Colorado Springs Utilities Donates Ratepayer Money As Rates Soar

Last week, we read a story about kids being able to play sports for free through Colorado Springs Youth Sports. Youth Sports is a city-run program under the City of Colorado Springs Parks Programs. It’s a government run program. 

Sponsors who provided the funds for the free youth sports registration were listed: 

  • The Daniels Fund
  • Boeing
  • The Chapman Foundations
  • Children’s Hospital Colorado
  • Comcast
  • Dakota Foundation
  • Gazette Charities Foundation
  • The Schuck Foundation

Those organizations have a right to use their donor funds (or private money) however they wish. And good for them.

One listed sponsor concerned us, though: Colorado Springs Utilities (CSU). This organization is accountable to ratepayers. Their money is our money. What if we as ratepayers don’t want to pitch in for someone’s kid to play soccer? What if we disagree with the sponsorship? We can’t switch to another utility, since there isn’t one. CSU is a monopoly. 

We asked for the details about the sports sponsorship through a Colorado Open Records Act (CORA) request. We found that CSU worked with the City of Colorado Springs to provide a $5,000 sponsorship for the free youth sports program. There are no guidelines for which families get free registrations. It’s on a first come, first serve basis.  

Here is what ratepayers got out of the deal, according to the CORA response:

  • Sponsor of 2023 City’s youth sports programs (soccer, T-Ball, baseball, and softball)
  • A minimum of 100 flyers to be distributed by the city to city facilities and city’s partner organizations with Sponsor’s logo
  • Placement of Sponsor’s logos on the city sports main page for youth sports (we will be updating that page soon for spring registration, which begins on Jan. 3)
  • The city will create two dedicated public service announcements to promote the program, one for spring and one for fall
  • Inclusion in city’s PSAs played on city social media and Springs TV
  • Sponsor recognition in email blasts from City to parents for registration and inclusion in the city e-newsletter to residents and inclusion in The Insider newsletter to city employees
  • Opportunity for Sponsor to present to coaches and/or provide materials for distribution to coaches and parents

CSU has their priorities out of whack

We think CSU should focus on providing utilities at the best price possible. But instead:

  • Since the decommissioning of the Martin Drake Coal Power Plant, home heating rates have climbed. Many in the community can’t afford to stay warm. Maybe CSU’s strategy is for kids to stay warm by participating in athletics? That’ll get the blood flowing.
  • People can’t afford to heat their homes. The Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LEAP) saw a record number of applicants for the current winter season. 
  • Only recently, CSU was asking for the public’s donations to help others in need pay their bills. Certainly, the $5,000 youth sports sponsorship could have been put to better use.
  • CSU has gotten ratepayers into the broadband business when they should have left that service to private businesses. Ratepayers are on the hook for it now.

No CSU sponsorships should ever be funded with our ratepayer dollars

There were other mentions in the CORA of additional sponsorships between CSU and the City of Colorado Springs. Ratepayers recently helped pick up the tab for Skate in the Park, too. We have not verified the amount of ratepayer money given away in that specific deal.   

Reach out to the Utilities Board President Wayne Williams, and the other members of the CSU board, listed below. Ask if this was a responsible use of your ratepayer funds. Not a single ratepayer dollar should leave the utility in the form of a sponsorship to advertise the utility monopoly.   

Yolanda Avila

Dave Donelson

Stephannie Fortune

Randy Helms

Nancy Henjum

Bill Murray

Mike O’Malley

Tom Strand

Wayne Williams

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