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Noted: Aviation Brigade coming to Fort Carson 

Carson to get unit 'for sure'

Fort Carson will welcome an Army Combat Aviation Brigade, according to Mike Kazmierski, CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Economic Development Corp.

"It will happen for sure," Kazmierski says in a telephone interview. "The question is when."

The 120-helicopter brigade will bring 2,800 soldiers, their families and support personnel, and will require 20 construction and renovation projects at Carson, according to Army documents.

Fort Carson and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state have been identified as the only two posts meeting requirements for the brigade. It's unclear whether there will be two aviation brigades created or only one. — PZ

City closes on Section 16

Colorado Springs has added 640 acres of open space to its holdings with the long-sought purchase of the Section 16 property. The city closed on the deal Tuesday.

Section 16 has been leased from the state by either the city or El Paso County since 1972, and is beloved among outdoor enthusiasts. The city began its efforts to buy the property in 2004 but was thwarted by price haggling and other challenges.

It took state legislation, co-sponsored by now-outgoing Rep. Michael Merrifield (D-Colorado Springs), for a deal to be made. The $3.8 million purchase was mostly funded by the voter-approved Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax and a $1 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado (Colorado Lottery money). — JAS

Memorial suitor steps up

This week, HCA-HealthOne, a Denver-based health system, expressed interest in acquiring or merging with city-owned Memorial Health System. For-profit HCA-HealthOne is represented by local developer/consultant Kevin Walker.

Memorial CEO Larry McEvoy immediately notified City Council of the inquiry and issued a statement saying he still prefers giving Memorial independent nonprofit status, a position sanctioned by a Council-appointed panel after nine months of study. Council's next step is deciding whether it agrees with the panel's recommendation. If so, Council must fashion a ballot measure for the April 5 city election, a necessity for the city to divest itself of Memorial. A meeting is slated for Thursday, Dec. 9, to begin working through those questions.

So it was curious that Walker, a big player in the strong-mayor ballot initiative adopted by voters Nov. 2, thrust himself and his client into the issue at this point. He issued a statement saying the public process should be expanded and that an April ballot question is "premature."

Walker's been in development and real estate for at least 20 years. Most recently, he's been associated with Nor'wood Development and David Jenkins, who funneled nearly $1 million into the Mayor Project, which pushed the strong-mayor proposal. Walker gave $1,000 to the campaign and collected $26,960 in consulting fees from it under the name Kevin J. Walker & Associates, Inc.

After the Nov. 2 vote approving the change to strong mayor, Walker offered to consult with the city on the transition, quoting a figure of $52,500 for his services. Though he's been using the name Walker Strategies LLC recently, Walker didn't file paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office for his new "public policy consulting" company until 4:59 p.m. Tuesday. — PZ

Smoker King's next round

The Colorado Springs Liquor and Beer Licensing Board decided at its meeting last Friday to reconsider a September decision to deny a liquor license for Smoker King on West Uintah Street.

The board's decision comes after the west-side smoke shop's owner, Jignesh "Jiggy" Sheth, filed a lawsuit against the city ("King vs. Queen," News, Dec. 2), alleging there was no legitimate reason to deny his application for a license. His lawsuit did point to a potentially illegitimate reason: The nearest existing liquor store, Queen Liquor next to King Soopers in nearby Uintah Gardens Shopping Center, happens to be co-owned by a member of the liquor board.

The lawsuit seeks only to have the court award Sheth his license and the cost of legal fees, says his attorney, Adam Stapen. — CH

DOR finalizes MMJ rules

After meeting for more than 70 hours to create regulations from scratch, the Colorado Department of Revenue's medical marijuana rules-making group will release its final draft at its January formal meeting. The rules become law March 1, four months earlier than the expected July 1.

"I started this project before the bill [House Bill 1284] was actually signed, and drafted about 95 pages of rules that I gave to the participants at the table [to potentially modify]," senior director of enforcement Matt Cook said last week.

Cook expects to open field offices of roughly 10 employees and investigators in Colorado Springs, Greeley and Grand Junction, with headquarters in Denver. MMJ center owners will be subject to rules affecting everything from hydroponic waste disposal to mandated web-based video surveillance. (Centers are likely to be required to keep 20 days of recorded surveillance on-site, with an additional 20 kept off-site.) Fines could climb to $100,000 for violations. — BC

Homeless for the holidays

Paul and Martha Williams moved into their brand-new RV eight years ago, before they had any kids. It was convenient for them, Paul says, because he traveled a lot for work. He could pick up his home and move.

This Thanksgiving, the Williams family, which now includes 6-year-old Anna and 7-year-old Paul David, was just preparing for a holiday meal with a neighbor in their local trailer park when a stove fire ripped through their home. "We ran over there real quick, and black smoke was coming out of the door," Paul says.

The fire gutted the RV. The family came away unharmed, but homeless. They've moved into a motel and still owe $32,000 on the loan for the RV, according to Paul, who says that he had to let the insurance lapse recently because he couldn't afford the payments. "We are just going week-to-week now, just trying to get things figured out," he says.

If you'd like to help the Williamses, you can contribute money at any branch of Wells Fargo to a catastrophe fund set up by an acquaintance of the family. — CH

Van Hoy, CP honored

The Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado's annual Advancing Equality Awards honored seven individuals and organizations across the state Wednesday for standing up for equal treatment for all people.

Among the winners were Barb Van Hoy, former leader of Colorado Springs' Citizens Project, and Citizens Project itself.

Of Van Hoy, the award release noted, "Over the last six years, Barb's work for equality and justice included the oversight and formation of a committee that attempted to add 'plus one' benefits for all city employees. Additionally, she co-founded the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition, established a Citizens' Religious Freedom Institute to uphold religious freedom in local schools, and participated as a strong voice on the committee that led to the reestablishment of a Colorado Springs' Human Relations Commission as Executive Director of Citizens Project." — JAS

Bach enters mayoral race

Stephen Bach, principal of Bach Real Estate Partners LLC, officially entered the race for mayor Nov. 30. On his company website, Bach claims "a 45-year track record of consistent achievement" in town.

It also says his "experience most recently includes 27 years as a commercial real estate broker, specializing in representation of operating companies, nonprofits and privately held properties."

Another candidate, Kelley Pero-Luckhurst, an unemployed student, announced his candidacy on the same day, making it an eight-person race, though candidate Tim Leigh has unofficially withdrawn. The other announced candidates are Brian Bahr, Kenneth Paul Duncan, Buddy Gilmore, Phil McDonald and Dave Munger. — JAS

Cherokee recalls Lovato

Voters in Cherokee Metropolitan District voted Tuesday to recall board president Robert Lovato and install Larry Wayne Keleher in his place. About 1,600 out of 11,000 registered voters cast ballots, with 82 percent voting to oust Lovato, who also serves on a neighboring special district's board. Cherokee serves roughly 18,000 customers in an enclave east of Powers Boulevard, where water shortages have led to rationing and rate hikes. — PZ

CSU: Let the sun shine

Responding to demand, Colorado Springs Utilities will double the funding set aside for solar energy rebates next year, from $750,000 to $1.5 million.

This year, the city-owned utility had about eight applications still on its waiting list when funding ran out. Those customers must reapply in 2011, Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman says in an e-mail. "This is because plans change, equipment availability changes, people go with different installers, people may no longer be interested, so we start over," he says.

Although systems vary, Grossman estimates the rebates cover roughly 30 percent of a system's cost, and Utilities hopes to subsidize about 70 systems (both residential and commercial) with next year's allocation. Rebates help support the Colorado Renewable Energy Standard, diversify the city's energy supply, reduce summer peak requirements, support the local renewable energy market, and demonstrate environmental stewardship, Grossman says.

Reservation request forms should be available at csu.org within the next week or so. Applications will be accepted starting Jan. 3. — PZ

Compiled by Bryce Crawford, Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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