Hope fades for Utilities help in replacing Old Town’s accent lights

       With no help evidently forthcoming from Colorado Springs Utilities, the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District Board will meet May 4 to explore ways to pay for new “accent” street lights in the historic shopping district.
       The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the upstairs meeting room of Pikes Peak National Bank.
       The lights needing replacement, according to district officials, are the 52 old-style types that were installed about 25 years ago along with the brick sidewalks and other public amenities that help give Old Colorado City its historic flavor between 24th and 27th streets. In recent years, the lights have begun wearing out, with six of the worst having been removed and parted out to fix others that are failing.
       The board, made up of property owners in the district, oversees its public improvements. However, as an advisory board to Colorado Springs City Council, the board does not have the power to borrow money, according to Board President Judith Kasten.
       This means the district cannot pay for new lights over time, which would lessen the economic crunch.
       Two possible funding alternatives - neither popular with the board - are steeply hiking district property taxes or dipping into reserves that are normally meant for emergency uses.
       The pursuit of grants or donations is also being considered, Kasten told the Westside Pioneer.
       Estmated expenses for the lights, depending on how the work is accomplished, have ranged between $90,000 and $160,000.
       City Councilman Jerry Heimlicher, who represents the Westside, told the board at its March 2 meeting he would try to convince his council colleagues to free up some Utilities money to help with the cost. However, he has not been successful in this endeavor yet. Utilities officials have previously told the district board they can't afford the expense because council rejected a rate increase this year geared to a street-light fee.
       The roots of the funding problem can be seen in the district's name. “We're supposed to be maintaining, not replacing,” Kasten observed.
       The May 4 meeting will attempt to “get a firm quote on what replacement lights will cost, then go from there,” she said. “We need a definite plan, a dollar amount to see what we can do on our own. I for one don't want to pop up with a huge assessment (a tax increase).”
       Kasten said the board has previously asked the city for approval to borrow money, but city lawyers said no.
       The board believes Utilities ought to help with the cost of lighting replacements, because the Old Colorado City shopping district contributes mightily to city tax coffers.

Westside Pioneer Article