Busy week in Cripple Creek
A week after Cripple Creek's new 24/7 gambling laws, higher betting limits and new games went into effect, Mayor Dan Baader is elated but worn out from all the late nights and big crowds: "The town has been at full capacity all week."
After the state's voters approved Amendment 50 in 2008 to make the revisions legal, Cripple Creek joined Black Hawk and Central City in embracing the expansion. Tuesday, June 30, there was a countdown to midnight, New Year's Eve-style, to ring in the official start of the gaming changes.
In the first few days, Baader says, he saw more out-of-towners in Cripple Creek than ever before. Although no exact numbers have been reported yet, Baader and Mike Chaput, general manager at Bronco Billy's Casino, are in high spirits about the holiday weekend.
"All the hard work and preparation has paid off," Baader gushes, though he says the town will have to "wait and see" whether crowds will continue to flock to the craps and roulette tables come winter. — VL
Senator does the math on Palin
MySpace is dead, Facebook draws more grandparents than teens, and Twitter is now becoming the preferred mouthpiece for the likes of Ted Haggard, Sarah Palin and our own Republican state Sen. Dave Schultheis.
Taking a break from twit-casting his anxieties about gays using public bathrooms, or about Muslim footbaths in a Greeley meatpacking plant, Schultheis ran the numbers on Caribou Barbie's presidential prospects in a July 3 tweet: "Is Sarah Palin's resignation establishing her as a 2010 contender?"
Unlike Schultheis, most Palin promoters understand that we won't have a new president until at least 2012. Unless, of course, Republican politicians — who have, after all, been voicing support for the military coup in Honduras — possess some insider knowledge of a special election the rest of us don't know about. The senator did not return calls from the Independent. — BF
Oops! Sorry about that hep C!
There was certainly one best reason for Audubon Ambulatory Surgery Center in Colorado Springs to pass on hiring Kristen Diane Parker. But there were other perfectly good reasons for setting fire to her résumé.
Parker, arrested after an investigation revealed she may have infected thousands of surgery patients in Denver and Colorado Springs with hepatitis C, did not exactly have a stellar track record. Audubon might have discovered this by calling Parker's former employer, Rose Medical Center: Rose eventually fired Parker for testing positive for drugs. (There's your best reason.) Her supervisors had been keeping an eye on her after she jabbed a co-worker with a needle she was suspiciously storing in her pocket.
Any employer also might have done what many of us might do before meeting someone: Google her. Check a few social networking sites. Parker has a MySpace page, after all. If employers had looked, they might have decided she wasn't the right employee for them. Perhaps the boob shots would've turned them off. Maybe her declaration of love for needles. Maybe the shot of her in her undies. Who knows?
It's too late now. Parker, who has hepatitis C, had been exchanging her dirty needles with saline solution for patients' syringes filled with Fentanyl, a narcotic. Rose and Audubon patients are already turning up positive for the disease which, in some chronic cases, can lead to scarring of the liver, liver cancer or liver failure. Patients who may have been exposed are receiving letters to that effect. — JAS
Uncertainty reigns in D-49
At this point, Falcon School District 49 expected to have a new superintendent and a recall election date. Instead, the perpetually troubled district has three superintendent finalists and likely enough signatures to declare that a recall is needed, yet no idea when that election will take place or how much it will cost.
On July 2, the D-49 Board of Education again put off a decision on the superintendent, leaving its finalists — deputy superintendent of Colorado Springs School District 11 Mike Poore, retired Air Force Gen. Bentley Rayburn and out-of-towner Bradley Schoeppey — hanging. Apparently, the board will make a decision Thursday, July 9. Maybe.
In the meantime, the El Paso County Election Department is deciding whether an election to recall D-49 board members Kent Clawson and Dave Martin would have to be a special election (assuming enough petition signatures are verified). Activists were initially told by the department that the recall could coincide with the November election, making it budget-neutral. Now, maybe not. A special election could cost up to $68,000. — JAS
Bright spot in county budget
Even after implementing new procedures to collect more tax money on building materials, El Paso County is looking at a revenue shortfall this year of more than $3 million.
The new procedure, started in April, requires builders to pay use tax on the estimated cost of building materials when building permits are issued. Though home construction is down 34 percent from last year and commercial construction even more, use tax collections the first six months of 2009 have more than tripled from the same period last year, adding up to just more than $1 million.
The county's remaining revenue shortfall is the result of an even bigger slump in sales tax collections. Commissioner Dennis Hisey says he thinks the county will get by in 2009 without making major additional cuts. But he says commissioners will "very likely" face a reduced 2010 budget, with some savings perhaps coming through worker attrition. — AL
Wannabe clerks, step up
No, there aren't a whole lot of perks associated with being an honorary deputy county clerk, but the title can still be yours if you feel like spending a few nights this fall learning how motor vehicles get registered and elections are conducted.
The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office is offering an eight-week "citizens' academy" this year. The first such academy took place in 2007, but the clerk's office took a break in 2008, according to County Clerk Bob Balink, because of elections (primary and general), plus budget and staffing shortages.
"We wish we could do it annually, as other offices do," Balink says via e-mail.
The eight-week academy begins Sept. 23, and it's open to civic-minded high school seniors, college students and interested residents. Applications, available at car.elpasoco.com, are due by Aug. 20. — AL
Furloughs = closed offices
The state's plan to save money by furloughing workers became more defined this week, as Gov. Bill Ritter's office announced plans to close many offices on certain days instead of letting workers take furlough days throughout the year, the Associated Press reported. The first furlough day will be Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day. Three more furlough days are planned for later in the state's fiscal year, which runs through June 30, 2010. — AL
Compiled by Bill Forman, Anthony Lane, Virginia Leise and J. Adrian Stanley.