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The most important 30 cents of the day

Some parents can't afford 30 cents a day to give their kids a healthy breakfast.

A recently enacted state bill has eliminated that cost for Colorado Springs families who previously qualified for a reduced-price, but not free, public-school breakfast through a federal program.

"Historically, the 30 cents has been a barrier for the children of many reduced-priced eligible families to consistently participate in the breakfast program," Melanie Oddo, food services business manager for District 11 schools, wrote in an e-mail. "[S]hifting the 30 cents to the state should increase participation."

A 2004 Department of Agriculture study found that kids who receive a school breakfast "consume a better overall diet, consume a lower percentage of calories from fat, are less likely to have a low intake of magnesium, and are less likely to have low serum levels of vitamin C and folate."

The bill won't affect the school lunch program. According to Oddo, more than 40 percent of D-11 kids received free or reduced-price lunch in May. Reduced-price lunches cost 40 cents.

Who qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches is decided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture annually, and is based on the Federal Poverty Standard. This school year, a family with one parent and one child must make $17,797 or less to qualify for free lunches. A family with three members could make just $22,321 a year. The 2007-08 figures for reduced-price lunches are $25,327 and $31,765, respectively.

The free-lunch program differs from other federal programs for the poor. To get food stamps, for instance, the government considers income and family size, but also factors in other issues such as expenses, medical deductions, financial resources, child support and the presence of a disabled person in the home. JAS

Grace rector found guilty by diocese

An independent Episcopal Church court panel has found the Rev. Donald Armstrong guilty of theft, receiving illegal loans, improper use of discretionary funds and other violations.

The findings, released Wednesday, set the stage for punishments of the embattled leader of Grace Church and St. Stephens Parish including removing him from the priesthood.

However, Alan Crippen, a spokesman for Armstrong, said the Episcopal Church has no jurisdiction over Armstrong because he and other members of Grace left the church to affiliate with a foreign diocese elsewhere in Anglicanism.

The Episcopal Church has no jurisdiction over us, Crippen said. Theres no credibility to the charges. This thing is, and has been from the very beginning, a theological witch hunt.

The five-member, clergy-lay person panel concluded that Armstrong was guilty on all six of the counts submitted last week by a church investigative committee.

Armstrong was found guilty of stealing $392,410 and failing to report $548,097 to the IRS. Other findings included: He also received hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans violating church law; caused millions of dollars of encumbrances to church property without getting proper approval; violated his suspension from Grace by communicating with lay leaders; and failed to maintain accounting books.

Armstrong has 30 days to respond before the judgment becomes final. At that time, recommendations for sentencing are forwarded to Colorado diocese Bishop Robert ONeill for decision.

Crippen did not know whether Armstrong would respond. Both Armstrong and the diocese declined to comment. MdY

County delays big road projects

El Paso County commissioners have taken the advice of the Highway Advisory Committee, deciding to tackle a bunch of small road projects before taking on the big stuff.

With a tight budget, commissioners didnt have the money to address all 25 Department of Transportation priority projects, projected to cost more than $20 million. So, the commissioners decided to invest $2.3 million in nine of the cheaper fixes.

The biggest project approved is $850,000 for a well and storage tank in Ellicott to provide water for dust control on roads.

Commissioner Wayne Williams says the county will need to deal with expensive projects in the future, even if it means the county can only afford one road project a year. JAS

Lamborn, Udall unite to protect Army mountain camp

U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn and Mark Udall are seeking to list an Army training ground that served a vital role to the Army and CIA as a National Historic Site. Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, last week introduced House Resolution 3336 to grant the largely emblematic designation to Camp Hale and Tennessee Pass, both near Leadville.

Its a national treasure with national importance, says Lamborn spokesman Chris Harvin.

The camp opened in 1942, providing challenging training grounds, including skiing, for Army 10th Mountain Division soldiers during World War II. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the CIA secretly trained Tibetan guerrillas at the camp in a vain effort to combat the expansion of communist China into their land.

Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, is cosponsoring the bill to preserve the memory of the mountain division, which lost more than 25 percent of its soldiers in heavy fighting in northern Italy. The resolution would remove the site from the U.S. Forest Service and place the site under the National Park Service, raising its prestige and making it more appealing to tourists, Harvin says. MdY

Growth around Air Force bases concerns senators

Population growth and new housing in areas around southern Colorado Air Force installations could pose a threat to security and hamper military operations, Colorado's U.S. senators warn.

Ken Salazar and Wayne Allard sent a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne that essentially pushes him to apply for potential buffer-zone funding.

Growth issues north and west of Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado Springs could make the installation less secure and prevent communication with national security satellites when they are close to the horizon, says Allard spokesman Steve Wymer.

Allard and Salazar already are seeking funds that would allow Peterson Air Force Base to grow by 23 acres near the headquarters of U.S. Northern Command, an office building. That's where Cheyenne Mountain air and missile operations are proposed to move. The acreage would give the base a larger "stand-off" line at its fences.

The senators say Wynne could apply for defense funds to help acquire land around their installations, but must do so prior to a Sept. 14 deadline. MdY

Without money, 'mercenary' challenge could be dead

Brian X. Scott of Colorado Springs appears to be coming up short in efforts to find a financial backer and legal assistance for his court case arguing that the government's hiring of private security contractors in Iraq amounts to using "mercenaries."

"I've raised nothing, lined up no backing," Scott admits.

Scott, a small contractor from Colorado Springs, is mired in a strange case that hampered the awarding of the Iraq war's largest security contract to major companies. He is asking the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to rule some security contractors are being used illegally as mercenaries.

To have his case considered, Scott must prove by Aug. 15 that he's a viable candidate to carry out portions of the $475 million contract he considers legal. Last week, the Justice Department filed a motion stating Scott should be able to show he can employ more than 150 people and provide $27 million of services.

"That's what I have to show I can finance in order for the case to go forward," Scott says. Without a business partner, he says he doesn't have the resources.

"It doesn't look like I'm going to overcome that hurdle," Scott says. MdY

Former professor sues CC over termination

Kevin O'Connor, a former Colorado College professor who says he was wrongfully terminated, is suing the college, two of its high-level administrators and three professors in district court.

O'Connor started working at CC in 1986 and became an associate professor of Spanish in 1992, according to a college document. O'Connor held that job until he was fired in 2005.

O'Connor says his termination came after he refused to hold a "substandard" program in Oaxaca, Mexico. The former professor says he bumped heads with administration and staff for years over human-resource and safety issues. O'Connor's complaint, filed in El Paso County District Court, outlines his view that coworkers and higher-ups orchestrated his dismissal without just cause.

The case went to trial Tuesday and is expected to last two to three weeks. O'Connor also is suing college President Richard Celeste, former Dean Richard Storey and professors Salvino Bizzarro, Clara Lomas and Maria Daniels.

Chris J. Melcher, CC's legal counsel, says the college is prepared to defend itself, adding, "The college believes that Kevin O'Connor's lawsuit has no basis in fact or law, and we disagree that there's any basis for Kevin O'Connor to complain about his termination." JAS

Sen. Salazar still torn over Pion Canyon expansion

U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar, meeting Tuesday in Trinidad with ranching families, admitted the Senate will "listen more closely to what the Department of Defense needs," indicating he could not say no to the Army's proposed Pion Canyon expansion, the Pueblo Chieftain reported.

Salazar still gave some hope to ranchers who oppose the expansion, saying Congress could effectively stop the Pion Canyon plans with new legislation prohibiting condemnation to acquire land for military training purposes.

The senator said land leases to the Army, allowing ranchers to continue using the land, might be an answer. He also hinted the Army might offer some other economic incentives, possibly including a military equipment plant or maintenance facility. RR

Compiled by Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Michael de Yoanna.

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