GUEST COLUMN:
PPACG role ‘important’
By Sallie Clark

       I wanted to take this opportunity to respond to a guest column in the Feb. 24 Westside Pioneer, which suggested that the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments (PPACG) is “useless.” This viewpoint seems to have been predicated on the Long-Range Regional Transportation Plan and does not consider the scope or magnitude of PPACG's regional mission. As chair of the PPACG Board of Directors, I appreciate being given the opportunity to highlight the important role PPACG plays in our region and its ability to provide needed services to the citizens that we serve.
       What is PPACG?
       PPACG is a voluntary organization made up of El Paso, Park, and Teller counties and 13 municipalities within that area. PPACG has no authority to tax, legislate, or condemn land. Its mission is to provide a forum for local governments to discuss issues that cross political boundaries, identify shared opportunities and challenges and develop collaborative strategies and priorities for action. The member governments participate with dues based on size. In 2011, PPACG leveraged $135 million in federal and state funds to help bring dollars back to our community for important projects and services.
       Other than transportation planning, what does PPACG address?
       PPACG provides the following services:
  • Administration of the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) financials.
  • Development of the regional sustainability plan.
  • Facilitation of Fort Carson community provider training.
  • Family Caregiver Support Center.
  • Fountain Creek Watershed planning.
  • Implementation of the Fort Carson Regional Growth Plan.
  • Implementation of the Water Quality Management Plan (required under federal regulation).
  • Mobility Management (coordinating transportation services for the elderly and disabled).
  • Monitoring of federally regulated air quality standards.
  • Ombudsman services for residents of licensed long-term care facilities.
  • Publication of “The Yellow Book,” a directory of services in the region.
  • Review of wastewater site applications and discharge permits (required Colorado regulation).
  • Senior Dental Program.
  • Senior information and assistance (over 17,000 inquiry responses projected in 2011).
  • Senior insurance assistance, including free “Medicare 101” classes.
  • Updating of the Fort Carson Regional Demographic Model.
           Is PPACG's “plan” intended to control how people live?
           PPACG is responsible for several plans, which encompass all geographical areas of the region and include functional activities such as air and water quality, watershed management, and services for senior citizens. These plans are not proscriptive in nature. Rather, they address federal, state, and local regulations with regional sensibility.
           What is PPACG's overall purpose?
           Whether we agree or disagree, federal and state regulations are a reality of law. PPACG is the state-designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO); it is also required for the region as the designated Area Agency on Aging for state Region IV, the lead air quality planning agency for the Colorado Springs urbanized area and the water quality management planning agency for the Pikes Peak region.
           If PPACG was dissolved, this would jeopardize our ability to locally prioritize projects and to obtain state and federal funding to cover those important community improvements.
           What impact does PPACG have directly on our Westside area?
           The Midland Trail (which made the front page of the Feb. 3 Westside Pioneer) received Transportation Enhancement (federal) funds through PPACG's transportation planning process. PPACG is continuing to explore funding opportunities for No Man's Land on the far Westside. The PPACG board recently reallocated $4.2 million for Phase I of a new Cimarron interchange at I-25 and US-24 and has designated it as one of our top regional priorities. Also during 2010, more than 9,000 units of service (meals, rides, respite care) were provided in zip code 80904 by or through PPACG's Area Agency on Aging.
           One plan's possible shortcomings are only a small portion of the overall importance of PPACG. Be assured that like the individuals who have questioned the relevance of PPACG, the PPACG board and our citizen committees also have spirited debates surrounding plans and decisions made for our communities. Most importantly, PPACG has a much bigger mission and continues to serve the Westside and the region.
           As I said a few weeks ago in an interview with the Westside Pioneer, PPACG will continue to provide the representation we need and deserve as well as improve our process so that citizens have a meaningful voice in that process.

    Sallie Clark is the county commissioner for District 3 (which includes the Westside) and this year’s chair of the PPACG board.