Noted: EDC and Chamber to merge 

Chamber, EDC plan merger

They still have a lot of decisions to make, starting with a name. But the Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Colorado Springs Regional Economic Development Corp. publicly confirmed Tuesday their plans to merge into a single organization, hopefully by the end of 2011.

"We're glad to say that both of our boards approved this 100 percent, with no dissenting votes," Doug Quimby, EDC board chairman and acting CEO, told about 250 business and civic leaders attending the announcement at the Antlers Hilton. "We're excited about this. It's the right time. ... This is a big day for our community."

The two groups agreed to form an 11-member unification committee, including representatives from both sides, that will forge the final agreements including governance and structure, and then launch a national search for a new CEO. The new organization, Quimby said, would focus on all phases of economic and community development, governmental and legislative affairs, marketing and communications, and membership and business services. Mayor Steve Bach and County Commission Chair Amy Lathen pledged the support of the city and county, respectively.

Though no decision has been made about a name, officials said the new group likely would not toss aside the Chamber's 119-year history in determining the choice. Another uncertainty is whether the new organization could accept city funding, as the EDC currently does, and still operate a political action committee (PAC), as the Chamber has, endorsing and providing contributions to political candidates.

"We're not sure yet if we can continue the PAC," said Bill Hodgkins, head of the Chamber board and the Boeing Co.'s senior Colorado executive. "That's one of the things we have to decide." — RR

Memorial to PERA: buzz off

In an Aug. 17 letter, Memorial Health System essentially told state retirement plan administrators to take a hike.

The Public Employees' Retirement Association effectively has held city-owned Memorial hostage as it's tried to move toward nonprofit status, saying the hospital would owe $246 million to pull its roughly 4,000 employees from PERA.

But Memorial Health System CEO Larry McEvoy said in the letter that Memorial has concluded it has "no liability whatever to PERA," because Memorial employees would be terminated under the new nonprofit arrangement and employed instead by the nonprofit. McEvoy notes that PERA has imposed liability only when city employees remain city employees, and when a city ends its PERA affiliation to allow those employees to join a city's retirement plan. "Neither circumstance exists here," McEvoy wrote.

McEvoy's letter said PERA modified its demand in July to a range of $150 million to $191 million. Memorial's expert, hired in May or June, concluded Memorial's liability would be "only a small fraction" of PERA estimates, if any at all. To "resolve amicably" the dispute, McEvoy said Memorial was willing to pay $50 million. The offer expired at 5 p.m. Monday.

PERA spokeswoman Katie Kaufmanis wrote in an e-mail Wednesday to the Indy that PERA's board voted last Friday to reject Memorial's offer. (See a copy of the full letter from McEvoy by viewing this story here.) — PZ

AFP fueled up for tour

Americans for Prosperity, the libertarian organization, has identified policies of President Obama's administration that AFP says are keeping gasoline and energy at unreasonable prices. Can you guess what they are?

In a press release, AFP Foundation president Tim Phillips explains: "Obama's hostility toward domestic production and his desire to use high gas prices to change Americans' driving behavior are contributing to the escalating cost of fuel."

AFP has been on the road, burning that expensive gasoline, to bring the message to the masses in its "Running on Empty Tour." On Thursday, Aug. 25, Colorado state director Jeff Crank hosts the Colorado Springs tour stop, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in KVOR-AM radio's parking lot at 6805 Corporate Drive. The tour has run into some protesters in Montana, but Crank isn't expecting much controversy here in the Springs. — CH

Grace's blessed recovery

For years, a brass St. Francis of Assisi stood watch over the parishioners of Grace and St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs. Then, overnight in early March, thieves entered the church's Memorial Garden, took a hammer to the statue's concrete base, and made off.

According to lay leader Clelia de Moraes, the theft was devastating for the church. "It was a very prominent statue," she says. "It was a very important statue to us."

But this story has a happy ending. The statue was found this week in a field behind Woodmen Valley Chapel in Rockrimmon, sitting under a tree. It'll be returned to its longtime home soon.

The finding is a shock, de Moraes continues, because when it was stolen, everyone assumed that the thieves would turn it in for scrap. "We don't know if they got scared of the publicity, or had a change of heart and put it someplace where we could find it."

The woman who found the statue knew it quite well, says de Moraes, as she had visited Grace's gardens many times to sit and meditate. — CH

Kittle: city's new cost-cutter

City employee Nick Kittle has been promoted to become Colorado Springs' "manager of innovation and sustainability."

According to a city release, "Kittle will lead citywide grants coordination, sustainability efforts, and City Contracting functions. He will also be responsible for implementing a comprehensive innovation effort for the entire organization. This will include an analysis of different service models to maximize performance in the most cost-effective ways. He will also review practices and policies to improve business processes, increase efficiency, consolidate redundant services, and realize the maximum potential of new technologies."

In other words, he will try to save the city money. Kittle, previously the city's Public Works team leader, will report to mayoral Chief of Staff Steve Cox. — JAS

Time for Woodmen party

Can you remember a time when there was not construction on Woodmen Road? Be careful how you answer that question. You risk aging yourself.

Yes, fixing up Woodmen has been, uh, a long road. But one phase is coming to an end — 34 days ahead of schedule, no less.

The stretch east of Interstate 25 from Campus Drive to Stinson Road has reached "substantial completion." The project allows Academy Boulevard to pass under Woodmen, eliminating traffic signals and easing congestion. Woodmen also has new sidewalks and bike lanes. The $42.5 million project, mostly funded through the federal stimulus, stayed on budget.

The party to celebrate this feat will take place at 11 a.m., Friday, Aug. 26, at the corner of Woodmen Road and Academy Boulevard. But don't get too excited. Phase II of the Woodmen Road project, from Stinson Road to Powers Boulevard, won't begin until 2014. — JAS

Compiled by Chet Hardin, Ralph Routon and Pam Zubeck.


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