‘Purta’ board to get rolling on transportation issues Jan. 3

       The Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority technically does not exist yet, but it already has an acronym pronunciation (“purta”) and at least two potential controversies for its to-be-named board of directors.
       The issues - regarding the amount of first-year administrative costs and the propriety of borrowing before sales-tax earnings are received from the state in mid-March - arose at a joint city-county meeting on the successful Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) ballot issue Dec. 1 in the downtown County Office Building.
       The Board of El Paso County Commissioners, the Colorado Springs City Council and the mayors of Manitou Springs and Green Mountain Falls agreed by consensus to move the RTA forward to its next stage, which involves naming members to the board before the end of December and setting the first meeting date.
       The board will have three county commissioners, three Colorado Springs council members and one member each from the Manitou and Green Mountain councils.
       At the suggestion of Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera, the board's first meeting will be Monday, Jan. 3. The time and place were not announced.
       Commissioner Chairman Chuck Brown, the outgoing District 3 commissioner who will be replaced by recently elected Westsider Sallie Clark in January, was the source of the acronym pronunciation. Not everyone liked “purta,” but by meeting's end most people were finding it more convenient than the full name or the acronym “PPRTA.”
       Council members with Westside ties - Jerry Heimlicher and Tom Gallagher - brought up both the potential RTA controversies.
       Heimlicher, whose District 3 includes the Westside, objected when Rob MacDonald, executive director of the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG), told the joint meeting that his agency, as the designated administrative/accounting arm of PPRTA, plans to budget in 2005 for the anticipated maximum allowable of $600,000. The maximum is based on the RTA's legal wording, which allows up to 1 percent of its 1-cent sales tax's earnings to be used for administration. Thus, the $600,000 would be based on $60 million in anticipated 2005 earnings.
       "The budget should be built from zero up," Heimlicher said. "I don't like the idea of setting it at 1 percent (right from the start)."
       At-large City Council-man Larry Small sided with PPACG that in the first year it would be prudent to budget the full amount, because of the likelihood of one-time as well as unexpected administrative costs.
       Gallagher backed Heimlicher, pointing out that PPACG was chosen because it already is performing similar services for local governments. “The sentiments of the community are to see how frugally we can operate this,” Gallagher said.
       Gallagher, a Westside resident and at-large council member, also expressed his discontent with city/county staffs'proposal for funding PPRTA transit services in the first part of 2005. Because no funds will come in until March 15, staff proposed that the City of Colorado Springs advance money (estimated at $100,000) to keep certain existing routes operational, then get reimbursed when PPRTA money comes in. The meeting consensus seemed to see this as no problem, but Gallagher said he believed voters expected the RTA “to stand on its own.”
       “If we spend money from other sources (before RTA money comes in), it casts a shadow on what the RTA ballot issue represented,” he said.
       In another PPRTA matter, legal staff assured the city/county elected officials that a lawsuit filed this week claiming illegal wording in the November RTA ballot issue has scant chance of being successful.

Westside Pioneer article