The city left its stormwater infrastructure unfunded for far too long.
What we think:
The stormwater fee, expected to raise $17 million annually, is a long-awaited solution to the problem.
In recent months, the city has started to tackle a languishing problem that has long plagued Colorado Springs — and created a legally tense relationship with its southern neighbor, Pueblo.
Colorado Springs needs a dedicated fund to address stormwater issues: flooding, drainage, erosion, sending contaminated water down Fountain Creek to Pueblo. And this time around, they’re doing it right. City leaders have polled the community, discussed stormwater with anyone who will listen and collaborated with Pueblo leaders to find a solution that will work.
That solution is a stormwater fee charged to property owners. The Springs is the only major city in the nation without a dedicated fee charged to property owners and developers based on the amount of cover they place on a parcel of ground.
There are always naysayers to pick apart the details. The city’s definition of what creates stormwater should include snow and not just rain, for example. Others say Colorado Springs should have acted decades ago and charged developers stormwater fees as they were building huge projects like Briargate. That’s probably true — but they didn’t, and now city leaders must find a solution even while facing legal action from the Environmental Protection Agency.
The solution works in other cities, and should work here: Charge a stormwater fee to cover drainage issues and address those that have been neglected far too long. After a voter recall for an earlier fee, residents in Colorado Springs now recognize the problem needs a solution. A poll earlier this month said most voters — not all, but most — favor a stormwater fee.
It’s the plan favored by Mayor John Suthers, who doesn’t exactly embrace a tax-and-spend mentality. City council, after rescinding a similar fee in 2009, decided on Aug. 8 to renew the fee and decided earlier this week to put it on the ballot.
No matter what voters decide, the city must take steps to address the backlog of stormwater drainage infrastructure projects. It’s part of basic city services: roads free from potholes, adequate police and fire protection, infrastructure to prevent flooding and erosion. If the city can raise $17 million a year in stormwater fees to address drainage issues, then money now used for that purpose can provide funding for more police and fire protection.
More than 10,000 people have moved to Colorado Springs in the past three years, according to economists. As the city grows, it will need to attract businesses and jobs — and that means providing basic city services.
No one wants to pay more taxes, but let’s all agree: The chronic stormwater problem is threatening our city’s relationship with Pueblo; it’s causing economic development problems. It needs to be addressed immediately, not left for future leaders to face.
Supporting the stormwater fee is supporting business development.