'If you can't say anything nice' ... plus a new Waldo report, more 


Springs fire chief retires

Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown has resigned, effective April 30, but will stay on through year's end at full salary and benefits "to provide us with important consulting help," Mayor Steve Bach said in a news release.

A national search will be conducted to name Brown's successor. His departure is the latest in a parade of top managers who've "retired" but were paid severance pay ("Take the money and run," April 3). An interim chief will be named soon. — Pam Zubeck

King: No negatives

Under new President Keith King, "no negative comments about a Councilmember, the mayor or appointees will be allowed" from citizens at Colorado Springs City Council meetings. And that's just one of the changes outlined in a presentation King gave to Council on Monday. Some others:

• Council members will sign on to measures as sponsors and work in subcommittees to study specific issues, à la the state Legislature, where King served for 12 years.

• Only 30 minutes will be allowed for public comment on items not on the agenda.

• King has renamed Monday's informal meetings "work sessions," and switched closed executive sessions therein from the last agenda item to the first. Monday's closed session, which dealt with "security arrangements," potential claims against Memorial Health System and a settlement of the lawsuit brought against the city over the panhandling ordinance, lasted nearly two hours. The roughly two dozen people who attended the meeting were left waiting in the foyer. — Pam Zubeck

Army training gets kinder

After three decades of fighting the military's use of "live tissue training" or "LTT," People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are celebrating a victory.

The Army has announced that it will only allow medical personnel to participate in the practice of cutting, or otherwise injuring, goats and pigs and then attempting to "stop the bleeding." Soldiers who had been trained with LTT will now be using realistic dummies, cadavers, virtual simulators or "moulaged actors."

PETA grabbed headlines last year when it put an undercover video of an LTT exercise on the Internet. In it, goats moan as their legs are chopped off with hedge trimmers.

The Independent wrote about the issue on Jan. 23 ("Can't stop the bleating," News), just as Fort Carson was getting ready for an LTT exercise. An Army spokesperson said that the exercise would be quite tame compared to PETA's video, and animals would be fully anesthetized. — J. Adrian Stanley

New Waldo report released

While evacuations and interaction with the federal Type 1 firefighting team went smoothly during the Waldo Canyon Fire, El Paso County made a few missteps, Sheriff Terry Maketa reported in an after-action report released Thursday, April 18.

For one, a citizen called at 7:30 a.m., Saturday, June 23, saying he saw a fire smoldering off Waldo Canyon Trail while hiking. A county dispatcher advised the caller that agencies were aware and responding, which was true. But the dispatcher failed to record the caller's specific location and contact information, and it turned out fire officials weren't exactly sure where the fire was at that time.

Another problem came when firefighters in the field called for additional resources without notifying the Unified Command, the AAR notes. Moreover, "Incident Command was not notified immediately that the fire had crossed the ridge and structures were burning" in Colorado Springs.

But while law enforcement resources were stretched thin, the Sheriff's Office and other county agencies provided needed services throughout the incident, the AAR found. No structures burned in the county, and no civilians or staff there were injured or killed.

Maketa's office has created an online planner and resource guide for residents at tinyurl.com/EPC-Waldo-Report. — Pam Zubeck

Disaster bill to Hickenlooper

House Bill 1225, widely advocated by victims of the Waldo Canyon and High Park fires, has passed the House and Senate and is waiting for Gov. John Hickenlooper's signature.

The bill offers victims of major disasters greater protection from insurance companies. Benefits for homeowners include: "extended replacement cost coverage and law and ordinance coverage," greater living expense coverage, plain language on insurance forms, more disclosures, extended filing deadlines, and an option to take a smaller payout rather than attempt to list the contents of their home. — J. Adrian Stanley

Maketa: Still a shooting star

Sheriff Terry Maketa has become one of Colorado's most vocal opponents of the recently passed state gun laws. Now that he's shifting his focus to President Obama, he may want to hire a fact-checker.

In a Facebook post last week, the sheriff made a number of erroneous claims about the recently failed federal legislation to expand background checks for gun buyers. For instance, the sheriff claimed that the words "gun show" didn't even appear in the federal bill — a claim easily refuted by reading the Manchin-Toomey amendment, which would have required background checks specifically at gun shows.

Regardless, Maketa's profile continues to rise — one of his posts had been shared by 8,578 people as of Monday. — Chet Hardin

City seeks ambulance bids

Last week the city of Colorado Springs issued a request for proposals for emergency ambulance service, citing $3 million as the value of the help the city provides. Those services include firefighters who respond to medical emergencies, fuel and apparatus costs, and training expenses, according to the RFP.

The RFP marks the city's intended break with the El Paso County Emergency Services Agency, which oversees emergency medical transport throughout the region. The city has said it wants a contractor to pay the city up to $2.4 million, but now that figure appears to be $3 million.

Proposals are due May 27, and the contract would begin April 1, 2014. The ESA, meanwhile, has retained a consultant to help the other two dozen entities who participate in the agency figure how it will transport patients. — Pam Zubeck

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