In one of his more bizarre news conferences, Springs Mayor Steve Bach yielded the floor to others to roll out two initiatives that some might consider pretty wacky.
We'll take them in order of wackiness, and finish up with Bach's latest reminder of how broke the city is.
First, the city is partnering with USA Swimming, the Rocky Mountain State Games and Colorado Springs Sports Corp. to bring the community together to try to break the record for the LARGEST GATHERING OF PEOPLE WEARING SWIM CAPS.
This record is held by Tybee Island, Ga., with 2,049 people, set on Jan. 1, 2012.
City spokeswoman Mary Scott, who used to work for USA Swimming, introduced the event, planned for July 27 at America the Beautiful Park. The first 5,000 people to show up will get one of the 5,000 donated swim caps.
"I think we can definitely break the record, if not smash it," Doug Martin with the Sports Corp. said, adding that people only have to wear the caps for 10 minutes. (Whew. I was wondering what you do with swim-cap hair afterward.)
Second on the wacky-meter is a proposal headed by former El Paso County Commissioner Jim Bensberg and former Springs Councilman (and current Indy columnist) John Hazlehurst to rustle up the money to demolish the old Pikes Peak Summit House and build a new one, costing at least $12 million. Bach assured everyone that no tax money would be involved.
This plan has been floated for at least two decades, because the Summit House sits on jacks to keep it from sinking into the peak's permafrost. Hazlehurst, a Springs native with a passion for history, was knocking around the room before the news conference with a copy of a 1943 newspaper that carried photos of mules used to tote building materials up the mountain to build the Summit House.
The peak gets a half-million visitors a year, Hazlehurst noted, who are "overwhelmingly disappointed when they get there."
The design has already been done by a local architect for a spacious lodge with several parking lots. Here are the renderings:
"This is fairly close to shovel-ready," Hazlehurst said. "Of course, getting the shovels up there will cost many millions of dollars."
Bensberg likened the project to replacing The Broadmoor's Ice Palace with the World Arena, a project built with mostly donated funds, though the city and county did participate. Such a project, Hazlehurst said, is "not beyond our grasp."
Then he good-naturedly blamed Bach for being "the maniac responsible here," saying he and Bach were having a chat some months ago when Hazlehurst said, "Can't you do something about that?" To which Bach responded, "Why don't you do something about it?"
Fire Chief Rick Brown talked about his initiative to host wellness checks for citizens at city fire stations. He said the city hopes to partner with the Centura and Memorial health systems, as well as other health care providers, to reduce the number of people here who seek medical treatment only in emergency rooms.
"If we do this properly, we could be considered an absolute hallmark across the country in building community," he said.
Brown also revealed that he and Police Chief Pete Carey are discussing authorizing firefighters to cite citizens for city code violations. In essence, they would add "code enforcement officer" to their firefighter titles.
There's certainly no doubt firefighters are in a position hundreds of times a month to observe violations ... but really?
Brown said the details are still being worked out in the spirit of Bach's edict to "do more with what we have."
In another matter, Bach commented on the Today's Homes fiasco, in which the Canadian company built townhomes several feet higher than permitted in northeast Colorado Springs. The city ordered the structures moved or lowered a few weeks ago, but in the last few days, the company closed its local office.
"We're hoping the company will step up," Bach said, adding that Today's Homes has an ethical duty to comply with the city's rules.
He also said the city would meet with the Regional Building Department about the issue. "What happened in the inspection process?" Bach said. "Why didn't the inspector pick up that the foundation was too high?"
Lastly, Bach lamented the city's lack of funds in the face of a billion-dollar backlog of stormwater, road and bridge projects. He's searching for "efficiencies," he said, to free up money and has told City Councilors, who serve as the Utilities Board, to do the same with that city enterprise.
Anyway, other than Bach reminding people — again — that the city is "headed for insolvency," and that he continues to "rethink everything we're doing" and to find ways to "reinvent the way we deliver services," that's it from the city halls of power. For now.
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