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Easement sought for Bear Creek, cheating claims return to Academy, more 

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Cadets accused of cheating

Air Force Academy cadets have been accused of cheating again — this time, 40 cadets in a core freshman chemistry course in which 500 are enrolled, the academy says in a news release. The cadets allegedly copied portions of a lab report assignment.

"While we believe that the young men and women here will be forged ... into leaders of character for our Air Force and the Nation," Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson says in the release, "we also realize that not every one of our 4,000-plus cadets will meet the high standards we expect of them and we will hold them accountable when they fail to live up to those high standards."

The honor system is largely run by cadets, but academy leaders decide whether a cadet is booted. Cadets often are placed on honor probation. — PZ

Bear Creek deal sought

A citizens group appointed by the El Paso County Park Advisory Board is hoping to raise $17,500 by the end of March in order to place a conservation easement on Bear Creek Regional Park.

About 25 percent of county park property is already under an easement, which is a legal agreement between a landowner and a conservation organization that protects lands in perpetuity. In this case, the latter is Palmer Land Trust. Getting the easement in place would ensure that the park is never developed.

"This is a deal you can't afford to pass up," Jim Mariner, vice president of the Parks Advisory Board, states in a press release. "Bear Creek has something for everyone; a nature center, walking trails, playing fields, tennis courts, dog park, equestrian access."

To make the easement a reality, the citizens group needs to cover the administrative and stewardship fee: $17,500. To make a tax-deductible donation, go to tiny.cc/ivh7bx by March 31. You can also write a check to Pikes Peak Community Foundation with"BCRP Conservation Easement" in the memo line. Checks should be mailed to Dana Nordstrom, EPC Community Services Department, 2002 Creek Crossing, Colorado Springs, CO 80905. — JAS

City appeals PERA ruling

Despite interest costs that continue to accrue, the city of Colorado Springs has appealed a retired judge's ruling that the city failed to go through the statutory process to disassociate Memorial Health System workers from the state retirement system.

Judge Harlan Bockman ruled the city should have required a vote of employees and approval from the Public Employees Retirement Association board.

At issue is $185 million for the PERA liability paid to the city by University of Colorado Health, which leased Memorial for 40 years starting Oct. 1, 2012. Instead of paying PERA, however, the city claimed it owed nothing and filed suit.

PERA contends the city owes roughly $200 million in future liability for Memorial's roughly 4,000 employees, along with interest, which has accrued since then, estimated at $15 million to $20 million.

The city's appeal argues that the ruling is "truly the first of its kind in Colorado," because no court "has ever decided, let alone addressed, whether this type of leasing-privatizing transaction triggers the Termination Provisions" of PERA.

Hogan Lovells law firm, which has been paid $1.5 million by the city so far, filed the motion. — PZ

No raise for CSU's Forte

City Councilor Andy Pico joined four others on Council Feb. 25 to reject a proposed 49 percent raise for Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte, and says his vote reflected constituents' will.

"In my short time here," Pico says in an email, "I have not seen anything else generate that level of negative response."

Others opposing the raise, from $334,000 to $498,000, were Keith King, Helen Collins, Don Knight and Joel Miller. Favoring the increase were President Pro Tem Merv Bennett and Councilors Jill Gaebler, Val Snider and Jan Martin. Martin, chair of the Utilities Personnel Committee, says the committee proposed the raise after a consultant surveyed 42 public and private utilities nationwide of similar size and found Forte's pay should be $622,000 to meet Utilities' policy goal of 50th percentile. — PZ

Flights added at airport

Allegiant Airlines will reinstate non-stop jet service from Colorado Springs Airport to Phoenix starting May 15, the city announced Tuesday. The service — the only non-stop service to anywhere in Arizona from the Springs airport — will operate twice weekly. Allegiant began service from the Springs in February 2002 with flights to Las Vegas; it previously offered service to Phoenix from 2010 to 2012. — PZ

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