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No movement on fire study, PERA haggling continues, more



Waldo study stalls

Although several players are on board for a look at how various agencies interacted during the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer, no one seems to know who will oversee the study, when it will be done, and by whom.

At first cool to the idea, Mayor Steve Bach has committed $100,000 to such a study, and City Council approved the expenditure April 23.

City Emergency Management Director Bret Waters says via e-mail the city "remains interested" in an independent review, and "will continue to work with the U.S. Forest Service to determine if a third-party review of the multi-agency response to the fire is a viable option and which agency might be best suited to lead this effort."

El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa says the Forest Service probably isn't that agency, because it played such a pivotal role in the fire. Maketa is looking for an agency that would bring fresh eyes and no bias to the task, such as the International Association of Wildland Fire.

The governor's office has expressed support for such a study. The Forest Service didn't respond to an e-mail inquiry by press time. — Pam Zubeck

PERA suit advances

State law forbids a Public Employees' Retirement Association member to walk away without making good on future unfunded liabilities, PERA argues in a motion for summary judgment filed last week in a lawsuit with Memorial Health System.

"Memorial," the motion states, "must pay its share of the unfunded liability as a condition of leaving PERA."

That unfunded liability has been estimated at up to $240 million. The University of Colorado Health, which leased the health system Oct. 1, paid the city $185 million to cover at least part of it.

The 33-page motion also quotes former City Attorney Patricia Kelly advising a citizens commission on leasing Memorial that "if membership in PERA is terminated for any reason, the PERA Board shall determine the amount of reserves required ... to preserve the vested rights of inactive members." Moreover, the motion notes, the city's request for proposals contained a provision that any successful bidder would have to account for a PERA payment.

Under new City Attorney Chris Melcher, Colorado Springs has since maintained it owes nothing.

It's unclear where the city will get the remainder if it winds up owing more than $185 million. PERA attorney Adam Franklin says via e-mail that a new figure based on an audit is due next month. — Pam Zubeck

Hick signs breakfast bill

Gov. John Hickenlooper has signed the bill known as "Breakfast After the Bell" into law.

The law means that schools with higher levels of impoverished children will be required — with some exceptions — to serve a free breakfast to all students after the start of the school day. Such programs have been shown to radically increase participation, and lawmakers note that children perform better after eating something in the morning.

Some school districts, including Colorado Springs School District 11, have complained that the bill does not provide additional funding for implementing the program ("Feed-good bill," News, April 17). They say federal reimbursements won't cover the costs, meaning other nutrition programs could be hurt. — J. Adrian Stanley

Firefighters vs. business

In efforts to block firefighters from collective bargaining, the Colorado Springs Regional Business Alliance is urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto a bill that would give them that power.

In a letter dated Friday, the alliance notes that the Fire Fighters Collective Bargaining Bill shouldn't be signed absent an opt-out clause for home rule cities, which includes Colorado Springs. The letter states voters have rejected collective bargaining.

International Fire Fighters Local 5, Colorado Springs, supports the bill, while Mayor Steve Bach opposes it. — Pam Zubeck

Kittle to leave city post

Nick Kittle, city manager of administrative services, innovation and sustainability, has announced he'll leave June 7.

Considered a rising star early in Mayor Steve Bach's administration, Kittle watched the sustainability efforts he oversaw chopped in the 2013 budget. But Kittle hasn't complained publicly. And in an e-mail to the Indy, he states, "It was time for me to step out and tackle the next adventure."

Because he's currently an active employee, the city will not say whether Kittle will receive severance pay. — J.Adrian Stanley

Bach mum on road closing

Mayor Steve Bach says the decision of whether to grant the Broadmoor Hotel's request to close Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard isn't his to make; that rests with City Council.

Bach's comment came during his townhall meeting at Broadmoor Elementary on May 15, where residents handed out fliers, such as one titled, "Save Cheyenne — The Road. The Mountain. The People." Others handed out photos of Penrose Boulevard and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's parking lot on Mothers Day, May 12, both crammed with cars.

"Do you support the closure of that road?" one person asked.

To which Bach said, "I have no position on that. So I need to hear that whole process. I need to hear from the planning director, planning department, and police and fire department." After recapping the chaotic Mountain Shadows evacuation during the Waldo Canyon Fire last summer, he said, "It's certainly intriguing to think we could get the U.S. Open" golf tournament. That's one reason the Broadmoor cites in support of closing the road — to expand the golf course to meet the U.S. Open's requirements.

Another person asked, "Mayor, ... would you support, for instance, a full scale comprehensive environmental impact study, would you support that sort of thing before any decision is made by the City Council?"

Bach: "I can't answer that. Honestly, I don't have an opinion on any of this. You've got to have public safety. Secondly, also we have to have convenience. Thirdly, economic development is important. This is going to be a very thorough process, I can tell you that." — Pam Zubeck

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