Colorado Springs: City council approves dismantling of stormwater enterprise

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

The phase-out [over two years] will give the city time to finish some projects already under way, allow it to repair a levee that protects thousands of homes and meet unfunded federal mandates. It will mean the city won’t be able to start several projects that are needed or to respond to citizen requests regarding stormwater. Colorado Springs also intends to fulfill its commitments on Fountain Creek related to Southern Delivery System despite ending the stormwater enterprise, and several on council voiced support for a regional solution in El Paso County that could include a vote to create a stormwater enterprise in the future. “The two-year phaseout will give us time to work on a regional solution, allow us to complete our projects and come up with a regional stormwater plan,” said Bernie Herpin, one of five council members supporting the phase-out…

The Templeton Gap Levee is the only Army Corps of Engineers levee in Colorado Springs, said stormwater director Ken Sampley. The levee, built in the late 1940s, needs between $4.24 million and $6.74 million in work to protect up to 3,000 homes and 300 businesses. If the work is not done, they would be required to obtain flood insurance.

Under the two-year phaseout, Templeton Gap will be completed, but more than 20 other projects won’t begin as scheduled. When the stormwater enterprise was created, there was a $300 million backlog in projects, with $60 million in critical needs. Sampley showed slides of bridge supports beginning to wash out and areas that were eroding because there has been only funding for piecemeal work…

In addition to Templeton Gap, there are $2.3 million of projects that have been started remaining in the pipeline, and four projects on Sand Creek totalling about $2.4 million. Sampley also recommended maintaining minimum funding for regulatory requirements, emergency operations, health and safety, which together total almost $5 million. By 2012, all those costs will be paid for from the general fund under the plan reviewed by council Monday…

The city also is prepared to meet its obligations of $125 million of spending on Fountain Creek through the financing of SDS, a $1 billion-plus water supply project that includes a pipeline from Pueblo Dam. Colorado Springs ratepayers will bear that expense. Colorado Springs also has included funds for improvements at Clear Springs Ranch south of Fountain and dredging the Fountain Creek channel in Pueblo as part of next year’s budget.

More coverage from The Colorado Springs Gazette (Daniel Chaćon):

A split Colorado Springs City Council decided Monday to phase out the enterprise over two years, allowing the city-owned business to finish projects under construction and also reconstruct a decades-old drainage channel that’s been deemed “minimally acceptable.” Council members Tom Gallagher, Darryl Glenn, Jan Martin and Randy Purvis called for an immediate end of the enterprise…

Enterprise Manager Ken Sampley said the council’s decision could hamper the enterprise’s ability to collect fees over the next two years, even from people who have been paying them. “I’d like to think that everybody paid them (in the past) because they were good citizens and wanted to pay their Stormwater Enterprise fee,” he said. “That may not be the case. I think it’s reasonable to believe that if there is no provision for certifying (delinquent accounts) to the treasurer, we will be collecting, definitely, a lower percentage.”[…]

The initiative requires an immediate end to the enterprise, said [Douglas Bruce sponsor of Issue 300 passed by Colorado Springs voters November 3], who is threatening to start a petition drive for a permanent property tax cut if the city doesn’t get rid of the enterprise right away. “I don’t make threats,” Bruce said Monday night. “I’m just advising them that there’s going to be adverse consequences if they don’t give the people what they want.”

More stormwater coverage here.

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