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New Marian House set to open Monday 

Public grand opening set for June 24

Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs will serve its first meal in the new Marian House soup kitchen on Monday, June 9, nearly two years after the project was first announced, and several years after the charity began publicly considering an expansion.

The soup kitchen has been located at 14 W. Bijou St. for more than two decades, and serves 400 to 450 meals every day to the city's hungry. But the Marian House long ago outgrew its facilities. The adjacent new soup kitchen will provide more room, while the old kitchen will be turned into a "Self Sufficiency Center," scheduled to open in 2009.

The Marian House will celebrate the opening of the new kitchen with prayers and cooking. A grand opening will follow on June 24, and will include a free pancake breakfast for the community. JAS

County trims budget

El Paso County leaders plan to mortgage a building, shift around some funds and slash some departments in an effort to balance their 2008 budget. The county faces a potential $8.8 million shortfall this year due to unexpectedly high medical costs for employees, shrinking sales-tax revenue and other factors linked to a slowing economy.

Commissioners decided Monday they could make more than half the savings by using the value of county property in place of $3 million in reserves required by the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, and also by essentially taking a $2 million loan against the value of a Department of Human Services building.

Other cuts are spread across many departments, with the health department taking what could be the toughest blow. With a cut of $507,000, the department plans to stop inspecting tattoo facilities (ending the monitoring that helps avoid infections and disease transmissions), to suspend regulations designed to make sure meth labs get cleaned up, and also to cut several positions.

The transportation department should face $500,000 in cuts and the district attorney's office $235,000. The county's office for the Colorado State University Extension, which offers the 4-H program for children, was narrowly saved, with the program's final $73,000 in county funding for the rest of the year cut by just more than $41,000.

The option of selling county park land was taken off the table, though money to maintain parks was also reduced.

Commissioners are scheduled to finalize the cuts at their meeting June 9. AL

Kudos for Colorado Springs

In an article titled, "Best Cities to Live, Work and Play," Kiplinger's magazine has listed Colorado Springs as No. 5.

The magazine says it used data from the Martin Prosperity Institute, as well as personal visits, to pick economically prosperous cities with plenty of jobs and fun activities, but reasonable costs of living.

Colorado Springs ranked just behind Boise, Idaho, but ahead of Austin, Texas. Houston was No. 1, followed by Raleigh, N.C., and Omaha, Neb. No other Colorado city made the list.

Kiplinger's cited the Springs' natural beauty, as well as its strong aerospace and defense sectors, the low cost of downtown housing and the Fine Arts Center as benefits to the city. Even the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority sales tax was seen as a plus, because it has helped improve traffic conditions.

Writers at Kiplinger's seemed charmed by the Western attitude of the city, stating, "People don't walk, they amble; they don't talk, they ramble. The slow pace in the Springs contrasts with the energy of the people they're not in a hurry to get anyplace, but they're always going somewhere." Check kiplinger.com/money/bestcities for more. JAS

Downtown gets more shuttles

Free downtown shuttles seven of them, now known as Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) buses are on Tejon Street for good.

"We are hoping that people will park at the free Park-n-Ride off of I-25 and then take advantage of the shuttle," says Amy MacDonald of Mountain Metropolitan Transit.

In 2007, the final year of the city's test phase, older buses known as Downtown Shuttles gave more than 150,000 rides, says city transit supervisor David Menter. With better schedules, higher gas prices and a straight shot from the Park-n-Ride to Colorado College, he says ridership could climb to 180,000 this year.

Besides reducing traffic and gas usage, the DASH buses could cut 6.5 tons of carbon emissions in 2008, according to Menter. Each bus cost approximately $64,000, but the city had to pay for only two; Colorado College and the Downtown Partnership teamed up to pay for the other five.

Buses will run every eight minutes between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, and at least once every 15 minutes otherwise. The shuttle will not operate Sunday, but will run until 12:55 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights to cater to the bar crowd.

For more information about stops and schedules, visit springsgov.com/transit or call 385-RIDE (7433). MA

Peak Chautauqua planned

As part of the city of Colorado Springs commemorating 60 years of operating the Pikes Peak America's Mountain Highway, the city's interpretive department will conduct a Chautauqua Saturday, June 7, at the highway's Crystal Reservoir Visitor Center.

Chautauquas are described generally as gatherings intended to introduce people to ideas and issues of public concern. History presentations at this one, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., include a review of what Zebulon Pike packed when he first attempted to climb the mountain in 1806, a talk by a Florissant Fossil Beds ranger, and a discussion about Julia Archibald Holmes, who 150 years ago became the first woman to climb Pikes Peak.

Organizers encourage people attending the Chautauqua to bring lawn chairs, light jackets, ample water, picnic lunch and a camera. Anyone going to the event and not farther up the highway will pay a reduced charge of $4 per adult with children 15 and younger getting in free. The normal toll for the highway is $10 per adult, $5 for kids 6-15 or a maximum of $35 per vehicle. RR

Rabies making a stink

A message from the El Paso County Department of Health and the Environment: There is yet another reason to avoid skunks.

According to a May 30 press release, there have been 10 confirmed cases of rabies in wildlife throughout the state this year, and nine have been in skunks. The health department warns rabies may have been re-established in the eastern part of the state and could travel to the Front Range.

Rabies is most common in carnivorous animals like skunks, bats and foxes. It is most often spread through a bite, but can be contracted through open wounds or the membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.

The health department urges pet owners to have their animals vaccinated against rabies and to be wary of wild animals, especially those acting aggressively. JAS

Clerk branches back to five-day schedule

The three branches of the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office are returning to a five-day schedule with 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. hours as workers prepare for the November election and cope with the busy summer season for motor-vehicle registrations.

Like many other county offices, two of the clerk's branches shifted to a four-day schedule so the county could save money on utilities by closing once a week.

The clerk has offices at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.; the Powers Boulevard branch, 5650 Industrial Place; and on the north side of Chapel Hills Mall. AL

Yes, the ground was on fire

An 8-year-old boy was burned Monday when he walked into a "coal spoil" fire on open space near the intersection of Rockrimmon Boulevard and Delmonico Drive in northwest Colorado Springs.

City officials say the leftovers from long-ago coal mining in the area ignited under the hot sun, raising surface temperatures in the area to around 800 degrees.

Firefighters cooled the ground with water, and the plan is to cap the material with dirt to prevent another fire. AL

Compiled by Mike Alberti, Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.

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