Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content Bach uses proclamation to officially oppose stormwater initiative

By Monica Mendoza Updated: August 28, 2014 at 7:57 am

In another volley fired in the campaign on a proposed stormwater initiative, Mayor Steve Bach issued a proclamation Tuesday listing reasons he believes the plan is flawed.

Bach, who has issued one other proclamation since he took office in June 2011, said this is an important election issue he needed to weigh in on by proclamation, which is allowed under the city's code, a spokeswoman for Bach said.

The Colorado Springs City Council gave final approval Tuesday to a stormwater contract that outlines the terms and duties of a proposed Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority, a governmental agency that would plan regional flood control projects.

Voters in portions of El Paso County, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls and Fountain will be asked to approve the creation of the authority and the collection of a stormwater fee, which would be roughly $92 a year for a home with 3,000 square feet of impervious surface.

If approved, a regional authority expects to collect about $39.2 million a year for 20 years. The money would be spent on new construction projects, maintenance and operations of existing flood control projects and would set aside about 10 percent of the fees collected for flooding emergencies.

An 11-member board would oversee the planning of the regional stormwater projects and Colorado Springs would have a majority of the seats on the board.

The proposed November ballot language is expected to be finalized by the Board of County Commissioners at its meeting Tuesday.

"The new authority will grow the size of government with a new, separate legal entity imposing essentially what is the same as a permanent tax even though the county is calling this new charge a fee on all properties, including residential, commercial, nonprofits and military installations for 20 years," Bach's proclamation says.

Further, Bach's proclamation says, the proposed fee is 77 percent higher than the fee the City Council issued in 2009 under a controversial stormwater enterprise that ended in 2011.

Shortly after Bach's chief of staff Steve Cox read the proclamation into the record at Tuesday's City Council meeting, the stormwater task force responded with its own notice to the media.

"The mayor continues to deliberately spread misinformation about how the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater authority will work," said stormwater task force spokeswoman Rachel Beck, in a statement. "We have previously corrected his wholly inaccurate assertions, yet he continues to impugn professional staff and officials and heavily-involved citizens."

Beck said that taxes and fees are defined by state statutes and the stormwater task force is asking for a fee, which would be collected on property tax bills.

"The proposed fee is higher than the fee imposed by the previous city stormwater enterprise because costs have risen while we've kicked the can down the road on this community issue, and we've experienced recent catastrophic flooding damage," Beck wrote.

Bach outlined his concerns about the proposed stormwater authority with the City Council and the regional stormwater task force in recent weeks.

One of his major concerns is that Colorado Springs will depend on a third-party board of directors to determine the city's stormwater priorities. The proposal, he said, does not give the city flexibility in cases of emergency.

"Should the city wish to manage the completion of projects strictly within the city, either with its existing Public Works staff or outside contractors again, a super-majority of the authority board must approve but has no obligation to do so," the proclamation says.

El Paso County Commissioner Amy Lathen, a member of the stormwater task force, addressed Bach's concerns at a recent press conference. She said a member entity can react to an emergency and then get reimbursed by the stormwater authority.

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