Westside celebrates itself in History Center event

       About 100 attendees got a primer on Westside groups and activities at a new event called Westside Celebrates Jan. 10 at the Old Colorado City History Center.

District 1 City Councilmember Scott Hente talks to attendees at Westside Celebrates in the Old Colorado City History Center Jan. 10. Listening are David Rasmussen (seated) of the Old Colorado City Library, who led the event's organization; and Ron Wright, president of the Living History Association for the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site, who (like Hente and other speakers) was given a five-minute chance to talk about what's going on with his area of interest on the Westside.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Co-sponsored by the Old Colorado City Historical Society (OCCHS) and Old Colorado City Branch Library, the gathering featured 13 speakers, plus opportunities to pick up information from different Westside-based groups that set up tables.
       Sallie Clark, a Westside resident, business owner and county commissioner, set the tone in her talk, describing Westsiders as people who are generally able to “disagree without being disagreeable.”
       Two City Councilmembers spoke - Scott Hente and Sean Paige, whose districts (1 and 3, respectively) take in the Westside area. Hente followed up on a comment from Clark about how Westsiders had rallied in support of Fire Station 3 in the late '90s. The city's financial situation that led to consideration of closing that station then “pales in comparison to what we face now,” he commented (although there is no new plan to close Station 3).
       Paige also touched on the city budget, describing it as a “long-term crisis” that may last for multiple years. He said he is open to new ideas for delivering traditional municipal services. He also mentioned the situation of increasing numbers of people living in tents along the creeks, saying he sympathizes with residents and businesses who have been adversely impacted and that “something will have to be done soon.”
       Steve Watz, captain of Fire Station 5, discussed Fire Department efforts to enhance fire safety. He said he is proud that the city is able to provide quality protection at a prudent taxpayer expense. The cost per capita in Colorado Springs is under $150, he said, noting that in Boston it's $450.
       Terry Martinez gave an upbeat account of a successful first semester as principal of the new West Elementary in a “duplex” arrangement with West Middle School. He thanked Westside residents who volunteered to help the school open on time last August. He also was pleased to report that surveys of parents found that 80 to 90 percent feel welcome and safe at the new school. A formal K-8 school at West is being considered by School District 11, but his understanding is that such would not happen any sooner than fall 2011, Martinez said.
       With the city funding cuts, the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site needs financial help to stay open after March, explained Ron Wright, president of the volunteer Living History Association (LHA). The LHA is leading a $136,000 fundraising effort to make it through the rest of this year. “Cutting to the chase,” as he put it, Wright cheerfully told the listeners, “We're looking forward to getting some money from you.”
       Joanne Karlson, president of the OCCHS, said membership is up to 307 now. The all-volunteer group runs the History Center, which she described as “the best-kept secret on the Westside.”
       Jocelyne Sansing, library manager, reported that the facility has shown an increase in items checked out as well as in programs. She also summarized a new technology for checking out materials that will replace the UPC scanners in the months ahead - a changeover that will require a three to five-day library closure at the end of April. She concluded with a comment that pleased the audience: “Westside, shine on!”
       Other speakers were Sean Chambers of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), Steve Brown of Westside CARES, Mary LeBrecque of the Westside Community Center and Kenyon Jordan of the Westside Pioneer.
       David Rasmussen, the library branch assistant who was the event's main organizer, handled the introductions. Afterward, he said he'd received positive feedback from participants and attendees. The library and OCCHS would like to hold a similar “celebration theme” event again next year, he said.

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