City budget issues force out long-time Old Town maintenance man
David Porter has been the “get 'er done” handy man for the Old Colorado City Security & Maintenance District for half of his 48 years.
Now, as an offshoot of the City of Colorado Springs' financial turmoil, this is the last month on the job for the district's well-known, sole employee.
The prospect does not please him. He'd hoped to work at least another six years to qualify for benefits under the city's Public Employees Retirement Association plan. But he's too young to qualify now. Unemployment insurance is all he has, with no job prospects other than an outside chance of filling one of two city positions that have opened up because of people taking early retirement - also due to the city budget cuts. “It's brutal,” Porter frowned.
Somebody new will be taking over for Porter, who technically works for the City Parks Department. He doesn't know who it will be yet.
The thing of it is, he likes his Old Colorado City job. Even though the work is often hard and mostly outdoors - including last week coming in before 6 a.m. in sub- zero temperatures to plow sidewalks - he likes the location and the seasonal pace. “By the time you get burned out by snow, it's springtime and you get to start irrigating,” he said. In the fall, there are “lots of leaves” to get after.
Any morning of the year, there can be clean-up surprises, such as debris from traffic accidents, blood from fights or (this fall) the charcoal remains after a nighttime fire ignited an ornamental scarecrow (which had been set out for the merchants' annual Scarecrow Days) and spread to the district's welcome sign at 27th and Colorado before burning itself out.
Planting is an occupation he enjoys - one that's been encouraged in recent years as the Maintenance District advisory committee (consisting of property owners within district boundaries) has worked with the city to spruce up aspects of public improvements that first went in 30 years ago. “I built two new flowerbeds this year,” Porter said. “I always look for ways to make the area more appealing.”
Porter makes his home on the Westside (in the Midland area). His two daughters (now grown) attended Midland, West and Coronado schools. He quipped during the interview that when he dies, “spread my ashes out over Colorado Avenue.”
As a gift to a previous Parks liaison, who had helped the district replace the original district pawnbroker “accent” lights, Porter constructed from scrap materials a 6- foot-high working model of one such light.
Conceding that he's “still in denial” about leaving, Porter said he will “miss some of the people” in Old Town. He mentioned shopkeepers Keith and Bernideen Canfield as having been particularly nice, and he's relished his conversations with sculptor Michael Garman. “He's always good to talk to. He always calls me 'Rascal.'” Porter said.
In earlier years, Porter was a regular at Schoch's Hardware, where Ed or Edna Schoch “would help me out with supplies.” Nowadays, supply runs mean driving the district pickup up to Ace Hardware.
Porter was a victim of City Parks' decision to rank employees by performance evaluations (required because there were many more employees than jobs after the budget cuts); but he's well liked by the advisory committee. To no avail, a letter from district chair Judy Kasten to City Parks asked that Porter be retained as the district's “valued employee.”
Whoever replaces Porter will take up shop as he has in the small Maintenance District building at 111 S. 25th St. The place includes a truck bay, an aging desk and chair and storage for some district tools and materials.
That's where Porter would take on one job after another over the past 24 years and, to use his phrase, “get 'er done.”
Westside Pioneer article