Steamboat’s stormwater task force concludes new fee not needed to pay for system upgrades | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s stormwater task force concludes new fee not needed to pay for system upgrades

Steamboat's stormwater task force will not recommend that the city adopt a new fee to pay for stormwater system upgrades. The task force's report will be presented Tuesday night to the Steamboat Springs City Council.

— While more and more cities in Colorado are using fees to pay for their growing stormwater needs, Steamboat Springs is poised to go in a different direction.

A task force created this year to study the stormwater needs in Steamboat has concluded a new fee or utility shouldn’t be created at this time to help cover the cost of maintenance and upgrades.

Instead, the task force is recommending that for the time being, the city’s stormwater upgrades can be covered out of its own budget by hiring more personnel and dedicating more equipment and materials to maintain the infrastructure.

The city already is moving on some aspects of the lengthy report that will be presented Tuesday night to the Steamboat City Council.

The city’s 2014 budget makes room for an additional engineer who will split his or her time between stormwater and water rights, as well as two additional streets employees to fill a three-person crew that will focus on stormwater needs in the summer months.

"In essence, the task force found the city should do more to proactively manage the system, but there is no ground shift in how we approach the issue," City Engineer Ben Beall said.

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City management last year was weighing a new fee or a property tax increase as a way to pay for millions of dollars worth of upgrades to the city’s aging system.

The demand for the millions of dollars worth of stormwater improvements in Steamboat was the result of the city never having a comprehensive plan to keep up and expand its current system, City Manager Deb Hinsvark said as the task force was being created in January.

Last year, the city tapped Short Elliott Hendrickson, a firm of engineers, architects, planners and scientists based in St. Paul, Minn., to perform a $180,000 infrastructure study of Steamboat’s bridges, culverts and dams.

The firm recommended that the city invest at least $17 million in new capital projects to upgrade its stormwater system and help manage future flooding.

The consultant also found Steamboat’s stormwater infrastructure included "aging drainage infrastructure, much of which is in need of replacement immediately or within 5 to 10 years."

The task force of 13 community members and five representatives from the city staff was created to help the city plan for the future.

Since February, they usually met once every two weeks and became experts in the city’s stormwater master plan.

"They deserve tremendous kudos for all the time they put into it," Beall said about the task force, adding the discussion was robust and technical at times.

The stormwater report is one of the highlights of Tuesday’s city council meeting, which starts at 5 p.m. in Centennial Hall.

The city also will discuss the financial impact employee turnover rates have had in recent years.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

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