RapidScreen gases up in Colorado

You've probably seen the RapidScreen vans at off-ramps and busy intersections around town. Maybe you even benefited after one of them scanned the emissions from your car's tailpipe as you drove by; anyone from nine participating counties who passes the RapidScreen test twice within ten months gets to avoid a trip to an emissions-testing facility when registering his car.

But if your vehicle doesn't pass, get ready, because the state's "clean screen" program has been joined by its evil, if environmentally helpful, twin: "dirty screen."

"We don't really promote the dirty-screen program, as it's a pilot and it just began a few months ago," says Renee Allen, a spokeswoman for Envirotest, which conducts emissions tests for the state. But high polluters are even now getting warning letters from the state and will be required to have their vehicles tested and fixed before they can be re-registered. "And if you don't comply, it's a punitive program," she adds. In other words, drivers of dirty cars could face fines or the possibility of not being able to re-register their vehicles at all.

The point is to catch polluters earlier and, in some cases, to help fix the problem. In fact, drivers who comply can receive $1,000 to fund emissions-related repairs, says Ken Lloyd, executive director of the Regional Air Quality Council (RAQC). "If the car requires more than $1,000 to repair, then we would offer to buy it for $1,000 if the owner wanted to...get it off the road." So far, the state has sent letters to 146 auto owners; of those, 58 vehicles had their registrations suspended and 16 are pending suspension.

Perhaps the most famous of these culprits is Milo Struble, a seventy-something retiree who got a notice after his 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass failed the RapidScreen test. He refused to believe the RAQC was a real agency and decided that the $1,000 was a fake "free-money" scam. He even called the staff to give them a piece of his mind. After several conversations, however, he finally decided to trust the agency and became the first recipient of funds.

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Fore! Aqua Golf is back from its watery grave. The Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, which took over the decrepit facility at 501 West Florida Avenue a few years ago and started a $2.8 million renovation in 2006, will unveil the new, improved Aqua Golf on Sunday, at the "Spooktacular" (kids in costumes and their parents play free); after that, the facility — which includes an eighteen-hole miniature golf course and a driving range over the water — will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., weather permitting.

While the project's price tag was hefty, all the money came from the city's golf-enterprise fund, which is filled from greens fees — and the proceeds will benefit First Tee, which teaches inner-city kids how to golf.

Over dry land.

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