2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner
  • Colorado Springs commuters turn neighborhoods into race tracks

    Thu, September 12, 2013 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    A SMART trailer

    A SMART trailer

    Amy Berger is worried about speeding in her neighborhood north of downtown near Patty Jewett Golf Course.

    “Do you know how one would go about having (police) set up a speed trap?” Amy asked me over Facebook. “There are so many speeding cars by my home which is near a school, and I worry!”

    It’s a common question, actually: Where’s a motorcycle cop with a radar gun when you need one?

    “It’s the area around Horace Mann Middle School,” Amy said, describing rush hour commuters as dangerous to kids and others in the area.

    “It’s a 35 mph zone,” she said. “But people trying to get downtown go much faster. They fly through there.

    “It would be great if they’d put a motorcycle cop there.”

    Amy figures another good alternative would be to set up a SMART trailer along Templeton Gap to alert motorists that they are speeding. SMART stands for Speed Monitoring Awareness Radar Trailer. The trailers sit on the side of a road, flashing the speed of passing cars on an electronic sign for all to see.

    So I called Colorado Springs Police to learn the best way to get help for Amy and others in her situation.

    Colorado Springs Police Commander Pat Rigdon

    Colorado Springs Police Commander Pat Rigdon

    Commander Pat Rigdon of the Gold Hill Division quickly answered my questions.

    The city has two SMART trailers and volunteer Steve Hammons oversees their use. He compiles the list of requests, scouts appropriate sites for SMART trailers and deploys them.

    “To get on the list, people can call Steve and leave a message at 444-7223,” Rigdon said. “We have quite a backlog since we only have two trailers. But they can get on the list.”

    To report a speeding hot spot and request traffic enforcement, Rigdon recommends folks call their local police division.

    In the northwest, call Falcon Division at 444-7240. In the southwest, call Gold Hill Division at 385-2100. In the southeast, call Sand Creek Division at 444-7270. And in the northeast, call Stetson Hills Division at 444-3144.

    “Sometimes we get reports and I’ll send an officer out to run radar to see if it’s a perception thing or a real problem with speeding,” Rigdon said. “Just call your division and let the supervisor know. They’ll let our traffic enforcement officers know.”

    Now, slow down on Templeton Gap!




    Wed, September 14, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 3 comments

    Darrell Watson finds it hard to take a simple walk to the park because so many of his neighbors park across the sidewalks, leave trash cans our or erect portable basketball goals on them. Watson uses a walker and carries oxygen, making it harder to swerve into the streets and dangerous because he can't move quickly enough to dodge oncoming traffic.

    It was obvious from the first few minutes I drove around Darrell Watson‘s neighborhood in Deerfield Hills that he wasn’t exaggerating about the problem. 



    There were cars, trailers, trash cans and portable basketball goals blocking sidewalks on nearly every street. 



    This is a problem for Darrell, a 66-year-old retired soldier who suffers from emphysema and needs a walker and an oxygen tank to get around. 

    Infractions are visible from space! Several examples of cars routinely parking on the sidewalks of Deerfield Hills, near Darrell Watson's home.

    All the sidewalk obstacles make Darrell’s morning walks more strenuous than they should be. And it’s not safe for him to detour far into the streets since he can’t quickly move out of the way of traffic. 

    A typical sight in Deerfield Hills and other Colorado Springs neighborhoods where many think it's OK to park on sidewalks.

    Portable basketball goals, overgrown bushes and trash cans are obstacles that make it difficult for Darrell Watson, with his walker, to stroll to the park.





    Imagine trying to negotiate this sidewalk in a walker. Squeeze between the overgrown bushes and the mailbox, the duck down into the street to get around the basketball goal.

    In this case, the basketball goal was in the street. But the trailer made walking a challenge.



    Wed, August 3, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    When you drive into Pastime Place in the Village Seven neighborhood of Colorado Springs, pay attention to the Neighborhood Watch signs on the light pole.

    These folks mean it.

    Especially Charlotte Mock. She’s been the Neighborhood Watch block captain since 1978.

    That is 33 years of watching her neighborhood. At 69, Charlotte remains committed to the program and is as enthusiastic as ever.

    On Tuesday, despite heavy rain, she and her husband, Ken, carried on with their National Night Out festivities between downpours.

    They dried off their chairs, built a fire in their pit and invited neighbors out to celebrate a friend’s birthday.

    Officer Bob Harris of the Colorado Springs Police Department stopped by to encourage the group and reinforce the Neighborhood Watch message of neighbors helping each other to stay safe.

    Colorado Springs Police Officer Bob Harris joined residents of Pastime Place on Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, to observe the annual National Night Out, a program to raise awareness of crime and promote the Neighborhood Watch program.

    National Night Out festivities are a tradition on Pastime Place thanks to the Mocks. They have been coordinating Neighborhood Watch events three times a year for decades.

    They have a Christmas party, a Fourth of July parade and the Night Out in August.

    This year they had a dessert buffet and celebrated a neighbor’s birthday. They scrapped a planned sing-along due to the weather.

    Kids, adults and dogs get in on the fun during the Fourth of July parade.

    A patriotic Ken Mock and the Mock dogs, Merlot and Arubie, got prepared for the Fourth of July parade.

    Protecting the neighborhood is important to Charlotte and Ken.

    Over the years, they’ve seen the benefits of being aware of strangers in the cul de sac.

    Several times they’ve notice intruders and stopped burglaries in progress.

    They’ve also seen fringe benefits.

    By taking the time to get to know their neighbors, they’ve made new friends.

    And the process has opened lines of communication that make it easier for neighbors to resolve conflicts that seem to arise from time to time in every neighborhood.

    Charlotte is so commited she has created a little welcome tradition for newcomers to Pastime Place. She makes cookies and introduces herself.

    In addition, she gives new residents a map of the street with names and phone numbers of the neighbors to help them get to know everybody.

    Charlotte Mock displays a front page from The Gazette Telegraph from Aug. 7, 1996, which shows her leading a sing-along during that year's National Night Out observance.



    Follow this link to see my 2010 National Night Out column. The blog that accompanied it can be found here.



    Sun, July 17, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    I feel sorry for the folks in the modest Mesa Springs neighborhood. It’s boundaries, generally, are Fillmore Street on the north, Interstate 25 on the east, Uintah Street on the south and, eventually, Centennial Boulevard will be its western border once the extension is completed.

    And that’s the problem. Mesa Springs has lived with construction turmoil all around it for years.

    Mesa Springs is a small neighborhood west of Interstate 25, south of Fillmore Street and north of Uintah Street.

    It was at Ground Zero for the COSMIX expansion of I-25 and erection of a massive sound barrier wall. That project brought tons of extra traffic down its main drag, Chestnut Street, as commuters seeking to dodge construction went racing back and forth.

    Then the neighborhood’s character was changed with the addition of a major furniture store, which also added traffic volume to the area.

    On its western edge, it watched as bulldozers began carving in the extension of Centennial and construction of new homes. But that project lurched to a halt leaving the road unfinished and many empty houses.

    Now, it’s staring down the barrel of another major project. I call it the Parker Street Shuffle. The city is planning to close Chestnut at Fillmore. If you look at this aerial photo, you see why.

    It’s not a simple intersection. It’s a convoluted mess thanks to the entrance and exit ramps of I-25 which converage at the spot.

    Further complicating the dangerous intersection is the traffic trying to get in and out of two gas stations and the impact of motorists roaring down the steep incline of Fillmore from the west.

    The intersection has long needed to be rebuilt. The entire Fillmore bridge needs to come down, for that matter, and the ramps widened and lengthened.

    Anybody have a spare $50 million? Here’s a look at the entire mess from FlashEarth.com.

    Didn’t think so.

    And the city doesn’t have the $14.5 million it would take to bury Chestnut under Fillmore and keep it open.

    But thanks to the one-cent sales and use tax that funds the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, an extra $6.5 million exists to make changes at Chestnut.

    Here’s the preliminary plan: close Chestnut at Fillmore and build a bypass west around the nasty intersection via Parker, which becomes a long cul de sac. It will require buying a couple houses on Parker but the rest of the route will cross vacant land.

    This is the tentative design for the plan to close Chestnut Street at Fillmore Street and reroute it west via Parker Street.

    The Colorado Department of Transportation bought five houses on Chestnut a few years ago anticipating the eventual reconstruction of the Fillmore bridge.

    And today CDOT is negotiating to buy the two gas stations to clear the intersection altogether.

    The city expects to announce the date this week of a public meeting on the Parker Street Shuffle. If all goes well, construction could begin in the summer of 2012.

    Follow this link to a May 21, 2011, story by Debbie Kelley about the project.

    For the Oct. 3, 2010, paper, I wrote this column on Mesa Springs.

    Here’s a blog I wrote in October 2010 on the project.



    Wed, March 2, 2011 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    You don’t have to burn up gallons of $3 gas to save a few nickels on each fill-up.

    Let the Internet do the searching for you. It’s not hard to find the neighborhood gas station with the cheapest gas.

    I did a casual search and was surprised at the results I got.

    There are a number of sites, from spotter-based surveys that rely on average citizens to report prices, to more sophisticated sites that get their data from credit card transactions.

    The survey at Gazette.com is a spotter-based survey.




    Perhaps the most user-friendly was MSN.com’s gas price survey site.




    Another site with valuable information was Mapquest’s gas survey site.





    Then I tried GasBuddy.com and it eventually took me to ColoradoSpringsGasPrices.com and this page:






    An impressive site was AAA’s Daily Fuel Gauge Report






    Finally I tried GasPriceWatch.com but it’s prices seemed old and not as accurate.




    Sun, October 31, 2010 by Bill Vogrin with 1 comment

    Is Colorado Springs being meanies to the greenies?


    Some think so after officials told Tim Keenan he had to move his mattress recycling business out of a warehouse behind his rental house on Costilla Street in the Hillside neighborhood east of downtown.


    Keenan thought he’d found a great new business opportunity when he started collecting old mattresses and stripped them for their metal springs, wood, fabric and foam.


    With scrap metal selling for $200 a pound, it would be easy to recycle. A recycler in Utah pays for foam. Wood is valuable as firewood. And fabric has a little bit of value.


    It was win-win. The city is overflowing with old mattresses, officials say. Landfills are overflowing, as well, and mattresses are a huge problem because they don’t compress well.

    But Keenan ran into one small problem . . . his A Better Tomorrow Recycling business doesn’t mesh well in neighborhoods.

    A homeowners association “got grumpy” when he started stripping mattresses in his garage.

    So he moved to a house on Costilla, a busy commercial street east of downtown. The house included a large warehouse in back and seemed perfect for his business.

    And everything was fine until his truck broke down and he needed his warehouse to work on the vehicle.

     Mattresses started piling up in the driveway off the alley.

     Neighbors complained. An officer from the city Code Enforcement Agency came out and found the mess.

    She also discovered the recycling business operating in a commercial zone. Recycling is 0nly allowed in industrial zones. It had to go.

    Keenan is frustrated. Everyone seems to agree there is a huge need for a mattress recycling business. He’s in a building that has housed businesses for years. It’s not a pristine neighborhood. His operation is off an alley and is surrounded by a locksmith, mini-warehouses, a roofing company and more.

    But recycling just doesn’t fit, officials say. Keenan has until Nov. 15 to end his recycling activities. He hopes to move to a new warehouse at 2512 Weston Road, just off Delta Drive near Hancock Expressway on the southeast side of the city.

    Tim Keenan describes how he strips mattresses, separating their metal springs from their wood frames, foam and fabric in this Oct. 29, 2010, photo


  • HOA DUES – where do your dues rank?

    Sun, September 20, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with 7 comments

    I asked. You answered. Below is what we learned.

    I’ve posted two lists.

    One is an alphabetical list of 80 or so homeowners associations and their cousins — community, neighborhood, recreation, condo and townhome associations. All are from the Colorado Springs region.

    The second file contains a numeric list, ranking them top to bottom by amount.

    On the alpha list, I’ve included comments I received in e-mails from you, the source of the information. However, I have not included any names or e-mail addresses.

    If you find this interesting, informative, valuable or wrong, tell me. Shoot me an e-mail at bill.vogrin@gazette.com. Then stay tuned.

    In the very near future, I will be creating a more formal questionaire about HOA dues. It will ask you to click through the amenities you recieve for your money and even comment on the quality of your HOA.

    I’m hoping the database will even include a map feature.

    There are two ways to look at the database. You can either read the alphabetical list posted below or follow these links to the list: Alphabetical list and Numeric list


  • SIZE DOESN’T MATTER after all

    Sun, May 3, 2009 by Bill Vogrin with no comments

    Size, when it comes to neighborhoods, doesn’t matter in Colorado Springs. At least not in conversations about protecting character and unique qualities of the places people live.

    The City Council declared on Tuesday that small, unique areas within larger neighborhoods can be identified as their own little entities and are worthy of being protected from incompatible development projects.

    Want to see it for yourself? Go to www.Springsgov.com and go to SpringsTV where you will find the council meeting waiting for viewing. Select “Item 12 – Horizon View” to fast forward to the Rawles Open Space Neighborhood’s appeal hearing.

    springstv                                    Or follow this link and when the media player pops up, under “View” drag down to “File Markers” and drop down to ” Item 12 - Horizon View.”

     It’s fascinating viewing for neighborhood enthusiasts.



    Dave Munger, pictured left, president of the Council of Neighbors & Organizations, an umbrella group for all Springs neighborhoods, asked the simple question: What is a neighobrhood and who decides?


    The answer may have surprised some.



    Led by Vice Mayor Larry Small, left, the council gave a clear answer: Size doesn’t matter when it comes to protecting the character of neighborhoods.




    Tiny pockets of homes, like the Rawles Open Space Neighborhood, are distinct from the larger neighborhoods that most would recognize. In this case, the Mesa Neighborhood Association.

    The council’s declaration is significant because it shielded the Rawles group from a modern, five-house subdivision proposed on five acres in the area.


    The developer, Dr. Kristine Hembre, left, told the council she considers the Rawles Open Space an “eyesore” that she intended to improve by building her houses.




    Read more about it below in my April 26th post.