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Noted: Utilities proposes rate hike 

CSU floats small rate hike

If Colorado Springs Utilities' 2013 budget proposal is approved, rates for the typical residential customer will increase by $1.08 per month next year.

That customer's bill will amount to $199.20, with the greatest increase coming in water service. (Utilities is in the midst of building the nearly $1 billion Southern Delivery System from Pueblo Reservoir.) Gas rates will go down by $4.06, while electric rates are slated to increase 8 cents per month.

The budget proposal also contains nearly $13 million for work stemming from post-Waldo Canyon Fire flood damage. Those projects will include protecting utility infrastructure from storm events and slowing the flow of stormwater downstream.

The budget's total expenditure number is $1.059 billion — $52 million less than this year. The reduction is largely due to lower coal and natural gas costs, spokesman Dave Grossman says.

"Through careful planning, lean operations and a responsible spending plan, we continue to do all we can to reduce or hold steady costs," CEO Jerry Forte said in a statement.

The budget also includes $31.1 million in "surplus" for the city's general fund. An initial hearing on the proposal is scheduled for Nov. 13. — PZ

Focus' Daly releases book

Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, has written a new book envisioning a future for fellow Christians. Drawing upon both history and contemporary times, ReFocus: Living a Life that Reflects God's Heart comes out Tuesday, Oct. 16.

According to Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media relations at Focus, the title of the book captures its thesis well.

"It lays out a vision for how the church, and how Christians, can engage the culture with God's truth and Christ's heart," he says. Daly uses the story of how he and John Weiss, publisher of the Independent, were able to mend fences torn down, over and over, for years.

"And in this case, it was the foster-care work we did in partnership," Schneeberger says. "The idea of the book is that just because someone doesn't agree with you ideologically doesn't mean that they don't deserve dignity and respect ... and that you can't have conversation." — CH

Pioneers Museum damaged

In the early morning hours of Saturday, Oct. 6, the Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum was broken into and damaged.

Museum director Matt Mayberry says the museum's extensive collections of local historical artifacts weren't hurt, but the building itself was. Four windows, three of them historic, were broken. The front desk and computer were damaged, and the front area was left in disarray.

"They didn't seem to target any artifacts, which I guess is the upside to all of this, but still there was a lot of damage to things that are irreplaceable," Mayberry says, noting that historic windows used a special kind of glass he can't purchase.

Mayberry says the museum is still calculating what the damage will cost to repair. Police are investigating the crime, and spent a couple of hours collecting evidence. Mayberry notes that the museum has an electronic surveillance system.

The Pioneers Museum is city-owned and -operated, but is looking for ways to become self-sustaining. — JAS

Better Block, good reviews

Though the data and feedback collected during late September's Better Block Pikes Peak project are still being analyzed, the block-long experiment spearheaded by landscape architect John Olson — making parts of Pikes Peak Avenue more pedestrian-friendly, with vendors and entertainment for 24 hours — has yielded promising results so far.

Nick Kittle, the city's manager of administrative services and innovation, says preliminary numbers suggest cars decreased their speeds by 5 to 6 mph. "Which means the traffic continued to flow well through the area," he says.

Other finds include that Better Block didn't create any significant traffic back-ups that couldn't be cleared in a few light cycles, and that most people respected the parking restrictions.

Olson says the area certainly felt pedestrian-friendly. "One of the takeaways for me was really how excited people were to be in the median," he says with a laugh.

A time-lapse video, along with hard numbers on traffic counts, attendance, local-business feedback and more, should be coming in a presentation to Downtown Partnership's board in the next couple of months. Post your thoughts at facebook.com/betterblockpikespeak. — BC

Put the sign down

Stealing political lawn signs is not cool. So not cool, in fact, that Republican Eli Bremer and Democrat Kathleen Ricker, chairs of their respective county parties, have come together in a rare show of bipartisanship to issue a statement asking people to stop stealing signs.

"Emotions run high during the election season and we all want to support our candidates," Ricker said in the joint statement. "Showing that support, however, should never include destroying the opposition's campaign signs. It is a crime to steal or destroy signs."

Bremer came out against destroying the signs as well, stating, "All that vandalism does is leave trash lying around our beautiful city."— CH

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

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