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Vol. 7 No. 12 - December 1, 2007


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‘Tis the Season!

Below: Lewis Palmer SERTEEN volunteer bellringers (L to R) Angie Sicola and Kimmy Hilton. Monument Hill SERTOMA and Lewis Palmer SERTEENS 2007 Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Ringing has begun at Monument Safeway, King Soopers, and Wal*Mart. Last year, donations to the Red Kettles from the Tri-Lakes community were $35,553, approximately ten percent of total Red Kettle donations made in the entire Pikes Peak region. The Salvation Army receives 100 percent of the Red Kettle donations collected by the SERTOMA and SERTEEN volunteers. 100 percent of the funds collected from the Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign are used to help those in need in the Pikes Peak region. Photo by Mike Wicklund.

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Authority feeling pressure to find renewable water supply

By John Heiser

At its monthly meeting on Nov. 15, the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA) discussed the INVenergy project and plans to brief Colorado legislators Nov. 30.

The current members of the water authority are:

  • Academy Water & Sanitation District
  • Cherokee Metropolitan District
  • Donala Water & Sanitation District
  • Town of Monument
  • Town of Palmer Lake
  • Triview Metropolitan District
  • Woodmoor Water & Sanitation District

The Academy district announced that due to the increase in the annual membership fee to $25,000, they will not renew their membership for 2008.

The authority member representatives unanimously voted to accept membership of the City of Fountain.

Phil Steininger, manager of the Woodmoor district and president of the authority, presided at the meeting.

INVenergy’s proposed well field project

Background: At its Oct. 16 meeting, the authority approved a non-binding cooperation term sheet with INVenergy for use of water from their planned well field on land in Douglas County owned by Spruce Mountain Ranch & Cattle. The well field would be located about 5 miles north of County Line Road.

The adjudicated water rights amount to 1,139 acre-feet (372 million gallons) per year from the Denver aquifer, 1,081 acre-feet (353 million gallons) per year from the Arapahoe aquifer, and 386 acre-feet (126 million gallons) per year from the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer. The total is approximately 2,600 acre-feet (850 million gallons) per year. The water from the well field would be delivered to the PPRWA in the vicinity of Palmer Lake.

After using the water, the PPRWA would guarantee to deliver an equal amount of water to the point on Fountain Creek where the water would be diverted for use in the combined-cycle power plant to be operated by Squirrel Creek Energy (SCE), a wholly owned subsidiary of INVenergy.

According to the term sheet, SCE would pay PPRWA $155,000 for developing an operating agreement and would pay the operating and maintenance expenses associated with the system. The PPRWA would make the needed upgrades to the member districts’ infrastructure and sell SCE reuse water from other sources at cost.

According to the term sheet, the operating agreement is to be finalized by March 31, 2008, with delivery of water by January 31, 2009.

The Nov. 15 meeting: Gary Barber, manager of the authority, presented a computer model of the proposed path for the water from Spruce Mountain Ranch to the Palmer Lake water treatment plant on Monument Creek and then south to the proposed site of the power plant.

Barber said INVenergy plans to make a presentation to the El Paso Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on Nov. 26 and close on the property Dec. 7.

Rick Fendel, attorney for the authority, noted that in its presentation to the BOCC, INVenergy will likely not include the PPRWA’s role in the project. The authority members asked Steininger to send a letter to the BOCC expressing the authority’s support for the project.

Update: Project’s future has changed: At the BOCC meeting Nov. 26, the item was postponed indefinitely. At the Triview meeting on Nov. 27, it was announced that the project has been canceled. For details, see the Triview article on page 12.

Tri-Lakes area infrastructure study nearly complete

Daniel Neimela of Bishop-Brogden Associates reported that the PPRWA’s study of Tri-Lakes area water infrastructure and what improvements are needed is nearly complete. He said a draft of the report would be available by the end of the year, with the final report to be completed a few weeks later.

Legislative briefing

Barber and Dick Brown, lobbyist for the authority, presented a briefing they plan to give to Colorado legislators at a meeting at Monument Town Hall on Nov. 30. The purpose of the briefing is to solicit the legislators’ support for legislation helpful in solving PPRWA member districts’ water supply issues.

Some highlights of the briefing:

  • The PPRWA is a different organization from the El Paso County Water Authority. The PPRWA is smaller and more project-oriented, and is pursuing regional opportunities and collaborations beyond the borders of El Paso County.
  • The PPRWA’s objective is to procure a renewable water supply. Achieving that objective involves conservation, efficient use of local resources, and obtaining access to surface water.
  • Conservation will involve public education and managing demand through efforts such as irrigation rationing programs.
  • Efficient use of local resources will involve seeking opportunities for exchange and reuse of effluent from the wastewater treatment plants, construction of new storage facilities, and investigation of the potential for recharge and recovery of water in the Upper Black Squirrel alluvial aquifer
  • The 2004 Statewide Water Supply Initiative (SWSI) identified urban areas of El Paso County as part of an 8,000 acre-foot shortfall in water supplies. An acre-foot is 326,851 gallons. The 8,000 acre-foot estimate was made prior to the announcement of plans to expand Fort Carson.
  • The SWSI Phase II report released in November 2007 also highlights the long-term dilemma of non-renewable groundwater dependency. The Arkansas basin, which is south of the Palmer Divide, is shown with an 18,000 acre-foot gap; the South Platte basin, which is north of the Palmer Divide, is shown with a 90,000 acre-foot gap.
  • Options to address the gaps include improved agricultural efficiency, conservation measures, reuse of effluent, additional water storage facilities, transfer of agricultural water supplies for non-agricultural uses, and transfer of water between river basins.
  • The PPRWA is currently considering use of satellite well fields such as the INVenergy project and use of agricultural water from a rotational field-fallowing program.

The presentation concluded:

  • The solution is to connect to a river and obtain a renewable water source.
  • The town of Monument is about as far as you can get from any river in Colorado and it is uphill all the way.
  • The alternative to procuring an imported supply is worse: Running out of water.
  • Collaboration is the key to the authority’s success.

**********

The next meeting of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority will be on Dec. 13 at 8 a.m. at Monument Town Hall, 166 Second St. In 2008, the meetings will normally be held on the third Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. The meeting place will typically alternate between Palmer Lake and Monument, although other meeting places are being considered.

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Academy Water and Sanitation District, Nov. 7: Rate, service fee increase approved

By Susan Hindman

As expected, rates are going up starting Jan. 1, 2008. The Academy Water and Sanitation District board approved a much-needed increase in water rates and service fees during discussions about the 2008 budget; notices will be sent to residents in November.

The service fee increase of $10 is actually a reinstatement of a charge that had been reduced six years ago. It covers operations of water and wastewater services. Water rates will go up $1 per 1,000 gallons. The average home uses 5,000 gallons, so the monthly bill will increase at least $15 a month.

The increase was necessary to cover the shortfall in the budget and pay for future repairs and facility improvements. The district’s auditor had criticized the board this year for selling water at less than it costs to produce it.

PPRWA dues

The board decided it could not afford to renew full membership in the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, a group composed of area water providers that addresses water supply issues in the region. Academy board President Richard DuPont said the board hopes the authority will consider letting the district join as an associate member in 2008 for $5,000, the amount the district paid this year that is being set aside for next year. Membership dues were increased to $25,000 for all districts, no matter the size.

Option to Donala merger presented

Civil engineer Fred Ladd of Ladd International had been asked to come up with some numbers for building a facility that would treat ammonia in the wastewater, which the current system cannot do but will be required to do by 2010. Ladd brought drawings of plans for building a sequencing batch reactor, using the existing facilities as much as possible.

He cautioned that the final numbers will be hard to pin down. The site application process and permits are costly and take time, possibly a year, equipment might take several months to arrive, and the cost of everything will continue to increase dramatically. Once construction begins, it would take at least a year to complete. During that time, the district would use the dry lagoon, since the new operations would sit where the currently active lagoons are. In addition, once the facility was up and running, staff would need to be hired to staff it continuously.

Ladd estimates the cost of building and operating such a facility would be roughly $678,300. Merging with Donala Water and Sanitation District would cost $800,000.

Meanwhile, some members of the board were planning to meet on Nov. 14 with Donala’s engineer to discuss the numbers involved with a possible merger.

Well 1 isn’t working

Operator Jerry Jacobson reported that Well 1 "trips out when started," so it can’t be used. It’s possible that the 3-year-old well’s pump will have to be replaced. The district has three wells. The two shallow ones are Well 1 (the newest well) and Well 3. The primary water sources, however, are Wells 2 and 3, so water supply is not an issue.

**********

The Academy board meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month at the fire station on Sun Hills Drive. The next meeting is Dec. 5.

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Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District Board, Nov. 8: Rate increases to pay for alternative water sources

By Jim Kendrick

On Nov. 8, rate consultant Roger Hartman recommended a new service rate model and that the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District Board initiate a series of 7.5 percent raises to cover rapidly rising projected costs for obtaining and storing new sources of surface and groundwater in the near future. All board members were present.

Rate proposal calls for several annual increases

Hartman said he had been gathering data for eight months to prepare a proposal for user fees that produced enough revenue to ensure fiscal stability during continued district expansion while promoting wise use of water resources by district customers. He said his draft rate structures would meet the state’s test for being reasonable, rational, and related to the costs for providing water and sanitary sewer service. They are based on a growth rate of about 92 single-family equivalent residential taps per year.

Hartman proposed that rates should increase uniformly at 7.5 percent per year through 2015. Due to planned construction costs of about $22 million in 2012, the district would have to seek a general obligation or revenue bond issue of about $8 million that year. A reserve of about $14 million would be accumulated by 2012 to pay the remainder of the cost.

Hartman also proposed three rate structure change options to more equitably allocate operating costs between residential and commercial users while strongly encouraging water conservation through tiered rates for heavier-than-average use. There was a lengthy technical discussion of how the various rates have influenced customers in other districts where Hartman has been a consultant.

The board approved an increase for residential users, making up more than 90 percent of the number of district accounts, beginning on Jan. 1 with three tiers of rates. It passed by a vote of 4-1, with Wyss opposed. Current water rates have nine tiers to discourage high use. Rates for the 50 commercial customers that provide about 10 percent of the district’s use revenue will also be subject to the 7.5 percent overall increase.

A decision on changing rates for Lewis-Palmer School District 38 and Colorado Pines Country Club for non-potable water was deferred to gather additional information. The new rates will be posted on the district’s Web site early in 2008 and enclosed in the January billing.

Costs, revenues on track

Jim Wyss reported that costs and revenues, other than construction, were tracking very closely with the mid-year revisions the board had previously approved. Only about $500,000 of the $2.5 million for construction had been spent. District Manager Phil Steininger said the rest of the appropriated but unspent money was for the delayed Well 20 project. Most of that funding will now be rolled over to 2008.

Joint Use Committee report

Director Benny Nasser reported that Monument Sanitation District Manager Mike Wicklund had negotiated an agreement with Monument Town Manager Cathy Green and Public Works Director Rich Landreth to begin treating town drinking water with caustic soda to try to reduce the amount of copper leached from residential and commercial water pipes into that district’s wastewater.

Woodmoor has treated its drinking water with caustic soda for over 10 years and has significantly lower copper concentrations in its wastewater than Monument and Palmer Lake Sanitation Districts.

Public Works is expected to have the treatment equipment installed and on line by January. The town and the Monument Sanitation District will each pay half of the installation costs, expected to be no more than a total of about $70,000.

Nasser noted that the Joint Use Committee would approve its 2008 budget at the regular monthly meeting to be held on Dec. 11. The committee will hold its annual meeting on Dec. 20 at the Monument Sanitation District office, where all the directors of each of the three districts attend to discuss long-term issues.

Manager’s report: Steininger said he would discuss water resource issues and strategies and personnel issues at the end of the meeting in executive session.

Operations Superintendent Randy Gillette said the district was operating entirely on surface water at a rate of about 350 gallons per minute from Lake Woodmoor, which amounts to about 34 million gallons per month. The district is making better progress on its flushing program than expected, and it should be concluded within another two weeks.

Civil Engineer Jessie Shaffer said the construction contract for Well 20 had been finalized and signed by the district. A notice to proceed was issued for both portions of the project – the transmission line for the well and the Congressional sewer replacement. A pre-construction meeting was scheduled with the contractor for the following week, and construction work was to begin in about two weeks.

The applications for an environmental 404 permit for the infiltration galley of the Monument Creek exchange improvements are being processed by Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Once the permit is issued by the Corps, the repairs will be initiated immediately.

Construction contractor URS is completing its stability analysis and revising the cost estimate for the Lake Woodmoor dam. Cornerstone Boundary Consultants is completing the required survey of the site. URS will then submit the design and specifications for the dam repair to the state dam inspection office in Pueblo.

Subdivision infrastructure construction is progressing normally in Knollwood Village Filings 1 and 2 for a looped water main. Misty Acres and Village Center at Woodmoor Filing 2 are nearing conditional acceptance following completion of corrections required by the district.

Steininger said the district had filed its adjudication plan for groundwater for several areas included since 1998. Some restrictions will limit where wells can be drilled to gain access to the adjudicated water in the Arapahoe aquifer.

2008 budget hearing held

A public hearing was held on the draft 2008 budget. There were no public comments. A vote on the final 2008 budget will be held at the next meeting on Dec. 13.

After a lengthy final review of all the changes proposed for the district’s personnel policy manual proposed by Steininger and the district’s attorney, Erin Smith, over the past year, the board unanimously approved the amendments.

The meeting went into executive session at 4:30 p.m. No board decisions or votes took place after the meeting returned to regular session for adjournment

**********

The next meeting will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 at the district conference room, 1845 Woodmoor Drive. Meetings are normally held on the second Thursday of the month at 1 p.m. Information: 488-2525.

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Triview Metropolitan District Board, Nov. 27: Triview board raises rates; faces financial challenges

By Jim Kendrick

On Nov. 27, the Triview Metropolitan District Board elected director Bob Eskridge to replace former president Steve Stephenson. District Manager Larry Bishop presented the difficulties the district will have in developing its 2008 budget after all four of its ballot initiatives to increase revenues with new impact fees were voted down on Nov. 6. All board members were present.

Vice President Joe Belzer presided at the beginning of the meeting. The board unanimously approved Eskridge as the new president after Director Julie Glenn declined a nomination for the position. Belzer advised the board that he wished to step down as vice president. Glenn advised the board that she wished to step down as secretary/treasurer. Director Joe Martin was unanimously appointed vice president. Director Mark Veenendaal was unanimously appointed secretary/treasurer. Eskridge presided over the remainder of the meeting.

Manager’s report

Bishop recognized district operations and maintenance manager Steve Sheffield had passed his "B" level water and wastewater certification exam on his first try, calling it a "monumental achievement." Bishop said Sheffield would begin studying for his "A" certification. Eskridge told Sheffield this was "outstanding" news. Sheffield was "excused" from the rest of the meeting as a "reward," to much laughter.

Bishop proposed that the next board meeting be held at 5 p.m. on Dec. 11 so that the final 2008 budget, appropriation, and mill levy can be approved and forwarded to the state’s Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) by the Dec. 15 deadline. The board unanimously approved.

District Administrator Dale Hill reported that she and Bishop had determined that costs for substitute habitat for Preble’s meadow jumping mouse should be re-allocated from the district’s enterprise fund to the general fund.

Hill said one residential tap fee was received from Classic Homes for Sanctuary Pointe. A commercial tap fee was received from Walgreen’s in the Monument Ridge center.

Hill reported three unusually high expenses for the month. The Jackson Creek crosswalks were repainted with thermoplastic paint at a cost of about $34,000. Total street repair costs for the month were about $60,000. The A-4 well house insulation was upgraded with sprayed-in foam to prevent rodent infestation and related health problems.

Water production accountability remains at a very high 95 percent and about 400 acre-feet of water had been pumped through the end of October. Consumption and pumping are dropping due to colder weather.

Revised agreement with Monument approved

The board unanimously approved a revised intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Monument for operations and maintenance services being provided by the town’s Public Works Department. The base rate for services in 2008 will be $16,082 per month. The total cost is $192,984. The town will begin servicing the district’s wastewater collection system in addition to the water system.

Rate increases approved

The board unanimously approved a 10 percent water rate increase for 2008 to cover operating costs. The basic water rate was increased from the current rate of $10 per month to $11 for a standard residential 3/4" tap. He added that Triview’s water rates are neither the highest or lowest within the Tri-Lakes region.

Bishop noted that at the Oct. 23 meeting he had provided OCN a table that incorrectly listed the current base rate as $8.17. This incorrect rate of $8.17 was published on page 20 of the Nov. 3 edition of OCN. The error made the rate increase appear to be a much higher percentage increase (32 percent) than the actual 10 percent rise.

The average sewer rate will increase from $32.66 to $37.62. Bishop noted that a minimum average of $35 per month is required to break even on the district’s direct costs for wastewater treatment. This is also the minimum average rate that allows the district to sustain the minimum reserve required by the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority as a condition for their loan to the district for expansion of the Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility.

These sewer rates remain the highest rates in the Tri-Lakes region. Bishop said these rates are higher due to a relatively fewer number of taps compared to the other districts providing sewer service.

Bishop said that if the amended tiered water rate structure did not discourage excessive watering of landscaping, the board can increase the rates for the higher usage tiers later in 2008.

The board unanimously approved a resolution including the following new service charges commencing January 1, 2008:

Water

Base rate increase from $10.00/month to $11.00/month per SFE for a ¾" meter

1" from $19.61 to $21.57

1 1/2" $39.20 $43.12

2" $79.34 $87.27

3" $186.24 $204.86

4" $343.07 $377.38

6" $823.37 $905.71

8" $1976.05 $2173.66

Volume charge increase as follows:

0-6,000 gal. from $2.61 to $2.87

6,001-20,000 gal. $3.27 $3.60

Over 20,000 gal. $4.76 $5.24

Commerical/Industrial $3.01 $3.31

Wastewater

Base rate increase from $17.00/month to $20.40/month per SFE for a ¾" meter

1" from $33.88 to $40.66

1 ½" $67.77 $81.32

2" $137.22 $164.66

3" $321.88 $386.26

4" $592.93 $711.52

6" $1,423.04 $1,707.65

8" $3,422.05 $4,106.46

Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority report: INVenergy project cancelled

The board unanimously approved the application by the town of Fountain to join the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority.

Bishop reported that the proposal by INVenergy to build a well field near Spruce Mountain to provide water for a Squirrel Creek power plant southeast of Fountain had been dropped. INVenergy was purchased by Excel Energy and Excel does not want to build that power plant. The Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA) had planned to use some of the Spruce Mountain water and substitute this water in Monument Creek with excess effluent from wastewater facilities.

Bishop noted that PPRWA annual dues had been standardized at $25,000 per district. He added that because of the financial constraints the district now has, that Triview may wish to withdraw as a dues paying member. He noted that there would be a high financial penalty when the district rejoins PPRWA as a full member later to gain access to renewable water. He said he planned to continue attending PPRWA meetings as "part of the public" until Triview can afford membership payments in the future. Bishop added that Triview membership is critical to the effectiveness of PPRWA when it is time to purchase renewable water resources.

Car wash contract approved

The board unanimously approved a contract with The Monument Carwash for a single bay automatic car wash that will be attached to the Grease Monkey building currently under construction in the Monument Marketplace. Some of the terms in the contract are:

"Triview will lose tap fees and impact fees equivalent to one single family unit or the sum of nineteen thousand five hundred fifty dollars ($19,550). In addition, Triview has to be compensated for the value of securing one half-acre foot (.5) of renewable water at a cost of $14,000 per acre-foot for a total of $7,000.00. Car Wash therefore agrees to pay to Triview the total sum of twenty six thousand five hundred fifty dollars ($26,550) at the time of the issuance of a building permit plus all applicable tap and impact fees for the Car Wash."

"Car Wash agrees to reclaim 75% to 80% of its water usage and further agrees to limit its annual usage to not more that 100,000 gallons annually from January 1 to December 31 of each year. At any time that this usage is exceeded by Car Wash, the District may terminate water service for the remainder of the year."

Plans to build a new water tank and expand water treatment plant B in Sanctuary Pointe modified

Classic Homes does not plan to build houses in the development for 2-3 years and the tank could not be leak checked while remaining empty. Deductions proposed by Weaver General Construction Company of Englewood are about $62,000 in 2008 and $84,000 in 2009. Donala will provide supplementary water during expansion of the plant through interconnections at Gleneagle Drive and Jackson Creek Parkway. Triview will replace all the water, gallon for gallon, after the construction is completed. The 22-week project will be initiated as soon as the district gets approval from regional building so construction is completed before the summer peak usage.

Wastewater plant loan application rejected

Bishop said the loan application for an additional loan of about $2 million from DOLA for the increased costs of the wastewater treatment facility had been rejected. Bishop said that the district’s draft credit report from DOLA indicated that the district did not have the money to pay back the loan, due to the downturn in the real estate market and lack of expected tap fees. Currently, all mill levy revenues must be applied to repaying bonds issued by the district in 2003 and 2006. All other financial assets can be used to repay DOLA however.

Bishop proposed that the board consider moving some of the district’s allocated assets and debt out of the enterprise fund to the general fund to make the enterprise fund look "more attractive" to bond attorneys. Bishop also said that the district’s auditor advised that loss of the district’s enterprise status for 2007 may be reversible based on what the bond attorneys are now saying. However, Bishop added that the district still does not have enough revenues to pay for the additional loan or the current DOLA loan.

Bishop said that the board could alternatively consider increasing the mill levy without voter approval to cover the debt service from 25 mills. "I do believe we can go as high as 62 mills." He added, "Politically it may not be the right thing to do. We may all be strung up and hung. I’m not here to recommend that we do that nor am I here to make any recommendations on transferring the debt from the enterprise side to the district (general fund) side." He noted that if the debt is transferred to the general fund, the district would lose its enterprise status in 2008 and definitely be ineligible for the loan of an additional $2 million from DOLA.

He said he had to provide an answer to the Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority by noon on Nov. 28. Bishop said he would probably suggest that they withhold the district’s loan application –"put on hold" – until engineering consultant firm GMS, Inc. can provide projected earnings for November through January that could be paid toward wastewater expansion construction expenses. About $1 million remains from the current loan. If this is not enough money, then the district may have to ask Donala Water and Sanitation District to loan Triview the money to sustain the expansion contract.

Bishop summarized:

  • "Our ballot questions were defeated"
  • "We have an enterprise status that’s in question"
  • "We have a lack of revenues, particularly tap fees"
  • "We have two choices, increase the mill levy or increase the sewer rates even more"
  • "The rate required to cover the loans is $128 per month"

Bishop added that if the ballot issues had passed, the problem would still occur because there would be no significant impact fees collected due to the current lack of growth within the district.

Bishop also noted that the district has "limited ability to fund the infrastructure that the existing service plan says we have to install. If we maintain our enterprise status, we can ask the developer to fund it and we’ll give him a note that says we owe you this money and we’ll pay you sometime out of anything that may be left. So you’re back to square one. We have the ability to ask again for voter authorized debt. That is going to take a long and very well-planned and financed education so that the voters understand exactly what we’re asking for."

Bishop added, "The other thing we can do is look at the developer and say we’re broke. You get to do it if you want to develop. I’ll see you in court. [We would] go before the judge and say how can you make us pay for it. We have gone to our voters and they have said no. So the judge has to make a call based on what he sees in the service plan and what we’ve tried to do. We don’t know how it would go because we’re not judges."

Bishop reported that the district has still not received the required deed for all the water rights under the Monument Ridge parcel. Attorney Pete Susemihl offered to contact Jim Morley to expedite the transfer of the rights after they are calculated by Morley’s hydrologist.

Negotiations are continuing to determine how to acquire a "404" environmental permit after completing removal of a sediment infringement problem after the breech of a dam north of the King Soopers center. Payment of the fee for sediment removal and restoration of the damaged mouse habitat (about 6.4 acres) is eligible to be liened if the three vacant properties that caused the problem are put up for sale by owners Miles Grant and Tim Phelan.

The board adjourned at 6:15 p.m.

**********

The next meeting will be at 5 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the district conference room, 174 Washington St. Normally meetings are held on the fourth Tuesday of the month.

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Tri-Lakes-Monument Fire Rescue Authority board, Nov. 28: 2008 budget still in flux; new trucks arrive

By Susan Hindman

Board members were presented with the latest changes to the 2008 budget proposal, with a request from Chief Robert Denboske that they add their comments before the next meeting in two weeks, when the budget has to be submitted to the state.

The position of deputy chief, which had been on the budget and Denboske had hoped would start Jan. 1, was eliminated. Because Ken Cox, a firefighter/maintenance manager, will become full-time maintenance manager Jan. 1, another firefighter was to have been hired to fill that slot. But that has been postponed until later in the year.

Various vehicle updates

The two new Ford F-150s arrived, one red, one white. One of them will replace the Chevy Blazer that is currently in poor condition. It was suggested that the Blazer be donated to a new fire district on the eastern plains. No decision was made.

Regarding the purchase of a new tender, Denboske said a letter of commitment was sent to the owner of the 1995 tender that Cox had discussed at the October meeting. The owner has agreed to hold the tender until after Jan. 1, when the new budget will allow for the purchase. Denboske said the owner has also agreed to help build storage boxes on the side. The board voted to donate the old tender to Brad Dale of High Country Trees, as a way of thanking him for his service to the Fire Authority in the past.

The Cripple Creek fire district is interested in purchasing the Woodmoor-Monument district’s ladder truck, and paperwork has begun toward that. However, the Fire Authority’s current ladder truck has a possible stress fracture in the ladder. It had passed a ladder test around three weeks ago, but during a recent training, something happened, Denboske said. Inspectors will be coming in to test it and see what went wrong, since it was recently certified.

Denboske wasn’t sure if it could be repaired, but suggested that they may need to hold on to Woodmoor-Monument’s ladder truck.

The 2001 ambulance, the smaller of three, had an electrical issue that has been repaired but the ambulance electronics need to be "reset." It will have to be taken to Longmont for that service.

Other matters

Role of volunteers: There was discussion over the fact that volunteers will no longer be used in operational positions. Non-operational positions, such as radio operators and those who administer the Senior Citizen Safety Program, will remain staffed by volunteers.

The resident program at Station 2 — where student firefighters train and receive room, board, books, and a small stipend — falls into a gray area as to whether or not they are considered volunteers or employees. That designation could affect how the department applies for grants. It was decided that the authority’s auditor needs to be consulted on the matter.

Inclusion of the Woodmoor district into the Tri-Lakes district: Denboske reported that "everything is moving along smoothly" toward inclusion. The bank has been consulted regarding account name changes and money transfers, which will take place on Jan. 2.

Phone problems: Pocock said he finds it "very frustrating" that the main business phone line (not the 9-1-1 line) is not answered by someone during traditional business hours. "It seems like someone should be answering the phone," he complained. Denboske said he would look into the problem.

Ambulance rates: Battalion Chief Greg Lovato handed out a sheet summarizing fees charged by six other area ambulance services, five of them operated through fire districts and one a private company. Fees were broken down by Advanced Life Support, Basic Life Support, and Mileage (a one-way "per loaded mile" trip to the hospital).

He said that before rates are raised, "We need to investigate the efficiency of billing, our rate of return, our collections of overdue bills … and good billing software that’s efficient and accurate." He said that because of the increases in gas prices, the authority could "safely increase the mileage fee." He emphasized the need for better software, and the board gave him the go-ahead to investigate software options.

Regarding collections and increasing fees, treasurer John Hildebrandt said, "You want to cover your expenses. You don’t want to be the lowest, you don’t want to be the highest." But he added that "you don’t want to go too long without any increases," in order to keep up with expenses.

The board decided to table rate increases.

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The next meeting of the Tri-Lakes-Monument Fire Rescue Authority will be on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 7 p.m., at Tri-Lakes district Station 1, 18650 Highway 105 (next to the bowling alley). The primary purpose of the meeting will be to approve the 2008 budget. For more information, call Chief Denboske at 481-2312 or visit www.tri-lakesfire.com

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Donald Wescott Fire Protection District Board, Nov. 28: 2008 budget will add three full-time firefighters to staff

by Jim Kendrick

The Donald Wescott Fire Protection District Board unanimously approved several noteworthy budget actions for 2008 on Nov. 28. The board approved the addition of a third full-time firefighter to each of the three shifts to increase engine manning to three people, increased the district’s contribution to the volunteer pension fund from $75,000 to $100,000, and to pay off the debt on two engines and the building addition for Station One two years early. Director Kraig Sullivan was absent.

The addition of the three firefighters improves the service level for district constituents and mutual safety for the crews in moving closer to meeting optimum National Fire Protection Agency standards. There will still be a Wescott firefighter accompanying the American Medical Response paramedic on the AMR ambulance during each shift. This ups the total number of full-time personnel on duty for each shift from four to five. The three new firefighters will join the full-time staff on Dec. 27. They will be sworn in at the next meeting on Dec. 19.

The $25,000 increase in the annual contribution to the volunteer pension fund will also increase the matching funds contributed by the state, further bolstering the actuarial solvency of the fund.

Paying off the debt on the older of the district’s two lease-purchase loans frees up funding to pay for additional personnel, equipment, and facilities in 2009 and beyond. The planned payment was increased from $162,600 to $357,339.76.

These two changes result in the district’s fund balance dropping from $818,918 at the beginning of 2008 to $671,126.24 at the end of the year. Total expenses of $1,913,339.76 exceed total revenues of $1,765,548 ­– based on 7.0 mills and an assessed value for the district of $235,678,290 – by $147,791.76.

The 2007 budget was amended to incorporate actual expenses and revenues to date. The fund balance at the end of 2007 is estimated to increase from $417,915 to $818,918 due to a significant increase in property tax revenue from new commercial construction within the district’ taxing area.

The meeting went into executive session to discuss a personnel issue at 9:05 p.m.

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The next meeting is at 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 in the district conference room in Station One, 15415 Gleneagle Drive. Meetings are normally held on the third Wednesday of the month. Information: 488-8680.

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Monument Board of Trustees, Nov. 5: Police department asks for five new employees

Below: Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk briefed the Board of Trustees on Nov. 5 about new programs he has initiated within the department. From the left clockwise: Town Clerk Scott Meszaros; Town Manager Cathy Green; Trustees Dave Mertz, Travis Easton, Steve Samuels, Gail Drumm, Tommie Plank, and Tim Miller; Town Treasurer Pamela Smith; and Chief Shirk. Photo by Jim Kendrick.

By Jim Kendrick

The Monument Board of Trustees met first on Nov. 5 at the Second Street Art Market, 366 Second St., for a reception and formal night-time lighting of the Ice Harvest art display. Police Chief Jake Shirk gave a 30-minute presentation on how the department is meeting its four main objectives but needs additional staffing to match growing service demands within Tri-Lakes.

Town Treasurer Pamela Smith presented a draft 2008 budget during the first of two public hearings on the document. She asked the board to review the 81-page document prior to the formal hearing on the final draft in December. All board members were present.

Ice Harvest art wall display illuminated

Heather Buchman, owner of the Second Street Art Gallery, hosted a reception at 5:30 p.m. for the Board of Trustees, Art Walls 2007 sponsors, and town staff. Betty Konarski, president of Tri-Lakes Views, reviewed the historical significance of the photograph of ice cutting at Monument Lake depicted on 13 panels spanning 30 feet in width that are raised 9 feet above the ground on posts for better visibility at the intersection of Second Street and Beacon Lite Road. The entire mural was hand-painted in reverse and constructed by Fort Collins artists Lisa J. Cameron and Tim Upham. Ice Harvest is designed to reflect the historical significance of ice harvesting from the lakes in the Tri-Lakes region. (For more information, visit www.trilakesviews.org and www.secondstreetart.com.)

Konarski also thanked all the sponsors of the project and the members of the Tri-Lakes Views Steering Committee, as well as Eagle Scout candidate Danny Ball of Troop 56, who raised about $600 in donations and performed the landscape planting for the concrete and brick patio under the display. Rogers Davis of the Palmer Lake Historical Society discussed the photos and narrative provided for the Ice Harvest brochure and noted that ice-cutting tools are on display at the Palmer Lake Historical Museum in the library building next to Town Hall.

Tri-Lakes Views Inc. was formed in 2003 by incorporators Sky Hall, Rebecca Hendrickson, and Betty Konarski as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Its mission is "to enrich our community by supporting activities which showcase the arts and preserve the region’s unique history" via three tasks:

  • Through sponsorship, fundraising, and donations, create a continuous source of funding for the arts and history of the Tri-Lakes region.
  • Create annual events focusing on the Tri-Lakes valued heritage and featuring the fine arts.
  • Be supported by a majority of the local groups and organizations, thereby encouraging a sense of community.

Emergency response time questioned

At the beginning of the regular board meeting, Mayor Byron Glenn commented that on two separate occasions, it took Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Rescue Authority over 10 minutes to respond to Jackson Creek for his next-door neighbor’s calls about a 9-month-old baby who had stopped breathing after going into "convulsions." Both 911 emergency phone calls were made on regular land lines rather than on cell phones.

Glenn noted that the Donald Wescott Fire Protection District station is "right across the street," referring to Baptist Road. Wescott’s Station 1 is much closer to Jackson Creek than any of the three Tri-Lakes Monument fire stations. Glenn said the Tri-Lakes response times were "totally unacceptable for our small community." He asked Town Manager Cathy Green to consult with Tri-Lakes Chief Rob Denboske about "this whole political thing" to determine why Wescott is not responding to Jackson Creek emergency medical calls. Glenn added that his neighbor was pretty upset that there was no improvement in response times between her two 911 calls.

Note: Emergency 911 calls made on cell phones go to a different dispatcher in Colorado Springs, requiring additional questions and answers to determine the location of the emergency due to the lack of immediate caller ID address information for cell phone calls. Once the location and emergency information is obtained, it is forwarded to the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher and then to the fire dispatcher. This process slows the initial dispatch and response of ambulance and fire vehicles, adding minutes to the total response time.

Baptist and Struthers Road updates

Glenn noted that the new Struthers Road connection to the south side of the intersection of Baptist Road and Jackson Creek Parkway had been opened. Glenn added, "As far as (the opening of) Baptist Road, your guess is as good as mine."

Glenn said he was working with Monument Director of Developer Services Tom Kassawara and Baptist Road I-25 interchange project manager Bob Torres of Carter Burgess Construction on a plan to begin construction through condemnation of right-of-way on the north side of Baptist Road between the interchange owned by THF Realty (the former Foxworth-Galbraith property) and Darel Tiegs’ ADK Monument Developers LLC. Glenn noted that neither "give up the right-of-way" to the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority (BRRTA) that is paying for the upgrade of the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) interchange. Torres was CDOT director for the region including El Paso County until his recent retirement to take his current position as group manager with Carter Burgess.

Ordinarily, CDOT will not advertise for construction bids for any of its road projects until it has obtained the deeds for all required right-of-way. Glenn said it was unlikely that there would be any repaving of the badly deteriorated asphalt on Baptist Road west of Jackson Creek Parkway prior to the awarding of a construction contract after access to or ownership of all the necessary right-of-way has been obtained from THF, ADK, Valero Energy Corp., and Phoenix-Bell. The Schuck Corp. has already donated right-of-way to BRRTA for the south side of Baptist Road, west of the interchange. (See article on the Nov. 9 meeting of the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority on page 24 for more details.)

Trustee Gail Drumm said that the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority will select a program manager soon and that he believed that the quality of Regional Building Department inspections has been improving recently even though new construction is down.

Police Department details services

Chief Shirk said the reason for his briefing was that "there is a misunderstanding, lack of information, and perception issue about all the different things that the Police Department is involved in." He added that Green had recommended that he give the presentation to the board. Also present for the briefing were: Sgt. Rick Tudor, Sgt. Steve Burk, Cpl. Mark Owens, Officer Steve Lontz, and Mary Ellen Burk, the office and records administrator as well as the court clerk. There are 19 employees in the department.

Some of the points Shirk made in his half-hour presentation were: The department will ensure that Monument is a safe place to live, work, and visit by safeguarding individual liberties, building community partnerships, preventing crime, and aggressively pursuing those who commit crime.

Some of the policies for safeguarding individual liberties are:

  • Specific directives for training on use of force and structured citizen complaint procedures.
  • All police pursuits are automatically reviewed
  • Quick response to calls for service.
  • Reactive to traffic enforcement complaints and pro-active on known traffic problems.
  • Criminal investigations – major arrests in robberies at Kohl’s and Wal-Mart and two local narcotics arrests.
  • Keeping the peace.
  • In calls for service, police are the last resort for people in non-criminal incidents.

Some of the recently developed community partnerships include:

  • Neighborhood Watch — nine active neighborhood groups with over 200 people trained in Jackson Creek during the month of September.
  • Citizen Emergency Response Training (CERT) – three classes to date with over 60 locally trained citizens.
  • Department conducts safety surveys for homes and businesses.
  • Department sponsored monthly Retail Security Association meetings with large retailers’ loss prevention staffs.
  • Partners in Safety – bicycle helmets are given to children at no charge in conjunction with the Fire Department as well as teaching youths how, where, and when to ride in a safe manner.
  • Community Youth Officer – Officer Chad Haynes’ time is dedicated on a part-time basis to the area schools and youths in our community, including D-38 schools in the county.
  • Palmer Divide Public Safety Group – Fire, Police, El Paso County, District 38
  • Web site – www.monumentpd.org – real time information and interactive communication with the public.
  • Explorer Cadet Program.
  • Work with a variety of Scout groups to assist them in advancement.
  • Local bank manager meetings.
  • Health Advocacy Partnership – Officer Rob Stewart attends its meetings.
  • Santa on Patrol in cooperation with the Fire Department.
  • Welcome Wagon information letter from the chief of police.
  • Civilian Ride Along Program.
  • Awards Boards – citizens have the opportunity to assist in approving awards for police officers.

Some crime prevention activities include:

  • Department created a Direct Action Response Team – five officers trained with advanced tactical weapons to deter criminals who know that the town is "hardening the target."
  • Participate in county’s Regional Response Team – received over $10,000 free equipment.
  • Staff receives advanced tactical training with specialized equipment by outside experts.
  • Directed Patrol vs. Routine Patrol to target specific problem areas.
  • Officer Mike Wolfe is nationally certified to train staff from other agencies on how to conduct Rape Aggression Defense Training for women.
  • Commercial Vehicle Unit – part-time inspections by Wolfe.
  • DUI holiday coverage through Law Enforcement Assistance Fund Grant, Seatbelt Grant.

Crime pursuit actions include:

  • Two full-time investigators dedicated to narcotics investigations in partnership with the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and the Vice, Narcotics, Intelligence metropolitan task force.
  • Computer forensics investigator examines computers seized at crime scenes for further evidence regarding ID theft, criminal enterprise, child porn.
  • Crime analysis – led to arrests at Wal-Mart
  • When officers make arrests and recover property, they always ask the suspect what other criminal activities they have been involved in.
Future prioritized plans to improve service include:
  • New position for full-time Community Youth Officer
  • New position for full-time Traffic Unit Officer (commercial vehicle enforcement)
  • New position for sergeant to manage the new Special Units division composed of Investigations, Police Analysis, Traffic Unit, and Community Youth Officer
  • New position for commander to assist the chief in daily and long-term management of a dynamic, community-based, very active police department
  • New position for additional part-time court employee to assist with the expanding volume of work generated through the growth of the community.
  • Implement an Internet Crimes Against Children program in cooperation with Colorado Springs Police Department, the regional representative to the federal system
  • Create a Citizens Police Academy
  • Expand CERT training to enhance the survivability of our citizens in the event of a catastrophic event
  • Equip each patrol unit with functioning In-Car Video system
Monument receives the assistance of Palmer Lake PD when requested. Assistance from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office includes:
  • Free dispatch services
  • Tactical Support – SWAT
  • Investigative support – homicides and other major cases
  • K-9 support
  • E911 financial support to connect Monument in-car computers to dispatch system
  • Assistance in covering Monument’s calls for service

(For more information, go to http://monumentpd.org/)

During a 20-minute discussion of Shirk’s presentation, board members offered thanks and encouragement to Shirk and his staff members attending the meeting, particularly in facilitating communications regarding community partnerships, Neighborhood Watch programs, problem-oriented policing, and joint truck inspections with Palmer Lake Police and the inspectors at the Monument Hill I-25 ports.

Shirk noted in response to Trustee Tim Miller’s question about drug problems in Monument that the department has aggressively pursued drug issues and discovered more "underground problems" than expected. This was also true of expanded operations for DUIs, computer fraud, and identity theft. Shirk added that drug arrests, including those made by Monument Police in joint operations outside of the town’s boundaries, directly benefit the safety of Monument’s citizens via reduced burglaries and shoplifting.

Three resolutions approved

The board unanimously approved a resolution to impose liens for a total of $8,359 on the future sale of three properties for failure to pay water bills:

  • Le Lieuthanh and Le Tham Thi-Hong – $689
  • Darrell J. & Kimberly A. Phelps – $1,375
  • Joseph & Patricia Brogan – $6,286
The board unanimously approved a resolution to add the following street segments to the town’s list of emergency snow routes:
  • Mitchell Avenue from Monument Lake Road to Santa Fe Avenue
  • Park Trail Drive between Woodfield Drive and Ranchero Valley Way
  • Ranchero Valley Way from Old Denver Highway to Park Trail Drive
  • Wagon Gap Trail

New signs for these routes will cost about $1,000.

The board unanimously approved a resolution to establish an intergovernmental service agreement for Monument Public Works to provide staff for water and sanitary sewer operations within Forest Lakes Metropolitan District, similar to the town’s current agreement with Triview Metropolitan District. Forest Lakes will pay all salary and operating expenses, such as parts and supplies by invoice from the town.

Draft 2008 budget discussed

Treasurer Smith noted that the format of the 81-page budget had been extensively revised to make it easier for staff and the board to read and analyze how revenues are distributed to the various funds. There were no public comments on the preliminary budget. Trustee Steve Samuels asked for a tiered water-use rate structure to discourage high water consumption for irrigation. Public Works Director Rich Landreth will discuss possible options at the final budget hearing on Dec. 3.

Some of the features noted by Smith in her proposed 2008 budget were:

  • Total revenue is about $3.5 million, plus a community development grant of $120,000 and a projected general fund carryover of about $657,000 from 2007.
  • Sales tax, which represents about 78 percent of revenue, is projected to increase by 8 percent.
  • Property tax on existing housing is projected to increase by about $112,000 in 2008, not counting any additional tax revenue from new construction, which is currently at a near standstill.
  • Other revenue from franchise fees, fees for services, and earned interest are projected to increase by 1.7 percent.
  • Smith noted that there are no currently planned town fee increases, but the board should consider increases in early 2008 to offset rapidly escalating water operations costs.
  • Total expenditures are about $3.1 million, a decrease from 2007 of about $94,000, even though there is an increase of about 10 percent in health and welfare benefits and a 3 percent cost-of-living increase for all employees.
  • Salary and benefits comprise about 70 percent of the operating budget.
  • Capital expenditures for 2008 are about $1.5 million – $528,000 from the General Fund and $77,000 from Storm Drainage and Traffic Impact fees, plus $979,000 carried over from 2007.
  • The town’s current revenue structure is not sufficient to maintain current service levels and standards while allowing for necessary investments in infrastructure and capital costs in the five-year capital improvement program recently passed by the board – a sustainable funding plan must be developed.
  • Water enterprise fund revenue includes $1.5 million in 2008 revenue and a carryover of about $1.04 million, with a 10 percent decrease in tap fees and bulk water sales from 2007, while other water fund revenues will decline by 2.2 percent.
  • Water enterprise fund expenses will decline from 2007 by about $189,000 to $1.3 million.
  • The board should consider water fee increases or new water fees early in 2008 to offset increasing operations costs that will likely exceed water revenues.
  • Salary and benefits for the Water Department are only 41 percent of operating costs.
  • The town must establish a new fund for excess TABOR revenue retention – approved in the November election for another four years – that will be dedicated specifically to town parks, recreation, and senior services.
  • Given current revenue projections, the proposed budget is the best balance between fiscal responsibility and service delivery.
  • The town government’s ever-increasing needs and the increasing needs of the community make budget time more challenging each year, with many cuts made during 2008 budget formation.

Drumm said the town should be "extremely careful" about raising fees because "the margin of profitability on building anything is below zero at the moment so we don’t want to make it worse than it already is." Green and Smith said that there is no proposal for increasing development fees, just use fees for property owners.

Trustee Samuels advocated a revision to a more steeply tiered rate structure for higher than average water use to limit abusive and wasteful watering since there will be few development fees collected for residential construction in 2008. Samuels said that commercial development is already growing again. Green said the staff would provide a revised tier structure before spring watering begins.

Samuels also asked that future town capital contracts lock in costs to limit overruns to prevent layoffs of staff. Green reiterated the need to develop a fiscal sustainability plan for funding capital programs like stormwater and water infrastructure.

Sales tax revenue continues to rise

Smith also provided a summary of 2007 town sales tax earnings and collections through August that showed collections are 21.7 percent ahead of budget projections. Gross sales tax revenues through October, including the amount allocated to Triview Metropolitan District, are about $2.86 million. Some previous total annual gross sales tax revenues were:

  • $1.29 million for 2004
  • $1.83 million for 2005
  • $1.91 million for 2006

The board approved three payments over $5,000:

  • $7,545 to engineering firm Rothberg, Tamburini, & Winsor Inc. for the Woodmoor/Monument Integration Resources Study for the town and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District.
  • $43,369 to Friedland Construction Inc. for completion of work on town Well 9.
  • $14,133 to engineering firm Nolte and Associates for design fees for the Third Street drainage project in September.

Trustee Travis Easton abstained because he works as a civil engineer for Nolte.

Staff reports

Town Attorney Gary Shupp reported that the attorney for Kalima Masse, president of Rockwell Ready-Mix Inc. had "withdrawn" from the case. There was no other news regarding Masse’s intention to again appeal the town’s July 30 rejection of her most recent request for a renewal of the long-expired business license for the long-abandoned concrete batch plant on the northeast corner of Highway 105 and Washington Street. Masse has been appealing rejections of her repeated requests for over four years.

Green suggested that the board consider a contribution of $1,500 of the remaining $8,000 in the board’s $20,000 contingency fund prior to the end of December for publication of a book on available senior resources and services in the region.

Landreth said he would hold another meeting with volunteers for renovation of the Skate Park before the end of the year.

Kassawara said there would be a board hearing on an extensive revision of the town’s sign ordinance in December after the Planning Commission hearing of Nov. 14. Staff held two meetings with business owners to make sure the revisions, which balance the number and size of signs, do not hurt their operations.

Samuels, who is general manager for Robertson’s Landscaping in Colorado Springs, said Robertson’s would donate Christmas decorations to the town again this year.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:48 p.m.

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Monument Board of Trustees, Nov. 19: Palmer Lake Historical Society to donate sculpture to town

By Jim Kendrick

Rogers Davis of the Palmer Lake Historical Society told the Monument Board of Trustees on Nov. 19 that the society plans to donate a bronze sculpture to the town that depicts numerous scenes in the history of Monument. Davis suggested that it could be put on public display in the new Town Hall and Police Department building to be constructed on the southwest corner of Highway 105 and Beacon Lite Drive or Limbach Park.

The public hearing for the ordinance authorizing the final 2008 budget was postponed until Dec. 3 due to Town Treasurer Pamela Smith having emergency surgery after a horseback riding accident. Trustees Gail Drumm and Steve Samuels were absent.

Small Town Christmas

Trustee Tommie Plank discussed the Historic Monument Merchants Association’s Small Town Christmas event on Dec. 1. Santa Claus will visit the Chapala Building from 10 a.m. to noon. Other attractions include hay rides, reindeer, and miniature donkeys from 10-2, as well as Christmas tree lighting in Limbach Park at 4 p.m.

Some progress made on Baptist Road I-25 interchange

Trustee Tim Miller noted that there had been some patching of the asphalt on the Baptist Road I-25 interchange. Mayor Byron Glenn said that other paving of Baptist Road east of the interchange would not be completed until next spring because Mountain View Electric Association has not removed its existing power lines from under the eastbound lanes of Baptist Road east of Jackson Creek Park. A Mountain View transformer is still located in the middle of the new eastbound Baptist Road lanes that are part of the connection of the new portion of Struthers Road to Jackson Creek Parkway. Construction is proceeding east of the Family of Christ Lutheran Church.

Glenn also announced that he and interchange construction project manager Bob Torres of Carter & Burgess Inc. had met with Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). The Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority (BRRTA) and CDOT are proceeding with condemnation of right-of-way on the north side of Baptist Road between the interchange and Jackson Creek Parkway that is owned by THF Realty (the former Foxworth-Galbraith property) and Darel Tiegs of ADK Monument Developers LLC.

Phoenix-Bell has donated right-of-way on the north side of Baptist Road between the Santa Fe Trail and Valero Corp.’s Diamond Shamrock fuel station to BRRTA. Valero is expected to donate right-of-way soon. The Schuck Corp. has also donated right-of-way to BRRTA for the south side of Baptist Road, west of the interchange.

Glenn said that a construction contract award for the interchange may be made as early as February 2008.

Brass sculpture discussed

Davis said local artist Ronny Walker has been commissioned by the Palmer Lake Historical Society. Davis showed a large sketch of Walker’s "artist concept" of the bas relief or raised relief artwork.

The size of the sculpture can be 3 feet by 5 feet or 4 feet by 6 feet, depending on the town’s preference. The society will also provide a laser-engraved plaque describing each of the depicted historic scenes. Davis said he would write the brochure for the plaque.

Davis said the society believes that the ideal display location would be in the new Town Hall with optimized lighting. If the artwork is to be displayed outdoors, for example at Limbach Park, the town would have to purchase and build a mounting for it. The society is a participant in Tri-Lakes Views and could integrate the plaque with Tri-Lakes Views’ long-term art program.

Some of the people and scenes from Monument history that may be represented in the sculpture are Henry Limbach, Patrick Murphy, Joe Pettigrew, the Monument Hotel, Elliott Mercantile, the original Catholic church, and agricultural and railroad scenes.

There was no board consensus on the preferred size or installation location for the artwork. Town Manager Cathy Green said she would work with Davis to prepare options for a board decision in December on size, location, and costs.

Davis also told the board that the $12,000 donated by the town in 2005 and 2006 would be used for expanding the society’s now inadequate storage and display area on Lower Glenway in Palmer Lake, as well as adding temperature and humidity controls and electrical service lines to better preserve the society’s artifacts. Davis said the society has about half the funding required for the project. Green said she would work with Davis on a possible donation in late 2007 and/or in 2008 from the board’s contingency fund to help fully finance this project.

Senior Alliance update

Chuck Roberts of the Tri-Lakes Senior Alliance asked the board if it had any questions about the group’s business plan for senior services that had been provided for the trustees’ review at the Nov. 5 meeting. Roberts reviewed the various fees that are discounted for needy seniors in all the group’s new senior service programs. Green said she would work with Roberts on a possible donation of $1,500 to the alliance in late 2007 from the board’s contingency fund. Any donations in 2008 would come from excess tax revenues that become available after passage of another four-year TABOR waiver on Nov. 6.

Town to take over Triview wastewater operations

The board unanimously approved a new intergovernmental agreement with Triview Metropolitan District that added performance of wastewater operations by town staff in addition to the provisions of the previous agreement regarding drinking water treatment. Under the new agreement, Triview will pay the town $16,082 per month.

Other matters

The board unanimously approved a renewal of the liquor license for Brinker Restaurant Corp., which operates Chili’s Bar & Grill in Monument Marketplace. The board then unanimously approved Ida Torres as the new registered manager for the renewed liquor license.

The board unanimously approved the October financial report. General fund revenues were down 15.6 percent, or $628,000, from projections in the 2007 budget through October. General fund expenditures were down 20.4 percent, or $1.1 million, netting a fund balance of $1.4 million. Water enterprise fund revenues were down 13 percent, or $196,000. Water enterprise fund expenditures were down 40 percent, or $1.5 million, netting a fund balance of $1.6 million.

Sales tax revenues through September were 4.8 percent above the projected amount in the 2007 budget. However, September was the first month of the year when revenues were below budget projections –$9,685 less. Total collections for the first three quarters were 47 percent higher than total collections from January to November of 2006.

The board approved nine payments over $5,000:

  • $91,798 to Triview Metropolitan District for September sales tax
  • $8,241 to Triview Metropolitan District for October motor vehicle tax
  • $20,280 to U.S. Department of Agriculture for a principal and interest payment for 1997 water revenue bonds
  • $6,625 to CAPMARK Financial for a principal and interest payment for 1979 water revenue bonds
  • $10,725 to Colorado Water and Regional Power Development Authority for a final principal and interest payment for 1998 water revenue bonds
  • $24,794 to Wells Fargo Brokerage Services Inc. for a capital vehicle lease payment
  • $5,000 to auditor Swanhorst & Co. LLC for a final payment on the 2006 audit
  • $12,905 to Colorado Intergovernmental Risk-Sharing Agency (CIRSA) for a quarterly worker’s compensation payment
  • $20,622 to CIRSA for a quarterly liability insurance payment

Staff reports

Town Attorney Gary Shupp reported significant delays in getting approval of paperwork by the Colorado Youth Foundation so the town can issue bonds for the foundation’s proposed purchase of vacant land between the ice skating rink and Trails End development on Old Denver Highway. Shupp said interim financing may be obtained for purchase of the land.

Director of Developer Services Tom Kassawara noted that the board had previously denied a proposal to build a multi-bay carwash on Lot 3 of Filing 14 at the southeast corner of the Monument Marketplace due to high projected use of water. Now the development group that is building a Grease Monkey auto service structure on the adjacent lot 2 is interested in adding a single automatic carwash bay to its building. Jody Newton of Automotive Development Group Inc. said the bay will recycle 90 percent of the water used, resulting in a net use of 10 gallons per wash.

Kassawara said he planned to administratively approve the addition of the bay because it was a minor change from the previously approved fourth amendment to the Monument Marketplace planned development (PD) master plan that first defined what would be built on Filing 14 because there would be no negative impact on the building’s architecture or traffic flow. Lot 3 will probably be used to build a Brakes Plus store. The line between Lot 2 and Lot 3 may have to be re-platted to allow both buildings to meet setback requirements.

Glenn said he wanted to see documentation that shows the actual water use. Kassawara replied that Triview had agreed to supply water to the bay. Other trustees said they agreed with Kassawara administratively approving the car wash.

Kassawara added that a Premier Urgent Care medical facility would be opening on Filing 6, next to Kohl’s in the Monument Marketplace.

Kassawara reported that the Planning Commission had unanimously approved Development Service’s proposed amendment to the town’s commercial sign ordinance. Kassawara noted that John Savage, owner of Rocky Mountain Oil Change and Carwash, had expressed opposition at the Planning Commission hearing to the amendment establishing a maximum coverage of 25 percent for advertising on exterior windows. Kassawara said the new restriction was requested by the Police Department to help ensure security of buildings by visual inspection when businesses are closed. He added that Savage may bring other like-minded business owners attend the board’s hearing on the amendment in December.

Jerry Kessel and Dan Howard of Newport Realty Investments have notified staff that they want to propose a replat and PD site plan amendment to change the type and configuration of multi-family housing previously approved by the board for Jackson Creek Market Village on Lyons Tail Road by the King Soopers shopping center. They have also proposed changing the configuration of the Jackson Creek Market Village shopping center that was approved for the vacant lot directly east of the King Soopers center.

Craig Anderson, developer of the Monument Ridge parcel directly south of the King Soopers center, might propose changes to the previously approved preliminary PD site plan. Two restaurant sites would be replaced by a strip of side-by-side (in-line) retail stores. Anderson is also considering a proposal to rezone to commercial the previously approved residential area on the southeast corner of the parcel that was supposed to be a buffer between commercial buildings along Baptist and Struthers Roads and the five-acre lot homes in Chaparral Hills. The parcel was zoned for multi-use residential and commercial by the county prior to annexation by Monument. During the annexation, rezoning, and preliminary PD site plan hearing the developer promised Chaparral Hills residents, planning commissioners, trustees, and staff that the area would be residential.

Public Works Director Rich Landreth reported that the skateboard park meeting had been scheduled for the evening of Nov. 28. Landreth also invited board members to attend a Nov. 30 Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority presentation by Gary Barber on proposed regional surface water projects.

Police Chief Jake Shirk reported that the state had performed compliance checks on all Monument liquor license holders on Nov. 15 and that there had been no violations for sale to under-age purchasers.

Town Manager Green noted that she had attended a Rocky Mountain Rail Authority meeting with Town Clerk Scott Meszaros and Trustee Gail Drumm. The authority will hire a manager for a study on the passenger rail project by the end of 2007. The study will begin early in 2008.

Miller asked the board to take action on D-38 funding problems for the high school after the proposed mill levy override was defeated. Glenn said Miller should go to the D-38 meetings as a citizen residing in the school district to express his personal concerns.

The meeting was adjourned at 9:32 p.m.

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The next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 at Town Hall, 166 Second St. Meetings are normally held on the first and third Mondays of the month. Information: 481-2954 or 884-8017.

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Monument Planning Commission, Nov. 14: St. Peter Church campus upgrade plan approved

Below: Nov. 14: Architect Brian Bucher briefed the Monument Planning Commission on plans to expand the St. Peter Catholic Church and parish education center buildings as well as create an improved "inward campus feel." New Planning Commission Rafael Dominguez is shown to Bucher’s right. Photo by Jim Kendrick.

By Jim Kendrick

The Monument Planning Commission unanimously approved the St. Peter Catholic Church proposals to expand the church, parish education center, and parking lots, as well as a vacation of the alley between the church and education center to eliminate traffic from First Street south to Lincoln Avenue. An extensive revision of the town’s commercial sign ordinance was also unanimously approved.

Rafael Dominguez attended this the first Planning Commission meeting to be held since he was appointed at the Aug. 20 Board of Trustees meeting to fill a long vacant seat on the commission. All the other commissioners were also present.

Director of Development Services Tom Kassawara noted that some two-year appointments would be expiring after the December meeting and asked the affected commissioners to apply for another appointment by the Board of Trustees. The staff will also advertise for other volunteers to appear at the Dec. 3 board meeting where all the candidates for the vacant seats will be interviewed by the trustees prior to electing the new commissioners.

St. Peter campus upgrade approved

Architect Brian Bucher of Bucher Design Studios, Palmer Lake, presented two separate proposals for the landowner of the St. Peter campus, the Diocese of Colorado Springs. About 30 parishioners attended the hearings.

Bucher combined both proposals into a single presentation followed by separate hearings and votes for replat and vacation of easements and an alley right-of-way and use by special review site plan.

The St. Peter property is composed of three separate adjacent pieces of land. The largest piece is the city block bordered by First Street to the north, Jefferson Street to the east, Lincoln Avenue to the south, and Washington Street to the west. There is an existing large asphalt parking lot on the northwest corner of Jefferson and First that extends up to the southern boundary of the Toys 4 Fun lot on Jefferson; the toy store was the original St. Peter church. The third piece of the church property is on the southwest corner of Jefferson and Lincoln.

Replat details: The proposed replat would eliminate all the remaining lot lines for lots 6-16 within the city block to create a single 3.3-acre lot within the existing city block. Lots 1-5 were previously combined into a single lot for construction of the Parish Education Center on the southeast corner of Washington and First.

Vacation details: The proposal asked that the town’s north-south alley right-of-way through the center of the city block be vacated so the church could convert it to an interior pedestrian walkway. Removable steel bollards would prevent routine traffic from traversing the walkway. These roadblocks could be removed to provide emergency medical or utility vehicle access to the center of the new campus.

The proposal also called for vacation of the unused perimeter utility easements for all the eliminated lots to allow building expansions to be built on top of the unused easements. The existing non-exclusive 30-foot-wide utility easement within the town’s existing alley right-of-way would not be vacated. However, all the utilities will retain their access rights for their lines under the proposed walkway. The utilities may dig up the pavers for the walkway and the proposed adjacent concrete curbs within the 30-foot wide easement to repair or replace their equipment.

Principal Planner Karen Griffith advised the commissioners that the church’s proposal met all town requirements listed in the town’s subdivision regulations. She added that vacation of the alley would benefit the town by eliminating costs for maintenance and snow plowing. She added that there were no comments from any of the agencies routinely queried for this type of proposal.

The replat and both vacations were unanimously approved with three conditions:

  • Any necessary technical corrections to the documentation will be made prior to recording it with the county.
  • The civil engineering drawings will be sent to Mountain View Electric Association, and any additional required easements will be dedicated before recording.
  • The final drainage plan and drainage report must be approved by town staff before recording.

Use by special review details: The proposal calls for adding 16,631 square feet of space to the existing education center and 9,025 square feet to the church. Three houses owned by the church would be moved off-site to make room for the two additions and expanded parking lots.

An annual water use analysis showed that there is a sufficient existing water appropriation for the church’s property to support the new uses if only drip irrigation is used for the proposed landscaping. However, the report did not address problems that might occur during "dry years" or if drip irrigation is replaced with a system that would use more water.

The staff reported that the proposed use by special review meets all requirements of the municipal zoning code for an R-2 downtown zone.

This proposal was unanimously approved with two conditions:

  • Any necessary technical corrections to the documentation will be made prior to recording with the county.
  • The final drainage plan and drainage report must be approved by town staff prior to recording.

Major revision of town’s sign ordinance approved

Assistant Planner Natalie Ebaugh incorporated the suggestions of staff and the recommendations of town business owners gathered at two separate meetings held by Kassawara to determine how to amend the sign regulations to make the town more attractive without harming businesses. Kassawara gave a slide presentation that showed what types of existing signs and banners were preferred and which would be eliminated in future sign reviews if the lengthy amendment is approved by the Board of Trustees.

During public comments, A.B. Tellez, owner of Rosie’s Diner, asked if his normal Christmas decoration paintings on the windows would violate the proposed maximum signage allowance of 25 percent of the square footage. Kassawara said that temporary decorations would not be covered by the proposed new restriction.

John Savage, owner of Rocky Mountain Oil Change and Carwash, expressed concerns that the new restrictions on the number and overall square footage for multiple-use businesses like his were too tight. He said he would prefer that no limit be placed on window signs. Kassawara said that the 25 percent restriction was a security concern and that any more advertising in the windows would significantly impair police inspections during routine patrols.

The amendment was unanimously approved.

The meeting adjourned at 7:32 p.m.

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The next meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 12 at Town Hall, 166 Second St. Meetings are normally held on the second Wednesday of the month. Information: 481-2954 or 884-8017.

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Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority, Nov. 9: Land condemnation approved in hopes of speeding up I-25 interchange construction

Photos by Jim Kendrick.

Below: A Mountain View Electric Association power transformer remains in the area for the new eastbound lanes of Baptist Road at the intersection with the new Struthers Road connection to Jackson Creek Parkway. This transformer has delayed the construction of the eastbound lanes east of this intersection for months, forced several costly construction schedule changes by contractor Rocky Mountain Asphalt, and significantly contributed to cost overruns that have resulted in a shortfall of funding of about $2 million for the project according to the county transportation department.

Below: One of two as yet unused Mountain View Electric Association transformers that should have replaced similar transformers within the eastbound lanes of widened Baptist Road. This transformer is positioned just below the northwest corner of the Family of Christ Lutheran Church in a new utility easement south of the new curbline for Baptist Road.

By Jim Kendrick

The Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority approved condemnation of the right-of-way required for expansion of the Baptist Road I-25 interchange. The condemnation was necessary because THF Realty and ADK Monument Developers LLC —owners of the vacant Foxworth-Galbraith building and the vacant land that surrounds it, respectively — have refused to donate it to the project, which has held up progress on the interchange.

In addition, BRRTA board members and county officials noted again that Mountain View Electric Association (MVEA) continues to stall construction of the eastbound lane of Baptist Road by not moving its power lines into the new easements on the south side of Baptist Road as required. Andre Brackin, Capital Projects Manager for El Paso County Department of Transportation, said the delays have cost BRRTA about $2,000 a day in unexpected costs.

THF impasse continues

ADK has received approval from the town to develop 352,000 square feet of commercial space on its vacant parcel in a project called the Timbers at Monument. A condition of approval for ADK’s preliminary site plan for the Timbers project was donation of right-of-way for widening Baptist Road and Jackson Creek Parkway. In return, the county agreed to a Timbers access on Baptist Road between Jackson Creek Parkway and the northbound I-25 on-ramps, which would otherwise violate county standards for minimum spacing between accesses on a major arterial. However, ADK never made the right-of-way donation and has subsequently agreed to sell the Timbers project to THF.

ADK also agreed to provide an alternative access to the previous owner of the Foxworth-Galbraith store, Mike Watt, as a condition of the Timbers site plan approval because the Struthers frontage road between Baptist and Higby Roads was to be abandoned. The right-of-way between the existing Struthers traffic signal on Baptist Road for the frontage road and the driveway for the store will be used to build the new northbound on-ramps for I-25. Watt recently sold the store to THF without providing the right-of-way for the interchange as agreed to when the Timbers site plan was approved in return for a free interior access to the east side of his property by ADK.

THF plans to add the Foxworth-Galbraith property to the ADK parcel and roughly double the square footage of the Timbers project. However, THF has asked the town and BRRTA to waive all the impact fees for the additional space before it closes the sale with ADK as an inducement to develop the property in return for additional future sales tax revenue. Both have refused to waive the impact fees because the THF proposal will generate even more traffic on Baptist Road, Jackson Creek Parkway, and the interchange. THF has not closed the sale with ADK because of the impact fee impasse, nor agreed to donate right-of-way for either property to BRRTA for the interchange.

"This interchange is going nowhere fast," said Monument Mayor Byron Glenn, adding that THF "is holding us hostage" and "just wants to cut a deal to lower their development costs at the cost of the public." Glenn noted that he and Monument Director of Development Services Tom Kassawara had met with interchange project manager Bob Torres, of Carter & Burgess, Inc., to determine if there is an alternative approach to starting the expansion construction process.

Torres gave a presentation on how to break the ongoing impasse so that the contracting process can begin if BRRTA can only obtain 75 percent of the required right-of-way through land donations. Ordinarily, all right-of-way must be transferred to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for a specific project before a CDOT construction bid can be advertised with Federal Highway Administration approval. To date, right-of-way for the interchange expansion has only been obtained for the southeast and southwest corners of the interchange.

BRRTA is paying for the expansion of the CDOT interchange because the state has no funds for the improvement. BRRTA funding for improving the state’s interchange comes from bonds that are being repaid by a new temporary one-cent BRRTA sales tax. When construction is completed, the county will own the new eight-lane bridge over I-25, while CDOT will take over the new ramps.

The county transportation department is responsible for managing the interchange construction contract for BRRTA. Torres will manage the construction contract for the county as a BRRTA consultant, including coordinating the work with CDOT to ensure compliance with state and federal requirements. Torres recently retired from CDOT as the Region 2 Transportation Director. Region 2 includes El Paso County.

Torres said he had met with representatives from the Monument town staff and Triview and Forest Lakes Metropolitan Districts to discuss installation of a new sewer line that the town will be extending from the Old Denver Highway sanitary sewer interceptor line to the Diamond Shamrock fuel station. The station’s existing septic system, which is failing, is located within the right-of-way needed for the new southbound off ramp.

Valero Corp., which owns the station, will have to donate that land for the expansion project. Also, Valero must apply for inclusion in Triview for the sanitary sewer service. Carter & Burgess would design the sewer line for Triview, but the design work is not part of the construction management contract with BRRTA and would be billed to Valero Corp. separately. However, water service to the fuel station will be provided by Forest Lakes.

Torres said there is enough CDOT right-of-way around the existing bridge abutments and the Struthers frontage road north of Baptist — once BRRTA obtains Valero’s right-of-way and the adjacent Phoenix-Bell right-of-way — to begin construction of the northern four-lane bridge for westbound traffic and the Baptist Road approaches from the west.

The Schuck Corp. has already donated right-of-way on the southwest corner of the interchange. CDOT owns the land on the southeast corner between the ramp and the new four-lane portion of Struthers Road.

Once construction is complete, the only way to access the Foxworth-Galbraith building would be from Higby Road onto Struthers. The only access to the ADK property would be, as it is currently, from Blevins Buckle (formerly Rowdao) Drive at the southeast corner of Monument Marketplace. Mouse habitat prevents creating any other accesses between Blevins Buckle Drive and Baptist Road.

Torres said the BRRTA board should initiate the appraisal process for the needed THF and ADK right-of-way — and, if necessary, for the Valero right-of-way — so that condemnation could be completed by next November by the state’s Transportation Resource Services.

Torres said that since rights to the northeast corner of the interchange are not final, the interchange expansion would be broken into non-standard phases to gain CDOT and federal approval. Other agreements that are required for his alternative to be feasible are:

  • The environmental 404 permit must be finalized by the Army Corps of Engineers
  • The historic clearance must be finalized by the Federal Highway Administration that allows demolition of the remaining crumbling concrete of the original Denver Highway, located on the Phoenix-Bell property. The concrete sits where the new access to Diamond Shamrock would be built. The current Diamond Shamrock access to Baptist Road will be part of the new southbound off-ramp.
  • A clearance must be obtained from MVEA to move the electric utility lines that will serve the expanded interchange.
  • A revision must be made to the planned construction bid advertisement to reflect the non-standard phasing until the right-of-way can be condemned.
  • The county transportation department must finalize the revised bid advertisement after coordinating with CDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

Torres said that if every aspect of this alternative process is acceptable to all involved agencies, then a bid could be advertised by the end of December and a contract could be awarded by the end of February. Torres added that negotiations with THF should continue for an additional six months to show the district court good faith before filing for condemnation and immediate possession and use while the condemnation process is finalized.

El Paso County Commissioner Wayne Williams said it was "time to start playing hardball" with THF and ADK by eliminating any access to either property from Baptist Road because neither company had fulfilled their donation promises made before the BRRTA tax election. Torres said, "I wholeheartedly agree."

2006 audit approved

Auditor Dawn Schilling reported a clean audit for 2006. The board unanimously approved the audit and Schilling’s representation letter.

The board unanimously approved payments of:

  • $7,113.48 to Grimshaw and Harring for legal services
  • $49,794.67 to Carter & Burgess, Inc. for contract management services
  • $750 to American National Bank for bank services
  • $4,113.95 to R.S. Wells for management services
  • $33,212.83 to PBS& J for engineering services

2008 budget approved

Total general fund revenues are $575,000, and total expenditures are $394,850. The beginning general fund balance of $268,129 grows by $180,150 to $448,279. There are no BRRTA mill levies. General fund revenues come solely from road use fees and interest income.

The debt service fund balance increases from $223,329 to $5,133,329. Total revenues are $6,170,000:

  • $2,150,000 for debt reserve
  • $3,000,000 from capitalized interest
  • $1,020,000 from sales tax revenues
  • Debt service fund expenses are $1,260,000:
  • $1,061,000 for bond interest
  • $40,000 for amortization
  • $159,000 for investment fees

The capital projects fund starts at $20,976,639 and drops to $4,090,714. Interest income is $100,000. Total expenditures are $16,985,925:

  • $500,000 for utilities
  • $1,200,000 for construction management
  • $14,000,000 for interchange construction
  • $1,285,925 for right-of-way

The board unanimously approved the resolution for the 2008 budget.

Construction Update

Andre Brackin, capital projects manager for El Paso County Department of Transportation reported the opening of the Struthers Road connection to Baptist Road. There was enough room for a left turn lane on westbound Baptist to southbound Struthers to allow for temporary full motion operation. All the remaining, but incomplete, planned improvements to this intersection have been deferred to the interchange project. Environmental problems also exist for working in and around the Jackson Creek streambed at this time of year.

The deferred improvements are:

  • A second left turn lane from eastbound Baptist to northbound Jackson Creek Parkway
  • A right turn lane from eastbound Baptist to southbound Struthers

Brackin said the Mountain View Electric power lines under Baptist Road have not been moved to date. Power is being provided by a transformer that is still sitting in the middle of the two eastbound lanes of Baptist Road. Two new transformers have been installed at the northeast and northwest corners of the Monument Ridge commercial center project. The two new transformers have not been connected, although a new cable was buried between them in MVEA’s new Monument Ridge perimeter easement.

None of the required excavation for final grading of the eastbound lanes of Baptist Road (by the church) can occur until the old power lines under the roadway are turned off and disconnected. There is no announced date for switching power transmission from the old line to the new.

Paving will continue east of the church to Gleneagle Drive, weather permitting, but winter temperatures may prelude any further construction work in front of the King Soopers center until spring. Temperatures must be 40 degrees or above for asphalt to be installed.

Another hot power line that extends from Baptist to the King Soopers center must be relocated before the sloping berm along the southern boundary of the center can be cut away and replaced by a retaining wall. The dirt and sod must be removed to make room for a right turn lane from westbound Baptist Road to northbound Jackson Creek Parkway. This hot MVEA line will not be moved until all the other utilities in the King Soopers berm have been located, excavated, and relocated.

Brackin noted that the overall shortfall of funding for this project has risen to about $490,000. The delays for Rocky Mountain Asphalt caused by MVEA have cost about $2,000 per day in additional costs for extra people to control traffic.

Paving of the Gleneagle-Baptist intersection is complete, as is the installation of the traffic signal poles, wires, controller boxes, and a meter. The signal heads will be installed next, and then the controls will be programmed after power is connected to them. The signals will be activated even though no house construction has been started by John Laing Homes and there is not enough traffic at the intersection to legally warrant a light.

When the final topcoat of asphalt is applied for the full length of the project in the spring, all the Triview Metropolitan District manholes in Baptist Road will be raised to match the final grade.

A trail and sidewalk will be installed along the full length of the east side of Struthers Road.

The Monument Ridge developer has requested county approval of concrete islands that project into the right lane (acceleration/deceleration lane) of Struthers and Baptist Road for the remaining two entrances to the parcel. The other two proposed right-in, right-out-only accesses were eliminated by the county earlier this year.

No announcements have been made regarding installation and activation of the traffic signal at Leather Chaps Drive or Jackson Creek Crossing. All the underground connections for these two signals will be installed as part of this ongoing project.

Brackin announced that Baptist Road project engineer Kem Reliford had resigned to take a new position with Colorado Springs Utilities. Reliford will not be replaced until after this project is completed in the spring, so Brackin, a professional engineer, will perform the engineering tasks in the interim.

Monument Director of Development Services Tom Kassawara noted that the Monument Ridge developer has firm commitments from Walgreen’s, Chase Bank, MacDonald’s, and Fairfield Inn hotel. Promontory Pointe construction has been shut down for the winter. Monument Marketplace construction for Staples, Petsmart, and Texas Roadhouse and the Grease Monkey auto center is proceeding. Infinity Land Corp. has applied to Monument for annexation of the former Watt Willow Ranch property at the west end of Baptist Road for 433 homes.

Williams asked what contributions James Morley and Paul Howard of Infinity had agreed to make toward Baptist Road construction. Kassawara said Infinity has agreed informally to contribute "their fair share" to the widening of Baptist Road and future planned construction of a railroad overpass bridge. The Willow Springs project will use the already planned Mitchell Avenue access being built within Forest Lakes. Kassawara is coordinating these two development projects with county Long Range Planning Manager Carl Schueler.

Attorney Jim Hunsaker asked the board to ratify the final payment of its previously authorized contribution of $51,354 to the cost of the Gleneagle Drive traffic signal. John Laing Homes has paid the rest of the cost. The board unanimously approved the payment.

The meeting adjourned at 3:28 p.m.

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The next BRRTA meeting is at 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 at Monument Town Hall, 166 Second St.

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Monument Academy Board of Directors, Nov. 12: New school representative named

By Chris Pollard

The Monument Academy Board of Directors approved a contract for Dana Murphree, who normally gives the Parent-Teacher Organization committee reports, to act as the owner’s representative for the new school, to replace Bob Hughes, who resigned from that position.

There was no new information on access to Highway 105 from the proposed school, but earthmoving was scheduled to start Nov. 20. Any new information will be accessible on the Internet at http://www.monumentacademy.net/. This Web site has a tab linking to a page where progress and other items will be covered, including pictures of the site.

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Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Special Education Advisory Committee, Nov. 14: Committee focuses on special education goals

Below: Colorado State Representatives Amy Stephens and Bob Gardner at the SEAC meeting Nov. 14. Photo by Marie Jackson.

Below: Everyone in attendance at SEAC meetings participates in sub-groups to discuss task force or committee work. This photo is of the Needs & Program Identification Committee as they discuss how they will develop and administer parent and staff "Needs & Program" reviews with the intent to identify unmet needs and the effectiveness of existing programs. Photo by Marie Jackson.

By Ilanit Bennaim

Lewis-Palmer School District 38 parents, educators and administrators focused on goals at the monthly Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) meeting Nov. 14. The meeting was chaired by parent and SEAC board member Chris Amenson.

The establishment of a state-level advisory committee is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA) as a condition for a state’s eligibility for funding under the IDEA. A state advisory committee is also established by Colorado’s Exceptional Children’s Educational Act (ECEA). In the spirit to actively represent kids with disabilities and impact decisions made on their behalf, parents and District 38 have voluntarily established its own SEAC, modeled after the state-mandated SEAC Advisory Committee.

SEAC duties as an advisory committee include, but are not limited to:

  • Advising D-38 of unmet needs in the education of children with disabilities.
  • Providing advice to improve programs and services for students with disabilities.
  • Advising the school district in developing and implementing improvement strategies in an array of areas that relate to the coordination of services for children with disabilities.

SEAC is open to anyone who has an interest in the accountability of Special Education matters in D-38 and the state. Everyone who is in attendance at each meeting is able to participate in important committee work, which will ultimately provide advice and recommendations to improve services for students with disabilities.

At the November meeting, everyone separated into committees to review a list of suggested task force committees and goals developed in the October SEAC meeting. The following were the established committees and proposed goals/tasks to focus on accomplishing during the 2007-08 school year.

Committee 

Subcommittee Goal(s)

Center-Based Program Advisory Committee

(1)     Determining entrance and exit criteria for all district center-based programs, to ensure that a child is not placed in a program simply because of their DX, but because their support level is such that they are better served at a center-based program 

(2)     Provide communication and information about each district’s center-based programs.

(3)     Define the program philosophies; the research behind the interventions used in the program, and the program goals.

Special Education Staffing Allocation Committee

Identify the needs of special education staffing in the District, and conduct a program survey with comparable schools, to see what other schools are doing effectively where we can gain some insight.

SEAC OutReach

Public Relations Committee

Promote an increase in district staff and parent involvement with SEAC, so that we have a broad range of people working collaboratively to help promote SEAC’s goals. The more people we have involved, the greater we can actively represent kids with special needs and impact decisions made on their behalf to enhance the quality of educational services to all students.

Legislative Committee

(1)     Educate D-38 on legislative issues

(2)     Briefing SEAC what legislation is under consideration

(3)     Educate parents and provide systemized access to information as to their child’s rights and current laws.

Needs and Program Identification Committee

Develop and administer parent and staff “Needs and Program” review surveys, with the intent to identify unmet needs and the effectiveness of existing programs.

Transition Committee

Create a “Transition” survey that can be distributed to IEP and 504 students, parents, and their teachers to determine how successful transitions have been for them in the district, and what recommended changes or solutions they would make, if transitions have not been effective.

Look at year-to-year transitions, school-to-school transitions and school-to-life transitions.

Committee will identify the need and then propose a process to be adopted.

State Reps. Amy Stephens and Bob Gardner gave a preview of the upcoming legislative session, particularly with respect to issues affecting education, health care, and the developmentally disabled community.

Some topics discussed included the P20 Council and the P20 Data Committee. P20 was tasked to address teacher training, high-risk youths, early childhood through K-12 and higher education, data and accountability.

House Bill 1270 orders a comprehensive review of the educational data systems of the state and local school districts. The review will look at data capacity, accessibility, inter-operability among systems for the exchange of data as well as quality of services.

Other bills being considered would address increasing state funding for services for people with development disabilities, specifically addressing The Resource Exchange’s (TRE) developmentally disabled "wait list" as well as new legislation that could possibly provide tax incentives to employers who hire people with disabilities.

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For more information on the state legislators’ presentations, contact either representative directly: Stephens (303) 866-2924 or Gardner (303) 866-2191.

The next meeting will not be on the second Wednesday of the month, as is customary, but on Dec. 19 accommodate a guest speaker from the Colorado Department of Education. It will be at 6:30 p.m. at 146 Jefferson St.

The guest speaker’s topic for the December meeting will be "IDEA 2004: New Law, New Expectations, What Do the Changes Mean for Students with Disabilities?" The state Education Department will share the changes in IDEA 2004 and the 2006 regulations. The presentation will focus on how parents can ensure their child is receiving an effective and appropriate education with individualized services and supports.

For more information about SEAC, contact any SEAC board member: Terri-Ann Snediker, 559-2994, Kim Rossbach, 330-3277, Chris Amenson, 487-9959, Ilanit Bennaim, 325-6979, Zina McDowell, 757-1490, or Nancy Tolbert, 757-1507.

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Pfoff picked to fill D-38 board vacancy

On Nov. 28, Lewis Palmer School District 38 announced that the Board of Education has appointed Mark Pfoff as its newest member. The board seat in Director District 4 was left vacant when no one ran for the position in the November election. Pfoff was among several applicants for the position who were screened and interviewed.

Pfoff has experience in computer engineering and management and is currently a Detective with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. He says his primary motivation in applying for the position is as a father of students in District 38 schools. He says he wants to help ensure students receive the best education possible in a safe and secure environment.

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Woodmoor Improvement Association Board, Nov. 26: Residents concerned proposed parking at Toboggan Hill

By Chris Pollard

An unusually large number of residents showed up at the Nov. 26 meeting of the Woodmoor Improvement Association Board of Directors to give comments on a proposal that had been received by a few of them, just the previous week, to add a second parking lot near the Toboggan Hill open space. There were a number of comments made about the fact that there was little or no notice received of the proposal and the timing of the mailing. Because it was sent during Thanksgiving week, many residents were out of town.

One resident who had talked to many of his neighbors said that they were almost unanimously agreed that the proposed site for the parking lot was wrong. The parking lot is at a point on the road that usually is icy and left unplowed by the county. Residents knew that this area had a history of vehicles sliding off the road. More parking there was opposed because they believed that many of the users came from areas well outside Woodmoor. It appeared that several large trees in this area had been marked, as if for cutting down, and many of those trees were quite large.

Another resident said that it was clearly established that this particular location was dangerous because it had been discussed in the past and "no parking" signs had been placed along the road. She also believed that many hundreds of outsiders came to use the hill.

Others were concerned about keeping the natural habitat and not having a large parking lot. They felt that it should not be provided as a resource for people outside the community. They were concerned that there were already too many people using the area and that kids used the present parking lot for drinking and for linking to open wireless Internet routers. Also, when it was being used for snow-related activities, kids would use car headlights to illuminate the area.

Gary Marner, WIA director of Open Space, said in response that he did not believe that any large trees had to be removed. Kevin Nielsen, chief of Public Safety, reminded everybody that the parking lot was intended as a way to get cars off Deer Creek Road. Keeping people off the road would minimize the problem of children getting out of cars into the path of moving traffic. After a brief discussion, the board acknowledged the complaints of insufficient notice and tabled the discussion until the next meeting on Dec. 17.

Mail thefts continue

Nielsen said there had been a few more reports of mail being stolen from the area around the golf course. He reminded residents about not leaving payments in their mailboxes and ensuring that delivered mail is promptly picked up. He asked that residents suspecting mail theft contact him for the name of the local postal inspector handling the problem. There also had been a couple of reports of Christmas lights being broken.

Nielsen said that he had recently done a survey of the roads in Woodmoor and while there was noticeable improvement from work that the El Paso County roads department had carried out, the pavement management system appeared to be broken.

Monument Academy issue

Steve Malfatti, director of Covenants, said that there was still no agreement with the Monument Academy over the covenants that had been placed on the site of their new school by the County Commissioners. Board members agreed to ask the WIA attorney to further pursue the matter.

There also appeared to be no progress on the matter of access to Highway 105. This would mean that if no access were granted, the school could only be reached from Knollwood Boulevard Apparently, the Academy had reached the next step on the project and had applied to the Colorado Division of Oil and Public Safety for approval on Nov. 8.

Other matters

Marner announced that the bid of $990 from Munson excavating for improvements to Greg’s Pond had been accepted. The contractor would now restore the top of the dam there and put in proper rip-rap for the overflow.

Marner said he had also received a bid from the same contractor for work on Wild Duck Pond. With run-off from higher up the hill along the side of Highway 105, the pond had become heavily silted and overgrown with cattails. It now needed to be dredged and the cattails removed. He said he would work with the executive director to inform local residents.

Bill Walters, vice president, suggested that if the cost of a project is over a certain amount, there should be multiple bids. So far there had been only one bid on this project, which would cost over $10,000. He suggested that this be an agenda item for the next meeting.

Given that this was at least the second time that this pond would have to be dredged, he asked if anything could be done to prevent the run-off carrying silt into the pond. Amy Smith added that there should be a better process for new projects and that they should be reviewed at the board level before quotes were sought.

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November Weather Wrap

By Bill Kappel

As expected, we experienced a little bit of everything this November, with 70-degree highs and sunny skies to sub-zero lows and a little bit of snow. Overall, the month was warmer and drier than normal.

November started off much like October ended, with sunny skies and mild temperatures. Highs took a little bit of a rollercoaster ride, and a couple of dry cold fronts pushed through the area. We hit the 60s and low 70s on the 1st, 3rd, and 4th, with 40s on the 2nd and 5th. No precipitation fell during the period; in fact barely a cloud showed during these first five days. But don’t get too discouraged, as November is usually our driest month of the year.

Mild and dry has been the story so far this month. In fact, we haven’t seen any measurable precipitation since Oct. 21! Although it would be nice to get some moisture, November has been the driest month of the year over the past six years. Therefore, to get no moisture when the average is less than an inch for the month anyway is not as significant as, say, a very dry August where only an inch accumulates when the average is 4 inches. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to enjoy some of the sunshine and mild temperatures because, of course, this won’t last forever.

One of the reasons we’ve seen such a dry, mild pattern is the fact that a La Nina pattern has set up. When this occurs, the storm track doesn’t favor Colorado, and that has been the case so far this season. For more information on La Nina, check out the following Web site: www.elnino.noaa.gov/lanina.html.

There was more of the same for the second week of November, with mild temperatures and dry conditions. There was one brief exception as a cold front moved through late on the 13th. This brought much colder temperatures, but once again this front was moisture-starved. We did get a dusting of snow during the morning of the 14th, and highs stayed around freezing that afternoon. Then mild and dry conditions moved back in to finish out the week, with highs reaching back into the 50s and 60s from the 15th through the 19th.

Finally, after a month of dry and mild weather, winter made a return appearance to the region, with snow, wind, and cold arriving on the 21st. The first in a series of cold fronts moved through during the late morning of the 20th, and the atmosphere soon became saturated. By evening clouds had filled in, and as another surge of cold air infiltrated the area, snow began to fall just before midnight on the 20th. Unfortunately, this system was moisture-starved, but most of us picked up 2-3 inches of snow by the afternoon of the 21st.

The biggest shock was the cold, as highs struggled to reach the mid-20s on the afternoon of the 21st. Another reinforcing shot of cold moved in late on Thanksgiving, making for a cold, blustery Black Friday. Highs on the busiest shopping day of the year stayed in the upper teens and low 20s. The next morning was the coldest of the season so far, as lows dipped below zero at many locations. However, plenty of sunshine returned that day as highs finally broke back above the freezing mark.

The rest of the month saw an active weather pattern, with a cold front followed by a warm-up about every other day. Each of these quick-moving systems brought gusty winds and colder temperatures, but little in the way of snow.

A look ahead

December can be a cold month around the Tri-Lakes region, with highs often staying below freezing. The month is generally dry, however, with several light, fluffy snowfalls common. Gusty winds are also a common nuisance during the month. In December 2004, we had a well-timed snow just before Christmas, which left behind clear skies and a beautiful snow-covered landscape for Christmas Day, while December 2005 started off cold and snowy and ended up mild and dry. Last year, two blizzards moved through, one right before Christmas and one right after. The official monthly forecast for December 2007, produced by the Climate Prediction Center (http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/30day/), is calling for above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation. For a complete look at monthly climate summaries for the Tri-Lakes region, please visit http://users.adelphia.net/~billkappel/ClimateSummary.htm.

November 2007 Weather Statistics

Average High 50.0° (+2.7°)
Average Low 21.5° (+2.4°)
Highest Temperature 71° on the 4th
Lowest Temperature -2° on the 24th
Monthly Precipitation 0.20" (-.44")
Monthly Snowfall 4.5" (-5.8")
Season to Date Snow 16.6" (-8.9") (the snow season is from July 1 to June 30)
Season to Date Precip. 9.26" (-.82") (the precip season is from July 1 to June 30)

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

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

Bill Kappel is a meteorologist and Tri-Lakes resident.

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Letters to Our Community

A reluctant letter of resignation

Since 1966, when we moved into our new home on Roller Coaster Road, we have tried to pick up the litter along the road from Stella to Old North Gate Road. Roller Coaster, which was unpaved in 1966, has become a busy thoroughfare, and our kids and grandkids have insisted because of our increasing age and increasing lack of agility that we confine our walks to less-traveled roads. Therefore, we have to resign our voluntary jobs as bag-man and bag-lady of Roller Coaster Road.

We hope maybe more youthful and agile neighbors will take up the job. It’s been a pleasure to enjoy the honks and occasional thanks of the motorists along the route. We resign with regret.

Jess and Audrey Gatlin

Does D-38 oppose Farmers Market?

I feel I need to clarify some information regarding the Monument Farmers Market.

First, after repeated calls to Hal Garland, director of transportation at Lewis-Palmer School District 38, his office called me to come for an appointment on Oct. 11, to sign a contract. After arriving, I was told there would be no contract and that the district may want to put park benches in that area.

I then proceeded to contact Ray Blanch, D-38 superintendent. He stated he did not feel he needed to meet with me and that he supported Mr. Garland’s decision, further stating that it was also possible that Grace Best would be having modular units in that place.

My question is this, why was I given two entirely different explanations, and why is D-38 seemingly so against the Monument Farmers Market?

The Farmers Market is an "institution" in Monument. Scores of folks plan their summer Saturdays coming to the market to purchase veggies, have breakfast or lunch, and visit with friends.

As owner and operator of the market, I want to keep it in Old Town Monument, as I too am a summer resident of Monument and love the people of my community. I am hoping to find a place to do just that, and to keep this fun experience going in Old Town.

Diana Dickson

Woodmoor has a hill of a problem

I was just at the Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA) meeting. I was there to protest yet another proposed parking lot on Toboggan Hill—right in my back yard. I already am the neighbor calling 911 when the kids break a leg, crack heads, and bang into trees, since my home backs up to the runs on the hill and I can hear them screaming in pain. The last parking lot put in did nothing to allay the congestion and hazards—they increased! So, that was not a solution to the issue. By the way, only Woodmoor property owners and their guests are allowed on Woodmoor Common areas.

In snow season, huge SUVs let out a circus full of kids onto the hill-front street of Deer Creek Road and adjoining streets, parking illegally along the road there, and the kids tumble about with their snow stuff all along the road (not on the meadow where it would be safe to wait for their own adults). The road all along the area is a blind, curved road that is iced over most days we have snow, and with both sides of the road loaded with huge cars, there is no room to drive, much less have a lane each way, and children out in the road to boot.

Some days, people make fires on the hill to stay warm while they sled or take a sledding break. Helloooo. Talk about hazards: kids, ice, and open fires at the side of the ice-packed road!

Woodmoor has covenants against improvements on the common areas for very important reasons, and that keeps the traffic down in most places, since: easy come, easy congestion, easy hazard. If WIA puts in a parking lot for one common area, it should put the same amount in for each common area—not! What we really need is a path to walk on—one that is off Deer Creek Road, from the middle school to the hill and back to that lot or something. Or a path from the Woodmoor Barn WIA lot! That would keep the roads and the humans safe. Then again, towing cars away might work even better to sink the point in.

Janet Sellers

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Between The Covers at the Covered Treasures Bookstore: The perfect gift

By the staff at Covered Treasures

Books are a welcome gift for everyone on your list. Following are some suggestions for children and adults of various ages and interests:

Playing for Pizza
By John Grisham (Doubleday), $21.95

In Grisham’s new novel, a one-time American football star signed to Italy’s Parma Panthers becomes entangled in a series of comic misadventures on and off the field. Rick Dockery, who provided the worst single performance in the history of the NFL, has never been to Europe, doesn’t understand a word of Italian and is in for some surprises.

Boom! Voices of the Sixties
By Tom Brokaw (Random House), $28.95

The voices and stories of famous people and ordinary citizens come together as Brokaw takes us on a memorable journey through a remarkable time, exploring how individual lives and the national mindset were affected by a controversial era and showing how the aftershocks of the Sixties continue to resound in our lives today. In the reflections of a generation, Brokaw also discovers lessons that might guide us in the years ahead.

Hearts of Horses
Molly Gloss (Houghton Mifflin Co.), $24.95

Set in remote Oregon ranching country during the Great War, this story of a determined young woman with a gift for gentling wild horses has an elegant sweetness and a pitch-perfect sense of Western life.

100 Days in Photographs: Pivotal Events that Changed the World
National Geographic, $35

To create this stunning collection, Getty Images and National Geographic identified 100 days that represent defining moments of the past 150 years. Featuring scores of rare and unpublished photographs uncovered during its creation, this remarkable book provides new perspective on key events and personalities of the past.

iSpeak Ultimate Audio + Visual Phrasebook for your iPod
McGraw Hill, $12.95

These CDs and booklets are the perfect gift for anyone learning a foreign language or wanting to pick up some phrases for that next vacation trip. They turn an iPod into a portable translator with 1,500 phrases to hear as well as to see written out on the screen. Each package contains an MP3 audio disc and 64-page booklet. French, Spanish and Italian are available, and other languages can be ordered.

World Atlas for Young Explorers
National Geographic, $24.95

This updated edition of the award-winning classic features current population and economic information for the country as a whole, as well as for each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and the territories. It includes charts, Web sites, a glossary, and an index. This full-color book is recommended for 4th through 7th grades.

Scott of the Antarctic
By David Crane (Vintage Books), $16.95

Historian David Crane, with full access to the explorer’s papers, diaries, and expedition records, gives us an illuminating portrait of Robert Falcon Scott. He offers new information on Scott’s remarkable scientific achievements and the challenges of his tumultuous private life. The compelling portrait that emerges is one of a complicated hero.

Knowledge Cards
Pomegranate Communications Inc., $9.95

These decks of question-and-answer cards provide a fun way to review facts on various topics. Titles include "Bugs," "Xtreme Sports," The 50 United States," "The EcoQuiz Deck," and "Great Lines from Great Movies." A good way to pass the time while traveling!

From the staff of Covered Treasures, we wish you a happy, healthy holiday season, and, until next year, happy reading!

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Palmer Lake Historical Society, Nov. 18: Chuggin’ through the Divide

Click here or on the photo to zoom in and view additional photos

Below: Nineteenth Century technology visits Twenty-First Century Tri-Lakes as the 63 year old Union Pacific Iron Horse 844 travels southbound past Ben Lomand Mountain in Palmer Lake. The steam locomotive made a 237 mile round trip from Denver, Saturday, August 25, carrying passengers to the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. Photo by Mike Wicklund.

Click on the photo to zoom in and view additional photos

By Diane Sawatzki

Gen. William Palmer brought the railroads to Colorado in 1869, and train buffs have been enjoying them ever since. At the Nov. 15 Palmer Lake Historical Society meeting, Town Councilman Gary Coleman shared train lore and showed a movie of the "Northern Steamer 844." This vintage steam train chugged through Palmer Lake last Aug. 25 on the State Fair Express from Denver to Pueblo and back. Hundreds of onlookers waved. Four fire trucks showed up. Coleman cut a huge "844" into his lawn.

The Northern pulled two "tender" cars, (each carrying 6,200 gallons of fuel oil and 23,500 gallons of water) and 15 passenger cars (four of which were dome cars), and consumed about 160 gallons of water per mile. The film Coleman showed, made by Douglas County TV-8, featured the 844 on its 1997 journey around Colorado, on the last trip a train made over Tennessee Pass.

A special event is coming Dec. 12

Join us Dec. 12 for "Colorado Songs and Pictures," a fund-raiser for the Palmer Lake Historical Society in cooperation with the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts at 304 Highway 105 in Palmer Lake. Performing together for the first time, Chuck Pyle will give a mini-concert from his new CD "Higher Ground" and John Fielder will present a slide show with commentary. In a unique combination of music and nature photographs, this holiday event features two of the state’s most accomplished artists.

A virtuoso guitarist with Will Rogers-like wit, Pyle’s 40-year career has garnered him many fans, the moniker "Zen Cowboy," and an invitation to play at Bill Gates’ home. Fielder hikes and skis 500 miles a year in his quest for outstanding photographs, was inducted into the Colorado Film Academy of Fame, and helped get the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Bill passed. Pyle’s CDs and Fielder’s books will be sold, and one of each will be raffled off.

The Tri-Lakes Center doors will open at 6:30 p.m. with a cash bar and appetizers donated by local restaurants, and the performance will begin at 7. Tickets are $10 for members of TLCA or PLHS and $12 for non-members, and can be purchased at TLCA (481-0475) or at the door.

Membership in the society is $10 per year for individuals and $15 for families, and family membership comes with two mugs (plhist@aol.com. or 559-0837). The society maintains the free Lucretia Vaile Museum in the basement beneath the Palmer Lake library across from the Town Hall. Winter hours are Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. www.ci.palmer-lake.co.us/plhs/ 

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Bird Watch on the Palmer Divide: Blue Jay

Click here or on the drawing to zoom in

Below: Drawing by Elizabeth Hacker of a Blue Jay

Click on the drawing to zoom in

By Elizabeth Hacker

One of the more colorful perching birds that frequent the Palmer Divide is the blue jay, a member of the corvid family of birds that includes crows, magpies, and ravens. Randy and I always stop to admire this vivid cobalt blue bird with a crested head.

I was surprised to learn that its feathers are not really blue but look blue because of the way the structure of the feather refracts or distorts light. You can crush a feather and the blue color will disappear. Each summer adult blue jays go through a complete change of feathers, referred to as molting, and it is easy to find feathers lying on the ground.

At 12 inches in length and with a wing span of 17 inches, the blue jay is one of the larger songbirds. Males and females are similar in size and color, which is unusual in the bird world. While the blue jay is a common species, much about its behavior is still unknown. I was always told that no matter how beautiful, the blue jay was not to be admired because it was notorious for robbing the nests of more venerable birds like the robin. Recent ornithological studies have found that less than 1 percent of blue jays tested had egg or bird remains in their stomachs, so this claim may be exaggerated.

The blue jay is an omnivore which means it eats just about anything, including small vertebrates. It forages through the countryside and urban areas, always on the lookout for food, and it caches or hides more food that it can possibly eat. It is thought that by hiding all the food, it protects its territory from other birds by eliminating the food source.

Its diet changes with the seasons. Like many nesting birds, in the summer the blue jay consumes a greater percentage of protein for strength and endurance necessary to keep up with the rigors of rearing its young. Approximately 75 percent of its diet is from vegetable matter, which includes fruit, nuts, and seeds. It gleans insects from trees and shrubs and on the ground and uses "ant extract" to preen its feathers. Some think that a jay may use ant extract for the same reason a human uses a topical ointment to reduce itching from a bug bite.

The blue jay is known for its noisy and aggressive behavior, but when nesting it becomes secretive, elusive, and quiet. But if the nest is approached, the pair becomes aggressive and boldly drives away the intruder. Courtship begins in March, when the male and female pass food to each other. It may take a few weeks to select a mate, but once a pair bond is established the pair remains together for life. The average life span of a blue jay in the wild is 7 to 10 years.

The pair selects a secluded nesting site, preferably in a cedar or evergreen tree. Together the pair will build a cup-shaped nest of twigs and line the inside with soft grasses. The female lays 4 to 6 greenish-blue eggs with brown spots and she alone sits on the nest. Eggs are incubated for about 17 days while the male continually supplies the female with food. When approaching the nest, the jay takes a circuitous route through thickets of vines and shrubs and when at the nest it communicates with a "whisper" song to keep the location of the nest hidden from predators. The chicks fledge the nest 20 days after they hatch but stay with the adults to forage for food until late in the fall.

It is curious why some blue jays migrate and others remain behind. It is thought that a few birds stay behind to guard territory while the majority leaves to follow the food source.

The verbal dynamics of a blue jay are legendary and very entertaining. It will squawk and chirp to let you know when you get too close but it also mimics the sound of a bell or a predator like a red tail hawk or a cat. It may do this for its own amusement or to alert other birds that a predator is in the area.

As aggressive as it is, the blue jay is easy prey for avian predators like hawks and owls because it is large and a slow flier when compared to smaller fast-moving birds like finches and sparrows. Often at night, an owl will silently pluck an unsuspecting blue jay from its nest. Most corvids have a great disdain for owls, so during the day when an owl is spotted roosting in a tree, jays and crows will join together to aggressively drive it off. Randy and I observed an owl being attacked this summer and were amazed how long it took before the owl left the tree.

Unlike the raven, the blue jay has not been observed using tools in the wild, however, in captivity it will use strips of newspaper on the bottom of its cage to draw in food pellets that fall out of its reach.

Sadly, the West Nile virus has had a serious impact on the health of blue jays across the county, and there has been a noticeable decline in their numbers. Communities and individuals must immediately take action to control the mosquito population or this virus will continue to reduce many numbers of birds.

Elizabeth Hacker is an artist in the Tri-Lakes area. Her bird prints are available at the gift shop in the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake, with proceeds benefiting environmental causes. E-mail her at OCN with your questions and bird finds.

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Art Matters: Art that warms our community

By Janet Sellers

Baby, it’s cold outside! Did the cold snap have to dip so far down the thermometer after those comfy, warm fall days? Well, let’s try not to let it keep us home. ‘Tis the season to be celebrating, making merry, and warming our hearts with friends and family.

Whether we believe in Santa or not, many people feel a combination of joyful anticipation and holiday crunch this time of year. Not to worry: we have many creative celebrations with solutions here in our neighborhood. December is the start of some very fine art activities, with special events every week and weekend. Or, we can stir up our own fun and bring friends and family out to stroll the scenic art-ways and shops. Many places will have warm, convivial treats throughout the holiday season, too. Just drive into town and hop into the galleries for an afternoon of visual delight. Go ahead, let the art tempt you into a blissful shopping adventure. Each season has its temptations, each month its celebration. This month it’s about gifts.

The winter art season is in full swing in Tri-Lakes. Starting with a number of new shows and gallery changes, the news and updates have been continuous. Artists’ shows are changing at the galleries, highlighting a new crop of art works. Our rich and creative community of artists and venues is revealing itself more and more each day. The gifting season is upon us, and our local artists are up to the task of providing a satisfying art experience for local art lovers and visitors.

Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts Annual Artist Member Show & Silent Art Auction

At the opening reception on Nov. 16, the show featured the member artists. The judge for the event was artist and co-owner of Second Street Art Market, Douglas Buchman. The show runs through Jan. 19, as does the silent auction. The aesthetic range of the artists and artworks in the show is remarkable: watercolors, oils, acrylics, photography, jewelry, glass works, ceramics, woodworking, stained glass, and sculpture in all manner of sizes are on exhibit. While it is not a "holiday" show per se, the timely offering of the artworks makes for some fun gift-giving this year.

Some of the artwork has been selling out fast, literally as it went onto the wall. Elizabeth Hacker’s chickadee painting sold hours before the show opened. Forewarned is forearmed, so I recommend you art lovers buy what you love when you see it, for it may be sold right out from under your gaze. The TLCA Member show is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. and is located at 304 Highway 105 in Palmer Lake.

Tri-Lakes Center fundraiser for the historical society

Colorado Songs and Pictures with John Fielder and Chuck Pyle is a unique holiday event featuring Fielder, Colorado’s premier nature photographer, and his photos plus songs by Chuck Pyle on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at TLCA. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7-9 p.m. show. This holiday concert is a fundraiser for the Palmer Lake Historical Society in cooperation with TLCA. Tickets are $10 for members and $12 for nonmembers. Tickets may be purchased at TLCA or by phone at 719-481-0475, The Wine Seller at 719-488-3019, and Covered Treasures Bookstore at 719-481-2665. Fielder’s Books and Pyle’s CDs will be available for purchase, and a book and CD will be raffled. Appetizers will be offered by local restaurants, and a cash bar will be open.

Art Banner Christmas Event

Thirty artists are submitting original acrylic-painted Christmas banners to line the streets of historic downtown Monument. Chosen for their long-standing ties to the community, the artists represent a large cross-section of styles and techniques. Guidebooks with the artists’ names and biographies will be available at local retailers. The banners will remain on display through the holiday season.

Banners along Second Street and Front Street in historic downtown Monument have been used for advertising local community events such as Art Hop in the past, but this is the first time they have been used for a strictly artistic purpose.

Buchman came up with the idea. "The Monument area is such a draw for artists, myself included. We are rich in the number of artists who have chosen to call Monument home. What better way to celebrate that richness than to share our talents for the world to see, particularly during the holiday season." Visit the Historic Monument Merchants Association Web site for further details: www.monumentmerchants.com.

Grand Re-Opening of the Winter Helmich Gallery

Locals and guests joined in the celebration of the new partnership of the Winter Helmich Fine Art & Jewelry Gallery on Nov. 29 at 47 Third St. (Third and Front Streets) in Monument., Resident artists featured include Gary Arthur, Claudette Bedingfield, Ruth Burink, Michael Gault, Robert Gray, Lance Green, Wayne Nickle, Stephen Weaver, and fine jewelry designs by Susan Helmich.

The Gallery Center festive holiday party series: "Girl’s Night Out" and a "Men’s Pizza & Beer Night." The ladies’ night out, complete with complimentary champagne, is set for Dec. 5. On Dec. 19, the men’s beer and pizza night will also serve as a creative evening for the guys to easily relate to the right gift, because they can see the actual wish card, not to mention get in on the free gift wrapping!

Janet Lee Sellers is an American painter and sculptor living in Woodmoor. She writes about art and creativity in periodicals and art catalogs, and online.

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Special Events and Notices

By Judy Barnes, Editor Emeritus

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

LPHS band fundraiser sale, Dec. 1

Lewis-Palmer High School Band Department presents "Treasures: New and Used," a fundraising event, Dec. 1, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., in the Lewis-Palmer High School commons area, 1300 Higby Rd., Monument. Admission is free. Come hear music from the band and enjoy home-baked goodies as you shop for treasures. For more information, call Deborah, 648-2855.

Christmas Cookie Walk Sale, Dec. 1

Shop for gifts and treats Dec. 1, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., at Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church, 20256 Hunting Downs Way, Monument. The event features crafts for kids, small business vendors, coffee and hot chocolate, and home-baked cookies! Proceeds benefit Tri-Lakes Cares and other local charities.

Historic Monument’s Small Town Christmas, Dec. 1

Join in the festivities in historic downtown Monument Dec. 1, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special activities include holiday crafts in Town Hall, 166 Second St., 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; miniature donkeys at Monumental Miniatures, 274 Washington St., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus in the Chapala Building at Second Street and Washington, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.; hayrides and carolers at the Gallery Center (Second Street Art Market, 366 Second St.); Christmas Karaoke at High Country Home and Garden, 243 Washington St., 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; reindeer at Front Street Square throughout the day; Christmas tree lighting at Limbach Park at 4 p.m. Galleries and shops throughout town will be offering holiday treats and special sales. For more information visit www.monumentmerchants.com.

An Evening of Mozart with the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs, Dec. 1

Below: Pianist Michael Baron

Pianist Michael Baron will perform with the Chamber Orchestra of the Springs with Thomas Wilson, music director, Dec. 1, 7 p.m., at Forestgate Presbyterian Church. This is the second concert of a four-concert classical music series presented by the Rocky Mountain Music Alliance. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. The public is also invited to a free Master Class given by the concert artists at the church at 10 a.m. The church is located at 970 Northgate Rd., one mile east of I-25 Exit 156. For more information visit www.rmmaonline.org, e-mail TheRMMA@aol.com, or phone Pam, 484-0192.

Learn more about veterans’ benefits, Dec. 3

American Legion Tri-Lakes Post 9-11 is hosting a veterans’ benefits informational program and get-together Dec. 3, 6:30 p.m., at The Place, 13990 Gleneagle Dr., presented by Michael Stone, American Legion Service Officer for Colorado. Come and meet other veterans and learn more about the benefits you have earned by serving your country. Don’t miss this one-time opportunity to be informed or ask questions. For more information, contact Jackie Homa, 332-4841.

Yule Log Pot Luck Dinner, Dec. 4

Join with family and friends Dec. 4, 6 p.m., at Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Circle. Please bring a potluck dish to share and place settings for your family. For more information, call 481-2953.

Fire station "boot drive" for Tri-Lakes Cares, Dec. 7 & 8

Help fill the boots for Tri-Lakes Cares. Two Tri-Lakes fire stations are holding a boot drive for needy local families. Station 1, 18650 W. Highway 105 is collecting on Dec. 7, 3 to 5 p.m. Station 3, 1855 Woodmoor Dr., is collecting on Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, phone 484-0911.

Holiday Ham Drive for Tri-Lakes Cares

Schwan’s is teaming up with Tri-Lakes Cares to make the holidays a little brighter for families in need with a Holiday Ham Drive. Each $28 ham is 4½ pounds and will serve six to eight people. For every four hams donated, Schwan’s will donate one ham. See the ad on page 11, watch for the fliers at local businesses, or phone 964-2327 for more information.

Reindeer coming your way at Monument and Palmer Lake Libraries, Dec. 8

Meet live reindeer! Bring an apple to feed these friendly creatures, and a camera for pictures. Make your own reindeer craft as well. The reindeer will be at Monument Branch Library, 1706 Lake Woodmoor Dr. (488-2370), Dec. 8, 2:30 to 3:30 p.m., and at Palmer Lake Branch Library, 66 Lower Glenway (481-2587), Dec. 15, 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Christmas handbell concert, Dec. 8

Everyone is invited to a free community concert and sing-along Dec. 8, 7 p.m., at Monument Community Presbyterian Church, 238 Third St., Monument. Come and enjoy the sounds of the season featuring multiple handbell choirs, organ/piano/keyboard, brass, percussion, and flute. For more information, phone Betty Jenik, 488-3853.

Palmer Lake Yule Log Hunt, Dec. 9

This popular event is one of Palmer Lake’s finest traditions. Join the trek up the mountain in search of the Yule Log Dec. 9, 1 p.m. Hunt participants should arrive between 11 a.m. and noon. The winner will ride the Yule Log back to town and get the first cup of wassail. Those not participating in the hunt can stay warm indoors at Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent, and enjoy Christmas carols and stories told by storyteller John Stansfield at 1 p.m. For more information, phone the town office, 481-2953.

Colorado Songs and Pictures with John Fielder and Chuck Pyle¸ Dec. 12

Come enjoy this unique holiday event featuring John Fielder and his photos plus songs by Chuck Pyle on Dec. 12 at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA), 304 Colorado Highway 105 in Palmer Lake. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for the 7 to 9 p.m. show. Books and CDs will be available for purchase and a book and CD will be raffled. Refreshments include appetizers by local restaurants and a cash bar. This holiday concert is a fundraiser for the Palmer Lake Historical Society in cooperation with the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts. Tickets are $10 members and $12 non-members, and may be purchased at TLCA at 481-0475, The Wine Seller at 488-3019 and Covered Treasures Bookstore at 481-2665.

Travis Book and the Colorado Playboys concert, Dec. 16

Travis Book and the Colorado Playboys will perform bluegrass and acoustic music at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) Dec. 16. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for a 7 p.m. show. Tickets are $12 TLCA members, $15 non-members, and are available at The Wine Seller (481-3019) in Monument and TLCA (481-0475) in Palmer Lake. Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts is located at 304 Highway 105 in Palmer Lake. For more information, visit the Website at www.trilakesarts.org.

Christmas concerts, Dec. 21 & 22

The Tri-Lakes Music Association, an all-volunteer choir and orchestra with over 100 members, will perform a Christmas cantata, "The Joy of Christmas," at Lewis-Palmer High School Dec. 21, 7 p.m.; and Dec. 22, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Admission is free. A free-will offering will be collected for two LPHS band/vocal scholarships. The remainder will be donated to Tri-Lakes Cares, a non-profit organization. The high school is located at 1300 Higby Rd., Monument. For more information, contact Bob Manning at 481-3883 or e-mail rwgmanning@comcast.net or visit the Web site, www.trilakesmusic.org.

Art show and silent auction

Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) is holding its Annual Artist Member Show and Silent Art Auction through Jan. 19. Douglas Buchman, artist and owner of the Second Street Art Market, will judge the exhibit for first-, second-, and third-place awards in addition to a People’s Choice Award. The TLCA is open Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. and is located at 304 Highway 105 in Palmer Lake. For more information, phone 481-0475 or visit the Website at www.trilakesarts.org.

Adult Reading Program

Book an adventure. Read eight books in eight weeks and win fabulous prizes, including free food, coffee mugs, and gas cards. Pick up a prize after reading your first four books. Read four more books to get more prizes. Read eight books by Dec. 17 to enter the grand prize drawing. Participants must be 18 years old or older and have a PPLD library card. Register online or at any PPLD library. For more information, visit ppld.org now through Dec. 17 or call the Palmer Lake Branch, 481-2587, or the Monument Branch, 488-2370.

Haunted Mines donates $62,353 to the Mining Museum

Haunted Mines partners Steve Roscio and Tim Wittwer presented a check for $62,353 to Western Museum of Mining and Industry Director, David Carroll, on Nov. 19 at the museum. Half of the donated amount will be reinvested next year in the Halloween attraction located on the museum’s property. The remaining $31,177 will go toward preserving and presenting the history and heritage of mining in the West. In addition to this contribution, the non-profit Haunted Mines organization donated a 1,000 square foot building valued at over $75,000 to the museum for future use.

Mining Musem seeks volunteers

The Western Museum of Mining and Industry is seeking volunteers to lead tours and programs, help with special events, maintain the grounds, and staff the front desk. The museum appreciates the people who give so much of their time and energy to help enhance visitor enjoyment, educational experiences, and overall appreciation of the museum’s activities, programs, and facilities. The museum is located at 225 North Gate Blvd., just off I-25 at the Gleneagle exit, 156A, across from the north entrance to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Call 488-0880 for more information.

Volunteer reading tutors needed!

Share your love of reading. Tutor an adult once a week for two hours to improve their reading, writing, comprehension and/or English language skills. No teaching experience is required. Free training will be provided Jan. 3, 10, 17, 24, and Feb. 7 5:30-9 p.m. at Penrose Library in Colorado Springs. Call 531-6333, x2223 for information.

Free Tutoring in Reading

Children’s Literacy Center offers free one-to-one tutoring for children reading below grade level. Children are matched with trained volunteer tutors and meet twice a week for an hour each session. Find out if your child is eligible to enroll by contacting Pamela Polke at 471-8672 or send an e-mail to Pamela@peakreader.org for more information.

County launches new on-line mapping service

El Paso County recently launched a new Geographic Information System (GIS) Web site that provides mapping and data download services. The site allows the public to conduct parcel and precinct searches, download GIS data, view a zoning map book, and receive information on custom mapping and analysis products. For more information visit the new Web page at www.elpasoco.com/gis/. The Web page can also be accessed by going to www.elpasoco.com and clicking on the link under Popular Pages or Online Services.

Senior Safety Program

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

Local AARP Thanksgiving

The Black Forest AARP Chapter 1100 celebrated Thanksgiving at the Nov. 14 Chapter meeting. A catered dinner of turkey, stuffing, ham, potatoes and gravy was supplemented with a delicious array of salads, vegetables, and desserts furnished by chapter members. There was an abundance of food and all had a great time.

A special program was given by Newt Heisley, the designer of the famous POW * MIA (Prisoners of War and Missing in Action) flag, and Josie Rivera. They described the development and design of the flag and the origin of the words on it "You are Not Forgotten." Organizations wishing to schedule Heisley on their programs should contact Rivera at 633-4858.

The meeting concluded with the Black Forest chapter donating $200 and 44 pounds of food to Black Forest Cares, a food bank for the needy in the Black Forest area.

Visitors or individuals interested in joining the Black Forest AARP chapter should call 495-2176 or 596-6787 for meeting dates and time.

Below: Josie Rivera and Newt Heisley at the Nov. 14 Black Forest AARP meeting. Photo provided by the AARP chapter.

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