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Noted: New location for homeless program


Homeless program moves

The program that's housed hundreds of homeless people since the city implemented a no-camping ordinance earlier this year has moved its headquarters.

The grant-based program headed by Homeward Pikes Peak Executive Director Bob Holmes had been based in the Express Inn, near the intersection of Eighth Street and Interstate 25; Holmes says it is now based at the Aztec Courts motel at 1921 E. Platte Ave. Holmes says the program was moved because the Aztec charges about 20 percent less, and the Aztec's owner agreed to allow the entire 23-room hotel to be used for the program. At the sprawling Express Inn, rooms were also used for another program, and for tourists.

"I've always had a really good relationship with the Aztec," Holmes says. "I like their layout. It seemed like as our program was winding down, it would be a good place to locate it."

Express Inn's owner could not be reached for comment, but Holmes says the parting was amicable.

The recently renovated Aztec can handle the approximately 70 clients still in the program, which ends Oct. 15. Holmes hopes to put everyone into permanent housing after helping them find work. He says savings from room charges should mean more counseling for participants.

Despite being farther from homeless services downtown, Holmes says, participants are provided with essentials including food. That said, the program could use toiletries and pillows; donations can be made at Pikes Peak United Way or the Aztec. — JAS

Human relations group OKed

City Council has given preliminary approval to a new city-sanctioned Human Relations Commission. The Springs had an HRC for decades before it was abolished in 1995, mainly because of concerns that it helped gays and lesbians. Proponents of a new HRC have been working on reviving the HRC for several years.

The HRC would serve all populations, primarily the poor and disenfranchised. In the Springs, 19 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The HRC would provide mediation services (for instance, between a landlord and tenant), and aim to educate and advocate. Eighty percent of the nation's largest cities have HRCs.

"I drive a car and I've got a dog and I pay my utilities ... but 20 percent of our people probably can't do those things," says Tom Strand, School District 11 board president. "I think a Human Relations Commission would make an impact on their lives."

The HRC would not receive city funding or have enforcement powers, and would be run by volunteers.

All Councilors except Mayor Lionel Rivera and Darryl Glenn support the plan. The city attorney plans to brief Council on any legal implications in advance of a final vote, but most Councilors seem optimistic.

"We are a city that needs to heal," Councilor Sean Paige says, "and I hope this group, if it's formed, will help us to heal and not to pick at old wounds." — JAS

YMCA changing CEOs

After 40 years as a YMCA professional, Merv Bennett will retire Feb. 1, 2011, ending an 18½-year run as CEO of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region.

"It seems now is the best time for me to make the change," he says. "I think the organization's in a very strong position. They have a great staff and have hired an excellent person to follow me."

To replace Bennett, the local board has chosen Dan Dummermuth, the local YMCA senior vice-president of operations since 2003. He will act as CEO designate as Bennett and the board prepare for the transition. Wendy Brez Dahl, director of marketing and communications, says the transition period should help "ensure the leadership change is seamless."

Bennett plans to stay involved with the YMCA as a volunteer. — KF

FEC complaint ignored

Denver attorney Charles "Rick" Grice has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Republican Ken Buck's campaign for U.S. Senate.

The seven-page report alleges Greeley businessman Jerry Morgensen planned to "invest" $1 million in Buck's campaign. It says Morgensen, employees and companies he controls have given the campaign limit of $2,400 each to Buck, and that donations from Morgensen, his federal contracting firm Hensel Phelps, its employees and family members accounted for nearly a quarter of Buck's total contributions through March 31.

Morgensen's bank, Cache Bank and Trust, loaned $120,000 to Buck and his wife, who used a $167,852 townhome as collateral. Buck later loaned $100,000 to his campaign, according to Grice's complaint.

Grice alleges Morgensen circumvented campaign limits by giving other money to several organizations that, in turn, have spent $780,000 on ad campaigns promoting Buck. Those organizations include Declaration Alliance, based in Virginia and associated with Jon Hotaling, political operative and former campaign manager for U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colorado Springs.

Grice, who supports Jane Norton in the Senate GOP race, ran Gov. Bill Owens' energy office. Grice tells the Independent the facts suggest "that if that [Morgensen] were to go away, Ken Buck wouldn't have a campaign." The Independent first noted the complaint on its website last week, but major media outlets have yet to report a word about it. — PZ

Chavez CFO resigns

Upheaval continues at the Cesar Chavez School Network of charter schools, which once had locations in Denver, Pueblo and the Springs.

Network Chief Financial Officer Jason Guerrero resigned May 19. The move came after those two schools were put on probation by Pueblo City Schools, which holds their charter, and after the PCS board sent a strongly worded letter to Chavez leaders demanding changes, including Guerrero's ouster. PCS made its demands following the release of state audits that found widespread cheating at one Chavez school and extensive financial wrongdoing at the network level.

Guerrero actually turned in his resignation months ago, but said he'd stay on to see the district through the state audits. — JAS

What if ... you applied on time?

This Sept. 11, Colorado Springs will host its first "What If Festival." And no, this won't be a festival about what the world would be like without 9/11 and its aftermath. Actually, the downtown, community-organized event will be about creativity and innovation, and how we can use our imaginations to build a better world.

The festival, according to promotional material, will feature "interactive presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exhibitions and performances." Anyone is welcome to "create an experience" for the festival, but groups that want to participate must apply by July 15 at — JAS

Compiled by Kelsey Fowler, J. Adrian Stanley and Pam Zubeck.

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