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Noted: City seeks pension options 

Team to tackle pensions

Mayor Steve Bach has created several "solutions teams" since entering office, and now he's adding another to the list. The Pension Solutions Team is expected to provide the mayor with recommendations by February 2013 on how to reduce pension costs.

Most city employees belong to the state pension plan, the Public Employees' Retirement Association of Colorado (PERA), though the city has separate pension accounts for firefighters and police officers. Pension costs have risen in recent years, and are expected to continue to grow. Bach has said he expects costs to exceed revenues in the city in the years to come, and has identified pensions as a major cause of the shift.

"The City's current pension plans are not fiscally sustainable and if not changed will lead to General Fund insolvency," the mayor states in a press release. "It is essential that the plans be modified for long term sustainability."

The Pensions Solutions Team will be led by CPA Marv Strait. Other members include CPA Kurt Kofford, retired businessman David Sunderland, two City Council members to be announced, City Chief of Staff Laura Neumann, City Chief Financial Officer Kara Skinner, and City Human Resources Director Mike Sullivan. — J. Adrian Stanley

USFS studying Bear Creek

The U.S. Forest Service is beginning its study of the Bear Creek watershed just outside of Colorado Springs, the last home of Colorado's state fish, the threatened greenback cutthroat trout ("Fifty shades of green," cover story, Oct. 3).

The Forest Service study, the first step in offering the fish better protection, will look at the condition of the watershed, and how current activities — such as motorcycling on nearby trails — are affecting its health. When the study is complete, the Forest Service will use it to make recommendations for changes that could include, for instance, moving trails further from the creek.

Next, the Forest Service will do a National Environmental Policy Act study to determine if proposed changes are, indeed, best for the watershed and what effects they will have. The NEPA will ultimately determine if the changes will happen, and how. The two studies could take years to complete.

Questions and comments about the watershed assessment should be directed to forest biologist Mike Welker at 719/553-1515 or mtwelker@fs.fed.us. Letters can be sent to: U.S. Forest Service, Bear Creek Watershed Assessment, 2840 Kachina Drive, Pueblo, CO 81008. — J. Adrian Stanley

$27.8 million for stormwater

The city has more funding for stormwater maintenance and projects than originally thought — a fact that should delight the downstream city of Pueblo.

As previously reported, Mayor Steve Bach added $2 million to the city's stormwater budget, and Colorado Springs Utilities is dedicating $12.8 million to stormwater projects that protect its infrastructure. But the city also has funding from other sources like the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, grants, and money from a dissolved improvement district. Those extra sources bring total city funding to nearly $27.8 million in 2013.

Parts of Cottonwood Creek, the Mirage Channel, the Greencrest Channel and Fountain Creek, as well as several detention ponds, will be improved with the funding. Areas affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire will see repairs as well.

"I am pleased that our staff has been able to find additional resources for the City's critical stormwater needs, and will be coordinating with Colorado Springs Utilities to ensure their funding is also directed at the most urgent stormwater needs," Bach states in a press release. The city's stormwater backlog has been estimated at $300 million-plus. — J. Adrian Stanley

Carrier going to prison

Former Colorado Springs Police Officer Joshua Carrier, 31, last week was convicted of 123 sexual-assault-related counts arising from so-called "skin checks" of Mann Middle School students in 2010 and 2011, local media outlets reported. Carrier was a school resource officer and volunteer wrestling coach at Mann.

Carrier ("Underwhelming oversight," cover story, Aug. 25, 2011) could spend the rest of his life in prison, considering the number of charges. Meanwhile, 11 families will share $9.4 million from Colorado Springs School District 11 and the city to settle a civil action, according to the Gazette.

The trial was Carrier's second. The jury hung on most counts in the first trial last spring, but convicted him of 21 child pornography charges. He is to be sentenced Feb. 22. — Pam Zubeck

Ride to the polls

Even if you can't get there on your own, you should have no trouble catching a ride to the polls this Tuesday, Election Day.

If you live in House District 17 in southeastern Colorado Springs, you can call the NAACP headquarters at 475-7255. The organization has joined with the Southern Colorado Ministerial Union and the Masonic Family to continue its tradition of making sure people can vote in person.

If you live outside HD 17, give your local party headquarters a call. Republicans can arrange a ride by contacting GOP headquarters at 578-0022; Democrats can call 473-8713.

Remember the polls are open from 7 am to 7 p.m.; visit car.elpasoco.com for more election information. — Chet Hardin

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