Section 16 goes to Council
Colorado Springs City Council will decide Tuesday, Sept. 28, whether to approve the purchase of the popular west-side Section 16 open space. If Council OKs the $3.8 million deal, it will go to the State Land Board on Oct. 8 for final approval.
Buying Section 16 has been a longtime goal of the city's Trails, Open Space and Parks committee. TOPS is funded by a voter-approved sales tax, and most of the money must go to buy new park land.
The city has leased Section 16 from the state for about four decades, and its attempt to purchase the 640-acre, west-side parcel has met with challenges and delays for years. However, the current deal appears palatable to both sides.
The city would pay $3.8 million and lease mineral rights from the state for 99 years for $321,000 (a legal requirement). Great Outdoors Colorado has awarded TOPS a $1 million grant toward the purchase. El Paso County, Palmer Land Trust, the city of Manitou Springs, the TOPS committee and the Intemann Trail Committee have contributed a total of $253,500, with TOPS paying the remaining $2.9 million.
"We're happy to finally see it on the way to being preserved in perpetuity," says Aimee Cox, Colorado Springs parks senior analyst and Manitou City Councilor. "This obviously is a well-loved piece of open space." — JAS
Apparent suicide at academy
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is looking into the death of an academy cadet last week.
"Marc [Henning, Cadet 1st Class, of Crossville, Ill.] was pronounced dead at 2:45 a.m., Sept. 16," the academy said in an e-mail in response to questions from the Independent. "Commandant [Brig. Gen. Richard M. Clark] addressed cadets at breakfast 7:25 a.m., Sept. 16, telling the Cadet Wing that the cadet had died. He also told the Cadet Wing that the initial indications are that his injuries were self-inflicted, although the OSI investigation would need to be complete before we have a final determination on how to classify this death."
Although academy officials spoke to cadets the day Henning was discovered unconscious in his dorm room, Sept. 15, they didn't let on that it appeared to be a suicide until the next day, after he had died at Penrose Hospital. They gave his name Sept. 17, 24 hours after next-of-kin had been notified, per military rules.
After Clark met with senior staff, additional counseling services were made available, additional duty officers assigned to dorms, and availability of chaplains increased. — PZ
LGBT schoolkids mistreated
A 2009 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has found that 85 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender kids say they are being verbally harassed at school, and 19 percent say they have been physically assaulted.
In addition, the survey found: Nearly nine out of 10 students hear "gay" used in a negative way frequently or often at school, and 72 percent of LGBT students hear derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school. Nearly one-third of students say they missed at least one day of school in the past month because they felt unsafe.
In response, the Gill Foundation is calling for anti-bullying policies in schools. Visit gillfoundation.org/equal-opportunity/self/ to learn more. — JAS
County: calm before storm
Next year, El Paso County government can expect to see revenue jump by about $3 million, partially due to a forecasted 1.5 percent increase in sales and use tax collections, county commissioners were told Tuesday by budget officials.
But after that, a recession-caused dive in property values will claim roughly $6 million a year in property tax revenue from 2012 through 2015, budget officer Nicola Sapp says. (A statewide property reappraisal for tax purposes will affect values starting next year, which in turn will affect taxes paid in 2012.)
Commissioners made no decisions based on Tuesday's report.
In a footnote to the discussion, County Administrator Jeff Greene says Proposition 101 on the Nov. 2 ballot would devastate county government. The measure, which would reduce vehicle taxes, the highway user tax, vehicle rental taxes and other vehicle-associated taxes, would wipe out $5.1 million from the county road and bridges fund the first year, Greene says, and more than $93 million over the next five years.
The full impacts of Amendment 60 and 61 aren't clear, but 60 would cause the county's utility bill to rise by $1.5 million, county spokesman Dave Rose says, because Colorado Springs Utilities would be forced to pay property taxes on its facilities, including paying taxes in other counties on pipelines and pump stations located in those counties. Utilities, of course, is funded with payments collected from its customers in the Colorado Springs area. — PZ
Memorial gets support
Eighteen people spoke at a public meeting Monday about the future of Memorial Health System, and all generally voiced support of CEO Dr. Larry McEvoy's idea of converting Memorial to an independent nonprofit. (See p. 9 for a Your Turn piece by McEvoy.)
Eight doctors, nine employees and a medical clinic manager gave feedback, some of them warning of a bumpy road ahead as payors bundle payments for service, as doctors consider joining hospital staffs as employees, and as temptations arise to eliminate services that don't make money.
The Commission on Ownership and Governance of Memorial Health System is due to submit a recommendation regarding Memorial's governance to City Council in December. — PZ
Survey: time for action
In the 2010 Quality of Life Indicators report, released this week, residents of the Pikes Peak region were urged to help fight some downward trends in their communities.
The report (also covered in Between the Lines, p. 10) cites a high rate of teen suicide, rising incidence of diabetes and an alarming increase in the number of kids living in poverty.
It also notes that in the past decade, the area's population has increased by 90,000 but without an increase in civilian jobs. The workforce is earning less, the report says, with salaries and wages dropping by 10 percent since 2001. Methamphetamine use is 40 to 50 percent higher than other large Colorado counties.
On the upside, Colorado Springs has a major crime rate almost 20 percent lower than the national average, and 35 acres of park for every 1,000 people living in El Paso County — 40 percent higher than the national benchmark.
The 124-page report, the fourth annual, was spearheaded by Leadership Pikes Peak, Pikes Peak Library District and Pikes Peak United Way. Its compilation represents more than 5,000 hours of volunteer time and help from about 100 organizations. Go to pikespeakqualityoflife.org for the complete report, plus more details and data covering a handful of focus areas. — PZ
Nurse still fighting city
In December 2008, Miriam Leverington was stopped by Colorado Springs Police Officer Duaine Peters and given a ticket for speeding. Multiple media outlets have reported that the meeting was less than cheerful, with both sides accusing the other of having an attitude.
At some point, Leverington, a cardiac nurse at city-owned Memorial Hospital, reportedly commented, "I hope you are not ever my patient."
Peters used the comment to ensure Leverington got fired from her job, saying he felt like she was saying she wouldn't provide him with proper care. Leverington sued the city, saying her free-speech rights had been violated. She lost. Leverington has appealed, and her case is being heard by a three-judge panel on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. — JAS
Police error may have hurt
An internal audit at the Colorado Springs Police Department has found that not all crime victims eligible to learn about the Victim's Rights Act may have received the written notification of their rights, as required by law.
Under the act, victims must be given information about their rights, as well as applications to apply for compensation. The police department doesn't know how many victims may not have received the paperwork, but is sending paperwork to any victims it believes may have been skipped over. Additionally, the department is changing policies to prevent problems in the future.
In a press release, the police department explains: "The notice of victim's rights form used by the Colorado Springs Police Department is a two-part form that the investigating officer fills out, providing one copy to the victim and the second copy is forwarded to the Record and ID section for filing with the official case report. The audit revealed that an employee in the Records and ID section was not following established procedure in notifying the investigating officer if the notice of victim's rights form was not received in the Records and ID section in a timely manner. ... An internal investigation was initiated and the subject employee resigned prior to the completion of the investigation." — JAS
Compiled by J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.