Home  About  Advertise  Archive  Calendar  Contact  Help  Links  Maps  Subscribe  Topics  Updates
Our Community News - Home Vol. 24 No. 5 - May 4, 2024

 Any word  All words   Help
Category:     Results per page:     Sort by date

Prior Up

Correction: The photo caption for "Earth Day tree planting, Apr, 21" in the Snapshots section (pg 24) has incorrect names for the pictured individuals and for the photo credit. It should read, "From left are Tamara Schwarz, Aida Richardson, Don Richardson, 101-year-old WWII vet Marie West, Patsy Janeba and John Janeba. Photo by Tamara Schwarz." OCN regrets the error.

Correction: Monument Fire District will hold a special meeting to approve the next phase in the merger on Wednesday, May 8 at 3:30 p.m. at Station 1, 18650 Highway 105. OCN regrets the error.

Audio versions are posted for many of the articles in this issue. Look for this icon or the phrase "Listen to this article."

Contents

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

the PDF file. This is a 49 Mbyte high-resolution file with color photos.

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

the audio files. This is an 105 Mbyte ZIP file containing all the audio files for this issue.

Lewis-Palmer D38 Board of Education, April 15: Board selects new superintendent, recognizes staff achievements, approves classified and licensed pay scales

By Harriet Halbig

Listen to this article or the audio file

On April 15, the Lewis-Palmer D38 Board of Education approved the selection of a new superintendent, approved classified and licensed pay schedules, and recognized two employees for their achievements.

New superintendent approved

Following a nationwide search and including major input from community members, the Board of Education approved the selection of Dr. Stacie Datteri as the next superintendent for the district.

Datteri comes to District 38 from Greeley, where she currently serves as assistant superintendent of Academic Achievement and Elementary K-8 Leadership for Greeley-Evans School District in Weld County School District 6. She has 21 years of administrative experience and 29 years of experience in education.

Board President Tiffiney Upchurch commented that the selection process was rigorous and that she was impressed at the level of community participation throughout. She stressed that all voices were heard equally and the input from the community helped the board to determine who would be the best fit for the community.

Upchurch also congratulated the two district employees who were finalists for the position.

Datteri commented that she was grateful for the opportunity to serve and is thinking about what she can bring to the table to continue the district’s legacy of high achievement. She said she will work through the district’s strategic plan.

The board approved the appointment unanimously, subject to contract approval.

Datteri will begin her tenure on July 1.

Staff recognition

The board recognized Chief Business Officer Brett Ridgway for his efforts in drafting and seeing to the governor’s signature Senate Bill 24-017.

In the past, funding for the district arrived at an uneven rate, coming primarily during the months of March, May, and June when taxes came into the state. During that time, the district had to withhold $8 million to cover payroll and other expenses in January and February.

Funding will now arrive throughout the school year, making it possible to spend the $8 million previously withheld as early as July.

Board Treasurer Ron Schwarz commented that this bill’s passage was an unusual case of putting community needs above partisan politics.

Upchurch recognized district lobbyist Amy Atwood for her contributions to the bill’s success.

Upchurch then recognized Director of Communications Mark Belcher. Acting Superintendent Amber Whetstine thanked him for his guidance and professionalism and said that he was proactive, positive, and always prepared.

Upchurch said that he worked tirelessly on weekends and snow days to keep the community informed. She praised his ability to craft messages for all audiences.

School representatives

Schwarz introduced Rhett and Kenna from Palmer Ridge High School. Each month two high school representatives attend board meetings and report on school activities.

They are welcome to ask questions and participate in discussion but do not have a vote as they are not elected members of the board.

Board member comments

Schwarz thanked members of the district staff for their efforts during the superintendent search, and he thanked Walt Cooper for his assistance in the process. He said that the district has selected the right candidate for the job.

Board Secretary Dr. Patti Shank said she was very impressed by the selection process. She said that one hears of contentious boards and politicization of board activities, and she is grateful that the D38 board works so well together. They listen to each other and do what is best for the community, she said.

Upchurch commented that Monument Academy has a new CEO. She thanked Deputy Wheat, School Resource Officer of Lewis-Palmer High School, and wished him well as he is promoted to sergeant.

She said that Monument Academy will have its first graduating class this year.

In addition to Senate bill 24-017, Upchurch said there are bills still under discussion at the capitol and encouraged individuals to participate in the legislative process. Some involve local control.

Student academic fees

Ridgway presented a list of proposed academic fees for the 2024-25 school year. These fees include consumable items such as art supplies and workbooks, equipment maintenance, and other expenses. Sports fees were not explained because they involve a more restricted number of students.

In answer to a question, Ridgway said that students who qualify for free or reduced lunch can apply for aid in paying fees. He also said that individuals could donate funds to cover some fees.

Ridgway said the revenue from fees, including those for athletic participation, is around $2 million per year.

In response to a question from Upchurch, Ridgway agreed that this could be an opportunity to seek sponsorships for these fees.

The board approved the list of academic fees for the 2024-25 school year. To see a complete list of fees, please to go www.lewispalmer.org, board of education, boarddocs and select the meeting date.

Classified and licensed pay scales

Ridgway explained his continuing efforts to revamp pay scales for classified and licensed staff.

This is an ongoing effort, and Ridgway said he includes increases of a lower percentage for those earning more and a higher percentage for those earning less.

Classified employees include all "regular" employees who are paid by the hour and not salaried. This includes clerical staff, transportation, food service, and grounds and maintenance staff. The new minimum wage for classified employees is $17.50 per hour. The state changes this figure in January and this increase is proactive so that the district does not need to change the budget mid-year.

He said that since last month, it appears that the School Finance Act will include an additional $25 in per pupil operating revenue (PPOR) than was expected. This could potentially make it possible to offer a 6% average increase in compensation instead of the previously estimated 5.85%

The board approved the pay scales for classified and licensed staff.

In other financial areas, Ridgway said the Parent and Community Advisory Committee is being asked for their spending priorities and the Financial Transparency Committee continues to meet and discuss such matters. Both will report at the May meeting of the board.

When asked whether the district is considering self-insuring to avoid rising costs in insurance, Ridgway said that is under consideration.

Caption: At the April 15 Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Board of Education meeting, the board announced its new superintendent, Dr. Stacie Datteri. Datteri comes from Greeley-Weld County School District 6, where she served as assistant superintendent of Academic Achievement and Elementary, K-8 Leadership. She has 21 years of administrative experience and 29 years of experience in the field of education. Pictured are D38 Board President Tiffiney Upchurch, left, and Datteri. Photo by Jackie Burhans.

**********

The Lewis-Palmer D38 Board of Education usually meets at 6 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at its learning center, 146 Jefferson St., Monument. The next meeting will be on May 20. For information, contact vwood@lewispalmer.org

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

Return to the top of the page

Monument Fire District Town Hall, April 18: Proposed training center plans revealed

By Natalie Barszcz

Listen to this article or the audio file

At the Monument Fire District Station 1 proposed training center informational meeting on April 18, about 15 residents attended in person with a few attending via Zoom.

Fire Chief Andy Kovacs welcomed the residents and said he and his staff would give a short PowerPoint presentation on the proposed training center and answer questions.

Division Chief of Administration Jamey Bumgarner presented the district background and said:

• The original Station 1 was built in the early 1980s, and the current station was built in the early 2000s. The district began with an all-volunteer firefighting force with administration offices at the same location.

• In 2019, a remodel design process began to turn Station 1 into a modern facility, however architects realized the existing site would not be big enough for the design, because the setbacks were insufficient.

• The district asked the adjacent landowner if additional footage could be purchased; the owner agreed and offered the district the entire property of about 15 acres. The district purchased the land for about $390,000 in 2020. The remodel began May 29, 2021, and was completed in fall 2021.

• Before obtaining the additional acreage, the district hired Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) to develop a master plan for the district. Upon its completion in spring 2019, the plan recommended the district increase the training facilities, because the entire district only had one training room.

• Since 2021, the district has considered two other options for a training center: a small share of a parcel off Synthes Avenue, where the Town of Monument (TOM) had earmarked 7 acres for the Public Works Department, and 2 acres of land at Terrazzo Drive and Baptist Road. Both options were insufficient for a training tower and ruled out.

Note: The 2019 Master Plan can be found under "Transparency" at www.monumentfire.org.

Kovacs said when he arrived in January 2021 he identified the need for a five-year strategic plan, (available at www.monumentfire.org) developed with an internal stakeholder assessment, with all of the employees completing a multi-question survey to identify the organization’s weaknesses and strengths—called a swat analysis. Community workshops were held and participants answered the same questions, and the feedback was coupled with the master plan to develop a strategic plan. The strategic plan has translated into the pursuit of agency accreditation, whereby the district continually looks internally to identify the agency’s strengths and weaknesses.

The data collection has been a heavy lift for the past year and a half for staff, and an external peer assessment team is expected to assess the district in fall 2024 or spring 2025. The district’s strategic plan, standards of cover, and community risk assessment will be scrutinized by the team as it evaluates the district’s processes, programs, and call response times before making recommendations to improve the district. The district will then find ways to implement those recommendations. Only 300 fire districts within the U.S. have achieved agency accreditation, and the district thought it was important to be a progressive, world-class fire department, said Kovacs.

Kovacs said the district typically utilizes public and private property to complete training, such as Monument Marketplace, but asphalt has been damaged in the past due to heavy apparatus, and the district used insurance to make those repairs. Staff train during duty hours 95% of the time with about 5% of staff attending educational opportunities out of the district. Staff also use neighboring facilities for training such as:

• Colorado Springs Fire Department (CSFD), a 28-minute drive, traffic permitting, but CSFD has 500 firefighters to train and needs a second training center. Access is at the mercy of CSFD, and the facility is closed for renovation.

• Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District (BFFRPD), a 22-minute drive, class-A facility that burns combustible materials in Conex containers. The proposed district training site would include theatrical smoke and LED light boards, no odor from smoke and only organic and environmentally friendly materials used during a simulated fire.

• The Air Force Academy (AFA), a 20-minute drive, also a class-A facility inside a concrete structure, but does not have the nuanced training facility the district is proposing and with military bases, access is limited.

Leaving the district to complete training has its drawbacks, with limited slots available and reserved slots subject to cancellations, long travel times taking apparatus and firefighters out of the district make a logistical effort to respond back to district calls. He said he would not be comfortable in the future explaining to the public why a response took too long due to personnel attending training out of district, said Kovacs.

On the proposed training center site, the district is also considering a workshop to avoid travelling to its apparatus vendor Front Range Fire Apparatus (FRFA), located in Frederick-Firestone. Having an onsite FRFA workshop would reduce overtime and fuel costs (a typical engine gets 3-4 miles per gallon), and avoid building a workshop and hiring mechanics, and district crews would no longer have to travel through the Denver Metro area for maintenance, said Kovacs.

Kovacs said the district’s current Insurance Services Office (ISO) score (used by insurance companies to assess fire risk) is 15.40 out of a 35 score. By creating a training center, storage facilities and a maintenance workshop, the district could achieve a lower accreditation score and reduce homeowners’ and commercial insurance rates. Training center site development would include: a warehouse, a training building, auto extrication area, confined space training, wildland fire training, drafting/pump testing, and classrooms/offices for additional administrative staff. A ventilation roof prop structure will be included in the proposed training tower, and although CSFD recently added a ventilation roof prop structure into the CSFD training center, no other training facility within the region has ventilation props.

Noise requirements have been met by the town and El Paso County and would be less than what is experienced from Highway 105 and from the Burlington Northern Sante Fe trains passing through. Operations would not be held overnight. Water run/off contamination will be addressed, and an engineered retention pond will be incorporated for cleaning, before being released into the ground. No PFAS firefighting foam will be used for training. There will be no light pollution and visual aesthetics such as berms, trees, and natural landscaping will be incorporated, with considerable setbacks and easement. There will be no bond or raising of taxes to develop the site, and that includes other projects throughout the district. Instead, the district will use existing funds in a phased approach over the next few years, depending on available revenue. The district has minimized debt and operates in a fiscally responsible manner, Kovacs said, but there is a need to prepare highly trained firefighters disciplined in all-risk types of training within the district. There will be consideration to the neighbors in a phased in development, said Kovacs.

The executive staff received questions and concerns from several residents; they were answered as follows:

Battalion Chief of Training and EMS Shannon Balvanz said to achieve accreditation, the district needs at least a three-story facility, to pull hoses, smoke up rooms, and complete all the core training. The tower will not just be about live fire training, but the district cannot keep travelling to Colorado Springs, and even the CSFD staff do not get enough access to their own training facility.

Kovacs said the district employs 70 firefighters, and like-size districts offer the same level of training to their firefighters in similar training towers. The ESCI study determined that northern El Paso County needed to do a better job regionalizing training, and the center would give opportunities to partner agencies, such as Palmer Lake Fire Department, Larkspur Fire Department, BFFRPD, and others. Regional partner agencies would train together, as they respond with each other to the same incidents, and everyone becomes proficient at working together. Although offering the facility to other districts would be fee based, it is not a money maker and will keep costs neutral and help maintain the facility. There is an opportunity to offer a state-of-the-art facility, and Monument Police Department Chief Patrick Regan sees the value and is interested in using the facility for police training, he said.

Kovacs said the district is in the early phase of planning, and it budgeted $2.4 million this year. Funds will be used for the noise study, a soil study, and a planned unit development amendment, and the district will undergo a design phase with architects. Any unspent funds will be used for the next phase.

Bumgarner said the planning process with the TOM is expected to take about 18 months, and the district will begin the project when the process is completed.

Balvanz said the tower structure is estimated to cost $1 million.

Kovacs said the district would be committed to a lifelong process of being introspective to find ways to benefit the community, evaluating processes annually, and finding deficiencies and ways to provide better service. The district is doing the best it can training firefighters with what is available within the region, but the accreditation process also evaluates infrastructure deficiencies.

Bumgarner said as the district can constantly lower the ISO rating, everyone will see some reduction in their rates at some point as the Fire Department becomes more efficient. Although some agencies will state it has no bearing, the department is held to ISO standards whether some insurance companies honor the rating or not, but some companies are canceling homeowners’ insurance in the wildland urban interface areas.

Division Chief of Community Risk Reduction Jonathan Bradley said the response time for an initial unit is about six 1/2 minutes for the first unit, depending on urban or rural locations. The entire effective responsive team will ideally be there within 10 to 12 minutes, and depending on the call type, dispatch will determine the number of units and people needed, which relates to first alarm, second alarm, third alarm, and so on. If units are missing, the computer-aided dispatch will send additional units from other districts, but not only are those farther away, they are on a different dispatch system. Districts can shift around and cover each other, but the more that happens, coverage is lost in other districts, and out of district units cannot meet the standard response time, he said.

Bradley also said primary education at the firefighter and paramedic academies is designed for constant repetitions, but without regular repetitive training how can we measure skills, and when residents call will staff be up to task. Training exists in the former Chili’s parking lot until it is no longer available, however the vast majority of call volume is medical, and the only facility is the training room. The district receives fantastic primary medical training from paramedic partners, but the district is not set up for that training. The tower would also be used for medic training, another reason to not use combustible materials.

Bumgarner said the district received its second three-story apartment complex and more are coming, but the district needs to practice retrieving patients from third-floor structures. Lowering ISO ratings may not affect homeowners’ insurance, but it will affect commercial properties and help across the board.

Donald Wescott Fire Protection District board President Mark Gunderman said the return on the investment makes sense with the district growth. As an insurance agent for a major company, Gunderman said insurance companies do look at ISO ratings, but the risk is increasing and homeowners’ insurance will continue to go up due to risk and material costs. The ISO rate will increase for the district, but what would have been a few hundred dollars’ decrease appears to be wiped out due to the risk assessment and costs increases, said Gunderman.

Former law enforcement officer/resident Steven Phillips asked if staffing needs are being met for the growth of the district and how many firefighters are close to retirement, and said the number one need for emergency services is training. As a Monument resident for 24 years, he said the dynamics have changed in the last few years, with large warehouses presenting a totally different type of fire. Adding a training center is commendable without a tax increase, said Phillips.

Bradley said the district has not yet met staffing needs and minimum daily staffing per suppression unit is three, but the district is evaluating moving to four. Many of the firefighters are young, but a significant number of staff are five years away from retirement. Denver West Metro has grown so much it cannot train the district firefighters, and CSFD is not accepting outside recruits in 2024, so the district partnered with Pikes Peak State College and BFFRPD to create a combined fire academy last fall.

A few residents raised concern about the voter-approved mill levy increase, noting the district had not included a proposed training facility in the ballot wording, and would the mill levy decrease.

Kovacs said the district relies heavily on property tax revenue and would not be able to operate without it. This November a number of ballot issues will have a direct impact on district funding, but the voter-approved 2017 November ballot measure increasing the district’s mill levy for 2018 was to provide competitive salaries to retain staff and provide enough capital improvement funding to upgrade outdated equipment, replace and maintain ageing apparatus, and upgrade the stations. See http://www.ocn.me/v17n4.htm#tlmfpd and http://www.ocn.me/v17n8.htm#tlmfpd.

At about an hour and 19 minutes into the meeting, an unidentified Zoom member repeatedly interrupted, yelling comments in opposition to the development of the training center and suggested funding be spent on firefighters.

Bradley responded, stating the cost of the training center may sound like a big number on the surface, but the district will not be building every year, and the facility is unlikely to need upgrading for about 40 years. It takes a lot of time for staff to rotate through training, said Bradley.

Note: The district has nine firefighter recruits graduating on May 3 and two firefighters in paramedic school. The district completed a remodel of Station 5, expanding its accommodations, is undergoing a similar remodel at Station 4, and upon completion, plans to remodel Sation 2. The Station 3 rebuild is progressing for a planned 2027 completion. See MFD article on page 15.

The meeting adjourned at 8 p.m.

Caption: Battalion Chief of Training and EMS Shannon Balvanz answers questions about the proposed three-storied training tower for the undeveloped acreage adjacent to Monument Fire District Station 1, at 18650 Highway 105. Photo by Natalie Barszcz.

Caption: A computer-generated depiction of the proposed Station 1 training tower. Graphic courtesy of MFD.

**********

Meetings are usually held on the fourth Wednesday of the month. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Station 1, 18650 Highway 105. For Zoom meeting instructions, agendas, minutes, and updates, visit www.monumentfire.org or contact Director of Administration Jennifer Martin at 719-484-9011.

Natalie Barszcz can be reached at nataliebarszcz@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Lewis-Palmer D38 Parent and Community Advisory Committee, April 9: Reports on human resources, fiscal stewardship, superintendent search, and possible new charter school

By Harriet Halbig

Listen to this article or the audio file

The Lewis-Palmer D38 Parent and Community Advisory Committee (PCAC) discussed human resources issues, fiscal responsibility, and the superintendent search at its April 9 meeting at Palmer Ridge High School.

Palmer Ridge High School Principal Dr. Adam Frank spoke of his background as a middle school and high school teacher, coach, dean of students, athletic director, and assistant principal. He came to the area in 2021 and praised both high schools for their academic excellence and the character of the students, saying these factors made it a pleasure to be here.

He spoke of two factors that made Palmer Ridge unique. The first is that it was built to include neighborhoods of teachers with individual cubicles. Unlike many schools, these neighborhoods included teachers of various subjects together.

The second is the inclusion of Bear Time in the students’ day. During this 26-minute break, students are free to speak with their teachers. Students are grouped with the same teacher for the entire four years of their tenure at Palmer Ridge.

Frank said that, when asked, students say they value Bear Time and only wish it were longer.

Frank also mentioned great teaching and innovative grading at his school and the emphasis on giving students voice and choice in how they wished to engage at the school.

Dr. Dan Berliner, chairman of the Palmer Ridge Building Accountability Advisory Committee (BAAC) spoke briefly about the committee’s activities.

He said the committee had emphasized teacher engagement this year, specifically inviting teachers to come to meetings and explain such aspects of the school’s curriculum as outdoor learning, Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), and other programs.

Board of Education update

Board liaison Dr. Patti Shank, reporting for the first time in this role, said there is a great deal to learn when coming onto the board, and said that the most important activity for the last few months was the search for a new superintendent.

She showed a timeline of the search and said that the board had reached a consensus at its April 6 meeting and that contract negotiations were underway.

Shank stressed that all four of the finalists for the position were qualified.

The board was impressed with the amount of input from the community regarding priorities. Over 1,000 individuals responded to the original survey and more that 200 responded following the public forum featuring the candidates.

The announcement of the successful candidate would be made at the April 15 board meeting.

Strategic Plan Priority 2: Academic excellence

Acting Superintendent Amber Whetstine spoke of a new initiative being emphasized by district administration. This involves expanding Career and Technical Education (CTE) in the district.

There is a program called D38 Enterprise, which is housed in the Palmer Lake Early Childhood Center building on the grounds of Grace Best Education Center. As an example of innovative opportunities for learning, students can spend half of their school day in this building and the other half at their regular school location.

The funding for the center was provided by a grant, and activities on site will include learning such skills as manufacturing, printing, engraving, making trophies, and other skills which can generate revenue to continue the program.

District administration is currently looking for a permanent facility for high-tech career programming.

Members of the board toured classrooms in the middle and high schools offering such classes, and surveys of students and families will be conducted to monitor interest.

Whetstine also said new curriculum is being reviewed in the areas of high school world languages and art for grades K-8.

Strategic Plan Priority 3: Valuing our people

Director of Human Resources Alicia Welch reported on the status of employment in the district.

As of the date of the meeting, she said there had been 25 new hires, including 17 teachers, two principals, one assistant principal, one psychologist, and others. All of these vacancies had been the result of attrition.

In addition to those positions, there are three new special education teachers, one early childhood specialist, and some high school deans had been elevated to assistant principals.

Among the 35 remaining vacancies, there are 10 high school teachers, one principal, the director of communications, and vacancies in the Transportation Department.

A new position is a teacher on special assignment to specialize in the use of technology in education.

Welch also reported that there have been 39 separations, of which nine were retirements and 30 were resignations. Of these, only three said that they were leaving to seek better compensation and benefits.

One committee member commented that paraprofessionals are understaffed and that there remains a shortage of substitutes.

Welch concluded by saying she is trying to improve communication between staff and administration by having an open-door policy to hear any concerns, having exit interviews, and supplying a quick response to any concerns. She said that the number of applicants for each position has grown significantly in the last year or so.

To view Welch’s presentation, please see the lewispalmer.org website, family resources, District Accountability Advisory Committee, meeting content.

Strategic Plan Priority 5: Fiscal stewardship

Chief Business Officer Brett Ridgway reported that it appears that the state will provide more funding in the School Finance Act than previously thought. This may allow him to alter the budget to provide an average 6% increase rather than the previously estimated 5.85%. Funding has not yet been finalized.

Ridgway reported that Senate Bill 24-017, which alters the timing at which school funding is provided, has passed and been signed by the governor. This legislation will enable the district to use $8 million previously held in reserve. He said this funding will be directed to enrich the CTE programs in the district.

Ridgway showed a form which had been sent to all schools asking about their spending priorities for the upcoming year. He said that very few schools had responded and that he had hoped that the Financial Transparency and Staff Collaboration committees could use this information to aid in their planning.

One PCAC member commented that very few staff and teachers had been attending Building Accountability Advisory meetings and parent members did not feel well enough informed to give their opinions.

Ridgway said that the results of this form would be reported to the board in May and encouraged all to complete and submit the information.

There was a brief discussion about lack of attendance at BAAC meetings. Part of the problem is that the time of the meetings conflicts with staff schedules. Another member commented that families moving into the area are familiar with PTAs and PTOs and are not aware that BAACs are required by state statute. It was suggested that an information sheet be prepared to distribute at back-to-school nights.

New charter school proposed

Whetstine announced there is a pending application for creation of a new charter school in the district to serve grades K-8. She said PCAC will be actively involved in evaluating the application, which could arrive as soon as late April.

In response to a question, Whetstine said this charter school is not a part of Monument Academy but an entirely new entity.

Committee reports

Ridgway said the Staff Collaboration Committee would meet the following day to discuss increases in the cost of benefits, which are estimated to be 7% of which 5% would be paid by the district and 2% by the employee. The committee will also discuss fees for the upcoming year.

Financial Transparency Committee to meet the following week

Calendar Task Force is working to change the structure of the committee and to create guidelines for creating a new calendar to include recommended start and end dates and winter and spring break guidelines.

The Wellness Committee recently completed a Healthy Heart Wellness Challenge in which schools competed on the basis of participation. Prairie Winds Elementary School won a challenge and a lunch for staff.

The Special Education Advisory Committee is reviewing nominations for the Aliorum De award. There will be three awards, and all nominees will be recognized.

The Gifted Education Leadership Team (GELT) has applied for a $15,000 Universal Screening and Qualified Personnel grant and has requested $68,001 from the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). CDE estimates that it will fulfill 80% of requested funding.

GELT plans to administer the Cognitive Aptitude Test (CogAT) to second-graders this coming year so that teachers can better plan lessons for third-graders. The committee’s annual plan is due in September and will be discussed at its May meeting.

**********

The Parent and Community Advisory Committee meets six times per year. This is the final meeting of the 2023-24 school year.

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

Return to the top of the page

Monument Academy School Board, April 4, 11, and 25: Vinchattle named executive director

By Jackie Burhans

Listen to this article or the audio file

Monument Academy (MA) held two special and one regular board meetings in April. The special meeting on April 4 was a public interview of executive director finalists. At its regular meeting on April 11, the board questioned board candidates, discussed the employee handbook, and presented committee reports. At its April 25 special meeting, the board announced its executive director decision, reviewed financials, and heard a proposed budget for FY24-25. The board also considered updating its organization chart and moving employees into different positions.

Executive director

MA had planned to interview all the finalists for its executive director position at its April 4 meeting. Board President Ryan Graham noted that 278 applications came in and that the hiring committee had narrowed it down to fewer than 10, and the board narrowed it down to three: Joshua Yancy, Colin Vinchattle, and David Stanfield. He said that Yancy and Stanfield had withdrawn their applications. Graham said the community voice matters, so the board should proceed with the interview.

Vinchattle thanked the board for the opportunity to be part of the process and team, saying that MA was important to his family, with two children attending and his wife working as an elementary teacher. He spoke of his 17 years in education, including his time as MA’s middle school principal for the last two years. He has a teacher, coach, principal, school board member, and superintendent background. He has worked in charters and traditional public schools in small communities and large school districts. He looks forward to working with the board to care for staff, students, and families.

In response to board questions, Vinchattle said his leadership style was that of a shepherd, prioritizing resources to benefit students and providing the tools teachers need. He said meeting academic growth goals boils down to quality instruction and that he would hire teachers based on their love for children and, if necessary, teach them to teach. He felt it essential to get principals in the classroom and allow them to coach the teachers. Vinchattle said the MA community already wants to invest and that he would build relationships with the district and get out in the community to make connections.

He said his strengths are passion, loyalty, and hard work, adding that his weaknesses are an inability to say no, learning to make tough decisions and have tough conversations, and pausing to celebrate the wins. MA’s biggest challenge, Vinchattle noted, is ensuring it is fiscally sound and invests in its strategic growth. He closed by saying that public speaking is not his greatest strength but that he is a man of action.

The board went into executive session to receive legal advice on specific legal matters related to an employment investigation and for personnel matters regarding school administrators. When it returned, the board did not take action on the executive director position. It announced that Vinchattle would be the interim building principal for both the middle and high school until the end of June in light of the unexpected recent resignation of the high school Principal David Kennington.

At its April 11 meeting, the board unanimously approved having the HR subcommittee and legal counsel enter contract negotiations with Vinchattle.

At the April 25 special meeting, the board went into executive session for legal advice regarding administrator contract matters and advice to negotiators regarding executive director contract and consultant contract matters, and related discussion of personnel performance and evaluation. The board returned after an hour and unanimously approved the employment agreement, a proposal by Lis Richard of Helping Schools Thrive for mentorship services, and decided to have Vinchattle start as executive director on June 1.

Note: Lis Richard served as principal at Monument Academy until 2017, when she left to become superintendent at Creede, Colo.

Graham noted that Interim Executive Director Kim McClelland had been brought on initially for six months but had served for 18 months. Graham said it was a blessing to have her and that MA has been a family to her.

Board election

At the regular meeting, board member Matt Ross announced that there had been six candidates for the two open board seats, but one had pulled out. The remaining candidates are Lindsay Clinton (current board vice president), Jelinda Dygert, Jeffrey Henry, Christina McLuckie, and Wendi Pacheco.

The candidates introduced themselves in opening statements and answered questions from the board, with each candidate getting a chance to answer first. Candidates fielded questions about how long they had been at MA and why they wanted to run; MA’s greatest challenges and strengths; how they would support current school policies and board resolutions with regards to parental rights and student privacy; what strengths they would bring to the board; ideas for additional funding to support MA; how to balance board decisions with teacher and parent input; their view of classical/core knowledge programs; and how to find unity when facing a difficult board decision.

Candidates also answered what their top three goals were; the primary role of school administrators and to what degree they should be free to make decisions based on MA’s philosophy and policies; whether they believed parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing of their children; what was their moral standard; a time when they were attacked for an unpopular decision; the role of schools in providing for the mental health of their students; and whether they were prepared for the pressure of public life.

The questions and answers are available on YouTube at https://bit.ly/ma-special-04Apr2.

At the end of the questioning, Ross thanked the candidates. He said he would solicit additional community questions for the candidates to answer in writing. The MA board election opened on April 22 and closed on April 30, listing the candidates randomly. The board clarified that each stakeholder in a household would be able to vote for up to two candidates, and the top two vote-getters would fill the open seats.

Financials and budget

At the April 11 meeting, financial consultant Glenn Gustafson had Laura Polen, secondary campus registrar, present the February financials. He noted that MA had collected $15,000 of $47,000 in delinquent student fees.

Gustafson said he had met with three bond firms that could refinance MA’s bonds and cross-collateralize both campuses if needed. The bad news, he said, is that interest rates are high at 6.9%, but MA has until 2026, and he feels interest rates will come down. He noted that MA could refinance its 2019 debt structure for the East Campus, free up some money to acquire a parking lot for the West Campus, and add an academic wing on the East Campus and possibly some athletic facilities.

Gustafson noted that he is working with Operations Director Jake Dicus to get requests for proposals (RFPs) for copiers, IT support, snow plowing, and more. He noted that it cost MA $28,000 for snow removal at the East Campus after the big storm in March.

Polen reported on the General Fund, Preschool Fund, Facilities Corporation for the West Campus Bonds, Foundation Corporation for the East Campus Bonds, and the Student Activity Fund. She noted that MA is awaiting five revenue streams: Gala fundraising; Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funds of $12,000; an IRS Refund from FY21-22 of $120,000; the shared Mill Levy Override (MLO) funds from D38; and the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) funds of $1 million. Gustafson noted that the ERTC funds were in limbo, citing a Gazette article about the IRS dealing with fraudulent applications.

At the April 25 meeting, Polen presented the March financials as well as the Q3 financials. Gustafson noted that MA paid some big bills in April. He thanked Polen for her work, saying she continues to grow and do more of the process as he does less.

For the draft proposed FY24-25 budget, Gustafson said most districts and charters use incremental-based budgeting, showing the difference from the past year. He noted that the School Finance Act is still pending, but he is projecting per-pupil revenue (PPR) at $10,791, nearly $700 more per student. His best guess on enrollment shows a big drop of 40 students due to the bubble at fifth grade, which is moving to sixth grade and, hopefully, to the East Campus. He noted that $10,000 per student represented about $400,000 in lost revenue. He expects MA to stabilize and gently grow. Middle school is very steady, and MA is looking at an increase of 22 students in high school. He expects an overall decline of 12 students, but MA must account for each school separately according to bond agreements.

For expenses, Gustafson noted that previous pay raises were big, but MA would have to dial back to hit its bond targets. He said MA is looking at an average 3% salary increase, which will cost $181,000 plus another $211,000 in benefits. MA will have to deficit spend about $10,000 on its new home school enrichment program for the first year, but he expects it to break even in the long run and become a pipeline to bring kids into the school. MA will reallocate expenses for administrators, information technology (IT), and human resources (HR) between the West and East Campus as enrollments shift.

Next, he added requests from administrators and principals on the West Campus and other necessary items. He added another one-half school resource officer (SRO) and expects the cost from the Town of Monument to increase significantly. MA expects to lose two teachers at West Campus from attrition due to the drop in enrollment. Gustafson added funds for professional development and to acquire land for a parking lot on West Campus, which is critical.

The "big gorilla" in the budget for West Campus is the failing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) units. There are nine units, and each will cost $100,000 to replace. He is requesting to add funds to replace two of them in next year’s budget, asking for a thumbs up so he can get started with a formal vote at the May meeting. The West Campus budget has a surplus of $118,000 without the HVAC units. Gustafson, noting that the Preschool Fund has $100,000, proposed moving a significant portion to the General Fund to cover the HVAC units.

The budget increases snow plowing and maintenance, adds a school psychologist, increases marketing, and adds money to improve board technology. The new budget hopes to spend less on legal and to account for software subscriptions and supplies used by HR. MA is also considering adding classes such as physics and teacher assistants to take the load off Middle School teachers who teach during their planning period, which is not a best practice, he said.

Other expenses include half of a custodial assistant, additional instructional supplies, restoring professional development to East Campus, and a budget for Title 9 investigations. The total costs at West Campus are $1.1 million, and there is only $900,000 in new revenue, so the difference would have to come from reserves, Gustafson said.

For East Campus, Gustafson said he wanted to make it a priority to start building MA’s bond compliance reserve. MA should budget 10% as its debt service coverage ratio is 1.1. With $7 million in revenue, the reserve should be $700,000. MA has never made that ratio and hasn’t had any pushback yet, but it needs to start being a good steward and meeting its bond covenant agreement. Gustafson proposes to budget $200,000 as a start that the bond company would applaud.

Clinton asked why the budget prioritizes a social worker/psychologist over a teacher. Vinchattle noted that the responsibility fell on him and Assistant Principal Angela Duca in some areas where they lacked the skills and time. He said that a mental health professional is needed to help with a threat assessment or a suicide assessment.

Finally, Gustafson said he hopes to lower the school’s contribution to insurance by leveraging Peak Benefits. He said the total premium could drop for employees and save up to $1,000 monthly. The transition will be gentle, so people won’t be required to change their primary care physician, but if they go to the Pinnacol Group, there will be several benefits. It is hard to break away from the current broker, but this seems a win-win as staff would get better health care at a lower cost. It moves from being fully insured to having employees more invested in their health care. It is not self-funding but is heading that way to cut out the middleman. He hopes to bring a contract to the May meeting to be approved.

Gustafson said MA needed to get its budget to D38 a month ahead of D38’s June deadline and will ask the board to approve the budget at its May meeting.

Reorganization

McClelland said that the most significant change to the organizational chart was not having two principals at the secondary campus but having one principal, one assistant principal, and one dean to save money. Graham said a parent asked at a recent coffee chat if that was a good idea. Vinchattle said it would result in one vision, one line of communication, and one resource for teachers and students. He also said it avoided competing interests and noted it made sense from a fiscal standpoint, but that might change as MA gets to full capacity. McClelland said MA should post the secondary principal position as soon as possible and could decide the structure at the May board meeting.

Gustafson asked if the board needed to approve other organizational changes involving current employees, such as moving Polen into the finance director position. Vinchattle said hiring a principal might require filling other positions if internal staff applied, saying the new principal would decide who to hire for assistant principal and dean. After some discussion, Graham and Clinton emphasized their concern that the process be legally compliant. Director of People Operations Krista Pelley said she would review the posting requirements with legal counsel.

Highlights

Board meeting highlights include:

• The board approved updates to the Employee Handbook, which designates the executive director as the approver and sets a schedule for paying out unused leave.

• Graham said the road in front of the school would be completed in the fall and would create a second loop in front of the building. MA will remove the temporary fence, and the gates to the back part of the school will be closed during the school day.

• Ross reported for the School Accountability and Advisory Committee (SAAC) on the West Campus that Colorado Measures of Academic Success (CMAS) participation had increased from 60% to 80%. The PTO has been busy and has many volunteer opportunities, and the end-of-year survey was closed on April 29.

• Clinton reported that the SAAC East surveys would be out shortly.

Caption: After a lengthy search, the Monument Academy (MA) school board selected Colin Vinchattle from a pool of 278 applicants to be its next executive director. Vinchattle (left), who has served as MA’s Middle School principal for the last two years, will step into his new role on June 1. The board interviewed Vinchattle on April 4, followed by a meet-and-greet event with parents. Photo by Jackie Burhans.

**********

The MA School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month. The next regular board meeting will be on Thursday, May. 9, at 6:30 p.m. at the East Campus. See more information at https://bit.ly/ma-boe.

Jackie Burhans can be reached at jackieburhans@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District, April 13 and April 17: Board considers policy solutions; discusses long-range planning; approves by-law changes

By Natalie Barszcz

Listen to this article or the audio file

The Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District (BFFRPD) board held a workshop on April 13 to discuss the policy-making authority, financial policies, long-range planning, and asset management planning. At the regular meeting on April 17, the board approved changes to its by-laws and considered a proposal from Lexipol to develop the district policy manual. The board discussed the long-range planning and asset management/maintenance plan policies and a proposal to engage a consultant to develop a district master plan. The board also discussed the sale of the reserve tender.

Fire Chief PJ Langmaid was unavailable during the April 17 meeting.

Board of Directors by-law revisions

Chair Nate Dowden thanked the directors, Langmaid, Logistics and Planning Officer Rachel Dunn, and this reporter for attending the workshop on April 13, and as discussed during the workshop recommended adopting multiple revisions to the board by-laws:

• The vice chair shall preside in the absence of the chair.

• The board may appoint an additional director to the Budget Committee. In the past the committee consisted of the executive staff and the board treasurer.

• The Budget Committee shall be responsible for drafting the annual budget.

• The board shall adopt the overall budget and make a resolution to do so.

• Another director may be appointed to the permanent Annual Audit Committee.

• The recording secretary shall keep the district seal.

The board unanimously approved the changes to the board by-laws as presented.

Dowden said the district’s attorney, Linda Glesne, confirmed that no restrictions are imposed when moving line items within the overall total approved annual budget.

Lexipol proposal

Dowden said the board directors had received the Lexipol proposal for consideration in the 2025 budget, should the board believe there is a need to develop a district policy manual. Lexipol provides a standard service to craft policies in accordance with applicable industry and regulatory standards. A considerable amount of time would be involved for staff to develop district policies, said Dowden.

Treasurer Jack Hinton said that after reading the Lexipol proposal three times, it presents as "boiler plate," and he voiced concern about not receiving a tailored set of policies and would prefer incorporating the district’s existing policies. He wondered if the extensive Lexipol policies would then need approving by Glesne, further increasing the cost. The Lexipol cost for start-up is $17,802 with $10,856 for the annual subscription and additional attorney fees for 2025. He asked if something else presents during the year and the district needs another policy, would an additional fee be incurred. For example, the operation of the training trailer and the development of a policy for best practices regarding service animals, he said.

Vice Chair Kiersten Tarvainen said it would be beneficial to have the representative present via Zoom at the May meeting to answer the board’s specific questions.

Dowden said it makes no sense to continue writing the policy manual if the district decides to contract with Lexipol, and it would be useful to know if Glesne would need to provide additional review.

A Lexipol policy representative joined the meeting via Zoom at 8:03 p.m. and confirmed Lexipol employs retired firefighters that are knowledgeable about the Colorado Revised Statutes, state legislation, and any applicable federal laws, and said:

• Lexipol can help develop content for additional policies and incorporate nuanced district policies, but ideally the district would adopt the standard polices in compliance with industry standards.

• The district could receive guidance on how to write and draft additional procedures, but Lexipol would not advise as a lawyer.

• The average district typically does not change more than 15%-20% of the content provided by Lexipol, but the district is more than welcome to restructure the language provided.

• Revisions and updates are made quarterly.

• New procedures can be made during the initial development of the district policy manual.

• Lexipol can help build and organize procedures into the system but cannot review, verify, or validate whether it is constitutionally sound.

• The district could pro-rate the subscription from July through December for about $5,428 and pay the start-up costs and the annual renewal when the budget resets in January.

• Daily two-minute training bulletins and rapid interventions are included in the Lexipol subscription and are available to the district firefighters online and through the mobile app.

Hinton requested the executive staff find funding in the current budget to reallocate for a pro-rated subscription through 2024 and allow Lexipol to begin developing the district policy manual.

Long-range planning

During the board workshop, Langmaid said the district cannot hire additional line staff without additional revenue due to a lack of accommodation at both stations, and he recommended hiring a consultant to develop a master plan. Once the maximum exclusion of properties is reached at the southern portion of the district, a property tax revenue loss of about $500,000 will occur for 2025. See www.ocn.me/v24n1.htm#bffrpd. The district needs to know what the future will look like in the next five to 10 years and may need to look at partnerships beyond mutual aid and explore a fire authority, said Langmaid.

At the regular meeting, Dowden said the board and the executive staff had a difference of opinion on where the district needs to be on long-range planning, and he asked about the genesis of the consultant proposals from Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) and AP Triton presented to the board at the workshop.

Dunn said the executive staff began discussing engaging consultants last October and solicited the consulting options. Both companies are experienced in assessing the size and scope for large to small districts and can help project the revenue needed. The consultant firms can pull all the data, a task that would take district staff much longer. ESCI conducted master plans for Palmer Lake Fire Department and Monument Fire District (MFD), and AP Triton performs similar work, said Dunn.

Director Jim Abendschan said he experienced three master plans during his fire service career and the process is only valuable if the district has the means to act on the recommendations, otherwise it is a waste of money. The only three issues that could affect the district in the future are:

• The development at Flying Horse North.

• How much of the district the City of Colorado Springs might annex.

• The possible creation of a Fire Authority with another department.

Other than those changes, a master plan would not have a big effect on the district’s long-range plan, said Abendschan.

Hinton said he seems to have opened a quagmire requesting a long-range planning tool. He wanted to keep it simple so the district can predict facility upgrades and apparatus and equipment needs in the future. He did not anticipate spending $20,000 hiring consultants to generate a master plan, just a simple document, a tool to provide solutions on when to make large purchases and renovations, said Hinton.

Dunn said she had begun a massive spreadsheet for equipment replacement, tasking the lieutenants to assess the station needs. A spreadsheet was created for each item, such as radios and the cost of extractors for decontaminating bunker gear, to include the depreciation value. If the district wants to hire additional staff, the existing 11 bedrooms between both stations will need to increase. After working through the procedure with Langmaid, they thought hiring a consultant to predict the districts future needs could be beneficial, said Dunn.

Hinton said the board does not know the time periods for when equipment is likely to expire, and it is often an educated guess but necessary for the budget development, but he did not mean the tool to become a full-blown master plan and a complicated mess, he said.

Dowden said the directors are looking heavily at proposed policies 400.11—Asset management/maintenance plan and 600.01—Long-range planning, and as discussed at the workshop the consensus of the board was to focus there. There was no appetite to engage in a 10-to-20-year strategic plan to know where Black Forest could be heading with proposed developments in the north and south of the district.

The board does not need that level of information today, and he recommended the staff focus on developing the spreadsheets for asset and equipment needs and depreciation. The board needs additional time to review the two consultant proposals, but there is no burning timeline to hire a consultant to develop a master plan, said Dowden.

The board tabled adopting policies 400.11 and 600.1 until the May meeting, allowing it additional time to review the consultant proposals and compare the policies.

Banking signatures

Hinton said the authorized bank signatures needed to be cleared up, and the process should be an action item after every board director election and when there is staff turnover. The bank needs to be informed of the staff and directors who leave the district, and district Administrative Officer Lisa Emry needs to be added as a point of contact with the bank, but not a signee. He requested Directors Abendschan, Tarvainen, and Chad Behnken complete a signature card with the bank.

Note: During the workshop, Hinton said the signature cards were out of date and two former board directors and the retired deputy chief were still recorded as signees at the bank.

The board unanimously approved the reaffirming of authorized signatures for the current directors to authorize and sign checks, and authorized Emry to initiate wire transfers with First National Bank of Las Animas.

Abendschan suggested a road trip to complete the signature cards.

Financial update

Hinton said the expenditures as of March 31 were at 24.8% and the district was under budget and should be about 25% of the annual budgeted amount. The district has about $3.941 million in assets (of which about $1.912 million is in the Operational Checking account for daily operations) and had received about $442,046 in revenue. The district received the final payment of $108,272 in wildland deployment revenue for the financial year 2023. He asked Dunn to discuss extra funds to invest before the next meeting.

Dunn confirmed the district had no outstanding revenue expected for wildland deployment from 2023 and the district received $30,725 in ambulance revenue.

The board unanimously accepted the financial report as presented.

Chief’s report

Dunn presented the chief’s report for March and said the following:

• The district acquired a 1999 Type 6 (brush truck) from MFD for $2,500. The apparatus will be used by the district Mechanic Gavin Smith as a fleet maintenance truck.

• A state grant of about $8,000 was awarded for paramedic school, and the district submitted a grant request with Pikes Peak State College for Career Advanced Colorado Grants for the recruits.

• An Assistance to Firefighters Grant for increasing the district’s Self Contained Breathing Apparatus units was denied.

• The total monthly training hours was 1,569, including EMS and fire training with MFD, and night training on fireground operations.

• The district had an average volume of 71 calls for service.

• The tender was expected to be in service April 23 or 24.

Note: At the Feb. 21 meeting, the board approved the payment of a new tender truck to include a $3,000 change fee for painting for a total of $349,849.50. The board objected to an interest charge of $1,600 added by Front Range Apparatus, which was not included in the original contract, and subsequently the board did not approve the interest charge. The funds are being drawn from the capital improvement fund.

Reserve tender sale proposal

Dowden said the board received a request to sell the reserve tender 2883, a Type 24 freightliner, in service since 1999, purchased for $150,000, with an odometer reading 14,351miles.

Dunn said Smith had received an appraisal from Brindlee Mountain Fire Apparatus, Huntsville, Ala., for $30,000 to $40,000 in January 2023, but this February the quote was only $20,000. Rock Bottom Propane has offered $30,000 to purchase the freightliner without the pump, tank, and body that could be consigned for an additional $3,000-$5,000.

Fire/Medic Heather Heath said, "The tank leaks like a sieve."

Dunn said the reserve tender is taking up space and has sat in the barn since 2021; the apparatus is depreciating in value.

The board was not prepared to sell the apparatus until further information can be found on the drive train, a tank replacement, or possible repurposing.

Mutual aid correspondence

Dowden conveyed notes of thanks for providing mutual aid on March 24 to the Armdale Heights duplex fire near Dublin Boulevard, and for assisting with the Boggsville Fire March 2-4 in the City of Las Animas, Bent County. The fires received mutual aid from multiple districts.

The regular meeting adjourned at 8:50 p.m.

**********

Meetings are usually held on the third Wednesday of the month at Station 1, 11445 Teachout Road, Colorado Springs. Meetings are open to the public in person or via Zoom. The next regular meeting is scheduled for May l5 at 7 p.m. For joining instructions, updates, agendas, minutes, and reports, visit https://bffire.org or contact the Administrative Office at Admin@bffire.org or call 719-495-4300.

Natalie Barszcz can be reached at nataliebarszcz@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Donald Wescott Fire Protection District, April 24: Merger process nears completion

By Natalie Barszcz

Listen to this article or the audio file

At the Donald Wescott Fire Protection District (DWFPD) meeting on April 24, the board received several updates on the merger process with Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District dba Monument Fire District (MFD), and re-assigned board positions. Mark Gunderman commented on his tenure as board president as he leaves Wescott to take a seat on the MFD Board of Directors.

Treasurer Duane Garrett was excused, and Secretary Charles Fleece and Director Mike Forsythe attended via Zoom.

Merger process update

The district’s attorney, Emily Powell of Ireland Stapleton Pryor Pascoe PC law firm, attending via Zoom, gave an update on the merger process and said the following:

• The April 30 deadline to move the district properties onto the El Paso County Assessor’s tax rolls had been met.

• The District Court issued the court order for the exclusion process first in order to hold the process for 30 days to ensure there were no objections to the exclusion of properties.

• The final documents were walked down by MFD counsel Maureen Juran to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorders Office on April 22.

• The district’s properties will be assessed on the MFD tax records for the 2025 tax year.

• All that remains is to dissolve the Wescott district and move the final two properties that are owned by Directors Fleece and Forsythe into the MFD boundaries.

• A special meeting of the MFD board will be held on May 8 to begin the process for the exclusion of the two properties to be included into MFD upon dissolution of the district.

• The four electors will be the two directors and their spouses, and the process will be fast, but the court order must be made before July.

• The Sun Hills Fire Station transfer to MFD will be assisted by a property attorney.

• The Fire and Police Pension Association (FPPA) and Colorado Firefighters Heart (CFH) Trust will be transferred to MFD, the new sponsor. The pension plan affiliation agreement will state MFD agrees to work with the FPPA and the CFH Trust.

Powell commended both boards and the staff and said it had been such a pleasure working with Fire Chief Andy Kovacs, and his professionalism and grit is truly admirable, said Powell.

Board positions re-assigned

Powell said that in accordance with the Special District Act, every board must elect a president and a treasurer.

Forsythe nominated Fleece as board president, and Forsythe by default assumed the treasurer/secretary position.

Powell made a motion to accept the nominations, and board unanimously approved the positions.

Note: Gunderman and Garrett will be sworn in as MFD board directors at the May 22 meeting.

Outgoing president remarks

Gunderman said he became a Wescott board director in May 2018, and it had been an honor to serve on the board for the past six years. He fell into the role of board president in January 2020, but it was a team effort, and he thanked former Secretary Larry Schwarz who left the district at the end of 2023, and incumbent directors Garrett, Fleece and Forsythe for their support and directorship. He also thanked Kovacs and the executive staff for making the journey as easy as possible, noting change often brings anxiety. Transitioning the firefighters over to MFD at the beginning of the merger process ensured the firefighters felt a part of the process from day one.

The MFD board directors were open to suggestion and made the process collaborative. He initially thought the road would be bumpy and thanked Powell for helping both districts navigate through the nuanced process. It was fortunate that both districts had the right firefighters and board directors at the right time, and he looks forward to serving on the Monument board. He thanked Fleece and Forsythe for remaining behind to assist Powell in the final months of the merger process.

Fleece said it had been a privilege to work with Gunderman, holding down the fort, and with Powell and Kovacs, everything is always lined up, simply a good team seeing the community grow in the right direction.

Chief’s report

Kovacs said the following:

• Engine 502 and brush truck 542 assisted Fort Carson with a wildfire in March.

• The combined district staff completed 783 training hours.

• The new wildland Type 3 engine will go into service in the next two weeks after crews have received driver and apparatus orientation.

• The engine will be in service locally and be available for wildland deployments.

• The remodel design for Station 2 (Rollercoaster Road) is underway.

• The Station 4 (Gleneagle Drive) remodel was delayed a week due to permitting issues, but the project is back on track for completion this fall.

• Nine firefighter recruits are expected to graduate on May 3.

Forsythe said the addition of nine firefighters was good news.

For more information, see the MFD article on page 15, or visit www.monumentfire.org to read the entire chief’s report.

The meeting adjourned at 5:03 p.m.

**********

Meetings are typically held on the fourth Wednesday at Station 1, 18650 Highway 105. A short special meeting will be held on June 12 at 4:30 p.m., and the regular meeting will be held on June 26 at 4:30 p.m., preceded by a Volunteer Pension Board of Trustees meeting at 4 p.m. There are no May meetings. For Zoom meeting instructions, agendas, minutes, and updates, visit www.monumentfire.org or contact Director of Administration Jennifer Martin at 719-484-9011.

Natalie Barszcz can be reached at nataliebarszcz@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Monument Fire District, April 24: Station 3 land purchase approved; outgoing directors recognized

By Natalie Barszcz

Listen to this article or the audio file

At the Monument Fire District (MFD) meeting on April 24, the board approved a land purchase agreement for the rebuild of Station 3, recognized outgoing board Directors Roger Lance and Tom Tharnish; received an update on the merger process, received feedback from the Station 1 training center development town hall, and further discussed a land purchase for a future Station 6. The board also heard about a Senate Bill 194.

Vice President John Hildebrandt attended via Zoom.

Outgoing director recognition

Fire Chief Andy Kovacs said it was the end of an era as directors Lance and Tharnish end their tenure on the Board of Directors and allow Donald Wescott Fire Protection District (DWFPD) board Directors Mark Gunderman and Duanne Garrett to replace them as permanent MFD board members. He said he could not ask for a better Board of Directors, with hearts always in the right place always looking out for the line firefighters and finding better ways to serve the community. He thanked them for their contributions to the district, the firefighters, and the community over the years.

Local 4319 President/Engineer Christian Schmidt thanked both directors for their contributions and said he had personally enjoyed getting to know the directors over the past few years, the firefighters appreciate everything the board has achieved, and it has been a genuine privilege.

Lance said the firefighters are the customer next to the community, there is no other group more important than the firefighters. We have leadership, and a board, but the firefighters do the job, and he is proud to have served and knows he is leaving this department in a better place.

Tharnish said in the short nine years, the knowledge gained had been overwhelming at times but enlightening. He thanked the Local 4319 for its support, and he knows the district is in good hands, and a much better organization than when he joined the board, and he hopes that continues.

President Mike Smaldino thanked both directors for their contribution, leadership, and their perspectives and it has been a privilege to serve together.

Fire Station 3 land purchase agreement

John Sattler, vice president of NVS Program Management, representing the district and overseeing the Station 3 rebuild, said the process is non-traditional and it would have been preferable to build the station on a finished piece of ground, instead of a property that is undivided without any infrastructure, but there were no other properties to wait on. The purchase price is $1.346 million for the 2-acre lot north of the YMCA for the rebuild of Station 3 with administration office space. The building will be 20,000 square feet and will meet the future district needs with room to grow, he said.

The board approved the Fire Station 3 land purchase agreement 6-1 in a roll call vote; Tharnish abstained.

Note: The district budgeted $2.4 million to begin the project in 2024. See www.ocn.me/v24n4.htm#mfd.

Training Center development—town hall meeting

Kovacs said about 90% of the community residents attending the Station 1 proposed training center development town hall on April 18 were in support of the development. A couple of residents raised concerns about the development and the potential cost that has not yet been fully realized. The district will not be using any bonds or tax increases to develop the site, and that eased concerns. Some residents were also concerned the district was duplicating efforts when other facilities exist in the county, but the training center will keep staff in district during training, and that will best serve the community, he said. See the Town Hall article on page 1.

Kelly said a few residents in attendance had the impression that the 2017 ballot measure increasing the mill levy would eventually reduce the levy if the district had enough funding. The common theme was why the district was proposing to spend about $3 million on a training center. The answer is for the professional development of firefighters to give them what they need to perform the mission and save lives. The residents were asking for an adjustment to the mill levy at the meeting and were scrutinizing the district expenditures. The board needs to be very judicious with the taxpayers’ dollars, and that is what the residents were asking for, said Kelly.

Lance said the board did reduce the mill levy for 2024, that was a board decision, but we could have maintained authorizing the matching mill levy but chose not to.

Hildebrandt said for future community meetings there needs to be rules on how the public can comment. One individual was not only texting incorrect information but also blurted out comments that interfered with the normal decorum of the meeting. He understands the concern about the district spending additional funds, but the board is being frugal, and the plans are for the future growth of the district. The idea of returning $3 million in a mill levy decrease every time the district has additional funding would not be very prudent for the district’s financial planning. Sometimes the district will be able to commit to a project, other times the district will need to wait until finances build up, said Hildebrandt.

Merger update

Kovacs said at the DWFPD board meeting that district counsel Emily Powell requested the MFD Board of Directors hold a special meeting on May 8. The short meeting is necessary to approve a resolution to transfer the remaining two properties belonging to directors Charles Fleece and Mike Forsythe and begin the process of dissolving DWFPD. on See DWFPD article on page 13.

Fire Station 6 land purchase

Kovacs said he received another offer from a property owner willing to sell an 8-acre parcel of land just north of the QuikTrip land, off Old Denver Road, with a creek running through it. The executive staff have walked the property that is just north of the QuikTrip 4-acre site. When QuikTrip approached the district through an intermediary as it was developing the property, the 4 acres were being used to stage materials and equipment. The district cannot definitively determine how the district would use all 4 acres, but with all the development in the district there will be few opportunities to purchase land. In five to 10 years from now, the district may need to add a sixth station and the land would be in the right area. The district has budgeted to purchase 2 acres in 2024 and Kovacs requested the board focus on purchasing 2 acres instead of 4. He said the district needs to live within its means, and he encouraged the directors to discuss the options.

The board discussed the options, which revealed varying opinions. Kelly and Secretary Jason Buckingham agreed the board should remain fiscally responsible and stick with the 2-acre requirement. Tharnish said the right to first refusal would not obligate the district to any financial commitment, even though the district does not have a plan for the additional 2 acres.

Estes concurred with Tharnish, to pursue all options, and said the QuikTrip location is an outstanding property.

Hildebrandt agreed with Estes and said the QuikTrip property would be preferable and has the best location. He also agreed with Kelly and said the district must be prudent with taxpayers’ dollars in light of the feedback from the Station 1 proposed training center town hall.

Smaldino agreed with Lance, favoring the entire 4-acre QuikTrip property. The district was lucky to purchase land and expand Station 1; the original site was large enough when it was originally built as a volunteer fire station. Station 2 has a leach field on donated property, and nobody knows what the future fire service needs will be. It is better value today to purchase 4 acres and do due diligence instead of purchasing land at a higher cost down the road, said Smaldino. See www.ocn.me/v24n4.htm#mfd.

The board requested Kovacs provide more information and comparison costs for both sites at the next regular board meeting.

Future funding sources

Kovacs said Senate Bill 194 was heard by a House committee on April 23 and received 10-1 bi-partisan support. SB 194 is nearing approval and will rewrite the language for Title 32, the legal governing state statute for special districts. The bill will allow fire districts to look at other sources of revenue, in the way over 20 other special districts are already permitted to do. The board could seek other sources of revenue after voter approval such as: the collection of impact fees in unincorporated areas of the district or imposing a sales tax on the residents. Proposed November ballot initiatives could compromise the district’s largest single source of revenue (about 75% to 85% funded by property taxes). He testified at the State Capital stating, "It was unwise to put all of your eggs in one basket and keep money in the bank, but sensible to diversify, with investments and property." When the county fire chiefs requested impact fee collection in unincorporated El Paso County in 2018, the county commissioners defeated the proposal, said Kovacs.

Financial update

Kelly read the financial report as of March 31, and said:

• The first installment of the property tax revenue, about $4.9 million, and all other revenue streams are tracking very well.

• Impact Fees received year to date were $85,698 or 42.8% of the annual budget projected at a revenue of $200,000.

• Overall revenue received year to date was about $6.7 million or about 30.4% of the projected 2024 annual income budget set at $22 million.

• Wages and benefits were a little over budget year to date.

• Overall expenses were about $4.54 million, about 27.8% of the projected 2024 expense budget set at about $16.33 million.

The board accepted the financial report as presented.

Chief’s report

Kovacs said the following:

• The Pikes Peak Office of Emergency Management supported the district during the March 13-15 storm, listening to the district’s concerns to avoid closing I-25.

• The district brought extra staff ahead of the storm and had budgeted to accommodate some staff in hotels during the event. See www.ocn.me/v24n4.htm#mfd.

• An in-house engineer hiring candidate process had begun for two positions that became available after the lieutenant promotions occurred in January. Three internal staffers are competing for the two positions; testing will take place in May.

• Two district staffers are enrolled in paramedic school.

• The district received a thank you card from Bent County for sending a crew with a Type 6 brush truck to assist for two days during the Boggsville Fire.

Forest Service controlled burn update

Division Chief of Community Risk Reduction Jonathan Bradley said the following:

• The Forest Service prescribed burn in the Mount Herman and Monument Preserve area is scheduled for mid-July and is dependent on a match-up with fuel moistures and the weather conditions.

• The burn will begin in the north near Mount Herman Road and work south into Monument Preserve, focusing on the masticated area that was completed over the past few years. The plan is to burn out the scrub oak regrowth to create a healthy ponderosa pine forest.

• The district is liaising with homeowners association ambassadors to ensure information reaches affected property owners, especially those that border the forest.

• The seasonal chipping program is scheduled to begin on May 11, and a resident licensed with the Forest Service to do mitigation work will mitigate along private property lines with other volunteers in the planned controlled burn area.

• The district will chip the debris the volunteers mitigate.

The communities around the burn areas will be much safer in the future, said Bradley.

The meeting adjourned at 8:13 p.m.

Caption: From left, Local 4319 President/Engineer Christian Schmidt, Director Roger Lance, Fire Chief Andy Kovacs, and Lt. Roger Lance in the Station 1 training room during the Monument Fire District Board of Directors meeting on April 24. Schmidt recognized Lance for his service on the board from 2008-24. Lance was presented with a glass commemorative plaque, thanking him for his dedication and commitment to the fire district. Photo by Natalie Barszcz.

Caption: From left, Local 4319 President/Engineer Christian Schmidt, Director Tom Tharnish and Fire Chief Andy Kovacs, in the Station 1 training room during the Monument Fire District board of directors meeting on April 24. Schmidt thanked Tharnish for serving nine years on the board of directors and presented him with a glass commemorative plaque recognizing his dedication and commitment to the fire district. Photo by Natalie Barszcz.

**********

Meetings are usually held on the fourth Wednesday of the month. A short special meeting is scheduled for May 8 at 6:30 p.m. to approve the next phase in the merger. The next regular meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, May 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Station 1, 18650 Highway 105. For Zoom joining instructions, agendas, minutes, and updates, visit www.monumentfire.org or contact Director of Administration Jennifer Martin at 719-484-9011.

Natalie Barszcz can be reached at nataliebarszcz@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Monument Town Council, April 1 and 15: Redistricting, property purchase, Higby Road development, and Pinball Pub

By Chris Jeub

Listen to this article or the audio file

Monument’s Town Council met in April to consider redistricting ordinances addressing population disparities, a real estate acquisition aiming to expand development opportunities, and Higby Road’s development. The approval of a new lodging and entertainment liquor license for Colorado Pinball Pub promises to add a unique entertainment option to the community.

Redistricting ordinance passes unanimously

Presented by Town Attorney Bob Cole, Ordinance No. 09-2024 focused on the adjustment of residential district boundaries and the incorporation of Section 1.12.050 into the Monument Municipal Code. GIS Technician Connie Driedger delivered a comprehensive presentation explaining the redistricting process showing adherence to legal statutes and principles of equitable representation, including factors such as equal representation, racial equity, and community preservation. The methodology, rooted in population estimates derived from 2020 census data and the recent history of building permits, highlighted the substantial population growth from 2020 to 2024, prompting the imperative for redistricting to rectify ensuing disparities. Community feedback echoed the sentiment of thoroughness, with Home Rule Charter Committee member Brandi Turner lauding the achieved balance in district populations.

Mayor Pro Tem Steve King and Mayor Mitch LaKind lauded the efforts of Driedger and the committee, branding the outcome as a "slam-dunk" during the council’s response segment. No objections or concerns arose from council members. The ordinance passed 7-0.

Gold Canyon Road property purchase

Town Council deliberated on Ordinance No. 10-2024, which focused on authorizing the purchase of real property at 980 and 992 Gold Canyon Road. Presented by Cole, the proposed acquisition aimed to provide the town with additional opportunities for development. The terms of the purchase were outlined, indicating the vacant property would cost $875,000.

During the discussion, Councilmember Laura Kronick raised concerns regarding the necessity of additional surveying, which Cole recommended, emphasizing risk reduction. Councilmember Jim Romanello inquired about the intended use of the property, prompting Town Manager Mike Foreman to clarify that its utilization would be subject to the council’s decision, potentially adding to the town’s property holdings. Councilmember Steve King sought clarification on the proposed uses for the property, while Councilmember Marco Fiorito queried the potential consequences of not proceeding with the purchase, to which Foreman highlighted the absence of risks to the town but acknowledged the availability of alternative buyers.

In the public comment session, a resident of Village Center Woodmoor expressed support for the town’s acquisition, citing longstanding discussions and safety concerns regarding traffic access from Highway 105. Conversely, another resident voiced apprehension about increased traffic and potential adverse impacts on residential neighborhoods and property values. Despite these concerns, the ordinance passed unanimously with a 7-0 vote. Romanello additionally commented on the Village Center Metro Board’s financial situation, attributing it to the board’s reluctance to accept the property as commercial.

Higby Road

A lengthy discussion unfolded regarding the classification of Higby Road, a crucial thoroughfare in Monument. Foreman initiated the discussion, highlighting the significance of the right-of-way for Higby Road and its design requirements as a key staff concern.

General manager of Triview Metropolitan District James McGrady provided historical context, explaining the six-year endeavor to include Higby Road into Monument’s jurisdiction. He emphasized efforts dating back to June 2021 when an annexation agreement allocated $2 million for road design. Shawn Hayes, a roadway design engineer, detailed plans for Higby Road, including features like sidewalks, bike lanes, and modifications to improve safety.

Concerns were raised by council members about discrepancies between the proposed development plans and the town’s ordinances regarding the right-of-way width. Despite assertions from developers that road widths would not change, tensions arose regarding adherence to planning documents versus engineering considerations. The debate oscillated between the need for flexibility in development plans and the importance of upholding established ordinances.

Councilmembers sought clarity on the necessity of further amendments to development plans and the town’s role in providing direction for the project. While there was consensus on maintaining a 100-foot right-of-way within town limits, ongoing discussions underscored the need for clear guidance and resolution to move forward with the road project effectively.

Pinball Pub license approved

The council addressed an application for a new lodging and entertainment liquor license by Colorado Pinball Monument LLC, operating as Colorado Pinball Pub at 303 Highway 105 Ste. B. The application received unanimous approval from the Town Council. Owner Dan Nikolich took questions from King about the nature of Pinball Monument. Nikolich clarified that the pub offers a combination of pinball and arcade games, along with a selection of drinks and food items. The establishment’s website highlights its offerings, including a variety of whiskeys, handcrafted cocktails, and classic arcade entertainment. The motion for approval passed with a vote of 7-0.

**********

The Monument Council usually meets at 6:30 p.m. on the first and third Mondays of each month at Monument Town Hall, 645 Beacon Lite Road. The next meetings are scheduled for Monday, May 6 and 20. Call 719-884-8014 or see www.townofmonument.org for information. To see upcoming agendas and complete board packets or to download audio recordings of past meetings, see http://monumenttownco.minutesondemand.com and click on Town Council.

Chris Jeub can be reached at chrisjeub@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Monument Planning Commission, April 10: Development processes discussed

By Janet Sellers

Listen to this article or the audio file

At the April 10 Monument Planning Commission meeting, the development process was discussed with a focus on providing more information upfront, streamlining the submittal process, clarifying the Planning Commission’s role, advocating for providing detailed information to address concerns, and providing individual submittals each time a new version is received. The group also brought up the issue of litigation and the lawyer’s role, while emphasizing the importance of having a final, unique project to discuss.

Speakers shared their previous experiences with the process, emphasizing the importance of reaching a consensus and expressing concerns about the cost of an attorney, while questioning the consistency of the Town Council in providing information to the public.

Development projects, Planning Commission roles

Speakers addressed concerns about providing too much information and suggested a more streamlined submittal process, while some questions revolved around the Planning Commission’s ability to comment on development projects, specifically regarding compliance with comprehensive plans and zoning regulations. Some explained that the commission can’t undo previous decisions but can provide input on individual projects through the preliminary and final PUD process.

Development process in a town

Speakers express frustration with the development process, feeling disoriented by multiple applications and lack of consolidation and that staff and developers should work together to consolidate projects and allow for a more efficient review process. A suggestion was made that negotiations with developers should be done at town level, not by staff, since staff can make administrative decisions, but big decisions should be made by the town body.

Planning changes and development in a community

The commission advocated for a thorough review of a comprehensive plan before zoning changes, emphasizing the importance of recording comments about roadway concerns for future reference.

Legal requirements for Town Council meetings

The board discussed the importance of record-keeping for public representatives, mentioning the need to protect constituents by keeping a clear record of past decisions and emphasizing the value of open forums for constituents to research and understand past decisions, particularly when controversial items come up in the future. Since the board expressed frustration with inconsistent availability of an attorney during meetings, the town manager approved a request for legal counsel.

**********

Monument Planning Commission meeting are usually held on the second Wednesday of each month. The next meeting will be held Wednesday, May 8 at 6 pm at Town Hall Board Room, 645 Beacon Lite Rd., Monument. To see the options for remote public participation in each meeting, visit www.townofmonument.org/263/Planning-Commission-Board-of-Adjustment. For information call 719-884-8028 or visit www.townofmonument.org.

Janet Sellers can be reached at JanetSellers@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Palmer Lake Board of Trustees, April 3, 11, 25: Elephant Rock advisory committee formed

By James Howald and Jackie Burhans

Listen to this article or the audio file

In April, the Palmer Lake Board of Trustees (PLBOT) continued its long-running effort to plan the future of the Elephant Rock property, which was donated to the town by the Living Word Church in 2021, by forming an advisory committee to organize suggestions from citizens and to advise the board on the property’s future use.

The board addressed several land use issues and considered two issues related to signs. Fire Chief John Vincent reported to the board on his plans to make Palmer Lake a fire-adapted community. The board granted four special event permits. Trustee Dennis Sterns announced that he was donating his time to act as the general contractor for the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA).

The April 11 meeting was followed by an executive session and the Apr. 25 meeting was preceded by an executive session.

Elephant Rock committee will only advise, board will decide

On April 3, Mayor Glant Havenar opened a workshop meeting attended by members of the Palmer Lake Planning Commission and the Board of Trustees by observing the Elephant Rock property had become a burden on the town due to contention about its future uses. She said the proposal from Franco Pisani, of Paravicini’s Italian Bistro, to use a portion of the property as a wedding venue was "unclear."

At the workshop, Planning Commissioner Susan Miner suggested the creation of an Elephant Rock Advisory Committee, which she offered to chair. The committee would focus on a masterplan for the property, she said.

At its meeting on April 11, the board considered Resolution 25-2024, which establishes a temporary advisory committee with representatives from the Planning Commission, the Parks and Trail Commission (PTC), a local nonprofit and the community at large. The resolution calls for seven members on the committee, but that number was later revised to ten members. The resolution passed with Havenar, Trustees Kevin Dreher, Nick Erhard and Dennis Stern voting in favor, Trustee Jessica Farr voted no. Trustees Shana Ball and Samantha Padgett were excused from the meeting.

At the April 25 board meeting, Miner gave the board an update on the advisory committee’s progress. The committee held its first meeting on April 22 and began reviewing all the suggestions received from citizens in the last three years. The committee will consider the compatibility of each suggestion with all the others and will score each idea against a mission statement for the property. All suggestions will be considered, she said, and the committee has trail plans from the PTC. Miner emphasized that the committee’s role was only advisory, and board would make all decisions. She said the committee would complete its work in 90 days and she would give the board an update at each of its scheduled board meetings.

The advisory committee scheduled a meeting for Monday, April 29 at 5 p.m. at the Palmer Lake Town Hall.

Land use decisions

Ordinance 4-2023 was considered at the April 11 meeting. Town Attorney Scott Krob said that the town’s municipal code did not address the procedure and criteria for the annexation of land. Krob advised the approval of the ordinance, which would add language to the code to clarify the conditions under which land could be annexed into the town. He said annexation is a matter of negotiation between the town and the property owner and the town’s masterplan should be considered in that negotiation but was not binding. The board voted unanimously in favor of adopting the ordinance.

At the same meeting, the board voted unanimously in favor of Resolution 24-2024, which establishes checklists written by Town Administrator Dawn Collins to guide land use applications through the approval process.

The board debated modifying the definition of R4 zoning to allow the use of septic systems for multi-family residences. The question of septic use arose in response to a request from Rebecca Allbright and Philip Tedeschi to develop a "pocket neighborhood" adjacent to Ben Lomand Mountain. The proposed development is east of the railroad tracks in a location where the Palmer Lake Sewer Department can’t provide service. The board asked town staff to work with the Planning Commission to determine if septic systems could handle multi-family residences.

Sign policy discussed

At its April 11 meeting, the board tabled a request from Brenda Woodward, owner of Alpine Essentials, to place a sign advertising her business in a town easement. Woodward explained that she had asked to place her sign on the property of another business, as the board had previously suggested she do, but had been denied.

At the same meeting, the board asked the town staff to collect examples of wayfaring signs used by other towns and bring them to the April 25 meeting for the board to consider. Wayfaring signs direct visitors and tourists to parks, schools, public buildings, parking, and businesses. Staff collected examples from Estes Park, Alamosa, Parker, Monument, and several other towns.

The board did not choose a specific design but agreed that signs should be placed by Highway 105 at the north and south boundaries of the town. Ball and Havenar suggested that businesses should contribute to the cost of the signs.

Fire chief envisions wildfire resilience

Vincent said his goal was to lower the risk of wildfire to the town. Doing so would lower insurance costs for residents, he said. Vincent said fire was a given and his intention was to have a grass fire not a forest fire. He presented a seven-point plan:

• Establish slash drop-off points.

• Mitigate wildland fuel.

• Adequately staff Fire Department.

• Become a fire-adapted community.

• Reduce insurance rates.

• Properly dispose of biomass by burning it safely.

• Engage with state government in Denver.

He discussed reducing fuel by encouraging homeowners to collect slash on their properties and participate in the town’s chipping program. Vincent said the town needed a more capable chipper and needed to identify a location where the chips could be accumulated and then burned. He suggested moving chipped fuel either to the Elephant Rock property or the dirt bike track north of the lake. The consensus of the board was that the Elephant Rock property was not a good location.

At the April 25 meeting, Ball discussed her efforts to locate a grant to help with purchasing a higher-capacity chipper. She said the grant she was pursuing required a documented plan for the chopper debris.

The board did not take any action following the discussion.

Special event permits

The board granted four special event permits:

• Ducks Unlimited Dash Run, to be held on Sunday, June 9, on the east side of the Palmer Lake Recreation Area. Runners will check in at the pavilion starting at 7:30 a.m. A 5K and a 10K race will begin at 8:30 a.m. on the Santa Fe Trail. Ducks Unlimited raises money to preserve wetlands.

• 24 Hour Run, hosted by Stride Events LLC, to be held Friday, Sept. 27 through Sunday, Sept. 29. Lance Pierce said $5 of every entrance fee would be donated to Palmer Lakes Parks and Trail Commission.

• Cinco de Mayo Dinner Service, hosted by Joy on the Rock Church on Saturday, May 4 at the Town Hall. The event will include a worship service with music. Dinner will be served at 5 p.m.

• Palmer Lake Wine Festival, to be held Saturday, Sep 14, at the Palmer Lake Recreation Area. The event will raise funds for Tri-Lakes Cares.

Stern to assist TLCA

In response to a question from a resident concerning TLCA’s temporary Certificate of Occupancy, Stern announced that he had been retained by TLCA as a general contractor to address the changes to the building required by the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department. Stern said he had been advised this was not a conflict of interest since he was donating his time to the TLCA.

Executive sessions

The April 11 meeting was followed by an executive session to discuss negotiating positions on a possible sale of town property.

The April 25 meeting was preceded by an executive session on the same topic. No actions were taken following either executive session.

**********

The next regular board meetings are scheduled for May 9 and 23. All meetings will be held at the Town Hall. See the town’s website at www.townofpalmerlake.com to confirm times and dates of board meetings and workshops. Meetings are typically held on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at the Town Hall. Information: 719-481-2953.

James Howald can be reached at jameshowald@ocn.me. Jackie Burhans can be reached at jackieburhans@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, April 8: Board discusses bills to regulate wetlands

By James Howald

Listen to this article or the audio file

At its April meeting, the Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District (WWSD) board heard operational reports from District Manager Jessie Shaffer, Operations Superintendent Dan LaFontaine, District Engineer Ariel Hacker and board Treasurer Roy Martinez.

Manager’s report

Shaffer opened his report with an update on HB24-1379, a bill before the Colorado Legislature that would create a state-run permit system to regulate when developers can dig up and fill in streams and wetlands. A second bill addressing the same issue, SB24-127, has been introduced, Shaffer said; the difference between the two bills is that the first would place regulatory authority under the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the second under the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. The two bills would either be reconciled or one of them would be dropped, Shaffer said.

In response to a question from Director Tom Roddam, Shaffer explained that both bills were responses to the Supreme Court’s decision in Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that removed many wetlands from the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers. The state of Colorado felt it needed to step in to protect Colorado’s wetlands and that is the goal of the two bills, Shaffer said. The outcome could affect WWSD by possibly complicating permitting processes and increasing the district’s costs.

Shaffer summarized the progress of the Loop project. The Loop authority is drafting an agreement that will define the benefits and the responsibilities of all participating districts and will specify the annual and monthly maximum water deliveries each district will receive once the project is complete. Another agreement under development will define operational details such as how excess water supply will be handled. Both agreements will be reviewed by the boards of participating districts, their lawyers and water attorneys, he said. If districts sign the agreements, they are committed to the project. Shaffer said he expected the districts to make their final decisions in the next two to four months.

Water operations report

LaFontaine told the board that water loss for March had declined. The 12-month running average for water loss was 10%, he said. The EPA considers a 16% loss normal and the average for new water systems in Colorado is 8%. WWSD’s system runs at higher pressure than many others, he said, and this leads to a higher amount of seepage. He said he was coordinating the reading of meters to get a more accurate measure of water loss.

LaFontaine noted two service failures in March and two sewer backups. One of the two backups was caused by a clog of flushable wipes and the other was caused by a telecom company boring through a sewer main. The district is investigating which telecom company did the drilling.

Engineer’s report

Hacker said the second phase of the project to widen Highway 105, Phase B, was months out from getting the necessary easements. She said she was requesting quotes for the sewer crossing at Lake Woodmoor Drive. Bids for the site piping for the Dawson aquifer well at the Central Water Treatment Facility (CWTF) adjacent to Lewis Palmer Middle School would go out May 1, she said. The pumphouse for Well 22, which is on County Line Road just east of I-25, is nearing completion and plans for the erosion and stormwater quality control at the well site have been submitted to the county.

Planning is underway for an additional tank at the South Tank site, Hacker said. Shaffer said the new tank would be concrete rather than steel because concrete is cheaper over the long term since it does not have to be recoated. He said once the tank design was done it would be presented to the board.

Hacker said she expected construction on the Waterside development to begin by summer. The development will include four single-family residences and 40 duplexes and is located at Woodmoor Drive and Deer Creek Road just north of The Barn.

Water sales down from previous year

In his financial report, Martinez noted income and expenses were on track. He pointed out that water sales for March were down from the previous year by about 3 million gallons.

**********

The next meeting is scheduled for May 20 at 1 p.m. Meetings are usually held on the second Monday of each month at 1 p.m. at the district office at 1845 Woodmoor Drive; please see www.woodmoorwater.com or call 719-488-2525 to verify meeting times and locations.

James Howald can be reached at jameshowald@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Monument Sanitation District, April 17: Repair will spare traffic on Highway 105

By Jackie Burhans and James Howald

Listen to this article or the audio file

In April, the Monument Sanitation District (MSD) board accepted a proposal to repair a pipeline that runs under Highway 105 and a proposal to upgrade the radios used by the district’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system. The board also heard an operational report from District Manager Mark Parker.

Pipeline to be relined, not replaced

Parker told the board that Insituform Technologies Inc. had proposed repairing a sewer line that runs under Highway 105 and serves the Conoco gas station, the McDonald’s restaurant, Jarrito Loco and the Taco Bell restaurant by using Cured in Place Pipeline (CIPP) technology. The repair will be made without interrupting traffic on Highway 105, Parker said.

When a pipeline is repaired using CIPP, a felt liner saturated in resins is pulled through the pipeline, then the liner is cured in place using steam. Using CIPP, there is no need to excavate the pipeline, which is 11 feet under Highway 105, Parker explained. Part of the McDonald’s driveway will be blocked for one day while the repairs are made, Parker said.

The board voted unanimously to accept the proposal.

Radios due for replacement

Parker told the board that I&C Design LLC had given the district a proposal to upgrade the radios used by the district’s SCADA system. The SCADA software collects data from the district’s lift stations and automates some aspects of the district’s sewer infrastructure. Parker explained that there are no replacement parts for the radios currently in use, and newer models are not backward compatible. Parker recommended taking a proactive approach and replacing all the SCADA radios at one time. He said the old radios would be sold.

The board voted unanimously to accept the proposal.

Manager’s report

In his manager’s report, Parker said the annual evaluation of the district’s collection system would begin in April. Pipelines would be assessed using video cameras and repaired as needed.

At its March meeting, the board heard a request from Rick Squires to provide sewer service to his property on Monument Lake Road. At that meeting, Parker told the board that efforts to locate the sewer main that Squire’s property would tap into had failed. At the April meeting Parker said that the main had been located 30 feet away from the documented location. Parker said the company that had incorrectly documented the location of the main had given the district a refund.

Parker said he had provided GMS Engineering Inc. the information it had requested for a rate study. He hoped the rate study would be completed in time to set 2025 rates.

**********

Monument Sanitation District meetings are held at 9 a.m. on the third Wednesday of the month in the district conference room at 130 Second St., Monument. The next regular meeting is scheduled for May 15. See https://colorado.gov/msd. For a district service map, see https://colorado.gov/pacific/msd/district-map-0. Information: 719-481-4886.

Jackie Burhans can be reached at jackieburhans@ocn.me. James Howald can be reached at jameshowald@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Donala Water and Sanitation District, April 18: Board discusses financial policy, water demand

By James Howald and Jackie Burhans

Listen to this article or the audio file

In April, the Donala Water and Sanitation District (DWSD) board held a workshop and a regular board meeting, both on April 18. The workshop focused on the district’s financial policy and its projected water demand. During the regular board meeting, the board heard operational reports.

Financial policy based on four funds

General Manager Jeff Hodge told the board that the district’s total reserves were $9.5 million. That total amount is divided among four funds: the Bond Reserve Fund, the Strategic Reserve Fund, the Capital Reserve Fund, and the Operating Reserve Fund.

The Bond Reserve Fund is established by the issuance of bonds, and the funds are protected by bond covenants. The funds are used to pay down principal or in the case of default. The target level for this fund is established when bonds are issued and may be recalculated as bonds are paid off.

The Strategic Reserve Fund is established with income from property taxes that exceeds annual operating and capital expenses. New water rights and new infrastructure such as storage tanks and pipelines are financed through this fund. The target level changes based on buying and building opportunities.

The Capital Reserve Fund is financed by capital revenues such as the sale of water, and the funds are used for capital projects required by water and wastewater infrastructure and for major purchases such as vehicles and major equipment. The target level for this fund varies based on development activity. Board President Wayne Vanderschuere said this fund required special attention as its current balance is $3.5 million and that amount could be dispersed very quickly.

The Operating Reserve Fund protects the district from unforeseen cost increases such as increases in water costs, wastewater treatment costs, energy costs, and emergency repairs. The fund should contain six months of average operating expenses.

In his discussion of water demand, Hodge said DWSD’s three-year average water production was 765 acre-feet per year, and its three-year average for billable water was 745 acre-feet per year. The district has about four times the storage tank capacity it requires, he said. Electricity costs 9 cents per kilowatt hour, but renewable energy will cost more, Hodge said.

Overall, Hodge estimated the district has water available to meet demand for the next five to 10 years. Once complete, Hodge said, the Loop project would provide DWSD 800 acre-feet per year, enough to meet the need for indoor water demand. He added the Loop project’s effort to include Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) infrastructure in its design was a "dead end" because CSU was demanding Loop water have the same treatment requirements as water coming out of the Pueblo Reservoir, which was not practical for Loop water. Hodge estimated that in 10 years, Loop water would be DWSD’s primary water source.

Manager’s report

During his manager’s report, Hodge gave the board a summary of the Loop project’s progress. He said the Loop board had put out a Request for Proposal for firms to handle positioning and acquiring easements for 17 miles of pipeline that will make up the southern portion of the Loop infrastructure and will run from the Calhan Reservoir to the Hamlin Tank. The Loop board was also working on the design for a treatment facility that will be located on Woodmoor Ranch, he said.

Hodge said a quarterly meeting between himself and representatives of Forest Lakes Metropolitan District and Triview Metropolitan District to discuss operation of the Upper Monument Creek Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility (UMCRWWTF), a facility the three districts share, had been congenial and productive.

Operational reports

• In his water report, Water Operator Ronny Wright said the district’s newest well, 16A, should be in production by mid-summer. The testing so far shows the well to be viable and usable. Consultant Roger Sams said he expected the state of Colorado to take six to 12 weeks to evaluate the water samples from the well. Sams said Mountain View Electrical Association was finishing its portion of the well installation and all the necessary equipment had been purchased.

• Chief Waste Plant Operator Aaron Tolman said E. coli levels at the treatment plant were slightly higher than last month but well under the limit.

• Consultant Brett Gracely, of LRE Water, told the board that due to high water levels in the Pueblo Reservoir, which resulted from snowmelt and precipitation, water had to be released. About 499 million gallons of water belonging to DWSD had to be released, Gracely said.

**********

The next board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 16 at 1:30 p.m. Generally, board meetings are held the third Thursday of the month at 1:30 p.m. and include online access; call (719) 488-3603 or access www.donalawater.org to receive up-to-date meeting information. The district office is located at 15850 Holbein Drive, Colorado Springs.

James Howald can be reached at jameshowald@ocn.me. Jackie Burhans can be reached at jackieburhans@ocn.me

Return to the top of the page

Triview Metropolitan District, April 25: Water and wastewater fees/rates discussed; water rights lease agreement approved

By Natalie Barszcz

Listen to this article or the audio file

At the Triview Metropolitan District meeting on April 25, the board heard about a proposal to increase the water and wastewater fees effective June 1 and reviewed a water rights lease agreement between the district and the Arkansas Groundwater and Reservoir Association (AGRA). The board discussed steps to resolve the unsold excess wastewater flows and heard about traffic concerns and hazards from residents. The board held an executive session to discuss the acquisition of water and land.

Director Amanda Carlton was excused.

Treasurer/Secretary James Barnhardt and Director Jason Gross joined via Zoom.

Water and wastewater fees/rates

District Manager Jim McGrady said a public hearing will be held at the May 23 board meeting to allow public comment on the proposed increases to the water and wastewater base rates, meter, and tiered volume charges and the average November-February volume uniform rate, and said:

• Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU) will begin billing the district $8.32 per 1,000 gallons for the convey, treat, and delivery of the district’s water via the Northern Delivery System (NDS) beginning in July.

• The CSU rates are based on a detailed cost of service and a certain percentage increase for being outside the Colorado Springs city limits.

• There is nothing like running water through the system to know the true costs of operating the NDS, but the district needs to ensure there are sufficient funds to cover the projected capital expenditures of the district, staff wages, operating expenditures, and making the debt service payments.

• The district expects the electricity and chemical treatment costs for well pumped water will drop, because the water will already have been treated.

• Repairs to wells will be curtailed, as annual costs of anywhere between $200,000 and $500,000 for well repairs lessen. When the NDS is online, the district will not be under the gun to make immediate repairs.

• The district will need to juggle the fine line of delivering water through the NDS and rotating the wells and a schedule to run them on a rotational basis.

• Through educated calculations and rate comparison to other communities, other than CSU, the rates are equal to or less than those reviewed.

Vice Chair Anthony Sexton said the district’s rates in comparison to other neighboring districts are mid- to top tier, but it is hard to compare when the district has had an aggressive push to move away from groundwater, and other districts have not made that investment.

Water rights lease

McGrady said the district has been leasing water to AGRA on a regular basis; the water is an excess of water decreed for agricultural use. Next year the water rights may be decreed for use in the NDS, and the district will revisit the lease in 2025. He requested the board consider approving the lease for $50 per share, generating a rental payment of about $67,000 per year combined with the lease of about 800-acre feet storage in the South Reservoir at a rate of $40 per acre-foot, generating revenue of about $100,000 for a year.

The board approved the one-year water rights lease agreement between TMD and AGRA in a 4-0 vote.

Excess district wastewater

McGrady said the district staff are looking closely at the influent numbers now that the results of the wastewater study are known. The district will look at how to close the gap between water pumped and wastewater treated, but it is not out of the question that the influent meters are reading low, and it could be due to turbulence with the 6-inch flume. The 6-inch flume may need to be removed, and the 9-inch flume will remain in use. Installing the new doppler technology and electromagnetic flow meters would be more accurate, or the district will have to learn to live with the 5% differential between sold water and treated wastewater. Flows were dramatically higher after the June and July rainfalls that produced 6-7 inches in 2023.

Utilities Department Superintendent Shawn Sexton said a meeting is scheduled between the executive and utility staff to discuss the findings of the study.

Under drain maintenance

Gross said several of his neighbors have installed sump pumps after experiencing flooded basements. Those sump pumps are tied to underdrains that are not being maintained. One neighbor’s sump pump drains to a low spot on the trail behind his property, and he requested the crews that had been investigating to continue to keep an eye on the wet area. The area is a long-wet spot at the end of the trail where it connects to Lyons Tail Road. He asked if the underdrains should be added to the maintenance schedule.

Assistant Manager Steve Sheffield said the Vactor truck crews would be back out to inspect the area.

Sexton confirmed the drainage on his property in Promontory Pointe connects to the district’s sewer system and he does not have a sump pump.

McGrady said the underdrain beneath the sewer is blocked, and the Vactor truck crews are working to break debris free, but the engineers may need to dig down farther. The underdrains throughout the district are installed to protect the utilities, but the crew is focusing on cleaning out the manholes. There are some underdrain issues within the district, but they are not significant. Unsold water from sump pumps may be draining into the main sewer, and that could be part of the increase in wastewater treatment flows, he said.

Road traffic safety concerns

Gross requested direction and legal advice to personally address the delay to the planned Higby Road improvements. He said he would like to see action to enhance road safety for Lewis-Palmer High School students.

President Mark Melville said the discussion could continue in executive session to avoid changing the consent agenda. See Monument Town Council article on page 16.

This reporter cited safety concerns and the traffic speeds on Agate Creek Drive, as many motorists gather speed beyond the posted 25 miles per hour heading south to the T-intersection at Old Creek Drive. Many impatient motorists are unwilling to slow down when residents are backing out of driveways, prompting some to weave around the resident to the opposite side of the road, and negotiate parked cars to continue on. The speeding problem is prevalent and could result in a crosswalk accident where the busy trail connection crosses the southern portion of the road.

McGrady said speed control is a Monument Police Department responsibility, but installing a raised speed bump would help slow traffic, however it could cause an issue for a snowplow. A discussion with the traffic engineer could resolve the issue, said McGrady.

Note: After the meeting, this reporter noticed the crosswalk sign partially covered by tree branches and the speed sign missing for southbound traffic.

Spring road repairs planned

Promontory Pointe Homeowners’ Association President Ann-Marie Jojola requested the district take another look at gaps that are widening in Promontory Pointe. One resident with special needs had his bike wheel stuck in a large crack, and several other residents have stumbled in the gutters on Ann Arbor Way and Trans Continental Drive.

McGrady said there would be a fair amount of crack repairs during the overlay project. Both streets are on the list for the repairs this year and the district digs out the cracks and compacts them before the milling and overlay project begins. The high stormwater inlets along with the streets in Promontory Pointe will be inspected before the road project begins. Martin Marietta was awarded the mill and overlay contract for $717,219. The district also received a competitive bid just slightly higher from Schmidt Construction, said McGrady.

Landscaping workforce divides

Public Works and Parks and Open Space Superintendent Matt Rayno said the landscaping crews were only able to keep up with mowing services in 2023, so this year the workforce is divided into three-man crews allocated to separate areas of the district. The schedule will be more efficient and work will occur on a weekly basis, with the same level of detail the residents have come to enjoy in the landscaped areas. The crews will come together bi-weekly to service Forest Lakes Metropolitan District. Mowing will occur on Wednesday and Thursday, lowering the run-time hours on the mowing equipment from 23 hours to 16 per week this year. The district has a dedicated employee who maintains the native grass and pet waste receptacles. The native grass areas will be mown three times throughout the summer, and those areas receive limited irrigation. Minimal repairs were needed to the irrigation system, and the district is 100% staffed for the summer season landscaping services.

Website accessibility

General counsel Scott Goodstein of White Bear Ankele Tanaka and Waldron law firm said the legislation requiring full accessibility requirements to documents via the district website by June 31 this year had been delayed for another year.

McGrady said that most of the hundreds of state sites are not ready to be accessibility compliant. The district may need to hire a firm to look at site accessibility, but not before the district has reviewed the site with a critical eye.

Executive session

The board moved into executive session at 7:45 p.m. pursuant to Colorado Revised Statutes 24-6-402(4)(a), (b), (e), to discuss the acquisition of water and land, receive confidential legal advice relating to potential consolidation, and for the purpose of determining positions relative to matters that may be subject to negotiations, developing strategies for negotiations, and instructing negotiators as it relates to potential development incentives.

Sheffield confirmed that after the board returned to the regular meeting, no action was taken, and the meeting promptly adjourned at 9:12 p.m.

Caption: Thirty-nine steps were installed on the St. Lawrence Trail, allowing easy navigation on a steep portion of the district’s trail system. The Triview Metropolitan District landscaping crews installed the stairs and plan to overseed the trail area with native grass and replant with trees to further eliminate erosion. The trail connects between St. Lawrence and Penn Central Way and was the access road to B-plant before the development of Promontory Pointe. Photo by Natalie Barszcz.

**********

Meetings are usually held on the third Thursday of the month at the district office located at 16055 Old Forest Point, Suite 302. A public hearing will be held at the next regular board meeting scheduled for May 23 at 5:30 p.m. For meeting agendas, minutes, and updates, visit https://triviewmetro.com.

Natalie Barszcz can be reached at nataliebarszcz@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

El Paso Board of County Commissioners, April 9, 11, and 16: Wildfire mitigation urged as Black Forest slash and mulch program opens for season

By Helen Walklett

Listen to this article or the audio file

During April, the El Paso Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) made decisions relating to the Black Forest slash and mulch program and a Black Forest rezone application.

Black Forest slash and mulch program

At its April 9 meeting, the BOCC approved the 2024 memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Black Forest Slash and Mulch Committee (SAMCOM), the nonprofit responsible for the program’s daily operation.

This wildfire mitigation program, staffed entirely by volunteers, accepts slash (tree debris including branches and leaves) from residents that is ground into mulch, which is available free of charge to the public. The program does not accept bulk loads of needles, tree stumps, roots, weeds or grass.

Under the MOU, the county contributes up to $40,000 toward grinder expenses, and SAMCOM provides $12,000 toward the costs.

The site, within Black Forest Section 16 on the east side of Herring Road and just south of Shoup Road, opened for the 2024 season for slash drop-off on April 27. Normal business hours are Saturdays and Sundays 7 a.m.-4 p.m. and Tuesday and Thursday evenings 5-7:30 p.m. Sundays between 7 a.m. and noon are for slash drop-off only. The last date for slash drop-off this year is Sept. 15. The drop-off fee for slash has increased this year to $10 per pickup truck. There is a loyalty card available that offers a discount.

Free mulch will be available for self-loading from May 18 through Sept. 21. For large quantities of mulch, an end loader will be available on Saturdays only, 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., charging $5 per bucket.

Describing the program as wonderful, Commissioner Holly Williams said, "I certainly encourage all of our Black Forest residents, as well as many of our northeastern Colorado Springs residents, to take advantage and to keep wildfire mitigation efforts on your property up to date."

For more information, visit www.bfslash.org. Anyone wanting to volunteer to work a shift can do so via the website.

Vessey Road rezone

At their April 11 land use meeting, the commissioners voted to approve an application by Pawel Posorski for a rezoning of 6.02 acres from RR-5 (rural residential) to RR-2.5 (rural residential). The property is located at 6225 Vessey Road, one-half mile east of the intersection of Vessey Road and Neva Lane. A final plat application has also been submitted to create two lots from the parcel. This is currently under review and has not yet been scheduled for a public hearing.

The application was heard as a consent item, meaning there was no discussion. The application came from the Planning Commission with an 8-1 vote recommending approval. Commissioners Christopher Whitney was the nay vote, having concerns about the zoning not being consistent with the area and about the non-conformity of lots in the area. See https://www.ocn.me/v24n4.htm?zoom_highlight=%22vessey+road%22.

Ambulance license and permits

At the April 16 meeting, the commissioners approved an ambulance service license and two ambulance permits for the Black Forest Fire Rescue Protection District. At the previous week’s meeting, Commissioner Stan VanderWerf commented on the fact that the state had recently passed a statute that will take away local authorities’ power to issue ambulance permits beginning in July. These will now be issued at the state level. He said, "The law is the law, but this is just another example of centralization of power in Denver that I know in the long run will not be good for the State of Colorado when local governments know best what our local communities need."

**********

The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) usually meets every Tuesday at 9 am at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., Suite 150, Colo. Springs. Agendas and meetings can be viewed at www.agendasuite.org/iip/elpaso. Information is available at 719-520-643. BOCC land use meetings are normally held the second and fourth Thursdays of the month (as needed) at 1 pm in Centennial Hall.

Helen Walklett can be reached at helenwalklett@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

El Paso County Planning Commission, April 18: Old Denver Road property requesting rezone to commercial

By Helen Walklett

Listen to this article or the audio file

At the El Paso County Planning Commission meeting on April 18, the commissioners heard a request to rezone an 8.07-acre property at 16050 Old Denver Road from RR-5 (rural residential) to CS (commercial service). The property is one-half mile north of the intersection of Baptist Road and Old Denver Road. The application was originally scheduled as a consent item, meaning there would be no discussion, but was pulled and heard as a regular item at the request of Commissioner Christopher Whitney, who had questions about the interplay of placetype (from the county’s master plan) and zoning.

Discussion at the hearing focused on the existing duplex on the property, which is not an allowed use by right under the CS zoning and would require a variance of use. Staff has proposed a condition to the zoning approval that would see the duplex remain until it’s vacant for more than a year, is removed, or is repurposed for a use permitted within the CS zoning district when commercial development occurs.

Nina Ruiz, with Vertex Consulting Services and representing the owner, All In Investments LLC, said, "If they [the owner] were to develop this property as warehousing, mini-warehousing and outside storage, those types of uses, it’s very possible that they could convert a portion of the structure into an office because they would need an office, and then the other portion could remain a caretaker’s quarters. That would be included within the site development plan."

There was no public comment. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend the application for approval, and it is now due to be heard at the El Paso Board of County Commissioners land use meeting on May 9.

**********

The El Paso County Planning Commission normally meets the first and (as required) the third Thursday of each month at the Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle, Colo. Springs. Meetings are live-streamed on the El Paso County News and Information Channel at https://www.elpasoco.com/news-information-channel. Information is available at 719-520-6300 and https://planningdevelopment.elpasoco.com/planning-community-development/2024-hearings-schedule/.

Helen Walklett can be reached at helenwalklett@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Woodmoor Improvement Association, April 24: Board member passes away

By Jackie Burhans

Listen to this article or the audio file

The Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA) board met on April 24 and announced the death of one of its members. The board also heard a response from a resident on a covenant issue and heard director reports.

Board Director Per Suhr passes away

Before hearing director reports, President Brian Bush invoked presidential reports to announce, with great sadness, the death of Covenant Director Per Suhr. He was found deceased in his home on April 19 at age 81. He had just returned from a golfing trip to Laughlin, Nev. with fellow country club members. Suhr was a longtime resident of Woodmoor and had served on the WIA board for more years than anyone could count, including the past nine years alongside Bush. He was also a golfing buddy, friend, and colleague, said Bush, and his wisdom, integrity, and humor will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him. The board sends its condolences to his wife Alice, son Drew and daughter Shannon. Vice President Peter Bille will oversee covenant enforcement until the board appoints a replacement.

Resident response

Resident Jennifer Davis returned to the board to respond to the letter she received on her concerns that a neighbor had built a shed inside an easement. Referring to a letter from Bush, she said it had some factual errors. She noted that it said she had 14 days to respond after the Architectural Control Committee (ACC) approval, but since a shed is a miscellaneous project, it did not require noticing of the neighbors. She noted that no one in the meeting was a surveyor but that there were nearby rebar and surveyor caps which could be used to measure the location, and she claimed that it was not "very close" to the easement but two feet into the easement. The letter noted that the ACC approval was based on WIA’s Project Design Standards Manual (PDSM) and covenant restrictions. However, she cited the South Woodmoor Covenants as saying "no buildings, fences, or structures of any type shall be built over, across, in the line of, or in such a manner as to include such easements in the lot or tract."

Davis further objected to the letter which claimed she was trying to weaponize the covenants and paint her as someone who is trying to cause trouble. She said she called attention to the board that a mistake was made and needed to be rectified and the board does not want to go down that path. The board, she said, is setting a precedent and, by allowing the shed to stay where it is, it would now let others build fences in the easement. She said that the board noted that it did not want to get involved in a lawsuit, but that it might have to and that she had already spoken with counsel. It would be unfortunate, she said, if the neighbors have to get together to get a judge to make the board do its job.

Bush responded that, based on her comments at the previous meeting, the board had sent the covenants administrator out to do measurements and found her allegations to be unsupportable. Although he had noted that overreaching by some HOAs had resulted in difficult legislation, the main reason for the board’s response was that, after re-measurement, it believes the shed complies within an inch or two. We simply disagree on the facts, he said, and the matter has to stop here. You have our decision, he concluded.

Board highlights

• Bush reported for Treasurer Connie Brown that he had reviewed the financial statements and expenses and income both look good. He noted that the board is making more in interest income than expected, and less in Barn and office rentals.

• Homeowners Association Administrator Denise Cagliaro said that WIA had mailed 85 third and final notices with a deadline of May 17 before liens would be filed, adding a cost of $350 to their balance. Bush noted that the board has a long-standing policy that, although it would place liens for unpaid dues or fines, it would not proceed to foreclosure on any property.

• Woodmoor Public Safety (WPS) Chief Kevin Nielsen reported receiving the first reports of bears and reminded residents to keep trash and pet food in their garage.

• Nielsen said there had been a few reports of Criminal Trespass Auto (CTA), this month, one of which included a stolen laptop its owner was able to track. The Sheriff’s Office found and impounded the vehicle and executed a search warrant and found the vehicle filled with property. All three vehicles in Woodmoor were left outside and unlocked.

• ACC Director Ed Miller reported 39 projects submitted to the ACC for approval in March for a year-to-date total of 97, which represents a 4.3% increase from the previous year. The project approval rating for 2024 stands at 100%. Bush asked if large projects occurring in the neighborhood were checked for ACC approval. Miller replied that if they were not approved it would be a covenant violation and Nielsen confirmed that WPS calls in large projects to confirm.

• Board member Cindy Thrush confirmed that chipping days have been set for June 29-30 and July 27-28 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Chipping is free to residents and open to non-residents for a nominal fee.

• Common Area Director Steve Cutler reported that sprinklers at The Barn would start up after Mother’s Day and flowers would be planted by Memorial Day. He also reported looking at a prototype raptor pole to test where there is a colony of prairie dogs.

• Bush confirmed that WIA is sending letters to neighbors near The Preserve about spraying noxious weeds. Bille noted that the substance used is environmentally friendly and safe for pets. Cutler noted that the grant WIA had received included resident education.

Caption: At the April 24 meeting of the Woodmoor Improvement Association, President Brian Bush announced the passing of Covenants Director Per Suhr. Suhr was a longtime resident of Woodmoor and had served on the WIA board for many years in various capacities. He will be sorely missed, Bush said, extending the board’s condolences to his family. Photo courtesy of Woodmoor Improvement Association.

**********

The WIA Board of Directors usually meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of each month in The Barn at 1691 Woodmoor Drive, Monument. The next meeting will be on May 22.

The WIA calendar can be found at www.woodmoor.org/wia-calendar. WIA board meeting minutes can be found at www.woodmoor.org/meeting-minutes/ once approved and posted.

Jackie Burhans can be reached at jackieburhans@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

April Weather Wrap

By Bill Kappel

Listen to this article or the audio file

For the second April in a row, precipitation was below average. However, unlike last year, we have had ample moisture heading into spring and therefore, the lower-than-normal moisture last month isn’t as big of a problem. Along with the drier-than-normal conditions, temperatures were above normal. This was mostly result of overnight lows being well above average and no significantly cold mornings during the month.

The first two days of the month were cool and unsettled with light snowfall from the afternoon of the 1st into the morning of the 2nd. Most of us received 1-2 inches of snowfall, nothing too heavy but enough to remind us that winter-like weather wasn’t over yet. After this quick shot of cool weather and light snow, conditions were quiet for the next two weeks, with only a trace of snow occurring with a brief snow shower on the 6th. Temperatures were generally within 5 degrees above or below normal during the entire period from the 3rd through the 13th, when temperatures warmed to well above normal from the 13th through the 15th. Temperatures reached into the upper 60s and low 70s during this period and was our first real taste of spring.

The mild conditions were ahead of a pattern change that allowed a series of storm systems into the region out of the Pacific Northwest. Most of these bypassed the Front Range without any significant precipitation. Therefore, we didn’t have an upslope or cold air to help with precipitation production. The first change came in during the morning and afternoon of the 16th, when snow showers developed across the area and produced a quick dusting of snow.

Finally, a real cold front with persistent upslope conditions moved in during the morning of the 18th. This brought well-below-normal temperatures and areas of fog to the region. There were some light snow showers and flurries at times as well as this pattern stayed entrenched for the next few days. Highs were held in the 30s to low 40s during the period. A more organized disturbance moved across during the afternoon of the 20th and produced more widespread snow showers, with 1-2 inches accumulating in the region.

Mild and dry conditions quickly returned, with highs jumping into the 60s and low 70s from the 22nd through the 25th. This quick warmup was ahead of our strongest storm of the month. This system began to affect the region during the afternoon and evening of the 26th, with good old rain showers and a few thunderstorms developing. This was associated with a series of low pressures moving through the Intermountain West, toward the Four Corners, then redeveloping over eastern Colorado. This pattern also drew in a lot of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, producing heavy rain at times to our east and areas of severe weather.

Rain showers continued during the evening and early morning hours of the 26th into the 27th. As the atmosphere continued to cool, rain turned to heavy wet snow during the early morning of the 27th. And as is typical this time of the year, elevation was very important for who saw heavy snow and who saw no snow. For most areas above 7,000 feet, 2-6 inches of snow accumulated during the morning and afternoon of the 27th. Unsettled and cool conditions continued on the 28th with a few showers developing, but this was the last moisture of the month. Quiet conditions moved in for the last couple days of the month, with temperatures moving from below normal on the 28th to above normal on the 30th.

A look ahead

May often brings a wide variety of weather conditions in the region, from warm, sunny days to severe thunderstorms and hail, and we are not done with snowfall. We can see very wet weather, sometimes heavy snow and other times our first 90 temperatures of the year. So be prepared for just about anything.

April 2024 Weather Statistics

Average High 56.9° (+0.4°)

Average Low 30.5° (+2.9°)

Highest Temperature 72° on the 14th

Lowest Temperature 19° on the 8th

Monthly Precipitation 1.84" (-1.22", 38% below normal)

Monthly Snowfall 9.5" (-15.2", 65% below normal)

Season to Date Snow 136.9" (+19.4", 15% above normal) (the snow season is from July 1 to June 30)

Season to Date Precip. 7.23" (+1.03", 15% above normal) (the precip season is from January 1 to December 31)

Heating Degree Days 640 (-49)

Cooling Degree Days 0

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

Return to the top of the page

Letters to Our Community

Guidelines for letters

Disclaimer: The information and opinions expressed in Letters to Our Community are the responsibility of the letter writers and should not be interpreted as the views of OCN even if the letter writer is an OCN volunteer. When there is more than one letter, the letters are arranged in alphabetical order based on the last name of the author.

LPHS After Prom thanks

Thanks to our great community of parents, LP staff, and students, After Prom 2024 was a huge success! We had approximately 450+ students attend the event themed "Around the World in 80 Days.

Many school districts do not offer an After Prom, as the planning and coordination involve a substantial amount of time and money. Both District 38 high schools have such a dedicated group of staff, parents, and community patrons that we have been able to make After Prom a yearly tradition.

Much of the financial support comes from family, community, and local business donations. We would like to recognize the following: Tri-Lakes Printing, Something New Boutique, Arlene’s Beans, Horseshoe Donuts, Broadmoor World Arena, Chick-fil-A Northgate , Mountain High Kettle Corn, Chipotle, City Rock, Costa Vida, Crumbl Cookies, Fuzzy’s Taco Shop, Glowgolf, IHOP InterQuest, Jeff Schmidt—State Farm, Jennifer Clinard Realtor—Front Range Real Estate Professionals, Josh & John’s Ice Cream , Kendra Scott, Lost Island Miniature Golf & Adventure Park, Main Event, Michelle Provencio, Realtor, The Cutting Edge, Realtors, MOD Pizza, Only One You, Overdrive Raceway, PF Chang’s, Qdoba, Raising Cane’s, Scheels, Slim Chickens, Snarf’s sandwiches ,Texas Roadhouse, Top Golf, Torchy’s Tacos, Vibes Baseball, Water World.

We had over 100 volunteers who helped with duties including purchasing prizes, mailing invitations, organizing/transporting/providing food, decorating, working on the night of the event, and cleaning up the day after.

A special thank you goes to the After Prom committee: Lori Benton, Liz Scott, Jenn Clinard, Michelle Provencio, Nicole Pritchard, and Liz Meggett. Many thanks also to our amazing LP Staff led by Principal Bridget O’Connor, Coach Tupper, and Paul Lugauer.

Michelle Oliger
After Prom Chair
Lewis-Palmer High School

Return to the top of the page

Between the Covers at Covered Treasures Bookstore: Military history for Memorial Day

By the staff at Covered Treasures

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything."—Alexander Hamilton

May is the month to pay tribute to the men and women who have served in the U.S. military. It’s the perfect time to learn the history of the U.S. in relation to the wars we have fought.

Masters of the Air

By Donald Miller (Simon Schuster) $23

Masters of the Air is the deeply personal story of the American bomber boys in World War II who brought the war to Hitler’s doorstep. This is a story of life in wartime England and in the German prison camps, where tens of thousands of airmen spent part of the war. It ends with an account of the hunger marches that the captured airmen were forced to make near the end of the war through the country their bombs destroyed.

Valiant Women

By Lena Andrews (Mariner Books) $33

Valiant Women is the story of the 350,000 American women who served in uniform during World War II. These incredible women served in every service branch, in every combat theater, and in nearly two-thirds of the available military occupations at the time. They were pilots, codebreakers, ordnance experts, gunnery instructors, metalsmiths, chemists, translators, parachute riggers, truck drivers, radar men, pigeon trainers, and much more. They were directly involved in some of the most important moments of the war, from the D-Day landings to the peace negotiations in Paris.

The War to End All Wars

By Russell Freedman (Clarion Books) $12

This book for young readers illuminates the complex and rarely discussed subject of World War I: The tangled relationships and alliances of many nations, the introduction of modern weaponry, and top-level military decisions that resulted in thousands upon thousands of casualties all contributed to the "great war," which people hoped and believed would be the only conflict of its kind.

What Was Pearl Harbor?

By Patricia Brennan Demuth (Penguin Workshop) $8

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese war planes appeared out of nowhere to bomb the American base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It was a highly secretive and devastating attack: four battleships sunk, more than 2,000 servicemen died, and the United States was propelled into World War II. In a compelling, easy-to-read narrative, children will learn all about a pivotal moment in American history.

The Vietnam War

By Geoffrey Ward & Kenneth Burns (Vintage) $25

More than 40 years have passed since the end of the Vietnam War, but its memory continues to loom large in the national psyche. This book offers a fresh and insightful account of the long and brutal conflict that reunited Vietnam while dividing the United States as nothing else had since the Civil War. Most of the voices that echo from these pages belong to less exalted men and women—those who fought in the war as well as those who fought against it, both victims and victors—willing for the first time to share their memories of the war as it really was.

Colorado Women in World War II

By Gail M. Beaton (University Press of Colorado) $34

This book interweaves nearly 80 oral histories of World War II—including interviews, historical studies, newspaper accounts, and organizational records—and historical photographs (many from the interviewees themselves) to shed light on women’s participation in the war, exploring the dangers and triumphs they felt, the nature of their work, and the lasting ways in which the war influenced their lives.

The Revolutionary: Samuel Adams

By Stacy Schiff (Back Bay Books) $22

Samuel Adams helped to mastermind the Boston Tea Party. He employed every tool available to rally a town, a colony, and eventually a band of colonies behind him, creating the cause that created a country. For his efforts, he became the most wanted man in America: When Paul Revere rode to Lexington in 1775, it was to warn Samuel Adams that he was about to be arrested for treason. This book highlights Adams’ improbable life, illuminating his transformation from the aimless son of a well-off family to tireless, beguiling radical who mobilized the colonies. Arresting, original, and surprisingly dramatic, this is a long-overdue chapter in the history of our nation.

Until next month, happy reading.

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

Return to the top of the page

May Library Events: Call for teen volunteers; CD swap program

By Harriet Halbig

As summer approaches, teens are encouraged to volunteer to help with the Summer Adventure reading program. Activities will include helping children register for the program and tracking their progress, help with special programs, and help with everyday library functions. To apply, go to www.ppld.org/teens/volunteer.

The Monument Library will sponsor a CD swap from 2 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 11. Bring new or gently used CDs and trade for music that’s new to you. You will also learn how to access music resources such as Freegal which are available through the library website.

Come to the Palmer Lake Library from 2 to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, May 8 to make a handy farmers market tote bag for your summer purchases. You will be provided with a tote bag and stencils and other tools to decorate to your heart’s content. One tote bag per person and registration is required. Visit www.ppld.org, programs by location.

Please note that all Pikes Peak Library locations will be closed on Monday, May 27, in observance of Memorial Day.

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

Return to the top of the page

Palmer Lake Historical Society, April 18: Trolley cars, past and future

By Marlene Brown

The Palmer Lake Historical Society (PLHS) April meeting hosted John Haney, a founding member of the Pikes Peak Trolley Museum and Restoration Shop. He has co-written three books on the history of streetcars and trolley systems. Haney’s talk centered on the streetcar system in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. He is a native of Colorado Springs and his family has been here since the1890s.

Beginning in 1887, streetcars were pulled by horses. Called horsecars, they traveled along Tejon Street and Cascade Avenue, stopping at the restaurants and saloons in the new city of Colorado Springs. They would go to the north end to the 1888 Rock Island Roundhouse in the community of Roswell to turn around. This building is just west of Cascade near Penrose Hospital. The Roundhouse is now being operated by the Pikes Peak Street Railway Foundation for the Trolley Museum and Restoration Shop. For more information, see www.coloradospringstrolleys.com.

By 1900 came the electric trolley cars. The electric trolley line was called the "Colorado Springs Rapid Transit Railway Co." The trolleys could go 20 miles per hour. On South Tejon, near Las Animas Street and Sierra Madre, there was a building called the Car Barn. Starting 1906, this is where the maintenance and the building of new streetcars were done. There are still remnants of the buildings used, and some of the buildings are occupied today.

Traveling roundtrip to Manitou Springs began at the Santa Fe Train Depot on Pikes Peak Avenue. It traveled west on Colorado Avenue though Old Colorado City to the Loop. The Loop was built to turn around the cars to return on the route. The Loop is located at the intersection of Ruxton and Manitou Avenues where the restaurant, The Loop, is located.

The trolleys ran in the Springs until 1932. By then, most people owned an automobile and then came the beginning of the Great Depression, when people did not have money to ride the trolleys. Many of the streetcars were dismantled during WWII for metal parts. Some the cars were sold and became cottages and shops. Many are still around today.

There has been an interest in bringing trolleys back in the Springs. The intent by the museum foundation and volunteers is to preserve and maintain historic and vintage trolleys and the Roundhouse for future street railway operations. See www.coloradospringstrolleys.com/overview.

Caption: PLHS volunteers and board members that have worked at the Trolley Museum are, from left, John Cusak, Palmer Lake resident who operates one of the trolleys at the museum; John Haney, founding member of the museum and restoration shop; Michael Walker, volunteer; and Wayne Russert, PLHS board director who has worked many volunteer hours on electrical projects and more. Photo by Marlene Brown.

**********

PLHS meetings are usually held on the third Thursday of the month at Palmer Lake Town Hall, 42 Valley Crescent, Palmer Lake. The next meeting will be held May 16, 7-8 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.). Gail Beaton will be portraying "Gail Murphy: Colorado’s Rosie the Riveter."

For more information on this and future presentations and membership to PLHS, go to www.palmerdividehistory.org.

Marlene Brown can be reached at marlenebrown@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

On the Trail (in memory of Tim Watkins): Cadets build bridge over Monument Creek

By Steve Pate

A crew of senior cadet engineering students from the U.S Air Force Academy (USAFA) have been working during their 2023-24 final year at the academy to design and build a bridge across Monument Creek to connect a newly improved section of the Creekside Trail to the Elephant Rock property area (not the Elephant Rock near Ben Lomand).

During their final semester, the cadets made multiple trips to the site for measurements and design and prepared proposals to the Palmer Lake Parks and Trails commission (PLP&T) who selected the proposal they believed would best meet the needs of the community and satisfy Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department.

The bridge links a trail from the Palmer Lake Glen area to and through the Elephant Rock property west of Highway 105 to allow residents and visitors to hike and bike from Palmer Lake through the scenic area.

The senior cadets, led by retired U.S. Army Col. Dr. Brad Wambeke, professor of Engineering at the USAFA, designed the bridge using logs from the Upper Palmer Lake Reservoir left from wildfire mitigation work by the USFS last year. The logs were hauled from the upper reservoir by the Palmer Lake Fire Department and milled, pre-drilled and coated at the USAFA before being used at the construction site.

Only the cost of materials, about $15,000 of a $17,000 budgeted by the PLP&T, was paid for from funds generated by the parking kiosk at the Reservoirs Trailhead. All the design and construction work was done as a learning experience for the senior cadets as their capstone project before graduation and moving on to their initial assignments in the U.S. Air Force.

The project involved a great deal of coordination between volunteers on the PLP&T, including Project Lead Gene Kalesti, Commissioners Kevin Magner and Reid Wiecks and Professor Wambeke.

A cadet team returned to the construction site April 19 to put finishing touches on their work. A dedication ceremony will be held on May 6 at 10 a.m.

The USAFA will build two additional bridges along the trail system to improve access by bikes as well as hikers as an educational project for senior cadet engineering students over the coming year or two.

Caption: Cadets building bridge, April 13. Photo by Steve Pate.

Caption: Cadet team finishing bridge work, April 19. Photo by Steve Pate.

Steve Pate can be contacted at stevepate@ocn.me.

 

Return to the top of the page

High Altitude Nature and Gardening (HANG): Garden—and lawn—success starts with dandelions!

By Janet Sellers

Before you grab anything that’s toxic, let’s take a look at some handy hints that are easy and don’t harm people or pets.

Chemicals to kill weeds and varmints go down into our groundwater and poison our water.

Every year I share the importance of the dandelions as the first food for both hummingbirds and pollinators. Root to flower, the dandelion supports our gardens in ways we may never have imagined. Dandelions send their roots down anywhere from 2-20 feet to bring up nutrients to the surface. The roots also loosen and aerate the soil and help control erosion. Dandelions enrich our soil and our gardens. Dandelions will not return when the soil is rich and balanced. They are edible roots to flowers. And they actually fertilize the grass. Dandelions are in the same family as lettuce, artichokes, chamomile, and daisies.

So how did dandelions get such a bad rap? Dandelions are indicators of poor soil. Contrary to popular belief, once the soil is restored dandelions stop growing in those areas. I have been able to find a plethora of information on the benefits of dandelions but curiously, the bulk of texts against growing them is from chemical companies that want to sell chemicals. Widespread movie and TV shows of "pretend perfect" but fake lawns added to the ideas of lawns and lawn care: perfect lawn, perfect family. But there’s no perfect family or lawn. That’s fake, too. Dandelions can be mowed after their blooming, which has helped our pollinators and hummingbirds as the first flower of food power in spring. Mowing them is an easy way to control spread if needed.

A kid and pet safe vermin deterrent

The fastest, safest, most effective pocket gopher and varmint deterrent (besides a house cat) I have found is castor oil. Add to a gallon (a 1-pound bag) of clean clay cat litter 6 ounces of Castor oil and shake in the bag thoroughly to coat all the clay particles. Then cast it over the lawn or garden and watch as the voles disappear over the next few days. They stay away. It gives the ground vegetation and odor and taste that disagree with the vermin. It goes safely into the soil and makes the plants taste bad to the varmints so they won’t eat them. Reapply after rain or snow.

Janet Sellers is an avid lazy gardener, letting Mother Nature lead the way in our mountain high desert climate. Contact her at JanetSellers@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Art Matters: Art multiples: slabs to electronic screens; Art Hop rides again

By Janet Sellers

News flash: Our local Art Hop season begins in May, now 5-8 p.m. on fourth Fridays. Wander around downtown Monument for an evening of fun, art, food, and meeting up with old—and new—friends.

Today’s creative artwork and hand-painted unique apparel are here as expensive yet greatly expressive, artist-designed clothing, shoes, handbags, luggage and more—even body ink. The novel ideas and values of scarcity are coming back from the mass-produced, highly available pieces that were in demand in yesteryear. And yet:

Mass-made art was an innovation

When they started, most printing process outcomes allowed for a cheaper alternative to hand work. All were available largely to the wealthy, as most new technologies are in any age.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City explains on its website that lithography was invented around 1796 in Germany by an otherwise unknown Bavarian playwright, Alois Senefelder, who accidentally discovered that he could duplicate his scripts by writing them in greasy crayon on slabs of easily available local limestone and then printing them with rolled-on ink. This was an easier, cheaper method compared to the earlier pen works, engravings, or etchings. Multiples via printing processes only much later became of value as art but were first related to mass, mechanical reproduction and not valued as highly as the scarcity of original handmade works.

Replication and production throughout the centuries used various flat printing methods including silk-screening, a fabric stenciling process from the Song dynasty in China that emerged around 960 A.D., then used in 1600s Japan for textiles. Japanese stencils used human hairs, with stiff brushes to apply paint. Later, silk was chosen for the stencil fabric, thus the term "silkscreen." The Western use, in England, of this process was first patented in 1907. These processes and their artifacts hold value now because of their age and the fact that they lasted this long. They are scarce and respected artifacts of our history and our human past.

Mass production of posters in the 1960s utilized screen printing to "get the word out" in posters, signs, political protest signs, and more. The U.S. garment industry took off starting with screen printing of bowling shirts and T-shirts. Colorful printed art was right behind, thanks to Michael Vasilantone, who invented the rotary multicolored screen printing press.

I truly believe that our copy machines and other mechanical means to share our ideas and creative intent are as valuable and powerful in their time—our time—as the historic processes. We’re not going to cart around an art material that requires a forklift to use it (lithographic stone slab). We do not need to use such old methods to be aesthetically valid. We do need people to be aware of art methods embodying value regardless of how it is made. Multi-million-dollar global art fairs prove this culturally and financially every year. Even blank space is part of the art experience.

We are in the newest screen age, the electronic version, and in-hand, touchable works on paper, wood, fiber, and other surfaces are now the rarities compared to the plethora of things available on an electronic screen.

Our current art wave also embraces and craves the human touch in meaningful things. Paintings are in demand, as are sculptures and other artworks as a means for creative expression for artists to make and people to have in their lives. Reproductions are still popular, with value added via the artist that hand-signs each artwork.

Let’s meet at the Art Hop and catch up!

Janet Sellers is an artist, writer, and speaker who loves to share the beauty and fun of creative thinking in art, nature, and life. Contact her at janetsellers@ocn.me.

Return to the top of the page

Snapshots of Our Community

Monument Play Park plans, Mar. 10

Caption: Thirty people attended a public meeting March 10 to give feedback and get more information on the proposed Heart of Monument Play Park. The park will be next to the Monument Community Presbyterian Church, which is donating the land. It’ll be for people of all ages and those with physical and emotional disabilities. NES Inc. will use the input from the meeting attendants as well as comments gathered by Monument Hill Kiwanis Club and the Heart of Monument Steering Committee to finalize the design of the park. NES says the design could be ready by June. It’s hoped the park will be open this summer or fall. From left, Roberta Ross, Monument Mayor Mitch LaKind, and Tri-Lakes Cares Executive Director Haley Chapin look at the project plans. Photo by Bob Harrigan.

TLC thanks Kiwanis, Mar. 30

Caption: Tri-Lakes Cares (TLC) has thanked Monument Hill Kiwanis Club for its contributions to TLC. Kiwanis President Scott Ross was given a certificate of appreciation on March 30. Kiwanis raises money for TLC with Empty Bowls, D38’s Harvest of Love, the Giving Tree, the North Pole Craft Fair, and food distribution during the holidays. From left are TLC Director of Operations Julie Keim, Executive Director Haley Chapin, Development Specialist Christine Bucher, and Ross. Photo by Warren Gerig.

Tri-Lakes Chamber awards, Apr. 12

Caption: The Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce gave out its annual awards on April 12. Sheri Miller of Mountain Wings Management was named Volunteer of the Year. Amber Jack of Edward Jones was awarded Ambassador of the Year. The honor of Businesspersons of the Year went to Shannon and Rich Schur of the Schur Success Group. The top Non-Profit award was given to Owen Schoolsky of Tri-Lakes Dynamic Rotary Club while Julie and Steven Hart of Geneva Technologies went home with the Economic Development Business award. Photos by Hannah Yeomans.

100+ Women Who Care, Apr. 17

Caption: On April 17, 100+ Women Who Care Tri-Lakes gathered at the Woodmoor Barn to hear from two nominees for its bi-annual grant. The nominees included Trinity Community Park, an accessible park on the east side of I-25, and Heart of Monument Park, an all-ages, universally accessible park in the works through a partnership of the Town of Monument and the Monument Hill Kiwanis Club. The group selected Trinity Community Park for its award. Trinity Community Park is Monument’s first Americans with Disabilities (ADA) compliant community park. It is a playground for everyone at every stage of life, with equipment for all abilities and every body type. For more information, see https://trinitymonument.org/trinity-community-park. Photo by Jackie Burhans.

Earth Day tree planting, Apr. 21

Caption: Volunteers from Trinity Lutheran Church and the surrounding community planted 50 Douglas fir saplings at Trinity Community Park on a cold, foggy Earth Day April 21. The saplings were donated by Neighborhood Forest, a national group that gives free trees to kids to plant every Earth Day. This year, it gave away 67,000 trees. From left are Vivi Rinnels, Kaydyn Berg, and Kayley Ramer. Photo by Samantha Johnson.

TLWC helps charity, Apr. 15

Caption: Members of the Tri-Lakes Women’s Club (TLWC) sorted children’s clothing by size and gender on April 15 so it can be donated to needy families. The donations will be handled by Catholic Charities Social Services. From left are TLWC members Cindy Beley, Sandy Mangiarelli, and Sandra Sciadini. Photo by Maureen Morgan.

Chamber After Hours, Apr. 16

Caption: The monthly Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours event was held April 16 at Lolley’s Tasting Room. The room at 174 Washington St. is an annex to Lolley’s Ice Cream on Second Street. It can be reserved for any kind of party or get-together and holds about 75 people. The event space was packed with networking Chamber members and their guests eating food and sampling Lolley’s ice cream. Photo by Michael Weinfeld.

Fox Run Nature Center meeting

Caption: Close to one hundred people met with executives of the El Paso County Parks and Community Services Department at Pikes Peak Brewery April 18, a rescheduled date from March 14 due to weather. Many people went to learn about the details of the proposed Fox Run Nature Center. There have been discussions about dropping the number of parking places from 60 to 30 and downsizing the canopy walk. Engineering has mapped most of the trees in the park and has looked for the least vulnerable spot for trees, plant life and wildlife, where the nature center will be built. For more information about the nature center, go to www.communityservices.elpasoco.com/nature-centers/fox-run-nature-center/. Caption by Marlene Brown. Photo by Mike Thomas.

Students win PLAG scholarships

Caption: Palmer Ridge High School student Cavan Porter (left) has been awarded the top scholarship of $1,500 from the Palmer Lake Art Group (PLAG). The second-place scholarship of $1,000 went to Palmer Ridge student Marian Griffiths (right). Lewis-Palmer High School student Emily Osborne was awarded a $500 scholarship. Since 1977, PLAG has awarded about $87,000 in scholarships to graduating D38 seniors planning to continue their study of the arts. A small number of artists formed the group in 1965. It now has members throughout the Pikes Peak region. Photos courtesy of PLAG.

Arbor Day in Monument, Apr. 26

Caption: On April 26, people gathered near the Third Street Santa Fe Trail trailhead to celebrate Arbor Day and learn about tips for successful planting of trees in our high desert mountain clime. Town Gardener Cassie Olgren led a talk about proper planting and after-care tasks. Then visitors were given free plants to take home and put in their gardens. Photo by Janet Sellers.

Tim Watkins Trail sign reinstalled

Caption: Last year, before the National Forest Service wildfire mitigation work in the Monument Preserve north of Mount Herman Road, Brian Mullin, president of Friends of Monument Preserve (FOMP), removed and stored the sign which marked the Tim Watkins Memorial Trail. The sign has been reinstalled about three-fourths mile in from the Red Rocks Road parking lot. FOMP built and maintains this trail as it does for many trails through the preserve. Watkins, a well-known part of the Tri-Lakes mountain-biking community, was killed while riding in the Mount Herman area in 2017, and his killer has not been identified. If you have any information regarding this unsolved murder, please contact the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office. FOMP "trail nights" to maintain trails in the preserve are scheduled the second Thursday of May through October at 5 p.m. Meet at the Red Rocks Road parking lot just north of Mount Herman Road if you can help. Photo by Steve Pate.

Return to the top of the page

An important message for our readers: OCN needs your help!

Our Community News is an all-volunteer organization. Since 2001, our volunteers have provided unbiased reporting on important local issues, including real estate development, fire departments, school districts, and water availability. We have provided a very favorable platform for advertising local businesses. We have published letters to the editor to allow you to express your opinions on events affecting the Tri-Lakes area.

Now we find that we have more tasks than we have volunteers. Some vital jobs where we could use your help:

• Reporters. Reporting on local meetings, what they talked about and what they decided.

Photographers. Capture photos and write captions for local events.

• Ad sales assistants. We need volunteers who love OCN to contact local businesses and encourage them to advertise in OCN.

• Mailing assistants. Counting and lifting tubs of papers to take the monthly mailing to the post offices and stacks of papers to local businesses, loading and unloading mailing tubs from a truck at two locations, preparing post office paperwork, tub labels, subscription labels, etc.

• Drivers. Driving a rental truck to various post offices once a month.

The time and skills involved vary greatly from job to job. OCN will provide whatever equipment and training you need.

Please join us today! Meet a group of interesting and committed people. Learn new skills—use your enthusiasm and creativity to benefit our community and celebrate unfiltered information.

Please call Publisher John Heiser at (719) 488-3455, or email johnheiser@ocn.me to see how you can contribute. Contact John today! He is waiting to hear from you. Together we can ensure that OCN continues to provide a vital service to our wonderful Tri-Lakes community.

Return to the top of the page

Our Community Notices

By Janet Sellers

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 information number for that event. Please notify us if your event listing needs to be updated.

Slash mulch program

Slash can be brought to the Black Forest slash and mulch program. Tree and brush debris only. This program serves fire mitigation efforts in the area and is $10 per load to drop off, regardless of size. The program also offers free mulch to take home. Details: www.BFSlash.org. See also the BOCC article on page 20.

WMMI needs volunteers

The Museum of Mining and Industry is currently recruiting for Visitor Services Associates and Guides. Please consider sharing your time and expertise. Volunteers must be 18 and older and pass a background check. For information about volunteer opportunities, please call 719-488-0880 or email at volunteer@wmmi.org.

Children’s Literacy Center

The center provides free one-on-one literacy tutoring to Tri-Lakes children in grades 1-6 who are reading below grade level! Tutoring is at the Tri-Lakes Senior Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5:30-6:30 pm, and the Summer Session will run through Aug. 14. For more information, to become a volunteer tutor or to enroll your child, visit www.childrensliteracycenter.org or email Christine Jeffson at Christine@childrensliteracycenter.org.

Community volunteers

Many students need volunteer hours for scouting, civics classes, clubs, or would just like to volunteer for the good of it. Friends of Fox Run Park will have some openings for student volunteers (and grownups, too) most of the year for various tasks. Besides tasks, the group offers information and skills demonstrations for each 2-3 hour session, and celebrates volunteers at the park with annual community events. The Tri Lakes Cares on-site garden in Monument also needs volunteers in Fall, Spring and Summer. Gardening tasks include preparing garden beds, weeding, sowing seeds, and developing the compost. Bring gardening gloves, some tools will be provided on the workdays. Contact Janet Sellers at JanetSellers@ocn.me or Marlene Brown at MarleneBrown@ocn.me for more information.

Tri-Lakes Cares needs your support

Tri-Lakes Cares is the only food pantry and human services organization serving northern El Paso County through emergency relief and self-sufficiency programs. The community-based, volunteer-supported center is a critical resource for our neighbors in need. The best way to help support Tri-Lakes Cares is to donate. Visit https://tri-lakescares.org/donate to learn how to donate money, medical items, personal supplies, or food. Please check the web for current needs in our food pantry at https://tri-lakescares.org/donate/current-needs. Donation drop-off hours are Mon.-Thu., 9 am-4 pm. For more information about Tri-Lakes Cares or how you can help, contact Tri-Lakes Cares at 719-481-4864 or info@tri-lakescares.org.

Silver Key at Tri-Lakes Senior Center

Silver Key at Tri-Lakes Senior Center, formerly known as the Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance Senior Center, has been providing exciting programs and activities to area seniors who have a zest for fun and learning. As the older adult population is growing, our services are in high demand. 719-884-2300 66 Jefferson St, Monument. See ad on page 2.

Need PC help?

Make It Work Clinic for PCs, FREE. Donations appreciated. We are gauging interest in helping community members with their PCs, please email us if interested. enable@monumentalimpact.org. 55 Adams St in Downtown Monument. Monumental Impact info: https://monumentalimpact.org. See ad on page 4.

Can you volunteer today?

Links to local organizations with an immediate need for volunteers are listed on the county’s website, www.elpasocountyhealth.org/volunteering-and-donations, for groups like Care and Share, Crossfire Ministries, blood donations, Early Connections (volunteer from home opportunity), foster an animal, Medical Reserve Corps of El Paso County, Salvation Army, Silver Key, and United Way (ongoing opportunities).

The Colorado State University Extension office in El Paso County has several opportunities for individuals interested in volunteering. https://elpaso.extension.colostate.edu/volunteer-opportunities/

El Paso County volunteer-based and nonprofit organizations rely on the hard work of individuals like you. Find out how you can play a part by becoming a volunteer in El Paso County. Get involved in El Paso County volunteering non-profits and organizations! https://www.americantowns.com/el-paso-county-co/volunteer-organizations/.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Volunteer Program is composed of a collective citizens group with a true and common desire to partner with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office by volunteering their services while learning more about the internal workings of the law enforcement community. https://www.epcsheriffsoffice.com/volunteer-program-0.

The El Paso County Volunteer Program is a wonderful opportunity for citizens to learn about the various functions of county government as well as give back to the community. The County’s numerous boards and commissions need your experience, talents and time. https://bocc.elpasoco.com/volunteer.

Return to the top of the page

Our Community Calendar

By Janet Sellers

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. Please contact calendar@ocn.me with changes and additions.

GOVERNMENTAL BODIES

  • Forest Lakes Metropolitan District, Pinon Pines Metropolitan District 1, 2 & 3 board typically meets quarterly on the first Mon. Meetings are held via teleconference. For virtual joining instructions and updates see www.forestlakesmetrodistrict.com.
  • El Paso Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) regular meeting, usually every Tue., 9 am. View agendas and meetings at www.agendasuite.org/iip/elpaso. Meetings are held at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., Suite 150, Colo. Springs. Info: 719-520-643. BOCC land use meetings are held the second and fourth Thursdays of the month (as needed) at 1pm Centennial Hall.
  • Monument Town Council meeting, Mon., May 6 & 20, 6:30 pm, Town Hall Board Room, 645 Beacon Lite Rd., Monument. Normally meets first and third Mon. Info: 719-884-801, www.townofmonument.org/260/Board-of-Trustees for remote attendance links.
  • Palmer Lake Board of Adjustments, Tue., May 7, 5 pm, 28 Valley Crescent St., Palmer Lake. Normally meets first Tue., as needed.
  • Palmer Lake Sanitation District board meeting, Wed., May 8, 9 am, call-in only: 650-479-3208, Access Code 76439078, 120 Middle Glenway. Meets second Wed. Info: 719-481-2732. www.plsd.org.
  • Monument Planning Commission meeting, Wed., May 8, 6 pm Town Hall Board Room, 645 Beacon Lite Rd., Monument. Usually meets the second Wed. To see the options for remote public participation in each meeting, visit www.townofmonument.org/263/Planning-Commission-Board-of-Adjustment. Info: 719-884-8028. www.townofmonument.org.
  • Palmer Lake Board of Trustees meeting, Thu., May 9 & 23, 5 pm, Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent. Usually meets second and fourth Thu. Info: 719-481-2953. www.townofpalmerlake.com.
  • Monument Academy School Board, Thu., May 9, 6:30 pm, East Campus gym, 4303 Pinehurst Circle. Usually meets the second Thu. Info: 719-431-8001, www.monumentacademy.net/school-board.
  • Woodmoor Water & Sanitation District board meeting, Mon., May 13, 1 pm, 1845 Woodmoor Dr., Monument. Normally meets second Mon. Info: 719-488-2525, www.woodmoorwater.com.
  • Tri-Lakes Wastewater Facility Joint Use Committee meeting, Tue., May 14, 10 am, 16510 Mitchell Ave. Meets second Tue. Info: See https://tlwastewater.com/index.html Bill Burks, 719-481-4053.
  • Monument Sanitation District board meeting, Wed., May 15, 9 am, 130 Second St. Zoom meeting. Find joining instructions on the website. Meets third Wed. Info: 719-481-4886, www.colorado.gov/msd.
  • Academy Water and Sanitation District board meeting, Wed., May 15, 6 pm. Usually meets third Wed. Public can join the Skype meeting: https://join.skype.com/PAcujKTn7Nrh. Check the website for a link: https://academywsd.colorado.gov/notices-and-alerts. Meets third Wed. Info: 719-481-0711, https://academywsd.colorado.gov.
  • Palmer Lake Town Planning Commission meeting, Wed., May 15, 6 pm, Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent. Meets third Wed. Info: 719-481-2953, www.townofpalmerlake.com.
  • Black Forest Fire/Rescue Protection District board meeting, in person or via Zoom, Wed., May 15, 7 pm, Station 1, 11445 Teachout Road, Colorado Springs. Find updates and Zoom meeting joining instructions at www.bffire.org or contact Administrative Officer Lisa Emry at 719-495-4300. Meetings are usually held on the third Wednesday.
  • El Paso County Regional Loop Water Authority meeting, Thu., May 16, 9 am, Monument Town Hall Boardroom, 645 Beacon Lite Rd. Normally meets third Thu. Info: 719-488-3603. www.loopwater.org.
  • El Paso County Planning Commission meeting, Thu., May 16, 9 am. Regional Development Center, 2880 International Circle, Colo. Springs. Meetings are live-streamed on the El Paso County News & Information Channel at https://www.elpasoco.com/news-information-channel. Normally meets first & third Thu. (as required). Info: 719-520-6300, https://planningdevelopment.elpasoco.com/2023-meetings/.
  • Donala Water & Sanitation District board meeting, Thu., May 16, 1:30 pm, 15850 Holbein Dr. In 2023, meets third Thu., Check the website for the access code for the electronic meeting. Info: 719-488-3603, www.donalawater.org.
  • Lewis-Palmer School District 38 board meeting, Mon., May 20, 6-10 pm. 146 N Jefferson St, Monument. The Board of Education meeting will be live-streamed on the district’s YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/LPSDCommunity, agenda, and supporting documents at https://go.boarddocs.com/co/lewispalmer/Board.nsf/vpublic. Contact Vicki Wood. Phone: 719.481.9546 Email: vwood@lewispalmer.org Website: https://www.lewispalmer.org.
  • Monument Fire District board meeting, in person or via Zoom, Wed., May 22, 6:30 pm. Station 1, 18650 Highway 105, Monument. Meetings are usually held on the fourth Wednesday. Find updates and Zoom meeting joining instructions at www.monumentfire.org, or contact Director of Administration Jennifer Martin, at 719-484-0911.
  • Woodmoor Improvement Association Board Meeting, Wed., May 22, 7 pm, Woodmoor Barn, 1691 Woodmoor Dr. The WIA Board usually meets fourth Wed. Info: 719-488-2693, www.woodmoor.org.
  • Triview Metropolitan District board meeting, Thu., May 23, 5:30 pm, 16055 Old Forest Point, Suite 302, Monument. Normally meets third Thu. Info: 719-488-6868, www.triviewmetro.com.
  • Donald Wescott Fire Protection District board meeting, meets Wed., June 12, 4:30 pm. in person at Station 1, 18650 Highway 105, Monument, and via Zoom. Remaining 2024 meetings: June 26 (includes Volunteer Pension Board); Jul. 24; Sep. 25; Nov. 20. For Zoom meeting instructions, agendas, minutes, and updates, visit http://www.monumentfire.org or contact Director of Administration Jennifer Martin at 719-484-9011.
  • Lewis-Palmer School District 38 Parent and Community Advisory Committee (now PCAC, formerly DAAC. No more meetings this school year. Meets six times a year. Usually meets monthly, second Tue. Contact info: tmckee@lewispalmer.org.

WEEKLY & MONTHLY EVENTS

  • AARP Black Forest #1100, second Wed., noon. In-person Black Forest Lutheran Church, 12455 Black Forest Rd. All ages welcome. Info: www.aarpchapter1100blackforest.weekly.com.
  • AARP Local Senior Social, fourth Wed. In-person Black Forest Lutheran Church, 12455 Black Forest Rd. Info: www.aarpchapter1100blackforest.weekly.com.
  • A.A. Big Book Study, every Thu., 7 pm, Family of Christ Lutheran Church, 675 W. Baptist Rd. Call 425-436-6200, access code 575176#.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous, every Tue. & Thu., 7:30 p.m. Black Forest Lutheran Church, 12455 Black Forest Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80908. AA is a fellowship of people who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Join us with your questions. Info: bflc@bflchurch.org.
  • Al-Anon for family and friends of alcoholics, every Tue. & Thu., 7:30 p.m. Black Forest Lutheran Church, 12455 Black Forest Road, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80908. Al-Anon members are people, just like you, who are worried about someone with a drinking problem. Join us with your questions. Info: bflc@bflchurch.org.
  • Al-Anon Zoom Meeting, Just for Today Online, every Mon., 9-10 am Zoom Meeting ID: 889 4142 7446, Password 349309.
  • Al-Anon meeting: Letting Go, every Thu., 9-10:15 am at Ascent Church, 1750 Deer Creek Rd., Monument. For additional information go to www.al-anon-co.org.
  • Al-anon Meeting: Monument, every Thu., 7-8 pm, Ascent Church, 1750 Deer Creek Rd., Monument. Info: MonumentSerenity@gmail.com.
  • Amateur ham radio WØTLM (Tri-Lakes Monument ham radio Association), third Mon. (except December). All amateur ham radio operators or those interested in becoming one are welcome. Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Building, 166 2nd Street, Monument. For details, contact Bob Witte, bob@k0nr.com or www.W0TLM.com.
  • American Legion Tri-Lakes Post 9-11, second Wed., 6:30pm, Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Community Meeting House, 300 CO Hwy 105, Monument. New members welcome. Info: Visit website at www.trilakespost9-11.org.
  • Benet Hill Monastery: Let us pray with you, walk in the forest ,walk the labyrinth, come and visit prayer sites, every Sun. worship is 10:15 am, 3190 Benet Lane, 80921. See ad on page 3.
  • Benet Hill Monastery, Half Day Prayer Group, first Sat., 9 am-12 pm. All vaccinated guests are welcome. Contact Sister Therese at (719) 355-1638 or (719) 355-1650 or stherese@benethillmonastery.org. See ad on page 3.
  • Benet Hill Monastery, Centering Prayer Group, every Tue., 10-11 am. All vaccinated guests are welcome. Contact Sister Therese at (719) 355-1638 or (719) 355-1650 or stherese@benethillmonastery.org. See ad on page 3.
  • Black Forest Community Church, Centering Prayer Group, first Sat., 8:30-10 am The Old Log Church. Centering prayer opens and closes the meetings with discussion and fellowship in between; open to all.
  • Children’s Literacy Center, every Mon. & Wed., 5:30-6:30 pm. Provides free one-on-one literacy tutoring to Tri-Lakes children in grades 1-6 who are reading below grade level. Tutoring is at Grace Best Education Center, 66 Jefferson St. Monument. For more information, to become a volunteer tutor, or to enroll your child, visit www.childrensliteracycenter.org or contact Rachel Morin, Tri-Lakes Senior Center Coordinator, CLC 610-246-1047 (cell).
  • Colorado Springs Philharmonic Guild Listening Club, third Wed. Free virtual event. Maestro Wilson will conduct monthly hour-long programs. RSVP at www.cspguild.org.
  • Dementia Caregiver Support Group, second Sat., 9:45-11:15 am. Meets in-person, First National Bank Monument ( 581 Highway 105, Monument, CO 80132). Meets monthly, 2nd Sat. Contact: Registration is required, call 800-272-3900 or email khare@alz.org to register.
  • Essential Tremor Support Group. Meets quarterly at Colorado Springs Public Library 21c, 1175 Chapel Hills Drive Colorado Springs, CO 80920. For details, contact: Jim Sanchez, 719-660-7275; jimdjs22@gmail.com.
  • Essentrics Fitness Program at Senior Center, every Tue., 9 am & Thu., 10 am, Grace Best Education Center, 66 Jefferson St, Monument, CO 80132. Registration & info: Sue Walker, 719-330-0241, www.trilakesseniors.org.
  • Fellowship of Christ Church, every Sun., 9 am. Monument Academy East Campus, 4303 Pinehurst Circle 80908.
  • Friends of Fox Run Park, Zoom meeting, fourth Thu., 7 pm, email friendsoffoxrunpark@gmail.com, they will email you the link the day of the meeting. Join the growing group to learn about volunteering and supporting the park for forest safety, trails, trees, education, special events, and more. Info: friendsoffoxrunpark@gmail.com.
  • Friends of Monument Preserve (FOMP) Trail repair monthly work days, second Thu. of each month from April through October. Meet at 6 pm at the parking lot off Red Rocks Road. FOMP provides all the necessary tools but wear appropriate clothing for landscape work and bring gloves, a hat , eye protection, sunscreen, bug repellent and water. Check the FOMP website at www.fomp.org for additional info.
  • Fuel Church GriefShare, every Thu., 5:30-7:30 pm, 643 State Highway 105, Palmer Lake. Email info@fuel.org. 643 Hwy 105, Palmer Lake.
  • Fuel Church Sunday Service, every Sun. Service times, 11 am Live service streaming at www.fuelchurch.org at 11:40 am on www.fuelchurch.org. Mountain Community Mennonite Church, 643 Hwy 105, Palmer Lake. Nursery and kids’ service. Non-denominational, spirit-filled. Need prayer? Email us at info@fuel.org. See ad on page 5.
  • Gleneagle Sertoma, first and third Wed., 11:45 am to 1 pm. Gleneagle Sertoma is the longest continuously active civic service organization in northern El Paso County. Our regular program presenters address local topics of interest to include local developments, community planning and projects, as well as opportunities to serve your community. Contact Harvey LeCato for meeting location and club information at mbca@comcast.net or 719-331-1212.
  • Gleneagle Women’s Club, membership luncheon, third Fri., (Sep.-June), various venues, 12 activity groups, i.e., hiking, bridge, etc. Guests welcome. For information contact Susan Owen, 719-886-7110.
  • GriefShare Support Group, last Tue., 10:30 am-noon. NEW LOCATION: Tri-Lakes Senior Center, 66 Jefferson St. in the Grace Best Elementary School building. The Tri-Lakes Silver Alliance has partnered with Colorado Palliative and Hospice Care to host a 13-session grief support group in Monument. RSVP, info: Sue Walker, 719-330-0241.
  • La Leche League breastfeeding support group, second Thu., 12:30 pm. Partners and helpers welcome (and babies and kids, too) so we can meet our breastfeeding goals together. Homestead Direct Primary Care Clinic, 15455 Gleneagle Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921. For more information, contact RachelKLangley@gmail.com.
  • Lions Club Bingo, every Sat. (except the first Sat.), 8:30 am-1 pm and first Mon., 5:30-10 pm Tri-Lakes Lions Club’s portion of the proceeds benefit those in need in the Tri-Lakes community. Updated info and location: Jim Naylor, 719-481-8741 or www.trilakeslionsclub.org.
  • Library Chess Club, Sat. May 4 & 11, 10:15 am-12:15 pm. We welcome anyone who wants to learn to play chess or wants to play a game with an experienced player. Just show up, or contact Steve Waldmann, huskerco@gmail.com. Monument Library meeting room, 1706 Lake Woodmoor Dr., Monument (Information also on the Facebook page: Monument Library Chess Club)
  • Monument Hill Kiwanis Club meeting, every Sat., 8 am. www.MHKiwanis.org, MonumentHillKiwanis@gmail.com for details, guests are welcome. Service leadership clubs, Key clubs, Builders Club, and K-kids at D38 schools. Memberships are open to the public. Info: RF Smith, 719-210-4987, www.MHKiwanis.org.
  • Monument Life Recovery Group, every Mon., 6:30-7:30 pm, The Ascent Church, 1750 Deer Creek Rd. This faith-based support group is for those seeking freedom from all hurts, habits, and hang-ups. Daycare for children under age 11. Info: 303-946-2659, www.liferecoverygroups.com/meetings/life-recovery-group-3/.
  • Neighborhood Net Ham Radio, every Sat., 10 am Amateur ham radio operators practice for emergencies on weekly repeater nets so neighbors can help neighbors. Sign up at www.mereowx.org/neighborhood-net or contactus@mereowx.org.
  • Northern El Paso County Coalition of Community Associations (NEPCO) meeting, Sat., May 11, 10 am–12 pm., Woodmoor Barn, 1691 Woodmoor Dr. HOA legal topics. Members of local HOAs are welcome. Usually meets bi-monthly (Jan., Mar., May, July, Sep., Nov.) on the second Sat. of the month. www.nepco.org.
  • Palmer Divide Quiltmakers, first Thu., 6:30-8:30 pm at Monument Chamber of Commerce building, 166 2nd St, Monument, CO.
  • Palmer Lake Art Group, second Sat. A variety of art programs are offered after the social gathering and business meetings. Guests welcome. 300 Hwy 105, NE corner of I-25 and 105. 9:30 am. Info: 719-460-4179, www.palmerlakeartgroup.com.
  • Palmer Lake Historical Society, Thu., May 16, 7 pm; (doors open at 6:30 pm), Palmer Lake Town Hall, 28 Valley Crescent St. Usually meets third Thu. Contact: Kokesdm@yahoo.com, https://palmerdividehistory.org.
  • Pikes Peak Genealogical Society meeting, Wed., May 8, 7 pm. Meets monthly, second Wed. Members can log in and get the monthly meeting Zoom link. Guests are welcome to attend, please request an invitation from the PPGS president at www.PPGS.org.
  • Ridgeview Baptist Church, every Sun., 10:30 am, temporarily meeting at 9130 Explorer Dr., Colorado Springs, 80920. Info: 719-357-6515 or www.ridgeviewcolorado.org. See ad on page 6.
  • Senior Bingo, third Wed. Silver Alliance Senior Center, Space is limited to 16. participants. RSVP & info: Sue Walker, 719-464-6873, or email sue@monumentalfitness.
  • Senior Book Club, second Fri., 11 am-noon, Silver Alliance Senior Center, all are welcome. Coffee & snacks. RSVP & info: Sue, 719-330-0241.
  • Tri-Lakes United Methodist Church, every Sun., Contemporary 9 am; Traditional 10:30 am. A live stream is available at www.tlumc.org/live. Watch live or replay: www.facebook.com/tlumc, www.youtube.com/tlumc.org. Info: 719-488-1365, www.tlumc.org. 20256 Hunting Downs Way, Monument.
  • Tri-Lakes Church of Christ Wednesday night fellowship classes, every Wed., 6-7:30 pm, 20450 Beacon Lite Road, Monument (corner of Beacon Lite & County Line Roads). Info: 719-488-9613, gregsmith@trilakeschurch.org, www.trilakeschurch.org.
  • Tri-Lakes Cruisers, first Wed., 7 pm. A nonprofit car club. Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce community room, with numerous activities and events each month. Club membership applications are now being accepted and are available on the website: https://tl-cruisers.weebly.com.
  • Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce Networking breakfast, first and third Thu., in person or via Zoom 166 2nd Street Monument 7:30-9 am free registration at www.TriLakeschamber.com.
  • Tri-Lakes Church of Christ Cabin Conversations: fellowship with meals. every Wed., 6 pm 20450 Beacon Lite Rd.
  • Tri-Lakes Dynamic Rotary Club meeting, monthly first and third Thu. 6 pm-8 pm. First Thursday via zoom and third Thursday in person at the Chamber of Commerce, 166 2nd St., Monument. Details: www.tlrotary.com. Trilakesdynamicrotary@gmail.com. Guests welcome. We are a service club serving Tri-Lakes. Memberships open to the public. Info: www.tlrotary.com.
  • Tri-Lakes Parkinson’s Disease Support Group, third Sat., 10 am-noon, Monument Community Presbyterian Church, 238 Third St., Monument. Info: Syble Krafft, 719-488-2669; Barry (group president), 719-351-9485. If you need any help, please call Syble or Barry.
  • Tri-Lakes Women’s Club (TLWC) monthly meeting, Fri., May 17, 11:30 am. Program: Business Meeting Eisenhower Golf Club, USAFA. Usually meets monthly on the third Fri. To become a member, or learn about the club, visit our website at www.tlwc.net Contact Info: Tri-Lakes Women’s Club membership@tlwc.net.
  • Women’s A. A. Step Study, every Mon., 6:30 pm, meeting remotely, check for details. Family of Christ Lutheran Church, 675 Baptist Rd. Park in the west lot. Info: 866-641-9190. Al-Anon Zoom Meeting, Just for Today Online, every Mon., 9:00 - 10:00 am Zoom Meeting ID: 889 4142 7446, Password 349309
  • VFW Auxiliary to Post 7829, third Wed., 7p.m. Meets at Victory Baptist Church, 325 2nd Street, Suite X, Monument. Guests are welcome to join; if you are a relative of a veteran who served on foreign soil during war or other military actions, you may be eligible. For more information please contact Kathy Carlson, 719-488-1902, carlsonmkc@gmail.com or Linda Lyons, 303-579-8114, lindalyons7829@gmail.com.

SPECIAL EVENTS

  • VOLUNTEER TODAY! Our Community News: volunteer mailing days, Thu. May 2 & 30, approx. 7-8:30 am. We are all volunteers at OCN and need YOUR help, even for an hour or two, getting the papers ready to mail. Contact AllenAlchian@ocn.me or (719) 488-3455.
  • Covered Treasures Bookstore, Sat., May 4, noon-2, local author, Rachel Hetrick will sign her series, Infiniti and The Heir’s Descent, 105 Second Street, Monument.
  • Lewis Palmer Elementary School 50th anniversary bash, Mon., May 13. RSVP at www.lewispalmer.org. See ad on page 10.
  • A Time to Dance presentation of The Way Home inspired by the Wizard of Oz, Fri., May 17, Ent Center. See ad on page 4.
  • Founders Day celebration and dedication of Sheldon Jackson Chapel at Monument Community Presbyterian Church, Sun., May 19 celebration at Sunday worship. All are welcome to the 150th anniversary of the congregation. A reception in the chapel and the west lawn featuring vintage 1880s desserts, 238 3rd St, Monument.
  • Kiwanis: foundation grant application deadline, Fri., May 31. 4th of July parade registration open now. See ad on page 2.
  • Affordable Flooring Connection. See ad on page 2.
  • Cornerstone Cleaners, special offers through May 31. 1030 W. Baptist Road, near King Soopers. See ad on page 2.
  • Eagle Wine & Spirits, special offers through May 31. Baptist Road next to King Soopers. See ad on page 3.
  • Gleneagle Candle Company, Mother’s Day specials. See ad on page 3.
  • Little Log Church 100th Anniversary Celebration, Sat., May 11, 1-4 pm, 133 High St. Palmer Lake. Info: www.littlelogchurch.com.
  • McCord’s Garden Center. Mother’s Day specials. 2720 McShane Dr. See ad on page 5.
  • Monument Art Hop, fourth Fridays starting May 24, 5-8 pm, Downtown Monument. See ad on page 2.
  • Monument Cleaners, special offers through May 31. 15932 Jackson Creek Pkwy., in Monument Marketplace. See ad on page 5.
  • Monumental Med Spa special offers for May. 88 Hwy 105 Palmer Lake. See ad on page 7.
  • Mountain View Pella windows, special offers. See ad on page 28.
  • Noel Relief Centers, new patient specials, new treatment options. 950 Baptist Rd #130, Monument. See ad on page 7.
  • PeakView Windows, special offers for May. See ad on page 28.
  • The Living Room Plants, special offers through May 31. See ad on page 5.
  • Tri-Lakes Collision and Auto Service Center, special offers through May 31. See ad on page 5.
  • Western Museum of Mining and Industry family days in June, July, Aug. Special STEAM camp. See ad on page 12.
  • Taste of Tri-Lakes Cares, Wed., May 15, 5:30-8:30 pm. $40/person. Spruce Mountain Events, 14771 Spruce Mountain Road, Larkspur, CO 80118. https://secure.qgiv.com/for/totlc2024/event/tasteoftrilakescares2024/.
  • Annual Silver Key Senior Summit – Expo of Senior Services, Thu., May 16, 9-2 pm. Great Wolf Lodge. For Seniors, friends or family members, or those serving the senior population. Free admission, food and drinks, it features over 80+ vendors, aging related information sessions. For more information, visit www.silverkey.org/senior-summit or email, development@silverkey.org. See ad on page 8.
  • YMCA summer day camp for ages 5-12 begins Tue., May 28, www.ppymca.org/daycamp see ad on page 6.
  • Monument Hill foundation (Kiwanis Monument Hill Club) grant applications due May 30. For instructions and to complete an online application , go to: www.monumenthillfoundation.org and select "Apply for a Grant". See ad on page 2.
  • Claudia Swenson celebration of life, Sat., June 1, noon, 463 Washington St., Monument. "Second Line" style parade to the park. At the park, we will have music and food and many toasts to the amazing woman that Claudia was. If you would like to contribute something in her honor, please go to https://gofund.me/916830da. See obituary on page 13.
  • Monument Concerts in the Park, every Wed. starting June 6, Limbach park. See ad on page 8.
  • MVEA annual meeting, Thu. June 6, El Paso County Fairgrounds. See ad on page 11.
  • Space Foundation kids’ summer fun weeks, June 10-14, or June 15-19, see ad on page 12.
  • Front Range Maker’s Market Shop, Sat., June 22, 9-4, Sun., June 23, 10-3. Indoors at Lewis-Palmer HS. 125+ local makers & artisans. Info: www.FRmakersmarket.com see ad on page 28.
  • Annual Paradise Ponds tour Sat.-Sun., June 29-30. Self-guided charity pond and waterfall tour. Visit several water feature exhibits throughout Colorado Springs, Monument, and the surrounding area. Purely Ponds & Waterfalls will match and donate all proceeds from ticket sales to The Boys & Girls Club of the Pikes Peak Region. Ticket book with map $5, https://purelyponds.com/parade-of-ponds/.
  • Tri lakes Church of Christ VBS, Mon-Thu., June 24-27. See ad on page 9.
  • Trinity Community Park, grand opening, Sat., Aug. 24, games, prizes, crafts. See ad on page 4.

Our community calendar carries listings on a space-available basis for Tri-Lakes events that are sponsored by local governmental entities and not-for-profit organizations. We include events that are open to the general public and are not religious or self-promotional in nature. If space is available, complimentary calendar listings are included, when requested, for events advertised in the current issue. To have your event listed at no charge in Our Community Calendar, please send the information to calendar@ocn.me or Our Community News, P.O. Box 1742, Monument, Colorado 80132.

Return to the top of the page

Prior Up


Home  About  Advertise  Archive  Calendar  Contact  Donate  Help  Links  Maps  Subscribe  Topics  Updates
Contact us at (719) 488-3455, ads@ocn.me, editor@ocn.me, or P.O. Box 1742, Monument, Colorado 80132-1742.
This page was last modified on April 21, 2024. Home page: www.ocn.me
Copyright © 2001-2024 Our Community News, Inc. All Rights Reserved.