Let voters decide, stormwater task force says


Robin Roberts urges officials to place the flood control measure on the November ballot at a rally outside City Hall this morning. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Robin Roberts urges officials to place the flood control measure on the November ballot at a rally outside City Hall this morning.
Members of the Pikes Peak Regional Stormwater Task Force held a rally this morning on the steps of City Hall and urged elected officials to place a proposal to impose stormwater fees on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Task Force Chair Dave Munger said the governments participating in the task force — Colorado Springs, Fountain, Green Mountain Falls, Manitou Springs, Monument, Palmer Lake and El Paso County — approve an intergovernmental agreement that underlies the creation of the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority.

He and others urged the El Paso County commission to place the measure on the ballot.

"There are terrible consequences to our community for not managing stormwater," Munger said. "We can't afford to ignore this any longer."

Jason Wood, CEO of Pikes Peak United Way, said nonprofits in the community are supportive of the proposal and are "ready to do our part to address the safety issues in Colorado Springs."

Local banker Robin Roberts also called for elected officials to place the measure on the ballot, as did former City Councilors Mary Ellen McNally and Brandy Williams.

Bruce Hutchison, president of the Pinecliff Homeowners Association, cited the Independent's cover story from last week as a reason to support the stormwater measure. That report explained a long-standing drainage problem that recently caused up to $20,000 damage to the home of Mike and Laurel Chiaramonte. Speaking of the couple, they wrote a letter to Mayor Steve Bach recently after the city denied any responsibility for the flood damage, citing governmental immunity. Here's their letter:
Mike Chiaramonte stands in front of a cavern eroded from the hillside behind his home where a waterfall cascades during hard rains and floods his home. - PAM ZUBECK
  • Pam Zubeck
  • Mike Chiaramonte stands in front of a cavern eroded from the hillside behind his home where a waterfall cascades during hard rains and floods his home.
Mayor Bach,

We hope this email finds you well, sir. We are sure you've been informed of our plight which we contacted your office about on 17 July and is on the cover of this week's CS Independent. We wanted to reach out to you directly to get help in resolving this intolerable situation.

We appreciate and understand the challenges you face being a public servant (being Air Force officers ourselves) we feel the city is absolutely failing to handle this situation correctly. It is our opinion that a government that hides behind “immunity” to protect itself from damages caused by 30 years of negligence is immoral. We are writing you to ask that your government, which is supposed to protect its citizens, stand up and do the right thing.

It would be one thing if the problem was new or unknown, but the city not only approved the drain, defects and all, their own inspector identified them 30 years ago. The city approved it anyway. Since then the property owners on Popes Valley Drive and Golden Hills Drive have been let down again and again by this municipality. As mayor you can singlehandedly change this course.

To be clear, we are not asking the city to protect us from flooding - we are asking the city to stop flooding us. You see, the flooding and related erosion that we are experiencing would never have happened without the city’s actions. Areal photos predating the drain in question clearly show that there was ZERO erosion on my hillside. All of it since the 1980’s is directly related to that improperly engineered stormwater drain.

The city “Risk Management” department’s response to my claim was essentially, “The city has immunity,” so we don't care about you; talk to your insurance. We must assume that your claims office knows that flood insurance, as delineated in the NFIP, does not cover any finishing's on any level of a dwelling that is even partly below grade. Unfortunately our lower level is below grade and the city’s inaction has left us with a $15K-$20K bill; we are shouldering the burden of their negligence. This doesn't even being to account for property value depletion until the drain is permanently fixed or the fear we experience each time the sky darkens.

Unfortunately for us the engineering flaws of the drain were not known to us at the time of purchase despite searching county records, and hiring both an engineering and home inspection firm. Since the house was purchased as a foreclosure, disclosure was limited. We are still exploring legal options but would rather this situation be resolved quickly so we can return to our lives.

Presently, we feel incredibly wronged by a government we pay to provide basic services and expect to keep us safe. As USAFA grads and public servants ourselves we like to lead by example and do the right thing. Maybe we expected too much from your city officials.

Michael and Laurel Chiaramonte
In response, Bach's Chief of Staff Steve Cox provided the following statement through a city spokeswoman:
City staff has been working with the Chiaramontes and other concerned neighbors and stakeholders for the last several weeks to craft both an interim solution that addresses immediate flooding concerns and can be implemented quickly, and an ultimate solution that takes months to plan, engineer, and construct. The City has offered to provide flood-proofing assistance, in the form of provision and installation of hay bales and excavation of berms and swales, to the Chiaramontes, and is crafting a liability agreement that contains language that provides protection to the Chiaramontes and to the City in the event that the flood-proofing implements fail as a result of future storm events.

We are hopeful the release will be signed soon and the City can begin necessary work to deter further flooding until a permanent fix is in place. While we look forward to partnering with the Chiaramontes to implement this interim solution and we will continue the process of hiring an engineering consultant to plan and design an ultimate solution to this issue, the severity of which has increased over the course of the last year.

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