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A stormwater plan, religious conflict at AFA, and the C4C debate


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Stormwater body proposed

The Regional Stormwater Task Force finally announced a draft proposal aimed at solving the region's crippling problems. Approximately $706 million is needed for capital projects, excluding issues created by recent fires and flooding.

The task force, which has the support of El Paso County commissioners and Colorado Springs City Council, wants to consider a regional authority similar to the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which does major road projects in the area. It would be governed by a board of elected representatives from member governments, with Colorado Springs having the most representation. Fees for its projects would be collected on county property tax bills.

Two University of Colorado at Colorado Springs finance professors did an analysis for the task force and found, preliminarily, that $46 million to $55 million is needed annually to address the problem, or $8.34 to $11.67 per month for an average single-family residence.

Voters could be asked to approve the plan in November. — JAS

Religious conflict at AFA

The Air Force Academy was a focal point again last week after a cadet complained about a New Testament verse written on a whiteboard outside a cadet leader's room.

The message was removed, triggering national coverage because some, including Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs, accused the academy of violating cadets' First Amendment right to free expression.

Friday , academy superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson held a news briefing to explain what happened and why. Air Force Regulation 1-1, she said, bars service members from expressing their religious views to subordinates on duty, because it could be seen as a requirement that subordinates share those views to win favor.

Commandant Brig. Gen. Gregory J. Lengyel noted the cadet who wrote the message is a roommate of the cadet leader. While there was no undue influence in question, he said, the cadet who wrote it chose to remove the message. — PZ

Council wants a C4C vote

Just as the city submitted its draft resolution and other information to the state over the weekend for its City for Champions tourism proposal, Council President Keith King and other elected officials opposed the way the proposal is structured.

"It's not open. It's not transparent. It has no checks and balances in it," King said at a news briefing Monday. Joining him in protesting a plan that gives Mayor Steve Bach wide powers over a downtown sports and events center were Councilors Helen Collins, Joel Miller, Andy Pico and Don Knight, and El Paso County Commission Chair Dennis Hisey.

"There are partners in this, and these partners need to be involved and put into the decision process," Hisey said.

They also said that if local tax money is used, voters should weigh in at an election, in November or in April 2015.

Those sentiments and more were expressed in letters to Bach and the Economic Development Commission, which will decide whether to allow the city to proceed with the $250 million C4C after the city submits its final plan April 16.

In response, Bach issued a statement saying, "I will continue to work collaboratively with City Council, County Commissioners, Mayors of outlying municipalities and fellow citizens as we proceed through a thoughtful, in depth due diligence on C4C."

While the state has approved use of up to $120.5 million in state sales tax rebates, the city must find local money to fund a large portion of the $92 million downtown events center. The other projects are an Air Force Academy visitor center, a sports medicine center at UCCS and a downtown Olympic museum, all of which rely heavily on donations.

The city's filings shed some new light on C4C plans, among them:

• Bach will appoint eight community members, a majority, to the 15-member Regional Tourism Advisory Board to oversee the projects, and he will appoint all six members to the Colorado Stadium and Events Center board that he will chair to oversee the stadium project. The events center board will decide who will own the stadium as well as who will design, build and operate it.

• The Olympic museum board has hired BarrieProjects of Cleveland, the same firm that did a study of attendance for the museum, and Algonquin Museum Services of Greenwich, Conn., to help plan the project. The board also has hired a construction manager, yet unnamed. Joey Cheek and Phil Lane have been appointed to the six-member board. Museum backers have initiated a "silent phase" of fundraising, hoping to raise up to $60 million by year's end. The museum would open in 2017.

• A study of sites for an academy visitors center is due any day. — PZ

Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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