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Noted: City, PERA gets court date

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PERA trial date set

An Oct. 28 trial has been set to decide a dispute between the city of Colorado Springs and the Public Employees' Retirement Association over how much is due for Memorial Hospital employees' pensions.

In its 40-year lease deal with University of Colorado Health, the city agreed to accept liability for the pensions of some 4,000 employees who were forced out of PERA when they became UCH employees Oct. 1.

UCH paid the city $185 million to cover that expense as well as another $74 million up-front lease fee. PERA contends it's due most if not all of that to make sure all of Memorial employees receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the plan. The city contends it owes PERA nothing, because the city doesn't cover the pensions of people who leave city employment. — PZ

Drake task force named

Nine local residents were to be appointed to serve as the Martin Drake Task Force on Tuesday, after the Indy's press time. They are: Retired businessman Alan Hale, Atmel executive Dan Malinaric, state Department of Corrections engineer Diana Dean, Energy Resource Center director Howard Brooks, sustainable energy consultant Jason Doedderlein, electric and gas consultant Robert Holzwarth, political consultant Sarah Brittain Jack, Colorado Private School Association director and lobbyist Steve Durham, and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs faculty director of the Economic Forum, Tom Zwirlein.

In addition, the task force will be co-chaired by Councilors Lisa Czelatdko and Brandy Williams.

Due to meet for the first time Friday, the panel will develop a request for proposals for a study of decommissioning and removing Martin Drake Power Plant. The study also will look at how to replace the power Drake now generates. — PZ

Wildfire funding in doubt

A congressional bill almost made life a lot easier for those suffering from the ongoing fallout of Colorado's wildfires.

If approved, the bill would have provided $125 million for emergency watershed protection in fire areas. The Senate approved it, but the House nixed it.

Sen. Michael Bennet was among those who fought for the funding to be included in a bill that also issued relief to Hurricane Sandy victims. In a press release, the senator said he was "extremely disappointed" that wildfire relief funding was not included.

El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark, who had also been a proponent of the funding, said the Waldo Canyon and High Park Coalition would continue to advocate for mitigation funding in Colorado's burn areas. In fact, regional supporters of watershed funding met on the west side recently to discuss the need for more funding.

The Senate was set to look at an amended funding bill Tuesday, after the Independent's deadline. — JAS

Lambert aims high

It's a challenging year for Colorado's Republican legislators to advance a pro-gun agenda, especially with the state's Legislature under firm control of Democrats. Regardless, Colorado Springs Sen. Kent Lambert has introduced a provocative bill.

If passed, Lambert's legislation would put pressure on businesses that don't allow weapons on their property to hire armed security guards, or change their gun policy. If not, and that business falls victim to a mass shooting, it would then be liable to lawsuit from anyone injured.

According to KOAA, Lambert's goal is to limit the number of places someone could mount a successful shooting spree: "If they have the motivation to go out and kill people, especially a large number of people, they are going to look for those places where they're not going to be confronted." — CH

Neumann modifies role

Following a bout with heart problems, David Neumann has stepped down as CEO of Neumann Systems Group, which is installing sulfur dioxide scrubbers on the city's Martin Drake Power Plant. Todd Tiahrt of Kansas, who served 16 years in the U.S. House of Representatives until 2011, took his place on Monday.

"He has exceptional qualifications and exceptional contacts that will help grow the company," says Neumann, who will stay on as president and chairman of the board, as well as owner.

Tiahrt, a former Boeing employee, has a consulting firm specializing in aviation/aerospace, defense, energy, and government relations. In Congress, he served on the Defense Appropriations and House Select Intelligence committees.

NSG, recently nominated for an Edison Award which recognizes innovation, has been at the center of a controversy over retiring Drake instead of installing the Neumann technology. — PZ

HBA makes Council picks

Though not all candidates were interviewed during the endorsement process, the Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs has chosen its slate for City Council. Voters will elect Councilors from six districts in the April 2 city election.

The HBA choices: Tim Leigh, District 1; Angela Dougan, District 2; Keith King, District 3; Deborah Hendrix, District 4; Al Loma, District 5; and David Moore, District 6.

The endorsements were issued weeks before the Feb. 6 filing deadline, meaning others could enter the race and not even be considered for support from the HBA, one of the city's top political entities. — PZ

City building gets new look

The building that houses Mayor Steve Bach's office is getting a face lift.

The spiffing up won't be in Bach's office, which already received a $27,000-plus upgrade early last summer. Instead, the lobby and a first-floor meeting room of the City Administration Building, located at 30 S. Nevada Ave., will get more than $47,000's worth of special attention. The lobby is getting new carpet, furniture, a new security desk, and new plants and planters.

Meeting Room 102 will see new carpet and wall replacement, and audio visual equipment upgrades are being researched.

Local companies that turned in the lowest bids were given contracts for the work. They include Rampart Carpet, Cab-Con and Wells and West Construction. — JAS

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

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