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News briefs from the Front Range

Congress holds off on funding NORAD move

As Congress moved Wednesday to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, it took a step toward finding out more about the ongoing move of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) operations to Peterson Air Force Base, and changing Cheyenne Mountain's status to warm standby.

The final bill freezes $5 million for the Cheyenne Mountain Transformation Project, according to a release from Rep. Mark Udall, "until Congress receives more information from the Secretary of Defense on the relocation of NORAD and related functions ..." It requests "plans and total costs associated with relocation," including the effect on NORAD operations, as well as the results of an independent assessment being done by Sandia National Laboratory. Also, the bill asks the General Accountability Office (GAO) to review the report and demands that Defense Secretary Robert Gates "work cooperatively ... to provide access to the data GAO needs."

Udall was the only Colorado legislator on the House-Senate committee that developed the final bill. His release said the NORAD move "was undertaken without Congressional approval and without sufficient analysis of the cost and security implications." RR

County public trustee resigns

Patricia Thompson resigned this week as head of the county office that oversees property foreclosures. Thompson, an appointee of Gov. Bill Ritter, took over as public trustee in March, as the county's foreclosure rush was gathering steam.

Carol Snyder, the public trustee in Adams County, has been appointed interim leader of the El Paso County office until a permanent replacement is selected, according to an executive order from the governor's office.

Evan Dreyer, Ritter's communications director, says he cannot comment on the reasons for Thompson's resignation.

The office employs 16 people, and Thompson said recently she was preparing for a busy period with new state laws going into effect next year and the pace of foreclosures showing no sign of slowing. AL

Bruce initiative hits bump

County Commissioner Douglas Bruce's struggle to get an initiative on the 2008 ballot hit yet another wall earlier this week.

A district judge threw out the measure, which aims to stifle the ability of Colorado Springs' Stormwater Enterprise to collect fees. (Bruce calls the fees an illegal tax.)

The measure has other implications. It would make all fees for city enterprises voluntary, and eventually eliminate the exchange of money between the city and its enterprises.

Judge David Gilbert ruled the initiative violated the single-subject rule and used language that could confuse voters. The Title Board has rejected the measure twice, and an appeal to City Council failed.

In response to the latest ruling, Bruce is planning to ask for a rehearing and may split his initiative into two separate measures. JAS

Eitel retiring from Memorial

Dick Eitel, chief executive officer of the city-owned Memorial Health System since 2003, has informed the Memorial board and City Council he will retire sometime next year.

Eitel, 55, has spent 33 years with Memorial, much of that time as chief financial officer for the sprawling operation with more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget of more than $600 million. One of his high points came last spring with the opening of the new Memorial Hospital North. A major addition at the hospital's main location on Boulder Street also has just been completed.

But the hospital and Eitel had come under criticism after informing the city they were off by $23.5 million on this year's budget (covered by reserve funds) and admitting to spending $250,000 to become a corporate sponsor for the 2008 U.S. Senior Open.

Eitel has not determined the exact date of his retirement. RR

Two-time acting CEO elected chair of Fine Arts Center board

Last week, the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center made public the names of its newly elected officers on the board of trustees. You'll recognize a few of them.

Chris Jenkins, the board's new vice chair, serves on the boards of a few other local organizations, including the Downtown Partnership and COPPeR (the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region). He's also vice president at Nor'Wood Development Group, a mainstay among building developers around town.

Dan O'Rear, the new treasurer, serves on the Humane Society board and spends his days as the vice president and CFO of Goodwill Industries of Colorado Springs. And you might recognize new secretary Susie Burghart, wife of Indy columnist Rich Tosches, as the past president of the local Junior League and Girl Scouts Wagon Wheel Council.

The most interesting name is Jon Stepleton, who'll serve as chairman. You may know him as executive director of the Pikes Peak Community College Foundation or from his time as editor and, later, associate publisher of the Gazette, which brought him to the Springs in the 1980s. But more likely, if you've been following the news-generator that is the FAC, you'll remember him as the man who served for two months this past summer as acting CEO immediately following Michael De Marsche's departure. He filled the same role for the eight months before De Marsche's arrival at the FAC.

So why's he back now, as the head of the board of trustees? According to Charlie Snyder, the FAC's director of public relations, the board trusted his capabilities. Stepleton has been a member of the FAC board for the past six years. PF

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

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