WPPD officer helps solve cold case: Teller County sues city to reverse recent annexation

Norma Engelberg Contributing writer
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In 1993 in Suffolk County, United Kingdom, an armored car guard took off with £1.2 million (about $1.9 million in today’s dollars) and disappeared. Last year Suffolk County Constabulary followed a lead the put the thief in Teller County and called the Woodland Park Police Department for help.

The case was assigned to Officer Nikki Tezak, who discovered that the man bought a home near Woodland Park, paying for it with cash from a Swiss Bank account. That information and some other tidbits lead the two constables she was working with to arrest the culprit, who plead guilty in Crown Court in 2012. For her work in solving this 19-year-old international cold case, Tezak was presented with a plaque by Woodland Park Police Chief Robert Larson at the Nov. 7 Woodland Park City Council meeting.

For the first time in more than a month, Mayor Dave Turley was back in his place on the council. He is recovering from a motorcycle crash that happened in early October. He gave his thanks to the Woodland Park community for its support during his surgery and recuperation.

“This community is a wonderful place,” he said, commenting on all the prayers and thoughts that went out to him, the get-well cards from Woodland Park students, multiple visits by his “baseball kids,” the Pikes Peak Regional Hospital where he was stabilized after the crash and the hard work of a Colorado Springs surgeon who, he said, saved his life.

One the first orders of business after Turley picked up the gavel was the approval of an intergovernmental agreement between the city and the Woodland Park RE-2 School District for assigning a second school resource (police) officer to the district. In 2014, the city will pay the full operating costs for both officers, with the district agreeing to pay for equipping and training the second officer. By 2017, 80 percent of the operating costs for the second officer will be paid by the school district with the city paying the rest. The city will continue to fund operational costs for the first officer.

The newly elected RE-2 Board of Education will have to ratify the agreement at its next school board meeting before it will become effective.

Before the meeting, the council met with City Attorney Erin Smith to discuss a lawsuit filed by Teller County in district court. The county wants the city to reverse the Southwest Valley Annexation decision it approved in late August. The annexed property is proposed as a new Teller County Waste facility. County officials tried to appeal council’s decision directly but submitted that appeal after the deadline.

During the regular meeting, a scheduled ordinance hearing on the facility was tabled to the Jan. 16 council meeting at the request of Teller County Waste owner Jay Baker and Erin Smith was directed by council to defend the city’s decision in the lawsuit.

The council also decided not to set a work session to go over plans for Memorial Park. Members agreed that they have enough information to make a decision on the two park-renovation plans submitted last month by Land Patterns Inc. The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board submitted a letter to support the plan that doesn’t set aside space for an aquatic center in the northwest corner of the park. The letter states that preserving green space in the park is a top priority and that the aquatic center has other options.

Woodland Park Economic Development Director Brian Fleer, also executive director for the Woodland Park Downtown Development Authority, updated council on various projects, including Woodland Hardware’s plan to have a grand opening in mid February and groundbreaking for Trail Ridge Apartments on Nov. 13.

He also talked about the holiday season that has already started in the city. In conjunction with the Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce, 5,000 “Elevate and Celebrate the Season” brochures have been mailed to city residents and 50,000 post cards advertising two months’ worth of holiday events are being distributed throughout the Pikes Peak region.

Dec. 7 will be a busy day in the Woodland Park community, starting at 8:30 a.m. with the Kiwanis Breakfast with Santa and culminating at 6 p.m. with the 25th annual Lighter Side of Christmas Parade, which is followed at 7 p.m. in the Ute Pass Cultural Center by a performance by the Woodland Park Wind Symphony, Crazy Hat judging and city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The community is also welcome to fill the Community Cupboard van with nonperishable items.

The council also finished going over the 2014 budget draft. The budget ordinance will be presented at the Nov. 21 meeting for first reading. The public hearing and final approval is set for the Dec. 5 meeting. If it is approved at that time it’s likely that the council will cancel its Dec. 19 meeting.