3-month stay for center, ranch

       Amid the gore of City Council budget-cutting Nov. 9 came a three-month stay of execution for Rock Ledge Ranch and the Westside Community Center.
       The elected body approved a proposal from recently appointed District 3 Councilmember Sean Paige that would allow those entities - otherwise slated to close at the end of this year - to stay open through March 31. The idea is to give them time to find alternative funding sources, Paige explained after the meeting.
       He pledged that ranch and center supporters won't be alone in such efforts. “We're not going to throw them to the wolves,” Paige said. “There will be some kind of citywide push, and I'll be out there taking a lead role.”
       Westside, in the former Buena Vista school facility at 1628 W. Bijou St., is among four city community centers around the city that will benefit from the three-month reprieve. The others are Deerfield Hills, Hillside and Meadows Park.
       Already brainstorming for Rock Ledge is the Living History Association (LHA), a volunteer group that has provided the majority of the staffing for many years at the city-owned, historic-style working ranch off North 30th Street. “With the three months, I think we can come up with something that will keep the ranch going and get grants to continue it,” LHA President Ron Wright said this week. “Of course, we're not going to be able to offer a lot of freebies the way we have in the past. It will have to be a money-maker.”

The American Indian Area at Rock Ledge Ranch was a popular spot during the Harvest Festival Oct. 3
Westside Pioneer photo

       According to previously presented figures, the 230-acre facility earns about $35,000 a year, but costs $180,000 to operate.
       At Westside Community Center, Executive Director E.D. Rucker expressed hope, though a little less confidence. “It will be one hellacious challenge,” he said, pointing out that the cost to run West is $362,000 a year, compared to the center's income of $59,000. “We're up against quite a bit of cash.” Nevertheless, at a meeting this week of leaders from the four community centers, “people were rip-roaring to go,” he said. “They were saying, 'Let's give it a shot, let's go for it.'”
       Also, at the council meeting Nov. 9, there was approval for most of the 2010 budget cuts that City Manager Penny Culbreth-Graft had recommended going in. Based on city information, $33 million in reduced spending was needed after voters in the city election Nov. 3 defeated a proposed property-tax increase (Question 2C) and approved phasing out enterprise fees to the general fund (Ballot Initiative 300).
       Council saved some of the police and fire jobs that had been on the chopping block, but other Graft recommendations - including drastic cutbacks to the transit system and parks maintenance, increases in sports fees, elimination of flower plantings and shutdowns of the seven city pools - could not be avoided.
       Paige said he does not expect any more major budget changes before the scheduled final budget approval Dec. 8, but added that there could be some “niggling around the edges” between now and then.
       The Westside Community Center is inside District 3, the southwest Colorado Springs area he represents, with Rock Ledge just north of it.
       Although pleased at winning council over to his three-month plan, Paige said he was disappointed at failing to gain the five votes needed to save a planning position whose duties include citywide historic preservation. This is a loss for the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), which as a result can expect no action in 2010 on a historic overlay zone for the older Westside that its members have been working on with the city for about seven years.
       “I got four votes, and I needed five,” Paige said. “I thought it was important to protect that job. It wasn't huge, $100,000, when you consider the funds we're playing with.”
       The position handling preservation is one of three being eliminated in the city's comprehensive planning area which, according to Graft, “eliminates the majority of long- range land use planning.”

Westside Pioneer article