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Bach wants airport lounge, Maketa seeks fire helicopter, more



Water limits reconsidered

Lawns across the city might green up a bit if the Colorado Springs City Council eased the drought-induced water restrictions at its Tuesday afternoon meeting.

On tap, so to speak, were two options. One would allow outside watering three times a week, instead of two, with higher rates not kicking in until customers used more than 2,500 cubic feet of water, instead of 2,000. In addition, those using more than 2,500 would pay 1.25 times, instead of double, the cost.

Another option would be the same as the above, except it would keep watering at two days a week. Either change, if approved, was to become effective Aug. 1.

Utilities staff last week recommended the three-times-per-week plan after reporting greater-than-expected runoff from late-season snowpack, water savings due to customer compliance with restrictions, increased reservoir storage and recent rain. — Pam Zubeck

Seeking airport VIPs

Last week, Mayor Steve Bach announced creation of an Airport Air Service Task Force including El Pomar Foundation CEO Bill Hybl, Broadmoor CEO Steve Bartolin, U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun, retired Air Force Gen. Victor Renuart and UCCS Chancellor Pamela Shockley-Zalabak.

Then, on Monday's Council agenda appeared an $233,956 request for a "premier lounge" at Colorado Springs Airport. Bach's chief of staff, Laura Neumann, submitted the item, saying it stems from requests by "the Southern Colorado business community and the airlines serving the Colorado Springs Airport," and is part of the airport's effort to improve air service "through customer service differentiation."

The 1,700-square-foot lounge would feature televisions, computers, Wi-Fi, refreshments and other amenities, the memo says, available only to first-class passengers and those who subscribe through paid memberships. Its construction would be funded with airport capital money, and requires approval from City Council.

In August, the mayor plans to ask Council to abolish sales and use taxes within the Airport Commercial Aeronautical Zone on aircraft and aircraft parts, according to agenda materials. No details were immediately available. — Pam Zubeck

City's fire bill: $650K

Although the Black Forest Fire never crossed into Colorado Springs, the city spent $649,660 on police, fire, streets, communications and other resources during the June blaze. Of that, $262,444 was not included in this year's budget, so the mayor's office will ask City Council to appropriate the money at its Aug. 13 meeting.

On Monday, Office of Emergency Management Manager Bret Waters reported to Council that 1,000 homes and 3,000 people in the city were evacuated as a precautionary measure as the fire burned. It ultimately destroyed 486 Black Forest area homes.

The city is eligible to be reimbursed by the state for some expenses. — Pam Zubeck

Maketa wants fire copter

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa last week asked the Colorado Springs Utilities Board to partner in an effort to secure a helicopter as part of the region's early detection and attack of wildland fires.

Maketa estimates the cost at $1 million to have a helicopter, a "Bambi" water bucket, and a crew of five ready to verify smoke reports from June 1 through Sept. 30.

"It behooves us to take a regional approach since we all have an interest," Maketa says.

Utilities has reservoirs at risk amid the forest, and the county includes miles of wildland-urban interface, not to mention the city of Colorado Springs' western border, one of the most densely populated wildland interface areas in the nation.

"This aircraft would be for that narrow window of two hours before [a fire] makes a run that really is unstoppable," Maketa says. — Pam Zubeck

Morse folks still fighting

Christy Le Lait, campaign manager for A Whole Lot of People for John Morse, is asking the 4th Judicial District Attorney's Office to investigate five petition-gatherers whom she says forged signatures in an effort to force a recall of Colorado Senate President John Morse.

Le Lait says her campaign office contacted many of the petition's "signers," and learned that some claim to have never signed the petition. She claims to have documented forgery in 28 cases, and can produce notarized denials from some. In all, she calls 2,149 signatures faulty, and says she's suspicious of another 811.

If all those signatures are invalid, gatherers may have come up short of the 7,178 valid signatures needed. But due to a timeline set in the Colorado constitution, the recall election will move forward regardless. The election is set for Sept. 10. — J. Adrian Stanley

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