Noted: UCH to pay leasing fees 

UCH picking up tab

University of Colorado Health has agreed to pick up the tab for up to $1.8 million in attorney fees, a special election's cost and other expenses associated with drafting a 40-year lease for city-owned Memorial Health System, says Colorado Springs City Attorney Chris Melcher.

According to Melcher, UCH will pay up to $1,050,000 for legal fees associated with negotiating the lease agreement and Memorial's debt retirement; $500,000 for the Aug. 28 mail election; $150,000 for Memorial Task Force consultant Mike Anthony of Chicago, and $100,000 for the city's financial analysis of the deal. Melcher says the city has logged less than $600,000 in legal fees so far, but the work isn't done. City Council plans to vote June 26 on referring the matter to the ballot.

Legal fees stemming from creating a public foundation to oversee the lease's estimated $250 million in proceeds will be paid from the proceeds or by the city, Melcher says. UCH will pay the city $74 million up front, $5.6 million a year for 30 years and another annual payment based on Memorial's performance. — PZ

Less than a week to vote

The primary election is days away from coming to an end. Anyone else relieved?

In El Paso County, despite no Democratic primaries, there are numerous Republican contests. As you should have received your mail-in ballot and done your homework, don't put off voting any longer.

The last day to mail in your ballot is this Friday, June 22, four days before election day. If you miss that deadline, you can still hand-deliver your ballot to any of the four El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's office locations as late as Tuesday.

To make the process as easy as possible, Monday and Tuesday, election workers will be positioned curbside outside the offices, so that you can drop off your ballot without going inside. See car.elpasoco.com for more details. — CH

D-11 protects students

Colorado Springs School District 11 has revised its anti-discrimination policy to extend protection to a variety of gender-related categories. The policy enacted June 13 by D-11's board will now include "transgender status, gender identity, and gender expression" alongside other enumerated protected classes, which range from religion to sexual orientation.

The motion passed 6-1 with board member Rev. Al Loma voting no. Loma argued that the new verbiage was implied under "sexual orientation" and called the new enumerations "a political ploy [by] the progressive movement."

Prior to the vote, citizen commentators stressed the need for separate enumeration of gender-related issues. Colorado College sociologist C.J. Pascoe explained that gender expression-related bullying occurs without reference to actual sexual orientation. The board also heard testimonials from transgender high school students with widespread fear of reporting being bullied, resulting from their lack of representation in district policy. — WM

Burn notices in effect

As a small fire was squelched near Lake George, federal and local officials imposed fire bans in and near the national forests last week, before a larger fire broke out south of Lake George that reportedly had burned 1,100 acres by Tuesday morning.

The U.S. Forest Service imposed Stage 1 restrictions indefinitely on the Pike and San Isabel forests in 14 counties, including El Paso and Teller.

All campfires are banned except in Forest Service campgrounds and picnic grounds in fire grates and grills, except for petroleum-fueled stoves, lanterns or heating devices. Smoking is banned except in enclosed vehicles and buildings and developed recreation sites. El Paso and Teller counties, as well as Colorado Springs, also imposed restrictions, prohibiting open burning, except fires permitted within permanent grates and picnic grounds and charcoal grills at private homes.

Sheriff Terry Maketa also banned the sale or use of fireworks and smoking except in an enclosure. Under the current rules, the fireworks display planned at the Air Force Academy on July 4 would be allowed, but a state ban on fireworks probably would kill the display, city spokeswoman Mary Scott says. — PZ

BAC gets new director

Natalie Johnson, a nine-year Manitou Springs resident and owner/founder of Black Cat Books, has been named executive director of the Business of Art Center. Interim ED Linda Boedeker, who started at the BAC in 2009, will work with Johnson about six weeks in training before returning to nonprofit consulting. Johnson says she started at the BAC informally a few weeks ago, but will begin officially in another couple of weeks.

Johnson's experience in arts and nonprofits stretches from an internship at the Arts Institute of Chicago to time as a program coordinator at a community center in Seattle through AmeriCorps following her master's in art history.

"I've always been a part of the arts," she says.

As executive director, Johnson hopes to connect with other local organizations like the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, and "being the person behind the BAC ... I plan on attending a lot of functions and meetings and things like that."

She'll also keep Black Cat, which opened in August 2005 and recently merged with boutique safron of Manitou Springs. Johnson says she'll work with volunteers and tag-team between both of the operations. — EA

Manitou considers PPLD

Monday, the Manitou Springs Public Library Task Force conducted its first community discussion on potentially merging into Pikes Peak Library District. The proposal follows years of research by the Friends of the Library into possible alternatives to the library's current status outside of any designated library district.

Friends of the Library president Laura Ettinger cited budgetary concerns as the impetus for a merger, which would make the library autonomous from other local funds and thus less vulnerable to the ups and downs of the local economy.

The discussion at Manitou City Hall was the first of several scheduled in the coming months. They're designed to address citizens' concerns about the fate of the historic Carnegie library building, and to discuss myriad options of how to broker the merger agreement. The task force hopes to gather signatures for a petition to put the merger to a vote by Manitou residents in November. — WM

Ride your bike for once!

Bike to Work Day is coming up June 27, and the city has incentives, such as:

• Bikers can enjoy breakfast from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m. at the Pioneers Museum, 215 S. Tejon St.; Salsa Brava Rockrimmon, 802 Village Center Drive; or Salsa Brava Briargate, 9420 Briar Village Pointe. Though breakfast was offered free to early registrants, bikers must now pay $5 when they register at springsgov.com.

• Meet city leaders on the City Council Cruise, leaving the Pikes Peak Greenway Trailhead (at University Village Colorado) at 6 a.m. and going to Pioneers Museum.

• The city is offering prizes to groups and teams. To learn more or sign up your own team, visit springsgov.com. — JAS

Blaha goes all out

In an unusual move, the campaign for Robert Blaha, the Republican primary challenger in the 5th Congressional District, late last week released its entire opposition research packet on Blaha's opponent, U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn (therealdouglamborn.com).

The 106-page document contains the juicy and the not-so-juicy, including a number of Lamborn's congressional votes (the not-so-juicy), as well as a section devoted to how Lamborn handled a family legal crisis. The document also included the number of accolades that Lamborn has received over the years.

State Rep. Bob Gardner, a former El Paso County GOP chair, says he has never heard of a candidate doing something like that before, calling it a "throw it at the wall and see what sticks" tactic. — CH

Magistrelli goes on offense

A 1990s investigation into child abuse took the forefront in the race for El Paso County commissioner District 3. Karen Magistrelli, the political newcomer vying to unseat incumbent Sallie Clark, ran a foster home in the 1990s, and in 1995, she and her husband were investigated for claims that they abused the children, in part, by making them sit in a root cellar as punishment.

The district attorney at the time didn't press charges.

Just last week, Magistrelli's campaign released a flier saying that it had prepared to refute the old allegations; it featured the testimonial of Fred Jackson, one of the boys who lived at Magistrelli's home, and who spent time in that cellar.

"To call time in the shelter abuse is ABSURD!" Jackson wrote in the flier. "I'm now 29 and as I look back my years with Bob and Karen were the best years of my childhood! The Magistrellis are my family."

See the flier on our blog, csindy.com/IndyBlog. — CH

Compiled by Edie Adelstein, Chet Hardin, Wyatt Miller, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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