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Noted: Few voting as election nears end 

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Turnout is still below 18 percent as final week begins

As of March 31, only 33,950 out of 196,605 eligible voters (fewer than 18 percent) had turned in mail ballots for the city election, which concludes Tuesday, April 7. After last week's fast start, we seem headed for an abysmal turnout in an election that will decide four Council seats and the fate of millions in taxpayer dollars.

City Clerk Kathryn Young says voters need to mail their ballots promptly, or use drop-off locations, if they want to have a voice. All ballots must be received by 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

"They need to get their ballots in as soon as they can," she says. "We're noticing that the postmarks are taking a couple days to get here."

Each voter should put the completed ballot in the secrecy envelope, then insert that envelope into the return envelope, sign and date the back of the return envelope, and mail it to the City Clerk's Office or hand-deliver it to a specified location. Dropping it off in person may be smart, this close to election day.

Drop-off spots are: City Clerk's Office, 30 S. Nevada Ave., #101; Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center, 3920 Dublin Blvd.; Colorado Springs Senior Center, 1514 N. Hancock Ave.; Fire Station No. 17, 3750 Tutt Blvd.; or Fire Station No. 9, 622 Garden of the Gods Road. Those sites are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., then from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on April 7. An extra drop-off location, outside the City Administration Building at 30 S. Nevada Ave., will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., weather permitting. JAS

Back to Grace this weekend

After two long years in exile, members of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church will move back into the historic Tejon Street structure this weekend.

A judge's ruling displaced former members of the congregation who broke away from the Episcopal Church but stayed on the Grace property at 601 N. Tejon St. Soon after the March 24 ruling, the breakaway congregation, led by the Rev. Don Armstrong, became St. George's Anglican Church. It plans to meet at 2760 Fieldstone Road, in a building that had been the Renaissance Academy before the private school closed last fall.

Lynn Olney, senior warden for the Episcopal parish, hopes to see a total of more than 400 people at Grace Church for Palm Sunday services at 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Security guards will be present after some members reported receiving threatening phone calls.

"Not everyone is of a gracious nature," Olney notes.

In addition to getting their building back, the Episcopalians have the financial burden of maintaining the large, aging structure, along with more than $2 million in debt for remodeling taken on by leaders of the breakaway parish. The St. George's congregation, now affiliated with the conservative Convocation of Anglicans in North America, faces its own uncertainty as Armstrong deals with allegations that he embezzled from his old parish. AL

Planned Parenthood closes an office

Looking for family planning services? Don’t look on South Academy Boulevard.

Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains closed its location on Hancock Expressway and South Academy Boulevard at the end of March. Clients have been referred to Planned Parenthood’s other two Colorado Springs offices, at 3958 N. Academy Blvd., #108 and 1330 W. Colorado Ave.

Leslie Durgin, senior vice president of development at PPRM, says the landlord at the South Academy office was requiring the clinic to move while the older shopping center it was located in was redeveloped. Planned Parenthood decided it would be best to just close the office since there was plenty of capacity at the other two offices, which “actually provide a wider variety of services.”

For more information, call 800/230-7526. JAS

Rx discounts made available

Locals struggling to pay their bills can now get a little relief.

Colorado Springs, partnering with the National League of Cities, is making prescription drug discount cards available starting Thursday, April 2. Cards give residents an average of 20 percent off retail costs of prescribed drugs and are especially useful to those without insurance. About 75 local pharmacies accept the card.

You can pick up a card at community centers and recreation centers, City Hall, the City Administration Building, Ecumenical Social Ministries, the Housing Development Division and Marian House Soup Kitchen. JAS

Springs Magazine calls it quits

The swath of publishing destruction has widened locally with the demise of Springs Magazine, a free monthly that followed the local arts scene for 27 years. Publisher Michael Gardner explained in a press release Tuesday he wanted to keep the magazine in print, but the "economics of doing so just weren't there."

The March issue will be the magazine's last. Gardner is also ending Bon Vivant, a glossy direct-mail publication. AL

Manitou administrator falls ill

Manitou Springs city administrator Verne Witham has been unable to work recently because of an illness that may end his career.

Mayor Eric Drummond says Witham does not want the nature of his illness made public, but Witham was concerned enough to submit his resignation. Council never acted on it, however, and Drummond hopes Witham, who has seen some improvement, may be able to return at least part-time. JAS

Lawmakers seek Piñon leash

The Army's plan to expand its Pion Canyon Maneuver Site by leasing land apparently strikes some lawmakers as a case of the cart leading the horse. With urging from U.S. Reps. John Salazar and Betsy Markey, the House Oversight and Government Reform committee is now investigating the plan, calling on the Army to answer old questions that many felt went unanswered when the Governmental Accountability Office reviewed the proposal.

A March 27 letter to the Army from committee chair Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., requests a briefing on the expansion plans no later than April 10. He asks the Army to explain why it needs to expand the 238,000-acre training site in southeastern Colorado by 100,000 acres, and to present possible alternatives, cost-saving options and plans for environmental review of the expansion. The expansion plan seemed to have stalled until news broke in March that Army officials were planning instead to lease 70,000 acres from a neighboring property owner. AL

Unemployment extended

The federal government will keep the unemployment checks coming in Colorado.

The state recently qualified for a federal program providing out-of-work residents whose unemployment benefits have expired with an additional 13 weeks of payments at no cost to their former employer. The first checks are available for the week ending April 18. You're eligible for the benefits if your unemployment expired on or after May 5, 2007, you're no longer eligible for any other unemployment benefits, you're unemployed or working fewer than 32 hours a week, and you've exhausted your 2008 Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits.

Information on the extension will be mailed to all those who qualify. Visit coworkforce.com for more information. JAS

New problem for ex-Diebold

After becoming the least trusted name in voting equipment, Diebold changed the title of its division that makes touch-screen voting systems and other election gizmos to Premier Election Solutions. (Yes, the stuff used in El Paso County still says Diebold, but any updates will bear the less-conspicuous Premier name.)

Diebold also makes ATM machines, and it turns out those have security problems as well. The company recently sent a notice to customers warning that some of its machines in Russia were infected with a virus after hackers got access to the machines. It's not clear what information was compromised. The vulnerability is apparently for ATMs that use a Windows-based operating system, and the company promises security updates for such machines in the U.S. and elsewhere. So the company seems to be, well, trying. AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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