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Stormed in

Sluggish Stormwater Enterprise finally a reality


A year after the Colorado Springs City Council approved its creation, the city's Stormwater Enterprise is finally poised to receive taxpayer dollars and to begin to alleviate a $295 million backlog in fixing corroded drains and pipes.

Tuesday's vote to create a rate structure was long preceded by council-wide quibbling, disgruntlement from the business community and repeated sewage spills into Fountain Creek. But most councilors finally agreed on a structure they feel is equitable for the city's myriad businesses, schools, nonprofits and families.

"You've done a good job of addressing fairness," said Councilor Randy Purvis to city staff at Monday's informal meeting.

The stormwater fee, which will be implemented in January 2007, will be put to Colorado Springs property owners depending on which "tier" they fall into. The average single-family home will pay $4.25 per month a significant decrease from the original estimate of $7.50. Nonprofits and public schools will pay no more than $172 per month, with the business rate capped at $920. The Stormwater Enterprise will garner a total of $18.2 million per year nearly $2 million less than anticipated, but still enough to cover six "high-priority" projects in 2007.

"We will be able to have an aggressive capital improvement program with that money," says public communications officer Mary Scott.

That said, it could take up to 60 years to completely update the city's stormwater infrastructure, and some councilors already doubt the fee will stick. Councilor Jerry Heimlicher expressed concerns Monday that the stormwater fee could become political fodder in April's City Council election, when four councilors and Mayor Lionel Rivera are likely to defend their seats. Tom Gallagher, for example, has repeatedly urged council to put the fee to a citywide vote.

"I don't want to support a rain tax," he said Monday. He and Darryl Glenn were the only dissenting votes on the rate structure.

Purvis, meanwhile, had a different take.

"As one who hopes his name is on the ballot," he said, "I will support it."

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