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City fights Smokebrush ruling, bus service expands, more 

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City appeals pollution case

The city has filed notice it will appeal a District Court ruling that allowed the Smokebrush Foundation and other plaintiffs in a pollution lawsuit to proceed to trial. The ruling is important, because it says the city can't cite governmental immunity as a defense against being held responsible for pollution at 25 Cimino Drive, where a coal gasification plant stood some 80 years ago.

District Court Judge Timothy Schutz ruled in December in favor of the Smokebrush Foundation, Kat Tudor and Don Goede in refusing to grant the city's motion to dismiss. The plaintiffs argue that pollution left from the plant has migrated onto their Trestle Building property, immediately north of the site, across from America the Beautiful Park.

Schutz found that contaminants, including cancer-causing chemicals, "were allowed to continue to migrate from the City property onto the Plaintiffs' Property over the course of decades .... During this time, the City knew or should have known of the environmental hazards, it had the ability to remediate the same, and it failed to do so."

Hudspeth & Associates of Englewood, a demolition contractor that razed two buildings on the property last year, filed a notice last month that other parties might be at fault, including the owner that operated the gas plant from 1890 to 1925.

Plaintiffs' attorneys didn't return emails or a phone call seeking comment. — Pam Zubeck

Bus service expands

Colorado Springs Mountain Metro Transit is expanding bus service with additional routes and in-service days.

Starting March 31, it will add Route 23, which will run from the Citadel Transfer Station east along Platte Avenue, then north along Powers Boulevard to Barnes Road. Transit Services Manager Craig Blewitt says this will provide riders access to 3,000 jobs in the area.

The route was funded in part by a Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) grant, aimed at improving access to jobs on the fringes of urban areas, Blewitt says. Though the grant only pays for one year of service, Blewitt says the route will be sustainable.

Also on March 31, Route 14 will be split in two. Previously, Route 14 ran from the Downtown Transfer Station north to Garden of the Gods, then east along Austin Bluffs. Route 14 will now end at Garden of the Gods; a new route, 34, will serve the Garden of the Gods corridor. This is in response to timeliness issues due to construction along Austin Bluffs.

High-ridership routes will begin operating on Sundays as of March 30. Additionally, buses will run on Memorial Day, Easter Sunday, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. For more information, call 385-7433. — Griffin Swartzell

Army clinic opens

The Mountain Post Medical Home, a new clinic designed to serve more than 8,000 Tricare beneficiaries, officially opened Friday. Located in the Patriot 7 building in the Patriot Park complex on the corner of Platte Avenue and Powers Boulevard, the facility is part of an Army-wide initiative to better address the needs of servicemen and -women living off base.

The clinic will implement a new healthcare service system. Rather than being assigned to a doctor, patients will be assigned to a team of care providers. Fort Carson Medical Department Public Affairs Officer Roger Meyer says this will increase the consistency of care given to each patient.

Though it is not a free clinic, anyone eligible for Tricare can sign up, including retirees and all Department of Defense services employees.

Mountain Post Medical Home is part of a new approach by the Army's Defense Health Program (DHP), one of 27 patient-centered medical homes approved and funded by the DHP. Most will open over the next year in locations across the country. For hours and information, call 524-0200. — Griffin Swartzell

Forte to get $60K bonus

For his job performance in 2013, Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte is due an incentive payment of roughly $60,000.

On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best, Forte scored 4.02 for his annual performance plan and 4.05 for the long-term plan, Utilities reports.

The annual-plan evaluation conducted by the Utilities Board, comprised of City Council, includes 14 areas. Forte's only failing grade came in debt service coverage ratio, which fell due to lower water sales last year amid the drought. He scored superior ratings in six categories, exceeded expectations in six categories, and met expectations in one category.

Last year, Forte received $59,501 in incentive pay based on his 2012 job performance.

Forte's base salary of $276,750 hasn't changed since 2007; an attempt last month to increase his pay to $498,000 based on a salary survey failed on a Council vote of 5 to 4. — Pam Zubeck

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