For some, street lights are tough to come by

March 31, 2005
Out by the airport, past the end of Jet Wing Drive, squeezed between Sand Creek and Powers Boulevard, sits Nordic Drive. It’s a short, winding street with a couple dozen houses, modest places built in the 1980s.
Na t a l i e B a r t l i n g and her h u s b a n d , Lance, live there — he bought the house 10 years ago — and something has always b o t h e r e d N a t a l i e about Nordic Drive. It’s too dark at night. Coming around the curve to her home, she hits the high beams and prays there are no children — or worse, strangers looking for a place to make trouble — along the way. “It’s pitch black,” Bartling said. “When I come home at night with groceries, I park with my high beams on, go in the house and turn on the porch light, and come back out and turn off the car lights.” Darkness, police say, attracts vandals, and Nordic Drive residents have endured slashed tires, stolen bicycles and even a truck stolen from the neighborhood. Bartling said she and her neighbors were rebuffed when they petitioned for a light more than a year ago. The backlog of street light requests exceeded 7,000 and there was no money for lights, the city said. Then she read a recent Side Streets story about folks in unincorporated Stratmoor Valley raising money for street lights. They have to pay Colorado Springs Utilities about $700 per light because they don’t live in the city limits. So far, they’ve raised hundreds of dollars for lights and are working on getting a new park and other improvements, too. Bartling decided to see if anything had changed for people who live in Colorado Springs. She learned the backlog remains and no new lights are going up, generally. Then she mentioned the crime problem and everything changed. In fact, crews are installing a 20-foot-tall street lamp on Nordic right near the Bartling home. At no cost to the neighbors. But don’t start flooding Colorado Springs Utilities with requests for new street lights. The monthly $1.80 or so that residential customers pay Utilities for street lights doesn’t provide enough for new lights, said spokeswoman Rachel Beck. Most new lights in the city are the work of developers, she said. The $4.4 million generated each year by the street light fee goes for power consumption and maintaining the city’s inventory of about 20,000 lights. The monthly fee would need to be increased about 50 cents a month per residential customer — to $2.27 — to knock out the backlog, Beck said. So how did Bartling succeed where thousands of others have failed? She and her neighbors paid the price when they repeatedly replaced slashed tires and stolen vehicles and suffered other crimes committed in the dark. After talking to Bartling, Springs Utilities employee Rob Estes checked with Colorado Springs police for an assessment of the street, its calls for service and history of criminal complaints and reports. “It was deemed a highcrime area by Colorado Springs police,” Estes said. “We have some trouble spots around town. If the Police Department or Fire Department tell us there is a crime or traffic safety issue, we’ll put up lights. Hopefully, it will alleviate some of that vandalism.” Otherwise, it’s lights out until the monthly fee is increased, Estes said, to cover more than maintenance and energy consumption of the city’s street lights. Tell us about your neighborhood: 636-0193 or
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