What does Stormwater have to do with Parks and Trails?
This November, Colorado Springs voters will be asked to allow city council to reinstate the stormwater fee. The TOSC Board of Directors has voted to support this proposal because it aligns with our mission of preserving parks and open space, and creating a network of trails and bikeways in our region.
The fee addresses a critical need in our community that will benefit our parks, trails, and waterways. It supports drainage and flood control projects outlined in the inter-governmental agreement (IGA) with Pueblo.
Stormwater infrastructure projects often:
- Protect adjacent trails from damage often caused by flooding. (Example – Pikes Peak Greenway, Foothills Trail)
- Provide additional trail connections/public access. (Example – Sand Creek and Cottonwood Creek Trails.)
City Water Resources staff estimate that 85-90% of the 71 capital projects listed in the IGA agreement with Pueblo will provide public trail access. New detention ponds and channel stabilization require “access roads” to build and maintain. The roads are essentially tier 3 gravel trails. In many cases they connect to our existing trail system, or can easily be connected at a minimum cost.
Why are residents being asked to support the November Ballot Initiative?
The City of Colorado Springs had to promise to complete 71 stormwater projects at a total cost of $460 million over the next 20 years to improve the quality of the water going downstream to our neighbors. Right now, those dollars are coming out of the General Fund Budget.
In 2018, $17 million of general fund revenue will be used for stormwater projects.
The result: other city priorities are woefully underfunded, such as parks and police.
The Parks portion of the general fund is still below what it was 10 years ago.
Can’t City Council collect fees for stormwater without a vote of the people?
Yes they can, in fact cities of our size and larger all across the country do collect fees instead of taking it from the general fund. Our Mayor and City Council chose this approach.
How much is the fee?
$5 per month for residential properties and $30 per month per acre for developed non-residential properties.
How will this affect our potential EPA fine for past non-compliance?
The Mayor believes this will send a message of “good-faith” that could reduce any punitive fines. The City of Atlanta went through a similar process. Due to their EPA fine, they’ve had to charge households an additional $50/month to cover costs. $5/month seems like a better deal. It is better to pay for necessary stormwater projects than fend off lawsuits and pay legal fees.
Will the stormwater projects provide funding for trail connections?
No, dollars from the fees collected can ONLY be used for necessary access roads to allow periodic inspections and maintenance to make sure the structures are performing a needed. But the parks department will be able to connect to the access roads or improve them (at a lower cost with parks dollars) to provide better trail connectivity across our system. Better maintenance of our stormwater drainage and flood control system also helps prevent flood-related damage to trails like we saw two years ago on the south Greenway Trail.
Has the Mayor promised dollars freed up in the general fund will go to support parks?
No, and we know there are competing needs (police, fire, fleet.) But the Mayor has said repeatedly that he agrees our parks department is underfunded and that maintaining our parks, trails and open spaces is a community priority.