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One year down for Memorial lease, Utilities responds to carbon rule, more 

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Memorial, 1 year later

It's been a year since the city leased Memorial Health System to University of Colorado Health, and the city enterprise has generally been spending more than it's taken in from UCH's lease payments.

Those payments totaled about $4 million from January through August. Over the same time period, Memorial paid out $4.9 million, according to monthly reports that City Council began receiving this year. That includes $2.2 million in legal costs, of which $995,000 went to settle a lawsuit over the city paying off Memorial's bonds earlier than bondholders had initially agreed to.

Among other expenses: $949,886 in severance pay for former CEO Dr. Larry McEvoy and a handful of other officials who had worked out special retirement deals with a prior board of trustees; $903,971 for worker compensation and liability claims and insurance costs; $724,253 for health plan fees, dental liability costs and flex spending that predate Oct. 1, 2012; and $98,787 for audit fees.

The Memorial enterprise fund started 2013 with $28.1 million. As of Aug. 31, it showed a balance of $26.5 million, according to reports for Council. Separate from all that is $259 million the city received from the 40-year lease deal that sits in escrow pending the outcome of a Public Employees' Retirement Association lawsuit. — PZ

Sizing up carbon rule

Last week, the Obama administration vowed to impose restrictions on power-plant carbon emissions in 2015, which might change how the Drake Task Force studies retirement of the downtown coal-fired power plant.

City Councilor Andy Pico, a member of the task force, says via email that the group will discuss the matter at its Nov. 6 meeting. "There is no certainty as to what the rule will entail, what will be required and on what schedule," he says, adding that regulatory risk is included in the Drake study.

Drake and the Nixon coal plant south of Colorado Springs make up 40 percent of the city's generating capability, said George Luke, general manager of energy supply with Colorado Springs Utilities, to the Utilities Board on Sept. 18. — PZ

Budget meetings on tap

City Council has planned a slew of meetings surrounding the 2014 city budget, which Mayor Steve Bach will release Oct. 7.

On Oct. 10 and 11 and again on Oct. 14 and 15, Council will meet in work sessions from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but will not take public comment. On Oct. 17, it will host a public hearing/e-town hall meeting at a yet-undetermined time. All meetings will be held at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.

Bach plans a town hall meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Oct. 30 at Penrose Library and will submit his changes, if any, to Council the next day, should he choose to respond to Council concerns. Under the charter, Council approves the budget by adopting an appropriation ordinance, but Bach can veto any changes made by Council to his original budget. Council must have six votes to override Bach's veto.

Council will conduct a budget markup session Nov. 7. First reading of the 2014 appropriation ordinance will be Nov. 26 with final approval slated for Dec. 10. — PZ

GMF recall aims for April

Organizers of a recall against five members of the Green Mountain Falls city board of trustees, after announcing plans and obtaining signatures for an immediate vote, decided late last week to delay their strategy for seven months.

Told that a special recall election for the Ute Pass town would cost as much as $5,000, the organizers backed off. Now they'll wait until Green Mountain Falls' regularly scheduled municipal election next April, according to Judy Wiedner, a 64-year resident who is leading the petition drive.

By then, two of the five targeted trustees will be term-limited out of office, and a third will be up for re-election anyway. The recall thus would focus on two trustees whose terms would continue to 2016: Ralph LoCascio and Howard Price.

The recall, Wiedner and other organizers indicate, has been the result of trustees not being responsive to citizen concerns, walking out of meetings when challenged by constituents, and pushing a property tax increase in 2012. — RR

Gessler in for governor

Since 2010, Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler has been entangled in ethics challenges, made changes to election rules that some have said are intended to suppress the vote, and seen some of his decisions rebuffed by judges.

All of that has provided plenty of fodder for his opponents. But it's also made Gessler a hero to those who say he's combating voter fraud and defending conservative ideology in a largely blue state.

Gessler is hoping the latter reputation will help him defeat sitting Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper in November 2014. He announced his run last week. — JAS

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