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Owen Hill takes on Udall, new Black Forest Fire stats, and more 

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Hill wants Udall's seat

Who would have guessed that Owen Hill, elected to the state Senate just last year, would be so eager to jump ship?

On Monday, Hill, a Republican who represents Colorado Springs' Senate District 10, announced that he would be challenging Democrat Mark Udall for the U.S. Senate.

"Across our state, Coloradans are alarmed by the political establishment's erosion of our small businesses, our children's educations and our freedom. Colorado deserves better," his press release states in part. "I intend to help lead our Party back to victory with a renewed focus."

Hill is the first Republican to announce a bid for Udall's seat in November 2014. Rep. Amy Stephens of Monument and one-time Senate candidate Ken Buck are also considered possible candidates.

An Air Force Academy grad, Hill has already enjoyed something of an eventful political career. Before winning his current seat, he unsuccessfully challenged Democratic Senate President John Morse in 2010 for the seat in SD 11. And early last year, he abandoned a run in House District 16 to campaign for the state Senate.

The Indy reached out to Hill for comment, but the candidate didn't respond. — Chet Hardin

486 homes gone in fire

The number of homes destroyed in the Black Forest Fire totals 486, which includes 25 mobile homes, El Paso County Assessor Mark Lowderman reported Tuesday. The previously released figure was 511.

Lowderman who puts the structure-damage total at $85.4 million, which does not include non-residential outbuildings, arenas and trees.

"[The damage total] is going to be up significantly from there," he says, once those additional assets are surveyed. — Pam Zubeck

Smoking ban for parks?

Colorado Springs' parks officials are calling for a smoking ban in city parks.

In a memo to City Council, parks director Karen Palus says the idea is to bar smoking outside of designated areas in all parks except Evergreen Cemetery, Fairview Cemetery, Patty Jewett Golf Course and Valley Hi Golf Course.

"The intent of the proposal is to reduce the detrimental health impacts of secondhand smoke on citizens, to provide the full enjoyment of the recreational aspects of parks facilities, to reduce litter, and to protect the City's park and recreation properties from the extreme fire danger in the Pikes Peak Region," the memo says.

The memo notes similar bans in Commerce City and New York City.

The matter goes to the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Advisory Board on Thursday, where a recommendation will be made, Palus says. Council is expected to vote on the measure July 23. — Pam Zubeck

Save at the dentist

El Paso County is offering residents a dental discount card, which will get you a price cut at many private dentist offices. Individuals who want the discount card pay $6.95 per month or $59 per year, and families pay $8.95 per month or $69 per year. Savings range from 5 to 50 percent on various procedures, including 20 percent off specialty procedures like endodontics, oral surgery, orthodontics, pediatric dentistry, periodontics and prosthodontics.

The card program, which has no fiscal impact on the county, is administered through the National Association of Counties and Careington International Corporation. Cards may be purchased at nacodentalprogram.com or by calling 877/354-6226. Mention the promotion code "NACo." —J. Adrian Stanley

Leigh OK in ethics case

After more than six months of study, the city's Independent Ethics Commission has cleared former City Councilor Tim Leigh of violations alleged by a local businessman.

David Neumann, inventor of pollution-control equipment being installed at Martin Drake Power Plant, alleged last year that Leigh wrongly and publicly smeared his company and attempted to gain from soliciting investors for the company.

Regarding the first allegation, Leigh's comments were determined by the city to be within his First Amendment rights. On the investment scheme issue, the commission's report states, "It is the Commission's belief that there does not exist sufficient evidence to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Leigh sought to obtain personal financial gain ..." However, the report notes Leigh's attempts to work such a deal "does create an unfortunate appearance."

While the commission also ruled Leigh didn't violate ethics rules in submitting expenses for a trip to North Dakota, it recommended an audit of reimbursement policies.

The commission has yet to issue a significant finding of ethics code violations since it was created six years ago. — Pam Zubeck

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