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Noted: D-49's finalist 

D-49 chooses finalist

Bradley Schoeppey finally has emerged as the sole finalist for the position of superintendant of Falcon School District 49.

The Tulsa, Okla., educator wasn't the community's consensus favorite candidate — that was Mike Poore, School District 11 deputy superintendent. For weeks, no candidate appeared to have enough support on D-49's school board, but the group eventually warmed up to Schoeppey and all voted for him (4-1) except Dave Martin, a staunch Poore supporter. Schoeppey will likely be officially hired within the next few weeks.

Schoeppey has worked as one of four area superintendents — an administrative position subordinate to the head superintendent and top academic officer — for Tulsa Public Schools since 2001, and before that worked as a teacher, counselor and school administrator. He did not return calls asking for comment. — JAS

Don't worry about Gazette?

Readers of the local daily can apparently breathe a sigh of relief. Sure, the Gazette recently decreed mandatory furloughs and an across-the-board 5 percent pay cut — after several rounds of layoffs in recent years. Sure, the paper has gotten noticeably smaller, and publisher Steve Pope says it's only a matter of time before the paper's parent company, Freedom Communications Inc., is bank-owned. (Editor Jeff Thomas, by the way, and Burl Osborne, interim chief executive of Freedom, have made online statements to the same effect, with Osborne saying a restructuring could be ready in a few weeks and a transfer of control could come a few months later.)

This doesn't mean the Gazette's in trouble, Pope says. Assuming the Gazette is struggling because large media companies are isn't just incorrect, Pope says, it's "criminal."

In an upbeat speech to the Colorado Springs Press Association on July 9 that seemed to contradict Thomas' comment that the paper's future is "exceedingly difficult to predict," Pope said the Gazette has a lot to smile about. He says the Gazette is turning a profit margin that beats the manufacturing sector. — JAS

Some issues still could go to voters

City Councilors may ask you to preserve an expiring mill levy. For something. Or they may ask you to raise your property taxes.

At its July 13 informal meeting, Council discussed options for November ballot questions, then shrugged and put off the whole matter until later. Mayor Lionel Rivera says he'd rather delay the discussion until the city's Sustainable Funding Committee can provide at least a preliminary report on revenue and money-saving options — even though the committee apparently won't propose any questions for the November election.

Councilors could choose to ask you to raise the city property tax by 10 mills over five years, which is Councilor Jan Martin's plan. They could ask you to lower the city sales tax by a half-cent, Councilor Darryl Glenn's suggestion (he thinks you'd spend more if you could save 50 cents on every $100 purchase). Or they may ask you to preserve an expiring mill levy — the same one voters refused in April to keep for economic development — and earmark the money instead for essential city services, capital projects or legally required improvements to the Pikes Peak Highway.

Council must approve ballot questions by Aug. 25. — JAS

Home improvement: on the city

Can't afford to weatherize your house? Why not let the city pay some of the bills?

Using limited federal grant funding, the city is partnering with Colorado Springs Utilities and the Energy Resource Center to help locals pay to weatherize their homes. Projects like replacing old windows and insulating your attic are eligible.

To get your hands on the cash, you have to meet a lot of requirements and allow the city to inspect your home. There are income limits — a family of four, for instance, cannot make more than $56,650 a year. And your house can't be worth more than $240,000 after the work is complete. In addition to grants, some low-interest loans will be available. Money is available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more, call 385-6877 or visit springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=2496. Have your current gross income ready before calling. — JAS

County ... Is anyone there?

No, the rapid beeping noise people heard when calling El Paso County offices this week was not a sign that county government was shutting down. Just phone problems.

The difficulties started Sunday afternoon and had mostly been cleared up by Wednesday morning. The phone system lost most of its "functionality," in the words of county spokesman Dave Rose — calls stopped getting rolled over to open lines, voice mail didn't work and menu options disappeared. Many callers heard what sounded like a rapid busy signal.

The bright side of the phone problem, Rose says, is that repair costs could be covered by the county's service agreement. — AL

Showcase of citizens

The Colorado Springs Diversity Forum's annual "Everybody Welcome" celebration will take place Aug. 15 at America the Beautiful Park, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with new facets unveiled Tuesday at a luncheon. This year, the festival (free and open to the public) will feature several new pieces, including a collection of villages designed to showcase the various cultures that coexist in Colorado Springs. These villages, augmented by various cultural dances, music and foods, will range from African to Native American, Asian to Caribbean, Hispanic to Polynesian.

As a precursor, the Forum is hosting the Cotton Club at Stargazers Theatre and Event Center on Aug. 8, for which attendees are encouraged to dress in traditional 1950s attire for an evening of jazz, dance and poetry. The Cotton Club will also provide a tribute to Lee Duran, a former City Council member who spent much of his life (he passed away in 2000) fighting for the preservation of cultural identity.

Approximately 250 volunteers who put on events like "Everybody Welcome" run the Diversity Forum, now in its fifth year. — AM

Doolies come to fly, get flu

As the Air Force Academy worked Wednesday to update an estimated 97 swine flu cases in its incoming class of freshman "doolies," county health officials said the outbreak should not worry those off Academy grounds about an increased risk.

"They are pretty isolated from the rest of the community," says Kandi Buckland, director of the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment.

And, for whatever it's worth, the swine flu — or H1N1 — virus is already here. Though the county's laboratory-confirmed cases only number in the 20s, Buckland, says, many more have likely been infected, without needing medical treatment. — AL

USOC: Done or not?

No. It's not over yet. The city's long-anticipated draft economic development agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee still isn't done, Assistant City Manager Mike Anderson told City Council on July 13. But the deal is expected soon, along with a settlement of developer LandCo Equity Partners' lawsuit against the city.

Anderson says a few "business points" still must be ironed out. Councilors reaffirm that the public will get a chance to comment on a new deal before it's finalized, and terms of the draft agreement will be made public. — JAS

On the run in Canada

Brad McCall, a Fort Carson soldier who took off for Canada nearly two years ago, told the Independent in March that he wasn't too worried about being deported. But a Vancouver alternative newspaper reported last week that McCall went into hiding after Canadian Mounties came looking for him.

"I got my friend to get all my stuff out of the house and bring it to me somewhere else, and I've been on the run ever since," McCall told the Georgia Straight. He talked to the Indy in September 2007 about leaving for Canada, based on his unhappiness with military life and his disapproval of fighting in Iraq ("Getting out," News, Sept. 20, 2007).

Robin Long, another Fort Carson soldier who fled to Canada, was deported last year and sentenced to 15 months in a military prison. Kim Rivera, also stationed at Fort Carson, is now fighting a deportation order. — AL

City, Manitou hit jackpot

Colorado Springs is in the money. So is Manitou Springs, as Colorado communities get more than $27 million in Recovery Act funds for water infrustructure projects, announced Tuesday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Manitou was approved for over $7 million for its drinking water system and $1.9 million for wastewater system upgrades, all in 20-year, no-interest loans, allowing the town to address its decrepit water system, a top priority that had been out of reach. Colorado Springs was approved for nearly $2.7 million in a 20-year, 2-percent loan for wastewater improvements and a $12.6 million, 20-year, 2.5 percent loan for improving Highline Water Storage Reservoir.

Construction on all projects must begin by Sept. 30. No word yet on whether the communities will accept the money. — JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Avalon Manly and J. Adrian Stanley.

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