From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
An El Paso County task force is moving a ballot issue this November to create a regional fee for stormwater control.
“People recognize this is a problem for us, and to not address the problem as elected leaders is not acceptable,” said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey.
The task force has been meeting for nearly two years, and has moved to citizen control after elected leaders and paid government staff got the ball rolling.
On Monday, the group presented a plan to Colorado Springs City Council that would assess a monthly fee of $8-$12 for most property owners to raise $50 million annually for the next 20-30 years. Council and county commissioners meet today to jointly discuss several issues, including the stormwater fee. The money would go toward addressing $700 million in stormwater projects in El Paso County, including about $250 million in high-priority projects.
Getting the issue to the ballot will not be a simple task. The commissioners have to approve ballot language, and it’s not known what that will look like or who would challenge it.
The first step will be for the citizens task force to obtain intergovernmental agreements from all of the incorporated cities and potentially special districts in El Paso County. Manitou Springs and a district in the northern part of the county already have stormwater fees, Hisey explained.
“We don’t want anyone paying double taxes for the same service,” he said.
The IGAs should be in place before the ballot issue is approved, so that the structure of the authority that will administer the funds can be determined. One of the issues brought up in earlier meetings by Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach was retaining local control over the city’s share of the projects.
Under last year’s changes in election laws, all of the pre-ballot work has to be done by the end of July, Hisey said.
In 2009, Colorado Springs City Council voted to dissolve a stormwater enterprise that it created four years earlier, based on its interpretation of a city election.
Officials from Pueblo and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District were angered by the move because the stormwater enterprise was used as a condition to address Fountain Creek flooding issues for permit approval by Colorado Springs for its Southern Delivery System.
“The hope of the Lower Ark district is that voters will pass it, and Colorado Springs will live up to its commitments under the Pueblo County 1041 permit,” said Jay Winner, Lower Ark general manager. “As a district, we are patiently waiting to see what happens.”