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Noted: Overdue tax fees lessened 

A kinder, gentler taxman

The city wants you to come clean.

If your business is unlicensed or delinquent on sales tax payments, now is the time to fork over the cash. That's because between now and Aug. 14, the city will only charge you 6 percent interest on overdue taxes, instead of the up-to-18 percent it usually charges.

The "Sales Tax Amnesty Program" is envisioned as a win-win. The city collects more sales tax at a time when tax revenues are dipping, and business owners can get on the right side of the law while paying fewer fines. By the way, if you aren't paying your taxes, you now stand a good chance of being caught; when City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft came on board, she hired four sales tax investigators to hunt down businesses that were dodging the system.

"This is a great way for a business to call a 'time out' to get their affairs in order before they are detected by one of our investigators," Revenue and Collections Division Manager Candice Bridgers stated in a press release.

Interested business owners can contact the Revenue and Collections Division at 385-5903. — JAS

Detox plans in critical condition

A last-minute dispute between the El Paso County Sheriff's Office and both Memorial and Penrose-St. Francis hospitals has future detox services, absent since Feb. 1, poised to disappear altogether.

The hospitals, whose ERs continue to accept intoxicated patients in lieu of a detox facility, reported Tuesday that they had requested $400,000 and $170,000, respectively, from their boards to commit to a new detox facility, but that they did not receive "specific details of the [sheriff's office's] business plan" until May 8 and still needed time to review the proposal.

Sheriff's Lt. Lari Sevene says that though there's "still a little wiggle room" for some resolution to be reached in the coming days, the sheriff is likely to be forced to approve two new minimum-security structures without the proposed 40 detox beds.

"[The community partners] have been meeting on this the last couple months," Sevene says. "Everything asked of us has been provided. Why [a decision on funding] came down to the very last minute, I'm not sure."

The real cost of all the finish-line bickering will be to the community, says Michael Allen, clinical director of Connect Care, a behavioral health care management service. If a viable proposal isn't in place soon, $800,000 in state funding, including $400,000 already held over from last year's unmet requirements, will be sent elsewhere.

"We may never get that money back ever again," he says. "That's my biggest fear in all of this." — MS

Deputy DA arrested for DUI

Cheers! Here's to setting a good example!

As if it wasn't embarrassing enough to have then-4th Judicial District Attorney John Newsome caught on camera downing more than a gallon of beer and driving a county-owned vehicle last year ... now Deputy DA Sebasti Emma Adams has been arrested for driving under the influence, careless driving and driving without proof of insurance. A special prosecutor is handling the case.

Adams was out on Saturday, May 8, when she crashed her car into a curb and disabled her vehicle. She failed roadside sobriety tests.

Adams is currently suspended with pay. — JAS

Co-op-er-a-tion makes it happen

It's official: The city and county have formed a Shared Services Task Force and are directing the county administrator and city manager to look for ways to save money by working together.

"We are looking everywhere for greater efficiencies," Commissioner Sallie Clark stated in a press release. "Just a few examples where shared services might create better efficiencies are information technology, procurement, fuel purchases, animal control and payroll administration and I'm sure we'll find other areas as well."

City Councilor Darryl Glenn, who has announced his candidacy for county commission in 2010, is another big proponent of the plan, which he says will save taxpayers money.

However, some doubt that a large-scale consolidation will benefit both sides equally, arguing that the county may reap most of the benefits. — JAS

Recovery center grows

The Cascade-based Peak Addiction Recovery Center, which has so far treated 150 patients for severe alcohol and drug dependencies, is expanding its service to the downtown area. The nonprofit will mark its one-year anniversary this Friday with the opening of a newly leased main transitional facility at 1116 S. Nevada Ave.

"It's been 20 years since the Springs has had a true inpatient rehab facility solely focused on addiction treatment, so that in itself we consider a success," says P.A.R.C. executive director Michael McKelvey.

McKelvey notes that P.A.R.C. lost a significant chunk of state-originated funding at the end of 2008, and that to stay afloat, it's had to open up at least half its slots to clients coming in from out-of-state. While the organization continues to operate its primary center in Cascade, the downtown expansion will result in more community-integrated programs, including outpatient services and transitional living for newly sober patients. — BF

Compiled by Bill Forman, Matthew Schniper and J. Adrian Stanley. For more briefs, visit csindy.com.

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