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Noted: More join sheriff's race 

Shirk joins sheriff race

Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk will seek the Republican nomination for El Paso County sheriff, facing off against former sheriff's deputy Todd Evans, who announced his candidacy Jan. 20.

Shirk, who has not held elective office, faces another newbie in Evans, who worked for the sheriff's office from 1995 to 2006 before resigning to join a developer. He currently runs security for a school and serves as a movie star's bodyguard.

Shirk, 56, retired in 2005 as a captain from the Aurora Police Department after 29 years. In Aurora, he at various times oversaw the jail, SWAT team, all-hazards response team, dispatch center, grant-writing and a special program for prosecution of domestic violence crimes. He's been chief in Monument for almost five years and decided to run after Sheriff Terry Maketa said he wouldn't seek a third term.

"It is the right thing to do. I have the experience. I have the training. My entire life has been setting me up for this position," Shirk says, adding he's taken the Monument force "to new heights" in professionalism, equipment, training and community involvement.

Shirk says he has full support of Monument's council, and his Web site (chiefjake4sheriff.com) lists endorsements from many small-town sheriffs in the region as well as Monument officials. — PZ

Damron going for clerk

Though it's been more than seven months since she filed paperwork to run for El Paso County clerk and recorder, current county Treasurer Sandra Damron figures it's finally time to kick off her campaign: She's hosting a reception at 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, at the county Republican headquarters, 205 Sutton Lane.

Damron, term-limited from running for treasurer again, is preparing to square off in a GOP primary against County Commissioner Wayne Williams, who is also term-limited in his current role, as well as election activist Charles Corry.

The winner in the Republican primary will face Democrat Tom Mowle, the county's governor-appointed public trustee, in November's election. — AL

Streetlight fee in works

Although KRDO-TV reports that Colorado Springs Utilities has abandoned an attempt at a private-pay option to keep some streetlights burning, that's not true, city officials say. The city is still working on putting together such a plan, city spokesman John Leavitt says.

This week the city began shutting off 8,000 to 10,000 streetlights to save $1.245 million this year. Energy cost per light ranges from about $6 to $42 per month, depending on the type of light.

Leavitt said Utilities is exploring private-pay arrangements, but has hit a legal question. "They have determined they have the capability within their billing system," Leavitt says. "However, there is some question about the legality of the option. We are concerned about maintaining fairness throughout the community and making sure all taxpayers have equal access to tax-funded streetlights."

City officials might be vexed about possibly having affluent parts of town remain ablaze while other areas turn dark. — PZ

County OKs gravel pit

After close to nine hours of discussion and testimony, El Paso County commissioners have approved a company's controversial plan to dig for gravel along Fountain Creek near Pikes Peak International Raceway. It's a pared-down version of a proposal that the new Fountain Creek watershed district board gave a thumbs-down in September.

La Farge Aggregates and Concrete originally wanted plants to process concrete and asphalt on the site, worrying downstream residents about chemical contamination. The company removed the plants from the proposal approved Jan. 28.

Pueblo County Commissioner Jeff Chostner, who testified against the proposal, told the Pueblo Chieftain that El Paso County elected officials, including City Councilors, "have a tin ear to what people of goodwill are saying on both sides of the county line."

El Paso Commissioner Dennis Hisey says he's not surprised at the ruffled feathers: "That is not the outcome they hoped for, but I believe what we did will have no impact on Pueblo County."

Commissioners' approval includes 37 conditions requiring, among other things, that La Farge stay out of the flood plain and pay to help redesign the Mile 122 interchange on Interstate 25. — AL

AFA deals with cross

The Air Force Academy's sanction of a prayer circle for earth worshippers created a mild media stir following an Independent report last Friday. As noted here, pagans will be allowed to openly gather at a circle bordered by large rocks on a hill overlooking the Cadet Chapel and Visitors Center.

Then, on Tuesday, it came to light that a railroad-tie cross had previously been placed at the prayer circle. The cross was removed after it was discovered in mid-January, leading one of the academy's biggest critics, Mikey Weinstein, to praise academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michael Gould.

Weinstein, an AFA grad and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, first raised the religious intolerance issue at the academy in 2005.

"We're very pleased," Weinstein said of Gould's response to intolerance. "The academy is trying to address this." — PZ

Compiled by Anthony Lane and Pam Zubeck.

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