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Noted: AMR proposes rates increase 

AMR asks for rate hike

American Medical Response, El Paso County's exclusive emergency ambulance provider, is proposing a 5.9 percent rate hike based on the consumer price index. The rate increase, effective Jan. 1, 2011, was to be considered Wednesday by the Emergency Services Agency, an intergovernmental board that oversees the contract.

The advanced life support base rate would go up to $673.79 from $636.27. Basic life-support transport would increase to $502.56 from $474.57. Rates also would increase on various procedures and supplies, and charges would be imposed for new items such as sodium bicarbonate. Under the contract, any penalties for failing to meet response times and other criteria go up by the same factor as approved rate increases.

AMR's rate increases averaged about 1.3 percent over a 10-year period before the current contract began in January 2009. On Jan. 1, 2010, a rate increase of 2.2 percent was adopted. AMR's current contract runs for five years with five one-year renewal options. — PZ

HOT team goes global

The Colorado Springs Police Department's three-officer Homeless Outreach Team will train police from around the nation next week here in the Springs on how to deal effectively and compassionately with homeless people.

Following a surge in urban homeless tent camping, and a tense debate on the ethics of kicking campers off public land, the "HOT team" was instructed last winter to clear out the camps, while trying to avoid ticketing people. The team has yet to issue a ticket, and the tents are gone. The team dealt with the problem by being compassionate, helping the homeless find shelters and programs.

Recently, the HOT team won the 2010 Herman Goldstein Award for Excellence in Problem-Oriented Policing, beating out 46 other police teams from around the globe. The prize is to recognize police officers who work proactively and progressively to address problems in their community. Colorado Springs had never placed in the competition before.

Officer Brett Iverson says when the team first formed a couple years ago, most people felt it wouldn't work. Cops thought it was a little too sensitive; homeless agencies thought cops wouldn't be sensitive enough; homeless people just didn't like cops. Iverson and Officers M.J. Thomson and Dan McCormack soon realized nobody had asked homeless people what they needed, or what their life situation was.

"Our homeless were basically people sitting in the corner of society," Iverson says. McCormack remembers one homeless man playing a guitar that had no pins to hold in the strings. McCormack tried to strike up a conversation, but the guy was frosty. So McCormack got some strings and pins as a gift. The guy cried when he received them. It took a lot of that kind of reaching out, but one by one the tents came down. — JAS

Vegas shooting: justified

A week after an inquest ruled Las Vegas police were justified in gunning down the son of a Colorado Springs man, county officials there on Tuesday ordered a review of how inquests are conducted.

Bill Scott, an author and aviation expert, whose 38-year-old son Erik was killed leaving a Costco store, calls the inquest process a "one-sided sham" because it doesn't allow direct questions to police witnesses. Observers can only submit questions to a judge, who chooses whether to ask them. Only once in more than 190 shootings by Las Vegas police, spanning 34 years, has a judge found a shooting unjustified.

The shooting of Erik Scott, who was carrying a licensed concealed weapon, has drawn the attention of civil rights groups including the Nevada ACLU. According to Fox5 News in Las Vegas, a medical examiner for the Clark County coroner's office testified Scott was shot seven times — five from behind — by three officers. An autopsy found Xanax and morphine in Erik's system, for which he had prescriptions. Another doctor testified the West Point graduate sought the drugs for pain.

A Costco security worker called police after an employee noticed Scott's weapon under his shirt. Costco's policy barring weapons wasn't posted. Police were told Scott was acting erratically and destroying merchandise, though Bill Scott says Erik's girlfriend, who was with him, denies that account.

The review panel will consist of law enforcement, civil rights groups and legal experts, who will determine if changes are needed in the inquest process. — PZ

Rubbish loses two leaders

Two of Rubbish Gallery's three co-owners, Lorelei Beckstrom, 42, and Caitlin Goebel, 21, will leave the Bijou alley establishment at the end of the month. Both have plans to pursue their own art, while Goebel will also work at a gallery she co-owns in Denver. The two joined Rubbish a year and a half ago, and Beckstrom says they're leaving due to "internal reasons," though she won't go into details. "This has been such a difficult decision and is a terribly emotional subject for me," she writes in an e-mail. Rubbish, which opened back in 2005, will maintain ownership under one of its original founders, Jon Lindstrom, 35. This past year, it has hosted a strong stable of artists, including Rodney Wood, Father Luke Sheffer and Micki Tschur. — EA

Dwight Jones moving on

Another bit of locally relevant news from Clark County in Nevada: Colorado Education Commissioner Dwight Jones has taken a position as superintendent of the Clark County School District in Las Vegas. It's the nation's fifth-largest school district, and its trustees voted 6-1 to hire Jones.

Jones told media: "It is clear to me that Clark County wants what we all want — to ensure that all children have access to inspiring learning environments." He says he will move "as soon as I can ensure a smooth exit from Colorado."

Jones was appointed education commissioner in June 2007. He previously worked as a teacher, principal, educational administrator and as superintendent of Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8. — JAS

Cherokee official under recall

Robert Lovato, president of the Cherokee Metropolitan District, faces a recall election Dec. 7. The six-year board member was targeted by Concerned Citizens of Cimarron Hills, alleging a conflict of interest by Lovato serving on the Woodmen Hills Metropolitan District board. Cherokee, with about 18,000 customers east of Colorado Springs, provides water to Woodmen Hills, a subdivision northeast of Cherokee.

The group also opposes Lovato living outside Cherokee's boundaries, although he owns property in the district, as well as in Woodmen Hills. At an August Cherokee board meeting, he agreed to recuse himself from votes on Woodmen Hills.

Concerned Citizens member Gayle Jones and others also are upset the board recently settled a malpractice lawsuit against the district's former lawyer, Peter Susemihl, for $1.5 million. The lawsuit stemmed from advice that the district says led to it losing water court decisions that, according to the Colorado Springs Business Journal, wiped out 40 percent of the district's water supply. Cherokee since has developed wells elsewhere, but faces shortages and has placed customers under watering restrictions.

Lovato says the people behind the recall are former board members who blame him for their prior actions. "Now that the board has changed to businessmen, and women, they don't like it because they're getting blamed for what they did," Lovato says. He plans to file suit, saying the county clerk's office didn't follow the rules of the recall process. — PZ

Ballots go out Tuesday

The initial mailing of ballots in El Paso County begins Tuesday, with 154,000 ballots for the Nov. 2 election.

The election will decide an array of offices, including U.S. Senate and House, governor, attorney general, county commissioners, sheriff, clerk, and state House and Senate seats.

Total voter registration in El Paso County is slightly down from the presidential year of 2008: 370,338 compared to 374,581. Voter registration for next month's election closed on Monday.

Besides voting by mail, voters can vote early Oct. 18-29 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 24) from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.; the clerk's Powers Branch at 5650 Industrial Place; and at Chapel Hills Mall, 1710 Briargate Blvd., #350. Identification is required to vote early. — PZ

Compiled by Edie Adelstein, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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