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Noted: Statewide GOP jostling starts 

Statewide GOP jostling starts

As Republicans debate who has the best chance of pushing Gov. Bill Ritter from office, El Paso County elected officials are taking an early liking to former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis.

County Commissioner Sallie Clark is heading things up locally as county chair. Joining her in endorsing McInnis, according to a press release, are commissioners Jim Bensberg and Wayne Williams, Sheriff Terry Maketa and District Attorney Dan May.

The GOP primary pits McInnis against Josh Penry, the 33-year-old Senate minority leader recently featured in Christian Science Monitor stories about the party's future.

Less settled is the GOP's competition to take on U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, also a Democrat. While a Weld County district attorney and an Aurora city councilman will compete, former congressman Bob Beauprez, who lost a 2006 bid for governor against Ritter, has announced he will not. — AL

New detox up and running

El Paso County's new community detox facility opened Aug. 20, once again giving citizens a local place to safely come down after a long night (or day). Expected bumps notwithstanding, detox supervisor Teri Lawrence says she's surprised at how smoothly the opening has gone, adding that the facility has steadily served upward of 15 clients.

The facility will stay at the county's Metro jail, 210 S. Tejon St., until a permanent building is finished near the Criminal Justice Center at 2721 E. Las Vegas St., this fall. Anyone needing assistance can access the facility through an intercom located on the south side of the building and speak directly with detox staff, or call 520-7122. — BC

Section 16 talks on the rocks

The long-awaited final act in efforts to preserve Section 16, a popular piece of open space on the city's west side, has been pushed back indefinitely after the city and landowners failed to agree on a purchase price.

The 640-acre plot, popular with hikers, mountain bikers and other recreationists, is owned by the State Land Board, but has been leased for public use since the 1970s.

With the help of a $1 million grant from Great Outdoors Colorado and private donations, the city planned to use revenue from the Trails, Open Space and Parks tax to buy the property this fall. Chris Lieber, manager of the city's TOPS program, says the city had an appraisal for the property at $2.8 million, but could not come up with the more than $5 million requested by the Land Board.

Great Outdoors Colorado only participates when a purchase is based on fair market value, Lieber says, and the higher price takes the $1 million off the table. The property is currently leased through 2010 for $40,000 a year. Lieber anticipates the next struggle will be negotiating a new lease, with the Land Board indicating it wants more than $150,000 annually. — AL

Reporter had been with Gazette for 16 years

Pam Zubeck, an award-winning investigative journalist who's been at the Gazette since 1993, will join the Independent as a senior reporter in September.

Zubeck will be moving into a position that's new to the Indy, and was hired after a national search that attracted dozens of top-level candidates, including two Pulitzer Prize winners.

"We are thrilled to have Pam become part of the Independent family, and we're looking forward to her taking our news section, especially with her investigative reporting, to an even higher level," says executive editor Ralph Routon. "We had many outstanding candidates, but Pam's years of experience covering and breaking major stories while developing countless sources throughout the area, and her desire to make a difference in the community, stood out to us."

Zubeck was honored in June with the Colorado Freedom of Information Council's Jean Otto Friend of Freedom Award, given only five times in the past 10 years.

"I'm thankful for the many opportunities I was afforded while at the Gazette," Zubeck says, "but I am attracted to the Indy's long-form style in which reporters are given the opportunity to dig deep into various topics in the public's interest on a regular basis. I'm looking forward to working with the Indy staff for years to come." — KW

Acting DHS leader will stay

After five months as acting director of the El Paso County Department of Human Services, Richard Bengtsson has finally gotten the nod to take the position permanently.

Bengtsson takes the top job during a period in which demand for food stamps, Medicaid and other federal service administered by the department is surging. He has been with the department for 17 years, and became its deputy director in 2007. — AL

Candidate pledges pay cut

Facing a crowded GOP field to replace Jim Bensberg as a county commissioner, David Williams has come up with an interesting way to set himself apart from the field.

"I pledge to you that if I am elected I will donate at least ten percent of my yearly salary back to the county for all four years," Williams writes in a letter asking other candidates to do the same. Commissioners make $87,000, and Williams frames his pledge as a way for prospective office-holders to help the county's stretched budget.

Williams, former student body president at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, should face at least four other candidates for the GOP nomination, including Peggy Littleton, a state school board member; Ed Jones, a former county commissioner and state senator; and local Republicans Patrick Carter and William Guevara. So far, none have responded to Williams' pledge. — AL

Compiled by Bryce Crawford, Anthony Lane and Kirk Woundy.

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