Westside shows 3 projects among 114 on regional stormwater's ballot-question listEl Paso County voters are being asked to vote yes on a ballot question aimed at improving drainage control with funding from a property-based fee.
Question 1B would establish an entity called the Pikes Peak Rural Drainage Authority (PPRDA), whose stated responsibilities include funding 114 “recommended projects” embedded in the question. Among these are at least three on the Westside.
Based on the fee rate structure, the ballot question states that PPRDA would raise “a maximum amount of $39,275,650 in 2016.” There is also a guarantee of “not more than 1 percent of gross revenue for administration expenses, with 55 percent of net revenue used for capital improvements, 35 percent for operation and maintenance, and 10
The mail-in election has a ballot-submittal deadline of Nov. 4.
Proponents tout 1B as a reasonably inexpensive solution to a large backlog of regional drainage problems, including all fee rates being “fixed for 20 years.” Opponents fear that the fee revenues will allow other government money to be used on pet projects as well as the fact that the PPRDA has no sunset clause other than the capital portion. (Click here to see the unpublished pro and con submittals to the County Clerk's Office.)
The measure was developed by a private volunteer group called Citizens for Responsible Stormwater Action, which is also known as the Regional Stormwater Task Force.
Regarding the number of Westside projects, the term “at least” is used above (in the second paragraph of this article) because the ballot question does not offer detailed information for all 114 on the list. For instance, an earlier draft list had included a project titled “Bear Creek Reaches” (defined as channel lining and drop structures in five creek locations). But the only “Bear Creek” appearing on the ballot contains those two words and no more.
Seeking greater detail, the Westside Pioneer left a message with City Engineering Oct. 16. The Pioneer will post any explanatory information that is eventually learned. However, it is too late for the ballot language to change.
According to Regional Task Force information, the PPRDA is modeled after the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (PPRTA) - which uses the staffs of existing governments to manage projects and has a board of directors consisting of elected officials from the participating governments.
However, unlike the PPRTA, the PPRDA's ballot question does not offer estimated costs or priorities for its projects, although estimates for most of them have been provided in the past.
Here are the currently known Westside projects, shown as listed in the ballot question (with most recent estimated cost in parentheses, rounded off to the nearest hundred thousand):
- Pleasant Valley Channel Improvements. ($37 million - from a study this year of major Camp Creek upgrades through Pleasant Valley as well as the Garden of the Gods).
- South Douglas Creek Channel Improvements near Kissing Camels. Neighborhood ($3.5 million, from an itemized list by the CH2M Hill consulting firm in February 2013. Note: The targeted channel area, between Garden of the Gods Road and Centennial Boulevard, is actually about a half-mile north of Kissing Camels.)
- 14th, 15th, 17th, and 19th Street Storm Sewer. 8,520 linear feet of storm drain construction ($8.3 million, from CH2M Hill itemized list in February 2013).
As for project priorities, that would be decided by the PPRDA Board of Directors, according to the legally binding intergovernmental agreement (IGA) supporting the plan.
The IGA also provides a spreadsheet showing the fixed fee rate structure. Overall, the rates would be close to the same for the Single Family Residential (SFR) and "Nonprofits/Public Educational" (NPRF) categories, with Commercial/Industrial/Government (CIG) somewhat higher. Also factored in are the percentages of density. An advantage for SFR is that its properties have their rates capped at 7,001 square feet of “impervious area.” So any residential property that size or larger would not pay more. The cap would be 100,001 square feet for NPRF and 400,001 for CIG.
According to the rate structure (and also stated in the ballot question), the average residential monthly bill would be $7.70 a month.
The Pioneer tested the rate structure, using the Old Colorado City Surplus property at 2732 W. Colorado Ave. as an example. With a building and a parking lot, it falls into the range of 8,001 to 15,000 square feet of impervious area. So its monthly bill as a commercial property would be $41.67. But if it were an NPRF, the property's tab would be just $31.25. And if it were a residence, it would be cheaper still (partly because of the cap), at $21.56.
Asked what he thought of those findings, Old Colorado City Surplus owner Tim Tafoya said it seems unfair to businesses even though "we're the ones carrying everything."
A response on the commercial rates was provided by Rachel Beck, a spokesperson for the ballot proposal, who noted that "commercial and residential will both contribute about 45 percent of revenue to the authority."
The PPRDA board of directors would consist of elected officials from the participating government entities: Colorado Springs, El Paso County, Manitou Springs, Fountain and Green Mountain Falls. Like the PPRTA, each entity's board representation would be based on its population. As a result, of the 11 directors, six would be from Colorado Springs (including the mayor), two from the county and one each from the three smaller towns.
The 114 projects in 1B compare with 89 on a draft list, dated Aug. 1, which was part of the package provided to government elected bodies during IGA presentations that month. The changes that were made afterward for the ballot reflect 39 additions and 7 deletions. Also, five of the holdovers had wording changes.
According to Beck “the project list was refined as the ballot deadline neared - Colorado Springs and Green Mountain Falls, in particular, added a number of projects - and some smaller, related projects were consolidated by the county engineer under one umbrella heading.”
Also new are eight projects for Manitou Springs.
In any case, neither Question 1B nor its IGA limits the PPRDA to just the ballot projects.
The draft list had been based on studies since 2012 by CH2M Hill. A summary released by the consulting firm last February stated that 482 projects in all were needed between the city and county, at a total estimated cost of more than $700 million.
Placing a fee-driven, regional stormwater proposal on the ballot has occurred without the support of Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach, who has criticized the regional approach and called for a plan using bond debt, instead of a new fee, to chip away at city stormwater needs over time.
But the Stormwater Task Force has been encouraged by what it termed a “scientific public opinion poll” last year. Among the results: two-thirds of those polled believed flood control is “very important,” 81 percent preferred a dedicated-funding plan (such as a fee) and 73 percent wanted a regional approach.
Technically, because it is a fee, the Task Force did not need to go to the voters. When City Council approved the Stormwater Enterprise (which lasted from 2007 to 2009), it did so by a council vote alone. However, enough citizens got angry over this action (and what public gadfly Douglas Bruce dubbed the “rain tax”) that the enterprise was voted out in the 2009 election. So the Regional Task Force, which formed about three years after that, decided to put the current proposal on the ballot.
Westside Pioneer article