Safety, property rights challenges Hotchkiss council
By Kami Collins
An issue of public safety versus private property rights was briefly discussed at the last town council meeting in Hotchkiss, after a resident complained that the street light located on the north end of 2nd Street near the railroad tracks is too bright and is a disturbance.
Before he brought the issue to the council, Mike Owens, the public works director, tried to fix the the situation. He spoke with DMEA about shielding the light and was told that the way the lights are built, light is already shielded. A second option would be to replace the current lightbulb, which is 78 watts, with a lower wattage bulb. The third option would be to remove the light pole altogether, though neither option was the best, Owens said. "Being that it's over a railroad intersection, I hate to do anything with it," he said. He told the council that when the City of Colorado Springs had similar complaints and they dimmed their streetlights, a child riding a bike was struck by a car that did not see him. The child died from his injuries. "That possibility is always there," he said.
Trustee John Marta was also reluctant to remove or dim the light. He said that at night when a train is going by, that area becomes a "black hole." If the light were dimmed or removed, drivers would not be able to see the train, and there would be an increased risk for wrecks. As trustee Larry Jakubiak pointed out, the pole is 272 feet from the nearest residence. "That's nearly a football field away," he said. "How about some curtains instead?" he offered.
Owens also pointed out that other intersections in town have even brighter bulbs.
Given the concerns for safety, and given that the neighbor who complained did not show up to the meeting, the council tabled the issue until the June 8 meeting.