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"One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don't clean it up too quickly."
– Andy Rooney  
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 12 December 2021  

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    Wind farm litigation flounders
    Why did the chicken cross the road?
    That smell!
    Woodmen Hills confirms letters of intent, but no contracts
    Sundance Ranch fraud investigation continues
    USDA files complaint against big cat sanctuary in Calhan
    Building and real estate update
    Save money on a last-minute summer trip
    Conserve time and water when gardening
    MVEA 74th annual meeting
    Building with cannabis
    Where's the water?
    Local athlete to be featured on NBC Sports
    St. Benedict's barn dance
    May flooding damages Falcon Highway, other local roads
 
  Wind farm litigation flounders
  By Lindsey Harrison

   While NextEra Energy Resources continues to construct a wind farm in eastern El Paso County, a coalition of concerned residents in the area has been fighting the project by filing a lawsuit against NextEra and the EPC Board of County Commissioners. The same coalition filed an injunction to halt construction on the wind farm until a decision on the lawsuit had been reached.
   
   Status of lawsuit against NextEra and EPC
   
   On March 5, the coalition known as the El Paso County Property Rights Coalition and four individual plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against EPC and NextEra. The individual plaintiffs were Donna Bryant, Eric Henderson, Laura Wilson and Joan Wilson.
   
   Court documents indicate that the suit was filed because the BOCC “exceeded its jurisdiction” when it approved the Golden West Wind Farm project at the February meeting.
   
   In June, the coalition was informed that all the individual plaintiffs in the original lawsuit were being dismissed, said coalition member Laura Wilson.
   
   “The judge decided that the only plaintiff he would allow on the lawsuit was the property rights coalition,” she said. Because she is the representative for the coalition, Wilson said she is the one NextEra’s attorneys will be targeting for information such as the names and addresses of the other coalition members.
   
   “I’ll probably go to jail because the judge will likely compel me to give up the information, but I won’t,” Wilson said.
   
   As of the NFH deadline, no court date had been set for the property rights coalition to present their case to a judge.
   
   Injunction status
   On April 8, the coalition filed an injunction to halt construction on the project –- which began in early April –- until a ruling had been handed down on the original lawsuit.
   
   In late April, NextEra filed a response to the injunction, requesting that the coalition put up a $400-million bond to pay for potential monetary losses the company might suffer because of its current investment in constructing the project, according to the June issue of The New Falcon Herald.
   
   In mid-June, Wilson said the judge who was considering the injunction threw the entire case out. Wilson said she was told the injunction had been tossed out because of a mistake in the wording. The judge did not consider the content of the injunction at all; he looked it over and threw it out, Wilson said. “I’m devastated that the project can just keep going with nothing in its way now,” she said.
   
   “What ever happened to every person having the right to have their day in court and get their case heard by a judge?”
  
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  Why did the chicken cross the road?
  To try to find a USDA inspection facility
  By Jason Gray

   Colorado small flock chicken and turkey farmers are faced with a Catch-22 in the food safety laws. The U.S. Department of Agriculture allows small farmers and homesteaders to process and sell fewer than 1,000 birds per year for meat. However, Colorado does not recognize the exemption, and requires USDA inspection that is not practical or easily available to small producers.
   
   Slaughtering, processing and packaging poultry products in unsanitary conditions can lead to salmonella and campylobacter diseases in consumers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “If the person processes the chicken and eats it themselves, then they are exempt,” said Christi Lightcap, communications director at the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “If they are selling it, the USDA still exempts them, but the CDA still requires them to get a USDA inspection.”
   
   The conflict between state and federal regulations is the opposite of the recreational marijuana legal status in Colorado. Whereas marijuana is legal at the state level but remains illegal at the federal level, small-scale pasture-raised and on-farm processed poultry is the opposite. “That defies logic,” said Lindsey Mote of Colorado Springs, who purchases processed chicken from local farms for her family. “I can go out to the pasture, see the chickens and know where the meat is coming from, and that's not OK?”
   
   Some meat locker and wild game processing companies also process poultry for flock owners who choose not to process their birds themselves. “We do have a custom meat processing program, but that is strictly for personal use, and the meat can't be sold or given away,” Lightcap said. “It must be consumed by the animals' owner.”
   
   “The state of Colorado doesn't have its own poultry inspection program,” said Katherine Scheidt of the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. “If they had a state program, flocks that were small enough could be inspected by the state. However, any small farmers that were interested in selling food could work with a federally inspected facility and be sold with a USDA stamp.”
   
   “You can count on one hand the USDA facilities that are open to the public in the state,” said Craig McHugh of Pikes Peak Small Farms. McHugh previously owned Joyful Noise Farm in Black Forest. “Especially if you're a small scale producer, that's a three or four hour drive, so you're going to have some pretty stressed out birds,” McHugh said. “They don't take stress very well. You're probably going to have at least 10 percent dead loss. Plus, with the fuel, it doesn't pencil out to making any money for the farmer.” The drive times that McHugh described were based on a poultry processing facility in Nunn, near the Wyoming border, which recently closed. Using information from the Colorado Department of Agriculture, The New Falcon Herald was not able to locate any remaining USDA-inspected poultry facilities that accept birds from the public.
   
   Several small farms along the Front Range continue to offer home-grown and processed chicken through Internet advertising or word-of-mouth. Many have the machinery and practices required by USDA inspectors, but they are not currently being inspected, McHugh said. “A lot of times, it goes back to the relationship to the farmer,” McHugh said. “Otherwise, farmers are bending or breaking the letter of the law. If you want to stay in the letter of the law, it's virtually impossible.”
   
   Creative methods to comply with the letter of the law — if not the intended effect — include classes on how to process chickens. “People will sell live birds, then hold a processing class and 'teach' –- with the air quotes (two-finger quotation marks gestured in the air) — people to slaughter 'their' birds,” McHugh said.
   
   Producers that fall under the USDA's small flock exemption can still apply for a federal grant of inspection, Scheidt said. The USDA's website (http://fsis.usda.gov) provides information about the hazard-analysis/critical-control point and the sanitation standard operating procedures program instituted in1996. Once the prospective processor completes the requirements and sets up the facility, the USDA will provide an inspector.
   
   Building a separate facility that will meet stringent USDA sanitation and safety requirements is cost prohibitive for a small farm. “I don't have $250,000 to build a USDA-ready facility, and that's really the fly in the ointment, as far as how you can do it,” McHugh said.
   
   Some consumers choose to take their chances when weighing the risk of bacterial contamination during processing at small farms against the flavor and perceived nutritional differences in small pasture flock birds. “Honestly, I really don't care,” Mote said. “It doesn't bother me because I think the legality is less important to me than the health of my family. If buying something illegal means feeding my family a healthy chicken, then I'll do it.” The purchaser doesn't take on any of the legal liability, which impacts the buying decision, Mote said.
   
   Allowing small-scale producers to legally grow, process and sell their backyard chickens will take political changes that are unlikely because of food safety concerns, McHugh said.
   
   “I've spoken to everyone up the line,” McHugh said. “The answer is always the same, do it in a 'sanitary manner,’ and the answer to that is always a USDA facility. When you try to lean on politicians about food, it's politically poisonous in case someone gets sick or dies.”
  
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  That smell!
  Treatment plant causes stink in Woodmen Hills and Meridian Ranch
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Residents in the Woodmen Hills and Meridian Ranch subdivisions in Falcon have taken to social media websites to get information about what they said is an unbearable smell coming from the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District’s outdoor lagoon at the wastewater treatment plant.
   
   Jennifer Egan is a resident who said her house backs up to Stapleton Road, where the treatment plant is located. She said the smell was so bad that she and her family had to go inside and close up their house to avoid it.
   
   “Last summer was a little stinky,” Egan said. “During dry summers it does not seem to smell as bad. But the other night, it was the worst.”
   
   Gene Cozzolino, WHMD water and wastewater director, said the problem is two-fold. “When the pond turns over, meaning the warm water goes to the bottom and the cold water comes to the top, it brings the sludge up with it,” he said. “In the past, that has happened slowly, but this year it was very quick and that is what made it more noticeable.”
   
   The other issue relates to the age of the water treatment plant, Cozzolino said. It is old and not as effective to handle the demands put on it. “We have all the equipment running,” he said. “It just takes time.”
   
   According to an article posted on KOAA News 5’s website June 22, WHMD has been cited numerous times by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment for having pollutants in the outdoor lagoon that exceed the allowable limit put forth by state statute.
   
   Cozzolino said the violations are not related to the current smell situation. “The reason for the violations is that the old wastewater treatment plant does not comply (with state regulations), which is why we need a new one,” he said.
   
   Because the treatment plant handles wastewater, there will always be a slight smell associated with it, but some days are just worse than others, Cozzolino said.
  
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  Woodmen Hills confirms letters of intent, but no contracts
  By Lindsey Harrison

   According to an article printed in the May issue of The New Falcon Herald, the Quantum Commercial Group, represented by Jack Mason, had approached a Black Forest resident with a contract to lease property from her for a “utility use.” Mason indicated the buyer, listed as Woodmen Hills on the “contract,” wanted to purchase property to install a water tank.
   
   In that article, Gene Cozzolino, water/wastewater director with Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District was quoted as saying that if any people had been offered leasing contracts, it did not come from WHMD.
   
   The confusion comes down to semantics, with the word “contract” as the issue.
   
   In an interview June 24, Cozzolino said the district did not have any leasing contracts out and that the district was never and is not now interested in leasing property.
   
   “The district sent out inquiries to see who was interested in selling a piece of property for a water storage facility,” Cozzolino said. “It was not a contract; it was a letter of intent not to lease but to purchase property. I did not deny knowing Jack Mason and did not deny knowing anything that he was doing.”
   
   Cozzolino said he was purposefully vague when asked about the possibility of contracts being offered because no contracts had been negotiated at the time. He wanted to keep the information about the district’s interest in certain properties to a minimum so nothing could impair the district in its negotiations for prospective property purchases, Cozzolino said.
   
   “If people feel (that the district has) a need and realize that only one or two people are willing to talk to us about filling that need, it drives the cost up,” he said. “It becomes a bidding war in the opposite direction.”
   
   That exact scenario happened with a prospective seller who learned of the district’s interest and lack of options in the area. The seller increased the price, after the district and the seller had already verbally agreed on a price, Cozzolino said.
   
   The letters of intent were sent out to specific property owners because of their location in relation to the property the district had considered for building a water tank. “The proximity and elevation is what drives the possibilities of the location,” Cozzolino said. “If we have to go farther away, the higher the cost goes.”
   
   At this time, the district has no contracts to purchase property; negotiations are still ongoing, he said.
  
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  Sundance Ranch fraud investigation continues
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On May 6, KOAA News 5 posted an article on its website describing details about Cherokee Metropolitan District’s acquisition of water rights from the Sundance Ranch, located in northwestern Black Forest. In the article, former CMD board member Steve Hasbrouck said the district purchased the water rights from Rodney Preisser in 2011; however, Hasbrouck said Preisser did not own the water rights at the time of the sale.
   
   Sean Chambers, CMD general manager, said the district had been experiencing a water deficit since at least 2004. “We had more commitments on our bank accounts at the Colorado Division of Water Resources than we had money in our accounts,” he said. That scenario led the district to begin purchasing water from Colorado Springs Utilities in 2007, Chambers said.
   
   The contract cost CMD more than $2 million per year to lease the water from the Springs, and the district could not financially maintain the agreement. The CMD board of directors gave specific direction to Chambers and the district employees to find another source of water, Chambers said.
   
   Since then, he said CMD has acquired six different water rights, from six different sellers. “In all of those transactions, we’ve worked hard to get those deals to get water at or below market rates,” Chambers said. “Any time you can acquire a natural resource that you can sell in perpetuity, those are opportunities a municipal entity should take.”
   
   Jan Cederberg, CMD board president, said Preisser had presented a request for proposal to be a source of water for the Sundance Ranch. “There was another source called Little Horse Creek,” Cederberg said. “The board was kind of torn because we knew we needed water. Steve (Hasbrouck) and Larry (Keleher, CMD director) were leaning towards that one.”
   
   Cederberg said the problem with the Little Horse Creek option meant that all the farmers along the proposed pipeline route would need to agree to the purchase of the water rights. One farmer had already made it clear he would never agree to the purchase, Cederberg said.
   
   In the end, the board voted to purchase the water rights for Sundance Ranch from Preisser, without knowing he did not own the property at the time, she said.
   
   Hasbrouck, who was on the board at the time of the transaction, told The New Falcon Herald in a separate interview that the Sundance Ranch property was in foreclosure at that time. Preisser did not yet own the property when CMD purchased the water rights from him, Hasbrouck said. “Rodney Preisser had a contract for the purchase of the property, before he had the money,” he said.
   
   Chambers said Hasbrouck is correct in that Preisser was depending on the money from the sale of the water rights to CMD to purchase the property from the bank. “The seller (Preisser) had the property under contract but didn’t own it,” Chambers said. “It was under contract with the bank. What the Cherokee board did in electing to purchase the water rights was to set a closing date in which there would be a three-party closing.”
   
   A number of the other properties considered in the request for proposal process were controlled by entities that did not own them but had them under contract, he said.
   
   Chambers said the CMD board authorized the district to purchase the water rights from Preisser for $3.475 million. “The seller had negotiated a better deal for the property out of foreclosure,” Chambers said. “We were unaware of what the seller was paying for the property; that was a contract entered into with the seller and the bank, not with us.”
   
   Both Chambers and Hasbrouck said Preisser purchased the property using the money from Cherokee, but he only paid $2 million to the bank, leaving people wondering where the other $1.5 million went.
   
   Keleher said that when he found out Preisser paid $2 million for the entire ranch but sold CMD just the water rights for $3.475 million, he did not think it was fair and went to see a lawyer about the deal. “The lawyer I saw said to go to the district attorney, so that’s what I did,” Keleher said. He suspected that Preisser paid $2 million to the bank for the property and pocketed the remaining $1.5 million, he said.
   
   Hasbrouck said he agrees with Keleher that Preisser pocketed the money but he also thinks Chambers took a cut. He said the relationship between Preisser and Chambers goes back to when the pair worked together at the Sunset Metropolitan District for an eight-year span.
   
   Chambers had a firm grasp on Preisser’s financial situation during that time, and the duo worked together to get Chambers hired to the CMD and to convince the board to purchase the water rights from Preisser, Hasbrouck said. They split the profit they made off the deal, he said.
   
   “That’s not factual,” Chambers said. “I used to work for Mr. Preisser at the Sunset Metro District for eight years. At that time, I operated the water and wastewater operations for him and did special district management. That’s as far as the relationship goes. I got no consideration or compensation for making the (Sundance Ranch) deal.”
   
   Chambers said a few days after the KOAA 5 article was posted, the Sundance Ranch pipeline was connected and began providing water to the CMD community.
   
   Jacqueline Kirby with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office said they sent a detective out to investigate the fraud allegations. She said the sheriff’s office is still doing interviews and hopes to have their piece of the investigation wrapped up and delivered to the district attorney in the near future. The DA will decide whether there is justification to file charges, she said.
   
   Keleher said he had spoken to a sheriff's deputy after the KOAA News 5 article was posted. The deputy told Keleher they had not discovered any criminal activity, but the transaction could be considered an unethical business practice.
   
   Editor’s note: Rodney Preisser is now deceased. The NFH will continue to follow up on the investigation.
  
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Marylou Doehrman Bride
  USDA files complaint against big cat sanctuary in Calhan
  By Marylou Doehrman Bride

   The United States Department of Agriculture filed a formal complaint against Big Cats of Serenity Springs, DBA Serenity Springs Wildlife Center, on May 29, alleging a lengthy list of ongoing violations.
   
   It is not the first time the center in Calhan, Colorado, has come under fire from the feds.
   
   In April 2013, Serenity Springs applied for a Captive-Bred Wildlife Registration to be able to breed animals in their care. In November 2013, the U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service denied the request, according to an article in the December issue of The New Falcon Herald.
   
   The NFH also published an article in the February 2014 issue, and reported that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) had filed a complaint with the USDA, accusing the center of illegal and unethical handling of cubs.
   
   Nick Sculac is the owner of Serenity Springs, and Julie Walker is the director of operations. With each complaint, both have denied any wrongdoing on the part of the wildlife center.
   
   Attorneys for Serenity Springs sent an email to the NFH, in response to the allegations made in the May USDA complaint.
   
   Nick Sculac and Big Cats of Serenity Springs makes the following statement:
   
   “Serenity Springs Wildlife Center is a nonprofit animal sanctuary dedicated to providing housing, food, and veterinary care for more than 100 exotic felines.  Many of the animals at the sanctuary have been rescued from other facilities or from individuals who mistakenly believed that a tiger or lion would make a good “pet.”  
   
   “Nick Sculac has operated the facility and cared for these animals for more than 20 years. Nick often took these animals in when no one else would, and any suggestion that he has abused or neglected these animals is baseless. The sanctuary is open to the public for tours every Saturday and Sunday, and anyone who is interested in touring the facility is invited to do so and see firsthand how well the animals are cared for. 
   
   “Serenity Springs Wildlife Center and Nick Sculac maintain that the allegations in the USDA’s complaint are unfounded and will defend against them vigorously. Serenity Springs Wildlife Center and Nick Sculac have already requested a hearing on this matter and look forward to presenting their side of the story at that hearing.” 
   
   The USDA is also accusing Sculac of “extorting or attempting to extort money” from people who had been injured by the animals. Sculac allegedly told the injured individuals that the USDA had fined the center thousands of dollars; and, unless he paid those fines, he would have to shut down and euthanize the animals. According to the USDA, the fines were “non-existent.”
   
   The allegations also include failing to provide veterinary care, failing to adhere to the recommendations of attending veterinarians, refusing to provide USDA inspectors access to the facility, failing to handle young and infant animals in a careful, appropriate manner, failing to comply with identification and record-keeping requirements. Multiple animal deaths are included in the allegations as well.
   
   According to the USDA complaint, the center has been continuously warned not to exhibit exotic felids (big cats) in a way that allowed direct contact with the public, and not to transport infant exotic felids for use in photo shoots with the public. The Serenity Springs website advertises photo shoots with baby animals.
   
   Brittany Peet, deputy director of Captive Animal Law Enforcement at the PETA Foundation, said Serenity Springs is operating under the guise of an animal welfare, protective organization; when, in actuality, they are “exploiting the cats” and not providing them with the “most basic care.”
   
   Peet said the USDA should shut down the center; however, the USDA has been slow to react to the numerous complaints and violations reported to them. The USDA is supposed to be protecting the animals and enforcing the AWA; but, she said, “They are failing to levy penalties.”
   
   Attorneys for Serenity Springs also wrote that Sculac and Serenity Springs have countered the accusations by filing a federal complaint against the USDA and the two inspectors responsible for the allegations listed in the USDA complaint. Serenity Springs is asserting in its complaint that USDA inspectors “violated the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and USDA’s own policies and procedures by forcibly entering the facility and conducting an unlawful search.” Further, according to the statement, “The USDA has (twice) unsuccessfully tried to get the suit dismissed,” adding that Sculac is looking forward to “prevailing in that action.”
   
   An attorney for the complainant office of the General Counsel USDA, Colleen Carroll, did not return phone calls and did not respond to an email inquiry.
   
   Editor’s note: Dr. Melanie Marsden, listed as the primary veterinarian for Serenity Springs, did not respond to a call made to her office. The person who answered the phone said Marsden was in the day of the call and would receive the NFH phone request to answer questions concerning the USDA complaint against Serenity Springs.
   
   Timeline and descriptions of some allegations
   The following information was taken directly from the formal complaint filed by the United States Department of Agriculture against Big Cats of Serenity Springs. The complaint also lists numerous structural and cleanliness violations. These are a few of the allegations against Serenity Springs Wildlife Center — the respondents in each citation.
   
   April 10, 2013: Respondents failed to notice or to communicate to the attending veterinarian that a tiger (Maverick) had a severe limp on his right foreleg, ambulated abnormally and would stumble and fall onto his shoulder when walking and appeared to be in pain. No veterinary care was sought. On subsequent inspections, as late as May, Maverick’s condition had worsened, according to the complaint.
   
   April 10, 2013: Inspector finds a baby cougar coated in snow and her body was rigid. She was dead.
   
   May 6, 2013: Respondents failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a tiger (Baxter) that was exhibiting a pronounced limp in his right hind leg, and that leg was visibly swollen and non-weight-bearing, resulting in Baxter's ambulating in a hopping manner, and then falling to the ground. Although respondents observed Baxter's condition, respondents failed to convey this information to their attending veterinarian.
   
   Nov. 5, 2013: Respondents failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a tiger (Andy) that was observed to be limping on his right hind leg and in thin body condition … respondents had not communicated with their attending veterinarian about Andy or had Andy examined or evaluated by a veterinarian.
   
   Nov. 5, 2013: Respondents failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a tiger that was observed to have bilateral, whitish streaks on at least one cornea, and a laceration with dried blood on his left front paw … respondents did not have the tiger examined or evaluated by a veterinarian.
   
   Nov. 5, 2013: Respondents failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a wallaby with an injured left paw. According to respondents, Winston had been bitten by a dog almost a month earlier, but respondents had no records of having communicated with their attending veterinarian.
   
   Feb. 26, 2014: Respondents failed to provide adequate care to a tiger that was observed to have patchy hair loss and thickened skin on his right side from his neck to his hip … respondents had not observed this condition, communicated with their attending veterinarian about the tiger, or had him examined or evaluated by veterinarian.
   
   Sept.13, 2014: Respondents failed to provide adequate veterinary care to a tiger that was observed to have an abnormal gait on his right hind leg (which rotated inward when he ambulated) and to be in thin body condition … although respondents represented that they were aware that the tiger was thin, and had communicated this to their attending veterinarian, there were no records of either respondents' observation or communication with their veterinarian. The gait had not been noticed, according to the USDA complaint.
   
   Nov. 2, 2013: Respondents (1) failed to handle infant tigers as carefully as possible, in a manner that does not cause trauma, overheating, excessive cooling, behavioral stress, physical harm, or unnecessary discomfort; (2) during exhibition, failed to handle infant tigers so that there was minimal risk of harm to the tigers and the public, with sufficient distance and/or barriers between the tigers and the public so as to ensure the safety of the tigers and the public; and (3) exhibited infant tigers for periods of time that were detrimental to their health and well-being. Specifically, respondents used infant (unweaned) tigers for "photo shoots," wherein respondents permitted the public, including young children, to handle and to have direct contact with infant tigers, without any distance or barriers between the tigers and respondents’ customers.
   
   Sept.13, 2014: Cited again for the same type of violations as witnessed Nov. 2, 2013. One tiger, Milo, had been exposed to excessive public handling and exhibited for periods of time detrimental to his health and well-being. Milo was in front of the public between 10:25 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., without observable breaks, and absent any documentation of breaks. Milo was observed to be in distress.
   
   May 18, 2012: Respondents failed to remove food waste, bedding and dead animals from the enclosure housing a binturong (Chip), and failed to keep Chip's enclosure clean.
   
   According to the complaint, respondents failed to provide officials with access to conduct Animal Welfare Act inspections of their facilities, animals and records on the following dates:
   
   Dec. 7, 2011
   March 20, 2013
   April 15, 2013
   May 7, 2013
   May 31, 2013
   June 20, 2014
   Aug. 27, 2014
   Jan. 8, 2015
   Feb. 18, 2015
  
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  Building and real estate update
  By Lindsey Harrison

   Falcon Highlands Filings 1 and 2
   The El Paso County Board of County Commissioners heard a resolution to enter into an intergovernmental agreement with Falcon Highlands Filings 1 and 2, establishing how public roads repair will be handled in those filings.
   
   The board approved the resolution.
   
   Meadow Lake Airport
   Envision Development LLC requested that the BOCC chairman, Dennis Hisey, sign the private detention basin agreement for the Williams Hangar site development plan on the Meadow Lake Airport property. The parcel is 2.53 acres and is currently zoned R-4, although that zoning determination is obsolete.
   
   The board approved the request in a 3-1 vote, with commissioners Peggy Littleton opposed and Sally Clark excused.
   
   AFT Ranch
   Nancy Shea of the AFT Ranch requested that the board approve a minor subdivision for a site west of the intersection of Howells Road and Timber Lane in Black Forest. The request would divide a 39.64-acre parcel zoned residential rural into two residential lots for two single-family residences.
   
   The BOCC approved the request.
   
   Stapleton Drive Extension Project
   The commissioners approved a construction contract and purchase order with Wildcat Construction Co. for construction of the Stapleton Drive Extension Project. The combined contract and purchase order total is not to exceed $4,540,482.20.
  
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  Save money on a last-minute summer trip
  By Jason Alderman

   If you and your family want to get out of town right now, how do you improvise a great last-minute trip without breaking the bank?
   
   Planning is essential. Embrace travel as a hobby –- look for tricks, techniques and current online resources to keep abreast of the best last-minute deals.
   
   Compromises will be necessary. You will likely need to travel at off-peak hours (either the first flight out in the morning or the last one at night, usually on weekdays) and stay at hotels or venues off the beaten path.
   
   Here are some quick tips to save money on last-minute travel:
   
   Travel light, move fast. Traveling last-minute isn't for the indecisive. Dedicated travelers are minimalists –- they know what to pack, how to organize their paperwork and payment options and have the mental preparation to deal with problems and challenges along the way.
   
   Build the right online resources. The Internet has revolutionized most forms of
   purchasing goods and services; however, for travel, it has offered unprecedented speed and customization. Use top travel sites that have a tested track record and broad listings of various travel products, but be on the lookout for new travel websites and apps that launch every day.
   
   Some airlines now offer their own last-minute fare sites, but try to sign up for email alerts and social media feeds from a variety of travel resources, so you won't miss deals on air, hotel or ground transportation.
   
   Test new lodging options. The new generation of apartment and spare-bedroom sharing sites and longtime online vacation home rental services offer last-minute and in some cases "day-of" lodging possibilities, but keep in mind that online scammers have entered this territory, and all transactions should be verified independently.
   
   Staying in hostels is not just for students and backpackers anymore; there are hostels that aim for older travelers as well. Getting on the phone also works in the hotel industry –- check online prices against prices quoted when calling the hotel directly. Ask if there is a lower corporate rate or special for the period of your stay.
   
   Compare ride-share with car rental. If you are going to need a car, check car-rental rates against leading ride-share companies, available at the touch of a smartphone screen. Many ride-share companies offer advance pricing estimates. Also, keep in mind the costs related to parking the rental car — ride-share can help avoid those parking problems.
   
   Finally, evaluate every membership connection you have. Start by looking at all the plastic in your wallet. From credit cards to the membership card for a professional networking group and auto club, there are often travel benefits available for those last-minute trips.
   
   Bottom line: Last-minute travel is almost always possible as long as the traveler is willing to do a little homework, and improvise.
   
   Jason Alderman is a financial expert and the author of Practical Money Matters weekly column. He directs Practical Money Skills for Life, a free financial education program (http://practicalmoneyskills.com)
  
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  Conserve time and water when gardening
  By Melinda Myers

   Reduce your workload, increase productivity and be water wise, whether planning, planting or already harvesting produce or enjoying beautiful floral displays from the garden.
   
   Container gardeners may want to invest in self-watering pots, which have built-in reservoirs to reduce watering frequency. Commercial and homemade self-watering devices can also reduce watering frequency. Just make sure to test effectiveness before leaving town. Or consider a one-time investment in a drip irrigation system, designed for container gardens.
   
   Drip irrigation and soaker hoses are also a great way to water in-ground plantings. These irrigation systems apply the water directly to the soil, which reduces water lost to overspray, evaporation and runoff. They also reduce the risk and spread of disease by preventing water from settling on the leaves of the plants.
   
   Opt for a micro irrigation system if your water has a high mineral content. The minerals can build up and clog soaker hoses. Micro irrigation systems experience fewer problems, and the nozzles can be cleaned to prevent clogs.  Because the nozzles can be clipped onto stakes, tomato towers or other supports; this system makes it easy to deliver water right to the plants.
   
   Raised bed gardens will also benefit from irrigation systems. Elevated gardens often dry out more quickly than their in-ground counterparts and need more frequent watering. Some, like the Raised Bed Snip-n-Drip soaker system (gardeners.com), are easy to assemble and allow for as-needed watering. Further save time by using preformed corners with built-in spigots when constructing raised beds. Simply slide the boards into the metal corner pieces to create the raised bed. Some corner systems, like Aquacorner, have built-in spigots to make irrigation even simpler.
   
   Correctly installed irrigation systems can help conserve water by ensuring that you water properly and only when needed. Plus, using a timer and an irrigation system allows you to apply water at the best time for the plants. Just set the timer for early in the morning — when less water is lost to evaporation — and the plants will be watered even if no one is at home.  
   
   Always water thoroughly and only as needed to encourage plants to develop deep root systems that are more drought-tolerant. Be sure to avoid high nitrogen, fast release fertilizers that promote lush succulent growth, which needs more frequent watering.
   Further conserve water and time spent watering by grouping moisture-loving plants together, which provides necessary water more efficiently and avoids overwatering drought-tolerant plants.
   
   Remember to mulch the garden. A thin layer of shredded leaves, evergreen needles or other organic matter helps conserve moisture and reduces erosion. As the mulch breaks down, it helps improve the soil, while decreasing its water needs.
   
   Melinda Myers is a gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist, with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She has written more than 20 gardening books.
  
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  MVEA 74th annual meeting
  By Lara Freeman

   Mountain View Electric Association held its 74th annual meeting of members June 4 at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado. Festivities before the meeting included rides in a bucket truck's bucket and a delicious dinner served by the Key Clubs of the District 38 high schools — Lewis Palmer and Palmer Ridge. Raffle drawings were held throughout the evening.
   
   Three districts within MVEA had open board seats for election — all were unopposed. The following members were retained for another three-year term: Joseph Martin, District 1; Milton Mathis, District 4; and Barry Springer, District 6.
   
   Martin, president of the MVEA board of directors, announced the winners of the essay contest, as well as scholarship winners for the year. A total of $14,000 was awarded to all scholarship winners. Sandra Luksic of Palmer Ridge High School was the Washington, DC, youth tour winner for 2015.
   
   The president's report followed. “We have the proverbial good news/bad news scenario,” Martin said. “As of yet, there are no rate increases. However, there are some on the horizon.” Power Systems Engineering performed the class cost of service study this year, he said. “We want to minimize rate subsidies between classes,” Martin said. The classes include residential, irrigation, small power, municipal water, large power and outdoor lighting. The classes that will be adjusted are irrigation, municipal water, large power and outdoor lighting. New rates will be effective after July 1. “The goal is a 6 percent rate of return,” Martin said. MVEA uses cyclical billing, so residents can expect the adjustment on the first bill they receive after July 1, whether they receive their bills in the first, second, third or fourth week of each month.
   
   The meeting moved on to capital credits. “Mountain View believes credits are one of the more important things we do,” Martin said. MVEA provides credits on a 15-year rotation; 2015 is the second year in which they utilized a hybrid combination on a first-in-first-out (those who joined the co-op 15 years ago) and last-in-first-out (those who joined the co-op in 2012) basis. Eighty percent in credits will be given to the first-in-first-out category, and 20 percent to last-in-first-out; distributed to those who joined in 1998 and 1999 (first-in-first-out) and 2012 (last-in-first-out).
   
   “We basically did the same thing we did last year,” Martin said. “We're trying to get new members to understand what it means to be in a co-op.” He said the hybrid system allows MVEA to distribute more money back than a strictly first-in-first-out system.
   
   Members were encouraged by the financial overview. Clifton, Larson, & Allen LLP performed the audit. Martin reported that MVEA had a clean audit. “We met or exceeded benchmarks put forth by lenders,” he said. “Your co-op is financially strong.”
   
   Discussions turned to Operation Round Up, started in 1999. The program involves rounding up to the nearest dollar when paying MVEA bills. Each month, the maximum each member can donate is 99 cents, and MVEA member participation for Operation Round Up is currently at 59 percent. As of April 30, Operation Round Up has collected a total of $2,427,337. Of that, $2,064,318 has been disbursed, with $1,468,373 to organizations and $595,945 to individuals. “It's neighbors helping neighbors,” Martin said.
   
   Jim Herron, chief executive officer, polled members on various issues. Members had clickers for instant answers. Questions were asked, such as this one, “Would you like to participate in MVEA grassroots effort with email alerts regarding pertinent issues that give you the opportunity to communicate with your legislators?” Members responded to that question: 59 percent said yes, 23 percent no, and 19 percent undecided. Members were also asked whether they had visited MVEA's Facebook page. Most members had not. Several other questions were asked, and the board will consider those answers in planning for the future of MVEA.
   
   Additional lamplighter meetings will be held Oct. 4, during National Co-op Month. Black Forest, Calhan and Limon will host the meetings. MVEA is requesting that members ask for invitations so they can accommodate attendees.
   
   The meeting wrapped up with a final raffle drawing and the announcement of staff retirements. Claud Hugley, operations manager, is retiring after 42 years of service. Darryl Edwards, member services manager, retires with 20 years of service.
  
 
The annual Mountain View Electric member meeting/dinner included fun activities like a ride in the bucket truck bucket, which allowed for this panoramic view. Photos by Lara Freeman
 
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  Building with cannabis
  By Jason Gray

   A new version of “green” building could be coming to Colorado. Industrial hemp proponents are working on ways to use marijuana's non-psychoactive cousin to create sustainable and safer alternatives to traditional construction and furnishing/finishing materials.
   
   John Patterson, owner of Tiny Hemp Houses, is using a product called hempcrete to build small homes. The concrete-like material uses hemp fibers instead of fiberglass or cellulose materials to help reduce cracking.
   
   “When you compare hempcrete to concrete, the amount of energy required for concrete is in mining and processing, and almost none of that is required for a mixture of hemp and lime,” said Zev Paiss, executive director of the National Hemp Association. “You still have to mine the lime, but it's one-seventh the weight of regular concrete, so working with it is quite a bit less difficult.”
   
   “In concrete, they do use fiber reinforcing like fiberglass,” said Roger Lovell, director of building operations for the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department. “It doesn't take the place of steel reinforcing, but it helps limit cracking. It's interesting; it's the first I've heard of this. I don't know what the difference would be between fiberglass as a synthetic product versus a cellulose product like hemp. My question would be to see what happens over time.”
   
   Building codes used by Pikes Peak Regional Building allow for alternative building styles and materials, as long as an engineer licensed by the state approves the plans. “It speaks to the thought that the intent of the code is not to limit new materials in any way, shape or form; it’s just to hold them to a minimum standard,” Lovell said.
   
   Patterson said there are several licensed engineers who have taken an interest in hempcrete and other alternative building styles such as straw-bale and rammed earth. “The officials have a job to do and want safe houses for everyone,” Patterson said. “The engineers understand that and speak their language as well. For the most part, the building industry is open and receptive. The building officials just need a little educating that it's not pot.”
   
   Industrial hemp and recreational or medical marijuana come from the same species of plant — cannabis sativa. The strains, flowering habits and growing styles result in industrial hemp having very little THC and other psychoactive cannabinoids related to the recreational and medicinal versions.
   
   “The simple difference is the level of THC, which has been arbitrarily defined by .3 percent by weight,” Paiss said. “If it's less, it's hemp. If over, it’s considered marijuana. That number's been used in Canada and the European Union, so legislatures here have used it. The plants come from the same genus, but you can't get high. So, it's used for every other purpose.”
   
   Hemp grown for building materials and fiber products has won some legal battles at the federal level that marijuana has not. “Hemp has been different for a while,” Patterson said. “We fought the battle back in the 90s that we can import hemp, and we can use it because it doesn't have THC. But we couldn't bring live seed in.”
   
   The small number of farmers actively growing industrial hemp in the United States has been a challenge to hemp entrepreneurs. “Because we're just beginning to grow it in the U.S., we don't have the volume to make those products here,” Paiss said. “If someone is using it for a building product or fiber, they're importing it. The E.U. is a large exporter, and there are companies in Australia.”
   
   “Right now, I have to import the hemp all the way from Holland,” Patterson said. “But if I can buy it in quantity, we're going to be right in there as far as cost, compared to other green home custom building.”
   
   Growing and processing larger quantities domestically would also give companies enough product to submit for testing agencies to approve materials for more frequent construction use. Individual projects using alternative materials could find it less expensive to pay for engineering plans for that permit. Manufacturers hoping to sell a new building product en masse must be evaluated by an organization that code officials will recognize.
   
   “Regardless of what the product is made out of, any building materials used would have an International Code Council Evaluation Service report,” Lovell said. “They, in general, set the acceptance standards. Much like the federal government does with crash tests: Here's what the car has to be able to withstand. When they come up with a new building product, it has to be tested and evaluated. That says that it does what it says it does.”
   
   The ICCES and other similar testing agencies are similar to the Underwriters Laboratory process for consumer products. “If you look at a toaster, it has a UL report to make sure it won't shock you or set your house on fire,” Lovell said.
   
   Environmental concerns and overall material efficiency are also driving interest in industrial hemp for building materials. “Imagine the time to grow a pine tree to where you can cut it down to make lumber,” Paiss said. “An entire field of hemp can be ready in three, four months and be used right away. The volume per period of time is vastly better in hemp than in trees.”
   
   Hempcrete and pressed hemp products don't burn well and generate almost no psychoactive effects. “With hempcrete, the entire wall system is very fire resistant or non-combustable,” Patterson said. “For fire prone areas, I would recommend hempcrete, along with good building design.”
   
   If federal and state lawmakers continue to make industrial hemp farming and the production of hemp less of a legal risk for growers, consumers can expect to see many new hemp products on the market. “There's research going on to take the ground-up center of the stalk and press it into OSB (oriented stand board) or plywood,” Patterson said. “Any of the fibers can be spun into insulation, woven into carpets, drapes, seat cushions –- anything you would make out of fabric. It's just unbelievable how many products can be made from it.”
   
   From the Hemp Industries Association
  1. Hemp is among the oldest industries on the planet, going back more than 10,000 years to the beginnings of pottery. The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest relic of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric dating back to about 8,000 BC.
  2. Presidents Washington and Jefferson grew hemp. Americans were legally bound to grow hemp during the Colonial Era and Early Republic. The federal government subsidized hemp during the Second World War and U.S. farmers grew about a million acres of hemp as part of that program. In 1937, Until February 2014, drugs laws passed in 1937 forbid anyone from growing hemp in the U.S.
  3. Hemp seed is nutritious and contains more essential fatty acids than any other source, is second only to soybeans in complete protein (but is more digestible by humans), is high in B-vitamins, and is a good source of dietary fiber. Hemp seed is not psychoactive and cannot be used as a drug.
  4. The bark of the hemp stalk contains bast fibers, which are among Earth's longest natural soft fibers and are also rich in cellulose. The cellulose and hemi-cellulose in its inner woody core are called hurds. Hemp stalk is not psychoactive. Hemp fiber is longer, stronger, more absorbent and more insulative than cotton fiber.
  5. According to the Department of Energy, hemp as a biomass fuel producer requires the least specialized growing and processing procedures of all hemp products. The hydrocarbons in hemp can be processed into a wide range of biomass energy sources, from fuel pellets to liquid fuels and gas. Development of bio-fuels could significantly reduce consumption of fossil fuels and nuclear power.
  6. Hemp can be grown organically. Only eight, out of about 100 known pests, cause problems; and hemp is most often grown without herbicides, fungicides or pesticides. Hemp is also a natural weed suppressor due to fast growth of the canopy.
  7. Hemp produces more pulp per acre than timber on a sustainable basis, and can be used for every quality of paper. Hemp paper manufacturing can reduce wastewater contamination. Hemp's low lignin content reduces the need for acids used in pulping, and its creamy color lends itself to environmentally friendly bleaching instead of harsh chlorine compounds. Less bleaching results in less dioxin and fewer chemical by-products.
  8. Hemp fiber paper resists decomposition and does not yellow with age when an acid-free process is used. Hemp paper more than 1,500 years old has been found. Hemp paper can also be recycled more times than wood-based paper.
  9. Hemp fiberboard produced by Washington State University was found to be twice as strong as wood-based fiberboard. No additional resins are required due to naturally occurring lignins.
  10. Eco-friendly hemp can replace most toxic petrochemical products. Research is being done to use hemp in manufacturing biodegradable plastic products: plant-based cellophane, recycled plastic mixed with hemp for injection-molded products, and resins made from the oil, to name a  few examples. Over two million cars on the road today have hemp composite parts for door panels, dashboards, luggage racks, etc.
President Obama signed into law Feb. 7, 2014, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, which amended the  Controlled Substances Act to exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana, allowing American farmers in any state to grow the crop.
   
   According to a Los Angeles Times op-ed published in June 2014, "American farmers have been watching as Canadian farmers clear huge profits from hemp: $250 per acre in 2013. By comparison, South Dakota State University predicts that soy, a major crop, will net U.S. farmers $71 per acre in 2014."
  
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  Where's the water?
  Calhan water investigation continues
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On April 8, the Upper Big Sandy Ground Water Management District asked director Larry Mott to investigate allegations of about 2.4 million gallons of water missing from Calhan’s municipal wells during July, August and September 2014. Mott sent his findings to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations and also presented them to the Upper Big Sandy board of directors at a special meeting on May 6.
   
   At that meeting, the board heard Mott’s presentation, and Morris Ververs, board president, said the district had two options, according to the June issue of The New Falcon Herald. With the first option, the board would conduct a hearing, requesting that Calhan respond to the report regarding the missing water; or the board could focus on clarifying, strengthening and revising the regulations on how water is sold by the town of Calhan.
   
   The board unanimously voted to revise the regulations, with the goal of maintaining a good relationship with Calhan. Mott abstained from voting because of his role in the investigation.
   
   Laura Wilson, a local property owner who attended the May 6 meeting, said, “The Upper Big Sandy board essentially voted to work with the people, in this case the town of Calhan, who stole the water. If it were anyone else who had done it, they would’ve been prosecuted.”
   
   Susan Medina, CBI public information officer, confirmed that the investigation is still ongoing; and, because of that, she said she cannot discuss details about the case. Additionally, Lee Richards, community outreach director with the 4th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, said they have shared information with the CBI on the investigation but said that since the CBI is the lead investigative agency, it would be up to them to comment.
   
   Greg Maggard was Calhan’s director of public works at the time the water went missing; and, according to an email sent to The New Falcon Herald from Cindy Tompkins, the town clerk, Maggard resigned from his position at the beginning of June for “personal reasons.” The NFH could not reach Maggard for comment.
  
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Angie Morlan
  Local athlete to be featured on NBC Sports
  By Angie Morlan

   April Dee, professional obstacle course racer, has become well-known in the Spartan Race circuit. In August, people can watch how Dee trains for a race, along with a glimpse of her personal life. “I don’t just train all the time, I have a regular life, too,” Dee said. The Falcon resident will be featured on the program “Empowered Woman” on NBC Sports. A camera crew from the network shot a “day-in-the-life” of Dee at home with her family, as well as training athletes at PCR Fitness in Falcon.   
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  St. Benedict's barn dance
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On June 27, St. Benedict Catholic Church held its third annual barn dance, in part, to raise funds to build a church. Currently, St. Benedict’s holds it masses in the gym at the Patriot Learning Center in Falcon School District 49.
   
   The event included a pulled pork barbecue and refreshments for guests, as well as a raffle, silent auction and bake sale. After dinner, a DJ kicked off the music, and guests enjoyed dancing.
   
   Overall, the church sold 150 tickets online and expected at least 200 guests to attend, said church member, Andrea Guerber.
   
   Deacon Lynn Sherman said this year’s barn dance was more about doing something to reach out to the community. The event was also the first of a two-part celebration of the church’s 10th anniversary, he said.
   
   “We are confident that these barn dances will be a part of our future history,” Sherman said. “We want people to know we’re here, and we want to do good for the community.”
   
   The second part of the anniversary celebration, a potluck picnic, will take place July 11 at 4 p.m. on the St. Benedict grounds. 
   
   About two hours into the event, which went from 6 p.m. to midnight, the winner of the 50/50 raffle was announced. The winner received half the money from the raffle ticket sales, and the rest went to the church. However, Garret Klein, the son of a church member, won the raffle but decided to give back his $110 to the church to help pay for the new building.
   
   “This is the type of church we are,” Sherman said, expressing his gratitude for Klein’s generosity.
  
DeeAnn Champlin and the other ladies of the St. Benedict’s Women’s Group sold bake sale items, all made by local people and church members. “Last year, we sold out before dinner; this year we have a lot more stuff,” she said.
 
Deacon Lynn Sherman and his wife, Barb, take a minute from the barn dance festivities for a quick picture.
 
Katelyn Klein, almost 2 years old, enjoyed her second glass of “yummy” lemonade at the barn dance.
 
Once all the funds are raised, St. Benedict plans to build a new church like the one in this drawing. Photos by Lindsey Harrison
 
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  May flooding damages Falcon Highway, other local roads
  By Jason Gray

   The record-breaking rainfall across El Paso County in May flooded basements, eroded parks and closed roads. Falcon Highway, Garrett Road and Jones Road were impacted by flooded streams. Falcon Highway is expected to be re-opened by the beginning of July. Jones Road will remain closed until the end of July.
   
   “On Falcon Highway, it was closed just east of Peyton Highway,” said Andre Brackin, county engineer. “Essentially, it was a culvert failure. The embankment was being undermined before the culvert.”
   
   Jones Road continued eroding until nearly the entire road was washed away, said Dodi Lingg, a resident on nearby Log Road. “We saw the culvert pipes go, and saw all the rivets popping,” Lingg said. “There was no time for anything as far as quick repairs. There was nothing you could do to stop it.”
   
   Both roads are being upgraded as part of the repair process. “It's a better installation than what was there before,” Brackin said. “We're using concrete pipes and large concrete structural end pieces that flare out to help direct runoff and hold the culvert in place.”
   
   The road closures were inconvenient for the residents of the eastern parts of Falcon, as well as commuters from farther east. The roads near the apparently dry creek beds are a frequent problem for El Paso County public service officials. “Falcon Highway is a fairly small repair comparatively,” Brackin said. “It's not something out of the ordinary. We do these quite a bit. The Jones Road location washed out the same way about five years ago.”
   
   “It looks like a dry creek, but water's flowing underneath,” Lingg said. “It can create a quicksand that goes under the culvert. When the rain comes, it lifts them right up and the water just moves them. You could watch as the current ate the road.”
   
   El Paso County officials plan to improve how the culverts are anchored into the ground. “We're adding a third culvert rather than the two that were there previously,” Brackin said. “We're also going to anchor with piling about 10 feet down on both sides of the road. That will be a much longer lasting culvert installation.”
   
   Residents and commuters hope the new culverts and back-fill soil embankments will mean fewer detours after the next downpour. “It has been absolutely amazing,” Lingg said.
  
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