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News briefs from the Front Range

Some of Springs' peers don't have police helicopters

Colorado Springs City Council is torn up over the issue of police helicopters: Should it scrounge to find $480,000 and fund the two aging birds for 2008, or permanently ground them?

Some cops say they're great tools, and it's looking more and more as though Council will find the money to keep them.

But Police Chief Richard Myers was the first to propose cutting the pair. And many similar-sized cities say they don't need them.

Des Moines, Iowa, for instance, has gotten by without one since the 1980s. When asked if the city wants another one, a police spokesman says maybe, but that it's not a priority.

Madison, Wis., doesn't have a police helicopter. The police spokesman there, Joel DeSpain, says he's never heard of anyone wanting one in the state capital and home to the University of Wisconsin.

"We utilize horse patrols and bike patrols and foot patrols," he says.

Boise, Idaho, has neither helicopters nor plans for any.

By the way, these cities must be doing something right: their combined 2007 homicides amount to fewer than our total (a record 28 as of press time) this year.

We did talk to one comparable city with police helicopters. Wichita, Kan., with about 360,000 people and a metro population of almost 600,000, has long employed helicopters in crime-fighting. Wichita has had 42 homicides so far this year. JAS

County closing in on (and 'in') the new year

Residents needing to chat with El Paso County officials or renew license plates might be relieved that the first round of county building closures will soon end. After most county buildings finish the Christmas week closed for the sake of utilities savings, the doors should be flung wide open come Monday, Dec. 31.

From that point, residents will have to become accustomed to the money-saving closures for 2008, which had not been posted as of Wednesday on the county's Web site.

During 2008 budget discussions, commissioners agreed to generally continue the pattern of closing most offices on Fridays and keeping employees working four 10-hour days. Starting around March, the 4th Judicial District could be closed once a month, along with the district attorney's office, according to the plan.

The moral of all this: Check often, call ahead and try to maintain a sense of holiday good cheer if you have business with the county this year. AL

COSMIX finishing up

The COSMIX project is winding down, right on schedule.

COSMIX spokeswoman Michele Majeune says three lanes in both directions are open on Interstate 25, and only minor work remains to be done. Despite an unexpected run-in with a utility line during drainage work underneath the Colorado Avenue bridge, that street work is nearly complete. As far as Majeune knows, the Bijou Street bridge is done. So is the once-troublesome intersection of Mark Dabling and Rockrimmon boulevards.

COSMIX work is expected to wrap up at the end of 2007. JAS

City's homeless get $1.5 million Christmas gift

Many charities that serve Colorado Springs' homeless will benefit soon from major financial boosts, thanks to nearly $1.5 million in grants.

Homeward Pikes Peak executive director Bob Holmes has announced that his organization, which represents and serves Springs charities for the homeless, has secured funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's SuperNOFA grant program.

Holmes says the Springs received the maximum allowable amount of money from the HUD grants. The funds will help a variety of local programs, from the Shelter Plus Care and Housing First programs to Urban Peak. JAS

Coach accused of inappropriate behavior

A Lewis-Palmer Middle School teacher and girls basketball coach was arrested just before Christmas on suspicion of touching two players in an "inappropriate sexual manner," according to the El Paso County Sheriff's Office.

Gregory Jackson, a math teacher, was jailed on two counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, and he has been placed on paid leave during the investigation, a news release states.

The accusations against Jackson mark the second time in a year that sexual misconduct charges have been filed against a basketball coach at a Monument school.

A coach at the Monument Academy charter school was cleared at trial this fall of all but a simple assault charge after he was accused of sexually assaulting boys on the team by, among other things, hitting them in the groin with basketballs during practices. AL

Compiled by Anthony Lane and J. Adrian Stanley.

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