From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):
Pueblo officials are encouraged that Colorado Springs voters overwhelmingly passed a sales tax Tuesday to improve roads, saying it should keep the city to the north on track to fulfill its obligation to control stormwater on Fountain Creek.
“I’m glad it passed, but the proof is in the pudding,” said Jay Winner, general manager of the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. “Colorado Springs is doing the right thing, and a lot of the credit goes to (Mayor) John Suthers.”
The Lower Ark teed up a federal lawsuit over violation of the Clean Water Act following years of foot-dragging on the stormwater issue. Prior to Suthers’ election in May, the former Mayor Steve Bach resisted efforts to find a permanent source for stormwater control funding. Bach campaigned against creating a regional drainage district that failed in a vote last year.
Shortly after taking office, Suthers and Colorado Springs City Council President Merv Bennett gave assurances to Pueblo City Council that $19 million annually would be funneled into stormwater control. Opponents of the street tax suggested that the money targeted for stormwater could be used for streets instead.
Voters disagreed, passing the sales tax by a 65-35 margin. The 0.62 percent tax is expected to generate $260 million over the next five years for Colorado Springs streets.
“I never had any doubt they would do everything they could to get it passed,” said Pueblo City Council President Steve Nawrocki, praising the leadership of Suthers and Bennett. “This gives me a lot of confidence. We plan to meet with (Colorado Springs City Council) more often as we pursue this in the future.”
“I’m very pleased voters passed the roads tax measure,” Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart said. “It takes care of one of their two major infrastructure problems and frees up money for stormwater.”
All were inspired in different ways by the Colorado Springs vote.
For Winner, it could mean better reception for partnerships between the Lower Ark district and Colorado Springs. While they have worked together on Fountain Creek issues, the Lower Ark has also pushed for agreements on things such as Super Ditch and conservation easements.
“I think once the leadership within Colorado Springs Utilities has stabilized, we will be able to again have productive discussions,” Winner said. Hart said it paves the way for clearer negotiations over the remaining issues in the 1041 permit for Southern Delivery System.
“It makes it easier because traditionally streets have been a competing need with stormwater. This pays for that competing need,” Hart said.
For Nawrocki, it’s more of a call to look inward, and attempt to pass a tax similar to Colorado Springs to address infrastructure needs, including streets, in Pueblo.
“As president of City Council, I am interested in finding a funding source to do those sorts of things here in Pueblo,” Nawrocki said.