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Vol. 9 No. 4 - April 4, 2009


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Monument Library, March 14

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Below: Jennifer Terkildsen and daughter Lauren work on their easel project at the Monument Library March 14. Click here for more information on library activities. Photo by Harriet Halbig.

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Credit union slammed with phishing scheme

By Susan Hindman

If you received an e-mail, text message, or automated call on your landline or cell phone purporting to be from Air Academy Federal Credit Union (AAFCU), hopefully you are aware by now that it is a scam.

Credit union customers and non-customers have been receiving a variety of messages. Automated cell phone calls reported that the user’s debit card had been frozen and could be reactivated by calling a certain number and divulging personal information. Others reported a customer survey being conducted, with a reward of $100 given at the end, provided account information is given in order to automatically deposit the money. Some messages directed people to specific Web sites. All variations have one goal: to get access to account numbers, Social Security numbers, and passwords.

"We’re telling consumers the best thing to do is don’t respond to these messages," said Karin Kovalovsky, vice president of marketing at AAFCU.

She said phishing scams like this have affected the credit union over the past few years, "but not to this extent." Calls to the credit union about the scam increased in early March—as many as 700 in one day—prompting AAFCU to put up messages on its Web site and its phone line.

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Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, March 18: Authority may conduct survey on water issues

By John Heiser

At the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority’s (PPRWA) regular monthly meeting March 18, pollster Floyd Ciruli of Ciruli Associates discussed public opinion polls he has conducted regarding water projects. He said that he could conduct a survey of 300 to 500 residents within the authority for about $15,000 to $25,000. The purpose of the survey would be to gauge public opinion on the seriousness of the water supply situation and willingness to accept higher rates and fees to address it.

Dana Duthie, general manager of the Donala District, said his district is thinking of holding an election in May 2010 focused on the issue and would be interested in the survey results.

Ciruli summarized two Colorado telephone surveys held in 2003 and 2008.

The 2003 survey was conducted for the Parker Water and Sanitation District and covered 750 registered frequent voters. Some results of that survey:

  • About 98 percent of the respondents said protecting the area’s groundwater and extending the life of the aquifers is a top priority or an important priority.
  • 53 to 57 percent of the respondents said they anticipated water shortages in Douglas County within the next five years (i.e., by 2008).
  • 64 percent of the district residents and 48 percent of county residents outside the district said the cost of water is high or very high.
  • 78 percent or more of respondents supported limitations on development based on water supply, building more reservoirs, encouraging water conservation, securing renewable water, limiting golf course watering, implementing water reuse, and limiting residential watering.
  • 29 percent of district residents and 38 percent of county residents outside the district supported raising the cost of water.
  • 88 percent of district residents and 73 percent of county residents outside the district supported the idea of building the Rueter-Hess Reservoir.
  • Regarding funding for Rueter-Hess, 57 percent of district residents supported the idea of the district issuing $50 million in bonds to be repaid from water rate revenue and tap fees, with a possible property tax mill levy of up to 17 mills to be used only in the event that water rate revenue and tap fees proved insufficient to repay the bond issue.

The 2008 survey was conducted for a consortium of 15 water providers proposing the Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP). The NISP project would store runoff from the Poudre River by building two new reservoirs, Glade Reservoir in Larimer County and Galeton Reservoir in Weld County, and associated pipelines and pump stations. The survey covered 300 voters in Weld County and 500 voters in Larimer County. Some results of that survey:

  • 70 percent of Larimer County respondents and 73 percent of Weld County respondents said the area is in drought.
  • Two-thirds of respondents in each area predicted a water shortage within 10 years and supported creating more water storage capacity.
  • 63 percent of Larimer County respondents and 81 percent of Weld County respondents expressed support for NISP.
  • 92 percent or more of respondents agreed that maintaining agricultural open space and the farm economy is important to their area.
  • 86 percent or more of respondents agreed that agriculture is important for northern Colorado, and the buying of local water and drying up of farmland by cities should be avoided.
  • 72 percent or more of respondents agreed that a good aspect of the NISP project is the regional cooperation among cities, urban areas, and agricultural communities.
  • 93 percent or more of respondents agreed that the Northern Water Conservancy District should work with the other water providers, ditch companies, and farmers to protect the supply and quality of water in the area.

Some points Ciruli noted while discussing the surveys and results:

  • Longer-term residents were more likely than new arrivals to view water supply as a serious issue.
  • Many people see a link between water storage projects and slowing the depletion of the aquifers.
  • Many residents see a link between property values and water supply problems.
  • There is widespread support for conservation measures and implementation of reuse systems.
  • News reports about the Southern Delivery System (SDS) have heightened public awareness of water issues. (There is more information on the SDS project at www.sdswater.org.) 
  • The most successful programs have linked survey questions to big projects such as Rueter-Hess.

Duthie suggested conducting a survey this summer in northern El Paso County so districts could plan for presenting ballot questions in 2010. He suggested that separate surveys be conducted later for the Cherokee Metropolitan District and the City of Fountain.

Monument Mayor Byron Glenn said the town is planning an April 20 town hall meeting on water. He said, "We need to educate the public prior to the survey."

Duthie noted that Donala and the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District have already each held several community meetings on water issues.

Update on legislation

Dick Brown, lobbyist for the authority, reported that Colorado Senate Bill (SB) 09-141 appears headed for approval. The bill would create a special district for the preservation and improvement of the Fountain Creek Watershed. The district, modeled on the Denver Urban Drainage District, would cover all of Pueblo and El Paso Counties. A number of changes were incorporated that addressed many of the concerns voiced at the February PPRWA meeting. As of March 27, Brown said that the bill had passed the House with amendments and had been returned to the Senate for re-adoption. He said, "It is likely the Senate will accept the House version and send the bill to the governor for signature."

SB 09-80, sponsored by state Sen. Jim Isgar, would authorize the collection of precipitation from up to 3,000 square feet of a roof of a building that is primarily used as a residence and is not connected to a domestic water system serving more than three single-family dwellings, provided the water collected is used for fire protection; watering of poultry, domestic animals, and livestock on farms and ranches; irrigation of not over one acre of gardens and lawns; or ordinary household purposes.

If the bill passes, those who want to collect rooftop rainwater and snowmelt will be required to file an application and pay a fee. As of March 27, Brown reported that the bill, which had passed the Senate with amendments, also had passed the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee with amendments. The bill also passed the House second reading with amendments and is pending a third reading in the House.

House Bill (HB) 09-1129, sponsored by state Rep. Marsha Looper, would, if passed, direct the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) to select the sponsors of up to 10 new residential or mixed-use developments that would conduct individual pilot projects over the next 10 years to collect precipitation from rooftops and impermeable surfaces for non-potable uses.

The purpose of the pilot projects include quantifying the amount of precipitation that accrues to the natural stream system from surface and ground water return flows; evaluating a variety of precipitation harvesting system designs; measuring precipitation capture efficiencies; and quantifying the amount of precipitation that must be augmented to prevent injury to decreed water rights. As of March 27, Brown reported that the bill had passed the House and the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and is pending in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Other matters

  • Duthie expressed concern that Pueblo County’s terms and conditions for permitting the SDS pipeline still include the statement: "Pueblo County asserts that it possesses the legal authority to regulate and control such additional water and water rights transportation through the SDS project."
  • Rick Fendel, the PPRWA’s attorney, said he is continuing negotiations with the Arkansas River Valley Super Ditch group that, if agreement can be reached, could supply water for the pipeline that has been proposed to bring water to northern El Paso County. Fendel said Pueblo County’s terms and conditions on SDS could affect those negotiations.
  • Rocky Wiley of Tetra Tech-RTW Engineering reported that HB 09-1017, which would include funding for water conservation programs through the CWCB, is working its way through the Legislature. He said he has been told, "Don’t count on it." The grant money being sought by the authority to develop a coordinated conservation plan would be covered by that legislation.
  • As of the end of February, the authority had a total fund balance of $143,800 and was spending about $20,000 per month, with the bulk of that paying for the services of the general manager, attorney, and lobbyist.

Following the public meeting, the PPRWA went into an executive session to discuss negotiations and receive legal advice.

**********

The next regular meeting of the PPRWA will be held April 15 at 8:30 a.m. at the Cherokee Metropolitan District office, 6250 Palmer Park Blvd. in Colorado Springs. The meetings are normally held on the third Wednesday of each month.

The PPRWA Web site is www.pprwa.com

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Palmer Lake Town Council workshop, March 5: Forum focuses on police budget concerns

By Jim Kendrick

The Palmer Lake Town Council held the first of a series of community forums at its workshop held on March 5 at 7 p.m. There was a lengthy discussion on privacy matters regarding the resignation of former Palmer Lake Police Chief Gene Ferrin.

At the conclusion of the community forum, the council gave preliminary approval to two new signs, which were formally approved as consent items on March 12. After the workshop was adjourned, the council immediately reconvened as the Palmer Lake Liquor Licensing Authority and unanimously approved the survey boundary for a new liquor license application for the Pinecrest Event Center.

Police Trustee Dan Reynolds did not attend the workshop.

Staff communication issues

Mayor John Cressman noted that the council had recently held an off-site workshop on how to improve communication between department heads and the council. The department heads will now hold biweekly meetings to discuss ideas, issues, budgets, future projects, and plans as well as to reduce the amount of information passed between department heads through Town Clerk Della Gray to reduce her workload.

Cressman reviewed a letter regarding $71,906 in overruns that was written by Trustee Jan Bristol after a discussion of the 2008 Police Department budget problems during the off-site workshop. Some of the causes Cressman and Bristol noted were:

  • $4,925 for the death of former Police Chief Dan Gilliana and associated expenses, though a separate portion of these expenses came from the police supplemental fund and did not affect the overage
  • $16,578 for major repairs of three police vehicles
  • $11,853 for accrued vacation and benefits paid to two officers who left the department
  • $22,030 for overtime and part-time payments including officer training expenses
  • $3,113 for increased fuel costs
  • $13,407 for legal expenses and unemployment benefits related to the termination of "records clerk" Cindy Beers

Background on police spending controversy

Gilliana was unanimously appointed to the chief position on Dec.14, 2006, to replace Dale Smith, who had retired in June after serving 31 years as chief. Gilliana had served as:

  • a full-time officer in other Colorado police departments since 1983
  • a part-time police officer in Palmer Lake since 1999
  • the very popular chairman of the Criminal Justice Department of Colorado Technical University
  • a member of the advisory board for the Pikes Peak Community College criminal justice curriculum and related training programs
  • a charter member and chairman of the Monument Police Advisory Committee for five years

(See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v7n1.htm#pltc for details.)

Gilliana committed suicide Jan. 4, 2008. Palmer Lake Sgt. Nikki Tezak was appointed to act as interim chief and was assisted by Monument Police Chief Jacob Shirk. Shirk was also a member of the screening committee that selected Ferrin to take over as the next chief.

The council unanimously appointed Ferrin on May 8, 2008. He was sworn in on his first day of work, May 15. Trustee Dan Reynolds was appointed police trustee. ( www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n7.htm#pltc )

At the May 8 regular council meeting, previous Police Trustee Richard Allen resigned his position as mayor pro-tem. Cressman reassigned Allen to become the community and economic development trustee and thanked him for his work as police trustee and helping select Ferrin. ( www.ci.palmer-lake.co.us/docs/min050808.shtml

Allen resigned from the council on May 23. (see www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n7.htm#pltc)

Bristol was unanimously selected to fill the trustee vacancy at a special council meeting on July 2. She was sworn in to the council on July 10. ( www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n8.htm#pltc )

On Jan. 27, 2009, OCN was notified that Cressman had placed Palmer Lake Police Chief Gene Ferrin on administrative leave pending further action. Cressman emphasized that no criminal activity was involved in this matter. Cressman appointed Monument Police Chief Shirk to act as interim police chief.

On Feb. 12, the Town Council unanimously accepted Ferrin’s resignation after meeting with him in an executive session on personnel matters at the end of the regular council meeting. The council agreed to provide Ferrin $11,839 in severance. No additional details were made available due to a privacy condition in the council’s settlement agreement with Ferrin.

Allen wrote a letter to the editor of the Tri-Lakes Tribune that was published on the paper’s Web site on Feb. 19. ( http://coloradocommunitynewspapers.com/articles/2009/02/19/tri_lakes_tribune/opinion/25_mo_letter_allen.txt ) Some of the issues Allen wrote about in that letter were:

  • The "residents of Palmer Lake deserve an explanation as to why this resignation was submitted."
  • The "approved police budget for 2008 was $348,939."
  • The "approved police budget for the year was exhausted on or about May 16, 2008."
  • "Huge unbudgeted personnel expenses were allowed, unforeseen and unbudgeted vehicle expenses surfaced, and two major unavoidable and unbudgeted personnel expenses took place during 2008."
  • Ferrin’s "own department failed miserably to help get him spun up and ready to take charge."
  • "Were safeguards implemented in a responsible and timely manner when budget irregularities were identified?"
  • "How is an over-expenditure of $141,000 in personnel costs over a six month period justified?"
  • "When overseeing the police budget was Gene Ferrin culpable in mismanagement? You bet."
  • "The timely identification of potential budget problems and to recommend immediate corrective action is one of the basic responsibilities of the town clerk/treasurer. Who must ensure those duties are carried out in a professional and responsible manner? The mayor."
  • "Some town officials must be held accountable for this unfortunate incident. Our town records should be completely audited. Not just a routine annual audit but an in-depth forensic accountability."

Ferrin wrote a reply in a letter to the editor that was published on the Tri-Lakes Tribune Web site on March 2.

( http://coloradocommunitynewspapers.com/articles/2009/03/02/tri_lakes_tribune/opinion/11_mo_letter_ferrin.txt ) Some of the issues Ferrin wrote about in that letter were:

  • "Mr. Allen’s broad brush approach to discussing the situation left out some rather important details."
  • "What he does not mention in his article is that I was sworn in as the chief of police on May 15, 2008; apparently there was no funding available for the police department when I started my service."
  • Why "would the Town of Palmer Lake hire a new police chief when there was no funding to support that action?"
  • "In the absence of a trained chief, this responsibility fell on him as a result of the unfortunate loss of the former Chief of Police."
  • "Mr. Allen was directly and mostly responsible for the police department affairs, which included expenditures, training, and oversight. Naturally, it should be expected that Mr. Allen had first hand knowledge of the police department expenditures and the rate at which the funds were being depleted."
  • "In one of his first actions as the newly elected mayor of Palmer Lake, Mayor Cressman removed Mr. Allen as the police department trustee."
  • "During the first week on the job as chief of police … I was informed at this meeting that 75 percent of the police department budget had been spent in the first quarter of 2008 due to large expenses before I was hired. Cressman stated in that meeting that the loss of the chief was a loss to the entire town, and all town budgets would have to share in making the sacrifice. Consequently, the mayor also stated that all town budgets would have to be adjusted toward the end of the year."
  • "It is important for the readers to understand what my charter was as the new chief of police. Just prior to Mr. Allen’s departure as a trustee, he shared with me an evaluation that he had requested from an outside agency that identified the problems I was inheriting."
  • "I … took the evaluation and comments from Mr. Allen as a mandate as to what I was expected to do and went to work to accomplish the many tasks outlined in the report."
  • "I thought the town council would support fully my effort to correct police department deficiencies. To my disappointment, Mr. Allen evidently never shared the evaluation report with the town council before he resigned."
  • "I assumed that all town council members were aware of the preexisting deficit, so I diligently worked the problems that I identified early on, as well as those stated in the report."
  • "The largest portion of the money spent for the 7½ months that I was chief in 2008 went for providing 24 hour police coverage to the citizens of Palmer Lake. This included providing training required for each officer and the department’s records technician to maintain their certifications, or to bring Palmer Lake up to federally mandated standards."
  • "It also included fixing broken down police vehicles that had not been properly maintained prior to my coming to Palmer Lake. A new police 4-wheel drive vehicle had been ordered prior to my hiring. After many delays were made in the delivery of that vehicle, I found a vehicle that would better serve the needs of the community at a savings to the taxpayers."
  • "Two officers left for much better paying police jobs within El Paso County. Those officers had to be paid for the unused vacation time and benefits they had earned."
  • "A large portion of the $7,000 overtime paid to an employee came from a commitment made by the previous administration to place one officer on a regional tactical team. This regional tactical team serves the citizens of Palmer Lake if that sort of highly specialized capability is needed. Many hours of training were required and the overtime commitment had to be fulfilled. I believe that Mr. Allen had the oversight for the Police Department when this commitment was made."
  • "The largest portion of the $8,000 in legal fees came from defending legal action from an employee against the Town of Palmer Lake, and this was previous to my tenure. I question why this came out of the police budget since the action was against Palmer Lake. Allen called this ‘outrageous.’ It happened, however, on his watch."
  • "Mr. Allen makes the plea that the citizens of Palmer Lake should be presented with the facts — I couldn’t agree more. The great folks of Palmer Lake deserve transparency and accountability from their town leadership."

Police budget issues discussed during forum

In the community forum, Allen said he would like to make a statement about his "detailed involvement" and "oversight" of the department as the former police trustee. Some of the statements Allen made were:

  • Ferrin is "a man of pride and he is an honorable person, and I have a great deal of respect for Gene Ferrin."
  • "I would never have authorized expenditures that would have abundantly exceeded the police budget without the board’s approval and some kind of a plan to compensate for that overexpenditure."
  • "However many large expenditures were made during that period, some with my knowledge and some without. And that’s a heck of a way to try to manage a budget, having somebody unbeknownst to you making claims against that budget."
  • "At no time did I give Gene Ferrin a moratorium or directions to do things that would have busted the budget to my knowledge."
  • Allen gave the Town Council and Ferrin the inspection report on the Police Department that was prepared by the Monument Police Department after the death of Gilliana.
  • Allen said that he told Ferrin that the Monument report was "not a mandate" as Ferrin thought, only a "challenge."
  • Allen inquired about some police-related payments made in 2008. Some of the specifics noted by Town Clerk Gray were:
  • The total amount paid to Kaiser-Permanente for health insurance, which includes the substantial co-payments made by town staff through payroll deductions, was $8,651 per month.
  • The staff attempted to stop orders by police for uniform items that had not been signed by the police chief and town clerk, but "that was completely ignored." Cressman and Trustee Nikki McDonald concurred with Gray.
  • Some of the unauthorized purchases were for new uniforms for Gilliana’s funeral and two Kevlar vests without the use of available grant funding.
  • Gray has no control as town clerk or treasurer over what other department heads do.

Unlike the Town of Monument, Palmer Lake has no town manager that is responsible for town staff operations. Instead, each of the department heads is overseen by a separate unpaid trustee who gives a status report for each of the departments at council meetings.

Allen concurred regarding the unforeseen expenses for the "uniforms for Dan Gilliana’s funeral" as well as other "unforeseen and unbudgeted events for Dan Gilliana’s death, his funeral, and his survivors’ benefits and so forth and the separation of the police records clerk, we incurred some extraordinary expenses. And at that time I believed that they weren’t a Police Department problem but a Palmer Lake problem."

Gray replied that she had notified the board of the numerous incidents of police overspending when she became aware of them in July and advised the trustees that they would have to formally transfer money from the savings and roads budgets to support the Police Department. The council passed an ordinance later in 2008 to transfer the funds needed from these other department budgets. Gray again noted that the reason the expenditures are listed under the Police Department budget is because the Police Department made the excessive expenditures.

Allen responded, "I told you that there was no way that the police budget could absorb those extraordinary costs, and that’s when you might have gone to the departments and said we would have to prorate this."

Gray added, "We had that discussion with each and every trustee, and we determined where that money could come from, but your expenditure was still a police-related expenditure and it had to be reflected in the police budget."

Allen stated that the overspending reflected very negatively on the police budget and that the overspending should have been charged to the general fund.

Gray reiterated that these police overruns have to be shown in "your budget," which is one part of the general fund, like roads, fire, and administration. Cressman added, "It’s still the same pot of money." McDonald said, "You don’t budget for losing two officers and having to pay them almost $12,000."

Gray also noted that she initially projected that the excessive police expenditures could be as high as $90,000, and the council appropriated an additional $90,000 to the general fund to have a buffer for other resignations or similar unforeseen expenditures that might occur before the end of 2008. State law prohibits spending in a fund in excess of that fund’s appropriation, and the ordinance had to be passed to avoid illegal spending. Cressman concurred. Allen said, "I understand that."

Cressman and McDonald said the board was promptly informed of police overspending every month but still had to authorize the major repairs of the three police vehicles despite the previous overspending.

Allen asked what the council thought about having a detailed forensic office. McDonald replied, "You want to pay for it, Richard? They’re very expensive." County resident and Palmer Lake business owner Jeff Hulsmann said, "I’ll pay for it, Nikki." Gray added, "It’s in the neighborhood of $10,000" and "I have no problem having with someone coming in and doing that."

Roads Trustee Bryan Jack said the town is already required to have an audit every year. "If a forensic audit would count for our mandated audit" for the year and "if we have to add a few dollars on top of that for a more extensive forensic audit, I would be in full support of that and I think it’s something we need to look into."

Jack also noted that Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection Department "had a more detailed audit a few years ago that pointed out lots of issues" and suggested "processes that could be put in place so that in the future this doesn’t happen." Cressman added, "As a refinement rather than an indictment?" Gray noted that she still has no authority or control over the other town supervisors unless they choose on their own to cooperate with her to stop unauthorized purchases and that it is the board’s responsibility to control the other supervisors.

When Allen said he had another question on personnel issues, Cressman said he had already taken half an hour. There is a published five-minute limit for each citizen’s comments on town agendas.

Cressman and McDonald said the council could not discuss personnel issues or Ferrin’s severance, but Allen asked, "What’s with the $11,800 severance package?" Allen then said, "I understand it’s a personnel issue and why you can’t discuss it. That’s a huge chunk of money." Cressman replied, "Unfortunately, we’re not at liberty to explain the details, like I’d love to do. I’m as frustrated as you are." Allen replied, "I trust you people. I trust you folks." He added, "When it comes to an $11,000 severance package for something you can’t talk about, I would trust your judgment, but I have quite frankly a little bit of a problem."

McDonald asked Allen, "Do you think Chief Shirk, who was on the board that interviewed him, would have stepped in and taken over the way he has if there was something really bad or egregious?" Allen replied that Shirk "would step in under any circumstances if the Town of Palmer Lake asked him for assistance." Cressman added, "We are so grateful for that relationship. We really are. We hold him in the highest regard."

Allen continued for a while longer discussing his views on transparency and openness on the matter of personnel dismissals.

A woman who did not identify herself asked if the town could eliminate its police force and all its associated costs because it would not be needed if Monument would station one officer in Palmer Lake. Jack replied that he had been researching examples of small adjacent towns in Colorado that had merged their police departments to determine which model could best save costs. "We don’t have a high crime rate. We don’t need all these officers and all these cars."

Gilliana had initiated 24-hour coverage in Palmer Lake early in 2007. ( www.ourcommunitynews.org/v7n3.htm#pltc )

Another woman who did not identify herself said that people who ask for the best of each type of town service do not attend town meetings and "don’t know what they’re talking about." She asked that the town provide alternatives and costs for each level of service in the next survey.

Jack replied that the council would be having Saturday forums on March 28 and May 2 at Town Hall and that he intends to solicit survey questions from other citizens at both events.

Cressman noted that Shirk’s service as interim chief are "all gratis" and the town needs to determine what Monument would have to charge for a long-term agreement. "They’re not going to do that for free."

There were several citizens’ suggestions on how to fire people and avoid severance payments. Bristol said the council was considering lengthening the probationary period and that even if employees signed an agreement that said they would not be awarded a severance under any circumstances, it would not eliminate the potential for costly lawsuits and judgments. Several trustees agreed with Bristol’s statement that the board had acted in the best interest of the town.

Cressman said, "Let’s move on. It’s going to come down to the same thing. We can’t say anything."

Jack explained how progressive disciplinary actions take several months to escalate to a termination, far more than a three-month probationary period. McDonald noted that Allen resigned right after Ferrin was hired.

Hulsmann speculated about Ferrin’s departure. Some of the things Hulsmann said were:

  • "When you fire somebody for cause you are not obligated to give them anything."
  • "Obviously, there’s some lawyer stuff involved here where he’s threatened this and threatened that."
  • "Insurance companies often just settle … and that’s what it sure feels like you guys are doing."
  • "It’s a personnel issue and you’ve decided that you’re going to keep it to yourself."
  • "I just don’t believe in secret government, no matter what."
  • "This is our money, not your money."
  • "We do elect you to be fiduciaries and responsible to the citizens."

However, Ferrin submitted a letter of resignation on Feb. 12 and was not fired. Hulsmann is not a Palmer Lake resident and cannot vote in a council election.

Cressman replied, "That’s hard to respond to, Jeff, because of the fact that if we divulged everything, the town would have great exposure in a personnel issue. You understand that."

e added, "Unfortunately we can’t tell you the details" and "You can say that it’s secret government, but those are harsh words and we’re trying to protect the town."

Hulsmann persisted. Some of the additional things he said were:

  • "When I fire an employee for cause, I’m going to stick to my guns. Period."
  • "I’ll be goddamned if I’m going to give him a severance."

Cressman replied, "But in business, sometimes it costs a lot to prove yourself right … and you drag you and everybody through all these depositions and all this crap and you come out in the end and you win, but you’ve paid the lawyers a whole ton."

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Palmer Lake Town Council, March 12: Town proceeding with audit to evaluate policies

Click here or on the photo to zoom in

Below: (L to R) Palmer Lake Mayor John Cressman presents Bob Miner with a plaque demonstrating the town’s appreciation for Miner’s efforts in guiding the town through the Fountain Creek Watershed process during the past nine years. Photo by David Futey.

Click on the photo to zoom in

By David Futey

At the Palmer Lake Town Council meeting March 12, Mayor John Cressman said there had been a discussion at the council’s workshop meeting March 5 of an audit regarding Police Department spending in 2008. Cressman stated that the town will proceed with an audit, but it will not be a forensic audit. In his view, "forensic audit" implies that there was possible wrongdoing, and the mayor expressed that there was none.

An in-depth audit on policies and procedures will be performed to assist council members and town departments with reviewing bookkeeping practices and related processes. The town is consulting with other municipalities and CPAs in order to determine the best way to get the desired results. The cost of the in-depth audit must be kept within the available budget.

Mayor Cressman also stated that he was "excited" about increased transparency between town government and the community and is looking forward to the possible outcomes from upcoming community-wide meetings. He thanked the council members for their efforts.

Town Clerk Della Gray confirmed that the next community forum meeting will be May 2 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. at Town Hall. The council held a community forum on March 28 and also held a meeting on April 2, after its scheduled workshop, to receive public input regarding the loan to upgrade the water filtration plant.

Trustees’ reports

Cressman recognized the efforts of Palmer Lake resident Bob Miner in representing the town’s interest as a participant for the last nine years in the Fountain Creek Watershed (FCW) process. Cressman presented a plaque to Miner from the Town of Palmer Lake. (See photo) Miner stated that his participation started when he was on the board of supervisors for the county. He also mentioned that there were still a number of challenges awaiting the next representative as there are "lots of 900 pound gorillas in the association and someone will need to stand up to keep this part of the county recognized" in the formation of a new FCW conservation district.

Trustee Jan Bristol provided an overview of recent Parks and Recreation and Economic Development activities. Bristol stated that she and Trustee Nikki McDonald had met with operators of "face-fronting" Palmer Lake businesses along Highway 105 to determine their concerns. They heard concerns about signage, and those will be brought up to the Planning Commission. Bristol and McDonald are investigating the possibility of having a "Welcome to Palmer Lake" sign erected near Pinz Bowling Alley. McDonald said business owners felt that "people pass their businesses thinking they are still in Monument" and not realizing they are in Palmer Lake.

Palmer Lake citizen Susan Miner noted that the council and Monument previously had discussed a new entrance. In those discussions, it was suggested that costs could be shared between the towns since both would benefit from having a sign with respective welcomes to each community.

Bristol and McDonald visited a travel kiosk in Larkspur and are thinking about that concept as a possible use for the historic town jail building. Gray noted that further discussion is required on the use of the jail before an alternative use could be designated.

Columbines have been ordered for the town’s annual Columbine Festival, which will be held on Saturday, June 13. The search for Easter eggs and related planning is taking place for the annual Easter Egg Hunt to be held on Saturday, April 11. Gray is assisting with each of these events.

Trustee Gary Coleman stated that the ambulance service agreement with Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District is ready for final signatures. The agreement has been approved but not finalized as of March 11. Coleman, once again, reminded citizens to clearly post their house numbers so they are visible from the street.

Fire Chief and Police Trustee Dan Reynolds announced that the Easter Pancake Breakfast will be held at 7 a.m. on Easter Sunday, April 12, at the Town Hall.

Trustee Bryan Jack stated that fencing had been moved on Pie Corner and trees removed in the right of way as part of the Safe Route to School project. The application process for a Community Development Block Grant has been initiated, and the town is requesting $138,000 while offering a 10 percent in-kind match. If received, the funding is intended for construction of a sidewalk with handicap ramps from the parking lot in the town’s center to Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts on the east side of Highway 105.

Jack also noted that the slope of Old Carriage Road is being stabilized after a severe washout last summer. Rocks, 12 inches or larger, are being used and grouted. Jack contacted El Paso County about the Share Back program after he learned that Colorado Springs is getting a portion of the funding. If the town receives a portion of this funding, it will go into the roads supplemental fund. Jack indicated that about $15,000 to $17,000 has been received in the past.

Water Trustee Max Stafford attended the most recent Fountain Creek Watershed meeting. However, it did not have a quorum, so no official business occurred. The discussion scheduled for the meeting was to be on Colorado Senate Bill 141 and water treatment plants. At the time of the council meeting, the bill was in the Agriculture Committee and action was expected soon.

Stafford was considering looking at management of the town’s finite water resources. He noted from his annual report that outside uses of water accounted for 16 percent of use, amounting to 4.5 acre-feet per week in just five months of the year. During the summer, 9 acre-feet of water is used per week after July 4. Stafford stated that he is "not discussing water restrictions but wants citizens to think about their usage and water demand." He is seeking responsible use of water.

The town’s wells are on the edge of (the Denver) basin, and Stafford assured those in attendance that "We will be first to know when a shortage becomes a concern." Mayor Cressman stated that "Due to issues at the water facility with the filter (limiting capacity) and well recovery, we may not be able to serve that amount of water," referring to the amount of water used in the summer.

Stafford announced that a $10,000 grant was received for engineering of the water treatment plant. Gray is determining how the funding will be used after past expenses for engineering work are paid.

Prior to Police Trustee Reynolds report, Cressman thanked Monument Police Chief Jacob Shirk for acting as interim police chief of Palmer Lake. Shirk was in attendance at the council meeting.

Reynolds reported that the department received two Field Sobriety Tests for use as a quick alcohol use assessment. The department is pursuing a Law Enforcement Assistance Fund grant with the Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation. If received, the grant will provide the Palmer Lake Police Department with additional overtime funding to enhance evaluation and enforcement of possible DUI offenders by dedicating officers to that purpose.

Cressman, Reynolds, and Shirk are discussing an inter-governmental agreement so that there is an understanding of each others’ expectations and to limit any pitfalls. Gray and Reynolds will be meeting with Shirk to discuss the department’s budget.

Consent items: By unanimous decision, council approved signs for the Tri-Lakes Alliance Thrift Store and Creative Common Sense LLC. The sign requests were presented at the March 5 workshop.

Proclamation: Cressman read a proclamation designating the week of March 1-7 as Women in Construction Week. Though the designated week had passed by the time of the council meeting, the National Association of Women in Construction requested that it still be recorded at the council meeting.

Awake the Lake: Cressman and Stafford will be reviewing historic water rights documents to assist in determining if the town will be allowed to fill the lake from the reservoirs.

**********

The next regular council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on April 9 at Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent. Check the town’s Web site ( www.ci.palmer-lake.co.us/index.shtml ) or call 481-2953 to confirm that the meeting date has not changed.

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Monument Board of Trustees, March 16: Downtown Walgreens traffic flow options discussed

Click here or on the photo to zoom in

Below: (L to R) Store Manager Mike Frazier, of the Monument Marketplace Home Depot Store and Officer Kevin Swenson, of the Monument Police Department, partnered to create a training program on home security that was presented to Jackson Creek residents at the Creekside Middle School on Mar. 4, following two break-ins in the Homestead area. Assistant Store Manager Bret Powell and Supervisor Steve Kadera instruct in the new regularly scheduled clinics at the store. The program was so successful and generated so many notes of praise that Home Depot has made this a national training program. Photo provided by Mike Frazier.

Click on the photo to zoom in

By Jim Kendrick

On March 16, the Monument Board of Trustees reviewed additional options for traffic flow within the property of the new Walgreens store to be built on the west side of Highway 105 between Second and Third Streets. The board discussed new options for restriping the lanes on Second Street just west of the intersection with Highway 105 that would change traffic flows into and out of the alley that serves as the primary access to the Rocky Mountain Oil Change Center and Carwash.

Trustees Gail Drumm and Steve Samuels were absent from the meeting.

Mayor Byron Glenn also stated that he had reviewed the large volume of documents regarding ownership of water rights that were provided to the town by Triview Metropolitan District. He said it appears that the Phelans have clear ownership of the water under Jackson Creek that Triview contracted to purchase in 2002 but never paid for. The thick package of documents was handed to Town Attorney Gary Shupp to review in more detail.

Highway 105 Walgreens access discussion

The board approved the replat for the new Walgreens store with an added condition on Feb. 17. Director of Development Services Tom Kassawara will not administratively approve the site plan until thoroughly examining the right-of-way and legal agreement between the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and John Savage, owner of the carwash. Kassawara was to speak with CDOT on the issue of altering the right-in turn from westbound Second Street to the alley behind Savage’s building regarding adding a right turn lane or increasing the turn radius from 35 feet, which CDOT had recommended. CDOT owns the land between the carwash driveway and curb as well as the roadway between the intersection and the alley.

Kassawara invited Walgreens representatives to provide more information on this issue. Allison Kern, representative of the applicant/landholder, NLD Holdings IV LLC, and consultant traffic engineer Jeff Hodsdon of LSC Transportation Consultants Inc. gave a 75-minute PowerPoint presentation on traffic circulation within and around the Walgreens property. Some of the items raised during this discussion were:

Walgreens believes the new private road between the existing 7-Eleven building and the new Walgreens building is wide enough for two-way traffic as well as the westbound driveway for the drive-in prescription pickup window, as shown in the same design used at the Monument Ridge Walgreens on Baptist Road. Some trustees felt this private road should be one-way westbound between the two buildings.

Also, Walgreens has not provided a private or public easement to the 7-Eleven store for this street between the two buildings. The only private easement granted to Walgreens is south of the gas pumps and east to the common right-in, right-out access to Highway 105.

CDOT opposes a full-length right-turn lane being added to westbound Second Street between the Highway 105 intersection and the alley. CDOT also opposes a short right-turn lane because it would collect trash, debris, dust, and gravel from snowplows, while confusing motorists due to "non-standard" length, width, and shape. Savage said he also preferred the simpler 35-foot-radius curbs on both sides of the alley to make it more straightforward for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. However, most of the trustees preferred some form of right-turn lane for the alley no matter how small it had to be.

Hodsdon suggested that vehicles exiting the alley southbound should be forced to turn right onto westbound Second Street in order to make it safer for motorists turning left from the new eastbound Second Street left-turn lane to go north into the alley.

There was some discussion of installing flexible "candle sticks" to better show the separation of the new left-turn lane for the alley from the existing left-turn lane for northbound Highway 105, as well as to physically prevent left turns from the alley onto eastbound second street through these left turn lanes. Savage said the "candle sticks" would make snow removal unacceptably more difficult for Public Works crews. Director of Public Works Rich Landreth concurred with Savage, saying he opposed them.

Walgreens will add asphalt to widen eastbound Second Street as much as possible east of the guardrail that protects Preble’s mouse habitat in order to slightly lengthen the right-hand through lane. However, there is still no room available for adding a fourth eastbound lane dedicated to right turns onto the I-25 southbound on-ramp.

At the conclusion of this lengthy interchange of ideas and suggestions, Kassawara noted that this agenda item was only a discussion of issues. He added that he had heard the board members’ views and would take them into account during the staff’s administrative review of the Walgreen’s final site plan. The property is zoned C-1, rather than planned development, and there will be no Planning Commission or Board of Trustees hearings on the final Walgreens site plan.

Trustees’ comments

Trustee Tim Miller reported that he had attended a meeting held by Lewis-Palmer School District 38 on "educating the whole child," the first in a series. Miller said D-38 Superintendent Ray Blanch had noted that there are not enough opportunities for students to participate in volunteer activities. Miller asked the staff to determine which town projects might be suited for assistance from student volunteers.

Trustee Travis Easton reported on progress in improving traffic flow at the intersection of Higby Road and Jackson Creek Parkway, now that Struthers Road has been permanently closed between Higby and Baptist Road by expansion of the I-25 Baptist Road interchange. The county’s Department of Transportation has agreed to perform the new traffic signal design, and Monument’s Public Works Department will restripe the lanes for the intersection. It had not been determined which entity would obtain and install asphalt for an additional southbound lane on Jackson Creek Parkway on the northwest side of this intersection.

Mayor Byron Glenn reported on the recent meeting of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments. Colorado has received about $500 million in stimulus funds for roadway projects. The $40 million that was allocated to El Paso County will be spent entirely in Colorado Springs on the intersection of Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard. He noted that towns and small communities have a significant problem in paying consultants to develop engineering designs in a short time to compete for stimulus money that will be targeted toward "shovel ready" projects. (See article on page 17 regarding Monument Sanitation District’s stimulus grant application.)

Glenn said he had attended the first subcommittee meeting on March 9 regarding the town taking over operations of Triview Metropolitan District. Glenn said the other subcommittee members are Triview directors Robert Fisher and Steve Remington. They discussed the five components of the intergovernmental agreement that will define the new relationship between the two boards and staffs.

Background: Last year the Triview board decided to save money by having the Town of Monument staff perform its staff functions on a part-time basis. The transition was supposed to have been completed by March 31. The Triview board allocated only enough funding in the district’s 2009 budget to pay interim District Manager Ron Simpson and District Administrator Dale Hill for the first three months. The other three district employees were to become members of the town staff; one shifted to the town on Jan. 1. The contracts for the district’s attorney, Pete Susemihl, and the consultant building inspector also expire as of March 31.

The draft of the intergovernmental agreement (IGA) on combined operations is being prepared by attorney Jim Hunsaker of Grimshaw and Harring PC in Denver. Hunsaker is also the attorney for the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority and is very familiar with town and Triview utility issues.

However, there has been little progress to date on finalizing an IGA at a board-to-board level. The subcommittee approach was adopted to make it easier for representatives of the town and district to attend two meetings a month to make more progress drafting various aspects of the IGA.

Glenn said there were five main points to iron out in the IGA:

  • Triview wants town Treasurer Pamela Smith to take over the district’s daily finances as soon as possible and to meet with her to determine how much her work will cost Triview. She will spend about 20-30 percent of her time on the district.
  • Town Attorney Gary Shupp will take over legal responsibilities. All costs for legal matters will be sent to the Triview board, along with a description of work, and will then be paid for through the Triview budget. Former Triview attorney Susemihl will remain available to consult with Shupp during the transition.
  • The town’s Public Works Department already has been providing operators on a contract basis for the district’s water and wastewater operations for a few years. Public Works Director Rich Landreth will start developing a street maintenance plan for crack sealing and overlays and will also take over management of the contract with VDH, the company that provides landscaping and snow plowing services to Triview.
  • Director of Development Services Kassawara will take over engineering responsibilities and Town Inspector Greg Maggard will take over inspections.
  • Town Manager Cathy Green does not have time to serve as the Triview district manager as well. Glenn suggested that the town’s department heads provide monthly reports directly to the Triview board, with Green responsible only for reporting on administrative matters.

Glenn said the town staff will also notify the Triview Board of necessary state and federal permits that must be in place, including Stormwater Master Plans, Water Augmentation Plans, and the completion of the Preble’s Mouse Mitigation Plan. It will then be the responsibility of the Triview board to determine the means to accomplish the permitting tasks and keep them up to date.

Glenn said the Triview directors still have some misunderstandings about how the district will save money by being billed only for the time town staff—which will include the three Triview employees who are transferred—spends on district business. Glenn added that Green and Smith would meet with the Triview board and go over the assumptions used in compiling the town’s spreadsheet estimate on future costs.

Public comment

Steve Meyer of the Homestead Homeowners Association thanked Police Chief Jacob Shirk for his assistance in following a number of "unnerving break-ins" in the Jackson Creek neighborhood that had residents "running out to ADT and getting concealed carry permits." Meyer said Shirk had arranged a timely community meeting on March 4 at Creekside Middle School to "reassure citizens" with "very informative and very valuable presentations" from:

  • Monument Police Department detectives and officers
  • El Paso County Sheriff’s Office detectives
  • Home Depot representatives from the home security department

Shirk distributed copies of an e-mail from Mike Frazier, the store manager of the Monument Marketplace Home Depot, that thanked Officer Kevin Swenson for his help in coordinating the store’s presentation of a "security and safety clinic" at this community meeting. Frazier said the "support of our community and Officer Swenson" has convinced the executive vice president of Home Depot "that this will become a national clinic, across the country in all Home Depot stores."

Meyer is also the area’s representative to:

  • Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) Community Advisory Committee
  • Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority Citizen Advisory Committee
  • El Paso County Citizen Budget Oversight Committee
  • El Paso County Highway Advisory Commission

Meyer noted that the federal stimulus money that had been allocated to the intersection of Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard would free up previously committed PPACG money for that project. That money could go to lower priority projects such as the realignment/straightening of County Line Road from I-25 east to Furrow Road and widening and regrading of Hodgen Road from Highway 83 east past Black Forest Road. He added that PPACG revenues are relatively stable and have not dropped like those of Colorado Springs.

Meyer also discussed the large berm on the northeast intersection of Baptist Road and Roller Coaster Road that seriously blocks line-of-sight visibility at the eastbound stop sign. Drivers at this stop sign cannot see vehicles cresting the hill to the north, particularly when the vehicles are speeding. The berm creating this safety hazard lies under a corner of the barbed-wire fence on this private property, and the owner is reluctant to move it. He added that the committee would be looking at additional funding requests the next day, and he would try to get some leftover money allocated to that intersection.

Public Health Department overview

Kandi Buckland, the new public health director for El Paso County, introduced herself to the board and gave a 25-minute overview of her department’s numerous programs. She discussed how declines in direct county and grant funding and staffing since 2001 have affected county programs and coordination with other county volunteer health agencies. The department has become "reactionary rather than preventative" on numerous issues such as the prairie dog monitoring relating to plague and other disease, and West Nile virus prevention.

Buckland explained the 2009 budget reductions in the department and detailed services it has to reduce. She specifically addressed child care facility inspections, which should resume shortly with the supplemental funding recently obtained. She stated that food-related illnesses in El Paso County are the highest in the state and that food safety is one of the areas being targeted for increased attention.

Buckland described the department’s revised role in communicable diseases, vital records, and the Health Services Division, which includes the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Buckland then answered several questions from the trustees on issues of local concern. Shirk joined the discussion when it turned to the topics of bullying, teen suicide prevention, and meth labs.

Glenn said that "The bottom line is that people have to understand that services cost money" and "people need to start making serious choices about paying an extra $200 per year for a really good health department and streets." Buckland asked if she could come back "a couple times a year" to give the board an update "to let you know where we’re at, what’s happening, and what the issues are to keep you informed as well." Miller asked her to consider giving the same presentation to the D-20 and D-38 school boards as well.

For further information on any of these topics, see the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment Web site at www.elpasocountyhealth.org/pages/default.aspx

Two stormwater ordinances continued

The board unanimously continued an ordinance establishing new definitions for best management practices, inspection, and monitoring programs for stormwater discharge and erosion control measures for new developments. Annual inspections have been added to ensure that property owners maintain their detention ponds and pipes for erosion control after construction is completed, for the life of the development.

The new ordinance would give the town "the maximum capability of enforcing rules to inhibit excessive volumes of stormwater flow from leaving individual privately owned sites, whether residential or non-residential, vacant or improved." The ordinance also prevents "silt, pollutants, debris, and sediment from entering the public right-of-way and/or public storm sewers; and to prevent erosion" as required by National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) regulations. Erosion control plans are now called Stormwater Management Plans. The town has also adopted the Colorado Springs Drainage Control Manual Volume 2 for operations.

The board also unanimously continued a companion ordinance that would establish inspection and monitoring programs required by the town’s NPDES permit for its stormwater discharge and erosion control systems. This revised town code would conform to federal and state regulations and strengthen the language for post-construction inspections by Town Inspector Greg Maggard, including performance of best management practices for erosion control throughout the life of each town development and clarification of required control measures.

Kassawara thanked Maggard for all his help in researching and drafting these two new ordinances. Both ordinances would allow the town to seek reimbursement from developers in Monument’s municipal court for incomplete or faulty installations in cases where buildout takes longer than two years. The new installation and surety/warranty payment requirements would be included in site plan improvement agreements or subdivision improvement agreements.

The five-year discharge permits issued by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to the Tri-Lakes and Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facilities are also NPDES permits.

During public comment, Charlie Williams of the Colorado Springs Housing and Building Association asked for a continuation of these two ordinance hearings so that their constituents may have adequate time to review them and get their questions addressed by town staff. He said the association had not received notice of this hearing until recently and needed more time to solicit comments and concerns from members and their consultants, particularly on systems that have already been handed over to homeowners associations. He noted that there are some differences from Colorado Springs on the new requirement for the town staff to review storm water management plans and the minimum lot size for requiring a water quality feature.

Glenn agreed that all affected parties should have more time to review the new documents to see how the two ordinances had been amended. He asked Kassawara to add clarification on surety payments and refunds.

Trustee Tommie Plank asked if the town could tighten dust control regulations. Kassawara said that the county issues dust permits, but the town must enforce them. The town can react only by asking for watering of graded areas, and dust will always be a problem. The maximum area that can be graded under these new ordinances is 25 acres.

Separate motions to continue each hearing were unanimously approved.

New major fund created for water sales tax revenues

On Nov. 21, 2005, the board passed an emergency ordinance establishing a maximum expenditure for purchase, construction, and/or rehabilitation of a police department/government complex. The ordinance capped the amount of water sales tax that can be reallocated for the Police Department building to $2.5 million, but did not cap how much the town could spend on the facility using other sources of revenue. ( www.ourcommunitynews.org/v5n12.htm#bot1121 )

On Dec. 1, 2008, the board approved an ordinance to amend the 2005 emergency ordinance. The new ordinance increased the cap to $4.4 million and changed the period, distribution, and annual amount of water sales tax revenue to be used to pay for the building. The total amounts of water sales tax revenue allocated under this new eight-year plan are $1.751 million for the building and $3.721 million for water. ( www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n12.htm#bot1201 )

Smith summarized the views of the board and the staff on this ordinance and added financial details to those presented at the hearing on Nov. 17 in a letter to OCN. For details of the new policy on financing the building, see www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n12.htm#smith

The board unanimously approved the creation of a new major town fund for accounting for the revenue from the 1 percent water sales tax. Creation of the fund was recommended to the staff by the town’s auditor to better track how the revenue is spent on acquisition, storage, and delivery (ASD) of newly purchased water rights and paying off the cost of the new town hall/police department building. During the next eight years, 2009-16, 65 percent of the water sales tax revenue will be placed in the new 2A ASD Fund, and the other 35 percent will pay off the $4.4 million cost of the building.

Negotiations for new engineering consultant contracts approved

The board unanimously approved a resolution authorizing Kassawara to begin negotiations for new "on-call" consulting contracts with three engineering firms. He noted that requests for qualifications were sent to 10 local firms on Jan. 9. Seven statement-of-qualifications responses were received by Jan. 30. The staff determined that the three most qualified applicants are Matrix Design Group Inc., J3 Engineering Consultants, and Drexel Barrell & Co.

Third Street contract amended again

On March 2, the board approved a change order in the town’s contract with engineering consultant Nolte Associates revising the scope of work to be performed on Third Street improvements. After further consultations with Nolte, Kassawara suggested a new design with a new underground stormwater pipe that will carry flow from Third Street down Beacon Lite Road to Dirty Woman Creek instead of a new underground pipe under Front Street from Third Street to Limbach Park. The cost remains the same—$17,038.

Staff reports

Kassawara reported that eight new residential building permits had been issued in January and February. The new Town Hall/Police building is about 80 percent complete and $35,000 under budget. The staff hopes to obtain a certificate of occupancy on April 29.

Landreth and Green reported that the Second Street median by the railroad tracks needs to be extended and an agreement needs to be reached regarding Si Sibell’s private driveway on Second Street to complete the town’s "quiet zone" requirements for the Second Street railroad crossing.

Shirk noted that the second Citizen Police Academy was beginning on March 19, and it will run through May 15. Shirk had given a two-hour presentation on church security to a local congregation, with 81 people in attendance. The department made two arrests in the Children’s Choice burglary, which led to the solution of three car break-ins as well as confiscation of drug paraphernalia and a sawed-off shotgun, ending a "local two-person crime spree."

Green announced that there would be four main topics of discussion at the "open forum Q&A" meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 20 at Creekside Middle School:

  • Triview Metropolitan District
  • Monument home rule
  • Town water issues
  • Community accomplishments and moving ahead

The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 p.m.

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The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 6 at Town Hall, 166 Second St. Meetings are normally held at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Monday of the month. Information: 884-8017.

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Monument Planning Commission, March 9: Replat for Arbor Mountain senior facility approved

By Jim Kendrick

On March 9, the Monument Planning Commission unanimously approved a replat for the 4-acre Arbor Mountain Senior Living Facility lot in the Village Center at Woodmoor Development. The replat redesignated Tract A of Filing 3 in the planned development (PD) site plan for the Village Center at Woodmoor from open space to multi-family residential PD zoning.

The town donated this 4.07-acre lot for the construction of a 57-unit senior apartment building in exchange for a permanent agreement with Arbor Mountain LLC that the rent for 10 percent of the units would be lowered to a defined level that would be affordable for low-income senior citizens.

The commission also approved 11 new models and building elevations that developer Richmond American Homes would like to offer in the Trails End development on Old Denver Highway at Wagon Gap Trail.

Commissioners Kathy Spence, Tom Martin, and David Gwisdalla were absent.

Arbor Mountain replat

Principal Planner Karen Griffith noted that the replat request from Greg Wallace of TIGRE Inc., owner of Arbor Mountain LLC, did not change any of the property’s boundaries and met all 13 requirements in the town’s subdivision regulations as well as standards of the town’s comprehensive plan. The lot is located on the northeast edge of Village center, between Highway 105 and Gold Canyon Road.

Mountain View Electric Association (MVEA) had recently requested 20-foot perimeter easements on the east, south, and west edges of the lot. Griffith said the staff did not agree with the request because there is already a 20-foot easement for MVEA along the north edge of the original 2006 plat for Tract A. Also, MVEA had previously agreed, without comment, to the Arbor Mountain PD site plan that was approved by the Planning Commission on Feb. 11 and the Board of Trustees on March 2. There is extensive landscaping throughout the areas in that newly-approved PD site plan where MVEA had requested the additional easements. Griffith noted that MVEA said it would remove any landscaping that interferes with these three new easements.

The El Paso County Department of Transportation had requested 20 feet of additional right-of-way from the town on the north side of the lot for widening the eastbound lane of Highway 105. Griffith said that the staff did not support the county’s request because the affected land is in the existing MVEA easement that was previously platted in the northern boundary of the lot noted above. Also, the county had not stated that there was insufficient right-of-way for Highway 105 when the Arbor Mountain site plan was undergoing the town’s final approval process a few weeks before. Land from Filing 3 had already been donated to the county for widening Highway 105 when the Filing 3 site plan was approved in 2006.

The county has just completed widening of Highway 105 between Knollwood and Lake Woodmoor Drives. Griffith reported that there is vacant county land on the north side of Highway 105 west of Lake Woodmoor Drive "that could be dedicated for right-of-way if the land to the north is developed." Griffith also reported that there is no likely prospect of further "development that would trigger the need for more right-of-way or additional highway widening" in that corridor.

There are steep slopes on both sides of Highway 105 just east of the Lake Woodmoor Drive intersection that would make widening the existing two-lane roadway difficult.

Town Attorney Gary Shupp said the replat was a technical change that was necessary to make the designation of the property consistent with the newly approved use as a senior living facility.

There was no discussion about the rationale for the replat that would authorize the proposed multi-family apartment building and medical clinic for the residents.

However, Commissioner Chuck Baker, who owns and operates a surveying business, said there were errors and omissions of necessary technical details on the proposed replat document regarding permanent surveying monuments that would be needed to conduct accurate surveys of the property in the future.

Griffith and Shupp suggested that the surveying department of the town’s consultant engineering firm, Nolte Associates, review and correct the replat document prior to recordation at the county in accordance with the first of two conditions proposed by the staff.

Baker made a motion to deny approval of the replat, which died for lack of a second.

The replat was approved 3-1, with Baker opposed, with two conditions that the staff had recommended:

  1. Technical corrections shall be made and approved by staff.
  2. The Arbor Mountain Preliminary/Final PD Site Plan shall be approved and satisfy all conditions of approval prior to recordation of the Village Center at Woodmoor Filing 3 Replat 1.

The next steps for the Arbor Mountain owners and partners are to:

  • Satisfy all nine of the conditions of approval placed on the PD site plan by the Board of Trustees, and add a satisfactory landscaping irrigation plan.
  • Buy water rights for the facility (Arbor Mountain LLC owns no water rights at this time and none are attached to the town’s donation of Tract A).
  • Secure financing.
  • Gain approval of all construction plans from the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.

(See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v9n3.htm#monpc for the list of conditions previously placed on this project.)

When all these conditions are met, the town will issue a building permit. The developer’s current plan calls for construction to begin in mid-summer.

New Trails End models approved

Background: The Trails End development has been controversial due to its high densities, very small lots, and minimal side setbacks in the areas set aside for houses since annexation of the former Labib property was first proposed by developer Kim Catalano in April 2004. The town rejected three proposed Trails End site plans in 2004. The number of proposed lots was eventually reduced from 130 to 105. The Planning Commission unanimously opposed the third site plan when it was formally proposed on Sept. 8, 2004. However, numerous other revisions were made, and the commission unanimously approved the PD site plan on Oct. 13. The Board of Trustees then unanimously approved it on Nov. 15, 2004. (See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v4n12.htm#bot1115

The number of elevations in the Trails End PD site plan has grown since then, although each related amendment hearing has been somewhat controversial, with residents expressing numerous concerns and reservations about developer Richmond. Most of their concerns were unrelated to the architectural matters under review.

When the original PD site plan was approved, it included only three conceptual drawings of models that might be offered. Town ordinances require the Planning Commission and BOT to review and approve major amendments to a development’s approved PD design guidelines. No specific designs for models to be built in the development had been approved and added to the PD site plan’s design guidelines before many Trails End houses had already been built or were under construction.

During the Board of Trustees meeting held on Sept. 5, 2006, Mayor Byron Glenn asked Richmond to apply stucco over the top of the siding on some homes that had already been sold and occupied by their new owners. The board then formally approved the eight models and elevations contained in the first amendment to the Trails End site plan. The Planning Commission approved the first amendment on Aug. 9. Glenn changed his mind at a later board meeting when the owners refused to agree to the changes he wanted.

Both bodies approved three more models and related optional elevations in the second amendment in 2007, though the Board of Trustees approved them by only a 4-2 margin. Opposition arose because the models were larger than previously approved models. Trustee Gail Drumm said the area "will just look more congested than it does already." (See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v6n10.htm#bot0905 for more details.)

The Board of Trustees recently revised its policy on PD site plan amendments to allow town staff to once again approve minor model and elevation changes, but that change in policy does not apply to the architectural requirements previously written into the specific design guidelines for the Trails End PD site plan.

New Trails End models and elevations must still be approved by the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees. The town staff must still advertise public hearings for these proposals as well as mail formal notification letters to all the development’s residents as well as to owners of other property that is adjacent to the development. (See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v6n10.htm for details.)

Major Trails End amendment approved

In this hearing, several Trails End property owners also expressed a variety of concerns about declining property values in the development and complaints about Richmond Homes that were unrelated to the proposed third major amendment to the PD site plan.

Applicant Doug Fullen, an architect of Richmond’s consultant Way Architects, gave an overview of the 11 new additional single-family models and elevations proposed for approval by Richmond American Homes. Some of the points he made were:

  • About three-fourths of the development has been completed—24 vacant lots remain to be sold.
  • The third amendment proposes eight new model styles and three new elevations for previously approved model styles.
  • The optional elevations are colonial, Victorian, and craftsman styles.
  • The new model styles are the same size as currently approved models and include similar stone, stucco, brick, and siding materials as previously approved models.
  • The new styles and elevations all meet current zoning and footprint requirements of the PD site plan while providing additional variety and architectural diversity, which is encouraged by the town’s comprehensive plan.
  • The third amendment shows which of the new models can fit on each of the remaining 24 lots in a drawing called "Model Placement Restrictions."

Richmond President Dave Fisher responded to questions and concerns from several Trails End residents. Their comments mostly centered on:

  • The new models look different from those already built.
  • The craftsman elevations for most of the new models have a different style of garage door decoration from the basic stamped rectangular sheet-metal door common to most Trails End homes
  • The comparatively "inconsistent hodgepodge" of designs in Santa Fe Trails and other developments to the north of Trails End.

Some of the points Fisher made were:

  • The new models and elevations will be of similar market value and are starting to be offered throughout the region to meet changing consumer demand.
  • None of the models and elevations being offered at the present time are being discontinued.
  • They will be Energy Star rated, with 6-inch exterior walls for better insulation.
  • While Richmond used to sell 24 lots in a month, sale of the final 24 lots in Trails End is expected to take another three years in the current market environment.
  • Richmond will continue to have about three "spec homes" available.
  • The new enhanced elevations will look like they fit into the overall scheme of the development and won’t devalue other homes in the neighborhood nor be "eyesores"–a concern expressed by some of the residents.
  • The pricing of the models will be determined at the time of construction due to the volatility of the materials and financing markets.
  • The decorated garage door mentioned by several residents is an option that is consistent with the exterior design for the craftsman-style elevation.
  • The vacant area on the northwest corner of Old Denver Highway and Wagon Gap Trail is not part of Trails End.

Last summer, the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees approved a change in the site plan for Filing 3 of the Villages at Monument, originally approved in 2000, that included:

  • A change in zoning from PCD (now obsolete) for Lot 2 and Tract B in Filing 3 to the current, more general planned development (PD).
  • A final PD site plan creating 22 single-family home lots in Filing 3.
  • An associated major PD amendment for the Trails End development to allow driveway access for six of these 22 new residential lots to Wagon Gap Trail.
  • A vacation and replat revision for the new road alignment of the south end of Buffalo Valley Path, coupled with a vacation and replat of portions of Tracts C and D and a small portion of Wagon Gap Trail between these latter two tracts in Trails End. (See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n8.htm#bot for details)

When Griffith suggested a continuation until Fisher answered the questions of the residents and the homeowners association, Fisher reminded Griffith and the commissioners that the price of the new models was not a valid or relevant criterion for evaluating the Richmond architectural proposal.

Shupp agreed with Fisher and stated that the hearing was about whether the architectural elevations would fit within the community and the relevant criteria listed in the staff report. He added that the hearing is not an appropriate setting for a debate between the homeowners and Fisher on pricing, future marketability or quality, warranty, and service issues.

Commissioner Glenda Smith urged the homeowners to meet separately with Fisher on their personal issues, and suggested that they set up a neighborhood meeting between Fisher and the members of the Trails End HOA.

Griffith said the new garage door design would only enhance property values in the development and that representatives of the HOA did not have to attend this hearing and give their approval.

The amendment was approved 3-1. Commissioner Becki Tooley, who has worked in the development industry, opposed it and said that Richmond would come back to the town with even more changes because Fisher said he did not know how much each new model and elevation would cost in Trails End, what the target prices for the new models would be, or whether they would even build a "spec house" for one of the new models. There were no conditions of approval.

The homeowners in attendance met with Fisher and Fullen in the hallway for about an hour after the vote while the commission considered the Arbor Mountain replat proposal and home rule issues.

Home rule discussed

Griffith provided each commissioner a copy of the Colorado Municipal League’s Home Rule Handbook in response to their previous request for more information. Town Manager Cathy Green discussed some possible benefits that might result if the town changed from a statutory town to a home-rule town. She also gave a brief overview of some of the procedures for appointing a committee to develop a charter and the two elections that are required to change status.

The April 20 Board of Trustees meeting will be held at Creekside Middle School so the board and staff can provide details and answer questions about the proposed home-rule process.

In other matters, the commissioners agreed to change the date of the regularly scheduled meeting in November, which falls on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, to Nov. 10.

The meeting adjourned at 8:05 p.m.

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The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 8 in Town Hall, 166 Second St. Meetings are normally held at 6:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month. Information: 884-8017.

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Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility Joint Use Committee, March 10: Changes in policy document approved

By Jim Kendrick

On March 10, the Joint Use Committee (JUC) of the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility formally reviewed numerous "housekeeping" revisions of outdated paragraphs in the committee’s Policies, Practices, and Procedures document. The list of revisions was compiled by Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District Board President Benny Nasser.

Most of the changes were made to show that at the start of 2007 Facility Manager Bill Burks had taken over all aspects of administration and management of facility operations as executive director from Phil Steininger, Woodmoor’s now-retired district manager. Steininger had acted as executive support agent for the facility on a part-time basis for many years. A description of the duties of the agent was retained in the document in case the position needs to be filled again.

The proposed changes were unanimously agreed to by the committee members. The changes will be incorporated into the Policies, Practices, and Procedures document and formally approved at a future JUC meeting.

The JUC will now start a systematic review of the facility’s Amended Joint Use Agreement, which governs operations. A motion to discuss the first four sections of the agreement at the next meeting on April 9 was unanimously approved.

At the end of this systematic JUC review later this year, a list of proposed revisions will be submitted to the boards of the three special districts that share ownership of the facility. The current plan is to complete the review process in time to have the full membership of all three districts vote on a second amendment for the Joint Use Agreement at the annual JUC meeting at the end of the year.

The Tri-Lakes facility operates as a separate public utility and is jointly owned, in equal one-third shares, by Monument Sanitation District, Palmer Lake Sanitation District, and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District. All three primary representatives of the JUC, the facility’s board, were present at the meeting: President Dale Platt from Palmer Lake, Vice President Lowell Morgan from Monument, and Secretary-Treasurer Nasser. Several other directors and staff members from the three districts also attended.

Operations report

Facility Manager Bill Burks reported that the minutes for the Feb. 10 meeting had already been amended to note that the Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility’s capacity had just been expanded from 0.875 million gallons per day (mgd) to 1.75 mgd at a cost of $16.3 million rather than from 1.3 mgd to 2.8 mgd, the figures that were discussed during that meeting.

The committee unanimously approved the minutes as amended and unanimously accepted the February financial report.

Burks reported that all aspects of February operations were routine. The copper concentration level in the facility’s effluent was 10.3 parts per billion (ppb), well below the current limit of 24.8 ppb. South Monument continued to have the highest copper concentrations in its wastewater. The maximum of its test results for February was 150 ppb, with an average of 98 ppb. The average copper level for the facility’s effluent was 54.5 ppb. The national average for influent copper concentrations for wastewater facilities is 200 ppb.

Burks reported that he had attended a national wastewater conference in New Orleans in late February. He gave a lengthy comparison of issues on the south end of the Mississippi River and the headwaters of Monument Creek. The average copper concentration in the Mississippi River at New Orleans is 2 ppb, and a maximum of 3.3 ppb, with a flow of 300 billion gallons per day. For several months of the year, the flow in Monument Creek starts at the Tri-Lakes facility at about 1 million gallons per day. Copper is undetectable in Monument Creek at Baptist Road.

New Orleans uses 120 million gallons per day, and the city’s pump station, built in 1925, can pump 6 billion gallons per day out of the city’s canals into adjacent Lake Pontchartrain, which is 20 feet higher in elevation.

The meeting adjourned at 11:47 a.m.

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The next meeting is at 10 a.m. on April 9 at the facility conference room, 16510 Mitchell Ave. Meetings are normally held at 10 a.m. on the second Tuesday of the month. Information: 481-4053.

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Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, March 12: Board monitors projects

By Harriet Halbig

Due to the absence of two members of the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District board, Jim Whitelaw and Barry Town, reports on some major issues were postponed at the March 12 meeting. A number of items were discussed in a lengthy executive session conducted at the end of the open portion of the meeting.

President Benny Nasser reported on the recent meeting of the Joint Use Committee, saying that the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility is still operating well and is processing 1 million gallons a day. He said that the committee had completed discussion of its policies and practices and will begin work on updating its agreement.

Manager Jessie Shaffer reported on progress of negotiations between El Paso and Pueblo Counties regarding flood control in Fountain Creek. He said they are now determining boundaries and whether they can sufficiently quantify water standards and erosion to pass the proposal for a new Fountain Creek Watershed conservation district to legislators. The flood control board is now a committee of the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority.

Shaffer pointed out that imposition of new standards by this authority could affect the Tri-Lakes facility, which is owned by Woodmoor, Monument Sanitation District, and Palmer Lake Sanitation District.

In the operations report, Shaffer noted, it was reported that no new issues have arisen with regard to demand and accounting for water pumped and sold by the district. The pump from Well 11, inspected after being dropped during reinstallation in February, has been deemed sound and will be reinstalled in the next week. Lake Woodmoor is on track for being refilled, and the backfilling and seeding to complete the project is due for completion in June.

It was also mentioned that consultants have been inquiring about the south golf course land in Woodmoor, located near the townhouses on Higby Road, with the possibility of development.

The newsletter has been completed and is ready for mailing. Because the next issue will be published in June, the present issue will contain information on summer water use. The district Web site will list rates, and the district will remind homeowners of restrictions as irrigation season approaches.

Attorney Erin Smith reported that Senate Bill 87, recently passed by the Senate and now in the House, would add requirements for the manager of the district to file additional reports.

The board went into executive session to discuss a Well 22 acquisition update, Colorado Lakeshore Holding, obtaining water rights from the Town of Monument to provide water services to the proposed Arbor Mountain Senior Living Facility, and other issues.

No further business was conducted following the executive session.

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The next meeting will be held at 1 p.m. on April 9 at the conference room at 1855 Woodmoor Drive. Meetings are normally held at 1 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month. Information: 488-2525 or www.woodmoorwater.com

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Donala Water and Sanitation District, March 18: District calculates cost of providing services

By John Heiser

At the Donala Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors meeting March 18, Dana Duthie, the district’s general manager, presented his annual update on the cost of providing water and sewer service to customers. Some highlights of that report:

  • 2008 was the first year in which the cost of service was significantly affected by the wastewater plant expansion costs, which are depreciated over 20 years; the Mount Massive Ranch water rights purchase costs, which are depreciated over 40 years; and the assignments of tax revenue to operations and maintenance. These will affect the cost of service for many years.
  • Total treated water delivered during 2008 was 354.91 million gallons, which was 16.54 million gallons more than in 2007. The associated costs during 2008 averaged $6.25 per 1,000 gallons, a decrease of 3.5 percent from 2007.
  • Total raw water delivered to the golf course during 2008 was 19.25 million gallons, 6 million more than in 2007. The associated costs during 2008 averaged $3.66 per 1,000 gallons, a decrease of 35 percent from 2007.
  • Total reuse and Jake’s Lake augmentation water during 2008 was 25.72 million gallons, 7 million less than during 2007.
  • Total Donala wastewater treated during 2008 was 152.06 million gallons, 16.47 million gallons more than in 2007. The associated costs during 2008 averaged $6.49 per 1,000 gallons, up 45 percent from 2007.
  • Comparing the treated water amounts and wastewater returns, the report concludes that on average Donala’s customers used 47 percent of their water for irrigation or other outside uses, up 2 percent from 2007.
  • Total income minus total costs for 2008 yielded a surplus of $88,180. The average for that annual figure since 1998 has been a deficit of $22,982.

Other matters

  • During the three months from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28, the district’s $4.86 million in investments managed by Davidson Fixed Income Management showed a yield of 2.21 percent, achieving a goal of beating the Colotrust Plus fund, which yielded 0.53 percent during the same period. The weighted average maturity of the district’s investments is 5.5 months.
  • Duthie reported that in preparation for the water court case to convert the Mount Massive ranch water rights from agricultural uses to district use, Layne Western will start in April making monthly measurements of the water levels in the monitoring wells.
  • Duthie reported that at its March 4 meeting, the El Paso County Water Authority (EPCWA) discussed Colorado Senate Bill 09-141 to create the Fountain Creek watershed district. Most of the amendments proposed by attorney Tad Foster have been incorporated in the legislation. The EPCWA also discussed using the Black Squirrel aquifer for storage. The issue of ownership of the water after it has been pumped into the aquifer remains unresolved.
  • Duthie also reported on the March 18 Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA) meeting. See PPRWA article on page 1.
  • Duthie said that Trojan, whose subcontractor miscalculated the capacity of the open-channel ultraviolet disinfection treatment system at the waste plant and for hundreds of other plants around the world, has committed to cover the cost of expanding the system when the additional capacity is needed.
  • The total cost of the wastewater plant expansion is now estimated at $16,381,033, which exceeds the $16.3 million cap. Engineer Roger Sams at GMS is looking at ways to cut some costs.
  • Duthie reported that Rich Landreth, Monument’s public works director, who previously represented the Triview Metropolitan District at the wastewater plant operations and construction management meetings, now says he does not currently have that role. This is one indication of the difficulties surrounding the takeover of the management of Triview by the town. See the Monument Board of Trustees article on page 10.
  • Duthie said the district is continuing to work with Waste Management to address the radiology problem with the sludge from the wastewater plant. With the new digester, no sludge hauling has been required so far this year.

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

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The Donala board will hold its next regular meeting on April 15 at 1:30 p.m. at the Donala office, 15850 Holbein Drive. Meetings are normally held at 1:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month. The district’s Web site is at www.donalawater.org

Below: Rate comparison chart prepared by the Donala Water and Sanitation District.

Click here or on the spreadsheet to zoom in

Click on the spreadsheet to zoom in

the rate comparison as a PDF file. This is a 110 Kbyte file and will take less than a minute to download using a dial-up modem. Click here for help with PDF downloads. To view and print the file, you will need to download and install the free Acrobat Reader Program.

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Monument Sanitation District Board meeting, March 19: Preliminary engineering report for Wakonda Hills expansion approved

By Jim Kendrick

On March 19, Ed Meyer and Dave Frisch of engineering consultant GMS Inc. presented their preliminary engineering report for construction of the remaining two phases of the Monument Sanitation District’s Wakonda Hills wastewater collection system expansion. The district is applying for a "stimulus grant" of $2 million under the new federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 and a loan of about $400,000 from the state’s low-interest loan revolving fund for wastewater projects.

The total cost for completing the project is conservatively estimated at $2.8 million by GMS. This is a "worst-case" amount. GMS and the district believe that bids may be significantly lower due to the current scarcity of funding for public works projects in the region and the resulting increased competition among contractors.

The lift stations needed for the project are not included in the total amount being sought through the ARRA stimulus program, because the normal time required for approval of them by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment is about six months, too long to meet the deadlines for the stimulus program.

The lift stations should be approved by the state in time to be constructed in conjunction with the new collection lines. The district hopes to pay for the lift stations from its capital reserve fund, if the stimulus grant and state loan are approved.

Meyer stated that there are very few districts in Colorado that have the ability and resources to respond to the tight deadlines and qualification requirements of this program. The district’s application had been previously given a Category 1 rating, out of the six categories used by the state Health Department to rank projects seeking grant money, because the state had given top priority to this project’s goal of eliminating the failing individual septic disposal systems used throughout Wakonda Hills.

Additional priority was given to the project because the failing septic systems are located in a small community on lots under 2.5 acres and the very high cost per lot to install the new collection system. The average lot size in Wakonda Hills is 1 acre. The district’s sound fiscal management, absence of debt, and capital reserves make it an excellent candidate under the scoring system that was approved in the first week of March.

The board unanimously approved the preliminary report and submission of the district’s grant/loan application. The deadline for submitting this report to the state was March 23, which was met by GMS the day after this meeting.

The Water Quality Control Division of the state Health Department will evaluate all the wastewater grant requests for Colorado, then award the $35 million in federal money made available to the state by the act.

If the preliminary engineering report is accepted by the state, the stimulus loan application must be submitted to the state by April 27. District Manager Mike Wicklund has already provided GMS with all the information required to complete this application.

The remaining deadlines for GMS and the district, if each submission is successful, are:

  • May 31–submit a complete/approvable engineering report
  • June 30–submit complete/approvable plans and specifications and an environmental assessment report
  • July 31–fully respond to any Water Quality Control Division questions and comments
  • Sept. 30–complete the bidding process, issue a notice to proceed to the winning bidder, and begin construction.

The board also unanimously approved an increase in the amount of excess liability coverage that raised the total excess coverage to $3 million.

The district received its first tap fee of the year—$9,300—in March.

The meeting adjourned at 9:23 p.m.

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The next meeting is at 6:30 p.m. on April 16 at the district conference room, 130 Second St. Meetings are normally held at 6:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month. Information: 481-4886.

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Triview Metropolitan District Board, March 25: Terms for new financing of Triview debt discussed

By Jim Kendrick

On March 25, the Triview Metropolitan District Board was briefed by its investment banker on the current status of a swap loan it is negotiating with Compass Bank, the current underwriter of its $47.6 million in bond debt. The board also approved the inclusion of the Valero truck stop at the I-25 Baptist Road interchange and a resolution that allows some daily operations to be taken over by Town of Monument staff.

Board President Bob Eskridge was out of town, and his absence was unanimously excused. Vice President Robert Fisher presided.

Board continues negotiations for $47.6 million swap loan

On Sept. 23, Senior Vice President Sam Sharp of Denver investment firm D.A. Davidson & Co. advised the board on refinancing options for the district’s $47.6 million in annual variable rate bonds, which were to mature on Nov. 1. These one-year bonds are underwritten by a letter of credit by Compass Bank that expires in 2012. This letter of credit was needed because Triview had never qualified for a credit rating before. The interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate bonds at that time, based on the district’s new A- credit rating obtained by Davidson from Standard & Poor’s, was varying between 6.75 and 8 percent, Sharp said, but was expected to drop significantly.

The board directed Sharp to refinance the debt on Nov. 1 with weekly variable-rate bonds, which had a lower interest rate than monthly or annual variable-rate bonds until fixed-rate bond interest dropped below 6 percent. Using weekly bonds would also allow the district to quickly take advantage of any sudden drops in fixed-rate long-term or annual renewable interest rates.

The national credit crisis started before the next Triview board meeting on Oct. 29.

On Oct. 29 Sharp advised the board that the interest rate for weekly variable-rate bonds was 2.5 percent, while long-term bond rates remained between 6.5 and 7 percent. Even with all the costs for issuing new bonds every week using the Compass Bank letter of credit, the total interest and overhead cost was still less than 6.5 percent. The board authorized Sharp to begin purchasing weekly bonds on Nov. 1.

At the Feb. 2 Triview board meeting, Sharp again recommended weekly or monthly variable-rate bonds until the fixed rate dropped to about 6 percent or less.

Sharp also reported that Compass Bank had offered a 15-year swap loan to Triview where Compass would become the bondholder. Simultaneously, Compass would also create a swap with Triview where Compass would also be the swap provider. The rate would be composed of the swap rate of 2 percent and 65 percent of the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) rate. The contract could be replaced after five years with no penalty or before that time with a 3 percent surcharge. (See www.riskglossary.com/link/interest_rate_swap.htm for an explanation of various types of swap loans including LIBOR swap loans.)

Sharp said that having Compass as the lender/bondholder and the swap provider would greatly reduce the concern for counter-party risk that would occur if the lender was not the same entity as the provider contracting with Triview. Compass would require a refundable $20,000 deposit from Triview to begin drafting the term sheet. Sharp added that if Triview enters into this arrangement, the costs will be $1,000,000 in underwriting and legal fees, which equates to 2.3 percent or 23 basis points of the loan.

Sharp noted that this program would eliminate the need for weekly remarketing fees, weekly legal opinions, and the Compass letter of credit. The first action needed is to obtain a term sheet that detailed specific contract terms.

The board directed Sharp to begin negotiations with Compass for the swap loan and set a maximum total interest rate of 5.25 percent in the Compass term sheet.

At the Feb. 25 Triview board meeting, Sharp reported that Triview was saving about $80,000 per month due to unexpectedly low short-term interest and administrative costs. The prevailing interest rates for the seven-day short-term variable-rate bonds had been less than 1 percent. He recommended against locking in at that rate, because the fixed rate for 30-year A- bonds was above 7 percent.

Sharp said Compass Bank had not firmly defined the terms previously offered in a formal offer sheet as promised. After the Feb. 2 meeting, Compass dropped the maximum term from 15 years to 10 years, then to seven years. On Feb. 25, the 10-year swap interest rate was 4.68 percent. Sharp again recommended against accepting a long-term rate much above about 5.75 percent.

Compass subsequently "pulled back" similar swap term sheets proposed to several other D.A. Davidson clients. Sharp also noted the parent company of Compass Bank is BBVA Compass in Madrid, Spain, and not subject to current federal banking stimulus programs and TARP directives.

Negotiations with Compass bank continue

On March 25, Zach Bishop, a vice president of D.A. Davidson, filled in for Sharp. Bishop said Compass Bank was now committed to funding a 10-year swap loan for $47.6 million. He asked the district to send a check for $20,000 to Compass by April 3 for processing fees.

Bishop reiterated that if rates go above 5.25 percent prior to closing, Triview can still back out of the loan, but any legal fees incurred before breaking the agreement would have to be paid by Triview. Compass added a "break fee" of $50,000 for legal costs to the previously quoted processing fee of $20,000.

Bishop said the Compass swap rate on March 25 was 4.63 percent—due to the base rate dropping to 2.35 percent—and he thought the risk was low that it would rise above 5.25 percent by the projected closing date of April 15. The minimum fund balance required of Triview for the swap loan is $1.575 million. Acting District Manager Ron Simpson read some of Triview’s fees from the list in the term sheet:

  • $946,900 in contingency fees to D.A. Davidson
  • $80,000 to the bond counsel
  • $20,000 to the underwriter’s counsel
  • $20,000 to the bank’s counsel
  • $10,000 to the district’s counsel
  • $50,000 in other charges for preparatory and contingency charges

Bishop said the worst case for legal fees if the deal was broken "the day before closing" would be about $150,000. Bishop answered numerous director questions about how this swap loan compared to other types of loans.

Director Steve Remington said he was unhappy that the loan had changed from 30-year fixed-rate bonds with closing fees of $1 million to a much simpler 10-year swap deal and much higher closing fees. Fisher also said he did not like the length of the loan being dropped to 10 years.

Simpson noted that there are still several terms in the agreement that had not been finalized.

Bishop replied that it is a more complicated deal than fixed-rate bonds with insurance and was the best interest rate available due to Davidson’s expertise in negotiating for swap loans that is "10 to 1 that of any other state firm." The higher fee for that higher expertise and lengthier negotiations is the same that would be charged to any entity in Colorado. Triview’s credit rating is not high enough to warrant a lower fixed-rate 30-year loan but high enough for the lowest LIBOR swap rates.

After a lengthy wide-ranging discussion of more technical aspects of the term sheet before closing, the board directed Bishop to have Davidson move forward on negotiations with Compass.

Valero truck stop joins Triview

The board approved the petition for service inclusion from the Valero Corp. for its Diamond Shamrock Truck Stop on the northwest corner of the I-25 Baptist Road interchange. Triview will provide sanitary sewer service to the site, but not water. The Town of Monument is providing potable water to the truck stop. The Valero petition contains a paragraph that acknowledges that no water will be provided.

Valero must pay $158,532 in fees to Triview by the end of 2009 or if it submits a site plan to the town requesting additional development on the property before that. If there is a land use change on the property requiring a larger sanitary sewer service, Valero must pay for all changes in its service line and the district’s collection line.

Mike Sullivan, Valero’s Colorado operations manager attended the meeting but had no comments.

Remington recused himself from the discussion and abstained in the 3-0-1 vote in favor of the inclusion.

Attorney Pete Susemihl said he would file the approved petition with the court in the morning. Once approved by the court, a certified copy of the court order will be recorded with the county clerk, treasurer, and assessor.

Transition discussion

Remington, Fisher, and Monument Town Manager Cathy Green gave an overview of the current status of discussions regarding Monument taking over daily operations of the district. They each said that the meetings have been productive and that they expected the bi-weekly subcommittee meetings between two town trustees and two district directors and affected staff members to produce a final draft memorandum of understanding for the takeover by the end of June and a final approval by the end of September. Resolutions will be drafted and approved as required to cover any required procedures and policies until the memorandum is signed.

Town Treasurer Pamela Smith said she would need to consult with District Administrator Dale Hill after her resignation on March 31 to complete the 2009 audit, the quarterly audits for state loans, and for Triview bond transactions. Hill will be a consultant to Triview for those activities. A Triview director will begin attending Board of Trustee meetings as an observer on the dais in order to be able to comment on board actions that are not public hearings.

Susemihl suggested that if any changes are made in Triview’s service plan during the transition, the district should request them from the Town of Monument instead of from the county. The request could be in the form of an intergovernmental agreement agenda item at the same town meeting as the agenda item for the memorandum of understanding.

A resolution regarding the transition, which allows Smith to take over Hill’s duties, was unanimously approved.

The board also discussed a request by county resident Ernie Biggs on whether the district would be receptive to a new carwash within Triview. The board was generally in favor of the concept as a source of additional revenue now that the district has sufficient well and storage capacity to handle peak loads from the carwash for a total demand of up to 3 million gallons per year. Simpson noted that this was the third request Triview has received for a carwash.

The board made no decisions on moving forward with the Compass loan before going into a lengthy executive session at 7:26 p.m.

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The next Triview meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on April 22 at 174 N. Washington St. Meetings are normally held at 5 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Information: 488-6868.

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Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, March 25: Resolution to radio problems taking time

By Susan Hindman

In response to serious radio communication problems at the Feb. 8 fire on True Vista Circle, Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Chief Robert Denboske told the district’s board members at the March 25 meeting that he is going through all the "right channels" to try to correct the problem of what he called a "flawed" radio system. They will attend technical radio meetings, talk to the system’s operational boards, and look at grants for a new tower. "We have some corrections we need to make. We want to go through all the channels … before we move to a different approach. There’s other options out there."

"Dead spots" in communication towers prevented firefighters from talking with one another by radio as they fought the fire that destroyed the home and sent four family members to the hospital.

Denboske expressed his frustration with the 800-megahertz radio system, which is run by the county, and the lack of improvements made to it. "We pay into" the system, he said, and user fees have gone toward improving the city’s system, but not Tri-Lakes’.

Matching grant awarded: Denboske reported that the district was one of six recipients of a regional grant of $387,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Six fire districts in El Paso County applied together for the grant; one of the six, Woodmen Valley, is now inactive, so he said the grant will need to be amended to reflect that. The amount each district receives will be based on population and the amount of equipment requested.

Of the $387,000, $77,000 pays for up-front costs. Tri-Lakes’ portion of those costs is $14,000, which the district will pay and then submit a refund request to FEMA. "So we’re going to have a meeting to come up with how we’re going to do this so it doesn’t ruin our budget," he said.

The remaining $310,000 will go toward purchasing computers with GPS installed and mobile docking stations for emergency vehicles, as well as the software and other related equipment—all of which will provide "real-time" information, versus waiting for information relayed by a dispatcher. It will provide mapping capability and the ability to track vehicles, ultimately helping to determine which district is closest for responding to an incident.

Tri-Lakes "hosted" the grant. Other county fire departments were contacted about being part of the grant, Denboske said, because they stood a better chance of getting the grant if it was done as a group since it would benefit more people.

Leasing Town Hall?

With the Town of Monument about to move out of Town Hall and into its new facility, the town is looking to sell or lease the old building. Denboske said he contacted the town about the district possibly leasing the building for administrative use. He put in an application, and offered $1 a year plus utilities and insurance. If the town responds positively, the board may have to hold a meeting prior to the next scheduled one, in order to review and possibly sign a proposed agreement.

**********

The Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Station 1, 18650 Highway 105. The next meeting is April 22. For more information, call Chief Denboske at 266-3367.

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Lewis Palmer School District Accountability Advisory Committee, March 10: Students learning Internet safety

By Harriet Halbig

At the District 38 Accountability Advisory Committee (DAAC) meeting on March 10, Tracey Lehman, the district’s director of Instructional Technology, moderated a report on the district’s new I-SAFE program. She said that the U.S. Congress has designated I-SAFE America to provide the Internet safety curriculum to all 50 states, with instruction at all levels from kindergarten through 12th grade. There are additional materials to inform citizens over 50 on the safe use of the Internet.

The program is updated semiannually and the curriculum is supported by videos, music and webcasts.

Training of teachers, media and technology personnel, and counselors began in April 2008. Areas covered include the cyber community, personal safety (protection of identity, bullying), intellectual property (protection of copyrights, sharing of software), cyber security (avoidance of computer viruses), predator identification, and effective outreach. Also included are information on text-messaging, spam, e-mail, Web logs, online shopping, and gambling.

There is particular concern about recent abuse of Facebook, MySpace and blogs.

Lehman reported that the I-SAFE program is being used in the district this year. Still under review are such decisions as: Who will deliver the program? What time of year should the program be offered? What is the role of program facilitators, and when should the results be evaluated?

Presently, media specialists and counselors present the program at the elementary level. Videos and PowerPoint presentations are used in the training, and teachers say students enjoy discussing what they have seen. Facilitators say that they particularly stress parental monitoring of Internet use at this level. Permission forms are sent home and signed to enable students to participate.

One of the facilitators said that it is surprising and unfortunate that a large number of children in kindergarten through fifth grade have computers in their bedrooms, where they are used without supervision.

A representative explained the basic content of the program at all grade levels, beginning with kindergarten where students create an "I-buddy" doll with whom they travel through cyberspace. As the students progress through the program, they learn about how the police and FBI monitor the Internet, how to safely use e-mail, how to respond to cyber-bullying, and the rules of "netiquette."

By fourth grade, students are taught about victim grooming, the practice of predators who learn personal information about a child (school attended, sports teams, etc.) in order to make personal contact. Role playing is used to teach students to refuse to offer such information.

At the middle and high school levels, teachers who teach self-defense have been teaching the curriculum. These older students are quizzed on how often they go online and to which locations. They create their own videos of possible scenarios and are visited by a detective who speaks about sexual predators on the Internet and cyber bullying.

Lehman presented the Lewis-Palmer bullying policy, which defines bullying, the appropriate response to it, and the penalties for it. She pointed out that the student handbook at each level includes this information, and students are required to sign a statement that they have read and understood its content.

Susan Anderson and Deanna Smiley gave a report on the Gifted Education program in the district. They explained that the method for identifying gifted students consists of evaluation of intellectual ability, academic achievement, behavior characteristics, and twice exceptional (students who qualify for an individual education plan or 504 due to a learning disability but are otherwise gifted). They said there are a growing number of English language learners in the district.

The gifted program stresses availability of enrichment at all grade levels through pullout programs and activities. Social and emotional support is also available to these students, as many of them experience socialization problems. Each school has a gifted-education facilitator on site.

Regarding communication within the gifted community, Anderson and Smiley explained the Gifted Education Leadership Team, a new brochure under Learning Services on the district Web site, and parent nights at the various schools.

They reported that 12 percent of the Lewis-Palmer student population is regarded as gifted, whereas the national average is 5 percent. They also said that parents may choose to accept or decline special services for gifted students.

**********

The next DAAC meeting will be held April 14, 6-7:30 p.m. at the District Learning Center, 146 Jefferson St., Monument. It will feature reports from Lewis-Palmer Elementary, Creekside Middle School, and Palmer Lake Elementary on their School Improvement Plans.

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Lewis Palmer School District Special Education Advisory Committee, March 11: Stimulus funding expected

By Harriet Halbig

The District 38 Special Education Advisory Committee met on March 11. Special Education Director Julie O’Brien reported that generous funding for special education is included in the federal economic stimulus package, with the amounts to be determined by the federal Department of Education. The state of Colorado is forming a team to act on this information when it becomes available.

O’Brien said that the funds cannot be used to supplant regular funding, but would be for capital investment in such areas as equipment, professional development, materials, vans, and improvement of schools to provide additional handicapped access. Funding may not be used to hire additional teachers or cover recurring expenses.

Committee members briefly discussed the lack of funding for staff training and especially for training for paraprofessionals.

The advisory committee will be asked to determine priorities for funding in the next school year. At present, more than 80 percent of funds are spent for staffing. The remainder is used for development, materials, and supplies. The budget has not been cut for this year, but in some cases resources have been moved from one area to another.

Committee Chair Brent Byrnes pointed out that the Colorado Department of Education Web site includes State Incentive Grants, which are available on a competitive basis. He suggested that the district pursue some of these funds. Parents in attendance said that the district already uses a number of ongoing grants to fund its activities and that partnerships with the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and the Peak Parent Center make a number of activities possible.

Another parent suggested that individual parent-teacher organizations may be useful in providing funding for items on a wish list created by the committee.

Ilanit Bennaim reported that planning for the April 4 Resource Fair is ongoing. She said that more than 30 businesses and organizations had indicated interest in participating. The fair will be held in the Learning Center of the district administration building from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on that date.

Bennaim also reported on progress in the Someone Who Cares program, rewarding district personnel who offer special support to special-education students. She said that O’Brien had received a catalog of incentive items that might be useful. She said that due to the lateness of the date, the nomination forms must be finalized by the April 8 meeting of SEAC so that the first recipients could be determined before the end of the school year. There should be a box at each school for collection of the nomination forms.

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Woodmoor Improvement Association Board of Directors, March 11: Board votes to hire new auditors

By Chris Pollard

At the Woodmoor Improvement Association board meeting March 11, Secretary Bill Walters said that five directors had interviewed three companies to replace the current auditors. After considerable discussion, the board selected Biggs Kofford & Co. to perform the auditing function this year for a fee of $7,500.

Waugh & Goodwin LLP had previously performed this function for about half that amount, but directors said they wanted a new set of eyes to review the accounts.

Financial report

Treasurer Mari Rollins noted that 84 percent of the planned income for the year had been received, mostly in the form of assessments. Expenses for February would have been on target but for payments of $21,000 for barn remediation of which $15,000 was for painting. Charges for the remodeling and new floor could be assigned to capital improvements. There were also increased spending on legal fees, $4,400, and printing costs of $400. Accounts receivable stands at about $95,000, mostly in unpaid assessments.

Public Safety report

Woodmoor Public Safety (WPS) had 99 calls for service in February, the same as in February 2008. Chief Kevin Nielsen said the department had started to receive reports of bear tracks, probably because of the warm weather. Because of the lack of food available to them naturally, bears will go after trash, bird feeders, and any other source of food. They had been noted in the northwest portion of Woodmoor but will eventually travel. Nielsen said there was also a report of a bobcat in the Blueberry Hill area.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and WPS will present a Neighborhood Watch program at 6 p.m. on April 16 in the Woodmoor Barn, and residents are invited.

Despite rumors to the contrary, the department was not seeing an increase in burglaries, Nielsen said. There was one incident in the Town of Monument where burglars entered through an open garage door. Another incident was reported in Jackson Creek and one in Gleneagle.

Forestry report

Chuck Mayer said the forestry group had been communicating with the North El Paso County Coalition of Community Associations and was giving them a class on the Firewize program. Woodmoor was ahead of the curve in this area and had a complete program in place. Mayer is currently working on a slash removal program for this year. He said he hopes to address the needs of people who cannot get their slash to the chipping site.

In response to some audience comments, Mayer noted that there was a very real fire danger in Woodmoor but that it was being addressed through the Firewize program. There is a plan in place, and meetings are being held to work with residents to reduce the fire danger. Further thinning is still needed, and the issue of access for fire equipment still is to be addressed.

Barn renovation update

Gary Marner, director of open space, said that the renovation had progressed well, and the Barn offices had been reoccupied. There were, however, additional payments of $2,814 due to Anthem Homes to fix various items that were found to be wrong or broken. There are still problems with some of the lighting fixtures and power outlets.

Marner also reminded the board that some of the furniture had been contaminated with mold and had to be destroyed. He estimated that replacing the furniture would cost $4,600. He hoped to hold an Open House on April 19 in the afternoon to allow residents to see the results of the renovation.

In other matters, Marner said that he was working with a volunteer to look at the possibility of developing a playground somewhere within Woodmoor. There was a site designated as such on Augusta Drive, and he said he would start talking to residents near that site to identify any concerns they might have. They had started to research potential playground equipment and the rules regarding the design, placement, and use of that equipment.

Marner had also started looking at the issue of trail development and had talked to some people who had put in trails in the Castle Rock area. These had been done with little or no imported material. He wanted the trail planner to have a look at the Woodmoor common area maps to see what opportunities there are and what the charge would be to come up with a plan. Once a plan had been started he would talk to residents adjacent to the planned area and potential users.

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The next Woodmoor Improvement Association Board Meeting will be held Wed., Apr. 8, 7 p.m., at the Woodmoor Barn, 1691 Woodmoor Dr. The board now meets the 2nd Wed. each month.

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March Weather Wrap

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Below: Photo taken by Bill Kappel on March 26 near the intersection of Highway 83 and Highway 105.

Click on the photo to zoom in

By Bill Kappel

The first two-thirds of March continued the trend we saw in February of dry and mild conditions, as temperatures were well above average and very little moisture moved into the region. A welcome change did take place starting around the 23rd of the month and brought with it below-normal temperatures and several rounds of refreshing snow. This included the blizzard that slammed into the region on the 26th.

Overall, the month was warmer than normal and a little drier than normal. We did make up most of the moisture deficit during the last week of the month, which is good news for plants that are starting to grow.

Warm and windy weather greeted us to start off March, continuing the trend we saw for most of February. From the 2nd through the 8th, temperatures were above normal each afternoon except for the 7th. High temperatures reached well into the 60s, nearly touching 70 on the 2nd, as high pressure built into the region from the southwest. This warm, dry air mass combined with westerly winds to push temperatures to near record levels.

A storm system began to approach the region from the west toward the middle of the week, and this really kicked winds up quite a bit around the region. The strong winds, combined with dry conditions, produced hazardous fire weather conditions, but we made it through unscorched.

This storm sent a cold front through the region during the evening of the 6th and temperatures held in the 30s on the 7th. Areas of snow, heavy at times, developed by late morning of the 7th and continued off and on as the system passed through producing some much needed moisture, with 1-2 inches of snow falling throughout the area. However, this system was a quick mover, and we dried out very quickly with sunshine and mild conditions melting most of the snow on Sunday the 8th.

Monday the 9th started with above-normal temperatures and breezy conditions as highs hit the low 50s. A weak cold front did move through that evening, and a little snow fell during the morning of the 10th. Most of us picked up only a dusting to 1 inch. Temperatures remained cool over the next two days with highs holding in the low 40s, slightly below normal for this time of the year.

Another quick-moving front produced a short-lived snow shower during the morning of the 13th. With a cold air mass in place and clear skies, low temperatures the next morning were chilly, in the single digits to low teens. Warm and dry air quickly followed as high pressure built back into the area from the west. This sent temperatures through the 50s and into the 60s for the weekend.

The week of the 16th was warm and dry around the region, with plenty of sunshine and breezes. This wasn’t a huge surprise, as most of the last two months have been this way. Temperatures were above normal for the week, with highs well into the 60s on the 16th and 17th, then briefly dipping into the 50s on the 18th and 19th, with more warmth returning for the weekend. Highs hit the mid- to upper 60s Friday through Sunday, making for a very pleasant weekend and start to spring.

The pattern quickly changed to end the month as a deep trough of low pressure and associated cold air developed over the Pacific Northwest and sent several waves of energy through the region. The first front moved through during the early morning of the 23rd with some light snow dusting the ground. We just missed out on a big storm with this one, as the low pressure moved about 100 miles too far to the north for us, otherwise we would have seen blizzard conditions and over a foot of snow. High temperatures were held in the 40s that afternoon. Over the next two days, two more disturbances moved through and each produced a round of light snow, which quickly melted in the strong March sunshine.

But a bigger, much more powerful storm was building at this same time, riding a strong jet stream through the intermountain West toward the Four Corners. This time, unlike a few days before, the storm took a more favorable track, with the low pressure riding along the Colorado/New Mexico border. This brought a round of heavy, wind-driven snow to the region from late on the morning of the 26th through the morning of the 27th. This storm produced blizzard conditions for several hours on the afternoon of the 26th and brought the region to a standstill.

Temperatures also tumbled with the cold front, dropping from the 20s in the morning to the single digits by late afternoon. Not bad for late March. Most areas accumulated 10-15 inches of fresh snow, and 0.5 to 1 inch of liquid. Just what we needed around here as we head into growing season. High pressure briefly built in behind this departing storm, bringing lots of sunshine for the weekend. Temperatures were slow to warm, however, as much of the sun’s energy was deflected by the fresh snow and what made it to the ground was used to melt snow instead of warming the air.

We did manage to hit the 50s for highs on Sunday, making for a pleasant day. Another powerful storm moved in on the morning of the 30th. This one again took a more northerly track and moved through very quickly. Therefore, we picked up a quick 1-3 inches of snow during the morning as the main front moved through. Temperatures were cold with this storm again, with daytime highs not reaching out of the 20s. Sunshine returned for the last day of the month and after a chilly start, highs reached back to the 30s and 40s.

A look ahead

April is known for a wide range of weather conditions in the Tri-Lakes region. We can see 80° temperatures one afternoon and a blizzard the next. April 2005 and 2007 received heavy snow, but 2006 was dry with less than 10 inches of snow and under an inch of rain. Last year was pretty close to normal moisture-wise, but a bit colder than average. So, this April could bring us just about anything. For a complete look at monthly climate summaries for the Tri-Lakes region, please visit www.thekappels.com/ClimateSummary.htm

March 2008 Weather Statistics

Average High 52.5° (+2.8)
Average Low 20.2° (-0.4)
Highest Temperature 69° on the 22nd
Lowest Temperature 2° on the 31st
Monthly Precipitation 1.27" (-0.50" 36% below normal)
Monthly Snowfall 21.0" (-3.0" 13% below normal)
Season to Date Snow 77.0" (-22.6" 23% below normal) (the snow season is from July 1 to June 30)
Season to Date Precip 15.52" (+0.57" 4% above normal) (the precip season is from July 1 to June 30)
Heating Degree Days 881 (-355)
Cooling Degree Days 0

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

Remember, weather affects all of us everyday 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 shocking development

Regarding the story "Monument Marketplace Discount Tire Plat Approved" (OCN, Feb. 7, 2009): What is this? A development company that didn’t do what it said it would do? A development company that reneged on its promises and didn’t deliver?

Shocking!

Bill Beagle

Walgreens approval disturbing

This letter is in reference to the article titled "Downtown Walgreens plat approved" (OCN, March 7, 2009). I am deeply disturbed by the actions of the Monument Board of Trustees. This town severely lacks a vision with a backbone. Am I the only one in town who remembers the last stand-alone pharmacy built in the town of Monument? It did not last very long. Rite-Aid built a brand new building across the street from Safeway. After the business vacated the property, it sat vacant for many months before becoming the Vitamin Cottage.

The other disturbing fact is that a Walgreens exists one mile down the road at the Baptist Road exit. I have a hard time believing Walgreens has enough business in the Tri-Lakes area to support two stores within a one-mile radius of each other.

The latest vote to allow the Discount Tire store to be built in the Monument Marketplace is another example of not executing to a vision.

I guess the members of this Board have forgotten the reason many of us chose to live in Monument. It certainly wasn’t because we missed all of the chain stores that clutter the bigger cities around us. Please stop trying to turn our quaint town into a duplicate of every other big-town wannabe.

Lisa Haskell 

Why not make physical education optional?

We know these are hard times and everyone, especially the schools, is searching for ways to save money. Recently, I was talking with a friend of mine who lives in Ohio. Their school has implemented a new concept. High-school students participating in at least two full seasons of interscholastic athletics, band, drill team, or cheerleading are exempt from having to take P.E.

This sounds like a win/win situation for the school and the students. The school saves money (fewer kids requiring teachers) and the students have the option to take P.E. or another class. Do you think it would work here?

Hunter Bragg

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Between The Covers at the Covered Treasures Bookstore: How does your garden grow?

By the staff at Covered Treasures

It may seem odd to talk gardening when snow is still flying, but now is the time to plan for those beautiful summer blooms and tasty fruits and veggies to enjoy and preserve. There are books offering advice specific to the special conditions in our area and giving help to those thinking large or small—no matter what color your thumb happens to be.

Durable Plants for the Garden: A Plant Select Guide
By Plant Select (Fulcrum) $24.95

This landmark publication features the first 74 plants promoted by Plant Select, a unique collaborative venture launched by Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens, and Green Industries of Colorado. The guide is aimed at identifying and distributing the best plants for the Rocky Mountain region. It includes detailed plant descriptions, the stories behind the selections, growing tips, anecdotal comments, color photographs, and exquisite botanical illustrations.

Rocky Mountain Gardener’s Guide
By John Cretti (Cool Springs Press) $24.99

Garden expert John Cretti offers personal recommendations of plants that are well-suited to the sometimes-challenging growing conditions in the Rockies and High Plains region. The guide includes 186 individual plant selections, from annuals to vines, including chapters on lawns and conifers; a large, full-color photograph of each plant; an easy-to-use format; specific advice on planting, growing and care, including pest control; garden planning and design ideas; and quick reference symbols to indicate the plant’s sun requirements and added benefits, such as attracting birds or butterflies.

Month-By-Month Gardening in the Rocky Mountains
By John Cretti (Cool Springs Press) $19.99

When is the best time to plant trees and shrubs? When should I prune my roses? Should I fertilize my lawn now? What should I be doing in the vegetable garden this month? This volume is the definitive "when-to" guide designed to help Rocky Mountain gardeners become more successful month by month. Eleven plant categories include: annuals; bulbs, corms, rhizomes and tubers; houseplants; lawns; perennials; roses; shrubs; trees; vegetables; vines, ground covers, and ornamental grasses. Additional hints and gardening projects are sprinkled throughout the book, and each chapter contains the top recommendations for the best plants for our area.

Lasagna Gardening for Small Spaces
By Patricia Lanza (Rodale) $15.95

No matter how limited your growing space, Lanza’s proven lasagna gardening method produces amazing results in pots and small plots. She explains how to grow bountiful, beautiful gardens with no digging and no weeding even in beds just 4 inches wide. She includes flowers, vegetables, herbs, fruits and berries, rock gardens, and trough gardens. Lasagna gardening is an organic process that is neat and efficient, using materials found around the yard or neighborhood to create a wonderful soil. If you love to grow but are short on time, or are "horticulturally challenged," Lasagna Gardening may be just the book for you.

Ask: The 1000 most asked questions about gardening
By Daphne Ledward (Spruce), $9.99

This compact book promises to answer questions that can frustrate all gardeners, from the basic—knowing how to identify your soil type, choice of tools, buying plants, seeds versus seedlings—to the thorny problems of dealing with chronic pests and diseases, plants for difficult places, addressing garden needs in an eco-friendly way; and the finer details of perfect compost-making, pruning, and propagation.

Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods
By Eugenia Bone (Clarkson Potter) $24.95

Bone has perfected the art of preserving in a more accessible way than the time-consuming methods used by our mothers and grandmothers on sweltering summer days. She shares simpler methods for preserving meat, fruits, and vegetables in smaller batches all year long by using low-tech options, such as oil-preserving, curing, and freezing. For the traditionalists, she also covers conventional water bath and pressure canning and explains the safest ways to preserve.

Whether you have a large garden plot, or a few containers, now is the time to plan for maximum use and enjoyment of your space. With prices rising and incomes falling, cutting a bunch of beautiful flowers for the dinner table and harvesting fresh, healthy vegetables for the meal can be thrifty and satisfying. Until next month, happy reading!

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High Country Highlights: Ready, set, garden!

By Woody Woodworth

The Tri-Lakes region is a unique place to garden and landscape. Our challenges include our elevation, which produces a short growing season, our weather patterns, which vary from cold, snowy conditions in the winter to hot, windy conditions in the summer, and our poor soil. Throw in the wildlife factor and you have created one of the toughest regions along the Front Range to grow plants.

The best advice is to listen to experienced gardeners who have lived a long time in the area and have experienced many seasons in their gardens. With proper technique and plant selection, anyone can garden here. I’m going to give you a few tips on how to get started.

The first item on the list is to have a good plan. Study your garden area well and observe how much exposure it will get from sun, wind, and the elements of nature. Use sun-loving plants in the full sun and the shade-tolerant plants in less sun.

Many plants have different water requirements. Make sure you keep the drought-tolerant plants away from plants you have to water daily. Plan your watering system to water accurately in garden and turf areas. Water restrictions may not be enforced along the Front Range this year, but it is almost certain they will be in effect in years to come. Plan to use water-wise plants from the X-rated (xeriscape) program designed by experts in green industry along with the Denver Water Board.

A plan should be scaled out so you know how large plants are going to get in the future. A Colorado blue spruce looks great up by the house when it’s only 5 or 6 feet high, but someday it will be 40 to 60 feet high. Will it block a view? Will it grow into the roofline of the house? Plans can be as simple as knowing the size of the plot, selecting appropriate plants, and knowing how large the plants will get.

The single most important detail you can give your garden or plants is to amend the soil. We have great mineral content in Colorado, but the plant medium is usually less than desirable. Decomposed granite, clay, and sandy gravel are the typical types of soil conditions in our area. Plants need soil, water, and air to survive. If the soil is too tight and holds too much water, your plants will drown. By adding composted material and a sandy gravel mix to the clay, drainage will be made easier and plants will have a better chance to breathe. If you water a plant in sandy conditions, the water will quickly drain away, offering less to the plant. By adding peat moss and composted material, the soil will retain more moisture for the plant to use.

When gardens sit out in the elements of our region, they are exposed to a fair amount wind and sun. The result is transpiration, or water loss by the plant. Some of this water loss can be reduced by using mulch. What is mulch? Basically a shredded or milled by-product containing scraps from trimming and cutting trees.

Some companies are using old pallets and dye to achieve a longer-lasting color effect in mulch. I prefer natural cedar chips to most other kinds of mulch. Cedar mulch has a long life, looks good, and is sized consistently. Cedar is offered in large, medium, small, and shredded sizes and is usually found in bags at most nurseries and garden centers. I also use another fine forest mulch around perennials and smaller gardens called Soil Pep. Apply 3 to 4 inches of mulch around plants to keep evaporation to a minimum and 4 to 6 inches in gardens to keep weeds at bay.

Use the plan, the correct plant selection, mulch, and some common sense and ask for advice when needed. Ask you neighbor or local nursery worker to help get you on the right track with gardening in the Tri-Lakes area.

Woody Woodworth is a member of the Garden Centers of Colorado and owns High Country Home and Garden center in downtown Monument.

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Bird Watch on the Palmer Divide: Western bluebird

Click here or on the drawing to zoom in

Below: Drawing of Western Scrub Jays by Elizabeth Hacker.

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Elizabeth Hacker

Spring is here, and the western bluebirds have returned! We humans have an affinity for this endearing medium-size blue songbird. Scout troops build and maintain nesting boxes to protect it, residents purchase expensive birdhouses and mealworms to attract it, hikers stop to observe it, and every year I am asked many questions about this delightful bird.

The western bluebird is a common sight in the West. Like its cousin, the American robin, the bluebird is a member of the thrush family of birds. Both have strong legs and an orange breast, lay blue eggs, and their adolescent birds have spotted breast feathers. However, the bluebird is smaller and more reticent than the bold robin.

Unlike the eastern and mountain bluebirds, the western bluebird prefers nesting in forest openings rather than in large expansive meadows. It weaves a nest of dry grasses and pine needles in a secondary tree cavity carved out by woodpeckers. The aggressive European starling, also a secondary cavity nester, often takes advantage of the bluebird’s hard work by chasing off the parents and pushing the babies out so it can take over the nest.

Bluebird boxes placed along roads and trails and in parks and back yards offer protection from many predators because they are enclosed and the hole is just big enough for a bluebird. Often I see bluebirds and violet-green swallows nesting in boxes relatively close together, and this is not merely a coincidence. In addition to bringing food to the bluebird chicks, the swallow is a fast, aggressive flier that helps the bluebird parents to protect their nest and territory. Bluebirds spend a good part of the day singing perched on a lower branch, making them easy prey for house cats. The swallow tends to perch up high and thus is less vulnerable to being caught by cats.

Bluebird pairs remain together until the first brood fledges, usually sometime in late June. Last year we were late in putting out our nesting box, and a pair flew around our yard searching for a place to nest. We suspected that it might be the same pair that nested in our yard the two previous seasons, but they could have been related offspring or even unrelated birds. Unless a bird is banded, one assumption is as good as the next.

After the female lays her eggs, she sits on them while the male brings her food. Once the eggs hatch, the honeymoon is over and both parents work continuously to bring insects to the chicks. Our nesting box opens on the side, and my husband Randy enjoys looking in on the chicks several times a day. While Randy is near the box, the parents scold him and will not approach it until he leaves.

After many years of watching western bluebirds working tirelessly to raise a family, it surprised me to learn that recent genetics studies indicate that almost half of all nests had chicks that were not fathered by the defending male. Bluebirds are very social birds, so maybe I should have suspected it.

In September, flocks reform to begin the southward migration that continues through November. Fellow birders often report seeing a few bluebirds here during the winter months, and it is thought that some may stay behind to guard territories. The majority must fly to Texas, Mexico, or Central America where fruits, seeds, and insects are plentiful.

When asked if clearing land for development has an impact on birds, I respond that it doesn’t have to. Any change in the landscape, whether by man or forces of nature, will impact wildlife. However, with a little care and planning, manmade impacts can be greatly reduced.

Grading of large tracts of land for residential subdivisions, shopping malls, and roads removes tons of native vegetation. For native birds, this loss is rather like losing their home, job, and retirement plan combined. In addition to loss of habitat, the numbers of bird species like the European starling that thrive in developed areas increase and compete with native birds for reduced resources and nesting sites.

A few years ago, flocks of evening grosbeaks migrated through here every spring and fall. The grosbeak is a large songbird that must stop everyday to feed on native grasses and flower seeds. Many birders have remarked that they don’t see them here anymore. As development continues to occur in the Tri-lakes area, it would be sad if this trend continued and populations of migrating birds such as the western bluebird were to abandon this area.

Many communities have made providing habitat for native birds a priority, and small changes in the way a community approaches landscaping are significant. For instance, many homeowners landscape with native vegetation and add a water feature to attract birds, and some developers revegetate disturbed land with native seed mixtures that, once established, will provide valuable habitat.

Many governmental entities, utility companies, homeowners associations, and water districts have established standards for vegetation and schedules for mowing open spaces. Grass areas are mowed with little consideration to nesting birds, and disturbed landscapes are often reseeded with non-native grasses. Modifying mowing schedules and seeding specification are small changes that will contribute to building a livable community for birds as well as people.

Elizabeth Hacker is an artist and her limited edition bird prints are available at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake. Proceeds from sale of prints benefit the center and habitat preservation. She welcomes comments and questions: elizabethhacker66@yahoo.com 

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Art Matters: You can take it with you

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Photos provided by the artist

Below Breath of Dawn by Ruth Burink, Sculptor. Burink is a local resident and resident artist at The Winter-Helmich Gallery. She will be speaking at the gallery for the April Art Chat on Sat., April 25, 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. She will share her inspirations, methods, multiple medias and answer questions. This event is free and open to the public. Coffee and donuts will be served. 

Front view.

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Side view.

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Below: Ruth Burink

By Janet Sellers

Home sales are reportedly way down lately, remodeling is on hold, and playing at home is the alternative to going out on the town. Many of us are repurposing our living and working spaces, work time and down time, to better serve our lives.

So how to increase our quality of living, renew our souls, and keep the budget way down all at the same time? One choice is a remodel to give our living space a change and to create a better space design. At an average cost of $100-$700 per square foot of the room, this is not as budget-conscious as some would like. So, another choice is to paint the walls and other inexpensive updates. But these improvements will not go with you when you leave, sell, or otherwise change residence.

Art, on the other hand, can accomplish important design influences, and you can take it with you. The investment is frequently far less than a remodel, a repaint job, and definitely less than buying a new place. Unless you are shopping for museum-quality pieces, art is the way to go to refresh your inner vista and reclaim your inner freedom.

So, what can artwork provide that a remodel, paint job, and the like cannot? First off, you can have your art and also take it with you. Indoors, consider paintings of all kinds, sculpture, mobiles, fiber art; outdoors, consider small and large sculpture, art benches, and elements that bring attention to that art space. The art will bring a sensibility to the space unattainable in structural elements of building or landscape design.

Businesses, institutions, hospitals, state venues, and municipalities are all getting the hang of art on the walls, in the rooms, and in entrances as well as outdoors in the public eye. Art provides the human touch that too often architectural design and building codes, as well as furniture, cannot provide. The human touch reaches far further into our psyche, and is the mark of optimal living.

Good art keeps us motivated, brings out our best thoughts, and is a joy to behold. Trendiness and dazzle in the art world is common and is as wild and crazy as people make it out to be. In its true context, good art is always in good taste. Art provides balance and equilibrium for our visual awareness. This in turn develops our abilities for much more optimizing in our lives. We need that in good times, but we benefit most from it in hard times.

For every cultural level, there is art. For every need of expression (and it is a human need), there is an art form. We are vulnerable to our interior architectural needs and the aesthetic influences on the human psyche every day. Humans require pleasure and peace of mind for quality of life.

As humans, we paint, decorate and embellish whatever we can. In every culture of the world, humans alone bring the art elements into their daily life. From castles to cottages to yurts, from trucker cabins to airstream trailers, from gardens to vast landscapes, we humanize our space with what pleases us. So how about making plans now to take this goodness with you, change it around, and enjoy a renewed room with art? Entertain thoughts on getting some decent art if you don’t have it already. The best time for a good price is now.

So, do you know how to buy some art at a fair price? By fair price, I mean fair, not cheap. Cheap is for department store decorations sold as "art" decor or some flimsy excuse to sell a prop whose only value is to the store cash register, not to the buyer. This kind of purchase is a waste of your money and your attention.

Many hobby artists are poets and creative thinkers who chose another profession to make money and support their life and family. Their work is good to very, very good, and chances are their prices will be a good value because they are doing it for the love and not for the price. While it’s true that professional artists aim the highest in terms of quality, competitive edge and return on investment, every truly good value in art collecting is worthy of your attention and your money.

Happily, many of the avocation artists offer their works in group shows, art society shows, and the like. They may not be able to make enough works for a one-person show, but their good works are made available in group exhibitions with plenty of variety and choices.

The best advice for an art purchase in any economy is to develop a keen eye for emerging artists’ work by visiting gallery shows, buying within your budget, and beginning a collection at whatever price you can afford.

As with any business plan, the artist’s work plan, like the buyer’s collecting plan, must include an understanding of overall cost to value as well as work-specific costs. There is the cost of research, materials, labor, and execution as well as marketing, sales, and delivery. In addition, the artist as manufacturer (for that is what the artist does—imagine, create, manifest) must be keenly aware of trends, venues, and markets so as to remain viable in all market conditions. Savvy collectors follow their artist’s lead in visual perception, with input from their art gallery professional for a successful and creative cultural relationship.

Starting in May, our local Art Hop in Historic Monument will be held on the third Thursday of each month. Bring a friend and visit as many galleries as you can and really take in the art. Meet the gallery owners, exchange cards, and create a relationship. Your budget is your budget, so let it be known what you seek or if you are simply taking it all in for now. Start small, with just introducing yourself: This could be the start of something big!

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

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Snapshots of Our Community

Colorado Art Education Association exhibit at TLCA

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Below: The Colorado Art Education Association (CAEA) held its 18th annual art exhibit at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) during the month of March. CAEA membership consists of art educators from around the state. CAEA Members who participated in the exhibit, posed for this March 7 photo at the TLCA with the show’s juror (far right), Cloyde Snook, Professor Emeritus from Adams State College. Photo by David Futey.

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Outta The Garage at TLCA, March 6

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Below: It is not too often that you hear someone ask a Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) musical performer if his wife is at the concert or the band acknowledges an audience member’s birthday and a couple’s engagement. However the March 6 performance of Outta The Garage was not the usual TLCA concert. On this night, the TLCA opened its doors to this local band much to the delight of the band member’s friends, families and others from the community. Outta The Garage band members are (L-R) Richard Keene, Tom Dermody, Bruce Langston, Keeny Uvegas, and Steve Gordon and they hail from the Tri-Lakes area or Colorado Springs. Photo by David Futey.

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Chess tournament winners acknowledged, March 19

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Below: At the Lewis-Palmer District 38 school board meeting March 19, Steve Waldmann, organizer of the 3rd Annual Lewis-Palmer District 38 chess tournament introduced some of the winners of the event, which was held Feb. 21 at Lewis-Palmer Elementary School. The tournament is held every year and is open free to all district 38 students from kindergarten through grade 12. The event this year attracted 95 participants. 42 trophies and 53 medals were awarded. Photo by John Heiser.

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LPHS Serteens Club wins national award

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Below: At the Lewis-Palmer District 38 school board meeting March 19, former D-38 Superintendent Ted Bauman (center) on behalf of the Monument Hill Sertoma Club presented a National Award from the Freedoms Foundation to the Lewis-Palmer High School Serteen Club. There is more information on the Freedoms Foundation and the award at www.freedomsfoundation.org. Photo by John Heiser.

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Finders and Youngberg at TLCA, March 27

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Below: On March 21, Finders and Youngberg, a dynamic bluegrass band from Fort Collins, entertained an enthusiastic crowd at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts. (L-R) Aaron Youngberg, Amy Finders, Erin Youngberg, and Mike Finders performed their own compositions that are built upon the traditional styles of such artists as Arlo Guthrie and Hank Williams. The band recently released their first CD, Keep Your Suitcase Packed. Information about the group is available at their Web site: www.findersandyoungberg.com. Photo by David Futey.

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Sonny Hood’s photos exhibited at TLCA

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Below: Photographer Sonny Hood and his wife Deb Hood pose by a few of his photographs that were on display at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts Lucy Owens Gallery during the month of March. Hood’s goal as a photographer is to "inspire others to appreciate the beauty around us" and to have a more protective attitude toward nature and the environment. Photo by David Futey.

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March and April library events

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Below: Marne Collins with sons Grogan and Cedar enjoy working together on their projects at the Monument Library March 14. Photo by Harriet Halbig.

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By Harriet Halbig

March was an active month at the library. Patrons looking forward to spring filled the community room on March 7 to hear a program on gardening in the Pikes Peak region.

The following Saturday, children and parents filled the community room and adjoining area to make projects provided by Home Depot. There was a choice of several projects, and each child went home with his or her activity and a personalized Home Depot apron. That same day, after hours, about 60 teens enjoyed a dance with refreshments and drawings for various prizes.

The week of March 23 was spring break, with special programs almost every day at the library. Monday’s program was a presentation of shadow puppets with an ecological message by Patti Smithsonian. Tuesday featured a musical program, and Wednesday was an origami program.

The display of quilts throughout the library also attracted much admiration, with many patrons taking advantage of a printed program to tour the exhibit.

Looking forward to April, the library will celebrate Earth Day on April 11 by welcoming llamas from Touch the Earth Ranch in Black Forest. Patrons will learn about llamas’ history as pack animals and about the use of their coats in spinning and weaving. The program will be at 1:30 p.m. at the Monument Branch.

Also on the 11th, Woody and Catherine Woodworth from High Country Home and Garden will return to the library for a program on high-altitude gardening. The program will begin at 10:30 a.m.

National Library Week is April 12-18. Visit the Monument Branch from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.on Tuesday the 14th for refreshments and learn more about the library district’s services and programs. Library Week is a time to celebrate the contributions of libraries, librarians, and library workers in schools, campuses, and communities. Palmer Lake’s celebration of Library Week will be on Friday the 17th from 2:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The Monumental Readers Book Group will discuss "Broken for You" by Stephanie Kallos on Friday, April 17, at 10 a.m. There is no registration required, and new members are always welcome.

Children in grades 3 through 6 are welcome to participate in the Read it Before You See It program on Wednesday, April 22, from 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Read any book about monsters or aliens and come for a discussion, activities, popcorn, and a chance to win free movie tickets to see the new movie "Monsters vs. Aliens." Registration is required. Please call 488-2370 or drop by the branch.

AARP’s Mature Safe Driving Program will be offered on Saturday, April 25, from 9:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. A minimum of 10 students is required for the class to be held. Charge for the course is $12 for AARP members and $14 for nonmembers. Registration is required online or at 488-2370.

During the month of April, the Monument Branch will feature a display of first-edition books by cowboy author and artist Will James in its display case. On the walls will be "Batiks, Mostly," a display of silks, kimonos, and scarves.

The Palmer Lake Library will feature "Which Gun Won the Old West" as part of Family Fun @ Your Library in April. Roger Davis will compare the historical Remington and Colt pistols as he discusses this crucial tool of the 1870s. Tour the Lucretia Vail Museum to see artifacts and discover information about the Palmer Divide area’s fascinating history. The program will take place on Saturday, April 18, at 10:30 a.m. It is appropriate for all ages.

The Palmer Lake Book Group will discuss "Middlesex" by Jeffrey Eugenides on Friday, May 1, at 9 a.m. New members are always welcome. To reserve a copy of this book, call the branch at 481-2587.

The Palmer Lake branch is located at 66 Lower Glenway in Palmer Lake.

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Historical Society hears history of trolley system

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Photos by Bernard Minetti

Below: (L-R) H. Howard Noble and Greg Roberts, co-presenters from the Pikes Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation. 

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Below: In January, Art Walter became the Palmer Lake Historical Society’s new Vice-President replacing Cdr. Richard Cooper USN (Ret.), who resigned to take a volunteer position at the Air Force Academy. Walter is retired from the U.S. Army . 

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By Bernard L. Minetti

On March 19, the Palmer Lake Historical Society heard a presentation by H. Howard Noble, vice president and executive director of the Pikes Peak Historical Railway Foundation. Noble started his career as a track worker and eventually rose to become the owner of the Cadillac and Lake City Railroad located in Northern Michigan. Assisting him in the presentation was Gregory Roberts, a senior restoration specialist. Roberts presently has the task of restoring Car 59 at the depot in Colorado Springs.

The foundation is 26 years old and consists of an all-volunteer staff. It was founded to maintain the history of the street railway system. The museum located at 2333 Steel St. in Colorado Springs is a restoration center for several organizations, including the Cumbres and Toltec narrow gauge railway system located in southern Colorado.

Noble gave a presentation that narrated the history of the restoration efforts. Presently, the restored cars run on a shortened track through Colorado Springs on special occasions. There are plans for an entirely new system that would extend from South Tejon in Colorado Springs to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in the vicinity of Austin Bluffs and Nevada.

The museum is located at the foot of Steel Street and is open to the public Monday through Saturday. To reach it, exit I-25 at Fillmore and go east to Steel Street, turn right onto Steel and proceed to the end of the street.

Children will especially enjoy the tour. Consider bringing your family to view and hear the monthly presentations. To know the history of the area you live in adds a cultural dimension to your children’s knowledge of the area they live in.

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Last month, the Historical Society changed the date of the April meeting to April 23. The date for the Vintage Fashion Show has been changed back to April 16 at 7 p.m. Students and adults involved with the society will model the fashions. The clothing displayed will cover the period from the Victorian era to the 1960s. The fashions are from the Mary Meyer collection and the Vaille Museum displays.

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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.

D-38 Special Needs Community Resource Fair, April 4

Everyone is welcome to attend the Special Needs Community Resource Fair April 4, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., at 146 Jefferson St., Monument. The free fair is sponsored by D-38’s Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC). Come find out about agencies, services, and resources for people with all ranges of disabilities.

For more information, call Ilanit Bennaim at 325-6979 or e-mail ilanit@kw.com

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County Hazardous Materials Facility open April 11

The El Paso County Hazardous Materials Collection Facility is open for drop-offs the second Saturday of each month, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., in addition to its regular weekday schedule, Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. The facility accepts paint and paint-related products, stains, strippers, solvents, thinners, lacquers and varnishes, lawn and garden chemicals, and household cleaners. It provides proper disposal of old batteries, fire extinguishers, fireworks, flares, and ammunition as well automotive products like antifreeze, motor oil, brake and transmission fluids and batteries. No tires, please.

You can bring in computers, printers, cell phones, digital cameras, and televisions up to 19 inches diagonal. Trade in an old mercury thermometer and get a new digital thermometer free, one per household. There is no fee, but a nonperishable food item donation for Care and Share is encouraged. The facility is located at 3255 Akers Dr. Akers Drive runs north off Constitution Avenue just west of Marksheffel Road.

For more information on the county’s environmental programs and services call 520-7878 or visit http://adm.elpasoco.com/Environmental_Services/Solid_Waste_Management.

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Palmer Lake Easter Pancake Breakfast, April 12

The annual Easter Pancake Breakfast will be held April 12, 7-11 a.m., at the Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent. Come on down and enjoy breakfast prepared by the Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department. The cost is $5 for adults, $3 for children. For more information, call Palmer Lake Town Office at 481-2953.

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National Library Week 2009: Worlds Connect @ your library®, April 12-18

Find out how you can connect with the world at your library during National Library Week, April 12-18. Visit the Monument branch (1706 Lake Woodmoor Dr., 488-2370) or Palmer Lake branch (66 Lower Glenway, 481-2587) throughout the week for refreshments and learn more about Pikes Peak Library District’s services and programs.

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County seeks citizen volunteers, April 17

The El Paso County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) needs community-minded citizen volunteers to serve on advisory boards. Applications for the open positions are due by April 17. Two private citizens are needed to serve three-year terms on the Citizen Review Panel. The panel is an extension and continuation of the grievance (appeal) procedure established through the Department of Human Services Quality Assurance Program. The Community Corrections Board needs a citizen-at-large representative to serve a three-year term. This board advises the Board of County Commissioners on programs that provide supervision of offenders diverted from prison and those transitioning back into the community after prison. The volunteer application is located at www.elpasoco.com and can be accessed by clicking on the "Volunteer Boards" link. For further information call 520-6436.

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Friday Night Jam Series: Reckless, April 17

Get your dancin’ shoes on and come to the Friday Night Jam at Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) April 17, 7:30 p.m., to listen and dance to the music of Reckless. Doors open at 7 for the 7:30 p.m. show. Reckless blends smooth harmonies and rich instrumentals in a wide range of rock ‘n’ roll, from the classic sounds of the Rolling Stones to beautiful ballads of John Prine. Tickets are $5 and sold only at the door. TLCA is located at 304 Colorado Highway 105, Palmer Lake. For more information, phone 481-0475 or visit the Web site at www.trilakesarts.org.

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Dakota Blonde concert, April 18

Dakota Blonde will perform at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) April 18. Doors open at 7 for the 7:30 p.m. show. This unique group met through their careers in music therapy, working with emotionally troubled youngsters. The trio nails their tight harmonies in a unique combination of folk, bluegrass, and country with a little Celtic tinge. Tickets are $12 TLCA members and $15 non-members and are available at The Wine Seller (481-3019), Covered Treasures Bookstore (481-2665), and TLCA (481-0475). TLCA is located at 304 Colorado Highway 105, Palmer Lake. For more information, visit the Web site at www.trilakesarts.org or call 481-0475.

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Pine Forest Antiques Show and Sale, April 18-19

The Tri-Lakes Women’s Club (TLWC) will hold its 33rd annual Pine Forest Antiques Show and Sale April 18, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and April 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at Lewis-Palmer High School, 1300 Higby Rd., Monument. The popular show features collectibles and antiques including furniture, jewelry, glassware and pottery, and Native American items. Tickets are $5 (12 and under free) and are available at the door. The Country Café opens at 9 a.m. so you can enjoy cinnamon rolls and Serrano’s coffee before the show. Lunch will be available at 11 a.m., and steak soup is back along with an expanded menu.

A bake sale features homemade pies, cakes, candies, cookies, and dog treats. Saturday, local authors William Scott, John Stansfield, and Emily B. Warner will autograph their books purchased. Saturday and Sunday Kevin J. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta will be available to sign their books, even previously purchased ones. A crystal grinder will be available both days of the show, so bring in your scratched and damaged glass for an inexpensive repair. Sunday only, appraisers in several specialties will provide verbal appraisals for $5 per item with a three-item limit per person.

To date, TLWC has awarded more than $541,000 in grants to local police and fire departments, public schools, and other nonprofit service organizations within the Tri-Lakes community. For more information about TLWC, its granting program/application, and the Pine Forest Antiques Show and Sale, please visit www.tlwc.net

Lewis-Palmer High School is located on the east side of I-25 between Baptist Road (Exit 158) and the Monument exit (Exit 161). Follow the signs to the show. Parking is free. For more information, e-mail communityproj@tlwc.net

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Low-Income Energy Assistance Program ends April 30

Low-income households can get assistance with their winter home heating costs and non-fuel emergencies such as heating system repairs and window replacement. The federally funded program known as LEAP (Low-Income Energy Assistance Program) runs through April 30. Any U.S. citizen or legal resident of Colorado who pays heating costs directly to an energy provider, or whose heating costs are included with their monthly rent, may qualify for LEAP if their monthly gross household income falls within the federal poverty guidelines. For more information, call 1-866-432-8435.

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Live theater in Monument, May 8-10

Spotlight Community Theatre presents the comedy mystery "Any Number Can Die," a spoof on the murder mysteries of the 1920s and ‘30s, May 8-10 at the Woodmoor Barn, 1691 Woodmoor Dr., Monument. Call 488-0775 for details and tickets.

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John Adams & Friends concert, May 9

Join John Adams and his band for a magical musical journey through the songs and stories of Rocky Mountain Legend John Denver at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) May 9. Doors open at 7 for the 7:30 p.m. show. Tickets are $12 TLCA members and $15 non-members and are available at The Wine Seller (481-3019), Covered Treasures Bookstore (481-2665) in Monument and TLCA (481-0475) in Palmer Lake. Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts is located at 304 Colorado Highway 105, Palmer Lake. For more information, call 481-0475 or visit the Web site at www.trilakesarts.org.

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Fourth Annual Gleneagle Spirit 5K Run/Walk, May 16

This spirited annual athletic event takes place May 16, 8-11:30 a.m., at Antelope Trails Elementary School, 15280 Jessie Dr. The 5K course winds through scenic Gleneagle and offers a variety of elevations to challenge all participants. The race will be professionally timed, and gold, silver, and bronze medals will be presented to the top male and female finishers in eight age divisions. Participants will receive an event T-shirt, water bottle, and other sponsor goodies. After the run/walk, participants will be treated to a pasta feed, live music, stretching, body/ankle/leg massages, and a display of firefighting/emergency response equipment in a festival atmosphere. The cost is $20 per participant pre-registered ($25 day of the race registration). Children under 14 are free. All net proceeds benefit Boy Scout Troop 194. To register for the Gleneagle Spirit, look for the registration form boxes along Gleneagle Drive or call Mark Rudolph, 492-3974.

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Tri-Lakes Senior Alliance Thrift Store now open

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

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Senior Safety Program

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

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Gardener Help Desk at Monument Library begins May 13

Volunteer master gardeners from Colorado State University will be available to help Tri-Lakes gardeners Wednesdays, 3 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., May 13 through Sept. 2. They welcome questions about water issues, pest management, and plants that thrive in our area. Stop by Monument Branch Library, 1706 Lake Woodmoor Dr., to discuss your landscape problems or to brag about your successes! For more information, call 488-2370.

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Wildlife Masters in El Paso County

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

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IRS offers free e-newsletter for small businesses

The IRS has designed an online newsletter, e-News for Small Businesses, to help small- business owners, self-employed individuals, accounting professionals, and tax practitioners better understand and meet their tax obligations. The weekly newsletter delivers timely, useful tax information right to your computer every Wednesday. To subscribe to e-News, go to www.irs.gov/businesses/small/content/0,,id=154826,00.html, type in your e-mail address, and submit.

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