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Noted: Possible county marijuana ban 

Pot ban in the county?

On Tuesday, El Paso County commissioners were scheduled to hold a first reading of Ordinance 13-01, which would ban the sale and cultivation of recreational marijuana in unincorporated areas.

If commissioners go ahead with a ban in response to the passage of Amendment 64, they wouldn't be the first; Douglas County commissioners looked poised to earn that distinction as they entered a meeting Tuesday, after the Independent's deadline. But, as Brian Vicente with NORML of Colorado points out, El Paso commissioners would be the first to do so despite the will of their constituents. After all, voters here narrowly backed the amendment in November.

"In Colorado Springs, and El Paso County as well, Amendment 64 did get the majority of votes," Vicente says, "so you have to wonder who they work for."

Vicente adds that while commissioners have every right to ban retail stores, the arrival of those stores — if the federal government allows them at all — is hardly imminent: "They don't really have to do anything until late 2013," he says, "so anything that they do now is just preemptive and doesn't make a lot of sense."

A second and final reading of Ordinance 13-01 is scheduled for Jan. 8. — CH

Solicitation ban advances

On Dec. 18 (also after the Indy's deadline), a federal district court judge was expected to decide whether to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent Colorado Springs' new downtown solicitation ordinance from going into effect, pending the outcome of a legal challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado.

The decision was first expected Dec. 13, but was delayed because Judge Marcia Krieger needed more time to review evidence.

If she issues the injunction Tuesday, she will be giving the signal that, on first glance, she thinks the city law is unconstitutional. In the event, the city could choose to withdraw from the case and rework the law, or drop the law all together. Alternately, the city could choose to pursue the case in court, which would likely take months, or it could appeal the injunction, which would also likely be time-consuming.

If the injunction is not granted, the ACLU will likely consider its options.

Check csindy.com for updates on the case. — JAS

Ambulance biz at issue

Colorado Springs firefighters apparently are serious about taking over ambulance transport from American Medical Response if the Greenwood Village-based company doesn't cough up $2 million to $2.4 million to keep the work.

In a memo to the Emergency Services Agency, an El Paso County-wide panel that oversees the emergency contract, Councilor Merv Bennett writes, "The City of Colorado Springs is giving serious consideration to the delivery of emergency services within our City Limits."

The ESA voted last summer to extend AMR's contract, which expires in December 2013, by two years. County commissioners also approved the extension. But Council "does not plan to approve any extension," Bennett writes.

That means the ESA will have to find a way to provide emergency transport for outlying areas without the city's volume of business.

Asked to comment, AMR's local manager Ted Sayer issued a statement: "I and all the local EMTs, paramedics and support staff are proud of our over thirty years of service to the Colorado Springs and El Paso County community. In today's challenging economy I hope the city appreciates the work our professional caregivers and staff does and considers the wellbeing of these local heroes."

No word yet on how Mayor Steve Bach might capitalize a city-wide ambulance operation, which could cost millions. — PZ

Two more for Council

City Councilor Bernie Herpin has announced he will seek re-election in the newly created City Council District 5, where two others have already announced their candidacies: The Rev. Al Loma and nonprofit administrator Jill Gaebler.

Herpin, an appointed City Councilor from 2006 to 2007, was elected to represent District 4 in 2009.

Meanwhile, Dennis Moore, a retired Air Force vet and police volunteer, has announced a run in the newly drawn District 4. Moore, who says he is known as "Mr. Neighborhood Watch," is emphasizing economic development and public safety in his campaign.

Other candidates include at-large Councilor Tim Leigh for District 1, incumbent Angela Dougan for District 2, former County Commissioner Jim Bensberg for District 3, and pastor Dave Moore for District 6. — JAS

Peak to open to bikes

Good news for cyclists: The Pikes Peak Highway will be open to them year-round starting Jan. 1. The announcement comes after a successful September pilot program that opened the road to bikes.

At a news conference, Karen Palus, the city's Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director, said the road would be "an international opportunity" sure to attract tourists.

All riders will need to complete a use agreement and liability waiver, and pay admission. Children under 18 will need to be escorted by a parent or guardian. — JAS

City starts intern program

The city has launched an internship program for college kids interested in learning about city government and getting on-the-job experience. Interns will be accepted during each semester, with positions posted in February, May and October. Positions may also become available between semesters.

"We have so many talented young people in our community," Human Resources Director Mike Sullivan states in a press release, "and we're looking forward to having students bring their talents and fresh ideas to the City while giving them an opportunity to learn more about their local government."

The first internship postings are expected to go up in January at springsgov.com/intern. — JAS

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

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