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Cimarron bridge done; now what? 

PPRTA moves projects, but maintenance could be an issue

More than a few motorists likely cheered driving to work this week. The $8.57 million Cimarron Street bridge was finished on time and on budget Monday, though some minor work, such as rail painting, remained. Mayor Lionel Rivera and County Commissioner Sallie Clark were among the small crowd braving windy weather to celebrate the occasion.

Clark called the new bridge a "poster child" for the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, saying the attractive new structure should serve as a better gateway for tourists than its "unsightly" and unsafe predecessor. The bridge is the latest high-profile project to be completed with PPRTA dollars. In fact, PPRTA has completed more than a third of its 45 A-list projects, with roughly the same amount currently in progress.

Robin Kidder, city roadway engineering manager, already looks forward to crossing off another big PPRTA project in November: The Austin Bluffs Parkway interchange at Union Boulevard is expected to cost more than $35 million. When that's wrapped up, Kidder will turn full attention to the next biggie on the list: Woodmen Road improvements. He says his department is on track to finish all of PPRTA's capital projects by 2014 when PPRTA funding for such work sunsets.

Tom Harold, chairman of the PPRTA citizens advisory committee, says PPRTA may struggle next year if sales tax revenues continue to lag, and that could affect dollars for maintenance. It shouldn't slow capital projects, because money has already been saved to pay for those obligations. JAS

Sales tax issue goes to voters
With little fuss, county commissioners voted Sept. 4 to ask voters for a 1-cent sales tax increase in November.

The increase, which will not apply to prescription medications, food from grocery stores or fuels, would raise an estimated $75 million a year to be used to fund a jail expansion, a new coroner's facility and other buildings. It would also pay for extra sheriff's patrol deputies and cover staffing needs for regional public safety agencies and the county health department.

The proposal is based on extended discussions by a group called Citizens for Effective Government. Members of an opposition group called Citizens for Cost-Effective Government argue that the weak economy makes it a bad time to add a new sales tax, and that the measure would disproportionately affect low-income citizens. AL

County keeps term limits
County commissioners voted 3-2 last week against asking voters for new exceptions to the state's term-limit law.

The coroner is exempted from term limits, and voters agreed in 2006 to allow the sheriff a third term. They rejected easing term limits for the county clerk and the treasurer. The commissioners, assessor and surveyor also are still subject to two-term limits.

Commission Chair Dennis Hisey, while favoring the idea of relaxing term limits, expressed concern about adding to a crowded November ballot on which voters will be asked to approve a new 1-cent sales tax to support regional public health and safety efforts.

"I just don't feel like I can support putting it on the ballot right now," he said.

Cox named fire chief
City officials say they found the perfect person to fill retiring Fire Chief Manuel Navarro's boots. And they didn't have to look far.

Deputy Fire Chief Steve Cox moved up, after serving recently as acting assistant city manager, a position just filled on a permanent basis by Nancy Johnson.

City leaders say Cox was chosen to lead the fire department because of the breadth and depth of his experience. Cox has served the city fire department for 27 years, earning awards and working a variety of positions as he made his way up the ladder. JAS

City reorganization saves cash
Never let it be said that City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft only goes after the little guy when she slashes the city budget. With City Council's approval, Culbreth-Graft just reorganized the city's executive department, netting a savings of more than $500,000 annually. "Reorganization," actually, is a nice way of putting it.

Culbreth-Graft gave walking papers to two information systems managers, an information systems supervisor, an information systems analyst and an intergovernmental affairs staff member, and permanently eliminated 23 vacant positions. Then she gave the city's head honchos Assistant City Managers Mike Anderson and Nancy Johnson, Chief Financial Officer Terri Velasquez, Police Chief Richard Myers and new Fire Chief Steve Cox more work. The new structure divides the city into five "functional areas" instead of nine. JAS

$10 can get you Pinon land
Southern Colorado residents feeling out-gunned in efforts to block expansion of the Army's Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site are enlisting support by selling an acre of nearby land at $10 per square inch.

Buyers receive a deed to a square inch of land near the northwest edge of the current 235,000-acre site. Though the Army has scaled back plans to acquire more than 400,000 acres near the current site, opponents are trying to stop the Army from going after the 100,000 acres officials say they need to accommodate Fort Carson's growth and allow training with high-tech weapons.

The Pinon Canyon Square Inch Land Association is part of a broader opposition effort. Parcels can be bought by visiting pinoncanyonsquareinch.com. AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

  • Also: Sales tax to county voters, but not term limits; fire chief, city reorg and more.

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