Traffic, housing costs, retirement funds take spotlight

Democrats recently remarked that Colorado has “no shortage of unmet needs” — a comment that elicited a sardonic tone from Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock — and the 2018 legislative session, with its kickoff Jan. 10, is shaping up to bear out that claim.

Which needs it will meet is a different story.

Lawmakers will be pressed to find solutions for a state with a ballooning population clogging roads, an underfunded retirement-fund program and housing costs through the roof. With roughly $300 million projected in previously unforeseen revenues — a prediction that may double — the state has a small bit of breathing room to signal where its priorities lie.

Among other issues lawmakers have discussed in the weeks leading up to the regular session — the four-month part of the year when legislators pass bills — health-care costs have already risen as a key debate to watch for in 2018.

Amid elections, this year will offer no easy waters for bipartisanship — all 65 seats in the state House are up for election, as are 17 of the 35 state Senate seats, plus statewide races including the governor’s post. Here’s what both parties had to say about the flash-point issues this session.

‘Walking the walk’

Colorado landed itself in a $9 billion hole as of 2016, according to state projections of transportation-spending needs through 2025. Interstates 70 and 25 are in need of updates in several parts of the state, to say nothing of smaller roadways.

“We talk the talk — we have to walk the walk,” Neville said at the Business Legislative Preview event hosted by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Competitive Council Jan. 4 in downtown Denver. He took cynical aim at the Democrats’ “unmet needs” comment from a Jan. 2 news release.

“They say we have unmet needs — well, isn’t transportation an unmet need?” Neville said. “I think it is.”

The Democrats did mention transportation as a priority, though, and state House Speaker Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, supported an unsuccessful bill last year to increase sales and use taxes by 0.62 percentage point to raise more than $375 million per year for transportation projects.

“To be politically honest,” Neville said, “the citizens won’t pass a tax increase.”

Senate President Kevin Grantham, R-Cañon City, supported that bill along with Duran.

Echoing Neville, Senate Majority Leader Chris Holbert, R-Parker, said $300 million in upcoming revenue would be appropriate to add for road-and-bridge projects. Asking voters to approve bond spending would be another opportunity, Holbert added.

With Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper willing to spend some of the added $286 million in projected revenue over the current and next fiscal year — a stronger-than-expected economy raised expectations, and the recent federal tax bill could raise more another $300 million on top of that in Colorado in the next fiscal year alone, state data said — the chances for some amount of transportation increase look safe.

The Colorado Department of Transportation garnered about a $1.4 billion budget in general for 2017, and lawmakers last session added nearly $2 billion for transportation projects specifically in coming years.

Unhappy with gentrifying

Colorado has to figure out how not to push out residents who have grown up here, said Duran, who referenced an Ink! Coffee location that displayed a sidewalk sign that read, “Happily Gentrifying the Neighborhood Since 2014.”

The advertisement became national news as salt in an open wound of changing demographics in metro Denver neighborhoods — it drew protests and an apology letter to Denver Mayor Michael Hancock in November, the Associated Press reported — and politicians like Duran are still pushing for more affordable housing.

State Sen. Rachel Zenzinger, D-Arvada, is introducing a bill to “expand attainable housing programs,” Gidfar said.

Chances for such a bill passing are by no means certain, though — last year’s House Bill 17-1309 was projected to provide the state with $7.6 billion in fiscal year 2018-19 to fund affordable housing efforts, and it failed in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Republicans, for their part, say that more opportunities for first-time homebuyers could come if lawmakers changed state law that makes suing builders too easy. Entire multi-family developments can be pulled into one lawsuit that might only involve one or a few homes in it, Holbert said.

Condominiums and townhomes “are cost-prohibitive to build in Colorado” due to current law, Holbert said. “Last session, we passed House Bill 17-1272, which provided some relief,” he said, but “that bill was a first down, not a touchdown,” and we “should work toward limiting lawsuit abuse.”

State Sen. Jack Tate, R-Centennial, said he’ll push for renewal and expansion of affordable housing-tax credits that incentivize private development of lower-income housing.

Finding affordable housing is an issue for middle-class residents, too, said state Rep. Brittany Pettersen, D-Lakewood — and that includes teachers.

“Our education committee is looking at dealing with our teacher shortage,” Pettersen said. “Our teachers aren’t able to (continue to) live in communities they live in on their salary.”

What to do with PERA?

The Public Employees’ Retirement Association, Colorado’s public-pension system, is more than $30 billion underfunded, and that’s varying degrees of alarming depending on who’s talking.

The shortage “jeopardize(s) retirement security for many thousands of Coloradans as well as the fiscal health of the state,” Tate said. “To keep our promises to retirees as well as current workers, comprehensive pension plan reform is essential.”

The program manages about $44 billion for more than 560,000 current and former public employees — teachers, police, and other local- and state-government employees.

It’s a math problem, not a partisan issue, Tate said — but party leadership differed.

“It needs to be solvent,” Neville said. There “has to be structural reform.”

On the other hand, state Senate Minority Leader Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, said the program is not on the verge of bankruptcy, adding, “I’m not sure we have to do (reform) this year.”

Some conservative critics argue that PERA should transition from its current structure as a defined-benefits plan — in which the employer guarantees a specific retirement amount and bears the risk of promising the investment will be available — to a defined-contributions plan, like a 401(k), in which the employee chooses to fund the plan, which takes the risk off the employer, or in this case, the government.

“I will not allow the retirees — their lives and their well being — to become a political football,” Duran said, advocating for a solution “where we don’t balance all of PERA on the backs of teachers and employees who have spent all their lives giving back to the state.”

Democrats want to keep the defined-benefits system, Guzman said Jan. 4 alongside Duran.

Hickenlooper recently proposed capping the annual cost-of-living increase to the retirement benefits as part of a solution.

Health-care issues

Lawmakers dealt in less specifics when discussing health care at the Jan. 4 event.

Some areas of rural Colorado only have one health-insurance provider, Grantham said, and Neville suggested moving into a “free market-based system” to address rising costs and lack of competition.

Democrats plan to push for a “public option” provider, which would essentially allow all Coloradans the ability to buy into Medicaid, Guzman said. That would improve access and also lower costs, she said.

Duran said Democrats want to tackle issues of transparency and costs related to health care, but when a moderator asked what those issues specifically were, Duran said Democrats are “still working on those.”

No Comments

‘It’s up to us to remember him and to be like him’

Zackari Parrish was the type of deputy who would shield a child’s eyes if a parent were being handcuffed, explained Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley. Parrish took the lead in organizing a fundraiser for a colleague’s wife who was battling cancer. Parrish pulled over a man who was down on his luck and gave him money so that his family could spend the night in a hotel.

“That was Zack,” Cauley said at the funeral services for Parrish, a Douglas County deputy who was killed in the line of duty on New Year’s Eve. “As we march forward to serve together, Zack will give us the strength to do the best we possibly can.”

If there was ever a time to witness the brotherhood among law enforcement officers, it was the morning of Jan. 5 at Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, where Parrish’s funeral was held. Hundreds of men and women wearing crisp black and blue uniforms with shiny gold badges assembled at the church to honor and remember the life of one of their own.

Parrish, 29, was responding to a domestic dispute at a residence in the Copper Canyon Apartments, 3380 E. County Line Road, in Highlands Ranch, the morning of Dec. 31 when he was shot and killed by Matthew Riehl, 37. Four other law enforcement officers were wounded in what Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock called “an ambush-type of attack.” Two civilians, who were not in the apartment, sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Law enforcement agencies from across the country — as close as Arapahoe County and as far as Oregon — attended the funeral. Dozens of cop cars filled the parking lot of the church, where two fire trucks hoisted a large American flag into the air. Bagpipes preceded the delivery of Parish’s casket, which was draped by the American flag. Men in uniform carried it into the church with family members in tow. With every step forward, ceremonial guards lining the walkway gave a slow and synchronized salute.

“I’ve been to 20 or 25 of these,” said Douglas County Commissioner Lora Thomas, a former Colorado State Patrol major. “They get sadder every time.”

An estimated 5,000 people were seated in the church. A blue hue filled the auditorium and on the stage, spotlights illuminated blown-up photos of Parrish, his wife Gracie, and their two young daughters.

Through tears, Gracie Parrish promised to raise her daughters in “a home that bleeds blue.” She read aloud a letter that she wrote to Parrish — whom she called her soulmate, hero and best friend. In the past, she would often write him letters of encouragement and emails filled with dreams and words of affirmations, she said.

“This is a letter that I never thought I’d write,” Gracie Parrish said as she wept. “It’s a letter that I hope my girls can read one day and know every ounce of love I have for their daddy.”

Parrish was born in Nashville, Tennessee, said his father Zackari Parrish II, who described his son to the auditorium filled with officers and family members. As a child, he loved water sprinklers. He could make everyone laugh. He played baseball until he bought a guitar and started writing music.

And he loved his role as a police officer. Parrish had been with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office for seven months and had previously served more than two years with the Castle Rock Police Department.

The most important part of Parrish’s life, his father said, was his faith.

“He enjoyed life,” Parrish II said. “And the reason he enjoyed life is because he had Jesus in his heart.”

Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock took the stage to commend Parrish for his service as a deputy. When he listened to Parrish’s body camera audio from the Dec. 31 shooting, Spurlock said Parrish “never once used a foul word, raised his voice or used a derogatory term.”

Instead, he pleaded with the suspect, begging, “Let me help you,” said Spurlock.

“I’ve never heard a more calm voice in a call like that,” he said. “It’s up to us to remember him and to be like him.”

Spurlock honored Parrish with a medal of valor for his courage and bravery. And a position on the Douglas County Regional SWAT team will forever be held by Parrish, he said.

As the service came to a close, a muffled radio call played throughout the church. The voice on the other end repeatedly called out Parrish’s radio number: 1721.

“Deputy Zackari Parrish,” the voice said, “may you rest in peace knowing that your strength lives on in your wife, your legacy will be carried out through your daughters, and that your honor will continue on with all of us.

“1721 you are clear for end of watch, thank you for your service and rest easy sir, we have the watch from here.”

No Comments

Ooh La La! Tickets on sale NOW for Feb. 9 Daddy Daughter Ball

You’re the protector of her dreams, guardian of her heart and her unyielding supporter. Daddies, show your daughter what it’s like to spend a magical night in Paris at the 18th annual Daddy Daughter Ball.

This year’s event is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9 at the Douglas County Events Center, 500 Fairgrounds Drive. Purchase tickets online at CRgov.com/DDBall18, at the Recreation Center or Miller Activity Complex.

Advance tickets are $25 per couple ($30 for nonresidents). Admission at the door is $40 per couple (residents/nonresidents), cash only. Tickets for additional daughters are $8 each.

All ages are welcome to spend a night in Paris at this year’s ball! Join us for a night of dancing, music and fun. Grandfathers and granddaughters are also welcome. Refreshments and dessert will be served.

The ball is always filled with glitz and glamour, so daddies, wear your best, and ask your little girls to wear their prettiest dress. A professional photographer will be onsite to capture all the memorable moments.

Like in years past, the Parks and Recreation Department’s Teen Advisory Group will be hosting a raffle at the ball, with prizes for both dads and daughters. The Teen Advisory Group is a group of young residents who play an active role in planning and carrying out Parks and Recreation activities for the community’s youth.

More information and ticket details are available at CRgov.com/DDball18.

Get Town news straight to your inbox. Sign up online at CRgov.com/notifyme, or follow the Town on Facebook (facebook.com/CRgov), Twitter (@CRgov), Instagram (CRGOV) and LinkedIn (search Town of Castle Rock).

No Comments

Chief’s ‘heart sunk’ after learning former Castle Rock officer was deputy killed

Castle Rock Police Chief Jack Cauley was asleep in bed the morning of Dec. 31 when his phone rang. The call came from one of his commanders, Cauley said, and he immediately knew it would be serious.

“I have some really bad news,” Cauley recalled the commander saying. “He said, `Well, four deputies with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office have been shot.’ And my heart sunk.”

Cauley first uttered a few words of shock.

“Before I could go on he said, `Well there’s something else. One of those deputies is Zack Parrish.’ ”

Processing tragic news

Zackari Parrish, a 29-year-old husband and father of two, served more than two years with the Castle Rock Police Department before taking a position with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, where he worked for seven months.

Parrish was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance in Highlands Ranch on New Year’s Eve. Four other officers and two civilians were also injured after a gunman opened fire on authorities early that morning. The suspect was later killed by a regional SWAT team.

“Then my heart sunk even further,” Cauley said of learning Parrish was involved. “The initial news was that four deputies had been shot and he was one of them, but I could just tell from how I was getting the information that Zack may not make it.”

Soon after the first call, Cauley learned Parrish had died from his injuries.

“You hope and pray that everything’s going to be OK and then you find out that that isn’t what happened, and you just, I don’t know how to explain it, you just can’t hardly believe it,” he said. “It’s the first phone call like that I’ve had to take and when people ask me, as a chief what keeps me up at night, that’s what keeps me up at night, is getting those phone calls. I never want to get another one like that again.”

Shortly after noon on Dec. 31, Cauley appeared with other officials alongside Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock at a news conference. He did not speak, but stood behind Spurlock with a look of grief on his face.

A call to serve

Cauley came to know Parrish personally in his time with the department.

“I first met Zack on Dec. 22, 2014,” he said in a Jan. 4 interview.

That day, Cauley interviewed Parrish in the final step of the department’s hiring process. Cauley remembers Parrish’s big smile and his firm handshake. He quickly learned Parrish was a man of faith and family-oriented.

Parrish was leaving a career in banking to enter law enforcement, something Cauley found interesting and inquired more about.

“It became pretty clear to me that he had a passion for law enforcement and he had a passion for serving the community. It was a calling for him and it was such a strong pull that that is why he decided to change careers.”

After Parrish was hired, the two built a relationship because they routinely used the department’s fitness center at the same time.

“It was more of Jack and Zack talking, and not Officer Parrish and the chief,” he said.

That’s how Parrish was, Cauley said. He found ways to engage with people on a personal level. He described Parrish as a genuine person who had a sense of humor that could de-escalate any situation.

When asked for a specific example of how Parrish left a positive impact on people, Cauley paused, then smiled. There were too many to choose from, he explained.

“Zack was full of those,” he said.

His love for people combined with a non-stop work ethic made Parrish a model officer, Cauley said, one he was proud to have and sad to see leave for another position with the sheriff’s office in May 2017.

“I had spent quite a bit of time with Zack trying to talk him out of leaving,” Cauley said. “When he left, I told him that when he got to the sheriff’s office and if he felt he wanted to come back, he could call me and I’d make it happen.”

‘One of ours’

Parrish was known to everyone in the department, Cauley said, and will be missed by many people in the region. Their priorities moving forward are to ensure Parrish’s wife and children have the support they need.

Cauley is also keeping a watchful eye on the mental health of his employees as they mourn Parrish. The department has police psychologists specializing in the loss of an officer ready to help if needed, he said.

“Even though Zack had been gone for seven months,” Cauley said, “we still consider Zack one of ours.”

No Comments

‘It makes you appreciate your family, appreciate every day’

More than 1,000 civilians and upward of 50 law-enforcement agencies turned out for the funeral procession of Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish in Highlands Ranch Jan. 5.

Parrish, 29, was shot to death in a Highlands Ranch apartment the morning of Dec. 31 in an incident that wounded three other deputies, a Castle Rock Police Department officer and two civilians.

Law-enforcement agencies from several nearby Western states, including Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming, drove vehicles in the funeral procession, which traveled from Castle Rock to Highlands Ranch. Personnel from Colorado law enforcement agencies, including Lakewood, Englewood, Boulder and Basalt, turned out for the procession.

Officers of the U.S. Forest Service and Federal Protective Service of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also drove vehicles.

The motorcade exited Interstate 25 at Lincoln Avenue about 9 a.m., then headed west down Lincoln, to University Boulevard, then to Wildcat Reserve Parkway, winding its way to Cherry Hills Community Church.

Here’s what some civilians — and one police officer — who observed the procession at the intersection of South Quebec Street and Lincoln Avenue said.

•••••

Amy and Wil Ulrickson, 42 and 49, both from Lone Tree; employees at Douglas County School District

Amy Ulrickson:

We’ve been following the story since it happened. We actually used to live in the Copper Canyon Apartments (where the incident happened). We moved in June.

We’re grateful we had moved. Very saddened by the news. I think coming together (is how to get through it).

Wil Ulrickson:

It’s been an emotional day for me — my brother passed away from brain cancer two years ago. It’s different, but … he was the Sheridan County Sheriff in Montana.

We were making the comment that it seems really quiet today.

Amy:

Like the World Trade Center (attack).

•••••

John Ray, 32, city carrier assistant for United States Postal Service office at Lincoln Avenue and South Quebec Street; lives in Jefferson County

It’s never good to see someone shot down in the line of duty. The sad thing is, this is happening so much across the nation. Ten seconds of (shock), and then … there are five tragedies coming up behind it. It’s just where we have come as a nation.

I have a 2-year-old, and I get a lump in my throat thinking about him not seeing his father again (like Parrish’s children).

•••••

Dana Gerber, 37, Arvada Police Department officer; lives in Westminster

I’ve been part of (about) three (processions). I’ve driven in them before.

It’s always sad, always scary. It makes you appreciate your family, appreciate every day. You have to have tough conversations with your family (whom Gerber brought). But I wanted them to see the support from the community, too. It’s not just negative.

No Comments

‘It makes you apprecicate your family, appreciate every day’

More than 1,000 civilians and upward of 50 law-enforcement agencies turned out for the funeral procession of Douglas County Sheriff’s Deputy Zackari Parrish in Highlands Ranch Jan. 5.

Parrish, 29, was shot to death in a Highlands Ranch apartment the morning of Dec. 31 in an incident that wounded three other deputies, a Castle Rock Police Department officer and two civilians.

Law-enforcement agencies from several nearby Western states, including Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Montana and Wyoming, drove vehicles in the funeral procession, which traveled from Castle Rock to Highlands Ranch. Personnel from Colorado law enforcement agencies, including Lakewood, Englewood, Boulder and Basalt, turned out for the procession.

Officers of the U.S. Forest Service and Federal Protective Service of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also drove vehicles.

The motorcade exited Interstate 25 at Lincoln Avenue about 9 a.m., then headed west down Lincoln, to University Boulevard, then to Wildcat Reserve Parkway, winding its way to Cherry Hills Community Church.

Here’s what some civilians — and one police officer — who observed the procession at the intersection of South Quebec Street and Lincoln Avenue said.

Amy and Wil Ulrickson, 42 and 49, both from Lone Tree; employees at Douglas County School District

Amy Ulrickson: We’ve been following the story since it happened. We actually used to live in the Copper Canyon Apartments (where the incident happened). We moved in June.

We’re grateful we had moved. Very saddened by the news. I think coming together (is how to get through it).

Wil Ulrickson:

It’s been an emotional day for me — my brother passed away from brain cancer two years ago. It’s different, but … he was the Sheridan County Sheriff in Montana.

We were making the comment that it seems really quiet today.

Amy: Like the World Trade Center (attack).

John Ray, 32, city carrier assistant for United States Postal Service office at Lincoln Avenue and South Quebec Street; lives in Jefferson County

It’s never good to see someone shot down in the line of duty. The sad thing is, this is happening so much across the nation. Ten seconds of (shock), and then … there are five tragedies coming up behind it. It’s just where we have come as a nation.

I have a 2-year-old, and I get a lump in my throat thinking about him not seeing his father again (like Parrish’s children).

Dana Gerber, 37, Arvada Police Department officer; lives in Westminster

I’ve been part of (about) three (processions). I’ve driven in them before.

It’s always sad, always scary. It makes you apprecicate your family, appreciate every day. You have to have tough conversations with your family (whom Gerber brought). But I wanted them to see the support from the community, too. It’s not just negative.

No Comments

­­­­­­Crowds assemble to ‘give honor for what he gave us’

Members of the public began dotting Grace Boulevard — which was the final leg of the funeral procession route for Deputy Zackari Parrish — well before 9 a.m. on Jan. 5.

Three of those crowd members in Highlands Ranch were 11-year-old Aiden Case, 12-year-old Ben Katanic and his 9-year-old brother, Blake. The boys — congregation members at Cherry Hills Community Church and students at Cherry Hills Christian School — remembered Parrish as one of the officers who provided security for the school.

“He gave kids high-fives and he was a nice guy,” said Case, a sixth-grader at the school. “He would ask us how we were doing.”

Blake Katanic, a third-grader, remembered Parrish handing out police stickers to him and other students and joining them at their lunch table where he spent time getting to know them. The boys said they wanted to attend the procession to thank Parrish for his service.

“I think mostly to give honor,” Case said, “for what he gave us.”

LeAnn Katanic, 45, who is Ben and Blake’s mother, said she felt it was important for the Castle Rock family to participate that day because her children were connected to Parrish.

Case’s mother, 40-year-old Shara Case, of Castle Pines, said she and her son wanted to help commemorate Parrish because they viewed him as part of their community.

“Just honoring someone who gave his time to us. This is our community. This is our home, our church and our school. He was a part of that,” she said.

Shanah Windey-Bale, 51, a saleswoman from Highlands Ranch, said she also attended with her 9-year-old twin sons, Kiefer and Kole, to show support.

“It’s hard to put into words,” she said when asked what it means for the community to lose an officer in the line of duty. “His sacrifice is our sacrifice, so we owe it to him to pay our respects…When it happens in your backyard it becomes personal.”

Windey-Bale and her family live near the sheriff’s office substation in Highlands Ranch where a vehicle covered in flowers and gifts is set up as a memorial for Parrish. She described the scene as “very emotional.”

“It’s a very quiet, grieving area,” she said. “To see the vehicle with all of the cards and the flowers and all the notes, it’s beyond words.”

Farther down the procession route, crowds gathered at each corner of the intersection of Grace Boulevard and Wildcat Reserve Parkway. Parents held their children bundled in blankets, many waved flags of various sizes or held posters, and law enforcement working the area stood with arms and hands folded in front of them.

There, Shane Callahan, a 43-year-old investment adviser from Highlands Ranch, observed the procession with his 6-year-old daughter Carley and 4-year-old son Gavin.

Callahan, who is related to a police officer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, said law enforcement is “under appreciated” and in need of the community support at this time.

When the procession approached the intersection, the crowd fell nearly silent and Callahan called each of his children to attention. Carley, sitting atop her turquoise bike in a pink stocking cap, rolled to the street front and waved a flag as Parrish’s hearse drove by. Callahan picked up Gavin and held him over the crowd so he could see the scene.

“They don’t understand everything,” Callahan said. “They don’t need to know everything. They need to know it’s important to come together as a community.”

No Comments

Deputy’s funeral procession draws massive community turnout

Thousands of people lined the route of Deputy Zackari Parrish’s funeral procession in Douglas County this morning, as a motorcade with more than 1,000 law enforcement vehicles made its way from Castle Rock to Highlands Ranch.

The motorcade exited I-25 at Lincoln Avenue about 9 a.m., then headed west down Lincoln, to University Boulevard, then to Wildcat Reserve Parkway, winding its way to Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch. Services were held there for the slain deputy at 11 a.m. Law enforcement personnel from throughout Colorado and surrounding states were part of the motorcade.

Parrish, 29, was shot to death in a Highlands Ranch apartment the morning of Dec. 31 in what Sheriff Tony Spurlock called an “ambush-type of attack.” He was a husband and a father of two small children.

In the New Year’s Eve shooting, four other law enforcement officers were injured, as were two civilians.

The suspect, Matthew Riehl, 37, was killed by a regional SWAT team after a roughly two-hour standoff. No motive has been released for the attack, which resulted after officers responded to the Copper Canyon Apartments on the report of a noise disturbance.

No Comments

Council approves fire vehicle replacements, grants construction contract for new water well during J

Your Town Council representatives meet twice a month, and during those meetings Councilmembers make decisions that impact residents and business owners. Stay up-to-date on those decisions with this meeting summary.

Here are some highlights from this week’s meeting.

Council approves fire vehicle replacements
Building a safe community means, in part, having public safety vehicles on which first responders can depend. Castle Rock Fire and Rescue is requesting a new brush truck and two new engines. Town Council approved the request unanimously Tuesday night.

The department has already saved $418,837 for the brush truck and $1,390,326 for the engines. The brush truck is coming in under budget at $299,650, and the engines are coming slightly over budget ($1,411,067) including contingency. It’s the department’s goal to avoid contingency and still come in at or under budget when the vehicles are delivered in 2018. These vehicles are part of the Town’s fleet replacement program and will replace in-service vehicles that are more than 15 years old.

Watch the presentation: http://castlerock-co.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=567&meta_id=55075

Construction contract awarded for improvements along Hangman’s Gulch Trail
Making sure the community stays safe from flooding is a top priority for Castle Rock Water’s Stormwater Division. With that in mind, the department presented a construction contract Tuesday to Town Council for improvements along Hangman’s Gulch Trail. The improvements would be within the channel to help reduce erosion and sedimentation along the trail between I-25 and the confluence with East Plum Creek.

Council unanimously approved the $676,065 contract with Hudick Excavating, Inc. Construction is expected to begin in February 2018. Weather permitting, substantial completion is anticipated for June 2018.

Watch the discussion: http://castlerock-co.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=567&meta_id=55085

Contract approved for new water well construction
As communities throughout Colorado continue to grow, Castle Rock Water is taking proactive actions to help meet increased water demands – especially during the dry summer months. In an effort to secure additional water supplies and keep pace with demand, Castle Rock Water is planning to drill a new water well.

The Founders Arapahoe Well CR-227 will be located near Matney Park, and in combination with a Denver well drilled this fall, is anticipated to produce about .85 million gallons of water per day. Town Council approved the contract with Hydro Resources – Rocky Mountain Inc. The total drilling cost is approximately $1.6 million and is part of a larger $5.3 million project to incorporate the wells into the water system.

Watch the presentation: http://castlerock-co.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=3&clip_id=567&meta_id=55093

Get a full agenda at CRgov.com/Agendas, or watch any Council meeting online at CRgov.com/WatchCouncil.

Questions? Email all Councilmembers at TownCouncil@CRgov.com, or find your Council representative at CRgov.com/Council. Plus, sign up for email updates by clicking the “Get Email Notifications” graphic link. Updates are expected to include both summaries of top Council items as well as previews to Council meetings.

Get Town news straight to your inbox. Sign up online at CRgov.com/notifyme, or follow the Town on Facebook (facebook.com/CRgov), Twitter (@CRgov), Instagram (CRGOV) and LinkedIn (search Town of Castle Rock.)

No Comments

The revolution in artificial intelligence is everywhere around us now

What is artificial intelligence, commonly known as AI?

Perhaps you think it is a silly sci-fi concept, but you’ve probably heard it mentioned frequently and you just don’t get it. Many people are confused about AI because we associate it with the movies: “Star Wars,” “2001: A Space Odyssey” or even “The Jetsons.” But these are fictional stories and AI is anything but fictional. It can be confusing because it is such a broad topic, including everything from your smartphone to self-driving cars. Some people think AI and robots are the same thing, but they are not. AI is what powers the computer inside the robot.

The term AI was first coined in 1956 by John McCarthy. So why is it getting so much attention now? There are several reasons. Even though researchers in the 1950s thought they could build a computer that could mimic the human brain in about 10 years, realistically it has turned out to be far more complicated than they thought at the time. However, in the last few years, several remarkable breakthroughs have heightened expectations again.

The first reason is the kind of breakthrough exemplified by IBM’s Watson computer built with artificial intelligence. At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Watson suggests treatment programs for patients by reading through patient records, published studies and pharmaceutical data. The computer presents its findings in a “probabilistic” manner showing which treatments offer the best chance of success for an individual patient. A doctor normally reads about a half dozen medical research papers in a month, whereas Watson can read half a million in about 15 seconds. When you consider that one in five medical diagnoses are wrong or incomplete, Watson can dramatically alter the survival rate of many patients. Watson is being used in many different fields and is an example of AI that is moving much closer to what is called “artificial general intelligence” or machines that can master the same kinds of tasks as humans.

The second reason is, AI is emerging in several forms that have the potential to help seniors live safely for longer. One of those technologies is monitoring devices: wearable devices and remote devices, and among them devices that cannot even be sensed or detected by the subject whom they are monitoring. These technologies could ensure senior citizens can be monitored around the clock to determine how serious a fall is or even to predict one. Depth sensors mounted on walls could detect subtle changes in elderly people including walking patterns or an increased shakiness and automatically alert family members or health-care professionals. Conversational AI devices, like Amazon’s Alexa, could potentially be used to remind people to take their medicines and store previous conversations to help people with Alzheimer’s via memory games.

The third reason AI is so much in the news is because of the potential impact on working and jobs. A 2013 University of Oxford study concluded “that of the 702 occupations listed in the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 47 percent are at high risk of significant automation because of advances in machine learning … and artificial intelligence.” Careers in medicine, law, finance, as well as warehouse and factory jobs will all be impacted. It behooves us all to understand AI, how fast the changes are coming and what it will mean for the livelihoods of our children and grandchildren.

Pat Smith is a retired IT executive who facilitates courses on robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Denver’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute for adults 50 and older. For more information on the program, known as OLLI at DU, contact ollisouth@gmail.com or 720-339-1379.

No Comments