Grand Valley Drainage District looking to loans to accelerate project construction

Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via
Bicycling the Colorado National Monument, Grand Valley in the distance via

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Gary Harmon):

The district board this week directed staff to look into seeking low-interest loans from a state agency as it contemplates spending about $5 million for the Buthorn drainage system and prepares for improvements in the Appleton area to accommodate new development.

“We need to investigate indebtedness” as one way to pay for the projects to be funded by the district’s stormwater fee, Chairman Mark Harris said.

The Colorado Water Conservation Board will lend up to $10 million per project at an interest rate of 2.3 percent for up to 30 years, and officials with the agency have already opined that district projects such as improving the Buthorn drain could qualify for the loan program.

Looking further into such a loan is a “piece of due diligence we probably should do,” Harris said.

Diverting 40 percent of stormwater revenues, or about $1 million a year, to paying off debt could allow the district to tackle urgent projects, such as those required by road-repair projects, as well as those that rank high on the district’s priority list, General Manager Tim Ryan said.

A project planned by the Colorado Department of Transportation could require $150,000 that’s not included in the district’s budget, but which could be otherwise accommodated under a borrowing program, Ryan said.

The district has collected $2.2 million of the $2.7 million for which it sent out bills within its 90-square-mile area this year. The district board could consider turning over unpaid bills to a state collection agency as early as next month.

Mesa County and the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce haven’t paid their bills and have sued the district to prevent it from collecting them.

A Mesa County District Court judge, however, rejected their request for a preliminary injunction this summer and the case is set for trial in June, though the district is asking that a judge rule without a trial.

The county and chamber contend the charge is a tax that is being levied outside the requirements of the Colorado Constitution, while the district says it’s a fee.

The court ruled it was “in the nature of a fee” in denying the preliminary injunction.

The district’s stormwater charge is $3 per month for most residences and $3 per month for every 2,500 square feet of impervious surface, such as roofs, parking lots and driveways owned by businesses, local governments and nonprofits.

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