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Rocks, funerals, cemeteries and water

Mon, May 10, 2010

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“(___) couldn’t organize a one-car funeral!”

“(___) is so dumb he could screw up a rock!”

And whose name should we put in the blank space? Maybe we should forget the usual pantheon of politicians, businesspeople, entertainers and athletes. Maybe we should look in the mirror at our own feckless selves, the proudly cantankerous residents of Colorado Springs.

We don’t even need a gun to shoot ourselves in the foot.

Consider the budding uproar over the County’s acquisition of a 440-acre piece of the Kane Ranch a few years ago.

Longtime rancher Andy Kane willed the property to the County in 2003, directing that it be used as open space. But, as The Gazette on Saturday, part of the land was contaminated by a cattle dip. Remediation would have cost the County $200,000, which it didn’t have. The alternative would have been to reject the bequest, which would have made even less sense.

The solution: swap 60 acres of the donated land, which included the contaminated ground, for a contiguous parcel of the same size owned by developer Jim Morley.

It was a good deal for both parties. Morley got a scenic piece of ground, and assumed responsibility for remediation. The County got its open space, without spending a nickel.

The deal looked even better in 2007, when the County offered the undeveloped ground to the V.A. as the site for a potential veteran’s cemetery.

A southern Colorado veteran’s cemetery had long been sought by elected representatives of both parties. There was no disagreement there – but regional rivalries came into play.

Should the cemetery be in Colorado Springs, home to thousands of military retirees? Or should it be farther south, maybe in Pueblo, where it would be more convenient to military families in southern and southeastern Colorado?

The two Congressmen whose constituents would benefit from such a cemetery, Republican Doug Lamborn and Democrat John Salazar, worked out a deal. They agreed that a site in southern El Paso County would benefit everybody and that the Kane Ranch site was the best choice.

But now the deal may be in the process of unraveling. It turns out that Morley, as is his wont, contributed to the election campaigns of every one of the five members of the County Commission.

The commissioners deny that his contribution had anything to do with their decision. That’s almost certainly true. Their decision was a no – brainer. Had they done otherwise, they would have been foolishly incompetent.

But here’s the problem. The last thing that the V.A. wants to do is to get embroiled in the sometimes murky politics of El Paso County, or any other county. If they decide to pass on the Kane Ranch parcel, you can bet that the obliging Dems who represent our neighbor to the south will find a perfect site in Pueblo County for the cemetery.

And speaking of Pueblo politicians, Representative Sal Pace has fired the first shot in an effort to either shut down the Southern Delivery System or to force Colorado Springs to pay mo’ money.

In a letter to the Corps of Engineers and the EPA, Pace argues that Springs voters effectively negated the project’s environmental impact statement by nixing the Council-imposed stormwater fee. Pace argues that voters removed a major source of funding for controlling flooding on Fountain Creek. The existence of the Stormwater Enterprise, Paces claims, helped persuade the Pueblo County Commissioners to give their unanimous support to SDS, and issue a so-called 1041 construction permit.

Pace is just playing politics, but he has a point. Bruce McCormick, Colorado Springs Utilities chief water services officer, responded to Pace with a lengthy letter refuting his contentions. CSU officials believe that the EIS will stand, and that the Pueblo commissioners couldn’t legally reverse their stand in any case.

Let’s hope that they’re right. And let’s also hope that neither city council’s botched attempt to impose a storm water tax nor the current controversy over the Kane Ranch affects the long-term future of our city.

In the mean time, leave those rocks alone and stay away from funeral management…

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. John Whitten Says:

    Better check and see if Morley contributed to Pace’s campaign…….perhaps an attempt to re-open the disucssions about the SDS route?

    It’s tough being the resident cynic…….