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Noted: County still looking for bat rescuers 

Bat rescuers still sought

Video surveillance shows a young man and woman dropping off a box at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region in the wee hours of Aug. 15. They were apparently good Samaritans, trying to help an injured wild animal, in this case, a bat. But the bat had rabies, and now the mysterious do-gooders may be carrying around a fatal virus.

Rabies shows no symptoms for one week to a year as the virus travels through the nervous system and infects the brain. Once the victim shows symptoms, it's too late. Patients almost invariably die in a few days.

So the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment has been desperately looking for the young man and woman in the video — and anyone else who may have touched the rabid bat. Shots of antibodies and vaccinations are 100 percent effective at preventing rabies if administered properly before symptoms occur.

"They did nothing wrong; this is for their health," says Dr. Bernadette Albanese, medical director of the health department. "This is for their safety."

Albanese explains that if anyone touched the bat, there is a high chance they were bitten or scratched. Bats have very small, very sharp teeth, she says, and someone could be bitten by a bat and not know it. Bites can be painless and bloodless. Additionally, bat saliva could get into an existing cut and cause infection. Albanese says it's likely the couple touched the bat because the bat was delivered in a beer box with a small hole in the top — small enough that someone would have had to squeeze the bat through the hole.

If you rescued the bat or have any information about who did, the department strongly urges you to call 339-3230 or 578-3220. Victims would not be publicly identified. — JAS

City narrows ballot issues

City Council will have a special meeting Sept. 2 to decide what, if any, questions it wants to put on the Nov. 2 ballot. Council was planning to nail down the questions Tuesday but put off its decision, largely because it's unclear whether a citizens group has enough signatures to place a "strong mayor" question before voters.

Council is now considering three ballot questions. One would ask voters to keep about $600,000 in 2009 property taxes collected in excess of Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits. Currently, the city is required to refund the money to taxpayers. A second proposed question would ask taxpayers to approve a three-year timeout from TABOR revenue limits, allowing the city to keep excess revenues.

A third question would ask voters to allow 15 percent of the dedicated Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax revenue to be used for maintenance on all city parks for five years. Currently, just 6 percent of TOPS money can go to maintenance, and then only for TOPS-funded parks — which means the city's older parks can't get any TOPS money. The city asked voters the same question in April 2009, and they said no by just 51-49 percent. — JAS

Female firefighter dies

Let no one say Pam Butler was not brave. The African-American woman served in the U.S. Army in the 1980s, rising to captain and piloting helicopters. In 1988, after her honorable discharge, Butler joined the Colorado Springs firefighters. Women and blacks were both underrepresented in the department, but Butler forged her way up the ranks to battalion chief.

When she was demoted back to station chief, she fought back with a gender discrimination lawsuit that was settled out of court last November for $7,000. The lawsuit didn't sit well with many colleagues, but Fire Lt. Robert Coffey says Butler always was strong-willed. And also hardworking: After the lawsuit, she went right back to supervising Fire Station 16, in the Broadmoor Bluffs area.

"She had been on the job working and been doing fine," Coffey says. "Just her fun-loving, happy self, and then she became sick and next thing we know she's in ICU, and next thing you know she's in hospice."

Butler died Aug. 15 of a fast-growing cancer. Fire Chief Dan Raider says Butler had a brain tumor, and her death will likely be considered work-related under federal guidelines. Firefighters are known to have high rates of certain types of cancers due to exposure to chemicals in fires.

In Butler's case, death came quickly, about three weeks after she became ill.

"Pam made a difference everywhere she went and with everyone she met," Coffey says. "... She had incredible integrity and strength."

A private memorial service took place last week in Colorado Springs. Butler's funeral and burial were in New Jersey. — JAS

Dem lawmakers excel on women's issues

Most of El Paso County's legislators flunked on women's issues in the 2010 session of the Colorado Legislature, according to the legislative scorecard compiled by the Women's Lobby of Colorado.

The scorecard this year takes into account 13 bills regarding women-related issues, such as: funding the earned income tax credit for working families, ending discrimination against women in health insurance rates, mandatory coverage for maternity care and mammography tests, child care assistance eligibility and establishing a pay equity commission, among others.

Among Democrats, Rep. Dennis Apuan scored 92 percent, while Rep. Michael Merrifield and Sen. John Morse graded 91 percent, respectively.

Republican representatives didn't fare as well: Rep. Marsha Looper scored 46 percent, with Reps. Bob Gardner, Larry Liston and Amy Stephens at 39 percent. Mark Waller came in at 31 percent, and Kent Lambert mustered 23 percent. Among other state senators from this region, Mark Scheffel scored 33 percent, Keith King 25 percent, Bill Cadman 17 percent and Dave Schultheis 8 percent.

For all the results, visit coloradowomenslobby.org. — PZ

Meadowlark, Colorado?

Imagine a town that gives residents free land for homesteading, free health care and free higher education. The town operates under "true democratic principles," with residents able to elect police officers, judges and city officials.

An effort to create this place is apparently underway one hour northeast of Colorado Springs, in Elbert County. The Meadowlark Cooperative — jointly owned and managed by members for their mutual benefit — says that it's working toward incorporating Colorado's 272nd municipality: Meadowlark.

In just the first two weeks, eight 1/16th-acre units on the 60-acre parcel were sold, according to Aaron Brachfeld, vice president of the cooperative. He's initially looking for 500 residents.

"It will be a direct democracy and unique in Colorado's history," Brachfeld says. "We're building a fortress of hope to those who are quickly losing their freedoms and rights to security, speech, happiness, their right to obey their God and prosper in a free market."

Shareholders don't pay cooperative fees until their land produces income from farming or some other venture, Brachfeld says. There also are residential structures on the site, with more dwellings planned. The cooperative is leasing the land from the current owner, with the intent to buy and expand to 800 acres, he adds.

For info, e-mail meadowlarkcolorado@gmail.com or call 720/295-5275. — DK

D-11 bus rumors untrue

Perhaps you've heard a rumor that kids in Colorado Springs School District 11 must carry a student ID at all times or face being left at a bus stop. The image is terrifying: A scared 6-year-old left to wander the streets alone, all because he forgot a plastic card.

Thankfully, the rumor isn't true. D-11 director of transportation Bill Bair says middle- and high-schoolers are required to carry student ID at all times — but they won't be left at the bus stop if they forget it. (They'll just have to check in with administrators.) Bair says D-11 began requiring kids to show bus drivers an ID when non-students began jumping on buses for free rides across town, raising safety concerns.

Elementary schoolers, Bair says, are not required to carry ID, but they do have ID badges hooked to their backpacks to help teachers get kids on the right bus home, and to help kids adjust to the policy they'll have to follow when they're older. — JAS

Pueblo: We'll take the cash

Colorado Springs Utilities has agreed to Pueblo County's request for cash instead of dredging work along Fountain Creek as part of the Southern Delivery System deal.

"During the planning by SDS staff to perform this work, Pueblo County staff determined that this solution may not be practical or sustainable and asked that we consider a possible payment in lieu of the dredging and sediment removal mitigation," Utilities spokeswoman Janet Rummel says.

Although the city-owned utility could tackle the work, Pueblo County commissioners preferred to be paid $2.2 million, the actual cost of the project, which will preserve the creek levees' flood capacity in Pueblo. Commissioners want to remove a Union Pacific railroad bridge that's no longer used and sits too close to the channel, the Pueblo Chieftain reports. The bridge acts as a dam during high flows.

Rummel says the city has asked Pueblo County to outline the next step, presumably payment in full. — PZ

Compiled by Debbie Kelley, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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