News briefs from the Front Range

Cameras could deter crime ... like that huge fight at the Vue
Police dispersed 200 to 300 uncooperative people, and made several arrests, after a fight involving 30 to 40 patrons of downtown's Vue nightclub broke out at 2 a.m. Sunday. One woman was treated at Memorial Hospital after a thrown bottle hit her in the head.

Police spokesman Lt. Skip Arms hesitates to call the incident a riot, saying, "We've had nights like this downtown before."

Apparently, there've been enough to warrant watching more closely. A three-month city pilot project will place three to five surveillance cameras along Tejon Street to monitor crime and rowdy bar crowds. The cameras should be up by March.

City technology manager Andre Sodbinow says the cameras will make use of downtown's wireless network, which the city bought from SkyTel for $10 after the company failed to turn a profit and couldn't interest a business in buying the network.

The surveillance system could have problems. Sodbinow says the pilot project should determine how effective the cameras (provided by vendors on a trial basis) are at capturing photos at night. Other worries: Whether the network has the bandwidth to handle a constant flow of images, and where to store loads of images. JAS

Penrose Community closing

Penrose Community Hospital, located at 3205 N. Academy Blvd., will close in August, just in time for the opening of the new St. Francis Medical Center on Powers Boulevard and Woodmen Road.

The community has outgrown Penrose Community, regional director Amy Sufak explains, and the old hospital didn't have room to expand. Plus, more of the population is moving to the Powers area, so relocation makes sense.

"We're not just moving the services that we have in Penrose Community Hospital, but we're actually expanding our services," she says.

The new hospital will be next to NorthCare's 80,000-square-foot medical office building, meaning a variety of care on the campus.

The building that has housed Penrose Community Hospital since the '70s will be sold. The main Penrose hospital near downtown will not be affected, and Centura Health plans to open an urgent-care center in the Academy Boulevard area. JAS

Memorial names interim CEO

Memorial Hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Larry McEvoy, will take the reins as interim CEO of the city-owned enterprise when CEO Dick Eitel retires March 31.

McEvoy is a board-certified fellow of the American College of Emergency Medicine. He earned his medical degree at Stanford University, and has worked as an emergency physician and in administrative roles.

The hospital's board of trustees said in a release it would likely take months to name Eitel's permanent replacement.

Eitel, who led the hospital through a period of growth, plans to go to law school and spend more time with his family. JAS

Obama local office opens

Fired Up Ready to Go the pause and refrain rocked the Jan. 10 opening of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obamas Pikes Peak office. More than 300 supporters participated, which did not surprise area local volunteer Mike Maday, 53, a professional mediator and Harrison District 2 school counselor.

Everywhere we go, there is overwhelming support, Maday said.

Rev. James McMearn, who worked on 1972 Shirley Chisholm and 1980 and 1984 Jesse Jackson campaigns, said, Obama would move America to where it should be to be colorblind.

Colorado College professor Tom Cronin recently returned from Iowa, where he walked neighborhoods for the candidate. The former White House aide exhorted the crowd to Tell your mama to vote Obama. He lamented, however, that he was having trouble converting my wife to his cause.

The Obama campaign now has 30 paid staff across Colorado working to encourage supporters to participate in the Feb. 5 presidential caucuses. Obama is the first presidential aspirant to set up a staffed Pikes Peak office. To contact the campaign, call 482-8456 or e-mail cwalsh@barckobama.com. JW

County Parks: Not TOPS

The annual City-County Park Advisory Board meeting proved to be a placid affair. Scores of parks employees and interested citizens gathered Jan. 10 at Bear Creek Nature Center for lasagna and PowerPoint presentations documenting 2007 achievements and goals for the future.

Even a mention of the Eastern Plains Recreation Area otherwise known as the county's controversial proposed motorcycle park failed to ignite debate.

One point did stick out: The Trails, Open Space and Parks sales tax has made possible nearly $100 million in city projects in the past 10 years. The county, which lacks a similar tax, has lagged far behind.

Over the past five years, tax support for county parks has declined 52 percent while the park system's grown 25 percent. County parks representatives will look at collaboration efforts, fees and third-party funding. Perhaps most interesting, city parks director Paul Butcher and others suggested county and city parks might one day merge. JAS

Clerk tries longer hours

Residents frustrated by weekly closures of the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office have some reason to breath a bit easier.

The office will expand hours by 90 minutes each day at each of its three locations. And it's added recording and election services at its Chapel Hills branch, on the north side of the mall, and the Powers Boulevard branch, at 5650 Industrial Place.

The hours at Centennial Hall, 200 S. Cascade Ave., and the Powers Boulevard branch are now 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. The Chapel Hills branch has the same hours, Monday through Friday. AL

Deaths point to dangerous backcountry conditions
With avalanches in Colorado's high country claiming two lives in the past week and four since the season's first snows, avalanche forecasters are warning hazardous conditions could endure much of the winter.

Observers are finding weak layers of large snow crystals close to the ground, covered with thick layers of hard snow and the occasional weak layer, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. This instability could persist much of the winter, the Center warns, and demands that people traveling in the backcountry use caution, particularly on slopes steeped more than 30 degrees.

The most recent deaths occurred in different parts of the state. Colorado averages six avalanche deaths each winter. AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and John Weiss.


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