Friday, March 31, 2006

"Ralph" memorial story revealed

LOOKING FOR RALPH: There is a memorial cross with the name “Ralph” on it at the gas substation on the south side of Hodgen Road between Herring and Bar X roads. Who is Ralph, and what happened?
- D. Johnson

ANSWER: Pat O’Steen knew Ralph and his story. “On June 27, 1992, Air Force Capt. Ralph Sandys and his wife, Roz, were on their way to a party in Black Forest when they came upon an accident and he had stopped in the rain to help get out kids trapped in a car. A drunk driver crested the hill and his vehicle was sliding. The vehicle hit Ralph and he was thrown into a barb wire fence. He was taken to Memorial Hospital and died there of internal injuries. Ralph’s parents have a metal fabricating shop, in Ohio I think, and the sign was made there. Ralph’s brother came to Colorado around eight years ago to place the memorial.”

Old can dump in Fox Run Park cleaned up

FOX RUN UPDATE: I live in the Fox Run development off Baptist Road. For several years I’ve written to you with regards to the tin cans, trash and sheet-metal junk that were an eyesore in Fox Run Park.

I’ve been keeping tabs on this area and I’m thrilled to report that this mess has been cleaned up. The giant green Dumpsters are still in place and all the trash has been removed. They are still in the process of thinning out the trees. My thanks to County Parks Director Tim Wolken for keeping his word and making Fox Run Park a nicer-looking park!
- Sheila I. Lemberger

Thanks for the update on the old can dump that dated back to when this area was a fox farm in the 1930s and ’40s.

Ski Broadmoor a busy place for many years

QUESTION: On the side of Cheyenne Mountain behind The Broadmoor there is a cleared-out section of sloped land that, when it snows, looks like two short ski runs. Rumor has it that it used to be a ski area connected to The Broadmoor in the 1940s. Is that true and what is it used for now?
- J.R. Briggs

ANSWER: For more than three decades, thousands of area snow bunnies learned to ski at Ski Broadmoor on Cheyenne Mountain. The tiny ski area, with 300-foot runs, a chairlift and snow-making equipment, opened in December 1959 and was managed by Olympic ski champion Steve Knowlton. It had a ski school and busy slopes for many years. For a time, the area had a popular summer alpine slide.

By 1986, the ski area had become a financial drain and The Broadmoor closed it. The city ran the ski area until 1988, when the unprofitable venture was returned to The Broadmoor. Vail Associates ran it until it was closed in 1991. Plans were announced in 1993 to move the resort’s stables to part of the ski area but now The Stables at The Broadmoor, used by hotel guests, are up Old Stage Road. The ski runs, still visible after it snows, are undeveloped.

Report potholes to the hotline

QUESTION: What number do we call to report potholes needing fixed?
- Ron Andrea

ANSWER: The easiest is the 24/7 pothole hotline: 385-6808.
Leave specific directions to the pothole so the street department crews can find it. As silly as that might sound, sometimes folks call in to report a “really big hole” and describe it only as “on Powers Boulevard.”

Roundabout at Bradley/Cody controversial

QUESTION: Please advise on how we as a community could get a stoplight installed at Cody Drive and Bradley Road — a very dangerous area. Many large trucks due to the concrete and dump station and also a school, Pinello.
- Concerned

ANSWER: The state and the county have met about the traffic problems in this area because the county will take over responsibility for Highway 83 this year.

The two options: a traffic signal or a roundabout. The roundabout was determined to be the most efficient and will be at the bottom of the Highway 83 off-ramp at the Bradley-Cody intersection. There was a major concern about large vehicles being able to travel around a roundabout, and Bob Wilson of Colorado Department of Transportation said it will be designed specifically to accommodate the dump trucks, trash haulers and school buses that use this intersection daily.

Jim L. who lives in that area responded: "Who would we get in touch with to stop the idiotic idea of a traffic circle at Cody and Bradley roads? These things don’t work anywhere they currently exist, even when only cars are involved, the classic worst case example being New Center Point Drive. Who thinks they’ll work when large trucks are added to the mix? Why not try adding two more stop signs to make the corner a 4-way stop first? I live on Bradley Road and haven’t met anyone around here happy with the idea."

CDOT said a number of power poles would need to be moved if a traffic signal was added, and a signal wouldn’t necessarily improve the traffic flow. A four-way stop would worsen the rush-hour backups that are already a problem there.

The roundabout, which is described as “more efficient,” will be designed for the large trucks and school buses that travel this intersection daily. In roundabouts, “motorists yield rather than stop and a higher traffic flow quickens the commute,” says CDOT. And Mindy Crane of CDOT says roundabout accidents are less severe than those in intersections.

CDOT has statistics from a number of roundabouts in the Denver area, including Jefferson County. Readers who have driven in Europe sent positive feedback about roundabouts.

You can file complaints with: They will be logged in and sent to regional CDOT personnel working on this project. To talk to someone directly, call the Pueblo number: 1-719-546-5411.

Monday, March 27, 2006

COSMIX boundaries change as project progresses

QUESTION: I was wondering where exactly COSMIX ends. Going north and south on I-25 there are no signs that say COSMIX ends or that you can go 55 mph. Also, I was wondering why there isn’t uneven payment signs posted throughout COSMIX? It can be very dangerous when there is ice on the ground and I have seen at least two cars lose control. Please try to find these answers for me and thanks in advance.
- Justin, Security

ANSWER: For this part of the project, COSMIX begins southbound at North Academy Boulevard, where the highway is being widened. The south end is between Cimarron Street and the Colorado Avenue overpass, according to Bob Wilson of the Colorado Department of Transportation.

For now, the speed limit southbound drops to 45 mph between North Academy and Woodmen Road. Northbound, the speed limit drops just south of Fillmore Street. However, Wilson says, the reduced speed limits will move south to the area of Cimarron Street when work begins on the Colorado Avenue bridges in the next few weeks. All areas of I-25 are posted with either 55 mph, or 45 mph in construction areas, Wilson said, and these change as the project moves along.

CDOT engineers are looking into posting signs where there are uneven traffic lanes.
You can follow the COSMIX project online at

Heinlein lived in southwest part of city

QUESTION: Any idea where science-fiction writer Robert Heinlein’s home was in Colorado Springs?
- Kari Sullivan

ANSWER: There were two homes, one on West Cheyenne Boulevard when he first arrived in Colorado Springs, the other on Mesa Avenue in the Broadmoor area, where he lived for years. Out of respect for those who live there, we won’t list the exact addresses.

As befitting a science-fiction writer, Heinlein designed a stainless-steel bomb shelter filled with two years’ worth of provisions for the flat-topped, solar-energy home on Mesa Avenue.

He and his wife, Virginia, made Colorado Springs their home after vacationing here in the 1950s. They lived here for 20 years until they were forced to return to sea-level California when Virginia suffered what was described as an altitude sickness.

QUESTION: Many people have CDs, whether data from computers or music, that they want to dispose of. Is there any place in Colorado Springs that recycles CDs?
- John

ANSWER: CDs are a recycling challenge. The county recycling program does not take them. Independent Records buys and trades music CDs and several Web sites purchase music CDs in large numbers. You can use Google to locate businesses in high-tech areas that smash or grind up CDs for reuse.

Otherwise, CDs have become decorative objets d’art. People decorate with them, put candles on their reflective sides, use them as drink coasters, paint them and use them in a variety of other craft projects.

One handy use is to hang them in gardens to swing in the wind and scare away crows and other unwanted birds.

Non-native bushes being removed from Garden of the Gods

QUESTION: I have noticed that there are lots of bushes that have been cut down at the intersection of Gateway Road and Ridge Road near the Kissing Camels formation. I was wondering why the city and/or parks department have done this.
- Sandy Perry

ANSWER: What’s being removed is New Mexico locust, “an invasive, non-native species,” according to the parks department’s Kurt Schroeder. He said the park is being restored to its original state as part of the master plan and this locust “wasn’t here when General Palmer was.” Schroeder says invasive plants “just come in and begin to take over and they crowd out the native species we want in the park.”

"Blurry" highway signs are changing

QUESTION: I heard that state highway departments are all changing the letters on the green highway signs and I hope this is true. Some of the letters are blurry and I have trouble reading them, especially at night.
- Woody

ANSWER: The Federal Highway Administration studied the “blurry” complaint and over 10 years has developed a new, skinnier font for letters called ClearviewHwy. Research showed it makes the signs more legible and reduces what’s called “overglow,” or the glare around the letters when your headlights hit a sign.
The new lettering is being added by states nationwide but it will take time — and money — for all signs to have ClearviewHwy lettering. Bob Wilson of the Colorado Department of Transportation projected 2007 for our entire state “sign library” to be redone.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Grooves on highways drain water, stop hydroplaning

QUESTION: On the new Powers Boulevard extension, the northbound section of the road has paving with parallel grooves (as if a fork had been run over the asphalt). This is similar to the paving done on the newer section of Interstate 25 north of Castle Rock. I find this grooved paving very difficult to drive in my subcompact car because the grooves seem to pull on my tires and I must fight for control of the steering wheel. When I drive it in a larger car I do not feel the wheels pulling against the steering. The southbound section of this road does not have the same type of paving. Why are they using this on the northbound portion only?
- Bonnie Plucinik

ANSWER:In this area, one lane is concrete and the other is asphalt, enabling the Colorado Department of Transportation to study both surfaces side-by-side for several years to determine which wears better.

The grooves, called tining, are being studied as well, according to Bob Wilson of CDOT. Tining allows water to drain from the roadway and helps decrease hydroplaning by eliminating the excess water between tires and the pavement.
Wilson says the grooves are 3/4 to one inch wide and the tread of some tires apparently matches the width of the groove. The problem you experienced seems to disappear as the tining wears down.

Wilson said CDOT is they are researching several different groove patterns and a concrete section of road in that area is not tined, to provide data.
According to CDOT, California experienced a 70 percent reduction wet-highway accidents on tined roadways.

Lights on Peak summit a closely watched tradition

QUESTION: There used to be one light at the top of Pikes Peak. Now there seems to be two. Do you know what the lights are?
- Scott and Susan Patton

ANSWER: The lights are a tradition followed closely by the people down below. There is one light on the north and one on the east, and when a bulb burns out, the telephone almost immediately lights up at the Pikes Peak Highway Ranger Station.

In 1983 a philanthropist donated 18 lights to illuminate the summit. The first night there were hundreds of calls to police and fire departments from people who thought the Summit House was burning down. Then there was a big outcry about “glare” and “light pollution,” and the lights came down.

Political calls excluded from Colorado's no-call list

QUESTION: The silly season for unsolicited political calls has begun. Is there any way to get on a political DO NOT CALL list? Or is there another way that we could stop these unwanted calls?
- John

ANSWER: Hanging up and caller ID are your only recourses.
The Colorado No-Call List cuts telemarketing calls but does not include “communications made for the sole purpose of urging support for or opposition to a political candidate or ballot issue; or made for the sole purpose of conducting political polls or soliciting the expression of opinions, ideas, or votes." If you want this changed you'll have to talk with -- you guessed it -- the politicians.

Internet has flawed stories about emergency cell numbers

QUESTION: I recently received an e-mail from someone in the Northwest, telling me about using *677 on my cell phone. Supposedly one can dial this number if they are being pulled over by an unmarked police car or are uncertain about the officer to verify if the situation is legitimate or tell the officer to follow to a more public place, etc., or send help if the car is bogus. Supposedly this was verified with the Bell system there. Have you heard of such a thing? I hesitate to call just to see what happens. If this is valid, it would be a good idea to have more people know about it.
- S. King

ANSWER: This is a story that has been floating around the Internet in various forms and with incorrect information. Cell numbers connect to highway patrol or state patrol, but the numbers are different from state to state. If you’re trying to contact the Colorado State Patrol it’s star-CSP(*277 or star-DUI (*384) if you spot a suspected drunken driver.

One Internet story reported that *77 is the number for all law-enforcement assistance; in fact this is only in states such as Maine and Virginia, and it’s a nonemergency number. There is a *677, but it’s a Canadian code used only in Ontario.

If there is an emergency or something suspicious that a driver needs to report to law enforcement, including police, sheriff’s department or state patrol, call 911

Friday, March 10, 2006

METEX tax to build Powers Boulevard set to end

QUESTION: I received my yearly property tax statement and one tax authority is the METEX Metropolitan District. I believe this is to pay back the bonds to build Powers Boulevard, and the only people to pay this tax live along the Powers corridor.
I have been paying this tax since 1991, and I’m curious as to when this will be paid off. This tax represents 14.6 percent of my property tax.
It is a little frustrating to pay a tax for something that anyone can use, but only those that live in the area pay for it.
- Scott McCune, Powers corridor

METEX was formed in 1986 to build Powers Boulevard from Platte Avenue to Woodmen Road, according to the district’s attorney Pete Susemihl, who said there wouldn’t have been any construction in that area until the road was built.

And it appears your METEX taxes are going away. Susemihl said, “It looks like we are right on schedule and it will be paid off in the 20 years. We will pay the bonds off in 2007 and should have enough funds at the end of this year to not certify a mill levy for 2007.”

Properties paying are from Platte to Woodmen, one mile west on Woodmen and east to Marksheffel Road.

“This is virtually how all new roads are built now,” Susemihl said. “It’s a method of the new growth paying its way.” For example, while you are paying for Powers Boulevard, Northgate Road is being paid for by the people in Flying Horse, properties in Falcon are paying for Woodmen/Meridian in their area and Santa Fe Springs will be paying for Judge Orr Road. The same is happening in developments in Fountain, Mesa Ridge, Cross Creek, etc., Susemihl said.

More about the street-light fee

QUESTION: A monthly so-called streetlight fee is charged to and paid by every homeowner and business in the city. Why is it then that literally dozens and dozens of streetlights are out, not working? Some I noticed have been out for months.
Isn’t anybody from the Utilities electric division occasionally driving through town at night and taking inventory of lights that need to be fixed? It sure seems that our services are going downhill fast.
- Martin Frick

ANSWER: According to Colorado Springs Utilities spokesman Steve Berry, the fee does not cover the backlog of streetlight requests and maintenance, some remaining from when the city handed over the responsibility for streetlights to Utilities.
Berry said the fee “has not been adjusted as needs were identified” but there has been “significant progress” on streetlights in areas where “a safety need” is identified.

Because of the size of the city, a resource the department taps is the several thousand sets of eyes of local residents who call to alert the department when streetlights have gone out. Call 448-4800 to add a light to the list.

Colorado sales-tax tokens are from the '30s and '40s

QUESTION: I recently found an aluminum coin that says “Colorado Sales Tax-Retail Token.” It has the number “2.” When were these tokens used and for what purpose? What does the number 2 signify?
- Martin J. Kuettel

ANSWER: Colorado used sales-tax tokens from Sept. 1, 1935,to Feb. 28, 1945, according to American Numismatic Association curator Doug Mudd. When they were no longer used, the roughly 77 million tokens still in circulation could be redeemed until June 1945.

Mudd said the 2-mill tokens were used when Colorado established a sales tax of 2 percent and had to figure out how that would be paid in amounts less than 1 cent. Sales of 5 cents or less had no tax, 6 to 14 cents had one token, 15 to 24 cents two tokens, etc. Sales tax on 45 to 50 cents was a penny. Mudd said the tokens were issued in huge numbers, first in aluminum and then plastic.

Hallenbeck Coin Galleries said it gets large numbers of sales-tax tokens, most from Missouri or Colorado. The day we called the shop, it had sold a large bag of red-plastic Colorado tokens on eBay for $8.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Recycling phone books

QUESTION: There used to be several places to recycle phone books, now I can’t find any. Is there a place to recycle phone books?
- Jeff Erickson

ANSWER: Recycle America recycles phone books year-round. Businesses can request bins but none have so far this year. A bank in Woodland Park is the only business listed on an ongoing basis. Recycle America is at 602 E. Fourth St., 633-0955.

Whose satellite dish is on Rampart Range Road?

QUESTION: While driving up Rampart Range Road from Garden of Gods Park recently, we noticed a large pole with satellite dishes on it just before the shooting range (it was 5.4 miles up the road). It’s in a barbed-wire fenced-in area with a large water tank next to it. Any ideas what the pole is for?
- The Lawsons

ANSWER: We checked with various entities involved with Rampart Range Road but none knew the answer. We’re hoping a reader can help us out.

When the snow turned red

QUESTION: What was that reddish dust coating on cars, trash cans and mailboxes and anything left outside recently?
- Sandy Lamb

ANSWER: When it snowed on Feb. 17 there had been a sandstorm that day in the San Luis Valley and dust storms in Arizona that brought red and orange dust. All that debris got caught up in the “Southwest flow” that came through, leaving behind a muddy mess when the white stuff melted, according to KOAA meteorologist Mike Daniels.