Mayor declares pothole emergency in Colorado Springs
Colorado Springs city leaders said last fall's wet weather, combined with a cold winter, have led to a 30 percent increase in potholes on streets and roads.
"We've got a problem with our streets," said Steve Cox, chief of staff for Mayor Steve Bach.
Bach, Cox and other city staff discussed the situation during Bach's monthly media briefing on Tuesday. Bach said he'll ask the City Council for $2 million in emergency funds. The money will fund additional pothole repair for the next two years.
"That's why we have an emergency fund, for unexpected emergencies like this," he said.
Bach plans to formally request the money in two weeks at the April 7 council meeting, and expects an approval vote the next day.
Repair crews already have filled nearly 8,200 potholes since Jan. 1, said Corey Farkas, manager of the city's Streets Division.
"(The 30 percent increase) doesn't show some of the severe cases where we've actually identified the potholes for a major dig-out," he said. "It's an enormous problem that we're trying to face."
Contributing to the problem, city leaders said, is that a lack of money has left the city at least 20 years behind in maintenance on streets and roads. As a result, the city repaves only two percent of its pavement annually -- far less than its goal of 10 percent -- and half of all city driving surfaces need to be repaved or rebuilt.
Farkas said the city budgets around $12 million annually for repaving, which isn't enough to cover all needs.
Bach said the city also needs to find more money for stormwater projects, despite $46 million devoted to them the past two years. Bach and a task force favor different approaches to addressing stormwater needs.
"I've asked the City Council for conversation but there's been no response," he said. "My request has been ignored, in my opinion. But I will not support a fee or tax for stormwater projects. That doesn't solve the problem. It's our responsibility (as city leaders) to find funding solutions."
City Councilman Val Snider, who attended Tuesday's briefing, said Bach's words on stormwater caught him by surprise.
"I don't understand where he's coming from," Snider said.
Bach said the underlying cause of city funding woes is a lack of sales tax revenue. He mentioned updated figures from the Department of Labor Statistics showing that the city created only 7,000 jobs between the years 2000 and 2013, as lower-paid service jobs replaced better-paying high-tech jobs.
By comparison, Denver added 167,000 jobs during the same period.
The city, Bach said, continues to grow but is becoming more of a retirement community with much of the population growth comprised of people aged 55 and older.
"We are so heavily dependent on sales tax to run this city that while we have this big increase in population, they aren't spending compared to younger people," he said. "Do we want to continue for decades, maybe forever in this city, putting Band-Aids on very serious issues?"
Bach said the best chances to generate more sales tax depend on growth at the airport, more investment by local hospitals, more small businesses opening, and his own City for Champions idea that would build four new attractions.
The City Council and El Paso County commissioners will meet Wednesday to discuss stormwater issues. The meeting is open to the public and begins at 7:30 a.m. at the Citizens' Service Center on Garden of the Gods Road, room 1017.
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