Photos by Pam Zubeck
Mayor John Suthers spoke to a select crowd of supporters of the city's stormwater ballot measure Wednesday evening.
If voters pass a stormwater fee measure on the Nov. 7 ballot, the city's financial woes will be over for at least 20 years, according to Mayor John Suthers.
That was one of his comments made on Wednesday, Aug. 30, at a kickoff for the "vote yes" campaign held at Johnny Martin's Car Central downtown.
"Colorado Springs will be on very firm financial footing for the next two decades [if the measure passes]," he said, urging those in attendance to spread the word about "how serious an issue this is."
While the crowd wasn't massive — only about 40 people — the place was filled with movers and shakers who could emerge as key campaigners in the next two months. Among them were former Council President Pro Tem Jan Martin, Nor'wood Development Group official Ralph Braden, Councilors Jill Gaebler, Tom Strand and David Geislinger, Council President Richard Skorman, the mayor's chief of staff Jeff Greene, and Chamber officials Hannah Parsons and Dirk Draper.
Suthers recapped the city's history of neglecting its stormwater problems, which has led the Environmental Protection Agency and state regulators to file a lawsuit
against the city (News, Aug. 23). It now appears that case, which Suthers initially wanted to try to resolve through settlement, will drag out for "three, five, six, seven years," he said.
"We can't go that long without resolution of this stormwater issue," he said.
Those in the crowd were urged by Suthers to reach out to friends and everyone they could think of to tell them it's time to adequately fund the city's drainage needs.
Currently, the city is spending $17 million a year to fulfill an intergovernmental agreement with Pueblo County to spend $460 million in 20 years on stormwater projects. But that obligation is cutting into the need to hire more police and firefighters, Suthers said. Hence, if voters approve the new fees — $5 per household and $30 per acre for commercial property up to five acres — the new money would satisfy the IGA while freeing general fund dollars for public safety and other needs.
Suthers said the Colorado Springs Police Department currently has 14 uniformed officers per 10,000 people, far short of the norm across the country of 18 to 20. Denver Police Department has 21, he said. Suthers wants to shoot for 17 per 10,000 population.
The Fire Department is operating with 15 fewer firefighters than were on the force before the recession of 2008, Suthers noted.
The political action committee Invest in COS, which hopes to raise $500,000 to fund the campaign, hosted the kickoff.