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Consultant for Drake, WP mayor arrested, healthy reform, and more 

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Consultant hired for Drake

Sargent & Lundy, a Chicago-based power consultant, has been hired to look into the cause of the May 5 Martin Drake Power Plant fire that shut down the facility that provides nearly a third of the city's power.

"I think such an investigation serves the customer in several ways, namely giving our customers assurances that we're committed to turning over every stone to make sure we continue to reduce the risk for a similar occurrence at Drake or any of our power plants," Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman Steve Berry says via email. "A fresh set of trained eyes is always a good thing in a case like this."

The Colorado Springs Fire Department has ruled the fire accidental and caused by lubricating oil coming into contact with hot steam pipes.

On Tuesday, after the Indy's press deadline, City Council was to take up a request to raise utility rates to fund replacement power costs of $3 million a month. It would raise residential rates by 7 percent, or about $5 per month, and commercial and industrial rates by 10 to 11 percent, effective Sunday, June 1. — PZ

WP mayor arrested

Long-time Woodland Park resident and town mayor David Turley was arrested May 23 on a charge of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, according to media reports.

The Pikes Peak Courier reported that Woodland Park police sought assistance in their investigation from the Colorado Springs Police Department. The arrest affidavit is sealed, the newspaper reported. He was booked into the Teller County Jail, where he posted a $10,000 bond and was released. According to a news release, investigators believe there is one victim.

Turley is in his second two-year term as mayor, having won 79 percent of the vote last month, the Denver Post reported. — PZ

Healthy reform in Springs

Politics aside, is the Affordable Care Act working? An advocacy group seeking to answer that question says yes, at least in Colorado Springs.

Health is Local, a project of the Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, has been studying four Colorado communities for the past few months to monitor their adjustment to what's known as Obamacare. While some have struggled, the group says Colorado Springs was well-prepared.

The Coalition selected four communities to look at that represented different ways of life. Colorado Springs was the "urban area," Yuma County was the "eastern plains community," Montrose County was the "Western Slope community," and Summit County was the "mountain resort community."

Among the findings: In 2012 over 81,000 Springs residents were uninsured, according to the American Community Survey, but those numbers improved after Colorado's health care marketplace went online in October 2013. Between then and mid-April, over 21,000 city residents gained coverage through Medicaid and over 8,400 signed up for insurance through the state's insurance marketplace, says Health is Local spokeswoman Sarah Mapes, based on figures from the state Medicaid office and the marketplace.

Jennifer Brown, El Paso County Department of Human Services spokesperson, says the county doesn't track those figures in the same way, but notes that Medicaid enrollment county-wide was 42,811 in July 2013 and 54,591 as of April 2014. During ACA open enrollment, 27,528 people in El Paso County enrolled for either Medicaid or private insurance.

Mapes says the Coalition also spoke to local health providers and found that safety-net clinics that accept Medicaid expanded staff and space before ACA was implemented.

"I think it would be fair to say that Colorado Springs had the most universally positive experience" of the four communities they examined, she says.

Mapes says Yuma County had plenty of capacity in health care facilities, but relatively few people got insurance during open enrollment. Montrose was very successful at getting people enrolled in insurance, but has limited capacity in clinics and is facing crowding. Summit County had workers who couldn't afford insurance because their income was slightly high and they couldn't get subsidies; another group was able to get insurance and, she says, told the Coalition, "It has been life-altering."

Mapes says Colorado Springs health providers are now focused on issues like working with Spanish-speaking residents and immigrants. "It's a lot more of a conversation about access, when before it was about coverage," she says. — JAS

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