Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content LETTERS: New ADA coordinator; CSU responds to customers

Letters Published: June 9, 2014

Importance of an ADA coordinator

The Independence Center applauds the city of Colorado Springs for hiring an ADA coordinator, Michael Killebrew.

The Americans with Disabilities Act, the civil rights legislation for persons with disabilities, requires all businesses and government agencies to be accessible by people with a wide variety of disabilities. This includes not only facilities (buildings; sidewalks; public rights of way) but also programs (interpreters for the deaf; alternate print for visually impaired; usable equipment such as public telephones; reception desks; accessible websites). Title II of the ADA calls for state and local governments to have coordinators to ensure compliance with the law. They must engage in an ADA self- evaluation and transition plan. All of the above elements are surveyed for access barriers and captured in a data base with:

- suggested remediation

- responsible party

- cost estimation

- completion date

A systematic approach is required to assess the data and create a detailed correction plan. The ADA coordinator oversees the self-evaluation process and writes the action plan. The coordinator also documents the enacted corrections, trainings, and policies regarding program access. It takes a qualified individual with ADA experience to do a credible job with this assignment.

The number of people moving here with functional limitations or disabilities is growing so it is important to be inclusive to all. Thank you to the city for hiring a person with not only the knowledge but the temperament to work within a large organization with competing priorities. We look forward to better access in Colorado Springs.

Patricia Yeager, The Independence Center, Colorado Springs

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A lesson in filing a lawsuit

Why I sued Colorado Springs Utilities, et al:

For the past five years, I've regularly attended Utility Board and City Council meetings in vocal support of the closure of the Martin Drake facility. At various times over the past two years, Jerry Forte has stated that there would be a board meeting scheduled where opponents of the long-term operation of Martin Drake facility would be given an opportunity to speak in opposition for more than 3 minutes at a time, which is allowed for citizens comments.

On the day of the Martin Drake fire, I spoke with Councilman Andres Pico at the sight of incident and mentioned the meeting that Forte committed to schedule. He said he would look into it.

I emailed Pico a couple of days later about it and didn't get a response. I realized the meeting was never really going to be scheduled so I felt compelled to act while the fire was on the minds of ratepayers.

I did some research at the U.S. District Court website and realized that I could file pro se, without an attorney. It was a humbling experience to go into the U.S. District Court Clerk's Office in Denver and submit a complaint that is clear and cogent enough to pass muster and to be given a case number.

It did pass and Judge Philip Brimmer was prompt and magnanimous in his ruling. It was dismissed without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction . a technicality.

What did I get for the $400 filing fee? I got a five-page document written by a federal judge on how to bring the case back in the correct format with the relevant legal citations. He didn't say you don't have a case, he said you just need to sharpen the points.

Sam Masias, Colorado Springs

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Utilities responds to customers

It's important for our customers to know the rest of the story on actions we are taking to reduce the financial impacts to our customers because of the accident at Drake.

First, our number one priority is bringing the Martin Drake Power Plant online as soon as possible to reduce costs to customers. We are working 24 hours a day using Drake employees, other utility employees and hundreds of contract workers.

Maintaining competitive rates is one of our primary drivers. The recent rate adjustment is temporary; rates will be decreased as soon as Drake units come back online. Higher short term fuel costs are a direct result of generating and purchasing more electricity that is produced with natural gas instead of less expensive coal from Drake.

We want our community to know we are cutting costs across the organization. Numerous budget reductions are occurring to keep base rates as low as possible, which is similar to the same exercise we went through last year due to revenue shortfalls from the drought. More than $15 million in significant budget reductions are targeted for 2014; a 6 percent reduction in nonfuel operation and maintenance costs. We are also paying our $1 million insurance deductible by deferring or eliminating expenditures. We make these kinds of budget adjustments as a normal part of managing of the organization. These actions are known and supported by our Utilities board but go unnoticed by customers and the public.

Although rates were increased in March, they decreased twice in the past two years. Fuel adjustments are a standard utility industry practice used to pay for increased or decreased fuel costs, much like prices at the gas pump. If we weren't able to pay for the additional fuel charges, beyond what we are cutting in our base rate budget, our financial stability is jeopardized, which ultimately causes higher customer rates because of higher interest rates and borrowing costs going forward.

During this time of restoration, we ask all customers to help reduce rates by using only electricity that is needed. Conservation and efficiency improvements made will reap benefits today and in the future. Every kilowatt hour saved helps reduce costs.

We are highly committed to returning Drake to service as soon as possible and hold ourselves accountable for safe, reliable and efficient operations. Please visit our website csu.org for progress updates and tips to save electricity.

George Luke, Colorado Springs Utilities

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