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ColoPressAssn
September 29, 2016 Vol. 15 No. 45
City, District 14 to collaborate on projects
Written by Jeanne Davant   

2016 Heritage Brew Festival

092916_Brewfest

Seth Depooter and Matt Larson, dressed in tie-dye shirts and sporting afros, sample some of the various offerings of 25 local brewers last Saturday in Memorial Park. The event, sponsored by the Manitou Springs Heritage Center and the city of Manitou Springs, enjoyed a successful turnout of more than 600 attendees.

Photo by Rhonda Van Pelt

Manitou Springs City Council and School District 14 are seeking collaborative projects that will benefit the constituents of both.

Council and Partners for Healthy Choices (PHC) discussed ideas for working together at Council’s work session Tuesday.

Partners for Healthy Choices Director Laurie Wood said Natalie Johnson, executive director of the Manitou Art Center and a member of the PHC advisory board, has been appointed liaison between the organization and the city. Johnson also sits on the District 14 Accountability Committee.

“She will be the eyes and ears of the community,” Wood said.

The board has been strategizing and examining which community organizations would be appropriate partners with Partners for Healthy Choices, which has a mission of creating opportunities, building relationships and mobilizing community resources to engage youth in healthy directions.

The organization has more than 20 partners, ranging from local providers including AspenPointe, which offers mental health and behavioral services, to state-level departments and the nonprofit Colorado Education Initiative.

“One of the reasons PHC has been successful is amplification of effort,” Wood said.

The city of Manitou Springs and PHC already have a memorandum of understanding, and Council will vote on renewing the memorandum at its regular meeting next Tuesday.

Wood said the city and the schools already are collaborating through the Plan Manitou Process. Students are providing artwork and doing a project documenting Manitou Springs from their perspective.

Wood and Mayor Nicole Nicoletta agreed that it would be fruitful to collaborate on projects on which some work has already begun.

Among the joint projects discussed Tuesday were suicide prevention and other mental health issues including drug use; walking and biking safety improvements including crosswalks, sidewalks and alternate routes to and from school; and ways to promote food security.

Youth suicide prevention is one of the biggest concerns of the Board of Education, District 14 Superintendent Ed Longfield said.

“One of the (other) things we have in our sights is a conversation about health services for everyone in the community, from senior citizens to little kids,” he said. “We have ideas for joint partnerships. This is a pressing issue that will be the focus point of a parent group.”

Longfield said sharing of resources and working with other organizations is critical for the schools because of cuts in state funding.

“We’ve reduced our administrative staff,” Longfield said. “Laurie has taken on new roles. Both teachers and kids are impacted by the cuts, and it’s not going to get any better. I want us to be forward-thinking. We need to get ahead of it.”

“I think (working together) is a great thing,” Mayor Pro Tem Gary Smith said. “Kids are No. 1. Two elected bodies working together would resolve a lot of issues.”

City Council and Partners for Healthy Choices will meet again Oct. 27 to flesh out a plan for joint projects.

In other discussion Tuesday, Council agreed to write a letter of support for a grant application to the federal Environmental Protection Agency for an air quality project.

Councilor Becky Elder said a coalition of air quality advocates including local governments, universities and other organizations is forming to apply for the grant, which is part of the Smart City Air Challenge.

The agency will award up to $40,000 to two communities that submit the best plans for collecting, managing and sharing data from air quality sensors.

Manitou’s participation is important to monitor emissions from traffic, coal and natural gas plants, Elder said.

“I can see the plume from the (Martin Drake Power) plant coming right at me,” she said.

Councilor Coreen Toll said leaders of the coalition think the community’s chance of getting one of the grants is good because the region has no air quality baseline measurements.

Elder and Toll will draft a letter of support for Nicoletta to sign.