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Noted: Drilling days of reckoning coming 

Drilling heats up

The day is nearing when oil and gas drillers can find out if El Paso County and Colorado Springs sit atop a bonanza of petroleum reserves.

Last week, state officials approved a pact with the county that requires drillers to test nearby water wells three times, before and after drilling. And next week, Colorado Springs City Council will take up the matter of crafting its own regulations.

Drillers, notably Ultra Resources of Houston, think the Niobrara shale formation — which has been productive elsewhere in Colorado — will also pay off here. The county has aimed to monitor their work, in part, by requiring water tests prior to drilling, again after drilling begins, and yet again years later so that officials can measure the impact, if any, on local wells.

State rules don't require such testing. But under last week's Memorandum of Understanding, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) will fold that requirement into its drilling permit process for El Paso County wells, which County Commissioner Chair Amy Lathen called "a win for everyone."

That maneuver is expected to affect City Council's action, because several Councilors in October expressed interest in establishing a similar agreement with the state. In fact, action on the city's rules, which some claim are environmentally toothless, was delayed until the county came to terms with the state.

It remains unclear exactly what the city will try to regulate, or whether Council will open city parks to rigs. Areas previously identified for regulation were related to: a pre-application and site plan process; impact fees; setbacks from certain structures, such as schools; zoning districts; and water quality. Also unresolved is what kind of inspection of wells within the city will take place.

The Council meeting is open to the public and scheduled for 1 p.m., Tuesday, at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave. — PZ

What are parks for?

El Paso County's Parks Department will host a meeting at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 27, to discuss early opinions on what's important about the park system and where it should go from here.

The meeting will be at Bear Creek Nature Center, 245 Bear Creek Road, and outline feedback on the county's parks, trails, open space, recreation and cultural programs. The meeting also offers residents a chance to provide more ideas.

It's all part of the county's update of its Parks Master Plan, which guides planning and budgeting for park improvements and programs for five to 10 years. The county has conducted about 17 small meetings, mostly in the homes of people who are active in the park system as volunteers. The department also reached out to certain groups who use sports fields, and hikers and bikers. Plus, an online survey received 150 responses.

Those who attend the Tuesday meeting also will be asked for suggestions in implementing the priorities. — PZ

New super for D-2

After six years as superintendent in Harrison School District 2, Mike Miles moved on earlier this year to take a superintendent position in Dallas. Now, D-2 is importing a Texan to take his place: Andre Spencer, area superintendent for Houston Independent School District, is D-2's pick for the job.

Spencer, who started out as a teacher and worked his way up the ladder, currently oversees 13 schools in his area of Houston. Harrison has 25 schools that count more than 10,000 students. It also has a pay-for-performance system and other characteristics left behind by the controversial Miles. Spencer will start at Harrison on Jan. 1. — JAS

Man with a plan

According to a memo from Chief of Staff Laura Neumann, Mayor Steve Bach has selected Peter Wysocki, director of the Planning and Development Services Department in Round Rock, Texas, from 65-plus applicants to lead city planning.

City Council is required to confirm Wysocki on Nov. 27 before he can take the position. Assuming Councilors don't object, he'll take the reins Dec. 17.

Wysocki, who has 18 years' experience, will replace Kyle Campbell, division manager of the local Classic Consulting Engineers & Surveyors, who has held the position on an interim basis since April. Campbell, who's been paid $175 an hour for his city work, has created controversy during his tenure by laying off longtime department members, creating lower fees for developers, and making recommendations to Council on his own company's projects. — JAS

Military, vets get site

Thanks to the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments, local active-duty military members and veterans now have Peak Military Care Network.

Spokesperson Dallas Jamison says one of the early components of PMCN is "a one-stop shop to try to help navigate the crazy amount of information out there." The network includes information on education, health care, employment and housing. The effort, headquartered at peakmilitarycarenet.org, has drawn support from former Fort Carson leader Gen. Mark Graham, as well as U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet.

From Bennet: "The Peak Military Care Network, created by the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments ... is community-based and centered around the collaboration of community leaders, military installations, local businesses, and nonprofit service providers." — CH

Briefs compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

  • Also: Questioning parks; new super for D-2; military, vets get site

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