City will develop regulations by May
After a half-hour hearing Wednesday afternoon, City Council adopted an ordinance placing a moratorium on applications for drilling within the city limits. The ordinance is aimed at Ultra Resources, a division of Houston-based Ultra Petroleum, which wants to drill on 18,000 acres it recently purchased on the city's east side, commonly called the Banning Lewis Ranch.
Council also agreed to create a council task force to study and propose drilling regulations within the six-month moratorium, which ends May 31, 2012.
Andrew Casper, an attorney with the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, was the only person who spoke against the moratorium, urging the city to work within the state regulatory process, overseen by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, to protect water supplies and other resources.
About a half-dozen residents voiced support for the hiatus, including Mary Talbott. "Six months will not make a huge difference in the oil and gas industry," Talbott said. "The fact that you take the time to develop a coherent set of rules that protect our ... environment and long-term prosperity is very important."
Other residents expressed concerns about groundwater contamination, air pollution and a heavy industrial activity that could discourage the area's prime economic driver — tourism.
The vote was 8-0 in favor of the moratorium, with Councilman Bernie Herpin absent. After the meeting, Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin said the ordinance was necessary, even though Mayor Steve Bach on Monday declared a freeze on the city staff accepting or processing any filings for oil and gas drilling.
In a statement provided by the city, Bach said: “I have directed the City staff to temporarily suspend the review, process, or approval of permits or applications related to oil and gas operations in the City limits for six months so that our community will have sufficient time to thoughtfully consider appropriate oversight on this type of activity. I look forward to working with Council on how we can best serve the interests of our City on working with and overseeing oil and gas activities in this area, in terms of economic activity, environmental protection, and beneficial land use. Oil and gas operations, done properly, can bring needed jobs and economic benefits to our community, while still complying with appropriate safeguards to protect our water, our environment, and our quality of life.” — PZ
Maps create local races
Republicans cried foul Tuesday after the Colorado Reapportionment Committee approved revised maps for state House and Senate districts. The new maps, if affirmed, will pit several current officeholders against one another; locally, House Majority Leader Amy Stephens of Monument will wind up in the same district as Rep. Marsha Looper of Calhan, and Sen. Bill Cadman will be in the same district as Sen. Keith King.
The committee responded after the Colorado Supreme Court rejected its earlier proposal, saying the maps held too little respect for county lines. Revisions were offered by both parties, and the committee voted 6-5 for the Democrats' version, with the group's nonpartisan member deciding the outcome. — CH
Gov. John Hickenlooper was treated to a show of angst Tuesday when he visited the Springs for the SunShare community solar garden unveiling at Venetucci Farm. As the governor took the podium, nearly 20 protesters with Occupy Colorado Springs alerted him and spectators to the "financial coup" orchestrated by the federal government, Wall Street and the Federal Reserve "that threatens our democratic republic."
"Why will Hickenlooper allow his police to beat, pepper-spray and arrest hundreds of protesters?" they shouted.
"Come on, get your facts right — those aren't my police," Hickenlooper retorted. "I control the state troopers. For goodness sakes, get your facts right.
"There are an awful lot of people who don't disagree with you that Wall Street got out with a slap on the wrist," he continued, "and they took the risks that caused this recession. We don't disagree with that, but let's get more constructive." — CH
Mann principal dies in fall
Scott Stanec, Mann Middle School principal and a key figure in the child sexual molestation case involving former police officer Joshua Carrier, died last weekend in a fall in Switzerland, according to a statement from Colorado Springs School District 11. D-11 spokeswoman Devra Ashby says Stanec fell while on a solo hike, with details sketchy.
Stanec took a leave of absence in September to accompany his wife Kris, a Colorado College instructor, on a teaching program in Switzerland. He reportedly was to return here next week.
Stanec was facing questions of whether Carrier, a school resource officer and school volunteer, was given too much latitude in dealing with kids at Mann from 2009 to 2011. Carrier is charged with 189 counts of child molestation stemming from his activities at the school. — PZ
County to watch over city?
El Paso County would assume a watchful eye over city of Colorado Springs facilities under an agreement on Thursday's county commission agenda.
For $555,000 a year starting Jan. 1, the county would respond to intrusion alarms, conduct random patrols, and provide guards for certain city buildings and sites. The City Administration Building at 30 S. Nevada Ave., would have guards, while other facilities, such as the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum, community centers, Sertich Ice Center and city-owned golf courses would have responses and random patrols.
The deal is part of efforts to avoid duplication of services. No word on whether it would mean city layoffs. — PZ
'Free Markets, Free People'
For weeks, Occupy Denver protesters have marched and held rallies in front of the Capitol building. From 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, "grassroots activists and advocates for free markets and liberty throughout Colorado will be amassing ... in what is being billed as a counter-demonstration to Occupy Wall Street," reads a release. "The Free Markets, Free People Rally will demonstrate citizens' support for the nation's founding principles."
The rally is being "spearheaded" by state Sen. Shawn Mitchell, and helped by local activists such as Elliot Fladen, a prosecutor in the Colorado Springs city attorney's office. — CH
County officials reviewed
On Thursday, Dec. 1, El Paso County commissioners will likely extend the contract of County Administrator Jeff Greene by a year and give him a 3-percent raise, same as other county staff. His current pay is $137,000.
County Attorney Bill Louis will have his contract reviewed no later than Dec. 22, according to an agenda item due for approval today. Paid $132,116 a year, Louis recently caused a controversy over the county's purchase of a building on Arrowswest Drive. A district attorney inquiry about possible bribes was triggered by Louis' interpretation of comments by a contractor's attorney. No investigation ensued, but commissioners "counseled" Louis for e-mailing all commissioners rather than his two liaison commissioners. — PZ
Proposals on parade
Five proposals for leasing city-owned Memorial Health System will be trotted out during a public meeting from 1 to 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, in City Council Chambers at 107 N. Nevada Ave. The schedule: 1-2 p.m., Centura Health; 2:15-3:15, University of Colorado Health System; 3:30-4:30, Memorial Health System; 4:45-5:45, HCA/HealthONE; 6-7, Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System.
You can watch live on SpringsTV, Comcast Channel 18 or springsgov.com. You can also call questions into 385-5961, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. A task force will consider the bids, and its four Council members will vote with their colleagues on a recommendation later this month. — PZ
Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.