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Springs wants to keep TABOR money, transit expands service, Venezia Park gets more funding, and more 

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City asks to keep money

At 12:01 p.m. on Monday, Mayor John Suthers' office sent a tweet saying, "In a lean year stormwater obligations will put pressure on City budget. Invest now to avoid future painful cuts."

The message linked to a city-produced story about why the mayor wants voters to OK returning $6 million in excess 2016 revenue, and up to that same amount in 2017 revenue, to the city. The Taxpayer's Bill of Rights requires any excess revenue above caps to be refunded to taxpayers unless voters allow the city to keep it.

The measure, which was expected to win Council approval on Jan. 24, will appear on the April 4 city election ballot.

Suthers wants to spend the money on stormwater projects. The city is in its second year of a 20-year agreement with Pueblo County to spend $460 million on flood control and has been sued by the federal government over alleged Clean Water Act violations.

Colorado Springs Professional Firefighters Local 5 wants $1.22 million of the TABOR money for fire equipment. — PZ

Transit expands service

The city's bus service is proposing changes to four routes designed to make the service more appealing, starting Oct. 1.

Mountain Metropolitan Transit wants to increase weekday daytime frequency from 30 minutes to 15 minutes on Route 25, which runs from North Academy Boulevard to Voyager Parkway.

It also wants to make adjustments to improve on-time performance on Route 25, as well as on Route 23, from Galley Road to Tutt Boulevard, and Route 27, from South Academy Boulevard to Pikes Peak Community College. Lastly, Route 6, from Fillmore Street to The Citadel mall, is targeted for rerouting.

To voice your opinions, attend the only remaining public meeting at 5 p.m. Jan. 25 at City Hall's City Council chambers, 107 N. Nevada Ave. Or, fax comments to 719/385-5419, or email transitinfo@springsgov.com by Feb. 15. — PZ

Counting the homeless

On Tuesday, Jan. 24, Pikes Peak United Way officials and trained volunteers fanned out across the region to count the number of homeless people, which helps identify gaps in housing and services.

PPUW conducted the "Point in Time" survey on behalf of homeless service provider umbrella organization, Continuum of Care, and focused largely on Marian House Soup Kitchen, the United Way said in a news release. Surveying on a smaller scale was to be conducted Jan. 25-26.

In compliance with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, homeless persons are defined as those without a permanent residence; those living in emergency shelters, transitional housing or campers; and those who live in places not intended to house humans.

Given that the federal government has labeled this year's count as a baseline for data tracking of youth homelessness, "arrangements were made to include more locations and encourage youth and families to be counted," Shawna Kemppainen, Urban Peak of Colorado Springs' executive director, said via email.

Last year, the Point In Time count showed 1,302 homeless in the region, with 311 of those unsheltered. — PZ

More for Venezia

After a deal with a private company fell through, the city parks department asked City Council on Monday for another $800,000 to complete the $13 million Venezia Park in northern Colorado Springs.

The Lifetime Fitness deal, negotiated a year ago, would have included a private investment in tennis and pickleball courts at the park. The agreement fell through after Lifetime changed corporate management, according to Council agenda materials.

Venezia, in the planning stages since the 1980s, will be completed in July and will be the only community park on the north side with multi-use sports fields.

If approved, the allocation will come from the Public Space and Development Fund, which consists of fees paid by developers who build residential housing. Council will vote on the allocation on Feb. 14. — PZ

Developer fees likely to rise

Developers would pay more under an ordinance that was expected to win City Council approval on Tuesday after the Independent went to press.

The fees range from zone changes to development plans and represent 70 percent of cost recovery, compared to 38 percent represented by the previous fees, enacted in 2013 under Mayor Steve Bach.

The fee schedule, expected to generate about $728,000 in 2017, was not opposed by the development community. — PZ

School Choice celebrated

Gov. John Hickenlooper and Mayor John Suthers joined hundreds of leaders nationwide in proclaiming Jan. 22-28 School Choice Week.

"More than 21,000 independently planned events, including more than 500 in Colorado, will commemorate National School Choice Week 2017," a city release notes. The week is meant to celebrate the options available to parents, including traditional public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, home-schooling and online learning. (To learn more go to schoolchoiceweek.com.)

Of course, the way those various educational opportunities are regulated and funded is a source of controversy (See "Are all schools created equal?" p. 15). One could assume President Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, a charter proponent with no professional experience in public schools, is unlikely to ease that controversy. — JAS

Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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