Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Fountain elects a mayor and de-TABORs; Manitou Springs votes in marijuana tax

By Monica Mendoza Updated: November 6, 2013 at 6:42 am

The fast-growing town of Fountain was headed toward approving a de-TABOR measure and Manitou Springs voted to tax retail pot sales, a move that signals to City Council that residents of this small tourist town want marijuana sales for recreational use, early election results showed.

About 58 percent of Fountain voters said so long to the revenue and spending limits of the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights, an issue put on the ballot because the town council wants to increase its grant opportunities.

Gabriel Ortega was leading in the four-way race for Fountain mayor, a four-year term. Ortega has been on City Council for the past seven years and is the great-great nephew of a past Fountain mayor. He said he's is ready to get to work.

"If it does pan out for me, we have a council that will work hard and move forward," Ortega said while pacing his living room Tuesday night.

Ortega was ahead, with 32.2 percent of the vote, of council colleague Sharon Brown, who picked up endorsements from State Sen. Bernie Herpin and the El Paso County Commissioners. Brown was trailing in third place behind Darrell Couch, who was at 29.2 percent of the vote by 9:40 p.m.

Fountain, which is about 10 miles southwest of Colorado Springs and directly east of Fort Carson, is in the midst of a growth spurt. Fountain's population has grown 159 percent since 1990, bringing its population to 27,460.

"One of my priorities is downtown revitalization," Ortega said.

In Ward 1, Sharon Thompson was leading with 53 percent of the vote against opponent Don Grubbs. In Ward 3, Sam Gieck was leading with 52 percent of the vote against opponent Doris Fulkerson.

"I just want to continue on with what the city has started," Gieck said as he watched results come in via the county website. "One of the first things I want to change is the sign ordinance -- right now its a free for all."

At-large candidate Sam Heckman was leading with 38 percent of the vote against candidates Rich Simmion and Greg Lauer.

Also in Fountain, voters shot down a measure to increase property taxes for fire protection, emergency response and ambulance service.

In its de-TABOR move, Fountain residents approved a measure that said grants and other money received by the state and other local government agencies will not be subject to TABOR. This would allow Fountain to retain the money, spend it and be exempt from periodic imposed refunds.

In Manitou Springs Mayor Marc Snyder ran unopposed for a second two-year term as mayor and still more than 1,000 people cast their vote for him. He will oversee the council that now will decide the retail marijuana issue.

Sixty-eight percent of residents voted in favor of Amendment 64, which changed the Colorado Constitution to allow people 21 and older to possess and use marijuana for recreational use. The law also allows cities to regulate the sales of marijuana in the same way they regulate alcohol sales.

Manitou Springs residents said they favored taxing retail marijuana.

Snyder said the council will begin taking public comments on retail pot next week and will research to public safety costs associated with the drug.

Protecting the town against flooding was among the issues on which Manitou Springs candidates ran, including Ward 3, the only contested seat. Nicole Nicoletta had a sizable lead with 66 percent of the vote against opponent David Walker for a four-year term. In Ward 1, Kevin Mac Donald ran uncontested, as did Coreen Toll in Ward 2.

Gazette reporter Jakob Rodgers contributed to this report.

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