Noted: 60 Minutes probes the city 

60 Minutes of fame

Yet another national news organization will be examining Colorado Springs' city budget. CBS' 60 Minutes sent producers here a couple weeks ago to scope our city's story, and they apparently will return to finish what they started.

City Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin says the producers interviewed her. They seemed interested because city coffers fell fast during the recession — due to the city depending largely on sales taxes — and because the Springs, via outsourcing and public-private partnerships, has taken an interesting path to recovery.

Martin adds that other interviewees included outsourcing fans Chuck Fowler, Sean Paige and Mayor Steve Bach.

Council President Scott Hente also spoke to 60 Minutes, at his home in the Mountain Shadows area. While much of Hente's conversation focused on everyday budgetary issues, the Waldo Canyon Fire came up, and he says the producers seemed interested.

No word yet on an air date. — J. Adrian Stanley

Sierra Club threatens suit

The Sierra Club threatened to sue the city Monday, alleging changes to its Martin Drake and Ray D. Nixon power plants over the last 25 years for pollution controls violated government requirements.

Colorado Springs Utilities disputes that, saying the city "has been diligent to evaluate all projects at Drake and Nixon and believe the plants are in compliance with all regulations."

The lawsuit threat was submitted as City Council, sitting as the Utilities Board, prepared to discuss Wednesday its postponement of a study of decommissioning Drake. The board also was to discuss its prior decision to move forward with Neumann Systems Group emissions control technology there.

In a news release, the Sierra Club alleges the city has violated the Clean Air Act by failing to get proper permits for 37 projects from 1987 to 2011 "that would have required the plants to meet industry standards that comply with modern pollution control laws."

"I'm aware they've been filing suits in other cities to get rid of coal plants," says Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin. "From my perspective, I will always continue to make decisions on what's best for our community and not be threatened by lawsuits." — Pam Zubeck

Birthday occupation

Occupy Wall Street celebrated its one-year anniversary Monday by marching down Broadway and protesting outside the New York Stock Exchange.

Thursday, members of Occupy Colorado Springs plan to mark the anniversary with a protest of their own. Their target: a meeting at Penrose Library to discuss the future of the Martin Drake Power Plant.

According to an Occupy release, "a planned gathering of local one-percenters, called together by developer and charter-school proponent Steve Schuck, [is] conspiring to privatize the city-owned utilities!" Eric Verlo, a local Occupy organizer, adds, "We will be protesting the idea of privatizing public utilities, and of course, the use of a public space to discuss it."

The protest is set for 2 p.m. at Cascade Avenue and Kiowa Street. — Chet Hardin

AFA survey attracts few

Most cadets say they're satisfied with their experience at the Air Force Academy, though 53 percent say athletes get preferential treatment and more than half say underage drinking, gender discrimination and hazing take place. Those are among results of a 2011 "climate survey" of academy cadets, staff and faculty, released last week.

But only 15 percent of cadets took part, among the weakest turnouts ever. The Air Force Manpower Agency conducted the survey last year, and Superintendent Lt. Gen. Mike Gould says in a statement that the officer school will use the results "to continually improve the academy's living and working environment."

Mikey Weinstein, an alum and founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, is doubtful. Noting that 14 percent of responding cadets received unwanted attempts to convert to a religion from cadets, Weinstein says the climate won't change until academy leaders, including Gould, are fired. — Pam Zubeck

Hotel deal delayed

El Paso County's plan to sell the old Department of Human Services building at 105 N. Spruce St., for a hotel project has bogged down. The county agreed Jan. 31 to sell the property for $2.4 million to the Jarosz Family Partnership, which owns the nearby Clarion Hotel at 314 W. Bijou St. The partnership plans to build a 90- to 100-room hotel on the property, and the deal was to close months ago. But it hasn't.

Spokesman Dave Rose says the County Attorney's Office advises the closing has been pushed to Oct. 10, allowing the buyers to work on "issues related to the appraisal and financing." The Assessor's Office has assigned the property, which was used as the Disaster Recovery Center this summer for those impacted by the Waldo Canyon Fire, a value of $3.7 million.

The buyers appear to be making progress. Last week, City Council approved a request to rezone a parking lot so the property could be considered one lot, a matter city planning officials termed "a housekeeping item."

Money from the sale will retire a debt the county issued on the building a few years ago to plug a budget gap. DHS last year moved to the Citizens Service Center on Garden of the Gods Road. — Pam Zubeck

County remodel progresses

El Paso County's "strategic moves" initiative that shuffled county offices continues with remodeling the County Office Building, 27 E. Vermijo Ave., as the new sheriff's headquarters.

GE Johnson Construction won the $5,000 contract for construction management, and also the actual remodeling work for the five-story building, at $4.9 million. Offices formerly housed there, including the treasurer and assessor, moved to the Citizens Service Center, 1675 Garden of the Gods Road. The County Attorney's Office, commissioners, finance, administration and public administration moved to Centennial Hall.

The total cost of the shuffle is $61 million, $50.5 million of which was borrowed ("The price we pay," News, June 20).

The new sheriff's building, combining sheriff's operations from several sites, is to be completed Dec. 4, says county spokesman Dave Rose. — Pam Zubeck

Wanna be a judge?

On Nov. 6, 1,200 election judges will be dispatched throughout the county to ensure that the election runs smoothly. But right now, there's a shortage of people lined up for the job.

Judges' tasks will include assisting voters and checking IDs. It's a long day, from 5:45 a.m. to 8 p.m. or later. But that's why you'll get paid the big bucks: $100.

If you're interested in assisting democracy, contact the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's election office at 575-VOTE or car.elpasoco.com/election. — Chet Hardin


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