El Paso County engineer Andrè Brackin has addressed stormwater issues since joining county staff in 1996. He’s not confident the problem will be solved any time soon.
“This scenario plays out the same every time,” Brackin said Tuesday in the aftermath of a dust-up between Colorado Springs officials and stormwater task force members. “They crunch the numbers and it turns out the same. All I have to do is pull a file from before. And then it always stops with elected officials.
“In 2000 we had the exact same scenario, just different players in different positions.”
A regional task force to study stormwater needs and prioritize critical projects in the Pikes Peak Region was formed several months ago. The five county commissioners agree that stormwater is a regional issue, to be solved with collaboration among several municipalities and entities.
But they’re not sure Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach feels the same way.
“We can’t look at this based on boundaries,” said commissioner Amy Lathen. “There is no room for turf wars. We need to deal with this regionally. Water does not recognize municipal boundaries.”
Bach, who called it a “mayor’s task force” Tuesday, said, “We certainly want to collaborate on planning and implementation. Where we part is funding.”
Bach said he was surprised when task force members suggested a November ballot question asking voters to approve a tax for stormwater.
“I am not in favor of that,” he said. “I don’t want regional funding.”
The task force is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Thursday at the City Administration Building.
As reported in Tuesday’s Gazette, longtime neighborhood activist Jan Doran — who was among a group of task force members that met with Bach and city officials Friday — said the mayor informed the group their “work was done.”
The task force is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. Thursday at the City Administration Building. It is to report to commissioners Jan. 17. Task force members said they also had expected to present their report to City Council.
“We will hear that report,” Lathen said.
Bach said he wants a consultant hired — and promised the city will pay for “a dispassionate engineering firm” — to quickly assess stormwater needs and priorities. He wants that to happen before the task force reports to commissioners or Colorado Springs City Council.
Bach said he was surprised the region’s stormwater projects will cost $800 million to $1 billion — he thought the number was about $500 million — and said Colorado Springs accounts for 85 percent of the stormwater problems.
“Some of this is going to be regional whether everyone likes it or not,” Brackin said. “We’re all in this together. We all have failing infrastructure.”
Stormwater has been a hot-button issue in Colorado Springs.
A previous City Council created a Stormwater Enterprise in 2005 to raise money for a backlog of drainage projects after sewage spills led to fines and lawsuits against the city. The enterprise, which levied a fee on property owners, was eliminated after the passage of ballot Issue 300 in November 2009.
Since then, the city’s stormwater needs have continued to grow, and Pueblo officials have pressured the city to do more to meet its stormwater obligations.
Contact Bob Stephens: 636-0276 Twitter @bobgstephens
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