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Noted: Springs needs lots of money 

City needs money

The city needs money. Lots and lots of it. At Monday's informal City Council meeting, Councilors and Mayor Steve Bach took in the extent of the problem.

For starters, the city has $498 million in backlogged capital stormwater projects, over $86 million "high-priority." The city spent about $3.5 million on stormwater maintenance this year. Bach says he thinks about $15 million a year would be more appropriate. Regional leaders plan to search for a solution, but as Council President Scott Hente said, "At some point we're going to have to accept the fact that it's going to cost money, and the money's got to come from somewhere."

To preview the 2013 city budget, Chief of Staff Laura Neumann says revenues should increase by $4 to $5 million over 2012 budgeted amounts, but overhead costs will increase about $3 million, operational costs will increase at least $5 million, and the city has millions in unfunded needs. "It's kind of staggering," she said.

Neumann says a streetlight study will determine if the city can do with less light. Lawyers are looking for a way to switch new employees to a 401k plan instead of a pension. More savings could come by combining city and Utilities administrative functions. — JAS

Lamborn v. Big Bird

Every hero needs a foil. This tale's hero is U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn. And his foil is Big Bird, who has spent his entire life bumming around on the streets, living off the largesse of government. He doesn't have a job, per se, and has contributed little to society other than teaching children how to spell.

Not on my watch, says Lamborn, who for years has been trying to force Big Bird off the government dole.

Last week, Lamborn's House colleagues sent a clear message to Bird and his friends to "fly on your own," as Lamborn's release put it. A House appropriations subcommittee reduced federal dollars for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which also funds NPR, and to deny CPB's 2015 funding in its entirety: $445 million. — CH

CAB gets enviro OK

As expected, Fort Carson Garrison Commander Col. David L. Grosso has ruled that a 113-helicopter, 2,700-soldier Combat Aviation Brigade due at Carson starting later this year will have no significant environmental impact. The finding allows the Army to proceed with construction and infrastructure improvements to support the CAB, though many facilities already are built.

As Carson spokeswoman Dee McNutt said in March, "The Grow the Army EIS [Environmental Impact Statement], completed in 2009, included the potential to receive a CAB. So, in that EIS some facilities were included and started once the decision was made in 2011."

From Carson's release last week: "Any activity with the potential to have impacts can be mitigated. Fort Carson concludes that the Proposed Action is not a major Federal action that would significantly impact the environment and does not require an Environmental Impact Statement." — PZ

Preserving fire memorabilia

Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum and Pikes Peak Library District are teaming to save memories and artifacts of the Waldo Canyon Fire for future generations. PPLD wants to preserve photos, video, audio recordings and memories. The museum is also looking for memories, as well as artifacts that survived.

Museum director Matt Mayberry has rescued firearms, glassware, a jar that once held peach preserves, and a home-movie reel with the film scorched out of it. Mayberry says that in 50 to 100 years, residents "will look back at this as a pivotal moment in the region's history."

Items will be kept in the museum's permanent collection, if possible, and likely will form an exhibit on the fire's first anniversary.

To participate, fill out forms at ppld.org and cspm.org. Employees are following up on those contacts. "We've gotten terrific response," Mayberry says. "People have been very, very generous with their time, their memories, their homes." — JAS

Bad job news for state

June job numbers are out, and Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute says the state's unemployment rate increased from May by 0.1 percent to 8.2 percent.

"The June unemployment rate is now over 4 percentage points higher than when the recession began," the institute's report reads, "and puts the Colorado unemployment rate even with the National unemployment rate." Colorado lost nearly 7,000 jobs last month, bringing the total of jobs lost since the recession hit at the end of 2007 to 65,800. — CH

Secular influence coming

Colorado's Legislature will face a new lobbying effort in 2013. The Secular Coalition for America is opening a Colorado-based office, focusing on lobbying legislators in support of secular issues, and opposing bills they see as theocratic. The coalition will also take its message directly to the voters.

First up to bat? The coalition says that it's concerned with efforts to enact a religious freedom amendment. While proponents claim that they want to protect the right to act on religious beliefs, the coalition argues the bill instead is a thinly veiled attempt at exempting religious groups or people from following the law. — CH

Cox set to retire

The city will soon lose one of its most adaptable administrators, as Steve Cox retires July 31. In 31 years with the city, Cox has risen from firefighter to fire chief, interim city manager, interim mayoral chief of staff, and chief of economic vitality.

"I'm at the apex of my career," he told the Indy. "(But) I really haven't had a chance for many, many years to stop and smell the roses."

In a press release, Mayor Steve Bach said he "tried to talk him into at least another year." Cox helped settle in the new government, while helping the mayor understand the complex ways the city functions. Cox says he will continue to help Bach with large projects, and he thinks Bach has the right staff to lead the city in the future.

"If I thought there wasn't a great team," Cox says, "I wouldn't leave."

It may seem an odd time for Cox to leave, given that the Waldo Canyon Fire has created plenty of work for his office. But Cox dismisses those concerns, noting that the immediate danger of the fire is out of the way.

Cox says he doesn't plan a quiet retirement and will stay active in the community, likely through a combination of volunteer work and paid work. — JAS

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

  • Also: Lamborn takes on Big Bird, saving fire memorabilia, and more.

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