Thursday, August 31, 2006

Triple turn coming to Fillmore/Union

QUESTION: The city has spent a great deal of money installing traffic cameras at various intersections. I am wondering if the cameras at Union and Fillmore are working? Going eastbound on Fillmore attempting to turn north onto Union there can be 15 cars in each left-turn lane, yet only six or seven cars will make the green arrow, not counting those that run the red light. Is it possible to have that intersection checked?
- Laurance Moe

ANSWER: This is an extremely busy area and Fillmore eastbound will be rebuilt for the city’s first triple left turn, according to city traffic engineer John Merritt.

Some cemetery headstones must be removed

QUESTION: There is a field just east of the maintenance building at Evergreen Cemetery. It is littered with old pieces of headstones, but there are also perfectly good headstones. Why are all these headstones strewn around this field?
- Michele M. Carvell

ANSWER: Some of these headstones came from graves where families had chosen to have people disinterred and moved elsewhere, according to cemetery director Will DeBoer. In other instances, stones were vandalized or in disrepair, but no family contact could be located. “We have to remove these stones. They’re personal property, but if they aren’t maintained we have to remove them. This is procedure at cemeteries everywhere. When a grave is 130 years old, sometimes it’s hard to find someone to contact.”

Sand Creek sewage odor not a health hazard

QUESTION: We have an odor that comes down Sand Creek at night. We called the city Utilities, as it has a sewer smell to it. We were told there is a substation out east that releases treated sewage at night into Sand Creek and that it is not a health concern. Can this be a legal operation or should the EPA look into it? Sand Creek is not always full running and the soil gets permeated with the sewage smell and when the sun hits the sand the smell is foul. Also, children play in the creek behind Wildflower Elementary school. Should the Health Department be notified?
- Linda Watkins

ANSWER: Cherokee Metropolitan District, which covers the Cimarron Hills area, discharges treated sewage into Sand Creek and has always done this, according to district general manager Kip Petersen. There is “no raw sewage running down the stream and no health issue” and it is monitored by the Health Department and the state, he said. Unless it rains, the discharge from the sewage treatment plant off U.S. Highway 24 near Peterson Field is usually the only water running down Sand Creek. “We like it when it rains because it flushes the stream,” Petersen said.
There have been some recent odor problems because of “blower issues” in the system.

Changes are coming by late 2008 or early 2009, when the water district should open a new sewage treatment plant about 20 miles away in the less-developed southeast part of the county and decommissions the current plant.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Star Ranch roadways repaired according to need

QUESTION: I can appreciate the city trying to save money by using 90-weight oil and crushed rock instead of using asphalt to pave the suburban streets, but they should at least cover up the potholes first. On Star Ranch Road and Broadmoor Bluffs Boulevard, huge potholes were left open and the oil and rock were poured over the hole with little results, whereas a couple of streets over, like Thames and Hidden Hills, were totally paved with asphalt. Are there managers and supervisors who live there?
- Ben Shepherd

ANSWER: An inspector will check your complaints about the holes on Star Ranch Road and Broadmoor Bluffs Boulevard.

City street department program supervisor Tom Francese addressed your other questions:
“We rate the roadways and provide the needs. We took care of a number of roadways up in the Star Ranch area with either chip seal, slurry seal or asphalt.”
There’s a street-repair cycle starting with milling and asphalt overlay followed later by chip seal or slurry seal, which will extend the life before the asphalt process is needed again.

“Broadmoor Bluffs and Star Ranch are in fair to good condition and we used chip seal, which is used on higher volume roads, provides skid resistance and initiates melting during the winter,” Francese said. On some residential streets they use slurry seal, which is thinner and seals the roads from the elements.
Thames and Hidden Hills received asphalt overlay because they were in much worse condition, he said.

“The oil and rock you mentioned are instead rapid-setting liquid emulsion that is polymerized, highly flexible and long lasting,” Francese said. “The aggregate is hard granite transported from Golden.”

Pikes Peak Center could get new marquee

QUESTION: Why is it that the large electrical sign in front of the Pikes Peak Center hasn’t worked in well over a year? I mean, the remodel of the center has been done for over a year, however if you drive by you have no idea who is either currently performing or who will be performing in the future.
- Patrick Maher

ANSWER: The marquee has been broken for more than a year, according to General Manager Dot Lischick. She said they exhausted every possibility trying to get it fixed, including fabricating a part. However, “it is broken and it can not be repaired because it is more than 20 years old.”

Now the good news: Lischick says they have requested a permit from the city for a new marquee. The city must approve all sign installations. If it’s a go, possibly by September, “you’ll see the beginning of a new, fabulous marquee,” she says. “It will be quite the thing.”

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bales beside county roads help stop erosion

QUESTION: I am new to Colorado and wondered why there are bales of hay staked to the side of the roads periodically in areas just outside of town. What are they for?

ANSWER: They’re straw bales used to reduce soil erosion coming from construction sites, according to county storm-water coordinator Barbara Dallemand. She says they keep the soil off the roads and from filling in the culverts and storm drains.
“But the really important reason is to protect water quality,” she said. “Excess soil can choke the streams. It makes them cloudy and interferes with the plants and animals that live in the streams.” Dallemand said the tan and black fabric fences at construction sites serve the same soil-erosion-prevention purpose.

Endangered mouse subject of discussion

THAT MOUSE: Would he be in legal trouble and lose all his world possessions if he caught an endangered Preble's meadow jumping mouse in a mousetrap in his house, a reader asked.

Reader Steve Meyer had more information:

“Interestingly enough, I recently contacted the Fish and Wildlife Service on the same subject as I live adjacent to the Higby (Beck) Ranch in Monument and have encountered several of the mice on our property. I received the following response from Dr. Peter Plage, biologist, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Colorado District Office: ‘We have a special rule that among other things makes an exception from Endangered Species Act prohibitions for accidental killing of Preble’s in and around buildings and houses. Specifically it covers rodent control within 10 feet of or inside of any structure. Preble’s are generally not found in association with structures such as barns, houses or other buildings. We believe that any Preble’s mortality associated with trapping near these structures would be insignificant and that this exemption will promote public support for Preble’s conservation efforts. By the way, it also covers continued upkeep such as landscaping, mowing, etc.’”

Meyer added that he also received an e-mail from another official saying that recent studies indicating that the Preble’s mouse was not a distinct species are being challenged and it’s possible it will not be removed, as expected, from the Endangered Species list in the near future.

Where in the world is Judge Baldwin?

QUESTION: Marshall Sprague’s book, “Newport In The Rockies,” includes the death of local character “Judge” Baldwin, and the local undertakers preparing a grave stone for his burial. Where is Baldwin buried locally?
- J.J.

ANSWER: Old Colorado City historian Dave Hughes says about the fellow who loved his hootch and was a judge of sheep, not people:

“Since he fell down a well inside a slaughterhouse barn after a night of drinking in cold, winter Colorado City, he would have been buried in the long-abandoned Third Cemetery of Colorado City which is today’s Pioneer Park in the middle of today’s Pleasant Valley on the west side. That is where 45 Colorado City folk were buried, some few with headstones, but also many without.” Baldwin was apparently one of those without. There was never a gravestone prepared for him.

Another history factoid from Hughes: On the Baldwin coroner’s inquest, ruling on the cause of Baldwin’s death was “a carpenter named W.S. Stratton. Long before he struck it rich in Cripple Creek.”

What's the latest on Old Colorado City tunnels?

QUESTION: In reading about Old Colorado City’s pioneer history, I learned there were once tunnels running from the more legitimate businesses on one side of Colorado Avenue to the less reputable saloons and bordellos on the other side of the avenue.
The tunnels enabled patrons to secretly be able to pursue their vices.
Do these tunnels still exist? If not, what happened to them and when?
- Mike Fitzgibbons

ANSWER: A number of interesting stories have been written about the tunnels, and we invite readers to update us about them. We’ll print some of the best recollections.

Divide divides

QUESTION: I don’t get it. What does Divide divide?
- Fred Henderson

ANSWER: The Teller County town at the top of Ute Trail has had a variety of names over the years, including Theodore, Belleview, Rhyolite and several others. Then it became Divide because this is the area where the Arkansas and South Platte watersheds divide.

Non-toxic smell at Atmel wafts with the weather

QUESTION: What is the chemical smell that hangs in the air around the Atmel plant early in the morning? It smells herbicidal.
- Jess Wundrin

ANSWER: Because Atmel is a manufacturing site, there are several “small, non-dangerous, non-toxic smells” that usually stay on site, said David Helmer, the plant’s environmental, health and safety manager. Weather or wind conditions could cause them to waft. Water in the cooling towers is treated with a fungicide to stop the growth of bacteria and fungus, exactly like a swimming pool or hot tub, Helmer said. In addition, one of the process chemicals has a bit of an odor. Helmer said Atmel is required to have state air permits and is in compliance. Inspections are done by the state.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Colorado Springs...Colorado Springsites...Colorado Springsters?

QUESTION: What are Colorado Springs residents called? Denver has Denver-ites and Boston has Bostonians. What are us Colorado Springs residents called?
- Doug Roman

ANSWER: During the past 10 years The Gazette has run three different articles asking readers what moniker local residents should have. In 1996, readers and writers had a lot of fun but came to no consensus. Frequently mentioned: Springers.

A poll in 2001 brought 32 favorite names with Springers up top, followed by Pikes Peakers, Colorado Springsters — and the ... Springsteens. That was also the year a reader proposed "Mountain Huggers."

We tried again in 2004, and an expert pointed out that possibly we were having a problem because nicknames are usually attached to a city early in its history. Gen. William Jackson Palmer, the city’s founder, apparently didn’t call his residents Springsites or Springers, so nothing stuck. The conclusion of that article was that “Colorado Springs residents” is probably handiest and easiest. Tell us what you think. See other opinions:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Access limited for a reason at Woodmen/Powers Wal-Mart shopping area

QUESTION: There is only one entrance to the Wal-Mart shopping area at Woodmen and Powers. If you miss the entrance, you have to try to get turned around past Powers, and there is no entrance if you turn north.
- Rick

ANSWER: Here’s your answer from Tim Roberts, city transportation planning engineer:

"The Wal-Mart shopping center actually has two access points to Woodmen Road, the full-movement signalized access at Duryea (Drive) and the right-in/right-out access 700 feet to the east. A second full-movement signal to this shopping center can not be provided for several reasons. First, another signal into the shopping center would disrupt traffic flow on Woodmen Road even more than the existing signals do along the corridor.
“Second, the progression of traffic through a second full-movement signal on Woodmen Road would be hard to achieve given the spacing between the two access points, which would result in additional delay on Woodmen Road.
“And finally and probably biggest factor with allowing another access to Woodmen Road at this location would be the operational and safety impacts it would have given the future exit ramps for the Woodmen and Powers interchange. This interchange design has been completed and is ready for construction in the near future. Powers Boulevard has environmental clearance as a freeway north of Woodmen Road, which would preclude any access points off of it. There is a balance of providing access to commercial development for convenience while maintaining traffic flow and safety along our public streets."

Several other readers wrote in upset with the long wait for the left turn into the shopping center, and on Aug. 9 traffic engineer John Merritt said drivers should see an improvement: “Good call, we’ve upped the time on that left turn as of this week."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

People who live around them chose sound-wall designs for COSMIX

QUESTION: The walls along the highways in Denver are artistic and really attractive. Ours aren’t. How did we get stuck with the brown and tan walls?
- Jane

ANSWER: The design and color were chosen by the people who live in the areas of the sound walls. Bob Wilson of the Colorado Department of Transportation said citizens at public meeting citizens were offered several options with parameters and there was a consensus. The walls along COSMIX have mountain designs for the walls along COSMIX, but as part of an “urban landscape” design they also have squares and rectangles denoting business areas and downtown.

Wilson had this interesting COSMIX tidbit: when the huge Denver T-REX project on Interstate 25 is completed in November, COSMIX will be the biggest highway project in the state. The actual highway part of T-REX should be complete this month and the rail portion by November.

Political signs a no-no along the highways

QUESTION: What are the rules for placing political signs along a highway? There were bright red signs planted all along Highway 24 between Woodland Park and Manitou Springs, right by the side of the road. It seems to be the wrong use for public land.
- Debbie

ANSWER: And it’s illegal! Campaign signs on private property are permitted but not on the highway right of way, which belongs to the taxpayers. It’s a misdemeanor that could carry a fine of $100 to $1,000 per day per sign, according to Bob Wilson, Colorado Department of Transportation.

In most cases, CDOT crews working in an area will pick up signs and store them in a warehouse for 30 days. “They don’t do search and destroy for political signs or real estate signs. There’s too much real work to do. They just get them when they’re working in the vicinity,” Wilson said. He admitted, “it’s tough to remove them because they seem to proliferate.”

Sign removal does become a CDOT priority when the signs cover directional signs or turn into a traffic distraction when there are big groupings along a roadway.