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County zeroes in on blighted bus benches

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Jeffco weighs tighter vendor requirements

By Emile Hallez

Ugly, decaying bus-stop benches are an epidemic in South Jeffco, and the county is planning to address the problem by revamping its advertising-vendor policy, officials said at an Aug. 2 meeting with the county commissioners.

The benches at RTD stops, most of which consist of concrete slabs with inexpensive wood, are currently maintained by multiple contractors that pay a fee to the county in exchange for selling advertising on the benches. Still, the county itself is currently responsible for following up on complaints received about languishing benches, a task officials said is a strain on resources.

Consequently, blighted benches are a common sight, officials said. Lamination atop the large wooden backs on which advertising is displayed often peels at the edges following months of exposure to sun and rain. And some of the benches fall apart completely, sitting in disrepair until maintenance workers get around to replacing them.

“We don’t have time to go out and monitor our benches,” said transportation and engineering department director Kevin French. “We respond to (damaged benches) on an as-needed basis.”

By moving from a multiple-vendor system to single contracts for all bus benches and shelters in unincorporated Jeffco, the structures would be consistently maintained, French said. And by increasing requirements placed on the vendor, the county’s 500 benches and shelters could be more uniform in appearance and quality.

“If we’re going to have public transportation, we should clean up these sites as much as possible,” French said.

“This isn’t a new concept. This is something that’s already occurring in Jefferson County,” he said of local municipalities that in recent years have made requirements more stringent for vendors.

Following a bid process, the county is likely to see many if not all of its current benches swapped with higher-quality replacements — possibly metal structures that include armrests, a feature designed to prevent people from lying down on the benches and sleeping.

In addition, requirements could be changed to let benches be placed on sidewalks in certain locations. Though numerous benches currently sit on sidewalks due to space constraints, such placement is technically prohibited.

Currently, the county collects only $20,000 per year in fees from the program, though that amount could increase under a new policy. The existing system resembles a lottery, in which 12 different contractors compete for bus-stop sites as they become available.

Under a new permitting process, a vendor would be locked into a contract with the county for a minimum of five years. The county may consider two separate vendors — one to provide and maintain benches and another for bus-stop shelters. A company would be required to provide the structures and inspect them weekly.

The vendors that currently service the benches and shelters would not have their existing permits renewed.

“Our goal is to have this in place by Jan. 1, before we are up for renewal on any of our current permits,” French said.

Additional upgrades to the new benches and shelters could also include recycling bins or bicycle racks.

 

Contact Emile Hallez Williams at emile@evergreenco.comor 303-933-2233, ext. 22. For updates, check www.ColumbineCourier.com.