Noted: Humane Society gets new woman CEO 

CEO joins Humane Society

The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region is welcoming its first-ever female CEO, Jan McHugh-Smith. The HSPPR serves 34,000 animals a year, and holds the city of Colorado Springs contract for animal control services.

Reached by phone, McHugh-Smith says she's excited to pursue her No. 1 goal: saving the lives of more animals, especially cats euthanized at high rates due to overpopulation.

"The future really is around trying to save more lives, and raise awareness about the plight of cats in our community," she says. "Cats are the most popular pet in America right now, and shelters all across America face euthanizing thousands of cats, and the answer is really simple, which is to spay and neuter your cats."

With that in mind, McHugh-Smith says she plans to work on a public awareness campaign encouraging people to spay and neuter pets. She also wants to update the long-range plan of the organization, which has been led for nearly two decades by the retiring Wes Metzler.

As president of the San Francisco SPCA, she increased adoptions 20 percent and oversaw an expansion that improved the shelter's veterinary services. Yet she still infuriated some animal-rights activists, who balked at budget cuts that McHugh-Smith says she was forced to make. Activists also claimed that she was advocating for the killing of more animals under the SPCA's care; McHugh-Smith says she simply didn't hide that even though San Francisco's shelter had long called itself a "no-kill shelter," it had euthanized — and would continue to euthanize — those animals in its care with severe health or behavioral issues.

"I was transparent about it," she says, "and people were in shock because they didn't understand the definition of no-kill."

Earlier in her career, McHugh-Smith was the CEO of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley for 12 years. Her family lives in Colorado, and she attended college in the state. "I'm so excited to be home," she says. — JAS

Cherokee takes a drink

Colorado Springs City Council approved a deal this week that gives Cherokee Metropolitan District up to 1,000 acre-feet of water per year through 2012. That's about 326 million gallons a year, or enough for roughly 3,300 households.

Cherokee, covering a six-square-mile area east of Powers Boulevard, is struggling to serve its 18,000 households after losing 60 percent of its water rights in legal decisions. For three years, the district has bought Springs water on an emergency basis, but the contract approved Tuesday gives Cherokee more. The deal requires the city to temporarily waive a policy against selling water outside the city limits unless the recipient is annexed.

Councilors Tom Gallagher and Randy Purvis opposed the agreement. Purvis says he's against expanding the city's service territory before a study about regional water partners, due for presentation next week, is adopted.

"I don't know if we have enough water to supply the city, much less turn into a regional water utility," he says.

District manager Kip Petersen hopes to secure a permanent source of water from the city's not-yet-built Southern Delivery System pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir. The city says SDS can easily deliver extra water if water districts are able to acquire those rights. — PZ

Dems pad candidate list

With no local Democratic primary except for the U.S. Senate race (see "Hickenlooper's first county visit helps keep the optimism flowing,"), there were few surprises at the party's El Paso County assembly last Saturday.

State Rep. Michael Merrifield had already announced he was running for county commissioner District 5, and Pete Lee, a 2008 candidate for state Senate, had made clear his plans to run for Merrifield's House seat.

Rep. Dennis Apuan and Sen. John Morse had shared their re-election plans, Steve Kjonaas had said he will run for county commissioner District 1, and Tom Mowle, the county's public trustee, has been knocking on doors in his bid to become county clerk and recorder.

But some names did emerge at the assembly. Marcus Cimino is running for House District 15, currently held by Rep. Mark Waller; Nicholas Werle is vying for Senate District 9, being vacated by Sen. Dave Schultheis; and Jan Tanner, a current School District 11 board member, is running for House District 16.

Tanner says she decided to run in the days leading up to the assembly. She intends to focus on D-11 issues this spring before shifting to her campaign against Republican Rep. Larry Liston. District 16 covers a swath of northern and eastern Colorado Springs surrounding Palmer Park, and Tanner considers it "very winnable." — AL

Forte cashes $70,000

Although the bonus program is gone for Colorado Springs Utilities workers, CEO Jerry Forte pulled in a $31,411 bonus this month as a reward for his work last year, for which he scored 3.87 on a five-point scale. Under a long-term performance plan, for which Forte scored 4.28 on a five-point scale, he received another $39,852, which goes into a retirement account he can access if he stays as CEO for five years and leaves on good terms.

Forte is judged on the number and scope of service interruptions, environmental record, financial stability and rates, among other performance measures.

Forte's salary is $276,750, which Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman notes is below the median salary of $319,255 for Large Public Power Council participants. Another gas executive salary survey shows average CEO pay of $554,126. Forte oversees all four utility services: water, wastewater, electric and gas. — PZ

Indy excels in contest

Competing against newspapers in adjacent states, the Independent came away feeling, well, very rewarded in the Society of Professional Journalists' "Top of the Rockies" Excellence in Journalism Awards, presented Saturday night in Denver. The contest, with participants from the four-state region of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming, attracted more than 500 entries.

In the middle class of newspapers, with 10,000 to 75,000 circulation, the Indy came away with three first places and nine honors overall. Other daily papers in that class include the likes of the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle in Cheyenne, the New Mexican in Santa Fe and the Boulder Daily Camera, as well as weeklies including the Denver Business Journal and the Salt Lake City Weekly. Our winners:

First place: Edie Adelstein, arts and entertainment reporting, "Big and beautiful," May 28, 2009; J. Adrian Stanley, science-environmental-health care reporting, "The tick and the time bomb," Jan. 15, 2009; Kirsten Akens, education reporting, "Sample problems," Aug. 13, 2009.

Second place: Matthew Schniper, food and beverage reporting, "Kitchen consequential," July 9, 2009; Ralph Routon, sports columns, End Zone, multiple dates.

Third place: J. Adrian Stanley, general reporting series or package, "Not here, not yet," Oct. 30, 2008; Bill Forman, arts and entertainment reporting, "Dead air," July 16, 2009.

Honorable mention: J. Adrian Stanley, investigative/enterprise, "TABOR tyranny," April 9, 2009; J. Adrian Stanley, food and beverage reporting, "Green chile love sauce," April 2, 2009. — RR

Census deadline looms

The good news for El Paso County regarding this year's Census is that the participation rate as of April 14 was 70 percent, surpassing the national average of 67 percent.

The bummer is that still means the Census Bureau will have to send employees out to collect information from a huge number of residents who haven't replied.

If you're still waiting for the right moment to fill in your form, you'd be wise to find it soon. According to the Census Bureau, mailing the form by April 16 will "greatly reduce" the chances that an employee will pay you a visit. — AL

Norton plans petition route

Republican U.S. Senate frontrunner Jane Norton cited her Democratic rival in announcing this week that she will petition her way onto the August primary ballot rather than endure the vagaries of the assembly process.

Norton, after finishing a close second in a straw poll at the March caucuses to chief GOP rival Ken Buck, who's raised much less money, has good reason to be concerned that she could slip below 30 percent in the three-way race at the party's state assembly May 22. That would mean she has to petition onto the ballot anyway.

But Norton instead cited the decision by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet to petition onto the ballot, explaining in a news release, "I have decided we cannot afford to give the appointed senator a two-month head start."

The big difference between the two is that Bennet, competing against grassroots favorite Andrew Romanoff, still plans to go through the assembly process. By reducing the significance of the assembly process, however, both candidates risk upsetting their parties' most active members.

For Bennet, it's been a mixed month. He's well behind Romanoff in the delegate count for the Dems' state convention, but he just announced a whopping $1.4 million in fundraising during the first quarter of 2010. — AL

Uncle Wilber needs friends

Like so many other city assets, the popular Uncle Wilber Fountain in downtown's Acacia Park was left high and dry by city budget cuts.

Now, Wilber happens to have some buddies in the Friends of the Fountain organization, who have started trying to raise the $15,000 to $25,000 needed to keep the whimsical fountain entertaining hordes of kids in the hot summer months. But so far, Friends only has about $5,000.

It's hoping a donation-solicitation letter sent to some citizens and downtown businesses will raise the rest and get the fountain running by June 12. If Friends can raise $25,000, the fountain can run seven days a week, from late morning until the evening, until to late August. With $15,000, the fountain would run with reduced hours.

The money isn't for water; Friends treasurer Marj Webster says Uncle Wilber filters and reuses water. Most of the cost is to have a staff person sit by the fountain and watch for problems, such as a mechanical issue or a fight in the park, then to call the proper authorities.

"You want to feel confident, particularly with a lot of kids around, that you could get a quick response," Webster says.

To donate to Friends, visit unclewilberfountain.org. — JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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