News briefs from the Front Range

Bruce turned down again

El Paso County Commissioner Douglas Bruce didn't slap anyone's hand with a ruler, but that wouldn't have seemed out of place at his belittling City Council presentation on Tuesday.

Bruce was defending his proposed 2008 city ballot initiative on stormwater and enterprise fees. The title board has refused to issue Bruce a title for the bill, preventing him from collecting signatures to get it on the ballot.

Bruce said one reason for the title board's refusal was members not understanding the definition of 10 words in his initiative. The words included "city" and "future."

Many say Bruce's bill improperly addresses multiple issues. While the bill seems directed at ending stormwater fees, they argue it would also cripple the city's ability to collect fees for other enterprises, such as Colorado Springs Utilities and Memorial Hospital.

Tom Gallagher, Darryl Glenn and Randy Purvis voted in Bruce's favor. But Council voted 5-3 not to give a title to the initiative. Bruce says he'll appeal in 4th Judicial District Court. JAS

Peterson, Schriever to get new base housing

Families living at Peterson Air Force Base or working at Schriever Air Force Base east of Colorado Springs should soon have new digs.

Officials announced plans this week to have 597 new houses built at Peterson as part of a privatization project called Tierra Vista Communities.

The newest of the 493 homes now on the base was built in the '70s, according to Bob Mathis, a vice president with the developer Actus Lend Lease. Fifty-three of those homes will be renovated, bringing the total stock of houses on the base to 650 when the project is completed.

Actus also plans to build 242 homes at Schriever, which now has no housing.

The military started privatizing housing developments on bases across the country to improve quality and save money following a 1996 congressional initiative.

Actus expects to spend $232 million for the initial development of homes at the two Colorado Springs bases. Construction of the energy-efficient homes should be finished in six years, Mathis says. AL

Senate bill includes Arkansas Valley conduit

Despite being part of a $23 billion water bill passed this week by the U.S. Senate, an Arkansas Valley Conduit taking water from Pueblo Reservoir eastward to downstream cities is not guaranteed to become reality.

The conduit, a $300 million project initially authorized in 1962 as part of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project, would receive $79 million from the bill, which passed 81-12. President Bush has said he might veto the bill because of $9 billion in recently added projects.

Sen. Ken Salazar, who voted for the water bill, told the Chieftain he pushed for $120 million in funding for state projects, including the conduit. Sen. Wayne Allard, who has said he supports the conduit, was one of the 12 voting against the bill because, he said, of a backlog in projects.

The bill also would accelerate plans for a Fountain Creek Watershed Study. RR

Ritter unveils '08 business plan
At a Tuesday media event, Gov. Bill Ritter proposed ideas for economic development in 2008 that elicited praise from the business community and criticism from Republicans.

Ritter described plans to exempt most small businesses from paying personal-property taxes, as well as to revise corporate income-tax regulations.

Republicans insisted Ritter's property-tax freeze, passed this year by the Legislature, still would hurt businesses more than the new ideas would help.

Evan Dreyer, a spokesman for Ritter, told the Denver Post that "cutting taxes, reducing red tape and helping small businesses falls firmly into the problem-solving column, as does keeping the state education fund from going broke and partnering with snowplow drivers, park rangers and prison guards."

Democrats, researchers and Denver-area business leaders supported the governor's ideas. RR

New jobs coming to city

A company that helps businesses and employees manage individual Health Savings Accounts announced plans this week to open its headquarters in Colorado Springs.

MyHealthFunds plans to hire about 200 employees within five years to staff a headquarters building at 7222 Commerce Center Drive, according to an announcement.

The company focuses on "consumer directed health care" programs for businesses facing rising costs in providing health care benefits. Employees in such programs put money in a tax-free savings account to cover their medical expenses. AL

State hospital in Pueblo to prohibit tobacco

There will be no smoking, chewing or dipping tobacco at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo, as of next June 1.

Earlier, the state hospital had prohibited smoking indoors or within 50 feet of the complexs buildings.

Superintendent John R. DeQuardo told the Pueblo Chieftain that the new restriction would cover the entire complex. The state-run facility will have programs to assist and encourage employees in trying to stop tobacco use. In a recent survey, 37 percent of hospital staff admitted to smoking.

Most of the hospitals 450 or so patients already are not allowed to smoke anywhere on the complex. Those patients who do smoke also will be offered help in breaking the habit, with cessation programs and nicotine patches.

Theres a risk factor involved, DeQuardo said. If they continue to smoke, theres a greater risk to relapse into substance abuse. I have no intention of controlling peoples behaviors. I'm not going to turn this into a tobacco-free police state. RR

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

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