Drilling down on regs
City Council is sure to get an earful next week when it again considers oil and gas regulations. The city has been working on how to ride herd on drillers since early this year, but still hasn't adopted an ordinance.
Waiting in the wings is Ultra Resources of Houston, which last year purchased 18,000 acres of the Banning Lewis Ranch on the city's east side out of a developer's bankruptcy. The company wants to drill (and is drilling elsewhere in the county), but the city has no rules in place.
From the looks of some correspondence submitted to Council by citizens, the conversation is apt to get contentious. The city wants to leave most regulation to the state, while many citizens are calling for tough rules to protect groundwater and air quality.
Council is expected to discuss the proposed rules at its informal meeting Monday, Sept. 10, which begins at 1 p.m. at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. — Pam Zubeck
UCH eyes doctors group
University of Colorado Health expects to sign a doctors group from the Penrose-St. Francis system, now that voters have overwhelmingly approved UCH's lease deal with city-owned Memorial Health System.
"We are talking to the physicians," UCH CEO Bruce Schroffel says in an interview. "A large group of physicians are leaving Penrose; we believe they will sign up with us [Memorial]."
The vote tally was 83 percent in favor of the 40-year lease, which will give the city $259 million up front and $5.6 million annually for 30 years. However, the city must settle with the Public Employees' Retirement Association, which contends the city owes up to $246 million for Memorial workers who will leave PERA to join a new plan organized by UCH.
UCH officially takes over Memorial on Oct. 1. Expect details on Memorial's management team within weeks. — Pam Zubeck
Council redistricting nears
City Clerk Sarah Johnson will announce proposed new City Council districts (effective in April 2013) on Sept. 10, and the public will get a chance to comment on them Oct. 13. A final report will be made a week after the November election.
Voters in 2011 approved adding two district seats and subtracting two at-large seats. Thus, four Councilors elected only two years ago will need to run again: district representatives Lisa Czelatdko and Angela Dougan, as well as at-large Councilors Brandy Williams and Tim Leigh. Bernie Herpin, elected in 2009, will have to run for a second term. Council President Scott Hente is term-limited and will relinquish his seat.
How the six districts are laid out is of high political importance. Current representatives could be drawn out of their current districts or pitted against another current Councilor. For example, Williams and Herpin live in the same voting precinct.
Districts may also benefit the people whom Mayor Steve Bach admits he has "encouraged" to run. In fact, rumors have long swirled that the mayor has a hand-selected slate of candidates and a war chest to fund their campaigns. With an agreeable Council, the mayor would be able to realize more of his goals. — J. Adrian Stanley
Fire money dispersed
Ten local nonprofits were on the receiving end of the Waldo Canyon Fire Assistance Fund last week, getting a cumulative $379,287 for providing assistance to people from El Paso and Teller counties who suffered losses due to the fire.
Grants went to Westside Cares, $112,000; Mercy's Gate, $65,095; Housing Authority of Colorado Springs, $45,000; Discover Goodwill, $43,569; Redistribution Center, $35,000; Norris Penrose Event Center, $32,369.67; Ecumenical Social Ministries, $20,480; AspenPointe, $18,752; Cheyenne Village, $4,372.54, and Diakonia, $2,648.67.
After those allocations, the fund has roughly $520,700 left. — Pam Zubeck
Code changes in works
City Fire Marshal Brett Lacey is calling for "minor changes" to the city's codes after the Waldo Canyon Fire claimed 345 homes and damaged dozens of others June 26.
In a memo to City Council, Lacey notes the changes "will provide higher levels of protection, thereby reducing future losses similar to what we have recently experienced." If approved, the changes could impact all those building new homes in Colorado Springs' hillside areas.
Among the proposed code changes are mandates for fire-resistant roofing and other building materials, sprinkler systems and modification of vegetation. All development plans and subdivision plans must disclose that living in or near wildland interface areas "involves increased fire risks" and that fuels management is required.
Council will take up the changes on first reading Tuesday, Sept. 11, followed by a second reading Sept. 25. — Pam Zubeck
Rotary helping businesses
Eight Colorado Springs-area Rotary Clubs have banded together to help businesses affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The Pikes Peak Area Rotary Endowment's Business Relief Fund today will give $2,000 each to The Pantry restaurant in Green Mountain Falls and Bad Rock Automotive in Woodland Park.
"I think we have carved out a unique niche and are doing our work in a most expeditious fashion," says Rotarian Bob Holmes, also the head of local nonprofit Homeward Pikes Peak. The fund plans to present checks to eight to 10 businesses and look for other ways to help. — J. Adrian Stanley
Getting it right ...
In his presentation to City Council last week, Fire Marshal Brett Lacey noted 345 homes were destroyed by the Waldo Canyon Fire.
This is news, because until now, the figure promulgated by the city and other media in the region was that 346 homes had been destroyed. The Independent started reporting the 345 figure in its July 11 issue, based on the El Paso County Assessor's Office's inspection of the Mountain Shadows area and accompanying adjustment to tax bills due to the damage. — Pam Zubeck
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