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Noted: Traffic cameras coming 

Smile for traffic cameras

The police department's plan to install four traffic cameras at dangerous intersections, and to hand out tickets to red-light runners, got just enough City Council support to stay on the table.

Council voted 5-4 to approve an ordinance governing traffic camera citations. Tom Gallagher, Randy Purvis, Darryl Glenn and Sean Paige opposed the measure. Final approval is expected later this month.

Police plan to install cameras at northbound Nevada Avenue at Bijou Street, eastbound Barnes Road at Oro Blanco Drive, westbound Platte Avenue at Murray Boulevard, and westbound Platte Avenue at Circle Drive. Police hope camera enforcement will encourage drivers to abide by the law. Police Chief Richard Myers has said he does not view the cameras as a revenue generator.

A driver caught by cameras will be issued a $75 ticket after a police officer approves the citation. There are no points assessed for photo-based tickets. Cited drivers will have a chance to view video of their violation online before deciding whether to pay the ticket or contest it.

The city has hired a contractor for the photo services, and the cost will be paid with revenue from the ticketing. Drivers can expect warnings for violations by mid-September. In mid-October, police will begin sending out real citations. — JAS

Council OKs dispensaries

Council also gave final approval Tuesday to its pre-application ordinance for medical marijuana centers, with the 6-3 vote ensuring the continued existence of Colorado Springs' 100-plus dispensaries. As in the first vote, Randy Purvis, Darryl Glenn and Scott Hente dissented.

Center owners must now pursue the pre-licensing application process, securing their viability while the city creates its official licensing process. Owners may apply at the City Clerk's office at 30 S. Nevada Ave., Tuesday through Thursday, to complete the paperwork.

Prior to the vote, Mayor Lionel Rivera provided food for thought: "Whether or not City Council decides to put something on the ballot in November — which I would not support ... that doesn't stop the citizens from gathering a petition and putting something on the April ballot. So it's incumbent upon the industry between now and the city election, to make sure you run a very professional industry, if this goes forward." — BC

City set to buy Section 16

Colorado Springs is likely to buy the popular Section 16 Open Space Park this year, thanks in part to a new law co-sponsored by state Rep. Michael Merrifield.

Colorado Springs has leased the 640-acre Section 16 property, sandwiched between Red Rock Canyon Open Space and North Cheyenne Cañon, from the state since 1972. It's been trying to buy the property for years, but has been unable to negotiate a deal. Recently, the State Land Board wanted about $8 million — millions more than the city was prepared to pay.

Now the land board has decided to offer a "direct exchange," as legalized by newly signed House Bill 1165, lifting the need to engage in public bids. It's asking the city directly for a more reasonable $3.8 million, plus a mandatory 99-year lease of mineral rights costing about $805,000.

City parks manager Kurt Schroeder says he's "very optimistic" the city will purchase the land this year, with Council approval. He adds that not putting the property up to bid was "a first step in the process, but a very, very, very important step." The money would come from the Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax. — JAS

Shirk asks Maketa to debate

Monument Police Chief Jake Shirk, running for El Paso County sheriff, is challenging incumbent Terry Maketa to four debates — two in June and two in July — before the Aug. 10 Republican primary.

Maketa's campaign manager, Wendy Habert, says she hasn't discussed the request with Maketa, but adds, "I don't think he would have any problem doing that."

"I have questions for you. You have questions for me," Shirk writes in his letter to Maketa. "More importantly, the Republican primary voters have questions for both of us. It is our obligation to answer those questions, be transparent to the voters, and clearly articulate our different positions on the key issues facing our county."

Shirk asks for a response by Monday, June 14, saying, "I know that it is 'politics as usual' for an incumbent, such as yourself, to ignore a challenger. I'm a cop, not a politician." — PZ

Hey, Balink: What about Tom?

As much as El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Bob Balink would like to turn over the keys to his office to fellow Republican Wayne Williams, Balink needs to face up to the fact there's a Democrat running for the office, too.

Balink's county website, in listing candidates for all county offices, had omitted Public Trustee Tom Mowle from the clerk and recorder's race and listed Williams, a county commissioner, as the sole candidate.

"It appears when the page was recently re-formatted his name was dropped," Balink writes in an e-mail. He doesn't know how long the list appeared sans Mowle, saying, "We have an extensive website and every week each department updates, revised, etc their pages."

Mowle's name was added earlier this week — but below Williams', despite every other matchup being ordered alphabetically. — PZ

Starlight looks bright for TOSC

The nonprofit Trails and Open Space Coalition is preparing for its biggest annual fundraiser, the Starlight Spectacular, a 14- to 22-mile bike ride that winds through Garden of the Gods and Colorado Springs.

It starts at 11:59 p.m. on Saturday night, June 12. The ride is a huge hit with the cycling community, and many revelers dress up their bikes with strings of lights and wear whimsical costumes. Along the way, cyclists are treated to food and live music. The whole thing winds down with a hearty pancake breakfast.

This year's Starlight looks to be the biggest ever, with more than 1,500 participants expected to sign up and pay a fee. That's great news for TOSC, which needs the money to keep working on its Sustainable Parks Initiative, asking voters to approve dedicated funding that will keep our city parks green in the future.

To sign up for Starlight, visit trailsandopenspaces.org. — JAS

Compiled by Bryce Crawford, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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