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Noted: Last IREA challenger loses 

Sperry tops Galvin in area district

The headline on the Intermountain Rural Electric Association Web site sounds almost triumphant about results from recent board elections: “IREA Incumbent Directors Handily Defeat Challengers.”

Mike Galvin, one of the challengers, tries to look on the bright side as he reacts to news he lost to long-time IREA board member Gene Sperry by 10 percentage points, or about 550 votes.

“We made some headway in terms of education,” says Galvin, who was running to represent an IREA district that includes Woodland Park and other mountain towns.

It was not enough — Galvin came the closest in races for three IREA board seats (full results are posted at IREA’s Web site, intermountain-rea.com.) He and the other candidates ran arguing that the co-op needs to put greater stock in open communication and energy conservation.

The status quo, which favors coal-fired electricity and abhors environmental regulation, apparently had some powerful support: IREA general manager Stan Lewandowski told a reporter from Denver’s Westword that he contributed $3,000 to the incumbents’ campaigns.

Since the seven-member board sets IREA’s policies and the general manager’s salary, that could turn out to be money well spent. IREA, with 138,000 members, is the state’s largest electric cooperative, serving an area stretching from ranches near Fairplay to farms east of Denver. — AL

Unpaid Stormwater bills will resurface

There are lots of bullets to dodge along the way to buying a home. Here's one more: Stormwater Enterprise fees.

Under the code, Stormwater fees follow homes, not homeowners. That means if you buy a house and the owner before you didn't pay their fees, you could end up being responsible for their bills. A local homeowner named Melissa Williams e-mailed the Indy saying she was appalled to find she owed the city $100 in overdue fees after purchasing a foreclosed house.

"I am astonished that a city agency in the intention of trying to ensure the collection of monies from property owners would put in a clause to literally 'pass the buck,'" she wrote, "and in our case 100 of them, in the event a prior property owner did not make their payments."

City spokesperson Sue Skiffington-Blumberg says the city has reached out to title companies to inform them of the policy. Most fees are resolved during closing on a house, she adds. — JAS

Manitou Council backs Cliff House

Grand Avenue neighbors most vehemently opposed to the massive Cliff House West hotel project in Manitou Springs lost a battle Tuesday to stop the plan. Manitou's City Council, after hearing arguments from neighbors as well as a project planner and architect, voted 6-1 to deny an appeal of the city historic preservation board's earlier unanimous approval.

The neighbors, represented by David Beers and attorney Julie Wolfe, argued that the historic preservation board skirted federally imposed rules, neglecting to follow proper procedure in the approval process. They also said the board had given its approval despite the fact that the project clearly didn't meet requirements. Most notably, they said, the size of the building is not compatible with surrounding homes and other buildings.

Cliff House representatives countered that they have spent months negotiating with neighbors and made numerous concessions. The hotel reps pointed out the new building would rise only two stories above ground, and that the project is seeking LEED certification. They also pointed to Manitou's history of large resort hotels.

After considerable confusion, Council sided with the Cliff House. The lone dissenter, Councilor Shannon Solomon, said he wanted to see the Cliff House West built, but added, "We can twist anything so it meets a guideline, and I think that's what's happening here."

The neighbors could appeal other parts of the process, or take their case to the courts. — JAS

Fort Carson changes set

After nearly two years as top commander at Fort Carson, Maj. Gen. Mark Graham will leave in August to join Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga. Graham will depart near the time Brig. Gen. David Perkins, incoming commander of the 4th Infantry Division, is scheduled to assume leadership at Fort Carson. He will leave behind a post in the process of expanding by about 5,500 soldiers with the arrival of a 4th ID brigade and the division's headquarters.

According to Wednesday's Pueblo Chieftain, another departure will affect Fort Carson. Keith Eastin, Army assistant secretary who has headed the Piñon Canyon expansion campaign, will retire next week, the paper reported. There was no word on his replacement as of press time. — AL

Morse nets leadership post

El Paso County issues could get a bit more play in the state Legislature, now that Sen. John Morse of Colorado Springs is stepping up into the role of Senate majority leader.

The first-term Democrat will get to decide on the size and leadership of Senate committees and determine the timing of bills coming to the Senate floor.

The change, which goes into effect May 7 (after the current session adjourns), comes after Senate President Peter Groff, D-Denver, accepted a position with President Barack Obama's administration. Sen. Brandon Shaffer of Longmont, the current majority leader, will become the new Senate president. — AL

Pueblo County permits SDS

The biggest remaining hurdle to Colorado Springs building a new water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir may have just been flattened, as Pueblo County commissioners approved a permit for the project.

Tuesday's meeting approving the permit to construct the Southern Delivery System pipeline lasted about an hour, according to the Pueblo Chieftain, and was largely a ceremonial event. During years of debate about the proposed pipeline, residents in Pueblo and other downstream communities complained that water from Colorado Springs would return to them as sewage effluent in Fountain Creek, adding to that waterway's problems with erosion and flooding.

As part of the agreement, Colorado Springs Utilities has agreed to spend millions upgrading wastewater systems and completing projects along the creek. — AL

Wet and wild gift

Water will flow again this summer in the Julie Penrose Fountain at America the Beautiful Park, thanks to funding from El Pomar Foundation and the H. Chase Stone Trust. Each entity donated $12,500 to keep the attraction operational in the hot months.

El Pomar has also issued a challenge grant for $12,500, hoping to bring in enough money to keep the fountain going in 2010.

"I feel great," City Councilor Jerry Heimlicher says. "That's the kind of thing that shows you what the people are made of." — JAS

UCCS shares mystery money

In recent weeks, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs and at least eight other universities have received a total of more than $45 million in anonymous gifts. UCCS received $5.5 million.

The gifts are unusual because even the universities don't know the source, and the donor makes the schools agree never to try to find out. Speculation is the donations could have come from a single person or entity, though there's no indication whether that's true. UCCS is required to use $5 million of its grant for student scholarships, and spokesperson Tom Hutton says the school is happy to have the money to help students in these difficult economic times. "We pledged not to try and find out the donor," Hutton says. "We're living by that." — JAS

Paid parking for Barr Trail

Outdoor enthusiasts will pay a price this summer in Manitou Springs. On Tuesday, Manitou's City Council approved a plan to charge for parking at the base of Barr Trail. There's no word yet on how much will be charged, or when the city will start charging, though the fee is expected to be in place by summer.

The good news is that construction on Manitou Avenue around its intersection with Ruxton Avenue is chugging along on schedule and expected to be done by Memorial Day. — JAS

Local vets remember

Veterans, and their family and friends, are invited to discuss their experiences and emotions at the "Veterans Remember" event on April 30, starting at 10:30 a.m. and continuing perhaps into the evening, until everyone is heard. The event will be held at the Penrose Library (20 N. Cascade Ave.) in the Adult Meeting Room.

Many locals will be giving presentations to share their personal experiences. Organizer José "Joe" Barrera says the event is a chance for veterans to share their "collective wisdom" and make sense of "the incomprehensible" experiences of war. — JAS

TOPS needs members

The Trails, Open Space and Parks Working Committee, which decides funding priorities for the millions generated from a local 0.1 percent sales tax, is looking for new members. The group meets as often as twice a week or as infrequently as once a month to decide what recommendations to make to City Council on land purchases and projects.

If you live in Colorado Springs and are involved in a group promoting parks, open space or trails, or just have an interest in this area, send a single-page résumé and a single-page essay describing why you want to serve to Chris Lieber at Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services, 1401 Recreation Way, Colorado Springs, CO 80905 before Friday, May 15. — JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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