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Vol. 9 No. 5 - May 2, 2009


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Click here to view a page of higher resolution photos from this issue.

the PDF file. This is a 10.1 Mbyte file and will take about 60 minutes 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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Palmer Lake Easter Egg Hunt, April 11

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Below: The Palmer Lake Easter Egg hunt April 11. Carrie Locke, a teacher at Lewis-Palmer Middle School and sponsor of the school’s National Junior Honor Society, said 65 members helped stuff 1,300 plastic eggs. There were also many games offered in the warmth of Town Hall such as bean bag toss and pillow case and "egg-in-a-spoon" races with prizes such as pencils and erasers. Photo by Jim Kendrick

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Below: Palmer Lake resident Cooper Hazenar exchanges greetings with Easter Bunny Emily Gorder. Photo by Jim Kendrick

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Academy Water and Sanitation District, April 8: Operator considers options for upgrades

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Below: Trucks and tractors from Parker Ag were a familiar sight at Academy’s treatment plant during March. It took the company nearly a month to clean out two lagoons. One million gallons of sludge that had built up along the sides and bottom of the lagoons were removed. Photo provided by Anthony Pastorello.

Click on the photos to zoom in.

By Susan Hindman

Academy Water and Sanitation District operator Anthony Pastorello continues to work with an eye toward three important dates: 2010, when the district’s next wastewater treatment facility permit is due to be reissued; 2012, when the state will set new ammonia-level standards that will affect the district; and 2015, when, in order for the district’s next discharge permit to be approved, action would have to be under way to meet those new standards.

It is a daunting task for a district that depends on only around 300 homes for its income.

Pastorello and engineer Fred Ladd have been looking at the technology that is available for upgrading the lagoons to meet the upcoming ammonia standards, and reporting back to the board. They had looked at a reverse osmosis system but found it would not work because the lagoons have too many suspended solids.

The two recently visited a lagoon treatment plant in Johnston, Colo., similar to Academy’s, which uses a Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor (MBBR) system to treat ammonia. It requires water in the lagoons to be kept at 4.5 degrees Celsius or higher. Currently, Academy’s first lagoon (which is fed directly from people’s homes) is warm enough in winter, but the second lagoon, which receives water from the first lagoon, drops to 3 degrees C during the winter months. Pastorello said a solar cell panel could be used to heat that water—"green technology" that would help the district qualify for grant money and allow it to get rebates or refunds for electrical energy not used.

The MBBR, which would be placed at the back of the second lagoon, not only strips out all the ammonia, it cleans up carbonaceous BOD (or, CBOD) very well. (High CBOD numbers have gotten Academy into trouble with the state, though measures have already been taken to greatly improve those numbers.) The treated water from the MBBR would then be discharged into the creek.

Pastorello hopes to pinpoint the right lagoon technology this year, then work on pricing the system itself, any infrastructure development needed, and the engineering. Funding the upgrades would be the next focus, and Pastorello has been taking steps toward this as well. He said that Academy has been ranked as a "level 2" on the state’s revolving fund loan list, meaning that once the current bond is paid off (in 2014), the district would be one of the first to be considered for a low-interest loan. That would come in time to help pay for whatever type of technology is selected.

Another upgrade Pastorello wants is to install a screen in front of the first lagoon (which is where the solids first enter and are broken down) to remove grit and inorganic solids. Decreasing the "inorganic loading of the lagoons" would decrease the biological and chemical byproducts in the lagoons, he said. The screened-out debris would get hauled away.

Sludge removal complete: After nearly a month of work, Parker Ag Services completed sludge removal in two of the three lagoons. It was the first such cleaning in 22 years. More than 600,000 gallons of sludge were removed from the first lagoon; another 400,000 gallons came out of the second lagoon. The third lagoon, normally dry and unused, was not cleaned, but wastewater was moved there from the other two lagoons while they were being cleaned.

Cost for the cleaning ran $10,000 over the original estimate of $90,000 because the number of gallons pulled out was higher than originally estimated and the company charges by the gallon.

Sun Hills Fire Station: Pastorello said that the volunteer fire station on Sun Hills needs a new 1-inch water meter, which would be installed due to concerns about leaks. He was told by the Donald Wescott Fire Protection District that the station will be remodeled to support a two-man overnight crew there sometime in the near future.

Money owed: Treasurer Walter Reiss said he needs to send out 17 letters to people with past-due accounts. Currently, $4,700 is past due, going back longer than 90 days. There are two homeowners "we’ll never collect from" because their homes are in foreclosure, and there are five other "repeat offenders."

Other items: Pastorello said that the lift station pumps are "habitually" getting clogged—they are running but not pumping. He recommended that DRC, the company that will be performing scheduled sewer cleaning, be asked to clean out the pumps.

Repairs on the hydrant at the intersection of Stella and Becky Drives are being put off a little longer until more money comes in. Nearby hydrants can provide water in case of fire.

Pastorello reported that he passed his wastewater operator’s certification test.

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The Academy Water and Sanitation District board usually meets at 7 p.m. the first Wednesday of every month at the fire station on Sun Hills Drive. The next meeting is May 6.

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Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, April 15: Authority interested in connection to CSU

the PDF file of Gary Barber's Pikeview Protocol presentation. This is a 7.6 Mbyte file and will take about 44 minutes to download using a dial-up modem. Click here for help with PDF downloads. To view and print the file, you will need to download and install the free Acrobat Reader Program.

By John Heiser

At the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority’s (PPRWA) regular monthly meeting April 15, a major topic was Colorado Springs Utilities’ (CSU) progress on the Southern Delivery System (SDS) and the possibility of the PPRWA establishing a water supply connection with CSU.

After six years of sometimes-bitter disagreements, on April 14, by an 8 to 1 vote, the Colorado Springs City Council approved the conditions set by Pueblo County to build the $1.1 billion SDS pipeline north from Pueblo Reservoir. A week later, the Pueblo County commissioners approved and signed a permit for the pipeline. There is SDS information at www.sdswater.org

At the April 15 PPRWA meeting, authority manager Gary Barber made a presentation called "Pikeview Protocol Process" regarding how a PPRWA/CSU connection making use of SDS might be developed. Barber said he feels the climate is right for a regional approach and encouraged each of the members of the PPRWA to assess their board of directors’ level of commitment to making such a connection. Click here to download the presentation as a PDF.

The members of the PPRWA are the Cherokee Metropolitan District, the City of Fountain, the Donala Water and Sanitation District, the Town of Monument, the Town of Palmer Lake, and the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District.

Kip Petersen, manager of the Cherokee district and president of the PPRWA, said he planned to meet April 20 with CSU representatives and discuss the possibilities. He added, "We have an opportunity to work with CSU we never had before."

Larry Bishop, manager of the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District, cautioned the group not to get its hopes up, since prior prospects for a connection with CSU have not materialized.

Brett Gracely, water resources planning manager for CSU, who was present for the PPRWA meeting, noted that CSU’s Utility Policy Advisory Committee (UPAC) provides recommendations to the Colorado Springs Utilities Board and so would be involved in deliberations regarding regional projects. There is information on UPAC at www.csu.org/about/upac and information on the Utilities Board at www.csu.org/about/ub

Community engagement

Dana Duthie, general manager of the Donala district, noted that the Donala and Woodmoor districts have held several community meetings on water issues. He said, "We’re on track to a good solution. We need to get out there and tell folks what the problem is and that this is what we’re looking at."

At the PPRWA March 18 meeting, pollster Floyd Ciruli of Ciruli Associates proposed conducting a survey to gauge public opinion as to the seriousness of the water supply situation and willingness to accept higher rates and fees to address it.

Duthie suggested a series of public meetings in July or August followed up with a survey in September. He added that Donala is thinking of holding an election in May 2010 focused on the issue and is interested in having Ciruli conduct a survey of Donala residents in January or February.

Update on legislation

Dick Brown, lobbyist for the authority, reported that Colorado Senate Bill (SB) 09-141 that would create a special district for the preservation and improvement of the Fountain Creek Watershed has been approved by the House and Senate and is awaiting the signature of the governor, who is expected to sign it. 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.

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;
  • Ordinary household purposes.

Brown said the House made extensive amendments to the bill to clarify the language. The Senate approved the amendments without controversy and the bill is awaiting the governor’s signature. If the governor approves the bill, those who want to collect rooftop rainwater and snowmelt will be required to file an application and pay a fee.

House Bill (HB) 09-1129, sponsored by state Rep. Marsha Looper, which 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 April 18, Brown reported that the bill had passed the House with amendments and is pending the second reading floor debate in the Senate.

**********

The next regular meeting of the PPRWA will be held May 20 at 8:30 a.m. at the Monument Town Hall, 166 Second St. in Monument. 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, April 2: Loan sought for water treatment improvements

By Jim Kendrick

On April 2, the Palmer Lake Town Council held a special council meeting in addition to the regularly scheduled workshop. All members of the council were present.

Special meeting

The council unanimously approved a town application for a loan of $1.9 million at 3.5 percent interest from the Colorado State Revolving Fund for improvement of the town’s 25-year-old surface water treatment plant and distribution facilities.

Consultants Paul Gilbert, John Faulkner, Abby Meghetti, and Linda Firth of Tetra Tech Engineering presented the preliminary engineering report they had prepared for the application. Gilbert noted that production rates at the plant have been declining due to problems with the filtering media. He proposed improvements that would make it easier to run the plant at a higher capacity to meet tighter drinking water standards that will be imposed by the state in the future. Treating surface water with new technology is cheaper than pumping groundwater from a depth of 1,000 to 1,200 feet and removing the high manganese and iron content.

The consultants praised Water Superintendent Steve Orcutt for the quality of the maintenance he had performed to keep the antiquated system operational and the extraordinarily detailed records he provided them, which allowed them to design a system that cost less than the amount previously approved by the council. They also praised Town Clerk and Treasurer Della Gray and Water Clerk Tara Berreth for the quality of the supporting documentation they provided in support of the loan application.

Gilbert noted that three replacement systems were evaluated—two membrane systems and a conventional sand filtration system. A microfiltration system is the most efficient solution that would fit within the existing filtration building. Part of the new system could be installed without interruption of treatment. The current system would have to be removed to complete the installation. The operational system capacity would improve from about 250 to 500 gallons per minute.

The existing system has a theoretical filtering capacity of 800 gallons per minute, but the size and design of the piping system from the lower reservoir have always substantially limited surface water treatment capacity. The filtering media was replaced in 1999 and reconstituted in 2008. The proposed higher capacity would allow the town to increase the ratio of surface water to groundwater.

The new system consists of two modules that each can treat 250 gallons per minute. The current limit for the town’s senior surface water rights is 400 gallons per minute. The town’s more junior water right can also be cost-effectively treated as the town’s remaining vacant land is developed, while meeting state revolving fund loan constraints of 30 percent growth over 20 years.

Firth noted the time and funding constraints on the availability of a federal stimulus grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The town does not have enough time and the facility does not have a high enough state Health Department priority to successfully compete for a stimulus grant. Also, a full process of design, bidding, and contract award could not be completed by the stimulus grant deadline of Sept. 30.

Firth added that choosing a system that does not require expansion of the existing water treatment plant building avoids having to perform a costly and time-consuming environmental impact statement. The life span of the new system should be 40 years.

The council unanimously approved the voluminous application, which completely filled a four-inch binder.

Workshop

Former Trustee Richard Allen asked if "there was any resolution to the issues" that he had brought up regarding 2008 budget overruns at the March workshop." See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v9n4.htm#pltc for details of the half-hour exchange between Allen and council and staff members at the March 2 workshop regarding Police Department overspending during and after Allen’s tenure as the town’s police trustee that led to the departure of former Palmer Lake Police Chief Gene Ferrin. At the May 8, 2008, regular council meeting, Allen resigned his position as mayor pro-tem. Cressman then 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, 2008. See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n7.htm#pltc

Forensic audit request

Some of Cressman’s responses to Allen’s request for a forensic audit to determine why there were overruns in 2008 during and after Allen’s supervision of the Police Department were:

  • "We decided not to do a forensic audit, quote-unquote, but we are going to do an in-depth audit."
  • "The reason for a forensic audit is criminal, you’re looking for criminal-type activities and we’re not looking for criminal-type activities."

Allen said, "But what if there are some? The reason I bring that up is that there were people sitting here who said, ‘If you are worried about the expense, don’t.’ "

Trustee Nikki McDonald interrupted heatedly, "Because we don’t believe that there is criminal activity." Cressman added that the auditors "will take random portions of our budget and our records and they will take them as they would in a forensic audit and follow those: all the backup, all the receipts, all the entries, all the data, all that, but not do that on the entire budget."

County resident Jeff Hulsmann, who declared "I’ll pay for it, Nikki" during the March 5 workshop, did not take any action afterward to arrange to pay the cost of a forensic audit, which would exceed $11,000, as he had promised. Hulsmann, who owns a business in Palmer Lake, did not attend the March 12 council regular meeting or this workshop.

Allen interjected, "That makes good sense."

Cressman continued, "I think you’ll be satisfied, because it’s going to cost us some money, and it’s over and above what we normally do. The real reason to do that is to use that as a tool for us to make sure that our procedures are correct, it sharpens our bookkeeping, helps (Town Clerk and Treasurer) Della (Gray) with her tools, and helps us do our accounting, our fiduciary responsibilities to our citizens. But to go at it as a forensic, means, wow, we’re going to find something criminal. That’s not fair to Della. That’s what every accountant says it is. I researched it with some big accounting firms and that’s what a forensic audit is by definition. That was news to me. Because when we left that meeting I go, why forensic? And then somebody said, oh it’s just a really in-depth audit. But it really isn’t."

Allen said, "A good in-depth audit? Don’t just go in there and say yeah, you’re posting your debits and your credits and you’re following accepted bookkeeping procedures. Goodbye and thanks. If it’s going to go into more depth than that, if it’s going to trace from the request of the purchase to the approval, then that’s excellent."

Cressman replied, "I think we will learn, I hope we do, because it’s going to be expensive." McDonald added that a motion was made at the March 12 meeting for the in-depth audit.

Gray noted that the staff had begun monthly department head meetings. Roads Trustee Bryan Jack has been appointed to be the "budget trustee" to review any invoices or proposed spending "outside the norm." Jack will have the responsibility and authority to prevent overspending by department heads.

"And that’s huge, Richard, that really is," Cressman added, speaking to Allen. "We’re not being fair to Della because whenever there’s a budget question, we all go, ‘Della?’ " Cressman said a trustee has to "have an in-depth grasp on our budget" and "fortunately Bryan has time for that and the bandwidth to get in there."

Gray noted, "I don’t have the power to tell any department not to spend their money. Bryan has that capability to come to the board and say this department is giving us a lot of fits and we need to clamp down on it."

Allen again brought up his desire to know the precise amount of deductions made from each employee’s paycheck. Allen claimed that the "Colorado Public Records Act" states that every aspect of an employee’s pay "is absolutely open to the public" even though employees’ personnel records are "confidential."

Gray responded, "I’m going to look into that also because I want to have a clearer answer also, because I know an employee’s hourly wage or yearly salary is public record." He added, "But the net pay is what’s in question."

Allen again disputed the confidentiality of deductions made for electronic payments an employee has made to various institutions and the net remaining "take-home" amount. Allen has never stated why he wants or needs to know how much each town employee pays for taxes, health insurance costs, mortgage payments, or car payments, in addition to the total pay and benefits.

Cressman said, "We’ll get you an answer." McDonald said the public information is already available in the budget.

Community forum

One workshop agenda item was a half-hour community forum on "Visions and Concerns Shared with the Town Council by the Citizens of Palmer Lake." When no members of the audience spoke, Jack said that three citizens attended the "citizens’ forum" held in Town Hall on March 28 and that it was "pretty productive."

Jack and Cressman noted that the next citizens’ forum will be held in Town Hall on May 2 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Other matters

The council discussed and gave preliminary approval for:

  • An interim intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Monument to contract for temporary part-time management and supervisory services by Monument Police Chief Jacob Shirk for $2,500 per month until Palmer Lake hires a new police chief.
  • A new policy and procedures manual for the Palmer Lake Police Department that is more consistent with that of the Monument Police Department to better facilitate increasingly joint and cooperative operations between the two.
  • A request for business license for Real World Personal Training, 755 W. Highway 105, Units 10-12, from Bob Bader of 1 on 1 and Group Fitness Training.
  • A request for town approval of the most recent updates of the Pikes Peak Regional Building and Floodplain Codes. Henry Yankowski, director of the Regional Building Department, answered numerous very specific technical questions from Gray and Cressman, who is a general contractor. Because no town ordinances had to be revised, a resolution to approve the changes was passed at the Town Council meeting of April 9.
  • Researching a response to a request from the Woodmoor Improvement Association for the town to submit a bid to the association for renting the town’s chipper machine and two operators for two weekends in support of the association’s curbside chipping program.

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The next workshop will be at 7 p.m. on May 7 in Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent. Workshops are normally held on the first Thursday of the month. 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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Palmer Lake Town Council, April 9: Continued supervision by Monument police chief approved

By David Futey

The council approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Town of Monument for continued temporary supervision of the Palmer Lake Police Department by Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk.

Police Trustee Dan Reynolds said the agreement contracts out for the police chief role and leadership for $2,500 per month. The temporary agreement covers Monument legally, continues the present arrangement, and changes the present interim arrangement to something more established between the communities.

The agreement can be cancelled by either side at any point after 30 days. The Monument Board of Trustees had already approved the agreement. Trustee Bryan Jack wants a citizen survey conducted to determine how citizens want to proceed on filling the police chief position. Mayor John Cressman stated that the "town will actively search for a new police chief."

Easement change requested

There was a request by Julianne Turner to reconsider two easements on the building at 19 Highway 105. A 1963 survey showed property lines larger than the actual property size. However, the building received renovations based on that inaccurate survey. Turner needs to sell the building for personal reasons, and a present-day survey showed the discrepancy. This led to an offer on the building being withdrawn. The easement issue needs to be resolved because another offer on the building was received and the buyer and lending agency is requesting a perpetual easement.

Kathy Allen, owner of Raspberry Mountain Real Estate and a tenant in the building, spoke on behalf of Turner. Allen noted that there have been significant interior and exterior improvements based on the 1963 survey and requested that the perpetual easement be granted to satisfy lender and buyers. Trish Flake, who also operates a business in the building, spoke on Turner’s behalf. Flake’s parents are the interested buyers. Flake also asked the town to consider the perpetual easement.

Town Attorney Larry Gaddis clarified the request and stated that it is for an access easement and use easement restricted to current uses. Cressman asked if the town had a right to make improvements should the easement be approved. Gaddis indicated that the easement would have shared use. Cressman indicated that if approved as written, the easement could not be moved. Gaddis said the lender wants to ensure that there is access to the back of the building. Flake said the easement is needed for access to the upstairs apartment.

Cressman expressed his concern for needing the ability to move the easement in the interest of fairness to the town and its citizens. After additional discussion, Gaddis said he thought the council would be comfortable with the perpetual easement if it is moveable. Gaddis suggested amending the easement request to provide the ability for the town to relocate the Parcel A easement and make it a perpetual easement. Cressman would review those changes, and the council would have a special meeting to make a determination, given Turner’s pressing need to sell the property. A motion was approved to table any decision until the special meeting on April 14.

Former trustee raises questions

During the public input portion of the council meeting, former Palmer Lake Trustee Richard Allen raised a number of concerns. Initially Allen complimented the council on setting up the community forums and expressed hope that the forums "do not fade away" because he believes they have potential. Cressman asked if Allen could promote and facilitate citizens to attend the meetings. Allen said he might assist in such an effort.

Allen asked four questions and requested that council respond to each. The questions were:

  1. When will the special audit begin?
  2. After the 2008 town budget closed out, what is the final budget deficit for the police department?
  3. At the April 2 workshop meeting, Allen had asked about the town clerk’s hours. In Allen’s view at that meeting it seemed that the mayor did not know Town Clerk and Treasurer Della Gray’s scheduled work hours and had to ask her. To Allen this "sounds like an example of the tail wagging the dog. Citizens need to know the hours of the town clerk, as citizens need to rely on that information." Allen expressed that it is known that the town clerk is working but that her work hours need to "get in a pattern."
  4. Allen had asked the council about posting pay of department heads at the workshop meeting, and Jack researched the request. Allen said that the Colorado Public Information Act (CPIA) stipulated that such information could and should be made publicly available. Allen also stated that department heads should be attending the meetings that are held in regard to their particular area of responsibility. Gray could be "freed up" because, Allen said, she attends a number of department meetings that department heads should be attending. Allen stated that the "right people would be at those meetings to discuss the issues." He then encouraged Cressman to consider and enforce such attendance.

Jack asked "why we (Palmer Lake) do not post pay?" Allen suggested that Gaddis indicated that it would be inappropriate to post. Gray said that there are open records on the hourly rate or salary amounts for positions. Allen suggested that this could be one more step that shows the town is going to be upfront and open.

Gaddis indicated that he is trying to find out from the Colorado Municipal League what other communities do in print or other format in regard to posting of pay. Allen said he called other municipalities and they referred him to the CPIA. Gaddis said that gross salary is public record and that the issue is whether net salary is disclosable or falls under the confidentiality of personnel records. Jack raised the concern that it is difficult for trustees to adequately track payroll on their reports and reference back to the budget. Gray said that she could provide the salary without associating a name.

Roads Supervisor Bob Radosevich said people are entitled to know his gross pay and benefits but not the number of exemptions he claims for dependents or how he spends his money through such items as payroll deductions. "Whose business is it how much I take home?" he asked. Allen and Jack disagreed, saying any check written to any employee should be a public record. Gaddis said it is not as clear-cut as they believe.

In regard to the other questions asked by Allen, Gray said her public office hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and that she is available before or after those times by appointment. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Gray added that the only meeting she attends outside her area of responsibility is the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority meeting. Cressman said Gray’s hours can be posted.

Gaddis said the auditor estimated that a forensic audit would cost $20,000 at a minimum. He added that a complete audit is done on any transaction over $5,000, and that threshold amount can be changed. Trustee Max Stafford suggested lowering the threshold amount. Gray requested that council provide guidance on what the auditor should do. "I prefer not being involved in setting this thing up," she said.

The town’s current budget for the 2008 audit is $10,000. It costs an additional $1,000 to send the audit documents to the state.

Gaddis said the council should tell the auditor how much more it is willing to spend on additional work. Cressman said that a proposal is needed from the auditor that meets the desired result, which is to check accounting policies and procedures. Gray said the 2008 budget is completely closed and her annual figure was presented at a previous meeting. It will not be finalized until the audit is completed and forwarded to the state.

Committee reports

Cressman said he was pleased with the community forums even though there has not been much community involvement as yet. Cressman anticipates greater community participation in the future.

Fire Trustee Gary Coleman announced that the ambulance service agreement has been officially signed with the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District.

Roads Trustee Jack received three bids for installing a retaining wall at Pie Corner and Highway 105 as part of the Safe Route to Schools project. The bid from Oasis Landscaping was accepted, and the installation has been completed. Also, Jack expressed his appreciation for the efforts of Eagle Scout Blake Chambers, who refurbished benches at the lake and in Centennial Park.

Water Trustee Stafford reported that:

  • The town is using about one-half acre-foot a day on average, which is typical in the winter. An acre-foot is 43,560 cubic feet or about 325,851 gallons.
  • The town’s surface treatment water plant filters continue to be a problem, and material was added to the filters to improve their efficiency.
  • Colorado Senate Bill 141 (SB-141), which forms the Fountain Creek Watershed, has passed the House and Senate without one "no" vote. The bill was sent to Gov. Bill Ritter for his signature.

Reynolds reported that the town had received a "Click It or Ticket" grant, which is being used to cover police officer overtime to enforce seatbelt laws.

Gray met with Deborah Muehleisen of Census 2010. Census 2010 is requesting that the town establish a Complete Census Committee, a citizens committee that would develop a strategy to inform the community about census jobs.

Fishing Derby set for June 6

Fishing Derby organizer Ken Valdez announced that the derby will take place from 8 a.m. to noon June 6. There will be prizes and activities, and staff from the Colorado Division of Wildlife will offer fish identification and casting classes. The charge for the event will be $2 in advance and $3 on the day. Valdez is seeking sponsors in Palmer Lake area. The selected day for the event is the one day in the year that anyone can fish without a license.

Building code changes approved

By unanimous decision, the council approved various code changes requested by the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department. The changes and additions to the code affect the annual permit issued to licensed contractors and the annual permit fee.

Business license approved

By unanimous decision, the council approved a consent item for a new business license request for Real World Personal Training, 755 W Highway 105, Units 10-12, from Bob Bader of 1 on 1 and Group Fitness Training.

Arbor Day proclamation

Cressman read an Arbor Day proclamation to announce that Palmer Lake will be celebrating it for the 27th year.

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The next regular council meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on May 14 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, April 6: Temporary supervision of Palmer Lake police approved

Click here or on the photos to zoom in.

Below: 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 at the April 6 Monument Board of Trustees meeting. Photo by Jim Kendrick. 

Click on the photo to zoom in

Below: Fullen compared photos of existing houses in Trails End to illustrations of new models to show that the shutters and garage doors in some elevations were comparable. Photos by Jim Kendrick

Proposed new homes.

Click on the drawings to zoom in.

Existing homes.

Click on the photos to zoom in.

By Jim Kendrick

On April 6, the Monument Board of Trustees unanimously approved a temporary intergovernmental agreement for Monument Police Department Chief Jacob Shirk to continue supervision and management of the Palmer Lake Police Department on a part-time basis until a new chief is hired. Shirk’s help was originally requested by Palmer Lake Mayor John Cressman on Jan. 27 following the resignation of Palmer Lake Police Chief Gene Ferrin.

Trustee Steve Samuels was absent from the meeting.

Under the new agreement, Palmer Lake will pay $2,500 per month to Monument for Shirk and other Monument police supervisors to provide "command and control" on Palmer Lake’s behalf.

Palmer Lake will hold Monument harmless for and against any and all claims for injury or damage, including costs and reasonable attorney fees so long as the Monument employees are performing functions within the normal scope of their duties. Liability for their actions will be Monument’s responsibility.

Shirk said the arrangement would last two or three months while Palmer Lake searches for a new chief. The agreement may be terminated by either town with 30 days’ notice.

The Palmer Lake Town Council unanimously approved the agreement on April 9.

Trustees’ comments

Mayor Byron Glenn stated that subcommittee meetings he and Trustee Rafael Dominguez are holding on a regular basis with Triview Metropolitan District Directors Robert Fisher and Steve Remington on a memorandum of understanding regarding a town takeover of Triview operations should "come out positive for everybody." He said an agreement on the memorandum of understanding should be reached in three to four months.

The town is taking over day-to-day staff operations for Triview on a time and charges basis. Town Treasurer Pamela Smith has already replaced Triview administrator Dale Hill, who resigned on March 31. Former Triview accounts payable clerk Sherry Jurekovic was hired by the town to work in Smith’s department on Jan. 1. Two other Triview employees, Joyce Levad, accounts receivable/billing clerk, and Steve Sheffield, operations manager, will become town employees on May 1. Acting Triview District Manager Ron Simpson and Attorney Pete Susemihl will continue to work for the Triview board on a consultant basis for the time being.

Trustee Gail Drumm solicited participation or comments from the board, staff, and public for the Monument Cemetery subcommittee regarding items such as fees, upkeep, expansion, and design.

Trustee Tommie Plank announced that there would be an open house June 13 in the new Town Hall and Police Department building, located on the southwest corner of Highway 105 and Beacon Lite Road. There will be a "gala" sponsored by Tri-Lakes Views, Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts, and Palmer Lake Historical Society to dedicate new public art pieces that will be on display inside and outside the new building.

Trustee Tim Miller thanked Monument Police Officer Chad Haynes for his recent presentation to parents and their children on "Stranger Danger" at the U.S. Tae Kwon Do center.

Stormwater and erosion control ordinances approved

The board unanimously approved two ordinances that amended definitions, best management practices, inspection, and monitoring programs for stormwater discharge and erosion control measures for new developments. The amendments are required by federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System regulations. The town has also adopted the Colorado Springs Drainage Control Manual Volume 2.

Formal agreements are now required between the town and developers to specify the best management practices to sustain these erosion controls for the life of the development. Annual post-construction inspections by the town’s inspector have also been added to ensure that property owners maintain their detention ponds and pipes for erosion control for the life of the development.

Both ordinances were continued at the March 16 board meeting to allow the Housing and Building Association (HBA) of Colorado Springs to review and comment on them. The town staff responded to all comments and concerns listed in a letter dated March 20 from the association.

HBA representative Tim McCall stated for the record during the public hearing that the association endorsed the two revised ordinances, noting the letter dated March 30 that the association had sent to the board.

Regional Building Code amendments approved

Three representatives of the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department asked the board to approve proposed amendments to the code:

  • Henry Yankowski, Regional Building official
  • Bob Croft, Special Projects coordinator
  • Todd Welch, Regional Building counsel

The amendments provide additions and modifications for:

  • Adding definitions, revising the appeals procedure, adding regulations for contractors and homeowners in the Floodplain Code.
  • Allowing former Regional Building board members to serve as alternate members to ensure a quorum.
  • Adding additional permits for various trades with the fee "administratively determined by the building official."

Approvals must be obtained from all members of the department. Prior to this meeting, approvals had already been obtained from Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Fountain, and Manitou Springs.

The board unanimously approved the revisions. Palmer Lake approved the revisions on April 9.

Replat for Arbor Mountain Senior Living Facility approved

Tom Kassawara, director of Development Services, noted that all technical issues raised during the Planning Commission hearing on the replat had been resolved. The replat changes the designation of the 4-acre lot "from an open space tract to a developable lot" for multifamily housing with a medical clinic.

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 (six) of the units would be permanently lowered to a defined level that would be affordable for low-income senior citizens.

Arbor Mountains’ consultant, Shavano Land Survey Inc., stated in a letter to the town dated March 24 that it had revised the final version of Replat 1 to comply with the conditions specified by the Planning Commission on March 11. However, the town’s surveying consultant, Nolte Associates, found other issues with the survey that need to be revised.

The replat was unanimously approved with three conditions:

  • Technical corrections shall be made and approved by staff.
  • The Arbor Mountain preliminary/final planned development site plan shall be approved and satisfy all nine conditions of approval prior to recordation of the Woodmoor Filing, Replat 1.
  • The town’s surveyor shall review the technical corrections for compliance with Title 38 before recordation.

There are several other required steps that the Arbor Mountain owners and partners must comply with:

  • Add a satisfactory landscaping irrigation plan.
  • Buy water rights—to be donated by the town to Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District—for the facility because 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 and elevations approved

The Trails End development has been controversial due to its high densities, 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 to improve sales. Each set of related major amendment public hearings has been somewhat controversial, with residents expressing numerous concerns and reservations about developer Richmond 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. 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. Town ordinances were then changed to require that the Planning Commission and BOT review and approve major amendments to a development’s approved PD design guidelines.

The board formally approved eight models and various elevations for each of them in the first amendment to the Trails End preliminary PD site plan on Sept. 5, 2006.

Three more models and related optional elevations were approved in the second major amendment to the PD site plan 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." Drumm has always been opposed to the small lot sizes and that minimal setbacks for foundations do not apply to bay windows. See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v6n10.htm#bot0905 for more details.

The Board of Trustees recently revised its policy on requiring public hearings for PD site plan amendments regarding only exterior appearances and new models. The town staff is once again allowed to approve minor model and elevation changes, but that change in policy does not retroactively 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 in advertised public hearings that usually rekindle past controversies. See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v6n10.htm for details.

Third major amendment for Trails End PD site plan approved

In this hearing, Trails End property owners again expressed a variety of concerns about declining property values in the development and complaints about Richmond Homes that were unrelated to the major amendment, as they had at the March 11 Planning Commission hearing. See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v9n4.htm#monpc for details.

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—Diana, Pinnacle, and Orion.
  • The optional elevations are colonial, Victorian, and craftsman styles.
  • The new models, which will be Energy Star rated, are the same size as currently approved models and include similar stone, stucco, brick, and siding materials as previously approved models, and they are being sold in other Richmond developments.
  • The square footages of the additional models are between the currently approved minimum of 1,647 square feet to a maximum of 2,378 square feet, not including garages and optional finished basements.
  • 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."
  • The proposed elevations will meet the architectural and height requirements approved in the original Trails End PD site plan.
  • Building more "expensive" elevations—some with carriage house style garage doors and matching shutters—will improve aesthetic quality and value and will not reduce property values for existing homes in the development.

Roger Gloddy, president of the Trails End Homeowners Association, discussed opinions he had gathered on both sides of the issue by talking with neighbors and mailing out information to all 350 residents of the neighborhood since the heated Planning Commission hearing. He stated that "most people do not care" about this issue. He said that he personally prefers diversity and that nicer new homes will increase the value of those around them.

Town Attorney Gary Shupp reminded the board that it does not enforce covenants regarding restrictions on the same model and elevations being built on adjacent lots, which are only the subject of civil suits by neighbors.

After further discussion by residents and board members, the third major amendment was unanimously approved.

Other matters

The board unanimously approved an annual liquor license renewal for Columbine Gardens Restaurant, 481 Highway 105, Suite 201.

Two payments over $5,000 were unanimously approved:

  • $16,735 to CIRSA Insurance Co. for second-quarter workers’ compensation insurance
  • $16,671 to CIRSA for second-quarter property/casualty insurance

Town manager’s report

Town Manager Cathy Green reported that the move to the new Town Hall will commence on May 7. Two "grand openings" will be held. The first, which has not been scheduled, will be a ribbon cutting and open house. The second will be the reception noted above dedicating public art displays on June 13.

The meeting adjourned at 7:29 p.m.

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Monument Board of Trustees, April 20: Town Forum presentations engage citizens

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Below: Mayor Byron Glenn answers a town resident's question during the Monument Board of Trustees Town Forum held at Creekside Middle School on April 20. Photo by Jim Kendrick

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the Monument Forum slides as PDF file. This is a 6.7 Mbyte file and will take about 39 minutes to download using a dial-up modem. Click here for help with PDF downloads. To view and print the file, you will need to download and install the free Acrobat Reader Program.

By Jim Kendrick

At a Monument Board of Trustees Town Forum held at Creekside Middle School on April 20, Town Manager Cathy Green gave presentations on:

  • Community accomplishments
  • Triview Metropolitan District
  • Town water issues
  • Monument home rule initiative

Green and Mayor Byron Glenn answered questions after each presentation. Triview Metropolitan District Directors Robert Fisher, Steve Cox, and Steve Remington and Lewis-Palmer School District Superintendent Ray Blanch also attended the forum and answered questions. About 50 citizens attended the meeting.

Trustees Rafael Dominguez and Steve Samuels were absent.

Green opened the forum with announcements that:

  • The last regular board meeting in old Town Hall on Second Street would be held on May 4.
  • The May 19 meeting will be held in the new Town Hall at Highway 105 and Beacon Lite Road. See p29.
  • An open house will be held in the new Town Hall after the staff has unpacked.
  • The Arbor Day tree planting ceremony would be held in the town park in Santa Fe Trails on April 24. See p28.

Community accomplishments

Some of the accomplishments Green discussed were:

  • Baptist Road has been widened east of Jackson Creek Parkway and interchange construction is on schedule for completion in January.
  • The Limbach Park band shell was finished last summer in time for the town’s evening concert series and will host a new series of summer concerts beginning on June 24.
  • The staff will move into the new Town Hall and Police Department building on May 7.
  • The town purchased Twin Lakes surface water rights in the Arkansas River in its first step to add renewable sources to its groundwater rights. This water will be accessible for transport from the Pueblo reservoir.
  • Business license fees are used for a town fund that pays for beautification, the Art Hop, and Banner Christmas Week as well as coordination by the town’s part-time downtown development director.
  • Community safety programs include the Home Depot’s home safety program, Monument’s volunteer reserve officer program for former commissioned police officers, the new Citizen’s Police Academy program, a church safety and security consortium that will be held on May 23, and safety inspections by the town’s new code enforcement officer inspections.
  • Notable growth and development items include the approval of the Arbor Mountain Senior Living Facility, recent town code changes to allow more home occupations, approval of downtown architectural guidelines, updated stormwater and erosion standards, downtown overlay zones to promote business development and housing upgrades, approval of a downtown Walgreens as part of redevelopment on Highway 105, and the opening of the Fairfield Hotel at Baptist and Struthers Roads.

Glenn noted that:

  • Bike lanes are planned for all town major thoroughfares as well as a bridge over I-25 from Higby Road to the Santa Fe Trail.
  • "Astroturf improvements" are planned for the athletic fields on Old Denver Highway near the D-38 bus barn.
  • Partnerships with the county through the Baptist Road and Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority are paying for widening of Baptist Road as well as Jackson Creek Parkway at the Higby Road intersection.
  • The Historic Monument Merchants Association partnered with the town to build the new band shell.
  • A partnership with a private developer led to construction of the new Town Hall.
  • Stormwater improvements to Third Street will begin after the Fourth of July parade.

Triview Metropolitan District

Green discussed Triview Metropolitan District issues, including:

  • Triview has grown to include Sanctuary Pointe (formerly Baptist Camp), Home Place Ranch (the former Higby Ranch), and Promontory Pointe (the former Walters Ranch).
  • The vacant land and truck stop north of Baptist Road between I-25 and Old Denver Highway is also in Triview.
  • The district is located entirely within Monument and provides all municipal services but police and land use for the town.
  • Once Triview’s $50 million debt is paid off, the district will be dissolved and the town will pay for services after that.
  • Metro districts cannot collect sales taxes, so Monument splits revenues raised within Triview.
  • The takeover of operations and management by town staff will be completed by the end of 2009 along with the memorandum of understanding that prescribes how the partnership will work, while keeping town and district budgets separate.
  • The Triview board will still provide oversight of operations and make decisions regarding the district’s revenue, tax structure, and debt until the debt is paid off and the district is dissolved.

Glenn added that another purpose of the town staff taking over operations is to reduce the costs of staff redundancies, with the savings applied to capital improvements or debt reduction. He said that negotiations on the memorandum of understanding between the town and district would be open and transparent. There will be public hearings on the permanent intergovernmental agreement once all aspects of the town takeover of operations are finalized. Triview meetings will be held in the new Town Hall beginning on May 27.

Robert Fisher noted that improvements to convert a detention pond on Misty Creek Drive into a park have been funded and approved. Work will begin this spring and be finished this summer. Dead trees in Triview landscaped areas will be replaced, and the irrigation system will be repaired or improved as required to keep them alive.

Glenn and Tom Kassawara, director of Development Services, stated that the town would take care of erosion control and revegetation of the steep, currently bare slopes throughout Promontory Pointe now that developer John Laing Homes has gone into formal bankruptcy. Erosion problems are being aggravated by kids riding dirt bikes on the steep slopes.

Water issues

Some of the items related to water issues that Green discussed were:

  • While the town is actively pursuing purchase of renewable surface water rights, the town is not running out of groundwater.
  • The town has groundwater rights for all four layers of the Denver basin.
  • The town draws no water from the Denver aquifer to protect individual wells in the area.
  • The town draws no water from the Laramie-Fox Hills aquifer due to its high mineral content, which results in lots of salt brine being produced by water treatment plants.
  • Triview and the town are in water court trying to adjudicate the rest of their respective water rights.
  • Several water districts serve the Tri-Lakes area, and all draw groundwater from the Denver basin. They are currently partners in the Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority, which is negotiating with Colorado Springs Utilities for future long-term transport of surface water being acquired through the proposed Southern Delivery System to north El Paso County. Purchased surface water rights would be stored in the Pueblo reservoir prior to transport, if a variety of agreements can be negotiated.

Glenn added that:

  • Surface water negotiations will be very difficult and costly, probably costing about $200 million for 1,100 acre-feet per year just for transport.
  • The town is also working to expand the use of "reuse" water to lower groundwater demands. One acre-foot of water (about 325,851 gallons) supplies two residential homes for a year. The cost is currently $10,000 to $30,000 per acre-foot.
  • The proposed solutions span 50-100 years. Water rates will go up very rapidly in the near term due to these costs, and escalating rates will be required to discourage high consumption for irrigation by individual homes.
  • At the request of Monument Sanitation District, the town recently began treating its drinking water with caustic soda to reduce the amount of copper leached from the inside of previously installed copper pipes that has to be treated by Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility. Costs for the new equipment were split between the town and the district.
  • Copper water pipes have been banned by the town for new construction to minimize the amount of copper added to the town’s drinking water.

Home rule

Some of the home rule items Green discussed were:

  • Home rule allows towns to have more control than a statutory town has over tax collections and fees.
  • The TABOR amendment in 1992 imposed uniform tax and spending limits on all local governments, including home rule municipalities, so new taxes would still have to be approved by a vote of the people rather than by the Board of Trustees.
  • Other towns have used their home rule status to pass impact fees on new construction for affordable housing, streamline requirements for issuing new bonds, raise total bonding authority limits, and extend the time limit for paying off bonds.
  • Home rule municipalities can include provisions in their charters that facilitate the formation of special improvement districts and expand purposes for which these districts may be formed.
  • The town could collect its own sales tax, probably in a more thorough manner than the state does, and could collect more revenue than the 3 percent fee charged by the state or what it would cost to hire additional staff members to collect the town’s own taxes.
  • The town would have more control over franchises for water rights, utility rates and service areas, franchise records, acquisition of utilities, and sale of utilities.
  • The town could simplify or modify various publication requirements, including more streamlined procedures for adoption of codes by reference.
  • The town could repeal or modify statutory provisions governing bidding and awarding of public projects and disposal of public property.
  • Home rule charter provisions can be written to provide a method for the simple and expeditious transfer of funds among municipal departments.
  • The town could determine whether actions would be taken by ordinance, resolution, or motion; determine its own procedures for notice, hearing, publication, or posting with regard to ordinances; and determine the effective date of ordinances on its own.

D-38 issues

Blanch gave a brief overview of D-38 issues noting that none of the district’s elementary schools will be closing. The district has made several other cost-cutting decisions due to the defeat of mill levy override ballot questions over the past several years, recent state revenue and grant reductions, and declining elementary school enrollment due to sharp declines in new house sales within D-38.

Other matters

There was a lengthy recess. Some citizens talked about questions and concerns with board members and town staff. After the recess, the board addressed two formal agenda items.

A public hearing was required by the new federal stimulus law—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009—for the Monument Police Department’s application for a non-competitive Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant of $11,284. The grant would be used for new sights for department rifles, ballistic protective vests, and a Panasonic Toughbook mobile data computer for enhanced dispatch and response. There was no public comment.

The board approved three payments over $5,000:

  • $79,992 to Triview Metropolitan District for monthly sales and motor vehicle tax payments from the state.
  • $19,129 to Nelson Pipeline Constructors Inc. for the final payment on the 12-inch water line extension along Old Denver Highway.
  • $6,000 to John Cutler and Associates for architectural services for the new Town Hall and Police Department Building.

The meeting adjourned at 8:07 p.m.

**********

The next meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on May 4 at the old Town Hall, 166 Second St. Meetings will be held at the new Town Hall starting on May 19. Meetings are normally held at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of the month. Information: 884-8017.

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Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, April 9: Board approves annual audit

By Harriet Halbig

The Board of Directors of the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District accepted the annual audit at the April 9 meeting. All members of the board were present.

Auditor Pat Hall of Denver’s Jaspers + Hall presented the annual audit to the board. Regarding the district’s assets, he said they are all safely invested in certificates of deposit within FDIC limits and in U.S. government securities.

Hall said non-operating expenses such as taxes remain level, interest income is down slightly, and tap fees are down. He noted that tap fees have already been paid for several lots where construction has been indefinitely delayed. Hall also reported that the budget for the year had not been exceeded and that procedures and policies appear to be sound. The auditors had no disagreements with the management of funds and no problems in performing the audit.

The board accepted the audit as presented, commending the staff for its work.

The Manager’s Report included information on the flood control project mentioned at previous meetings. District Manager Jessie Shaffer said that draft legislation is now in the state Legislature. Provisions regarding flood control are included in the legislation for the Southern Delivery System. Although Woodmoor will not have a seat on the Southern Delivery System Board, El Paso County will have two commissioners.

The Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority also held a work session to discuss partnering with Colorado Springs Utilities on flood control.

Operations Update

Assistant District Manager Randy Gillette reported that Well 11 is back in service, with contractors paying the cost of rebuilding it. The lake is still on schedule for refilling.

Regarding construction within the district, weather is still causing delays in the seeding and application of topsoil around the lake. The deadline for completion is July 15.

Shaffer introduced the district’s new Civil Engineer/Utilities Technician, Zach Collins.

There are new plans to replat an area on the south side of Highway 105 across from the church.

Attorney Erin Smith recommended that the board pass a resolution regarding identity theft because the district is an entity that extends credit. She said the resolution requires that the district designate an individual to act as FACT officer (Shaffer was recommended). Smith said that the resolution should not add significant work beyond a single annual report. The board voted to adopt the resolution.

The board went into executive session to discuss water rights negotiations, Well 22 land acquisition, the Arbor Mountain senior residential facility, and various legal issues.

No further business was conducted following the executive session.

**********

The next meeting will be held at 1 p.m. on May 14 at 1 p.m. in the conference room at 1855 Woodmoor Drive. Meetings are normally held on the second Thursday of the month. Information: 488-2525 or www.woodmoorwater.com

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Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility Joint Use Committee, April 14: JUC gets high marks in audit

By Jim Kendrick

On April 14, auditor Pat Hall of Jaspers+Hall PC advised the Joint Use Committee (JUC) that he was giving an "unqualified opinion," the highest possible opinion, in his 2008 audit of the financial records of the Tri-Lakes Wastewater Treatment Facility. He stated that no difficulties were encountered in completing the audit and no adjustments were made. The committee unanimously accepted the audit. Hall will forward the final audit report to the state.

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 Benny Nasser from Woodmoor. Several other directors and staff members from the three districts also attended.

Tri-Lakes Executive Director Bill Burks reported that the plant was operating very efficiently. The copper concentration for March was 9.7 parts per billion (ppb), well below the current waiver that allows the average reading to be below 24.8 ppb instead of 8.7 ppb.

Platt announced that he was stepping down from his position on the JUC and that Palmer Lake Director Dale Smith would replace him as the primary representative in May. Platt added that Smith would be officially appointed at the Palmer Lake board meeting to be held at 7 p.m. that day. Palmer Lake Director Virgil Watkins will continue to be the district’s alternate representative. The JUC will hold an election of officers at the May 12 meeting to account for the change. Smith said he had taken a tour of the plant in March to learn how the facility operates and was looking forward to joining the committee.

Nasser introduced Zach Collins, Woodmoor’s new civil engineer, who will fill the position Jessie Shaffer had occupied before Shaffer was promoted to district manager in January.

The meeting adjourned at 11:20 a.m.

**********

The next meeting is at 10 a.m. on May 12 in 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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Donala Water and Sanitation District, April 15: Auditor recommends some changes in procedures

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Below: Donala president Dennis Daugherty (L) and board member Dale Schendzielos (R) congratulate Terri Ladouceur on being named employee of the quarter. Photo by John Heiser.

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By John Heiser

At the Donala Water and Sanitation District Board of Directors meeting March 18, auditor Tom Sistare of CPA firm Hoelting & Co. reported the results of the recently completed audit of the district’s books for 2008. He reported that assets rose from $36.75 million at the end of 2007 to $37.70 million at the end of 2008. Operating revenue rose from $2.79 million during 2007 to $3.01 million during 2008. Operating expenses dropped from $3.33 million during 2007 to $3.29 million during 2008.

Sistare reported an "unqualified" opinion, the highest possible; however, he noted several items that had been incorrectly recorded and were corrected.

To address what Sistare categorized as a "material weakness" in the district’s internal controls, he recommended that the district adopt a procedure under which Dana Duthie, the district’s general manager, would review and approve all nonstandard journal entries.

Sistare said that, as an alternative, the district could hire a CPA to review the journal entries and prepare financial statements. He added that if the district did hire a CPA, the additional cost might be somewhat offset by lower costs for audits.

Sistare added, "The cash management controls are strong. The day-to-day operational controls are strong. The only area we’re commenting on are the financial statements."

Duthie noted that there were fewer adjustment entries this year than last year, all moneys were accounted for to the penny, and they are implementing Sistare’s recommendation that he review nonstandard journal entries.

Board President Dennis Daugherty expressed concern that identifying something as a material weakness could have a negative impact on potential lenders.

Board member Tim Murphy said, "The whole thing frustrates me." He later added, "We’d hire a CPA if it’ll benefit constituents but not to benefit the auditor."

Other matters

  • Terri Ladouceur, a maintenance operator who has been with Donala for five years, was named the employee of the quarter for working in difficult circumstances in 2008 at the wastewater treatment plant and her performance above and beyond the call of duty. See photo above.
  • The board held a 2½-hour meeting March 23 with Lake County commissioners Ken Olsen, Carl Shaefer, and Mike Bordogna. At that meeting, Duthie made a presentation on the declining groundwater supplies in the area, the district’s efforts to obtain renewable sources of water, and the purpose of the district’s purchase of the Mount Massive Ranch in Lake County. The district is seeking guidance from the Lake County commissioners as to whether the ranch should be held as open space or developed. No decisions were made at the meeting.
  • Duthie reported that in preparation for the water court case to convert the Mount Massive Ranch water rights from agricultural uses to district use, levels in the monitoring wells and flume flows are being measured.
  • During the three months from Jan. 1 through March 31, the district’s $4.88 million in investments managed by Davidson Fixed Income Management showed a yield of 1.81 percent, achieving a goal of beating the Colotrust Plus fund, which yielded 0.55 percent during the same period. The weighted average maturity of the district’s investments is 4.7 months.
  • Duthie reported that at its April 1 meeting, the El Paso County Water Authority (EPCWA) discussed Colorado Senate Bill (SB) 09-141 to create the Fountain Creek watershed district. He said that concerns remain about the possible impact on wastewater treatment plant operators of potential fees and water quality restrictions. He said the EPCWA also discussed SB 09-87, which requires mail-in ballots for metropolitan district elections. Duthie said a similar policy will likely be applied to water and sanitation districts like Donala. He added that during the EPCWA meeting, it was reported that El Paso County development services is looking at revising the county’s water regulations that would apply if aquifer recharge or potable reuse is part of a development.
  • Duthie also reported on the April 15 Pikes Peak Regional Water Authority (PPRWA) meeting. See the PPRWA article on page 1.
  • Duthie noted that Classic Homes has put on the market the Sanctuary Pointe development, which is on the north side of Baptist Road east of the Promontory Pointe development.
  • Duthie said operations at the expanded wastewater plant are going well, and the effluent water quality is 25 percent to 30 percent better than before the expansion.

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 May 20 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

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Triview Metropolitan District board, April 22: 2008 audit approved

By Jim Kendrick

The Triview Metropolitan District board unanimously approved the 2008 audit April 22, during the last board meeting that will be held at the Washington Street office building. The district’s auditor, Tom Sistare of Hoelting and Co. Inc., presented a summary of his unqualified audit for district operations in 2008, the highest audit rating possible. He praised Dale Hill, former district administrator, and Jim Thieme, the district’s accountant, for their work during the year and support of the audit. Sistare said the audit would be filed with the state within three days.

The remaining full-time Triview staff members—Steve Sheffield, operations manager, and Joyce Levad, accounts receivable/billing clerk—will become full-time employees of the Town of Monument on May 1 and will move to the new Town Hall and Police Department building at Highway 105 and Beacon Lite Road on May 6. Sherry Jurekovic, the former Triview accounts payable clerk, was hired by the town in the Treasurer’s Department on Jan. 1. The move out of the current Triview building will be completed by May 15.

The board unanimously excused the absence of board President Robert Eskridge.

Town Treasurer Pamela Smith gave her first treasurer’s report to the Triview board. She noted that Hill’s financial files and records organization are "amazing," which will greatly ease Smith’s takeover of the district’s financial record-keeping.

Misty Creek Park funding approved

Mike Hussey, landscape architect with engineering firm Nolte Associates Inc., presented a work order for the 1.2-acre Misty Creek Park. The park will be constructed in the existing detention pond between Misty Creek Drive and Baptist Road that stretches from Toreva Drive to Candle Creek Drive. The work order would provide $5,958 to:

  • Prepare the project manual
  • Complete final construction drawings
  • Prepare an advertisement for bids
  • Assist with bid reviews and contractor selection

The park will include an elevated basketball court, benches, and landscaping. Hussey estimated that construction would begin in early June and be completed by Sept. 1.

The work order was unanimously approved.

Compass Bank withdraws bond debt refinancing offer

The district’s investment banker, Sam Sharp of D.A. Davidson, reported that the investment rating for Compass Bank, which currently underwrites Triview debt with a letter of credit that expires at the end of 2012, had dropped from Aa3 to A2. This drop makes Compass ineligible to close on the 10-year swap loan offered to Triview in February so Compass has withdrawn the offer . The swap loan, which had not yet been approved by the parent BBVA Bank’s underwriters in Spain, could only be approved by the Triview board under Colorado statutes only if Compass Bank’s rating were AA or higher.

Sharp also reported that Triview was still saving about $80,000 per month due to interest and administrative costs for the district’s $47.6 million in bond debt being much lower than expected. The interest rates for the seven-day short-term variable rate bonds currently in use have been less than 1 percent for several months. He told the board that the fixed rate for long-term A- bonds was still above 7 percent and continued to recommend against locking in at that rate.

Sharp also gave a lengthy review of D.A. Davidson’s bond financing advice over the past several years and how Davidson’s compensation is calculated. After answering numerous technical questions from the directors, Sharp again advised the board not to lock in a long-term fixed rate higher than 5.25 percent.

The board opted not to make a decision on whether to change from the current policy of using variable rate one-week bonds that require closing costs every week until after a discussion in executive session at the end of the meeting. After the executive session, the board formally decided to continue the current financing scheme until one-week bond rates go up significantly or fixed rate long-term bond rates drop, as recommended by Sharp.

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The next meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on May 27 at the new Monument Town Hall and Police Department building at Highway 105 and Beacon Lite Road. 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, April 22: Pay changed to hourly

By Susan Hindman

Staff compensation will be handled differently starting May 1, after Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District Chief Robert Denboske made corrections based on advice he received from the Colorado Department of Labor and the Mountain States Employer Council.

The previous annual salary structure, with overtime built in, has been broken down into an hourly rate plus overtime. Vacation and sick time are now counted toward overtime hours, which the board had previously approved and the staff appreciated.

In addition, firefighters indicated they wanted two pay periods over 27 days, instead of one. This will affect the amount of overtime pay on each check, because overtime is paid only after a certain number of hours have been reached.

The new pay cycle and the different pay formulas, especially regarding overtime, are expected to cause a little confusion at first. Although the amount that firefighters receive overall should remain pretty much the same, "They will see wild swings in their take-home pay," said board President Tim Miller. Denboske said assistance with budgeting has been offered to the staff.

The new compensation schedule had been presented to employees earlier in the day and was unanimously embraced. In addition to recommending the changes, the state required the district to recalculate overtime payments going back two years. Firefighters ended up receiving checks ranging from $1,500 to $1,700 apiece at that meeting.

Building costs

Station 1, on Highway 105, required repairs because of a leak in the ceiling. Recent heavy, wet snow that melted on the flat roof reportedly ripped off a lightning rod on the roof, which came through the ceiling, Denboske said. The ceiling tiles were replaced and roof repaired. Station 2 on Roller Coaster Road also experienced leaks in the bay, which were repaired.

In addition, utility costs have been rising to the point that Treasurer John Hildebrandt estimated those expenses may run over budget at the end of the year.

New ambulance in the works

Denboske said that Battalion Chief Greg Lovato is putting together a proposal for a new ambulance. Though the exact purchase price is not known yet, it will be under $100,000. Money from several sources will fund the purchase—$50,000 that was to have gone toward a state grant but "we ended up not applying for because we didn’t really fit their criteria," Denboske said, and $20,000 that was budgeted for medical equipment that will not be needed. In addition, the district’s 2001 ambulance would be sold, providing another $7,500. The new ambulance, a two-wheel-drive with automatic drop chains, would be smaller and outfitted with equipment from the old ambulance.

Town Hall

The Town of Monument has not made a decision about who will occupy the old Town Hall when the town’s government moves into its new building. The fire district would like the old building and would pay Monument $1 a year plus insurance and utilities.

Calls received

Battalion Chief Bryan Jack prepared a chart showing year-to-date responses to calls received. There were 42 fire/carbon monoxide alarms, 186 traffic accidents, 275 medical calls, 19 citizen assists, 9 structure fires, 19 other fires (wildland, legal burns, trash, or car fires), 2 odor calls, 4 utility problems, 4 electrical hazards, 2 rescues, 7 hazmat calls, and 29 "other" calls. The numbers do not reflect responses to calls from outside the district. These reports will now be given monthly.

Hildebrandt reported that there were more than 90 ambulance calls in March. The district is only being paid on just over 50 percent of the invoices it sends out.

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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 May 27. For more information, call Chief Denboske at 266-3367.

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Donald Wescott Fire Protection District Board, April 22: Volunteer data submitted for pension plan evaluation

By Jim Kendrick

The Donald Wescott Fire Protection District Board held two meetings on April 22. The first meeting was the semi-annual Wescott pension board meeting. Two volunteer firefighters, Battalion Chief Mike Badger and Lt. Bryan Ackerman, joined the Wescott board to consider financial matters regarding long-term volunteers’ pensions. The second meeting was the regular April board meeting.

Director Greg Gent was excused from the pension board meeting. However, Gent attended the regular district board meeting.

Volunteer firefighter pension board meeting

Badger reported that Wescott had submitted all the required data for district participation in the upcoming 2009 Actuarial Study being conducted by the Fire and Police Pension Association (FPPA). The actuarial report should be available from the FPPA by July. This final report will evaluate actuarial soundness of the pension plan to continue providing the current retirement benefit of $300 per month after 20 years of fully qualifying annual service, as well as two options for increasing the benefit to $400 or $500 per month.

Colorado volunteer firefighters must complete 36 hours of continuation training requirements each year to have that calendar year count toward the FPPA’s 20-year pension qualification requirement. Wescott offers 55 hours of training per year on Tuesday nights.

Some volunteers have also made themselves available for full shifts to qualify for part-time pay when substituting for full-time firefighters who are on vacation or sick leave.

Director Bill Lowes, who is a retired Wescott volunteer firefighter, informed the board of wording in a new FPPA Journal article implying that active volunteers accepting a monthly stipend might not be eligible for a monthly pension. He added that there might also be a problem for those Wescott volunteers who accept part-time pay, because they might also become ineligible to qualify for the pension program.

Badger replied that he had checked with the FPPA as well as the federal and state labor departments regarding whether volunteers could be paid. There are no written regulations regarding this issue, with the exception of a reference to training hours. Currently, part-time employees cannot count volunteer firefighter training time completed during a paid part-time shift toward the 36-hour requirement. Badger also discussed the confusion in regulations regarding part-time employees who also qualify for per diem and 401A retirement plans.

New volunteer candidates interviewed

Badger reported that he had just finished interviewing seven prospective volunteers from a pool of 12 interested volunteers. The majority of the volunteers live in the local area, and some already have firefighting qualifications. He expected all 12 to pass the interview process by April 29 and begin orientation and training in May. If the new volunteers complete the required minimum of 36 hours of training this year, they would be eligible to be added to the pension plan in 2009, having served over half the year.

Regular meeting

Treasurer’s report: Board Treasurer Dennis Feltz reported that the property and motor vehicle tax payments to date have been higher than budgeted for this point in the year. Interest income, on the other hand, is lower than budgeted due to the poor economy.

Overtime costs were 40 percent, higher than the 33.3 percent expenditure rate planned in the budget for the first four months. Acting Chief Vinny Burns noted that overtime was higher because it took three weeks to fill a vacancy caused by a firefighter’s resignation.

Payments to insurer VFIS have been higher than expected due to confusion over whether coverage changes would be separately charged or already were included in the adjusted figures presented by Jeff Cunningham, the district’s insurance agent, on Aug. 20.

Background: Cunningham had presented a proposal on Aug. 20 for the 2009 calendar year liability and property policy with no increase in rates. The total premium will go up about $2,100, however, due to the district’s increasing number of calls, the increase in medical coverage for added staff, and equipment changeovers. Chief Jeff Edwards noted that Cunningham had completed an audit of all the district’s standard operating procedures and practices for his company, VFIS. After a preliminary review of the proposal packages presented to them by Cunningham, the board agreed to make a final decision on the proposal at the September board meeting, to give each director time to review the proposal in depth before a vote. See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n9.htm#dwfpd

On Sept. 24, the board unanimously approved the finalized cost of the annual renewal of the district’s liability and loss policy from longtime insurer VFIS. Although the rates did not increase, the finalized cost went up $253. An additional factor considered was aging of the staff. See www.ourcommunitynews.org/v8n10.htm#dwfpd

Feltz said the increase in cost of about $6,000 was based on premiums for a separate life insurance rider for all staff and board members. Another $1,400 will be charged for new people added to the staff. The board will have to reallocate money from other budget lines to make up the shortfall for the remaining quarterly payments to VFIS. A separate line for life insurance costs will be added to the budget.

Director Scott Campbell commented on the time spent by the board and staff at several board meetings to develop a new budget report format, "I just want to say how great this is compared to where we were last year. Honestly, this is just fantastic. I know it was a long haul to get here but it’s great."

Chief’s report: Badger reported that he and three other Wescott firefighters—firefighter Shannon Balvanz, Capt. Sean Pearson, and Lt. Tim Hampton—successfully completed the Fire Officer 1 training course offered by Texas A&M University in Flower Mound, Texas. In addition, Capt. Scott Ridings has also successfully completed Fire Officer 1 training.

Wescott and the Black Forest Fire Department will now be able to host the first Fire Officer 1 training course to be held in Colorado, which is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 28 to Oct. 2.

Burns stated the district plans to start a residency program for two volunteer firefighters to live in Station 2 on Sun Hill Drive to provide additional coverage for the eastern portion of the district. The residents would continue to work at their regular jobs. Station 2 is being upgraded for the volunteer residents.

Open house and Fun Run set: Pearson briefed the board on the open house and safety fair planned for May 16 in partnership with the organizers of the annual Gleneagle 5K Fun Run. The race activities will take place from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. The Wescott activities will start immediately after that and last until the evening. There will be a Jazzercise area in the Antelope Trails Elementary School for runners to warm up and cool down for the races that start at 7 a.m.

Wescott will provide emergency medical services and water using golf carts from the Gleneagle golf course during the event. Pearson said the combined event will be a health fair as well—to get people up and moving.

Pearson expects this to be the largest and most attended event that Wescott has ever put on. He has contacted several local businesses to generate interest in sponsorship of numerous activities. The Flight for Life helicopter and crew will a featured guest again, along with a Blackhawk helicopter from the Colorado National Guard. Gleneagle Golf will have a chipping green available.

There will also be an emergency extrication demonstration using a wrecked car and presentations on motorcycle and ATV safety, fire boating and swimming safety presentations, a "living with wildlife within the Wescott district" booth, the Air Force Academy smoke trailer, numerous county emergency vehicle static displays, and a bicycle rodeo.

The Monument Marketplace Premier Urgent Care has donated 50 children’s helmets to be given away during the rodeo.

Run report: There were 98 runs in February, bringing the total to 217—an 11 percent decrease from the first two months in 2008. Calls picked up in March to 110, for a total of 317, which is a 6 percent decrease from the first three months last year.

The board went into executive session to discuss matters involving negotiations and strategies. No additional action was taken after the executive session prior to adjournment.

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The next meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on May 27 at Station 1, 15415 Gleneagle Drive. Regular board meetings are normally held at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of the month. Information: 488-8680.

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Lewis-Palmer School District Accountability Advisory Committee, April 14: Community safety program coming to schools

By Harriet Halbig

At the Lewis-Palmer School District Accountability Advisory Committee meeting on April 14, Hal Garland, the district’s director of Auxiliary Services, gave an extensive presentation on a new community safety program called safe2tell.

This statewide program, created by the Colorado State Patrol, is based on the premise that in most cases, there is advance knowledge of plans to attack schools or other facilities. Statistics show that in the past year, the program prevented over 100 suicides in the state and that 80 percent of the cases brought to the attention of the program were resolved.

Posters are now up in schools and the staff and teachers of local schools are now being trained. Training of students will follow.

The basic element of the program is a toll-free phone number. Any child or adult who observes or hears of suspicious activity is urged to call. The number is answered at a central location and the calls are referred to local authorities. There is no caller identification number attached to the line, so all reports are anonymous, and the caller is given a case number if they wish to follow up their report. Individuals are encouraged to report such things as drugs and alcohol in schools, weapons, suicide threats, gang activity, bullying, and fights.

Since the founding of the program, 35 percent of calls have come from parents. Developers of the program sought to empower students with the ability to control their environment and not to accept what happens around them.

Older students are encouraged to put the phone number on their cell phones so that it is readily available at all times. Reports need not be school-related. Garland said that the program should be in full force by the beginning of the next school year.

Garland also reported that Gov. Bill Ritter recently created a Safeschool Resource Center that reports to the executive director of Public Safety. The Lewis-Palmer school district has been chosen as one of six pilot districts with funding provided to the middle schools and high schools to look at risk assessment within the district.

The product of the program will be a CD-ROM for each school with floor plans and aerial photos of the facility and information about where to turn off power and other utilities entering the building. The information should be compiled by the end of June. Access to the information will be strictly limited.

In addition, a study will be made of how safe students feel in their schools. Each classroom will be provided with a checklist regarding action in the case of lockdown, tornado, earthquake, fire, or other emergencies. Schools will practice lockdowns and tornado drills as well as fire drills.

At the elementary level, emphasis will be on bullying and feeling unsafe at home. Garland said a school safety officer in the Sheriff’s Office travels to the schools.

When a student reports a problem, the School Board is notified, as well as the principal of the school and law enforcement officials.

Creekside Middle School Improvement Plan

Representatives of Creekside Middle School gave a presentation on their School Improvement Plan, stressing community engagement. Each student in the school was involved in a project under the title of Creekside Cares. One group organized an exchange with a class from the Harrison School District. They corresponded with each other and wrote stories. They will present books to the class and have a picnic in May to meet in person.

Another group took handmade valentines to a senior center. Other projects involved recycling, collecting food for a food bank, a study of mountain pine beetle damage and its prevention, adopting a family for Christmas through Tri-Lakes Cares and fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.

Also, an analysis of the district’s budget was presented. It was pointed out that economic stimulus funds will be available for the upcoming year, but it is still uncertain where they can be applied.

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The next meeting of the committee will be on May 12 at 7 p.m. in the Learning Center of the administration building, 146 Jefferson St. in Monument.

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Lewis Palmer School District Special Education Advisory Committee, April 8: Committee’s funds, goals discussed

By Harriet Halbig

On April 8, District 38 Special Education Director Julie O’Brien reported that discussions continue regarding the amount and use of funds from the federal economic stimulus package. She told the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) that the funds may be spent on technology, staff development, and bringing facilities into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. She said any use of the funds must be accounted for after the fact.

O’Brien said she would meet with School Superintendent Ray Blanche and Superintendent of Student Learning Shirley Trees the following week to discuss use of the funds to address transportation needs and to enhance the transition program, which serves students leaving high school and entering the work force. The funding, once provided, must be spent within three years.

Committee Chair Brent Byrnes reported that the program presented in March by the PEAK Parent Center was attended by 46 people. The program addressed the new forms and procedures regarding Individual Education Plans.

Byrnes briefly discussed whether the committee’s goals for 2008-09 had been met. It was agreed that the parent support programs, held on the fourth Wednesday of each month, fulfilled all expectations. The reinstatement of the Someone Who Cares program was a second goal that was met. Redesign of the SEAC Web site was a third major goal, but that had been delayed by a change in servers.

The resource fair, originally scheduled for April 4, was postponed until May due to snow. One parent present objected to the fact that individuals and organizations at the fair will be prohibited from selling books and other resources on the premises. O’Brien commented that it was possibly a sales tax issue, but since the fair will be held in a school district facility, free information and catalogs may be distributed, but sales may not occur.

An attendee mentioned the Family Care Network, a group that meets monthly to discuss matters related to disabled individuals and the resources available to them. She said it is a mutual support group that offers speakers at its meetings and is open to new members. The Web site for the group is myfcn.org.

Byrnes suggested that members of the committee look at the Colorado Department of Education Web site to learn of grants and other programs that may benefit the group.

The committee discussed strategies for improving attendance at its meetings. Improvement of the Web site may help, as would inclusion of information on the group in the packets sent home with students. One suggestion was that the first meeting of the school year be a social event rather than a formal business meeting, so that interested parents could interact with current members of the group.

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The final meeting of the committee for the school year will be held May 13, 6 p.m., Learning Center, administration building, 146 Jefferson St., Monument.

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Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority board, April 23: Authority approves new accountant

By Jim Kendrick

The Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority (BRRTA) board met on April 23 with a minimum quorum achieved through a short cell-phone conference call. The regularly scheduled April 10 meeting had been postponed. County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and Monument Trustee Travis Easton were present at the meeting in Monument Town Hall. County Commissioner Amy Lathen and Monument Trustee Rafael Dominguez were absent from the meeting.

The start of the meeting was delayed over an hour to allow County Commissioner Wayne Williams, the BRRTA board president, to call in from the State Capitol Building in Denver to make a quorum. Williams said he was "testifying on a critical bill" at a hearing that was running late and would be available to make a quorum only for a few minutes. Meeting participants huddled around Denslow’s cell phone, which was set on "speaker phone" when no spare landline phone with a functional microphone could be located in the building.

Monument has not had a second representative attend a BRRTA meeting since Mayor Byron Glenn resigned from BRRTA at the end of the meeting on Dec. 12. Dominguez was appointed to replace Glenn at the Board of Trustees meeting on Jan. 5 but has not attended a BRRTA meeting since then.

The board unanimously approved eight checks totaling $28,810 and unanimously ratified six requisitions totaling $2,488,462 as consent items.

Denslow noted that BRRTA is diligently working with the state to increase compliance, but there are still some vendors within BRRTA that are not collecting and/or paying BRRTA sales taxes to the state. The board unanimously approved a motion to engage Clifton Gunderson LLP for general accounting services in 2009 based on that firm having more expertise regarding transportation authorities and special districts. Denslow said Clifton Gunderson would also do budget and audit preparation for the authority that R.S. Wells has been doing until now.

Jim Di Biase of Olive Real Estate Group Inc., developer of the proposed Fairfield Inn and Suites in the Monument Ridge development on the southeast corner of Baptist Road and Struthers Road, told the board that the "hotel’s opinion" is that the authority’s designation of the inn as a "full service hotel" led to it being charged an unfairly high road use fee by BRRTA.

Di Biase added that Olive’s traffic engineering firm had sent supporting documentation from a study conducted by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), which publishes the national industry-standard ITE Trip Generation handbook, to BRRTA’s traffic engineer—Felsburg, Holt, & Ullevig—as requested.

Di Biase stated that the inn does not have "conference facilities, restaurants, bars, etc. This market can’t support that and probably wouldn’t support that type of use for 20-plus years. We’ve asked that they use the category that was specific to business and limited service hotels."

Denslow said this was a "traffic engineer versus traffic engineer" difference of opinion.

Di Biase replied, "How can Felsburg say that there’s not supporting documentation when the ITE did the study themselves?" He added that there’s a 20 percent difference in traffic generation between hotels with and without conference facilities in the ITE handbook. "I’ll tell you right now that I think we would continue to fight that decision if you decided to use an inappropriate category."

Di Biase also noted that the handbook calls for 85 percent occupancy, while Fairfield’s national occupancy rate is 76 percent. Hisey disputed the need for BRRTA to consider using any occupancy rate other than 85 percent if that is the national industry standard in the ITE handbook.

The decision on implementing the new Felsburg fee schedule that expands the number of road use fee categories from 4 to 25-30 was continued to the next BRRTA meeting that is scheduled to be held on May 8. Di Biase proposed that representatives from both traffic engineering firms attend that meeting.

Contract manager Bob Torres of Jacobs Engineering reported that the cost of adding an additional southbound lane to Jackson Creek Parkway between the YMCA traffic signal and Higby Road is roughly $41,000. The cost to eliminate the dip in the roadway at the Higby Road intersection, as requested by the Monument Board of Trustees, is an additional $25,000. Monument will perform the striping.

Torres said that BRRTA should pay for adding the southbound lane to improve traffic flow difficulties that arose when Struthers Road between Higby and Baptist Roads was permanently closed to build the new northbound on-ramps at Baptist Road. However, BRRTA is not responsible for making corrections to the large dips in the Higby Road intersection, he said, and the town should pay the $25,000. Fixing the dip in the road requires roto-milling 50 feet of roadway and removing all the asphalt in the intersection and completely replacing it. He said both projects should be combined into a single contract with Lawrence Construction Co., the general contractor for the I-25 Baptist Road interchange expansion.

The board unanimously approved an expenditure of up to $70,000 for performing the combined project in June. Torres will work out a cost-sharing arrangement with the town, and a final vote on the actual costs to BRRTA and the town will be conducted by Denslow using a phone poll of the five BRRTA directors so that Lawrence Construction can begin work as soon as possible.

At this point, Williams said he had to hang up to go testify, and the meeting was adjourned for lack of a quorum. All other agenda items were continued.

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The next meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. on May 8 at the old Town Hall, 166 Second St. Meetings are normally held at 2:30 p.m. on the second Friday of the month. Note that this next meeting will be held during the move of the Monument Town staff to the new Town Hall at Highway 105 and Beacon Lite Road, so the date, time, or location may change. Information: Contact Denise Denslow for this meeting only at 303-779-4525 to confirm whether any changes in schedule have occurred.

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April Weather Wrap

By Bill Kappel

April 2009 produced just what we needed around the region, lots of moisture and cooler than average temperatures. In fact, temperatures were 7° below average for highs. Also, this was our snowiest single month in the past seven years.

After a very dry and warm February and start to March, things changes dramatically around the last week of March. Since March 23, we’ve picked up over 75 inches of snow and 6 inches of moisture. This wet and cold the last five weeks has now put us back above average in the snow and moisture department and at the perfect time of the year—the start of growing season.

The return to winter that moved in to end March continued through the first week of April. Snow, heavy at times, greeted us on the 1st, falling in two rounds, one in the morning, then a heavier shot in the evening. Overall, 2-4 inches accumulated around the area, with nearly a half an inch of liquid equivalent. Clear skies that night, combined with fresh snow and a cold air mass, meant a chilly start to the morning on the 2nd, with low in the single digits.

Skies stayed clear that afternoon and the next, and even with the snow and cold air mass, the strong April sun helped highs reach into the 40s and 50s. Further, sunshine this time of the year means the snow melts no matter what the temperatures, so most of this snow was gone by the 3rd. But more was on the way. Another powerful storm moved through the state starting late on the 4th. This brought another round of snow and wind from the late morning of the 5th through the early morning of the 6th. As much as 4-10 inches fell throughout the area, driven by strong north winds, causing our second blizzard in two weeks. Temperatures were chilly with this system, with highs holding below freezing on the 4th and 5th and overnight lows again dipping into the single digits.

Yet another storm moved in for Easter to end the second week of April. The week started off quiet and cold, with fresh snow on the ground. Monday morning the 6th was downright cold as lows dipped into the single digits. But the strong April sunshine did its work and temperatures were back to the upper 60s the next couple of afternoons making quick work of the snow that had fallen to start the month.

At the same time, however, our Easter snowstorm was gathering strength as a cut-off low-pressure system off the southern coast of California. This storm took its sweet time moving through the Southwest toward Colorado, because it was separated from the main push of the jet stream (hence the name cut-off low). But when it finally arrived Saturday, it was able to tap into a much more unstable atmosphere, courtesy of the stronger April sunshine and higher levels of moisture, and produced widespread moisture for the region. Saturday saw some brief heavy snowfall, but these were just the prelude to the main storm. Snow really began to pile up starting around 3 a.m. Sunday. Heavy, wet snow continued into the early afternoon hours on Sunday, then mixed in with some ice pellets through early evening.

Because this storm’s origins were from a southerly latitude and there was no accompanying cold front from the north, elevation was the main player in who got snow and how much. Most areas around the region above 7,000 feet picked up 6-12 inches of wet snow, while almost as soon as you went below the treeline north or south of the divide, there was almost nothing. This is typical for mid- to late spring events, where we get to take advantage of our relatively high elevation.

The other good news with this storm was the amount of water that was deposited. The snow equated to well over an inch of liquid moisture for us, and most areas from the Front Range through the eastern plains received a good amount of beneficial moisture, just what our plants need as they start growing in earnest.

The third major storm of the month produced heavy snow to end the week of the 13th. The week started off quiet enough with highs in the 50s and low 60s under partly cloudy skies. However, the strong storm was moving onshore in the Pacific Northwest and headed straight through the Intermountain West. Then, with a powerful jet stream giving the storm extra strength, it took a turn through the Four Corners and moved across the Colorado-New Mexico border. This is a very favorable storm track for us.

Further adding to the intensity of the storm were two factors. First, it was a slow mover, so it stayed over southern Colorado for several days, allowing large amounts of snow and moisture to fall. Second, we are now well into spring, so the sun’s strength is much stronger and therefore the contrasts in temperatures in the atmosphere and consequently the dynamics and energy available for a storm are much greater than during the heart of the winter season.

The first signs of the storm showed up before sunrise on Thursday the 16th, when a weak push of cold air brought low clouds and fog to the area. Later that afternoon moist unstable air began to override this cool air mass, and thunderstorms with snow and graupel broke out. These initial bands of moisture and storminess were ahead of the main system, which really got cranking up Friday morning. Heavy bands of snow fell off and on most of the day and were often accompanied by thunder.

As the low continued to spiral over southern Colorado, more heavy snow piled up throughout Saturday, before finally coming to an end just before midnight. Temperatures held in the low 30’s and upper 20’s during the storm, so the snow had a high water content, with most of us picking up 2-3 inches of moisture. Total snowfall above 7,000 feet ranged from 16-30 inches, making this the biggest storm of the season—so far—just ahead of the Nov. 30 snow.

Much like the big snow we had during April 2007, there was minor tree damage as some top-heavy pines succumbed to the weight of the snow. Also interesting was the sharp contrast in snowfall between the Divide and areas to the north and south. The Colorado Springs airport (the official reporting station for Colorado Springs) recorded only 0.2 inch of snow and 0.53 inch of precipitation. This shows again how much different our weather is from just down the road in town. This is especially evident during the transition seasons, when elevation plays such a large role in who gets snow and who gets rain.

The week of the 20th saw a nice reprieve from the cold and snow as high pressure moved into the area. The strong late April sunshine allowed temperatures to jump into the 60s and 70s, our warmest weather of the month. The snowpack was deep after the weekend storm, so even with the warmth, it took a while to melt it. Yet another system moved through the region starting on the 25th with low clouds, fog, and drizzle initially. Then as the heart of the storm moved over the area, 2-4 inches of snow accumulated from the evening of the 26th through the morning of the 27th.

The month ended with quiet and mild conditions after a couple mornings of fog and low clouds. We should really begin to see a nice green-up during May after all the abundant moisture during April. Enjoy the reprieve from having to water so much for at least the next couple of weeks.

A look ahead

May often brings a wide variety of weather conditions in the region, from warm, sunny days to severe thunderstorms, and even some snow. May 2007 was a snowy May, with over 20 inches accumulating for the month, then last year was close to average with just a few inches. For a complete look at monthly climate summaries for the Tri-Lakes region, please visit www.thekappels.com/ClimateSummary.htm

April 2009 Weather Statistics

Average High 52.1° (-4.9)
Average Low 25.6° (-1.8)
Highest Temperature 73° on the 23rd
Lowest Temperature 2° on the 6th
Monthly Precipitation 5.25" (+2.07" 40% below normal)
Monthly Snowfall 54.9" (+25.9" 53% below normal)
Season to Date Snow 131.9" (+2.6" 2% below normal) (the snow season is from July 1 to June 30)
Season to Date Precip 20.75" (+2.37" 12% above normal) (the precip season is from July 1 to June 30)
Heating Degree Days 857 (+180) 
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

Monument Board of Trustees lacks vision

I’d like to echo the concerns raised by Lisa Haskell in the April 4 issue of OCN ("Walgreens approval disturbing," Letters). My family and I moved to Woodmoor two years ago. Being in the Air Force, we’ve lived in many places and observed much (both good and bad) about those locations.

It’s becoming more evident with every passing month that the Monument Board of Trustees does not have a well-thought-out vision for our future. Well, let me rephrase that: they don’t have a vision that serves to preserve the natural beauty, open-space, or small-town community feel that originally brought folks to this area. Their focus is clear: develop the town’s financial strength (i.e., encourage new development). The result: urban sprawl.

Board members are not considering the vision of those who came here to escape the congested, high-density cities you’ll find elsewhere. Their agenda is clear: increase tax revenue. Too much property is zoned for commercial and residential development. The end result is overcrowding and few dedicated "open spaces" between developed areas.

In the past year, Highway 105 (east of I-25) has seen several new developments: Sears, Monument Academy, a bank, and the new homes off of Knollwood. Also, advanced plans to bring Walgreens and the 57-room, five-story, 86-parking-spot Arbor Mountain facility to our area. Additionally, everything off of Baptist and Jackson Creek Parkway, including the three-story, 85-room Fairfield Inn, and the new home development plan northeast of I-25 and Baptist.

The Board of Trustees is trading in Monument’s small-town charm, something that cannot be recaptured once given away. If you feel the same way, make a difference. Elect those who will represent your values, attend city council meetings, and voice your concerns through the paper. Until we all do so, expect more of the same from a board clearly focused on economic development, not preservation of our community.

Ira Cline

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Between The Covers at the Covered Treasures Bookstore: Heartwarming books for troubling times

By the staff at Covered Treasures

Are you looking for ways to brighten these bad news days? How about a story that warms your heart and makes you smile, or even laugh out loud? Books such as these can provide a happy escape, or a new perspective.

Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance
By Lloyd Jones (Dial Press), $12

Ranging from rural New Zealand during the final days of World War I to Buenos Aires at mid-century to the present day, this novel intertwines two love stories across three generations. The ironies of war force Louise and Schmidt—two near-strangers—to hide in a cave overlooking the ocean. Desperate for solace, Schmidt teaches Louise the tango, and the iconic dance becomes their mutual obsession and the trigger for an affair that will span continents. The acclaimed author of Mister Pip, Jones has written a thrilling and sensuous novel about how we fall in love.

Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist
By Michael J. Fox (Hyperion), $25.99

Instead of building walls around himself throughout his struggle with Parkinson’s disease, Fox learned to see challenges as opportunities and developed an emotional, psychological, intellectual, and spiritual outlook that has served him well. Leaving a very demanding public career gave him the time and inspiration to open up new doors, including one that led to the center of his own family.

These High Green Hills
By Jan Karon (Penguin), $12.95

The third novel in the Mitford Series takes us once again to a southern village of heartwarming and hilarious local characters. Father Tim, Mitford’s rector and lifelong bachelor, has finally married his talented and vivacious neighbor, Cynthia. Now they must face love’s challenges: Cynthia’s urge to decorate; Father Tim’s sofa-size dog; the growing pains of the thrown-away boy who’s become like a son to the rector. Add a life-changing camping trip, the arrival of the town’s first policewoman, and a new computer that requires the patience of a saint, and you have a story that will make you smile.

Dewey
By Vicki Myron with Bret Witter (Grand Central Publishing), $19.99

Dewey Readmore Books was an abandoned kitten that became the beloved library cat of Spencer, Iowa. Stuffed into the return book slot of the Spencer Public Library on the coldest night of the year, Dewey soon won the heart of library director Vicki Myron and her staff. His enthusiasm, warmth, and, above all, his sixth sense about who needed him most caused his fame to grow from town to town, state to state and, amazingly, worldwide.

Where the Sidewalk Ends
By Shel Silverstein (Harper Collins), $18.99

Shel Silverstein’s masterful collection of poems and drawings is at once outrageously funny and profound. Where the sidewalk ends is a place where a boy turns into a TV set, a girl eats a whale, you wash your shadow, shoes fly, sisters are auctioned off, and crocodiles go to the dentist. A joy for all ages, these poems are sure to make you laugh out loud.

Winter Solstice
By Rosamunde Pilcher (St. Martin’s Paperbacks), $7.99

A devastating tragedy finds church organist Oscar Blundell and Elfrida Phipps, a 62-year-old retired actress, embarking on an unlikely journey. At a rundown Victorian house in Scotland, they encounter a young woman nursing a broken heart, a teenager escaping an unhappy home, and a stranger arriving during a snowstorm. These five very different people form an unexpected circle of friends that will forever change their lives.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life
By Anna Quindlen (Random House), $12.95

What does it take to "get a life"—to live deeply every day and from your own unique self, rather than merely to exist through your days? "Knowledge of our own mortality is the greatest gift God ever gives us," Quindlen writes, "because unless you know the clock is ticking, it is so easy to waste our days, our lives." With an understanding that comes from knowing how to see the view, the richness in living, Quindlen guides us to a life of fully engaging our days.

Sunny days, blue skies, May flowers, and a good book are the ingredients for high spirits and plenty of smiles. Until next month, happy reading.

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High Country Highlights: Tips on container gardening

By Woody Woodworth

Container gardening is an excellent way to maximize space and enliven small gardens or patios. Containers provide added color to any area and are easy to use as an accessory for any deck or outdoor living space. Use different and unusual shapes, varying heights, textures, and styles to enhance those areas and provide an adequate growing space for your favorite plants.

When planting in containers, remember that root systems cannot search beyond the container for food and water. The root system of any plant plays a critical role in overall plant health and vigor and is responsible for supplying a plant with water, vitamins, and minerals, all necessary ingredients that promote and maintain healthy vigorous growth. This means the plant will be totally dependent on the nutrients and water you provide.

Choose a container with drainage holes in the bottom. Without good drainage, fertilizer salts will build up in the soil and harm the plant. Pack a good quality potting soil tightly into the container to ensure there are no air pockets or voids that could harm the roots. In general, most plants like a loose, well-drained soil with lots of organic material. Potting soil is usually some combination of peat moss, shredded bark, composted or decomposed plant material and some form of manure. It may have little or no actual "dirt" in it. Organic material helps to maintain moisture content in the soil and helps to prevent soil compaction.

Add an appropriate amount of granulated or slow-release fertilizer when packing the soil so the roots have food later on. This type of fertilizer will help maintain blooms and keep plant stress at bay when the weather turns hot. All plants grown in containers will also need several applications of a good quality water soluble fertilizer. This type of fertilizer will make more nutrients available to the plant during the growing season.

Try not to overcrowd the pot by using too many plants. A good example is the herb basil. It likes about a 5-inch radius to grow well, so if you were to put three in a pot, you would need about a 15-inch-diameter pot. Also, most herbs like a different type of soil and container. They generally do best in clay pots with a mixture of half sand and half potting soil. That allows them to be watered frequently, but ensures good drainage.

Try planting leaf lettuce and arugula in window boxes, and replant a couple times each year. Set the window boxes on the deck just outside the kitchen’s back door and trim lettuce for fresh salads most of the summer and into fall. Plant begonias in an old wooden box and set it in the shade for bright color all summer. Use ornamental annual grasses for height and lamiums and bacopa for trailers. Put together combinations for sun or shade, but try not to mix the different needs of the plants. Leafy vegetables like cabbage and lettuce can tolerate the most shade, while tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchini, and other above-ground fruit and vegetables will need the most direct sunlight.

Watering is important in Colorado, because the mid-day sun can quickly dry out a pot. Container gardens rapidly lose moisture. Full-sun pots may need water daily. Shade plants may require less water but still need to be checked. If you are unsure as to when to water, use a moisture meter that reads how wet or dry the soil is. A good rule of thumb is to dig your finger into the top 2 inches of soil—if it’s wet your plant probably is OK, but if it’s dry, it might be time to water.

Container gardens are great projects for beginners and advanced gardeners. They are easily moved, easy to maintain and fun to plant. They also make a great family activity, so get the little ones involved too. Ask your local garden center for advice, and plant a container today!

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

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Bird Watch on the Palmer Divide: The American dipper

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Below: Drawing of American Dippers by Elizabeth Hacker.

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By Elizabeth Hacker

Recently, Raleigh Dove, a friend that I hike with, suggested spending a weekend exploring trails along the Arkansas River near Salida, and it didn’t take much persuading to get me to go. We arrived on a Friday night and made our way to a quaint little coffee house with some sizzling jazz. Not exactly a place one might expect to find local birders, but as luck would have it, sitting at the table next to us was a couple with Audubon symbols on their jackets.

During a break, Raleigh struck up a conversation and asked the couple where they liked to hike. The discussion moved on to include birds and the inevitable question: "What is your favorite bird?" Their unequivocal answer was the American dipper, which reportedly was also the favorite bird of the great American naturalist John Muir.

This is a bird that occupies a unique niche, as it is the only true aquatic songbird. The American dipper is not an easy bird to spot. Its slate gray plumage blends in well with the boulders along streams. It is a solitary bird and when it feels threatened, it will flatten out and remain motionless on the water’s surface. In an instant it can dive into the water, where it can remain for up to 30 seconds.

The following morning, Raleigh and I set out to hike a trail along the Arkansas. Mid-morning we sat along the boulder-strewn banks of the icy river to admire the prismatic spray rising from the foaming water, and there it was in plain sight—an American dipper. Considering that a person could not possibly withstand the torrents of this rushing river, it was truly amazing that this small songbird was plunging head-first into the raging current.

In some ways the dipper is more like a duck than a songbird. It has downy under-feathers, and it waterproofs its feathers with oil from its preen gland, which is 10 times larger than the glands of other songbirds. Like a painter dipping a brush into a bottle of paint, the dipper dabs its bill into this gland and preens its feathers for a thick waterproof coat. When submerged, a nasal flap covers the dipper’s nostrils, and translucent eyelids allow it to see under water.

The American dipper is a stocky, solid gray bird. It’s about 7½ inches long with a short tail and it looks a little like a wren. Juveniles and adults are very similar. The agile dipper swims across the water’s surface by paddling with its legs and feet. Under water, it moves by churning its legs, gripping rocks with its long toes, and moving its wings in a swimming-like motion while it searches for small fish and insect larva. Unlike other songbirds, it molts its wing and tail feathers all at once in the late summer and is flightless for about a week.

Fortunately Raleigh wasn’t in a hurry to get back on the trail, so I had plenty of time to observe this fascinating bird. It soon became apparent that there was a pair of dippers taking food to a nest on the opposite bank. The nest was above the river but hidden in the shadows beneath a large protruding tree root.

Reportedly, nests are the size of a soccer ball with a 2-inch inner rim to prevent the chicks from falling out. The dippers enter the nest through a small side hole with an arched opening. The nests are well constructed and thought to be re-used for many years, because dippers spend their entire lives in one watershed.

The dipper is an early nester. Mating begins in March and chicks are hatched in April. The average nest contains four eggs, which are incubated about 16 days. After hatching, young dippers need ample time to develop and spend about 24 days in the nest before fledging, twice that of other songbird nestlings. When young dippers leave the nest, they jump directly into a fast-moving water but do not dive below the surface until their plumage is fully developed.

One of my art students described a bird called an ouzel that seemed similar to the American dipper. Curiosity got the best of me, and after a bit of research I learned that John Muir referred to the American dipper as the water ouzel. Ornithologists renamed it because of its habit of bending and straightening its knees. To be sure, all bird species are unique but I now understand many birders’ fascination for this most unusual bird.

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: www.ElizabethHackerart.com 

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Bohemian Waxwings

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Below: Photo of Bohemian Waxwings by Angela Strecke.

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By Elizabeth Hacker

One of the benefits of writing a bird column is the e-mails I receive from people like Angela Strecker, an avid birder who lives in Gleneagle. She sent me photos of a small group of Bohemian waxwings drinking from the birdbath on her deck. It is unusual to see waxwings in the spring but truly rare for waxwings to mingle with other birds at a birdbath or to even linger.

Large flocks of waxwings (100 or more to a flock) roam this area in winter. They are high-energy birds, constantly roaming in search of food. Once a food source is discovered, the birds loudly vocalize to attract the flock. The flock descends and rapidly strips plants of their fruit. After the fruit is gone, the flock breaks into small groups that fly in different directions to continue their search.

Angela noticed the waxwings just hours before the April snowstorm and thought the birds looked tired. She wrote that they were not vocalizing and didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave her deck. It is often said that changes in animal behavior are a barometer for changing weather patterns.

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Art Matters: Local artists share their secrets

By Janet Sellers

The heart of the arts is growing in our community. In the space of just April alone, events with artists sharing how they do what they do were going strong, and promise to continue with gusto.

At the Winter-Helmich Gallery, Third and Front Streets, on Saturday mornings, a unique Art Chat event has been going on every month since late last year. There is no fee, and Susan Helmich has been inviting artists and the public to come together and learn about the artist du jour in terms of creativity from inspiration through all creative processes to the final artwork.

In April, sculptor Ruth Burink shared her art process, insights, and beautiful artwork, as well as her working tools and sketches. My favorite part of art is always the imagination part, and the sketches show so much of the initial planning phases of fine art, while the final piece embodies the full manifestation of the artist’s heart.

We had coffee, tea, and a continental breakfast of sorts with the Art Chat—perfect for the chilly, foggy morning—and a roomful of admirers were in attendance. The Art Chats at Winter-Helmich Gallery have been so successful, and Susan plans to resume them after the summer Art Hop season.

Which brings me to news of another happy art event: This month starts up the Art Hop series for 2009. Every third Thursday of each month from May until October, our local Historic Monument Merchants hold a festive evening of convivial pursuits starring the art and art venues of our Historic Monument area. For some years now, it has been a spring and summer tradition to visit the art galleries in town and celebrate—and buy—from our local artists and venues.

Many evenings the festivities include music, art walks, and a bit to eat or drink. My favorite thing to do is walk along the Art Hop pathways and go from one end of our little town to the other enjoying the art, the evening air, and meeting many old and new art friends along the way. I always find a new artist or new artwork that I like, and it is such a delight to casually visit with others as we make our way through town. My suggestion is for you to bring a friend or two to the Art Hop, do the hop and take notes for coming back at a later date to view the art again and, hopefully, buy some art to take home or to the office and keep a refreshing memory of your visit.

Also, now every other month at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts, Elizabeth Hacker and Claudette Bedingfield will offer some traditional-style art salons. The public is invited, and, for the small entry fee, an evening of art and convivial pursuits centering on art ensues. Called the "Third Friday Art Salon," the event harkens to the days of the impressionists, when artists met at a cafe to critique each other’s art over wine and the like.

"The goal of the TLCA salon is to encourage local artists and rev-up their creative engines. It is an opportunity for artists to view their art through the eyes of other artists and get help with those problem areas" said Elizabeth, who hosts the salon. Claudette, along with other local, well known and established artists, will be present to provide guidance and lead the discussion.

The April art salon held at the TLCA offered an intimate look into the minds and hearts of local artists. They brought a couple of paintings each; non-artists—art fans—took in the evening, and it was a fulfilling and interesting time for all. The idea behind the salon echoes the traditional gatherings of artists and art lovers who get together over libations to talk about the art they love and, in this case, works in progress. When the artists bring a painting, suggestions and comments from the group are shared. I found the group to be welcoming and warm, with astute, intelligent comments. I am looking forward to the next one!

Third Friday Salon meets every other month from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the TLCA. Upcoming dates are: June 19, Aug. 21, Oct, 16, and Dec. 18. Cost is $15. A glass of wine or a soft drink and light appetizers are included.

So, do join your Tri-Lakes community and me in the start of the spring and summer art season! The first Art Hop is May 21, and the next Third Friday art salon is planned for June 19. Dress up, or dress down, but wear some comfy shoes, as you will truly enjoy the stroll through town for the Art Hop evening and the Art Salon evenings as well. We have the most beautiful summer evenings on the planet, with long twilights afforded us by our magnificent mountains, and the soft evening glow goes on and on. Just the right light for art.

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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At the Winter-Helmich Gallery

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Photos by Janet Sellers.

Below (L to R): Artists Susan Helmich and Ruth Burink with one of Burink’s stone sculptures, April 27.  

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Below: Burink with her tools of the trade for her stone sculptures. With her is artist/photographer and geology professor Steve Weaver, whose photographs of landscapes with natural stone forms are also on exhibit at the Winter- Helmich Gallery, 47 Third St, Monument.

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At the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts

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Photos by Janet Sellers.

Below: Maricia Grant with her painting at the TLCA art salon. Grant, originally from Poland, grew up in Africa and said she felt the colorful African influence as she was painting this work of art.  

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Below: Richard Hart, artistically aka "Mr. Grumby" stands between two of his paintings for his innovative online "art book experience" (visit www.mrgrumby.com).

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Snapshots of Our Community

Arbor Day tree planting, April 24

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Below: Several Monument town employees participated in planting trees at the town park between the Santa Fe Trails and Pastimes developments on Arbor Day, April 24. L to R: Karen Griffith, Rod Wilson, Matt Martinez, Sassy LeRoux, Ron Rathburn, Rich Landreth, Cathy Green, Scott Meszaros, Lucas Ebaugh, plus Monument resident Scott Brandon. Photo by Deputy Town Clerk Claudia Whitney

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Lewis-Palmer Elementary School No TV event, April 24

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Photos by Bernard Minetti.

Below: LPES principal Lois Skaggs and fifth grade boys, (L-R) Ian Fuller, Alex McCullough, Josh Adelgren, Christian Scarsbrook, and Justin Laverde. Scarsbrook won the contest for designing the T-shirt for the event with the "Unplugged" logo. He says he got the idea from reading the book City of Ember. LPES has put on this event each year for 15 years. Each youngster who participates, contracts to not watch TV or play video games for one week. The youngster’s parents certify adherence. 

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Below: Coordinators of the LPES No TV event are (L-R) Coordinator Melissa Bagnall (also PTO President), and co-coordinators Bill Walsh and Paula McCullough. The No TV event was designed to have youngsters reconnect with family and family events. The purpose is to demonstrate to each child that there is more to life than the electronic world. 

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Music-Poetry-Arts Café at TLCA, April 25

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Below: On April 25, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) re-kindled some of its past with a Music-Poetry-Arts Café event. With a backdrop of artwork from Lewis-Palmer students, there were poetry readings from Monument residents (L-R) Anne Krill and John Howe, music by guitarist Robert Jones, and an open mic for those wishing to share their poetic talents. The event was co-sponsored by the TLCA and Covered Treasures Bookstore, which had a variety of poetry and other books on sale. The TLCA was also decorated in a very festive mode, which included tablecloths made of construction paper with markers for patrons to draw to their heart’s content. Photo by David Futey.

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WIA holds open house, April 26

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Below: An open house was held in the newly-refurbished Woodmoor Improvement Association Barn community center. Over 150 people attended. Palmer Ridge High School Serteens provided face painting. Mike Barnwell of Farmer’s Insurance offered free registration in the M.I.L.K. (Managing Information on Lost Kids) digital ID program. It’s a Grind provided coffee. People’s Bank provided a popcorn machine. The Barn has become a popular venue for weddings and other social events. Photo by Chris Pollard.

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New Monument Town Hall nears completion, April 29

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Below: The Alexandher Construction Company and subcontractors are wrapping up construction on the new Town Hall and Police Department Building at Highway 105 and Beacon Lite Road. In the foreground is Beacon Lite Road. Highway 105 is to the right. Move-in is scheduled for May 7-8. Photos by Jim Kendrick.

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April and May library events

Photos by Harriet Halbig

Below: Michael Shealy and Bo make new friends.  

Below: Dolores Fowler of the Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) Foundation and Cal Otto of the PPLD Board of Trustees greeted patrons.

By Harriet Halbig

Having survived the changeable month of April, your local libraries look forward to sunnier days in May.

The Monument Branch’s second program on high altitude gardening was well attended, demonstrating our hope for better weather to come!

The fascinating program featuring Bo the llama and his people from Touch the Earth Ranch was also popular. In addition to explaining the history of llamas as pack and guard animals, Marlice Van Zandt and Michael Shealy demonstrated spinning and felting of the fleece from the animals. If you missed this program in Monument, it will come to the Palmer Lake Branch on May 16 at 10:30 a.m.

Many patrons visited during National Library Week and had the opportunity to speak with Cal Otto, a member of Pikes Peak Library District’s Board of Trustees, and Dolores Fowler, executive officer of the district’s foundation. Many patrons completed surveys about the library, providing an opportunity to share opinions and preferences. Patron responses are seriously considered in the planning for the district. Thanks to all who participated!

The Monument Branch will feature two programs on Saturday, May 9. At 10:30 we will welcome Sue Clark, a local tightwad who will share her ideas for saving money during these difficult times. She will discuss coupon use, ideas for free entertainment, and other ways to save.

On the afternoon of the 9th, local gardener Diane Picchietti will help patrons prepare a special plant as a gift for Mother’s Day. The program will include some gardening stories to get us all in the mood for growing season.

Beginning on Wednesday the 13th and each week through the summer, a Master Gardener help desk will be offered at the Monument Branch from 3 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. Bring your questions and problems and learn to improve your gardening skills.

AARP’s Driver’s Safety Class will once again be offered on May 16, with a minimum enrollment of 10 people. Registration is required online or at 488-2370.

Entry-level computer classes for adults will also continue through the month of May, with registration required. Topics include Beginning Computers, Internet Basics and Word Processing.

In the display case during May will be miniature art by Leslie Miller. The wall display will be black-and-white photography by Myron Wood, part of the Special Collection of the library district.

In addition to the llama program, Palmer Lake will hold a book-signing event with Larkspur author Karl Roscoe on Tuesday, May 12, from 10 a.m. until noon. Roscoe’s latest book, The Sixth Extinction, is set in Cheyenne Mountain, as officials cope with the aftermath of a disastrous asteroid strike.

The Palmer Lake Book Group’s featured title for June will be A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Call the branch at 481-2587 to request your copy. The group meets at 9 a.m. on the first Friday of each month and welcomes new members.

The library is now preparing for the summer reading season, with programs for young children and teens to begin on June 1. Many special programs will come to the library during the coming months, so plan to be part of the excitement!

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Palmer Lake Historical Society, April 16: History of women’s fashion displayed

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Below: Morgan Meyer models a the wedding dress and Anna Gheen models a poodle skirt. Photo provided by Cathleen Norman.

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By Sally Green

The monthly meeting of the Palmer Lake Historical Society was held at Palmer Lake Town Hall on April 16 at 7 p.m. Historical Society member Mary Meyer presented a Vintage Fashion Show featuring garments worn by ladies from the 1860s to the 1960s. Sixteen young volunteers from area schools joined a few society members to model authentic vintage clothing, while Meyer narrated. A full house of members and guests were present to enjoy this lovely and informative program.

Many of the 37 garments modeled came from the collection of clothing donated to the Lucretia Vaile Museum. Others were lent by members for this event. Still others were sewn by Meyer. Several girls wore their grandmother’s or mother’s gowns.

Meyer sprinkled in lively information about the fashion decades, calling attention to garment details and the type of occasion for which they were worn, and the history of each decade influencing women’s fashion. Did you know that it took two people to dress a proper Victorian lady, because her gown had so many hooks up the back? The Gibson Girl of the early 1900s raised her hemline to her ankle tops so she could more easily get in and out of the newfangled horseless carriage. The well-dressed woman of the 1950s always wore coordinated hat, gloves, and shoes.

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The next Palmer Lake Historical Society meeting will be Thursday, May 21, at 7 p.m. at the Palmer Lake Town Hall. The program will be "How the Early Sermons Were Delivered," presented by the Rev. John Snyder. There is no charge and all are welcome to attend.

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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.

Slash and Mulch season begins in May

The El Paso County Black Forest Slash and Mulch season is here! Slash (tree and shrub debris; no stumps) will be accepted May 3 to Sept. 13. Mulch will be available, while supplies last, May 23 to Sept. 26. Hours of operation are: Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Sundays, noon to 4 p.m.; Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 5 to 7:30 p.m. The mulch loader schedule is Saturdays only, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The loader fee is $4 per bucket, approximately 2 cubic yards. The slash and mulch site is located at the southeast corner of Shoup and Herring Roads in the Black Forest area.

The program is a wildfire mitigation and recycling effort sponsored by El Paso County, co-sponsored the Colorado Forestry Association and the Black Forest Fire Department, in cooperation with Colorado State Forest Service and the State Board of Land Commissioners. The program’s purpose is to teach forest management practices and to encourage residents to clear adequate defensible space surrounding their structures by thinning trees and shrubs to reduce the spread of fire. Spreading mulch on the forest floor holds moisture, delays the spread of weeds, and provides nutrients to the forest. For more information, visit www.bfslash.org or phone 520-7878 or Jeff DeWitt, 495-8024.

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D-38 Special Needs Community Resource Fair, May 2

Everyone is welcome to attend the Special Needs Community Resource Fair May 2, 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 more than 48 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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Gleneagle Sertoma Wine and Beer Tasting and Auction, May 9

The Gleneagle Sertoma Club will hold its fifth annual charity Wine and Beer Tasting and Auction May 9, 5 to 8 p.m., at the Air Force Academy Stadium Press Box. Your driver’s license allows you to enter either gate until 6 p.m. Highlights include specialties from local chefs, a professional auctioneer, an old-time soft drink and ice cream bar, and the beautiful Blue and Silver Room venue. All profits go to Tri-Lakes Cares and other charities. Buy tickets at the door ($35 for one, $60 for two). Call 488-1044 or 471-1088 for more information.

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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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Protect Our Wells annual meeting, May 11

Protect Our Wells (POW) is a Colorado nonprofit, citizen-based organization formed to advocate the interests of residents with private wells in the Denver Basin Aquifers. The public is invited to attend its annual meeting May 11, 7-9 p.m., at Mountain Springs Church, 7345 E. Woodmen Rd. For more information, call Bea Crandall, 495-4213 or Sandy Martin, 351-1640, or visit http://protectourwells.org/.

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Master Gardener Help Desk opens at Monument Library, May 13

Master gardeners will be available to assist you every Wednesday, May 13-Sep. 2, 3-8:30 p.m. Bring in your questions about gardening in the Tri-Lakes area. Master gardeners can advise you about water issues, pest management, ecosystem characteristics, and plant life that thrives in our local dry area. Monument Branch Library, 1706 Lake Woodmoor Dr. For more information, call 488-2370.

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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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CASA 4-1-1 Night, May 19

Learn how you can become "a child’s voice in court" and make a lasting difference in the life of an abused or neglected child at CASA’s 4-1-1 Night May 19 at 5:30 p.m. This one-hour informational presentation will be held at the CASA office, 701 South Cascade in Colorado Springs. To learn more about the many fulfilling volunteer opportunities available at CASA, contact RoseMary at 447-9898, ext. 1008 or visit www.casappr.org.

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Brulé & AIRO concert, May 22

The Palmer Lake Historical Society together with the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce will present a concert by Brulé & AIRO May 22 at the Palmer Ridge High School auditorium, 19255 Monument Hill Rd., Monument. Doors open at 6:30 for a 7:30 p.m. show. The performance will feature a dynamic blend of traditional and contemporary Native American music and dance. The concert is a fundraising event for both the Palmer Lake Historical Society and the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $25 per person at the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Web site, www.trilakeschamber.com, at the Wine Seller (481-3019), or at Covered Treasures Bookstore (481-2665). Tickets are $30 per person at the door. For more information call Al Walter, 559-0525.

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Book and Beck bluegrass concert, May 29

Travis Book and Anders Beck will perform at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) May 29; doors open at 7 for the 7:30 p.m. show. Book plays with the Infamous Stringdusters, and Beck is a member of Greensky Bluegrass from Kalamazoo, Mich. Tickets are $12 for TLCA members and $15 for 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. TLCA is located at 304 Highway 105, Palmer Lake. For more information, visit the Web site at www.trilakesarts.org.

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Wendy Woo concert, June 5

Wendy Woo returns to the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) with Robin Hoch June 5. Doors open at 7 for a 7:30 p.m. show. Advance purchase is recommended for this popular concert. Tickets are $12 for TLCA members, $15 for non-members and are available at The Wine Seller (481-3019) and 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 in Palmer Lake. For more information, visit the Web site at www.trilakesarts.org.

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Hooked on Palmer Lake Fishing Derby, June 6

The Town of Palmer Lake is having a fishing derby at the lake June 6, 8 a.m. to noon. Children 16 and under are encouraged to participate; there will be many prizes and awards as well as fishing instruction. The Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring the event. Tickets are $2 in advance tickets and can be purchased at the Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce (481-3282), or $3 at the lake. For more information call Ken Valdez, 650-5992.

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Tri-Lakes Cruisers Car Show, June 14

The eighth annual car show, a benefit for Tri-Lakes Cares, will be held June 14 in Historic Downtown Monument, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Come one, come all! Enjoy classic/collectible cars, DJ oldies music, games, trophy presentation, and more. Fun for all ages! Each car entrant gets a free breakfast. For more information, contact Dan at dano@process.com or Bill at 481-2465, or visit www.tlcruisers.org.

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D-38 Operations Advisory Committee seeks volunteers

The Lewis-Palmer School District Operations Advisory Committee (OAC), formerly known as the Facilities and Enrollment Committee (FEC), is seeking new members. The application and information about serving on the OAC are available on the Lewis-Palmer School District Web site (visit www.lewispalmer.org and search for OAC) or from Shelia Pervell at the LPSD Administration Building at 146 Jefferson St., P.O. Box 40, Monument. The application deadline is June 30.

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Tri-Lakes Senior Alliance Thrift Store in Palmer Lake

The new store is located at 755 Highway 105, in Unit 9 behind the West End Center in Palmer Lake. Hours will be Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Books, sporting goods, furniture, home furnishings, appliances small and large, and more are 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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