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Noted: City pools could go to YMCA 

YMCA may run city pools

After declining to subsidize a private-public partnership with Swim Colorado Inc., for three city pools last year, the city will soon decide whether to subsidize the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region to run the same pools, and several others.

The YMCA wants to begin managing six city pools in April, including Cottonwood Creek Recreation Center, the Aquatics and Fitness Center at Memorial Park, Portal Pool, Wilson Ranch Pool, Monument Valley Pool and Prospect Lake Beach. The YMCA doesn't want to manage the closed Valley Hi Pool for competitive reasons.

The YMCA is requesting a $425,000 subsidy from the city to run the pools — more than four times what Swim Colorado owner Kevin Dessart said he needed to keep three pools open. The Y would get a greater subsidy if it lost money on the pools. It would share any profits with the city.

"Being a 501(c)(3), one of our charges is to ease the burden of government," YMCA President and CEO Dan Dummermuth said the day before the potential partnership was announced. Mayor Steve Bach has been likewise enthused, saying, "Community partnerships are essential to our future success. As a city the government is not going to have the resources we need to get everything done here."

City Council will vote Tuesday, March 13, on the partnership. Councilor Merv Bennett, former YMCA CEO, has promised to recuse himself from the vote. — JAS

Input wanted on cameras

You wouldn't have known it at a recent meeting, but City Councilors are concerned about cameras watching citizens in the downtown area. And they want to know how you feel.

Council plans a public hearing on Tuesday, March 13, to discuss putting 10 surveillance cameras downtown. They would cost $188,025 to install and maintain this year, but Police Chief Pete Carey says they're worth the cost because they may deter criminal activity and help catch criminals. Studies on the effects of cameras are mixed ("I spy..." News, March 1).

Council has postponed action until after citizen comments. The first reading of an ordinance could be as soon as March 27.

The public hearing will be at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., at 3 p.m., Tuesday, March 13. Comments can be made in person, by e-mail at allcouncil@springsgov.com, or by phone at 385-5986. — JAS

Jail-death suit tossed

Ricardo Grimaldo was 20 years old when he was picked up for an alleged burglary and detained at El Paso County Criminal Justice Center. Early on Nov. 4, 2010, he suffered what an autopsy guessed was a seizure or cardiac arrhythmia and died. His family was in shock: How does a healthy young man die in the middle of the night?

Their questions were met, they told the Independent in February 2011, with silence from the jail staff. They sued.

"We just want the facts," his brother Christopher told us. "We want to find out what happened to him."

Last week, it was determined that the jail staff had acted appropriately in reacting to Grimaldo's medical needs. The family agreed to drop the suit, and the county waived its claim to legal fees. — CH

Budget director 'retires'

Surprise, surprise, city budget director Lisa Bigelow won't be coming back.

Bigelow was placed on administrative leave in February, shortly after forwarding an e-mail chain to City Councilors concerning separation of powers — an e-mail that Mayor Steve Bach very clearly was not ready to share. Bigelow had also recently been criticized by the mayor for a misunderstanding over merit increases in the budget that left Bach embarrassed.

Chief of Staff Laura Neumann insisted it was her decision to put Bigelow on leave, and the e-mail was not a factor. Bigelow had been with the city since the mid-1990s and earned over $119,000 a year. The official word is that she retired with a six-month severance package. — JAS

First Pres opts out

Colorado Springs' largest downtown church, First Presbyterian, has taken its stand against ordination of homosexuals. Last Sunday, church membership voted with 88 percent in favor of parting ways with Presbyterian Church (USA).

The church, one of the nation's largest Presbyterian congregations, will look at joining the Evangelical Covenant Order of Presbyterians. This move follows a vote last May by members of PC (USA) to remove rules that effectively barred anyone other than married heterosexuals, or chaste singles, from the clergy.

When the Indy first reported on the church's possible split last fall, lead pastor Jim Singleton said the differences many churches have with PC (USA) go deeper than the sexual orientation issue. — CH

Democrats caucus quietly

Colorado Democrats gathered Tuesday night for precinct caucuses, reaffirming support for President Barack Obama.

Unlike local Republicans, Pikes Peak-area Dems have no heated primaries. Perhaps the biggest question is who, if anyone, will run in House District 17 ("Left out," cover story, March 1); no candidate emerged there on caucus night.

In HD 18, the only current local Democratic state legislator, Rep. Pete Lee, made the rounds telling groups like the 16 people (also four precincts) at Manitou Springs Middle School that he looks forward to facing Republican challenger Jennifer George in the general election.

Due to the low turnout, nearly everyone in most precincts had the chance to become a precinct delegate to the county assembly March 24 at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. — CH

Peak Arts Fund unveiled

The Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region on Tuesday kicked off its new Peak Arts Fund, raising money for local arts nonprofits. The fund will collect donations for 15 local organizations (such as Imagination Celebration, the Business of Art Center, and Colorado Springs Philharmonic) through May 1, with the goal of 1,500 donors.

Donors of $60-plus receive the Peak Arts Card, good for a year of discounts to arts and culture events as well as restaurants. (Find out more at peakartsfund.org.)

Announcing the fund at a news conference, campaign chair Dave Csintyan, interim CEO of the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber and EDC, spoke of the "inextricable" bond between art and business, how the fund can attract people and companies to the Springs and grow the community. "Our community is rabidly behind where we're going," he said.

At a launch party, Mayor Steve Bach touted the project, and members of City Council also showed their support. — EA

No rush for new rate

City Council recently took steps to assure that dramatic drops in commercial water development charges would take effect on March 1. But no one has applied for a hookup, according to Springs Utilities.

On Feb. 28, Council voted to reduce commercial water hookups. For example, the charge for a 4-inch line will slide from $334,543 to $154,847, a drop of 54 percent. Utilities finance and planning chief Bill Cherrier said the discount would encourage development while not costing residential ratepayers, though his presentation showed Utilities could lose nearly $1 million on only 10 hookups.

The idea of the reduction is to spark economic development ("Trickle-down theory," News, Feb. 2), with Utilities officials noting that other Front Range cities have lower charges. — PZ

Project Connect returns

Bob Holmes, leader of homeless services agency Homeward Pikes Peak believes homeless services should be a hand up, not a handout. In that spirit, his fourth annual Project Connect will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 14, at the City Auditorium.

Homeless individuals who "really want to get off the streets" will have access to more than 30 agencies that can help them get jobs, health care, housing, IDs, and financial and legal services. — JAS

Visitor center torn down

Helen Hunt Falls Visitor Center, known affectionately as "The Cub," met its end on Monday morning, March 5.

The tiny 100-year-old, cabin-like horse stable had reached the end of its useful life. But it held out long enough to let the Friends of North Cheyenne Cañon raise donations to build a replacement, including $75,000 over five years from sales of a charitable beer created by Bristol Brewing Co.; more than $38,000 from the 2011 Indy Give! campaign; and the time and talent of Doug Fullen of Way Architects, among other gifts.

The Friends group plans to erect a rustic log cabin, featuring round, glass-less windows that allow hummingbirds to fly in, just as its predecessor did. Since it'll be open only in the summers, city program coordinator and visitor center manager Cathy Railton says the structure is almost more of a pavilion and won't have modern amenities like indoor plumbing. On the other hand, she notes, "It will not have rotten logs or a leaking roof, [and] it will be a lot more sturdy and sound for probably at least 100 years to come." — JAS

Compiled by Edie Adelstein, Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Also: Input wanted on cameras, jail-death suit tossed, budget director 'retires' and more.

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