November 23, 2009
The Stormwater Enterprise will cease to exist, but not until December 2011.
A split Colorado Springs City Council decided Monday to phase out the enterprise over two years, allowing the city-owned business to finish projects under construction and also reconstruct a decades-old levee that’s been deemed “minimally acceptable.”
Council members Tom Gallagher, Darryl Glenn, Jan Martin and Randy Purvis called for an immediate end of the enterprise.
The council also decided not to ask the county treasurer to attach overdue fees of delinquent property owners to their property tax bills despite a push from the administration.
Enterprise Manager Ken Sampley said the council’s decision could hamper the enterprise’s ability to collect fees over the next two years, even from people who have been paying them.
“I’d like to think that everybody paid them (in the past) because they were good citizens and wanted to pay their Stormwater Enterprise fee,” he said. “That may not be the case. I think it’s reasonable to believe that if there is no provision for certifying (delinquent accounts) to the treasurer, we will be collecting, definitely, a lower percentage.”
Council members, however, had already made up their minds.
“I think it’s totally inappropriate to refer this over to the treasurer because this program, from day one, has been marketed as a fee,” Glenn said. “I think when you take that particular action, you confuse the issue and, in essence, turn it into a tax.”
Instead, the council opted to try to recover the nearly $1.8 million in delinquent fees through collections.
“I’d be as aggressive as we can without going to the county treasurer,” Purvis said.
The demise of the enterprise stems from ballot Issue 300, which has triggered multiple interpretations. Some council members initially said the measure didn’t affect the Stormwater Enterprise. But after it passed Nov. 3, council members did an about-face and said it was the will of the voters to get rid of it, but when to do it was the big question.
Douglas Bruce, who authored the initiative, said five council members still got it wrong.
The initiative requires an immediate end to the enterprise, said Bruce, who is threatening to start a petition drive for a permanent property tax cut if the city doesn’t get rid of the enterprise right away.
“I don’t make threats,” Bruce said Monday night. “I’m just advising them that there’s going to be adverse consequences if they don’t give the people what they want.”
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