Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Returned ballots surpass 41,000; close vote expected on Colorado Springs stormwater fee

November 2, 2017 Updated: November 2, 2017 at 8:46 pm
0
photo - Julie Christopher drops off her primary election ballot at a 24 hour ballot drop box outside the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette
Julie Christopher drops off her primary election ballot at a 24 hour ballot drop box outside the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office Wednesday, June 18, 2014. Michael Ciaglo, The Gazette 

With less than a week until Election Day, 41,542 Colorado Springs voters have submitted their ballots.

That is nearly half the expected total officials expect to be submitted between now and Tuesday.

On the ballot is the city's proposal to resurrect a controversial set of stormwater fees. It would raise an estimated $18 million a year for the city's stormwater obligations and free up that same amount in the general fund that Mayor John Suthers has said he wants to spend hiring police officers and firefighters.

Because this is an off-year election, voter turnout is expected to be lower than normal. Suthers said he anticipates 85,000 votes could be cast in the mail-in election.

"We may still reach that," Suthers said.

Councilman Bill Murray, who opposes the fee, said he thinks the stormwater question, which appears on the ballot as Issue 2A, will be a close call. He said he expects it to fail by less than 500 votes, partially because the issue isn't detailed enough and many fear the fees might rise in the future.

City Council President Richard Skorman disagreed, predicting the fees will pass by a few thousand votes. He said the city has been transparent about the proposed fees, adding that increases would be minimal in the unlikely event they increase.

While the number of city ballots returned is available to the public, City Clerk Sarah Johnson said the votes for or against can't legally be released until 7 p.m. on Election Day.

The fees would charge homeowners $5 a month and nonresidential property owners $30 per acre each month. They would last 20 years, in conjunction with a $460 million intergovernmental agreement the city entered into with Pueblo County in April 2016.

Under the agreement, Colorado Springs makes annual investments to 71 stormwater projects within city limits. The required annual investments - now $17 million - increase every five years and average $20 million a year over the life of the agreement.

Under 2A's ballot language, the city would be able to raise the fees to comply with that agreement, which Murray said is one of his concerns.

Richard Mulledy, the city's stormwater manager, said he's confident the city will be able to afford the increasing investments without raising the fees.

Murray also said he's concerned the fees could also be raised if a state and federal lawsuit filed against the city over contaminated stormwater runoff affecting downstream communities results in a large judgment against the city. He projected a judgment could surpass $500 million. Increasing the fees to comply with a court order is also permissible under the ballot language.

Rather than flat rates for homeowners and nonresidential property owners, Murray said he favors charging property owners based on the amount of impervious surface.

"In the end a fee will be required," Murray said. "Who pays what is the real devil in the details."

The city previously imposed stormwater fees that took impervious surface into account in 2005. The move was unpopular with the public, and the stormwater enterprise was defunded by the council in 2009. Voters in 2014 rejected creating a regional stormwater authority.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.