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Utilities cuts reservoir deal, Council makes hire, more


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Reservoir deal for SDS

Who will build a reservoir southeast of Colorado Springs is no longer in question, thanks to the approval of a deal in July.

Colorado Springs Utilities has agreed to pay Norris Properties and T-Cross Ranches $9,500 per acre for 791 acres of land for the Upper Williams Creek Reservoir, part of the Southern Delivery System's second phase.

The Norris family had fought with the city over the land, saying they wanted to build their own reservoir on that site. As El Paso County commissioners were preparing to hear a request last month to create the Norrises' Marlborough Metropolitan District, Utilities sought a court order for immediate possession of the land as part of a condemnation action filed in April.

The price tag of just over $7.5 million dwarfs the city's earlier offer of $4.3 million. At one point, the family had sought more than $12 million for the property.

Other elements of the settlement are the city's consent to drop its condemnation action and the family's agreement to withdraw its proposal to create a metro district. City Council is expected to approve the payment in coming weeks.

The second phase of SDS, a water pipeline from Pueblo Reservoir, calls for the reservoir to be built sometime between 2020 and 2024. Utilities also must acquire property owned by the State Land Board for the reservoir. — Pam Zubeck

Council makes hire

Eileen Gonzalez, administrator of the Emergency Services Agency, has been hired to work as Colorado Springs City Council's administrator. She replaces Aimee Cox, who took a job in Mayor Steve Bach's economic vitality office. Gonzalez will be paid $85,000.

Several Council members said they're not concerned that Gonzalez plans to continue serving as a member of the Harrison School District 2 Board of Education.

"We did inform her of the unusual hours for the job and she assured us that she would be available to meet these," Councilor Don Knight says via email. "So I have no concern with Eileen not giving up her school board post as Council is not involved with school board government."

Added Council President Keith King, who runs Colorado Springs Early Colleges, "Service on school boards is important and does not conflict with the mission of City Council." — Pam Zubeck

Bruce at it again

Tax foe Douglas Bruce has continued his assault on city government by filing a multi-faceted lawsuit Friday in El Paso County District Court.

The suit alleges that City Council members, paid a stipend of $6,250 annually, shouldn't get benefits, such as $8,000 each in expenses, snacks at meetings and pension coverage. He also contends that Council, not the mayor, must set the salaries of the city attorney and his staff attorneys.

Other claims: Council has never fully implemented Issue 300, which bars payments between the city and its enterprises; the city shouldn't retain 1.5 percent of sales tax collections; utility fees to turn on services and dictate usage of water are improper; and Council must be consulted on confirmation of interim appointees, though Mayor Steve Bach's office contends no confirmation is needed.

Bruce is the author of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), measures passed by voters of the city in 1991 and the state in 1992 that impose revenue limits and other restrictions on governmental agencies.

Council President Keith King tells the Gazette the city attorney's office has advised Council it hasn't violated the law. — Pam Zubeck

Lamborn vs. morning-after

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn has reintroduced legislation aimed at banning "morning-after pills" from school clinics. The bill would prohibit federal funding to schools whose clinics provide emergency contraception, which is currently available on drugstore shelves to anyone who wants to buy it.

In a press release, Lamborn argued that school clinics should not carry the pill, citing various risks. The pill has long been targeted by conservatives who claim it can cause a fertilized egg to abort.

"This is outrageous and must stop," the Republican said. "We owe it to our young people to protect them from exposure to these dangerous drugs." — J. Adrian Stanley

Black Forest group debuts

Survivors of the Black Forest Fire have formed Black Forest Together to represent their interests in the recovery. The group, which may seek nonprofit status, is working with El Paso County on major issues.

Want to know more? BFT will host an "insurance open house" from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Aug. 10, at Black Forest Fire Station #1, 11445 Teachout Road.

Experts on site will include reps of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, the Professional Independent Insurance Agents of Colorado, major insurance carriers with the largest number of properties affected by the fire, and the Colorado Division of Insurance. — J. Adrian Stanley

Herpin gets final OK

It appears Bernie Herpin has jumped his final hurdle in order to challenge Senate President John Morse in a Sept. 10 recall election.

Secretary of State Scott Gessler found last week that Herpin has the required number of valid signatures to be placed on the ballot. Herpin turned in 1,683 signatures, far more than the 1,000 required. Of those, 1,411 were validated.

"This is another important step in the process of recalling John Morse and replacing him with someone who has dedicated his life to defending the Constitution and decades to serving our community," Herpin stated in a press release.

Herpin, a Republican, will be the only challenger to Morse, a Democrat. Morse was targeted by special interest groups for recall after he supported gun-control measures. — J. Adrian Stanley

Fire victims to toss hazards

Victims of the Black Forest Fire will have a chance to safely and responsibly dump household hazardous waste Aug. 9.

El Paso County will be accepting items from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Black Forest Section 16 Trailhead, 8510 Burgess Road, just west of Vollmer Road.

Items accepted include: paint and paint-related products; compressed gas cylinders; household chemicals; lawn and garden chemicals; automotive chemicals; electronics; all types of batteries; metals; medicines and medical "sharps" (controlled substances excluded).

Pills must be put in a clear, sealable bag. All medicine bottles should also be packed in bags with personal information removed. Needles and other "sharps" must be put in a pharmacy container or an empty, clean liquid laundry soap bottle with a narrow neck and a screw lid.

All chemicals must be put in sealed containers that are five gallons or smaller. — J. Adrian Stanley

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