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Street tax options, SDS, Ute Valley trail work, and more

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Taxing options for city

Mayor John Suthers and City Council opened talks Friday about what size and what kind of tax hike they'll ask voters to approve in November to address the city's deteriorating streets, with no money going toward other needs, such as flood control.

The city issued estimates for how much various levels of taxation would raise over five years and provided maps of a five-year road-improvement plan and a 10-year plan.

If a sales tax is imposed, 50 percent would come from city households, 12 percent from businesses and 38 percent from tourists. If a property tax is approved, 51 percent would come from households and 49 percent from all other types of property owners — commercial, industrial, agricultural and vacant land.

Sales tax: A half-cent would generate $184.8 million over five years; .62 of a cent, $229.2 million; .75 of a cent, $277.2 million, and 1 cent, $369.6 million.

Depending on the tax amount, households would pay from $64 to $163 more sales taxes per year. The city's current tax rate is 7.63 percent.

Property tax: 8 mills (one mill is $1 for every $1,000 in assessed value of property) would bring in $185.2 million over five years; 10.5 mills, $243.1 million; 12 mills, $277.8 million, and 15.721 mills, $363.9 million.

A property tax hike would mean taxes on a $225,000 house would increase by $143 to $282 more per year, or $12 to $23.50 per month, depending on the mill levy increase. The city's current rate is 4.279 mills.

A poll of residents is in the offing. — PZ

Flood damage estimates

May rainstorms caused approximately $12 million in damage to Colorado Springs' infrastructure, but the city wasn't the only place reporting problems.

El Paso County spokesperson Dave Rose says the county has recorded between $3.5 and $3.6 million in needed repairs. Manitou Springs, meanwhile, may have nearly $20.4 million in infrastructure damage from the rainstorms — and 60 individual areas of damage.

Most of the dollar total in Manitou (some $14.9 million of it) is attached to possible damage to a single box culvert, though the cost of repair could decrease dramatically upon further examination. — JAS

Pumping up

A milestone for the Southern Delivery System came last month when the last of 11 pumps was set in place, according to a construction update. The 50-mile pipeline is slated to deliver water from Pueblo Dam to Colorado Springs, Pueblo West, Fountain and Security starting in early 2016.

The final pump was set at Williams Creek pump station southeast of Colorado Springs, one of three such stations. Colorado Springs Utilities notes the pumps range from 2,000 to 2,750 horsepower, the largest being equivalent to four Formula 1 race cars. Next comes installing electrical components and testing the pump stations.

Through early 2015, Utilities has spent about $643 million on the pipeline project, 83 percent of which has "benefited the Colorado economy," the construction update says. — PZ

Cash for trail work

REI, the national outdoor gear and clothing chain with a store in Colorado Springs, has provided a $20,000 grant to Friends of Ute Valley Park that the volunteer group will use to finish the East Loop Trail, a priority identified in the park's master plan finished in February, the city says in a release.

The 538-acre city park is located south of Vindicator Drive and Eagleview Middle School in northwest Colorado Springs. The friends group works on trails from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. See more information at friendsofutevalleypark.com. — PZ

Back to the drawing board

More than 200 citizen comments on the use of federal lands to train Army helicopter pilots will help shape an alternate proposal, Bureau of Land Management spokesman Kyle Sullivan says via email.

The BLM's Environmental Assessment scoping process, outlined in a draft report released in March, notes 215 people attended two public meetings and 239 written comments were received. Concerns focused on noise, wildlife, quality of life impacts, livestock and pets, fire threat, safety hazards, recreation, flight paths and potential crashes, among other things.

"During the scoping period," Sullivan says, "the Army heard the public's concern about specific landing zones and are adjusting their Plan of Development (POD) to address those concerns." After the new plan is submitted, the BLM will draft alternatives and ask for public comment, he says.

At issue is Fort Carson's proposal to use 43 landing zones covering 234 acres of BLM land southwest of Colorado Springs and north and northeast of Cañon City to conduct thousands of training flights during a 10-year period. Carson previously relied on a temporary permit for BLM land usage, but the permit expired May 1, 2013, and hasn't been renewed. Fort Carson says it's using 12 landing zones in the Pike National Forest pending a BLM agreement. — PZ

Cooperation, please

A report released last week calls for more cooperation between local authorities and federal agencies to "improve federal wildfire mitigation and response efforts," says Philip Clelland, a spokesman for Sen. Michael Bennet, who sought the study.

"This input will also help guide our office's work on any potential future legislation," he adds via email.

The report is the outcome of a meeting in March 2014 between Bennet and Agriculture Department Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie, during which officials in Colorado discussed "their real-world experiences working in Colorado forests and communities," Clelland says.

The report called for improving access to federal forest planning, closing the gap between immediate need and receipt of fire mitigation funding, more strategically focusing forest treatment on land that poses the greatest threat, pushing better collaboration on forest restoration and expediting flood-control funding in times of emergency. — PZ

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