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Noted: Clark down on DHS 

DHS ideas frustrate Clark

Members of the Colorado Child Welfare Action Committee traveled Monday to Pueblo as part of a "listening tour" to get feedback on controversial recommendations to create a state call center for child abuse reports and to put county Department of Human Services agencies under state control.

El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, representing both the county and the nonprofit Colorado Counties Inc., was among those who spoke against the proposals. Though she appreciated the chance to speak, she says she's frustrated.

"I just wonder where it's all going," says Clark, who wants the two proposals taken off the table. That hasn't happened yet. Gov. Bill Ritter formed the Child Welfare Action Committee last year in the wake of several high-profile deaths of Colorado children whose cases had been reported to local child protection agencies. — AL

Squeaky wheel gets contract

Lobbying seemed to pay off after Paul Kleinschmidt saw his employer's parent company, Rocky Mountain Materials and Asphalt, land the first snow-removal contract from El Paso County. That followed a push from Kleinschmidt's contractor-activist group for the city and county to outsource more work.

Taxpayers for Budget Reform, for which Kleinschmidt serves on the executive committee, has bombarded city and county officials with e-mails promoting the idea of turning street work, construction jobs and snow removal over to private contractors. Now, Rocky Mountain Materials and Asphalt, which owns Kleinschmidt's employer, Rocky Mountain Premix, will plow snow in Cimarron Hills this winter. Rocky Mountain bid $86 per hour; the only other bidder, ASAP Companies, bid $124.50.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" Kleinschmidt says.

Not done with his criticism of government, Kleinschmidt says the bid period was too short. It ended Nov. 15, after only a few weeks, making it tough for the other 12 companies who showed up at the pre-bid meeting to put together proposals.

"We asked for more lead time," he says. "Most people set up [snow removal] contracts in the springtime."

As for critics who think it unfair for a company associated with Kleinschmidt to prevail, he says, "There's not a conflict there. ... Anyone can bid the project." — PZ

A soldiers' retreat?

Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group wants to acquire the 290-acre former McAfee Estate in Teller County and turn it into a reintegration center for soldiers returning from war with post-traumatic stress disorder and other maladies. The nonprofit is offering media tours in hopes of stirring support for raising $4 million to buy it.

That would be a bargain; anti-virus software developer John McAfee pumped $25 million into the property, now owned by First American State Bank following foreclosure. The acreage includes a 10,600-square-foot house, three guest houses, two apartments, nine cabins, a yoga studio, an entertainment center, four trout ponds, two streams, a horse paddock and mountain views. Debi Boucher, a Teller County realtor, describes the property by saying, "OMG."

PPBHG is trying to convince legislators and the Department of Veterans Affairs to fund programs and services for the center, which the agency wants to run but not own, spokesman Kevin Porter says.

Equally uncertain are operational costs, he says, but PPBHG is pinning hopes on landing ample grants, federal money and donations. If the land ends up in a nonprofit's hands, $42,708 a year in property tax money now shared by Teller County, Woodland Park School District, the library and Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District, among others, would evaporate. — PZ

UCCS replacing FAC Modern

The FAC Modern, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's downtown satellite off the Plaza of the Rockies' South Tower lobby, will soon turn into the UCCS Gallery of Contemporary Art 121, or GOCA 121. The FAC's final exhibit, Lasting Legacy: A Selection of Recent Gifts to the Fine Arts Center's Permanent Collection, closed Nov. 13.

Nor'wood Development Group will provide the space at no charge to the university, and GOCA interim director Caitlin Green says she'll have her first show, tentatively planned to be a tri-artist installation grouping, up on Feb. 5.

"I'd like to do some very experimental projects downtown that create an interesting and hopefully innovative dialogue with the arts and campus community," says Green.

Green says renovations to the UCCS science building will be done in March or April, allowing the re-branded GOCA 1420 to return to campus as well. AWOL: Art Without Limits, a series of art events in unique outdoor spaces that the gallery launched while effectively homeless, will continue into next summer. — MS

Save our city. Really

Attention, Springs residents: City Councilor Darryl Glenn wants to give you yet another chance to save our city. You've whacked tax proposal after tax proposal. You just passed Issue 300, which will further cripple city finances. But that doesn't mean you want to let parks die, community centers close, and buses sit idle, right? Right?

Glenn thinks you don't. He thinks you're willing to pay, so long as you get to do it your way. The optimistic Councilor just launched the My Community Investment Campaign, accepting donations from anybody and everybody interested in restoring some city services. Best of all, Glenn notes, the campaign will allow you to dedicate your donation to anything you like, such as bringing back evening bus service or reopening a community center.

"I look at this as an economic development opportunity," Glenn says.

The idea isn't that simple. What if you donate $20 to keep Hillside Community Center open? Four other people do the same. That's a whopping $100. Not enough to keep Hillside open. Where does your money go then? Glenn says in such cases a committee will decide how to spend your money, trying to be loyal to your "intent."

Donations can be made to the Pikes Peak Community Foundation in care of My Community Investment Campaign. Online donations are being accepted at ppcf.org/page.asp?id=58&catid=15&prodid=63. — JAS

City schleps toward recovery

The brainiacs at the UCCS College of Business and Administration have proclaimed the worst is over with the release of senior economist Fred Crowley's Quarterly Updates and Estimates this week. It proudly notes the April 2009 report showed the local economy bottomed out in the fourth quarter of 2008, and that the initial trend in this year's first quarter appeared to suggest a recovery was beginning to emerge. Now, the report says, the Business Conditions Index stands at 81.3, much higher than the February 2009 low of 68.4, which means Crowley was right. The BCI should remain in the high 70s to mid-80s through the first quarter of 2010, he predicts.

Except for sales tax collections in Colorado Springs, all other BCI components should show "good growth" in 2010, with the strongest gains in single family and town home building permits. Employment and income gains are forecast to pick up by the second and third quarters of 2010, while retail sales are expected to increase "slightly" in Colorado Springs.

All good to hear, though it won't sway business owners who keep closing shop, the 7.5 percent of the local workers who are unemployed, and countless other local residents struggling to keep their heads above water. — PZ

New leader of the pack

After 17 years of service, Dr. Wes Metzler, CEO of the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region, is calling it quits.

The Humane Society recently named the retiring Metzler's successor: Jan McHugh-Smith, president of San Francisco SPCA. McHugh-Smith was able to increase adoptions at the California shelter 20 percent during her tenure there, while overseeing the construction of a veterinary hospital, spay/neuter clinic and shelter medicine program. McHugh-Smith starts in mid-April. — JAS

Bennet goes for broke

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet promised on a Sunday morning talk show to back healthcare reform even if "every piece of evidence" indicates his vote will cost him his job, prompting pundits across the political spectrum to cast him in terms ranging from heroic to sheep-like.

The new senator's moment in the spin came Nov. 22 on CNN's State of the Union when host John King asked if he would make that potentially career-changing vote. Without hesitation, Bennet said "yes."

Republicans panned Bennet for simply lining up behind President Barack Obama, and threatened that the answer could hurt come election day in 2010, when the appointed senator has to go before voters for the first time.

But the remark starts looking pragmatic more than anything else when you consider that the first group to decide Bennet's political future will Democratic primary voters, who are expected to face the choice between him and former Colorado House speaker Andrew Romanoff. — AL

City's plan for Stormwater

After presentations and a long discussion Monday, the Colorado Springs City Council decided to phase out the Stormwater Enterprise over two years and continue to pursue homeowners' delinquent Stormwater payments.

Council had considered various ways to respond to the passage of anti-taxer Douglas Bruce's Issue 300. Depending upon interpretation, 300 may have required the immediate termination of Stormwater; a phase-out of fees over an eight-year period; or it may have had no effect on the enterprise. Bruce says the measure was intended to end Stormwater immediately.

While most City Councilors maintain that 300 has no legal effect on Stormwater, all agreed it was the voters' will to terminate the enterprise. It was just a matter of when. After much discussion, a 5-4 majority — Mayor Lionel Rivera, Vice Mayor Larry Small and Councilors Scott Hente, Bernie Herpin and Sean Paige — voted to phase out the enterprise over two years. Councilors Darryl Glenn, Randy Purvis, Jan Martin and Tom Gallagher wanted to terminate the enterprise when 300 goes into effect, on Jan. 1.

A majority said the city should not ask the county treasurer to put delinquent stormwater fees on city tax bills, in part because the county strongly opposed doing so. Instead, the city will continue attempting to collect fees. — JAS

Firefighters win contest

Sixteen Air Force Academy firefighters teamed with two Colorado Springs firefighters to compete in the World Firefighter Combat Challenge XVIII in Las Vegas earlier this month, and together they brought home three gold medals and two silvers. The team captured gold in the ladies relay, ladies tandem and over-40 relay; the men's relay and over-40 tandem duos brought home silver.

Among the winners were Air Force Academy Fire Department Airman 1st Class Jessica Morehouse and Colorado Springs firefighter Stacey Billapando, who shattered their own world record and swept the ladies tandem team event.

"I'm so excited. It was a clean, seamless run and everything went right for us," Morehouse stated in a release. The team raced against firefighters from around the world in events that include a five-story tower climb, dragging hoses and rescuing a life-sized 175-pound "victim." Participants wear full bunker gear, including air-breathing apparatus throughout the competition.

Billapando also combined with firefighter Brandon Cunningham, who's not from the local area, to take first place in the coed tandem category. That gave her three golds in this year's competition. — PZ

Purvis elected to NLC

City Councilor Randy Purvis was one of 23 new members elected to the National League of Cities board of directors earlier this month. The honor was almost short-lived; City Council nearly axed its NLC membership to save money, but eventually spared it. Memberships to the NLC and other organizations, such as Sister Cities, cost the city well over $100,000 a year.

The NLC advocates on behalf of 19,000 cities, towns and villages across the U.S., and members of the organization often share ideas and methods for bettering their hometowns. — JAS

Two local Rhodes Scholars

Air Force Academy senior cadet Brittany Morreale, of Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., has snagged one of 32 Rhodes Scholarships awarded in the United States for 2010. A senior majoring in physics, Morreale is a linguist who will receive a minor in Japanese. She also plays viola in the Academy Orchestra Club and received the Outstanding Cadet in Cross Country Award last year.

After graduation in May, she'll attend Oxford University in England for two years and earn a master's degree in physics. She'll then attend undergraduate pilot training in the United States, with plans to become an Air Force pilot.

The Rhodes Scholarship, the oldest and best-known award for international study, was created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, British philanthropist and African colonial pioneer. Applicants are chosen based on academic achievement, character, a spirit of selflessness, respect for others, leadership potential and physical fitness. Morreale is the Academy's 36th Rhodes Scholarship recipient.

William D. Gohl, a Colorado Springs native who attends Regis University in Denver, also was named a Rhodes Scholar.

A Saint Mary's High School graduate, the Regis senior is majoring in English and politics, with minors in business administration and Spanish. He is active in Regis University Ministry, is the university student body president, has worked in the U.S. Attorney's office, and has counseled victims of domestic violence. Gohl intends to study the English language and literature at Oxford. Regis is a Catholic Jesuit school that caters largely to adults returning to school to seek degrees. — PZ

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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