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Solar program gets OK, CDOT watches U.S. 24, more 

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Solar gardens advance

On a 6-3 vote, Colorado Springs City Councilors last week decided to keep alive a community solar garden program by giving preliminary approval for 2 megawatts of power.

An earlier proposal to allow 10 megawatts of solar gardens to be built over a three-year period was approved April 9 , but then rescinded on April 23 by a newly seated Council ("Sunblock," cover story, Aug. 7).

During debate for the revised program, Joe Raso, CEO of the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, urged Council to devise a comprehensive plan for renewables before expanding the solar gardens program. Councilor Jan Martin rebuked him.

"This program shows we want to be a community of the future," Martin said. "How disappointed I am when you come here and say, 'Let's study it some more.'"

The 2-megawatt program would cost ratepayers roughly $4.9 million over 20 years. If Council approves the tariff Aug. 27, Colorado Springs Utilities would issue a request for proposals and later choose which developers will participate. — Pam Zubeck

Libertarians go with Brooks

The Libertarian Party threw the Sept. 10 recall elections of state Senate President John Morse and Sen. Angela Giron into chaos when it won a lawsuit that gave it more time to petition a candidate onto the ballot.

The Libertarians have until Monday, Aug. 26, to gather enough signatures to make Jan Brooks, a 31-year-old sales manager, a viable candidate. In addition to a second chance for Brooks, the judge's decision means that mail ballots won't go out to most recall voters due to time restrictions. — J. Adrian Stanley

Recall voting sites announced

Since almost no one will receive a mail ballot for the Sept. 10 recall election of John Morse, Senate District 11 residents who want to vote will need to head to one of several polling centers.

Four centers will open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 5, 6, 7 and 9,and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sept. 10. They are clerk and recorder's offices located at: the Citizens Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, #2202; the Downtown Branch, 200 S. Cascade Ave.; the Southeast Branch, 5650 Industrial Place; and the North Branch, 8830 N. Union Blvd.

Three other sites will be open from 8 to 5 on Sept. 9, and from 7 to 7 on Sept. 10. They are: Manitou Springs City Hall, Memorial Hall, 606 Manitou Ave. (weather permitting); the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department, 2880 International Circle; and the Zalman Center at Harrison High School, 2755 Janitell Road. — J. Adrian Stanley

CDOT monitoring U.S. 24

The Colorado Department of Transportation will monitor U.S. Highway 24 between Manitou Springs and Cascade through Oct. 1 in response to massive floods off the Waldo Canyon burn scar that have sent cars floating down the highway. One such flood killed Divide resident John Collins on Aug. 9.

CDOT officials will close U.S. 24 if a quarter inch of rain falls on the burn scar, a flash flood warning is issued, or if on-the-ground conditions appear dangerous. Thousands of motorists use the highway each day. — J. Adrian Stanley

$208 million lost to 'hedging'

A Colorado Springs Utilities program to stabilize natural gas rates cost ratepayers $208.3 million more than the actual cost of gas from 1997 through 2012, the City Auditor's Office reports in an audit released last week. Auditor Denny Nester reports that when the economy tanked in 2008 and better gas exploration methods came to the fore, such as fracking, gas prices plummeted, leaving the city locked in at higher rates.

But the program, now defunct, did succeed in its main goal, according to Joel Miller, the City Councilor who chairs the Utilities Finance Committee. He says the goal wasn't necessarily to pay less for gas, but rather to "stabilize gas prices, for ratepayers to have predictability" at a time when gas prices were spiking. And "to that end, it pretty much did its job."

RiskCentrix, a hedging expert hired by Nester to review Utilities' hedging practices, also found that the program "falls appropriately in the range of programs typical for public utilities of similar size and risk profile."

Utilities generally agreed with the findings, which included a call for more transparent reporting to the Utilities Board, and said it has no plans to resume gas hedging. — Pam Zubeck

Going wild over Kum & Go

West-side supporters mounted a messaging campaign last week, opposing a Kum & Go convenience store and gas station on the former Discover Goodwill site in the 2300 block of West Colorado Avenue.

And the company hasn't even submitted its application to the city yet.

About 75 emails landed in the inbox of senior planner Ryan Tefertiller between Thursday and Tuesday morning, fretting over noise, bright lights and traffic that residents anticipate the business will generate. One said it would "pollute the back drop of Old Colorado City."

"We definitely do have controversial projects we might get this many emails for," Tefertiller says, "but usually we don't get them until the application has been submitted."

Welling Clark, who heads the Organization of Westside Neighbors, says residents will have plenty of time to provide feedback, because after the company submits its applications, the city must hold neighborhood meetings. Subsequently, zoning and other changes will be considered by the city planning commission.

"Citizens hope that Kum & Go just moves down the avenue," Clark says. "We're just trying to preserve the character of Old Colorado City."

As of Tuesday morning, 1,244 people had signed an online petition opposing the sale of the Goodwill property to Kum & Go. — Pam Zubeck

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