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Vol. 11 No. 4 - April 2, 2011


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Contents

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Irish music and dance energize TLCA

Photos by David Futey.

Below: Students of the Celtic Steps Irish Dance Studio perform a hard shoe dance at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts.  

Below: Ceol Ceili band members, from left, Heidi McClure, Roy Jackson, Steve Hart, and Kari Wilson.

By David Futey

On March 11, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) hosted two events in celebration of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. The evening opened with students from Celtic Steps, an Irish dance school, bringing a high-energy performance to the TLCA dance floor.

Caryn Morgan, coordinator with Celtic Steps, said the organization was formed by Lord of the Dance dancers Aisling and Shaun Casey. The school teaches traditional Irish step, hard shoe dance, and other dance techniques. The Colorado Springs school has 200 students, and they were scheduled to have five performances at various locations during the St. Patrick’s Day week. Information on Celtic Steps is at www.celticsteps.org

The second event saw a return of Ceol Ceili to the TLCA stage. The Colorado Springs-based Irish band performed a mix of traditional Irish songs and its own compositions. The band last played the TLCA in 2008 and since that time has been performing throughout the area, working on a new CD and integrating a new band member, Roy Jackson. Information on Ceol Ceili is at www.ceolceili.com

Information on upcoming events at the TLCA is at www.trilakesarts.org

David Futey can be contacted at dfutey@ocn.me

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Assessor reports big declines in average assessed property values

By John Heiser

At the March 12 meeting of the Northern El Paso County Coalition of Community Associations (NEPCO), Mark Lowderman, El Paso County assessor, estimated that assessed values of properties in the county will decline an average of about 15 percent.

He estimated the average decline in the Tri-Lakes area at about 10 percent. He said the greatest declines are being seen in the eastern part of the county, with some declines over 40 percent.

Lowderman noted that the declines in assessed values will result in a decline of about $7.5 million in the county’s general fund. Significant reductions in property taxes will also affect many districts, including the Pikes Peak Library District, fire protection districts, and school districts.

Some highlights of Lowderman’s presentation and responses to questions:

  • El Paso County has the highest number of parcels of land of any county in Colorado. There are currently about 260,000 parcels in the county. In 2000, there were 190,000 parcels. The increase over the past 10 years is mostly due to residential subdivisions.
  • All properties must be reassessed every odd-numbered year.
  • The new assessed value is used to determine property taxes due the following year.
  • The assessments are based on 24 months of sales data ending six months prior to the current year. For the assessments being done now, the data being used is for sales that closed between July 1, 2008, and June 30, 2010.
  • There are usually about 25,000 sales during the two-year period. This time there are only about 13,000 sales.
  • Over the prior 20 years, the county has seen double-digit property value increases.
  • In some areas, half the sales were of bank-owned properties. Many of these properties are not in good condition and tend to accelerate declining market values.
  • Property owners will receive notices of the new assessed value of their properties by May 1. Appeals of assessed values must be filed prior to June 1.
  • Appeals should be based on comparable sales. Lowderman encouraged residents to contact his office for help with appeals. He said his office’s mission is to arrive at a fair and accurate value of each property. He added that about half of all appeals result in a reduction in the assessed value. The value is never increased as a result of an appeal.
  • In the event agreement cannot be reached with the Assessor’s Office, the next level of appeal involves a county mediator. The Board of County Commissioners reviews the mediated agreements.
  • If the property owner is dissatisfied with the outcome of the second-level appeal, the final appeal is to a state board of assessment appeals in Denver. In 2009, out of 10,000 appeals that were filed in El Paso County, 12 went to the state board.
  • Currently, a factor of 7.96 percent is applied to the assessed value of residential property to determine the taxable portion. Mill rates for the various taxing districts are then applied to the taxable portion. Twenty-nine percent is the corresponding factor for non-residential property, which includes vacant land.
  • The 7.96 percent figure is the result of the Gallagher Amendment to the Colorado Constitution. The Gallagher Amendment was passed in the 1980s and requires that 45 percent of all property taxes come from residential properties and 55 percent from non-residential properties. As the number and value of residential properties have increased over the years, the factor applied to residential properties has steadily declined from more than 20 percent to the present 7.96 percent.
  • The property tax exemption program for seniors under which qualifying seniors pay reduced property taxes is administered by the county Assessor’s Office. That program is currently not funded.

At the conclusion of the meeting, NEPCO President Hans Post thanked Lowderman for his informative presentation.

**********

NEPCO’s mission is to promote communication and interaction among the homeowners associations and residential areas of northern El Paso County in order to exchange ideas on topics of common interest and to develop collective responses to the county on issues affecting the quality of life of NEPCO member associations.

The next NEPCO meeting will be held May 14 at 10 a.m. at the Monument Town Hall and Police Building, 645 Beacon Lite Road at Highway 105. The topic will be the 2010 census and community survey.

For more information on NEPCO, visit www.nepco.org or call Bob Swedenburg at 481-2723.

John Heiser can be contacted at johnheiser@ocn.me

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Monument Sanitation District Board, March 17: Plea to governor points out high costs of proposed regulations

By Jim Kendrick

On March 17, the board of the Monument Sanitation District unanimously approved a letter of concern to Gov. John Hickenlooper regarding the expected extremely high costs for proposed state-mandated capital additions to the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility to remove additional total phosphorus and total nitrogen from facility effluent.

The letter stated that the costs would be imposed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment with no demonstrated scientific basis that the facility modifications would produce significant water quality improvements in Monument Creek.

The executive summary and the full text of the Monument district’s letter to Hickenlooper are reprinted below.

JUC update

District Manager Mike Wicklund noted that the directors of the Tri-Lakes facility’s Joint Use Committee (JUC) had unanimously approved seeking help directly from Hickenlooper and state and county elected officials in reviewing the state Health Department’s new water quality regulations regarding phosphorus and nitrogen removal for publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities. Letters will also be written by the districts that will also ask the elected officials to help make sure that any new requirements imposed are realistic, affordable, and cost-effective.

The Tri-Lakes facility operates as a separate public utility and is jointly owned, in equal one-third shares, by Monument Sanitation District, Palmer Lake Sanitation District, and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District. A separate three-member JUC acts as the board of the Tri-Lakes facility and consists of one director from each of the three owner districts’ boards.

Note: The Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility, which is located two miles south of the Tri-Lakes Facility on Monument Creek, and the Academy Water and Sanitation District are facing the same extremely costly state-mandated tighter regulations on total phosphorus and total nitrogen in their effluent. These proposed new regulations would also require a similarly expensive capital investment by each facility with little if any measurable benefits in water quality. The Upper Monument facility is jointly owned by Donala Water and Sanitation District, Triview Metropolitan District, and Forest Lakes Metropolitan District.

Wakonda Hills home pump installation planning finalized

Wicklund reported that the first district-owned grinder pumps would soon be installed in those homes that could not be economically connected by gravity to the now completed expansion of the district’s collection system throughout Wakonda Hills. The district is providing the pumps to ensure that all the affected homes have a standardized installation package. Individual pump installations will vary in cost depending on the existing electrical service and location of the pump and wet well, but the pump circuitry will be standardized.

The district will be responsible for maintenance and repair of the pumps. The affected homeowners will still be responsible for the cost of installing the wet well for the pump and the service line that connects the house to the tap in the district’s collection line.

Willow Springs update

Wicklund stated that he would obtain additional access easements to the Willow Springs property from the new landowner to ensure that full access would be fully available for taking water quality samples in Monument Creek from just below the Tri-Lakes facility to Baptist Road. Hillcrest Bank of Kansas has foreclosed on the original developer. Hillcrest has no plans to develop this property in the near term.

The meeting adjourned at 9:25 p.m.

**********

The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on April 21 in the district conference room, 130 Second St. Meetings are normally held on the third Thursday of the month. Information: 481-4886.

Jim Kendrick can be contacted at jimkendrick@ocn.me

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Letter to Gov. Hickenlooper

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Subject: Proposed Water Quality Control Division Wastewater Treatment Facility NPDES Discharge Permit Standards for Total Phosphorus and Total Nitrogen

Dear Governor Hickenlooper,

Do not approve the currently proposed amendments to Regulations 31 and 85.

  • $3 to $6 billion in unfunded mandates on Colorado governments.
  • EPA mandating "one size fits all" state-wide numeric nutrient limits (CO Bureaucrats concur).
  • CO Revolving Fund does not have enough to loan for new nutrient-driven projects.
  • No state has complied fully with EPA’s nutrient control regulation.
  • Florida and other states have been successful with lawsuits against the EPA.
  • U.S. G.S. SPARROW model shows 90% to 95% nutrients come from non-point sources.
  • Monument Sanitation District’s upgrades would cost $25 million according to the EPA.

Sincerely,

Michael Wicklund

Manager, Monument Sanitation District

Monument Sanitation District
P.O. Box 205
130 Second Street
Monument, CO 80132-0205

March 17, 2011

Governor John W. Hickenlooper, State of Colorado

Subject: Proposed Water Quality Control Division Wastewater Treatment Facility NPDES Discharge Permit Standards for Total Phosphorus and Total Nitrogen

Dear Governor Hickenlooper,

Please do not approve the Division’s currently proposed amendments to Regulations 31 and 85.

The purpose of this letter is to ask for your support to help control increases in near and long term property taxes for bond repayment as well as monthly sanitary sewer fees for most Colorado citizens. These cost increases will result from currently proposed Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment initiatives regarding tighter regulatory controls on the amount of total phosphorus and total nitrogen released to state waters in wastewater treatment facility effluent. The huge statewide cost increases that would result from these proposed tighter water quality standards for treated effluent are in conflict with your executive order that directs state agencies to minimize, if not eliminate, unfunded mandates on Colorado special districts and municipalities.

CDPHE’s Water Quality Control Division receives about 75 percent of its annual budget from the federal government through the EPA’s Performance Partnership Agreement. Division staff members have been unusually stressed by the Agency’s demands for "one size fits all" state-wide numeric discharge limits for total phosphorus and total nitrogen – nutrients that actually help sustain the state’s widely diverse ecosystems. Excessive amounts of these nutrients can cause dissolved oxygen deficits for aquatic life due to excessive oxygen consumption by algae which in turn create excessive amounts of chlorophyll-a. However, the science on direct cause and effect relationships between these specific nutrients and algae in the widely disparate ecological settings found in Colorado is not well defined much less proven in all circumstances.

The types of "limit of technology" capital equipment that would have to be installed at nearly every WWTF in order to meet these new much tighter limits coupled with the much higher operating and maintenance costs for operating this new additional equipment will create financial problems in nearly every city, town, and rural hamlet throughout Colorado. For smaller towns and special districts, the cost of purchasing and installing the new treatment equipment alone will likely exceed the total present worth of their existing facility. For the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility the new equipment would cost about $25 million for this $6.2 million facility, using the estimating factors listed in EPA’s "Biological Nutrient Removal Processes and Costs" fact sheet.

No state has willingly complied fully with EPA’s nutrient control regulation demands to date because of the huge continuing additional costs that would be required and the lack of a scientific peer review of the agency’s proposed numeric limits. Nor has there been any scientific peer review of the Division’s proposed nutrients limits or the Division’s aquatic life multimetric index statistics these limits are also based on in part. EPA’s own rules call for scientific peer review in order to be sure that the mandated installation of new additional treatment equipment will result in cost-effective water quality improvements. Florida and other states have been successful in slowing imposition of single state-wide numeric nutrient standards by filing law suits against the Agency. Please keep in mind that the U.S. Geological Survey’s SPARROW model shows that as much as 90 to 95 percent of anthropogenic nutrients contributed to streams and lakes come from non-point sources, such as agriculture, in some watersheds.

Copies of the graphed results of this SPARROW study for both phosphorus and nitrogen nutrients in 11 Colorado watersheds are attached for your reference. Please compare the relatively small point source contribution of phosphorus and nitrogen to state waters (a part of which comes from WWTFs) to those of all the various non-point sources that EPA cannot regulate. Note that the point source contribution of nitrogen in the Arkansas River basin, which includes Monument Creek, is minuscule in comparison.

These charts were provided on page 5 of a 53-page letter to the Division from Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, dated March 7, 2011. The title of that letter is "Metro Wastewater Reclamation District Comments on the Initial Draft Regulatory Language for Water Quality Control Division Nutrients Proposal, dated February 2, 2011." This letter is available at www.CWQF.org under the March, 2011 meeting link on the Nutrient Criteria Work Group page. The file name is "Metro Comments on Proposal 03-07-11.pdf"

The Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority has allocated $400,000 for a cost-benefit study on currently available treatment processes that may have a chance of meeting some of the tight standards being demanded of CDPHE by EPA Region 8. The results of that study are currently scheduled to be available later this year. The Division has taken input from stakeholders’ engineering and legal consultants in extensively rewriting its original draft request for proposal. However, the Division has not amended the very constrictive long term nutrient limits that it is proposing to apply to each and every NPDES discharge permit that the Division issues to state publicly owned wastewater treatment works. Hence, the proposed long term nutrient limits remain scientifically and economically unsound.

The Authority and the Division are co-administrators of the Colorado Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund (WPCRF), the state revolving fund that most small districts, towns, and hamlets will be compelled to petition for low interest capital funding of their state-mandated nutrient-related water quality improvement projects. The Division will run the process for selecting the contractor that will perform the study for the Authority and supervise all aspects of technical and contract management. The cost-benefit study results will be used by the Authority to help it prioritize the torrent of special district and municipal loan applications that will follow the Division’s implementation of the EPA’s demands for tighter nutrient regulations.

Financing of all these projects will take several decades at best. There will simply not be enough money to loan in a timely manner from the state’s revolving fund. There isn’t anywhere near enough money in the revolving fund now for already approved state projects as can be seen in Attachment 2, which lists information on Clean Water SRF funding for 2010, but does not reflect the projects that will be mandated by the Agency’s and Division’s proposed tighter nutrient limits. The cost for new nutrient-driven projects will most likely exceed the $2.5 billion figure for 533 approved but still unfunded projects in the state’s Intended Use Plan for FY 2011.

The projected total debt necessary to finance these state-mandated WWTF capital improvement projects is approximately $3 billion to $6 billion for Colorado. These capital costs are simply not affordable, particularly for small special districts like Monument with only about 1,000 customers. Likewise, the much higher operating costs for the new equipment coupled with the continuing costs of operating and maintaining older existing equipment are not sustainable. If district property owners defeat bond issues at the ballot box and no grant money becomes available to the small communities, average user fees would increase from an average of approximately $39 per month to an average of approximately $150 per month just to cover debt service on revenue bonds. Annual operating costs would also increase substantially, particularly for most small WWTFs, further elevating average monthly user fees. All this is being asked of the state’s small wastewater districts when, we repeat, up to 90 to 95 percent of anthropogenic nutrients contributed to streams and lakes come from agricultural sources, which are out of the EPA’s reach.

The Colorado Water Quality Control Act requires consideration of economic feasibility in the adoption of control regulations and water quality standards. It is critical that the practical economic aspects of the proposed state-mandated nutrient removal requirements be included in your analysis of the future funding needs of the seven small Tri-Lakes regional wastewater districts that have only 300 to 3,000 customers producing only 30,000 to 600,000 gallons of average wastewater flow per day.

Please help the citizens of Colorado by supporting legislation that will help all special districts and municipalities to be able to pay for realistic, affordable capital improvements and sustainable fee increases for operations and maintenance costs that could result in very substantial cost effective near term improvements in nutrient removal. The legislation must give state entities time, through extended compliance periods, to arrange for financing using limited EPA and/or state CWRPDA SRF loans for capital equipment installation.

The professionals responsible for Colorado’s wastewater treatment facilities stand ready to design, build, and operate affordable improved treatment to meet realistic interim nutrient discharge permit limits, with your help. The permanent limits currently demanded of the Division by the EPA are a desirable but distant dream at best. These proposed permanent limits are and will remain unattainable as a practical matter with currently available technologies.

Bottom line: Most state WWTF’s should be able to remove 60 to 80 percent of the nutrients that are being targeted by the EPA at a tiny fraction of the total capital and operating costs that would be required by the proposed unfunded Division nutrients mandate. Please support legislation that helps us finance the realistic, achievable, sustainable, and cost-effective counter-proposal being sought by the Colorado Nutrient Coalition and other small districts and towns.

Very truly yours,

Ed Delaney, President
Lowell Morgan, Treasurer
Kristi Schutz, Secretary
Charles Robinove, Director
Glenda Smith, Director
Michael Wicklund, District Manager
James Kendrick, Operations

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Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility Joint Use Committee, March 8: JUC will ask governor for help on proposed regulations

By Jim Kendrick

On March 8, the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility Joint Use Committee (JUC) unanimously approved having Facility Manager Bill Burks draft a letter of concern to Gov. John Hickenlooper regarding the expected extremely high costs for proposed state-mandated capital additions to the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility. Burks will coordinate the drafting of the letter regarding enhanced remove of total phosphorus and total nitrogen from facility effluent with the facility’s attorney, Mike Cuculla.

The letter that the members of the JUC will sign will ask that the governor require that the state Water Quality Control Commission and Water Quality Control Division develop a regulatory system for phosphorus and nitrogen compounds in state waters that is based on cost-effective and sustainable treatment technologies as well as site-specific discharge standards.

The letter will also request a scientific peer review that ensures that individual wastewater treatment facility discharge permit limits are based on aquatic life studies that account for the wide variety of climate and background stormwater and agricultural runoff conditions in each of the widely diverse geographical regions in Colorado.

There was also agreement that the boards of each of three districts that jointly own Tri-Lakes in equal one-third shares—Monument Sanitation District, Palmer Lake Sanitation District, and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District—will also send letters directly to Hickenlooper asking him to not sign the current regulatory proposals that have been prepared by the Water Quality Control Division of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

See the article regarding the Monument Sanitation District board’s letter to the governor for more details on this issue.

Woodmoor Director Jim Taylor attended as the alternate for Director Jim Whitelaw, who was unable to attend this meeting.

Plant manager’s report

Burks noted that the potentially dissolved copper concentration in the facility’s February Discharge Monitoring Report was 11.3 parts per billion (ppb), which is a little higher than it has been in previous months but still well below the current maximum limit of 36.4 ppb.

The maximum influent wastewater copper concentration in January, 83 ppb, occurred in the South Monument collection line. This reading was much lower than the average peak value for that line, which normally ranges from 100 to 140 ppb. Copper readings for the facility’s treated effluent tend to slightly rise during cold snaps in the winter.

All other concentrations listed in the Discharge Monitoring Report showed that removal by the facility far exceeded state standards.

District managers’ reports

Monument District Manager Mike Wicklund reported that there had been a minor software "glitch" that interrupted remote pumping data transmission from the Trails End lift station to the district’s server. No problems occurred during the data transmission disturbance.

Palmer Lake District Manager Duane Hanson reported that there were no problems in Palmer Lake over the past month.

Woodmoor Assistant District Manager Randy Gillette reported that the amount of Woodmoor potable water that cannot be accounted for after it has been processed in the water treatment plants has been greatly reduced over the past few months, down to about 4 percent. Wicklund noted that the national average is about 10 percent and complimented Gillette on the success of his program to reduce losses.

Gillette noted that OCN’s February 8 JUC meeting article incorrectly stated that Woodmoor does not allow copper plumbing in the district. Gillette noted that the success over many years of Woodmoor’s injection of caustic soda into its potable water has adequately controlled the leaching of copper from copper pipes in the interiors of buildings.

Wicklund noted that the Town of Monument had passed an ordinance prohibiting interior copper water pipes within the town limits, so this town restriction would apply to new construction within the small part of the Woodmoor district that lies within the town’s boundaries but not in the rest of the district, which lies within unincorporated El Paso County.

See Gillette’s letter to the editor for more details.

Copper leaching problems will persist in Monument indefinitely

However, Monument Public Works Director Rich Landreth has terminated the injection of caustic soda at the water treatment plant at Second Street and Beacon Lite Road because of problems caused by installation of the equipment in a manner different from the method recommended by the district’s engineering consultant firm, GMS Inc.

The Triview Metropolitan District plants, which are also operated by the town’s Public Works Department through an intergovernmental agreement between Triview and the town, have never had caustic soda injection systems installed to control copper leaching from water pipes.

Wicklund noted that Monument Sanitation District and the town split the cost of retrofitting the installation of the caustic soda injection system in the Second Street water treatment plant, but he did not know until recently that it had been improperly installed and then turned off when it did not function properly. He hopes that Landreth will reinstall the caustic soda injection system in the recommended manner and turn it back on.

Wicklund also noted that when he recently introduced himself as the Monument district manager to an EPA Region 8 official, the official said, "Oh, you’re the facility that has the copper issues." Wicklund added that he explained to this official that the district had spent about $60,000 identifying that the source of the higher-than-expected copper concentrations was new water pipes in the homes being constructed in South Monument along Old Denver Highway.

Wicklund said that he also told the EPA Region 8 official that Monument had banned copper sulfate and copper pipes in the district. The official was also "very surprised by that and very encouraged by that. But when we’re missing a link there when it comes time for them to look again at the permit and they find that the town isn’t doing their part in trying to mitigate this problem, what are we supposed to do? We want to show the EPA of course that we’re doing everything we can."

Gillette responded, "If they stop the (caustic soda) process, the improvement is short-lived and the leaching comes back. Eventually the coating will disappear once you stop."

Burks said he had received a call from a woman asking if sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) injection would negatively affect her health, since she was receiving dialysis treatments. He added that he called Gillette to confirm that there would be no negative effect. Monument Director Lowell Morgan noted that there is always a natural background level of sodium in local potable water.

The meeting adjourned at 11:50 a.m.

**********

The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on April 12 at the Tri-Lakes facility lab building, 16510 Mitchell Ave. Meetings are normally held on the second Tuesday of the month. Information: 481-4053.

Jim Kendrick can be contacted at jimkendrick@ocn.me

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Triview Metropolitan District, March 8: Agate Creek Drive Park issues draw residents

By Mary Hafner

The Triview Metropolitan District Board of Directors held its monthly meeting open to the public on March 8 in Monument Town Hall. Approximately 15 members of the public attended the meeting, principally due to their interest in the allocation of funds by the board for a new park in the Homestead subdivision on Agate Creek Drive.

Agate Creek Drive Park hearing

During the public hearing on Agate Creek Drive Park, Summit Recreation was identified as the apparent lowest bidder for the project. A second, higher bid was submitted by Children’s Playstructures and Recreation. The board mandated that there be a thorough examination of the structural integrity of designs and materials as well as checks of short- and long-term performance results with other playground equipment installations of both bidding companies.

New conceptual plan drawings were shown on the TV screens in the room. Excited sounds of approval issued from the children and adults in attendance when the pictures of the park’s playground were viewed. Added to the discussion was the possibility of adding benches so the parents would have places to sit while providing security for their children and themselves. Parents reminded Rich Landreth, Monument’s director of Public Works, of the need for trash receptacles and dispensers of "doggie bags," which should be provided by the town.

Also discussed was the need for signs in the new park to remind participants to keep their dogs on a leash or other restraining devices. El Paso County has placed signs in all its parks to remind children and adults that "dogs must be under control at all times."

Triview District Manager Mark Carmel stated that the park improvements are the result of extensive planning by the Homestead homeowners association (HOA) in coordination with Town of Monument staff and Triview’s Board of Directors.

Carmel stated that the bid submittals will be sent to the directors by e-mail under separate cover. Summit Recreation’s package will be sent in three e-mails consisting of four attachments due to the attachment size limitations of the town’s e-mail server. The HOA attachment contains the specific proposal from Children’s Playstructures. A conceptual plan will also be sent showing the location of the playground equipment situated right off of Agate Creek Drive. The equipment will be located where it will not impede the view of any homeowner into or through the park. The park will be visible from the street to support the family-friendly focus of the Triview board.

Carmel said that the next steps include finalizing the design and contract, having the proposal development committee review the final plans, establishing the schedule for construction, executing the agreement, adding specifications for repairing or replacing the sprinkler system, and obtaining a construction permit.

The board unanimously approved a motion for Carmel to move forward with the apparent low bidder’s proposal if all five reference checks by the staff on the apparent low bidder are positive, the HOA subcommittee approves the final design, and the Monument director of Development Services reviews and approves the final proposal and design.

Consent agenda items

The first consent agenda item was the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority’s request for the new operating agreement that consolidates El Paso County Water Authority and Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority under the Pikes Peak name. This item was unanimously approved. Carmel said, "Triview participates in the water transit loss model and supports the water authority and its mission to seek sustainable water supplies for our regional community."

The second consent agenda item from Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority was a request for new project participation agreements, said Carmel. He noted that three water project participation agreements have been put aside indefinitely in order to first resolve existing water and wastewater agreements. The three water projects and associated Terms Sheet were unanimously tabled for an indefinite period. "Triview remains in support of all projects and is a funding partner on active project studies under the previous participation agreements," Carmel emphasized. The projects referred to are:

  • Flaming Gorge—Colorado/Wyoming Water Project Participation Agreement
  • SDS—Southern Delivery System Project Participation Agreement
  • Super Ditch Project Participation Agreement
  • Super Ditch Project Participation Agreement—Terms Sheet

Financial report

Monument Town Treasurer Pamela Smith noted that the 2010 end-of-year financial figures she had calculated showed net cash balance increases in two Triview funds. She added that these figures are still being audited by Tom Sistare of Hoelting and Co. The cash balance in the general fund increased about $1.1 million in 2010. The increase in the enterprise fund cash balance for 2010 was about $126,000. Triview Director Steve Remington suggested that some of the extra funds be moved to certificates of deposit to increase the amount of interest earned.

Three payments over $5,000 were unanimously approved:

  • $15,616 for liability insurance for the first quarter
  • $109,042 to Donala Water and Sanitation District for 2011 first-quarter operation of the Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility
  • $9,638 to Donala Water and Sanitation District for an end-of-year adjustment to 2010 fourth-quarter operation of the Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility

The board scheduled a working session for March 28 to discuss a strategic plan for future operations and revisions of operational agreements with the Town of Monument for service delivery by members of the town staff.

Operations report

The board unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement that provides that Forest Lakes Metropolitan District will reimburse Triview for an unmetered flow of 500 gallons per day of domestic wastewater from the Navsys building at the south end of Woodcarver Road through the Monument Creek interceptor pipe that is jointly owned by both districts.

Navsys is located in the Forest Lakes service area and is the only wastewater customer that Forest Lakes is currently serving. Both districts agree that it is not cost effective to construct a Forest Lakes flume at this time to measure the Navsys flow that is estimated to be approximately equal to 2.5 standard single-family homes.

Navsys will continue to use its own well for potable water. The town of Monument is paying for installation of a fire hydrant and a connection to the Navsys well. The Navsys property was annexed into the town three years ago and the town is obligated to provide this emergency service.

Landreth reported that he would be resuming subcontracted asphalt repairs on Jackson Creek Parkway, Leather Chaps Drive, and Lyons Tail Road. The excavation and repair of a water distribution system leak on Lacuna Drive was also subcontracted. Meter improvements will be installed in the District’s "A" water treatment plant by the end of March. Filters in the "B" water plant and some underdrains will be replaced in the next six weeks.

The Family of Christ Church on Baptist Road is seeking inclusion in the Triview District.

The board went into executive session at 6:58 p.m. for contract negotiation directions on a financial services agreement for 2011 services. The meeting adjourned after the executive session with no further board votes being taken.

**********

The next Triview board meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on April 12 in Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road. Information: 884-8017.

Mary Hafner can be contacted at maryhafner@ocn.me

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Woodmoor Water & Sanitation District, March 10: District focuses on source water protection plan

By Candice Hitt

At the March 10 Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District board meeting, members discussed the launch of a new public relations campaign led by consultant Bill Ray. A survey was sent to customers to gather feedback on the current service provided by the district and consumer knowledge of current and future water supplies.

Since 2009, the district has been proactive in developing a plan for regulating Woodmoor’s water supply with a focus on protecting this valuable resource. Included in the plan are methods for locating sources of contamination, protecting against contamination, and educating citizens about source water protection measures. The district’s involvement in the plan is completely voluntary and at no cost.

Monument Hill Country Club, formerly Woodmoor Pines, contacted the district about potential involvement in the supplemental water plan. The plan is designed to provide information to citizens to reduce contamination risks to drinking water and inform citizens about source water protection measures.

Assistant Manager Randy Gillette met with club staff and discussed a number of items, including the district’s approach to conservation, tracking wastewater and the requirement to formally apply for inclusion in the supplemental water plan.

Woodmoor currently uses caustic soda in the water to prevent scaling caused by copper piping. At present the district requires that customers use copper piping from the main water source to the home. Inside the home, there is no restriction on materials used for piping.

Construction projects

Gillette announced that there are currently two projects pending in the district—a Papa John’s pizza in the Crossroads Shopping Center and a Kum & Go gas station in Valley Vista Estates lot 4. Construction plans are to be submitted soon.

Gillette also gave the operations report, stating the rehabilitation plan is working well. The plan tracks the recycling of wastewater.

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The next regular board meeting will be held at 1 p.m. April 14 at the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District Office, 1845 Woodmoor Drive, Monument. For information: 488-2525.

Candice Hitt can be contacted at candicehitt@ocn.me

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Donala Water and Sanitation District, March 17: State opposes the district in Willow Creek Ranch water case

By John Heiser

At the monthly meeting of the Donala Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors March 17, the board received a report from Donala General Manager Dana Duthie on the progress of the water court case on the proposed change from irrigation to municipal use for water from Willow Creek Ranch.

In November 2008, Donala completed the purchase of the ranch near Leadville and has been reducing irrigation on the ranch and seeking conversion of the excess irrigation water, which flows to the Arkansas River, for use by the district. If the water court approves the conversion, this source would cover about 20 percent of Donala’s current demand.

Duthie reported that settlement has been achieved with all those opposing the water court case except for the State Engineer’s Office and the Colorado Water Conservation Board. On March 8 and 9, the case was presented to water court Judge Maes. The state’s position is that winter return flows should be provided to the stream even in years when the water is not used. It also holds that the minimum return flows used in the calculations should be the average return flows, and the past two years of reduced irrigation to install monitoring wells and determine ground water influence injured downstream water rights holders because of reduced return flows. The State Engineer’s Office wants the case dismissed. Both sides were scheduled to present closing arguments March 31.

The district is hoping to obtain rights to about 280 acre-feet of water per year. An acre-foot is 326,851 gallons. If that is the final figure approved by the water court judge then, under the terms of the ranch purchase agreement, the district will be obligated to pay Ronald Strich, the former owner of the ranch, about $408,000.

Water reclamation study effort completes sampling and analysis plan, rejects use of Gleneagle golf course

Each year, hundreds of millions of gallons of water are being discharged into Monument Creek by the wastewater treatment plant that the Donala district shares with the Triview Metropolitan District and the Forest Lakes Metropolitan District. The Donala district has undertaken a yearlong $220,000 study called the Donala Expanded Water Supply Study (DEWSS). The study is considering ways that effluent from the plant could be captured, extensively treated, and mixed in with the district’s water supply.

The DEWSS study team includes Roger Sams from GMS, Katie Fendel and David Takeda from Leonard Rice Engineers, and Floyd Ciruli from Ciruli Associates, a polling and public relations firm.

Sams and Fendel reported that a water sampling and analysis plan has been developed to characterize the effluent and other water sources that could be involved if the project were to be implemented. Sams said the team has identified 90 percent of the laboratory resources needed to implement the sampling and analysis plan. Sams noted that this is a key step for the regulators whose approval would be required to implement the project.

Fendel added that the regulators want the district to monitor a long list of constituents. After several months of sampling, the expectation is that the regulators would allow the list of things being monitored to be trimmed.

Sams reported that the Gleneagle golf course property, which was under consideration as a potential site for water reclamation facilities, "does not appear to be of sufficient size to accommodate a reclamation facility of the type that would be most cost efficient." He added, "Other sites in and around the district have a greater potential to satisfy design criteria in a more cost-efficient manner."

Sams reported that the study effort includes development of a 50-year water supply demand model based on the past five years of water use in the district.

An application for partial funding of the DEWSS feasibility analysis was submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation WaterSMART program. A decision on the grant request is expected by the end of April.

The DEWSS schedule calls for preliminary findings to be published in July 2011 and the final report to be published in September 2011. The preliminary design would be completed in November 2011. A presentation to the district’s Citizens Advisory Committee is scheduled for May 4. Community meetings to discuss the project are planned for May 19 and September 2011.

Water authority transition completed

Duthie reported that at the March 2 meeting of the El Paso County Water Authority, the group formally approved the second amendment to its establishing contract.

That amendment changed the name of the authority to the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA), opened membership to water providers outside El Paso County, and accepted assignment of the former PPRWA’s Super Ditch, Flaming Gorge, and Southern Delivery System (SDS) Study projects.

Duthie reported that the Widefield Water and Sanitation District dropped out of the new PPRWA. There remain 12 members. The quorum for meetings requires representatives from seven PPRWA member entities.

The Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control, and Greenway District has been considering a $37,500 proposal from Summit Economics, headed by David Bamberger, to develop a report identifying El Paso County stormwater issues and ways to address those issues. The City of Colorado Springs has committed to cover $20,000 of the cost. Duthie reported that El Paso County has paid $10,000 toward the cost, and the PPRWA members agreed to cover the remaining $7,500 with several member districts paying $1,000 each.

Duthie reported that the SDS Study project has approved a $19,000 study proposal from Leonard Rice Engineers.

PPRWA meetings are held at 27 E. Vermijo in Colorado Springs. Those meetings are held at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month and are generally broadcast over the Internet using the El Paso County website www.elpasoco.com. The next meeting will be held April 6.

Other matters

  • During the three months from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28, the district’s $3.77 million in investments managed by Davidson Fixed Income Management showed a yield of 0.34 percent, achieving a goal of beating the Colotrust Plus fund, which yielded 0.11 percent during the same period. The weighted average maturity of the district’s investments is 6.4 months.
  • Duthie reported that injection tests of one of the district’s Arapahoe aquifer wells are continuing. The intention of the tests is to determine the practicality of pumping water into the Arapahoe aquifer for recovery later during periods of higher demand.
  • The connection at Northgate Road to Colorado Springs Utilities infrastructure will be ready for bid as soon as approval is received from the city.
  • About 70 people representing about 40 households attended the district’s Landscape Expo held on Feb. 26. Duthie said he was pleased with the presentations and vendor participation. He added that a training session on drip irrigation and landscape design is planned for March 31.

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

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The Donala board will hold its next regular meeting on April 21 at 1:30 p.m. at the Donala office, 15850 Holbein Drive. Meetings are normally held on the third Thursday of each month.

The district’s website is at www.donalawater.org

John Heiser can be contacted at johnheiser@ocn.me

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Monument Board of Trustees, March 7: Board approves water authority projects

By Jim Kendrick

The agenda for the Monument Board of Trustees meeting on March 8 was quite short so that the trustees could have a workshop on board inter-communication after the regular meeting was concluded.

The board unanimously approved a resolution approving a very minor identical change in the wording of each of the three contracts for continued participation in Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA) water projects. The original legal language in each of the three new PPRWA participation agreements had been previously approved by the board at its Feb. 22 meeting.

Trustee Jeff Kaiser was absent.

Regional water projects approved

Background: The El Paso County Water Authority (EPCWA) is assuming control of PPRWA projects following the dissolution of PPRWA and changing its name to Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority so that it can expand its membership to include members of the former PPRWA that are outside of El Paso County. New project participation agreements that define the terms for EPCWA members to participate in the projects have been drafted and must be approved by each special district or municipality that wishes to remain a participant in these three projects.

The annual dues that the town will pay as a result of the merger and name change dropped to $2,950, an amount considerably less than the dues the town paid to both authorities in 2010.

Public Works Director Rich Landreth described the contents of the resolution that formally approved the three previously approved PPRWA projects: the Southern Delivery System, Super Ditch, and Colorado-Wyoming Project Participation Agreements. See www.ocn.me/v11n3.htm#bot0207 for more details on these three projects.

Other matters

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved Landreth’s proposed resolution approving the required amendments. The board also unanimously approved an annual liquor license renewal for the Diamond Shamrock truck stop at 1310 W. Baptist Rd., on the northwest corner of the I-25 Baptist Road interchange (Exit 158.)

Town Manager Cathy Green noted that the bank that now owns the Willow Springs parcel following foreclosure of the previous bankrupt developer is once again seeking annexation by the town. The original developer of the project never completed the town’s annexation procedure before losing the property.

See www.ocn.me/v11n2.htm#bot0118 for details of some of the still unresolved issues regarding town approval of this development.

Public comments

Dave Van Ness, Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce director, discussed "The Hill" project and the Chamber’s intention of renting billboard space along the I-25 corridor at Exit 161 to advertise local commerce. He also discussed a music festival being planned for this summer. Van Ness asked the board if it had any additional funds in its budget for donations to these projects.

Mayor Travis Easton replied that the board would discuss this request with Town Treasurer Pamela Smith. Easton also noted that it was still early in the year to commit all the very limited funds in the town’s budget line item for sponsorship of this type of event.

The meeting was adjourned at 6:55 p.m.

Jim Kendrick can be contacted at jimkendrick@ocn.me

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Monument Board of Trustees, March 21: Proposed new ordinance on farmer’s markets defeated

By Jim Kendrick

On March 21, the Board of Trustees did not approve a motion to amend the town fee schedule to pay for improved procedures that would help the town receive more sales tax revenues from farmer’s markets. The motion failed by a 3-3 vote, with Trustees Stan Gingrich, Jeff Kaiser, and Gail Drumm opposed to the fee schedule amendment.

The ordinance on the amendment of the town fee schedule had been unanimously approved by the Planning Commission on March 9.

However, after a lengthy, technical discussion, the board unanimously approved an ordinance to create two associated new town code chapters on special events and farmer’s markets. These chapters had also been unanimously approved by the Planning Commission on March 9. See the Planning Commission article for more details on the contents of these two new town code chapters.

The board unanimously tabled the proposed ordinance to amend the town code chapter on temporary uses because it was not clear whether a 2002 town ordinance that bans the sale of fireworks remains in force. See the Planning Commission article for more details on the contents of this proposed ordinance, which had been unanimously approved by the Planning Commission on March 9.

The board also approved ordinances to:

  • Approve new town sanitary sewer specifications.
  • Adopt a new franchise agreement between the Town of Monument and Comcast Cable Services but rejected the staff’s recommendation to raise the franchise fee from 3 to 5 percent, even though Comcast had agreed to the increased fee (Trustee Rick Squires abstained).

Mayor Travis Easton was absent. This Board of Trustees meeting was chaired by Mayor Pro Tem Rafael Dominguez.

Proposed town fee schedule changes

Tom Kassawara, director of Development Services, noted that the proposed resolution that would authorize changes in the amended town fee schedule he was proposing were directly related to the ordinances that the board would be considering later in the agenda. The proposed fee schedule revisions were:

  • Adding a fee of $100 for a special event permit to cover the time it takes for the staff to review the application, route it to the various town departments, and process all the associated paperwork. The fee is waived for events conducted by a non-profit.
  • Adding a $200 fee for farmer’s market permits along with a graduated fee based on the number of vendors. The manager of the farmer’s market would also require a business license.
  • The temporary use fee in the Event Permits section of the current ordinance is being deleted, since a replacement fee is added to the fee schedule.

The proposed cost of the separate business license fee for the manager, which was listed under the proposed farmer’s market permit fee of $200, ranged from $75 for a single vendor to $500 for over 50 venders, in six tiers.

See the Planning Commission article for more details on the other contents of this resolution regarding the proposed amendment of the fee schedule.

There was no comment in favor of or opposed to this resolution or the amendments to the fee schedule.

Some of the concerns about fees for farmer’s markets that were expressed by trustees and staff members were:

  • The proposed basic $200 fee for the manager of a farmer’s market would discourage them in the future.
  • It might be difficult to determine fees for an event that includes a mix of profit and non-profit entities.
  • The town has not been requiring every vendor to have a business license and a kiosk license per the existing town code because of the workload on the staff that would be required to check for possession of these licenses every day a farmer’s market is held.
  • The eight-page kiosk license regulation has just been revoked.
  • There are strong feelings among members of the Historic Monument Merchants Association that it is profoundly unfair to require permanent downtown businesses to pay fees and collect sales tax when few if any of either are collected and/or paid to the state by vendors at farmer’s markets.
  • The managers of the farmer’s markets and some vendors have a sales tax license and sometimes collect sales tax but typically do not turn them into the Colorado Department of Revenue.
  • The town cannot collect taxes because it is not a home rule town.
  • Under the amendment, the new farmer’s market managers permit can be revoked and the event shut down if no tax report is submitted to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
  • The staff had not calculated the actual sales tax revenue it would be able to collect if the amendment were to be approved.
  • The town treasurer can require the Colorado Department of Revenue to audit farmer’s market vendors regarding the amount of taxes they should have remitted to the state for distribution to the Town of Monument.

At the end of the discussion the trustees were split regarding whether it was worth enforcing the law. The staff and Trustee Tommie Plank emphasized it is "just wrong" not to enforce sales tax collection and remittance to the state. Drumm expressed strong opposition to town staff attempting to enforce laws that would help the state collect sales tax revenue for the town and said that collection of sales tax is a "burden" on the vendors.

The vote on a motion by Squires, which was seconded by Plank, to approve the town fee amendment resulted in a 3-3 vote, with Drumm, Gingrich, and Kaiser opposed. Gingrich and Kaiser did not explain why they were opposed to enforcing the sales tax laws to improve revenue collection for the town from the farmer’s market vendors. The tie vote caused the motion for approval to fail.

The board unanimously approved a resolution that states that a petition for annexation from the Family of Christ Lutheran Church on Baptist Road conforms to state law. The Triview Metropolitan District would also have to approve a separate petition for inclusion for the church property to be eligible for Triview utility services, the church’s primary motivation for inclusion. Because Triview cannot provide services outside town limits, the church must also seek annexation.

New town sewer specifications unanimously approved

Kassawara noted that the new regulations for the design and installation of sanitary sewer systems in two new town code sections were part of the staff’s continuing effort to standardize and improve the town’s infrastructure and make the rules the same for the Triview Metropolitan District. Kassawara noted that these new specifications will not apply within the portions of Monument Sanitation District and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District that lie within the town’s boundaries.

The board unanimously approved the new regulations.

Guest speaker describes region’s history

Guest speaker Al Walter gave a half-hour slide presentation on a new book titled Communities of the Palmer Divide that has been commissioned by the Palmer Lake Historical Society. He first discussed the method used for the creation of the book and the photographs and stories that were parts of his presentation. He reviewed the contents of each of the chapters and showed numerous historic pictures that illuminated the history of the local region, Monument, and Palmer Lake from the first settlements to the 2010 Rocky Mountain Chautauqua.

After Walter’s presentation on the local history of Palmer Lake and Monument, he presented a copy of the new book for the town’s use to Dominguez. Walter noted that this book can be ordered through the Palmer Lake Historical Society website at http://palmerdividehistory.org/. Copies may also be purchased at the L. Vaile Museum, or at local shops and bookstores.

During the discussion, Trustee Rick Squires noted that the dining room in his home is a part of the original David McShane homestead.

After describing the events from the 2010 Chatauqua event to 2011, Walter requested that the board again provide the same financial support for the Chautauqua event to be held in the first weekend in August that it provided last year—$2,000. Plank noted that $2,000 is the town’s total contingency fund for all of 2011. Town Manager Cathy Green responded that the staff would examine the town’s finances and get back to Walter. Walter thanked the board and staff for the support they had provided the Historical Society in the past and for helping them "make history more than just a memory."

The meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m.

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The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 4 at Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road. Meetings are normally held on the first and third Monday of the month. Information: 884-8017.

Jim Kendrick can be contacted at jimkendrick@ocn.me

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Monument Planning Commission, March 9: Commissioners sworn in

By Jim Kendrick

On March 9, Monument Planning Commissioners John Dick, Glenda Smith, and Becki Tooley were sworn in by Town Attorney Gary Shupp for new four-year terms. The commissioners then approved new additional language on "special events" and "farmer’s markets" and approved a town code amendment regarding "temporary uses."

Commissioners David Gwisdalla and Kathy Spence were absent.

Two code chapters added for special events and farmer’s markets

Principal Planner Karen Griffith briefed the commission on the changes that are included in the proposed new chapters. Farmer’s markets were previously governed by language in the temporary uses section of the town code and required Planning Commission and Board of Trustees public hearings. The new language is intended to streamline the staff review process and allow them to be approved administratively. The town code has not had any specific provisions to evaluate a special event application.

The intent of the proposed ordinance is to safe operation of special events and farmer’s markets so that they are not detrimental to public health; do not substantially interfere with traffic, pedestrian circulation, or public services; and are compatible with surrounding property.

Special events will require a permit if:

  • The event requires a street closure or significantly interrupts the flow of traffic.
  • An event with 100 people or more takes place in a public park.
  • An outdoor event held on private commercial property significantly reduces the number of available parking spaces for public use.
  • An outdoor event of any size includes the sale or consumption of alcoholic beverages to or by the public. A special event liquor permit is also required for this purpose.

Some of the other key changes Griffith discussed were:

  • Intent statements have been added.
  • Descriptions of special events and farmer’s markets have been included.
  • The permit process is described.
  • Approval criteria are included.
  • Provisions for permit expirations, renewals, and revocations are included.
  • An appeal process is provided.
  • The existing definition of a special event will be deleted and replaced with new language.

The farmer’s market regulations establish a list of items approved for sale, including produce and handcrafted goods, and prohibited items.

Special events and farmer’s markets require a designated manager who will be responsible for managing the vendors. This is intended to make the events as safe as possible and cause minimal impacts to streets and surrounding properties.

During the lengthy technical discussion between the commissioners and Griffith, there was consensus to add language that would include the sale of firearms and sexually explicit businesses on the list of farmer’s market prohibitions. Other formal recommendations were:

  • Add car shows to the list of special events.
  • Specify that gravel-surfaced parking lots are suitable for special event parking.
  • All animals rather than just dogs must be kept on a leash.

The commission unanimously approved the two new ordinance chapters.

Code amendment on temporary uses approved

The new proposed changes will allow for fireworks sales, and business promotional events, such as tent sales, as temporary uses. Some of the amendment changes are:

  • Adds "business promotional events" to the list of allowed uses in nonresidential zone districts and sets specifications on time limits and locations.
  • Adds "fireworks" to the list of allowed seasonal outdoor sales.
  • Removes "plants" from the list of allowed uses and activities to clarify that outdoor garden centers are not subject to any restrictions or regulations as a temporary use.

Griffith noted that the sale of fireworks is subject to state law. The town’s ordinance change allows the sale of fireworks in tents as well as permanent buildings.

The meeting adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

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The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 13 in Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road. Meetings are normally held on the second Wednesday of the month. Information: 884-8017.

Jim Kendrick can be contacted at jimkendrick@ocn.me

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Palmer Lake Town Council, March 10: Council reviews request for quiet zone

By David Futey

On March 10, the Palmer Lake Town Council heard a request from a group of Palmer Lake citizens that the town consider a quiet zone at the County Line Road crossing.

Town Clerk pro-tem Tara Berreth was excused from the meeting

Proposed town quiet zone

Jerry Davis of Upper Glenway in Palmer Lake presented the council with documents providing a history of quiet zones and the process that would be undertaken to create a quiet zone at the County Line Road train crossing. Davis is among a group of Palmer Lake citizens that has been researching the possibility of a quiet zone.

Davis said the Town of Palmer Lake spent almost $200,000 in 2003 to upgrade the train-activated gates at the County Line Road crossing. In 2005, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) established the meaning of a quiet zone to allow localities an opportunity to "mitigate the effects of train horn noise." In 2009, the Town of Monument passed a quiet zone for the Second Street crossing.

Davis contacted the FRA and was advised to use its Quiet Zone Calculator. The calculator is a tool that uses risk factors, such as vehicular traffic, local speed limit, and train volume to calculate a risk index for potential accidents. Davis said if the train horns were silenced now, the risk index would be 27,098, higher than the Nationwide Significant Risk Threshold of 18,775.

That means that changes, such as constructing a median, would be needed at the crossing to reduce the risk of vehicles driving between the lowered crossing barriers. Using information from the FRA, a median was estimated at $13,000. However, Davis said his contact with the FRA suggested that it could be done for less and recommended getting estimates.

Davis said, "To counteract that cost, we looked into the possible gain for the town." He said train noise causes a 5 to 7 percent reduction in property tax and 4 percent reduction in property value for every 10 decibels of noise in the neighborhood. Davis then described a calculation that showed how the town could gain an increase in property value with a quiet zone. He said, "This is all unofficial documentation through publicly available information" and that "nothing can be done without a notice of intent by the Town of Palmer Lake."

Mayor John Cressman asked for an explanation about the median. Davis said the median is any divider between the lanes to prevent a car from going around the existing two gates. It could be a concrete barrier, and there are products made for this purpose.

Trustee Gary Coleman said that, from his past conversations with the Town of Monument about its median, the proposed median might need to extend 100 feet from the track. Davis said it had to be 44 feet in each direction from the center line of the track, and that distance is based on the local speed limit and other specific factors at the location. Coleman said he has talked with some town residents about the matter, and they tended to prefer hearing the whistle.

Trustee Bryan Jack said he reviewed the last town survey and said it was "50/50 regarding the sound," so to him the only drawback was cost. Jack said "the notice of intent does not cost us anything" and that would enable the FRA to provide additional information and determine whether a median is feasible. Jack said $13,000 to do an upgrade is "significant" for the Town of Palmer Lake, but he would like to explore the options.

Trustee Daniel Stern suggested if a median were installed, one of the crossing gates would need to be moved to accommodate a 2-foot-wide median. Cressman said the train horn becomes a safety issue in the summertime with so many children crossing the tracks. The council then requested that Roads Supervisor Bob Radosevich contact the FRA and express the town’s intent to seek more information on the quiet zone for this crossing.

Renewal of Comcast franchise agreement

David Serad, director of Government and External Affairs, attended to answer questions that the council might have about Comcast and the cable television franchise agreement that expired in February 2011. Comcast is seeking a renewal with a 5 percent franchise fee that is passed on to customers. The recently expired franchise fee had been 3 percent since 1996. Serad said "it is up to the city" to determine the percentage, but most of Comcast’s contracts are now at the 5 percent level.

Cressman inquired what Monument charges. Serad said he is in negotiation with the town and in the present documentation, the franchise fee is 5 percent. Jack said that if an increase occurs, "citizens are going to realize that the Town Council is going to raise your cable bill." Jack said "this is just like a tax." Customers pay a franchise and regulatory fee.

Trustee Max Stafford asked if Comcast had performed any upgrades to the system. Serad said a digital upgrade was performed, and that resulted in customers having to change their cable box.

Town Attorney Larry Gaddis suggested hiring an outside counsel who has negotiated with Comcast, because the contracts are "deceptively interesting." Gaddis said he will contact Kenneth Fellman and report back on attorney fees. The current agreement with Comcast is being extended month-to-month. As a result, the council did not vote on the agreement.

Committee reports

Cressman said the census results showed that Palmer Lake had grown 11 percent since 2000. There are now 2,420 residents in the town. He also said El Paso County is the largest county in the state. Cressman announced that he has joined the board for the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts to, in part, assist with the coordination between the art center and the town.

Cressman said that Deputy Town Clerk Tara Berreth "requested being made town clerk" because she needs the title for working with town finances and the bank where the town accounts are held. She is now considered town clerk pro-tem.

In the discussion, Gaddis said if the council proceeded with the change and needed to remove her as town clerk, they would need cause. Jack said she does not live in town, and that could be cause for removal according to the municipal code. Berreth lives in Colorado Springs. Jack wants to meet with bank officials to verify if that title is needed, because her pro-tem position is appointed by council and defined in the municipal code.

Jack also said that in the citizen forums and in the discussions on Berreth’s role after the loss of Town Clerk Della Gray, town positions would be reviewed. Jack said he does not want to make anything "permanent" until the review of responsibilities occurs. A review has not been scheduled. Gaddis said this inaction might be a source of frustration with Berreth.

Jack offered to have a meeting the week after the council meeting to discuss this situation further and also review the requests for proposals received for the town account. Cressman agreed to this meeting assuming a quorum could be arranged.

Parks and Recreation

Coleman said he attended the Chautauqua meeting and noted that it will occur during the first weekend in August.

Water

Stafford said the town provided 12.7 acre-feet of water during February, all of which came from the surface water treatment plant. He said the "old" Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority has officially disbanded and part of the town’s dues has been refunded. He is working with consultant Linda Firth on a water conservation grant.

Fire

Trustee Joe Polonsky said 1,531 volunteer hours were logged in February by the Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department. Allison Quintana, Rachel Kelly, Bruce Edwards, and Michael Keough were accepted into the department. A request was made for Shana Ball to return to the department as a volunteer. Polonsky felt that it was too soon since she was removed as chief to consider that request.

Request for new phones

Radosevich requested new phones for town staff because parts are no longer available. The phones are no longer made and thus no longer serviceable. He requested 14 digital phones at a cost of $6,121. A five-year lease for the same number of phones would cost more than $11,000. There is also a warranty plan that would cost $840 annually. After some discussion, the council requested that Radosevich receive a second quote, because the amount for the conversion appears to be over $5,000.

Ron Heard of the Crawford Memorial Committee

By unanimous decision, the council approved a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Crawford Memorial Committee. The MoU was approved by Gaddis. The council also declined to rename Centennial Park in Crawford’s name. The MoU and request for the name change was made by Ron Heard of the Crawford Memorial Committee.

In the discussion, Trustee Nikki McDonald said she does not want to change the name of Centennial Park because it was dedicated for the 100th anniversary of the town. McDonald said Crawford was greatly involved in the naming, and she does not think he would have wanted the name changed.

The council went into executive session at 8:17 p.m.

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

David Futey can be reached at dfutey@ocn.me

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Lewis-Palmer School District Board of Education, March 17: Committees suggest ways to cut costs

By Harriet Halbig

Long Range Planning Task Force facilitator Steve Stephenson returned to the board at the March 17 meeting with further suggestions for stretching and increasing the district’s resources on the basis of work by his task force. Following are some key points:

  • Do an energy audit to save on utility expenses. Suggestions include changing from incandescent to more energy-efficient light bulbs, cutting back on parking lot lighting and analyzing electric use during peak use hours (4-6 p.m.). Lighting of the bus barn and the bridge at Palmer Ridge are under study.
  • Lower water costs through the use of xeriscaping. Such projects might be sponsored by community groups. Use of artificial turf on playing fields, although initially expensive, would save $18,000 per field per year in water costs.
  • Explore potential savings by charging a fee for transportation. A suggested amount of $1 per day would yield over $400,000 per year for the 2,500 students now using the service. Also consider charging a bus fee for athletic and field trips.
  • Negotiate for better cell phone rates.
  • Diligently maintain equipment not being replaced as often as in the past. This is especially important for buses and snow removal equipment.
  • Analyze temperatures in facilities. Ensure that heat and air conditioning are never run at the same time.
  • Analyze bus routes. $70,000 in savings could be realized from altering two routes.
  • Utilize community service volunteers for such tasks as landscaping and painting. This works best for one-time tasks rather than recurring ones.

To increase revenue, the task force suggests seeking corporate sponsorships. There is a company that could seek and negotiate sponsorships for such areas as the stadiums. Because Lewis-Palmer is known for its athletic success, this is a valuable resource, the task force says. The company would retain 40 percent of the fee, but the district could see revenue of up to $100,000 in the first year. The district would determine which assets it seeks to sponsor.

The task force also explored advertising the district to increase enrollment. Most current ads have been in print media. Private schools and other districts have used television ads. Outside expertise could be sought to create the ads, or they could be developed in house by video classes. Air time during a news broadcast averages $150 to $275 for 30 seconds. Ads would be run during open enrollment time.

Stephenson stressed that these are only suggestions.

Assistant Superintendent for Operations Cheryl Wangeman said that she had investigated some further options at the board’s request. The district could save about 10 percent of costs by outsourcing custodial and maintenance services. The concern is that some of the aging equipment would not be repaired as quickly by an outside organization than by those who have maintained it. Perhaps it would be more practical to outsource grounds maintenance, she said.

Wangeman also explored the idea of closing the administration building, Big Red. The primary obstacle is the server room. It could be moved to Palmer Ridge at an expense of $80,000 to $90,000. It is unlikely that the entire staff could be accommodated in any one building in the district.

Operations Advisory Committee

Members of the Operations Advisory Committee presented recommendations regarding capital reserves and expenditures. Among them:

  • Use a matrix to determine priorities in capital expenditures. The committee is concerned about expenses being passed along to future boards as a result of postponing such investments as new buses, roofing, heating equipment, and other necessities. Do not use principal contingency funds to purchase items that might be purchased in quantity at a better price.
  • The pattern of enrollment in the district is unlikely to change in the next five years or so. While seeking additional enrollment through advertising is a good idea, the primary issue is still the cost of housing in the district, prohibiting most families with young children from living here. Using the present configuration of elementary, middle, and high schools is sufficient for now. Judging from capacity studies, an additional elementary could be closed and still not exceed the capacity of the facilities. Such a closure is not anticipated at this time.
  • Many computer rooms sit unused for large parts of the day. Re-examine the student/computer ratio or develop a more efficient distribution such as a few computers in several rooms rather than many in a central location.
  • Take a closer look at the use of Grace Best, the former elementary school. While parts of it are being rented, the revenue does not exceed the expense of heating and maintaining the building.
  • Realize savings by centralizing procurement. Discourage schools from purchasing small quantities of supplies and from independently purchasing technical equipment that may later become a repair issue.

Finally, the committee reported that the conversion of Creekside Middle School to Bear Creek Elementary School was achieved on time and under budget. In addition, the enrollment at Bear Creek exceeds the estimated enrollment by almost 15 percent, proving that the decision to create an elementary school in the Jackson Creek area was a wise one. The preschool at that location is operating at near capacity.

Science Step-Up Program for elementary students

Assistant Superintendent of Student Learning Shirley Trees and others presented the Science Step-Up Program to the board.

The program, beginning at the kindergarten level and continuing to fifth grade, consists of kit-based nine-week units. It is based on an inquiry approach, encouraging students to investigate questions through hands-on activities.

In addition to increasing students’ knowledge of science, this program requires the use of science notebooks, strengthening students’ writing and observational abilities. By creating a table of contents, students learn organizational skills as well. By graphing results, math skills are also strengthened.

The kits are refurbished between uses, and many include living entities such as insects, frogs, or chicken eggs. One individual maintains and refurbishes the kits at Grace Best.

While science is not on the CSAP test until fifth grade, research in the Pikes Peak region has shown that this program helps student scores when they reach fifth grade. District 38 is now in the 95th percentile in science.

Kits are updated to keep in line with state standards.

New teachers must be trained to use the kits. Assessment Director Marie Revak said that podcasts may be developed so that teachers may review each kit just prior to using it.

Search for new principal outlined

The board approved a contract for John Borman as the new superintendent of the district at a salary of $148,000. Borman’s health insurance and other benefits will be the same as other district employees. The contract is for two years, with review after the first year and renewable annually thereafter.

There are 18 applicants for the position of principal at Lewis-Palmer High School. Many are sitting principals and assistant principals and some are from out of state. Committees of staff, students, and community members have been formed and questions are being developed. The application process closed in mid-March.

Interim Superintendent Ted Bauman outlined a transition plan for Borman over the next several months. Borman will attend meetings and assist with creating agendas for the Board of Education and the administrative team. He will be introduced to community and professional groups and anticipates receiving his administrator’s license by the end of summer.

Other matters

Bauman requested, and the board approved, the use of $350,000 from the district’s "fees in lieu of land" fund to allow for such capital expenditures as the replacement of a boiler and a roof on district facilities. The fund consists of assessments per roof of new development by local builders. Funds can be used to purchase land for a school, build a school, or renovate a building. This expenditure accounts for about a third of the fund.

The board voted to approve such routine matters as minutes of past meetings, resignations/retirement of staff, lists of substitute teachers and support staff, contracts, and other matters.

**********

The Lewis-Palmer District 38 Board of Education meets at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the district’s learning center, 146 Jefferson St., Monument. The next meeting will be held on April 21.

Harriet Halbig can be contacted at harriethalbig@ocn.me

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District Accountability Advisory Committee, March 8: Next superintendent describes priorities

Below: Superintendent-designate John Borman, right, addressed the DAAC. At left is committee member Cathy Wilcox. Photo by Harriet Halbig.

By Harriet Halbig

The Lewis-Palmer School District’s Accountability Advisory Committee addressed several serious issues and got to know the district’s new superintendent-designate at its March meeting.

Lewis-Palmer High School Principal John Borman will assume the title of superintendent on July 1. This was the committee’s first opportunity to speak to him in that context.

Borman has been in his present position for four years and oversaw District 38’s transition from one high school to two, along with a major decrease in the number of high school teachers. He said that he has some priorities on entering his new position:

  • Keep the students as the priority when considering any decisions regarding policy or budget. The state’s education budget continues to fluctuate, making it difficult to plan ahead. Borman anticipates cutting $3 million or more in the coming year
  • Make an effort to find out why 600 of the students from D-38’s area attend school in District 20. Three hundred of theirs come here.
  • The only schools ahead of D-38 in achievement are charter or private schools. Maintaining and growing enrollment numbers is key to funding.

Committee member Deb Goth commented that too many people say, "You’re doing so great as a district—why do you need more money?" Borman said that there are fewer funds and fewer teachers now than over the past several years. He added that the district cannot strip away resources and continue to maintain its present standards.

Borman said that the workforce in this state has more to do with those moving into the state than those growing up here. The present funding system is not working. The district needs to determine a way to rally support within the community.

Committee member Cathy Wilcox said that a script is being developed to call 100 of the families who opted to attend D-20 schools to learn their reasons for the choice. Families who choose to home school and those who attend Colorado Springs Christian schools will also be contacted.

It is also suggested that there be an exit interview with students who leave the district, even if they do not graduate or are leaving the area.

The position of Lewis-Palmer High School principal has been posted. Groups of parents/students, staff, and community representatives will be formed the week after spring break to interview candidates.

When asked about rumors of closing a high school, Borman said that there is no danger of that happening. The demographics in the district favor older students, because the cost of housing is so high that families tend to move here when their children enter middle or high school. Both high schools are strong, with a growth rate of 5 percent per year.

Board of Education liaison Gail Wilson said that the planning task force has not made recommendations on any major changes in the district. The budget for the next year needs to be approved in June. The level of per pupil funding from the state will not be known until May.

Legislative update

Wilson reported that the state Legislature has entered a dialogue on the meaning of local control by school districts. Districts now individually determine such things as the number of hours of physical education instruction per week that are required. Districts also determine their own curricula as long as state standards are met. The Colorado Association of School Boards (CASB) advocates that the state should not impose any unfunded initiatives.

Senate Bill 191, passed last year, requires a new assessment process to determine teacher effectiveness. The Legislature recommended testing the students to determine the effectiveness of the teachers. This method of assessment is not applicable to such non-academic teachers as librarians and music and physical education teachers. Should the state set standards for when a teacher becomes non-probationary?

For those concerned about the issue, Wilson said that meetings on effective educators are open to the public. The Colorado Department of Education website lists times and locations.

Wilson also suggested watching trends in Douglas County, which advocates creating vouchers for students to take to private religious schools.

School Improvement Plans reviewed

Assistant Superintendent of Student Learning Shirley Trees divided the committee into groups to review improvement plans submitted by each of the district’s schools. She said that the plans are compliance documents for state law and serve to demonstrate adequate yearly progress for federal officials.

Trees said that the plans represent the real work being done at the school level. Although the district achieved the highest level of accreditation, each campus determined areas in which it desired improvement.

One conclusion from the plans was that the gap in achievement between special needs and general population students was most successfully reduced by integrating the special needs population into the general classroom whenever possible.

A weakness identified last year is writing ability, which is being actively addressed in all contexts, including math.

Regarding special education achievement, Wilson said that special education funding from the state does not cover the services offered in the district and that this must now be examined while discussing future budgets.

Committee for Political Achievement

DAAC Co-Chair Cori Tanner reported that state Rep. Amy Stephens has commented that public education does not have a funding problem but a spending problem. Stephens has not responded to requests for a meeting with members of the committee.

Tanner said that she will create postcards to be signed and sent to members of the budget committee of the state Legislature. Some of the postcards, titled "Jobs Today," will be from the standpoint of the district’s staff. Others, titled "Jobs Tomorrow," will be from students.

**********

The District Accountability Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. Locations vary. The April 12 meeting will be held at Palmer Ridge High School, 19255 Monument Hill Road, Monument.

Harriet Halbig can be contacted at harriethalbig@ocn.me

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Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Board, March 23: Budget continues on track

By Bernard L. Minetti

Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Treasurer John Hildebrandt provided a financial report for February at the March 23 board meeting. He stated that the district had received $99,217 in property tax revenue, which is 3.08 percent of the budgeted amount. He reported that the specific ownership tax revenue received was $47,096, or 17.18 percent of the yearly budgeted amount. He also added that ambulance revenues to date were $118,924, or 24.27 percent of the budgeted allocation.

Hildebrandt further advised the board that administrative expenses were up due to the payment of liability insurance premiums. He noted that fuel costs were up a little and that there was concern for the future of this item. He concluded his report by stating that overall expenses were 14.41 percent of the budget, which is slightly lower than projected.

Board President Charlie Pocock read the fifth in a series of articles on residential sprinkler system issues into the record:

"Residential Fire Sprinklers or No Sprinklers—Article Five

New data comes in almost monthly on the problems associated with antifreeze in residential sprinkler systems. This is the latest guidance just put out by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): "For now, and until any further action by NFPA consensus standards committees, NFPA sprinkler standards prohibit the use of antifreeze in new residential fire sprinkler systems." So before we go any further, remember we’re talking about El Paso County, Colorado and not Florida or Arizona. Our winter temperatures can range down to minus 35 degrees F and down to minus 55 degrees in the mountains, so we have to be aware of the worst-case conditions.

The NFPA has various alternatives, but considering cost, complexity, and reliability, a wet pipe system is best for home installations. The NFPA only recognizes two types of antifreeze solutions, and both are flammable. Glycerin has a flashpoint of 390 degrees and may only be used in a 50 percent solution, or less, which will freeze at minus 20.9 degrees F. Propylene glycol has a flash point of 210 degrees and may only be used in a 40 percent solution, or less, which has a minus 6 degree F freezing point.

Additionally, both of these antifreeze solutions must be mixed in the factory to ensure proper concentration and solution integrity. Both must be tested annually by an authorized sprinkler company to ensure the freezing point, and that the antifreeze is not coming out of the solution. They must be certified for use with plastic PVC pipes. And they must be drained and changed periodically.

An alternative to the wet pipe system is the dry pipe system, where water is only introduced into the sprinkler system when a fire is detected and a valve is opened, or where sprinklers are mounted in the walls, and in this case three times the number of sprinkler heads are required."

Chief Robert Denboske then entered the district firefighter training report into the record. The report contained the total hours of training sessions. In February there were 273 hours of personnel training. Fire and hazard specific hours amounted to 145 total hours, EMS specific training hours amounted to 112.5 hours, and physical fitness training hours totaled 16.5 hours.

**********

The next Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 27, at the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Administration Center at 166 Second St. in Monument. For further information regarding this meeting, contact Fire District Administrative Assistant Jennifer Martin at 719-484-0911.

Bernard Minetti may be contacted at bernardminetti@ocn.me

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El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, Mar. 3: County rejects participation in Copper Ridge proposal

By Judith P. von Ahlefeldt

Reprinted by permission from the March 10, 2011, Black Forest News

On Thursday, March 3, the El Paso County Board of Commissioners held a four-hour hearing on the proposed Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) among the City of Colorado Springs, Copper Ridge Metropolitan District, and El Paso County. Negotiations among the three entities had been going on for an extended period.

The hearing was unique for several reasons, not the least of which being that Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera sent a letter to the commissioners late on the afternoon of March 2 asking them to pull the Copper Ridge item from the agenda. Board Chair Amy Lathen wrote a polite, but terse, letter to the mayor, thanking the city for its innovative idea but stating that the hearing would go on because the commissioners wanted to do their due diligence to protect the taxpayers.

The Copper Ridge developer, Gary Erickson, wanted to build a 1 million-square-foot upscale mall at the extreme north end of the city in what is known as the Northgate Parcel I annexation of 1986. The property, just south of the Western Museum of Mining at the Northgate/I-25 Interchange would not have adequate access until and unless an $80 million project was completed that included the extension of Powers north to I-25 and a new Interchange.

The city and Copper Ridge Metro District asked the county to participate financially, with a share of half of all the sales tax revenue until 2035.

Although the county had been provided with two financial projections, the commissioners hired independent consultants to do a third projection. The consultants, Andrew Knutsen and Daniel Guimond, concluded that the other two analyses were too optimistic about the rate of growth of both the community and the project, and therefore overestimated the revenue flow. They noted that their more conservative analysis indicated that revenues expected in 2015 might not materialize until 2020, causing issues of cash flow for bonding and road building.

They also had concerns about "cannibalism"—the movement of viable businesses from existing malls to the new mall, and "capture" estimates—the inflow of dollars from other communities and the retention of dollars within Colorado Springs.

County Attorney Bill Louis gave an extensive presentation addressing legal aspects of the proposal, as well as costs and benefits.

Louis cautioned the commissioners that the bottom line was whether or not expenditure of county funds to support participation in building the Powers extension would generate enough revenue to build the road and grow the county’s revenue tax base.

Nicola Sapp, county financial officer, presented data based on the consultants’ report that flatly stated that if the Powers extension was not built, the county would receive about $2 million in revenue in 2020 and if it were, the revenue would be but $976,000.

The reasons Sapp gave were that the county presently gets a full 1 percent of sales tax revenue, and under this agreement would only get 0.5 percent, and the projected effect of "cannibalism" would also decrease the county’s revenue.

There were concerns voiced by the public that attracting and keeping major destination retail outlets might be very difficult, as recent experiences in Denver malls have shown.

Another concern was the effect of loading more traffic onto I-25, which is already overloaded, and onto Powers before interchanges are built the entire length.

It was pointed out that placing a large mall far from the city center negated efforts by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments to decrease miles driven regionally as a means of controlling air pollution.

The motion was to table the proposal indefinitely, which has the same effect as denial. The motion passed 4-1. Commissioner Sallie Clark voted "Nay" because she wanted the motion to state "deny." The effect was a unanimous decision by the commissioners to say "No" to the proposed IGA.

Information about the Black Forest news is at www.blackforestnews-co.com. Judy von Ahlefeldt can be contacted at editor@blackforestnews-co.com

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Woodmoor Improvement Association Board, March 23: Ballots delayed in vote on governing documents

By Harriet Halbig

At the March 23 meeting of the Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA) board, President Chuck Maher said that, following a final review by the association’s attorneys, the ballots regarding changes in the governing documents have been delayed. Wording regarding multi-unit dwellings was one of the issues to be clarified. Ballots now will be mailed in mid-April, with a deadline of May 31 for their return.

Maher reminded the board that a three-fourths vote of the membership is required for passage of some of the new wording.

Events scheduled for Fire Wise Day

The Forestry Committee is finalizing plans for its Fire Wise Day on May 7 from 10 a.m. until noon. Director of Forestry Carolyn Streit-Carey said that the committee recommends inviting residents of other area communities to attend this event, because the fire danger is very real for all of us in these dry conditions. Among the features of the event:

  • Memorial Star rescue helicopter will be on display with staff to explain its duties.
  • Fire department personnel will demonstrate fire rescue techniques.
  • Children will be able to climb into a fire truck and learn how it works.
  • Disaster survival representatives from the Sheriff’s Office will explain the workings of their department.
  • Individuals are requested to bring their home fire extinguishers for testing and to learn how to operate them.
  • Smokey the Bear will be on hand for photos.

The event will take place at the fire station on Woodmoor Drive in Woodmoor.

Streit-Carey also reported that grant money remains for those who undergo a fire assessment of Woodmoor properties and need to perform work to make their lots safe.

Common Areas

Common Areas Director W. Lee Murray reported that the association’s Great American Clean-up and hazardous waste drop-off event is scheduled for May 14. He said he will need help in organizing the event.

The association will need to get signs for the pond areas stating that no swimming or skating is permitted. He recommended using the same contractor who created the signs a few months ago.

The committee will soon begin to schedule mowing and weed control activities and the stocking of the ponds.

Public Safety

Director of Public Safety Paul Lambert reported that, with the lengthening of daylight hours, there will be an increasing number of door-to-door solicitors in the community.

He said that the association consulted its attorneys about 10 years ago about the association’s ability to screen solicitors or to prohibit their activity in the community. The attorneys said that no restrictions may be placed on solicitor activity due to First Amendment rights.

The only communities that may prohibit solicitation are gated communities with private roads. Woodmoor roads are county owned.

Woodmoor Public Safety Chief Kevin Nielsen said that, contrary to rumor, there have been no recent incidents of solicitors committing burglaries in the community.

Other matters

WIA Manager Matt Beseau distributed a list of association fees levied by surrounding associations. These fees primarily cover the cost of reviewing and monitoring architectural control matters. He said that the association is often asked by realtors to provide information on improvements to properties when they become available for resale.

The board discussed a recent meeting regarding traffic patterns in the northwest corner of the community. There is a locked gate blocking through-traffic on Doewood Drive.

At the end of its tenure, the previous board voted to recommend that the gate be removed and that the immediate area be returned to its natural state with some sort of physical barrier to through-traffic.

The board agreed after discussion that the road belongs to the county, and the association therefore has no control over its use. The board voted to rescind the former action and to pass a motion that the board will remain impartial in the decision-making process and defer to the county and its decisions on the matter.

**********

The Board of Directors of the Woodmoor Improvement Association meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month at Woodmoor’s Barn, 1691 Woodmoor Drive, Monument. The next meeting will take place on April 27.

Harriet Halbig may be contacted at harriethalbig@ocn.me

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March Weather Wrap

By Bill Kappel

The end of the meteorological winter went out the same way it started, with mild temperatures and dry conditions. Fire weather concerns were heightened for much of the month, as the gusty winds, lack of snow, and higher than average temperatures created dangerous conditions.

March started off mild and sunny, continuing the trend that ended the last half of February. Highs hit 60° on both afternoons of the 1st and 2nd and remained in the upper 50s on the 3rd. This mild weather provided a feel of spring in the air, but as is the case in March the weather pattern abruptly changed over the next few days. Cooler air with snow showers, heavy at times, hit the region during the afternoon of the 4th and highs only managed to reach the upper 30s.

As is the case with convectively based snow this time of the year, the amounts were hit and miss. Some of us received around 3 inches, while others only a little more than a trace. This is very similar to spring and summer thunderstorms, where heavy rain can fall in one neighborhood while another gets nothing. Temperatures stayed below normal over the next few days as a storm system approached the region. This brought upslope conditions late in the weekend, with fog and low clouds and a beautiful layer of rime ice.

The second week of March started off cold and a little snowy, and then quickly warmed up with lots of sunshine. High temperatures stayed below the freezing mark on the 7th and 8th, with lots of low clouds, fog, and flurries. This shallow but cold air mass was associated with a strong storm moving through the Four Corners region, just missing us once again. Once this storm moved off to the Midwest, the cold air was quickly shoved out of the area and replaced by high pressure moving in from the west. This brought with it mild and dry conditions.

Several days were also accompanied by warm, desiccating downslope winds, increasing fire dangers in the region. Highs hit the 50s on the 9th and 10th, then jumped to near record territory on the 11th with mid-60s. Temperatures returned to seasonal levels over the weekend, with low 50s. Brief snow did make an appearance Sunday morning, but because it happened around 6:30 a.m., most of us probably didn’t notice.

The week of March 14 started off seasonal with mostly sunny skies, as highs reached into the 50s. A warm ridge of high pressure continued to build into the area over the next couple of days, and southwesterly winds began to pick up ahead of a storm moving through the desert southwest. The warm air mass was enhanced by the downsloping southwesterly winds, and temperatures warmed accordingly. Highs reached 70° F on the afternoon of the 16th and again hit the upper 60s on the 17th. This was the first time reaching the 70° mark since last October.

The dry, warm air and gusty winds also led to high fire dangers around the area, with a lack of snow pack, dead vegetation, and dry ground all making matters worse. As this storm moved over the region, we received a brief shot of snow during the early morning hours of the 18th, with 1 to 2 inches falling before sunrise. However, the strong March sunshine and seasonal temperatures quickly melted most of this by that afternoon. Temperatures quickly warmed again through the weekend, with highs hitting the mid- to upper 60s and gusty winds again returning.

The first full day of spring, March 21, started off quiet and mild, with highs hitting the upper 60s. However, a bit of a change was about to occur, as this warm, dry air mass moved out of the region and was replaced by a more unsettled pattern. Initially, all the action was relegated to the high country, with several fast-moving Pacific weather systems racing over the region and dropping snow in the mountains. These storms brought clouds for us and brief periods of low clouds, fog, and flurries. The last of the storms moved out of Wyoming, southwestward over the region and produced measurable snow.

From mid-morning on the 28th through the evening, graupel and snow popped up and moved on, dropping quick shots of moisture, but never really resulting in much accumulation. The heart of this storm moved over the area during the early morning hours of the 29th producing 1 to 4 inches of snow across the area. Sunshine and mild conditions quickly returned for the last few days of the month, with temperatures again pushing to well above normal levels.

Although March is usually our second snowiest month of the year, so far this month has been quite a disappointment. This only adds to the extremely dry and mild winter we’ve experienced so far. Hopefully we are able to make up some ground in April, which is our snowiest month of the year on average.

A look ahead

April is known for a wide range of weather conditions in the region and is on average our snowiest month of the year. We can see 70° temperatures one afternoon and blizzard conditions the next. Several recent years have seen over 50 inches of snow accumulate during the month. It also melts very quickly, often adding very beneficial moisture to the soil and helping the vegetation that is just getting started. We can hope this year will bring abundant moisture and hopefully make up for some of the dry conditions we’ve experienced lately. For a complete look at monthly climate summaries for the region, please visit www.thekappels.com/ClimateSummary.htm

March 2011 Weather Statistics

Average High 53.5° (+4.1°) 100-year return frequency value max 57.9° min 38.0°
Average Low 23.2° (+2.6°) 100-year return frequency value max 27.0° min 12.0°
Highest Temperature 70° on the 16th
Lowest Temperature 9° on the 4th, 5th
Monthly Precipitation 0.55" (-1.48", 73% below normal) 100-year return frequency value max 4.29" min 0.22"
Monthly Snowfall 7.4" (-17.8", 70% below normal)
Season to Date Snow 48.6" (-48.9", 50% below normal) (the snow season is from July 1 to June 30)
Season to Date Precip. 8.68" (-6.14", 41% below normal) (the precip season is from July 1 to June 30)
Heating Degree Days 953 (+36)
Cooling Degree Days 0

Bill Kappel is a meteorologist and Tri-Lakes resident. He can be contacted at billkappel@ocn.me

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Letters to Our Community

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Letters to Our Community should not be interpreted as the view of OCN even when the letter writer is an OCN volunteer. Click here for letter guidelines.

Woodmoor has not restricted copper plumbing

I was reading the article in Our Community News ("Proposed nutrient regulations remain the major concern," March 5, 2011) regarding the Joint Use Committee meeting and noticed a statement that needs to be corrected. Woodmoor has not restricted the use of copper plumbing and does not require PEX piping in new construction. In fact, we still require K-type copper to be installed from the main into the building.

We continue to adjust the pH with caustic soda, and our copper levels would suggest that it has been effective in limiting corrosion in the distribution system as well as interior copper piping. I had not heard about the operational problems that the Town of Monument was having or that they had discontinued the process.

Randy Gillette
Assistant district manager
Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District No. 1

Editor’s note: OCN apologizes for the error and thanks Randy Gillette for clarifying Woodmoor’s operations.

Budget cuts endanger quality of education

"The quality of education in Colorado will decrease," stated Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia in response to a question on how the governor’s proposed budget cuts will impact public education in Colorado.

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s proposed budget delivers to school districts a per-student funding cut of $497 from 2010-11 levels. Multiply that by the number of students in each school district, and we are approaching the millions of dollars needed to balance the state budget.

Schools will be required to adjust their budgets for a fourth consecutive year of decreased state funding. Since the average school district spends over 85 percent of the budget on personnel, the line item to take the largest hit is pretty obvious.

This cut to personnel comes on top of universal agreement: The quality of education is in direct proportion to the quality of the teacher.

So the question is: Do all Colorado’s children deserve a high quality education?

If not, which ones get the lesser quality education: your child, your grandchild, or the kid around the corner?

As a taxpayer, the call is yours.

Gail Wilson

What’s D-38’s plan?

During the financial crisis of 2010, School District 38 Superintendent Ray Blanch gave his assurances that the desperately needed cuts would stay as far away from the classroom as possible; all other alternatives would be thoroughly considered first. But the major impact was solely on the classroom, with the closing of Creekside Middle School and the termination of 50 teachers.

Fast forward to fall 2010 to a school board work session, where Interim Superintendent Ted Bauman proclaimed he wanted to keep the still necessary cuts for next fall as far from the classroom as possible. Yet at the February 2011 board meeting, Bauman assured the board they would cut teachers and staff to make up for the unresolved deficit. He organized a task force that put together myriad possible cost-saving ideas to be presented without specific recommendations. One of the ideas was to move central administration (41 people) from Big Red to the 14 empty classrooms at Lewis-Palmer High School (LPHS).

The central administration building is the least efficient building, and by leasing it out, it could become a cost saver plus revenue generator. At the same meeting, the board’s own OA Committee (facilities/enrollment review) recommended, for the second consecutive year, the closing of Prairie Winds Elementary School as D-38’s most costly school with a substantially decreasing population—also potentially a cost saver and revenue generator.

Board of Education member Mark Pfoff passionately opposed closing Prairie Winds for August because there’s not enough time. Three board members are running for re-election and may be concerned about not rocking anyone’s boat (vote). Bauman vigorously refused to consider any change in the location of central administration staff, without specific reasons. Both Blanch and Bauman have used the cost of moving the district’s computer server as the overwhelming barrier to this move. But, in fact, the server doesn’t have to be moved.

The most telling comment made by Bauman was that a move to LPHS would be very short-lived since LPHS will soon be full. With the prediction of 140 fewer students next year, this can only mean a future reconfiguration. It could look like this: Lewis-Palmer Middle School is leased to a charter school such as Monument Academy; Palmer Ridge High School becomes the district’s junior high; LPHS becomes the grades 10-12 high school.

If district leadership has a plan, why aren’t they telling the public?

Stephen Boyd

Join fundraiser for family of young epilepsy victim

My name is Gabe Aguero and along with being a student at Palmer Ridge High School, I am also on the staff of the school’s student-run newspaper, The Bear Truth. I recently had the opportunity to meet and get to know a 5-year-old named Tyler Biggs. He attends preschool at Lewis-Palmer Elementary School. He is very sweet, shy, and his smile can light up a room. Unfortunately, he is also afflicted with Doose syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy and one of the hardest to control. He has many different kinds of unannounced seizures. He has had surgery to implant a device that helps stop some of the seizures, but it can’t stop all of them.

Tyler’s family recently purchased a seizure response dog named Penny. The goldendoodle is learning to respond to Tyler’s seizures by alerting his parents to when he is having one. Penny cost the family nearly $8,000, not including training. The family has gotten a grant from the Chelsea Hutchison Foundation, a nonprofit Colorado corporation designed to help people with the cost of seizure response dogs.

To help the family raise more money, I am helping to put together a fundraiser. A "Dog N Jog" will be held April 17, 2 to 4 p.m., at Fox Run Regional Park in pavilion 4. People can bring their dogs and walk or run a 5K to raise money. Walk-up registration starts at 1 p.m., or people can register ahead of time online at www.chfdognjog.charityhappenings.org

Please join us to help raise money for Tyler Biggs.

Gabe Aguero

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Between the Covers at the Covered Treasures Bookstore book reviews will be back in May. 

Store makeover in progress. Visit us at www.coveredtreasures.com. - The Staff at Covered Treasures Bookstore

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High Country Highlights: Spring planting in the Tri-Lakes area

By Woody Woodworth

Spring planting is usually recommended when the soil warms enough to start working it. That usually occurs at slightly lower elevations sometime between late March and mid-April. At our higher elevations in the Tri-Lakes region, you should be able to start working the soil when most of the snow cover is gone, usually mid-April to mid-May. You can plant at this time, but keep in mind that new plants will require watering and you must have the ability to water them well.

Usually we recommend you make improvements to garden soil in the fall by adding compost or organic matter, but if you didn’t amend then, now is the time. By adding compost now, you will improve soil structure for this year’s garden and help reduce your water use. Be sure to use high quality compost that is dark with little obvious organic matter remaining. It should have no bad aromas and be weed-free.

Add generous amounts of compost, but don’t overdo it. It’s possible to add too much to our clay soils, increasing the accumulation of soluble salts, which can kill plant roots. Our rule of thumb is to add up to one-half compost by volume to the soil at any one time. If you’re working your soil to a depth of 6 inches, add a 3-inch layer of compost and thoroughly blend it in.

Starting indoors

Many garden seeds need to be started indoors, and it’s important to sow the seeds at the proper time. This allows the seeds to germinate in the best possible conditions and gives you a head start on the growing season. Find out from the seed packet if they are tender, half-hardy, or hardy. Tender plants can be set outdoors only after the last average frost date, half-hardy plants two weeks before that date, and hardy plants about six to eight weeks before.

Allow about six weeks from the time you sow the seeds indoors until the date that you want to set the plants out in the garden. A good rule of thumb is that we have about an 80 percent chance of no frost by the third week of May. Mother Nature has everything to do with this; each year will be different. Remember though, our latest frost date is June 6, which means frost can still damage plants if left uncovered.

All plants raised indoors, whether tender or hardy, must be hardened-off in a cold frame or on a protected porch for about 10 days before planting. Start them in a sterile, light soil mix, such as a seed starter mix. Avoid mixes containing chemical fertilizers and large chunks of bark. As a rule, plant the seeds at a depth of no more than twice their diameter. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Most seeds will germinate at average temperatures (roughly 60 to 75 F) in seven to 14 days.

Grass, wildflower seeds can be planted now

Now is a good time to plant grass and wildflower seed, especially now that we’re into our wetter months of springtime. Be sure to cover seed with about one-fourth inch of top soil or other loose mix, then water and keep them moist. Germination takes a bit longer this time of year, but results can be astounding. The key to a good stand of grass or wildflowers is the seed. Be sure to use a fresh seed source and a garden center that has knowledge of seeds that work well for the Tri-Lakes area.

Generally, you can fertilize lawns, blooming shrubs and trees the first week or so of April. Wait just a bit longer before fertilizing tender perennials that are just emerging from the ground—about middle to late April for them.

There are hundreds of fertilizers on the market today, so be sure to choose one for your plants’ specific need. Check the N-P-K ratios listed on the bag to help determine which fertilizer has the correct application. For top growth, add higher nitrogen (the first letter N), for increased blooms and root growth add higher phosphate (the second letter P), and for more drought and disease resistance add more potash (the third letter K).

There are more organic and natural solutions for fertilizers available that don’t contain the harsh chemicals that harm ground surface water. If you need suggestions, consult your local garden center for kid and pet-safe alternatives.

Think green this spring. Go plant something. It will make you feel good!

Woody Woodworth is a member of the Garden Centers of Colorado, actively involved in the green industry, and operates a garden center in downtown Monument. He can be contacted at woodyworth@ocn.me

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The Nature of Our Community: Beekeepers can assist those with bee infestations

By Donna Hartley

With the advent of longer and warmer days, the Pikes Peak Beekeepers are starting to get phone calls in and around El Paso County. People who have bees living in their walls or around their homes and outbuildings are noticing them becoming active again as they slowly come out of winter hibernation.

On relatively warm days, the bees are doing their cleansing flights from their winter homes, which consists of housekeeping by removing dead bees from winter die off. They are also hungrily searching for extra food and water and will gather around bird baths, bird feeders, etc. at this time of the year.

The honeybee is a fastidious housekeeper and these cleansing flights are important. The bees are not ready for the shock of having their homes moved, because it’s still too chilly and we no doubt have some snow days ahead before the cold season is done.

The bees will retreat on these cold days to huddle or cluster together back into their homes in walls, hives, etc. They are busy creatures and are seldom aggressive with anyone unless batted or touched. They also have a certain landing pattern to get in and out of their hives and, if a person stands directly in front of a hive, it is disturbing to the scurrying bee. They will bump into a person and quickly fly around him.

During this time, homeowners call the Pikes Peak Beekeepers hoping someone will remove the dwellers to a new home in the form of a wooden hive. The beekeepers can only ask for patience now and caution the anxious homeowner to wait for the onset of early summer. It’s heartbreaking to see an otherwise healthy hive that has survived the winter perish because someone decided to plunge into the removal job prematurely.

The removal of the bees at this time can be almost a certain death sentence, and therefore the bees need to remain with their winter home until they can be moved safely. The chill and disruption of their food supply can only cause severe problems on these winter days.

This morning my husband put out pollen patties for our bees, and they quickly arrived on our porch in the thousands. By noon he had to put out more food. They are searching discarded soda cans and uncovered garbage for sugar water; then they search bird feeders hoping to find new pollen among the seeds.

My husband and I move familiarly and freely back and forth among them and they are, as usual, hardly interested in our presence. If we are wearing our bright yellow jackets, they will frequently land on us to investigate this possible source of food and then fly off to look elsewhere.

It is good to remember that they are bothered by dark or red clothing or hair. They cannot see red and identify it as dark, which signals danger to them. A bear is dark-colored, and they are instinctively nervous about that coloring on an animal exhaling carbon dioxide. That can mean a human or a bear.

When a home or property owner finds a swarm or hive he’d like to be rid of, we encourage them to call Mike Halby of the Pikes Peak Beekeepers to get his name on a list. He will list the homeowner’s address and phone and send one of us out to take a look at the location of the hive. It will be dealt with as soon as it’s safely warm. The beekeepers will call the homeowner to make an appointment for a removal of the entrenched hive.

At this time we caution the property owner not to spray anything into the hive, even water. It is illegal for a reputable exterminator to eradicate a hive of honeybees that can be moved, and we get referrals from exterminators to take care of honeybees they have been mistakenly called for. By the same token, a beekeeper is not an exterminator and will refer you to one if it’s not a hive of honeybees he’s seeing. Around July of every year the beekeepers get calls to remove "aggressive" honeybees that turn out to be yellow jackets on further inspection.

Spraying anything into a hive of honeybees or closing up an entry hole will cause the homeowner further problems when the weather turns hot. If the bees inside are dead and the temperature has climbed, there are no bees in the hive to keep the honey and wax cool and solid. Things start to melt and the bees aren’t there flapping their wings to keep the hive cool. No creature works harder for its home than the honeybee!

I often tell the story of a property owner who purchased a house where the bees in the ceiling of the living room had been exterminated. Everything was fine until summer came and he suddenly had honey running down his ceiling, onto his sofa and carpeting. When my husband cut into the ceiling, there were seven square feet of comb. What worked in the cold weather was now an expensive disaster.

If the bees arrive in a swarm or ball in the spring warmth and settle in a tree or on a house’s eaves or windowsills or in the garden, a beekeeper will remove the swarm at no charge. The bees will be removed to a hive and settled into a new home out of the family’s way. In this case the call should be made as soon as they are noticed.

The swarm or ball of bees is looking for a new home and may settle into a nearby house or tree or just move on after a couple of days. It’s much cheaper to the homeowner to remove a swarm than a hive living in a wall. The Pikes Peak Beekeepers don’t charge for swarms, but I always encourage people to make a donation toward their gas costs, because beekeepers may travel a long distance to remove a swarm for the property owner.

Please remember also that an adult (over 18) is needed on the premises while the beekeeper is there. That can be a trusted friend or neighbor, but we ask that you never leave a minor in charge. Beekeepers always consult with the homeowner about any steps to be taken. The Pikes Peak Beekeepers can be reached at Mike Halby’s phones at 719-528-5483 or 719-651-9399.

Donna Hartley can be contacted at donnahartley@ocn.me

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Bird Watch on the Palmer Divide: Swallows

Click here or on the drawing to zoom in.

Below: A violet-green swallow dives for insects while its’ mate watches. Drawing by Elizabeth Hacker

Click on the drawing to zoom in

By Elizabeth Hacker

In many cultures, the swallow is a harbinger of spring and a symbol of good luck. Like the swallows of San Juan Capistrano that appear every year at the California mission on March 18, no matter what the weather, swallows will begin landing here any day. I generally first spot the early scouts that precede large flocks around April 20.

Swallows are specialized insectivores instantly recognizable by their streamlined bodies and effortless flight. The name "swallow" was derived from this bird’s ability to catch insects and swallow them while in flight. It spends most of the day gliding and diving through the air, and it rarely flaps its wings, so flying is easy. Its short legs and jointed front toes are suited for perching. It is rare to see one walking on the ground.

Many ornithologists maintain that migration for a swallow is much like that of any other bird, but rather than flying in circles as it does while feeding, it flies in a straight line during migration. Of course other variables including weather, habitat destruction, and predators make migration more hazardous.

Four species nest here

Of the six migrating swallow species indigenous to North America, four species nest on the Palmer Divide, including the violet-green, tree, barn, and cliff swallows. They all have similar characteristics, and each spring I must refer to a field guide to reacquaint myself with the differences. However, the habitat where they are found is the key to identifying the various species.

For instance, in the urbanizing areas of Tri-Lakes between Gleneagle and Palmer Lake, it is common to see barn and violet-green swallows on power lines, in barns, or swooping under bridges near sources of water, whereas cliff swallows are found only in places like Castlewood Canyon, swooping along a vertical rock face. All swallows look similar, but it is the distinct differences that we birders look for.

Swallows are beautiful, but perhaps the iridescent emerald green back of the violet-green swallow is the most striking. Male and female swallows look alike, but the male has longer tail streamers that attract the ladies. Swallow pairs are monogamous, but other males will cuckold a committed female. Once a pair is established, the male guards his mate from other males by calling out a distress alarm when one enters his territory.

As its name implies, barn swallows like to nest in buildings or under a structure. The male and female work together to build nests of clay under the eaves of buildings or bridges. The violet-green and tree swallow tend to build nests in tree holes carved out by woodpeckers or in birdhouses. The pair works together to build a cup-shaped nest made up of soft grasses and feathers. During the wet years of the 1990s, a pair of violet-green swallows nested in one of our birdhouses, but since the decade-long drought, we no longer see them in our yard.

Parents take turns

Females lay two to seven reddish-spotted white eggs. The male and female incubate the eggs for two to three weeks. When the chicks hatch they are featherless, and both parents take turns feeding the chicks and guarding the nest. In about 20 days after hatching, the chicks will fledge the nest, but both parents will continue to feed them for about a week.

Most pairs will produce a second brood. The first nest is established early in June so that weather permitting, the pair can produce a second brood later in the summer. Often juveniles from the first nest will help to feed the chicks in the second brood.

Pairs of violet-green swallows often nest in the bluebird houses along the Santa Fe Trail. Two bluebird houses are sometimes intentionally placed near each other to attract swallows, because they are known to aggressively chase off predators, even cats, which is beneficial for the rather docile bluebird.

Feeding others’ chicks

Swallows have also been observed feeding insects to bluebird chicks. One theory is that the swallow catches so many bugs that its nestlings can’t consume them all, so rather than wasting them, they will feed them to the bluebirds. The research is inconclusive, so don’t assume this to be fact. There may be other possible reasons for this behavior that humans wouldn’t understand!

One behavior that is better understood is referred to as a "mutualist" relationship between barn swallows and osprey. Often barn swallows nest below osprey nests, and because the exclusively fish-eating osprey repel other birds of prey, it is beneficial to the swallow. The osprey benefits from the nesting barn swallows because they will form a squadron to aggressively dive bomb and chase off any predators. This is especially beneficial when the osprey parents are both absent from the nest.

Each summer readers ask me why swallows fly at major intersections such as Highway 105 and I-25. My best guess is that the heat from the exhaust attracts insects, which in turn attracts the swallows. It’s amazing how I can come eye to eye with them on the other side of my windshield and yet they dive so fast that they avoid getting hit! Then one day they’re gone, and for me their departure signals the end of summer.

Elizabeth Hacker is a writer and artist. Prints of the birds she writes about are available on her website www.ElizabethHackerArt.com, with proceeds benefiting habitat preservation. E-mail her at elizabethhacker@ocn.me or call her at 719-510-5918 to share bird stories.

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Art Matters: Do-it-yourself art appreciation

By Janet Sellers

Today, as I look out my windows at the freezing fog, I have to remember that the gold and brown plant stems I see will soon be green or filled with blossoms again. It happens every year. And I am impatient every year for spring to come.

April holds our global celebration of Earth Day. Every year, schoolchildren and adults re-evaluate their roles in living and working with materials and substances that affect our health and well-being. Most notably are the art festivals and visual appeal that Earth Day offers, likely because we will pay more attention to what we see than to something we just hear about.

As an artist, I pretty much look at everything from my artist’s point of view. That said, I never tire of looking at nature and making what I see into art. This month I’ve put together a way for you to make art yourself in just minutes. If you make a good one, yay! It’s fun to do, and I’ll bet you will appreciate our local artists even more. Try it, you’ll like it.

That is where our imaginations come in to play with our lives. Our art spirit will stir at what we see and our eyes will send messages for our minds to interpret. I know a number of mathematicians, scientists—particularly physicists and computer scientists—that easily relate to "beautiful" solutions of problems, but most of us are more easily led to the beauty of nature and art that we can see, touch, or hold.

Speaking of which, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) will be exhibiting its beautiful show titled Glass Magic until April 9, so you still have time to enjoy and purchase some of the artwork. The People’s Choice honor was awarded to the mosaic logo artwork for our hometown’s new Pikes Peak Brewing Co. It features a circular image picturing the famous mountain and its surrounds, with hops and grains under the central banner.

Later in April and into May, the TCLA will feature an exhibit of the artwork of students from our local Lewis-Palmer School District 38. The exhibit has become an annual event there for quite some time.

I like to visit this show to see what is going on with the youth in our area in their art and in their creative thinking. Art exhibits show off more than skills learned in a classroom. We can see the strength of inner thinking, visual reasoning, and their ability to present their thoughts in a visually organized way.

While many schools across the nation cut budgets for art in favor of math and science, our dear and most famous scientist of recent memory, Albert Einstein, held fast to the motto, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." We won’t get anywhere in our lives without being able to imagine it, be it work, school, or play.

Some work will surprise you, some work will inspire you, and some work may not appeal to you, but that is what art must do. The creative art spirit works through its agents of materials, words, and craft to reach us in uncommon ways.

As promised, in honor of Earth Day, here are my top three natural artworks for the imagination boost you may wish to encounter this month.

Branching out for art

Take a 2- or 3-foot bare tree branch from your yard, hang three pieces of string/fishing line, attach small, colorful objects, and hang on the wall or over a doorway.

Bird feeders

An oldie but a goodie: Take a pinecone and spread (unsalted!) peanut butter all over it. They are attractive dangling from a cornice or tree branch. Before my pink tree fills up with blossoms, I like to watch the birds eat from these in that bare tree. It is a winter picture full of life.

Make a stone sculpture

Create a stacked-stone totem for an all-season focal point in a planting bed. Even two or three stacked stones look nice. Collect stones from around your property and stack them one on top of the other. Anything that might tip over may need help with a two-part masonry epoxy. I’m going to try this one without adhesive, but some people will wish to stick them together. I’m not sure if using epoxy will ruin the intent of "natural," but I’ve seen it done.

I do hope you will give them a try, especially with youngsters. Send us photos!

Janet Lee Sellers is an American painter and sculptor who works in paint, metal, and concrete. Sellers lives in Woodmoor, Colorado. She can be contacted at JanetSellers@OCN.me

Below: Artists Sophia and Natasha Lovato show the watercolor paintings for the 2011 Colorado Junior Duck Stamp Design Contest. These art students have supported animal and wildlife habitat conservation efforts with their artworks for many years. The Junior Duck Stamp (JDS) is a pictorial stamp produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to recognize the conservation efforts of young people and support environmental and conservation education programs in the United States. Photo by Janet Sellers

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Snapshots of Our Community

March glass and art shows at TLCA

Photos by David Futey. David Futey can be contacted at dfutey@ocn.me

Below: In the Lucy Owens Gallery, the Interesting Ideas show offered paintings by members of the Parker Artist Guild. Representing the four artists who had works on display is Susan Merriman, shown with her work, "Where Music Comes From." The guild was formed in 2001 and has a small gallery in Parker where it has five or six shows each year. Information on upcoming events at the TLCA is at www.trilakesarts.org

Below: On March 4, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) hosted the opening reception for the Glass Magic and Interesting Ideas shows. A few of the many artists who contributed to the 75 juried-in glass pieces for the Glass Magic show are shown. The show was coordinated by Steve Watt, Corky Reed-Watt, and Coral Cornish. With five categories, it demonstrated the flexibility in using glass as a medium. Reed-Watt said that with glass you are "not confined to a canvas" and that glass can be "fused, molded, stained, and formed into a variety of shapes." Those statements were demonstrated in the show’s pieces that consisted of glass sculptures, plates, jewelry, and other items. Information on upcoming events at the TLCA is at www.trilakesarts.org.

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Homemakers serve up St. Patrick’s Day potluck, Mar. 3

Photo by Mary Hafner. Mary Hafner can be contacted at maryhafner@ocn.me

Below: The Monument Homemakers’ Club continued its second century of community service by initiating a St. Patrick’s Day potluck on March 3. The program revolved around dining and engaging with the guest speaker, Klint Reiber, who enlightened the group on assisted living plans. There are details on the assisted living plans at www.vibrantlivingestates.com. Pictured are Co-President Irene Waters, guest speaker Klint Reiber, Faye Breneman, and Co-President Jean Sangers.

The club meets the first Thursday of each month at the Tri-Lakes Fire Department Administration building, 166 Second St. Bring a food dish to share and your own dinner service and flatware or donate $5 to the club. Arrive at approximately 11:30 a.m. Meals are served at noon. For reservations or information, please call Irene at (719) 481-1188 or Jean at (719) 592-9311.

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VFW Women’s Auxiliary installed, Mar. 13

Photos by Bernard Minetti.

Below: The Colorado VFW Women’s Auxiliary staff attended the installation. They are, from left, Ann Mauck, chief of staff; Colleen Rylant, treasurer; Rosalyn Mitchell and Sue Johnson, past department presidents; Cindy Anderson, senior vice president; Linda Stahley, guard; Carolyn Richards, District 5 president; Cindy Burris, junior vice president; and Carolyn Simon, president.

Below: The first Tri-Lakes candidates who were commissioned into the ranks of the Monument VFW Post 7829 Women’s Auxiliary accept their duties during the unit inauguration on March 13. Candidates are, from left, front row, Martine Arndt, Prescilla Barrera, Kathy Carlson, Linda Doole, Kiem Guffin, and Linda Henn. Back row, Valerie Loman (not visible), Diana Martin (not visible), Patrecia Minetti, Caitlin Wolusky, Deborah Wolusky, and Janna Kjonaas. All the candidates are related to veterans who have served in combat zones. 

Below: Martine Arndt, left, newly elected president of the Monument VFW Post 7829 Women’s Auxiliary, is presented by state Women’s Auxiliary President Carolyn Simon. Arndt then gave a short address to the assembled members and guests at the installation ceremony at the Air Force Academy on March 13. 

By Bernard L. Minetti

Doolittle Hall at the U.S. Air Force Academy was the scene of the inauguration of the Monument VFW Post 7829 Women’s Auxiliary on Sunday, March 13. It is the first women’s auxiliary to become part of a VFW post in the Tri-Lakes area.

Colorado State VFW Women’s Auxiliary President Carolyn Simon and her staff oversaw the installation of the auxiliary. The event was marked by the ritual pomp and circumstance typical of these installations.

Following the ceremony, the newly formed group elected a slate of officers. They elected Martine Arndt as president. She had been a leader in getting the auxiliary formed. The auxiliary will meet on the second Tuesday of each month at the Sundance Mountain Lodge at 5 p.m. in the Carson room. To become a member, you must be a female related to a veteran who has served in an overseas combat area. For further information, contact Arndt at 719-487-9225. 

Bernard Minetti can be contacted at bernardminetti@ocn.me

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Legendary Ladies perform at WMMI, Mar. 12

Photo by David Futey

By David Futey

On Mar. 12, the Western Museum of Mining & Industry (WMMI) held its Women in Mining Family Exploration Day. As part of the daylong activities, members of The Legendary Ladies performed interpretations of famous women in Colorado history.

Dressed in period clothing related to their character, the portrayers brought Mother Cabrini, mine owner Capt. Ellen Jack, domestic servant Mary York, activist Mother Jones, and Susan "Doc Susie" Anderson to life. Each portrayal offered a unique perspective on life in Colorado during the gold rush days of the mid- to late 1800s.

The Legendary Ladies formed in 1992 and is an all-volunteer organization that performs at locations along the Front Range. Members research their character, develop their scripts, and make the costumes. For more information, go to the website at www.legendaryladies.org

Information about upcoming events at the WMMI is at www.wmmi.org

David Futey can be contacted at dfutey@ocn.me

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Tri-Lakes Cares blood drive aids hospitals, Mar. 15

 Photos by Candice Hitt.

Below: Donor Beth Pierce with phlebotomist Sheree Sanchez. Pierce came with her father Charles Pierce. 

Below: Charles Pierce donates blood.

By Candice Hitt

The Tri-Lakes Health Advocacy Partnership sponsors a community blood drive six times a year, and the most recent was held on March 15 at Tri-Lakes Cares.

The blood donated goes to the local Penrose-St. Francis Hospitals. The blood drives see an average of 25 to 30 donors. The blood bank is always in need of donations, because the supply fluctuates throughout the year depending on demand.

Minors ages 16 and 17 are permitted to donate with parental consent. Blood drives will be held April 6 at Lewis-Palmer High School, April 11 at Palmer Ridge, and April 15 at Pine Creek. This is a great way for students and parents to get involved with giving this life-saving gift.

Donor recruitment coordinator Carol Ann Books said, "Thanks to the Monument community for being so supportive." Gleneagle Sertoma, Lewis-Palmer Middle School, and Synthes also do blood drives in the Monument area.

Candice Hitt can be contacted at CandiceHitt@OCN.me

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March and April Library events

Photos by Harriet Halbig

Below: Sarah Garlich, left, and the library’s teen specialist Diane Sawatzki were among those who chatted with author Robert Liparulo, right, at the organizational meeting of BookEaters.

Below: Inspector Magic (aka Mark Weidhaas) brought his Bunny New Year program to the library during spring break. 

By Harriet Halbig

From Dr. Seuss’s birthday at the start to special spring break programs at the finish, March at the library was an exciting time. April brings more entertainment for all ages.

The BookEaters Club for teens in grades 7-9 will meet from 4 to 5 p.m. April 6. This month’s book selection is The Angel Experiment, the first book in James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series. Come and chat and snack while discussing the book.

Kids are invited to bring a favorite stuffed animal for an animal sleepover at the library on Friday, April 8, at 5 p.m. Children will enjoy some sleepover stories and a craft before leaving their soft friends for the night. (And then the fun will begin!) Your party animals may be picked up on Saturday after 1 p.m. If they are not too tired, they may stay for the Duck Day program.

Celebrate the flocks of ducks and geese that live behind the Monument Library on Duck Day, Saturday, April 9 at 1:30 p.m. There will be ducky stories, crafts, and treats for ducks and children. Girl Scout Troop 420 will provide the activities.

Commemorate National Library Week with Snapshot Day at the library. Whether you’re getting your first library card, learning new computer skills, applying for a job, or planning a trip, the library is the place where your story begins. This National Library Week, the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) invites you to join us and Create Your Own Story at your library.

PPLD is celebrating National Library Week by holding a Snapshot Day at each of its facilities. While patrons are busy creating their own stories, PPLD staff will be engaged in storytelling, taking photos and short video clips of popular programs and patrons engaged in using the library. We will post a montage of a day in the life of each library, and the photos will also be posted on PPLD’s Flickr account for all to enjoy. The Monument Library will host a member of the PPLD board on Tuesday, April 12, from 3 to 5 p.m.

Do you have an e-reader and want to take advantage of the library’s free books? Come to E Reader Cybershelf training on Friday, April 15, and learn to download audio books and e-books from the library’s collection in a class taught by PPLD staff. The class begins at 10 a.m.

All patrons are welcome to stay after the Cybershelf class for the Monumental Readers monthly book club. This month’s selection is Before You Know Kindness by Chris Bohjalian. The meeting begins at 11 a.m.

The AARP mature safe driving program will be offered on Thursday, April 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. This refresher course was specially designed for motorists age 50 and older. Graduates may present their course completion certificate to their insurance agent for a discount. Charge for the course is $12 for AARP members and $14 for non-members. Class size is limited and registration is required. Please call 488-2370 or go to the PPLD website, PPLD.org.

On the walls, local artist J.A. Knickerbocker presents a collection of watercolors titled Colorado Dreaming.

In the display case will be alphabetical blocks from Charlotte Miller’s personal collection.

Palmer Lake events

Palmer Lake Library’s Snapshot Day will be Wednesday, April 13, with a reception from 4 to 6 p.m. See the above National Library Week information for details.

Draw with Monart! The Monart School of Art is a nationally recognized art program that teaches realistic drawing skills to students of all ages. Monart believes anyone can learn to draw by mastering the basic "shapes" that make up everything in our universe. Join us to learn more about Eric Carle’s Mister Seahorse as we draw and color our own seahorse. All supplies are provided. The program is on Saturday, April 16, at 10:30. Registration is required. Please call 481-2587.

Come read with Palmer Lake’s Paws to Read Dogs in April. Newfoundland Jax will be at the library on April 2 from 11 to noon. Golden retriever Kirby will be on hand April 23 from 11 to noon. Read to a dog and select a prize.

On the walls in April will be some small wall quilts by Harriet Halbig.

Harriet Halbig can be contacted at harriethalbig@ocn.me

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Palmer Lake Historical Society, Mar. 17: Historical ranch restoration described

Photo by Bernard Minetti

Below: Historical restoration specialists Jerry Woldarek, left, and Johnny Mulligan presented progress reports on the Prairie Canyon Ranch restoration projects in Douglas County. 

By Bernard L. Minetti

Prairie Canyon Ranch, just south of Lake Gulch on Highway 83, was the subject of the March Palmer Lake Historical Society presentation. Speakers were Jerry Woldarek, a former contractor, and Johnny Mulligan, a former building inspector. Both men are a part of the Douglas County open spaces project and are qualified as historical restoration specialists. Their primary project is the main barn on Prairie Canyon Ranch.

While there are no direct funds to support the restoration, Woldarek and Mulligan have been able to scrape up funds from various governmental agencies to continue with and to support the project. They stated that a restoration mechanic could not just buy lumber and other articles from any retail outlet. The lumber and nails had to be of the same type and material that the original structure was constructed from or the project would be a failure.

They said Prairie Canyon Ranch is one of the last operating ranches in the Cherry Valley area of Douglas County. The ranch grew out of the dreams of many homesteaders who settled different sections of the ranch. This property was originally homesteaded by Frederick Bartruff and his family in 1873 and has been used as a working cattle ranch since that time. The collection of buildings illustrates significant advances in agricultural and architectural technology from the 1870s to the 1930s. The land is also rich in archaeological resources, with evidence of human occupation up to 9,000 years ago.

The property consists of several historic structures, including a house, barn, bunkhouse, grain building, chicken house, garage, granary, outhouse, cave, cemetery, and stone corrals (circa 1875-1938). The ranch is characterized by rolling grasslands, mixed pine and Gambel oak forests, rocky outcrops, narrow canyons, riparian areas, and lush hay meadows. The ranch was acquired because of its diverse wildlife habitat. Hawks, pronghorn antelope, coyotes, deer, elk, and great blue herons are known inhabitants.

Douglas County manages the property as a working cattle ranch. Access to the property is for organized groups, including educational tours for school groups and horse rides. Public access is by appointment. For information concerning access for tours, contact Johnny Mulligan at 720-413-9970. Family tours may also be arranged.

During the meeting, Lynn Manzer, co-leader of the 2011 Chautauqua assembly project, advised the group that volunteers are still needed for the various parts of the events. She noted that the next meeting for the Chautauqua planning committee would be April 28 at 6:30 p.m. at the Palmer Lake Town Hall. She invited anyone interested in direct or indirect participation to attend.

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The next Palmer Lake Historical Society meeting will be at 7 p.m. April 21 at the Palmer Lake Town Hall. The presentation will take the attendees on a "Historical Tour of the Black Forest." The presenter will be Terry Stokka.

Bernard Minetti can be contacted at bernardminetti@ocn.me

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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.

Free income tax filing assistance by AARP

Free income tax filing assistance and e-filing is offered by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Tax-Aide program. Trained AARP volunteers will be available every Monday and Thursday through April 18, noon to 7 p.m., at Tri-Lakes Cares, 235 Jefferson St., Monument, to answer questions and to assist filers in completing their federal and state income tax returns. Volunteers will assist taxpayers in preparing their Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ; and will assist in claiming any Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, and/or Education Credits to which the taxpayer might be entitled. Filers are asked to bring proof of Social Security Numbers for themselves and for any dependents they are claiming. Filers should also bring their W-2s, 1099-INT, 1099-DIV, etc., to complete their 2010 return, plus a copy of last year’s (2009) tax return. For more information, or to make an appointment (recommended), please call Jim Taylor, 488-1317.

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Pikes Peak Library District’s Mobile Job and Career Development Services

The library will offer a series of classes on utilizing PPLD’s employment resources. Librarians have created a mobile computer lab with virtual collections, wireless technology, eReaders, and netbooks. They will offer two 3-hour classes, allowing time for one-on-one assistance. The first class will provide help with resumes, cover letters, interviewing, and some word processing tips. The second class will provide help with job searches, identifying employers, and networking. The classes will be held April 5 and 7, 1 - 4 p.m., and May 31 and June 2, 9 a.m. – noon, at The Little Log Church, 133 High St., Palmer Lake.

Librarians will also bring netbooks and eReaders available for checkout. The eReaders are pre-loaded with helpful books on employment like Knock ‘em Dead 2010: The Ultimate Job Search Guide and No-Nonsense Cover Letters. It is recommended that you bring: a flash drive, your library card, resume (if you already have one), information on your past jobs, and paper and pen. Registration is recommended, but walk-ins are welcome if space is available. Call 531-6333, x1304 for registration and more information on these programs.

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Citizens’ Police Academy, April 5

The Monument Police Department is now accepting applications for the Citizens’ Police Academy. This no-cost 8-week program will be held Tuesday evenings, 7-10 p.m., at the Monument Police Department, 645 Beacon Lite Rd., April 5 through May 24. It is open to all who live or work in the Tri-Lakes area. Participants will learn about criminal law, patrol procedures, use of force, computer forensics, internal affairs, community policing, tactical considerations, and much more. They will also have the opportunity to shoot a variety of police weapons. For more information or to download an application, visit www.monumentpd.org and click on the Community Services button. Or you can stop by the Monument Police Department and pick up an application. For more information, call the Monument Police Department, 481-3253.

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Palmer Lake Clean and Green Home Improvement Grant

The Town of Palmer Lake has received a grant from the El Paso County Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) to institute a program called the Clean and Green Home Improvement Grant. The program provides a one-time grant of up to $1000 to low- and moderate-income homeowners for improvements such as minor exterior home repairs, energy efficiency improvements, and landscaping. Specific projects that might qualify include: exterior painting; porch and wheelchair ramp repair; installation of energy efficient windows, exterior doors, or exterior lighting; installation of sod, mulch, flowers, or trees; trash and debris removal.

Eligibility for the grant program is determined by the annual gross income and size of the household. For example, a two-person household would be eligible with an annual gross income up to $45,200 and a four-person household would be eligible with an annual gross income up to $56,500. In addition to income and household size, applicants are required to be the homeowners and occupants of the property for which the proposed project is submitted. Information sessions are scheduled for April 2, May 7, and June 4, 1-3 p.m., at the Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent. Also, there will be an information session April 9, 11 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Palmer Lake Branch Library, 66 Lower Glenway. For more information, contact Leigh Holden, 338-9643 or e-mail plcg2011@gmail.com.

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Electronics Recycling Event, April 9

Palmer Ridge Bears Baseball will sponsor a recycling event April 9, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., at Sundance Mountain Athletic Center, 1808 Woodmoor Dr., Monument. Drop off your old electronics for a nominal recycling fee. All proceeds will benefit Palmer Ridge High School Baseball. If you have questions about what items can be recycled, contact Blue Star Recyclers, 494-4238.

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Volunteer needed for Forestry and Weed Advisory Commission, apply by April 11

The El Paso County Board of Commissioners is seeking an at-large representative on the Forestry and Weed Advisory Commission. Applications are due by April 11. The commission develops and reviews action plans for the integrated management of state mandated weeds. It also serves to educate the public by speaking to groups and owner associations and displaying educational materials at community events. The volunteer application is located at www.elpasoco.com and can be accessed by clicking on the "Volunteer Boards" link. For more information, call 520-6436.

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Call to Artists, apply by April 30

Front Range Open Studios is currently accepting applications from full-time, professional artists and fine craftsmen in all mediums for participation in an open studio public event to take place one weekend in September, 2011. Applicants must have their studios in Larkspur, Palmer Lake, Monument, Woodmoor, Gleneagle, or Black Forest. For artist benefits, fees, requirements for participation, and an application form, go to www.frontrangeopenstudios.com. Applications must be received by April 30 for jury selection.

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Pine Forest Antiques & Garden Show & Sale, April 30-May 1

The Tri-Lakes Women’s Club (TLWC) will hold the 35th Pine Forest Antiques & Garden Show & Sale April 30, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and May 1, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at Lewis-Palmer High School, 1300 Higby Rd., Monument. (I-25, exit 161 or 158). Look for the signs. Admission price is $6 and all proceeds benefit the School District 38 community.

This year features the special addition of a garden section. Garden centers will display their specialties while also offering education and demonstrations. Luan Akin and "Grandma Mimi" of Tagawa Gardens will be featured. The Pine Forest Antiques & Garden Show & Sale is known as one of the best antiques shows in the region and features antiques from more than 50 select dealers across the country. There will also be verbal appraisals (Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.), glass repair and clock, jewelry and framing advice. Jonathan Mattson from the Tick Tock Shop will give advice and information on clocks Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m. Jennifer Farnes from Blue Mountain Jewelry will give verbal appraisals, clean and inspect jewelry, and purchase gold both days, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Throughout the event, delicious Bistro dining, a homemade bake sale, beautiful geraniums, and a chance to win a beautiful quilt from award-winning quilter Barbara J. Broshous with the purchase of a raffle ticket will be offered.

The Tri-Lakes Women’s Club (TLWC) is incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c) 3 organization. The TLWC is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. The club hosts two major fundraisers each year and awards grants to local service and educational organizations. Since 1977, they have granted more than $600,000 to schools, fire and police departments, and other nonprofit organizations that provide services to residents within the boundaries of School District 38. For more information, visit the website, www.tlwc.net.

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Multiple sclerosis support group

A multiple sclerosis (MS) group is forming for the Tri-Lakes and surrounding areas. If interested, please contact Susan at susan@tinybrook.com

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