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Kosley leaving Downtown Partnership

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Classic Companies exec will take over for a year

Beth Kosley, executive director of the nonprofit Downtown Partnership, has announced she will resign her position to take a job with the Downtown Development Authority for Woodland Park.

Kosley has been with the partnership since 1995, and has been the city's most public and vocal advocate for downtown renewal and development. Under her authority, the partnership has, among other things, expanded the Business Improvement District (which provides funding for upkeep and beautification of the area); seen the creation of the Imagine Downtown plan; formed the quasi-governmental Downtown Development Authority; introduced Art on the Streets; and brought the Downtown Shuttle to Tejon Street.

Kosley says she has no doubt the partnership will continue to prosper.

"It's an extremely strong organization (with) very active boards, very active committees," she says.

Ron Butlin, a member of the Downtown Partnership board of directors and an executive at Classic Companies, will serve as interim executive director for one year starting Oct. 20. JAS

Governors stump for Obama

Bill Ritter and fellow Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas mounted a sort of war of catchy campaign slogans during a swing this week through Colorado in support of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential bid.

Speaking to a packed crowd at Penrose Library on Tuesday, Sebelius, once considered a possible running mate for Obama, joked that she's not seeking career advancement as she campaigns for the Democratic ticket.

"I don't need a new job," she said. "I need a new president."

Touching on the economic difficulties on Wall Street, she dismissed Republican policies aimed at promoting an "ownership society" as instead creating an "on-your-own-ship society."

Ritter, likewise, criticized President Bush and Republicans in Congress for allowing "regulation to become a four-letter word."

The governors were joined by Carol Sturman, co-founder of Sturman Industries in Woodland Park, who told the audience she's always supported Republican presidential candidates in the past, but is siding with Obama this year because the country needs a leader with vision. AL

Renaissance Academy closes

Tuesday was a hard day for parents and students at Colorado Springs Renaissance Academy, a private school for gifted children in preschool through eighth grade.

The school closed suddenly, apparently due to financial difficulties brought on by low enrollment and the stress of payments on the school's building, located in the Mountain Shadows area.

Calls to the school and administrators Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning went unanswered. The school's Web site was still promoting activities for students, and made no mention of the dismal turn of events.

The academy reportedly served fewer than 100 kids, most of whom will likely be absorbed into area school districts. JAS

County sharpens axes

County commissioners sent something of a message this week as they planned for nearly $10 million in budget savings for 2009, which they say will be needed if voters say "no" to a proposed 1-cent sales tax to fund regional public safety and health agencies.

Faced with a slowing economy, declining sales tax revenue and rising costs for health coverage and fuel, El Paso County has already endured several rounds of cuts.

The proposed plan would trim $1 million from the sheriff's $43 million budget, $500,000 from the health department and just over $500,000 from the parks budget, resulting in reduced maintenance and operating hours. The county's Department of Justice Services, which offers supervision to keep some offenders out of jail, would be closed, saving $362,000.

Commissioners planned to work at their Oct. 2 meeting on a second plan that would require smaller cuts if the sales tax measure passes. AL

Tight budget = less sharing?

One potential county budget decision with outside consequences: Officials believe they could generate an extra $2.2 million for their general fund by reducing the amount of money shared with local communities.

El Paso County, Colorado Springs and other local communities now benefit from a county property tax that's shared to fund road and bridge projects. County commission chair Dennis Hisey says Fountain, for instance, receives about $77,000 from the road and bridge property tax each year. It and other communities, Hisey says, "are something less than thrilled about the proposal."

Funding for the county's transportation department would be replaced with other sources, he adds. Whether this would be necessary if voters approved the proposed sales tax increase was unclear as of Wednesday morning. AL

Star Bar cancels season

"We're not dead and gone or over yet," says Star Bar Players' artistic director Mark Hennessy, "but we're in deep financial trouble and we won't be in the City Auditorium anymore. That's certain."

Just two weeks ago, the Springs "longest continuous playhouse," according to Hennessy, with 36 seasons under its belt, won a 2008 Pikes Peak Arts Council award. But, says Hennessy, the Players' problems are "systemic as well, not just monetary."

Operating largely as a volunteer operation except for directors and tech hands, who were paid Star Bar would generally spend between $5,000 and $10,000 to stage a show, he says, charging between $12 and $15 a ticket to recoup that. Public support and attendance played a key role.

"It's certainly the town we live in not the times we live in," says Hennessy, noting that an East Coast city of our size might support handfuls of local theater groups. "Here, we struggle to have three."

Hennessy says he's often had to move or cancel shows at the City Aud due to competing programming (such as wrestling in the main hall that would drown out his actors in the Lon Chaney Theater). Those other events also brought in more money than the $250 that Hennessy generally paid for the space. "I can't keep my promises to the theatergoing public," he says.

As for Star Bar's future, Hennessy, a former professional actor turned community prep school teacher, says he's investigating other affordable venues and considering options like seeking donations. MS

Bigger parking garage opens

Parking downtown just became easier. El Paso County unveiled an expanded parking garage at 50 E. Costilla St. on Wednesday. The new structure adds three levels and more than 400 additional spaces to the garage, now five levels and 781 parking spaces.

The county spent more than $6 million on the expansion, which will accommodate county employees and the general public.

"This was required by the addition of more judges in the courthouse," county spokesman Dave Rose said, explaining the county had to meet city requirements for parking downtown. "The county wasn't looking for an optional construction project."

Rose said the county hoped to recoup the costs of construction and operation of the garage from fees charged to park in the new garage, as well as fees at two other existing county parking garages downtown.

The new garage has features including bright lighting, a glass elevator and staircase, and a guard. It is open Monday through Friday from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monthly parking passes cost $40, daily parking is $5, and the hourly rate is 75 cents. JAS

City chops jobs

In an effort to balance the 2009 budget and fill a $23 million budget gap, City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft has authorized elimination of 90 positions, 55 positions that have been staffed earlier this year, if not to date. The downsizing is expected to save $4.8 million. No sworn police or fire staffers are included.

City spokeswoman Sue Skiffington-Blumberg says employees are being notified now. Some will stay on the job until Jan. 16, while others will be asked to leave immediately.

The city says it will help the laid-off employees in finding and applying for new jobs. JAS

Compiled by Anthony Lane, J. Adrian Stanley and Matthew Schniper.


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