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News briefs from the Front Range

Armstrong to face congregation

Rev. Don Armstrong, the Grace and St. Stephens church rector accused by the Diocese of Colorado of hijacking a church building and financial theft to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars, will address the allegations this weekend.

The meeting, open to the public, will take place Saturday in the nave of the 601 N. Tejon St. church, said Alan Crippen, spokesman for Grace parishioners considering breaking ties with the Episcopal Church of the United States and aligning with an Anglican province in Nigeria.

The past week brought a flurry of legal actions marking the start of a legal battle to determine which side of the split congregation should inhabit a building admired for its nearly 80-year old English bell tower. As the Diocese of Colorado sought to freeze the churchs assets, Graces breakaway vestry its board of directors took measures in District Court to keep the property in its hands.

Grace on Wednesday began a 40-day period of discernment of whether to leave the Episcopal Church that ends May 20. At that time, Crippen said, a secret ballot will likely be taken. Bishop Martyn Mimms of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, a Church of Nigeria mission in Virginia will visit next week.

The diocese has said that congregations cannot leave the Episcopal Church, only individuals. MdY

Water task force meeting set next week

The Fountain Creek Vision Task Force will meet Thursday, April 19, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the El Pueblo History Museum. The meeting's purpose is to update the group and public on progress by committees and working groups on water quality, water quantity and land use/environment.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will take place in the conference room at the museum, 301 N. Union Ave., in Pueblo. For more information or to RSVP, contact Niki Koszalka of The Keystone Center at 800/219-6670. RR

St. Pat's Seven plead not guilty

The seven peace marchers arrested by Colorado Springs police on St. Patrick's Day entered "not guilty" pleas and requested jury trials during an arraignment Tuesday in Municipal Court.

"We don't consider ourselves protesters," Bill Durland, one of the defendants, said afterward. "That's what the court will have to decide."

A prosecutor for the City Attorney's Office motioned to change the offense that marchers face from failing to disperse to "obstructing passage or assembly." Both crimes carry a maximum $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail.

The prosecutor also requested Judge Carol Carter to remove herself from the case, stating she may have known somebody involved in the matter. Carter declined.

Police removed marchers from the parade after organizers objected to their anti-war signs. Marchers have alleged police used excessive force. That group includes Elizabeth Fineron, who was dragged on the street and suffered a large abrasion.

The next court date is May 7. MdY

Isaac in nursing care

Bob Isaac, who spent nearly two decades in office as Colorado Springs mayor, is in a local nursing home in failing health. "I will confirm that," said daughter Tiffany Isaac, one of Isaac's five children, on Wednesday.

Bob Isaac, who became mayor in 1979, resigned before the end of his term in January 1997. He oversaw a conservative, pro-development City Council that expanded the city's boundaries and pushed for a new airport, the World Arena and minor-league baseball.

He also faced criticism for scrapping the city's Human Relations Commission a body today's minorities and peace activists have battled to resurrect. When he left office, he said he would go fly-fishing.

Tiffany Isaac said he did that. He also taught American government classes at Pikes Peak Community College and did contract work that tapped his expertise.

Tiffany Isaac declined to say when the 79-year-old entered the nursing home. She says he's doing as well as anyone could expect, adding, "He's happy and in great spirits." MdY

Courthouse getting $140,000 security system

Breathe easy, Colorado Springs. Terrorists can no longer penetrate your county courthouse.

Early this week county officials unveiled a $140,000 security system to be installed at the Terry R. Harris Judicial Complex in mid-April. The ProVision body scanner employs a kind of virtual strip search, revealing any foreign objects on the body, such as wood, rubber or explosives. According to news reports, the computer screen will block out genitalia, unless, of course, someone hides a handgun down there.

El Paso County is the first to purchase and use the system in the United States; it is currently in use in Israel and at the Madrid airport. It will eliminate the need for two full-time positions, saving the cash-strapped county money in the long run. NZ

Carson change of command set

Brig. Gen. Mark Graham will replace Maj. Gen. Robert Mixon as Fort Carson's top commander. Graham, deputy commander of Army North at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, is expected to assume his new duties on Sept. 27.

He'll take charge of a bustling post that's adding 10,000 personnel before 2011, bringing thousands of family members and jobs to the Pikes Peak region. He comes as the post pushes for the controversial 418,000-acre expansion of the roughly 235,000-acre Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site in southeast Colorado. A bill opposing the use of eminent domain to protect ranchers has cleared the state Legislature's House and earlier this week progressed in the Senate.

Graham will also be responsible for 1st Army Division West, which must train all Army Reserve and National Guard troops stationed west of the Mississippi River. The Pentagon did not indicate Mixon's next assignment. MdY

Morland stays on in Manitou

Manitou Springs ducked out of a June mayoral race early this week in an effort to save money. The town was due for a special election following Marcy Morrison's January departure to become Gov. Bill Ritter's insurance commissioner.

Interim Mayor Mark Morland and Councilor Donna Ford were the only two candidates. Ford withdrew her application, allowing Morland to continue as interim mayor until November and saving Manitou the $10,000 it would have cost to hold the election.

"God bless Donna Ford," says city administrator Verne Witham. "Our budget is so tight right now that we are hurting financially. Every little dollar counts." NZ

Science-based sex-ed could be mandated in public schools

Pending Gov. Bill Ritter's approval, Colorado public schools will provide medically accurate sex education programs. A bill promoting science-based, standardized curriculum awaits Ritter's signature. Colorado ranks 22nd in teen pregnancies in the nation; 12,130 girls under 18 become pregnant each year.

The bill symbolizes a departure from abstinence-only, ideologically influenced sex-ed programming but won't change much in El Paso County. Several area districts (including Academy D-20, Widefield D-3, Manitou D-14 and Colorado Springs D-11) already provide information on STDs, HIV and contraception. These districts employ an abstinence-based approach but educate on safe alternatives.

The bill includes a clause that allows students to opt out of the program based on personal and religious beliefs. NZ

Compiled by Michael de Yoanna, Naomi Zeveloff and Ralph Routon.

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