By William J. Dagendesh
At its Jan. 17 meeting, Manitou Springs City Council unanimously approved the U.S. Geological Survey Joint Funding Agreement for operating and maintaining gauges in the Waldo Canyon burn scar area.
The fire burned 18,247 acres, destroyed 346 buildings and killed two people from June 23 to July 10, 2012. The resulting scar on hillsides north of Manitou and U.S. Highway 24 couldn’t absorb or hold back heavy rains that then flooded Manitou the next summer.
In a memorandum from Deputy City Administrator Roy Chaney, the total cost to operate and maintain two precipitation gauges and three stream gauges in that area was state as is $54,195. Presently, no USGS cooperative matching funds are available at this time. Therefore, the city is providing the full amount for this agreement.
According to Chaney, work financed with funds from this agreement will be conducted on a fixed-price basis. The results of all work under this agreement will be available for publication by the USGS Survey. Pros and cons include monitoring the gauges to assist in tracking precipitation in the burn scar area, allowing advance warning of flood dangers in and to Manitou Springs.
Having these gauges is part of the community rating system program to lower insurance premiums for residents, Chaney explained. The fiscal impact of $54,195 would be billed in quarterly increments of $13,548.75; the 2023 budget includes this cost.
Chaney recommended council approve the Joint Funding Agreement for the operation and maintenance of gauges, and authorize the city administrator to sign the agreement.
Also, council unanimously approved a Resolution of Council for the “city expressing the intent of the city to be reimbursed for certain expenses relating to the construction of water improvements.”
Finance Director Rebecca Davis said the city can repay its Water Enterprise Fund for certain capital expenses from a loan that will be in place later in 2023 for water treatment plant upgrades.
In 2022, it was determined that the water treatment plant requires upgrades, and that a Colorado Water Resources and Power Development Authority loan would fund the project. Staff is also pursuing a grant through the state.
Through the city’s consulting engineer, JDS Hydro Consultants Inc., the initial pre-qualification application that has been turned in for the CWRPDA is for a loan of $2,773,260.
“Due to loan processing taking six to nine months, and staff’s desire to begin working on the necessary improvements to the water treatment plant before the loan is in place, we are bringing Resolution 0323 to council for approval to start the work now and reimbursing the Water Enterprise Fund with the loan when it is received,” Davis said.
One pro in this matter is that Water Treatment Plant needs are addressed sooner. However, if the loan is not received or council decides not to approve accepting the loan, the Water Enterprise Fund would be depleted by these costs and not reimbursed.
The fiscal impact will be the debt payments in the Water Enterprise Fund for 20 years. The exact amount of the loan will determine the exact amount per year. Councilor Julie Wolfe wanted to know if it was a loan or grant.
“I am unclear where the money is coming from that will be reimbursed,” Wolfe said.
Davis said the resolution is for Water Treatment Plant improvements so that work can begin before obtaining the loan from the CWRPDA.
“This way, we can start the work and get the loan and reimburse the Water Enterprise Fund with the loan funding,” Davis said.
City Administrator Denise Howell said there is a chance the loan will have some forgiveness, but that it won’t be known until the loan is received.
“Just because we’re in our pre-qualification application doesn’t mean that is the amount we will get. … It’s easy to decrease the amount as you go through the loan process, but difficult to increase it,” Howell said.
Elsewhere, the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments and Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority reported that Manitou Springs has been awarded $400,000 for Phase 3 of the Creek Walk Trail. Extra transportation alternatives program funds were left over at last year’s end, and member jurisdictions were invited to apply to compete for further existing projects.
“This will require a $100,000 match, possibly to be covered by the Open Space Advisory Committee,” Mayor John Graham said.
Also, Mountain Metropolitan Transit will buy two battery-powered electric buses for Route 3 from downtown Colorado Springs to Manitou Springs.
“This will enable the bus company to provide increased frequency on that route. Currently, the wait time is 30 minutes, which will be moved up to 15 minutes,” Graham said.
Chief of Police Bill Otto discussed last November’s first-ever Manitou Springs Police Department Awards Banquet. According to Otto, Commander’s Commendations were presented to Officers Levi Hoover, Michaela James, Anthony Lara and Alexander Rathbun.
The Chief’s Commendation was awarded to Officer Amanda Strider, part-time civilian evidence technician Bill Ewell, and El Paso County Sheriff’s Office Deputies Ronnie Hancock and Daniel LeBaron. Rathbun and Officer Gary Johnson received the Lifesaving Award, and the Medal of Valor went to Hoover, Officer Jeff Schuelke and K9 Jinx.
Hancock and LeBaron responded to the felony menacing incident in downtown Manitou in April 2022; the suspect shot and killed Jinx and then was fatally shot by responders. Rathbun and Johnson pulled a trapped person out of a wrecked vehicle.
“It’s not about showing up to work and doing what we pay you to do. It’s about going above and beyond and our officers have been doing that a lot lately,” Otto said.
Graham also reported that former Fire Chief Steve Hart received a Certificate of Appreciation for serving on the Citizens Advisory Committee.
“Steve is quite the veteran of public service,” Graham said.
Graham read a proclamation recognizing and celebrating the centennial of the AdAmAn Club. In December, the club celebrated 100 years, culminating in its annual Dec. 31 hike to the Pikes Peak summit to welcome the New Year with a fireworks display. This proclamation was presented in person to club members on the summit during festivities.
Although Colorado also issued a proclamation recognizing the club, Manitou Springs was the only jurisdiction to hand-deliver one, Graham said.
“The AdAmAn Club Club is a proud, century-long tradition of welcoming the new year in a unique and unmatched fashion. This is an important annual celebration for the Pikes Peak region that brings happiness to many people. For 100 years, this tradition has been undaunted by foul weather and unimpaired by common sense,” said Graham, a club member.
Council’s next work session is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24.