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Noted: Struggling stormwater 

Ado over stormwater

There's probably nothing less appealing to voters than stormwater funding. Ever since voters passed Question 300 in 2009 that led Colorado Springs City Council to halt stormwater fees, local governments have been searching for ways to pay for storm drains, channels and detention ponds.

In short, a way to keep El Paso County's runoff from becoming Pueblo's nightmare.

Now, a new study from Summit Economics LLC says Colorado Springs residents pay less ($4.63 per capita annually) than those of every other Front Range city. The average is $52.11. To reach that average, El Paso County would have to impose a half-percent sales tax (50 cents on a $100 purchase), a property tax of 5.8 mills ($93 on the tax bill of a $200,000 house) or a $5.35 per month fee per home.

Any of those taxing methods would yield the roughly $36 million a year needed to tackle a $600 million backlog for the county, Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Fountain and Monument, the study says.

And the issue lies here, not downstream in Pueblo County, which accounts for only 1 percent of the region's stormwater infrastructure needs, the study found.

The Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District, which covers portions of Pueblo and El Paso Counties, funded the study, and its manager Larry Small says the board is eying a November 2013 election if a tax increase is sought.

Which is overdue, note Pueblo County commissioners in a May 3 letter to Springs Mayor Steve Bach and the City Council urging "immediate action to solve this funding deficit," especially given the Springs' promises to Pueblo in order to get its construction permit for the Southern Delivery System pipeline.

Bach wrote back, saying he's "searching for efficiencies" in the city budget to fund stormwater control and has asked Council to do the same as the Utilities Board. Bach was to meet with Pueblo commissioners Thursday, but that's been scratched and a new date not yet chosen. — PZ

Civil unions imminent?

Civil unions are breaking up the Colorado GOP.

Senate Bill 2, Rep. Mark Ferrandino's bill to authorize civil unions, has enjoyed unexpected support from Republicans in the final days of the 2012 session of the state Legislature. And in one case — that of Rep. B.J. Nikkel of Loveland — this support marked a 180-degree change from a position held just a year ago.

Nikkel sits on the House Judiciary Committee, where last year a similar bill was killed after making it through the Democrat-controlled Senate. The vote was along party lines. This year, however, Nikkel broke with her counterparts and voted to allow SB 2 out of committee.

The bill then went to the House Finance Committee, where Republican Rep. Don Beezley of Broomfield broke from his party as well, and voted to move the bill along.

As of Tuesday morning, the bill was scheduled to go to the Appropriations Committee, where Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou had already signaled her intent to vote to move the bill out of committee. It would then go to the floor for a vote. But time is short; today, Wednesday, is the final day of session.

Follow the IndyBlog for the latest details. — CH

Tribute to Armendariz

Hispania News publisher and activist Robert Armendariz, who died Thursday of natural causes at age 69, will be honored this week.

El Cinco de Mayo Inc. plans a reception from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Friday at Penrose Library's Adult Reading Room, 20 N. Cascade Ave. For information, contact cabeyta@live.com or linda.usimaging@hotmail.com.

A rosary for Armendariz will be held at 7 p.m., Friday at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1830 S. Corona Ave. A funeral service is set for 10 a.m., Saturday, also at St. Joseph.

In addition to serving as publisher, Armendariz founded and edited Hispania News, which marked its 25th year last week. — PZ

Focus pulls amendment

Focus on the Family would like to see the state constitution tweaked to prevent government from meddling in the affairs of religious organizations. But the international Christian organization, based in the Springs, has decided that it doesn't want to open itself up to potential lawsuits by pressing for a constitutional amendment.

Focus had begun the process of getting an initiative on the fall ballot, but withdrew the effort last week, the Denver Post reports.

As a result of recent legislation, petitioners for ballot initiatives have simply become too vulnerable to charges of fraud, Tom Minnery, the executive director of CitizenLink, Focus' political action wing, told the paper. — CH

Barker survives stroke

Apparently, it takes more than a stroke to keep Rep. Mark Barker down.

The Republican representative for House District 17 wasn't feeling well last week, and was driven to the hospital by his colleague, Rep. Janak Joshi, according to media reports. There it was discovered that he had suffered a minor stroke.

Barker, a first-term representative, missed a few days at the Legislature, but was back in attendance for the last days of session.

This fall, he faces a challenge at the ballot, with Democrat Tony Exum Sr. vying for his southeast Colorado Springs seat. — CH

Compiled by Chet Hardin and Pam Zubeck.

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