cattlemen’s Association Agricultural Land Trust, and Colorado Open Lands, with a goal of ranchland preservation. Through the photographic depiction of 50 farms around Colorado in the book, Fielder is raising awareness about Colorado’s ranchlands and how the land is being lost to development. It presents an opportunity to preserve these lands through conservation easements and other measures. With the efforts of the trust and conservation groups, over 2 million acres have been saved from development, but, during the same period, nearly that same amount of ranchland has been lost to it.

Information on Chuck Pyle and upcoming performances can be found at www.chuckpyle.com. Information on John Fielder and the ranches preservation project is at www.johnfielder.com/ranches.php

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Hundreds attend North Pole Craft Fair, Dec. 5-6

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Below: Jeweler Karen Gruppo has participated in each of the five shows. Photo by Harriet Halbig.

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By Harriet Halbig

The North Pole Craft Fair, sponsored by Monument Hill Sertoma to benefit Tri-Lakes Cares, was held at Lewis-Palmer Middle School on the wintry weekend of Dec. 5-6.

Nearly 40 vendors, all from the Pikes Peak region, participated, with about 350 to 400 people attending over the weekend. The price of admission was a nonperishable food product for Tri Lakes Cares.

Items for sale included beaded jewelry, handmade glass, homemade seasoning and potpourri mixes, cosmetics, and massage services.

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Santa & friends at the Senior Alliance Thrift Store and...On Patrol, Dec. 19

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Below: Dec. 19 - Diane Wegley, Aimee Wooldridge, Santa, Bill Hardin, Susan Staubs. Photo by Frank Maiolo.

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Below: On Dec. 19, the Monument Police Department’s Santa on Patrol program distributed hundreds of donated toys, bicycles, coats, gloves, and mittens as Santa and Mrs. Claus toured Monument and Palmer Lake for four hours. Santa said, "It was pretty spectacular!" Photo provided by Monument Police Department.

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Information sought on Eagle Villas vandalism

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Photos provided by Doug Jenkins.

Below: Caroling Figurines outside Eagle Villas east gate as they appeared Dec. 5 ...

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... and then Dec. 19. Anyone with information, please contact Our Community News at 488-3455.

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December and January library events

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 Photos by Harriet Halbig.

Below: Mrs. Claus shares a story with the children.

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Below: Antoine Cedotal carefully decorates his cookies. 

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Below: Kennedy Penkhus enjoys decorating cookies. 

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Below: Jocelyn Yuen and cellist Justin VandeBrake played on Sunday afternoon.

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By Harriet Halbig

December, with its arctic weather and holiday bustle, was a good time to come to the library for some warmth, peace, and cookies.

The regularly scheduled events for children and seniors lent some feeling of routine, and a special visit from Mrs. Claus and her helpers from the Junior National Honor Society added some festivity.

On Dec. 13, the harp concert in Monument’s community room lent an ethereal atmosphere to the day, with classical and seasonal music filling the branch.

In January, Monument will continue to offer the chance to read to Paws to Read dogs on Mondays from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

On Jan. 9, there will be a special party with the dogs at 1:30 at Monument. The fun will include a doggie craft event, refreshments, and a special game of musical chairs with the dogs.

Jan. 15 at 10 a.m., the Monumental Readers book group will discuss "The Samurai’s Garden" by Gail Tsukuyama. No registration is required, and new members are always welcome.

AARP’s Mature Safe Driving class will be offered on Jan. 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The cost is $12 for AARP members and $14 for nonmembers. Graduates can present their course completion certificate to their insurance agent for a discount.

A home school resources fair will be offered on Monday, Jan. 25 from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m.

Learn about the library website resources, how to search through the catalog, and visit with area home school support groups and co-ops. Register on the Events Calendar or call 488-2370.

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, there will be a program for tweens (ages 9-12) to discuss "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" by Rick Riordan. This is January’s Read It Before You See It title, and the gathering will feature food and fun related to this popular series. Registration is required. The program will run from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Enter to win a free movie ticket!

The library’s 2010 adult reading program, Cozy Up with a Good Book, begins on Jan. 11 and continues through March 8. The program, open to those 18 and older, encourages patrons with library cards to read eight books in eight weeks. After the first four books, patrons will receive a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory chocolate bar and entry into a drawing for a King Soopers gift card. After eight books, patrons will receive a fifth annual reading program coffee mug and entry into a drawing for additional prizes. Conventional books, books on CD, books on cassette, and play-aways qualify. Videos, DVDs, and books read to children do not. Books must have been read after Jan. 11 to qualify. To register, come to the branch or go to the library website at ppld.org.

A final activity at the Monument branch in January is a pet food drive to benefit Tri-Lakes Cares. Bring any dry or canned food to the branch during open hours during the month. Thank you in advance!

On the wall will be Getting Perspective, a book-themed art show by Palmer Ridge High School students.

In the display case will be a collection of McCoy Pottery flower-form vases and butterfly pieces from the collection of Joline Lee. McCoy Pottery Co. was established in 1899 and grew to become the largest American pottery producer. It ceased operation in 1990.

Palmer Lake Branch events

On Saturday, Jan. 16, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. will be a Winnie the Pooh Party to celebrate author A.A. Milne’s birthday. Come celebrate with Winnie and his friends. Meet Tigger, hear a story, enjoy a craft, and enjoy some cake!

For those who enjoy the Paws to Read program, come to the branch on Thursday, Jan. 21, to read with Misty from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

On Feb. 5 at 9 a.m., the Palmer Lake book group will discuss "The Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton. New members are always welcome. To reserve a copy, call the branch at 481-2587.

We hope to see you at the library. Happy New Year!

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Holiday powwow benefits Native Americans

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Photos by Harriet Halbig

Below: Dancers follow the color guard during the grand entry.

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Below: Korean War veteran Lee Plenty Wolf offers a prayer in the Lakota language.

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Below: Rayelene Charley and Julie Redhouse of the Office of the Special Trustee.

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Below: Teresa and Dale Sanchez, silversmiths from Black Forest, were among the vendors.

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By Harriet Halbig

The Sixth Annual Christmas Powwow to benefit Project Lighthouse was held at Palmer Ridge High School on Dec. 12.

The event was sponsored by the Palmer Lake Historical Society, whose motto is "History is more than a memory." The Historical Society saw in the powwow an opportunity to introduce the community to a culture not often seen in this area. Society Vice President Al Walter said that the society sponsored a performance by Native American musicians and dancers Brulé in May in cooperation with the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and the success of that event indicated a local interest in the culture.

Project Lighthouse is an organization that, in cooperation with the Springs Rescue Mission, collects clothing, blankets and other items for use by residents of three reservations in North and South Dakota. According to Project Lighthouse President Brad Bearsheart, 52 semi trailers of donations have been driven to the reservations to date. The organization was founded six years ago.

Several vendors of jewelry, art, and clothing from Colorado and surrounding states participated. In addition, there were representatives of various social agencies such as the Oglala Lakota Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, the Caring Association of Native Americans (providing housing for families of Native Americans hospitalized in Denver), and the Interior Department’s Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, an agency involved in managing leasing and land sales of property on Indian lands. One function of the agency is to locate individuals who may have inherited lands and are owed money from these leases.

The powwow included a moving tribute to Native American veterans and active service members, a grand entry of costumed dancers, and dance demonstrations, in addition to a gift distribution at the end of the evening.

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Special Events and Notices

By Judy Barnes, Editor Emeritus

Although we strive for accuracy in these listings, dates or times are often changed after publication. Please double-check the time and place of any event you wish to attend by calling the info number for that event.

Recycle your Christmas tree, Jan. 9-10

This weekend you can drop your tree off at the Baptist Road Trailhead "Treecycle" site, Baptist Road at Old Denver Highway, Jan. 9-10, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please remove all lights and decorations first. Discarded trees will be ground into mulch, which will be given away free to El Paso County residents on a self-serve basis while supplies last. A suggested tax-deductible contribution of $5 supports El Pomar Youth Sports Programs throughout El Paso County. For more information, contact El Paso County Environmental Services at 520-7878 or visit www.elpasoco.com.

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Bowl and Live Auction to Help Prevent Childhood Blindness, Jan. 9

Cops for Kids is sponsoring this fundraising event in honor of Parker Ebaugh Jan. 9, 1 p.m.-1 a.m., at PINZ Bowling Alley, 855 Hwy 105, Palmer Lake. Live bands will play from 3:15 p.m. on. Get autographs and photos with Denver Broncos cheerleaders 3-5 p.m. The live auction, 7:30-9 p.m., features a two-night stay and golf at the Broadmoor, a weekend getaway in Leadville, a laptop, snowboard equipment, and much more. Cost: $5 admission, and $5 for two games of bowling and shoe rentals. For more information, call 487-7469.

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Senior Mondays at the Western Museum of Mining & Industry (WMMI)

Beginning in January and running each Monday through March, seniors will be admitted into the museum for just $2.50 (regularly $6). Come see the museum that works! See giant steam engines from the late 1800s. Tours begin at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. WMMI is located at 225 North Gate Blvd (I-25 Exit 156 A). For more information, call 488-0880 or visit www.wmmi.org.

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Pikes Peak Library District’s Adult Reading Program kicks off Jan. 11

Adults 18 and older with a Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) library card can win prizes for reading during the annual Adult Reading Program that runs Jan. 11 to March 8. To register, bring your library card to any PPLD library and sign up at the information desk. You can also sign up online at ppld.org beginning Jan. 11. Read eight books in eight weeks to earn prizes. Prizes include a chocolate bar from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and a coffee mug. Read four books by Feb. 8 to be entered in a grand prize drawing for a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory gift basket or Snuggie blanket. For more information, phone 488-2370 or 481-2587, or visit ppld.org.

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Meeting to discuss removing Doewood Drive barricade, Jan. 13

Commissioner Wayne Williams and County Engineer Andre Brackin will discuss plans to remove the Doewood Drive barricade at a community meeting Jan. 13, 6:30 p.m., at Palmer Ridge High School, 19255 Monument Hill Rd., Monument. The barricade was put in place by a Board of County Commissioners resolution in 1996 stipulating that the barricade would remain in place until several other streets were completed and accepted for county maintenance. Those streets, including Hammock Oaks Drive, Misty Acres Drive, Old Antlers Way, Painter Drive, Alexandria Drive, and Mepham Court were accepted by the county on Nov. 24, 2009. Williams and Brackin will discuss the improvements needed on Doewood Drive as well as traffic flow and safety concerns through the affected neighborhoods. Local residents and motorists who drive through this area are invited to express their views and concerns. For more information, call the El Paso County Public Services Department at 520-6874.

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Donala to hold town meetings about water issues, Jan. 13-14

The Donala Water and Sanitation District, which serves the community of Gleneagle and surrounding developments, is holding two meetings, Jan. 13 and 14, 7 p.m., at the Gleneagle Golf Club, 345 Mission Hill Way. The presentations will be the same both nights, allowing for as many residents as possible to attend. The topic will be "Water for the Future" and Donala’s plan to bring renewable water into the district by connecting to the distribution system of Colorado Springs Utilities. These meetings will describe the projects and their funding requirements. The district plans to bring the question of debt to the voters in May. For more information, phone 488-3603.

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Tri-Lakes Women’s Club grant applications 2010

The Tri-Lakes Women’s Club (TLWC) will accept grant applications Jan. 15-March 15. Qualified organizations that provide significant services to residents within the geographic boundaries of School District 38 are encouraged to apply. Qualified organizations include 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, public service organizations, and public schools. Grants will be awarded in late May.

Grant applications, instructions, and guidelines can be downloaded from the TLWC Web site, www.TLWC.net, or by sending a request with a stamped, self-addressed envelope to TLWC Grant Committee, P.O. Box 669, Monument, CO 80132.

The Tri-Lakes Women’s Club sponsors two major fund-raising events: Wine and Roses, a wine-tasting event in October, and the Pine Forest Antique Show and Sale in April. Over the last 36 years, TLWC has awarded more than a half million dollars to Tri-Lakes community organizations over the past 36 years.

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Western Museum of Mining & Industry (WMMI) celebrates 100 Years of Scouting in February

Scouting is an important part of American history. To help scouts celebrate, for the entire month of February WMMI will give all scouts in uniform 50 percent off the regular admission price. The museum is a perfect place for a group tour! Call 488-0880 to book or visit www.wmmi.org for more information. Regular admission is $8 adults, $7 military/AAA, $6 seniors & students, $4 children 3-12, free to children under 3 & museum members. WMMI is located at 225 North Gate Blvd (I-25 Exit 156 A).

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Sheriff’s Office announces spring Citizens’ Academy

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is accepting applications for the 12-week spring Citizens’ Academy that will be held Tuesday evenings, 6:30-9:30 p.m., Feb. 9-April 27. The academy will offer participants a broad overview and unique insight into the various functions of the Sheriff’s Office. Participants will go on a ride-along with deputies to observe the variety of calls handled by the Sheriff’s Office and take a tour of the detention facilities to experience the challenges facing detention staff. Detectives will take them through the process of criminal investigation, and participants will learn about use of force, vice and narcotics operations, and emergency services. There is no charge to attend the Citizens’ Academy, but seating is limited to the first 40 completed applications received. Applications must be submitted by Jan. 25, 5 p.m. To request an application, phone Deputy Bill Huffor, 520-7107, or Deputy Matt Stoneback, 520-7340.

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Free gun-lock kits

The Monument Police Department is offering free firearm safety kits to local residents through a partnership with Project ChildSafe, the nationwide firearms safety education program. Each kit contains gun safety information and a cable-style gunlock that fits most types of handguns, rifles, and shotguns. The Police Department administrative offices at 645 Beacon Lite Rd. are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Drop by during those times to pick up a free gun-lock kit. For more information, phone 481-3253.

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Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP)

LEAP helps residents struggling to pay their home heating bills. LEAP benefits provide assistance to help families with their heating bills but are not intended to pay the entire bill. Applications are accepted during the eligibility period for LEAP, which runs Nov. 1, 2009 to April 30, 2010. Application packets will automatically be mailed to residents who received LEAP assistance last year at the address where they were living at that time. For more information about LEAP benefits, call 1-866 HEAT-HELP (1-866-432-8435).

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County Prescription Discount Program now online

Significant savings on medications are just a click away. El Paso County’s Prescription Discount program is growing in size, scope, and ease of access. More than 80 participating local pharmacies and dozens of discount card distribution locations and agency partners are offering the card to their employees and constituents. Now people can download their own personalized prescription discount card on the county Web site at www.elpasoco.com

Any county resident without prescription coverage can use this program. Even if you have insurance for prescription medications, you may still benefit from the discount card, since it might save you money on prescription medications your existing plan does not cover. For more information about the county Prescription Discount program, log onto www.elpasoco.com or call 520-6337 (MEDS).

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Tri-Lakes Cares thrift shop in Monument

Hangers—Your Thrift Shop is now open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., at 341 Front St., Monument. Shop for gently-used clothing, books, and household items. Proceeds from Hangers will be used to promote the ongoing mission of Tri-Lakes Cares, a community based nonprofit. For more information, call 488-2300 or visit the Tri-Lakes Cares Web site, www.trilakescares.org.

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Tri-Lakes Senior Alliance Thrift Store in Palmer Lake

The new store is located at 755 Highway 105, in Unit 9 behind the West End Center in Palmer Lake. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The thrift store is a project of the Senior Alliance in cooperation with the entire Tri-Lakes Community. The project’s mission is to raise funds and resources for Tri-Lakes Senior Citizen Program activities, provide volunteer opportunities for Tri-Lakes residents, and offer affordable merchandise to all Tri-Lakes residents. For volunteer information call Hope, 481-4640. To donate items call Chaz, 229-5946.

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Senior Safety Program

Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Authority and Tri-Lakes Health Advocacy Partnership, Senior Alliance, have developed a Senior Safety Program. The free service includes installing and maintaining smoke detectors, a fire department evaluation of seniors’ homes to identify and correct safety hazards and address seniors’ safety needs, and Vial of Life for in-home storage of medical information in case of emergency. For information, call Lisa Frasca, 488-3304.

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Wildlife Masters in El Paso County

Do you wonder how to keep the deer from munching your freshly planted garden, how to get the skunk out from under your deck without getting sprayed, or how to get the squirrels out of the attic? Colorado State University Cooperative Extension in El Paso County has a staff of trained Wildlife Masters to help you. Call the Master Gardener Help Desk, 636-8921, and you will be called promptly with an answer. For information, call 636-8921 or e-mail csumg2@elpasoco.com

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