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Good news is there is money for pothole repair; bad news is more conflict at City Hall

March 26, 2014 Updated: March 27, 2014 at 8:14 am
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City of Colorado Springs street crew Jose Tirado, right, and Roxanne French, left, fill a pothole on Jan. 7 along North Nevada Avenue in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Colorado Springs has more than $4 million in an unused maintenance fund that could be spent to fill potholes, a Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority policy director says.

The $4 million was carried over from 2013 and has not been earmarked for any specific projects, said Jason Wilkinson, policy and communications manager for the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments which administers the PPRTA fund.

On Tuesday, Mayor Steve Bach and his chief of staff Steve Cox said they would ask the City Council in April to approve $2 million in emergency spending from the city's reserve fund to pay for pothole repairs. According to the 2014 general fund budget, the city has about $49 million in its reserve fund.

Bach requested that the City Council put the issue on the April 7 and 8 work session and meeting agendas so that he could present his case. He said the city's streets department already has filled more than 8,000 potholes since Jan. 1. But the wet and unusually cold winter caused road eruptions all over the city and more than usual number of potholes.

"I don't want to dip into the reserve fund except for emergencies," Bach said. "Those carry over funds are earmarked for projects."

The issue has stirred yet another rift between Bach and City Council president Keith King who said Wednesday that there is no reason to dip into the city's emergency fund and take $2 million for potholes.

"The actual money is there but not being used," King said. "I need more explanation why we would raid our emergency fund."

In 2004, voters in Colorado Springs and four other cities and the county approved a 1-cent sales tax for transportation and transit projects. This year, that tax will generate about $74 million for the five member cities and county.

PPRTA funds are distributed for three areas: capital projects, maintenance projects and transit projects.

In 2013, the city's PPRTA maintenance budget was about $18 million, Wilkinson said. At the end of the year, the city rolled more than $4 million of that maintenance fund into this year's budget.

There always is carry over money, said Kathleen Kragor, the city's transportation manager. But the money has been built into the 2014 budget and is designated for specific projects.

"It's not just sitting there," she said. "Chances are a good part has been spent."

According to the city's submitted PPRTA 2014 budget, it was planning on spending $6.7 million on road maintenance, $5.8 million on concrete maintenance, $1.8 million on bridge repair, $3.2 million on safety and traffic operations and the remaining $545,869 on signals and capital maintenance. Kragor did not have a list of specific projects readily available.

Bach said he would look into the PPRTA budgets. If there are unused funds, not already designated for other projects, he would withdraw the $2 million request.

"But why would we ask for special appropriations to be approved if we in fact had the money from PPRTA?" he said.

Council member Joel Miller, who is the vice chairman of the PPRTA board of directors, said the city's $4 million in carry over money could be used for the potholes. The maintenance fund can be spent on road resurfacing, pothole patching, minor road repairs, concrete maintenance, curbs and gutters, bridge repair and pedestrians ramps.

"Given that over $4 million dollars of the 2013 allocation for maintenance is currently available, I believe that the emergency request should be funded using these dollars," Miller said in a press release. "This is why voters overwhelmingly supported the PPRTA and I am very pleased that this maintenance emergency can be readily funded without any further burden on the city's budget."

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