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Stormwater discussions moving to the forefront

By: Keith King and Dennis Hisey
October 13, 2013 Updated: October 13, 2013 at 3:15 pm
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In September, the Colorado Springs City Council and the El Paso County Commissioners adopted a joint resolution on the stormwater management and flood mitigation issues within the Pikes Peak region. We agreed to important guiding principles for the serious efforts, to address the stormwater issues throughout the Fountain Creek Watershed, connecting El Paso and Pueblo counties.

It is important that as, concerned citizens, affected property owners and taxpayers of these two counties your opinions be heard.

The mayor of Colorado Springs has released his 2014 budget and has presented his ideas on how to solve this community problem. We appreciate and applaud his acknowledgement of our stormwater problems. However, his plan is a partial solution and is not a sustainable regional stormwater management and flood mitigation system. We are concerned that his approach is based on a "spending to recovery" assumption, which incurs massive debt and relies on uncertain future sales tax collections to make the payments.

The mayor readily admits that he has come to this discussion late and the needs assessment identified by the CH2MHill study considers only projects within the city limits. Nonetheless, the study indicates that the number of city-only stormwater projects has decreased but estimated costs are in still in excess of $535 million. The remainder of the study will be completed in December and will include projects outside the city limits in other parts of El Paso County. It will also provide engineering recommendations, for collaborative regional stormwater mitigation projects that would result in greater benefits to residents throughout the watershed.

We are planning a listening tour over the next 45 days to hear your thoughts on how to deal with this problem. We believe you deserve to know all the facts about this serious problem and what is being considered; we want to hear from you. We look forward to three well-advertised town hall evening meetings spread throughout the community to make it as convenient as possible for people to attend.

The meetings will be moderated with a brief overview of the problem; some suggested solutions and we will reserve plenty of time to hear from you. We will be asking the mayor to join us.

Colorado Springs City Council and the El Paso County Commissioners believe it is very important to come up with a comprehensive regional solution, not an incomplete partial solution. Based on the past months' flooding, we know that water does not stop at city or county boundaries; it impacts the entire Fountain Creek Watershed. We will be inviting all governmental entities in the county and will be coordinating with our Pueblo partners in the Fountain Creek watershed to encourage discussions there as well.

Our joint resolution is built on these key principles:

- If a fee or tax is proposed, voter approval will be required.

- Any government entity that participates must dedicate existing revenues to the solution. New revenues will be used only to supplement those funds.

- There will be a regional stormwater master plan to designate the most important capital construction needs and proposed timing.

- Any new governing board would have a membership that reflects: all participating entities, taxpayers and ratepayers as voting members and representation proportional to the entity's financial contribution.

- The distribution of funds and stormwater control projects would be in proportion to their revenue contributions, recognizing that benefits of regional and/or upstream projects may yield huge relief to downstream residents.

Initial reports indicate a comprehensive and effective stormwater solution may require funding in a range from $500 to more than $800 million over many years so it's important that we get it right.

We welcome you to one of our town hall meetings. We hope the mayor of Colorado Springs will also attend.

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Keith King is president of the Colorado Springs City Council. Dennis Hisey is chairman of the El Paso County commissioners.

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