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Balloons will launch, gas rate cut expected, needy could be drug-tested, and more 

Noted

Good news at airport

An increase in passenger traffic during the holiday season at the Colorado Springs Airport is being linked to a parking promotion that included free short-term and long-term parking in November and December.

In a news release, the airport noted that Allegiant, Alaska, American and Delta airlines reported that local "load factors" were higher by 7 percent to 18 percent in November, and 4 percent to 10 percent in December. "These increases came at a time when many airlines at COS also reduced seat capacity for the slower winter season," the release said.

The release also noted other programs that attempt to draw passengers. ThanksAgain, introduced in 2013, rewards passengers with flight miles for money spent at the airport. Last fall, it established its Premier Membership program that also provides incentives to frequent flyers. — PZ

Val Snider bowing out

Former Air Force major Val Snider says he won't seek a second term on City Council in the April 7 election, stating on Facebook that he wants to "take my life in a new direction."

Snider co-chaired with Brandy Williams an effort to propose oil and gas regulations, but no ordinance was adopted. He also served on the regional stormwater task force, which gave rise to the November 2014 ballot measure to impose fees on property owners. It failed.

"It's my view some new blood and fresh perspectives will be useful for City Council," Snider wrote on his Facebook page, adding that he hopes to "continue serving" the region "in some fashion."

Snider's decision guarantees at least three new faces on Council in April, rather than two. Councilor Jan Martin can't seek a third term due to term limits, and Councilor Joel Miller resigned in November to run for mayor, throwing open his seat for the remaining two years. At-large Councilor Merv Bennett says he'll run again for the nine-member panel. Six represent districts, and three are elected at-large. — PZ

Needy may be drug-tested

Cheryl Schnell, director of the county's Aging and Adult Services, says a new program has been introduced that will test recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (welfare) for drugs and alcohol if a case worker has reasonable suspicion that a recipient may have an addiction problem. Suspicion might be raised if, say, recipients miss appointments without a good excuse, or if they slur their speech or smell of alcohol.

A person found to be abusing drugs or alcohol would be allowed to stay on TANF so long as he or she goes through a personalized addiction-recovery program. However, missing appointments or failing subsequent drug tests could lead to a reduction in benefits or ejection from the program.

Marijuana will be treated similarly to alcohol, Schnell says, meaning it would be seen as a problem only if it interfered with a TANF recipient's goals, such as getting a job.

Over 2,000 households in El Paso County receive TANF. — JAS

Utility gas bills set to drop

Springs City Council was expected on Tuesday to approve a cut in gas rates prompted by declining wholesale costs for natural gas.

The reduction will cause the typical residential bill to drop by $7.17 a month, while the typical commercial bill would go down by $148 a month, and the typical industrial bill by $1,482 a month, effective Sunday, Feb. 1.

"As a not-for-profit, community-owned entity, Springs Utilities passes on fuel cost increases or decreases to customers, dollar for dollar, and makes no profit on the sale of energy," it said in a statement. — PZ

Balloons will return

The city announced last week that if negotiations work out, Albuquerque-based Hot Apple Productions will host a hot-air balloon event in Colorado Springs on Labor Day weekend.

The Colorado Balloon Classic announced last fall that it would discontinue its own Memorial Park event after 38 years.

Hot Apple's owner, Scott Appelman, was chosen in a competitive process, the city said in a press release. Appelman is a past president of the Albuquerque Convention & Visitors Bureau and served on the board of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta for six years.

The city's Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax Advisory Committee has allocated $90,000 to the Labor Day event, which could include not only balloons but also bands, cheerleading squads and dance troupes, a car show, skydivers, vendors, and a kids' play area, the city's release says. — PZ

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