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Carson cuts outlined, solar garden filled, Council says no to Bach




Carson cuts outlined

The Army's release last week of its outlook for cuts under the 2020 force structure realignment serves as a reminder that Fort Carson is on the chopping block. But don't hold your breath.

Carson itself called the report "one small piece" of the process, and Andy Merritt, defense industry officer with the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance, termed it preliminary.

"This is not something where tomorrow they can cut 16,000 people at Carson," Merritt says. "We could come out of this process with no cuts. It should get people to pay attention to the fact the cuts are coming."

The 970-page document outlines impacts of cutting 16,000 soldiers from Carson, about two-thirds of its total, and the same number from forts Drum, Bliss, Campbell, Bragg and Hood.

While preliminary, the report does lay the groundwork for larger cuts than occurred last year when Carson lost a brigade combat team, Merritt says.

The report stems from plans to downsize military spending by billions of dollars.

The next step is a 60-day public comment period on the Army report, followed by a listening tour extending into 2015. Meantime, local and state officials are mobilizing to demonstrate Carson's value and find ways military bases can benefit from local partnerships.

Solar garden maxed

A 2-megawatt solar garden sufficient to power 500 homes, to be built by home-grown SunShare, is sold out, the company said in a news release last week.

Pikes Peak Solar Garden LLC, a company created by SunShare LLC, won the Colorado Springs Utilities contract last fall. The project is the largest privately developed and subscribed community solar garden in the nation, SunShare says. Customers include the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, the Pikes Peak Library District, Security Water District and the City of Manitou Springs.

The project will be built on the city's south side and produce power by year's end, the Gazette reports.

It's SunShare's third Colorado Springs solar garden, which caters to those who don't have suitable rooftops for solar panels because of trees or other physical restrictions ("Sunblock for SunShare," Aug. 7, 2013). The first two were 1/2-megawatt each and were constructed under a 2011 pilot program. The company is controlled by Colorado College grad David Amster-Olszewski.

The news release says SunShare has started a waiting list for its next Springs project, which is projected for next year.

SunShare also is building solar gardens in the Denver area and says it has more than 13 megawatts of community solar gardens under development in Colorado. The company, which employs 15 full-timers and several part-time workers, says it will expand into other states later this year.

Council says no to Bach

Voting 7-2, City Council last week rejected a request from Mayor Steve Bach to move $2 million from planned infrastructure projects to IT.

"We have got to redesign network architecture," Chief of Staff Steve Cox told the Independent. "We need to start from scratch. A lot of it is old technology and design of the system."

Cox said the city's goal is to migrate to a secure cloud and reduce the need for a data center.

But the IT department also apparently has other problems. Nine employees were laid off with severance packages earlier this year, taking with them just over $172,000 in severance pay and benefits. The head of the department, Joe Palmer, left in April of his own accord. Cox says the department now has 42 people.

The money Bach wanted was designated for several projects, among them repaving Academy Boulevard from Bijou Street to Palmer Park Boulevard and new municipal court software.

"With all the recent changes in the IT department, including the recent vacancy by the Security director, having some additional information like a timeline and implementation plan would assist in making the decision to release the funds," Councilor Jan Martin tells the Indy via email. "There's just been so much chaos in the department recently that I think we are asking for more clarity on the way forward before transferring the $2M."

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