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County work-release inmates leave the tent


Revamped old Metro jail back in operation

El Paso County's new 350-inmate work-release facility has a lot of upgrades from the old one. Most notably, solid walls.

This week, work-release prisoners will move out of the tent, which was Sheriff Terry Maketa's brainchild, next to the Criminal Justice Center and into a dormitory-style facility in the downtown sheriff's office.

The new digs come with all sorts of, ah, extras: a main room, showers and bathrooms, and separate male and female bunks. It's housed in the old Metro Detention Facility. Metro was closed in 2005 due to safety concerns and has sat vacant since then.

The facility's $4 million rehab was funded creatively. Inmate labor was used to demolish Metro's old cells, cutting $250,000 in costs. More savings came by recycling steel, copper, stainless steel and aluminum from the old jail, netting nearly $63,000. The rest is to be paid for with the $22 daily fee collected from work-release inmates, producing a projected $2 million annually. Work-release fees are also anticipated to cover the county courthouse addition, parking garage expansion and asbestos mitigation. JAS

State of the City: cheery

Mayor Lionel Rivera didn't spend a lot of time talking about city problems in his State of the City address Tuesday at the Antlers Hilton. Instead, he looked almost entirely at the bright side before a crowd of 400.

After briefly acknowledging budget and economic hardships facing the city tiptoeing around the words "tax increase" while hinting at the need to depend more on property tax and less on sales tax Rivera spent most of his 30-minute talk congratulating city government on its accomplishments. Rivera said much has been done to increase the Springs' economic fortunes, from helping planned development on the north and south ends of Nevada Avenue to retention of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Though City Council has recently bickered with Memorial Health System, Rivera glossed over the tension, noting the hospital's excellent care and welcoming new CEO Dr. Larry McEvoy. Rivera touted the airport, Utilities and the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority before straying from his script to a stumbling finish. JAS

Pion ban may be extended

U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-San Luis Valley, announced the House Appropriations Subcommittee overseeing military construction has included language in its 2009 appropriations bill extending the prohibition of funding for the Army's Pion Canyon Maneuver Site expansion.

Salazar said in a statement that he pushed for the ban, which would extend the ban already in place for 2008, because of fears that the Army would condemn private land in southeast Colorado to enable the proposed Fort Carson expansion. He added the Army has not proven the expansion was necessary.

Rep. Mark Udall, D-Eldorado Springs, has also thrown his support behind the ban. The bill will be presented to the full Appropriations Committee on Thursday, June 19. JAS

City logo not final, after all

Sue Skiffington-Blumberg, director of city public communications, says her office acted too soon in releasing the city's new logo including the Olympic rings. The logo was printed in last week's Independent.

The logo is part of the city's recent deal to keep the U.S. Olympic Committee in town. But Skiffington-Blumberg says the logo still needs final legal approval and could undergo color revisions. She expects it will be officially approved by the end of June.

"We just have a few more steps that need to take place," she says.

The new logo will be used for advertising, trade shows, recruiting and city signage. It will likely be emblazoned on a south-side entry sign to the city, and could be added to the existing northern welcome sign as well, if funding can be secured. Skiffington-Blumberg notes that a separate logo, also featuring the rings, will be used on city letterhead, envelopes and business cards. JAS

Some CASA work relocated

Asbestos abatement work in the El Paso County courthouse has forced the Court Appointed Special Advocates of the Pikes Peak Region's (CASA) visitation and exchange center to move to a temporary location in Centennial Hall.

CASA executive director Trudy Strewler explains the new locale makes sense because the program requires security guards and two entrances, for safety reasons. Parents going through CASA to exchange children with their former spouses, or to have supervised visits with their kids, will use the temporary location through 2009.

Supervised visitations will take place in a downstairs hallway, where toys and tables have been set up. The building is closed to other business during CASA's evening hours.Strewler says while the temporary location may not be ideal, it is "very safe." JAS

Poll takes its toll

A plan to narrow the Republican field to only one opponent for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn in the Republican primary has produced discord instead of the intended harmony.

Bentley Rayburn and Jeff Crank apparently agreed to conduct a joint poll and have the winner alone face Lamborn on Aug. 12. But Rayburn says the poll, which reportedly showed Crank owning a healthy lead, was botched. Rayburn said it will be a three-way race, and also revealed internal polls showing him to be the stronger candidate in a one-on-one race against Lamborn.

Crank did not return calls asking for comment before press time. AL

Nader, nadir, Nader

Ralph Nader is planning to run for president. Again.

Nader, widely criticized as a spoiler in 2000 for receiving votes that otherwise may have gone to Democrat Al Gore, announced last week he plans to have his name on Colorado's November ballots.

Nader has a long history as a consumer advocate and presidential aspirant. Some worried he'd act as a spoiler again in 2004, but he did not seem to contribute to Sen. John Kerry's loss. Nader plans to run in 2008 as an independent, and hopes to be on the ballot in 40 states.

Announcing his plans, Nader praised Colorado laws that make it simple to get his name on the ballot.

Supporters of Sen. Barack Obama, concerned Nader will draw votes from their candidate, might take some comfort in former congressman Bob Barr also running. Barr, a Libertarian, could take votes from Sen. John McCain, particularly in light of news reports that Barr and Rep. Ron Paul, who had strong support in Colorado's Republican caucus, are working on some sort of alliance. AL

PPCC, Classical Academy to work together

The Classical Academy, a District 20 charter school, and Pikes Peak Community College have drafted a plan to build an 81,000 square-foot facility on state land at the PPCC Rampart Range Campus.

The building, which could open in fall 2009, provides classroom space for both, giving high school students the chance to earn college credit through PPCC.

Both schools say the move makes financial sense. Classical Academy would lease the land for $1 a year and then sublease classroom space to PPCC at a significant savings. PPCC would be able to add 375 new classes. Meanwhile, TCA would have classrooms and facilities for its K-12 operation.

The project hinges on the charter schools ability to raise funds through a bond initiative. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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