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GOP chair ousted, suit over wind farm, Springs on bike map, and more 

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Gas line severed

Wildcat Construction likely will get slapped with a big expense stemming from the puncture of a 6-inch natural gas line by its subcontractor, Scott Construction, which knocked out service for several days to 1,400 Colorado Springs Utilities customers on the city's north side.

The line was hit at 4:17 p.m. on March 3, amid construction work on an overpass exchange at Old Ranch Road and Powers Boulevard, says Utilities spokesman Steve Berry.

"The whole thing was ripped apart," Berry says. "I hadn't seen a pipe that damaged in a long time."

The outage, he says, was the second-biggest in the last 20 years. The largest came during the Waldo Canyon Fire.

How much the repairs will cost is unknown, but labor and equipment used to cap the line and restore service will run up to $300,000, Berry estimates, excluding the value of gas that escaped during the two-hour break. By Friday, March 6, all but about 30 homes had service restored, and Utilities was working to locate owners of the others, many of whom leave for the winter, he says.

"If the contractor did not follow locates correctly or call locates in, they would be responsible," Berry says, noting the investigation is ongoing. "Even if the locates were correct, there's a requirement you hand-dig around an excavation. It's apparent that wasn't done due to the damage of the pipe."

Bob Wilson, spokesman for the Colorado Department of Transportation, which contracted with Wildcat, says the contractor was "using old information" on where the pipe was located. He says an employee who hit the pipe has been placed on administrative leave pending the investigation. "Wildcat said their protocol wasn't followed," Wilson says. He adds that contractors must carry insurance to cover such incidents.

Wildcat could not be reached for comment. — PZ

Springs on bike map

Colorado Springs is the third city to add its bike routes to the state's Bicycle and Scenic Byways map.

In the past, cyclists could use the map to plan trips on state routes, as well as find lodging, bike shops and other highlights. The addition of city bike routes should help cyclists plan more detailed trips and promote local tourism.

The map can be viewed at dtdapps.coloradodot.info/bike. — JAS

Suit over wind farm

Not everyone was cheering when El Paso County commissioners approved changes to a plan for a 250-megawatt wind farm near Calhan.

The planned project, which will provide energy to Denver, has long been OK'd. But current owner NextEra Energy Resources needed to change the plan before construction got underway. It proposed replacing an underground transmission line with an above-ground one that would be visible from area homes.

Some neighbors feared health risks from the lines; others thought property values would diminish; and still others just hated to see their views disrupted. Yet the county commissioners voted unanimously in February (with Commissioner Sallie Clark absent) to approve the changes.

But now those neighbors are suing to overthrow that decision. According to the county, the neighbors will likely argue that "the elected officials making the decision did so without following proper procedures and that their decision was 'arbitrary.'" — JAS

Call ousted as GOP chair

Steve House, who ran for governor in 2014, was elected state GOP chairman on Saturday at the state party's annual meeting in Douglas County, defeating two-term chair Ryan Call.

The choice of House, former Adams County Republican chair, was seen to indicate that the party may go farther right.

Call, supported by U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, had defended the creation of a state GOP super PAC, which got a black eye last month with the conviction of its director for illegally coordinating with a candidate's campaign in Virginia, according to The Colorado Statesman.

Derrick Wilburn from Colorado Springs was elected vice chairman, Fox31 in Denver reported. He's the founder, president and chairman of the board of Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives, American Conservatives of Color, and BlackandConservative.com, according to his website. — PZ

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