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Noted: Council discusses streetlight 'favoritism' 

Streetlight favoritism?

At their informal meeting Monday, several City Councilors expressed concerns that the darkening of about 8,000 streetlights — a budget-trimming measure — was not affecting all neighborhoods evenly. City staff admitted that streetlights in parts of the Old North End and Broadmoor areas had been spared on the assumption that costs were being covered by citizens.

That's not the case, and staff says some lights in those areas will be switched off next week unless citizens foot the bill. Lights along a small section of West Colorado Avenue in the Old Colorado City area will be left on due to crime concerns.

After the staff presentation, some Councilors asked for a breakdown of how many lights were shut off in each Council district. Councilor Sean Paige went further, wondering aloud whether staff only decided to darken the Old North End after being caught in an act of favoritism.

He cited an e-mail from Jim Thomas, Colorado Springs Utilities field engineering supervisor, noting that North End residents were paying for new ornamental light poles to replace the less attractive ones used throughout town. Thomas went on to write, "We hoped to protect the Utility and the City Council by not turning off these lights while the homeowners are still paying for them on their taxes."

That logic concerned Paige, who said, "It just seems to me from this e-mail that it was a conscious choice and not an oversight." — JAS

Water rates going up

Colorado Springs Utilities submitted a proposal this week to raise water rates by 12 percent in 2010 and 2011, following a schedule to increase rates annually through 2016 to fund the $1.2 billion Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir.

The two-year commitment is necessary, Utilities officials say, to assure bond investors and rating agencies that funding will be available to repay bonds sold to build the line. Utilities plans to issue $300 million in bonds this year, expecting to save $3 million to $19 million by snagging a lower interest rate than is forecast for coming years.

The rate increase will drive a typical residential water bill, now $36.82 a month on average, to $41.32 in 2011 and $46.27 in 2012. Roughly 22 percent of revenue generated by the rate hike will pay to maintain the existing system. City Council will take up the rate increase May 11. — PZ

Damron out of clerk race

El Paso County Treasurer Sandra Damron won't try to petition onto the August primary ballot in the clerk and recorder race.

Damron received about 20 percent of the vote at the county Republican assembly earlier this month, short of the 30 percent that would have guaranteed her a spot on the ballot. Only County Commissioner Wayne Williams got enough to advance to the ballot.

"After much thought and discussion with my family, friends and supporters, I have made the decision to not petition on to the ballot, and thus to end my campaign for El Paso County Clerk and Recorder," Damron said in a statement Wednesday.

What's next for Damron after she leaves office under term limits in December?

"Find a job," she says.

Asked if she would support Williams, she says, "Well, yeah. He's a Republican."

Public Trustee Tom Mowle is seeking the post on the Democratic ticket. — PZ

City reaches out to homeless

City Council has agreed to help fund a homeless program that puts individuals in local motels and requires them to look for a job.

Councilors gave informal consent Monday to spending $50,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant funds on the program, administered by Homeward Pikes Peak Executive Director Bob Holmes. Councilors did not want to spend general fund dollars, but were convinced to spend the CDBG money, which can only be used for certain purposes.

Staff explained the city had received $200,000 more than budgeted for CDBG funding. Of that, only $50,000 was for social services such as the homeless program. Additionally, no CDBG money can be used to pay for something previously funded by the general fund. So the money could not pay police or firefighters, turn on streetlights, restore bus service, water grass in parks or fund community centers.

Staff will secure the money for the homeless program — based out of Express Inn on Cimarron Street. Holmes hopes to raise another $100,000 from other sources, including El Paso County, allowing the program to continue through October. — JAS

D-11's Wasilla link

Former Colorado Springs School District 11 superintendent Kenneth Burnley has been hired as superintendent of Mat-Su schools in Alaska, according to the Frontiersman newspaper in Wasilla, home of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Burnley ran the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District before coming to Colorado Springs and D-11 in the late 1980s, and in 1993 was named national superintendent of the year by the American Association of School Administrators. In 2000, he left here to become superintendent of Detroit public schools. Five years later, he went to the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor as a senior fellow.

According to its website, Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District is about 35 miles north of Anchorage and, with approximately 16,470 students, is Alaska's second-largest school district. — PZ

Visitors bureau leader to retire

Terry Sullivan, who for two decades has led Experience Colorado Springs at Pikes Peak, the local convention and visitors bureau, announced this week he will retire at the end of the year. According to Susan Edmondson, CVB board chair, a search team has been formed to seek a replacement.

"I have the utmost confidence that this committee will find a stellar leader to continue the trend of excellence Mr. Sullivan has established in his tenure at the CVB," Edmondson said in a news release.

Sullivan says he wants to spend more time with family, and his decision is not related to drastic cuts the city made this year to the bureau. The city, however, has lost many high-placed employees after budget cutbacks.

Among the departures: Trails, Open Space and Parks manager Chris Lieber, Parks and Recreation director Paul Butcher, aquatics supervisor Clay Shuck, geographic information systems administrator Scott Thompson-Buchanan, senior planner Tim Scanlon, economic development manager Elena Nuñez, deputy police chief Ron Gibson, accounting and payroll manager Vicki Phillips, Comprehensive Planning Division manager Ira Joseph, Mountain Metropolitan Transit manager Sherre Ritenour, and Pioneers Museum program coordinator Carol Kennis Lopez. — JAS

Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Also: Water rates rising, Damron out of clerk race, d-11's Wasilla link and more.

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