Loss of streetlights, trash cans reveal local budget blues

       To date, the city's 2010 budget cutbacks have not been widely visible to the public.

Four of the five trash cans now at Thorndale Park off Uintah Street stand near its pavilion. Because of a volunteer adopter, park officials plan not to remove the cans, but other neighborhoodparks aren't so lucky .
Westside Pioneer photo

       That will change in the coming weeks, when the city starts disabling thousands of streetlights and removing hundreds of trash cans from neighborhood parks.
       On the Westside, only one - possibly two - parks will still have cans. Bancroft will continue being serviced by the city because of its status as one of the city's “major” parks. Meanwhile, the city is working with Thorndale Park's volunteer adopter on a plan in which he may put a dumpster in the park, “in which case the cans will stay,” said Parks Maintenance Director Kurt Schroeder.
       Overall, about 400 trash cans will be removed from 128 neighborhood parks and from all urban trail corridors within the next two weeks. “Citizens are asked to please pack out all trash,” a city press release states.
       Those on the streetlight deactivation list are the “least energy efficient streetlights (ones with 1000 and 700 watt mercury vapor bulbs),” city spokesperson John Leavitt said. “In addition, areas with high ambient lighting (parking lots and buildings) will have adjacent streetlights turned off. Streetlights will most likely be left on at intersections with traffic signals, mid-block crosswalks, school areas and hospital emergency approaches.”
       Although it is an older part of the city, the Westside does not have an unusually high number of low-efficiency lights, Leavitt said. The Westside areas with the greatest concentrations of such lights are “a few along Colorado Avenue, a few along 30th Street and a few along Fontmore,” he said.
       For Parks, the city will save money on trash bags and containers (which had cost $5,700 last year), as well as dumpsters and trash hauling services ($58,000). These cuts are part of a 64 percent reduction in the department budget this year that included the elimination of 27 maintenance staff positions, Schroeder said.
       Removing the trash cans is part of a previously announced city policy to save money by essentially abandoning all but the major parks this year. The non-major parks are also slated to get no watering, mowing or other maintenance, unless volunteer adopters step forward. For more information, visit SpringsGov.com or call 385- 6519 or e-mail cityparkvol@springsgov.com.
       Turning off 8,000 to 10,000 streetlights is estimated to save the city $1.245 million in 2010, Leavitt said.
       The deactivation work is expected to take about 10 weeks. The city has 24,512 streetlights in all, he said.
       It is not known how long the situation with the parks or the streetlights will continue (although city financial staff is already predicting a shortfall of $25 million going into 2011). “Each year the City will reevaluate its financial position and will make recommendations to City Council,” Leavitt said. “Through its budget creation and approval process, City Council will establish its priorities.”

Westside Pioneer/press release