Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs City Council on Tuesday night endorsed the creation of a new citizen-heavy task force that soon will help to decide how the city should execute and pay for costly upgrades to its stormwater infrastructure.
The council also got a better idea of how costly the upgrades will be and when they will be needed.
Recognizing it never has had a comprehensive plan to improve and maintain the bridges, culverts and dams that make up its stormwater system, the city last year tapped Short Elliott Hendrickson — a firm of engineers, architects, planners and scientists — to perform the $180,000 study of the infrastructure.
Council members heard the preliminary findings of that report Tuesday night.
Public Works Director Chuck Anderson cautioned there still are some unknowns, including the extent of any new federal mandates for municipalities like Steamboat to improve stormwater systems to accommodate growing populations.
“This is not a final report, and it does not lead to a foregone conclusion that we have to take on anything or everything,” Anderson said.
He said the task force will take five months to become experts on the plan and return to council with a recommended course of action.
The city also will host an open house Feb. 7 to explain the plan to the public.
The master plan from Short Elliott Hendrickson estimates that to upgrade, repair and improve the city's stormwater infrastructure will cost $20 million to $33 million.
Short Elliott Hendrickson engineer Steve Gardner told the council his firm's study estimated that the immediate maintenance to the stormwater infrastructure will cost Steamboat $250,000 to $1 million.
He defined immediate maintenance as clogged infrastructure that needs to be cleaned out.
Council member Kenny Reisman asked Anderson whether there were any critical needs to be addressed before the task force concludes it work.
“There's nothing out there that critically needs to be replaced right now, but there are some immediate needs,” Anderson said.
The study also recommends $12 million to $19 million in new capital projects.
The city originally estimated the stormwater projects could total more than $40 million, but officials revised the figure this week after working closely with Short Elliott Hendrickson to better pin down the costs, Interim City Manager Deb Hinsvark said.
Hinsvark has said the city lacks a dedicated source of revenue to pay for the projects, and it may need to consider proposing a fee or a new tax on property owners to help with funding.
A fee system is used commonly in many municipalities along the Front Range.
Council member Cari Hermacinski said she wanted to ensure the task force still will be able to consider recommending that the city use its own money to pay for the projects.
She noted the city is considering spending as much as $10 million of its unallocated reserves to build new police and fire stations.
“If we had $10 million that we weren't spending on a public safety center, we could spend it on this problem,” she said.
In addition to city staff, Anderson is proposing that community members serve on the task force that will be charged with identifying a funding mechanism.
He is recommending the group include a lawyer; a representative from the development, engineering and construction communities; an at-large resident; a home or business owner impacted by flooding; and a flood insurance provider, among other members.
The city plans to advertise for spots on the committee that will meet every two weeks for five months.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com