An editorial last week in the Colorado Springs Gazette seems to support the idea that the best time to convince the public to pay for stormwater services is during rainy season: A storm on Wednesday caused so much flooding that 40 people had to be rescued from stranded vehicles. (Brant Keller, who was instrumental in starting Georgia’s first stormwater utility and one of the earlier ones in the country, recognized this phenomenon when he showed photos of flooded streets to Griffin, Georgia’s City Hall.)
It may be too late for Colorado Springs, though. The city launched a stormwater utility, but voters famously overturned it a few years later, and the city is still struggling to pay for stormwater services, including, apparently, upgrades to the undersized drainage system. Money for such projects currently comes from the general fund, if at all, but as in most cities these days, Colorado Springs’ general fund is smaller than it used to be.
Starting a utility has generally been controversial, even as they’ve become a more common funding mechanism throughout the country. A current article from another part of the country—Salisbury, NC—documents the debate over how stormwater fees for a new utility there should be divided between homeowners and businesses. The discussion has to begin anew in every city that attempts to implement stormwater fees, but the competition for funding has gotten fiercer as tax revenues have shrunk. We wish Salisbury—and all the other cities that are now in the process of starting a utility—a smoother ride than some of their predecessors.