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Noted: New law helps umemployed 

State gets $127.5 million more

Senate Bill 09-247 is now in effect, as of July 1. Which probably doesn't mean a whole lot to you, unless you're one of the growing number of Colorado's unemployed. Some of the changes:

• Colorado now qualifies for more than $127.5 million in federal dollars to help the unemployed. Some low-income workers are expected to see unemployment checks sooner, due to a change in the way benefits are calculated.

• The bill also opens the door for more to receive benefits. For instance, if taking a new job or transferring means you have to move far enough away that your spouse can no longer commute to work, your spouse is eligible for unemployment benefits.

• Finally, if you're unemployed and enter certain types of training programs, you could receive higher unemployment benefits. — JAS

Pay cuts hit Gazette

The new chief executive officer of the Gazette's parent company, Freedom Communications, came in with a roar this week and announced company-wide salary cuts of 5 percent.

The announcement follows multiple rounds of layoffs, and mandatory furloughs, at the Gazette and other Freedom newspapers. Gazette editor Jeff Thomas was out of the office this week, and publisher Steve Pope did not return a phone call Wednesday morning.

Burl Osborne, recently named CEO after several years on Freedom's board of directors, took over a company with hundreds of millions in debt dating to buyouts in 2004. He replaced Scott Flanders, who was chosen for what is arguably a more attractive post, as CEO of Playboy Enterprises. — AL

Wet and wild at courthouse

With dwindling sales-tax revenue and an already-shrunken workforce, El Paso County doesn't have a lot of extra funds to cope when the unexpected hits the fan. So it's bad timing that a microburst just hit the roof of the downtown county courthouse, giving the county a repair bill somewhere between $50,000 and $100,000.

The violent storm hit suddenly at about 2:30 p.m. on Friday, June 26, dislodging about a quarter of the roofing material from the courthouse's south tower and sending much of it hurtling into a courtyard commonly used by smokers.

Three courtrooms, a judge's chamber and other rooms on the building's fifth floor were damaged by rain that seeped through afterward. There were no serious injuries, though flying debris hurt one worker in an asbestos control project at the courthouse, located at 270 S. Tejon St.

The county is self-insured, meaning county commissioners will likely have to cut into reserve funds to cover repairs. Though the cost won't add significantly to a $3.5 million budget shortfall already anticipated for the year, the work could make it slightly harder for commissioners to come up with a balanced budget for 2010. In a May 21 budget presentation, commissioners were advised they could expect just to "weather the storm." So much for metaphors. — AL

Group looks at voting changes

A working group formed by Colorado's secretary of state held its first meeting Tuesday afternoon in Denver to start revising rules governing use and certification of the state's electronic voting machines.

Ten county clerks sit on the 21-member group, along with three representatives from companies that have voting equipment in use in Colorado. The others come from the secretary of state's office, the Republican and Democratic parties and an assortment of organizations interested in voting issues. The group also gave two slots to election activists Harvie Branscomb and Al Kolwicz, both of whom have been critical of electronic voting methods.

The group, scheduled to meet again in late July, will likely come under strain as it tries to balance machines' security with budgetary limitations of the clerks, who have complained about elaborate procedures implemented when the machines were certified. — AL

UCCS adds doctoral program

Perhaps the state's budget is tightening, but the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs is moving forward, as the CU regents have unanimously approved adding the university's fifth doctoral program, this one in applied sciences.

Tom Christensen, dean of UCCS' College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, developed the new doctorate's proposal with other faculty. The degree program will open in the fall, and Christensen says classes and faculty will be added in the next several years.

UCCS already offers Ph.D.s in education, geropsychology, engineering and nursing. — AM

New jobs for the Springs

Affiliated Computer Services Inc. this week announced plans to hire 600 new employees in Colorado Springs.

The Fortune 500 company is investing approximately $3 million to operate a 400-seat, 34,000-square-foot customer care center located at 2424 Garden of the Gods Road, the city's once-bustling, now-lethargic high-tech corridor. New available positions include customer care agents, trainers, managers and supervisors.

ACS will begin hiring employees immediately and training will begin mid-July. Candidates can apply at acs-inc.com. — VL

Road planning review set

The Federal Transportation Planning Certification Review meeting, which gives citizens the opportunity to contribute to the transportation planning process for the Colorado Springs metropolitan area, will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. on July 16 at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, 15 S. Seventh St.

Congressional legislation requires the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to host review meetings every four years in all metro areas with populations of 200,000 or more. Subjects of this review will include development and project programming, the congestion management process, and environmental justice. Interested citizens may submit written comments or questions to the FHWA or FTA (12300 W. Dakota Ave., #180 or #310, respectively, Lakewood, CO 80228-2583) via mail by July 13. — VL

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Virginia Leise, Avalon Manly and J. Adrian Stanley.

  • Also: Gazette pay cuts, courthouse damage, another doctoral program at UCCS.

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