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Our Community News - Home Vol. 4 No. 8 - August 7, 2004

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County commissioners reject Baptist Road Wal-Mart

View photos of the BOCC Wal-Mart Hearing

By Jim Kendrick

On July 15 at the end of an 11-hour hearing, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted 4-0 in favor of Commissioner Wayne Williams’ motion to reject the rezoning and preliminary plan requests for construction of a Wal-Mart supercenter on a 27-acre parcel on the south side of Baptist Road directly across from the King Soopers shopping center. Commissioner Tom Huffman was absent. The unanimous BOCC vote was consistent with the county planning commission’s 7-1 vote on May 11 recommending rejection of Wal-Mart’s requests. The planning commissioners voting against the project cited inconsistency with the comprehensive plan, too intense a use, inadequate buffering from the adjacent residential properties, a better alternate site at the Monument Marketplace, and that the wrong type of zoning was being requested. All those issues were revisited during the BOCC hearing.

Toward the end of the hearing, principal concerns cited by Williams were flaws in the traffic impact analysis and insufficient effort by Wal-Mart in seeking annexation to the Town of Monument.

Williams first moved to continue the hearing for eight weeks to allow the Town of Monument and Wal-Mart to negotiate an annexation agreement on the parcel and for Wal-Mart consultant CLC Associates to update the traffic impact analysis. The motion to continue failed by a 2-2 vote with Williams and Commissioner Jim Bensberg in favor and Commissioner Chuck Brown and Commissioner Jeri Howells opposed. Brown said he voted against the motion to continue because the room was filled with citizens and they deserved an answer.

According to the county’s Land Development Code, Wal-Mart cannot come back with the same rezoning request within a year unless "there has been a substantial change in physical conditions or circumstances" such as requesting different zoning or reaching a written agreement with the town for future annexation. Carl Schueler, manager of the county planning division, said a revised plan would be treated as a new application and would again be heard by the planning commission before being heard by the BOCC.

Parcel owners Ken Barber, Uwe Schmidt, and Beverly Miller requested the rezoning and preliminary plan on behalf of Wal-Mart. Only Barber spoke in favor of rezoning the parcel while 26 residents spoke against the proposal. Throughout the hearing, the number of concerned citizens in the audience varied from 150 to well over 200. The three local TV stations covered the hearing. The hearing room was still filled at 10:25 p.m. when the final roll call vote was taken. Many residents commented to television and newspaper reporters that the result was a surprise turnaround based the tenor of the hearing.

County planning presentation

Schueler summarized the project:

  • Monument History: "There was never any sort of hearing at the Town of Monument. It never got to the planning commission or the board of trustees. There was never an actual denial or approval. The applicant just decided they wanted to apply for this in the county."

  • The Request: Rezoning of the parcel from R-4 to planned unit development (PUD) and approval of a preliminary plan for the site. Schueler said the current R-4 zoning and associated master plan were approved in 1976 and added, "The plot plan showed medium-density multi-family uses that would not allow a commercial use of this type." Schueler said a regional commercial use like the proposed Wal-Mart could be zoned Planned Business Center (PBC) or Planned Unit Development (PUD). He said planning staff recommended that the applicant request PUD zoning because using a PUD development agreement, the county could more effectively enforce conditions on the project such as building design and offsite improvements. He said no development agreement had yet been submitted.

  • Site Plan: A Wal-Mart gas station, parking for more than 1,000 cars, and a 24-hour 200,978-square-foot (4.6-acre) supercenter with grocery, drive-through pharmacy, bank, hair salon, vision center, garden center, and six-bay tire lube express on 27.3 acres. He described it as, "a very tight fit." He added, "Trucks going around the back of this property will have to go fairly close to the adjacent properties."

  • Landscaping: "There is some vegetation on all sides of the property."

  • Drainage: Runoff from the approximately 25 acres of impervious area would be collected in a roughly 1.7-acre detention area on the southeast corner of the parcel and then discharged to Jackson Creek.

  • Access: There would be a full-motion intersection and a right-in/right-out access from the extension of Jackson Creek Parkway south of Baptist Road and a right-in/right-out directly onto Baptist Road toward the mid-point of the parcel. The Major Transportation Task Force approved the access points.

  • Traffic: The Traffic Impact Analysis has not been updated and "is not entirely in sync with staff comments and some of the commitments the applicant has made." Schueler added that the revisions could be handled at the final plat stage. He said the traffic impact analysis predicts 13,500 new vehicle trips and with the improvements the traffic will be a level of "controlled congestion."

  • Road Improvements: The applicant agreed to widen Baptist Road to four-lanes with a raised median from Jackson Creek Parkway to Leather Chaps Drive; addition of acceleration/deceleration lanes and dedicated left and right turn lanes and a traffic signal at Leather Chaps Drive; regrading to reduce the slopes; and extension of Jackson Creek Parkway as a four-lane road south of Baptist Road along the frontage of the store and construction of a two lane road ¾-mile south to the culvert to be constructed by the Struthers Ranch developers; widening of Baptist Road I-25 interchange off ramps to two lanes; and adding an eastbound left turn lane on Northgate Road at Struthers Road. Schueler noted that the applicant submitted initial engineering plans for the roadwork.

  • Interchange: "The quintessential issue is the Baptist Road interchange and when that interchange will be updated by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) in perhaps 2010 or 2012. In the interim there will be considerable congestion. The applicant has admitted that the interchange will be in trouble." Brown, who sits on a state transportation board, said later that the Baptist Road Interchange is, "not high on the CDOT priority list." He added, "The schedule is determined by the state budget which is under attack by many issues."

  • Public Improvement Corporation (PIC): "Essentially a way to take the sales taxes that would have gone to Monument and use them for different purposes that would include paying back the road improvement debt."

  • Annexation: Schueler said, "This store needs urban level services, especially police protection. The applicant needs to make the case against annexation [to Monument]."

  • Master plan consistency: "The master plan is what you really need to use as a standard. There are master plan issues it is consistent with and master plan issues where it is not consistent." Schueler added, "A lot has changed in this area." He noted that the master plan encourages significant commercial uses to annex into the Town of Monument. He said there are site compatibility issues with the adjacent Chaparral Hills residential area, adding, "It is a question whether this use can be sufficiently harmonized with the existing uses."

  • Changes Since the Planning Commission Hearing: Schueler said, "The applicant agreed to most staff technical comments and modified their plans in response to traffic and drainage comments."

  • Comments: Schueler reported that he received hundreds of letters, e-mails, and postcards from area residents regarding the project, a significant majority of them in opposition.

  • Schueler noted that the Town of Monument recommended denial of the request due to non-compliance with the county’s Tri-Lakes Comprehensive Plan approved by the county planning commission in 1999. Since the western-most 60 feet of the 120-foot wide right-of-way for the extension of Jackson Creek Parkway south of Baptist Road is within the town boundaries he said the town contends, but the county disagrees, that the applicant must seek permission from the town to plat that roadway.

  • Schueler described the Northern El Paso County Coalition of Associations (NEPCO) as "the keepers of the Tri-Lakes comprehensive plan." He said NEPCO recommended denial. The letter from NEPCO in the commissioners’ packets said, "In consideration of traffic, neighborhood transitions, existing zoning, protection of property values, and water issues, the county should encourage the developer to relocate its proposed commercial operation into an appropriately zoned and planned site that is congruent with the county’s policy plan, the current Tri-Lakes comprehensive plan, the draft revised Monument comprehensive plan, long-standing expectations by residents, and present land zoning."

  • Generally, the county planning division recommends approval of requests brought to the BOCC; however, Schueler said that due to issues with the project, county planning made no recommendation in favor of or opposed to this request.

In response to a question from Williams, John McCarty, director of the county department of transportation, said the latest plan produced by PBS&J for the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority, shows access to the Lutheran church being provided via a road through the lots to the east of the church. That road would connect to Leather Chaps Drive.

McCarty noted that if Jackson Creek Parkway is connected to Northgate Road, the northbound I-25 off-ramp at Baptist Road could be moved east to the current Struthers frontage road. That would improve road alignments at the intersection. McCarty said CDOT supports the idea of doing it and it is one element of CDOT’s plan for improving the interchange. McCarty said that if the Wal-Mart plan were approved, the county would work with the PIC to move the off-ramp rather than widening the existing off-ramp.

Applicant’s presentation

Design

Steve Wilson, President of CLC Associates, was the representative for Wal-Mart. He introduced Denis Kelsch and Kevin Picanco of CLC Associates and Michael Semrick of Boice, Raidl, and Rhea Architects. He said Kelsch is the project engineer, Picanco is the traffic engineer, and Semrick is the architect for the project.

Highlights of Wilson’s presentation:

  • Wal-Mart has been working on this project since 1997 or 1998. They have spent a lot of time working with the county and prefer to pursue it with the county rather than the town.

  • Wal-Mart has no objection to being annexed to the town when the PIC debt has been retired. Commissioner Bensberg noted that Wal-Mart representative Keith Morris, in a letter to the Gazette, said it is premature to talk about annexation. Wilson replied, "It is Wal-Mart’s position that we are ready and able to sit down and start to negotiate an annexation agreement with the town."

  • To counter the statements that the store is a tight fit on the site, Wilson noted that the ratio of floor area to land area on this site is 17 percent, which he said is the same as the King Soopers across the street. He contrasted it with the Castle Rock Wal-Mart store with a 203,750 sq. ft. store on 22 acres yielding a floor area ratio of 21 percent and the Chapel Hills Wal-Mart with a 191,479 sq. ft. store on 18 acres for a floor area ratio of 24 percent.

  • Storm water drainage for the frontage on Baptist Road and Jackson Creek Parkway would be directed to the water quality/detention pond on the southwest corner of the site. The clay-lined detention pond has been redesigned with sand and gravel layers to capture pollutants.

  • The site plan includes 30 percent (8.2-acres) open space and landscaping and sidewalks along Jackson Creek Parkway and Baptist Road with potential connection to the Santa Fe Trail and an 8-foot opaque cedar fence along the church property line.

  • The store was redesigned with additional stock room space to eliminate outdoor storage and trash.

  • A Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse habitat conservation arrangement has been worked out with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). Included in that is acquisition of off-site habitat for preservation, inclusion of a 50-foot wide 1.6-acre wildlife corridor along the south boundary of the parcel, lowering of the light poles to 28-feet, and use of full cut-off light fixtures to minimize light spillage onto the mouse habitat.

  • The light fixtures using 400-watt metal halide bulbs would be the same as at the King Soopers shopping center. Wilson said the light poles in the King Soopers shopping center are 32-feet tall. Schueler later added that the county’s Land Development Code limits light poles to 20-feet although a waiver could be granted.

  • Wal-Mart agrees to post signs on the property prohibiting overnight camping.

  • The gas station site plan is not part of the proposal

Architect Semrick showed an artist’s rendering and said the building would feature a high-end design similar to King Soopers with two colors of masonry brick and stucco. The design has a varied roofline. The highest point of the roof at the front would be 30 feet.

The PIC

Peter Susemihl, attorney for the Triview Metropolitan District, presented the following background on Triview and the proposed Public Improvement Corporation (PIC):

  • He said he has represented the Triview district since it was formed in the early 1980’s within the county. The district was then annexed into the town. Brown later said that he was one of the originating directors of the Triview district 20 years ago. He said he has no financial interest in it.

  • Susemihl said, "The district has no direct responsibility for improvement of Baptist Road but has always been keenly interested in the offsite roads in that area, especially Baptist Road. Triview funded the formation of the BRRTA, the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority. Most recently, Triview completed Jackson Creek Parkway at district expense, a project in excess of $5 million."

  • Susemihl added, "When the Wal-Mart project came along several years ago, Triview rather quickly decided it was providing the infrastructure for the rooftops where the Wal-Mart customers were coming from and therefore Triview should capitalize on its ability to get taxes from the Wal-Mart store."

  • The proposal is based on the way the Park Meadows Mall was built. He noted, "Federal tax laws allow a governmental entity to form a private, non-profit corporation for the purposes of building municipal infrastructure. These corporations are called Public Improvement Corporations sometimes called a Public Facilities Authorities. Once formed, they are private corporations but they have the unique power to issue municipal debt that is tax exempt. Since the Triview district cannot impose a sales tax under its powers, the district can authorize the formation of the PIC, which it has done. The concept is for the PIC and Wal-Mart to enter into a perpetual agreement whereby Wal-Mart will collect 3 percent on all taxable sales, similar to a tax, and pay that to the PIC. Triview will receive 1.5 percent for providing water and wastewater services to the property. The other 1.5 percent will go to fund these offsite road improvements. To speed up the process, Triview is agreeing to delay receiving its full 1.5 percent and will only take ¼ of the PIC fee until the debt is paid off. Then it will be reimbursed for the difference between the ¼ and 1.5 percent. At that point, the PIC may or may not continue to exist. The debt would be in the form of bonds or, more likely, a promissory note funded by Wal-Mart."

  • Susemihl added, "It is perfectly legal, has been used around the state, and operates much like a sales tax. This is how to get all these road improvements done using Wal-Mart as a tax base."

  • Susemihl concluded, "The district is very close with the present town administration, there is a good working relationship with the town board, and we think it is appropriate that this project be included in the Town of Monument. The easiest way is a condition on this project that the property be annexed when the debt is retired."

Williams said that one of the issues is that this is a private corporation without public scrutiny. He asked if the BOCC or BRRTA could designate one or two people to sit on the PIC board. Susemihl replied, "We are totally open to that."

Williams asked who paid for Jackson Creek Parkway? Susemihl replied that it was a district responsibility.

Williams asked if the PIC could be extended to pay for the other two lanes of Struthers Road south of Baptist Road.

Susemihl replied that there would have to be an agreement with Wal-Mart to keep the 3 percent fee in place. He also raised questions as to the source of the funds. He said, "The district has an interest in that connection. When that is done, it will carry as much traffic as the interstate." Audience members and Williams expressed doubt that it would carry anywhere near that much traffic.

Wilson added that it is not presently feasible to construct Jackson Creek Parkway as a 4-lane road but Wal-Mart would be willing to extend the PIC and collection of the 3 percent fee if funding were available from others. He said, "We are willing to allow that funding mechanism to continue."

Traffic

Picanco described the road improvements to be implemented by the PIC as listed earlier.

Picanco said a three-quarter intersection would be allowed at the church: Right-in/right-out turning movements would be allowed from eastbound Baptist Road and left-in movements would be allowed from westbound Baptist Road. Drivers who want to go west upon exiting the church or the houses to the east of the church would have to turn right, go east to Leather Chaps Drive, and make a U-turn.

Williams stated that at the time the church was granted access to Baptist Road they agreed that at some point they would be restricted to right-in/right-out access. He expressed concern that those leaving the church when services are over could create significant congestion with people making the U-turn. Picanco said their study had not looked at the specific situation.

Jackson Creek Culvert

McCarty said the existing Jackson Creek box culvert under Baptist Road just west of Jackson Creek Parkway could handle a 5-10 year storm but a 20-25 year storm could overtop Baptist Road and take out the road and utilities.

Bensberg asked whether Wal-Mart would be willing to improve the culvert.

Wilson replied that the improvement is part of CDOT’s planned interchange improvements. He characterized it as "an incredibly big project."

Bensberg asked if Wal-Mart would be willing to partner with CDOT.

Wilson said he did not believe CDOT wanted to partner with anyone.

McCarty said CDOT has a partnering/reimbursement program. He estimated the cost to be similar to what the county constructed on Sand Creek and would be $500,000 to $1 million dollars.

Bensberg characterized it as a benefit to Wal-Mart and the community.

Wilson said, "I can’t commit to that today. We are already making a $4 million commitment to offsite infrastructure improvements."

Bensberg replied, "It is your customers who are making that $3.8 million commitment. It is not coming out of Wal-Mart’s coffers."

Williams noted that the replacement of the culvert is part of CDOT’s environmental assessment (EA).

McCarty said the EA process could take 6 months or more.

Monument’s Presentation

Monument Mayor Byron Glenn, who noted that he is also a member of the BRRTA board and the Tri-Lakes Economic Development Committee, presented the town’s position. Some highlights were as follows:

  • "As mayor it is my sworn duty and responsibility to do what is best for the economic development of the town as well as protect the residents health, safety, and welfare. For the past two months, I have attempted to negotiate an agreement with Wal-Mart. I interpreted the final response received from Roger Thomas prior to our board meeting July 12 as, ‘he would not be blackmailed by a small town.’ This fails to recognize the serious adverse impacts on the town and it is, quite frankly, pretty scary. The consensus of our board was that due to the lack of cooperation and commitment from Wal-Mart, the board voted unanimously to oppose the zoning and land use application."

  • "The Monument board has approved the Monument Marketplace as the location with proper zoning to handle stores such as a supercenter and encourages Wal-Mart to consider the Marketplace as a viable alternative to their proposed location."

  • "My big concern is that in recent years we have seen serious crime increase especially with the increase in retail adjacent to I-25. We have had to add more officers. We will be asked to respond with no compensation."

  • "If approved, this project would have a tremendous adverse impact on the Tri-Lakes region and in particular the Town of Monument." He later cited traffic, trash, crime, and loss of sales tax revenue.

  • "Last night about 6 p.m., I received a proposal from Wal-Mart to annex after the PIC is paid off." In response to a question from Bensberg, Glenn added, "I would have to take this back to my board for discussion in an open public hearing. My concern is that with the PIC the receipt of revenue would be so far out it would still be detrimental to our economy."

  • "Do we want Wal-Mart to annex? Yes, it would be a great revenue source but Monument would have to wait 5-10 years [i.e., until the PIC debt is retired] before it would realize any revenue."

Williams asked whether there is another drive-through pharmacy located nearby. Glenn said no.

Williams asked whether commercial was planned for east of King Soopers. Glenn replied that 6 acres of neighborhood commercial was being considered.

Williams asked whether when King Soopers came in, did they do any off-site road improvements? Glenn said, "I don’t believe they made any off-site improvements."

Williams asked about Glenn’s proposal for a ballot measure to annex within one year and have sale tax revenue go to the PIC. Glenn characterized Wal-Mart representative Roger Thomas’ response as, "I didn’t like your letter because you sounded too intimidating and I don’t want to take that from a small town if I don’t have to." Glenn added, "I am upset with the lack of commitment from Wal-Mart prior to last night and that paying off the PIC debt is going to cost us 6 years of no revenue."

Supporters

The only person who spoke in support of the project was developer Ken Barber, one of the three owners of the property. He gave some history of the ownership of the property and concluded, "I’d love to see it sold."

Opponents

Kingswood resident Phil Weinert said, "This is not a campaign against Wal-Mart." He said the proposal is development with a general disregard for community concerns. He added, "The existing roads are completely inadequate. Right now the road system stinks. Adding more demand with Wal-Mart is completely unpardonable." He asked how maintenance of the pond would be done. He suggested that a better use could take advantage of the natural terrain rather than the massive cut and fill required for the supercenter.

In rebuttal to Weinert’s skepticism about needed road improvements being constructed, County Attorney Bill Lewis stated that construction of the proposed improvements would be guaranteed prior to the store opening.

Williams added that the improvements are in agreement with BRRTA plans. He also said additional roadwork funding could come from the proposed Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority if that is approved by voters in November.

Thirteen speakers from the Coalition of Tri-Lakes Communities made a 55-slide presentation summarizing many of the major community concerns with the project. Those slides can be downloaded at www.coalitiontlc.org/wmbocc040715.htm. The summary of objections is as follows:

  • Plan shoehorns a huge store onto improperly zoned 27-acre parcel

  • Regional "big box" store would more than double traffic on Baptist Road… creating severe congestion and safety concerns

  • Plan would "kill" the Baptist Road I-25 interchange which won’t be reworked for years

  • Plan requires most the intense commercial zoning… far different from parcel’s current R-4 multifamily zoning... There are much more appropriate uses for this parcel

  • PIC, a private corporation, would receive tax revenue… without public accountability

  • Plan would inflict serious damage on residential property values and Monument’s sales tax base

  • Plan would degrade emergency response and endanger lives

  • Precludes proper access to church and residences to the east on Baptist Road

  • Would cut property tax revenues to county and other jurisdictions compared to properly zoned and planned alternate sites

  • This proposal is not consistent with master plans. A PUD must be consistent with master plans

During the opponents’ presentations:

  • Williams stated that plans have always shown church access to the east.

  • Lewis advised the commissioners that concerns about the PIC being taxation without representation and possible TABOR violations are unfounded and should be ignored.

  • Williams indicated he could see no difference between the PIC fee and a handling fee charged by any other company.

  • Williams stated that the Marketplace site would be more visible from I-25 whereas the Baptist Road site is as he said, "nestled in a hollow." Brown added that the Home Depot in the Marketplace is conspicuous.

  • Williams questioned any difference in impact between a 200,000 sq. ft. Wal-Mart supercenter and the 70,000 sq. ft. King Soopers.

  • Several opponents were asked, "Do you shop at Wal-Mart."

  • Williams asked opponents how else the county could pay for road improvements and to explain how alternative traffic flows would be satisfactory if Wal-Mart were to relocate to the Monument Marketplace.

  • Williams stated that the three ways to get to the Baptist Road site [Highway 105, Baptist Road, and Northgate Road] are better than the two ways [Highway 105 and Baptist Road] to get to the Marketplace.

After the coalition’s presentation, thirteen more residents spoke in opposition. One of those, Gwen Weinert, submitted petitions with more than 8,000 signatures of those opposed to the proposed Baptist Road store.

Rebuttal

Some of Wilson’s points were as follows:

  • It would take 3.5-4.5 years to repay the $3.8 million of PIC debt.

  • The grades on Baptist Road would be reduced to a maximum of about 6 percent.

  • Wal-Mart is not willing to limit delivery hours.

  • Maintenance of the detention pond would be a Wal-Mart responsibility.

  • Wal-Mart would be willing to negotiate with CDOT for reimbursement of costs for enlarging the culvert under Baptist Road.

The Decision

Williams asked Lewis about the consequences of approving the rezoning but not the preliminary plan. Lewis said, "If you approve the PUD rezoning then it is not logical to disapprove the preliminary plan." The preliminary plan is an intrinsic part of the PUD zoning.

Williams said he is concerned about the outdated traffic impact analysis and the issue of annexation to the Town of Monument and made a motion to continue the hearing on the project for eight weeks at which time there would be a public hearing limited to just the traffic and annexation issues.

Howells said, "I am not in favor of the project. One part of me would very much like to see the road improvements, but not at the expense of the immediately adjacent property owners. Supercenters are very busy places. I don’t believe it is an appropriate location. Other alternatives need to be looked at. It is not fitting with the comprehensive plan or the community."

The vote on the motion to continue was 2-2 (Williams and Bensberg in favor, Howells and Brown opposed) so the motion failed.

Williams said, "Annexation needs to be resolved prior to this vote." He then made his motion for disapproval referencing the motion on page 52 in the BOCC packet that reads,

"Having considered the evidence of record in this matter in light of the standards of review set forth on pages 34-47 of the backup materials, I find that

  1. The Development Guide/Plan does not generally conform to the El Paso County Master Plan; and

  2. Pursuant to the provisions of the Land Development Code, the subject property will not be compatible, harmonious, and responsive to the existing surrounding area; and

  3. The applicant/developer has not demonstrated to my satisfaction that the proposed development plan will not negatively affect existing and future development.

Therefore, I move that item PUD-02-013 be disapproved."

In making his motion, Williams noted that the annexation issue triggered non-conformance to the master plan. Williams’ motion was unanimously approved.

Williams then made a motion to reject the preliminary plan. That motion also was unanimously approved.

**********

Links to the BOCC packet for this project, opponents’ slide presentation, and computer audio file of the hearing are available at www.coalitiontlc.org/wmbocc040715.htm.

Additional information on the project is available at www.ourcommunitynews.org/top_stories.htm#wal-mart and www.CoalitionTLC.org/wal-mart.htm or by calling John Heiser at 488-9031.

View photos of the BOCC Wal-Mart Hearing

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County planning commission meetings July 20 and 27

By Steve Sery

The 12-hour session on July 20 and the second session on the 27th involved a number of items of interest to residents of northern El Paso County.

  1. Final plat for the Gilbert Addition. This 10.9-acre parcel in the central Black Forest area, zoned RR-3 (5-acre lots), is being subdivided into two lots. The subdivision was recommended for approval.

  2. A request by Voice Stream, dba as T-Mobile, for a variance to allow an 80-foot stealth pine commercial cell phone tower at the southeast corner of Highway 105 and Sierra Way. This is the high point as you head east on 105. Area residents gave good presentations. The variance was denied, and the applicant directed to look at alternative sites that are less obtrusive.

  3. A special district service plan for the Cathedral Pines Metropolitan District. This would be a separate taxing district. Cathedral Pines is the development just north of Black Forest Regional Park where the Milam Road extension is in litigation. This was a "skeletal" plan, with many unanswered questions. It was recommended for denial. The applicant was requested to "fill in the blanks" so the plan would be more complete.

  4. Preliminary Plan Woodmoor Vista Professional Park. This 8.23-acre property is located on Monument Hill Road approximately 3,000 feet south of County Line Road. It is zoned C-1 (commercial district). The proposal is for six commercial lots and is consistent with the 2000 Tri-Lakes Comprehensive Plan. It was recommended for approval.

The July 27 meeting was the last planning commission meeting at the downtown county office building. Future meeting will be held at the new regional "one-stop" center at 2880 International Circle off Union Boulevard and Printers Parkway.

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BRRTA board meeting July 9

By Jim Kendrick

The quarterly meeting of the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority (BRRTA) was held at the County Commissioners Hearing Room on July 9 at 2:30 p.m. The members reviewed plans for widening Baptist Road between the interstate and Jackson Creek Parkway to better handle the traffic that will be generated by the Monument Marketplace. There was also a review of tentative plans for improvements west of the interstate. The board went through an extensive review of needed upgrades east and south of Jackson Creek Parkway that would have been made if the Baptist Road Wal-Mart had been approved by the Board of County Commissioners at the rezoning hearing on July 15.

Claims: The board unanimously approved payment of eight claims totaling $59,531.87.

Financial Report: The board accepted the financial report for the second quarter and then unanimously approved new payments of $1,377.55 to RS Wells LLC and $51,342.23 to PBS&J engineering consultants. These two claims arrived in early July and were not included in the quarterly report. The total amount spent by BRRTA for engineering design as of June 30 was $159,249.

Planning and Development Activities: Commissioner Wayne Williams reviewed the issues regarding the July 15 Wal-Mart hearing. He announced the decision by the City Council to move forward with the countywide RTA ballot issue for November. Portions of Baptist Road would be improved under this ballot initiative, although the specific improvements and their relative priority continue to change. No final decision has been made on these issues.

Triview Metropolitan District General Manager Ron Simpson announced that Jackson Creek Parkway had been opened on June 30 between Lyons Tail and Higby. Leather Chaps was also extended to Jackson Creek Parkway at the traffic light by the new Home Depot store. Simpson said these new roads cost $7.5 million. Simpson said that the creation of the Eagle Pines Metropolitan District in Black Forest, north of the intersection of Milam Road and Shoup Road, would have no negative impact on his district or BRRTA.

Baptist Road Engineering Design Survey: Andre Brackin of the El Paso County Department of Transportation gave an overview of the recent design survey work for Baptist Road, performed by PBS&J. Steve Sandvik, project supervisor for PBS&J, distributed and discussed a number of maps that showed existing, intermediate, and final design plans for near- and long-term improvements from Tari west past Hay Creek. While BRRTA is not responsible for the major long-term improvements to the I-25 Exit 158 interchange, it will coordinate with the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) for interim widening of the two off-ramps when funding becomes available. Funds to construct these interim off-ramp improvements would have loaned by Wal-Mart had the project been approved.

Sandvik said PBS&J is collecting information to facilitate application for federal funding to help pay for construction of a longer, wider bridge for grade separation over the railroad tracks. The new bridge would be built just north of the existing bridge west of the tracks. These funds would supplement countywide RTA funds if that ballot initiative passes in November. Sandvik added that all available traffic studies concerning the future of the Baptist Road area were reviewed, and all confirmed the need for two through-lanes east and west plus dedicated turn lanes and acceleration/deceleration lanes at the major intersections with Jackson Creek Parkway and Leather Chaps.

When Jackson Creek Parkway is extended south of Baptist Road to connect with Struthers Road (which runs from Northgate Road to the southern boundary of the Struthers Ranch development), the existing Struthers Ranch frontage road can be closed. Then the northbound I-25 off-ramp could be rerouted to that two-lane frontage road and use the existing traffic light. This would simplify timing and flow problems at the existing intersection.

Two issues remain unresolved regarding the widening of Baptist Road between the interchange and Jackson Creek Parkway. One is that the actual gradient of the steepest portion of that segment is about 9 percent and should be reduced to less than 5 percent to meet design standards. The other problem is that the existing drainage culvert under Baptist Road in this section is only 48 inches and cannot handle a 10-year storm flow, much less the required 100-year storm flow—making it likely that this portion of Baptist Road could be washed out by a major storm once all the parking lots are built out at the Marketplace. CDOT, not BRRTA, is technically responsible for upgrading the culvert to 60 inches but not until the interchange is improved. There is no funding on the horizon for the interchange to be upgraded for up to a decade or more. Even if BRRTA replaced the culvert as a safety measure during lane widening for the Marketplace traffic, CDOT is not obligated to reimburse BRRTA.

Williams asked Mayor Byron Glenn to discuss the proposal to build another like-sized strip mall just east of the King Soopers shopping center on the north side of Baptist Road. Glenn said that Monument has not given the retail center proposal any approvals and that a traffic study is under way to determine if the existing right-in/right-out access road from Baptist Road can fully service both centers. Williams suggested that further discussion of design planning priorities and construction sequencing be postponed until after the Wal-Mart hearing. A special BRRTA meeting was scheduled for Aug. 6 for this purpose.

Forest Lakes Inclusion: There was no public comment before the Forest Lakes development, which is located west of Baptist Road and north of Hay Creek Road, was unanimously accepted for inclusion.

Dellacroce Parcel Inclusion: The Dellacroce parcel lies just south of Baptist Road on both sides of Woodcarver Road, south of the Santa Fe Trailhead. Parcel owners Ray and Robert Dellacroce, of Dellacroce LLC, attended the meeting and informed the board that they had just learned of a slight error in the legal description of the property in the inclusion documentation. The board determined that the error was minor and that there was no need to republish the hearing announcement. The description of the parcel had been taken by BRRTA staff from the county assessor’s property description, which had a slight error in it. The inclusion was unanimously approved, with corrections to the parcel’s legal description.

The meeting adjourned at 4 p.m. The special meeting on Aug. 6 will be at Town Hall in Monument at 2:30 p.m.

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Monument Board of Trustees meeting July 7

By Jim Kendrick

The regular meeting of the Monument Board of Trustees was delayed 45 minutes due to an earlier special executive session to receive legal advice for the Transit Mix lawsuit. Mayor Byron Glenn then surprised the owner of the Wahlborg addition, his developer’s representatives who had flown in from North Carolina, and neighboring citizens by continuing the annexation hearing until Aug. 2. due to the absence of Trustees George Brown and Gail Drumm. Glenn said Brown and Drumm had serious concerns about the special metropolitan district that was part of the proposal and should be present for consideration of that aspect of the hearing. When offered the opportunity to discuss their annexation, rezoning, and site plan portions of their proposal, the applicant declined, saying they preferred to present the entire proposal just one time.

The board selected two new planning commission (PC) members to fill vacant positions and also selected an alternate. Michael Maloof of Monument’s Boy Scout Troop 17 led the Pledge of Allegiance.

125th Birthday Celebration: Former Mayor Betty Konarski and business owner John Dominowski reported on the success of the 125th Anniversary and Fourth of July parade. Konarski thanked Trustees Tommie Plank, George Brown, and Gail Drumm for their daylong help, ranging from selling lemonade and potatoes to setting up and taking down chairs, and she thanked Mayor Byron Glenn for his presentation at the Frontier Families Awards. Dominowski thanked the town staff, Police Department, and Public Works for their help. He noted there were no injuries on July 3 and only one injury on July 5. Members of Frontier Families came from as far away as Wyoming to receive their certificates. Overall attendance was about 3,000, and Tri-Lakes Cares Building Fund received $14,000 ($5,500 of that from ads in the Historic Brochure). The "Historic Downtown" banners will be used in future events, and a new stage will become permanent in Limbach Park.

Sundance Center Expansion: The board unanimously approved a major amendment to the Sundance Center PD Site Plan to allow a 55 percent expansion in square footage. The approval was conditional, based on guarantees that Woodmoor Water and Sanitation could provide adequate service and that the addition passes fire code inspections by Woodmoor/Monument Fire Protection District. The addition will look like the existing facility, according to Victor Chapman, architect for owners Steve and Kathy Clowes. The added floor space will enhance the ability of the center to hold small gymnastics competitions. The added landscaping will be similar to that currently in place, with some improvements and parking spaces will be added.

The right turn lane from eastbound Highway 105 to southbound Knollwood, which the owners have paid to have installed to improve traffic flow, has not yet been constructed because the owner of the affected property is not giving up the right-of-way. Business owners at that intersection have paid for a traffic light to be constructed, but it is also being held up by the road construction.

Sully’s Windshield Repair Kiosk: The applicant’s request that the board continue the proposal to operate a windshield repair business out of a minivan on the vacant lot between the Starbuck’s building and the closed Burger King building was approved unanimously. The application was subsequently withdrawn.

Soc-N-Roll Expansion: The Monument company, TTGY requested a major amendment to the final PD site plan to add another indoor sports facility (22,000 square feet) and a future storage building (12,000 square feet). The rink building would be directly west of the existing rink on the L-shaped property that wraps around Monument Storage. The proposed warehouse/storage building would be west of, and directly behind, the Monument Storage property near the railroad tracks. The applicant also requested that the board add a note to the amended site plan allowing for administrative approval of a future storage building by the Planning Department without a PC or BOT hearing.

The board discussed changes the applicant had made to satisfy the neighboring property owner and the county, which were also satisfactory to the town’s engineering and traffic consultants. Most current and planned additional traffic onto the adjacent county-owned portion of Old Denver Highway occurs at other than rush hours. However, the current traffic designation for the change in traffic results in a higher-than-appropriate traffic impact fee ($16,000 versus $5,000), according to the town’s traffic consultant who recommended creation of a new designation that would fit this type of business.

El Paso County Department of Transportation would like Soc-N-Roll and Monument Storage to have a common entrance at some time in the future. The neighboring property owner to the north, Mike Watt, and TTGY agreed to install a new wire fence between the two properties to prevent drivers from going through Watt’s property to access the rink’s parking lot and to prevent off-lot parking on his ranchland. The fence satisfies the county’s concerns. However this created a concern for Glenn regarding emergency vehicle access to the new building and new parking lots.

There is a gate in the new fence for emergency access to the parking lot that will be built between the old and new rinks. The new lot will have a drive-over curb in front of the gate. Glenn asked that a second new gate be installed to provide additional emergency access to the other new parking lot (between the new building and the railroad tracks), even though this is not required by the fire codes or recommended by the fire marshal.

Steve Yates, one of the TTGY owners, said he would ask for permission from Watt for installation of another gate, but expressed concern about the additional cost for a gate that is not required. Glenn said the lot is narrow with a single in-out access driveway that would likely be blocked by emergency vehicles, preventing evacuation of vehicles during an emergency. Trustee Dave Mertz stated the same concern later in the discussion.

Glenn asked that dead landscaping be replaced with plantings to match the landscaping of the new building. He also wanted the signs on the building replaced by fewer and smaller, more attractive signs—with this change made a condition of approval for the amended site plan.

Town Planner Mike Davenport had not been asked to determine if the signs were larger than the town code allows and could not say whether or not Glenn’s condition was legal. Glenn asked that the banners be taken down. Yates said there were no banners, just permanent signs. Davenport asked if Glenn wanted the signs to meet standards or his own personal standard. Glenn said both.

Glenn said that the number of conditions was becoming too high and that several of them should be taken care of before town approval of the amendment. Mark Ennis of Access Construction Company said that even a two-week delay for continuation of the hearing would likely preclude building completion in November, which was necessary to make the development economically feasible. He noted that he and the owners were made aware of most of the large number of concerns only three hours before the hearing and could not resolve them with such short notice.

After a lengthy discussion, the amended site plan was approved unanimously with eight conditions, including a second gate and a requirement that the warehouse go through a normal hearing process for approval.

RTA: Town Manager Rick Sonnenburg said that Palmer Lake had decided not to seek formation of a Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) with Monument. Creation of this RTA would have required a ballot issue in November to authorize a sales tax for road construction and repair. The board then unanimously rejected being included in the countywide RTA ballot initiative also scheduled for this November’s election. The latter initiative includes the county, Colorado Springs, and several other municipalities in the county. Some road improvements on Baptist Road would be paid for by this RTA, however the number of improvements and the priorities have not been finalized.

Skate Board Helmet Rule Dropped: CIRSA, the town’s insurer, advised the town that its liability coverage for the town’s skateboard park would be unaffected by dropping the current helmet requirement, which Police Chief Joe Kissell said is unenforceable. After also deciding to take down the fence, which had been a target of vandalism, the helmet requirement was deleted by a new ordinance which passed unanimously. Signs will be changed to say that wearing a helmet is recommended.

Disbursements over $5,000: The board unanimously approved a payment of $17,658.18 to the Lewis-Palmer School District for cash-in-lieu fees that had been collected on the district’s behalf. The district must use the money to buy land for school facilities, preferring cash to an open land dedication in a development where no school will be built. Also unanimously approved was a payment of $15,620.92 for John C. Halepaska and Co. for water consulting fees.

Other matters: Trustee Gail Drumm was unanimously appointed as town representative on the Advisory Committee to the Regional Building Commission.

Police Chief Joe Kissell presented the Police Department’s Strategic Plan 2004-2009 for trustees to read and comment upon at a future meeting. The liquor licenses for Conoco and Cork’n’Bottle were renewed.

A proposal by Monika Markey, a Parks and Landscape Committee member and Toys 4 Fun business owner, to solicit tree donations for Second Street between Beacon Lite and Highway 105 was sent back to her committee for further refinement and definition.

Sonnenburg reported the installation of the traffic light at Safeway and said a light will eventually be installed at Jackson Creek Parkway and Lyons Tail when traffic justifies it.

The board then went into executive session to discuss a negotiation and subsequently adjourned at 10:22 p.m.

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Monument Board of Trustees meeting July 12

By Jim Kendrick

The Monument Board of Trustees (BOT) held a special meeting to finalize the position Mayor Byron Glenn would advocate at the July 15 Board of County Commissioners hearing on the Baptist Road Wal-Mart. Glenn briefly reviewed his negotiations with Wal-Mart to date, then the board decided that the town should continue to oppose Wal-Mart’s "big box" regional commercial rezoning request.

Glenn said he had communicated with Wal-Mart’s community relations manager Keith Morris and real estate manager Roger Thompson. Glenn expressed concern that the town should derive some revenue benefit from Wal-Mart sales and property tax to pay for downtown improvements, purchase of open space, and construction of a new police station—even with the problems that might come from the store’s presence.

Two options he offered Wal-Mart were annexation of the Baptist Road property or relocation to the Monument Marketplace, which has one "big box" pad available. He stated that it is the responsibility of the BOT to serve the residents and secure the financial stability of the town.

Glenn read a letter he had sent to Wal-Mart, dated July 8, that said that if voters approved a referendum to annex the Baptist Road parcel, the town would give 80 percent of its portion of the sales tax to Wal-Mart’s public improvement corporation until its bonds to pay for Baptist Road and Jackson Creek Parkway improvements were paid off. The town’s contribution would thus accelerate paying off those debts. The other 20 percent of Monument’s tax would partially offset revenue lost from the town businesses competing with Wal-Mart.

John Heiser, coordinator for the Coalition of Tri-Lakes Communities, distributed a prepared two-page statement. He said that in letters to the county, the town repeatedly said its recommendations for denial of the Wal-Mart proposal were based on concerns about:

  • Noncompliance with the Tri-Lakes Comprehensive Plan

  • The construction of Jackson Creek Parkway, south of Baptist, not going through the town’s platting process

  • Drainage

  • Erosion control

  • Increased workload for the Monument Police Department

Heiser said those issues have not changed and that it is illogical to now drop objections to the plan just because Wal-Mart is saying it might annex to the town at some future date. He added that it sets a bad precedent and would encourage other developers to go to the county instead of the town in order to exempt themselves from the town’s regulations and land use planning process and then extract additional concessions from the town later in return for annexation.

Heiser asked if the town was prepared, if necessary, to pursue a lengthy and expensive lawsuit to enforce the agreement. He also said that if the town were to come out in favor of the project or didn’t object to the project, it would allow the county commissioners to say the town approves of the project even though its land use review process has not been followed and no public hearings or formal votes have been held on this land use application.

Glenn agreed with these arguments and said that the Monument Marketplace location would not provide a funding mechanism to pay for Baptist Road improvements east of Jackson Creek Parkway or for extending Jackson Creek Parkway south to Northgate. Heiser said that the town should require Wal-Mart to pay for widening Jackson Creek Parkway to four lanes all the way to Higby if they move into the Marketplace.

Resident Tim Schutz said that the short notice of the meeting had caught all area residents off-guard and that no one had seen Glenn’s letter of July 8 to Wal-Mart until this evening, precluding needed public comment. He said Glenn’s offer to give back 80 percent of the town’s portion of the sales tax didn’t make economic sense. He said that Glenn’s actions were circumventing the town’s planning and approval process for annexation and that residents had no opportunity to comment or study the financing proposal. He said Wal-Mart was using the allure of additional revenue as a big hammer to get the town to accept a bad proposal. He asked "Why should they [BOCC] give the proposal a critical review when you won’t bother?"

Gleneagle resident Bill Carroll said Wal-Mart had put the town between a rock and a hard place. He said that if Wal-Mart would not go into the Marketplace, then another big box would—and would provide equal, if not more, revenue without undermining the town’s Mom and Pop stores. He said Glenn’s last-minute approach was "underhanded, whether it was legal or not."

Resident Rich Muni said he believed that the majority of town residents were opposed to the Baptist Road location. Resident Jackie Berhans said the Baptist Road bridge over I-25 is overloaded by traffic now and could not handle additional Wal-Mart traffic.

Trustee Tommie Plank asked what the impact would be on the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority (BRRTA). Glenn said that BRRTA didn’t have money to build improvements and that the county had taken improvements between Leather Chaps and Jackson Creek Parkway out of their budget and countywide rural transportation authority proposal. He added that the road was a "death trap" and that the I-25 interchange would not be improved for at least six to eight years. He reiterated that the town didn’t have money for curbs, gutters, sewers, parks, trails, open space, or a new police station.

Trustee Gail Drumm expressed concern over lost revenue without annexation. Trustee Dave Mertz said the town had run out of time for an open forum, this was a lose-lose situation, and the board must choose the lesser of two evils and not gamble on the town’s behalf. He said citizens would still have their say via the referendum on giving back 80 percent of the town’s tax share in exchange for annexation.

Plank said Wal-Mart did not have a good reputation for honoring agreements and asked Town Attorney Gary Shupp for his legal opinion whether the July 8 letter’s proposal was legally binding. Shupp said he had not seen any contracts from Wal-Mart for his review. Mertz said that unless the board had a signed agreement, he could not support the proposal. Glenn said that Thomas had been pretty aggressive and abrupt in saying he could not respond to the town’s proposal before July 15. Plank said this meant that supporting the rezoning was too big a gamble without a written binding approval from Wal-Mart.

Several trustees said they had heard that the commissioners would approve the proposal and this was the only way the town could get any revenue from Wal-Mart. Heiser asked if there was credible evidence that any of the commissioners had stated their intention to vote in favor of Wal-Mart. All the trustees acknowledged that they had no evidence of this. If a commissioner had voiced an opinion on the rezoning prior to the hearing, this would be a violation of law, which Heiser said would be valuable evidence in appealing a BOCC vote of approval in court.

The trustees voted unanimously to maintain the town’s original position to oppose the Wal-Mart rezoning request and site plan.

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Monument Board of Trustees meeting July 19

By Jim Kendrick

The Planning Commission’s vacancies were filled and an alternate was appointed at the Monument Board of Trustees meeting on July 19. Trustee Gail Drumm was absent.

Public Comments

John Heiser, coordinator for the Coalition of Tri-Lakes Communities, thanked the board for its support in opposing the rezoning request for the Baptist Road Wal-Mart that was unanimously defeated by the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) on July 15. He thanked Mayor Byron Glenn for his statement and subsequent remarks during the question-and-answer period.

However, with three seats on the BOCC up for re-election in November (Commissioners Brown, Howells, and Hoffman), Heiser said Wal-Mart may re-apply for rezoning even though the motion Commissioner Wayne Williams made was a strong indictment of the proposed plan. Heiser warned, "If you enter into any sort of side annexation agreement with Wal-Mart, they will immediately return to the county for approval and you will have again lost almost all control of what happens with this project."

Marion Clark presented a letter to the board and said her sister had been run over by a tractor at the town parade on July 5 due to negligent driving by an unlicensed 14-year-old. She said unlicensed drivers should not be allowed at parades. Clark’s sister was visiting from New Jersey to recuperate from cancer and chemotherapy and was run over twice and badly burned when the driver stalled the tractor on top of her while operating the steering wheel with only her left foot.

Clark thanked the local police and firefighters for their assistance and asked that town regulations be changed so this type of accident does not happen again. Board members expressed their concerns and regret to the victim, Mary Rasmussen, who also asked that the rules be changed and that the driver perform some kind of community service. Police Chief Joe Kissell said the driver had been charged with careless driving and will be appearing in Monument Municipal Court.

Planning Commission Candidates:

Rick Sonnenburg introduced three candidates. Tim Davis is a five-year resident and currently serves on the Chamber of Commerce. He said he wants to positively affect the growth of businesses and commerce in the area.

Eric Johnson said he moved to Monument in April 2003 for the culture and small-town feel. He said he wanted to be the "young person" on the board to help interest others in government service at a younger age and help the town preserve its identity as it rapidly grows.

John Kortgardner has lived on Mitchell Avenue for one year, working at Synthes as a project engineer. He said his strength is planning, both short and long term, which he thought would be useful in Planning Commission deliberations.

The BOT elected Davis and Kortgardner; Johnson accepted an offer from Glenn to be an alternate commissioner, after being told there is often turnover on all town committees. Town Planner Mike Davenport told them the next Planning Commission meeting was on Aug. 11 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.

Transit Mix

Davenport said Paul Banks, of Banks and Gesso, has requested that the town consider an application to build a concrete batch plant at the south end of the Forest Lakes property, between I-25 and the railroad tracks, next to the northern Air Force Academy glider runway. Banks was requesting a combined site plan and final plat review simultaneously with a PD amendment to the existing Forest Lakes site plan and final plat.

Banks was also requesting rezoning of the parcel from planned development (PD) to planned heavy industrial development (PHID). Glenn asked the applicant to provide elevations of the proposed structure and preliminary plans regarding grading, drainage, traffic, landscaping, etc., as soon as possible if he wants the entire issue resolved with single Planning Commission and BOT hearings. Davenport estimated that Bank’s rezoning request could be heard in about three months at the earliest. The applicant had waived the right to a sketch plan phase process. The request for a combined review was approved unanimously.

Wild Bob’s Barbecue

The applicant was not present, and his proposal was tabled. However, the revision to the kiosk business regulation that would have been required to approve Wild Bob’s business license request was discussed.

Karen Evans, owner of the Chick and a Windshield auto glass repair and replacement business spoke about her desires to also get an amendment to the recently created kiosk and parking lot business regulations. Evans assisted the town in developing and approving these regulations a year ago. She suggested a revision that would strengthen the traffic flow provisions based on experience Colorado Springs has had in shopping centers and restaurants. She suggested that the fee for a site plan amendment and business license be low enough to avoid being an obstacle to business creation but large enough to weed out people who weren’t serious.

Evans also indicated that she wanted to move one location of her business from the Big O parking lot to an unpaved dirt lot between the Burger King and Starbucks. She had to move from the original Safeway parking lot location that the BOT had approved when construction began on the fuel center. Business at Big O fell off by 75 percent due to poor traffic flow in the Big O lot at this time. Evans said that this kind of relocation pattern for a parking lot business is normal and town regulations need to be revised to make it easier. She offered to work with the town on a revision that was an effective compromise

After discussion about how to handle paving requirements, a motion to approve the change in regulation for allowing kiosk businesses to move around town from one location to another failed due to a lack of a second. The ordinance change was continued to Aug. 2.

Three ordinances passed with five votes in favor and Trustee George Brown abstaining because he had been absent for all three hearings. The Sundance Center and Soc-n-Roll expansions were approved, along with an ordinance adding unimproved unpaved right-of-way to the list of areas Public Works is responsible for when it cuts grass. Several needed changes in the Comprehensive Zoning and Subdivision Regulation were also approved unanimously. A resolution to close off the north end of Snowwood Drive for a neighborhood party on July 24 passed 5-1

Contracts

A contract was awarded to T. Lowell Construction Co. for $300,493 to connect town well 9 north of Soc-n-Roll to the well 8 water treatment facility at Beacon Lite and Second Street with water mains. A contract with Triview Metro District for the additional street sweeping for the new Jackson Creek Parkway and Leather Chaps Road extensions for $818 per month was approved.

Financial Report

Sales tax revenue for the year is down $14,000 through the end of July, but the reasons have not been analyzed. A check for sales tax revenue of $18,375.55 for Triview Metro was approved. Three change order payments for well 7 improvements to Am West, Inc. were also approved for $24,173.75, $4,547.00, and $14,950. A liquor license renewal for La Casa Fiesta Restaurant was approved.

A four-way stop sign was approved at Beacon Lite and Third Street.

The meeting adjourned at 8:41 p.m. The next meeting would be held on Aug. 2 at 6:30 p.m. at the Lewis Palmer School District Headquarters Building.

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Monument Board of Trustees meeting August 2

By Jim Kendrick

The requested annexation, re-zoning, and master site plan for the Wahlborg Addition were unanimously approved by the Monument Board of Trustees (BOT) on Aug. 2. About 40 people attended the session which was moved to the basement auditorium of Big Red, the headquarters building for the Lewis Palmer School District. The board also heard a request to begin phase II construction at Navsys, located at the south end of Woodcarver. Trustee George Case was absent. Travis Page led the pledge of allegiance.

Bikes in Skateboard Park: Page then presented his request to allow BMX-size bikes to also use the skateboard park. He said that the features of the park gave bike riders sufficient room to safely perform common maneuvers even though the spacing may appear to be tight to a grown-up. He thought his 53-inch long bike could safely land in the "four and a half-foot landing zones" (54 inches.) He also said that skate boarders and bikers could use the park simultaneously, not getting in each others’ way. Riding in the park would be better for business than riding along the sidewalks by the stores. He said that building a bike park would be hard for him and his other 12-year-old friends. The trustees thanked him for his presentation and answers to their many questions.

Public Works Supervisor Tom Wall researched the use of bikes in skateboard parks and could find no instance where a municipality allowed a simultaneous use. In October, 2002 the town’s municipal insurer, CIRSA, had said the town should not allow bike use because the landing areas at the tops of the ramps were too small and that park features were too close together. CIRSA noted that bike use would increase repair and maintenance costs. Wall had conducted a field survey of skateboard users of the park and there would be minimal or no acceptance of sharing the park. He recommended against Page’s proposal. Orten said to Page, "Welcome to government," and made a motion to continue the matter to Aug. 16 for more research and discussion.

Tri-Lakes Cares’ Executive Director Judith Pettibone had asked for a continuation on its request for a waiver of fees for construction of a new facility on Jefferson Street. Town Planner Mike Davenport estimated that the fees would be about $26,000. The board unanimously approved a continuation to Aug. 16.

Navsys expansion: Woodcarver Properties is requesting approval for Phase II construction of a second building of 41,500 square feet on the east side of the property. Davenport said the proposal raises two questions. The current amended PD site plan from 2000 requires that Navsys connect to the Forest Lake Water and Sanitation District, but they will not have either service available to the property through 2006. Davenport also said that this complexity was more than may have been intended when the plat allowed for planning staff approval for Phase II. The existing well has enough capacity to meet the needs of the building, the planned manufacturing inside it, and 55 new employees. He said the county Health Department has approved their plan to expand their septic system. The board agreed that the water and septic plans were adequate for the building but were concerned about the water available for a fire. Owner Allison Brown said the inspector had indicated that there was enough water nearby in the half acre-foot pond on the property and that the fire district could easily form a water shuttle with tenders from local fire agencies. However this was not written on any of the fire documentation.

Mayor Byron Glenn questioned the adequacy of the water supply from the well in case of a fire. The documentation from the Tri-Lakes Fire Protection District was unclear about this matter. Glenn asked Davenport to make getting a satisfactory answer from the fire department on the adequacy of water available without nearby hydrants a pre-condition to staff approval. The board approved the expansion 5-1 with Glenn voting no because of the absence of cisterns and a clear approval by the Tri-Lakes fire marshal.

Wahlborg Addition: Davenport gave a detailed presentation on the process of annexation, rezoning, and master site plan approval for this 140 acre parcel. His presentation was very similar to previous presentations to the BOT and the Planning Commission. The applicant, Dale Beggs of WED, LLC and staff from his developer, Zephyr Development gave a long presentation that was also quite similar to several previous presentations to the board and the planning commission. They showed how the site plan had been modified to address concerns expressed by the planning staff and residents from Woodmoor and Monument Villas. The development has 330,000 square feet of commercial buildings near the southeast corner of Highway 105 and Knollwood and three different residential subdivisions with up to 276 dwelling units with over 20 percent set aside for open space and trails.

Steve Shuttleworth and Jerry Haire of Zephyr Development discussed how the distribution of single family lots had evolved after their proposed 40 foot greenway around the perimeter adjacent to Woodmoor had been criticized by the Woodmoor Improvement Association (WIA.) The developers said they had essentially adopted the WIA covenants and construction guidelines with a few minor changes and limited the number of drive through fast food pads to two. They had also agreed to not having tall houses on lots contiguous to Woodmoor residences to minimize the impact on views of the Front Range and Palmer Divide.

Several residents of the Tri-Lakes region spoke in favor of the project saying that Beggs was a local resident who had built many quality projects in the area, would do a good job, and recommended approval. A few residents spoke neither in favor or opposition expressing the hope that all the proposals would be developed as presented. A few Woodmoor residents spoke in mild opposition expressing concern about CDOT’s ability to manage and control the traffic along Highway 105 and through Woodmoor residential areas. There was also some concern about the control of storm runoffs, drainage, and views.

The major concern was traffic safety for seniors and children who live in Monument Villas and the timing and extent of construction of improvements to Highway 105. There will be a traffic light at the Knollwood intersection and the applicant must build all the acceleration, deceleration, and turn lanes required at the start of the project. However, it will be some time before all the warrants are met for a traffic light at the entrance to the Mormon church on Highway 105 across from which will be one of the two principal accesses to the development. Within the development the extension of Knollwood will curve 90 degrees from south to west and in the future be extended across another commercial property to connect to Jackson Creek Parkway southwest of Monument Villas.

During Trustee questioning, Glenn asked that Beggs consider paying for the construction of an opaque screening fence along the west side of Knollwood to allay concerns of the Monument Villas Association about trash and dust blowing through their neighborhood during construction. Beggs agreed to work out a plan, after noting that a similar fence will also be built on the other side of Knollwood for the same purpose.

There was unanimous approval of the annexation, the rezoning from agricultural to mixed use, and the master site plan. At the next BOT meeting on Aug. 16 the board will address the issue of creation of a metropolitan district which will perform essentially every aspect of town services except police services. This remains controversial to some board members who have expressed concern about the high debt load Triview Metro District has created for residents of Jackson Creek, over $27 million to date for about 600 homes and Monument Marketplace. Also, WED, LLC will have to return to the town for a standard approval process for the area on the northeast portion of the parcel that is planned to be a patio home development.

Due to the length of the Wahlborg hearing the regulation change for kiosk businesses was also continued.

The Trails End subdivision, also called the Labib Property that lies south and west of the adjacent Villages of Monument subdivision was unanimously declared to be eligible for annexation with the first hearings scheduled for Sept. 20.

The business license ordinance for massage therapy was amended to accept national certifications and certifications from Colorado Springs by administrative action by town staff. The town has had difficulty staffing a review board as required by the current ordinance. This revision will allow the staff to act on all the pending requests for licenses at this time.

An intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with the El Paso County Department of Transportation on road maintenance exchanges was approved unanimously. This IGA formalizes long-standing verbal agreements to plow and pave roads such as Old Denver Highway when it makes sense to do a project "straight through" a road segment that goes in and out of the county and town.

A payment of $10,374.14 to GMS, Inc. for various engineering services was approved unanimously. Treasurer Judy Skrzypek provided a spreadsheet titled Planning Escrow Account Billing Project that needs to be reviewed and approved by Davenport and Sonnenburg before bills are prepared and mailed. There is a total of about $66,000 in unbudgeted recoupment that can be collected. A final payment of $24,345.20 and a second payment of $1,575.00 to Layne Western Drilling for well #9 were approved unanimously.

The preliminary design for the entry display for Historic Monument to be built on the southwest corner of Highway 105 and Second Street was unanimously approved including the additions recommended by the Parks and Landscape Committee which included three flag poles, electricity for holiday lighting, and pillar lighting. Davenport noted that the landscape architect had provided unsolicited additional plans for enhancing the entire block of Second Street down to Beacon Lite and beyond. The board rejected plans to add trees between Highway 105 and Beacon Lite at this time.

The board concurred with the county’s plan to give the Woodmoor Veterinary Clinic a variance through the north end of lots between the clinic and Knollwood. County road construction on Highway 105 eliminated the clinic’s driveway making it landlocked and the variance for the already existing driveway was a mandatory formality.

The board approved the formation of a subcommittee to the Police Advisory Committee that will study options for development of new Police Department building or buildings and make recommendations for construction. The subcommittee will include two members of the committee and three additional citizen volunteers from the community.

The meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m. The next meeting is at Town Hall on Aug. 16 at 6:30 p.m.

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Monument Police Advisory Committee meeting July 28

By Bill Carroll

The town’s Police Advisory Committee (PAC) met at the Town Hall on July 28. Since two members were absent, an alternate had to be brought in to make a quorum and allow official business to be conducted.

Permit reviews: There was some discussion on follow-up material discussed at the last PAC meeting relative to temporary use permits and kiosk licensing. Apparently there is a concern that some kiosk license reviews might not take into account traffic flow or obtain input from the police department before such requests are approved or denied. The discussions surrounded several applications for the Safeway parking lot. Chief Joe Kissell pointed out that when the ordinance was set up for this activity, he did in fact have input and all variables were taken into account. Kissell reminded the PAC members that all such licenses go through the Police Department for review; to date, only three applications had been received.

Change in policy: The Fourth of July parade was well attended, but there was an incident that led the Police Department to take remedial action for the future. Apparently somebody who was not licensed was driving a tractor in the parade and had an accident with a parade watcher, requiring emergency personnel and equipment response, which stopped the parade. As a result of this incident and a similar one the year before, the town will now require a valid driver’s license for any person driving or operating any vehicle in the parade, whether directly associated with a float or not; otherwise, a parade permit will not be issued. The local Sertoma Club, which sponsors the parade, will be notified of this new requirement.

New Tasers: The town now has a new weapon in the fight against crime: the X26 Taser. A Taser is a conducted energy weapon that uses propelled probes or direct contact to conduct energy to a target, thereby controlling and overriding the central nervous system of the body.

Kissell advised the PAC that he developed a policy for the use of this new weapon and said that all officers are fully trained in its use. He said the Taser policy states, "The decision to use the X26 Taser is based on the same criteria an officer uses when selecting to deploy O.C. spray, or a baton…and further that…the X26 Taser provides a force option in which the officer does not have to get dangerously close to a threat before deploying the tool." The new policy is clear in stating that the Tasers are not to be used without a firearm backup in situations where there is a substantial threat to the officer or others present.

Some of the PAC members were concerned that an officer, possibly in the heat of an intense situation, might hesitate in determining which weapon to use, a firearm or the Taser. Kissell pointed out that trained officers do know which weapon to use in different situations and that the Taser would be set up as a "cross-draw" on the officer’s utility belt. "I’m really excited to have this new tool," Kissell said. "It is an intermediate weapon versus the use of deadly force."

Other policy issues: Other police policies discussed included the transportation of prisoners, the disposition of impounded vehicles, and the department’s Strategic Plan for 2004-2009. There was also discussion that some town residents thought they were being singled out for traffic enforcement in that tickets were being written, rather than warnings issued. Kissell was quick to point out that officers do not have an agenda for the issuance of tickets nor do they harass any citizen in the issuance of tickets.

He further described the purpose of a traffic stop and what can possibly happen when that stop is made, citing the example of stopping a person for a broken taillight only to find a full-blown meth lab in the trunk of a car.

In talking about the department’s Strategic Plan, Kissell said, "This plan is important for us and the town because it gives us a five-year window to set goals and provides us a tool to measure the accomplishment of those goals."

Kissell noted that the top priority of the new Strategic Plan is to build a new police station to replace the double-wide trailer currently in use. Although the department already received another temporary building from the school district, he is optimistic about the prospects of getting a new and more permanent station.

Before this happens, however, a lot of work must be done and cost estimates need to be obtained. Because of the complexities involved and the importance of this project to the department and the town, the PAC officially created the New Police Station Building Committee. This subcommittee will have seven members: two from the police department, two from the PAC, and three from the community. There was considerable discussion on how important it was to get citizen involvement in this committee, especially from Jackson Creek, which does not seem to generate a lot of citizen input to date.

The PAC plans to take out an advertisement in several local newspapers seeking citizen participation on this new subcommittee. It is hoped the subcommittee will be staffed sometime in September. If you live in the Town of Monument (especially in the Jackson Creek area) and want to offer some input into the new police station project, write Chief Joe Kissell at the Monument Police Department, 154 N. Washington St., Monument 80132; or call him at 481-3253.

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Monument Sanitation District board meeting July 20

By Jim Kendrick

The Monument Sanitation District Board (MSD) reviewed the procedures and legal requirements it must deal with to respond to an effort to dissolve the district by business owners Ernie Biggs and John Dominowski, who attended the meeting of July 20. The board unanimously approved the letter Secretary Glenda Smith signed that states the board approved the form of the application to dissolve the district but disagreed with the wording of the applicants’ Summary of Proposal Measure.

The board met with Graeme and Martha Aston of Electric Propulsion Lab to discuss the classification of the new commercial tap they had requested. It also discussed issues regarding the amount of dissolved copper in water samples taken at the joint wastewater treatment facility (WWTF) on Mitchell Avenue. President Connie DeFelice was absent.

Copper

District Manager Mike Wicklund said the Tri-Lakes Joint Use Committee (JUC) is seeking a new permit for wastewater treatment and may need another administrative extension from the state, which is backlogged with numerous requests at this time due to limited staffing. A concern has been two measurements in the early part of 2004 where the microscopic amounts of dissolved copper in discharged water have tested higher than the maximum of 12 parts per million.

While this amount has no effect on humans, it can over time substantially harm aquatic life. There are hefty state fines, $10,000 per day, for treatment plants whose effluent exceeds this standard.

However, it appears that a cause of the high readings may have been the sample containers that were not meant to be used for this kind of testing and typically have enough copper residue when new to cause an excessive test score. Other possible sources of higher-than-normal scores are the drought in January and February and the very cold weather on the day the samples were taken. Director Lowell Morgan said that the actual copper amount equals 14 pennies per month.

Wicklund urged the new board members to attend the Tri-Lakes JUC, which will meet at the Monument Sanitation District on Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. The other members of the JUC are Palmer Lake Sanitation District and Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District, who also use the Mitchell Avenue WWTF. Board members Lowell Morgan and Ed Delaney represent MSD on this joint use committee.

Trails End

The proposed Trails End subdivision lies along the southern border of the town of Monument and runs from Old Denver Highway west across the railroad tracks. It is seeking inclusion into the district and annexation by the Town of Monument. The Catalano Way Group’s request was approved unanimously in concept; development will proceed pending a decision by the town regarding annexation.

SDK1

Wicklund discussed an alternative way to connect this new SDK1 facility at Synthes and Mitchell through residential lots to an existing main in an adjacent residential neighborhood, in lieu of longer runs involving more excavation along Mitchell Avenue. By negotiating easements from residents for its new sewer line, the district was able to save SDK1 about $60,000.

Electric Propulsion Lab

The lab is expanding and had requested the addition of a new commercial sewer tap. In discussions with the board, Dr. Aston listed all the uses the new tap would be expected to handle and the types of chemicals that would be entering the MSD system and those that would be captured and stored by the lab for truck removal and external processing. During discussion, the board agreed with Wicklund that the district should develop an alternative zero release program and related regulations to give commercial customers another option for disposal of industrial wastes. Aston’s request was approved unanimously.

Dissolution Procedures

District Attorney Larry Gaddis described all the requirements and procedures necessary to effect the request from Biggs and Dominowski to dissolve the district. The applicants must provide a printer’s proof of the petition form they will be circulating to gather a sufficient number of signatures, which is the lesser of 5 percent of the number of eligible electors in the district, or 250 electors. The actual number of electors is not known because the district has to determine how many there are for each tap. The district informed the applicants that they will determine that figure in no more than 90 days.

Gaddis said all the physical assets of the district would have to be liquidated and disbursed proportionally to these electors. Many of the MSD sewer easements would not automatically be available cost-free to any entity that may wish to take over the sewer system upon dissolution, such as the town of Monument or one of the other JUC districts. Thus the entity that takes over after dissolution must buy back all the easements and real property of the MSD at current market value, rather than for the original purchase price.

Gaddis said this will be a long and complicated process. Wicklund noted that all the cash reserves the district has are planned to be used for building sewer lines—to include Wakonda Hills residents whose septic systems may become substandard over the next few years.

Resident Sam DeFelice gave formal notice that he intended to file suit to ensure his right to renegotiate all the district rights-of-way he owns since dissolution would be a violation of his contract with MSD.

Gaddis observed that when Monument tried to take over the district before, the process lasted four years before the town abandoned its takeover attempt. He added that if the district court determines that the board has acted in good faith in operating the district, it can throw out the application for dissolution. There will be considerable legal expenses involved in dissolving the district as well, which would substantially deplete any district cash reserves. Gaddis joked that this legal work "would pay for college and law school for his children."

Wicklund noted that there is no language pertaining to dissolution in the JUC agreement, which would further complicate the action by Biggs and Dominowski. Also the owner of the building MSD is leasing is not required to make it available to the next entity that takes over the district’s sewer operations. For example, if the town took over the district, the building might not be available for the town to give to the Police Department, as has been discussed at a Board of Trustees meeting.

Smith said to Jeremy Diggins, of the MSD, that this action made her wonder why he had run for the boards of MSD and Woodmoor/Monument Fire Protection District now that both districts were in the process of being eliminated. Diggins said, "I got involved in special districts so there would be less of them." He said he wanted to learn "what’s best for the taxpayer." Smith replied, "There are a lot of people in both of those districts who have hopes and are on fixed incomes."

The meeting adjourned at 8:15 p.m. The next meeting is Aug. 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the district office building.

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Triview Metro Board meeting July 28

By John Heiser

At its regular meeting July 28, the Triview Metropolitan District Board of Directors reviewed the 2003 financial audit and discussed the status of various developments within the district. The only Jackson Creek residents present were the five board members.

Monument Development Status

Mike Davenport, Monument’s assistant town manager and town planner, reported as follows:

  • Jackson Creek Lariat Ranch Filing 3 will be presented at the Planning Commission meeting Aug. 11.

  • As has been widely reported, the town is in discussions with Wal-Mart.

  • There have also been preliminary discussions regarding a couple of multi-tenant retail projects in the Monument Marketplace and regarding expansion of the Navsys facility at 14960 Woodcarver Road, south of Baptist Road and west of I-25. Connection to central water and sewer would be required for the Navsys project.

  • The proposed Jackson Creek Market Village project with a mix of residential and commercial uses on a 10-acre parcel east of King Soopers is being reworked following disapproval of the preliminary plan. Hearing dates have not been set.

Monument Marketplace status

Rick Blevins of Marketplace developer Vision Development, Inc., reported as follows:

  • As was reported last month, all major work has been completed.

  • Work is being completed on the programming for the signal lights at Jackson Creek Parkway and Leather Chaps Drive.

  • Triview’s Phase G1 project to extend Jackson Creek Parkway and Leather Chaps Drive and provide water and sewer service to the Marketplace is showing a budget overrun of about $600,000. Some of the largest overrun items were about $300,000 on landscaping, $100,000 on the sewer interceptor, and $90,000 on erosion control. Details will be provided at the Aug. 25 board meeting. As previously agreed, the additional costs are being covered by a developer loan to the district at 6 percent interest. The board unanimously approved a letter authorizing the developer loan.

  • Discussions have been held with potential Marketplace tenants including Wal-Mart, Target, Kohl’s, Countrywide Credit, Verizon Wireless, and It’s A Grind coffee.

  • Negotiations with Village Inn are nearly completed.

  • The contract with Wells Fargo Bank is to close on Aug. 3.

WWTF

The Waste Water Treatment Facility (WWTF) is jointly owned by the Triview district, the Donala district that serves Gleneagle, and the Forest Lakes Metropolitan District that currently does not have any users.

Chuck Ritter of Nolte and Associates, engineering consultant for the district, reported that Union Pacific Railroad has visited the site of the proposed at-grade crossing of the rails for access to the WWTF. The current crossing goes under the tracks using a trestle that will not accommodate the construction equipment needed for the planned expansion of WWTF.

Sewer Interceptor Easement

Ron Simpson, manager of the Triview district, presented a revision to the agreement with landowners for the easement used for the Jackson Creek sewer interceptor. He reported that the agreement needed to be revised to reflect where the pipe was actually laid. In addition it was discovered that the 1998 easement agreement was accidentally never recorded.

Peter Susemihl, attorney for the Triview district, reported that he had worked with the current landowners to resolve liability issues.

The board unanimously approved the revised agreement.

Street Sweeping

The board unanimously approved a revision of the Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the Town of Monument to extend street sweeping services to the newly constructed 2.4 additional miles of Jackson Creek Parkway and Leather Chaps Drive. The additional cost is $818 per month. The board unanimously approved the revised IGA.

Monument Sanitation District

As reported in the July 3 OCN, an application has been submitted to dissolve the Monument Sanitation District (MSD). Simpson reported that the Triview district received an inquiry as to whether Triview would be interested in taking over the operation and maintenance of the MSD equipment. Simpson said, "I would not recommend Triview taking on [MSD] operations and maintenance. It is more suited to be operated by the town."

Steve Stephenson, president of the Triview board, said, "We need a lot more information."

After further discussion, Simpson said he would report that the board’s consensus is to reject the suggestion.

Sewer User Charges

Simpson reported that Rick Giardina and Associates has prepared a study of sewer user charges that will be discussed further at the Aug. 25 board meeting.

Stephenson said, "I am accustomed to putting something in the rates for component improvement, to improve or replace infrastructure. You don’t want to use debt for that."

It was suggested that adding such a charge would raise issues for the bondholder. Blevins replied, "It is worth discussing with the actual bondholder rather than his representative [Blevins]."

Blevins cited asphalt crack repair and resurfacing as an example of the sort of thing that needs to be addressed. He said, "Some of our roads are seven years old. It is time to start considering it. It is big dollars. We need cost and timing information for the bondholder."

2003 Audit

Tom Sistare of accounting firm Hoelting & Company presented the 2003 audit. He said the firm had reached an unqualified opinion with no material deficiencies. He added that the enterprise fund and the general fund are within budget. Quoting from the report, he said, "The Triview district believes it is in compliance with TABOR."

Susemihl said, "It is my opinion that our debt is all pre-TABOR authorized debt."

Sistare said the district is moving toward compliance with Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) statement 34, which will be adopted for the 2004 audit.

More information on that accounting change is on the Government Accounting Standards Board Web site at www.gasb.org. Under GASB 34, statements of the district’s funds would be coupled with full accrual district-wide statements that give an accounting of capital assets, including infrastructure. GASB 34’s stated intent is to make a governmental unit’s financial viability and infrastructure investments more apparent.

James Thieme, accountant for the district, said, "We have been working on this over the past eight years. It will be completed in September or October."

The board unanimously accepted the 2003 audit.

Wal-Mart decision and Baptist Road improvements

Simpson noted that the July 15 Board of County Commissioners vote to deny the Baptist Road Wal-Mart proposal means the purchase of habitat to extend Jackson Creek Parkway south of Baptist Road is no longer needed since funds are not available to construct that roadway.

Susemihl said, "There will be pressure to address the terrible traffic on Baptist Road. I don’t think you can undertake to do it as a district."

Simpson noted some of the improvements the district has made to Baptist Road including 1,560 feet of guardrail. He said, "I think you [the Triview board] are done."

Blevins added that when it is completed, the Marketplace will have contributed more than $700,000 to the Baptist Road Rural Transportation Authority through impact fees of $1.25 per square foot of commercial space.

Simpson said that the interim improvements to Baptist Road including the addition of a lane in each direction between Jackson Creek Parkway and I-25 are awaiting U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approval of the associated Preble’s Meadow Jumping Mouse habitat conservation plan. By the end of 2004, the improvements to Baptist Road required by the town for the first phase of the Marketplace must be completed.

Simpson noted there are safety concerns regarding the dams north of Baptist Road. He said former landowners created the dams to form livestock watering ponds.

Blevins added that removing the dams would have to be factored into the district’s mouse habitat conservation plan.

Creekside Park swimming pool

Simpson reported that he received phone calls asking about the possibility of having a community swimming pool in 3.5-acre Creekside Park.

Director Martha Gurnick said, "Let them go to the Y. There is a lot of liability with a pool."

Blevins agreed, "With operation and maintenance costs, the need for lifeguards, wildlife getting into it, I don’t think you want a pool." He suggested the district should get cost estimates.

Stephenson said he felt the idea should be taken to the Jackson Creek homeowners associations to gauge perceived need and desirability.

Susemihl noted that the Woodman Hills area has one inside pool and one outside pool. He added that if the Triview district were to own a pool, it must be open to the public, although the fees charged could be different for residents and nonresidents.

Water usage

Simpson said the district used 18 million gallons of water in May and 18.3 million gallons in June. He added that an additional 5 million gallons from well A4 were used for irrigation and construction dust control.

Administrative clerk hired

Dale Hill, district administrator, announced that Laura Blair will start work Aug. 18.

**********

The Triview Metropolitan District Board of Directors normally meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month, 4:30 p.m., at the district offices, 174 N. Washington St. The next meeting will be held Aug. 25.

For further information, contact the Triview Metropolitan District at 488-6868.

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Palmer Lake Town Council meeting July 8

By Judy Barnes

Mayor Nikki McDonald was excused; Trustee Chuck Cornell was Mayor Pro Tem. Also in attendance were Trustees Gary Coleman, Chuck Cornell, Max Parker, George Rees, and Brent Sumner; Town Attorney Larry Gaddis; and 32 people in the audience.

The trustees tabled the two proposed ordinances that would have increased commercial and residential water rates after citizens protested the measures. The proposed ordinances, one for commercial and one for residential, would have raised the basic monthly rate $10 in 2004, with a $5 increase July 16 and another $5 hike Sept. 16. The commercial rate would go from $31.50 to $41.50, and the residential rate would go from $28 to $38.

The ordinances also contained a provision that every January and July, the council would review whether another increase was warranted—with a default increase of 4 percent possible twice a year unless the board chose otherwise. Only the basic rates, which include 5,000 gallons of water, would change. The overage fees–rates for water usage over the first 5,000 gallons–would remain the same. Water Trustee Cornell noted, "For the last three years we’ve been in the hole; we can’t continue like that."

Parker gave a PowerPoint presentation to explain the need to increase the basic water rates to cover expenses, while the overage payments would be used to build a reserve. He noted that for the past four years, water costs have outpaced water revenues, even with a 13 percent increase in the number of water taps. A three-day test of the new well cost $1,500 in electricity, which adds to the water cost. Parker commented, "Overage fees don’t cover costs; basic rate fees do." He also noted that the last increase for a one-inch commercial tap was in 1989. According to a consultant’s analysis, in 1983 , when the water rate was $20 per month, it should have been $28.

In 2002 and 2003, a significant decrease in usage (due to drought-related water restrictions) led to a decrease in revenue. At the end of June, there was about $30,000 in reserves.

Cornell said that costs for water treatment chemicals keep increasing and that the state now requires water testing to be done monthly instead of quarterly, which increases the amount of chemicals used. Also, the state now requires that calibration of related machinery be done quarterly instead of semiannually. All in all, costs keep rising, while the rates stay the same.

Public input

Charlie Pocock suggested tabling the ordinance until further research was done. Kim Makower claimed that Palmer Lake’s water rates were higher than others he’s seen and presented a chart comparing rates. Cornell responded, "Our rates are based on our costs; there is nothing punitive about our rates."

Chuck Jones asked for details on the costs–salaries, chemicals, etc.–and questioned why other entities charged less. "You’ve got to sell water to make money," he added. Parker replied that the budget shows the operating expenses Jones asked for. Cornell responded, "If we had sold all the water we could over the last two years, we’d have run out." Pocock spoke again, adding that a $5 increase would be okay, but that they should look at reducing costs.

Carol Coopman said, "Every customer should be given notice of an increase… It’s common courtesy." She agreed that something should be done to reduce costs and that the trustees should hold off on a vote until there was more information and more people involved. She suggested freezing taps, that selling them implies there is water available and is a liability to the town. Parker replied that increasing the cost of taps (currently $10,000 for a ¾-inch residential tap) would have the same effect.

Trish Flake suggested positing all the relevant information on the town’s Web site and notifying customers on the next bill of how they could access the information. David Davidson suggested postponing the issue until a balance sheet was available.

Coleman said his parents reside in Colorado Springs, and their June water bill for a two-bedroom house on a small lot was $90. A year ago, their total utility bill–gas, electricity, sewer, and water–was $80. Sherry Brown asked how many trustees would be affected by an increase in water rates. Only one of the five used town water; the rest had wells.

Gaddis said the council had three choices: to table the ordinances, to pass them as written, or to amend as proposed and act. Reese made a motion to table both ordinances. Parker said the situation was an emergency and that they needed to put into place some kind of rate increase. Sumner and Coleman agreed to table the issue. Cornell said, "I’m willing to take another look at how to cut costs." The motion to table the ordinances for 30 days carried unanimously.

The trustees encouraged citizens to join the water committee, which would meet to reevaluate the information presented and correct it as necessary. Council directed the office staff to put a message on the August water bills informing citizens that the basic rates will be increased with the September meter reading.

Updated committee reports

Coleman reported that the Roads Committee gave Randy Jones permission to drill two test holes on Frontier Lane. Also, the magnesium chloride tank is ready for delivery, and 700 tons of class 6 has been placed on High and Dixie Streets. Cornell reported that water use is up with the increase in temperature. Parker reported he will be calling for a business meeting for Economic and Community Development, and will contact the businesses along Highway 105 and County Line Road.

He noted that 76 artists participated in the Tri-Lakes Views Art Show, and that $8,500 was raised from corporate donors for the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts. Also, the Cub Cadet tractor has arrived.

Reese reported a total of 142 police calls for service in June, compared to 153 in May. In June, there were 29 traffic citations; in May, there were 17. In June, there were 22 dog warnings, with 24 in May. There was one custody arrest in June, and three in May.

Jaqui Parker reported for the Palmer Lake Citizens for Community Awareness. Cyndi Henson has written an article for the local newspapers about the Disaster Phone Tree Information Form. Bob Miner reported that the Fountain Creek Watershed Committee has identified improvement of the culverts at Walnut Street as a project for possible funding. He also noted that the Fourth of July celebration was highly successful and urged public acknowledgement of those responsible for the success—especially the cleanup.

Moroni Replat

Michael Brennan explained that the previous surveyor had not set any of the pins as required. Surveyor Bill Baker, while resurveying, found the footage assigned to each lot was inaccurate. A motion to approve carried unanimously, with provisions that a trustee review the Mylar, that easements are shown, the water line across the lot is resolved, and the pins are set.

Hallin Hill Subdivision

Tim Shank stated that he met with Coleman, Roads Supervisor Bob Radosevich, and Town Engineer Paul Gilbert. They decided to create a small hammerhead [turnaround] at the top of South Fork and Shady Lane. The engineer design was not yet completed. The council recommended that the issue be tabled until the road configuration is complete, to make sure that both lots are of a buildable size. Gaddis said the applicant would have to return to the Planning Commission. The trustees voted unanimously to postpone the request to the August meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 9:22 p.m.

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Palmer Lake Water Committee meeting July 14

By Kim Makower

The Palmer Lake Town Council (TC) on July 8 delayed the proposed increase in the basic water rate for commercial and residential customers in order to give residents time to review the increase and provide input to a newly formed water committee. At that time, trustees asked for volunteers for this committee; they selected two of those who volunteered: Charlie Pocock (a former trustee) and Trish Flake (an applicant for the vacant trustee position). The other members of the committee include the trustees (except Brent Sumner) and most of the town’s employees.

The committee convened on July 14 at 4 p.m. to discuss the town’s proposal to raise the base rate for typical three-quarter inch taps from $28 to $38 for residential and from $31.50 to $41.50 for commercial users. The purpose of the rate increase is to cover the increased cost of water treatment chemicals, costs to operate the new deep well to the Arapahoe aquifer, and pay raises for town employees, who haven’t had a salary increase in three years. The revenue collected from water bills pays the salaries of two full-time town water employees and about half of the salaries of four other employees who perform water-related tasks.

The Water Department is a designated Enterprise fund with two subaccounts relevant to this issue: the Water Tap Fees Fund (for capital improvements), funded by one-time tap fees; and the Water Enterprise Fund (for operations), funded by water billings. The Tap Fees Fund was reported to have a balance of about $897,000; it pays for major improvements costing over $5,000. The Enterprise Fund pays for day-to-day operations and minor repairs at the filter plant and wells; it currently has a balance of $8,000 to $9,000, according to Town Treasurer Della Gray (formerly Della Gins).

Participants weren’t clear about the actual cost of water, although Trustee Max Parker stated that it has risen from $5.30 per 1,000 gallons in 2002 to $6.70 in 2003. Pocock urged the trustees to adopt a commonsense approach to this issue. He asked why the town doesn’t charge a rate that compensates the town for its cost to produce each gallon. The question remained unanswered. Mayor Nikki McDonald said, "We don’t need [citizen] support for this. We [the TC] can just do it."

Pocock raised the idea of two alternative sources of water revenue. One had to do with charging the private well users a fee for statutory "augmentation." Currently, the town is required to return water to the water cycle through a law called augmentation. Some water entities require private well owners to pay an augmentation fee. The other source of revenue would be to raise commercial rates to equal or exceed residential rates. Currently, commercial users pay a slightly higher basic rate but a lower usage rate than residential users. Chuck Cornell, the designated water trustee, assured the citizens on the committee that commercial rates will be raised substantially in a future ordinance. Both revenue ideas were rejected by the majority of the trustees and employees.

Pocock resumed his questioning: "Why do we slap a little old lady on a fixed income with a 36 percent increase in her water bill? Why do we do the same to our summer residents who use no water?" These customers using less than the basic included amount of 5,000 gallons make up approximately one-third of the town’s customers, according to figures presented at the TC meeting on July 8 by Parker. Cornell responded, "I don’t care about summer residents paying $40 per month." McDonald agreed, "If they can afford a summer home in Palmer Lake, then they can afford to pay for water."

Discussion turned to the issue of a biannual raise in the basic water rate. Every six months, the rate would automatically be raised by 4 percent until the TC determined that the operating fund was adequately funded. While Parker wanted this provision in the ordinance, most of the committee disagreed. Flake agreed to compile an educational question-and-answer document for the town, adding her desire for citizen input and participation. The next meeting was scheduled for the following Tuesday at 4 p.m.

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Palmer Lake Water Committee meeting July 20

By Kim Makower

The Palmer Lake Water Committee reconvened at 4 p.m. on July 20. All of the committee members were in attendance. Pocock began the meeting with questions concerning the charts of financial numbers presented by the TC at their July meeting. He contended that the table that calculated revenue on a straight-line calculation was a "bad table" (905 water customers multiplied by $28 equals $25,340 per month, $304,080 per year). He pointed out that this table, which shows the town having a financial deficit for the past four years, ignores actual revenue as well as the different basic rates of $28 for residential and $31.50 for commercial customers.

Pocock then turned to the total revenue from water invoices versus the total expenses attributed to water. His calculation from the town’s numbers indicated that the account should have $156,453 as its balance, yet it reportedly had only $8,000 or $9,000. Gray and the trustees couldn’t isolate the discrepancy and blamed it on the person who compiled the chart (who was not present at the meeting). After much discussion, Mayor Nikki McDonald asserted, "Whatever happened ... there is no money there."

After being asked whether it was right for the TC to base an increase in rates on "bad accounting numbers," trustees said the errors were inconsequential; however, they agreed to meet at a later date to address the errors.

Julie Lokken then said that "minimum revenue [basic rates] versus total operating expenses is the only thing we are dealing with." She said that actual usage was not a reliable way to budget for water revenue. McDonald and Lokken insisted that commercial rates need to be raised.

Pocock offered an alternative plan to consider for the future: "Why don’t we charge for each gallon used, as we measure it each month anyway?" His calculations based on the town’s expense numbers indicated a fixed cost (salaries) for water of $16.87 per customer. The variable cost to produce 1,000 gallons is $3.15. He proposed the basic rate be lowered to $20 to cover the fixed cost to provide water, leaving a $3.13 excess for other expenses. This fee would include no water and do away with the current 5,000 gallon minimum included amount per customer. The charge for water would be $3 per 1,000 gallons up to 5,000, then $4/1,000 up to 10,000, then $5/1,000 up to 15,000, etc. He proposed the rates be the same for commercial and residential customers, thereby eliminating the inequity in water rates between the two groups. Using the town’s numbers of historical usage data, this plan would bring in at least as much revenue as the town’s plan, he claimed.

Pocock then stated, "This seems much simpler and fairer than keeping the convoluted system of free water," which was his way of describing the 5,000 gallons included with the basic rate. Parker criticized this plan and took issue with the implication that the town offered free water. He thought that the basic rate should include a water minimum.

Flake then presented her question-and-answer document. She asked to get consensus so she could produce a summary document on the water issue to make available to the public. Her questions were answered and recorded to finalize the document for public distribution.

The issue will be presented in the upcoming town council workshop and the meeting Aug. 12 at Town Hall at 7 p.m.

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Joint TLFPD-W/MFPD board meeting July 6

By Jim Kendrick

The second monthly special joint board merger meeting of the Tri-Lakes and Woodmoor/Monument Fire Protection Districts (TLFPD, W/MFPD) was held on July 6 at the Tri-Lakes station with a standing room only audience in attendance. The board heard reports from some of the firefighter subcommittees working on operational aspects of unification. However, the chiefs were not asked to review or comment on any of the documents submitted for board review by the firefighters at this meeting, from an operational or policy standpoint. All matters discussed were continued to the next meeting in August. The boards also discussed four unification issues.

Directors Rick Barnes of TLFPD and Bob Harvey of W/MFPD were absent. All but one of the board members of Donald Wescott Fire Protection District (DWFPD) attended, as observers. The chiefs and assistant chiefs of the four departments (including Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department, PLVFD) also were in the audience (except for W/MFPD Chief Dave Youtsey, who was away on vacation). In addition, there were around 40 other former board members, residents, and firefighters from the four districts in attendance.

Opening Statements

Woodmoor board president Si Sibell noted that he and his son had prepared the two-line banner displayed at Monument’s 125th birthday celebration on July 3 that stated "Working together to serve you better; Your area fire departments." Originally only TLFPD and W/MFPD were to be on the banner’s signature line, as per prior agreement between these two departments. But Sibell said he had been criticized on all sides for excluding the other two fire departments and so changed it after the June 28 W/MFPD board meeting. He also suggested at that meeting that the other departments bring their vehicles to the display on July 3. Sibell told the joint board members that he felt the revision was in everyone’s interest because if the districts cannot cooperate on a banner, they can’t effectively merge.

TLFPD Treasurer John Hildebrandt responded by saying "since Si opened it up," that Sibell had made a unilateral decision to change the wording originally agreed upon. At the June 8 joint meeting, Hildebrandt had emphatically indicated that Tri-Lakes did not want DWFPD or PLVFD to be part of the merger process at this point; this would preclude mentioning the four departments together in any sort of public relations.

Hildebrandt added that if Tri-Lakes and Woodmoor couldn’t agree on a banner, "then we can’t agree on unification." He reiterated that the public awareness committee for the two districts had agreed to the more restrictive wording, and "Si changed it, not the (TLFPD) board." He concluded by saying, "We are a board, and we make board decisions." [See related photo on page 32]

Fiscal Subcommittee

Treasurers Hildebrandt and Jeremy Diggins (of Woodmoor) reported that they had prepared tentative spreadsheets to reconcile the differences in format between their respective budgets. Hildebrandt said that the current Woodmoor/Monument district assessment that produces tax revenue of about $941,000, would only produce about $664,000 at 7.0 mills and that Woodmoor’s special use tax revenue would similarly decline from about $139,000 to about $99,500. He added that Woodmoor’s revenue would actually be less in the future due to a 3.42 percent decline in the district’s assessed value. He also said Woodmoor could not meet its payroll of about $682,000 and medical benefits of $103,000, which would place an added burden on Tri-Lakes upon merger, adding, "We’ve got some work to do." He noted that Woodmoor pays 100 percent of health benefits for its employees and their families, about $250 per month and $538 per month respectively. Tri-Lakes only pays 50 percent of its full-time employees’ health benefits and does not pay for family member coverage.

Hildebrandt said that in a merger the goal is for each district not to present an additional budgetary burden on the other. He said Tri-Lakes has a large debt but is paying for it within their balanced budget. Tri-Lakes has over $1.8 million in debt, which will continue to increase to cover the cost of two new engines just purchased for the Roller Coaster station, as well as future construction costs for another new station in Jackson Creek, and more new engines for this station as well. In contrast, Woodmoor/Monument is currently debt free and operating in the black, but has a 9.92 mill levy compared to TLFPD’s 7.0 mills.

W/MFPD Assistant Chief Jim Rackl confirmed Hildebrandt’s approximate revenue estimates with more precise figures. Diggins said he had not had a chance to look at these figures because of his involvement with Monument’s holiday celebrations, but thought there could be sufficient savings in other parts of the budget that might prevent the Woodmoor firefighters from being hurt.

Former Woodmoor Treasurer Russ Broshous asked what assumptions were to be used in attempting to meld the two budgets. Hildebrandt said that if Woodmoor can only bring $763,000 in revenue with an operating budget of $870,884, then Tri-Lakes would be responsible for the $111,000 deficit. However, there would only be a deficit if Woodmoor cuts its mill levy to 7.00 mills.

Broshous asked what staffing assumptions would be used in budgeting for a merged district. Hildebrandt said that Woodmoor should not be expected to help pay Tri-Lakes debt and that Tri-Lakes would not help Woodmoor with its budget shortfall. Broshous asked if the mill levy and debt issue positions had already been decided or whether they would still be a discussion item. He received no reply. The issue was continued.

Operational Commonality Subcommittees

Common 911 alerting: With no opportunity for public comment and no formal vote, both boards’ attending members signed a joint resolution adopting a new policy on common 911 alerting, and drafted Tri-Lakes Captain Brian Jack and Woodmoor-Monument Acting Captain Mike Dooley. The chiefs could not comment about or review the document before it was signed. The resolution requests that the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Fire Dispatcher page both districts for any emergency in either district. This resolution will take several weeks to enact because it requires reprogramming the county’s dispatching software for every address within both districts.

W/MFPD Captain Larry Garner asked if the joint board could sign the resolution without review or discussion at regular individual board meetings. Hildebrandt replied that they had said they would do this at the start of this meeting. However, the minutes of the July 6 meeting say that both boards voted unanimously in favor of the resolution.

Closest Force Response Subcommittee: A map was displayed that showed the Tri-Lakes and Woodmoor-Monument districts divided into three parts: area 1 to the west of I-25, area 2 to the east of I-25, and area 3 as a narrow section just north of Baptist Road near Wescott’s Gleneagle station. Approximately 27 percent of Tri-Lakes medical calls are in Jackson Creek, Kingswood, Fox Pines, and Fox Run, all in area 3. It was tentatively agreed that it might be a good policy to have medical personnel dispatched from Wescott to these neighborhoods as well as to the King Soopers shopping center because Wescott could arrive far more quickly—even after the Roller Coaster Road station opens in October.

However, all transports from these three areas would still be made by a Tri-Lakes ambulance. Jack noted that even if Tri-Lakes only had two firefighters on duty for their engine, it would be dispatched because two people were better than none. The North Group standard is a minimum of three firefighters on an engine. The issue was continued.

Common Ambulance Service Subcommittee: The subcommittee presented a draft contract with Tri-Lakes to provide ambulance service for both districts, for review and acceptance by Woodmoor board members. The chiefs were not asked to make any comments on the contract. Jack said they were "not trying to circumvent the chain of command, just trying to give the board line-level input." Broshous said the Woodmoor board would need time to review the contract proposal.

There was a lengthy discussion of who would determine, and by what method, whether a paramedic would go on a Tri-Lakes ambulance transport to a hospital in lieu of only emergency medical technicians (EMT); no conclusion was reached. There was no decision made regarding the current Woodmoor policies on paramedic on-call and dispatch (level-of-service) requirements, which are currently higher than Tri-Lakes standards. TLFPD President Charlie Pocock read a list of the levels of qualifications of Tri-Lakes personnel actually riding in the ambulance for their first 50 transports in 2004. The Sheriff’s Office Fire Dispatcher determines whether a medical response is a basic or advanced life support dispatch. The issue was continued.

Joint Training SUbcommittee: Dooley and Jack asked that they be relieved of this responsibility and that the task of developing standardized training between the two districts be passed to the training officer of each district. There was agreement. Jack said there had been a delay in getting names for this and other subcommittees from Woodmoor. However, Youtsey had faxed the list of Woodmoor nominees for every committee and subcommittee to Tri-Lakes on June 14, with Rackl listed as the Woodmoor member for joint training; Rackl said later he was never contacted. The issue was continued.

Fire Prevention and Inspection Subcommittee: Woodmoor Fire Marshall Tom Eastburn and Tri-Lakes Captain Tom Mace passed out a draft set of policies, procedures, and forms to integrate fire inspections within both districts. After giving an overview of the various documents in the package for the board members to read and comment upon, there was a brief discussion of current three-phase building inspection policy and procedures within the Woodmoor district. Eastburn and Mace will incorporate the best aspects of the two districts’ methods and prepare draft documentation for inspection for the boards’ review. The issue was continued.

Public Perception Committee

Keith Duncan of TLFPD presented some ideas for the future after noting the success of the fire display at the 125th birthday celebration and also in the parade. He proposed a joint public picnic and pancake breakfast for Labor Day weekend, coupled with the union charity drive for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and joint open houses in October. He asked the members of both districts to comply with the "speak no evil" philosophy, adding that "the press does a fair job of reporting what they hear at meetings." He asked that comments be specified as personal beliefs, to help ensure accuracy of reports in the Tribune and OCN.

Functional Commonality Committee

Jack said he didn’t know who his contact at Woodmoor was for this committee but that he wanted to be replaced for this position as well, so he could focus on operational commonality issues. Youtsey had nominated himself to this committee in his fax of June 14 to Tri-Lakes. Dooley said that the reassignment of names to this committee should be delegated to the chiefs with both nominees assigned to the same shift for ease of meeting. The issue was continued, concluding the committee reports.

Unification Issues

Each issue from the agenda is shown in italics, followed by a summary of the discussion. Pocock prefaced the discussion by saying the boards should achieve agreement among themselves before any time or money is spent for legal counsel.

1. Will there be a net-zero unification? That is, should each department be expected to stand on its own without expecting financial help from the other? Tri-Lakes has, and is expected to continue to have debt and the annual payments are included in its budget. Woodmoor-Monument has no debt but it has a considerably higher mill levy.

Pocock said there was no way district taxpayers would vote to subsidize the other district. He and Sibell agreed that spreading the higher number of Woodmoor paramedics around all three shifts at both stations should improve overall capability, but that this goal may be too hard to actually achieve. Pocock, Sibell, Hildebrandt, and Diggins agreed that this goal should be "strived for" until the consolidated financial plan is available for review.

Hildebrandt said that Woodmoor’s inability to meet its high employee expenses would force Tri-Lakes to run in the red, assuming that Woodmoor drops its mill levy to 7 mills. "We would be at deficit spending and that may run our budget into the red and that would be a problem." The boards agreed this would be a moot point after unification because there would be a single overall budget.

Pocock said this issue may prevent consolidation and the districts could go to a fire authority so each district could maintain its own distinct budget and mill levy. Broshous said that the unified district could be designed to meet the 7-mill levy or the current level of service for Woodmoor constituents. Pocock said the fiscal plan had to be solid and justifiable to the taxpayers and that an equal 7-mill levy would require an equal level of service with that of Tri-Lakes. Hildebrandt said he had not received all the necessary Woodmoor information to fill in his spreadsheet to analyze the fiscal issues. The issue was tabled until there is a firm fiscal plan for merger.

2. Should we strive for an equal property tax mill levy? The Tri-Lakes mill levy is fixed at seven mills while the Woodmoor/Monument mill levy is flexible within certain limits. Under the consolidation or inclusion methods the same mill levy would be required, but a common mill levy would not be necessary in a fire authority unification.

The boards concluded that they should strive for an equal mill levy. They also agreed that both boards need legal guidance on the complexities of each of the three unification options and their effect on the two districts’ current exemptions to the state TABOR and Gallagher Amendments. Another concern was whether a re-vote on these exemptions is part of a unification vote. Pocock said he had calculated that both districts would have lost about $350,000 in combined revenue over the past five years without these exemptions. The issue was continued, pending follow-up action by Pocock and Sibell to find qualified local area lawyers. Broshous suggested the districts get separate lawyers.

3. Will the unified district have a volunteer component? Tri-Lakes evolved from an all-volunteer fire service and its volunteers continue to be an essential element of the organization. All Tri-Lakes paid members were at one time volunteers, so the volunteer culture persists. Woodmoor/Monument, on the other hand, tried volunteers for a while but abandoned the concept and has not gone back. Tri-Lakes is firmly committed to its volunteers, but there may be some cultural adjustment necessary in integrating volunteers at Woodmoor/Monument.

During the transition to unification, some Tri-Lakes volunteers would be assigned to the Woodmoor station, but there are insurance liability, workers’ compensation, and sleeping quarter issues that must be resolved. The boards agreed that Woodmoor should return to using volunteers. The issue was continued.

4. Tri-Lakes has a basic record of filling higher level positions by promoting from within the organization and paid positions are filled from volunteer applicants, so there is no learning curve or requirement for department orientation. Woodmoor/Monument has a history of looking outside the organization when filling higher level positions or vacancies. What should our policy be?

Broshous said he didn’t believe this was Woodmoor policy and said there should be a common joint policy after unification. Diggins and Wilson agreed. Garner said the policy should be to promote in-house or develop people in-house.

Closing Public Statements

Wescott President Brian Ritz asked if W/MFPD would be presenting the revised three-district Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Sibell had requested Wescott Chief Bill Sheldon prepare on June 28 for discussion at this meeting. Although Sheldon sent the draft MOU to Woodmoor on June 29, Sibell said, "I haven’t seen it." Diggins said, "It just didn’t make it" onto the agenda. Sibell then said that it had "been a busy, busy time. I read it but haven’t contacted the board." Wilson asked when the Woodmoor contract for its AMR ambulance expires and that the Tri-Lakes contract should be discussed at the Woodmoor board meeting. Hildebrandt said the two districts should agree to have the same advising physician.

Wescott Treasurer Dennis Feltz said that Wescott agrees with agenda items 2, 3, and 4, has a 7-mill levy, and would have no difficulty with a net-zero unification. He asked again that Wescott be part of closest force response for the good of southern Tri-Lakes constituents.

Executive Session

The board took a recess at 9 p.m. before going into executive session to discuss a legal negotiation. Pocock said there would be no announcements after the executive session. The board came out of executive session at 9:50 p.m., then adjourned.

The next joint board meeting was planned for Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Tri-Lakes station.

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Donald Wescott FPD Board meeting July 14

By Jim Kendrick

The Donald Wescott Fire Protection District Board received a clean draft audit from Terri Rupert of Hanson & Co. at its meeting on July 14 and also announced a general change in accounting methods that will require depreciation for all future capital equipment purchases over $2,000. The final report was forwarded to the state on July 23. In addition, the district is seeking alternative design proposals for expanding the Gleneagle Drive station. The board also approved a 3 percent pay raise for its employees. Board Secretary Dave Cross was excused.

Treasurer’s Report

Treasurer Dennis Feltz said the district recently received an allocation of $237,711 in property tax revenue from the county. A deposit of $200,000 was sent to Colorado Local Government Liquid Asset Trust to earn better interest until needed for operational expenses. The report was accepted unanimously.

A resolution advising Peoples Bank of what powers are granted to each authorized signer for the district’s account was passed unanimously by the board. The authorized signers are now Feltz, Cross, and Chief Bill Sheldon.

Addition to Gleneagle Station 3

Director Kevin Gould said he had received a preliminary estimate of between $275,000 and $325,000 for two initial drawings. These drawings can be adjusted, and the board can also get alternate bids on different portions of the addition. Sheldon said he would like additional space upstairs for a workout room and storage. The district is applying for federal grants that will help fund expansion, particularly space for physical fitness. The board prefers an expansion that will not change the façade of the station. The board decided it will ask for three to four alternate designs that will allow for different bids on different portions of the addition and provide flexibility in prioritizing components of the addition. The board decided to set an approximate budget of $300,000 at this time.

Chief’s Report

Sheldon reported the purchase of a power washer for approximately $3,500. He also purchased some attachments and supplies for around $100. He was given a budget of $5,000 at the June board meeting.

Sheldon reported on the effect of an improvement in the district’s Insurance Services Organization (ISO) rating from a 6 to a 5 (a lower number is better); the effect would be a change in the rates insurance companies charge policyholders within the district. American Family considers ISO ratings of 4, 5, and 6 the same. USAA uses zip code as a measure, although the ISO rate change could make a difference; homeowners need to initiate any requests for changes with USAA. State Farm uses a zip code method and considers all of El Paso County under the same rating, depending on whether the area has hydrants or not. Sheldon will put together a newsletter for Wescott’s constituents informing them of the ISO rating change and urging them to check with their insurance agent to see if it can lower their rates.

The district has scheduled its annual open house for Oct. 16.

DWFPD received a certificate of achievement for no injuries during the first quarter for 2004.

Sheldon has received one bid for liability insurance that is due for renewal Oct. 1. Two other companies are expected to make bids.

The district received a $1,000 grant from the El Pomar Foundation for wildland fire equipment. Sheldon noted he has already purchased a new chainsaw, which will be used in the new brush truck

DWFPD also has received computers, printers, monitors, and other equipment from Buckley AFB in Denver.

Update on Unification of Northern Fire Districts

At its June 28 meeting, the Woodmoor/Monument (W/MFPD) board had asked Sheldon to rewrite the existing two-way Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to include the Tri-Lakes Fire Protection District (TLFPD). The W/MFPD board planned to present the new MOU at the July 6 special joint board meeting with TLFPD. Sheldon said he gave the amended MOU to W/MFPD Chief Dave Youtsey in plenty of time for it to be distributed to all members of both boards for review and discussion at that joint meeting, but the issue was not addressed. Sheldon noted that when asked about the MOU near the end of the July 6 joint meeting, W/MFPD’s board president Si Sibell first said he had not received it, and then said he had received it but had not had the opportunity to read it. The Woodmoor and Tri-Lakes boards decided to discuss the draft three-way MOU at the next joint board meeting on Aug. 3.

DWFPD President Brian Ritz said he was in the audience at the July 6 meeting and stated then that Wescott has performed its part in the unification process in good faith and has done everything possible to date to expedite the process. (DWFPD has not been invited to participate in the joint board.) Ritz said it remains to be seen whether the three-way MOU will be discussed at the Aug. 3 meeting. He also said he will continue to attend future joint board meetings, as well as the other two districts’ general board meetings.

At the TLFPD board meeting on July 15 however, the three-way MOU proposal was tabled.

Automatic Aid

Sheldon noted that members of the North Group automatically respond out of district on certain pre-agreed types of fire calls when dispatched by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher, but there is no automatic aid agreement in the county for medical calls in other fire districts. When there are multiple medical calls within one district, the tasked district individually calls for assistance from another district. There was a presentation at the July 6 joint board meeting stating that it would be advisable to include DWFPD in the planning considering closest responders, particularly for Jackson Creek and Fox Run residents. Sheldon reported that they discussed a draft proposal to allow Wescott to send initial medical help to these two neighborhoods because of the shorter travel time. However, TLFPD will not allow Wescott’s AMR ambulance to transport from these Tri-Lakes district neighborhoods. Sheldon added that Tri-Lakes still refuses to consider allowing DWFPD to participate in the joint board meetings.

Ritz also reported that at the July 6 meeting he had supported this tentative proposal, stating it would be advisable to include Wescott in planning closest responders for all neighborhoods east of I-25, particularly for Jackson Creek and Fox Run residents. No action was taken on the draft proposal, though further discussion was planned for the Aug. 3 joint meeting.

Advising Physician Issues

Sheldon reported that there continues to be a difference in the medical procedures that Tri-Lakes emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics can perform compared to Woodmoor and Wescott because Tri-Lakes has a different advising physician. The AMR contract with Woodmoor will be allowed to lapse in August, and Tri-Lakes will then provide ambulance service to the Woodmoor district. This will cause problems if a Woodmoor paramedic participates on a Tri-Lakes ambulance transport because of conflicting certification systems. Woodmoor, Wescott, and AMR EMTs/paramedics are all certified by the same advising physician, Dr. Dave Ross.

New Business

Ritz, who is a sergeant in the Colorado Springs Police Department, advised the board that DWFPD firefighters have asked for training on tasers that are currently being used by law enforcement officers. Ritz is a certified taser trainer and will coordinate the requested training.

Ritz suggested the department purchase a screen door for Station 2. Sheldon also suggested a room air conditioner. Sheldon received approval to move forward with these purchases.

The board voted to enter executive session at 9:24 p.m. to discuss a personnel matter. The regular meeting was resumed at 10:07 p.m.

Pay Raise

A proposal was made to give firefighters a 3 percent raise effective July 1. The proposal was approved unanimously. A second proposal was made to give the administrative assistant a 3 percent raise. This proposal was approved 3-0-1; Ritz abstained to avoid conflict-of-interest concerns.

The meeting was adjourned at 10:16 p.m. The next meeting will be on Aug. 18 at Station 2 at 7 p.m. Board meetings are normally held the third Wednesday of the month.

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Tri-Lakes FPD board meeting July 15

By John Heiser

The Tri-Lakes Fire Protection District (TLFPD) board of directors held its monthly meeting on July 15. All directors were present.

Chief’s Report

Chief Robert Denboske reported as follows:

  • During June, the district responded to 86 calls, bringing the total so far this year to 548. The 86 calls during June were as follows: 37 medical, 19 fire, 25 traffic accidents, 4 public assists, and 1 hazardous materials; 36 people were transported to area hospitals.

  • Total district personnel stands at 73.

  • The district received a state EMS grant for a new ambulance and stair-chairs. This is a matching grant where the state provides half the money and the district supplies the other half. As reported in the March 6, 2004, issue of OCN, the district applied for a 4x4 ambulance to replace ambulance 3 and two Striker stair-chairs to aid in transporting patients down flights of stairs.

  • The district also received a $1,000 grant from the El Pomar Foundation.

Residency Program

At the time Station 2 was planned, board members said they intended to develop a residency program under which firefighters would live at the station while completing an educational program. At the July 15 meeting, the board requested that input regarding the proposed program be solicited from district personnel and called for a draft residency program plan to be developed, including rules/procedures, costs, and firefighter contract. These items are to be discussed at the Aug. 19 meeting.

Station 2

Rick Barnes, TLFPD director and Station 2 architect, reported that the construction of the new station on Rollercoaster Road near Highway 105 is progressing smoothly and on schedule.

Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

TLFPD board president Charlie Pocock said that since the primary goal right now is to unify the Woodmoor/Monument Fire Protection District (W/MFPD) and the Tri-Lakes Fire Protection District, signing the MOU which calls for the formation of an interim fire authority with W/MFPD and the Donald Wescott Fire Protection District would be premature. The board unanimously voted to indefinitely table this item.

Due to the scheduling conflict with the Wal-Mart hearing, this article was derived from the draft TLFPD board meeting minutes

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The Tri-Lakes Fire Protection District board normally meets at 7 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at the district firehouse, 18650 Highway 105 (near the bowling alley). The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 19.

For more information, call Chief Denboske at 481-2312 or visit www.tri-lakesfire.com.

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Woodmoor/Monument FPD board meeting July 27

By Jim Kendrick

A standing-room-only crowd attended the Woodmoor/Monument Fire Protection District Board (W/MFPD) meeting on July 27. The large gathering included the chiefs and several firefighters from Tri-Lakes, Donald Wescott, and Palmer Lake, as well as several residents. Many were there to hear the board discuss a draft contract for Tri-Lakes Fire Protection District to replace AMR as the ambulance service provider.

Audit

The district received a clean audit from CPA Mitch Downs. He reported that at the end of 2003, the general fund balance was about $906,000, the district had an operating surplus of about $84,000, and the pension fund earned about $51,000 from investments. The end-of-year general fund balance was higher than normal due to an unusual one-time transfer of about $348,000 of unclaimed benefits from the old pension fund for a deceased firefighter who was retired and had no heirs. Chief Dave Youtsey said that unless there were corrections or comments from board members, the draft would be finalized and forwarded to the state. Actual revenue of $1,134,676 exceeded the budgeted amount of $1,098,308, and actual expenses of $1,050,035 exceeded the budgeted amount of $992,986.

Multiple Medical Call Incident

President Si Sibell invited TLFPD Chief Rob Denboske to the meeting to discuss events in July that led to Woodmoor’s AMR ambulance being out of district and unable to respond immediately to a call for a man who had fainted at a luncheon in Monument in July. This incident was reported shortly after a call about a Tri-Lakes district resident who had fallen off a ladder. The TLFPD incident commander requested assistance from the Woodmoor engine. Based on the dispatch from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office fire dispatcher, however, Woodmoor responded to the Tri-Lakes accident with an engine and their AMR ambulance. At the request of the W/MFPD Acting Captain Greg Lovato, Donald Wescott Fire Protection District (DWFPD) responded to the man who fainted by sending an engine company with a paramedic onboard; the Woodmoor AMR ambulance later provided transport for the man after assisting on the Tri-Lakes call.

This incident was discussed at this W/MFPD board meeting because this kind of multiple dispatch situation may become more common when Tri-Lakes and Woodmoor/Monument begin responding together to each other’s calls per the resolution on common 911 alerting that passed at the joint board meeting of July 6. The resolution directs the Sheriff’s Office fire dispatcher to send dispatches for either district to both districts. Tri-Lakes will respond to most emergency calls with an engine and an ambulance, and Woodmoor will respond with an engine under this new policy. This will substantially increase the number of calls responded to by both districts.

With the expected termination of the AMR ambulance contract, the four Woodmoor fire-fighter/EMT employees (one an EMT-paramedic) will all go back to riding on the engine (the pumper or the ladder truck, depending on the type of call). Because the Tri-Lakes district is so much larger than Woodmoor/Monument (45 square miles versus 9 square miles), the four-person crew on the Woodmoor engine, including the on-duty Woodmoor paramedic, will be out of district more often than in the past.

Also, another Woodmoor paramedic, Chris Sobin, has resigned to take a position with a Denver-area fire department, and more Woodmoor resignations are expected soon. (Assistant Chief Jim Rackl resigned on July 28.)

Executive Session

At 7:20 p.m., the board called for an executive session on personnel matters. The board resumed its public session at 8:10 p.m. No announcements regarding the session were made.

Chief’s Report

Youtsey announced that Rackl had successfully applied for the award of the district’s first Federal Emergency Management Agency "FIRE" grant for $41,700 (plus a 12 percent match by W/MFPD) for 12 sets of personal protection and self-contained breathing apparatus equipment replacement for all the employees. The district’s 10-year capital improvement plan would not have replaced the equipment until 2008 through 2010 (four sets per year.) Rackl also was successful in his request for a Mountain View Electric Association grant for $2,123 for pump testing equipment as well as a $655.00 grant from the El Paso County Fire Marshal for wildland firefighting equipment. The grant money the district received from Rackl’s grant requests was more than he received in compensation while working for W/MFPD. Youtsey distributed copies of the capital improvement plan to board members. He also reported that there were 54 calls in June bringing the total for the year to 315.

Broshous asked TLFPD Assistant Chief Ron Thompson to discuss their recently awarded ambulance grant. Thompson said they had received a 50 percent matching grant for $47,000 which they would use to help purchase a new four-wheel drive ambulance along with all the equipment required to make it operational.

Woodmoor/Monument-Wescott MOU

DWFPD Chief Bill Sheldon queried the board regarding the status of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on consolidating these two districts, which had been signed in late April. Since the May election, Sibell, Rod Wilson, and Jeremy Diggins have redirected their district’s focus from consolidation with Wescott to Tri-Lakes. Wescott President Brian Ritz had spoken at each of the respective board’s meetings as well as at the two joint board meetings, lobbying for Wescott’s inclusion in merger talks in light of the MOU. Ritz, however, did not attend the July 27 meeting. A revised MOU was redrafted June 29, at Sibell’s request, to include all three districts. Westcott gave the new draft to the other two districts that day.The draft was subsequently discussed at the joint board meeting of Aug. 3.

Sheldon said "Something needs to be done," now that the revised MOU has been presented to both boards, and that there was no reason not to proceed with a three-way merger discussion. W/MFPD board member Bob Harvey made a motion to accept the three-way consolidation MOU, saying there was no reason TLFPD should experience negative feelings about it. Assistant Chief Ron Thompson of TLFPD said that the Tri-Lakes board had tabled this draft MOU at its board meeting on July 15. Secretary Russ Broshous seconded Harvey’s motion.

Diggins said he didn’t know "if we want to vote at this time without Tri-Lakes’ participation." Harvey replied, "How many times do we offer an open hand to all the other districts?" and added that it was very valuable to include all the districts, including Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department (PLVFD) in merger discussions. "Why are we being selective on studying a merger?" Diggins said he didn’t want to damage relations with Tri-Lakes. Harvey said Woodmoor already has an MOU with Wescott. Broshous said that the MOU with Wescott is in force and did not require another vote. He added, "I gather Tri-Lakes is not ready to join in with this MOU." Sheldon said there were lines for signatures on the draft MOU for Tri-Lakes board members, and "We’ve got to start somewhere, gentlemen." Wilson said he had no comment to make, unless a vote was to be taken. Broshous asked, "Why would you want to vote against it?" Wilson did not answer. Harvey then withdrew his motion.

The discussion continued with Harvey asking "What’s the heartburn?" regarding Tri-Lakes tabling the MOU. Sibell said he would contact Tri-Lakes President Charlie Pocock and ask. Wescott Treasurer Dennis Feltz asked Sibell if the draft three-way MOU would be brought up at the next joint board meeting (on Aug. 3) and Sibell said yes. Diggins asked Sibell, "Will it or will it not be part of the agenda? We have as much say [as Tri-Lakes]." Sibell said, "I’ll have it on the agenda at the next focus group meeting."

Sheldon asked why they were called focus group meetings when the announcements call them special joint board meetings. He said the alternative names were confusing to the public because the title "focus group" implies that official board actions such as passing resolutions that implement new policies can’t occur. Woodmoor resident Bill Ingram said, "You’ve got that right." Sheldon added that residents won’t come if it’s called a focus group meeting and then the boards vote without the opportunity for the public to comment first. Sibell again said, "I’ll talk to Charlie." Sheldon said that if Pocock has reasons to be opposed to the MOU, they should be made public. Sibell said, "I’ll make it a discussion item."

Broshous Resigns

Russ Broshous resigned effective July 28. He is building a new house that is outside the W/MFPD district, making him ineligible to continue serving. He noted that his new home is in the Black Forest district. Sibell read his letter of resignation, which thanked all those with whom he had served on the board and the employees of the district. Sibell thanked him for efforts on the Joint Working Group, the MOU, and the recent merger talks with Tri-Lakes. Broshous wrote that a merger will work if all four districts are treated equally and resources are shared fairly.

Harvey nominated former board member Tom Conroy to replace Broshous, saying he was the next highest vote getter in the May elections. Conroy lost to Diggins by two votes. Wilson nominated Tom Hansen, who had also run in May and was backed by the firefighters’ union and TLFPD. Hansen moved to the area last August and is a retired sheriff’s deputy from California. Conroy suggested that he and Hansen have a discussion with the board before a vote was taken. Broshous drew a big laugh when he quipped, "The carcass is still warm." The board agreed with Conroy and deferred the vote .

Ambulance Agreement

A revised draft of the ambulance agreement that would provide service by Tri-Lakes to the Woodmoor district was distributed and discussed. There was an extensive technical discussion on the relative skills of an intermediate emergency medical technician (EMT-I) and a paramedic (EMT-P) and how they could be used in various emergency dispatch scenarios. A continuing concern is how to minimize the number of times there is no paramedic on call when an absence, a transport, or multiple emergency calls takes the paramedics out of the station or out of district. Woodmoor’s current policy is to have a paramedic respond to all advanced life-support calls, while Tri-Lakes provides a minimum of EMT-I manning for these responses. This difficult issue was again continued, pending further employee, supervisory, and legal review.

Dr. Dave Ross, the advising physician for Woodmoor/Monument discussed some technicalities and the differences between the Tri-Lakes and Woodmoor/Monument certification processes. Tri-Lakes has a different advising physician, which leads to issues that must be resolved before Woodmoor/Monument EMTs can serve on Tri-Lakes ambulances interchangeably with Tri-Lakes EMTs.

Complaint

Youtsey passed out copies of a complaint by Bob Pietsch in sealed envelopes to each board member. The complaint discussed an incident between Monument Police Department volunteer Bill Nealon and Woodmoor/Monument Captain Larry Garner that occurred when fingerprints of firefighter Ryan Graham were being taken. Broshous suggested that the matter be handled at a future executive session.

The meeting adjourned at 9:40 p.m. The next joint board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 3 at the Tri-Lakes station. The next W/MFPD board meeting will be held at 7 p.m. on Aug. 24.

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Joint TLFPD-W/MFPD board meeting August 3

By Jim Kendrick

The boards of the Tri-Lakes and Woodmoor/Monument Fire Protection Districts (TLFPD, W/MFPD) took two unprecedented steps in moving closer to integrated operations at their third joint board meeting on Aug. 3. First, two new agreements will enable these districts to provide better emergency service for their constituents. Also, they formalized an agreement with the Donald Wescott Fire Protection District (DWFPD) to provide closest force response for medical calls in the Tri-Lakes district area between Higby and Baptist Roads.

Each board unanimously approved a contract for Tri-Lakes to provide ambulance service to Woodmoor/Monument, replacing AMR, whose service contract with Woodmoor ends on Aug. 17. . Pocock said Tri-Lakes would be buying another four-wheel-drive ambulance and hiring two full-time people with the help of a $47,000 grant.

TLFPD President Charlie Pocock and W/MFPD President Si Sibell also signed an Interagency Cooperative document that allows personnel from each district to respond to an emergency on the other district’s vehicles without concern for liability or worker’s compensation issues. This agreement now allows for closest force dispatching of fire engines with medical personnel from both districts to fire and medical emergencies in either district along with the Tri-Lakes ambulance. Furthermore, Wescott will now assist in closest response dispatches for medical calls in Jackson Creek, Fox Pines, and Fox Run.

Memorandum of Understanding

The MOU previously signed by Woodmoor and Wescott called for an interim fire authority for joint operations, leading to consolidation into a single new district. Sibell distributed copies of a new draft MOU that would include Tri-Lakes. This MOU was written by DWFPD Chief Bill Sheldon and given to Sibell on June 29 after Sibell agreed to make it an agenda item at the July 28 W/MFPD board meeting. Pocock noted that DWFPD President Brian Ritz had asked him for a meeting to discuss a three-way MOU at the July 6 joint meeting but had not followed up. (Ritz apologized for not following up later in the meeting.)

Pocock reviewed the history of the Joint Working Group and the withdrawal of TLFPD from it in June 2003. Pocock also reviewed the background of the current merger effort. He said that about three months before the special district election in May, three citizen groups from Woodmoor/Monument had come to the Tri-Lakes board asking them to re-initiate merger discussions with the Woodmoor board. He had asked them to nominate and elect candidates that would be in favor of this two-way merger and then TLFPD "would sit down and discuss it." The citizens and their candidates (Sibell, Vice President Rod Wilson, and Treasurer Jeremy Diggins) were interested in merger first with TLFPD, then perhaps with DWFPD a few years after that, and perhaps with the Palmer Lake Volunteer Fire Department (PLVFD). The Tri-Lakes board then formally endorsed their candidacy by resolution.

Sibell said that the "duly executed MOU" is "a valid done deal between Woodmoor/Monument and Donald Wescott." W/MFPD Director Bob Harvey said that the MOU required months of work to enact and provided a good vehicle to create a fire authority under which all three districts could iron out any problems they might have in developing effective merged operations while working through the years of legal effort that a consolidation would require. Pocock reviewed the number of contiguous agencies (about 14) that would have to approve a new service plan (which, similar to a business plan, says how emergency services will be provided in the new district) and noted the risk of having to get the constituents of each district to again vote in favor of their exemptions for TABOR and Gallagher.

In further discussions, the long-term board members from all three districts indicated they may be more willing to work toward a compromise than they were in the past on the JWG and that elections had changed the composition of all three boards. There was general agreement that a fire authority structure is an easier method of unification to achieve than consolidation. No decisions were made regarding the draft three-way MOU or the existing MOU with Wescott.

Interagency Cooperative

All fire agencies in the region are insured by VFIS. This commonality allowed Pocock and Sibell to sign a type of legal agreement that is called an interagency cooperative. This permits Tri-Lakes and Woodmoor/Monument employees to work interchangeably between the districts with no legal liability or insurance problems. This cooperative system of manning will allow all employees to participate in all aspects of training and operations in both districts.

Pocock then proposed starting a new training class of 24 volunteer firefighters, eight each from the three districts, to exploit this new spirit of cooperation and staffing flexibility. Youstsey said W/MFPD has only three candidates for volunteer positions; two reside in the Tri-Lakes district. Wescott has over 20 volunteers. Pocock urged the other districts to provide instructors for the classes to minimize costs.

Committee Reports

Fiscal subcommittee: Treasurers Hildebrandt and Diggins reported progress in creating two standardized spreadsheets for each district, which will allow them to be merged as a fiscal model for combined operations. Hildebrandt said that it may be possible for TLFPD to match W/MFPD’s pay and benefits, and discussed an example of having a common mill levy for both districts, 7.4 mills. Diggins said that for a house with an assessed value of $300,000, this increase would amount to about $11 per year. This increase would generate an additional $88,000 in revenue for Woodmoor/Monument at the district’s current assessed value.

Using that mill levy figure, TLFPD constituents would have to pass a ballot issue to allow the district to increase their current 7.0 mill levy. Any change in a mill levy by a special district must be certified in December at a public hearing, to take effect in January of the next calendar year.

At the July 6 joint board meeting, Hildebrandt had said that there would be a shortfall in W/MFPD revenue to cover Woodmoor/Monument personnel pay and benefits costs at only 7 mills for both districts. He also said that if the districts were merged, this payroll would force TLFPD into a deficit situation.

Common 911 alerting: Adoption of the interagency cooperative agreement will provide the flexibility needed from a legal and insurance standpoint to allow Woodmoor/Monument personnel to assist in transports on a Tri-Lakes ambulance. The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office had requested that the reprogramming of their fire dispatcher computer software not be initiated until common 911 alerting would apply to fire and medical calls for Woodmoor and Tri-Lakes. Now the Sheriff’s Office can begin this reprogramming so a call from any address in either district will prompt the paging system to notify the firehouses in both districts simultaneously.

Furthermore, a Tri-Lakes ambulance will now be responding to calls in both districts. Both boards agreed unanimously to incorporate the changes in the draft contract recommended by W/MFPD attorney Tim Schutz. Tri-Lakes Chief Robert Denboske said it was time to start testing the process, and the boards authorized initiation of the service.

In conjunction with these agreements, the closest force response agreement among the three districts will also be initiated, which enables the Sheriff’s Office fire dispatcher to send emergency medical personnel on a DWFPD engine to any medical emergency call in the Tri-Lakes area roughly south of Higby. Acting W/MFPD Captain Mike Dooley said he believed that Wescott’s AMR ambulance could also respond in a dire situation.

When Dooley asked what Woodmoor’s AMR contract said about their ability to self-dispatch to a medical emergency, Youtsey said, "I’ve never seen that document." Ritz said there is always an AMR paramedic on the Wescott ambulance. The Tri-Lakes ambulance will remain the primary transporter from Jackson Creek, Fox Pines, and Fox Run in most situations.

Joint Training: The joint training subcommittee was cleared to prepare and execute a joint training plan that includes all three departments and will now report the events they have scheduled and completed at each monthly joint board meeting.

TLFPD and W/MFPD fire inspectors will create and use common forms, documents, and firefighter inspection training programs. An agreement was made to schedule cross-training on how to conduct small business inspections. Training will take place when firefighters visit new buildings or businesses to write plans on how they would fight a fire—not when an actual fire inspection is taking place—in order to reduce the inspection time.

Public Perception: TLFPD Director Keith Duncan noted that his job was made considerably easier by the agreements signed and the progress made in the spirit of cooperation. He distributed copies of three draft press releases regarding joint Fire Prevention Week open houses in October for discussion by the boards.

Functional Commonality Committee: Pocock said that TLFPD Captain Brian Jack was getting married and had asked to be replaced. Jack had also told Pocock he had never known who his Woodmoor counterpart was for this committee. Diggins asked Youtsey to suggest a replacement; Youtsey was appointed. Lt. Max Maybrey was appointed from Tri-Lakes.

The meeting adjourned at 9:05 p.m. The next joint board meeting will be held Sept. 7, at 7 p.m. at the Tri-Lakes station.

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Lewis-Palmer School Board meeting July 8

By Tommie Plank

Board President Jes Raintree opened the regular meeting of the Board of Education by explaining that the Board did not normally meet in July. However, the deadline to notify the County Clerk of the District’s intent to have a question on the November ballot was July 29; therefore a meeting in order to make a decision about a ballot question was necessary.

Having met with over 1,000 people during 45 meetings since March, the Board compiled the comments and reviewed input from participants. They determined there were four possible options to deal with growth at the high school: 1) the "D’Evelyn model"; 2) reconfigure the middle schools into middle/junior high schools; 3) two high schools with boundaries, and 4) one high school, with no boundaries. Discussions led the Board to eliminate the first two options. The D’Evelyn model (named for a high performing magnet school in Denver) was rejected because they decided that the District already has a quality school of choice in the Monument Academy. Reconfiguring the middle schools would result in a temporary solution, and would compromise the team approach of middle school education, which the Board and Administrative Team support.

Of the remaining two possibilities, the School Board firmly supports an expanded campus on the current high school site. Their proposal is to build a ninth grade center, which, they believe, would ease the transition of students moving from middle school to high school. "It would also allow us to bring a focus to the high expectations for freshmen and to serve as a launch pad for even higher expectations in grades 10-12," said Superintendent Dave Dilley.

Many people in the community would prefer to see a second high school built in the eastern part of the district. Because the current high school has an enrollment capacity of about 1,700, and the eventual total high school student population is projected to be about 2,500, a second high school would need to serve about 800 students. Initial construction, or capital, costs to build a freshman center and an 800 capacity second high school are comparable: (See table below)

  New 4-Year High School for 800 students Freshman Center near L-PHS for 800 students
Site Development  $                             3,238,850  $                                     2,812,660
Full Design & Construction Costs  $                           27,781,000  $                                   25,291,750
 (Size)

(180,000 sq ft)

(130,000 sq ft)

Total Capital Budget  $                           31,019,850  $                                   28,104,410

 

Dilley said that the issues of staffing and running the two facilities have a greater impact, not only on the budget, but on the program and extra-curricular offerings as well. A smaller school would have adequate course offerings, but maintaining and adding to the menu of classes would be expensive. A freshman learning center could offer an enhanced variety of courses; it would be easier to add courses as the total student population, centered at the current high school site, increases.

A second high school would raise boundary issues, according to Dilley. To generate enough students to fill an 800 capacity school, students from as far west as Fairplay in south Woodmoor would be attending the new school. Students already attending Lewis-Palmer High School would not be required to change schools. The first year the new school would house only the freshman class, and as that class moved up, another grade would be added each year. That would indicate that the first year the school was open it would house only about 200 students. There would be few possibilities for a variety of class offerings at that student level.

Extracurricular programs could also be problematic, Dilley said. While another high school would offer a second complete varsity program, allowing for more district students to participate, there would be fewer choices of sports or activities with a smaller student body. The smaller school would also have a different league affiliation than the current high school.

Raintree then said that, although the Board unanimously supports the concept of building a freshman center on an expanded campus next to the present high school, they also recognize the strong preference some members of the community have for building a second high school. The Board then voted to put both choices on the November ballot. One question will authorize a bond issue to build a freshman center. The second question will authorize a bond issue to build a second high school, and will have tied to it a mill levy override to fund the additional staff required to run the programs at that school.

The next regular meeting of the Board of Education will be August 19 at 7 p.m. in the Learning Center of the Administration Building.

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WIA meetings for July 7 and August 4

By Chris Pollard

The major announcement for the July meeting was that treasurer Mike Varnet had resigned, having taken on additional responsibilities at his regular job with the Pikes Peak Library District. Fortunately, by the August meeting a replacement had been found by Board President John Ottino, and so Gina Hagloff was appointed to the open position with the proviso that she would serve until the next annual meeting.

At both meetings there was ongoing discussion about what should be done about detached buildings. Many people are interested in adding garage and storage space but the current rules are not clear about what can or cannot be added. There was a consensus about the extra building not having any living space but what limits should be placed on size were not resolved.

Road safety and maintenance was also a common item. There had been several complaints about the condition of many roads within Woodmoor and Kevin Nielsen, Chief of Woodmoor Public Safety, had also conducted a survey showing several roads to be in poor condition. El Paso County Roads Department was responsible for maintenance but many people felt that they had resurfaced a few roads this year that were not the ones that most needed it. The County claimed lack of funding was the main reason for the low level of repairs.

With the decision to drop plans for putting a trail down the middle of the Fairplay median, a discussion was started as to what other possible safety improvements could be made to this busy area. The El Paso Roads Department had agreed to provide an estimate of what it would cost to improve the roadway but had been less helpful in its suggestions for slowing traffic along Fairplay and other high traffic areas of Woodmoor. They were still adamantly opposed to regular speed bumps because of snowplow problems. Hans Post, Director of Public Safety, agreed to look at other ideas for slowing traffic that might be more acceptable.

As part of an attempt to improve the ongoing values of living in Woodmoor the directors approved new exterior maintenance rules and these will be announced in an upcoming newsletter to its residents.

In an update on the Walters townhome project, John Ottino said that he had received further assurances from the Walters family that they were still actively pursuing the conservation easement for the open area not taken up by homes. They have agreed to mow the property in the near future to control the vegetation growth experienced this summer. It was, however, noted that as of the July meeting the Woodmoor Architectural Control Committee had still not received final plans to review of the proposed construction.

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View July 4th Photos

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Monthly Weather Wrap

By Bill Kappel

July 2004 Weather Summary

For the second month in a row, copious amounts of moisture blessed the Tri-Lakes region. The first week of July started off on the dry and mild side, with highs in the 70s to low 80s. Afternoon thunder was heard around the region, but very little moisture made it to the ground. During the afternoons of the 4th and 5th, southwesterly winds brought smoke and hazy skies from Arizona wildfires. A warmer airmass then moved into the region from the 7th to the 9th, with highs soaring into the 80s. Scattered afternoon thunderstorms formed each day, but there was limited moisture on the 7th and 8th.

Things changed drastically on the 9th, as a series of strong-to-severe storms formed over the Rampart Range and along the I-25 corridor from late afternoon through early Saturday morning. These storms were slow moving and produced heavy rain, with .50 to 2.00 inches recorded across the region, once again causing flash flooding for many areas. Large hail was noted, especially in and around Colorado Springs and the southern and eastern sides of the Palmer Divide. Many residents were awakened by the ping of pea-sized hail just before midnight that Friday, and our poor plants had to deal with the third damaging hailstorm in the last month. The almost continuous lightning made for quite a spectacular display during the night.

Seasonal temperatures and dry conditions greeted the Palmer Divide to start the week of July 11. Highs reached well into the 80s each afternoon through the 15th, with a few rumbles of thunder during the afternoon of the 12th. Heavier moisture moved back into the region, as the first signs of the summer monsoon began to make an appearance. A weak cold front, with a reinforcing shot of moisture and low-level easterly winds helped keep things active on the 16th. Temperatures struggled to reach the upper 60s and low 70s as clouds and moisture pooled along the Front Range and Palmer Divide. Strong thunderstorms developed during mid-afternoon, producing flash flooding in Colorado Springs and Teller County. Heavy rain began to affect the Tri-Lakes region during the early evening hours. Many streams and washes in the area began to run full—1 to 2 inches of rain was recorded, continuing our trend of wet weather since the middle of June.

More active weather developed over the Tri-Lakes region during the third week of July. A strong cold front for July standards came through the region on the 22nd. Thunderstorms developed just after the noon hour, with brief heavy rain; cloudy conditions with scattered rain showers continued through the rest of the day. At the same time, severe weather developed on the north side of the Palmer Divide, as heavy rains and hail pounded eastern Douglas and western Elbert Counties. Flash floods roared down many of the creeks flowing north from the Tri-Lakes region, with Boxelder Creek in western Elbert County being the main recipient. Central El Paso County received heavy rain and flash flooding as well; homes in the Ellicott area were damaged by high waters. The Tri-Lakes region received .50 to 1.50 inches of rain, but that was just the beginning. The next three days saw cold temperatures, with record low highs in the 50s to low 60s occurring each day from the 23rd to the 25th, and plenty of low clouds, fog, and soaking rain.

The last weekend of July saw a return to normal temperatures with scattered afternoon thunderstorms. Overall the month ended with much-below-average temperatures and much-above-normal precipitation—the perfect combination for a region coming out of a drought.

A Look Ahead

The month of August often provides abundant precipitation for the Tri-Lakes region, as afternoon and evening thunderstorms are common. Temperatures average in the upper 70s to low 80s, with overnight lows averaging around 50 to start off the month, then low to mid 40s by month’s end. Highs can easily reach into the 90s, and heavy rains can occur. The monthly forecast for August 2004, produced by the Climate Prediction Center (http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/predictions/30day/), is calling for a better-than-average chance of slightly above-normal temperatures and precipitation. August is also the last month we can expect to see no snowfall or freezing temperatures—so enjoy, because those conditions start to make an appearance in September. For a complete look at monthly climate summaries for the Palmer Divide, visit http://users.adelphia.net/~billkappel/ClimateSummary.htm.

 

July 2004 Weather Statistics

Average High 77.3° F
Average Low 49.1° F
Highest Temperature 88° F on the 13th
Lowest Temperature 42° F on the 3rd
Monthly Precipitation 4.01"
Season to Date Precip. 4.01"

Remember, weather affects all of us everyday and is a very important part of life. If you see a unique weather event or have a weather question, please contact us at our_community_news@hotmail.com.

Bill Kappel is the KKTV 11 News morning meteorologist and a Tri-Lakes resident.

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Letters to Our Community

Re: More About Abuse of Government Power

Wm. Lamdin again spliced history. ("More About Abuse of Government Power," OCN, July 3, 2004). He quoted Ronald Reagan, "Freedom...is never more than one generation away from extinction. Every generation has to learn to protect and defend it." "Extinction" cannot be found within the latter sentence. President Reagan stated at a dedication, "… created government for our own convenience. It can have no power except that voluntarily granted to it by the people. Those principles must be affirmed by every generation…, for freedom is never more than one generation from extinction. It can only be passed on to a new generation if it is preserved by the old."

Lamdin misrepresented a counter opinion again. I, Monika Cline, will stand by my defense of those treated disrespectfully. My response (June 5), was in defense of a woman who disagreed with Lamdin’s initial letter of March 6. Lamdin was warning us about abuse of power by the local police because he had been caught in illegal activity on two separate occasions. I came to her defense because of his response (May 1). One of the nicer retorts was, "Get a life." For himself he demands freedom of speech.

Lamdin remarks on my "self-centeredness" statement by asking if, assassins "Booth and Oswald had instead eliminated Hitler and Stalin, would they be held in such disdain?" It sheds some light on his state of reasoning.

Some people, in uniform or not, get carried away with self importance. The point is, in our democracy, there is a process by which laws are made, changed, and dealt with when broken. Lamdin’s example of Abu Ghraib prison: Several soldiers were identified as participating in the mistreatment of prisoners. No one will be allowed to rage in their faces without consequences. If you don’t agree with a law, use the process to change it!

Justification of being disrespectful, in the name of "fighting oppression," to readers with history distortions, to local police, to a citizen who countered, is hideous.

The comparison between the behavior of spitting on Vietnam soldiers and haranguing police officers when caught in the act of breaking laws was lost on Lamdin. Police officers are in the position of having to enforce laws they may not even agree with! How different is this from soldiers who went to Vietnam because of orders, yet didn’t agree with the war?

Monika Cline

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Minutes? I don’t think so!

The Gazette (minus its editorial) and other Colorado Springs media are to be complimented for their coverage of the Wal-Mart issue. Their attention was invaluable in this important fight. Hopefully this will translate to coverage by them of other northern El Paso County affairs. There’s a lot going on in our part of the county that requires attention by residents here as well as by all the media. 

As a copy editor for Our Community News, I want to clarify one comment Jane Reuter made in her June article in Slice ("Coalition readies for Wal-Mart showdown"). She said, "Our Community News publishes minutes of meetings in the area." Anyone who reads OCN knows this is not what we do. Our writers attend many of the meetings of (as she notes) "such typically overlooked groups as police advisory committees, parks and landscape committees, area fire boards and sanitation districts," and they write about these meetings in their own words. Writers will sometimes include detailed background to some of the more hotly debated issues. And they may refer to the minutes for assistance with details. All said, they spend many hours doing this, as volunteers. Note too that we have several local columnists writing on a variety of subjects.

While covering meetings is not the most glamorous of tasks—and it is time consuming—OCN volunteers know this is where so many important decisions are made that might otherwise slip by unnoticed.

Susan Hindman

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To The Board of County Commissioners of El Paso County

As residents of the Jackson Creek subdivision, we would like to thank you for your decision against the rezoning at I-25 and Baptist Road. You have preserved our quality of life and protected our community from a travesty.

When Sam Walton was alive, his policy was to not build a Wal-Mart in a town that didn’t want it. That philosophy has apparently been replaced with greed and strong-arming. They have shown no concern for the community.

You have stood by the motto you were sworn to, and we will remember this at election time.

Norman and Linda Baker

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Thanks

We would like to thank all the wonderful people who helped us get through the loss of Laura (wife, mother, and daughter) to cancer. Your help and support during the past six months have made it possible for all of us to get through this difficult time.

Thanks to all of you who sent flowers and made donations to Laura’s Memorials; the flowers were beautiful, and your donations will be appreciated by the Pikes Peak Hospice Foundation and the Diana Fish Cancer Foundation.

A special thanks to Pastor Tim Miller and his worship group for the fine memorial service and to the Ladies of the Forest Ridge Community Church who supplied so much excellent food.

Our thanks to the people of the Tri-Lakes area who donated a beautiful golden locust tree to the Palmer Lake Sanitation District in honor of Laura. To all of you who sent all of those beautiful cards that shared our sorrow, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Ed and Colleen Kinney
Chuck Caldwell
Chris and Kihra Johns
Aaron Linn

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To the Monument Board of Trustees

I congratulate you on your courageous stand with the ill-considered Wal-Mart proposal on Baptist Road. You have done well for the Town’s future both in revenue and quality of life.

I write this open letter to you to help clarify the Town’s desire to go into the sewerage handling business. You should first realize that the Monument Sanitation District is only one of five sewerage handlers in the current boundaries of the Town. Two of the others are Woodmoor Water and Sanitation District and Tri-view Metropolitan District.

Next, you should realize that some false allegations have been made by some neophytes that the Monument Sanitation District is run inefficiently. This is untrue. The current district manager came to this district over 10 years ago, when it was in technical default on its bonds. Now this district has over $1.2 million in cash reserves. Over the past seven years, this district is the only government in this county and possibly the state that has reduced both its property taxes and its user fees. Further, over $1,000,000 in improvements have been made by the district without a bond election. The capacity for sewerage handling has been more than doubled and new lines have been lain, opening up new areas in the Town and surrounding community for the common pipe and the common welfare. This is not an inefficient operation such as can be said for most of the other special districts that are also within the Town boundaries.

Next, you should realize that you have virtually no control over how a special district is dis-assembled. According to the statutes, the electors and the courts will make the final decisions. If you do want to participate, then you do have some decisions you can influence. First, as part of the plan that the district is required by statute to submit to the court, the district must liquidate the fixed assets. Then these assets with any cash must be distributed to the current district users and/or electors. Since less than half the Town will use these assets, it is only fair that the Town buy these fixed assets, which are valued at over $3 million according to the last district audit. In order to purchase these assets, the Town may have to have a bond election to get the money. In order to pay the annual premium on these bonds, the Town may have to develop new sources of funding, which could be an increase in the mill levy by 10 or 20 mills and/or an increase in sewer user fees by up to 50 percent. These actions may result in the $300,000 to $400,000 necessary on an annual basis to pay for these bonds.

However, rather than participate in dissolving a very efficiently run district, the Town may want to consider the reverse by petitioning the district, the courts, and the electors by merging the Town’s water system with this Monument Sanitation District. On average, do you spend more than 15 minutes each meeting discussing the water policy in the Town, or is the water system neglected so that little or no policy is considered? Recently, the town employees have been making policy by telling a developer that he needs to contribute $2 million to off-site improvements. Is the latest water well drilled into the Laramie-Fox aquifer to permit the Town to use the 400 acre-feet per year as permitted by the state for the benefit of the Town’s people? There is a rumor that the Town does not know how much money is in its water fund.

Another utility not managed is the stormwater drainage in the Town. In 1999, the then-current Mayor’s basement was flooded on Front Street. What is being done so that it does not happen again? Finally, the lake is still dry. Do the employees make these policy decisions or do the elected officials of the Town do so? These are just some of the events that come from neglecting to manage a precious resource.

Leon W. Tenney

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Perspective on Our Community: Conduct Unbecoming

By John Heiser

Hearings on land use items generally consist of presentations by staff, presentations by the applicant, statements by those in favor, statements by those opposed, and conclude with the applicant’s rebuttal of the opponents’ arguments.

The officials conducting such hearings, whether they are town trustees, planning commissioners, or county commissioners, are obligated to come to the hearing without having formed an opinion and base their decisions only on the information presented at the hearing. They are expected to carefully listen to the presentations and statements and ask questions for clarification so they fully understand the points being made.

The conduct during the county commissioners hearing on Wal-Mart was somewhat different. In particular, despite his claims that he had not made up his mind in advance of the hearing, Commissioner Wayne Williams’ questions and statements gave many audience members the strong impression he was in favor of the project and intent on refuting the arguments made against the project. He and County Attorney Bill Lewis worked so hard to counter opponents’ points there was little left for the Wal-Mart representative to say when the time for rebuttal arrived.

Rather than rely on staff members to provide technical testimony, Williams made statements that the proposed road improvements are consistent with the BRRTA plan and that church access from the east has always been proposed.

Several opponents were asked whether or not they regularly shop at Wal-Mart, as if that were relevant to whether a supercenter is the appropriate use for the parcel. The question appeared designed to dismiss as "Wal-Mart bashing" the arguments of any opponents who might have said they do not shop at Wal-Mart. Lack of other drive-through pharmacies in the area was mentioned several times as if it were a significant justification for supporting the store.

Williams asked opponents how else the county could pay for road improvements and to explain how alternative traffic flows would be satisfactory if Wal-Mart were to relocate to the Monument Marketplace. This line of questioning of citizens by Williams was all the more unusual given that Wal-Mart’s traffic study was criticized by county staff for failing to include traffic created by Home Depot or the rest of the retailers that are expected to fill out the remainder of the Marketplace.

Chuck Brown dismissed as irrelevant testimony on the county’s failure to extract from the Struthers Ranch developer anticipated off-site improvements such as the construction of Jackson Creek Parkway south of Baptist Road. That roadwork, which was negotiated away by the county, was now being used as an important reason to support the Wal-Mart.

The badgering of opponents was so persistent that at one point an exasperated speaker said to Williams, "We get it. You want the road."

Williams’ motion to have the hearing continued for two months appeared to many in the audience to be a thinly veiled attempt to postpone a motion for approval until community and media attention subsided. Public input at the postponed hearing would have been restricted to just annexation and traffic impact issues.

When his motion to continue failed, in making his motion to deny the rezoning, Williams discovered he only had handy a copy of the scripted motion for approval. County Attorney Lewis had to find the wording of the motion for rejection of the proposal and pass it to Williams.

All this gave the impression that Williams saw his role as finding a way to get the project approved rather than serving as an impartial elected representative sworn to make the best decision for the good of the residents.

We have a right to expect better from our elected officials.

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Between The Covers at the Covered Treasures Bookstore: Hammock Reading

By Judith Pettibone

While you may be tempted to pour the lemonade, pull up the rocker, and dig in to one of the dandelion-like political books that keep popping up, you really must STOP. After all, this is summer, the time when "must reads" get tossed aside (okay, reverently placed on the shelf) and the fun stuff gets packed into the suitcase or beach bag. And please, remember that the kiddos get a break, too. It’s the delicious, and not always "educational," reading time of year.

For the Younger Set

Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism
By Georgia Byng, $6.99

According to London’s Daily Telegraph, Byng deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling. We’ll let you be the judge. But if an orphan named Molly who finds a mysterious old book on hypnotism, plus sinister strangers and folks doing whatever Molly desires, sounds like fun, then this would be a perfect summer read.

The Secret of Platform 13
By Eva Ibbotson, $5.99

Though I would have preferred a title less reminiscent of Platform 9¾ of the Hogwart’s Express fame, this story has lots going for it. One doesn’t go "through" the platform, one goes "under" it to a magical island kingdom. There is a princely kidnapping with the requisite rescue by four unusual good-deed doers: an ogre, a hag, a wizard, and a fey!

Hoot
By Carl Hiaasen, $8.95

Hiaasen’s New York Times best seller is finally in paperback! Does the idea of greedy developers, corrupt politicians, clueless cops, and wacky middle school eco-warriors-on-a-mission sound plausible? Of course not … and therein lies the fun. Set in south Florida, its hilarity might even hide a few lessons. And you have to love the cover—two eyes and a beak!

For the Not-So-Young Set

Defending Baltimore from Enemy Attack
A Boyhood Year During WWII
By Charles Osgood, $19.95

"‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’ Charles Dickens didn’t write those words about the year that I was nine in Baltimore, but they happened to fit. That year, 1942, was the best of times for a Baltimore boy who always seemed to be feeling good and the worst of times for a nation reeling from the first blows of World War II." And so it goes. Osgood’s on-screen persona shines through his writing. Charming.

Babyville
Jane Green, $12.95

If the definition of a summer book includes the words romp, funny, touching, witty and un-put-downable, then this needs to go in the beach bag! Another English export, Green explores the adventure of three "mums" as their lives are turned upside down by the arrival of motherhood.

Trouble with Girls
By Marshall Boswell, $12.00

The cover is cute: a pair of male feet in casual leather shoes with the laces tied together. And so it goes, as one young man goes from a yearning adolescent to finally finding the "one." Linking these loosely tied together stories is one theme: a towering obsession with the opposite sex. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviews it with this statement: "Everytime I stopped laughing long enough to wipe my eyes, I began to wonder if it might be my world, too."

Last Days of Summer
By Steve Kluger, $13.00

Funnest needs to be a word, for it perfectly describes this wonderfully charming, funny, poignant and enormously entertaining book. Certainly the staff at Covered Treasures might vote it the "perfect summer read." Told entirely by letters, memos, report cards, and even war dispatches, one is transported back to 1940 Brooklyn, where precocious and most definitely sassy Joey Margolis is giving his world a spin. While he advises FDR on foreign affairs, drives his teachers and principal crazy, his primary relationship is with a professional baseball player, Charlie Banks. Joey’s shenanigans eventually win over Banks—and the rest, as they say, is the book. Four out of four stars!

Eat Cake
By Jeanne Ray, $14.00

My friend might call this book a "potato chip" read. However, Ray, author of Julie and Romeo and Step-Ball-Change, is also wise and crafts a keen character—one of the best descriptions of a 15-year-old teenage girl by a mother I have read. Laugh out loud! It’s also a sweet book in not just a figurative way. Ruth finds comfort in baking cakes and ends up using her celestial cake-baking talent to solve a major family crisis. If you don’t want to become a cake baker after this book, I’d be surprised. Recipes follow the end of the book. Terrific fun!

Full Cupboard of Life
By Alexander McCall Smith, $19.95

If you have somehow missed "The First Ladies’ Detective Agency" series, this title marks the fifth novel for the fans of Precious Ramotswe. The first four ($11.00) have all rested for some time on the Book Sense Best-Seller list, and Full Cupboard leaped on it immediately. Witty, wise, and down-to-earth, the characters become family in the best literary sense. Botswana in the 1970s is definitely a major character in these books, and one can’t help but be impressed by Smith’s love for this country and its natural landscape. We’ve had many customers buy the first book and come back a few days later and buy the rest of the series. Quite addicting!

***

So remember the summer reading rules: It is all about fun, and do remember that even "escapist lit" can fill the spirit! Until next month, happy reading AND relaxing.

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High Country Highlights: Starting a Garden

By Woody Woodworth

Building a new garden is an exciting and rewarding experience. The success of your new garden is greatly increased by following a few guidelines and basic principles. Plants you choose play a key role in determining how full your garden will appear right now and what it may look like in the future. Below are a few suggestions to help you along the way.

In selecting a site for your new garden, consider the amount of sun or shade exposure your plants will get. Observe the new site by watching the morning, mid-day, and evening light. In Colorado, five to six hours of sun is considered "full sun," two to five hours is thought of as "sun to partial shade," and less than two hours is more "shade." Most shade-loving plants desire less than one hour of our hot, dry climate. Use plants that thrive in proper light conditions to ensure success.

The single, most important thing you can give your new garden is good soil to grow in. Plants live in various soil types but will thrive if you amend your soil with a composted material. The type of soil you have will determine which compost you will use. Clay soils need to be broken up to provide more air to the plant roots. Sandy and rocky soils need to retain more moisture in the root zone. Consult your local garden center for information on the many types of soil amendments and which ones are best suited for your location.

Consider height and color of flowers or foliage when selecting plants for your new site. Set taller plants toward the rear or off to the sides of the garden if it backs up to a fence or structure. Place tall plants in the center of the garden if the site can be viewed from all directions. Use raised beds to achieve greater height, or select plants that grow tall such as vines and ornamental grasses. Some variegated foliage mixed in with flowering perennials offer a unique look. Mix wide-leaf and slim, narrow leaf plants to achieve texture and depth. Pick colors that compliment one another as you would if decorating your home. A splash of purple or blue next to yellows and oranges make beautiful combinations.

Choose plants that use the same water consumption to help make watering easy. Most succulents and sedums are drought tolerant and require little water; they should be planted in the same areas. Provide drip lines or efficient sprinklers on timers to avoid overwatering and wasting our precious water resources. Simple, battery-operated timers and drip irrigation supplies are available at most garden centers to help you easily convert sprinkler lines to drip irrigation.

Use natural bark mulches to help retain moisture and keep weeds in check. By adding three or four inches of a finer forest mulch, you will save on the amount of watering needed to maintain plants at the root zone. Use small, medium, or larger cedar bark mulches around perennials, shrubs, and trees to help control unwanted garden weeds and to make pulling weeds easy.

Add flare to your new garden by using a piece of statuary, birdbath, unusual rock, or other natural products as a focal point to compliment plants. A small fountain is easy to maintain—the running water is soothing to the ears, and it will attract birds and wildlife to your garden. Too many rocks will add more heat to your garden, so be aware of increased evaporation rates.

Be sure to think of the future and know how large your plants will grow as they become mature. If you overplant, you can always move those that are crowding others to a new garden and start again.

Woody Woodworth owns High Country Store and is a member of Garden Centers of Colorado and the Green Industry.

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Bird Watch on the Palmer Divide: Blue Heron

View a drawing of the Great Blue Heron

By Elizabeth Hacker

In Palmer Lake, there is a pair of nesting great blue herons. They are easily identified by their distinctive coloration, large size—up to four feet tall, with a seven-foot wingspan—and a long neck that often folds into an "S" shape. You may have seen great blue herons in other ponds or wetlands in the area, as they live and migrate in colonies.

In early June, while teaching a class at the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts, I saw these huge birds swooping over the lake. They glided back and forth for hours. Their acrobatic performance brought to mind this year’s spectacular Air Force Thunderbirds flyover celebrating the cadets’ graduation. After observing this behavior for a few days, it occurred to me that this might be part of a mating ritual.

The heron’s primary diet is fish, but it also consumes insects, rodents, reptiles, and other smaller birds, and has been known to snatch expensive imported fish from backyard ponds. While the low water level in Palmer Lake is not a pretty site, these herons don’t seem to mind. One hot July day, I observed the female swallow three sizable fish within ten minutes before the male swooped down to seemingly say, "Honey, it’s your turn to go feed the kids." She dutifully flew up to the top of ponderosas on the west face of Ben Lomond Mountain.

Great blue herons build their nests in large trees or on cliff ledges. Males gather twigs and small branches up to a foot in length and pass the material to the females, who construct the nest. Each season, the nests are added on to and reused. The female lays three to five light blue eggs. One parent is present at all times during the first weeks of the nestlings’ lives.

Although I have not seen the great blue heron nest, it shouldn’t be too hard to spot. Nests are more than three feet in diameter and quite bulky. Another obvious clue is that the chicks sound like barking puppies when the parents bring home the bacon – regurgitated fish that is. One fact my kids found interesting was that when harassed, a young heron will regurgitate over the edge of the nest onto its harasser. Judging from the number of fish I observed being caught in a short amount of time, I pity the harasser!

After two months the fledglings begin to fly, and by three months they leave the nest. By August the parents will be teaching their juveniles how to fish. Hopefully this will occur in Palmer Lake, where they can be easily observed. The juveniles will appear almost as large as the adults, but will not be as graceful, and will be gray in color. The adult plumage is not attained until the fall of the third year.

The great blue herons are the largest North American heron. They are found throughout the United States and southern Canada. East of the Rockies, the northern populations migrate to portions of Texas or Mexico along the Gulf Coast.

July has been a terrific month for bird watching. Jean Anderson of Palmer Lake reported citing a number of unusual birds, including a Clark’s grebe, a belted kingfisher, and four American pipits.

Elizabeth Hacker is an artist and freelance writer. E-mail your questions and bird finds to her at editor@ourcommunitynews.org.

View a drawing of the Great Blue Heron

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Special Events and Notices

Black Forest Slash-Mulch Site

The Black Forest Slash-Mulch Program is a wildfire mitigation and recycling program of the El Paso County Solid Waste Management Department. The site is located at the southeast corner of Herring and Shoup Roads in Black Forest.

Residents may bring slash that is no longer than six feet and no wider than eight inches in diameter to the slash-mulch site, where it will be ground into mulch and recycled. Slash is accepted through Sept. 25, Thursday evenings 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is a donation of nonperishable food that will be distributed to nonprofit Black Forest organizations. No stumps, roots, lumber, railroad ties, dirt, weeds, or household trash will be accepted. Loads must be covered and tied, and children and pets must stay inside the vehicle while at the site. Mulch will be available to Sept. 25. Those bringing their own tools may load mulch free of charge.

Aug. 7, 11 a.m. at the slash-mulch site—Dave’s Demo: Mountain Pine Beetle Presentation. For more information, call El Paso County Solid Waste Management at 520-7878 or Ruth Ann Steele at 495-3107, or visit www.bfslash.org.

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Farmer’s Market in Monument

The Farmer’s Market will be in downtown Monument every Saturday 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., until Oct. 2, at the Lewis-Palmer School District yard on the south side of Second Street between Jefferson and Adams.

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Concerts at Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts

The Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts (TLCA) and The Wine Seller Concert series present Jubilant Bridge on Aug. 14. Jubilant Bridge performs a harmony-driven acoustic collage of intricate arrangements and unique harmonies.

On Sept. 4 Colorado Saxophone Quartet will perform everything from jazz to classical music to avant garde. Tickets for each concert are $10 for members and $12 for nonmembers and are available at The Wine Seller, The SpeedTrap, and TLCA. Doors open at 7 p.m., and shows start at 7:30 p.m. The Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts is located at 304 Highway 105 in Palmer Lake. For more information, call 481-0475, or visit www.trilakesarts.com.

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Palmer Lake Historical Society’s Estemere Tour

Don’t miss this opportunity to tour the elegant Victorian mansion Aug. 28, beginning at 10 a.m., with the last tour leaving at 4 p.m. The Estemere Mansion is at 380 Glenway in Palmer Lake. The tour is limited to the first 300 people to buy tickets, but everyone can enjoy the festival atmosphere that includes music, a bake sale, refreshments, fine food by area restaurants, and more. The cost for the tour is $8, and $5 for members. Please note that the site is not wheelchair accessible and has limited handicap access. Also, no shoes are allowed in the house. For more information, call Leon Tenney at 488-9450.

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Down Syndrome Buddy Walk

Join the Colorado Springs Down Syndrome Association’s 5th Annual Buddy Walk Aug. 28 in Manitou Springs Memorial Park. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the walk through the streets of Manitou starts at 10 a.m. A continental breakfast and lunch are provided. For information, call CSDSA at 633-1133, or visit http://www.csda.org.

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Talk English! Facilitators’ Training

Volunteers who are interested in moderating informal conversation groups for adults learning to speak English are invited to this training session Aug. 28, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Penrose Public Library in Colorado Springs. Call 531-6333, x2224 for information.

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Gleneagle Women’s Club

The Gleneagle Women’s Club has over 100 members and holds monthly luncheon meetings featuring speakers. The annual membership drive meeting will be held Sept. 17 at the Gleneagle Golf Club, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Program speaker will be Sheila Whelan of Sheila Whelan Designs. Within the club are many interest groups including investing, gourmet cooking, book review, hiking, bridge, and many more. Call Cecelia Neill, 481-1283, to make your reservation. For more information call Julie Bloom, 481-1906.

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September Business Exposition Expose Your Business

The Tri-Lakes Chamber of Commerce is planning its fourth annual business expo Sept. 21, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the PineCrest Event Center in Palmer Lake. Meet your local business owners while enjoying a wine and beer tasting and food festival.

For more information, call the chamber at 481-3282 or visit www.trilakesexpo.com.

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Win a New Car!

Tri-Lakes Cares (TLC) is an organization dedicated to helping those in our community struggling for a variety of reasons. TLC is currently operating out of a small garage-like structure off Third Street in downtown Monument. This building barely allows them enough room to store the necessary food items to provide to their clients on a daily basis. To alleviate this problem, TLC has purchased land and hopes to build a new home base. To do this, they need our community’s assistance.

TLC Executive Director Judith Pettibone, the Monument Hill Sertoma Club, Jeff Jensen of Pikes Peak Acura, and resident Carolyn Laband have coordinated a raffle of a new 2004 Acura, with all proceeds going to the construction of TLC’s new building. Tickets cost $20 each, or three for $50. There will be cash prizes of $1,000, $750, and $500. The drawing is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 1 at the Lewis-Palmer High School Homecoming football game.

Raffle tickets can be purchased at Covered Treasures, Edward Jones Investments, Pankratz Gallery, Petal Pushin’, Pikes Peak Acura (in Colorado Springs), The Rockhouse, and Tri-Lakes Printing. They will also be available Aug. 14 at Safeway from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Aug. 20 at People’s National Bank during bank hours.

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AARP "Triple the Fun" Trip

Join the AARP for a trip to New York City, Philadelphia, and Atlantic City. The dates are Oct. 3-7 and the cost is $539 for five days and four nights, including eight meals, plus $286 for airfare. For more information, call Kay, 481-4429, or Edna, 495-2443.

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