During the last year, we have been seeking to educate the public about the current state of our stormwater drainage system and the needs that exist within that system.
City staff and resident task forces have been looking for ways to fund those needs for several years. With a backlog of almost $300 million in capital improvement project needs, including $66.5 million in critical needs, it was clear that the general fund could not properly address the problems.
The shortfall in addressing our stormwater has resulted in property damage, sewage spills, continual erosion and threats to the safety of our residents.
Backed by 2004 recommendations from the Citizen Transportation Advisory Board and additional 2005 recommendations from the Citizen Stormwater Enterprise Task Force, City Council approved an ordinance establishing a stormwater enterprise in Colorado Springs in late 2005.
The enterprise is a city-owned business that will fund stormwater drainage capital improvement projects, maintenance and operations and federal permit requirements in Colorado Springs. The enterprise will be supported by fees paid by property owners based on the amount of impervious surface on a property. Impervious surfaces are those that do not allow water to penetrate, such as rooftops, driveways, sidewalks and patios.
On Feb. 1, the City of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted a Business Owners Forum to present information about the enterprise, including the proposed rates and credit options being looked at for non-residential properties.
Only 24 business representatives attended this forum. Considering there are more than 20,000 non-residential properties in the city, we are hosting a second Business Owners Forum from 7:30 to 9 a.m. April 5 in the Carnegie Reading Room at the Penrose Library to ensure that those interested in the issue have an opportunity to participate.
A continental breakfast will be available at 7:30 a.m., with a presentation and question and answer session to follow at 7:45.
This forum is also open to nonprofit organizations, and they are highly encouraged to attend.
Nonprofits will not be exempt from this fee, which could annually reach into the thousands of dollars range, depending on the amount of impervious surfaces on their property. It is important that commercial and nonprofit entities understand the realities of the stormwater enterprise so they can do appropriate budget planning.
It is anticipated that the first quarterly bill will go out in the last quarter of this year, covering fees for October through December. We will not bill retroactively.
The proposed monthly rate is $.00264 per square foot of impervious surface ($2.64 per 1,000 square feet).
For a commercial property with a 1-acre parking lot that contains all impervious surfaces, the owner would be billed $115 per month ($1,380 annually) for just the parking area. This cost is in addition to fees applied to the building rooftops and other impervious surface areas on the property.
Non-residential property owners may be able to reduce their fees through a proposed credit system. The system will be a key topic at the April 5 forum. It will be important for you to attend to find out what stormwater management practices will be eligible for a credit, how much of a credit and how you apply for credits. City Council is scheduled to vote on the resolution to set the rate and credit structure on April 25.
I know that no one is excited about paying fees. This is not a decision that was made lightly. It was a decision made out of necessity, after years of research.
I encourage you to make the effort to get informed about the stormwater enterprise. There is a wealth of information on springsgov.com. We also hope you can make the April 5 Business Owners Forum.
Please RSVP to Mary Scott at 385-5248 or by email at mscott@springsgov.com if you plan to attend.
Lorne Kramer is city manager of Colorado Springs.