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Noted: County administration considers staying downtown 

'Getting out of Dodge'

El Paso County commissioners agreed this week to consider proposals that would keep them downtown, along with county administration, rather than move them to the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department building at 2880 International Circle.

Deputy County Administrator Monnie Gore admitted the Regional Building facility's "designs haven't been done or 'costed' by contractors," meaning the county doesn't know the price of an addition. Gore ballparked it at $1 million to $1.25 million.

Commissioners gave Downtown Partnership executive director Ron Butlin one week to come up with alternatives for the group's Dec. 21 meeting. Butlin said that would be no problem. Two rumored possibilities are a building at 15 N. Nevada Ave., and Plaza of the Rockies at Tejon Street and Colorado Avenue. But commissioners made it clear they're in a hurry, because Sheriff Terry Maketa and the coroner, who are expecting to move into the current County Office Building, "are depending on us getting out of Dodge," in Commissioner Sallie Clark's words.

Commissioner Amy Lathen says commissioners want to work out a long-term plan to co-locate county and city offices, but won't open discussions until next year, after Colorado Springs voters elect a new mayor and City Council members. Meanwhile, the county will spend about $55 million on facilities, including purchase and remodeling of the former Intel building on Garden of the Gods Road, remodels of Centennial Hall and the administration building, and some solution for commissioners. Given that, it's unclear what offices would be relocated, and at what expense, in any cooperative deal with the city. — PZ

Cliff House 2, déjá vu

Manitou Springs City Council showed a little holiday spirit toward the Cliff House at Pikes Peak on Dec. 7, extending an approval of the hotel's major expansion development by six months.

The approval means that the project — the largest in recent Manitou history — could have another shot, though several other approvals are necessary before construction can start. The Manitou Springs Historic Preservation Commission must give its blessing again (hardly a sure thing, given a changing of the guard and new regulations), and a traffic study must be performed in summer 2011 to ensure the project still meets guidelines.

The Cliff House could have avoided all the headaches by signing the development agreement Council approved over a year ago. That agreement would have given the Cliff House five years to complete the project without further bureaucratic headaches. For unknown reasons, the Cliff House did not sign that agreement in the allotted time, thus subjecting itself to this new process.

The expansion would incorporate new construction and a remodel of the historic Wheeler House, adding a ballroom, an indoor pool, meeting spaces and 79 hotel rooms to Manitou's premier hotel. — JAS

Voters get a shot at Memorial

City Council this week formally endorsed asking voters to weigh in on a proposal to convert city-owned Memorial Health System to an independent nonprofit.

A panel of Council members and Memorial board members were to begin working out details of an April 5 election ballot measure on Wednesday. A majority of Council support demanding some kind of annual payment if Memorial becomes a nonprofit, but an amount hasn't been settled upon.

Meantime, Memorial came clean that it spent $16,500 on Gazette ads promoting the nonprofit idea and another $95,000 on media consultants. Some on Council expressed disapproval of the expenses. — PZ

Agencies need donations

With Christmas fast approaching, Springs Rescue Mission will put on two events and give hundreds of boxes of food to needy families. Chief operations officer Lyn Harwell expects as many as 10,000 people will seek help this holiday season from his nonprofit.

"Times are still tough out there, and we see the great need every day," Harwell says. "We have to be ready to serve as many people as we can in the next few weeks. We need a lot of food, and we need help accumulating it."

So far, however, SRM is short of its goal. Most-needed items: frozen turkeys, boxed stuffing, boxed mashed potatoes, canned green beans, canned corn, canned cranberry sauce, canned gravy, cold-weather coats, bicycles, unwrapped toys for boys, hygiene products and cold-weather socks.

SRM isn't alone looking for donations. The Bob Tellmosse Giveaway, Christmas Unlimited and Feed the Children have also said they need unwrapped toys for boys and children's bikes. Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado, which provides food to most area pantries and soup kitchens, is heavily reliant on holiday food gifts. It most needs canned fruit, canned vegetables, soup, canned meat and tuna, peanut butter, cereal and oatmeal.

Sam Edwards of Catholic Charities of Colorado Springs (which runs the Marian House Soup Kitchen) says his organization is also hoping for a flood of donations. Much-needed items include large canned goods, coffee, frozen hams, rice, pasta, spices, men's boots, shoes, socks, long underwear, men's pants (particularly waist sizes 30 to 36), jackets (particularly XL), hats, gloves, mittens, gently used kids and baby clothes, diapers, baby formula and baby food. Oh, and money, Edwards adds. Marian House makes 220,000 meals a year on a $25,000 budget.

"Put us on your monthly calendar [for donations]," Edwards pleads, "not just your Christmas calendar." — JAS

FutureSelf finds leader

FutureSelf, a Colorado Springs nonprofit dedicated to helping youth through arts education, has hired Abby Laine Sienkiewicz as executive director. Sienkiewicz most recently worked at the La Foret Conference and Retreat Center, where she helped implement the MeadowGrass Music Festival.

"As a local nonprofit serving the youth of Colorado Springs and El Paso County, FutureSelf required a combination of vision, creativity and compassion in its leader," Kellie Whitney, the organization's board chair, stated in a press release. "Abby has this combination in addition to abundant enthusiasm. Her experience and commitment to youth will be valued assets in our effort to inspire positive youth self-transformation through the arts."

FutureSelf is housed next to, and in a building owned by, the Independent. — JAS

Chamber honors four

Four awards recognizing leadership and entrepreneurship were bestowed by the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce this week during the State of the Region luncheon at the Antlers Hilton downtown.

Terry Sullivan, the soon-to-retire CEO of the Springs' convention and visitors bureau, received a special recognition award for promoting the region.

Jerry Biggs, owner of Calx Real Estate, was honored as community leader of the year, while El Paso County public information officer Dave Rose took the prize for leadership in the public sector.

John and Cindy Hooton, owners of Stargazers Theatre and Event Center, were given the "American Dream Award" in honor of their hard work and enthusiasm for the community. — PZ

Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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