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This week: Putting out fires on Highway 3

Are water hauling trucks allowed to fill up at this roadside hydrant on Highway 3? Yes, for users who participate in the city of Durango's hydrant metering program. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: Twice I’ve been on Colorado Highway 3 going into Durango and seen a commercial water hauling truck stopped by the fire hydrant there. Do you think that he is filling up there with a special arrangement with the city so he doesn’t need to pay? Or perhaps his dog just needed a rest stop? – Drought Dodger

Dear Dodger: First off, and not to be crass here, but Action Line had to figure out, “Who cares?” Not that nobody cares. It was assumed that someone cares. Heck, Action Line cares. But the question was, who REALLY cared. Who was going to go berserk when finding out their precious water was being brazenly taken from under their noses in broad daylight? And did they know that someone who isn’t the fire department is “borrowing” water for their own uses?

Along those lines, Action Line thought first of the Durango Fire Protection District. But Fire Marshal Karola Hanks set the record straight: Hydrants are the property of the water purveyor, and that purveyor is the city of Durango.

Jarrod Biggs, the city’s assistant utilities director, had the answer, and it was a surprising revelation to Action Line.

The city has “arrangements with approximately 26 to 30 individual water users under our hydrant metering program,” Biggs said.

The city issues a meter to these companies, and they “use (this) hydrant meter apparatus to hook on to the hydrant and report their water use to us on a monthly basis for billing purposes.”

The city inspects the meters annually to make sure they’re working properly and are protecting the water system from back flow.

“Additionally, our staff note when they see these users in the field and typically point out when any shenanigans (evil or not) are perceived,” Biggs said. “We have found some less-than-honest water users previously and are always on the lookout, but the operation on Highway 3 is known to us.”

Dear Action Line: Since it is illegal in Colorado to block a license plate so that it cannot be read by a scanner or camera, why aren’t the police getting writer’s cramp from citing all the Subarus, Toyotas and Hondas in town with bike racks that block the ability to read the rear plate? Too, these racks oftentimes block the tail/stop lights. – Suffering a Metal Block

Dear Block: First, Action Line has to admit to owning an Outback. That’s a Subaru make. (Yeah, like all you other readers didn’t know because you don’t have one yourself.) Only once, just once in a lifetime, has Action Line attempted to enter the wrong green 2004 Outback in Durango. It went like this:

“Where is that cleverly functional yet ridiculously ubiquitous automobile?”

“Wait, this is not my beautiful car!”

“My God, what have I done?”

There are good excuses for this behavior. Action Line was exiting a movie theater as the sun was going down, and had expected the vehicle to remain in the light a bit longer.

For an answer to this question, Action Line turned to the police, expecting the answer might sting this owner of a bike rack-equipped Subaru.

But it turns out that on the crime pyramid, blocking a license plate doesn’t reach very high.

“Because something is illegal does not mean we always utilize punitive punishment,” said Brice Current, deputy chief with the Durango Police Department. “Statistically, we provide more warnings than citations.”

Durango officers see and are informed of criminal acts daily, such as jaywalking, noise violations, vagrancy, equipment violations, etc., Current said. While these might be illegal, officers don’t have time or personnel to pursue them all.

“With countless laws on the books, we focus on more serious issues that directly affect public safety, such as speeding, hazardous driving, following too closely, impaired driving or anything that causes injury.”

So, in the case of something like a hidden license plate, officers try to determine the most efficient method to get scofflaws to comply.

“We understand we are dealing with real people just like us, and every time we issue a citation, it causes strain on that person and their family,” Current said. “Our mission and objectives are based on public safety, and if we can gain compliance without ruining someone’s day, then win, win!

“Vehicles with bicycle racks do not completely obstruct the plate from an officer’s view,” Current concluded. “The officer may maneuver to see the plate if needed.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. Apologies for the classic rock references, but sometimes it happens. Interestingly, the Talking Heads’ live version of “Once in a Lifetime” actually reached higher in the charts than the studio version on their fourth album, 1980’s “Remain in Light.” And did you catch the Sting reference?

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