COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - With the Thanksgiving holiday traveling period starting Wednesday, KRDO NewsChannel 13 is helping drivers prepare with special reports on local transportation issues.
During the afternoon and evening, KRDO will post five reports after the noon, 4 p.m., 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.
Part one provides a behind-the-scenes look at the process of responding to pothole reports and complaints.
Phone calls to the pothole hotline of 385-ROAD (7623) are answered by two dispatchers at a Colorado Springs Streets Division office near Interstate 25 and Fontanero Street.
Chelsea Minnis and Belinda Swartz are the dispatchers; Minnis arrived four months ago and Swartz has been on the job fore eight years.
"This is the time of year when we start to get a lot of calls because the potholes get worse in late fall, winter and early spring," Swartz said. "Sometimes, the callers yell and curse at us because they're upset about damage to their vehicles. We're people, too. We understand their frustrations and are trying to help them."
The pothole information is then passed on to eight city crews who repair potholes full time.
The crews start their day at 7 a.m. with a briefing, cleaning trucks and refilling them with asphalt before heading to their assignments.
Kevin Cole is a crew supervisor with 16 years of experience.
"When I first got here, there were so many potholes we could only react to them," he said. "Now, we can actually plan. The daily pothole lists are getting smaller and the 2C paving project has reduced the number of potholes we fill."
But Jack Ladley, a city operations manager, said pothole repair still is a larger percentage of the division's workload than it should be.
"We're spending about 32 percent of our man-hours on potholes," he said. "That's not much different from other cities. Ideally, the percentage should be around 16 to 20 percent."
Ladley said deteriorating streets isn't the only reason why the city has so many potholes.
"We're more organized than we used to be," he said of his street crews. "We're more efficient."
Ladley said the city is getting four new pothole trucks soon.
"It hasn't been decided whether we'll add them to the fleet or use them to replace existing vehicles," he said.
Cole said the unusually mild fall weather has given workers more time to repair potholes.
"The asphalt plants are still producing, too," he said. "So we can use hot mix asphalt instead of cold mix asphalt, which doesn't work as well."
So far this year, the city has taken 7,397 pothole reports and repaired 58,871 potholes; last year, the numbers were 8,450 and 58,082.
This year, the city has received 313 citizen claims for pothole-related damage to vehicles and has paid out five claims for a total of $1,512.
Last year, the city paid no claims out of 548.
The city is protected by the Governmental Immunity Act, which allows for an unspecified "reasonable" time -- based on weather and resources -- to be notified of and repair potholes.
The five claims paid out this year were because the city knew about the potholes in those cases but crews did not meet the reasonable time standard.
If you see a pothole, crews ask that you report it to the number above immediately.
The city's pothole budget this year is $337,447; last year, it was $331,477.