To Amy Lathen, chair of the El Paso County Board of County Commissioners, the idea of the region's governmental bodies and business groups working in isolated silos is so very passe, at least when it comes to moving the Pikes Peak area forward.
In a "state of the region" speech Wednesday to a room packed with the area's movers-and-shakers, Lathen recounted several successful ventures that resulted, in part, from collaborations between county and municipal governments, business groups and military leaders. Among them: attracting the Combat Aviation Brigade to Fort Carson and a Walmart data center to the county, and opening a public gun range on Fort Carson.
"The good news is that we're learning to work together more and better than we used to and we've seen that it pays off," Lathen said at a Greater Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
She laid out other collaborative efforts that are in the works, including:
- Development of oil and gas regulations to deal with the growing interest in drilling in the county. "We must work within the reality of our authority, and since we're all working under the same state and federal rules, it makes a great deal of sense to develop uniform regulations between the county and our municipalities," she said.
- Developing a regional approach for stormwater management and animal control.
- Coming up with a regional fire code so builders and contractors don't have to create multiple sets of plans to satisfy different governmental agencies.
- Establishing a regional economic development policy.
- Creating a centralized 3-1-1 system to connect residents with the appropriate governmental agency for services such as pothole repair or land-use issues.
County and city officials have been discussing those issues for awhile, but she said after the lunch that there is no timetable for implementing the changes.
"It's going to take time and, in some cases, some legislative action," she said.
But there's a "white paper" in the works on both the regional stormwater and economic development proposals, and discussions with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region are underway.
Despite the call for more collaboration, Lathen said she's not proposing a consolidation of county and municipal governments.
"This is really about, where do we have overlaps and redundancies," she said. "Where can we legally work together?"
Also at the luncheon, the chamber presented awards to four community leaders:
- Regional Leader of the Year: El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey
- Distinctive Service Award: Anne Wamser of Eastern Bank of Colorado, for her support of small business
- Distinctive Service Award: Bob Holmes, executive director of Homeward Pikes Peak, for his work on homelessness
- Community Leader of El Paso County: Gar Anneler, vice chairman of UMB Bank's Colorado Springs operations.