Noted: Utilities pays fine, fixes problems 

After fine, CSU makes fixes

After agreeing to pay a $31,000 fine last fall for seven violations between 2007 and 2009, Colorado Springs Utilities has overhauled how it complies with North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) regulations. NERC, the compliance and enforcement arm of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, has enforced standards for the interconnected bulk electric grid since 2007.

"NERC compliance is not an option," Utilities spokesman Dave Grossman says in an e-mail. "These standards require that we have controls in place to protect both critical cyber assets and physical assets."

Five of Utilities' seven violations pertained to record-keeping, one stemmed from human error, and the other an operational error. Utilities' fine was a pittance compared to others, such as a $25 million settlement by Florida Power and Light stemming from the "Florida Blackout" of Feb. 26, 2008.

Grossman says Utilities' issues have been corrected, noting that none jeopardized local or national power grids. — PZ

New gate for Carson

With the announcement of a new Combat Aviation Brigade at Fort Carson comes the news that Gate 19 will become a new access point to the post. Col. Robert McLaughlin spoke of it last week, and Jason Wilkinson, Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments' policy and communications manager, offers more details.

Gate 19 would be located at the Interstate 25 exit near Fountain's downtown. There's already a road there (currently blocked with a telephone pole) that will be upgraded, Wilkinson says. The Gate 19 road will lead to Wilderness Road, which runs through the post. Wilkinson doesn't know yet how much the improvements will cost, but says none of the money would come from local sources; the Pentagon would pay for it.

Another access point getting some consideration would be a Gate 6 off Colorado Highway 115 that would give almost direct access to Evans Army Hospital. "Whether they want to do both or just [Gate] 19 remains to be seen," he says.

Meanwhile, the next town hall with Carson commanders will be May 5 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 2886 S. Circle Drive; the Army will update and take questions from the public. — PZ

Military voting made easier

Last week, a bill to make it easier for Colorado's overseas and military voters moved through the House on unanimous floor vote. Sponsored by Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, the Uniform Military and Overseas Voters Act requires county clerks to send out ballots to eligible uniformed-service members and their dependents and other overseas voters 45 days ahead of elections.

"It adopts some federal uniform provisions to enable overseas and military voters to have access to ballots," Lee says. "What happens when you are a registered voter in Afghanistan? How do you vote? Studies by the Pew Center showed that military and overseas voters were some of the lowest-voting populations."

The problems, he says, are registration and the time needed to get ballots into their hands. "The reason I got involved with it is because of the military and overseas voters in Colorado Springs," he says. The bill is sponsored in the Senate by Linda Newell, D-Denver. — CH

Goodwill offices leaving OCC

Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs is moving its headquarters and donation receiving and processing out of Old Colorado City. The nonprofit plans to consolidate facilities, as well as day camps for disabled adults scattered throughout the city, into a $5.35 million, 100,000-square-foot building at 1460 Garden of the Gods Road.

OCC locations at 2320 and 2307 W. Colorado Ave. will be sold. The retail store on West Colorado Avenue is being remodeled and will stay open.

"This is something we've been talking about for a long time; it's really going to help us better serve our clients, our customers," Goodwill spokesperson Melissa Lyby says. "We've just outgrown our building." — JAS

Locals kill civil unions

Three Colorado Springs lawmakers made up half the Republican bloc that derailed the House's civil union legislation last week. Rep. Mark Waller, along with Reps. Bob Gardner and Mark Barker, sit on the Judiciary Committee and voted against allowing the bill to the floor. It was defeated, 6-5, on a party-line vote.

The bill would have given state recognition to civil unions of any two adults, regardless of gender. Republicans argued it would have essentially granted marriage rights to homosexuals — despite voters having approved a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, back in 2006.

"Calling it something else just isn't enough," says Waller. "Personally, I felt that it ran afoul of the constitution. This bill, as I read it, provided every legal protection afforded to a man and a woman, and also had that recognition from the clergy to recognize this union. And to me, that's marriage. That's everything you have in marriage."

Bill supporters say Coloradans' views on civil unions are not fairly reflected by the 2006 amendment. Numerous polls have shown a majority of voters support civil unions. "If they are on the right side of history, it'll come. It'll happen," says Waller. "But it will have to happen constitutionally." — CH

Compiled by Chet Hardin, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.


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