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Noted: Springs passed over for housing grants 

Lack of local staff a factor

The federal government has given out nearly $73 million in Department of Housing and Urban Development grants, and all Colorado Springs got was a lousy $36,000.

The money, distributed nationally, was for foreclosure-prevention and transitional-housing counseling. The local grant went to Partners in Housing, which provides transitional housing to families with kids.

Ten Colorado cities got grants, and all but Cañon City did better than the Springs. Denver got more than $288,000. Boulder topped $53,000. Grand Junction raked in nearly $50,000. Even little Lone Tree, with about 9,500 residents, got $40,000-plus.

Bob Holmes, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, which deals directly with HUD for the county, says the Springs is at a disadvantage for HUD grants because El Paso County is considered its own "hub" by the feds. Colorado's other two hubs are Denver and the entire rest of the state. Each hub must advocate for its own funding in annual competitive processes. The other Colorado hubs have bigger staffs and more resources, making them more effective. Holmes says this grant cycle was not his biggest priority, which probably contributed to the lower grant award.

Holmes has been focused on getting more veterans vouchers from HUD and Veterans Affairs. The vouchers, which provide housing for homeless veterans, are handed out based on the population of a city. That means Denver has plenty of the vouchers; Colorado Springs, despite its huge military population, is clean out. "That one, I'm upset about," he says. — JAS

No Saturday buses yet

By now, most local bus riders have heard the good news: Saturday service is back in 2011. But hold on. Don't expect to hop on a bus Saturday, Jan. 1. Or Jan. 8, for that matter. Saturday bus service won't return until early March because planning still needs to take place, says Transit Services administrator Andy Garton.

It's expected that Saturday service will run from 6:45 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., likely on the nine most-used routes. Visit mmtransit.com for routes and updates. — JAS

County turnover starts early

El Paso County doesn't have a county clerk for a few days. Commissioners voted Tuesday to accept outgoing clerk Bob Balink's resignation, so that he can be sworn in as county treasurer unencumbered starting Jan. 1. It was a legal necessity; Colorado law doesn't allow for a county treasurer to hold any other position.

El Paso County would have gone without a new clerk until Jan. 11, when new county officials are to be sworn in, but short-timer Commissioner Wayne Williams, who won the clerk race in November, asked commissioners to appoint him clerk for those 10 days. In the meeting Tuesday, Commissioner Jim Bensberg expressed brief doubts about the resolution, saying the deputy clerk could simply assume the duties for those 10 days. Commissioners apparently thought Williams would resign as commissioner to become clerk. Instead, he wants to serve in both roles from Jan. 1-11. The resolution stipulates that Williams only be paid one salary for those 10 days.

Incoming commissioner Darryl Glenn also plans to pull double duty, continuing to serve on City Council as well to avoid a process of Council choosing an interim replacement before the April city election. — CH

Bruce's charity fined $11,300

The law applies to most people, but apparently not to Doug Bruce. Campaign law, that is. Tuesday, Denver Administrative Law Judge Matthew Norwood found that Active Citizens Together, the issue committee run by the anti-tax champion, violated the state's campaign-finance laws by not reporting its expenditures to support November's failed ballot measures 60, 61 and 101.

Under state law, ACT had to report expenses exceeding $200, which they did by somewhere between $209,800 to $249,800, the court found. The court fined ACT $11,300. According to the Denver Post, this is believed to be the highest penalty ever leveled against an issue committee. For months, Bruce vehemently denied his connection to ACT. But his involvement, which included writing the checks that ACT paid to support its campaign, became clear during depositions. — CH

Give! reaches final hours

With donations already having surpassed $294,000, the Independent's 2010 Give! campaign is still going strong into its last two days.

The deadline to make a donation is midnight, Friday, Dec. 31. There are still reward packages available at each donation level ($25, $125, $500 and $1,000). Between $50,000 and $75,000 in challenge grants, matching grants and friendly competitions will be added to the total website donations after Give! closes.

The overall goal for this year's campaign is $333,333.34 — far more than in 2009, when the total amount came to just short of $200,000. If you plan to mail a check and want it to count in the final number, it must be dated and postmarked by Dec. 31. Also, donors can drop off checks at the Independent, 235 S. Nevada Ave., before the office closes at 5:30 p.m., Friday.

For more information on the campaign's progress, participating nonprofits and how to make donations online, please go to indygive.com. — RR

Skorman sets a date

Although everyone already knows that former City Councilman and downtown business owner Richard Skorman is in the race for mayor, he has yet to make it official. Skorman plans to announce his run at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 4 in Carnegie Reading Room at Penrose Library, 20 N. Cascade Ave. — JAS

PERA gets an overhaul

A new law will mean big changes for public employee retirees in 2011. The Public Employees' Retirement Association, which provides pensions to more than 450,000 government employees throughout the state, is woefully underfunded. (It had an actuarial loss of $2.9 billion in 2009, despite an upturn in return-on-investment.) In an attempt to plug that hole, retirees will only receive a 2 percent increase on their pension, or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This replaces the old system of giving a 3.5 percent annual increase. The retirement age is also being raised from 55 to 60.

The changes are expected to save the state $8.8 billion. — JAS

Want to run the city?

The city is hosting two information sessions for City Council and mayoral candidates, their campaign workers, and the general public on Jan. 3 and 4. City Clerk Kathryn Young will go over basics including nomination petitions, the Fair Campaign Practices Act, campaign signs, electronic filing, finance forms, election dates, filing dates and qualifications to run.

Participants are invited to attend on either Monday or Tuesday, starting at 5 p.m. at the City Administration Building, 30 S. Nevada Ave., #102. No RSVP needed. — JAS

Compiled by Chet Hardin, Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.

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