Westside Pioneer Home Page

Revived Stormwater Enterprise to go before Springs voters in November

       Colorado Springs voters will get to vote on bringing back a stormwater fee in the Nov. 7 election.
       Approved by City Council in late August at the urging of Mayor John Suthers, the resurrected Stormwater Enterprise would have a monthly fee of $5 for residential properties and $30 an acre for all others.
In a file photo, a family of ducks swims at the north end of Camp Creek's Pleasant Valley ditch (just downstream from Chambers Way). Photo looks south. The ditch is scheduled for a major renovation, with at least part of the cost covered by a return of the Stormwater Enterprise.
Westside Pioneer file photo

       According to archived information, that residential rate would be cheaper than the average $7.50 a month for the original Stormwater Enterprise, which billed customers from 2007 to 2009. Administrative details are still being worked out, but staffers' plan is to have the enterprise take effect in July 2018, with the invoices included on Colorado Springs Utilities bills.
       With the old Stormwater Enterprise, major projects on the Westside included upgrades to the South Douglas Creek concrete channel west of Centennial Boulevard and Fountain Creek between 8th and 21st streets.
       If voters agree, the new fee would sunset in 20 years, Suthers told council. He said the fee is not only needed to fix longstanding needs, but will prove that Colorado Springs is taking steps to do so.
       Such proof will help the city to forestall separate legal challenges from Pueblo County and from the Environmental Protection Agency related to the city's previous stormwater shortcomings, Suthers outlined.
       The new enterprise will prioritize 71 projects, at an estimated cost of $460 million, which were formally identified in an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) with Pueblo in 2016, in which Colorado Springs agreed to do those projects within 20 years.
       To keep up that pace using just the general fund - like this year - could force cutbacks in police and fire protection, Suthers warned.
       The IGA project list includes two on the Westside - a $250,000 upgrade at the King Street detention pond (planned this year) and $4.4 million toward Camp Creek drainage improvements (tentatively in 2018-2019).
       Suthers also noted that attention to stormwater issues was a campaign promise he made when he ran for mayor in 2015.
       “I think the time is right,” he told council.
       With some differences (including a cost structure that does not distinguish between pervious/impervious surfaces), the proposed program is modeled after the first Stormwater Enterprise.
       Approved by City Council without going to the public, that version was voted out in a November 2009 initiative led by tax crusader Douglas Bruce, who disparaged it as a “rain tax.”
       Despite the mayor's arguments at the late August meeting, three City Councilmembers voted against going forward with the ballot proposal. One of these, Don Knight, represents District 1, which takes in the north part of the Westside.
       He said that while he supports fixing the city's stormwater needs, he thinks the mayor's plan has been rushed, without sufficient council involvements and a lack of citizen meetings, and this could lead to an “excruciating” defeat at the polls. He also has a problem with the mayor's point that without a Stormwater Enterprise money might not be there for cops and fire. Some of his constituents are calling this “bait and switch,” Knight said.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 9/6/17; Politics: City/County)

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)