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Noted: Shooting range closes


Range closes after death

The U.S. Forest Service has closed the Rampart Shooting Range west of Colorado Springs to review safety procedures after a 25-year-old Aurora man died there in an accidental shooting July 18. Brent Botts, district ranger for the Pikes Peak National Forest, says an independent panel will make recommendations about the future of the range and whether it can safely reopen.

Despite periodic cleanups at the shooting range, critics say it regularly looks more like a garbage dump, with piles of trash and bullet-riddled appliances (see "De-ranged," cover story, Sept. 20, 2007). Shots fired there can be heard by hikers miles away, and the Forest Service looked at closing it in 2007 after a National Rifle Association review found it was sorely in need of supervision. In spite of near-misses, the Saturday death of Otis Freison is the first in the nearly 20 years the range has been open.

If the committee recommends that the range be kept open with supervision, the trick will be figuring out how to pay for it. Botts says the Forest Service has no employee available for that function, and private contractors who've considered trying to run the range have all discovered it would be tough to make a profit. — AL

New leader at Fort Carson

Maj. Gen. David Perkins took command at Fort Carson on Wednesday morning in a ceremony that marked the final arrivals of the 4th Infantry Division in Colorado Springs.

Perkins, who assumed command of the 4th ID a week earlier, replaces Maj. Gen. Mark Graham as the mountain post's senior commander. Graham, moving to Army Forces Command at Fort McPherson, Ga., has been praised in his two years at Fort Carson for taking seriously the mental health concerns of soldiers returning from battle.

In Graham's final week as Fort Carson commander, the Army released a report linking a string of slayings here and elsewhere to the combat experiences of soldiers in the post's 4th Brigade Combat Team. Though Fort Carson was already home to three of the 4th ID's four brigades, the post is expanding this summer by thousands with the arrival of the division's final brigade and its headquarters division. — AL

Dispute with mayor leads to resignation

All is not well in Manitou Springs city government. On July 14, following a contentious meeting on the budget, Manitou City Councilor Shannon Solomon handed a note to Mike Leslie, the deputy city administrator, announcing his resignation.

"I was just completely appalled and ashamed to be a part of the meeting," Solomon said in a later interview. His frustrations boiled over, he said, when Mayor Eric Drummond publicly shamed him for having the city attorney investigate raising the excise tax, essentially a tax levied on tickets to Manitou attractions.

Solomon noted that for a small additional fee on tickets — most in Manitou are purchased for the Pikes Peak Cog Railway — the city could raise about $400,000 a year, enough to hire administrators to fill three long-empty positions: city administrator, public works director and a code enforcement officer.

Meanwhile, Solomon says, the city continues to spend money on an Economic Development Corp. that is under no obligation to demonstrate how it benefits the city.

"We need to see hard numbers [from the EDC]," Solomon says. "I brought that up last year and almost got hung for it."

Solomon says he'll work as an activist. His term would've ended in November. — JAS

Transit station shelved

For those who wondered why the city would consider making bus-service cuts while planning a new downtown transit station, you can save those arguments for later.

Colorado Springs City Council has decided to ice its plans for a new transit station, with a news release Wednesday citing the prospect of 2010 city budget woes and the growing likelihood of further reductions in transit service next year.

The planned location in southwest downtown will continue to be eligible for federal funding if construction starts in the next three years. The delay means the city has to return $3.7 million in grant funding for the project from the Colorado Association of Transit Agencies.

There is good news: Thanks to this decision and revised Obama administration policies, the city might be able to use $5.3 million in stimulus funds for transit in 2010. — RR

Housing First loses manager

Ambitious plans to expand the Pikes Peak Housing First program will go forward with a new manager, according to Bob Holmes, director of Homeward Pikes Peak.

Holmes, who took charge of the program in early June, says he cannot discuss Lisa Kistler's departure because it's a personnel matter, but says the program is still on track to put six chronically homeless people into their own apartments by September. Despite federal funding to provide housing for 30 or more clients with mental health and substance abuse problems, the five-year-old program had stalled with around 20 clients when Holmes took the reins from Harbor House, a local nonprofit. Holmes then announced plans to expand the program to 100 clients.

He says Housing First is still on track, and hopes to interview prospective new program managers in August.

In June, the Independent told the story of Ken "Patch" Brown, homeless for 30-plus years, as he waited to join the program ("Patching the net," News, June 18). Adjusting to the first apartment that has been his own, Brown says he is doing well. — AL

D-49 recall election a go

Falcon School District 49 board members Dave Martin and Kent Clawson will soon face a recall vote, unless they resign.

Efforts to instigate an election to oust the two board members have been successful. The El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office verified 3,681 signatures for Martin and 3,676 for Clawson. To require a special election, opponents needed 3,497 signatures for each candidate.

A special election could cost D-49 up to $68,000, a bill board opponents were hoping to avoid by timing the recall to coincide with the November election. Legal technicalities have prevented that from occurring. Community activists have been working to recall the two board members in an effort to replace the entire D-49 board this fall (all other board members are up for re-election). The uproar began in earnest after the board nearly fired two popular high school principals in March. — JAS

Bennet rakes in the bucks

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet had another impressive quarter of fundraising, raising $1.2 million from April through June to give him a campaign war chest of more than $2 million for the 2010 election. Bennet, a Democrat in his first-ever elected office, has surprised many with his fundraising prowess after being picked by Gov. Bill Ritter in January to fill the position left vacant when Ken Salazar was chosen to lead the Interior Department.

Five Republicans have announced plans to compete in the 2010 Senate race. Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck led the pack in second-quarter fundraising with a haul of $332,000, according to the Denver Post. — AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane, Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.

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