Noted: New direction for United Way 

United Way shifts gears

Kicking off its annual fundraiser Thursday, Pikes Peak United Way will announce that it's shifting 34 percent of its community fund donations, or about $680,000, to a new initiative designed to reduce the need for a safety net down the road.

Called "Success by 6," the program will start by targeting 300 families with children from birth to age 5 in Colorado Springs School District 11 and Harrison School District 2, which serve 75 percent of the city's high-risk kids and families. The idea is "to see that every child in our community is ready to succeed when they begin kindergarten by improving their early literacy and family stability," according to a program outline. For the first time, non-partner agencies can apply for funds.

It's an initiative three years in the making, even as the economy has created greater needs for traditional help with housing, clothing and food. PPUW's Amber Cote notes that donors still can designate how their money is spent.

The organization's overall fundraising goal this year will be $5.9 million. — PZ

More detox coming

Good news seems to be pouring out of the El Paso County jail, starting with the addition of a new $375,000 detox facility. The previously erected detox facility will be used by inmates of the Criminal Justice Center next door on East Las Vegas Street.

The original intent was to have detox clients share space with inmates, but the high demand for detox space, along with jail regulations, prevented such an arrangement, says Detentions Bureau Chief Paula Presley. While the former Lighthouse detox facility accepted about 250 clients per month, Sheriff Terry Maketa's detox facility, erected in 2009, has been serving 475 to 525 per month.

The new detox facility will have 40 beds. The current facility has 40 detox beds, too; now it will house 80 inmate beds, because a jail can be double-bunked whereas a detox facility cannot, Presley says.

"Besides running detox," Presley adds, "our licensure has been expanded to include transitional residential treatment licensure." That means clients ordered to spend time in a transitional unit can do so at the detox facility. It means more money for the jail; those clients pay for treatment.

Also, the Sheriff's Office has been granted a license for substance-abuse treatment in the jail — making it the only county jail in the state with such a license, according to Presley. Instead of contractors counseling addicts, staff now hold such certifications. — PZ

VA cemetery needs water

Fountain and El Paso County officials will work together to get water 2.5 miles from Fountain to a site for a veterans cemetery after it was discovered that the property lacks adequate supplies. Veterans Affairs official Steve Muro visited Fountain last week and said the VA will look for an alternate site in case the water problem can't be addressed.

Fountain Mayor Jeri Howells says the city has adequate water supplies to accommodate the cemetery's need for 100 acre feet per year, the equivalent of usage by 250 homes, and Fountain water supply manager Curtis Mitchell says the cemetery land lies in the path of Fountain's planned development. The VA by law can't pay to extend a pipeline, so County Commissioner Dennis Hisey says the county will discuss whether it can pitch in.

"The VA has a sense of urgency, so we do, too," Hisey says. The VA plans to have the cemetery ready for use in 2014. — PZ

GOP meeting still on

If you call for an executive committee meeting of a county political party, and the chairman tries to cancel it, and the party attorney claims that it won't be official, does it still happen? Apparently yes, if you are an El Paso County Republican.

Party secretary Sarah Anderson first called Aug. 30 for the meeting, claiming to follow the executive committee's direction. Party chair Eli Bremer claimed that the call was invalid. The meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 12, when Bremer likely will be out of the country.

This week, party vice-chair David Williams e-mailed an agenda for a Sept. 12 meeting to the party's central committee, hundreds of local Republicans, inviting them to attend. The meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. at party headquarters, 205 Sutton Lane. Up for discussion will be a number of moves made by Bremer that Williams and Anderson see as controversial. Follow this story on the at IndyBlog. — CH

Tax impact not so bad

Final figures for El Paso County's property reappraisal shows values didn't drop as much as feared. That means less impact on agencies that rely on property taxes.

Property values dropped just 7 percent, to $6.3 billion, instead of the predicted double-digit percentage. It still means the county will collect about $3.9 million less in property taxes next year. The city of Colorado Springs saw a similar decrease, as did Fountain. Most school district values fell about 6 percent, but Fountain-Fort Carson District 8 had a 22 percent decline.

County Assessor Mark Lowderman says D-8's drop stems from Fountain having many foreclosures. "Those neighborhoods really took a hit," he says. (For a complete list of how all taxing entities were affected, click here.)

Lowderman says original estimates of a 12 to 13 percent drop countywide were based on property sales. When figures were refined, the decline wasn't as bad. — PZ

Compiled by Chet Hardin and Pam Zubeck.


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