In other words, emails that are subject to public view can be deleted whenever government officials decide — at least according to the city’s legal department.
In other words, emails that are subject to public view can be deleted whenever government officials decide — at least according to the city’s legal department.
A missive by City Councilman Tim Leigh questioning a scrubber technology that’s being tested at the Martin Drake Power Plant downtown is continuing to generate more fallout.
On Wednesday, the former chief energy services officer of Colorado Springs Utilities, which is investing $121 million in the emissions control technology, said there were a “number of incorrect or misleading statements” in Leigh’s letter.
“After reading Councilman Tim Leigh’s diatribe on the efforts at Drake Station, I had to weigh in with my perspective,” M. Thomas Black, said in an email to City Council, which doubles as the Utilities Board.
“This latest version is particularly concerning because it points to someone who ‘was there’. Where were they, and more importantly, who are they?” he asked.
Leigh told The Gazette on Monday that the source of his information was former City Councilman Tom Gallagher, who regularly butted heads with Springs Utilities during his time on council.
“Why can’t I trust what he’s telling me to be the truth?” Leigh asked.
As most of you know from February 2006 through January 2010, I had the privilege of serving as Colorado Springs Utilities Chief Energy Services Officer. It was during my tenure that most of the original application work for scrubber technology was completed. After reading Councilman Tim Leigh’s diatribe on the efforts at Drake Station, I had to weigh in with my perspective. This latest version is particularly concerning because it points to someone who “was there”. Where were they, and more importantly, who are they? The question of who is important because of the number of incorrect or misleading statements in Mr. Leigh’s Company Letter. My question is; was the source credible and did Mr. Leigh understand what they were saying?
The first point I would like to address relates to compliance. The only additional control technology that was going to be required at Drake was for SOx. The NSG unit would effectively scrub other compounds but in review with our bond council, capitalizing work for say CO2 would not be appropriate because there was no compliance requirement. I made the decision to focus on SOx because of the State’s impending EPA implementation plan. I have no idea what Mr. Leigh means by “48 other existing technologies that solved the SOX problem with less capital cost”. We found no other technology that would meet Mr. Leigh’s claim. Coal Fired Electric Generation stations are highly engineered facilities based on many factors including era and type of equipment, manufacturer, site constraints, coal type, and combustion byproduct handling requirements, etc. “Conventional” scrubbers today are engineered for a specific plant and unit with these site specific issues in mind. In other words, there is no off the shelf solution for flew gas desulfurization FGD technology. My final point is that through this period of analysis and application engineering, Drew Rankin worked for me, and if he had recommended “killing the baby” (a phrase that I personally find reprehensible), that would have come through my office. Drew did not recommend canceling the project to me and in fact he continued to be an avid supporter as he led this project for the Energy Services Division.
M. Thomas Black, PE
Here is the original letter from Leigh that sparked the debate:
Friday, July 27, 2012
To: All Council
Thank you for considering the idea of a task force to study the Drake decommissioning and the Neumann systems spend controversy. While I appreciate the gesture, I don’t think a task force goes far enough, quickly enough, and my fear is that we spend unnecessarily on Drake when other less costly alternatives may be available.
The premise has been, “we’re in so deep that we can’t get out”. Truly, if you’re digging a hole and you want out, the 1st step is to stop digging. If we wrote-off the aggregate spend on Neumann to date, we would be millions ahead than if we continue “the spend” at Drake amortizing the cost over 30 years, and then resolve to shelf the facility in any time shorter than the amortized term (10, 15, 20 years, etc).
Since our pre-council meeting Tuesday, where the Task Force plan was hatched, I’ve received new information about the history of the Neumann conversation by folks who were present at the time. I know – another wild, Tim Leigh idea – [search for the facts from someone who was there] – startling!
– I was told Drew Rankin brought Neumann forward “as someone with new technology that could save CSU millions in compliance costs by solving the 3-fold emissions problem generated by Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide and Carbon Dioxide (SOX, NOX, CO2).”
– Neumann’s scrubber’s original intent was grande and its promise bold. Imagine a 3-fold solution to environmental regulation compliance at a discount. Unfortunately, something happened on the way to the Forum.
– I was told that while the idea worked in the lab, it failed in field testing. Yes, it solved the SOX problem but it did not solve the other 2 problems. Based on those tests Rankin (the father of the original conversation) recommended killing-the-baby. Apparently, at the time there were 48 other existing technologies that solved the SOX problem with less capital cost.
Then politics entered the arena when Lionel Rivera pushed for a continuation of the project, expressing emotion over empiricism and reason, on the high notion that if the scrubbers worked, (even, if only at the SOX level), CSU should continue making an investment (venture capital funding), “go into business” with Neumann, sell the work-product, create jobs and experience a windfall. And while that sounds just great, there is seems to be a problem. . . we don’t have any customers. So the story morphed from “being a job generation machine” to being a “mere compliance mechanism.”
– At the last board meeting, Management’s recommendation was “1) move Neumann to Nixon and 2) begin a decommissioning study of Drake”. We never heard their argument. We need to.
The elephant in the living room is the perception that CSU is a treasure trove of delicious chocolate pie and it is a piece of that pie that everyone wants. And to that end, we need to quit talking tactically and start talking strategically and make decisions (not in a vacuum), but in the context of the larger picture. That context only comes with transparency, study, conversation and daring. We should be discussing the value of the entire enterprise, its mission and strategic importance to the community. The Neumann level decisions will take care of themselves in that proper context.
Right now, we receive about $30,000,000 per year to the general fund from CSU. Like Goldilocks, there are those who think it should be more; there are those who think it should be less; there are those who think it is just right. Heck, I’m not advocating a position except to say, let’s study it. And, let’s use outside experts.
– And for the sake of argument, let’s envision a plan called “Reimagine Colorado Springs Utilities” where the utilities company is an integrated part of the city’s strategic vision and overall operation – not a stand-alone enterprise, and that as part of an integrated plan, we could find another $30,000,000 a year. That second $30,000,000 (at 4% bonding cost) could yield $750,000,000 in serviceable debt that could fund our entire back-log of capital improvements in one fell-swoop! This one startling, strategic alternative to business-as-usual could jump start our local economy, provide jobs and likely a significant job-multiplier (more jobs!)
– The Sustainable Funding Committee recommended we don’t sell because we’ve so overburdened the enterprise with debt, we’d never receive the full bouquet of benefits we now enjoy. We owe it to the citizens to reevaluate this conversation at a high level and to see if there is a strategy that gets us out of debt.
I recall being heretical and anathema to council on the Memorial Hospital issue when I called for the administrative leave of the executives and the investigation of their board. I recall being the lone voice a couple weeks ago when I said I would not support PPRTA II (which I now support because of the Mayor’s amendment to the agreement), and I’m likely a member of a very small wolf-pack on this. But, that’s OK, because I’m not looking forward to the next election cycle, I’m looking forward to doing the right thing for the citizens.
– I’m asking that we follow the recommendation made by Management – that we hold-off the Neumann spend at Drake and push it to Nixon and complete a revaluation of Drake in the larger context.
– And, while I know this will likely fall on deaf ears, I suggest a special meeting of the council to discuss this as early as possible.
City Councilman at Large
Mayoral hopeful Richard Skorman really hit a nerve.
Skorman, who has been calling opponent Steve Bach a “developer” during debates and in his latest TV ad, is being criticized from various corners.
Today, former mayoral candidates Brian Bahr, Tom Gallagher and Buddy Gilmore — who weren’t planning to endorse either Bach or Skorman — broke their silence.
The three men issued a joint statement calling “Skorman’s recent attack on the real estate industry” divisive.
“Although both candidates in this runoff election have laid out their plans for the future of Colorado Springs, only one candidate remaining in this race has consistently presented a plan that upholds the conservative, limited government values we believe in,” according to the statement.
“That candidate is Steve Bach.”
In a telephone interview, Gilmore said he was “disappointed” in Skorman’s TV ad.
“He was really attacking a whole industry,” Gilmore said.
“You can sit there and demonize developers, but they’ve done a lot of good for the city, too.”
The statement from Bahr, Gallagher and Gilmore was sent via email by Sarah Jack, who works for the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs.
Here’s the full text of the statement:
During the last three weeks since the April 5th election the three of us have worked to get our lives back to some sort of sense of normalcy – re-establishing ourselves in the private sector, and more importantly, re-establishing our lives with our families. During this time, we have spoken with many of our friends and supporters. Many of them urged each of us to stay involved, and to publically endorse a candidate. We have resisted the urge to do so – until now.
Mr. Skorman’s recent attack on the real estate industry that provides tens of thousands of jobs in our community, an industry he has eagerly accepted contributions from in the past and from which he actively sought endorsements during this campaign, was divisive and caught our attention.
We believe that the best days for Colorado Springs are ahead of us. To achieve the city’s full potential will require all of us to unite behind common values and goals.
Our concern in this election is two-fold: First, the next mayor must have a solid plan for the future success of Colorado Springs. Second, that candidate’s plan must be one that reflects the conservative values that support a limited government focused on providing quality, essential services.
Although both candidates in this runoff election have laid out their plans for the future of Colorado Springs, only one candidate remaining in this race has consistently presented a plan that upholds the conservative, limited government values we believe in. That candidate is Steve Bach.
This election is certainly one of the most important ever for Colorado Springs. We collectively encourage our friends and supporters to join us in upholding the conservative, limited government principles that have made Colorado Springs a great place to live. These principles will be essential to the future success of this city we love.
“You’re the only member of council to use the word ‘testicles’ in a public meeting.”
– Councilman Sean Paige, eulogizing Councilman Tom Gallagher’s time on the City Council.
“He’s not dead. He’s in West Virginia,” Gallagher said about Vice Mayor Larry Small.
Both Small and Gallagher, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor, are term-limited and will no longer serve on the City Council.
Councilman Randy Purvis continues to offer an interesting perspective on the mayor’s race.
A week ago, he blogged about the four candidates who are reportedly leading in polling.
Richard Skorman is the status quo candidate, Purvis says.
“He is the least likely to rock the boat or to make big changes in city government,” he wrote. “He is quietly amassing a large cash stockpile to prepare for the run-off campaign.”
Brian Bahr is the most difficult candidate to get a read on, he says.
“I still wonder whether he has a complete grasp of the issues or comprehends the nuances of them,” he wrote. “I expect him to be in the runoff with Skorman; so perhaps we will learn more in April about his depth of understanding.”
Steve Bach is the establishment candidate, he says.
“I just do not see in him the ability to establish a rapport with the voter,” he wrote. “This is a fundamental requirement for any political leader, how can one be a leader if there is nobody following?”
Tom Gallagher is the wild card, he says.
“I recall the first time I saw Gallagher in action,” he wrote.
“It was during the 2003 council campaign and all the candidates were at a forum out on Murray Blvd. The hot issue that year was whether Constitution should be an east-west thoroughfare. Gallagher was there, slightly overweight, smoking a cigarette, somewhat disheveled in his dress. And yet when he spoke that day he had the audience in the palm of his hand. He demonstrated that day and has ever since the ability to connect with the voter,” Purvis wrote.
“With a little bit of money and someone with media savvy, Gallagher would be a dangerous candidate.”
“Candidates will have a chance to speak about their campaign goals, and of course, the hot topic of medical marijuana in Colorado Springs,” Jessica Hogan, the council’s spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
The event, which starts at 6:30 p.m., is at the Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery, 25 W. Cimarron.
It’s free and open to the public.
The two mayoral candidates scheduled to attend are Councilman Tom Gallagher, who spearheaded a medical marijuana task force along with Councilman Sean Paige, and businessman Richard Skorman.
The council candidates scheduled to attend are Paige, David Jensen, Michael Merrifield, Tony Carpenter, Dawn Lloyd and the so-called Reform Team: Ed Bircham, Douglas Bruce, Richard Bruce, Helen Collins and Gretchen Kasameyer.
“We invited everyone, so hopefully more will attend tonight,” Hogan said.
But Gallagher says he owes it to the public to explain why he missed the Utilities Board meeting yesterday.
“I was dealing with family issues,” said Gallagher, whose brother-in-law, 45-year-old Nick Stachelodt, was stabbed to death Saturday in Alaska.
“My wife is crushed because her sister is devastated,” he said.
According to news and police reports, Stachelodt was killed over a cigarette.
The victim’s father, Jon Stachelodt, told state troopers that his son had refused to give a cigarette to a young man who knocked on the door of the family home, The Associated Press reported. The father told police he later saw his son fighting with a person who had climbed into the family car, according to the AP.
An 18-year-old man has been arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
“Two people’s lives totally destroyed over a (expletive) cigarette,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher said his family doesn’t plan to attend Nick Stachelodt’s funeral.
“We’d like to, but one, there’s the finanicial because it’s very expensive to fly to Alaska with no notice, and two, this is in the middle of the campaign,” he said. “I can go to Alaska, but then I’m pretty much saying I’m dropping out of the race.”
Gallagher said the next mayor of Colorado Springs is going to have to deal with “distractions” all the time.
“So we do what we can,” he said. “We keep moving forward.”
Gallagher, who is running for mayor, said neither he nor fellow mayoral hopeful Buddy Gilmore knew that Brian Bahr‘s campaign was going to send a press release about the request immediately after sending the letter to Gessler.
Businessman Richard Skorman and homebuilder Brian Bahr are the frontrunners in the race for mayor, according to a poll commissioned by Bahr’s campaign.
The results of the poll could not be independently verified, and the word on the street is that other polls show Councilman Tom Gallagher or commercial real estate broker Steve Bach in second place.
Bahr’s campaign said it paid for an automated telephone poll that captured nearly 3,000 active registered voters “who indicated they planned to vote” in the April 5 municipal election.
The poll was conducted over six days with equal weighting across every ZIP code in the city.
Respondents were asked who they would support for mayor.
According to Bahr’s campaign:
Skorman got 25 percent
Bahr got 21 percent
Gallagher got 14 percent
Bach got 13 percent
“No other candidate was above 5 percent,” Bahr’s campaign said in a press release.
If none of the candidates win by a majority April 5, the two top voter-getters will face off in a run-off in June.
“It appears that Brian Bahr and Richard Skorman are positioned to face each other in the run-off,” Gabe Joseph, of Virginia-based ccAdvertising, which conducted the poll, is quoted as saying.
The battle to become Colorado Springs’ first strong mayor is proving to be a costly competition.
Altogether, the nine mayoral hopefuls have spent at least $537,000 in campaign-related expenses, according to reports filed Monday with the City Clerk’s Office.
Most of the money has been spent on advertising, political consultants, yard signs and mailers.
But other expenses include liquor for fund-raisers, pizza for volunteers and gas to get around the campaign trail.
Homebuilder Brian Bahr, who gave his campaign $100,000 plus a $100,000 loan, is leading the pack with nearly $174,000 in expenditures since August.
Bahr, president of Challenger Homes, still has nearly $58,000 cash on hand.
Steve Bach, a commercial real estate broker, has burned through nearly $119,000.
Bach has about $38,000 left in the bank.
Munger, who lent his campaign $67,660, is running on empty.
Although fundraising efforts continue, Munger has only about $6,500 cash on hand.
Businessman Richard Skorman, a former councilman, had spent nearly $88,000 as of Feb. 23.
Skorman’s latest campaign report has not been posted on the city’s website.
Skorman’s campaign spokeswoman, Camille Blakely, said the report was turned in about 4:45 p.m. Monday and that Deputy City Clerk Cindy Conway “said it wouldn’t be scanned until this afternoon.”
When asked whether she could send the report via e-mail, Blakely hesitated but then said she would try.
Defense contractor Buddy Gilmore has spent nearly $45,000. Gilmore is almost entirely funding his own campaign.
With about $75,500 left in the bank, Gilmore could launch a massive effort to reach voters as ballots start to arrive in the mail.
The four other candidates, including Councilman Tom Gallagher, are in a different class when it comes to campaign spending.
The four, who have raised little – if any – money, have spent about $8,500 altogether.