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November ballot issue seen for stormwater

       Hoping to establish a governance mechanism to fund stormwater projects, the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force is planning a ballot issue for the November election.

The three slides above are being shown at presentations by the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force. The informal entity is pushing for a ballot issue in the November election to support action on area stormwater needs.
Courtesy of Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force

       Still unresolved is what sort of mechanism it would be. In a presentation Jan. 8 to the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) Board of Directors, Carol Baker of Colorado Springs Utilities displayed a slide show stating that the task force still does not know if the governing body would be a new or existing entity. Also needing a decision is if such an operation would be funded by fees based on a property's impervious surface, sales or property taxes, or bonds that would be paid back over time with taxes or fees.
       Nevertheless, the Task Force timetable, also part of the slide show, indicates that by spring - Baker told the board the target month is March - a “final recommendation” will be ready.
       In preparation for the November election, intergovernmental agreements will also be hammered out this spring, the slide presentation states.
       The idea is to have as many governments participating as possible, but “no one will have to do anything,” Baker stressed. “It won't be crammed down their throats.”
       According to a year-old consultant study that the Task Force is using, more than 20 of nearly 400 needed stormwater projects inside Colorado Springs city limits are on the Westside. Included on the list are the Camp Creek drainage and the King Street and 19th Street detention ponds, each of which had been deemed “critical” when the city had a fee-supported Stormwater Enterprise from 2007 to 2009.
       Based on findings from a “scientific public opinion poll” in November, the Task Force - consisting of local civic and government officials - believes strong public support exists for taking some kind of action. One of the presentation slides showed that two-thirds of those polled believe flood control is “very important,” 81 percent prefer a dedicated-funding plan and 73 percent want a regional approach.
       Key to zeroing in on a governance plan is a scheduled meeting of the Task Force with Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach Jan. 16. To date, Bach has expressed reluctance to support a new tax or fee for stormwater upgrades.
       One of the Task Force presentation slides quotes a 2012 study revealing that Colorado Springs' average funding per capita for stormwater needs is $4.63, compared to an average of $57.38 of the other 10 most populated cities in Colorado.
       The city's stormwater funding averaged above $40 a year during the Stormwater Enterprise years, but voters - angry that the fee was never put to a popular vote - threw it out in a 2009 election
       Another slide, drawing on an engineering study by CH2M Hill, shows that Colorado Springs has $535 million in “estimated needed funds” for stormwater capital improvements but only has $2 million in “annually available funds.” For operations and maintenance, the “need” is $10.4 million and the “available” is $1.5 million, the slide further states.
       Baker noted that the study analyzed the region's needs in 2012 - before flooding worsened by the Waldo Canyon Fire occurred last August and September.
       This time lag led to discussion among board members about the full reliability of the information. Andy Pico, a City Council member, said the study ought to be updated to show the city money spent in 2013 to address emergency and other flood issues. Baker said that even if it did, the region's efforts would still rate poorly overall.
       The presentation focused on Colorado Springs and El Paso County. Marc Snyder, mayor of Manitou Springs, argued that facts should also be provided on what other specific jurisdictions are doing in the region - for example, he said, Manitou already has a stormwater fee, charging $11 a month for stormwater needs on every utility bill.
       Baker said she is giving her presentations at meetings of various government entities in the region. The PPACG board, which consists of elected government representatives from three counties (including El Paso), was not asked to take formal action at this time.

Westside Pioneer article