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Noted: Fort Collins-Pueblo rail? 

High-speed rail discussed

In 2009, the Rocky Mountain Rail Authority released a study that found high-speed rail technologically and economically feasible in Colorado, based on growth projections. On Monday, as part of its Interregional Connectivity Study, the state Department of Transportation took it a step further with an open house in Colorado Springs to discuss possible routes, station locations and costs of a high-speed rail network.

The ICS study proposes two preliminary alignments for the Fort Collins-Pueblo corridor. One closely follows existing track near Interstate 25 through Colorado Springs' downtown area, with the option of sharing track with lower-speed freight rail traffic. The other — a so-called "greenfield alignment" — cuts a new, more direct path east of I-25, bringing passengers instead to the Colorado Springs airport. The latter route, first proposed in the 2009 RMRA study, faced some public opposition Monday, mostly from Black Forest residents who voiced concerns about noise and the track potentially cutting through local property.

The study's presenters stressed the preliminary nature of their report, and encouraged public input on the proposed alignments. No concrete recommendation is expected before 2013, and any implementation of a high-speed rail plan would likely take decades. — WM

Illness strikes Kosley

Woodland Park likes to bill itself as "the city above the clouds," but that dreamy description hardly seems apt these days. Since the Waldo Canyon Fire shut some people out and scared others away, locals have been scrambling to make up economic ground. And they're doing so without Beth Kosley, who has been seriously ill and does not plan to return to work.

"She was dual-hatted: both economic development, which meant she worked for the city, and downtown development, which meant she worked for the board of the [Downtown Development Authority]," says Woodland Park city manager David Buttery.

Many remember Kosley as the longtime head of Colorado Springs' Downtown Partnership, which she ran for about 15 years until 2008. Under her watch, the Downtown Development Authority and Downtown Business Improvement District formed, as well as Community Ventures and Art on the Streets. Kosley also played a big part in writing the Downtown Action Plan, a master plan for downtown development and growth.

A Green Mountain Falls resident, Kosley saw the Woodland Park job as a way to focus on the environment she loved. Things went well until late March when she contracted a viral brain infection, with symptoms similar to a stroke. Kosley is recovering but has cognitive difficulties that may or may not be permanent, such as recalling names and dates, says longtime Downtown Partnership co-worker Denise Schall.

As for Woodland Park, Buttery says, "Beth is being missed." But Chamber president Debbie Miller says most businesses have seen customers return, and a positive media message seems to be sinking in. — JAS

Gessler request deferred

In his relentless quest to prove abuse of our election system by undocumented immigrants, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler has launched a wide-scale investigation. And only El Paso County has refused to comply with his request for specific information.

Gessler requested information regarding immigration detainees from county jails, according to the Denver Post, finding that there were potentially 85 undocumented immigrants registered to vote in Colorado.

But the El Paso County Sheriff's Office denied Gessler's request, according to Lt. Jeff Kramer, because it "would violate our Inter-Governmental Service Agreement (IGSA) with Immigration and Customs Enforcement." Kramer said he referred Gessler's office to ICE, adding, "I don't believe the other agencies listed in the article have long-term housing contracts with ICE as we do, which means they are not bound by the same rules." — CH

Nonprofit helps fire victims

A new nonprofit is forming to help people who lost their homes in the Waldo Canyon Fire, but exactly who is paying how much to do that isn't clear. Colorado Springs Together, whose nonprofit status is pending with the Internal Revenue Service, wants individuals, businesses and nonprofits to donate to help clean up Mountain Shadows, including clearing the home sites in a timely way.

The group (coloradospringstogether.org) is headed by Bob Cutter, a technology consultant who says he's been a friend and business associate of Mayor Steve Bach for two decades. Others on the "leadership team" include a developer, contractor and officials with the El Pomar Foundation, Pikes Peak United Way, the city, county and Colorado Springs Utilities, among others.

Springs Together plans four phases: debris removal, cleanup and removal of burned vegetation, mitigation of flood damage, and demolition of foundations, if necessary, to make way for new homes.

Cutter acknowledges that no donations are tax-deductible until the IRS bestows nonprofit status, and stresses that homeowners aren't obligated to use demolition companies hired by Springs Together, which is trying to match resources with homeowners' needs. Cutter says some work, such as demolition, will be covered by insurance, but other expenses, such as the organization's office rent , will not.

Springs Together's unpaid leaders, Cutter says, have two goals: to rebuild Mountain Shadows, and to grow a sense of community during the transition. He also spoke of building a memorial and a community center, adding, "We're really kind of volunteering time. We're bringing expertise together to design a recovery process for Mountain Shadows."

During a meeting with homeowners Monday, one man asked about the amount and sources of donations, and how the money is being managed. He was booed down by other homeowners, saying, "How dare you question these people who are trying to help?" says homeowner Jaqueline Calvano, who witnessed the meeting.

"One man accosted him," she says. "Police had to pull him off." She, too, asked a few questions, and says "the whole crowd turned on me. There's a lot of money involved here, and somebody needs to be watching." — PZ

Shooting range in sight

El Paso County intends to award a contract Thursday for $650,216 to R.E. Monks Construction of Colorado Springs to build a public shooting range at Fort Carson. The idea for Cheyenne Mountain Shooting Range was developed after Rampart Range shooting area was shut down following an accidental shooting death there in 2009.

The county has received an initial $25,000 grant from the National Rifle Association and expects $200,000 from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. In addition, the county will use $236,260 from selling property next to Fountain Creek Regional Park as well as $200,000 from the Sheriff's Office, according to county records.

The first phase consists of six live-fire ranges, each with 15 shooting stations. Half will be designed for short-range pistol shooting and half for long-range shooting up to 700 yards. The range, which will be just off Interstate 25 at exit 132, will be open to the public six or seven days a week starting next summer. — PZ

Parties come together

This doesn't happen often: El Paso County's Democrats and Republicans will set aside their ideological differences Tuesday, July 31, for a good cause. Starting at 5:30 p.m., at Penrose House Garden Pavilion, the two parties will host a fundraiser to help families affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. Slated to appear as of press time were Lt. Gov. Joe Garcia and state Sen. John Morse, as well as many local firefighters and entertainers.

According to a statement from county GOP chairman Eli Bremer, "We're showing that we can put aside our differences to work together for the good of this community. If the Democratic and Republican parties can team up like this, then everyone can."

A $25 donation will be requested at the door. — CH

Big week for wildland team

On June 19, the El Pomar Foundation gave El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa $20,000 for his wildland firefighting team. On June 23, that 38-member team was among the first on the scene of the Waldo Canyon Fire, and the next day, El Pomar wrote another letter giving Maketa $10,000 for the team's operating expenses. Both grants come from the foundation's Wild Land Fire Fund.

Now that the fire's contained, Maketa can turn some of his attention to the idea behind the first grant: to purchase two utility-type vehicles for the team, all but one of whom are volunteers.

"We are extremely grateful for El Pomar's generous donations," Undersheriff Paula Presley writes in an e-mail. "This funding will be used to support Wildland Fire operations. El Pomar has been a strong community partner of the Sheriff's Office for many years and we greatly appreciate their continued support." — PZ

Burn bans lifted

The Waldo Canyon Fire scar is still fresh, but conditions have improved enough that burn bans have been lifted in Colorado Springs, El Paso County and Fountain.

"Even though we are going back to burn restrictions, everyone is asked to take extra precautions to prevent wildfires including continuing mitigation efforts," a city press release states.

This doesn't mean you can set off fireworks or even have a campfire in most cases. But you can smoke outside, use your grill at home, or enjoy a fire in an outdoor fireplace. Some other fire-related activities are allowable with a permit. Similar restrictions are in place in Teller County. Check with your local fire department for more information. — JAS

Give feedback on park

If you want input in how Cheyenne Mountain State Park will be managed over the next 10 years, Colorado Parks and Wildlife will host an open house on July 25, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Drive, to discuss recommendations for its draft 2012 park management plan.

Those interested can go to parks.state.co.us/Parks/CheyenneMountain/ManagementPlan. Comments will be accepted by e-mail at plan.management@state.co.us or by calling Mitch Martin, Cheyenne Mountain State Park's manager, at 576-2381. — JAS

Straight As for Ds

Colorado Springs' Democratic state legislators, Rep. Pete Lee and Sen. John Morse, got a nod of appreciation last week from conservationists. In their annual report on the Legislature's previous session, Colorado Conservation Voters looked at votes cast by Colorado legislators, ranking them by support for the environment.

El Paso County had some standouts: Morse and Lee received grades of 100 percent. Republicans didn't fare as well, averaging around 30 percent. Rep. Marsha Looper "topped" the group at 8 percent. Not a single Republican statewide received a 100 score. — CH

Compiled by Chet Hardin, Wyatt Miller, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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