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Council IDs parks solution, FEMA deadline extended, more 

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Council IDs parks solution

Last week, Colorado Springs City Council gave preliminary approval to redirect $1.13 million to water the city's parks from the police budget and the city's reserve funds.

It's unclear whether the narrow majority — there was no formal vote during the budget mark-up session — will be ample enough to override a veto from Mayor Steve Bach, who has been insistent about keeping reserves robust.

While city-owned Colorado Springs Utilities has provided the city with a cut rate under a pilot program for four years, it can't continue that indefinitely due to restrictions the utility's bond debt imposes on special rates.

Roughly half the watering tab will be pulled from the police budget, which Bach has proposed will grow from $95.5 million this year to $100 million next year. Councilor Joel Miller noted that taking a portion for watering from the police budget isn't a cut, "it's a decrease of the increase."

But Council President Pro Tem Merv Bennett warned against dipping into the police budget, saying, "I think that could be very dangerous."

Council is to hold a first reading on the appropriations ordinance on Nov. 26. Bach has proposed a general fund budget of $246.6 million, up from this year's original budget of $232.7 million. — PZ

Credit-card meters debut

You may have heard about the 882 new parking meters recently installed in the downtown core along Colorado Avenue through Old Colorado City.

The new meters accept VISA, Mastercard and coins, but not the Easy Park cards that were the norm before. Confusingly, some 1,600 meters outside the downtown core still accept Easy Park and won't accept credit cards. (The city has a map of where the different kinds of meters are located at springsgov.com.)

While many people might prefer the convenience of using a credit card versus an Easy Park card, which must be purchased from the city's Parking Administration, there is a downside to the new meters. Basically, they're more expensive.

Here's why: Easy Park cards slide into the meter and charge it for the full time limit. But when you return to your car, you simply slide the Easy Park card back into the meter, and it charges you only for the time you were parked. The credit card meters, however, force customers to choose the exact amount of time they want to charge, and it can't be less than $1 worth of time (though the instructional video link on the city's website shows otherwise). There are no refunds for time not used. — JAS

FEMA deadline extended

If your home, business or property was damaged in the summer floods, you now have until Nov. 30 to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for assistance. However, the local Disaster Recovery Center will be open to help you only through Saturday, Nov. 16.

The deadline for filing was extended to give victims more time to access federal assistance, which includes low-interest loans and direct payments. Victims can register at the mobile Disaster Recovery Center, located at Norris-Penrose Events Center, 1045 Lower Gold Camp Road. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., through Saturday.

For more information, go to fema.gov/disaster/4145. — JAS

Gazette workers' data stolen

Some former and current Gazette employees have received a shock in the mail: a letter dated Nov. 5, 2013, notifying them that their name, street and email addresses, Social Security number, phone number, date of birth, salary and 401(k) information was all on a laptop stolen from a Clarity Media Group vehicle on Oct. 12.

The letter, signed by CEO Ryan McKibben, does not say where the crime occurred, and calls to various police departments in markets in which Clarity owns properties have yielded no additional information. We contacted the Gazette as well as the Denver company owned by billionaire Phillip Anschutz for comment on why it took so long to notify victims, but received nothing back.

"Because the laptop was stolen from a car in a parking lot, we have no way of knowing what the thief intends to do with the laptop or the data stored on the laptop," reads the letter, "or how sophisticated the thief may be with regard to accessing the laptop's data."

However: "We have taken all available measures to remotely disable the laptop from accessing any company networks; we have notified law enforcement authorities and we will continue to work with them as requested; [and] we are notifying individuals who may have had information on the laptop, so that they can take appropriate steps to protect themselves against credit card fraud and identity theft." — BC

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