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News briefs from the Front Range

Homeless counted in Colorado

The statewide homeless count, unveiled six weeks late, shows that El Paso Countys homeless number half of what was previously thought. According to the report, 943 people are without homes in the county, this compared with the oft-repeated statistic of 2,000 by Bob Holmes of Homeward Pikes Peak.

The discrepancy could be due to the fact that the state count was done in the summer, when the homeless are less inclined to visit soup kitchens and shelters.

El Paso Countys breakdown shows that more homeless people here (31 percent) are newly homeless compared with the state average (21.5 percent). Around 44.6 percent of the homeless here have children in contrast to 62.1 percent with children across the state. The county also has more unsheltered homeless (17.1 percent) than the state average (13.2 percent). The count numbered 11,890 homeless people statewide. NZ

No AC in jail tent

Inmates housed in the tent proposed to address El Paso County jail crowding won't receive air-conditioning, despite concerns raised by the American Civil Liberties Union.

"It could be insufferably hot in there, which is a health risk," says ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein.

The tent will be heated in cold weather, says Sheriff Terry Maketa, but outside air will have to keep the tent hospitable during summer.

Within weeks, the tent could be erected in a parking lot near the county's Criminal Justice Center.

A "jail tent city" in Maricopa County, Ariz., came under scrutiny 10 years ago when prisoners battered inmate Jeremy Flanders into a coma with a steel tent stake. No guards were present at the time. Flanders incurred permanent brain damage and was awarded roughly $640,000 in compensation and damages, according to court documents.

"This isn't Maricopa County, Arizona." Maketa says. "We are doing everything we can to eliminate safety hazards." MdY

Get behind North's face

If you're curious to check out Memorial Hospital North, but don't want to break a leg to do it, check out the grand opening on Saturday, March 10.

Starting at noon and running through 5 p.m., Memorial employees will lead small-group tours of the hospital, all of which will show off the north side's first labor-delivery and emergency areas.

While construction is complete, the $135 million hospital isn't expected to open to patients until April 25.

"Every Band-Aid's got to be put in a drawer," says hospital spokesperson Chris Valentine. "You can imagine how much work that is." KW

PETA decries local abuse

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants District Attorney John Newsome to "vigorously prosecute" its Black Forest animal-abuse case and the offenders to undergo psychological counseling.

"Mental health professionals and top law enforcement officials consider the blatant disregard for life and the desensitization to suffering evidenced by all forms of cruelty to animals to be a red flag," PETA researcher Dan Paden wrote on March 1 to Newsome.

Believed on the run, Debra Everet, 50, and Ronald Hemby, 62, face one charge each of animal cruelty, a misdemeanor. The Sheriff's Office confiscated about two dozen live animals from 12760 Vollmer Road after discovering 11 dead animals there.

PETA also wants the district attorney to ensure Everet and Hemby, if convicted, spend time behind bars and are prevented from owning animals in the future. MdY

Climate change coalition forms

The small Climate Change Coalition of the Pikes Peak Region, with about a dozen core members, held its first event last week at Ricos Caf downtown, where Dawn Rittenhouse, director of sustainable development for DuPont, spoke. The Wilmington, Del., chemical company is something of a model for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

About 70 people attended, organizer Jerry Unruh says, indicating residents want to get serious about lowering pollutants.

"Our goal is quite long-term," Unruh says.

The coalition is backing City Council candidates who favor renewable energy and support moving Colorado Springs Utilities away from coal power, Unruh says. MdY

New Life sheds staff

Approximately 12 percent of New Life Church's staff was laid off last week, about four months after a gay-sex-and-meth scandal led to founder Ted Haggard's removal.

According to the Denver Post, associate pastor Rob Brendle said the news that 44 of 350 staffers would be let go actually could have been worse, considering the scope of the scandal.

The Post reported that contributions over the past four months were down to $4.9 million from $5.3 million over the same period a year earlier.

The church's congregation was informed of the news Sunday; there was no word as of press time regarding any high-level dismissals. KW

Excessive-force victim considers suit

A man struck several times in the head by a flashlight-wielding Colorado Springs police officer is seeking to sue the city, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado may file that suit on his behalf.

Last month the ACLU obtained documents indicating Officer K.D. Hardy used excessive force against Delvikio Faulkner on July 2, 2005. Upon being pulled over in southeast Colorado Springs, Faulkner provided a false name and tried to spin away; Hardy hit Faulkner at least three times, documents showed.

Mark Silverstein, the ACLU's legal director, says it's too early to say whether his organization will file suit.

"Police should be accountable for what they did," Faulkner said this week by phone from Buena Vista Correctional Complex, where he is serving time on charges including theft.

Though the department concluded Hardy used excessive force, there was no "final disposition" according to a Feb. 1, 2006, note attached to the Hardy file referencing his "termination in another investigation." MdY

Biodiesel sees local growth

Chief Petroleum's Eric Liebold expects the price of its biodiesel blend to drop below that of standard diesel this week, indicating the more environmentally friendly fuel is gaining traction in Colorado.

Mayor Lionel Rivera will speak at a press conference Tuesday promoting Chief's new biodiesel pumps at 2808 N. Nevada Ave. and 301 S. 10th St.

The new stations push the statewide number of public pumps to 20, and the Springs' number to three.

Liebold expects commercial auto drivers to be the main consumers of Chief's B20 blend, the biodiesel portion of which is derived from U.S.-grown and Colorado-processed soybeans. But, he adds, the pumps will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to private citizens as well.

"The biggest thing is that biodiesel is something people want to support," says Liebold. "We think we can help make that happen." KW

Manitou goes greener

Manitou Springs City Council unanimously approved Tuesday night a five-step plan to reduce the town's global emissions footprint, but it hasn't set concrete goals yet.

The project, brought forward by resident Megan Day, entails an emissions inventory that will allow the city to create target reductions. Depending on what the inventory shows, the new "city for climate protection" might replace vehicles in its existing fleet with fuel-efficient vehicles, or take other action.

The program will cost Manitou an initial $600 equipment fee for the emissions test, but will likely cost much more down the road. Day will conduct the test as part of her master's thesis at the University of Colorado at Denver.

Manitou Councilor Marc Snyder said he hoped Colorado Springs would take note and follow suit, as when the larger city installed an open-space tax similar to Manitou's in the 1990s.

"It can really have a steamrolling effect," Snyder said. NZ

Tickets pulled from Independent Records

Independent Records stopped carrying concert tickets for The Black Sheep last week after the venue's vendor, TicketWeb, retreated to online sales only.

The Black Sheep, at 2106 E. Platte Ave., sold around half of its tickets through the record store, whose four city storefronts accepted cash only. After the cutoff, concertgoers without credit cards must buy tickets at the door or days in advance during the venue's somewhat sporadic hours.

"We have noticed a drop-off in ticket sales," says Black Sheep manager Geoff Brent, adding that more people are purchasing at the door. NZ

Compiled by Kirk Woundy, Michael de Yoanna and Naomi Zeveloff. Additional reporting by Colin Stroud.

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