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Council abolishing stormwater enterprise

By: DANIEL CHACÓN
November 9, 2009
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photo - Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jan Martin listens to the Colorado Springs city council talk of cutting police jobs at a meeting of the council on Monday, November 9, 2009. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE
Colorado Springs City Councilwoman Jan Martin listens to the Colorado Springs city council talk of cutting police jobs at a meeting of the council on Monday, November 9, 2009. Photo by JERILEE BENNETT, THE GAZETTE 

Saying the voters had spoken when they approved Issue 300 last week, the Colorado Springs City Council agreed Monday to phase out the controversial Stormwater Enterprise.

“I’m convinced that when people were voting on it, their primary vote was to eliminate or phase out the Stormwater Enterprise,” said Mayor Lionel Rivera, who previously maintained that Issue 300 would not affect the Stormwater Enterprise.

The council’s about-face followed last week’s crushing defeat on Election Day, when voters slammed the door on a proposed property tax increase while approving a measure anti-tax crusader Douglas Bruce succeeded in placing on the ballot that phases out payments to the city from city-owned enterprises.

Although some city officials had questioned whether Bruce’s measure affected fees collected from residents for the Stormwater Enterprise’s drainage projects, the council Monday told the city manager to prepare a recommendation on how to do away with the enterprise and associated fee with critical projects still in the pipeline.

The Stormwater Enterprise was created in 2005 to raise money for a backlog of drainage projects after sewage spills led to fines and lawsuits against the city. Bruce had opposed the fee, which is based on the amount of impervious surface on properties, as an illegal tax that had been imposed without voter approval.

Still unresolved is if the city will file tax liens against property owners who haven’t paid the fees. No amnesty for delinquent stormwater bills was discussed, but Councilman Bernie Herpin suggested extending the grace period for residents before liens are filed.

“I think that we should send a letter to those delinquent accounts saying the voters have voted to phase out the stormwater enterprise, but it does not abolish the enterprise (and) you need to pay up,” Herpin said. “Maybe now that the voters have spoken, there will be a little more impetus to that.”

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