Friday, December 30, 2005

Why Colorado Springs Utilities uses paid advertising

QUESTION: Why does Colorado Springs Utilities spend money on TV ads? They do not have any competition. They advertise quite a lot and I feel they are using the customer's money.
- Name Withheld By Request

ANSWER: Advertising is used for customer education, according to Utilities spokesman Steve Berry. “We impact people on a daily basis with our services. We’re one of the few organizations that does that. If people don’t use our services safely it can be an issue of life and death. If they use our services inefficiently it can be a financial issue."

He said the advertising (“paid media”) isn’t used “to talk about how great we are. We acknowledge we don’t have competition but our customers have asked that we keep them informed. To truly be effective we have to use multiple channels and paid media is more efficient. People don’t understand that we can’t just pick up the phone and tell the news media to run information.”

Berry says Utilities uses ads to talk about increases in wastewater and natural gas rates. “We’ve heard from our customers that with the rising natural natural gas costs, how can they or their parents on fixed incomes get help. We alert customers to our classes, about construction projects and how to get customer assistance. We need to get the word out about how to conserve water and how to save energy.”

Berry says the ad budget is 1/10 of 1 percent of the overall operating budget of $941 million. He compares this to 12 percent by comparable utilities for advertising.

Red and blue blinking lights on Constitution

QUESTION: On Constitution Avenue heading west from Powers Boulevard and then up the hill past Oro Blanco you come upon this this horrible contraption someone authorized the money for and had installed. It tells you what your speed is.
And as you get closer and are traveling 29 mph in a 35 mph zone, red lights light up and they say slow down and then blue lights come on as well, flashing at you. Sure would love to hear what the traffic men have to say to justify this contraption flashing words and numbers at you and if there are any more of these things on the city streets.
- Jean “Jeanie” Bray

ANSWER: This radar sign cautions drivers that lower speeds are advised because there have been accidents in this area where vehicles went off the road into front yards, according to traffic engineer David Krauth. “We’re trying to alert people to slow down.”

The sign is programmed for the yellow-and-black advisory speed posted on a sign just ahead, not the speed limit, Krauth says. It flashes how fast a driver is going when that vehicle is 5 miles over the advised speed.
Drivers who are 6 to 10 miles over the suggested speed see the flashing words “slow down.” If you see red and blue flashing, you’re 10 miles an hour or more over the recommended speed.

There’s another sign at the S curves on South Circle Drive between Pikes Peak Avenue and Airport Road, another area where speeding drivers have lost control and vehicles have landed in front yards.

Two signs are in Rockrimmon and four others are on order to be used on a rotating basis in different areas of the city. They’ll be moved around so motorists won’t get complacent about them and start hitting the gas, Krauth says.

Although you dislike the flashing sign, residents in the north and northeast have requested signs for their neighborhoods, according to a Sarah Colwell story published Wednesday in the East/Powers edition of The Gazette’s Slice.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pikeview Quarry, mining and "the scar"

QUESTION: When does the mining permit run out for the gravel operations (“the scar”) on our beautiful mountains?
- Ardith

ANSWER: When a company applies for a special-use permit for mining it can be for a specified time or for the life of the mine, according to Castle Concrete vice president Jerry Hermans. The permit for Pikeview is for the life of the mine and has been in place for almost 100 years.

Hermans estimates there are three to five years left to “mine out” that quarry. He couldn’t be more specific because of variables such as the quality of the limestone remaining and market demand.

Reclamation has been ongoing for years. For the time being, it’s stopped in the area being mined because “you can’t work on reclamation above while you’re mining down below,” Hermans says. Wanda L. Reaves of the Colorado Mountain Reclamation Foundation says that during the spring planting seasons CMRF plants trees and shrubs on Pikeview quarry and already more than 3,000 trees and shrubs are thriving there.

Hermans points out that Pikeview reclamation work is far ahead of the nearby Queens Canyon quarry, which wasn’t reclaimed until mining stopped. “It’s much easier to do it the way we are now, getting a start on reclamation, rather than waiting,” says Hermans. After years of hard work by the foundation, volunteers and Castle Concrete, Queens Canyon is a greened-up bighorn sheep habitat.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Leaning power poles on Monument Hill

QUESTION: As you drive north on I-25, just about at Greenland exit or a little further north, the older telephone or power poles on the east side are at a very strong slant leaning east - have they always been like that or was that purposely done more recently and why? Thanks!
- Rick and Jan Gorman

ANSWER: These are old poles that are being replaced, and the company followed a traditional procedure of leaning them over to keep hot lines out of the way while new poles and lines are installed. Mike Rheinberger, engineering manager for Intermountain REA, says the wood poles are being replaced and work should be completed by the first of the year. The new poles are of “weathering steel” and will turn a rusty brown that will look much like wood, he says.

During the upgrade, the entire system will be made more reliable when it is turned into a loop involving Greenland, Palmer Lake and Castle Rock substations, Rheinberger says.

Drivers in the area have had some unusual ideas about the leaning poles. Rheinberger said several callers were concerned about driving down Noe Road while the poles were at a slant. “Because these are transmission lines, the poles are taller and they look even worse as they lean.” One of the most creative explanations was from a caller who thought the poles were slanted on purpose to fend off the impact of high winds and icy conditions during Monument Hill winters.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The I-25-Uintah bump

THE “BUMP” DISAPPEARS: More than two dozen readers contacted us about a bump on the Interstate 25 entrance ramp off Uintah Street. After first saying it didn’t appear to be a significant problem, the Colorado Department of Transportation listened to readers and went back out to take a look. Here's a photo after the bump was rotomilled and smoothed out Dec. 15.

The Gazette's Sunday comics

QUESTION: Many of the Sunday comics in another paper have two or three additional panels that are missing from the same comic strip in The Gazette. These additional panels are always at the beginning of the strip. Why does the Gazette print an abbreviated version of the comics?
- R. Johnson, Monument

ANSWER: The Gazette Features Editor Dena Rosenberry says, “The Gazette’s editors decided long ago to run as many color comics as the printers could reasonably fit into the Sunday section. The comic strips and panels are available in different sizes to accommodate different newspaper layouts.

“If you see extra panels in another newspaper, it’s the result of that newspaper ordering a different size comic strip. To accommodate the extra panels in every strip, The Gazette would have to drop many comics from the color lineup, giving readers fewer choices for a Sunday morning chuckle.“We believe ‘less is more’ in this instance — fewer panels mean more comics and more laughs.”

PSI child-support recovery contract

QUESTION: Has PSI been awarded a new child-support collection contract with the county?
- Curious

ANSWER: Yes. It’s a one-year contract with four renewals running through 2010.

Paving problem on South Academy

QUESTION: There’s a longtime problem on southbound South Academy Boulevard near Hancock that’s been fixed before and patched but which is very rough again. It is so bad my husband was driving his flat-bed truck, hit this rough area and a metal side rack flew off. Will this area be fixed?
- T. Rusty Johnson

ANSWER: This is a recurring problem because this area of Highway 83 was built over an old landfill and the unstable land seems to heave and drop, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation. Spokesman Bob Wilson says they have the equipment in place to smooth the bumps and repave this part of South Academy Boulevard, but can’t do anything permanent until the weather is in the 60s, possibly this spring.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Driver licenses by mail

QUESTION: I have a question about renewing drivers licenses. When my license expired last year I received a notice from the DMV with an application to renew by mail three months before the expiration date. This summer when my wife’s license expired she received nothing. It expired and she didn’t get to renew it until two months later. When we went to the DMV at the County Clerk’s office to renew, we asked the clerk why we never received the application to renew by mail and were told it’s done on a random basis and there are stipulations. Why aren’t drivers notified their licenses are expiring and why aren’t all renewals by mail?
- Ron Cellucci

ANSWER: Because of the transient population and, in some cases, a 10-year time period between renewals, it would be expensive and nearly impossible to notify all Colorado drivers about expiring licenses.

There are many reasons everyone can’t renew by mail, according to the Department of Revenue. First, if they renewed by mail last time they’re not eligible again. Just think how old the photo would be!

Drivers older than 60 are required to come in for an eye test. Drivers who moved since the last renewal have to appear in person. The same applies if they have a different name(married, divorced, name change). If a driver received traffic tickets, even if they were paid or were nonmoving violations, mail renewal is out. People who have driver licenses are now required to have a Social Security number on file in the database and, if they don’t, are required to come to the bureau in person with their number. The SSN no longer appears on the license, just in the database.If someone at an address renewed a license within a certain period of time, a second driver at the same address can’t renew by mail. There’s only one mail renewal at an address, according to the department. If a person moved but didn’t change address with the department, the next person at that address can’t renew by mail.