Noted: Possible school closures 

D-11 talks closures

Colorado Springs School District 11 has completed its first set of public meetings in connection with a study that suggested closing several schools.

The study, from a district committee, outlines a long list of possible scenarios, including changing high school boundaries, closing Wasson High School (leaving the city's largest school district with four mainstream high schools), and closing Mann Middle School. The schools could simply close, or they could be repurposed in several ways.

Since hosting the public meetings, the district has compiled citizen input, as well as responses from staff, students and school and community groups, and used it to rank various suggestions. The most popular suggestion is reconfiguring high school boundaries; the least popular suggestion is moving Galileo Middle School to Wasson and expanding its science-based program to grades 6-12.

For more information on the study, check d11.org/utilization/Pages/default.aspx. In the coming weeks, the district will make recommendations based on feedback, then host more public meetings before sending the issue to the D-11 Board of Education. — JAS

Drake study draws crowd

The idea of studying the decommissioning of Martin Drake Power Plant must be attractive, because 96 people have applied to join a citizen task force to do just that.

Utilities Board members Lisa Czelatdko and Brandy Williams, who are heading the task force, will trim the list to 25 or fewer in coming weeks. Czelatdko says those 25 will be asked to answer several questions in writing, such as what, if any, financial interests they have in Drake or property in its vicinity. After the list is whittled, several applicants will be interviewed before the co-chairs submit their final list to the full Utilities Board for appointment, says Czelatdko, adding that she and Williams are searching for a "diverse group" of ratepayers.

She says the task force will include herself and Williams, seven ratepayers chosen from the 96 applicants, a city staff member to be chosen by Mayor Steve Bach, and Energy Officer Bruce McCormick. Task force members can expect to spend 20 hours a month for up to four months on the project. — PZ

Bike race skips Springs

Having put in for a second consecutive Stage 5 finish and third consecutive year as a host city, the local organizing committee for the USA Pro Challenge learned last week that Colorado Springs won't be part of the 2013 race.

Committee member Chris Carmichael, of Carmichael Training Systems, says he and fellow organizers were of course disappointed, but not entirely "caught off guard," as it's the "tradition of stage racing that every year the route and start and finish cities change." The Tour de France, he points out, always finishes in Paris, but follows a different route there each year.

Though Breckenridge and Aspen will be the nearest stops before the Denver finish, Carmichael believes the Springs will still enjoy an economic boost around the August event, noting that some cycling enthusiasts will visit here for, say, the new chance to bike up Pikes Peak. In 2012, race organizers claimed nearly $100 million in economic impact statewide.

"We submitted a strong bid this year and we're fortunate that we had the race for two years," says Carmichael. "I'm confident that we'll have the race back in Colorado Springs." — MS

KREL goes all-sports

Goodbye Laura Ingraham, hello Peyton Manning. On Real Radio 1580 AM, at least.

KREL-AM will switch formats to all-sports, all the time, starting Jan. 7, says Dan Cochell, owner and president of DC Enterprises, which operates Real Radio 1580. He says he's secured a franchise agreement for ESPN, and the station will be the home of BCS Championship football games. He's also working to get other licensing deals lined up for specific events.

It will be the only local station focusing entirely on sports.

"The sky is the limit," Cochell says. "We live in a sports environment. We've got a great organization, the Colorado Springs Sports Corp., and the Rocky Mountain State Games. We hope to be heavily involved in those types of programs. We're creating a talk-show radio station that centers around sports, but in life, everything is sport."

Cochell says his timing might turn out perfect, considering the Broncos could make it to the Super Bowl. — PZ

Smoke-free rentals debut

The nonprofit Greccio Housing, a major provider of low-income housing in Colorado Springs, has opened its first smoke-free apartment building.

Uintah Park Apartments, at 2525 E. Uintah St., officially re-opened Dec. 21. The idea for a smoke-free building came from Greccio development director and City Council candidate Jill Gaebler, who saw the 21-unit building as a good opportunity to offer a less toxic environment.

Gaebler worked to get funding to clean the building and replace building materials that were contaminated with smoke.

Colorado Springs has few smoke-free rental options, particularly for the poor. But smoke-free apartments are a growing national trend, as noted in our Aug. 1 cover story, "In a smoke-filled room ..." — JAS

Lamborn flexes muscles

Local U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn joined others in his party to derail his own House leadership during "fiscal cliff" talks last week.

According to a report by FOX 31 in Denver, Lamborn was adamant that he would vote against a plan put forward by Speaker of the House John Boehner. At its crux, Boehner's "Plan B" would have allowed the Bush-era tax cuts for millionaires to sunset.

The news outlet obtained copies of "talking points" it says were distributed by Lamborn's office, which stated that he "cannot support Plan B because it fails to give tax relief for one class of Americans. ... Congressman Lamborn would like to see the Bush tax rates extended permanently for all Americans."

The Indy contacted Lamborn's press secretary, Catherine Mortensen, for confirmation; she did not respond before press time.

Regardless of his public fight with leadership, Lamborn was re-appointed last week as chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources. — CH

Compiled by Chet Hardin, Matthew Schniper, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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