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Memorial legal bills, Manitou master plan, Tuesday's election, and more 

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Memorial legal bill: $200,000+

Attorneys have received nearly $214,000 so far this year for legal work involving Memorial Hospital, according to a report given to City Council on Monday.

Among those cashing in: Hogan Lovells, was paid $16,954 for work on several matters, including the lawsuit that resulted in the city paying the Public Employees' Retirement Association $190 million to assure Memorial's employees receive retirement benefits after being removed from PERA due to the October 2012 lease with University of Colorado Health. Hogan Lovells was paid upward of $3.5 million during the administration of Mayor Steve Bach, who left office in June.

Other legal fees related to Memorial went to local firm Vaughan & DeMuro, $45,426; Norton Rose Fulbright of St. Louis, Missouri, $70,704; and the City Attorney's Office, $77,613. The fees included representation in a lawsuit filed by two Memorial employees over lost PERA benefits, which was dismissed.

Meantime, the Memorial Hospital enterprise reported $12.4 million in cash on hand as of Sept. 30. — PZ

Manitou buying Tajine Alami

Manitou Springs has entered a contract to purchase the 3-acre Tajine Alami restaurant property, Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder confirms. The city has been discussing the possible purchase of the property, just east of Manitou's downtown, since at least 1999, and has rented its expansive parking lot for years. The parking lot is used by tourists who want to catch a shuttle into downtown.

Manitou has agreed to pay more than $1 million for the property. The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority's dedicated sales tax will provide $300,000 for a down payment and an additional $350,000 to refurbish the lot. The city plans to take out a 15-year lease-purchase to pay the remainder.

The deal is scheduled to close Dec. 15. In addition to hundreds of parking spaces, the property comes with an aging building. Snyder says that it's likely a committee will be formed to decide whether the building should be leveled, rented to a private business or used for city services. That last option may not work because the property is in the flood plain. — JAS

If your ballot hasn't come...

By now, your ballot for the Nov. 3 election should have arrived, and it's a) responsibly filled out and returned, or b) sitting in a pile of mail on your counter.

If you haven't seen it, it's too late to have a ballot mailed to you. You'll need to visit a voter service and polling center to either vote in person or pick up a ballot. You can visit a clerk's office at 1675 W. Garden of the Gods Road, Suite 2202; 5650 Industrial Place; 8830 N. Union Blvd.; or 200 S. Cascade Ave.

The clerk's offices are open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Additional sites will open Nov. 2, so last-minute voters should check EPCVotes.com for additional locations.

As of noon Monday, only about 44,000 people had voted in the county. Of those, 31,000 were voters living in Colorado Springs. If you haven't returned your ballot yet, Secretary of State Wayne Williams recommends hand-delivering it. — JAS

Ranch Foods issues recall

A recent food safety assessment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at Good Food Concepts, parent company to Ranch Foods Direct, triggered a Class I recall on 12,566 pounds of beef, poultry and pork items dating to Oct. 16, 2014. The recall notice cites misbranding — sodium nitrite not declared on product labels — as well as "products that were produced without a fully implemented Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan."

It notes no reports of adverse reactions from consumers, though it advises disposing of or returning any listed items.

Callicrate responded with a statement insisting the recall "is strictly a labeling problem, not a product quality issue." And regarding the sodium nitrite, a curing agent, he noted "our failure to include a full ingredient list on a product that was destined for wholesale customers."

Speaking directly to the Independent, Callicrate shared indignation over the USDA issuing a Class I recall for a labeling issue: "That's for E. coli and Listeria and stuff."

But he also emphasized he would act "completely within a spirit of willingness to cooperate by laying out the necessary corrective actions," earning production reinstatement as of Tuesday, Oct. 27.

Last week alone, Callicrate says his company lost $60,000 in wholesale sales.

See the Indyblog for the full list of recalled items, as well as more info on sodium nitrite. — MS

Heroin antidote issued

Due to an apparent rise in heroin use, the Colorado Springs Police Department is issuing all officers a heroin overdose antidote, called Narcan or Naloxone, that reverses the effects of an overdose.

It's believed Springs police are the first in the state to deploy the substance. Officers will not inject the drug, says Commander Thor Eells, who put together the program at the request of Police Chief Pete Carey. The medication is dispensed using an atomizer, similar to a nasal spray. The $25,000 program, funded through money seized from drug busts, is overseen by the city's medical advisor, Eells says.

"Even though we are not EMTs, we have training to recognize a narcotics overdose," Eells says in an interview, noting the drug has no side effects. — PZ

Facelift for Nancy Lewis Park

The city has partnered with Pikes Peak Hospice & Palliative Care to upgrade Nancy Lewis Park, named for a former city parks director.

When the park was built near the intersection of Fillmore Street and Union Boulevard, the city and the hospice agency created the city's only arboretum, underwritten by donations to the agency that led to tree plantings to honor loved ones, whose names appeared on a granite Legacy Wall. The wall now needs repairs, and 16 of the 138 trees planted have died, the city says in a news release.

"A new opportunity now exists to refresh the park — replace the missing trees, benches and amenity plaques, while also creating a place for reflection, peace and meditation," the release says. "A new design for the old Legacy Wall has been created which continues to honor those foundational donors and honorees from years ago, while offering an updated meditation garden area for those visiting the park."

The park will be rededicated April 7, which marks the park's 20th year and Pikes Peak Hospice's 35th anniversary. — PZ

Museum gains status

Before the first spade of dirt is turned to build it, the U.S. Olympic Museum was elected recently into the Olympic Museums Network by the network's General Assembly in Canada.

The $73 million museum is to be built at Vermijo Avenue and Sierra Madre Street in southwest downtown. Museum chairman Dick Celeste called the recognition "an important step" for the museum, which is slated to open before the February 2018 Winter Olympics.

The Olympic Museums Network, founded in 2006 in Lausanne, Switzerland, is a 27-member multinational organization that promotes the values of the Olympics. Membership grants the Olympic Museum the opportunity to exhibit rare Olympic artifacts from The Olympic Museum collection in Lausanne. — PZ

Region lands kids park grant

A Pikes Peak coalition of agencies landed a $75,000 Great Outdoors Colorado grant recently to go toward planning ways to "get kids off the couch and out the door from the backyard to the backcountry," the city said in a news release.

This region was selected from more than 30 applications seeking funding to create or expand nearby parks and nature centers, improve access to existing outdoor parks or trails, and bolster youth programs. The grant means the local coalition of 13 agencies will conduct an 18-month planning process for projects to be done in 2017. — PZ

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