COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Springs Mayor Steve Bach has budgeted money for stormwater projects in 2013, but the amount pales in comparison to what's actually needed.
Bach announced this week that $2 million has been set aside next year for drainage maintenance, the first time the city has provided general fund dollars for that purpose since the Stormwater Enterprise fee ended several years ago. The city has had no dedicated funding source since the fee ended.
However, according to Tim Mitros, the city's new stormwater manager, the city has a project backlog of more than $500 million. He said maintenance has fallen behind on repairing structures which are as much as 50 years old.
Mitros and a task force formed by Bach are exploring regional, as opposed to local, solutions to stormwater needs. Mitros said the task force should announce results early next year, and could include a greater reliance on state and federal grant money.
For example, Mitros said the Natural Resource Conservation Service has allocated $1 million to the area because of drainage-related issues resulting from the Waldo Canyon wildfire.
A few million dollars at a time may seem like just a drop in a bucket, but Mitros said it's presently the only way to get finding for drainage repairs.
With the city's $2 million budgeted for next year, Mitros said most of it will be spent on only two projects -- Mirage Channel and Cottonwood Creek.
Michele Crean, who lives along Mirage Channel, believes that a tax increase is the best way to pay for the overwhelming stormwater needs.
"Pay your taxes," she said. "Pay more taxes. I think taxes are too low. Collectively, we can fix major issues like this. To just cross your arms and say I won't pay more taxes, you're really hurting yourself and your neighbors. It all benefits everyone."
Bach also plans to allocate $2 million for drainage maintenance in 2014 and 2015.