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News briefs from the Front Range

Cimarron Bridge closes; others not fully open
Cimarron Bridge officially was closed early Thursday morning, Nov. 1, and that route into the city will be shut off until the replacement bridge opens partially next May.

But the Colorado Avenue and Bijou Street bridges also are not fully operational yet, as the city and COSMIX had hoped they'd be. That means commuters will have to endure busy rush hours for a while.

Kyle Troxel, spokesman for Rockrimmon Constructors (which is working on the Colorado Avenue and Bijou Street bridges), says the projects have taken longer than expected.

The full opening of Bijou was stalled when the company was shipped the wrong size of architectural railing. The bridge currently has four lanes open, and is expected to be fully operational with six lanes around Nov. 8.

The Colorado bridge has simply taken longer than the company hoped, Troxel says. It is expected to be fully operational, with four lanes, by mid-November.

In the meantime, Troxel says, the Colorado underpass beneath I-25 will have two eastbound lanes and one westbound lane open during the morning rush hour, switching to two westbound lanes and one eastbound lane open in the evening rush hour. JAS

Anti-abortion activists target construction company
Abortion protesters have long taken to the streets to make their views known, but a construction company executive in Denver is now becoming familiar with a new twist on that idea protests at the homes of those working on Planned Parenthood facilities.

Gary Meggison, a senior vice president for The Weitz Company Rocky Mountain Business Office, has repeatedly seen sign-wielding protesters parade outside his home in recent weeks. His company has been hired by Planned Parenthood to renovate and expand a building in Denver's Stapleton neighborhood. It is expected to serve as a clinic and house administrative offices.

Meggison says little about the impact of the protests.

"We build buildings," he says. "Politics aside, that's what we do."

To fight Planned Parenthood projects, anti-abortion activists have gone after construction company officials in other cities, prompting at least one contractor to quit.

In addition to performing abortions, Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings, pregnancy tests and other health services for women. AL

Lt. Gov. O'Brien issues aerospace wakeup call
Businesses should be proactive if they want to ensure Colorado's aerospace industry isn't lured out of state, piecemeal, in coming years.

That's the ongoing concern of Lt. Gov. Barbara O'Brien, who in a phone interview Tuesday, said Nebraska and other states are jealously eyeing the state's "booming" industry and bragging in their sales pitch about lower costs of living.

"There's lots of competition now," O'Brien said. "My point to the business community is that we can't rest on our laurels."

A Denver Post article last week quoted O'Brien as saying Nebraska wanted to take U.S. Northern Command and Air Force Space Command from Colorado Springs. Officials from both commands, located at Peterson Air Force Base, said in the article that they hadn't heard the rumor.

Tuesday, O'Brien explained that a Nebraska official, at an aerospace conference she attended, "sort of jokingly" expressed hope of stealing the lucrative commands from Colorado.

The state employs about 164,000 people across the Front Range in the aerospace industry, O'Brien added. She said businesses should invest in science, technology and engineering training in Colorado while working to make higher education more amenable to the industry and more affordable for students. MdY

Utilities employee accused of equipment theft, resale
A Colorado Springs Utilities employee whose job was to help coworkers with information technology needs has been accused of seeking an outside customer base for Utilities equipment.

Russell Harbach, 52, was arrested on suspicion of selling power cords, PDAs, mice and other equipment on the online auction Web site eBay.

Police suspect Harbach of taking more than $7,000 worth of equipment, most of which has not been recovered.

A Utilities spokesman says it is the only instance he is aware of in which an employee is suspected of stealing from a city-owned utility company. AL

State hospital audit ordered
A panel of state legislators has directed the state auditor to review personnel and safety issues at Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. The legislative audit committee's action followed a request from Pueblo County District Attorney Bill Thiebaut and state Rep. Dorothy Butcher, D-Pueblo.

Butcher, in a letter to the committee, indicated state hospital employees have raised various management issues, including discrimination, retaliation and undeserved promotions, the Pueblo Chieftain reported.

Thiebaut also submitted letters to the audit committee, saying the audit should probe for explanations as to why more mentally ill inmates are not being moved from county jails to state mental-health facilities. RR

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

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