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Noted: More drinking in casinos a possibility 

More time for drinking

With Colorado casinos now able to stay open 24/7 and take $100 bets, the Denver Post reports, their next legislative push will be about getting permission to serve alcohol around the clock as well. But that story comes as news to Marc Murphy, a board member of the Colorado Gaming Association and co-owner of Bronco Billy's Casino in Cripple Creek.

"I don't believe it's anything the Colorado Gaming Association is pushing for," he says. "I think the industry is just getting used to having new limits."

Murphy says he does see less business after casinos stop serving alcohol at 2 a.m. And if a proposal to expand hours for alcohol goes forward in the next year or two, Murphy says, "I don't think I'd argue against it." — AL

Shooting range to reopen?

On an ordinary weekend, the area surrounding South Rampart Shooting Range used to sound like the ghettos of a Third World country. According to Kathy Bohanon, a resident of nearby Cedar Heights, the comparison may be more apt than most realize.

Carloads of shooters heading to the unsupervised range were known to stop and fire off a few "potshots" at the mountain homes, she says. A few years ago, road workers in Cedar Heights complained the shooters had targeted them, forcing them to cower behind their equipment. Then, of course, there's the noise.

So, when the U.S. Forest Service closed the range this summer following a fatal accident, Bohanon and her neighbors were grateful: "Among those opposed to the range," she says, "there was a great deal of relief that they had closed it."

Not so fast. Forest Service officials now say they're willing to reopen the range, known as much for its swaths of trash as for its free and easy access. Conditions for reopening the range include: substantial cleanup, infrastructure improvements and a full-time, on-site manager. The Forest Service would consider a land exchange proposal if a private or public entity wanted to own and run the range. — JAS

Jockeying for D-18 post

Now that attorney Pete Lee, a Democrat who ran for state Senate last year, is seeking the House District 18 seat held by term-limited Democrat Mike Merrifield, Republicans are looking for their candidate.

Several names have been mentioned, among them Springs Councilman Randy Purvis, but he says he's decided against it, citing a heavy Council workload and his private law practice. Another possibility is Kyle Fisk, owner of Bullhorn Communication who ran unsuccessfully for HD 18 in 2006.

"I have made no announcement," Fisk says. "I don't have a timeline. I'm not saying I'm going to run. I may not." He says the GOP is bent on capturing the open seat: "Obviously the dynamic has changed ... and I think the Republican party as a whole is interested in seeing that objective reached."

Rumors suggest City Councilor Tom Gallagher might be interested, but he's not commenting. The district, mostly in central and west Colorado Springs as well as Manitou Springs, is roughly split among Republican, Democrat and unaffiliated voters. — PZ

AFA adds to flu research

In the first published study of its kind, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reports that the Air Force Academy's research of its summertime H1N1 flu outbreak shows the virus can persist even after the patient feels well and returns to work. The research gives new insight into how long the virus remains contagious, and adds to the body of knowledge about H1N1.

Academy spokesman John Van Winkle says while the academy has an atypical population (cadets from 50 states and 11 countries) and atypical control over them — commanders can legally isolate sick cadets — "this was an ideal opportunity to study it and learn more about H1N1 and how we can stem its spread." He adds the research is applicable to other military populations, such as those restricted to a ship.

The outbreak, one of the largest recognized H1N1 "clusters" at a U.S. college, led to a quarantine of 228 cadets. On June 25, 1,376 new basic cadet trainees arrived for their six-week military training program, the study notes. Around July 6 or 7, two cadets experienced symptoms and were immediately isolated. The virus spread, leading to 134 confirmed and 33 suspected cases of H1N1 identified between June 25 and July 24.

The study showed that seven days after the onset of H1N1 virus, 24 percent of nasal wash samples taken from cadets remained viable, or contagious. Researchers concluded the cadets' physical fitness might have limited the severity and prevented deaths. In a different college setting, the illness could be more severe and even fatal. — PZ

UCCS theme: Pot power!

Members of a University of Colorado at Colorado Springs group known as Students for Sensible Drug Policy, along with the Denver-based group Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), held a news conference Tuesday to protest their exclusion from a school health fair. They wanted to present information showing marijuana is safer than alcohol — because it lacks alcohol's association with overdose deaths, violent crime and heavy addiction — but they were turned down. The students claim it's irresponsible for schools like UCCS to promote "responsible drinking," even to underage students, while ignoring a healthier alternative.

"This event was just one in a string of events ... across the country," says Mason Tvert, SAFER executive director.

A new Gallup Poll says 44 percent of Americans — a record high (no pun intended) — want to legalize pot. Also, the Obama administration recently announced it would not seek to arrest users and suppliers of medical marijuana as long as they comply with state laws.

In response, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers says he thinks Colorado lawmakers ought to regulate pot dispensaries, prompting outrage from marijuana patients and supporters. Tvert says Suthers should focus on more pressing problems, such as deaths from recreational prescription drug abuse. — JAS

Taking sides on 2C

The city may see some local groups' true colors shining through in this election.

With a $25.4 million 2010 city budget shortfall, it looks like cops and firefighters will lose their jobs, museums and community centers will close, parks will dry up and buses will run less. That is, unless voters pass the 2C property tax increase.

As expected, the Downtown Partnership, which advocates for the city's core, has come out in favor of 2C. But the Housing and Building Association of Colorado Springs, a collection of developers that City Council has treated so kindly over the years, has come out against it. — JAS

Calling all complainers

Mad about the impending cuts to bus hours, loss of community centers, or layoffs in the police and fire departments? Don't miss the official bitch session on the city budget. The Formal Public Hearing/E-Town Hall will take place in City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., at 7 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 22. You can come in person with comments, questions and ideas, or call in at 385-5961, send a fax at 385-5861, or e-mail etownhall@springsgov.com. — JAS

Finding missing ballots

Some of the more civic-minded among us have spent the past week staring at our mailbox, wondering: Where is my ballot?

Well, assuming you are a registered voter, your ballot might have bounced back to the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office because you moved or there was a delivery problem. The clerk's office reports receiving about 9,000 returned ballots out of 278,000 that were mailed.

Call 575-8683 to find out if that's what happened, or visit the clerk's Centennial Hall office, 200 S. Cascade Ave., to update your address and pick up a ballot. Completed ballots must be received at the clerk's office by 7 p.m., Nov. 3. — AL

County offices on guard

When visiting El Paso County offices, don't be surprised if workers ask you to put on a surgical mask. Those were ordered after health officials recommended business and government offices protect workers from influenza-infected visitors and customers.

"A person who comes into any kind of a business, if they're coughing and sneezing, may be asked to put on a mask and reschedule. It's just an infectious disease control measure," health director Kandi Buckland says. "Influenza viruses are small and they can go through [a surgical mask], but it is another barrier."

The county has placed masks and hand sanitizer in all high-traffic offices, such as the Clerk and Recorder and the Public Trustee. Some places have installed sneeze guards at front counters, county spokesman Dave Rose says. A more tricky situation is protecting courthouse guards who come face-to-face with 5,000 people a day at security gates. Rose says they've been equipped with sanitizers and Latex gloves. County commissioners recently authorized the expenses from the risk management budget, Rose says.

Meantime, Buckland says, the state has changed priority groups for the H1N1 vaccine. They now include pregnant women; caretakers of children under 6 months; children 6 months to 4 years; children ages 5 to 18 with chronic or underlying medical conditions; and health care workers who have contact with patients. — PZ

Locals make national TV

Two TV shows airing this week feature local ties. First, Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions, which plays at 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 25 on PBS, features Colorado Springs and Westcliffe resident Ginger Kathrens. The Emmy Award-winning TV producer runs the Cloud Foundation, devoted to preservation of wild horses on public lands. The show is the third installment that follows a wild horse herd in Montana's Arrowhead Mountains.

At 7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 28, on Syfy, Ghost Hunters will devote its entire hour to Manitou Springs' Briarhurst Manor Estate. In celebration, the restaurant will host show viewings on Oct. 28 and 29 in tandem with tours, music, a costume ball and appetizer dining, all for $19. Visit hauntedbriarhurst.com for reservation info. — MS

FAC sells C.M. Russell objects

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center recently sent the 13,000-piece Britzman Collection to the University of Tulsa's Gilcrease Museum in Oklahoma. The Britzman Collection consists of objects that once belonged to renowned Western artist Charles Marion Russell; though it's heavy on paper pieces, the collection also includes clothing, personal photos and a carved, ivory-handle revolver.

This isn't the first time the FAC has sold or deaccessioned items, says CEO and president Sam Gappmayer: "It's a very common thing for institutions as they grow and evolve to sell things and then acquire new things that better match where they're going."

Gappmayer explains that although the FAC owned the Britzman Collection (bequeathed in 1972), it has only accessioned 17 pieces. Accessioned material are objects formally incorporated into the museum's permanent collection and carry strict guidelines. (The 17 said objects will remain at the FAC.) Gappmayer says the FAC wanted to make sure the rest of the collection went "into a public collection and did not go into a private collection." The Gilcrease Museum is known for its art and artifacts from the American West. The FAC would not disclose the price of the transaction. — EA

Learn Utilities' ropes

Want to learn how to tap into millions of dollars of Colorado Springs Utilities contracts? The city-owned department will host a procurement workshop from 8:30 to 11 a.m., Friday at the Leon Young Service Center, 1521 Hancock Expressway.

Utilities needs services ranging from janitorial to engineering to provide customers with electric, gas, water and wastewater services. Although some products and services, such as specialized pumps and power plant boilers, aren't available locally, local contractors can provide many other needs, Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman says. Among those are construction, maintenance and engineering design.

Utilities' goal is to spend at least 30 percent of its contracted services locally. Since 2000, the agency has averaged 31 percent.

"We want to do what's best for the community," Grossman said in a statement. "Doing business locally whenever feasible helps the local economy and in many cases keeps contract costs down, ultimately keeping customer rates low."

The workshop will feature a demonstration of the Rocky Mountain e-Purchasing system Utilities uses. — PZ

Slater bows out of AG race

Less than three weeks after announcing his bid for Colorado attorney general, Democrat Dan Slater has withdrawn, noting he does not now have the "fire in his belly" to leave his family for long months on the campaign trail. He may also have realized he would face an uphill battle for money and support against incumbent John Suthers in 2010, an election year that will feature high-profile races for governor and U.S. Senate.

Slater, a Cañon City attorney, is currently first vice chair of the Colorado Democratic Party. — AL

Grants available

Nonprofits and public agencies that want to improve housing and job opportunities for low- to medium-income county residents can get a helping hand through the Community Development Block Grant Program. The federal program will hand out about $1 million in 2010 for worthy projects. The deadline for applying is Nov. 18. Call El Paso County contact Tiffany Colvert at 520-6476 for more information. — JAS

Keeping Colorado clean

This week, Gov. Bill Ritter gave a pat on the back to more than 80 companies with Environmental Leadership Awards for going beyond compliance with state and federal regulations. Seven are in the Colorado Springs area.

Gold award winners include Aeroflex Colorado Springs, Cripple Creek & Victor Gold Mining Co. and Springs Business Solutions. Silver awards went to Cheyenne Mountain Resort and Lafarge, which plans a gravel pit next to Fountain Creek south of the city. Bronze awards were given to Cartridge World Briargate and Pizzeria Rustica.

The awards are administered by the Department of Public Health and Environment's Office of Environmental Integration and Sustainability. — PZ

Compiled by Edie Adelstein, Anthony Lane, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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