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Flood funding approved, food-stamp numbers up, PPCC expands downtown 

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Flood funding approved

The U.S. Congress has finally approved $65.5 million in Emergency Watershed Protection funds for the nation.

The money will be awarded through grants to areas with flood risks, and it's thought that Colorado Springs and El Paso County will get all or most of the $9.6 million (including local matching money) that has been requested.

"Communities in Colorado will finally be able to complete these vital recovery projects that will protect drinking water and watershed infrastructure," Sen. Michael Bennet stated in a press release. "Colorado's Congressional delegation worked together to secure these resources, and I am glad we finally have resolution for the state. Colorado is ready to put these resources to work."

The money had been included in a bill last year, but Congress watched that bill expire in early January. A separate bill for Hurricane Sandy relief passed weeks later, but without the fire-related funding.

The millions can do a lot to prevent a nightmare flooding scenario as described in last week's cover story, "Black water," but there are caveats. Projects take time, and no project will reduce flood risk to pre-fire levels. Plus, the area will likely need even more money than originally thought — new studies will soon reveal the full extent of mitigation work that's needed. — J. Adrian Stanley

Food-stamp numbers up

The Great Recession is over, but the downturn is still affecting many families, according to one good indicator.

In January, El Paso County processed its highest number of food-assistance cases ever, 31,694. That amounts to 71,336 people making so little money that they can't afford groceries.

Though the numbers fell slightly in February, to 31,021 cases and 69,816 people, the trend has generally been worrisome. In February 2012, there were just 28,816 cases, or 66,102 people on food stamps. Four years before that, in February 2008, there were just 14,217 cases, or 34,743 people. — J. Adrian Stanley

CSU in the clear

State regulators have closed a compliance order issued to Colorado Springs Utilities in 2003 due to sewage spills that befouled Fountain Creek and other places, much to the chagrin of folks downstream.

The March 8 letter noted that CSU's Jan. 29 notice of completion "was satisfactory and Colorado Springs has fully responded to and met its obligations" pursuant to the compliance order.

Utilities paid more than $400,000 in fines relating to the spills and spent upward of $170 million to correct problems, from replacing manhole covers to fortifying pipes that cross creeks. — Pam Zubeck

Last chance to vote

Ballots in Tuesday's city election are due at a designated drop-off site by 7 p.m. on election day.

All locations are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Those sites include:

Colorado Springs City Clerk's Office, 30 S. Nevada Ave., which also will have a curb-side drop point on election day; Colorado Springs Senior Center, 1514 N. Hancock Ave.; Fire Station No. 8, 3737 Airport Road; Stetson Hills Police Substation, 4110 Tutt Blvd.; Pikes Peak Library District – East Library, 5550 N. Union Blvd.; Citizens' Service Center, 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road; Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave.; County Division of Motor Vehicles, 5650 Industrial Place, #100; and North Union Town Center, 8830 N. Union Blvd., which also is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

Voters will elect City Council representatives from six districts and vote on two ballot measures: increasing Council pay and allowing for reallocation of Trails, Open Space and Parks money, currently set aside for parks acquisition and development, to parks maintenance. — Pam Zubeck

PPCC to expand downtown

Pikes Peak Community College has purchased a vacant 10,135-square-foot building near its Downtown Studio Campus.

The building, at 22 N. Sierra Madre St., went for $727,000. In the short term, the property will be used to provide 80 more parking spaces for students, but eventually it's thought that the space could be used to expand the campus.

PPCC's downtown campus, which is home to most of its arts programs and its weekend classes, has grown faster than its other campuses. Since 2006, the school reports, course offerings downtown have expanded by 50 percent. — J. Adrian Stanley

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