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Nicoletta takes Manitou, commissioner pay raise, assaults at AFA, and more 

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click to enlarge Nicoletta's focus: Ruxton Avenue. - TRAVIS LOWELL
  • Travis Lowell
  • Nicoletta's focus: Ruxton Avenue.

Nicoletta takes Manitou reins

Nicole Nicoletta was sworn in Jan. 5 as mayor of Manitou Springs, replacing six-year mayor Marc Snyder.

Nicoletta, 42, has served on Manitou City Council since 2014 after becoming active in the Manitou Springs Forward process and in opening a food pantry in central Manitou. Nicoletta feels that staff is handling many of the town's major problems, from flood control to potholes, and she's comfortable with the way the town has settled major controversies, such as recreational marijuana.

She says there has been talk about allowing cannabis clubs in the town, which has a moratorium on the businesses. Nicoletta has no desire to introduce the "divisive issue" anytime soon. "[Recreational marijuana] is going well," she says. "I don't want to mess with it."

One issue she hopes to address urgently is to "get people off Ruxton Avenue." The narrow road is overcrowded by outdoor enthusiasts accessing the Incline and Barr trails. Nicoletta, who lives near Ruxton, hopes a committee studying the issue will have a fix in place before the summer season. She supports a bike share program, allowing visitors to ride bikes from city parking lots to the top of Ruxton.

Her other goals include creating a program that better regulates panhandling while respecting panhandlers' rights. She also hopes to usher in the development of east Manitou, where the city has an urban renewal area. She'd love to see some affordable senior housing. — JAS

Big bump for county electeds

Future county elected officials will see a rise in pay under Senate Bill 15-288 adopted last legislative session. Pay for El Paso County commissioners, treasurer, assessor and clerk and recorder will increase from $87,300 a year to $113,490 for officials elected or appointed to office after Jan. 1, 2016. That means those elected next November to succeed commissioners Dennis Hisey, Sallie Clark and Amy Lathen, who leave office next January under term limits, will receive the higher pay.

The sheriff's salary will increase from $111,000 to $144,430 for whoever wins the next sheriff race in 2018.

Those raises apply to officials in the state's other large counties: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Douglas, Jefferson, Larimer, Pueblo and Weld. Pay for officials in smaller counties also will go up. The bill increased future salaries of the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer. — PZ

SunShare founder honored

David Amster-Olszewski, 28, who founded SunShare solar garden company in Colorado Springs, was named last week to the Forbes' national 30 under 30 list in the energy category. Forbes called SunShare "one of the nation's leading developers of community solar."

But after the Colorado Springs Utilities Board switched gears to minimize investment in community solar, Amster-Olszewski, a Colorado College grad, moved his company to Denver. He now also has a Minneapolis office. — PZ

Man shot by cops dies

Dana Bruce Ott, 63, died Jan. 8 of injuries inflicted by two Colorado Springs police officers on Nov. 10 after Ott brandished an air rifle at them outside his home on Lanagan Street. In a decision released Dec. 24, the District Attorney's Office ruled the shooting by Officers Matthew Peterson and Derek Wilson justified, noting, "There was no indication, such as an orange safety tip, that would have suggested to the officers that this firearm was anything other than an actual rifle."

Ott was taken to a hospital in the Penrose-St. Francis system where he remained until he died, officials said. Ott had been "blind booked" into jail on menacing charges but never left the hospital where the Sheriff's Office maintained 24-hour guard until he posted bond on Nov. 18, says sheriff's spokeswoman Jackie Kirby.

Kirby said Monday an autopsy has been performed, but cause and manner of death won't be released until a toxicology test is conducted. — PZ

AFA sees rise in assaults

The Air Force Academy stood out in the latest survey of sexual assaults at military academies. USAFA received 49 reports of sexual assault during the 2014-15 academic year, more than the other two academies combined, the Department of Defense said in a report released last week.

U.S. Military Academy at West Point reported 17 sexual assaults, while the Naval Academy reported 25. The total of 91 was 32 more than in 2013-14. As for harassment, the Air Force Academy received eight reports, West Point seven and the Naval Academy 13.

The increase in reporting suggests "growing confidence in the response system," Dr. Nathan Galbreath, senior executive advisor for the Defense Department Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office, said in a release. The report praised all the academies, noting "improvements in overall response program execution, innovative efforts to encourage climates of dignity and respect, incorporation of prevention principles into leadership development, and engagement of cadets and midshipmen to help solve the problems." — PZ

Hodges out as PPCF head

A year ago, the Pikes Peak Community Foundation announced excitedly that Trudy Strewler Hodges would be its next chief executive officer.

It seemed like a natural fit. PPCF, founded in 1996, creates custom-designed charitable gifts funds and gives grants to worthy causes. It had been led by Michael Hannigan for 16 years until his retirement. Hodges had led CASA of the Pikes Peak Region, a nonprofit that advocates in court for abused kids, as its founding chief executive since 1989.

At the time of Hodges' hire, PPCF Board Chair Paula Pollet said in a release that "Trudy is in complete alignment with the Foundation's mission to dramatically improve the quality of life in the Pikes Peak region and she has demonstrated this by her passion and commitment to CASA."

But, apparently, the arrangement may not have worked out as originally envisioned. PPCF has announced that Hodges left the nonprofit in late December. PPCF spokesperson Kate Singh said she cannot comment on why Hodges left.

Gary Butterworth, senior vice president of El Pomar Foundation, is serving as interim CEO of PPCF during the search for a permanent replacement. — JAS

Prepare for winter weather

The Independence Center, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities, has teamed up with American Red Cross to offer three free Winter Emergency Preparedness Training presentations. The first hour-long session for Colorado Springs residents will be 1 p.m. Jan. 20 at the Independence Center, 729 S. Tejon St. The second, for Teller and Park counties, will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 25 at Aspen Mine Center, 166 E. Bennett Ave., Cripple Creek. The third, for eastern counties, will be 1 p.m. Jan. 29 at Paulson Senior Center, 205 5th St., Calhan. To RSVP, email lulam@the-ic.org. — JAS

D-11 teachers rank high

Colorado Springs School District 11 has a lot of National Board Certified Teachers, making Colorado's top five along with Boulder Valley, Denver Public Schools, Cherry Creek and Douglas County. Certification requires teachers to review and improve their practices, and it's quite rigorous. The voluntary process usually takes up to three years, and at least half aren't certified on their first try. — JAS

Time to ditch the tree

Once a sign of jolly times, that tree in your living room is now depressingly brown and dropping needles all over your carpet.

It's time to move on. Take the decorations off your Christmas tree and haul it to the TreeCycle at Rocky Top Resources, 1755 E. Las Vegas St. It's open Monday though Saturday, through Jan. 30, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's closed Sundays.

Rocky Top will grind your tree into mulch (for a suggested donation of $5), which you're welcome to take home to fertilize your garden. — JAS

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