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Vol. 13 No. 10 - October 5, 2013


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Contents

This page contains only the text of the articles and columns in this issue. To see the photos and captions including the Snapshots of Our Community section, view the on-line version above or download the PDFs whose links follow this table of contents.

the PDF file. This is a 16.8 Mbyte high-resolution file with color photos.

individual pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32

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Five recognized for contributions to D-38

By Harriet Halbig

Five individuals were recognized for their contributions to the Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Hall of Fame at a ceremony held at the administration building on Sept. 24.

The honorees were:

• Grace Best, a teacher with the district for 24 years at Palmer Lake Elementary School, where she spearheaded intergenerational activities and introduced the concept of addressing the whole child, a continuing focus in the district. Best passed away in 1995. Her award was accepted by her daughter. A district building is named in her honor.

• Don Breese, who was with the district from 1962 until 1990, first as a physical education, American history and drafting teacher and coach of the basketball team. During his career in the district, he served as a principal and superintendent when Woodmoor was being developed, and the district grew quickly. The stadium at Lewis-Palmer High School is named for him.

• Dr. Ray Kilmer who, as superintendent beginning in 1973, helped shape the core values of the district and set goals to meet community demands. He emphasized the relationship between the district and the community, and college and workforce readiness. Kilmer left the district in 1987 to become deputy commissioner of the Colorado Department of Education. An elementary school was named in his honor.

• Norma Lavelett, a graduate of the Lewis-Palmer district when there was one school in the current administration building, began at the district as a secretary in 1966. She served as secretary of the combined junior and senior high school from when it had a population of 200. She was the secretary and bookkeeper for Breese, the superintendent and the secondary principal. She later transferred to Palmer Lake Elementary and served there until her retirement in1992. Breese said that he considered her the most valuable employee in the district.

• Frank Royal moved to Monument in 1970 after serving for 30 years in the Air Force. He attended a Board of Education meeting just to see what it was about and learned of the challenges the board was facing. Royal was appointed to the board in 1971. Royal’s goals were to achieve national certification and state accreditation for the district. He said the growth of Woodmoor provided families who valued quality education for their children. The first priority was to find a good superintendent, and he hired Kilmer in that capacity. He was instrumental in informing the community about the needs of the district and the passage of a bond issue in 1971, which funded the building of Lewis-Palmer Elementary and an addition to the school. When his term ended in 1979, he continued to serve the district as a volunteer.

Superintendent John Borman, who served as master of ceremonies for the evening, said that this recognition was long overdue and should help the community to understand the effort involved in bringing the district to its fine present standing. A reception followed the ceremony.

A booklet with biographical material can be downloaded from the district website at lewispalmer.org. under the Community tab.

Harriet Halbig can be contacted at harriethalbig@ocn.me.

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Lewis-Palmer D-38 Board of Education, Sept. 19: Board backs plan for spending if MLO succeeds

By Harriet Halbig

The Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Board of Education approved a list of uses for mill levy override funds during its Sept. 19 meeting.

The board passed an endorsement specifying the use of mill levy override (MLO) funds in the event of passage of the initiative on the November ballot. These uses include:

• $1.3 million to replace 22 teaching positions cut over the past five years.

• $1 million to ensure the district attracts and retains the best teachers.

• $900,000 to be used to restore counselors, teachers who support students struggling in math and reading, teachers for gifted and talented students, technology teachers, and elementary summer school teachers.

• $720,000 to Monument Academy, proportionally based on the number of students enrolled in the charter school.

• $450,000 to provide updated technology for students.

• $130,000 to be used to enhance the safety and security environment for students and staff.

None of the funding is earmarked for administration staff or construction of new schools. To view the wording of the ballot initiative, please go to lewispalmer.org.

Superintendent John Borman said that this is the spending plan for the first year. Board member John Magerko commented that a committee of community members will monitor all spending by the district.

Safety training approved

Assistant Superintendent Cheryl Wangeman asked board approval for a contract to provide training to ensure safety in district schools. She said that the Monument Police and Fire Departments and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office all approve of this training.

A task force created after the Sandy Hook killings in December discussed options for the training. Each school will be trained separately, beginning with Palmer Ridge High School.

The training, provided by Abila Security and Investigations, was approved.

Electronic participation in board meetings

The board discussed a policy to allow electronic participation in school board meetings when board members can’t be present. This issue was first discussed by the Colorado Association of School Boards. Board President Jeff Ferguson suggested that examples of applicable circumstances should be included in the wording of the policy. Vice President Mark Pfoff stressed that members should be encouraged to attend meetings in person whenever possible.

Under the policy, absent members may participate in discussions and vote.

Regardless of passage of the policy, a quorum of three board members must be physically present for a meeting to be held.

The board assigned Borman to explore the technology required to put the policy in place. The board stressed that all members must be able to hear one another, and there must be a way to record proceedings.

Teacher departures decline

Director of Personnel and Student Services Bob Foster gave a presentation on staffing levels and turnover as represented in Colorado Department of Education (CDE) documents. He reported that there has been a decrease in non-renewals over the past year. The district will often give one-year contracts to teachers hired during a school year.

The number of teachers leaving District 38 for other districts has decreased, and the number of new hires from other Colorado districts has increased from 15 in the 2012-13 year to 24 for the 2013-14 school year. Many of the new hires are from the Harrison School District.

Foster explained that the statistics for turnover in CDE documents can be deceptive, because employees are considered to be turnovers if they leave their previous position, even though they may have been promoted from teacher to principal or from paraprofessional to teacher.

Borman commented that the state uses these statistics in many ways and said that turnover should be considered to be a neutral term. Often when the district decides not to renew a contract, it is because it thinks it can find a better fit for a position. People seldom leave the district because they are unhappy. Some leave for more money, some to leave the area to be close to family elsewhere, and some retire.

Foster said that district has the third-lowest turnover rate in the state, 11.93 percent. Only Cheyenne Mountain and Widefield have lower rates.

Lewis-Palmer Hall of Fame event

Borman reported that the first group of individuals inducted into the Lewis-Palmer Hall of Fame would be honored on Sept. 24. These individuals are Ray Kilmer, Frank Royal, Norma Lavelett, Don Breese, and Grace Best. These individuals were instrumental in making the district as strong and successful as it is now.

The ceremony will be filmed and made into a DVD, and there will be commemorative booklets.

In future years, there will be a nomination procedure and perhaps recognition for alumni of distinction.

Lewis-Palmer Middle School presentation

Lewis-Palmer Middle School Principal Seann O’Connor introduced representatives of a team of eighth-graders who chose restoration of Palmer Lake as their service learning project for the year.

Students applied many skills to determine the volume of the lake and the amount of water needed to restore it, and fundraising methods to support the project. The group will also aid in applying for grants from the state and federal governments.

The board passed a list of routine items such as minutes of past meetings, resignations and retirement of staff, special education contracts, policy revisions, and various other items requiring board signature.

**********

The Board of Education of the Lewis-Palmer School District meets at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month in the district’s Learning Center, 146 Jefferson St., Monument. The next meeting will be on Oct.17.

Harriet Halbig may be reached at harriethalbig@ocn.me.

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Lewis-Palmer District Accountability Advisory Committee, Sept. 10: Superintendent’s year-end review; changes in teacher evaluation

By Harriet Halbig

The District Accountability Advisory Committee (DAAC) of the Lewis-Palmer School District spent its first meeting of the school year on Sept. 10 in discussion of last year’s achievements and plans for the coming year.

Superintendent John Borman gave a brief report on the 2012-13 school year, saying that it was successful in many ways. The district continues to be accredited with distinction and gained students for the first time in five years. He said that there was a good sense of stability in the district, with solid scores in achievement, growth, postsecondary, and workforce preparation. Progress was being made in the area of growth gaps.

After a few years of slightly slipping scores, the district had its highest performance score of 86 during the 2012-13 year. The district performance score is a measure of academic achievement, academic growth, academic growth gaps, and postsecondary and workforce readiness. Lewis-Palmer Middle School showed the greatest improvement, and all staff made careful note of what procedures were successful.

Looking forward to the 2013-14 school year, Borman predicted an increase of 100 students in the district, distributed over all age levels.

Mill levy override initiative

Borman also spoke briefly about the mill levy override (MLO) initiative on the November ballot. He said that the last successful MLO was passed in 1999 and resulted in the building of Prairie Winds Elementary School. A bond issue in 2006 supported the construction of Palmer Ridge High School and improvements at Lewis-Palmer High School.

Borman explained that some members of the community still have a mistrust of the district’s administration on the basis of actions taken as far back as nine years ago. None of those involved in these past decisions are still members of the Board of Education or serve in an administrative capacity.

The MLO would provide $4.5 million to help the district replace many of the teaching positions lost over the past five years. These would include librarians, technology teachers, elementary summer school teachers, and math and reading coaches. For a breakdown of planned spending of MLO funds, please see the district website lewispalmer.org, or the Board of Education article in this issue of OCN.

Committee Chair Chris Amenson asked whether the board has considered what it would do if the MLO failed to pass. Borman said that the district has not received community support in this way for several years. In the past few years, funding from the state has been unreliable and the aging of the state population and the corresponding growth in spending on Medicare and Medicaid will continue to erode K-12 education funding.

When asked when funds from an MLO would be available, Borman said they could be used as soon as January. If the initiative does not pass, the district will continue to do all it can to maintain the level of quality education for which it is known, he said.

When asked how the district would benefit from the proposed $1 billion statewide initiative to raise personal income taxes to benefit education, Borman said that the majority of the funds would go to districts with a higher at-risk population than ours. D-38 would probably see an increase of $200 to $300 per student.

The MLO would be preferable, because it would keep local funds here in the community, he said. There is no sunset clause in the MLO because goals such as recruiting and maintaining excellent faculty would be cut off under that restriction. Sunset clauses are more common in cases where the funds are applied to one-time costs such as building new schools.

In closing, Borman encouraged individuals to email him with any further questions.

Overview of new teacher evaluation procedure

Director of Personnel and Student Services Bob Foster gave a presentation on the new teacher evaluation process that will be applied for the first time this year. The process will give equal weight to professional practice and student outcomes.

School districts were given the choice of applying a Colorado Department of Education (CDE) rubric or creating their own. Lewis-Palmer is using the state model.

As first presented last spring, teachers would be evaluated regarding their professional practice by means of a 23- document. The revised form is 15 pages long, having eliminated non-observable traits. Rating levels are: basic, partially proficient, proficient, accomplished, and exemplary.

The challenge this year is to determine how to rate teachers and others who do not teach subjects that appear on standardized tests. This would include teachers of physical education, the arts, science, special education teachers, and many others, including all teachers of students younger than third grade.

The student outcome portion of the evaluation considers measures of individually attributed student learning outcomes, collectively attributed student learning outcomes, statewide assessment results, and growth model results.

The ratings for student learning outcomes are: much lower than expected, lower than expected, expected, and higher than expected.

Foster said that 2013-14 is a "hold harmless" year for the application of the new procedure and will allow teachers to see their strengths and areas needing improvement.

To see the presentation on this subject, go to lewisplamer.org, Board of Education committees, DAAC folder, and teacher evaluation PowerPoint.

The committee approved a meeting schedule for the coming year, including meetings at various schools in the district.

**********

The District Accountability Advisory Committee meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month. Locations vary. The next meeting will be on Oct. 8 in the library of Palmer Lake Elementary School, 115 Upper Glenway, Palmer Lake.

Harriet Halbig may be reached at harriethalbig@ocn.me.

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Lewis-Palmer D-38 Special Education Advisory Committee, Sept. 11: Technological advances assist students

By Harriet Halbig

Many parents and staff members attended the Sept. 11 meeting of the School District 38 Special Education Advisory Committee, where they learned of many technological aids and new procedures to aid special education students in the district.

Anne McGann, augmentative communication specialist, and speech language pathologist Cheryl Young gave a very informative presentation about devices that can be of help to students on an individual education program (IEP).

McGann explained that assistive technology is used to perform tasks that would be difficult or impossible for the student. Examples of this are the ability to write legibly or to read the printed word. A statewide alternative communications library of such devices is available to teachers and parents, allowing experimentation before specific devices are selected.

Student needs are evaluated in the classroom setting and helpful tools are then recommended.

Young demonstrated a tool known as a smart pen, which combines the ability to take notes and record a classroom lecture. When used on special paper, the pen allows a student to scan a portion of class notes and hear the lecture played back. The pen costs $90 to $100, and a few students own them.

McGann then introduced a number of useful apps for students. A list was distributed with titles and ratings of apps that address various problems. Apps can assist a student in making a slideshow to illustrate a story (A.C. Slideshow), practice presentation voice (dBVolmMeter), create flashcards, and various other functions. A helpful app for parents is myIEP meeting, which allows parents to understand the laws related to special education, organization of paperwork, and how to support their student through the process.

Apps are available for students of all ages from early childhood to adulthood.

McGann and Young stressed that most apps are very inexpensive and many are free of charge. Where there is cost involved, they suggest looking for a "lite" version that is often free, and to look at earlier versions that might be superior to the most recent. Ratings are available for all apps, and it is recommended that parents choose apps with a rating of three stars or higher.

Director’s report

Director of Exceptional Student Services Mary Anne Fleury reported that many students are entering D-38 from other districts this year and others are changing schools within the district. Each teacher is supplied with a day planner, a list of what services to provide to each student, and information on inclusion in the general education classroom.

This list of services was created as a result of the May meeting of the committee, where parents requested various services to make the transition between grades and schools more uniform district-wide.

Fleury said that a focus for this year is student engagement in the general education classroom. It will be necessary to determine skills that make this engagement successful. Sometimes a student will need to be taught appropriate behavior outside of the classroom and then returned. The department is now committed to teach appropriate classroom behaviors to students while they are young, making it possible to integrate them early in their school years.

Fleury said that she will observe general education classrooms to monitor progress.

The department is now providing a multi-tiered system of support that encourages general education teachers to alter their teaching practices in order to enable special education students to learn in a general education setting. If this does not work for a specific student, teachers will look at additional interventions and support for the student.

Fleury also reported that disability labels are changing this year. Students with emotional disabilities may no longer quality for special education services. Autism will be a separate category.

Fleury encouraged parents to go to teachers first when they have a question, then to the principal of their school. She stressed that a student’s case manager is the individual who oversees all programs for an individual student. The general education teacher is given a summary of student IEPs with goals and accommodations specified.

When asked the impact of the proposed mill levy override on special education, Fleury said that all students would benefit from the additional funds and reminded parents that general district funds and federal funds are also instrumental in funding special education.

**********

The Special Education Advisory Committee meets at 6:30 p.m. in the district’s Learning Center, 146 Jefferson St. in Monument. The committee usually meets on the second Wednesday of the month. Due to conflicts with the Empty Bowl Dinner and teacher conferences, however, the committee will meet next on Oct. 23.

Harriet Halbig may be reached at harriethalbig@ocn.me.

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Donald Wescott Fire Protection District board, Sept. 17: Two 2014 budgets prepared

By Lisa Hatfield

The Donald Wescott Fire Protection District board began preparations for the 2014 budget at its brief Sept. 17 meeting.

Treasurer Joyce Hartung and Fire Chief Vinny Burns were excused from the meeting.

2014 budget discussion begins

Administrative Assistant Cheryl Marshall and Assistant Chief Scott Ridings presented the first drafts of the 2014 budget for the board members to review. The staff prepared two budgets, one assuming that the mill levy override (MLO) is approved by voters and increases to 11 mills, and one assuming it stays at seven mills.

Chairman Scott Campbell explained that the district has a "net-zero balanced budget plan," since Wescott is a not-for-profit organization. "When we have a change in the expected input side or revenue, we will make an appropriate adjustment on the expenditure side to balance that out," he said.

Comments made by Ridings included:

• If the MLO measure is approved in November, the first priority will be to hire nine new firefighters.

• If the MLO is approved, Chief Burns would get a 5 percent cost-of-living adjustment, current employees would be able move up in their salary steps, and the district would increase its wildland and fuel mitigation equipment, fuel and maintenance budget, uniforms, bunker gear for new hires, fire prevention information, and community events.

• If the MLO measure fails, no new firefighters will be hired, there will be a pay freeze and no cost-of-living increases, and training will remain at its current level.

• The district plans to continue its volunteer program regardless of what happens with the mill levy.

• The district is always reaching out for grants to supplement revenue.

• By combining Wescott’s chipper with Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District’s new mini skid steer, a small bulldozer, purchased with grant money, the two districts could be "tied together" to help residents more efficiently with fuel mitigation efforts.

Chief’s report

Ridings presented the chief’s report in the absence of Burns, who was excused due to training commitments. Ridings’ comments included:

• The main reason we are going for the mill levy override is to hire more firefighters.

• Runs were up 25 percent in August, from 146 in 2012 to 183 in 2013.

• No significant fire loss was reported in August, but the district did a lot of flood assessments.

• The Labor Day "Fill the Boot" campaign raised $6,800 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

• Insurance covered the $23,000 roof repair needed after the recent hailstorm.

• The employee review process is complete for the year.

• Wescott’s Station 1 will be used as a ballot drop-off location during the Nov. 5 coordinated election.

Ridings said that Falcon Fire Protection District Marshal Vernon Champlin "has really gone above and beyond coordinating all the fire districts to have a unified fire code." Champlin met with the Housing and Building Association on Sept. 16 to discuss some of the final pieces of the fire code, which will be voted on by the Wescott board in October before submitting it to the Board of County Commissioners.

The High Forest Ranch homeowners association hosted a picnic and collected over $10,000 in donations for Wescott to thank the firefighters for holding the fire line at the northwest corner of the Black Forest Fire in June. Ridings said the people’s thanks were "very heartfelt." He added, "(The High Forest Ranch fight) was probably one of the best operations that I have been a part of in Colorado firefighting."

Financial reports

Marshall presented the bank balances, which totaled $1.6 million as of Aug. 31: People’s National Bank $59,000, Colorado Peak Fund $179,000, ColoTrust Fund $439,000, and Wells Fargo Public Trust Fund $965,000. The district has expended 74 percent of its annual budget, which is "slightly ahead" of the 66 percent it should be at for the end of August, but this is due to the maintenance and station repairs reported last month.

The meeting adjourned at 7:36 p.m.

**********

The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Station 1, 15415 Gleneagle Drive. Meetings are normally held on the third Tuesday of the month. The public is always welcome. Information: 488-8680.

Lisa Hatfield can be reached at lisahatfield@ocn.me.

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Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, Sept. 25: District awaits sheriff’s response on coordination effort

By Bernard Minetti

Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District (TLMFPD) Chief Christopher Truty noted that the district is "continuing to work with the El Paso County sheriff" regarding the "changes" that he had recommended to the county in the wake of coordination failures in the Black Forest Fire fighting effort. Truty also said at the Sept. 25 meeting that he had assumed the duty of spearheading this effort for the North Group fire agencies, which consists of TLMFPD, Wescott, Black Forest, Larkspur, Falcon, Air Force Academy, Palmer Lake, and Cimarron Hills, and that the districts had basically asked him to pursue communications with the county.

"We have yet to see actually any response from El Paso County as far as them implementing anything," Truty said. He added that the district was also working with Douglas and Teller County agencies in this regard.

Expansion of district boundaries

Truty noted that he and Black Forest Fire Chief Bob Harvey decided to propose an assimilation of properties into their respective districts. The result for TLMFPD would be a $55,000 increase in tax income. The increase or decrease for Black Forest was not mentioned. The result of the discussion was TLMFPD Resolution 13-003, which was unanimously passed at this meeting. It must be voted on again at next month’s meeting to become law. The affected boundaries that would become part of TLMFPD are defined in the resolution.

The resolution proposes district "inclusion within its boundaries of the real property generally bounded by County Line Road to the north, Black Forest Road to the east between County Line Road and Walker Road and Steppler Road to the east between Walker Road and Hodgen Road, Hodgen Road to the south between Colorado Highway 83 and Steppler Road and Walker Road to the south between Steppler Road and Black Forest Road, and Colorado Highway 83 to the west."

The entire resolution is available at the TMFPD office noted at the end of this article.

Treasurer’s report

District Treasurer John Hildebrandt again reported that revenues had significantly increased beyond budgetary expectations, especially in the specific ownership tax (SOT) area, and ambulance revenues were also markedly exceeding expectations. SOT income was at $253,033, or 101 percent of expectations. Ambulance revenues were at $372,899 or 77 percent of planned income, or about 10 percent over the planned amount.

Salaries and fuel expenses again remained above budgetary expectations. Hildebrandt also reported that "Overall expenses are 69.7 percent over the YTD budget." There was no explanation concerning what would be done with the excess income.

Health care update

The district is waiting for direction from insurance consultant IMI before beginning any definitive action on health care for employees. The consultant is expected to deliver options for the district when they become known. A 7 to 8 percent increase in premiums for employees was expected.

Fire Station 2 septic system

Acquisition of the land on which the Station 2 septic system is located was discussed. Director Roger Lance provided options to purchase the property. The board decided to postpone action until an acceptable plan was devised and discussed with the landowner. The owner is seeking a refund of the property tax on that land for compensation.

District IT system

Truty reiterated what had been said at the prior meeting regarding the district IT system. He repeated that the system installed at Station 2 was essentially a residential-type Internet setup and cannot carry the data load necessary for the needs of the district. That particular installation, he explained, was installed because of budgetary constraints. He said the server would be upgraded and Comcast would install a fiber-optic connection to the Administration Building, resulting in a high-speed connection from the stations to the administration center. There would be an additional cost.

Truty added that the district is re-evaluating the present phone service and devising a reallocation of funds to compensate for the cost increase to upgrade the system. The district was waiting to hear from IT consultant Alerio concerning the recommended actions.

Emergency calls increase

Truty said the district had experienced a 12 percent increase in call volume for the year, possibly because of I-25 construction. He said that since the Black Forest Fire, citizens are reporting any "wisp of smoke."

Fire Prevention Week

Truty reported that Fire Prevention Week is scheduled Oct. 7 to 11. The theme for this year is "kitchen safety." Fire crews will be dispatched to schools to teach about this subject.

He noted that the Town of Monument will renovate the Fire Administration Building because of numerous water leaks.

Truty advised that the preliminary 2014 budget will be sent to the board via email for discussion in the October meeting. It also will be published online for the general public.

Chief Truty reported that two district employees were out of action due to injuries.

The board entered an executive session with the district’s counsel for legal advice on general personnel matters.

**********

The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 23, in the Administration Center at 166 Second St. in Monument. For further information regarding this meeting, contact the district Fire Administration Office at 719-484-0911.

Bernard Minetti may be contacted at bernardminetti@ocn.me.

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Tri-Lakes Facility Joint Use Committee, Sept. 10: State approves plans for use of $1.08 million in grants

By Jim Kendrick

On Sept. 10, Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility Manager Bill Burks reported that the state Water Quality Control Division had approved the facility’s Nutrients Planning Project Work Plan that had been prepared and submitted by its engineering consultant Tetra Tech. An $80,000 state planning grant awarded to the Tri-Lakes facility will be used to pay for this planning study. The division also approved Tetra Tech’s Nutrients Design/Construction Project Work Plan, which will be paid for by a separate $1 million state design/construction grant awarded to the Tri-Lakes facility. The total cost for design/construction is $2.007 million.

Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District Director Jim Taylor took over as the district’s primary representative to the facility’s Joint Use Committee (JUC), replacing Jim Whitelaw who has moved out of the district. Taylor replaced Whitelaw at this meeting as president of the JUC.

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. The three-member JUC acts as the board of the facility and consists of one director from each of the three owner districts’ boards: President Taylor, Woodmoor, Vice President Dale Smith, Palmer Lake, and Secretary/Treasurer Chuck Robinove, Monument. Several other district board members and district managers from each of the three owner districts also attended the meeting.

Nutrient planning study proposal approved

Burks reported that the Water Quality Control Division had accepted the facility’s Nutrients Planning Project Work Plan that had been prepared and submitted by its engineering consultant Tetra Tech. The first part of the plan calls for Tetra Tech to conduct chemical feed pilot testing for phosphorous removal, analyze current operational and pilot test data to determine if the pilot test results can be integrated into the current facility’s processes, then complete a report containing the pilot test results ($10,000).

The other part of the plan calls for Tetra Tech to develop a nutrients engineering report that evaluates near- and long-term nutrient management strategies and creates a capital improvements program for a 20-year planning period ($70,000). This report is currently scheduled to be completed by June 20, 2014.

The facility received an $80,000 state nutrient planning grant to help pay for a study by Tetra Tech to plan the design and construction of new Tri-Lakes nutrient treatment equipment for enhanced removal of total phosphorus from the facility’s effluent to comply with the new state nutrient Control Regulation 85. This planning grant requires a 20 percent match ($16,000) from the three districts that own the facility. The Tri-Lakes facility already meets the new total inorganic nitrogen limits in Control Regulation 85.

When Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the grant on July 19, he also said that the Tri-Lakes facility would receive a $1 million grant to help pay for design and construction of this new state-mandated nutrient treatment equipment. No match is required for this grant. This award of $1.08 million provides a total of $360,000 to each of the three wastewater special districts that own the Tri-Lakes facility. Both state grants are good for three years. Neither grant requires any reimbursement to the state. For more information see www.ocn.me/v13n8.htm#grant.

Tetra Tech’s Nutrients Design/Construction Project Work Plan for use of the $1 million design and construction grant includes these tasks:

• Complete a preliminary effluent limit (PEL) application ($9,000).

• Prepare site application for the recommended facility improvements ($23,000).

• Prepare a process design report for the recommended facility improvements ($45,000).

• Prepare final engineering design documents for the recommended facility improvements as identified in the Nutrients Engineering Report ($181,000).

• Construct improvements for the recommended facility improvements ($742,000).

The rough estimate of the total design/construction cost for this phosphorus removal project is $2.007 million. Burks said plans currently call for construction to be completed by the end of 2015. The design/construction grant statute states that the Water Quality Control Division must approve full operation of the new nutrient equipment by May 1, 2016.

Financial reports

Burks advised the JUC that he had succeeded in negotiating a cancellation of the state’s invoice for a $2,800 fee for a discharge permit amendment that eliminated the twice monthly nonylphenol testing requirement and restored the requirement to conduct only one test per quarter from the facility’s previous permit. Nonylphenol has never been detected in testing performed by the Tri-Lakes facility. It is an organic compound found in industrial surfactants, detergents, dry cleaning fluid, and pesticides and is toxic to many aquatic organisms.

Burks stated that the state Water Quality Control Division staff admitted that the requirement in the new discharge permit was their mistake since every test for nonylphenol ever conducted by Burks’ staff had resulted in a "non-detect" reading, proving there has never been a reasonable potential for finding any nonylphenol much less having a discharge permit violation. These tests have cost $600 each for a total of $14,400 per year, since the permit took effect at the start of 2012 for a total of $25,200. The division staff finally agreed that the Tri-Lakes facility should not have to pay the standard minimum 25 percent fee for administrative processing correction of the staff’s mistake.

Burks noted that the only exceptional item in the financial statements for August was an invoice from Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority for $6,285 for the facility’s participation in the Arkansas River Fountain Creek Coalition for Urban/Rural River Evaluation (AF CURE) in 2013.

Burks reviewed several line items in an update to the facility’s draft 2014 budget. The draft budget will continue to be refined as more specific information becomes available on items such as actual capital costs of planned phosphorus removal construction and new nutrient data reporting costs for AF CURE for 2014. The three district managers will have their boards review the draft budget to provide comments back to Burks.

The financial statements were unanimously accepted as presented.

District managers’ reports

Manager Mike Wicklund gave an update on Monument Sanitation District’s annual collection line rehabilitation project, noting that the project would be finished very soon. Palmer Lake District Manager Becky Orcutt and Woodmoor District Manager Jessie Shaffer stated that they had no issues to report.

Shaffer led a lengthy technical discussion regarding the regional reuse study by Tetra Tech for Woodmoor, Donala Water and Sanitation District, and the Town of Monument that would provide capital and operational cost estimates for building a regional reclamation facility with a capacity up to 7 million gallons per day. Their high-quality effluent would be piped directly to the reclamation facility so that it could become drinking water using treatment processes like membrane ultrafiltration. The study will also evaluate future well drilling costs that could be avoided by implementing reuse. There was an enthusiastic consensus of all in attendance that this project was "good news" for the Tri-Lakes region.

Note: The Triview Metropolitan District formally declined to participate in the regional study at its Sept. 10 board meeting.

Facility manager’s report

Burks noted that the plant’s infrastructure improvements that reinforced the Monument Creek stream bank had easily handled the stormwater surge from 3.5 inches of rain. The plant continues to operate very effectively with all discharge monitoring report results being well below permit limits. The various July effluent and in-stream nutrient readings above and below the discharge pipe were equivalent with those reported to the state under Control Regulation 85 over the past several months. Sludge removal from the sludge lagoon for use as agricultural fertilizer has been slowed down by the heavy rain, making fields too muddy for spreading.

Burks noted that environmental attorney Tad Foster had recommended that Tri-Lakes move forward soon on providing undated copper, other metals, and nutrient information to the state by the end of 2013 to effect further changes in the facility’s permit limits that could reduce testing costs.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.

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The next meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Oct. 10 at the at the Tri-Lakes facility’s conference room, 16510 Mitchell Ave. Meetings are normally held on the second Tuesday of the month. Information for these meetings is available at 481-4053.

Jim Kendrick can be reached at jimkendrick@ocn.me.

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Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, Sept. 12: Water loss investigation continues

By Candice Hitt

Assistant Manager Randy Gillette told the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District board Sept. 12 that the district was still researching water loss. The district has been experiencing an unaccounted water loss of about 60 to 70 gallons per minute.

Employees have walked the district looking for surface water and other indicators that could provide clues to the leak. Gillette stated a few defective valves have been repaired, but the water loss continues. District Manager Jessie Shaffer said the district plans to budget for a meter system in 2014 to further refine the search and improve the process of water recovery.

Shaffer also stated the district is revising the new construction Standard Details and Specifications for Quality Control policy due to the increase in development and the fact that it was last revised of 1997. The policy specifies material types and construction processes allowed.

Response on grants awaited

Shaffer gave a report from the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA) stating the district was waiting for a response from the state on the allocation of grant money and funds to be awarded to the district. The PPRWA is a consortium of water providers serving the communities in northern El Paso County. The district expected a response by the end of September.

The board unanimously agreed to execute an agreement with financial consultant Raftelis for rate modeling to provide an analysis for current and future water rate structures proposed by the district. The cost for the agreement is $19,500, which will be included in the 2014 budget.

Proposed recreational use of Lake Woodmoor

Shaffer met with Matt Beseau of the Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA) to further discuss proposed ideas for developing a community use trail system around Lake Woodmoor. Beseau stated the WIA is still in an investigative phase, but there is an interest in developing the area in stages. Beseau indicated WIA would need to rely on community support for funding, labor, and supplies.

Shaffer stated the district is not in the business of recreation and will not be funding provision, liability, or maintenance of the trail system. The board will continue to discuss the project as ideas are presented.

Public relations

Board President Barrie Town stated he would like the board to bring up ideas to raise community awareness of the district over the next few months. The goal is to develop increased public involvement, reopen relations with local schools, and educate the community on conservation.

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The next regular board meeting will be held at 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District Office, 1845 Woodmoor Dr., Monument. For information: 488-2525 or www.woodmoorwater.com.

Candice Hitt can be reached at candicehitt@ocn.me.

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Academy Water and Sanitation District, Aug. 21 and Sept. 18: District expected to be debt-free "for a day or two"

By Susan Hindman

Auditor Terri Rupert, with Hansen & Co., had good news about the Academy Water and Sanitation District’s 2012 draft audit.

"Everything is a little bit stronger than it was a year ago, a little more cash (in the banks), she said at the Aug. 21 board meeting. "All the bills got paid in December (2012), so there weren’t any accounts payable."

Once the district’s bond is paid off in November 2013, only about $59,000 will be left to pay on it, which is the cost of refinancing the bond back in 2004 that was spread over the life of the bond. "And then the district is debt-free for a day or two," she said. "I think that’s pretty remarkable. I don’t know of very many governmental entities out there that are looking at being debt-free for whatever time that lasts."

The district’s assets in 2012 totaled $2.06 million:

• $1.56 million: equity attached to the property, equipment, and buildings owned by the district.

• $12,000: restricted as TABOR reserve.

• $69,175: restricted for debt compliance (will cover the final $59,000 on the debt).

• $30,000: restricted for lagoon dredging (legal compliance).

• $383,582: unrestricted.

Revenues came from property taxes ($183,441), service fees ($352,487), specific ownership taxes ($17,421), interest income ($151), and reimbursement from grants and insurance ($8,522). Operating expenses totaled $457,452. The district ended the year with $6,439 in net cash.

Still in the draft stage at that point was wording related to water augmentation and to the uncertainty of future wastewater treatment issues. And Rupert was waiting to hear from the district’s lawyer about legal wording and other information.

Next, the 2014 budget

Treasurer Walter Reiss presented a draft 2014 budget at the August meeting, which was further refined at the Sept. 18 meeting. Reiss said one of the few things remaining to be determined is the calculation for the 2014 general mill levy. Because the 20-year bond will be paid off, residents will see a reduction of about 22 mills in their property taxes next year. The remaining roughly 2.8 mills will continue, to cover operating expenses. Any future increases in the mill levy will be voted on.

Director Susan Hindman pointed to the Monument Sanitation District’s (MSD) upcoming TABOR waiver measure as an example of what the Academy district might face in the future. If MSD’s measure fails, that district will not be able to receive the bulk of the $1 million in state grant money it was awarded this summer. The money would pay for upgrades to its treatment facility that are required to meet new state nutrient regulations. Academy will face upgrades in the future because of regulations directed at smaller districts, so if it receives grant money to help pay for these upgrades, it too will have to hold a TABOR waiver election.

New website remains delayed

Director Ron Curry has been working with the Statewide Internet Portal Authority (SIPA) to set up Academy’s first website. SIPA helps the state’s districts set up websites at no cost, but SIPA’s numerous delays have kept the site from going live. Other board members haven’t been able to see the site and tweak the material that Curry has submitted on it. He hopes the site will be made available soon.

Other news

At the September meeting, a representative of Specialty Insurance Partners described the district’s current insurance plan in detail and noted areas where the board might want to revisit coverage amounts. Updated numbers will be available at the October meeting.

Following an executive session at the September meeting, Manager Anthony Pastorello received a $500 payment in recognition of his five-year anniversary with the district and a 5 percent pay raise.

Don Deboot, who worked part-time for the district for 20 years, retired in July. Board members thanked him for his service at a breakfast in August and presented him with a plaque. Neil Nalepa was hired as his replacement.

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The Academy Water and Sanitation District board meets at 6 p.m. the third Wednesday of every month at the fire station on Gleneagle and Jessie Drives. The next meeting is Oct. 16.

Susan Hindman can be reached at susanhindman@ocn.me.

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Donala Water and Sanitation District, Sept. 19: Residential water rates will rise 20 percent in 2014

By Jim Kendrick

On Sept. 19, the Donala Water and Sanitation District board formally ratified the previously approved across-the-board residential water rate increase of 20 percent in 2014 for all four use tiers in the current rate structure. Townhome irrigation rates were also increased by 20 percent.

The monthly wastewater fee was increased from $28 to $29 per month to fund a $40,000 three-year study of effluent nutrient and organic concentrations that has been mandated by Colorado’s Water Quality Control Commission. Annual water rate increases have already been approved through 2022. Wastewater rate increases have already been approved for the next five years.

Irrigation will continue to be restricted to twice weekly due to contractual obligations to impose the same restrictions that the Colorado Springs City Council imposes on Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) customers. CSU supplies supplementary drinking water to Donala by contract during periods of peak demand.

Donala General Manager Kip Petersen started this board meeting by introducing two new employees to the board. Aaron Tolman is the district’s new waste plant operator. Tolman came to Donala after five years at CSU’s Las Vegas plant. Sharon Samek is the district’s new accountant. Petersen noted that Samek was a branch manager at People’s National Bank.

Director Ken Judd was attending the annual Special District Association conference in Keystone and his absence was excused.

2014 rate resolution approved

Petersen noted that the board had previously approved a proposed series of annual residential rate increases designed to ensure that Donala receives enough annual revenue to meet its long-term needs. The rate increase approved for 2014 was 20 percent for all four tiers of water use rates. The annual rate increase would then drop to 15 percent per year for each of the four tiers tier in each of the next three calendar years. After that the rates will increase 10 to 12 percent each year after that until 2022.

However, the additional revenue from each of these rate increases may still not be enough to cover Donala’s actual operation and maintenance costs due to rapidly rising operational costs. Any shortfall in rate revenues will be paid using property tax revenue. Once the annual fee increases produce enough revenues to pay all operation and maintenance costs, any leftover fee revenue will be used to fund additional water purchase purchases or water projects to enhance Donala’s water portfolio.

Petersen also recommended a $1 per month wastewater fee increase to $29 per month for every Donala wastewater customer. This additional revenue will be used to fund a $40,000 three-year state-mandated study regarding nutrients and other organics discharged to Monument Creek in the highly treated effluent of the Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility. Annual $1 monthly fee increases have already been approved for the next five years.

Petersen also noted that the trestle supporting the railroad tracks over the original access road for the Upper Monument Creek facility had experienced severe erosion during the heavy stormwater events earlier in September.

The board unanimously approved the proposed rate resolution. This resolution will also raise townhome irrigation service rates and construction water rates by 20 percent. Golf course water rates will increase by 5 percent.

Willow Springs Ranch renewable water update

Petersen noted that he had scheduled a meeting for Oct. 8 with personnel from the federal Bureau of Reclamation and CSU to resolve issues that Reclamation has regarding Donala’s commitment to long-term storage of Donala’s renewable Willow Springs Ranch water in the Pueblo Reservoir and CSU’s commitment to a long-term water delivery contract for transporting Donala’s stored via CSU’s Southern Delivery System pipeline.

Petersen noted that he had discussed an agreement in principle during the previous week with CSU for long-term delivery, based on the negotiations that have occurred with CSU over the last several years. The deadline for signing the next storage contract with Reclamation for use of Pueblo Reservoir for storage and connection to the Southern Delivery System is 2016.

Petersen reported that Donala’s metering and flow recording equipment on Willow Springs Ranch would be winterized by the start of October. He added that this metering equipment has shown that Donala will be able to use about 380 acre-feet of ranch water this year, compared to 129 acre-feet in 2012. Of this total, about 90 acre-feet will be used for providing required return flows, netting about 290 acre-feet of usable renewable water. The transit loss due to evaporation between the ranch and the Pueblo Reservoir is about 10 percent.

Donala’s ranch water that is stored in the Pueblo Reservoir can now be used to supply return flows to the Pueblo Bureau of Water Works at a cost of $50 per acre-foot. When Donala cannot provide water from the reservoir to the Pueblo Bureau of Water Works, it must pay $350 per acre-foot for required return flows.

Flaming Gorge update

The board rejected a request for another $5,000 contribution to the Flaming Gorge water transport enterprise. Petersen said that Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District was considering a similar request for additional funding. No useful water modeling deliverables have been provided to date that provide assurance that the next $5,000 contribution for computer model verification runs would be money well spent.

Triview status

Triview Metropolitan District, a co-owner of the Upper Monument Creek Facility with Donala and Forest Lakes Metropolitan District, issued five new taps in August leading to five $1,500 payments to Donala. This $7,500 reduced the balance that Triview owes Donala through a facility management agreement to $758,036. Donala lent about $1.3 million so Triview could pay all its share of the Upper Monument Creek expansion costs when Triview did not have enough credit to borrow this money from any other source.

Petersen also reported that the Triview board had decided at its Sept. 10 meeting not to participate in a regional water reuse study. The first water reuse meeting for the remaining participants––Donala, Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, and the Town of Monument––was scheduled for Oct. 3. Petersen noted that Donala’s engineer, Roger Sams of GMS Inc., will also participate in the reuse study.

Development updates

A Kum and Go service station is being planned for the northwest corner of Struthers Road and Northgate Boulevard. The county zoning for that lot is Commercial Services. If Kum and Go purchases the lot, the current landowners would then pay Donala the remainder of what they owe for their share of the cost of Donala’s Northgate lift station, which would service the Kum and Go facility.

Financial reports

There was a lengthy technical discussion of how Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority grant money for infrastructure construction is recorded as budgeted income and how interest revenue from grant funds is tracked. The board reviewed and accepted the August financial reports as presented by Officer Manager Betsy Bray and Accountant Sharon Samek.

DCAP administration transferred to Tri-Lakes Cares

Petersen said that Tri-Lakes Cares has offered to take over administration of the Donala Customer Assistance Program (DCAP) at the start of 2014 to assist customers who are having problems with their bills in these tough economic times of foreclosures and job losses. Customers looking for assistance can pick up an application from the Donala office at 15850 Holbein Drive or from Tri-Lakes Cares at 235 Jefferson St. in Monument. Applications for assistance should be submitted prior to disconnection of service being initiated. Communication with Donala or Tri-Lakes Cares is the key factor in obtaining assistance.

The major change Petersen proposed was to have Donala donors write checks directly to Tri-Lakes Cares starting on Jan. 1 with a notation on the donor’s check that the contribution is for DCAP. Tri-Lakes Cares will ensure that this is the only use allowed for these funds. In the past, Donala would add up to $1 per month to Donala bills to raise money for this assistance program. Having donors write individual contribution checks directly to Tri-Lakes cares in 2014 will streamline administration of this program.

The board unanimously approved the transfer of DCAP administration to Tri-Lakes Cares.

The board went into executive session to discuss real estate negotiations at 3:04 p.m. No other matters were voted on when the board came out of executive session to adjourn.

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The next meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 17 in the district conference facility at 15850 Holbein Drive. Meetings are normally held on the third Thursday of the month. Information: 488-3603.

Jim Kendrick can be reached at jimkendrick@ocn.me.

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Monument Sanitation District, Sept. 26: Ready for TABOR waiver election

By Jim Kendrick

On Sept. 26 District Manager Mike Wicklund advised the Monument Sanitation District board that all district preparations and submissions to the county Clerk and Recorder for the Nov. 5 TABOR waiver election had been completed. The district’s cost for this election was $3,500.

Financial reports

Wicklund noted a payment of $4,983 to J&K Construction for pipe repairs as well as manhole lid repairs on McShane Place, Beacon Lite Road and Mitchell Avenue.

Changes in medical insurance coverage, deductibles, and rates under the Affordable Care Act for the full-time staff and their spouses were discussed at length, but there was no information available on any of these issues to allow the board to make final decisions regarding the 2014 budget.

No tap fees had been collected since the Aug. 15 meeting.

Wicklund reviewed the current status of the planning grants and the design/construction grants to the three districts that own the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility. The actual procedures for each of the facility’s three owner districts—Monument, Palmer Lake Sanitation District, and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District—to approve their separate individual district payment and reimbursement requests have not yet been defined.

There was a lengthy technical discussion about how to negotiate this unprecedented multi-year multi-recipient grant process with the state Water Quality Control Division and implement these procedures once construction begins. The facility cannot directly receive the state grants under state law because the facility is not a municipality or special district and has no constituents or taxing authority. No final decisions on any of these matters can be made by Monument Sanitation District until after Monument’s Nov. 5 nutrient grant TABOR waiver election is completed.

Wicklund briefed the board on the current status of the Wakonda Hills lift stations. A repair was made to one of the two lift stations to remove and replace a cracked output pipe for one of the two wet well pumps. Wicklund also made an overnight visit to one of the district’s individual residential lift stations at a home in Wakonda Hills. He cleared and reset the pump and the system circuit breakers to restore service. The district’s electrician will follow up to confirm that the problem was temporary.

Wicklund gave an interim update on the 2014 budget. He added notes to provide supplementary information regarding the specific amounts of the district’s state nutrient planning grant, the district’s match to the planning grant, the district’s state nutrient design/construction grant, and the district’s construction contingency.

Wicklund also included a line for a lease/purchase loan that the district must obtain by the end of 2013 to pay for the cost of construction that is not covered by the grant, about $350,000. The district recently raised its monthly fee by $5 to cover this $350,000 loan.

In 2014, the district will lose its enterprise status, which allows the district to retain all revenues, due to accepting a state grant larger than the state constitution’s TABOR limit of 10 percent of the district’s annual operating budget. The district’s operational budget is currently about $500,000, and the resulting district annual TABOR limit on state grants is $50,000. Monument’s one-third share of the $1.08 million in state nutrient grants is $360,000, which is well above its annual TABOR limit of $50,000.

In the calendar year after the district has used all the state grant proceeds to help pay for nutrient treatment equipment construction, the district can re-establish its enterprise status and begin rebuilding its capital reserves for the next state-mandated nutrient project for the even tighter restrictions on total nitrogen and total phosphorus that will be imposed by state Regulation 31.17 in 2022.

If the ballot question to accept the two nutrient grants totaling $360,000 from the state via a nutrient TABOR waiver is not approved by its voters, the $333,333 construction grant cannot be accepted by the district. The minimum loan required for Monument to finance its share of the phosphorus removal design/construction contract would be $669,000. A 10 percent contingency would increase this amount to about $736,000. Financing a revenue bond this large would require another monthly fee increase of at least $5 for all district customers.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:07 a.m.

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The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at 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 reached at jimkendrick@ocn.me.

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Monument Board of Trustees, Sept. 3: Police retirements, promotion, and awards announced

By Jim Kendrick

On Sept. 3, Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk announced two retirements, one promotion, and awards for all the officers of his department. A standing-room-only audience of proud family members and friends joined the festive celebration of these career milestones.

Retirement of Sgt. Rick Tudor

Chief Shirk noted he had first met Sgt. Rick Tudor eight years ago when Shirk was interviewed for the chief position by Tudor. Tudor asked him how he would handle a homicide investigation.

Shirk thought he had not answered the question well and had failed the interview, but it turned out that Tudor had gotten the "right answer" from him.

Shirk said it had been a pleasure working with Tudor and noted all the changes Tudor had seen in the department over the past 27 years. Shirk also noted Tudor’s wise counsel on which initiatives and changes would work at department meetings based on his long experience. Shirk presented a shadow box to Tudor displaying memorabilia from his career.

Retirement of Officer Gregory Fell

Shirk stated that Officer Gregory Fell was ending a 15-year career in volunteer law enforcement, with the last 4½ years with Monument. He presented a Certificate of Achievement and of Retirement to Fell for his dedicated service, making a difference in many lives and being a friend to all.

Officer John Hudson promoted to sergeant

Shirk noted that Officer John Hudson had been selected to fill Tudor’s sergeant position. Hudson had served as an officer in California and Denver for 15 years before joining the Monument staff. Hudson stated that he was most pleased with his job in Monument because of the great pride that every officer here takes in resolving issues thoroughly and serving the town.

Chief’s Commendations for service in Black Forest Fire

Shirk presented a Chief’s Commendation to every officer in the department for their service from June 11 to 19 during the Black Forest wildfire, the most destructive fire in Colorado history, as a highly effective team assisting multiple agencies in emergency evacuations, road closures, and roving patrols in the affected areas and working overtime to maintain police protection in the town.

"I am so proud of each and every one of you on how you responded and how you reacted in dealing with that fire and the danger that you were placed in," Shirk said. He issued certificates and campaign ribbons to:

• Officer Andrew Romano

• Officer Greg Fell

• Lt. Steve Burk

• Officer Joe Lundy

• Officer Jonathan Hudson

• Sgt. Mark Owens

• Officer Michael Case

• Sgt. Rick Tudor

• Cpl. Rob Stewart

• Officer Ryan Schott

• Officer Samantha Griebel

• Detective Steve Lontz

• Officer Robert Steine

Chief’s Commendations to Lontz and Hudson

Shirk presented Chief’s Commendations to Hudson and Officer Steve Lontz for their four years of service as the department’s shooting range masters and their development and implementation of a new diverse training program spanning "back to basics" to tactical shooting on the move in actual shooting situations. They are credited with training officers to perform with confidence, speed, and accuracy to enhance the survivability of the officers and increase the safety of town citizens.

Community Commitment Commendations to Lontz and Romano

Shirk presented Community Commitment Commendations to Lontz and Officer Andrew Romano for their service in working extensively with the Monument Marketplace Walmart staff to create an effective surveillance and reporting system that led to numerous arrests and successful convictions in response to a large number of thefts within the past year.

Shirk also announced a certificate of appreciation to Walmart praising their assistance in deterring and apprehending those who commit crimes and cooperation in helping make Monument a safer community.

Disbursements over $5,000

Town Treasurer Monica Harder reported two disbursements over $5,000:

• $15,803 to AFD Pavement Marking LLC for road striping.

• $23,536 to Rocky Mountain Materials for removing the hump in the intersection of Jackson Creek Parkway and Higby Road.

The meeting adjourned at 6:56 p.m. for a festive reception for all the town’s police officers.

Jim Kendrick can be reached at jimkendrick@ocn.me.

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Monument Board of Trustees, Sept. 23: 2012 audit approved

By Jim Kendrick

On Sept. 23, John Cutler of John Cutler & Associates LLC presented his final audit of the town’s 2012 budget. Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Superintendent John Borman gave an overview presentation on the district’s mill levy override (MLO) election. The meeting was postponed from Sept. 16 due to lack of a quorum.

Trustees Stan Gingrich and Jeff Kaiser were absent from the meeting.

2012 audit approved

Cutler noted that all the town fund net balances increased in 2012, a positive indicator of good budgeting and planning. No funds were over budget. The water enterprise fund had some losses. Cutler stated that there was a control concern because cash balances had not been completed every month due to time constraints. He added that there was also a software issue regarding accounts receivable. Town Manager Pamela Smith said an accountant had been hired to take over the bank statements to respond to this control issue.

The board unanimously approved a resolution to accept the audit. The staff had received a 90-day extension through the end of October to resolve its issues with the auditor.

D-38 mill levy increase request explained

Borman discussed some of the issues pertaining to the D-38 MLO initiative with the board.

Some of the $10.6 million cuts in annual funding that have affected D-38 over the past five years Borman noted were:

• Teaching positions—$5.7 million

• Instructional materials—$550,000

• Support staff—$490,000

• Benefits—$390,000

• Central office—$1.11 million

• Busing/building maintenance—$2.39 million

• Activities budget—$45,000

Some of the specific cuts and other unfunded losses to students that most concerned Borman were:

• Loss of 38 teaching positions—15 classroom teachers and 23 counselors.

• No teacher time available for struggling students who need extra instruction in math and reading.

• Loss of gifted and talented teachers, librarians, technology teachers, and summer school.

• The backlog for technology replacement and upgrades is $2 million.

• Smaller class sizes essential for a solid elementary school foundation are gone.

• Math and reading intervention for struggling students has been largely eliminated.

• Larger class sizes in middle/high school make one-on-one student-teacher connections more difficult to achieve.

Borman stated that the MLO requests an annual increase of $4.5 million to be used in part for:

• $1.3 million for 22 classroom teachers and instructional budgets.

• $900,000 to restore counselors, math/reading interventions, gifted and talented instruction, librarians, technology teachers, and elementary summer school.

• $1 million to recruit and retain the best teachers.

• $130,000 for improving the safety/security environment using advice from police, firefighter, and retired military volunteers.

• $450,000 to restore technology support, infrastructure, and computers.

• $720,000 for Monument Academy charter school for all of these issues.

Borman stated that there will be controls on how this new revenue would be used:

• A citizen’s oversight committee will review spending of these new funds and report to the community.

• No money will be spent on administrative staff.

• Spending will be audited annually by an independent auditing firm.

Borman said that the cost of the 20 percent mill levy override for a home with a county property tax assessed value of $300,000 would be an additional $250 per year, with the annual cost for other homes being directly proportional, $500 for a $600,000 home. On average the annual increase in total property taxes for a D-38 property owner would be about 9 percent, he added. He also discussed very technical details regarding potential TABOR time delays and Medicare and Medicaid issues that might accompany any future restoration of state supplementary funding to previous levels.

Michaela Smith, Lewis-Palmer High School’s senior class president who is the D-38 nonvoting student representative on the Board of Trustees for the fall semester, gave a testimonial on the quality of her D-38 education compared to that at her previous school district before moving to Monument, emphasizing the help she has received in math lab. She noted a number of these benefits that her younger sister will not be able to receive at the school.

Board comments

Mayor Travis Easton noted that he was participating in countywide discussions regarding stormwater control and management.

Financial reports

Town Treasurer Monica Harder reported five disbursements over $5,000:

• $143,585 to Triview Metropolitan District for July sales tax ($134,922), August motor vehicle tax ($8,488), and August Pikes Peak Regional Building Department sales tax ($175).

• $75,280 for a semi-annual loan payment to the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority for 1997 water revenue bonds.

• $5,034 to Trystar Inc. for a backup generator hookup assembly for the town’s water system booster pump station.

• $9,826 to Forsgren Associates Inc. for engineering work for the town’s water master plan.

• $6,839 to Jacobs Engineering Group Inc. for design work for the town’s downtown sidewalk project.

Some of the items Harder noted in her July financial report were:

• General fund revenues were more than budgeted by 3.3 percent or $86,000.

• General fund expenditures were less than budgeted by 11.8 percent or $298,000.

• General fund net revenues were more than budgeted by $384,000.

• Water fund revenues were less than budgeted by 35.7 percent or $303,000.

• Water fund expenditures were less than budgeted by 17 percent or $128,000.

• Water fund net revenues were less than budgeted by $175,000.

• Total town net funds increased by $65,409 to $794,561.

• Total net sales tax revenues through July were more than budgeted by 5.3 percent or $85,000.

Staff reports

Some of the items that Town Manager Smith reported were:

• Madeline VanDenHoek had been hired on Sept. 9 to serve as community liaison, grant writer, social media contact, and executive assistant for the staff directors.

• The first meeting of the regional water reuse study committee will be held on Oct. 3. Triview has decided not to participate with the town and Donala and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation Districts on developing local reuse projects.

• The staff is doing a parks inventory for the entire town, including Triview Metropolitan District, and will develop a five-year parks improvement plan from this inventory.

• A legal claim filed against the town regarding the town’s prohibition of recreational marijuana businesses will be handled by the chief legal counsel of CIRSA, the town’s insurance company.

• Roof repairs and floor replacement in the main meeting room of the town’s former town hall building, currently leased to Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, will be included in the 2014 budget.

• The town will hold its first business breakfasts in October to "unveil" new programs of the Community Development Fund.

Some of the items Tom Kassawara, director of Development Services, reported on were:

• The Monument Board of Adjustment denied a variance request for 595 Woodmoor Acres Drive that would have allowed back deck steps to encroach into a required setback area, by a 2-1 vote on Sept. 5.

• Seven single-family land use permits were issued in August (four were in Triview) for a year-to-date total of 58 (44 were in Triview.)

• A downtown sidewalks project open house was held with about 20 business owners in attendance so they could ask questions of the town staff and consulting engineers of Jacobs Engineering. No objections were made to the project as presented. A few attendees requested more sidewalks than can be built with available grant money.

• Paving improvements to the intersection of Jackson Creek Parkway and Higby Road have been successfully completed.

• A contractor will begin work on completing the remaining required landscaping in Village Center at Highway 105 and Knollwood Drive using funds deposited in a town escrow account by the developer.

Some of the items Public Works Director Tom Tharnish reported on were:

• Expansion of the Limbach Park irrigation system has been completed.

• The contractor for the Second Street tree project has stated that he will replace the dead trees, but that had not yet occurred.

• The Colorado State University Extension Office is conducting a town tree inventory to help plan for management of town parks and public spaces as well as funding requirements.

• Water demand was 20.1 percent less in August than in 2012—3.56 million gallons less.

• A new emphasis has begun to reduce the number of unpaid water bills and delinquent accounts to minimize the revenue shortfall in the water enterprise fund.

Some of the items Police Chief Jake Shirk reported were:

• Two people were arrested and charged with numerous felonies in connection with the burglary of the Chapala Plaza office building.

• Officer Sam Griebel resigned to take a position with the Marijuana Enforcement Division of the state Department of Revenue. Shirk offered his congratulations and wished the best of luck to her.

The meeting adjourned at 7:45 p.m.

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The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 7 at Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road. Meetings are normally held on the first and third Monday of the month. Information: www.townofmonument.org/meetings/board-of-trustees/ or 884-8017.

Jim Kendrick can be reached at jimkendrick@ocn.me.

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Monument Planning Commission, Sept. 11: Smaller side setbacks approved for Promontory Pointe lots

By Kate Wetterer

On Sept. 11, the Monument Planning Commission approved Major Amendment 3 to the Promontory Pointe Planned Development (PD) site plan that would decrease the lots’ side yard setbacks from a minimum of 10 feet to 7.6 feet while maintaining the existing minimum separation of 15 feet between houses for some lots in the Classic Homes’ Promontory Pointe development at Baptist Road and Gleneagle Drive. The amendment passed 6-1.

Only 75 lots east of Gleneagle Drive would be affected by this amendment. The minimum 18-foot front and rear setbacks on each lot would not be altered. The lots would be intended to contain houses of identical size to the original models, and this amendment was drafted largely to allow greater freedom when it comes to house design. The goal seems to be to allow more housing choices for customers.

Classic stated that this amendment was intended to be included with the second of the prior two PD site plan amendments but was postponed until Sept. 11. The Planning Commission’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Board of Trustees for the board’s hearing on Major Amendment 3.

Some Monument citizens voiced concerns at the meeting, primarily regarding how this side yard reduction would affect the neighborhood aesthetically and how views and existing property values might suffer due to creation of the proposed additional lots. People also discussed potential drainage issues and reservations about the way lots have been leveled.

The Planning Commission was unable to take action to address any of the flooding concerns at this time because it can only vote on whether to accept or reject particular planning requests. But the commissioners advised citizens to contact commission representatives should they want to discuss changes in Monument or have their voice heard. A meeting was arranged for the benefit of those in opposition.

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The next Monument Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Monument Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Rd. Meetings are normally held on the second Wednesday of the month. Information: 884-8017 or http://www.townofmonument.org/meetings/.

Kate Wetterer can be reached at katewetterer@ocn.me.

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Palmer Lake Town Council, Sept. 12: Moratorium on marijuana issue; voters to decide in April

By Lisa Hatfield

On Sept. 12, because of a successful citizens’ petition, the Palmer Lake Town Council repealed the recreational marijuana prohibition ordinance it had approved last month and then enacted a moratorium on sales of recreational marijuana. The council consensus was that the final decision on recreational marijuana should be determined by town voters in April.

Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Superintendent John Borman and Board President Jeff Ferguson presented their reasons for seeking a mill levy override in D-38.

Town edges toward resident vote on recreational marijuana

After the council enacted Ordinance 3 in August to prohibit commercial growing and retail sales of recreational marijuana, residents circulated a petition to repeal that ordinance. They collected signatures from the required 5 percent of registered electors who voted in the last election; this was why "the board must now reconsider Ordinance 3," Town Attorney Larry Gaddis said. A majority of Palmer Lake residents who voted last November supported Amendment 64, which allows local governments to regulate recreational marijuana retail sales the same as alcohol sales.

Gaddis and Town Clerk Tara Berreth explained the three options the town could consider on Sept. 12 in reaction to the petition:

• Repeal Ordinance 3 and take no further action, meaning the town would "opt in" to regulated sales of recreational marijuana as allowed under Amendment 64. After Oct. 1, medical marijuana businesses could apply to the state for licenses to sell and grow recreational marijuana starting in January 2014.

• Keep Ordinance 3 as approved in August, which would require a special election of town voters by Feb. 10. The town would conduct and pay for an extra mail ballot election on the issue, costing $3,000 to $6,000.

• Repeal Ordinance 3 and replace it with a new ordinance that would place a moratorium on commercial licenses for growing or selling recreational marijuana. This option would give the council up to one year to study the issue and decide whether and how to regulate and license it and get input from the community. Gaddis mentioned one choice available with this option was, "You could (but do not have to) put this on the on the ballot and submit this to a vote of the electorate in the regular April election."

A regular mail ballot election is already scheduled for April to decide other issues, and it wouldn’t cost additional money to place a recreational marijuana question on that ballot.

After considerable discussion, the trustees first unanimously approved Ordinance 6 of 2013, which repealed of Ordinance 3 of 2013 prohibiting commercial growing and selling of marijuana for recreational use.

Then they unanimously approved Ordinance 4 of 2013, imposing a temporary moratorium on the operation or establishment of any business that invites or permits private assembly for the purpose of the sale, growth, use, or consumption of recreational marijuana or recreational marijuana products. Gaddis explained, "This ordinance is just for businesses." Private citizens are not affected by this ordinance as long as they follow the rules of Amendment 64.

Some of the public comments were:

• "It sounds like you are trying to outlaw or eliminate cannabis clubs?" asked James McVaney, representing petition initiator Amanda Havens. "Yes, that’s right," said Gaddis. "If (the council) enacts this moratorium, (they) don’t want to have any recreational marijuana clubs" in the town.

• Resident Paul Banta expressed concern about traffic that might result from allowing sales of recreational marijuana. He estimated a potential 38,000 customers a week from El Paso County into Palmer Lake, if 6 percent of 645,000 El Paso County residents were regular consumers.

Mayor Nikki McDonald said, "It will be the citizenry’s decision." She added, "In the last election, only 200 out of 1,900 registered voters voted. A mail-in ballot will not let anyone have an excuse for not voting. It’s up to you the citizens to talk to your people and get them to mail in their ballots."

If the town residents vote against recreational marijuana sales in the April election, the issue will be over, Gaddis said.

However, if the voters approve commercial recreational marijuana sales and production in April, only existing licensed medical marijuana businesses would be allowed to conduct retail growing and sales of recreational marijuana until September 2014. It would be up to the council to decide after that if that should continue or if different zoning and regulations should be adopted.

Nearby localities that will allow recreational marijuana sales are Pueblo County and the City of Denver, while Manitou Springs and Larkspur have temporary moratoriums and will make decisions soon. El Paso County, Douglas County, Colorado Springs, Monument, and Castle Rock have all banned recreational marijuana sales.

School district needs money "to sustain quality"

Administrators from Lewis-Palmer School District 38 explained to the trustees that the school district is requesting a $4.5 million mill levy override (MLO) from District 38 voters on the mail ballot this November to try to offset the long-term effects from $11 million cut from the district over the last five years. If the MLO is approved by district voters, all revenue generated from it will be used solely by D-38, and a community public oversight committee will oversee MLO expenditures and report to the public.

The district has been accredited with distinction by the Colorado Department of Education for all four years this highest possible award has been available. However, Superintendent Borman is "worried about sustaining the level of education we have over the last four years" because of budget cuts and their effects on teachers and students over time.

Some of Borman’s comments were:

• Every time we win an award I find myself cringing a little bit, because it can create the perception that everything is just fine. We wouldn’t ask for this if it wasn’t necessary.

• In the last five years, we have cut 38 teachers (15 classroom, and 23 counselors and interventionists) to make budget.

• One of the most important aspects of this MLO is that every dollar stays here locally.

School Board President Jeff Ferguson’s comments included:

• This is the first time in 20 years I’ve really been concerned about the trajectory of the school district.

• The path we are on is not sustainable. At some point in time we’re going to run out of the capability of still providing the high quality of education with fewer and fewer resources.

For more MLO information, see D-38 and Woodmoor Improvement Association articles at www.ocn.me/v13n9.htm#lp and www.ocn.me/v13n9.htm#wia.

Mail ballots made permanent

Mail ballots used to be the exception, but now they are the rule in the state of Colorado. The trustees unanimously approved Ordinance 5 of 2013 authorizing the conduct of permanent mail ballot elections for the town of Palmer Lake. The town already was using mail ballots on a case-by-case basis, and this ordinance will reduce the amount of paperwork required by the town clerk for each future election.

Note: House Bill 13-1303 now mandates mail ballots for general, primary, odd-year, coordinated, presidential, special legislative, recall, and congressional vacancy elections. Ballots will be mailed to voters, but postage is not pre-paid for the return of the ballots by the voters, who can also drop off their ballots at designated locations.

Comprehensive Plan updated

The board unanimously approved a slightly updated version of the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which was originally written in "in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s. It’s a dream of what we wanted our town to look like," McDonald said. Gaddis said the plan can be adapted any time growth occurs in town. Residents can look at copies of the plan by visiting the town office.

New business license approved

The trustees unanimously approved a new business license for Richard and Jennifer Hitzemann, owners of Peak Pursuits dba Mountain Boy Sledworks, 583 County Line Road, which manufactures handmade wood sleds, toboggans, and ornaments.

Committee reports

McDonald said the Taste of Palmer Lake raised $5,500 in August, and the Haunted Lake fundraiser is scheduled for the weekend before Halloween. Proceeds will go to the Awake the Lake Committee.

Parks and Recreation Trustee Mike Patrizi said that new trees were planted around the ballfield and mowing has been done.

Water Trustee Michael Maddox said water use is dropping slowly. In August, the town used a total of 6.4 million gallons, with an average daily use of 207,000 gallons.

Fire Trustee Rich Kuehster did not have exact response numbers to present but said August had been quiet and that maintenance is needed on some of the trucks. The Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department is "working on protocols for what they’ve learned from Black Forest for dispatch out of Colorado Springs and El Paso County Sheriff to get the right resources to the right place," he said.

New Roads Trustee John Russell was sworn in by McDonald. His term runs through April 2014, when the next council election will be held.

Berreth said, "We will have to cut everyone’s budget for next year 2 to 3 percent. We’re down 10 to 12 percent in revenue right now." She said she hopes to have the budget for 2014 completed by November.

The meeting adjourned at 8:37 p.m.

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The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Oct. 10 in Town Hall, 42 Valley Crescent. Meetings are normally the second Thursday of the month. The public is invited to attend all public meetings. Information: 481-2953.

Lisa Hatfield can be reached at lisahatfield@ocn.me.

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Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority, Sept. 26: Formula changed for calculating taxes

By Jim Kendrick

On Sept. 26, the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority (BRRTA) reduced the valuation formula that will be used for calculating BRRTA’s 1 percent tax on the value of building materials for new construction. The BRRTA sales and use tax was approved by BRRTA voters in the November 2006 election, but the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department (PPRBD) did not begin collecting this tax until Aug 1, 2013.

The new 2013 PPRBD valuation formula it had been using for estimating the taxable cost of building materials was 40 percent of the total calculated at a valuation rate of $107 per square foot (SF) for both finished and unfinished areas. The 2008 valuation formula used by the Town of Monument for estimating the taxable cost of building materials is 50 percent of the sum of $94 per SF for finished areas, $37 per SF for unfinished garages, and $15 per SF for unfinished basements.

The BRRTA board, after a very technical hearing, unanimously approved switching to the 2008 Town of Monument valuation formula from the new 2013 PPRBD valuation formula for calculating the 1 percent BRRTA sales and use tax.

The board unanimously ratified the final copy of the previously approved BRRTA 2012 audit, an amendment to the 2013 budget, and the 2014 BRRTA budget.

Monument Trustee Jeff Kaiser was absent from the meeting.

Financial items

The board approved the following claims:

• $4,250 to Biggs Kofford PC for the 2012 audit.

• $10,147 to CliftonLarsenAllen LLP for accounting, district management, and sales tax administration.

• $7,994 to CliftonLarsenAllen LLP for accounting, district management, and sales tax administration.

• $2,302 to Spencer Fane & Grimshaw LLP for legal services and sales tax administration.

• $3,780 to Spencer Fane & Grimshaw LLP for legal services and sales tax administration.

• $5,913 to T. Charles Wilson Insurance for insurance.

Bartow stated the final construction cost for the I-25 Baptist Road interchange project was $18,319,199.27. The originally budgeted cost was $15,681,818. She added that this will probably be the last accounting reports on this project.

The net BRRTA sales and use fee revenue through May 31 was $461,544, a 12 percent increase compared to 2012. This revenue is used to pay the owners of the privately held BRRTA bonds that financed the $18 million construction cost.

The board unanimously accepted the financial reports as presented.

2013 budget amended

BRRTA District Manager Denise Denslow, of CliftonLarsenAllen, said that the 2013 budget was being amended to move the remaining capital projects fund balance for the Baptist Road interchange project to the debt service fund.

During the public comments portion of this public hearing, Dennis Minchow of Forest Lakes Metropolitan District asked why the construction budget fund was being closed out and transferred to debt service when the improvements for the west end of Baptist Road remained unfunded. Bartow replied that the funds from these bond sales must be used solely for construction or bond debt service. County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams added that none of the $250,000 in road use fees budgeted in 2013 for West Baptist Road improvements was being transferred to the interchange debt service fund.

The amended 2013 budget was approved unanimously.

2014 budget approved

Bartow stated that if the $250,000 for West Baptist Road improvements will not be spent in 2013, it could be added to the line for this item in the draft 2014 budget, which had zero funding allocated for next year.

Denslow said it was too soon to decide not to spend any of the appropriated $250,000 on West Baptist Road improvements in 2013 and move it to 2014. The funding shortfall for West Baptist Road is still $3.5 million.

Williams stated that the amount budgeted for West Baptist Road improvements in 2014 could be increased from the proposed zero dollars because the budget proposed an end of year balance in the BRRTA general fund of $717,640. BRRTA attorney Jim Hunsaker, of Spencer Fane & Grimshaw, said that adding another $250,000 to $600,000 to the West Baptist Road improvement line in 2014 would not obligate spending any of this money in 2014 and that grants for 2014 are still being sought. Williams made a motion to add $500,000 to this line and reduce the general fund end of year balance to $217,640.

This amendment was unanimously approved.

Bartow noted that the conservatively budgeted debt service fund revenue for 2014 was about $24,000 less than the firm mandatory payments because of the time lag in receiving November and December tax revenue. This $24,000 BRRTA sales and use tax revenue shortfall will be deducted from the debt service reserve fund, which has a current balance of $2.15 million.

Williams noted that this is only about 1 percent of the debt reserve fund. The bonds will be paid off in 13 years, by the end of 2026. The debt reserve fund was created in part to cover such revenue time delays.

There was no public comment during the open portion of the public hearing. The 2014 budget was unanimously approved as amended.

In 2014 BRRTA meetings will normally be held on the second Friday of the second month of the quarter at 2:30 p.m. in Monument Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Rd. However, the Nov. 9 BRRTA meeting was canceled due to the 2014 budget approval.

The meeting adjourned at 9:40 a.m.

Jim Kendrick can be reached at jimkendrick@ocn.me.

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El Paso Board of County Commissioners, Sept. 24: Roller Coaster property rezoning request denied

By Lisa Hatfield

On Sept. 24, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously denied a rezoning request for a parcel at the intersection of Roller Coaster Road and Old North Gate Road. Gregory S. and Tanya R. Wolff were requesting a map amendment to rezone a 13.66-acre parcel from RR-5 (Residential Rural) to RR-2.5 zoning.. The Wolffs could still pursue an administrative option to conceivably put three or four lots on this parcel.

Raimere Fitzpatrick, project manager/planner II, Development Services Department, presented the staff’s recommendation that Wolffs’ proposal was consistent with the minimum 2.5 acres suggested for this sub-area in the Tri-Lakes Comprehensive Plan, which was last updated in 2000,.

The El Paso County Planning Commission voted 5-2 to deny recommendation of the same request at its Sept. 3 meeting. The planning commissioners voting against the rezoning were Steve Hicks, Bob Cordova, Jerome Hannigan, Timothy Trowbridge, and Tony Gioia. The official summary of the Planning Commission meeting provided to the BOCC by Fitzpatrick did not include non-zoning comments (such as those made about water concerns and possible neighbor opposition) made by the planning commissioners. The consensus request of the BOCC was that in the future these comments would be included for their information.

The Wolff parcel is located in the county, within the Ponderosa Breaks planning sub-area of the Tri-Lakes Comprehensive Plan. This plan recommended "future zoning size to be at least 2.5 acres on unplatted properties. That lot size will help maintain the existing rural density." It also says, "Overall densities should be consistent with adjacent existing subdivisions."

To the north, east and west, the property is bordered by developed but unplatted single-family county residential lots zoned RR-5 Rural Residential. To the south is a city utilities electric substation and the Colorado Springs urban-density Flying Horse subdivision, which was not yet constructed when the plan was written.

David Jones of Land Resource Associates represented the Wolffs at the hearing. Some of Jones’ arguments supporting the rezoning request:

• Subdividing this lot into 2.5 acres lots is consistent with the Tri-Lakes Comprehensive plan last updated in 2000.

• The Flying Horse development in the recent Colorado Springs annexation to the south is a very dense, urban subdivision; allowing a zoning change on the Wolffs’ property would provide a transition area to five-acre properties.

• Property values are primarily affected by covenants and restrictions; unplatted properties have no covenants.

• The views on adjacent properties will not be blocked if the Wolffs develop it with 2.5-acre or five-acre lots.

• Creating three more lots would have a very small overall traffic impact.

Comments from applicant Greg Wolff, who has lived on the property for 21 years, included:

• "Everybody wants to come in and then shut the door behind them."

• Wolff has already obtained water rights for four wells on that property, "so I guess the state thought it was OK for me to do."

• The three properties to the west, with manufactured homes built in the 1960s, were deeded five acres but are now cut by the Old North Gate Road easement and are not really five acres.

• The whole reason for a comprehensive master plan is so that we set the precedent once; all the analysis was done when the plan was adopted in 2000. The goal is to be "compatible with zoning around you."

Eleven neighbors spoke about their opposition to the rezoning request. Their concerns included setting a zoning precedent for denser development in this neighborhood in the future, the impact of denser development on existing roads, more rapid aquifer depletion, greater risk for adjacent wells, and reducing the rural feeling of the area.

Note: The BOCC can only make land use decisions based on zoning law, but it can also consider non-zoning issues including water and neighbor opposition as part of the bigger picture. The Colorado state engineer makes decisions on awarding well permits.

Both Fitzpatrick and William Louis, the attorney representing one of the Wolffs’ neighbors, explained that the applicant could still create three to four lots on this parcel without a formal rezoning hearing process. The Wolffs could apply for an administrative minor subdivision to the board of adjustment for lot area variances to allow lots smaller than five acres minimum.

District 1 Commissioner Darryl Glenn made a motion to deny the applicant’s rezoning request, citing concerns about the compatibility with the existing neighborhood. Commissioners Peggy Littleton and Amy Latham mentioned protecting private property rights and encouraged Wolff to "take a different route" to creating smaller lots on his property. Commissioner Dennis Hisey and Latham were not concerned with setting a precedent, "because each development is evaluated on its own merit," they both said.

Commissioner Sallie Clark said, "I agree with Planning Commission decision." Since the property is surrounded by the county except for (the Flying Horse portion, which belongs to the city), which has very different rules and zoning requirements, this RR-5 zoning "keeps it within what I think the county had intended."

The motion to deny Wolff’s rezoning request was approved 5-0.

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Lisa Hatfield can be contacted at lisahatfield@ocn.me.

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NEPCO, Sept. 14: County official details planned roadwork

By Lisa Hatfield

At the Sept. 14 meeting of the Northern El Paso County Coalition of Homeowners Associations (NEPCO), Jim Reid, executive director of the El Paso County Public Services Department discussed planned road capital improvement projects and maintenance in northern El Paso County.

The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) "is a small (1 percent) sales tax that does a lot of work" on capital improvements, road maintenance, and transit service, he said. It was started in 1997 to improve transportation funding throughout the region. It was renewed by voters in 2012 for another 10 years with a specific list of prioritized projects. PRRTA funding cannot be redirected to other projects.

This year, the county has about $1.2 million of non-PPRTA money for road maintenance, and that funding may be redirected as needed. Reid encouraged all residents to attend PPRTA meetings the third Wednesday of each month.

When county roads need repair, it is much more cost-effective in some areas for the county to use road overlays and chip and seal repairs using oil and gravel. Only about 2 percent of county roads are repaved each year.

The PPRTA Capital Program Extension county-sponsored A-list projects in the Our Community News coverage area include:

• Beacon Lite Road improvements from Highway 105 to County Line Road.

• Deer Creek, Base Camp, Emigrant: Monument Hill Road to Woodmoor Drive.

• Highway 105 improvements from I-25 to Highway 83—Reid said there 146 accidents on this segment from 2007 to 2010 (see www.105corridor.com for more details).

• Monument Hill Road improvements from Woodmoor Drive to County Line Road.

• County Line Road improvements from I-25 to Furrow Road ($7.5 million, with some PPRTA funding available).

• Gleneagle Drive from Jesse Drive to Wuthering Heights Drive (estimated cost of $119,000—$95,000 in federal funds and $24,000 in county Road and Bridge funds).

• West Baptist Road from I-25 west to Forest Lakes Road ($7.5 million, with some PPRTA and Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority funding available).

Reid also talked at length about road repairs in Black Forest due to flooding, and a few road projects there that were already planned.

Reid encouraged residents to communicate with the Public Services Department at (719) 520-6460 or dotweb@elpasoco.com to report an emergency or a problem such as potholes, signs and signals, grader work, drainage, dead animals, or other transportation-related problems, or for answers to road and bridge-related questions. Include your name, email address or daytime phone number, home address, and a detailed description of the problem and its location. For questions about plans for county road projects, see www.elpasoco.com and click the Roads tab.

For questions about state-owned roads and possible rail lines, see the Colorado Department of Transportation website at www.coloradodot.info/projects/.

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NEPCO’s mission is to promote communication and interaction among homeowners associations (HOAs) 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.

All formal and informal HOAs in northern El Paso County are invited to join NEPCO and should call Bob Swedenburg at 481-2723 or see www.nepco.org.

The next NEPCO meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 9 at the Monument Town Hall and Police Building, 645 Beacon Lite Road at Highway 105. District 1 County Commissioner Darryl Glenn has been invited to speak.

Lisa Hatfield can be contacted at lisahatfield@ocn.me.

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Woodmoor Improvement Association Board of Directors, Sept. 25: Future of country club, YMCA’s plans discussed

By Harriet Halbig

The Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA) board discussed the status of the country club and considered some changes at its Sept. 25 meeting.

President Jim Hale reported that the country club within Woodmoor’s boundaries will not be auctioned as previously thought. The bank that owns it will retain the current management for up to another year.

Hale said he had asked WIA Manager Matt Beseau to consult with attorneys regarding any recourse the association might have if the golf course were sold to a developer.

Beseau said that he had spoken with officials of the Tri-Lakes YMCA about their plans to add a healthcare facility to their campus on Jackson Creek Parkway. They have not yet submitted plans to WIA but have agreed to speak with the board at the October meeting.

Architectural Control Director Darren Rouse reported that the project design standards manual is ready for attorney approval. He said that new forms have also been completed and that an explanation will be provided to show which forms are necessary for a given project.

More slash removed

Forestry Director Eric Gross reported that 154 loads of slash were delivered on the two slash removal days and that those participating were from Palmer Lake and other communities in addition to Woodmoor.

Hale suggested having such a service available for a longer portion of the year, perhaps from April to October. Participation of a few more homeowners associations is needed to provide volunteers, but it would benefit the entire area, he said.

Gross said that work on removal of scrub oak from common areas near private property is lagging due to equipment problems. A new contractor has been hired, but funding is lacking due to the additional slash removal program. The board approved the expenditure of up to $8,800, recovered from other parts of the budget, to continue the scrub oak removal.

Hale said that the board had received a number of requests for waivers of the rules regarding excess vehicles on a property and the presence of trailers for over 72 hours. He suggested that the board consider allowing trailers to stay on a property for a longer period, especially if they are utility trailers used to remove slash.

Vice President Kirstin Reimann said an option would be to remove the restrictions during the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Hale also said that a number of homeowners said that they own more than three vehicles due to teenagers who drive themselves to school, adult children who have returned home, and flood or fire evacuees who are being housed in the community.

Hale invites members of the community to attend the October board meeting and express their opinions on these changes.

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The Board of Directors of the Woodmoor Improvement Association meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month in the association’s Barn, 1691 Woodmoor Drive, Monument. The next meeting will be on Oct. 23.

Harriet Halbig may be reached at harriethalbig@ocn.me.

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September Weather Wrap

By Bill Kappel

September 2013 will be remembered for the devastating rains and flooding that occurred during the middle of the month. The brunt of these record rains occurred just north of the region, from the southern and western suburbs of Denver through Boulder and Fort Collins and up into the foothills. However, very heavy rain also fell in parts of El Paso, Teller, and Fremont Counties, especially around Cheyenne Mountain and Fort Carson.

Not surprisingly, we received well above-normal precipitation with many areas now nearly equaling a yearly average from July through September. That’s definitely good news after several years of drier than normal conditions. For more information about the devastating floods visit, http://coflood2013.colostate.edu/. This is a great resource to get more information on all aspects of the rainfall and flooding.

The first day of September brought cool conditions and afternoon thunderstorms. Highs only managed to reach the low 70s, with mostly cloudy skies. Rainfall amounts were generally around 0.1 inch, with slightly heavier amounts on the south side of the Divide. Mostly sunny and warmer conditions developed on the 2nd and 3rd, with temperatures quickly warming to above-normal levels. Highs reached the low to mid-80s both days, with just a few areas of afternoon clouds building up.

Warm and dry conditions prevailed for most of the first week of September as temperatures reached well into the 80s each afternoon. These highs were a good 10 to 20 degrees warmer than normal for this time of the year. Several locations reached new daily record highs. Conditions were mainly dry, with no measureable precipitation recorded from the 2nd through the 8th. The warmest days were 3rd and 5th-7th, when highs reached as high as 87°F. Temperatures were also mild at night. When we would usually expect the first cool fall nights, we instead only reached into the 50s.

Extreme rainfall and devastating flooding occurred during the week of the 8th around the Front Range and foothills of Colorado. Although the heaviest rain occurred from the west side of Denver through Boulder and Fort Collins and up into the foothills west of that region, we still received more than enough rainfall down on the Palmer Divide. The first two days of the week continued the trend of warm and dry weather. High temperatures reached well into the 80s both afternoons, with plenty of sunshine.

Changes began to occur the next morning as the extensive plume of monsoonal moisture shifted to the east right over us. This combined with several waves of energy (lift) moving through the region and low-level easterly upslope flow to set the stage for historic rainfalls. Initially, the showers and thunderstorms that developed on the 10th and 11th were nothing out of the ordinary, with generally less than a half inch accumulated over the two days. However, the amount of moisture in the atmosphere continued to increase and the lift needed to turn that moisture to rain on the ground was still present. This combination of factors continued to be reinforced over the same general areas for several days, leading to steady rain, with embedded convections and heavy burst at times.

The heaviest rains fell on the 12th and 13th, with 2 to 4 inches accumulating, and some areas receiving well over 5 inches. Other regions accumulated much higher amounts, with a pocket of 14 to 18 inches occurring around Boulder and in the foothills west of there. The heaviest amounts in our region occurred around Cheyenne Mountain and Fort Carson, where just over 12 inches fell in 24 hours. If this report is verified, it will be a 24-hour Colorado state record.

Flooding from these steady, heavy rains was exacerbated by the already saturated conditions from the above-normal rainfall of July and August. Of course, all the clouds and precipitation kept daytime temperatures well below normal, with highs generally in the 60s through the period. In this part of Colorado, we are almost never "normal." Instead we switch from one extreme to the other. In this case, we go from extreme drought to extreme flood with time in between. Can’t wait to see what winter decides to bring our way.

Unsettled and cool conditions continued to affect the region during the last full week of summer. High temperatures were held well below normal on the 15th and 16th, only reaching the low 60s. Scattered afternoon and early evening shower and thunderstorms developed, accumulating another half inch or so of moisture. Quiet and mild conditions then returned for most of the rest of the week, with highs rebounding back to normal levels in the mid-70s on the 17th and 18th. A weak cool front brought temperatures back down on the 19th and 20th and provided some morning fog and low clouds. However, no storms developed, so besides some drizzle, we stayed dry for the most part.

Our first "fall-like" storm of the season began to affect the region late on the weekend. Ahead of this storm, gusty southwest winds brought mild conditions both Saturday and Sunday, before the clouds and showers moved in starting later on Sunday. Highs reached back into the 70s both days, but as the autumnal equinox occurred at 5:44 p.m. that afternoon, so did our seasons seem to change from summer to fall just that quick.

The first week and a half of fall was quiet around the region. We got our first freeze of the season on the morning of the 24th in some of the colder spots around the area. Sunshine and pleasant temperatures were the norm for the remainder of the month. One strong storm system moved through the Rockies, bringing heavy snow to Wyoming and snow to our mountains on the 26th and 27th. However, this storm moved just far enough north that we were stuck on the windy and mainly dry side.

The cold front that followed on its heels did drop temperatures quite a bit during the last weekend of the month. And the clear skies and longer nights allowed for the first widespread, killing freeze of the season. Lows were in the low to mid-20s for many areas by the morning of the 28th. Temperatures were below freezing for several hours that morning, taking many of the tender summer plants with them.

A look ahead

October can be an active weather month for the Tri-Lakes region, with winter conditions often experienced. For three of the last five years, weather around Halloween has been cold and snowy. Remember the 6 to 15 inches of snow that fell during 2004 from Halloween night through Nov. 1. Snow can be heavy at times during any part of October, as when over 20 inches of snow fell Oct. 9-10 in 2005 and 2006 saw over 24 inches of snow fall in less than 24 hours on Oct. 26. Just last year, nearly 10 inches fell on Oct. 8, so get those snow plows ready. Of course, the weather can also be very dry and mild, so enjoy those days when you can.

September 2013 Weather Statistics

Average High 72.5° (+0.5) 100-year return frequency value max 77.5° min 63.5°
Average Low 45.3° (+5.3) 100-year return frequency value max 46.7° min 36.1°
Monthly Precipitation 3.88" (+2.87") 100-year return frequency value max 4.34" min 0.40"
Monthly Snowfall 0.0" (-0.5")
Highest Temperature 87° on the 6th
Lowest Temperature 24° on the 28th
Season to Date Snow 0.0" (-0.5") (the snow season is from July 1 to June 30)
Season to Date Precip. 11.88" (+4.09") (the precip season is from July 1 to June 30)
Heating Degree Days 199 (-70)
Cooling Degree Days 16 (+12)

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

Click here for guidelines for letters to the editor.

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

Fire marshal corrects statement

I would like to apologize for stating that the National Housing and Building Association had been a supporter of the residential sprinkler codes when in fact they do not support these codes. However, many other organizations do support this life safety feature being adopted into local fire codes, such as Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, Institute for Business and Home Safety, National Association of State Fire Marshals, National Fire Protection Association, International Association of Fire Chiefs, as well as many individual state/province organizations across the United States and Canada.

I apologize for my mistake and any confusion this may have caused our citizens.

Margo L. Humes, CFEI, IAAI-FIT
Fire marshal, Wescott Fire Department

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Homebuilders committed to safety

In response to the recent article regarding outdated fire codes, the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs wants to make it clear that the homebuilding industry is dedicated to the safety of the communities in which they build.

Homebuilders have a vested interest in the safety of their products both during the building process and after the new house becomes a home. It’s the homebuilder’s role to make sure that these proposals are necessary and affordable so buyers are not priced out of the market. An important point for those hoping to afford their own home is that for each $1,000 added to the price of a home, another 346 potential home buyers in Colorado Springs are forced to remain on the sidelines.

We also wish to correct the notion that our national association, the NAHB, supports a policy contrary to our local position on the mandatory installation of fire sprinklers in residential construction. In fact, the NAHB does not support measures to mandate residential fire sprinklers in single-family construction. However, our industry is prepared to install virtually any option that a homeowner wishes to add to their home, and fully support fire suppression options for homeowners who choose them.

Our association has been consistently engaged in the rebuilding effort after the Waldo Canyon Fire, and now the Black Forest Fire. Our builders work as the advocate for the homeowner, ensuring that the building process works as smoothly as possible, and at the lowest possible cost, so affected homeowners may get back in a home, and back to their normal lives, as soon as possible.

John W. Bissett
2013 HBA President

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D-38 criticisms inaccurate

In the September issue of OCN, I read two letters that were critical of Lewis-Palmer District 38. Those letters contained inaccuracies; neither cited a source.

Mr. Steve Boyd wrote a letter that cites a teacher turnover rate at Palmer Ridge High School of 42 percent, "One of the highest on the Front Range."

The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) publishes employee turnover statistics by district. Per CDE data, District 38 has one of the lowest turnover rates for teachers (11.9 percent) for any similar-size district in or around El Paso County. In fact, employee retention in any category is competitive. See www.cde.state.co.us/cdereval/staffcurrent. Click on the "Personnel Turnover Rate …" tab; see line 654 for District 38 data. Personnel turnover in District 38 is not out of line with districts of similar demographics.

Mr. Boyd, a former teacher at Palmer Ridge, also includes a partial quote of an email from the principal’s secretary sent to all teachers, and describes it as threatening. The segment of the email that Mr. Boyd quotes is a cut/paste from the contract extension letter sent to all teachers throughout the district. Read in its entirety, the email, which is complete with smiley faces that Mr. Boyd did not include, is pleasant to read. I have known and worked with the secretary Mr. Boyd criticized since 1997; I disagree with Mr. Boyd’s characterization of this professional’s demeanor.

Mrs. Jody Richardson wrote that our middle school test scores are declining, and used that premise to criticize the district’s decision to combine middle schools four years ago.

Her premise is false. In the past three years, Lewis-Palmer Middle School scores have stayed constant (reading and writing) or have trended up (math and science). See https://edx.cde.state.co.us/SchoolView/DataCenter/reports.jspx?_afrWindowMode=0&_afrLoop=13973192377438413&_adf.ctrl-state=17lf2ek1ay_9. On the right, scroll down to Lewis-Palmer School District and open that tab. You can use the graph or column data to make your own comparisons. Mrs. Richardson’s criticism of our middle school’s testing performance is not supported by this data; the outstanding performance of our students is a direct reflection of the outstanding teachers and educational professionals at Lewis-Palmer Middle School.

Frequent critics of District 38 have every right to express their opinions. However, our community is about to vote on an MLO to support our schools; it is absolutely essential that facts printed in the media be accurate and properly sourced. I appreciate the opportunity to provide a reference for District 38 performance.

John Mann
Treasurer, D-38 Board of Education

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Now’s the time for the mill levy override?

I have to take exception to this! Approximately 15 years ago, I, a local constituent and business owner since 1991, approached the Transportation Department and requested the opportunity to show them how we are able to reduce their maintenance costs. They were not interested!

So again around five years ago, I approached the transportation director at the new transportation building to discuss our product and services. I offered to do a no-cost, no-obligation analysis to show that on the average we save customers a minimum of 15 percent and up to 67 percent. It stopped there, since the manager in that department was not interested.

Then D-38 decided to start charging the parents a bus fee, so I contacted Cheryl Wangeman (CFO) with our proposal. I also provided her with references from several businesses and school districts already using this product.

After several months of no response, I presented the above information to the school board at two different board meetings. This was to express my frustration and concern with this situation, since I am a local taxpayer. I also presented documentation from SAE International and test results with Ford Motor Co.—representing fuel economy savings of 6.54 percent. This is yet another savings above what I had earlier proposed. Since I have not been given any specific information from D-38, I can only estimate that this alone would be a savings of around $38,000 per year.

I was just asking for the opportunity to do this, with no cost and no obligation. If this happened to me, a local taxpayer and businessman, how many other times has this happened? It should be the district’s obligation to look at every option to save money!

The time is not now, but was several years ago! I am voting no on the MLO!

Ivan Anthony, Monument

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D-38: a student’s perspective

My name is Brianna Downs; I am senior at Palmer Ridge High School, and being a senior, I have thought a lot about the previous 12 years. When my family moved to Colorado, we chose Monument because of the incredible school district. My parents knew D-38 was a district they could entrust my education to.

In first grade I excelled at math; so to further develop my cognitive skills, my teacher gave me higher-level math and worked with me individually. In third grade, I was selected for a small class of advanced math students. In fifth grade we were all encouraged to personally study at higher levels so as to always challenge ourselves. In eighth grade I was given the opportunity to be in a Gifted and Talented Literature class where, as 13-year-olds, we analyzed the writing of Jane Austen.

I looked back and saw how exceptional my classes were. As I thought about it more, I realized that my GT Literature class … had nine students. My eighth-grade geometry class had 14. I noticed a pattern; the classes I found most engaging, profound, and that I learned the most from were generally under 20 students. This year, nearly every one of my classes has almost 30 students or more. It’s challenging to have an analytical discussion with over 30 students in the room; actually, it’s impossible.

I respect my teachers more than any other adults in the world, besides my parents, and I see how hard they work to provide me with an exceptional education. But I also see that the public education system certainly does not make that an easy task. My school is fighting against odds that get tougher each year. My hope is that we can help them in that fight.

Brianna Downs

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The real impact of the proposed D-38 MLO on property owners

According to information on the D-38 website, "The yearly cost of the proposed MLO is $83.58 per year for each $100,000 of fair market value of your home."

According to information distributed by nowsthetimeD38.org, "The MLO increase amount is just under 0.1 percent (.001) of your home value. Minimal investment, maximum return."

Unfortunately, the information above does not provide local property owners with the true impact of this MLO on homeowners in the D-38. If the proposed MLO is approved in November, here’s what will really happen:

Homeowners in D-38, who now pay $411.98 in property taxes to the school district for each $100,000 of home value, will see the property taxes they pay to the school district increase to $495.56 for each $100,000 of home value. Yes, that’s an increase of $83.58 per year as identified on the district’s website. But, it represents a property tax increase of 20.3 percent for homeowners in D-38.

Given the information presented on the district’s website, I’m convinced the leaders of the school district, all of the school board members, and the members of nowsthetimeD38.org know that this is the true impact of the MLO on local property owners, but for some reason they are reluctant to provide local property owners with this additional information. I’ve sent this information to my representative on the school board and to nowsthetimeD38.org and asked them why they haven’t provided it to the local community. But, I have yet to receive a response. Why haven’t they responded? And, why do the supporters of the proposed MLO refuse to tell the property owners in D-38 the real impact of the MLO?

David J. Cloud, Monument

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Vote yes on D-38 MLO

I am writing this letter for the purpose of advocating a yes vote for the District 38 MLO (Mill Levy Override) and voting no on state Amendment 66.

A yes vote for the District 38 MLO is a vote in support of the employees and leadership of D-38 for doing exactly what we told them to do in 2008. In 2008, at the ballot box, we told the district to cut their spending, reduce the fluff, and to live within their means (like the rest of us). They did as we requested and never issued a threat to raze our extra-curricular programs nor did they predict a great societal calamity (a tried-and-true tactic for public schools that do not get what they want).

Compare that to the state leadership and proposed Amendment 66. Last year, proponents of more willy-nilly spending put Colorado Proposition 103 to a vote of the people and were soundly defeated. Instead of responding like D-38, state politicos sent us Amendment 66. It is the same basic request, full of the same tripe. They spice it up by saying the money will flow to the local communities. Baloney, that money will stay in Denver, at the Capitol, where the power brokers will hand it out like candy on Halloween. Rural communities of Colorado like Palmer Lake and Monument will once again send their hard-earned money to the 80201 ZIP code and receive nothing in return.

These two proposals, the District 38 MLO and Amendment 66, provide a stark contrast in how government and public education should operate. Based on the above argument presented I hope you will join me in voting yes for the District 38 MLO and no on state Amendment 66.

Rich Wilcox, Palmer Lake

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MLO spells "TAX"

People hit by recession reduce spending and live within their means. Why it is the only groups who can’t live on less money are government and school districts? The government squeals about "sequester" (a 2/15 percent drop in spending) and the school district wants to increase our taxes to keep up with their spending.

This district doesn’t have the best track record of looking after our money. Palmer Ridge High School was a Colorado cost-per-square-foot record, and the football stadium cost millions at the same time they asked us for a mill levy override because they couldn’t pay competitive wages.

Fact: District 38 has already increased our "taxes" by using a trick that doesn’t require voter approval: fees. I have paid nearly $800 in fees over the last few years for my daughter’s free public education. I never got to vote for that! I once questioned a $15 fee for a dance class only to be told it paid for paint, brushes, paper and wood … ridiculous.

I graduated from a Colorado High School and never paid a cent for my public education. The use of "fees" simply bypasses the voters and lumbers citizens with additional costs. Why should I support an additional tax that will add over $400 to my annual tax bill, when I have already paid nearly that much in additional fees over the last year?

If District 38 wants my support for an increase in taxes, they can promise to dispose of their discretionary fees, then I might reconsider. As it stands, the district should learn to live within their means just like families do.

Richard Nasby, Monument

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Between The Covers at the Covered Treasures Bookstore: Gifting with books

By the staff at Covered Treasures

Do you need a birthday or a holiday gift, something thoughtful for your hostess, or a thank you for a close friend or a loved one? How about a special book? Following are some intriguing selections that will appeal to many ages and interests.

Sweet Thunder
By Ivan Doig (Riverhead Books) $27.95

In the winter of 1920, Morrie Morgan, who debuted in Doig’s The Whistling Season, is called back to Butte, Mont., because of a quirky bequest from a former boss. Morgan and his new bride find that the gift is more of a money pit than a windfall. The town itself, with its army of miners striving to extricate themselves from the stranglehold of the Anaconda Copper Mining Co., seems—like the couple’s fast-diminishing finances—on the verge of implosion. These twin dilemmas move Morrie into his new career as editorialist for the Thunder, the fledgling union newspaper that dares to play David to Anaconda’s Goliath. What ensues is another great tale from one of the West’s best storytellers.

The Boys in the Boat
By Daniel James Brown (Viking) $28.95

Out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the intimate account of nine working-class boys from the American West who, at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, showed the world what true grit really meant. An eight-oar crew from the University of Washington transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, Brown has created a portrait of an era, a celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest, all in this immensely satisfying book.

Whimsical Hats: Delightful and Amusing Hats to Knit, Wear, and Love
By Lynne Rowe (Barron’s) $16.99

What could be cuter than a kid in a zebra hat? How about a baby in a cupcake hat? Or an adult in a beehive hat complete with little knitted bees on top? These imaginatively adorable hats are as fun to create as they are to wear. The book features over 30 patterns with color photographs, an overview of essential tools, and clear step-by-step instructions for knitters of any level.

The Cellist of Sarajevo
By Steven Galloway $15

In a city ravaged by war, a defiant young musician decides to play his cello at the site of a mortar attack for 22 days in memory of his fallen friends and neighbors. Drawn into the orbit of his music are three strangers, each living like fugitives in their homeland: a bakery worker, a young father, and finally, a female sniper who holds the fate of the cellist in her hands, even as her own fate becomes just as changeable with each passing day. This is a beautifully written novel of war and loss, music and solace with brief glimpses into the mind, the heart, and the soul. The Cellist of Sarajevo is one of the All Pikes Peak Reads selections.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
Steven Jay Schneider, General Editor (Barron’s) $35

For the movie lover on your list, this recently revised guide has a fresh new design and includes 500 original movie posters, 200 new movie stills, and the most memorable movies that have ever been made, right up to the multi-Oscar winning Argo, Cannes’ champ Amour, and the latest masterpiece from Quentin Tarantino, Django Unchained. Information and reviews covering more than a century of memorable movies include each major film’s vital statistics, plus a few facts that just might surprise you.

One Good Dish
By David Tanis (Artisan Publishers) $29.95

The New York Times food columnist offers 100 utterly delicious recipes that epitomize comfort food. Individually, or in combination, they make perfect little meals. The "Bread Makes a Meal" chapter features a ham and Gruyere bread; "My Kind of Snack" includes polenta pizza with crumbled sage; "Vegetables to Envy" recipes range from a South Indian dish to French grandmother-style vegetables. With one perfect food moment after another, this is a book with recipes to crave.

Books are gifts that will be enjoyed long after the wrappings have been thrown away, and the giver will be remembered fondly. Until next month, happy reading.

The staff at Covered Treasures can be contacted at books@ocn.me.

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Bird Watch on the Palmer Divide: Barn owls

By Elizabeth Hacker

Owls are often misunderstood. Many cultures have myths and superstitions surrounding owls that are based in fear, not science.

A while back, I read an Audubon book review about a barn owl raised in captivity, and I was compelled to pick up a copy. Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl is an extraordinary firsthand account of a barn owl raised in captivity.

It is a heart-warming story of Stacey O’Brien, a young biologist working as a lab assistant at Caltech’s prestigious raptor laboratory. On Valentine’s Day in 1985, an injured owlet was brought to the lab. The owlet was only 4 days old and its wing was broken. It would never survive in the wild. O’Brien couldn’t resist this helpless fuzzy little creature and adopted him.

"Wesley went everywhere with me from then on. I even wrapped him in baby blankets and held him in my arms while grocery shopping, to keep him warm during the first cold winter. Occasionally someone would ask to see ‘the baby,’ and when I opened the blanket, would leap back shrieking, ‘What is that?! A dinosaur?’ Apparently, the world is full of educated adults with mortgages and stock portfolios who think people are walking around grocery stores with dinosaurs in their arms."

O’Brien understood that adopting him would be a commitment for the owl’s lifetime. As a scientist, it would be a special opportunity for her to study a barn owl. She didn’t realize it at the time, but Wesley would take her on a 19-year journey of scientific study and self discovery.

Imprinting

Imprinting is a rapid learning process in which many newborn birds establish a behavior pattern of recognition and attraction to their parent. The first object they see becomes their identity.

Wesley was 4 days old when hikers found him and brought this injured bird to Caltech. He had not yet opened his eyes. The first person he saw was O’Brien and he imprinted her. She became his parent and lifelong friend.

Diet

A barn owl’s diet is 97 percent mice. In the beginning, O’Brien cut up mice into little pieces that she hand-fed to Wesley. At first he was so weak that she rubbed his beak to get him to open it and accept food.

As an adult, Wesley ate four mice a day. Often he swallowed them whole and coughed up a smooth pellet of fur and bones. O’Brien discovered that when she left more than four dead mice for Wesley, he first ate the head and liver, and then maybe the body, but he would leave the intestines.

Wesley didn’t like to eat alone, so he insisted that O’Brien also eat a mouse. When he brought her a mouse, if she refused his offering, his feelings would be hurt and he would sulk. Wesley would check her hands to make sure she wasn’t hiding it.

Over his lifetime, Wesley ate 28,000 mice. The stories O’Brien describes about how she purchased the mice and fed Wesley are hilarious and hair-raising.

Preening, feathers, and molting

Every day, Wesley sat in front of a mirror and meticulously preened his feathers. All birds molt, or grow new feathers to replace the old weathered ones. It’s painful as new pin feathers poke through a bird’s skin.

To ease the pain and show Wesley her affection, O’Brien often preened Wesley’s feathers with her fingers. Wesley responded by preening her long hair with his beak. Preening is one way birds express their feelings for each other.

Hunting

Owls are masterful hunters, but Wesley was raised in captivity and was not taught to hunt. The few times O’Brien had presented him with a live mouse to encourage him to hunt, Wesley was frightened and ran away from it.

At 3, Wesley began turning over her finches’ cages and O’Brien discovered he could hunt. She came to realize that even though Wesley was a captive bird, he was still a wild bird and it was his nature to hunt.

The Way of the Owl

Are owls really wise? Is an owl capable of communicating and displaying emotion?

O’Brien coined the term "The Way of the Owl" to describe Wesley’s unique way of communicating and processing information. He had an uncanny ability to understand time. If she told Wesley she would come back in two hours, O’Brien knew if it extended to three hours, he would be angry and scold her.

Owls can’t smell, but they have exceptional hearing. They perceive much information through their ears and can even detect the slightest movement of a mouse under 3 feet of snow. O’Brien realized that loud sounds irritated Wesley, so if she wanted him to understand her, she had to talk in a reassuring gentle manner. As cute as he was, she dared not laugh at him because his feelings would be hurt and Wesley would sulk and avoid her.

At night, Wesley would spread his wings and embrace O’Brien in what she calls a hug. Owls mate for life and are protective of their mate. Wesley considered O’Brien his and did not tolerate any of O’Brien suitors. He would attack them if they entered his space.

Raptor Lab at Caltech

O’Brien brings her readers inside the prestigious research community she describes as a scientific Hogwarts, a place where owls fly freely and scientists are extremely dedicated to their research.

With an eye for detail not often seen in books about animals, Stacey O’Brien tells her fascinating story with great passion. Her devotion to Wesley and her detailed observations are truly remarkable, but there is a twist. When Stacey is diagnosed with a potentially deadly rare disorder, it is Wesley who comes to her rescue.

Elizabeth Hacker is a writer and artist. Email her at elizabethhacker@ocn.me to share bird pictures and stories.

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Art Matters: Art in any season: Celebrate for yourself!

By Janet Sellers

"Be who you are, and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind."—Dr. Seuss

It’s October already. And the last art hop is over for the season. The recent freeze zapped our gardens—my plot at Monument Community Garden was reaching for the sky one day and drooping pathetically the next. All summer long, I enjoyed the gardening rituals of planting, watering, and weeding, and then came the sprouts and the plants and the blooms. When the actual vegetables appeared, they were so beautiful and perfect, shiny and fresh, I just had to draw them and put on the watercolors.

All summer long, I went to Monument Lake daily and paddled around in my kayak, took photo reference snapshots from the shore and from the boat so I could paint the gorgeous scenes. My students often met me at the shore, where we did watercolor class en plein air. We painted the earth, water, and sky week after sunshiny week outdoors, early in the mornings (well, 7 a.m. is early for me) and evenings. The hot days or rainstorm days were studio times indoors, but for the most part we enjoyed the outdoors for art.

Even until the end of September, we still went to the lake, wrapped in sweaters, for our outdoor forays in nature. The trout were still jumping at sunset, the bugs were still buzzing around until it got cool and dark, but this month it will all go still. Alas, the palette and the watercolors would just freeze on the brush if we painted outdoors, even if we were diehards and we went out in ski clothes!

So, now, what to do? Daily things, mundane daily activities are just so much better when we have something vibrant art to look forward to. One thought is to stir up your art spirit with an art class or any of our year-round art events at our local galleries and artist studios. Even though the evenings have turned chilly—I suspect that is why the Art Hop ends with the summer weather—we have a lot to look forward to nearby in our community if we just drop by and see what is there.

Wisdom Tea House and Bella Art and Frame Gallery have regular art shows and public receptions every month, as does the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA), Bliss Studio Gallery, and Secret Window Gallery, which are all on our art radar in the Monument Art Quarter and in Palmer Lake. And while they’ve been here over a dozen years in our area, possibly new to your art radar scope is Southwinds Fine Art Gallery on Rollercoaster and Baptist Roads, which has special art events and is open by appointment as well.

Fabulous Friday Art Nights are scheduled for Oct. 4, 11, 18; 5 to 8 p.m. Local art gallery receptions for featured artists, events, and art shows. First Friday is at the TCLA, 304 Highway 105 in Palmer Lake; Second Friday is at Bella Art and Frame, 187 Washington St., and Third Friday is at Southwinds Fine Art Gallery, corner of Baptist and Roller Coaster Roads, Colorado Springs.

TCLA: John DeFrancesco Exhibit free opening reception, Oct. 4, 6 to 8 p.m. Monument artist John DeFrancesco’s exhibit of 30 oil paintings, Glorious Days, will run through Oct. 26. Info: 481-0475, jdefrancesco522@comcast.net, www.johndefrancesco.com.

Bella Art and Frame Gallery: Oct. 11, 5 to 8 p.m. The reception for resident artists of Bella Art and Frame Gallery, "Celebrating: resident artists at Bella Art and Frame Gallery." Drop by and celebrate with your favorite artists there. It’s a brand new exhibit and sale of art for over 15 of the resident artists. Show runs Oct. 2 to 30, hosting over 20 local fine artists in the media of paintings, photography, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, and mixed media.

Southwinds Fine Art Gallery: In October, the gallery will offer tours of the local artists’ work by appointment most days of the week. The gallery has a wide variety of art by local artists. This innovative community gallery features the work of J. Clark Wider that showcases American black cultural history. Wider’s work is included in the White House Art Collection. Call ahead to set up and enjoy your personal or group tour: (719) 481-6157.

Janet Sellers is an American artist, art teacher, and writer. She makes public art sculptures for Colorado cities, teaches art locally, and you can often see her painting pictures outdoors, poodle at her side, in just about any weather. She can be reached at janetsellers@ocn.me.

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Snapshots of Our Community

Click here to view the on-line version. Snapshots of Our Community appears on page 26. Below is the text of the captions that appeared within the Snapshots section:

Mine Rescue

Caption: On Sept. 12, Brandon Burden and Jon Northern presented a history of mine rescue teams at the Western Museum of Mining & Industry. Burden, left, and Northern, shown with a breathing apparatus, said that five or more fatalities constitute a mine disaster. Highlighting particular mine disasters, such as those at the Farmington and Upper Big Branch in West Virginia, Crandall Canyon in Utah, and the Sunshine Mine in Idaho, they discussed how mine disasters usually result from a complex sequence of problems and the role of mine rescue teams and procedures in those situations. Teams are used for rescue and body recovery. Mine rescue teams are composed of five roles: captain, gas man, map man, first aid, and co-captain, with each role having a specific duty in the process. Burden and Northern are members of the Front Range Mine Rescue Team. They ended their presentation with a description of their team’s recovery of a miner who died in a mine collapse. Information on upcoming events at the museum is at www.wmmi.org. Photo by David Futey.

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Ham Radio Tech Day

Caption: The W0TLM Amateur Radio Club and the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Radio Association hosted the second annual Amateur (Ham) Radio Tech Day on Sept. 14 at Prairie Winds Elementary School. Workshops and hands-on displays included ham shack setup 101, soldering copper pipes to make antennas, and portable radio installation. High school student Ian Russell, left, said he uses his ham radio to listen to people around the world, and he collects QSL postcards from them to confirm his communication with them. Steve Galchutt, right, explained how QRP/Mountaintop operations can be set up using self-contained emergency radios "when all else fails." Backpackers can take portable radios with solar panels (shown here) to charge the batteries and get short wave radio coverage where cell phones don’t work "miles from nowhere" or when "the grid" is not working, Galchutt said. Emergency responders and the Red Cross enlist the help of hams in the American Radio Emergency Service to communicate during emergencies. Contact Joyce Witte at 488-0859 for W0TLM meeting information to get involved. Photo by Lisa Hatfield.

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Patriot Golf Tournament

Caption: Firefighters from the Donald Wescott Fire Protection District were among the six Patriot Teams from local military, police, and fire protection agencies at the 12th Annual Patriot Golf Tournament at the Flying Horse Golf Club. From left are firefighter Brian Crawford, Lt. Shannon Balvanz, Capt. Sean Pearson, and firefighter Brenden Hoglund. This tournament is held annually by the Gleneagle Sertoma Club around Sept. 11 to memorialize those who served and lost their lives in the disasters inflicted by terrorists in 2001. This year the event also honored police and fire protection agencies that served in the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires. The tournament had 132 players including teams from Fort Carson, Peterson AFB, the Air Force Academy, the Colorado Springs Fire Department, the Wescott Fire Protection District, and Home Front Cares. Net proceeds from the event, expected to exceed $6,000, will include support to local Sertoma charities including Home Front Cares and Tri-Lakes Cares. Photo by Dean Jones.

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Gleneagle Sertoma honors first responders

Caption: Sept. 16, President Bob Figgie (right) of the Gleneagle Sertoma Club, awards Deputy Chief Al Harmon of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office a commemorative photo of firefighters taken during the Black Forest Fire. Other officials awarded photos for their leadership during the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon Fires were Commander Fletcher Howard of the Colorado Police Department, Falcon District; and Deputy Chief Ted Collas of the Colorado Springs Fire Department. Photo by Dean Jones.

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Pankratz retrospective

Caption: On Sept. 6, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) hosted the opening reception for a retrospective and 70th birthday party for renowned artist Richard Pankratz. His wife Linda and he are shown with his work Prairie Moon, one of the many cast bronze pieces featured in this exhibit. Through his 50-year career, Pankratz initially become known for his stoneware, ceramics and raku, a Japanese pottery, creating items that were distinctive and functional. His career eventually evolved into creating magnificent sculptures using bronze. The show ran through Sept. 28. Information on upcoming events at the TLCA is at www.trilakesarts.org. Photo by David Futey.

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Family History Day Event

Caption: The Family History Day directors and assistant stand in front of one of several displays at their event held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sept. 27-28. This annual event is held to encourage interest in family history by seeing ancestors as real people and recognizing the things they accomplished instead of looking at history as just a set of names and dates. Many visitors attended both days of the event. From left are Stephanie Moore, Antony Reynolds, Maryn Carpenter, Phil Savage, Betsy Grovenburg, and Bruce Horton. Photo by Emma Gaydos

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September and October library events: Reading programs and Halloween activities

By Harriet Halbig

September marked the beginning of the annual All Pikes Peak Reads program, encouraging the community to read specific titles on a given theme. There are titles for all ages of readers. The adult selections are The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, China Boy by Gus Lee, Sweeping up Glass by Carolyn Wall, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie. The children’s selection is The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

The theme for this year’s program is My Voice, Our Future.

Three of the authors will be in town during October, giving programs at Colorado College, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, and Pikes Peak Community College. A number of book clubs will read and discuss the selections.

For dates and times of activities, please visit the library to pick up a special section from the Colorado Springs Gazette or visit the district website, PPLD.org.

Family programs

Dance with the Northridge Dance Center on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 1:30 to 3. Come to a free interactive demonstration and explore the basic elements of dance and creative movement. Dancers will perform and encourage patrons to get up and get moving. All ages and levels are welcome.

The monthly meeting of the Legos club is on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 10 to 11:30. We’ll provide the Legos and you bring your creativity. Be sure to bring your camera to record your creation because all pieces used remain property of the Pikes Peak Library District.

Come to a special story time on Tuesday, Oct. 29, from 10:30 to 11:30 and celebrate Pumpkin Day! There will be no 11:15 story time on that day. Bengetta from the Colorado Pumpkin Patch will bring pumpkins to be decorated with stick-on features and explain the process of growing pumpkins.

There will be a special program for homeschoolers from 1 to 2:30 on the fourth Monday of each month. The October program is Hands-on History. Using maps, photos and artifacts, students will learn about the growth of industry in Colorado from 1850 to the present.

Teen programs

Having trouble keeping up in math? Need to brush up before taking your GRE exam? Come to AfterMath each Monday between 3:30 and 7 to access free tutoring. No appointment is necessary. The program will be offered each Monday until May, with the exception of D-38 and library holidays.

Join us for a Crafty Teens program on Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 3:30 to 5. Make a scary sign for your bedroom door! No registration necessary. Ages 12 and up.

Join the new Tech Club, which meets on the fourth Friday of each month from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Registration begins on Sept. 30 and is limited to 14 boys and girls in third grade through the teens. The first session will teach members to design a video game.

Adult programs

Dr. Rita Jordan will speak about supervising and working with employees that span two or three generations in Leading the Inter-Generational Workforce on Friday, Oct. 4, from 9 to 11 a.m. Subjects to be discussed include communication, teamwork, social networking, and the myth of multi-tasking.

The Monumental Readers will meet on Friday, Oct. 18, at 10 a.m. to discuss Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden. All patrons are welcome to attend.

The AARP Mature Safe Driver Program will be offered on Saturday, Oct. 19, from 1 to 5 p.m. This is the nation’s first and largest classroom driver refresher course designed for motorists age 50 or older. A minimum of 10 students is required for the class to be held. Charge for the course is $12 for AARP members and $14 for nonmembers. Registration is required. To register, call AARP at 358-9580.

A panel of professionals will discuss the aging process and the possibility of having to become a caregiver in Crossing Your Bridge on Monday, Oct. 21, from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Some of the subjects include financial matters, legal and tax challenges, healthy living, and one’s legacy.

On the wall during October will be Sumi-e, a style of Japanese ink wash painting, by local artist Leslie Kyte. In the display case will be an assembly of bowls collected over the years during the Tri-Lakes Cares Empty Bowl community fundraiser.

Palmer Lake events

The Palmer Lake Book Group meets at 9 a.m. on the first Friday of every month. Please call 481-2587 for the current selection.

Family Fun for October features tarantulas and other creepy crawlies. Tarantula wrangler Rowen Monks is back with an assortment of wild insects for you to see up close on Saturday, Oct. 19, at 10:30.

Join us for Stories in the Dark at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25, in the Palmer Lake Town Hall. In a room lit only by candlelight, stories and special effects will send chills and shivers up your spine and tickle your funny bone. This program is only for the brave, ages 8 and up.

Not So Scary Stories celebrates Halloween with fun and lots of laughs with stories and activities, but without the chills and thrills. This program is on Friday, Oct. 29, at 4:30 is for all ages.

Harriet Halbig can be reached at harriethalbig@ocn.me.

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Palmer Lake Historical Society, September 19: The Colorado steel industry

By Bernard L. Minetti

The September meeting of the Palmer Lake Historical Society featured a presentation titled "Minerals, Iron and Steel" by local historian, Society member, and professional engineer Pat McCarthy. The program covered the history of minerals, steel, and iron, and the associated railroad systems that emerged as a result of the growth of these interrelated industries in Southern Colorado.

McCarthy discussed the evolving iron industry in Southern Colorado from 1872 to the present and how it affected the city of Pueblo economically and environmentally. This resulted from the steel mills and iron ore processing plants at this location. Its beginning can be further traced to W.J. Palmer and his Southern Colorado Improvement Co., which had a charter that required the construction of a steel mill in Southern Colorado. Palmer was an industrialist, engineer, and soldier of the era.

McCarthy noted that the industry resulted in the first integrated steel mill in Southern Colorado, at a site in Pueblo called Bessemer. This company eventually became the largest employer and landowner in Colorado.

McCarthy concluded his talk by noting that steel was initially produced in blast furnaces, which evolved into the use of Bessemer converters, open hearth, the basic oxygen furnace, and eventually the electric furnace. The products resulting from these evolving methods of making steel, he added, were items such as nails, tubing, rods, bars, and rails, to name a few. This industry added greatly to the economy of Colorado in that time.

Board President Al Walter asked for nominations of people to serve as Society board members in 2014. Society Director-at-Large Tom VanWormer asked for a loan of data and photos that might be related to information contained in a book that he was commissioned by the Society to resurrect and publish called Outlying Areas. Deceased Society member, author, and Palmer Lake resident Lucille Lavelett originally wrote this book. The book covers local history. Walter may be contacted at 719-559-0525, and VanWormer may be contacted at 719-481-8273.

**********

The October meeting of the Palmer Lake Historical Society will feature a free presentation titled "Ghosts of Douglas and Surrounding Counties." Sham Boyd will be the presenter at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at the Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent, Palmer Lake.

Bernard Minetti may be contacted at bernardminetti@ocn.me.

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Our Community Notices

By Judy Barnes, Events Editor

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.

Wednesday Senior Lunch at Big Red
October Menu

Oct. 9: Meat loaf, baked potato casserole, & salad.

Oct. 16: Lasagna, Caesar salad, & garlic bread.

Oct. 23: Italian sausage sandwich, coleslaw, & chips.

Oct. 30: Pork in apple cider cream sauce, roasted potatoes, & salad.

Rolls and butter are served with each meal except sandwiches. Dessert is also provided.

An activity of Tri-Lakes Health Advocacy Partnership. Meals are provided by Pinecrest Catering, Palmer Lake; Nikki McDonald, executive chef, 481-3307.

Singers and musicians needed for Christmas production

Tri-Lakes Music Association seeks singers, orchestra musicians, and anyone who would like to help in any way. Be a part of this exciting Tri-Lakes Christmas tradition. Performances will be at Palmer Ridge High School, 19255 Monument Hill Rd., the weekend of Dec. 21. There will be three performances and exact dates and times will follow. All proceeds from the show go to Tri-Lakes Cares and two $500 college scholarships. For information contact Bob Manning, 719-232-4114, or email rwgmanning@comcast.net.

Volunteers needed for brush and tree thinning

Volunteers are needed to cut scrub oak, junipers, and pine trees for residents who need help with fire mitigation. More volunteer fire mitigation will be scheduled in October for residents identified by Wescott Fire Marshal Margo Humes as needing help getting work done on their properties. Volunteers may contact Julia at Integrity Roofing and Siding, 488-2800.

Register now for fall basketball and swim classes at the Y

Tri-Lakes YMCA Fall Basketball for ages 3 years old to eighth grade is scheduled for Oct. 21-Dec. 14. Also, swim classes are available for ages 6 months to adult. Register at www.ppymca.org or at 17250 Jackson Creek Pkwy., Monument. For information, call 481-8728.

Craft club forming

A new craft club will feature a fun, easy paper craft each month. Meets on Saturday at the Fairfield Inn & Suites. For information contact Linda, 375-8991, Lindacarpy@gmail.com.

MVEA Essay Contest, enter by Nov. 18

High school juniors can win an all-expense-paid trip in June to Washington, D.C., or a week in July at Leadership Camp in the mountains. To enter, write a 500-word essay on "What is your opinion on the war on coal, and how do you feel it may impact electric cooperatives?" Requirements and contest entry form are available at either Mountain View Electric Association office or online at www.mvea.coop. Info: 719-494-2670.

Operation Christmas Child, Nov. 18-25

Donors can drop off shoeboxes packed with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items for needy children overseas Nov. 18-25 at The Ascent Church, 1750 Deer Creek Rd., Monument. For information call 488-6926 or visit www.samaritanspurse.org.

Tax credit available for wildfire mitigation work

Taxpayers with property located in a wildland-urban interface area can receive a tax credit up to $2,500 for performing wildfire mitigation measures. Information regarding community wildfire protection plans and wildfire mitigation measures can be found online at www.wescottfire.org and www.csfs.colostate.edu. For information check www.taxcolorado.com.

Free help line for fire victims

Optum, a health and behavioral health services company, is offering a free emotional-support help line to those affected by wildfires. The service is free and open to anyone. Specially trained Optum mental health specialists help people manage their stress and anxiety so they can continue to address their everyday needs. Callers may also receive referrals to community resources to help them with specific concerns, including financial and legal matters. The toll-free number, 866-342-6892, will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for as long as necessary.

Newspaper seeks volunteers

Would you like to volunteer with Our Community News? You can help with mailing day, write articles, take snapshots, and write captions, and more. We’ll teach you! Text or call Lisa at 339-7831 to find out more.

Reverse 911

With the heightened concern for fire danger along the Front Range, many people want to sign up their home or cell phone for reverse emergency notification. The El Paso-Teller E-911 Authority Emergency Notification System is used to notify residents of any potential emergencies in their neighborhood. To sign up, go to https://elptc911.onthealert.com.

Tri-Lakes HAP Senior Center programs

The Tri-Lakes Health Advocacy Partnership Senior Citizens Center is next to the Lewis-Palmer High School Stadium (across from the YMCA) and is open 1-4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and earlier for scheduled activities. The facility has a lounge, craft room, game room, and multipurpose room. Programs include pinochle, Tuesdays and Thursdays, noon to 4 p.m.; National Mah-jongg, Fridays, 1-4 p.m.; line dancing, first and second Wednesdays, 1-2 p.m.; tea time, third Tuesday, 1-3 p.m.; bingo, third Wednesday, 12:30-3 p.m. Also available at the center are ping-pong, Wii video games, various puzzles and board games, refreshments, a lending library, computers with Internet connections, and an information table. For information about programs for seniors, visit www.TriLakesSeniors.org.

Senior Beat newsletter—subscribe for free

Each monthly Senior Beat newsletter is full of information for local seniors including the schedule of the classes and events for the month at the Senior Citizens Center. To subscribe to the free newsletter, send an email with your name and mailing address to SeniorBeat@TriLakesSeniors.org. Senior Beat can also be viewed online at www.TriLakesHAP.org.

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