Saying they have learned from their mistakes, Colorado Springs City Council members and El Paso County commissioners vowed never to collect a stormwater fee without first asking voters.
Across the state, municipalities have created enterprise programs that collect fees for stormwater and drainage projects without first seeking voter approval, which is legal. Colorado Springs did, too, implementing a stormwater enterprise fee in 2005 without asking voters if they were willing to pay for such projects as channels, detention ponds and maintaining pipes and water basins.
The program ended in 2009 after Colorado Springs voters approved Issue 300, which precluded enterprises from giving money to the city's general fund.
The city won't do that again, council members said.
Council members and commissioners met Wednesday to discuss stormwater funding. They agreed to "scrub" the city and county budgets to find money to pay for a backlog of stormwater projects estimated to cost more than $700 million.
But operations and maintenance would cost $11 million a year, and they doubted the city and county budgets could come up with that kind of cash.
Elected officials are sure they are headed toward a ballot question, but they don't know what the question will be or who will be in charge of managing a stormwater program - the city, the county or a regional authority.
The Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force has presented two funding options - an authority that collects fees or an authority that collects taxes - but the elected officials are not ready to commit to either option.
"All options need to remain on the table and we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions," said Councilman Merv Bennett.
Both groups agreed the region needs a sustainable funding source for stormwater projects.
Regardless of the funding model, local residents must vote on the issue, they said.
Council President Keith King is investigating funding models not presented by the task force that sound promising, said Commissioner Dennis Hisey.
And, although no one mentioned it at Wednesday's meeting between City Council members and county commissioners, Mayor Steve Bach has his staff working on funding options, too.
Task force members said they were not pushing one funding model over another. But the members urged elected officials to make up their minds by the end of year if they want a November 2014 ballot question.
"The most important piece of this process is regionalism," said Jan Doran, a member of the task force. "It has got to be done regionally."
Additionally, Pueblo County commissioners are growing impatient over the absence of a plan by El Paso County and Colorado Springs to address stormwater projects, the Pueblo Chieftain newspaper reported earlier this week.
Pueblo County commissioners have argued that Colorado Springs must complete some mitigation projects connected to the Southern Delivery System by 2016 to ensure that flows in Fountain Creek don't exceed levels of 2009.
However, there is strain between the counties, city and utilities over what the mitigation projects should be and who has ultimate authority under the existing permits.
Task force members will meet with Bach in September and the Colorado Springs City Council will meet with Pueblo County commissioners.
Meanwhile, the task force will keep moving forward, said member Pam Maier. It cannot afford to lose momentum, she said.
Maier believes residents are ready to tax themselves to pay for the stormwater projects.
"This town supports saving residents from suffering from floods and other disasters that occur when you don't have a stormwater program in place," she said.