By Anthony A. Mestas, The Associated Press
PUEBLO — At night, during the holidays from his home out on the St. Charles Mesa, Dennis Baca can see the glimmering warm white lights placed on the dome of the historic Pueblo County Courthouse.
Most people in the Steel City — if they know where to look — can see the lights, too, but the glow is a little more special for Baca.
“It’s definitely nice because I can see that everyone in Pueblo can see these lights that I put up. That makes me feel good,” Baca said standing on the roof of the recently adorned building.
Baca has been the county’s maintenance electrician for 18 years. The Christmas lighting is only one of the many jobs he does, but he says it’s one of his favorites.
“It’s something I enjoy. It’s beautiful at the top of this building. I can see my house and the whole town,” Baca said.
Baca, who uses a safety harness on the dome and repels around it to add the lighting, said there’s nothing scary about his vertigo-inducing workday, something that is anything but normal to most people.
“Me, scared of heights? No way,” he said shaking his head.
“I can’t be.”
This year, Baca switched 11 watt incandescent light bulbs to 2.5 watt LED light bulbs on the dome.
“It’s a polycarbonate, so hopefully I won’t have to change them again up here. They are rated 100,000 hours, which turns out to be 50 years,” Baca said.
There are 466 lights around the dome.
Baca also is in charge of 10 floodlights in the front of the building that shine on the dome. There also are more than 4,000 small lights set up for Christmas.
For Baca, there’s nothing odd about climbing the winding set of wooden stairs that lead to the top of the 105-year-old building. There is a door on the third floor that leads to the old staircase that squeaks when you walk on it.
He’s made the climb hundreds of times, even in inclement weather.
“It’s all part of the job,” he said.
Aside from the Christmas lighting, Baca is in charge of electric needs of all the county’s 42 buildings.
“Anytime something breaks electrical, he goes and fixes it,” said Paris Elliot, community information manager for the county.
“That’s a lot. And it’s just him and his apprentice, Brad Cane. Dennis is one of those guys who knows everybody by their first names and he cares about people. He always asks how you are doing.”
Baca works on anything from electric generators to changing light bulbs hanging from the chandeliers in the county commissioners’ chambers.
After changing some lights recently, Baca found a set of windows on the third floor of the building, covered up for years.
They are open now.
“It’s just something that we discovered on the job. And look how beautiful they are. There are a lot of things like this in the building,” Baca said.
He’s also been heavily involved in upgrading most lights to LED.
“The county had a written sustainability plan in 2012 with a five-year goal to have energy efficiency completed by 2017. And so without changing out these fixtures, we would have not reached the goal to be EnergyStar certified,” Elliot said.
Baca, who grew up in Pueblo, said he takes a measure of pride knowing that his job is important and that people see it every day and night.
“I can still say that I enjoy coming to work every day. A lot of people can’t say that,” Baca said.
“It’s different every day. I am not stuck in the same building and not stuck in one office all day long. That’s what I like about it. And during Christmas, it’s a little more special.”