Fountain Creek: Mill levy on the horizon for Pueblo and El Paso counties?

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Here’s a report from Chris Woodka writing for The Pueblo Chieftain:

A report from the Trust for Public Lands next month could help solidify plans by a Fountain Creek improvement district to ask voters for a mill levy. “Our current funding runs out at the end of this year,” said El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey. “We may be passing the hat next year.”

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District last year signed an agreement to work with the trust to poll voters about what kind of ballot issue would likely be supported to provide more sustainable funding for the district. “When we get to the big question, we have to find out what the will of the people is,” said Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart.

Under state law, the district can ask voters in Pueblo and El Paso counties for up to 5 mills. Apparently, the majority of voters in both counties would decide the issue. In other words, a mill could not be passed in one county and rejected in another.

Hisey said the size of the mill levy could depend on whether the district intends to fund its basic operations, leverage grant money or tackle larger problems. The distribution of funding could be arranged in such a way that El Paso County could pay more than Pueblo County and use money to address its nearly $1 billion in backlogged stormwater projects, the board agreed during discussion.

“But Pueblo money cannot go north,” Hisey said. Hart agreed.

“The formula has to make sure the money is being spent in the county being taxed,” he said.

The district so far has survived largely on funding from Colorado Springs Utilities and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District. Under its 1041 permit with Pueblo County, the district would receive the remainder of $50 million promised from Colorado Springs over five years after the Southern Delivery System is completed in 2016.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

A district formed to improve Fountain Creek will put some additional money into a project designed to showcase methods to reduce erosion.

The Arkansas Basin Roundtable earlier this month kicked back a grant for an erosion control project on the Frost Ranch south of Fountain in El Paso County saying more matching funds were needed.

Last week, the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board agreed to pay another $35,000 toward the project, while landowner Jay Frost agreed to contribute $7,000. The district is seeking $105,000 in funds — reduced from a $150,000 request — from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, with a $31,000 inkind contribution from Colorado Springs Utilities. The district, which already committed $10,000 to the project, will use money from the Fountain Creek master plan fund to pay its share. The fund is equally supported by Colorado Springs and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District.

Engineer Graham Thompson explained the project would use natural methods and native plants to create a healthy channel. The Frost Ranch was chosen because the ranch is within an area that is otherwise healthy.
“It opens the door for other grant cycles,” Thompson said. “More and more I’m convinced that the sediment load in Pueblo County is coming from the banks (of Fountain Creek).”

While the board has limited money left in the master plan fund, about $100,000, projects like the Frost Ranch will provide leverage for future grants as well as show other landowners what can be done, said Executive Director Larry Small. “We have the money, so we need to do the work,” said board member Richard Skorman.

From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

During a hand­off of seats on a board dedicated to protecting Fountain Creek Friday, Pueblo County Commissioner Terry Hart nearly fumbled the baton. Otherwise, things went smoothly.

Hart, who replaced District Attorney Jeff Chostner on the board, told the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District board he was pleased to be sitting at the “adults’ table,” invoking an analogy of Thanksgiving dinner. There were some amused groans from the “children’s table” in the audience and one committee member laughingly quipped he would have to “take out his pacifier” before addressing the board. Hart formerly chaired the citizens advisory group and has attended Fountain Creek meetings for the past year.

Chostner was lauded by his fellow board members for his service and involvement since the formation of the Fountain Creek Vision Task Force in 2006. “You’ve been the glue for this board in a lot of ways,” Richard Skorman, a former Colorado Springs councilman, told Chostner. “You’ve come to El Paso County a lot and reached out in a way no one else has.”

“The beauty of this board is that we can be friends,” Chostner replied.

The board elected officers for the coming year. Fountain Mayor Pro Tem Gabe Ortega was elected chairman; Pueblo City Councilwoman Eva Montoya, vice chairman; Colorado Springs Councilwoman Brandy Williams, secretary; and Fountain Creek Pueblo County resident Jane Rhodes, treasurer. Other members are Palmer Lake Mayor Pro Tem Michael Maddux, Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District board member Melissa Esquibel, El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and Hart. The district was formed by the state Legislature in 2009 to address common Fountain Creek concerns in El Paso and Pueblo counties.

More Fountain Creek coverage here and here.

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