Marsha Williams of E-470 happy at today's briefing
I have spoken to numerous people who have felt devastated and at a loss of control after receiving massive collection notices from the E-470 tolling system.
I’ve seen some collection notices as high as $13,000.
One single mother cried on the phone a couple of months ago asking me what I could do as she worried about filing for bankruptcy with a $10,000 bill. She claimed E-470 sent notices to the wrong address for months.
So with the power of the Colorado Open Records Act, I decided to look into E-470’s budget and spending habits considering it’s constantly raising toll rates and sending extraordinary large collection notices to people.
Last November I highlighted how toll money covered massages for E-470 employees, and stays at luxury hotels for board members.
So today I half-way expected some hard, direct questions from the Senate Transportation Committee as E-470 executives appeared before lawmakers.
The exchange was more like a chummy, friendly chat at an Applebee’s dining booth.
At one moment, I wondered if this was a planning committee for a company picnic.
Before the meeting, I even overheard two senators on the committee say they had no clue the E-470 administrators were showing up to testify today.
Perhaps I expected too much out of this hearing.
While Chairwoman Senator Evie Hudak (who should be credited for calling for the briefing) asked some direct questions, other lawmakers lobbed some pretty easy softballs that my two year old niece could have smacked out of a park.
One lawmaker asked when E-470 was going to get a smartphone app.
Eventually, the issues of large collection notices and massages expenses were discussed during the meeting, but quite passively.
When Senator Hudak asked E-470 Executive Director John McCuskey about the massage expenses, he scoffed at my report report while I received a middle-school smirk from Marsha Williams, another E-470 official.
I haven’t received a smirk like that since I was put in time-out by my 6th grade P.E. teacher for nailing a female classmate in the face during dodge ball (below the waist only….I should have known).
Senator Linda Newell chimed in and agreed that the massages were a legit government expense.
I left the committee meeting after watching the glad-handing between the E-470 executives and lawmakers.
It’s quite clear E-470 can afford such expenses because its revenue model is not based on taxes, but rather on tolls and fees we pay when we register our cars.
This is the argument E-470 uses when it defends its spending on things that most government agencies can’t afford.
So perhaps the quasi-public agency should be free from scrutiny from professional gadflies like myself.
Nah, just kidding.
In the end, if you drive E-470 it is still your money and if you pay registration fees, it is your money.
In the mean time, expect toll rates to rise every year.
As for E-470, no dodge balls to the face today.
I’m going to Applebee’s if they’re still open………