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County health makes deep cuts


Department also will go to a four-day week

The latest round of cuts at the El Paso County Department of Health and Environment will usher in a new era of public health that requires a generous dose of faith in your fellow man. That's because health inspectors won't be going to child care centers, swimming pools and special events where food is served, among other places.

After the failure of a county sales-tax measure that would have boosted funding, the department announced cuts for 2009 of nearly $1.7 million, including elimination of 37 full-time-equivalent positions. (Ten workers were let go earlier this year, 23 more will be laid off, and the other positions were vacant). The department will also follow El Paso County government in shifting to a four-day work week beginning Jan. 5 to save on utility costs.

Among other cuts, the department will eliminate four air quality monitoring stations, suspend swimming pool and spa inspections, and cease investigations of sexually transmitted diseases. AL

Council districts shift

City Clerk Kathryn Young will shift City Council districts in advance of the April 2009 election to ensure each of the four districts has approximately equal populations (about 100,000 per district). City ordinances require the move.

Under Young's plan, District 1, currently represented by Scott Hente, will move slightly south. District 3, led by Jerry Heimlicher, will shift east. District 4, represented by term-limited Margaret Radford, will now include all of the Banning Lewis Ranch development. District 2, served by Darryl Glenn, will grow along the city's expanding northeastern edge. Residents of affected precincts have been notified by mail.

Young, who held two public hearings on the changes, will finalize the plan by Dec. 8. JAS

Glowing on the range

It wasn't a bird, or a plane. Instead, the glowing streaks seen recently over the hills west of Colorado Springs apparently came from military "tracer" ammunition fired illegally at the South Rampart Range Shooting Area.

The rounds started two small fires on U.S. Forest Service land, prompting the shooters to flee the scene, according to a news release from the Pikes Peak Ranger District.

Soldiers use tracer ammunition so they can see where their shots go in low light or at night. It's legal for civilians to own the specially designed bullets, but firing them on Forest Service land carries a fine up to $5,000 and the bill for fighting any resulting fires. Officials say the tracer ammunition is new to the shooting area, already known for stray bullets, piles of trash and possible environmental problems linked to lead leaching from bullets and toxic substances leaking from shot-up appliances.

The Rampart shooters have apparently escaped, for now, without a trace. AL

Not that Dreampower

Apparently, there has been a little confusion in the animal welfare community. On Nov. 14, the Gazette published an article about the woes of Dreampower Ranch in Douglas County, a facility that is in such bad financial shape that it's in danger of closing. The public responded en masse to Dreampower Animal Rescue Foundation of Colorado Springs.

Aubrey Eastman, of Dreampower Ranch, had to issue a press release telling the public that while the names are similar, the two are separate entities. Both could use a little financial help, but it's the ranch that's really in trouble. The ranch partners animals in need with old folks in need of a little company. JAS

Airport parking automated

The Colorado Springs Municipal Airport recently added an easier, faster exit route from its parking lots. Seven new, automated exit lanes opened Nov. 17, and the airport plans to keep them operational around the clock. Travelers may use cash or credit cards, and can still check out at a staff-operated pay station if they choose.

"We think [travelers] will respond positively," says Gisela Shanahan, the airport's assistant director of finance and administration. "It will make exiting go much quicker."

The new system is expected to reduce operational costs and help direct revenue more efficiently. EAA

Old school, new ... something

Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 will close Cañon Elementary School at the end of this school year. But the building will remain, and it's possible that about a third of the space will be used for preschool classrooms. Even if the building is partially occupied, the district will need to rent the remaining space. A committee is working to decide the best use for the old school, located at 1201 W. Cheyenne Road.

Suggestions can be submitted through Jan. 12 at the easy-to-remember Web address JAS

City wins land lawsuit

A jury sided with the city of Colorado Springs this week in a lawsuit brought by Ted Rubley, the local man who has long claimed that the city illegally backed out of Colorado Springs Utilities' contract to sell him land in the middle of The Broadmoor's golf course. Rubley planned to buy the land for $850,000 and build condos on it. When the city later refused to sell, Rubley brought a lawsuit asking for $3.7 million in compensation.

At the center of the lawsuit was a disagreement over whether city officials could approve the sale, or whether it must be approved by City Council. Rubley has said he may appeal. JAS

Compiled by Elizabeth Anderson, Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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