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Manitou restaurant manager dies 

Loop manager dies

Cassidy Lee Oshun, 33, longtime manager of the Loop Restaurant in downtown Manitou Springs, died Sunday after a lifelong battle with asthma.

On Friday, May 22, Oshun called 911 saying she was having trouble breathing. Paramedics came quickly, but Oshun's large dog stopped them from reaching her for about five minutes. When they finally got to Oshun, she was not breathing. She was transported to Penrose Hospital, where she died Sunday.

Oshun leaves behind her son, Ethan Banner, 10, her partner, Dustin Adams, and hundreds of friends who will miss her generous spirit.

A remembrance will take place at 10 a.m., Sunday, May 31, at Memorial Park (502 Manitou Ave.) in Manitou Springs. Donations may be made to the Ethan Banner Fund in c/o Loop Restaurant, 965 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, 80829. — JW

Another round of reductions coming

If the models are right, Colorado Springs faces a $23.7 million budget gap in 2010, caused by declining sales and use tax collection, flat collections of other taxes, and increased costs, including an estimated $9.1 million raise package for employees.

The news came Tuesday, paired with a bright spot: The city will not need to make further cuts to the 2009 budget, as was feared. But City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft told Council she expects the 2010 budget season to be gruesome, or at least "much more difficult than last year."

In 2009, the city closed a gap of about $40 million, with cuts ranging from public safety to park watering to partial dismantling of the bus system. In 2010, the city will try to meet goals like preserving public safety, protecting the needy and disabled, and keeping a fund balance to preserve its bond rating.

Some Councilors, including Scott Hente and Tom Gallagher, suggest in response that the time has come for the city to fund only roads, police and fire.

Council also is deciding whether to put questions on the November ballot. Councilors favor asking voters again to retain an expiring mill levy, but haven't agreed where to spend the $3 million it generates annually. In April, voters rejected a measure to retain the mill levy for economic development.

Council also decided not to ask voters to keep $422,571 collected over the TABOR cap. In April, voters let the city keep up to $1.2 million over the TABOR cap, but the city's estimate turned out to be low. The excess revenue, about $2 per household, will be refunded. — JAS

More flu, same precautions

A Colorado Springs Christian Schools high school student has come down with the fourth confirmed case of swine flu in El Paso County, with local health officials saying there are likely more cases in the community.

"We know it's here," says Susan Wheelan, spokeswoman for the county Department of Health and Environment.

Local cases have not prompted any school closures or other disruptions, and officials suggest the same basic precautions: Wash your hands frequently, avoid those who are sick, cover your mouth if you sneeze or cough, and stay home if you don't feel well. Find more at elpasocountyhealth.org, or call a state help line at 877/462-2911. — AL

LandCo, city keep fighting

The U.S. Olympic Committee isn't the only partner to call it quits on the initial 2008 three-way retention deal. The city announced last week it was also out, alleging that the third partner, developer LandCo Equity Partners, had violated the terms of the agreement. The city is busy negotiating with the USOC on a possible new deal.

LandCo attorney Reid Page sent a stern letter to the city, alleging that it, and not LandCo, violated the agreement, and refusing to accept the city's termination.

"LandCo urges the City to stop its irresponsible behavior," Page's letter states. "If the citizens of Colorado Springs were at all aware of your actions, they would be ashamed. Further, if the citizens of Colorado Springs learn about your behavior at a public trial of this case, they will understand that your actions put the continued presence of the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs at risk." — JAS

Corral Bluffs opens, kind of

The rugged 520-acre plot known as Corral Bluffs isn't open to the public yet, but the group that helped prevent it from becoming a park for off-road vehicles is planning monthly guided hikes there this summer, with the next scheduled for 9:30 a.m. June 6.

The land was purchased last fall for $1 million using the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks 1-cent sales tax, and studies are underway to determine how the new park can be used and where trails should go. Information about the two-hour hikes and a schedule can be found at savecorralbluffs.com/guidedtours.html. To make reservations, e-mail corralbluffs@aol.com. — AL

Philharmonic to lose Smith

Colorado Springs Philharmonic music director Lawrence Leighton Smith has announced he'll step down from his post, which he's held since 2000, in spring 2011. The two-year notice gives the organization ample time to find a suitable replacement.

"For us, [it will be] like finding the right clergy for a church," says Philharmonic president Nathan Newbrough, who expects hundreds of applicants. Of Smith, Newbrough says, "To say that he has renown is an understatement. The man's conducted for decades and taught at one of the world's leading institutions [Yale University]. He's been a great benefit to this orchestra ... we'll miss him a great deal."

Asked if associate conductor Thomas Wilson might replace Smith, Newbrough says, "If he is one of the people who applies, he'll get strong consideration." — MS

No update on Armstrong

A trial date has not yet been scheduled for the Rev. Donald Armstrong, indicted last week by a local grand jury on 20 counts of felony theft.

Armstrong is suspected of embezzling $291,010 from Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish between 1999 and 2006 to pay his children's college expenses, according to the indictment. He surrendered to police May 21. Following his release on bond, he led Sunday services at his new parish, St. George's Anglican Church. — AL

County revenue to drop

El Paso County projects a roughly $3.5 million shortfall this year because of falling sales and use tax collections, but officials aren't too worried.

"We're not anticipating additional cuts," says Commissioner Dennis Hisey.

Commissioners already made about $9 million in cuts to balance their 2009 budget. Though that relied on projected revenues around $120 million, Hisey says departments have been frugal enough that the shortfall isn't causing major concern. — AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and John Weiss.

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