The PERA saga continues, trails reopen, and more 


PERA setback

The city isn't commenting on the latest ruling in its lawsuit with the Public Employees' Retirement Association that dealt a setback to the city.

Last week, retired District Judge Harlan Bockman denied the city's motion to appeal his Feb. 10 ruling that found the city should have followed the statutory process for removing Memorial Hospital's workers from PERA before doing so.

Instead, the city simply switched them to the University of Colorado Health, which leased the city hospital in October 2012 for 40 years and paid the city $185 million specifically for PERA.

PERA attorney Adam Franklin says the city owes $190 million, plus interest at $1.5 million per month (a total of $215 million so far) for those employees' retirement plans.

Bockman ruled the city can appeal whatever judgment results from the October trial.

In another ruling about three weeks ago, Bockman sided with PERA on a matter than entitles PERA to seek additional damages besides the actual amount owed.

In related news, former City Attorney Chris Melcher, in office when the city stiffed PERA, recently became "of counsel" to the multi-state law firm of Spencer Fane Britt & Browne in its Colorado Springs office, meaning he's neither a partner nor an associate. — PZ

Archer poaches deer head

Thursday morning, Colorado Parks and Wildlife got a call from someone at Bear Creek Dog Park: There was a headless mule deer in the bushes.

"This is not what anyone would consider hunting," says Dan Skinner, district wildlife manager.

The buck was killed sometime Wednesday night with a bow and arrow, according to a press release.

Deer season lasts from August to winter. Archery is often practiced early in the season — hunters bring the guns out later in the fall. "We can never truly know," says Skinner, how many deer are illegally poached in Colorado Springs each year. "This year there's at least three." In recent years, Skinner says he's seen a rise in illicit hunting methods.

Hence, Operation Game Thief: It allows people to report suspicious activity while remaining anonymous. And it's offering $500 for information about the beheaded mule deer.

Skinner says he considers this case a "theft from the state of Colorado" and encourages "anyone who may have seen someone at the park with archery equipment or a neighbor with a recently acquired deer head" to call his office, at 227-5200. — HF

Bear Creek trails reopen

Trails closed since September due to flood damage have reopened in the Bear Creek watershed.

The trails reopened include those often referred to as Jones Park and Captain Jacks. The numbered trails include 665, 666, 667, 668, 701, 720 and 720A.

Trails in the Bear Creek basin remain closed to motorized users, however, with the exception of trail 720. Trails were closed to motorized users by the U.S. Forest Service in response to a lawsuit seeking to protect the threatened greenback cutthroat trout. Bear Creek was recently found to be the last home of the fish in the wild (See: "Fifty Shades of Green," Oct. 3, 2012).

The U.S. Forest Service is still considering which trails to close or reroute to protect the fish. — JAS

Indy recognition

Last week, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia — the trade organization that the Indy and almost all alt-weekly papers belong to — released its list of finalists for the 2014 AAN Awards. These are important to the paper, as they pit us against our ilk on a national level. Last year saw arts editor Edie Adelstein win first place for arts criticism, as well as a first place award for the staff for breaking-news coverage of the Waldo Canyon Fire.

This year, music editor Bill Forman and columnist John Hazlehurst are finalists for their work. Forman is being honored for his Oct. 9 piece "Tower of low power," which asked if pirate radio was ready to go legit. Hazlehurst, who also writes for our sister publication, the Colorado Springs Business Journal, is being honored for his City Sage column. — BC

City gets bike-friendlier

Just in time for National Bike to Work Day, the city says it's beefing up its bicycle-friendly infrastructure.

The City Traffic Engineering Department and the Downtown Partnership have teamed up to install 16 new bike racks downtown. Nine are already up — three at 106 E. Boulder Street, five at 131 E. Bijou Street and one at 401 N. Tejon Street.

That's not all. Today, city officials are taking a 20-mile tour of the Springs' bike trails with Steven Clark, the League of American Bicyclists' Bicycle Friendly Communities Program Specialist. After the tour, Clark will give the city a presentation on other cities' bike-friendly projects, share his thoughts on the Springs' infrastructure, and offer some advice on what bicycle planning and services the city may want to offer in the future.

To keep up-to-date on the city's bicycle infrastructure, check colordosprings.gov/bike. — JAS


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