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""The environment is where we all meet; where we all have a mutual interest; it is the one thing all of us share.""
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 4 April 2021  

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    Cherokee district groundbreaking ceremony
    Beware of phone scammers
    Beware of all scams
    History of St. Valentine’s Day
    AARP Chapter 11 news
    Haddock building in Black Forest a go
    Solar energy supplies electricity for 13,000 homes
    Building and real estate update
    Black Forest mailbox vandals
 
  Cherokee district groundbreaking ceremony
  By Pete Gawda

   On Jan. 15, Cherokee Metropolitan District hosted a groundbreaking at its wastewater treatment plant to celebrate new construction for the reverse osmosis filtration system that will improve the quality of effluent discharged from the plant into groundwater.
   
   Reverse osmosis is a high-density membrane system designed to remove total dissolved solids from the effluent before it is discharged into groundwater. The solids are mostly salts found naturally in the ground and surface and also added through household and commercial use. The solids also include calcium, sodium, sulfate, magnesium, chloride and potassium.
   
   “We are very excited after years to get this project underway,” said Amy Lathen, general manager of Cherokee. “We make sure we are treating this water very well.” She said the district was concerned about the long-term sustainability of water, and their goal is always clean, safe drinking water and a safe environment. She said after the effluent goes through the reverse osmosis system, it would be safe to drink. She noted the wastewater treatment plant handles 2.5 million gallons a day from around 22,000 customers, including Schriever Air Force Base and Meridian Ranch.
   
   “I am looking forward to getting started on the project,” said Jeff Munger, engineer for the Cherokee district.
   
   Munger said their focus is making the existing plant work more efficiently. “We actually are improving the plant and putting in reverse osmosis for slightly more than originally estimated,” he said.
   
   “We were hired by the community to do the right thing, and I believe we have done it,” said Steve Hasbrouck, president of the Cherokee board of directors. “This will be a unique experience for a whole lot of people,” he said. Hasbrouck compared the project to “the shot heard around the world.”
   
   A 15,000 square-foot building will be constructed to house the reverse osmosis facility; the completion date for the project is January 2023.
  
Amy Lathen, left, general manager of Cherokee Metropolitan District, speaks with El Paso County District 2 Commissioner Carrie Geitner at the groundbreaking ceremony for Cherokee’s wastewa- ter treatment plant reverse osmosis facility.
 
Amy Lathen, general manager of Cherokee Metropolitan District, and Jeff Munger, engineer for the district, address the crowd at the Jan. 15 ground- breaking.
 
People gathered at Cherokee Metropolitan District’s wastewater treatment plant on a cold Jan. 15 after- noon for the groundbreaking for the plant’s reverse osmosis system. Photos by Pete Gawda
 
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  Beware of phone scammers
  By Pete Gawda

   In December, an Elbert resident contacted “The New Falcon Herald” about a possible telephone scam. He said an individual called and told him that he needed to send $200 to get his cable TV box updated. The cable service company “representative” said they could update the box remotely.
   
   If the money was not sent, the resident was told his cable service would be discontinued. He sent the money but had second thoughts the next day and contacted the cable company. They informed him the call was not legitimate; fortunately, he was able to stop payment on his check.
   
   While there is an abundance of different types of scams and people should be on their guard against them, this particular scam either might not be too widespread or other victims might not have reported it. Representatives of two local TV providers were not aware of such a scam.
   
   “This would be my first call,” said a representative of Dish Network, who identified herself only as Dee.
   
   “We don't ask anyone to send money, all we ask is that they pay their bill,” said Robert Barnes of Stratus IQ.
   
   “Although we have had reports of phone scams and scams around cons calling to collect money, we haven't had recent reports of that particular scam with the cable company,” said Adah Rodriguez, vice president of development and operations for the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado. The bureau collects data on scams and works with law enforcement and other organizations to educate and inform people about scams.
   
   “Most people don't report their scams, so sadly we don't get all the information,” Rodriguez said. She said only one-third of scams are reported and the only way to prevent scams is to report them to the bureau and law enforcement.
   
   Rodriguez urged people to report any scam to her organization by calling 719-636-1155 or going to http://bbb.org. In addition, the bureau has an online scam tracker at https://bbb.org/scamtracker that reports all known information on scams. The bureau can also check on any business (credited or non-credited) throughout the country.
   
   Everyone should be wary of any caller who asks for money upfront or presents a special offer, Rodriguez said. Sometimes scammers ask for a debit or gift card that can't be traced, she said. Check with the cable companies or other organizations the potential scammer claims to represent.
   
   “Step back, take a breath,” she said. “You don't have to act on it at that very moment.”
   
  
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  Beware of all scams
  By Leslie Sheley

   Scammers and fraudsters take advantage of millions of people every year; in 2019 alone, 60% of Americans were victims of an online scam. 
   
   The above statistic is cited in the article, “3 scams to watch out for online,” published July 27, 2020, on centurylink.com by author Kirsten Queen. The article listed the most common scams.
   
   Phishing: In the last year, phishing attempts grew by 65%; it is the most common online scam. Phishing attacks use official-looking email messages and websites and usually come from trusted sources. They often include urgent requests for sensitive information, like logins or financial information. Do not use any phone numbers included in those messages or click on any links or download any attachments. Instead, check a bill or statement for accurate contact information and use that to contact the person or organization to ask if one’s account has been compromised. Report the attempt by forwarding the email to spam@uce.gov.
   
   Romance scams: In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission reported $201 million lost to romance scams. A romance scammer begins by creating a fake profile on a dating site or app or may contact victims through social media sites. After establishing a relationship, the scammer will ask for money to be wired or for a gift card, which allows them to stay anonymous. Check to see if their online profile photo has been used anywhere else, ask a lot of questions and be wary of trusting a person too soon. Be careful about sending inappropriate pictures to avoid extortion, and never send money to an online romantic interest. This type of scam could also look like someone pretending to be a family member or coworker in need of immediate financial rescue. File a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ Internet Crime Complaint Center for romance scams.
   
   Tech support scams: In 2019, the Internet Crime Complaint Center noted tech support fraud as a growing problem, after receiving 13,633 related complaints. In this scenario, scammers claim to provide technical support, posing as a customer service or help desk representative. They offer assistance for getting back into an email account, handling a computer infected with a virus, updating security software, offering virtual currency exchange or posing as a government official. Do not give untrusted or unverified tech support remote access to your computer or give out login information. Go to someone known and trusted for tech support and contact software companies directly. Report any tech support scam attempts to the Federal Trade Commission. 
   
   Adah Rodriguez, vice president of development and operations at the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, said online scams encompass everything from social media, emails, Medicare and puppy scams.
   
   “We report on whatever we can so consumers get the information they need to make the best informed decisions, but part of the challenge is people have to know there are scams so they can do the research,” Rodriguez said. “And people need to report scams; we think only a third of scams are being reported.”
   
   Rodriguez said the top online scam in 2020 involved online shopping. She said because of COVID-19 restrictions, many retailers created online shopping websites. With more people participating in online shopping, more scams popped up. She said there are websites selling counterfeit goods and sites that pop up; and, just as quickly, disappear without sending what customers ordered and paid for.
   
   She said scammers take advantage of and target vulnerable people. For example, since the onset of COVID-19, there have been scams to buy preventive products that promise to keep people from getting COVID, along with disinfecting products that aren’t effective and websites where people pay for a place in line to get the vaccination, Rodriguez said.
   
   Seniors are often targeted because they aren’t as technologically savvy; in 2020, the top way to scam seniors occurred through phone scams. She said millennials aren’t necessarily targeted, but they fall victim more often because they are online more, although they don’t lose as much money.
   
   “People should pause and not click on anything they’re not 100% sure of. You’re not required to click on anything, you have that control,” Rodriguez said. “You can close your browser, Google it, call the company and do some research. Check the Better Business Bureau website or call the local bureau if you have questions.”
   
   Scamming can happen to anyone, so educating oneself to recognize the signs of a scam is the key to preventing fraud, she said. “If something feels too good to be true, watch out. If you feel suspicious of someone or they’re asking for information they don’t need or shouldn’t have, trust your gut,” Rodriguez said. “Be extra careful when someone asks for money online and get reliable verification.” She said by asking questions and practicing healthy skepticism, people are better prepared to protect themselves from getting scammed and keeping their financial assets out of the hands of criminals.
   
   Mark Molzen, global issues manager of Lumen Technologies, CenturyLink’s parent company, wrote in an email, “It’s important for everyone to be aware of scams; and, at Lumen, we work hard to protect our customers from scams.” He said they encourage customers to contact them with any questions or concerns if they feel suspicious activity is underway. Molzen said to remember most companies will never contact their customers via email, text or phone to ask for bank account information, social security numbers or to verify one’s credit card number. He said these are all important red flags that should cause customers to stop the conversation and report the issue by calling CenturyLink or by forwarding suspicious email to abuse@centurylinkservices.net.
   
   To learn more about current scams, visit http://bbb.org and click on scam tracker or the FTC’s scam alert page at http://consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.
  
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  History of St. Valentine’s Day
  By Ava Stoller

   There are few details about the origin and life of the man known as Saint Valentine; however, one of the main deeds he is accredited with is the marriage of Christian couples in Ancient Rome.
   
   According to the History website, the emperor had to maintain a strong army, but was having a difficult time getting soldiers to join his military leagues. Claudius, who ruled in A.D 41 to 54, believed that Roman men were unwilling to join the army because of their strong attachment to their wives and families. To get rid of the problem, Claudius banned all marriages and engagements in Rome. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret.
   
   It was not until the 1400s, according to the Britannica website, that Feb. 14 was known as St.Valentine’s Day and associated with love. Some scholars assert that Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem, “The Parlement of Foules,” first connected the day with romance. The first letters between lovers referring to St. Valentine’s Day began to appear soon after the poem’s publication in the 14th century. Early Valentine’s Day cards; however, were not necessarily limited to couples. Indeed, some historians suggest that valentines come from the German tradition of friendship cards. Freundschaftskarten, as they are called, were traded during New Year’s Day, birthdays and other anniversaries.
   
   Over the centuries, St.Valentine’s Day has evolved into a day of romantic connotations, where partners go all out for each other. According to fortunly.com, spending on St.Valentine’s Day in the United States amounted to roughly $20.7 billion in 2019. According to sales statistics, Americans spent $1.8 billion on candy. American consumers spent $886 million on gifts for their pets. Red roses account for 69% of all flowers bought on St.Valentine’s Day, and some $5 billion is spent on jewelry in the U.S.
   
   One of the most memorable, yet non-romantic, events to happen on Feb. 14 was the St.Valentine's Day Massacre in Chicago in 1929. From the History website, George “Bugs” Moran was a career criminal who ran the North Side gang in Chicago during the bootlegging era of the 1920s. He fought bitterly with “Scarface” Al Capone for control of smuggling and trafficking operations in Chicago. On Feb. 14, a delivery of bootleg whiskey was expected at Moran’s headquarters. But Moran was late and happened to see police officers entering his establishment. Moran waited outside, thinking that his gunmen inside were being arrested in a raid. However, the four men dressed as police officers entered Bugs Moran’s headquarters, lined seven of Moran’s henchmen against a wall, and shot them to death. Though Moran and others immediately blamed the massacre on Capone’s gang, the famous gangster himself claimed to have been at his home in Florida at the time. No one was ever brought to trial for the murders, and it remains one of the biggest unsolved crimes in history.
   Other notable, historic events that happened on Feb. 14 include the following:
   
   According to On This Day website, in 1942, The Polish Resistance movement, The Home Army, formed and would eventually become the largest resistance movement in occupied Europe.
   
   From legacy.com, in 1951, Sugar Robinson fought LaMotta for the final time in what became known in boxing circles as the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.” The fight was stopped; Robinson dealing LaMotta the first TKO (technical knock-out) of his career. The event was dramatized for one of the more brutal scenes in Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film “Raging Bull.”
   
   As stated in onthisday.com, the single “Respect” was recorded by Aretha Franklin, and the song made the Billboard Song of the Year in 1967.
   
   On the authority of NASA’s website, on Feb. 14, 2000, the spacecraft NEAR Shoemaker made the first ever, human-made object to orbit Eros— the second largest known asteroid in an Earth-crossing orbit.
  
 
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  AARP Chapter 11 news
  Submitted by Stanley Beckner

   Stephen Blucher of Colorado Springs has been presented with an annual AARP Chapter & REA Unit Community Service Award for 2020, based on 2019 activities. The award included a trophy and a certificate signed by Jo Ann C. Jenkins, AARP chief executive officer. The award presentation, delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, was recently presented to Stephen virtually by Black Forest AARP Chapter 1100 President Candace Lehmann on behalf of the AARP CEO.
   
   The following are examples of Stephen’s contributions to the local community: he has served in a superior manner as an AARP driver safety instructor for more than 22 consecutive years. During 2019, alone, he instructed 303 students. Stephen has also served the community through his extensive support to AARP Chapter 1100 in Black Forest. He assisted the chapter at the Black Forest Festival booth by handing out AARP information. He also assisted the 300-plus individuals in June who brought items to the chapter’s free shredding event. Stephen volunteered at the SRC Holiday Dinner Dance in November 2019, which hosted more than 500 people at the Colorado Springs Civic Auditorium. His service also included working with several charitable projects that benefited the community.
   
   Stephen is a member of the elite AARP Chapter Advisory Team, a branch of the AARP National Office of Volunteer Engagement in Washington D.C. The Chapter Advisory Team is dedicated to working with chapters throughout the United States to help them be more viable, effective and responsive to local community needs. His contributions throughout the years have contributed significantly to the good reputation of AARP Chapter 1100 and to the general positive image of AARP as a whole. 
   
   The Black Forest AARP Chapter 1100 is still not meeting or participating in community service events until the end of March at the earliest.
  
Stephen Blucher recently received the AARP Chapter & REA Unit Community Service Award for his service achievements in 2019.
 
Candice Lehmann, Chapter 1100 president, virtually congratulated Stephen Blucher for his 2020 AARP Chapter & REA Unit Community Service Award.
 
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  Haddock building in Black Forest a go
  By Leslie Sheley

   On Jan. 26, the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners approved the rezoning of the Haddock office building in Black Forest from A5 (agricultural) to CC (community commercial).
   
   The office building will house the executive staff of S-5! metal roofing company, owned by Rob Haddock. The business is an allowed use within the zoning district.
   
   There has been some opposition to the Haddock office building rezoning, although it is within the approved commercial node, said Terry Stokka, chairman of the Black Forest Land Use Committee. He said one problem is its location between residential and commercial properties. Also, the land development code for the county states that commercial businesses in the area should be limited to those serving the Black Forest population, he said.
   
   “That statement came about because the county and the preservation plan would rather not have a business that is going to draw people from the outside, overloading the roads and parking lots that weren’t built for that,” Stokka said. “The land use committee approves home businesses in Black Forest as long as they don’t generate extra traffic.” He said there is a business in Black Forest that cut down 3 acres of trees on a 5-acre lot to build their facility, and they bring in plenty of traffic and take up parking. That’s an example of a business bringing an impact to the area, Stokka said.
   
   The Haddock office building will house eight to 12 people at any given time and there will be no walk-in traffic. Stokka said the other criteria the land use committee considers when looking at impact is the site of the building, the structure, noise, lighting, parking and traffic; with all of this information, the committee felt like the impact of this business will be minimal.
   
   Stokka said a petition was presented to the El Paso County Planning Commission with about 564 signatures opposing the rezoning. The Black Forest Land Use Committee took plenty of heat because they didn’t oppose the request for rezoning. “Citizens think if they oppose something like this, then they are supposed to be backed up,” Stokka said. “The Black Forest Land Use Committee does not vote on issues based on whether they like something or not, they compare what is being proposed to the preservation plan, the zoning and development code of the county; and measure their decision against those things; that’s our standard. It’s not a matter of voting; we are not a committee that says how many of you like it versus don’t like it; it’s not a numbers thing.”
   Nina Ruiz, project manager with El Paso County, said every re-zone application has to go through the full public process. Neighbors are notified, hearings are held before the planning commission and the county commissioners; and the request is posted in the newspaper.
   
   Ruiz said Rob Haddock plans to put a deed restriction on the property, which restricts any future owners from expanding the business; however, once the rezoning is approved, the county cannot control the deed restriction.
   
   “It is not a vote of the people, it is wholly based on the review criteria,” Ruiz said. This area is specifically identified in the Black Forest Preservation Plan as a commercial area so from a master planning perspective it meets all the criteria, she said.
   
   Rob Haddock, chief executive officer and founder of S-5! (metal roof solutions) and owner of Metal Roof Advisory Group Ltd., said he has lived in Black Forest for 50 years; his business has been around for 29 years. He said his immediate family is involved in the business, and everyone has been working from home for years; the goal has always been to work together on one property.
   
   He bought the land in 2016 from Dr. Ted Mohr, who owned the veterinarian hospital on the property before it burned down in the 2013 fire. The original plan had been to start construction on the barn in 2018; however, unforeseen circumstances delayed construction until 2020.
   
   The barn will hold two digital film studios where they will produce their own education, manufacturing, marketing and photographic materials, Haddock said. There are plans for an office building in the near future. He said he has heard rumors that they will be manufacturing goods on the property, but he said they have a plant in Texas for that kind of production.
   
   Haddock said since purchasing the property all the scorched timber and stumps have been removed and he has been reforesting the site; he has already spaded 40 trees with plans to add 30 more in addition to seedlings. He said his family is excited for the opportunity to be able to work together in the Forest.
  
Rob Haddock submitted this view of his building which was just approved for rezoning from agricultural to commercial.
 
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  Solar energy supplies electricity for 13,000 homes
  By Pete Gawda

   A few miles south of Calhan is the face of the future for generating electricity. Nestled among the Golden West NextEra Energy wind farm is the Grazing Yak Solar Project, consisting of 119,178 solar panels on 278 acres.
   
   The project is located south of Washington Road and about one-half mile west of the intersection of Washington and Currier roads. The project gained its unique name because the property that houses the sonar panels used to be a pasture for yaks. An older couple owned the land, and the family did not want to continue raising yaks.
   
   Grazing Yak Solar became operational in November 2019. It generates 35 megawatts of electricity — enough electricity to power 13,000 homes for a year. Since that time, the project has performed as expected and about 5% of Colorado Springs Utilities’ customers are using solar energy. NextEra Energy Resources owns the project and sells the electricity to Colorado Springs Utilities. According to NextEra's website, the company is the world's largest producer of wind and solar energy. Forbes Magazine named NextEra among the top 25 in the world for innovation.
   
   By 2030, CSU hopes to reduce its carbon emission to 80 percent of the 2005 level through the use of solar and other alternate energy sources.
   
   As a private corporation, NextEra is taking advantage of a tax credit and passing that savings along to CSU in a reduction of electricity costs as part of the purchase agreement. At this point, it is cheaper for a private company to build solar energy projects for CSU; however, utility officials think that in the future it might be more advantageous for CSU to build their own projects. Buying the Solar Yak project from NextEra might also be an option in the future if NextEra's tax advantage is phased out.
   
   With more solar projects being planned, CSU residential and commercial customers can designate that part or all of their electricity is sourced from solar energy. Natalie Watts, senior public affairs specialist with CSU, said customers can choose to have from 30% to 100% of their electricity sourced by solar power.
   
   Colorado Springs Utilities issued a news release Dec. 9, 2019, in which CSU Chief Executive Officer Aram Benyamin and John De Donato, vice president of development for NextEra, were quoted about the Grazing Yak project.
   
   “As detailed in our Energy Vision, we are committed to providing resilient, reliable and cost-efficient energy that is environmentally sustainable,” Benyamin said. “Grazing Yak is one of the latest examples of how we are partnering with entities to change the ways we power Colorado Springs, taking advantage of the economic and environmental benefits of solar power.”
   
   “We are proud to work with Colorado Springs Utilities to generate more clean, low-cost, renewable energy for its customers,” Di Donato said. He stated that the project results in “millions of dollars in additional tax revenues to benefit its local community for years to come.”
   
   Editor's note: Unless otherwise specified, the material in this article is from a recent telephone conference call between the NFH and the following CSU officials: Warren Seese, project manager for the Grazing Yak project; Michael Avanzi, manager of energy planning; and Alex Baird, supervisor of energy trading.
  
This photo shows a few of the 119,000 solar panels that make up the Grazing Yak Solar Project. Photos by Pete Gawda
 
The Golden West Wind substation transmits electricity from the Grazin Yak Solar Project to Colorado Springs utilities.
 
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  Building and real estate update
  By Lindsey Harrison

   High Plains subdivision
   The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved the preliminary release of bond funds for subdivision improvements in High Plains Filing No. 1 for $137,218.14. All improvements have been completed and inspected. The subdivision, located north of Hodgen Road, east of Thompson Road and west of Black Forest Road, is included within the boundaries of the Black Forest Preservation Plan.
   
   High Plains Filing No.1 is located north of Hodgen Road, east of Thompson Road and west of Black Forest Road in Colorado Springs.
   
   The commissioners also unanimously approved the preliminary acceptance of certain streets within the High Plains Filing No. 1 into the EPC road maintenance system
   
   Meridian Ranch subdivision
   The BOCC unanimously approved the preliminary release of bond funds for subdivision improvements in Windingwalk Filing No. 1 at Meridian Ranch for $450,000. All improvements have been completed and inspected.
   
   Paint Brush Hills subdivision
   The commissioners unanimously approved a preliminary irrevocable standby letter of credit for subdivision improvements in Paint Brush Hills Filing No. 13E for $209,880. All improvements have been completed and inspected.
   
   The BOCC also unanimously approved the preliminary acceptance of certain streets within the Paint Brush Hills Filing No 13E into the EPC road maintenance system.
   
   Falcon Regional Park
   The commissioners unanimously approved three permanent easements for Mountain View Electric Association to install an electric utility within the Falcon Regional Park. MVEA is seeking to install and maintain an underground electric line along the southern, eastern and northern borders of the park, which will serve the surrounding residents in Falcon and provide electric service to future park amenities. The easement location will not impact any current or planned active use areas within the park.
   
   Banning Lewis Ranch North
   The BOCC unanimously approved a request by the city of Colorado Springs to accept an annexation impact report for Banning Lewis Ranch North. The lot is comprised of six parcels zoned residential rural-5, planned unit development and agricultural-5; and the associated right-of-way for Woodmen Road and Golden Rage Road for a total proposed annexation of about 887.08 acres. It is located about 0.5 miles west of the Woodmen Road and Highway 24 intersection on the north and the south side of Woodmen Road. All utility and emergency services will be provided by the city of Colorado Springs upon completion of the annexation.
   
   Settlers View subdivision
   The commissioners unanimously approved the preliminary acceptance of certain streets within the Settlers View subdivision into the EPC road maintenance system. All improvements have been completed and inspected.
   
   The BOCC also unanimously approved release of credit funds for subdivision improvements in the Settlers View subdivision for $194,800. All improvements have been completed and inspected.
   
   Winsome subdivision
   The commissioners unanimously approved a request by Winsome LLC for the final plat of a 164.4-acre property to create 47 single-family residential lots; three tracts for open space, drainage and utility purposes; and rights-of-way. The property is zoned residential rural-2.5 and located at the northwest corner of the Hodgen Road and Meridian Road intersection and is included within the boundaries of the Black Forest Preservation Plan.
   
   Haddock Metal Roof property
   The BOCC unanimously approved a request by Black Forest LLC to rezone 4.77 acres from A-5 to commercial community zoning. The property is located on the west side of Black Forest Road, about 980 feet north of the Shoup Road and Black Forest Road intersection and is located within the boundaries of the Black Forest Preservation Plan.
  
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  Black Forest mailbox vandals
  By Leslie Sheley

   Mailboxes are protected by federal law, and crimes against mailboxes and the mail inside are investigated by postal inspectors. Those who are convicted of destruction of federal property could spend up to three years in jail and fined up to $250,000.
   
   The above information is from the United States Postal Inspection website. According to nationalmailboxes.com, people living in rural or isolated areas tend to experience vandalism more often because their mailboxes are usually isolated; residential mailboxes are somewhat safer, but there are occasional vandalism cases.
   
   A Black Forest resident, who prefers to remain anonymous, lives in an area with 12 houses on their street. She said on Dec. 23, the residents discovered their community mailbox had been unbolted and stolen. It has been a month, and the residents have not received an update from the postal office. She said the residents also filed a police report but have not heard back on that front either. Presently, they have to drive to the Briargate post office to get their mail.
   
   Cheryl Sistare, resident of Black Forest, said on Christmas Eve she heard a loud explosion and found her mailbox had been blown up. This happened just one night after the community mailbox was stolen. Sistare said she is surprised that someone would be so bold; she lives on a busy road and the mailbox is not isolated. She said there is an active police report, although they have not heard back from them. The vandalized mailbox has been replaced with a locked one.
   
   Brenda Redman of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, Denver Division Headquarters wrote in an email that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is the federal law enforcement arm of the U.S. Postal Service. She said, “We work to ensure America’s confidence in the U.S. mail by enforcing more than 200 federal laws in investigations of crimes that may adversely affect postal customers or fraudulently use the U.S. mail or the postal system.” Redman said they take complaints from customers seriously and evaluate all complaints to help guide their investigations. “We have received a small number of mail theft reports in the Black Forest area and are actively investigating these reports,” she said.
    
   She included tips to help protect mail from thieves:
  • Don’t let incoming or outgoing mail sit in the mailbox, especially if checks, credit cards or other negotiable items are expected.
  • Have mail held by the Post Office while away; signup online at https://usps.com.
  • When expecting a package delivery, track the shipment at https://usps.com; sign up for email
  • If an expected check or other valuable mail is not delivered, contact the issuing agency.
  • Immediately file a change of address with the post office and anyone with whom business is done via the mail when moving.
  • Consider installing a lockable mailbox or obtaining a PO Box service from the local post office if there are concerns about security in one’s neighborhood.
  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program to monitor residences and mailboxes.

   Redman said mail theft should be reported immediately to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service by calling 877-876-2455 and say "theft," or by visiting the website at https://uspis.gov/report. She said if suspicious activity is noted regarding the mail or USPS postal facilities or employees, call 911 immediately, then call Postal Inspectors at the number above.
  
Black Forest has been the target of mailbox theft and vandalism. Photo by Cheryl Sistare
 
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