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News briefs from the Front Range

Vision for west-side roads taking shape

If planners working on U.S. 24 west of downtown Colorado Springs have their way, the highway will have a much different look 10 years from now. Meanwhile, a related project reworking Colorado Avenue (which becomes Manitou Avenue) westward from 31st Street could move sooner toward reality.

"What happens to Manitou Avenue would not have to be tied to [U.S.] 24," said Kevin Shanks of THK Associates, a lead planner for west-side roads adjacent to Fountain Creek. The latest possibilities were unveiled Tuesday in Old Colorado City.

U.S. 24 would pass over Eighth and 21st streets with interchanges at both. Also, an extension of 15th Street would cross over U.S. 24, providing another access point to the emerging Gold Hill Mesa development.

Further west, U.S. 24 would pass over Ridge Road with no entry or exit (both exist now), meaning anyone going to Red Rock Canyon could only access Ridge Road from Colorado Avenue.

Four plans were on display for the Colorado-Manitou redevelopment, though Shanks said the end result probably will be a combination. Shanks said any Manitou project could gain momentum as U.S. 24 goes through a more complex approval and funding process. RR

County picks election manager

Liz Olson, who has worked 11 years in the El Paso County election department, was named Tuesday as elections manager, replacing John Bass who retired effective June 30.

Olson had served as assistant manager since January 2006 and previously worked as an election technician and a supervisor in the department.

"Her thorough knowledge of Colorado Election Law (Title I) and Secretary of State Rules, which govern the conduct of elections, is incomparable," Bob Balink, county clerk & recorder, said in a release. "Liz's skill level in all areas of elections makes her the perfect (and easy) selection for this important role."

Olson also is working with the secretary of state's office as a team leader on a new database for Colorado voter registration. RR

Kramer's last word on diversity

In his final days on the job, soon-to-be-former City Manager Lorne Kramer proudly declared that the Colorado Springs government is more diverse these days.

"As I look back, one of the things I'm particularly happy and satisfied with is (that) we have done succession planning so we have elevated women and other minorities in the organization at management levels," Kramer said.

Could Kramer be suggesting his successor might be a woman, and/or person of color? Actually, Kramer said he supports assistant city managers Mike Anderson and Greg Nyhoff (both white males), who are seeking the job.

The hiring decision is up to City Council, which is also considering outsiders. City Council members say they will not consider race or gender as a factor when choosing Kramer's replacement.

Kramer did make city government a bit more diverse just before his departure. He hired Curlie Matthews, an African-American, to fill the new position of chief information officer of information technology. Matthews previously worked for the fast-growing city of Henderson, Nev., which the U.S. Census estimated had a population of 223,776 in 2005. His annual salary will be $140,000. JAS

Saving energy in D-11

District 11 is getting greener.

D-11 claims its two new elementary schools, Freedom and McAuliffe, will be among the most energy-efficient schools in Colorado.

The schools will go with geoexchange technology, which is expected to use 50 percent less energy than standard systems. The schools will also make use of natural light to cut back on energy consumption.

Holmes Middle School and Washington Elementary School will also have new geothermal heating and cooling systems.

The improvements are part of D-11's plan for new schools and school renovations, being paid for by a voter-approved, taxpayer-funded bond program. JAS

Manitou fireworks returning

Almost anyone who has lived awhile in Manitou knows about the town's tradition of pyrotechnics on the Fourth of July, but drought conditions forced organizers to cancel the annual display on Red Mountain in 2006 for the second time in recent years.

With the fire danger not as prevalent this summer, the Manitou Springs Volunteer Fire Department is preparing to shoot fireworks from the mountainside overlooking downtown, starting at 9:15 p.m. Wednesday.

"Due to great generosity, the display should be one of our best," said Susan Guynn, a volunteer representing the department. The display is funded by donations from Manitou businesses, residents and visitors. RR

Compiled by Ralph Routon and J. Adrian Stanley.

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