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Noted: County offices on the move 

County offices moving north

Saying the county needs newer work space, El Paso County commissioners plan to vote Tuesday to use a lease purchase agreement to acquire a portion of the Intel spread on Garden of the Gods Road.

The county would borrow $25 million via the Build America Bonds program, county spokesman Dave Rose says, and repay much of it from lease payments charged to county-associated agencies, such as the Pikes Peak Workforce Center, which is entirely state- and federally funded.

County offices that would move to the property, consisting of a three-story office building, 1,000-space parking garage and wastewater treatment facility, include: the Treasurer's Office, Assessor's Office, Clerk and Recorder's Office, Department of Health and Environment, and Department of Human Services.

Backfilling the vacated County Administration Building at 27 E. Vermijo Ave., will be the Sheriff's Office, which has several locations. The Board of County Commissioners will move from the county building to the clerk and recorder's haunt at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., along with budget and finance, County Administrator Jeff Greene's office, public information officers and the county attorney.

The county also would spend another $10 million to remodel the new office space.

"I haven't been fully briefed on it," Commissioner Jim Bensberg said Wednesday from a meeting in Eagle County. "I knew this was coming, but I didn't know all the pieces that were involved until [Tuesday and Wednesday]. The space that's been identified is apparently very attractive both in terms of its usability and price."

Rose says if the plan is approved next week, the exodus from downtown's core would begin in September. Individual commissioners have held town hall meetings about the move, and county officials have met with downtown leaders.

"At this point, we have had no voiced opposition," Rose says.

County officials say the DHS and Health Department buildings are in bad shape. Proceeds from their sales would help repay the loan.

Rose says there's little concern that residents would be inconvenienced, because, for example, 92 percent of DHS clients arrive by car, suggesting they could find their way to the northwest part of town easily enough. — PZ

Another camping ban in effect

If you're homeless and looking for a place to camp, now would be a good time to get the hell out of Dodge.

The camping ban on county lands went into effect June 1, and with camping also illegal in Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, there is no place to legally throw down a tent on public property within reasonable walking distance of downtown's Marian House Soup Kitchen.

The El Paso County Board of Commissioners approved a no-camping ordinance in April, but allowed a grace period before beginning enforcement. The law was passed in response to concerns that homeless campers who were kicked off city land earlier this year would simply pop up "living accommodations" on pockets of county land close to downtown. It was meant to mirror the city's ordinance.

The county says the ordinance will be enforced with compassion, and that it is working with local charities to find alternate housing for displaced campers. — JAS

Median grass meets its maker

City Council said it wouldn't happen, but it's happening all the same.

The city is mowing its medians. Turns out, all those spring rains caused the grass in medians to grow so tall that it violated the city's own ordinances and was considered a fire danger. So the city is currently hacking the grass, though it likely won't do it again this summer.

In the future, those who want to have their medians mowed can sign up to pay for it to be done. The city unveils its "Adopt a Median" program in early June. — JAS

Negotiations off to rocky start

The Bureau of Reclamation recently quoted Colorado Springs Utilities a price for storage of the city's water at Pueblo Reservoir that's triple what the city wants to pay and triple what the Pueblo Board of Water Works pays.

So at a meeting slated for 9 a.m. on June 15 at Colorado College's Armstrong Hall (14 E. Cache la Poudre St.), the Bureau shouldn't expect the city to jump on board.

"We've asked for their analysis for how they came up with the number," Utilities Southern Delivery System manager John Fredell says. "Our overriding interest is supply for our community for a reasonable cost. We've got to get what's fair and equitable. We're an in-district municipal supplier, and we should be treated like the rest of the in-district municipal suppliers."

Or more kindly, considering that Colorado Springs and its partners in the SDS pipeline project account for more than 70 percent of the property taxes used to fund construction, operation and maintenance of the Fryingpan-Arkansas project that built the reservoir in the 1960s.

The city wants to pay $17 per acre foot to store its 28,000 acre feet of water. It wants to pay nothing to convey water through the reservoir, because the city is paying to build new plumbing at the dam to deliver water into the pipeline and will deed the new plumbing to the Bureau, Fredell says. The Bureau wants the city to pay $50 per acre foot for storage and $50 per acre foot for conveyance. It also wants the city to pay $50 per acre foot for exchange rights. The price difference would cost millions over the decades-long agreement.

Negotiations got under way after the city acquired all permits necessary for the project, including one from the state and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. — PZ

Rail spur report finished

June 19 is the deadline for public comment on an Environmental Assessment of Fort Carson's plan to build a rail spur past Stratmoor Hills and to construct a new pedestrian bridge crossing along B Street north of Academy Boulevard.

The assessment and National Environmental Policy Act documents are available at carson.army.mil/RR_Improvements.html. They're also housed at the Penrose Public Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave.; Fountain Library, 230 S. Main St., Fountain; Fort Carson Grant Library, Building 1528 on Flint Street, Fort Carson; Stratmoor Hills Fire Station, 2160 B St.; Stratmoor Hills Elementary School, 200 Loomis Ave.; and Colorado Springs Stratmoor Hills Water District, 1811 B. St. — PZ

'Whop, Whop' update

The latest from Bill Sulzman, who's heading a grassroots effort to oppose a helicopter unit coming to Fort Carson, is an allegation that the post went ahead with construction of barracks to prepare for an infantry brigade after officials knew the brigade wasn't coming.

This, he says, was done despite a protest from the National Environmental Policy Act staff at Fort Carson. More is at csaction.org, including photos of the buildings, near Butts Field. "The barracks appear to be vacant," he says.

Col. Robert McLaughlin says after the brigade didn't materialize, the House Armed Services Committee allowed construction to continue for a new 4th Brigade Combat Team headquarters, to include motorpool buildings; those are the buildings, he says, that Sulzman thinks are barracks. The former 4th Brigade facilities on post will be used for other functions, McLaughlin says. Dee McNutt, a Carson spokesperson, says the post wants Sulzman to tour Carson.

Sulzman's group opposing the helicopter unit, dubbed "Stop the Whop, Whop," wants volunteers to help research the Environmental Impact Statement for the Combat Aviation Brigade, which can be found at aec.army.mil/usaec/nepa/carson-feis_feb09.pdf. He called the EIS "extremely sketchy and incomplete."

He also invites volunteers to help research the military impact on local social services and to analyze economic data contained in a Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments study that found growth at Fort Carson is good for the local economy.

He said his group's last meeting drew 15 to 20 people: "As people hear more, they certainly have more questions." — PZ

Colorado eyes federal cash

The strapped state government is crossing its fingers that the feds will hand over millions to help fund the Colorado public education system.

The state of Colorado has applied for Race to the Top Phase 2 federal funds. Colorado is eligible for up to $175 million under the grant program, and should find out in early September whether it's been awarded any money. Race to the Top awards states money if they are deemed to be making reforms that will help more kids succeed in public schools.

In the first phase of Race to the Top, which announced winners in March, only Delaware and Tennessee were given funding, receiving a combined total of about $600 million.

But Colorado Commissioner of Education Dwight Jones sounds optimistic about the state's chances this time around.

"We went back to the drawing board for our second application, but we didn't wipe the slate clean," he states in a press release. "We sharpened and focused our plans and worked to be more clear about our intentions for how the resources will be used. But our core plan remains intact — to improve the performance of all schools, for all students."

The Colorado Legislature recently passed a bill that will change teacher tenure laws, and base teacher evaluations partially on student performance data. It's no secret that lawmakers and other interested parties are hopeful the changes will attract Race to the Top funds. — JAS

Seniors need your help

You'd think that since summer is the season of dieting, it would also be a great opportunity to donate food to people who need it. However, according to Silver Key Senior Services, donations typically slow to a trickle during the summer months.

The organization reports that peanut butter, canned fruits and vegetables, as well as personal hygiene products are running low. And it relies solely on the community for support as it focuses on "independence, dignity and quality of life for older adults in El Paso County."

Donations can be dropped off at 2250 Bott Ave. from Tuesday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information on donating or volunteering, check out silverkey.org. — SW

Brothers and sisters growing up

After 11 years, April Speake is stepping down as the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters-Pikes Peak. However, according to a press release, she is leaving the organization "in very capable hands, with Danielle [Summerville's] appointment."

Summerville has worked with the organization for nine years in various positions, starting as a school coordinator and, most recently, as manager of fund development, where she's credited with having helped Big Brothers meet and increase annual fundraising goals. She says she plans on continuing Speake's programs for children of deployed parents, and also wants to continue working hard to get the organization's name, mission and needs out to the community. She especially wants more men to be big brothers.

For more information on Big Brothers Big Sisters-Pikes Peak, visit bebigpikespeak.org. — SW

Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley, Sarah White and Pam Zubeck.

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