Thursday, May 4, 2017

UPDATE: Colorado Springs Utilities light poles generate more than just light

Posted By on Thu, May 4, 2017 at 3:44 PM


UPDATE: We just got this clarification from City Auditor Denny Nester:
I need to make a retraction or correction or whatever the newspaper term may be for misstating something.

As I've gained more information on pole attachments, I found that banners in the public right of way are controlled through Revocable Permits, which are purchased from the City. Therefore, entities like the Downtown Partnership were not included in the sample of fees charged by Colorado Springs Utilities. Please disregard the picture of the banner downtown as it would not be representative of the pole attachments that my office audited.

We audited pole attachments such as those made by telecommunication companies, but my emails below that described pole attachments to include banners was not correct. Sorry for my mistake.

———————ORIGINAL POST 3:44 P.M. THURSDAY, MAY 4, 2017—————-

What if you erected a bunch of poles around town and then charged people to hang stuff on them?

That's what's happening with Colorado Springs Utilities' light and utility poles. In 2015, it raked in $432,097 for that, and through October 2016, the total was $429,752.

Those findings come from a recently posted audit from the City Auditor's Office, which reports:
click to enlarge For every attachment to utility poles, a written agreement should be in place that brings revenue to the city.
  • For every attachment to utility poles, a written agreement should be in place that brings revenue to the city.
• We observed that not all customers with pole attachments had executed pole agreements between the customer and Colorado Springs Utilities. We also noted one instance where Colorado Springs Utilities did not have a copy of the signed agreement on file.

• We noted that the process documentation governing pole attachments had not been updated since 2005. The documentation was to be reviewed and updated every three years.
We also observed that the process documentation required customers to have a Revocable Permit with the City of Colorado Springs. However, the Planning Development Land Use Review Department of the City was not currently issuing Revocable Permits for pole and streetlight attachments.

• In 2014, an adjustment was made to a pole attachment bill due to a challenge of the bill. This challenge was to a bill issued in 2012. We also noted that there was no written process on how to deal with adjustments to customer bills.

Boiled down, this means the program is run in a pretty loose way, so no telling how much revenue might be due the city that's not being collected, eh?

Dale Rickard, the auditor who worked on the project, reports via email that when the audit was being conducted, "There were 18 customers with a total number of attachments at just under 39,000 connected to Colorado Springs Utilities poles and streetlights."

The range of attachments per customer runs from two to more than 22,000. Most of those, Rickard says, involve telecommunications providers.

But the attachments also can include banners, notably in the downtown area.

Springs Utilities told the Auditor's Office it agreed some of these procedures need to be tightened up and they're working on that.


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