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Noted: More city staff to leave 

City HR chief to retire

You can add another impending vacancy to the city's list: Human Resources Director Ann Crossey will retire at year's end, after more than 14 years with Colorado Springs.

"I've had a great career in HR, working primarily for cities, since I got out of graduate school in 1972," Crossey tells the Indy in an e-mail. "I've enjoyed my time with the City of Colorado Springs although the last few years have been particularly challenging with layoffs, other staff reductions and financial challenges."

She adds that she has "great respect" for Mayor Steve Bach, Chief of Staff Steve Cox and City Council. "However, for a variety of reasons this is a good time for me to retire."

Crossey's exit follows the retirements of City Attorney Patricia Kelly and City Clerk Kathryn Young, and the forced departures of Police Chief Richard Myers, finance chief Terri Velasquez and communications chief Sue Skiffington-Blumberg since Bach was elected in May. — PZ

Protesters occupy Acacia

As the Occupy Wall Street protests roll into their third week in New York City, the movement has spread. CNN reports similar protests in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle, but there's one more, albeit on a smaller scale, in Colorado Springs.

Since Saturday, dozens of protesters based in Acacia Park have demonstrated along North Tejon Street, waving signs saying "Foreclose Wall Street" and "People Over Profit." The Facebook page Occupy Colorado Springs has drawn 362 "likes."

The group's goals are varied, as a discussion on the page shows. Wants range from campaign finance reform and term limits for members of Congress, to the end of the Federal Reserve System.

"There are many [desired results]," writes Adam Caimi. "But I think ultimately that the health and well being of all humanity is placed above corporate greed and rampant capitalism." — BC

PP slams funding bill

Within hours after the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives released the 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations package last Thursday, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains issued a scathing press release denouncing the legislation as an assault on women's health.

The bill calls for taking away preventive care from women, a move rejected by the Senate earlier this year, and tries to bar Planned Parenthood from participation in federal health programs. "The bill also contains several provisions intended to stop the Administration from implementing ObamaCare, including a prohibition on funding to implement the law and several provisions rescinding funding previously provided for ObamaCare programs," the Appropriations Committee's website says.

Planned Parenthood would be prohibited from getting reimbursed by Medicaid for providing preventive health care, including birth control, cancer screenings, annual exams, and STD testing and treatment. It also would eliminate family-planning programs that provide services to 5 million low-income women annually, and ban insurance coverage of abortion in health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

Moreover, the measure would cut the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative from $104.79 million to $40 million, and require that $20 million of that money be used for grants to provide abstinence-only education, Planned Parenthood says.

"This budget not only guts effective programs that keep women and families healthy, it will make women and families worse off economically, at a time when they are already struggling," Vicki Cowart, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, says in the release. — PZ

No help for 2,500 families

About 2,500 households in El Paso County might have trouble staying connected with Colorado Springs Utilities this winter, because of deep cuts in federal funds for the local Low-Income Energy Assistance (LEAP) program. More than a third of federal money vanished for needy families, meaning 17,000 households in Colorado will be slashed from the assistance list and might have to choose between heat and other necessities this winter.

In a news release announcing the cuts, the El Paso County Department of Human Services says that the income maximums for families hoping to qualify for LEAP have dropped from 185 percent of the national poverty level to 150 percent.

For a family of four, the maximum gross monthly income allowed for LEAP assistance had been $3,445.63; now that same family cannot make more than $2,793.75 per month (less than $34,000 a year). The release says that 15,268 families received LEAP funds last winter, slightly down from 15,999 in 2009-10 but still far above the 13,132 in 2008-09.

LEAP grants to eligible households go from November through April, and are meant to assist families with their heating costs, without covering the full bill. For more information about LEAP, call 866/432-8435. — PZ

Jail gets A grade

Once again, El Paso County's Criminal Justice Center has passed inspection by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Seven inspectors swarmed the facility last week, using a yardstick of national detention standards applied by the American Correctional Association, in addition to rules for ICE detainees.

ICE has contracted with El Paso County since 2008 for long-term housing of immigration detainees, an agreement that requires an annual audit by ICE. Auditors commended the jail staff for the "clean, efficient, professional operation," and apparently weren't overly concerned about the August 2010 death of an inmate, Brian O'Leary ("Wasted away," Feb. 17, 2011).

"We welcome these independent audits as they reaffirm what we are doing well and provide input and suggestions on ways we can improve our operations," Sheriff Terry Maketa says in a press release, adding that he is "very pleased with the results." — PZ

EPA dings Utilities

Floor drains in a vehicle maintenance area at Front Range Power Plant led the Environmental Protection Agency to allege last month that Colorado Springs Utilities violated Safe Drinking Water Act regulations.

The EPA said in its Sept. 14 letter to Utilities that the Dakota-Cheyenne Aquifer lies below the plant's disposal wells and provides sources of drinking water. But Utilities countered that no contamination of an underground aquifer occurred, because no pollutants made their way into the drains that feed into the disposal wells.

Utilities has submitted a plan, approved by the EPA, to close the floor drains, and concrete plugs were installed this week, Utilities spokeswoman Patrice Quintero writes in an e-mail. She says it's unlikely a penalty will be imposed and notes that the city-owned utility consistently meets federal and state environmental regulations.

The Dakota-Cheyenne is a deep aquifer that typically doesn't intersect with tributaries, except in some limited spots near mountain ranges, Quintero says. "For the most part, it is isolated from [the] stream system, and specifically from Fountain Creek," she says.

The largest fine Utilities ever paid for an environmental issue came in 2007 when the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment imposed a $65,542 penalty for Utilities' wastewater spills. — PZ

Ballots go out Tuesday

Ballots for the all-mail Nov. 1 coordinated election will go out Tuesday, Oct. 11, to all active registered voters in El Paso County. Registered voters who are inactive (because they didn't vote in the November 2010 election), or who do not receive a mail ballot may go to any of the county clerk and recorder's four offices starting Wednesday, Oct. 12, to reactivate their status (if needed) and pick up a ballot.

Ballots may be returned by mail or dropped off during office hours at those same clerk offices: Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.; Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, #2202; Union Town Center, 8830 N. Union Blvd.; Powers Branch, 5650 Industrial Place.

All of El Paso County will take part in the election because of a statewide ballot issue, a sales tax increase to help fund public education. Many area school districts, special districts and smaller municipalities also will participate. — RR

Compiled by Bryce Crawford, Ralph Routon and Pam Zubeck.

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