2016 in the Colorado Springs area: A look back | Colorado Springs Gazette, News

While the nation may remember 2016 for a contentious presidential race, the year in the Pikes Peak region was much more subdued. It was a year of growth in the region with housing prices increasing, new businesses starting like the Great Wolf Lodge and construction such as the start of a Children’s Hospital to open in 2018.  Some of the biggest local stories in 2016 were a continuation of news from past years.

    

Robert Redford (center) and Jane Fonda were in town, shooting a Netflix-produced feature based on the late Kent Haruf’s final novel, “Our Souls at Night,”. Recent CC grad Courtney Blackmer-Raynolds ’16 was a production assistants on the project. Old Colorado City on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. . photo by Jerilee Bennett,The Gazette 

Arts

– Colorado Springs Philharmonic music director Josep Caballé-Domenech’s contract was extended indefinitely in January. His original contract began in September 2011 and was scheduled to expire in August. The symphony celebrated its 90th anniversary in the fall.

– Local couple Catharine and Bart Holaday gave the Fine Arts Center a $1 million gift in April, the largest since its capital campaign in 2007. It will be used to develop and create a 21st century interactive gallery space.

– Colorado College acquired the Fine Arts Center in August and took over management responsibilities Sept. 1. On July 1 the FAC will be renamed the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College. By July 1, 2020, the FAC will be fully transferred to the college along with its building, art collection and $2 million debt.

– Robert Redford and Jane Fonda began filming their Netflix movie “Our Souls at Night in September.” Shooting finished in early November. The movie is set for release next year.

– An anonymous donor gifted the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum with $300,000 in November, the largest annual private gift ever bestowed on the institution in its 120-year history. The money will be used through 2018 to support the upcoming free exhibit “The Story of Us: The Pikes Peak Region from A-Z.” It opens Jan. 14.

 

 

City Council

The Colorado Springs City Council saw controversy as well as kudos in 2016 as it:

– Approved a contentious land trade of the city’s Strawberry Hill fields open space to The Broadmoor in exchange for several parcels expected to facilitate trail linkages and improvements to the Manitou Incline and nearby Barr Trail up Pikes Peak. Hundreds of residents came to multiple public hearings, mostly to oppose the swap. But the council passed it 6-3 in May.

– Passed a “sit-lie law,” formerly named the Pedestrian Access Act, after months of watering down the proposal amid withering critiques by civil liberties advocates. The law, enacted in February, forbids people from sitting, lying, kneeling or reclining on downtown or Old Colorado City streets or sidewalks.

– In March eliminated “debtors’ prisons,” created as impoverished people who couldn’t pay fines were jailed instead. After a 2015 challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, the city agreed to stop turning fines into jail time, to stop jailing people for unjailable offenses and to repeal panhandling ordinances that supported those practices.

– Censured Councilwoman Helen Collins after a retired U.S. magistrate judge ruled that she engaged in fraud, abuse and corruption in government, violated ethics and created the appearance of impropriety in her real estate dealings with friend Douglas Bruce.

– Enacted a construction defects ordinance intended to protect developers from lawsuits and spur construction of more condos and other multi-family dwellings.

– Extended a moratorium on growth of medical marijuana businesses and established licenses and fees for cannabis clubs. When not all clubs complied, the city issued cease and desist orders to nine of them. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the clubs has yet to be settled.

– Saw their six council districts redrawn by City Clerk Sarah Johnson with help from an advisory committee and comment gathered at multiple public hearings.

– Started work on a rewrite of the landslides construction ordinance, which is expected to tighten scrutiny of development plans on sites in the landslide susceptibility zone.

 

OLYMPIC CITY USA
A new logo possibility for Colorado Springs featuring it as “Olympic City USA”. 

City Administration

– Mayor John Suthers worked with leaders from Utilities and the City Council to craft a $460 million, 20-year intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County to provide 71 stormwater projects that are to reduce sediment and increase water quality in Fountain Creek. The work is expected to stanch damage that Fountain Creek has wreaked on downstream communities. With approval of the IGA, Pueblo County released the 1041 Permit needed for Utilities to launch its massive Southern Delivery System water project. Suthers and his staff also created a new Stormwater Division, nearly tripling the staff of engineers and inspectors and increasing stormwater funding from $5 million in 2015 to $19 million in 2016. Nonetheless, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment filed a lawsuit against the city, citing negligence that resulted in poor water quality.

In other business, the city’s administration:

– Launched a two-year collection of public data to create the city’s first comprehensive plan in 15 years.

– Adopted the moniker Olympic City USA.

– Had a Southwest Downtown Planning Team design revitalization of that area, including a $1 million water quality project at the planned U.S. Olympic Museum, a 910-slot underground parking structure on nearby land owned by Nor’wood Development Group and the Trapp Family Trust, and a $9.7 million pedestrian bridge from the museum to America the Beautiful Park. City Council members expressed outrage in July that they’d been kept in the dark on the plans, and still didn’t know how much it would cost taxpayers.

 

The Great Wolf Lodge water park resort is set to open on December 26 this year. Thursday, August 11, 2016. photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette 

Business

– Frontier Airlines announces in January it will return to Colorado Springs in April with a daily nonstop flight to Las Vegas with plans to add more flights and destinations. The Denver-based low-far carrier adds a daily flight to Phoenix in June and a daily flight to Orlando, Fla., in October.

– Gov. John Hickenlooper announces plans during his State-of-the-State Address in January to create a cybersecurity center in Colorado Springs in a former TRW manufacturing plant owned by the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The National Cybersecurity Center gets $8 million from legislators in May to renovate the plant and hires a retired colonel and cybersecurity industry veteran Ed Rios in October as its CEO and hosts government officials from around the nation in November at The Broadmoor hotel for a cybersecurity symposium.

– More than a year of uncertainty about the fate of Atmel Corp. and its 1,000-employee Colorado Springs manufacturing plant ends in April when Microchip Inc. acquires Atmel and the plant. Arizona-based Microchip says it plans to keep the plant open and eventually moves a manufacturing line there from another plant it is closing.

– DaVita Inc. continues its Colorado Springs physician practice acquisition binge by agreeing to buy Mountain View Medical Group in April, less than a year after acquiring Colorado Springs Health Partners.

– O’Neil Group Co. and its partners in April formally open Catalyst Campus as a business park focused on cybersecurity and space after spending $10 million to buy, remodel and upgrade the technology of the former Santa Fe Railroad station and two adjacent buildings at 555-559 E. Pikes Peak Ave. They expect to spend up to $10 million more to complete the work.

– Las Vegas-based Full House Resorts Inc. completes its $30 million purchase in May of Bronco Billy’s Casino and Hotel, the second-largest group of casinos in Cripple Creek with roots dating to the legalization of gaming in Colorado nearly 25 years ago.

– UCHealth Memorial Hospital announces plans in June to begin construction on a four-story addition to its north campus that will add 20 inpatient beds, eight exam rooms in the emergency department and two operating rooms in an $85 million project scheduled for completion by mid-2018.

– A major July hailstorm produces the sixth-most damage in Colorado history, triggering $352.8 million in claims for damage to homes and vehicles and prompts near record new vehicle sales for the rest of the year, resulting in booming city sales tax collections.

– Dan Gallagher, who helped turn around the Colorado Springs Airport during the past three years by luring Frontier Airlines to resume service, resigned in September to take a post in Boston. He is replaced in December by Greg Phillips, executive director of aviation at the Eagle County Regional Airport,

– Vectrus Inc. loses contracts in September that generated half of its revenue, triggering layoffs of 64 employees. The CEO of the Colorado Springs-based defense contractor retires two months later and his replacement pledges to focus on business development.

– Space Foundation replaced its longtime CEO in October after reports of crude comments he made about Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Facebook, though the Springs-based group did not say there was a link between the two.

– Children’s Hospital Colorado breaks ground on a $154 million hospital in November that will open in late 2018 after serving Colorado Springs-area patients for more than 15 years through outpatient clinics and a series of partnerships with the UCHealth Memorial Hospital System.

– The single-family housing market enjoyed a banner year in 2016, buoyed by an improving economy and rock-bottom mortgage rates. The number of building permits issued for the construction of single-family homes topped 3,000 for the first time since 2006. Meanwhile, on the resale side of the market, annual sales of existing homes set a record – topping 14,000 for the first time. And foreclosure activity was on pace to finish at its lowest level in 15 years.

– Apartment rents set record highs during much of 2016, as the average monthly rent topped $1,000 during the third quarter for the first time.

– Vince Bzdek, a former Washington Post writer and editor and an ex-Denver Post editor, took over as editor of The Gazette in April. Bzdek, a Colorado native, graduated from Colorado College in the Springs and had also worked at the old Colorado Springs Sun. He succeeded Joanna Bean, who left to take a communications and media relations post at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

– Great Wolf Lodge, a sprawling 311-room hotel and indoor water park resort, opened in December on Colorado Springs’ far north side. Great Wolf took over the partially completed Renaissance hotel and was expected to help boost the local tourism market.

– Colorado Springs attorney Perry Sanders Jr., who along with a partner had purchased The Antlers hotel in downtown and who also operates the Mining Exchange hotel, purchased The Famous – an upscale steakhouse also located downtown.

– After 33 years, the popular Old Chicago Pizza & Taproom in downtown Colorado Springs closed its doors in July. In December, however, Longmont-based Oskar Blues announced it would take over the space and is targeting a June 2017 opening.

– The Colorado Springs Urban Renewal Authority resolved bond defaults related to its North Nevada Avenue redevelopment project – approving a plan to refinance the project’s debt. The defaults stem from missed payments on a pair of bond issues dating to 2011.

– Colorado Crossing, the long-stalled, 153-acre mixed-use development on Colorado Springs’ far north side, was purchased for $22.1 million by a suburban Denver commercial real estate and investment company. The purchase followed a protracted bankruptcy by Colorado Crossing’s original developer. The new owners plan to revive the project – completing partially finished buildings that had stood idle for years on the property, while seeking to bring apartments, restaurants, hotels and other new uses to the site.

– Craig Reed, after 25 years as vice president of food and beverage at The Broadmoor retired in June. He was replaced by John Johnstone who oversees not only the resort, but overall food and beverage operations at The Broadmoor Wilderness properties of The Ranch at Emerald Valley, Cloud Camp, The Broadmoor Fishing Camp, and Seven Falls. He was director of club operations at the esteemed Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters.

– Bonny and Read Fresh Seafood and Fine Steaks, 101 N. Tejon St., owned by Joe Campana, opened in March. It’s the third eatery for Campana, He also owns the Rabbit Hole and Supernova.

– Loyal Coffee, 408 S. Nevada Ave., opened in September.

– Axe and the Oak Whiskey House, 1604 S. Cascade Ave., open a tasting room in the Ivywild School offering samples 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

– Rick Velliquette, long time popular waiter, opened his own eatery, The Bistro on 2nd, 65 Second St., Monument, in September. The building was formerly Wisdom Tea House.

– Till Farm Inspired Farm-Inspired Kitchen & Mercantile, 9633 Prominent Point, opened in June with customers clammering for a table.

– Sam and Kathy Guadagnoli are projecting the opening of Prime25, 1605 S. Tejon St., by New Years Eve. The restaurant is part of the $75 million redevelopment of South Nevada Avenue, Tejon Street and Cascade Avenue, which has been in the making for 14 years.

 

Steven Lynn with Western States Reclamation grades an area near storage lagoons at the Edward W. Bailey Water Treatment Plant Friday, April 22, 2016. The Southern Delivery System (SDS) will start operations April 27 and begin to deliver water to customers April 28. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Colorado Springs Utilities

– The city’s sole utilities provider started the year fending off challenges to the $825 million Southern Delivery System, designed to deliver Arkansas River water to Fountain, Security, Pueblo West and Colorado Springs. But the city and Utilities prevailed, and one of the biggest modern water projects in the West started operations to great fanfare on April 27.

Also this year, Utilities:

– Kept its current governance model after a June vote by its board, which consists of the full City Council. Many community activists had pushed for a new governance team, and the board spent months studying what options could be effective. But ultimately, it opted to retain control of the $1 billion enterprise.

– Closed Unit 5 of the coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant downtown and set a 2035 deadline to close the entire plant.

– Raised rates twice on most categories in its four services: electric, water, gas and wastewater.

– Saw NeuStream scrubbers get underway at Drake. The equipment, designed to greatly reduce sulfur dioxide emissions, is controversial because it came through a no-bid, “cost-plus” contract with Neumann Systems Group Inc. The original price estimate of $111.8 million had rocketed to about $180 million at last count.

– Opened the Clear Spring Ranch Solar Array in October south of Fountain, expected to power 3,000 homes. The solar ranch marks the first time Utilities is providing solar energy directly to its ratepayers.

 

Former El Paso County, Colo. Sheriff Terry Maketa and his defense team including high-powered attorney, Pamela Mackey, leave El Paso County courthouse in Colo. Springs, Colo. Thursday, June 9, 2016. It was the first court appearance for Maketa and two subordinates since being indicted on charges including extortion, false imprisonment and kidnapping. (AP Photo/The Gazette, Carol Lawrence) 

Crime and Courts

– Robert Lewis Dear Jr., the admitted Planned Parenthood shooter, is found incompetent to stand trial – meaning he could not understand court proceedings, nor assist in his own defense. He was ordered to a state psychiatric hospital for treatment of delusional disorder – effectively stalling his prosecution indefinitely.

– In May, an El Paso County grand jury indicts ex-El Paso County sheriff Terry Maketa and two former top deputies on corruption allegations, marking a stunning new chapter in his fall from grace. The once-popular sheriff, who left office under a cloud in 2014 weeks before completing his third term, declared his innocence through his attorneys and vowed to fight the charges. Among the claims against him are that he ordered the jailing of a domestic violence victim to protect the deputy she accused.

– Three years after the slaying of Colorado’s top prison official, in June El Paso County Sheriff Bill Elder called an end to the investigation, saying he didn’t have evidence to dispute that gunman Evan Ebel acted alone. The move came despite new questions raised about a possible conspiracy by members of the 211 Crew prison gang – an allegation Elder said wasn’t borne out by the evidence. A three-year-old Texas Rangers report recently made public suggests otherwise.

– A five-year legal saga that began with the gruesome death of an 87-year-old Colorado Springs woman ended in June with the first-degree murder conviction of Marcus Allen Smith. Though attorneys pointed to Smith’s unhinged behavior in trying to argue the crime was driven by schizophrenia, an El Paso County jury concluded that Smith showed planning and deliberation when he used carpet cleaner to scrub blood from Kathryn “Kit” Grazioli’s bedroom floor in November 2011 and then took her to a remote trailhead, where he set her body ablaze.

 

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Shockley Zalabak attends a meeting on campus Tuesday afternoon, March 17, 2015, after rushing back early Tuesday morning from the school women’s basketball NCAA Division II playoff game in Texas late Monday night. Zalabak earned the humanitarian award for the Red Cross Hometown Heros for her leadership at the unversity and her efforts to improve the lives of the elderly in our community. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Education

– In February, Colorado Springs School District 11’s seven-member board of education unanimously agrees to close the 114-year-old Helen Hunt Elementary School at the end of the school year, after determining renovations to be cost prohibitive. The board decides to remodel and reopen a formerly shuttered school, Adams Elementary, for Hunt’s 400 students.

– Falcon School District 49 parents claiming they were essentially fired from their volunteer positions because they questioned how officials handled defacement of a marquee at Falcon High School lost a grievance they filed, saying the school district violated anti-discrimination and procedural policies in disbanding Falcon High’s accountability committee.

– A contract dispute in March over the wording of a 1999 property tax increase threatens to severe the relationship between Lewis-Palmer School District 38 and its sole charter school, Monument Academy Charter School. It would take months for an agreement to be hammered out.

– Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8 undergoes an administrative and athletics staff shakeup in April, with six top administrators being replaced at the high school and middle school.

– Neighbors around Colorado College speak out against a project to tear down three houses and build three new dorms at the southeast corner of Uintah Street and Nevada Avenue.

– Woodland Park voters agree to increase sales tax by 1.09 percent and decrease property taxes through a reduction in general bond debt, to fund improvement projects in Woodland Park School District RE-2.

– The philanthropic Lane Foundation in May buys Helen Hunt Elementary School from D-11 for $1 and promises to spend $2 million to renovate the historic building and turn it into a hub for nonprofit organizations.

– A $30 million modernization and expansion of Tutt Library on the Colorado College campus gets underway in May, with GH Phipps as the general contractor. The project includes adding 39,000 square feet to the library and demolishing the 1980 south addition. A 9,700-square-foot fourth level is being built. A geothermal system with new landscaping also is part of the design from Pfeiffer Partners Architects of Los Angeles.

– The Twitter account of Academy School District 20’s superintendent was allegedly hacked in July, with a pornographic video appearing on his page, which many students saw before the account was closed. It was later discovered that the video included a former Pine Creek High School student.

– Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 instructs students to not dress in Native American headdresses, face paint or other depictions during sports games or activities, in a quest to keep its Indians mascot in a respectful way.

– Anonymous employees of Spring Creek Youth Services Center speak out in September about what they say is continued violence against staff and juveniles inside the detention facility in Colorado Springs. A whistleblower seeks protection while she files accusations amounting to child abuse and neglect. The director of the state’s Division of Youth Corrections is removed from his job. A Colorado Springs Police report describes a riot within the facility as being gang-related.

– Cheyenne Mountain School District 12’s five-member board of education hears pleas in September from students claiming the dress code at the junior high is too restrictive and unfairly skewed toward females. The board does not agree and keeps the policy as is.

– Soaring Eagles Elementary School in Harrison School District 2 wins its second National Blue Ribbon award in September, a coveted honor from the U.S. Department of Education that uses data from five years of work to measure overall academic excellence and closing achievement gaps.

– Disgruntled employees of Spring Creek Youth Services Center anonymously release videos to The Gazette in October, depicting a riot within the facility in August, and a large male inmate attacking female guards.

– The student newspaper at Palmer Ridge High School in Lewis-Palmer School District 38 in Monument endorses Hillary Clinton in an October editorial and receives severe backlash from parents and students. The school also was vandalized over the issue.

– Sean Wybrant, a career and technical education teacher at William J. Palmer High in Colorado Springs School District 11, was named the 2017 Colorado Teacher of the Year. Four of this year’s six finalists were from the Pikes Peak region.

– Voters approve two of six school financing measures in November. The winners: Academy School District 20 and Falcon School District 49. Among the losers: Colorado Springs School District 11, the region’s largest and oldest school district, which sought both a mill levy override and a bond issue authorization to make educational and building improvements.

– The Pikes Peak region’s smallest district, Edison School District 54-JT, in Yoder, with 230 students, tops the state’s accreditation rankings.

– University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chancellor Pam Zalabak-Shockley announces in December she plans to retire on Feb. 15, after 15 years as chancellor and a 40-year career at the school, the fastest-growing campus in the CU system.

– Nearly 200 professors and staff at UCCS call for the school to become a sanctuary campus for undocumented students, staff, workers and others.

– Hanover School District 28’s five-member board of education votes 3-2 to allow teachers and other staff to carry concealed handguns on school property, after obtaining approval and proper training.

 

 

El Paso County

– A months-long battle between a band of local residents and Transit Mix Concrete came to a surprising end in late October. The state’s Colorado Mined Reclamation Board denied a request by the concrete company to build a granite quarry on almost 400 acres along Little Turkey Creek Road in southwestern El Paso County. The board voted 3-2 against the project, citing uncertainty of effects on groundwater in the area off State Highway 115 and potential impacts on wildlife. The objectors were shocked and thrilled by the board’s decision while Transit Mix announced that it would weigh its options and potentially begin to plan an appeal.

– El Paso County Board of County Commissioners Chair Amy Lathen officially resigned from her post as the District 2 representative six months before her term ended. Lathen ended her tenure early to become executive director of Colorado Springs Forward, a nonprofit formed in 2014 to bring pride back to the city.

– In August, El Paso County officials and community advocates decided to turn Rainbow Falls Recreation Area into an official historic site in an effort to end decades of graffiti at the county park and turn the culture of the area from one of vandalism to one of pride. The county offered up a plan at an Aug. 11 meeting that immediately sparked excitement and passion among those at the small gathering. While the plan was still evolving late in the year, it will include interpretive tours, community events, more restricted hours and more stringent fines for tagging.

– A project to revitalize Manitou and Colorado avenues near Manitou Springs became a reality after more than a decade of planning. El Paso County, Manitou and Colorado Springs officials, as well as local residents and business owners, gathered in early December for a groundbreaking next to Fountain Creek. The ceremonial start to the West Side Avenue Action Plan work kicks off a two-year job that will transform the corridor – that has become known as “No Man’s Land” – from 31st Street to the U.S. 24 interchange. The makeover will transform the dangerous, four-lane road into a pedestrian and bicycle friendly zone that welcomes tourists and residents to easily navigate the area.

 

Vicki Cowart, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains addresses the media outside the Planned Parenthood building in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Colorado Springs’ Planned Parenthood clinic reopened Monday, February 15, 2016, two-and-a-half months after a deadly rampage there left three people dead and nine others wounded.The clinic will offer all of its services – including contraceptives, cancer screenings and abortions – but during fewer appointments, and in only part of the building while construction crews continue repairs elsewhere. Photo by Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette 

 Health

– Planned Parenthood’s lone Colorado Springs clinic re-opens in February after an attack in late 2015 that left three people dead and nine other people wounded. It operated at limited capacity for several months while construction crews continued renovations for parts of the building.

– Penrose-St. Francis Health Services closes a $10 million deal in February to purchase 51 acres atop the Fillmore Street hill for a massive third hospital campus.

– Monument agrees in March to pay $350,000 as part of a settlement that would keep methadone provider Colonial Management Group from opening a facility across from a downtown park. The move ended a months-long legal battle between the town and the company.

– Medical students begin training in April at the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s new branch in Colorado Springs – a much-anticipated development stemming from Memorial Hospital’s lease to University of Colorado Health.

– University of Colorado Health, which leases Memorial Hospital, acquires the Integrity Urgent Care chain in July.

– Grandview Hospital, 5623 Pulpit Peak View, begins seeing patients in October – making it the region’s newest hospital and the latest player in a fast-growing health care sector. Within two months, the hospital gained accreditation by The Joint Commission, allowing doctors to start performing elective surgeries, while also accepting Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare patients.

– The latest health insurance open enrollment period begins in November – a sign-up period marked by double-digit rate increases and dwindling plan options. Days later, Donald Trump wins the Nov. 8 election, leading Republicans to begin strategizing a “repeal and replace” of the Affordable Care Act.

– In November’s election, Colorado voters overwhelmingly defeat Amendment 69, a proposal to socialize health insurance across the state by creating ColoradoCare. The system would have covered everyone except Medicare, Tricare and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries by imposing a 10-percent payroll tax.

– Proposition 106 cruises to victory, making Colorado the latest in just a handful of states to allow doctors to prescribe lethal prescriptions to terminally-ill patients.

 

Campers pack up their belongings at a homeless tent city on Springs Rescue Mission’s campus Wednesday, October 12, 2016. Residents of the camp have been told to leave by 3pm Wednesday. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Homelessness

– The two cold-weather homeless shelters in Colorado Springs close for the season in April, leaving hundreds of people to camp over the summer in creekbeds, under bridges and in city parks.

– A homeless woman is found paralyzed beneath the Cimarron Street bridge near Conejos Street after having been raped for days. Homeless advocates and nonprofit leaders say it was indicative of the dangers homeless women face amid the region’s deep shortage of shelter beds.

– The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado in May announces a $103,000 settlement with Colorado Springs to reimburse homeless and impoverished people for their time spent wrongly jailed under a debtors’ prison system that became ingrained at the city’s municipal courthouse.

– A tent city of at least 120 people that blossomed on Springs Rescue Mission’s campus is torn down in October after the city issued a zoning ordinance violation.

– Springs Rescue Mission opens in November its much-anticipated year-round homeless shelter – the first step of a nearly-$28 million renaissance at the campus off Las Vegas Street west of Tejon Street. The new shelter includes 168 beds, and space for at least 32 sleeping mats – all of which will be used for men during the current cold-weather season. Meanwhile, another 32 beds and two-dozen sleeping mats are available for women. Once finished in 2018, the campus will include a day center, a 200-person dining hall, a welcome center, space for storage and pets and a 65-unit apartment complex.

– In December, after roughly a month of beds going empty – even during storms – shelter leaders report a surge in visitors. It routinely operated at capacity for beds, leaving only sleeping mats for visitors.

 

Rick Sisco poses for a portrait on what is left of the back patio of his home on Constellation Drive on Monday, July 18, 2016. Photo by Ryan Jones, The Gazette. 

Landslides

Severe damage and destruction of West Side homes accelerated in 2016 after the record rains of May 2015 led to land movement in several areas, resulting in 27 homes being placed on a federal buyout list. Homeowners in Lower Skyway, on Broadmoor Terrace and elsewhere in the city watched helplessly as cracks materialized, roofs collapsed and foundations shifted. The shock and emotional turmoil were accompanied by severe financial concerns. The homeowners are expected to receive buyouts equaling 75 percent of each “project cost,” including the May 2015 appraised home value and costs of demolition, appraisals and real estate closings. As they search for new housing, the residents have been told most FEMA buyouts should be done by fall 2017.

 

Timberline Landscaping workers dig a post hole as they install a railing along a lower portion of the Manitou Incline Monday, November 28, 2016. The Incline will reopen Friday, December 2 after being closed for more than three months. Photo by Mark Reis, The Gazette 

Manitou Incline

The Manitou Incline reopened in December with a second phase of restoration complete. The latest construction fixed flood damage and reinforced ties on the lower portion of the trail, ties 1 through 1,525. The middle portion was completed in 2015.

 

Marijuana plants fill a room of a Pueblo home where an illegal marijuana grow operation was discovered by the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office May 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of Pueblo County Sheriff
Marijuana plants fill a room of a Pueblo home where an illegal marijuana grow operation was discovered by the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office May 17, 2016. Photo courtesy of Pueblo County Sheriff 

Marijuana

Amid an election year that brought into question the fate of recreational marijuana in local communities, Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers announced “a day of reckoning” to oust illegal pot grows amounting to “several hundred.” State and federal authorities have been quiet about those busts, but the Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office has publicized roughly 37 of them. The Drug Enforcement Administration refused in August to legalize marijuana, maintaining the drug has no medical value, still local communities continue to approve and support recreational sales. Pueblo voted in November to keep its pot shops in the county and the city.

 

The Air Force reversed course on its own report of a 150,000-gallon release of firefighting foam-tainted water from a storage tank Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs, Colo. The Air Force says the water wasn’t released into Colorado Springs’ water system, but evaporated from a retaining pond at the fire training area. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Military

– In May, the Environmental Protection Agency tightened its guidance for perfluorinated compounds, leading health officials to announce the Widefield Aquifer is unsafe to use. The chemicals are linked to the Air Force’s use of a chemical-laden firefighting foam. A Gazette investigation revealed a series of Air Force and Pentagon studies dating to the 1970s showing the foam was harmful to laboratory animals. The Air Force defended its use of the foam and contended the studies were only “data points” which didn’t reveal the foam’s dangerous nature. In September, a pair of law firms launched suits against the foam’s manufacturers on behalf of thousands of local clients. In 2017, the Air Force plans to complete a system to filter well water for Security, Widefield and Fountain.

– Cybersecurity firms and top Obama administration officials were on high alert starting in July after it was revealed that suspected Russian hackers wiped emails from the Democratic National Committee. The hack led to a string of embarrassing leaks for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and ongoing allegations that the Russians tipped the electoral scales in favor of Donald Trump. In Colorado Springs, where the growing cybersecurity sector is a leading economic driver, experts said the hack led to a greater public awareness of the need for computer security.

– It took six months for the Air Force to reveal the cause of a June crash of an Air Force Thunderbird. The F-16 fighter from the Air Force’s aerial demonstration team crashed just south of the Colorado Springs Airport after whirling above the Air Force Academy’s graduation in Falcon Stadium. The pilot, Maj. Alex Turner, reported engine trouble before the crash. Turner was praised by Air Force for steering the plane away from houses before safely ejecting from the stricken aircraft. An Air Force investigation released this month showed a throttle problem caused Turner to accidentally shut off his jet engine, causing the crash.

– A massive search effort in the wilderness of Eagle County turned up Colorado Springs high-schoolers who went missing Nov. 21. Ground searchers were assisted by helicopters from the Colorado National Guard after the pair didn’t return from a climb up Mount of the Holy Cross. The Guardsmen spotted the teens’ tracks in the snow and followed them by helicopter. A chopper crew winched the pair to safety at sunset on Nov. 23. Both teens are recovering from frostbite.
- The first American to orbit Earth died Dec. 8. John Glenn, 95, orbited the planet in 1962 and was credited with inspiring many of the airmen and engineers who led Colorado Springs’ large space sector. Glenn, who also served as a U.S. senator, became the oldest American to orbit the planet when he rocketed back to space in 1998 aboard the space shuttle.

– Three Fort Carson Green Berets died in Afghanistan in two incidents. On Oct. 4, Staff Sgt. Adam Thomas, 31 of Tacoma Park, Md., was killed in a bombing in Nangahar province. On Nov. 3, Capt. Andrew Byers and Sgt. 1st Class Ryan Gloyer died in a firefight against Taliban insurgents in Kunduz. The three represented the only Fort Carson combat deaths in 2016.

– Jim Downing, Colorado’s oldest Pearl Harbor survivor became a national celebrity Dec. 7 when he was a key speaker at events to mark the 75th anniversary of the attack. Downing was a sailor assigned to the USS West Virginia when Japanese fighters and bombers struck the Pacific fleet stronghold in a surprise attack. The 103-year-old is well-known for speaking about the attack at Colorado Springs schools and civic events. He recently penned The Other Side of Infamy, a book about the attack and maintaining his Christian faith amid war.

– Colorado’s first Navy ship since World War II was christened in December. The nuclear-powered submarine USS Colorado is expected to undergo sea trials in 2017 ahead of its commissioning into the fleet. Colorado boosters have worked to give the submarine a Rocky Mountain flavor, sponsoring artwork for the ship and trips to Denver and Colorado Springs for its crew.

– In the largest European deployment of Fort Carson troops since the Cold War, the post’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team will head out in January for nine months of training exercises across seven nations. The 4,000-soldier armored brigade loaded up its tanks and trucks starting in November and will meet up with the gear in Poland. From there, the brigade’s troops will fan out from the Baltic to the Black Sea as part of a NATO program designed to deter Russian aggression.

– The new boss at Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs is a familiar one. Gen. Jay Raymond served at Peterson Air Force Base a decade earlier as commander of the 21st Space Wing there. Raymond replaced Gen. John Hyten who moved to Omaha to take the reins of U.S. Strategic Command.

– World War II veteran Frank Royal took to the skies over Coloroado Soprings in October to watch the plane he flew over the Pacific fly again. The P-38 Lightning was rebuilt in Colorado Springs by WestPac Restorations, and Royal found his old plane during a visit to the adjacent National Museum of World War II Aviation. The Museum and WestPac arranged to take Royal up for a flight to see his old plane in action. A month later, Royal died. He was 101.

– In May, Gen. Lori Robinson became the first female to ever lead one of America’s major combat commands when she took the helm of U.S. Northern Command in Colorado Springs. Robinson, who also leads the bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command credited her rise to mentors, including her husband, a retired Air Force two-star, and father, a pilot who flew in Vietnam.

– Facing allegations of rape and adultery, Space Command Col. Eugene Marcus Caughey apparently took his own life just days before his scheduled October court-martial, Colorado Springs police said. In December 2015, the Air Force issued a 14-count charge sheet against the colonel after months of investigation revealed an alleged series of extramarital affairs dating to 2013, and an allegation of rape. Caughey was the highest-ranking space command officer to ever face court-martial.

– The new veterans cemetery being built east of Colorado Springs will be named for America’s mountain, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced. The Pikes Peak National Cemetery, to be constructed off Drennan Road, got its name in a months-long process involving local veterans, leaders and the VA. The agency has already purchased 374 acres to hold the graves of veterans and construction is expected to start in 2017.

– Workers at the Colorado Springs Department of Veterans Affairs clinic gave delayed care to hundreds of veterans and in some cases falsified records to make the situation appear better than it was, a report from the VA’s internal watchdog said in a February report. The VA had acknowledged long wait times at the clinic, but not to the scope found by the agency’s inspector general. Investigators found that 68 percent of veterans appointments they reviewed took more than a month to get care.

– Local VA officials said the reports of misdeeds were overblown and claimed that improved training had fixed the troubles.

 

CIVIL YOUNG
Colorado Springs NAACP President Henry Allen Jr., 58, looks out the window from his office Thursday, June 26, 2014. The local NAACP chapter was founded in 1918. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

Nonprofit

– In early February, the Colorado Springs Branch of the NAACP went through a shakeup. Henry Allen Jr. was dismissed from his position as president of the local civil rights organizations. Allen’s dismissal came on the heels of conflict between him and a former branch president, Rosemary Lytle. After the abrupt end to his tenure with the NAACP, Allen helped found a Pikes Peak region branch of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

– The YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region goes public in February with a plan to transform the block east of Acacia Park from vacant property and aging buildings into a new hub for health, wellness and possibly education. The project is expected to include an expansion at its downtown facility.

– In June, the Colorado Springs Health Foundation announced its first wave of grants – a $2.5 million windfall that was dispersed among 40 nonprofits across El Paso and Teller counties. The foundation was created as part of Memorial Hospital’s lease to University of Colorado Health, which began in 2012.

 

 

Public Safety

– A total of 29 homicides were investigated by the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office and Colorado Springs Police Department this year. Four of those homicides remain unsolved, with no suspects named or arrested. Most of the deaths, 22, occurred within city limits.

– Colorado Springs Fire Chief Christopher P. Riley ended his 35-year fire service career in a cloud of mystery and controversy. Riley, 55, resigned March 4, after a week’s notice. He left with an $80,000 severance package, which was contested but ultimately granted by the city. Riley was replaced by Chief Ted Collas.

-A lightning strike that ignited a fire on Hayden Pass on July 8 burned 16,754 acres, destroyed a home and forced several neighborhoods to evacuate over the summer. Officials estimate it will take three to five years for full vegetative recovery, but a “one-of-a-kind” cutthroat trout was able to be rescued and relocated for preservation.

– Sparks from construction equipment ignited a fire on Oct. 4 in Beulah that burned 5,232 acres and threatened 700 homes. No structures were damaged in the flames, which were snuffed out after about five days.

– Two safety service officers were killed unexpectedly this year. Colorado Springs firefighter Jermaine Frye, 31, died Oct. 29 after an apparent heart attack in his home, leaving behind a fiancé and an unborn child. Eleven-year Colorado State Trooper Cody Donahue was hit and killed by a vehicle on Interstate 25 on Nov. 25 while investigating a different crash. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

-Reacting to a “critical” staffing shortage that put officers at risk and lengthened response times, Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey announced in September a reorganization that would put more men on patrol. The department reassigned its roughly 30 gang unit and Community Impact Team members to patrol and asked citizens to report more crimes online.

 

Pine Creek’s Tanner Toussaint cheers with teammates after winning the Pine Creek and Broomfield 4A football state championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Saturday, December 3, 2016. Photo by Stacie Scott, The Gazette 

Sports

– Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl over the Carolina Panthers on Feb. 7 in Santa Clara, Calif.; QB Peyton Manning retires soon after.

– Denver Broncos have a strong defense but miss playoffs in 2016 season.

– Patrick Roy resigns as Colorado Avalanche coach; Avs struggle to start 2016-17 season.

– Colorado Rockies, manager Walt Weiss part ways and Bud Black is the new manager.

– Air Force football recovers from midseason swoon, makes Arizona Bowl; safety Weston Steelhammer named to several All-America teams.
- Air Force football suffers deaths of former standouts Dee Dowis and Carson Bird during year.

– Colorado football comes from nowhere to play, and lose, in Pac-12 title game.

– Derrick White starts out strong for Colorado basketball after transferring from UCCS.

– Colorado College announced $8 million donation from former hockey player Edward J. Robson toward an $10-plus-million on-campus practice facility to replace aging Honnen arena.

Romain Dumas wins the 100th anniversary Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

– Pine Creek captures third Class 4A state football title in four years; Discovery Canyon is second in 3A.

– The Colorado Springs Switchbacks and Colorado Rapids both make the playoffs in soccer.

– Coronado High School graduate Kyle Snyder wins Olympic wrestling gold in Rio de Janeiro to highlight Colorado performances.

 

Teller County

– The City of Woodland Park kicked off a year-long 125th anniversary celebration in January with a community party and luncheon. The lumber industry ruled the town when it was incorporated in 1891. Woodland Park had been founded as Manitou Park four years earlier. It became a vacation destination in the early 20th Century. Travelers stayed in plush ranches while town residents lived in little more than dirt-floor cabins. Later in the decade people began moving to Woodland Park as a health refuge with its abundant sunshine.

– Woodland Park had a monumental groundbreaking in May that marked the conclusion to a decades-long quest to bring a community pool to the Teller County city of more than 7,000 people. Construction began on the Woodland Park Aquatic Center that will feature a fun pool, water slide, party rooms and a six-lane competitive lap pool, with completion expected in October, 2017.

2016 in the Colorado Springs area: A look back | Colorado Springs Gazette, News.

Source: 2016 in the Colorado Springs area: A look back | Colorado Springs Gazette, News