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Noted: Letter to Manitou citizens blasts trash 

Letter trashes Manitou

Hundreds of Springs Waste Systems customers in Manitou Springs got a letter in the mail this week lambasting the town for its overhaul of trash service. Manitou is working to become a single-hauler city, meaning one company would provide all trash and recycling services. The plan is being undertaken to reduce noise, environmental impact and wear on roads.

Manitou recently requested bids from companies wishing to become the sole hauler, but only Bestway Disposal responded.

In the letter, Springs Waste manager Dan Shrader says Manitou wants to force residents to buy trash service and suggests the town may shut off water at homes that don't pay their trash bill. It adds that the single-hauler system will provide no environmental benefit and may mean increased costs for customers. Shrader states the town did not iron out the system's details before asking for bids, leading to confusion for haulers like Springs Waste.

"We were very uncomfortable with the 'make it up as we go' policy," the letter states.

Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder says the accusations are nonsense: "It's chock-full of all kinds of misstatements and half-truths, and all sorts of other statements that are misleading." No one currently without trash service will be forced to buy it, he says, and water service will not be affected. Snyder insists there will be a positive environmental impact with one set of trucks performing trash service on Tuesdays only, instead of several companies doing pickups six days a week. He notes that most households will save money under the new system.

The mayor was especially perturbed at Shrader's assertion that the bidding process was unfair; Snyder says he personally encouraged Springs Waste to bid. The single-hauler system will likely be put in place this summer or fall. — JAS

Personhood back on ballot

After failing miserably with Colorado voters in 2008, the latest incarnation of the "personhood" amendment has stumbled onto November's ballot. Backers came up short of the 76,047 valid signatures required at their first deadline in February, but they took advantage of a second-chance period that ended March 18 and cleared the threshold by close to 20,000 signatures.

The measure lost 73 percent to 27 percent in 2008. This time it drops the stuff about life beginning when an egg is fertilized, and instead asks voters if they want to apply the term "person" at the beginning of a human being's "biological development." Opponents, including the advocacy group ProgressNow Colorado, are gearing up for another fight. — AL

Strong mayor lists support

A group that wants Colorado Springs voters to adopt a strong-mayor form of government has released a list of nearly 70 high-profile supporters. Among the group are former Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace, along with big names like Steve Bartolin, Ron Butlin, Joseph Coleman, James Colvin, Daphne Greenwood, Chris Jenkins, Jim Johnson, Paul Kleinschmidt, Robert Loevy, John Morris, Jerry Rutledge, Richard Skorman, Doug Stimple and Luke Travins.

"I believe it is time for a change," Makepeace said in a release. "Having had experience with the current form of government, I believe the strong mayor form better fits the size and maturity of Colorado Springs."

Andy McElhany, Mary Ellen McNally and Chuck Murphy are leading the effort, which hopes to put the question to local voters in November. — JAS

PERA wields big stick

If city-owned Memorial Health System is sold to a for-profit company, the new owner should brace itself for a hefty bill required to withdraw from the Public Employees Retirement Association, City Attorney Pat Kelly told a citizen panel Tuesday. The panel is charged with assessing the city's options regarding Memorial.

Because PERA is confined to government workers, a for-profit owner couldn't continue to provide retirement benefits for the hospital's roughly 4,000 employees through PERA, Kelly says.

"If it sold to a for-profit, PERA participation ends," she says. If, however, the hospital is transferred to a nonprofit agency, the hospital might be able to continue membership if PERA approves, she says. Kelly adds that should Memorial's membership in PERA end, the new owner would have to pay millions to assure benefits already accrued by employees are intact whenever those employees collect. Retired Memorial workers would continue to receive benefits.

Kelly's comments came during an overview of legal requirements and ramifications of a change in Memorial's ownership. Under an ordinance approved by voters in 1949, City Council has authority to levy a property tax to offset any operational deficit. Council has asked the committee, which includes Indy business development vice president Jay Patel, to explore how to limit such liability, including a sale of the health system or a change in how it's governed. — PZ

Ski season winds down

It's April, folks, and though there's still lots of snow in the mountains, ski season soon will come to its inevitable, slushy end.

Though it's always possible a late blizzard — or heat wave — could change things slightly, Monarch Mountain is scheduled to close April 11, with Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and many other resorts closing a week later.

If you're planning on heading up, check coloradoski.com, which lists the status of most Colorado ski areas that aren't, like Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, part of the Vail Resorts empire. — AL

Museum hires consultants

The Pioneers Museum faces a death sentence in 2011 unless it can wean itself off city funding. That's tough, since museums aren't designed to turn profits. So the museum has hired Durel Consulting Partners (DCP) of Baltimore, Md. The two-person company plans to help the museum explore its options, and to meet with stakeholders, experts and citizens before making recommendations this summer.

"We are eager to work with the Pioneers Museum," John and Anita Durel are quoted as saying in a press release. "Although the challenges are great, we are confident that a rigorous process of strategic thinking and disciplined action, undertaken by smart and committed leaders, will result in a sustainable operating plan."

The study is being funded with donations and grants from the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado, H. Chase Stone Trust, Bee Vradenburg Foundation and J.H. Edmondson Foundation.

City funding for the museum has dropped from $895,000 in 2008 to $667,000 in 2009 and $365,000 in 2010. — JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Also: personhood back on ballot, support grows for "strong mayor" and more.

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