Chipping away 

Mayor proposes 20-year debt to fix roads, parks, more

Mayor Steve Bach wants voters to approve borrowing up to $160 million over 20 years to fund 78 capital projects that would address streets, flood control, public safety and parks.

The money would fund bread-and-butter projects like road resurfacing and also amenities such as tennis court upgrades and community center improvements. Work could begin next year.

But at a meeting Monday, some City Council members sounded cool on the idea, and it's unclear whether Bach has the required five votes to refer the measure to the April 7 city election.

Under the plan, the city would fund the program without a tax increase, paying $11 million a year. That's $3.1 million more than the current $7.9 million debt payment for $88 million in bonds issued in 1998. Those bonds will be repaid in 2016. The additional $3.1 million would come from what the city spends now annually on capital needs.

Bach's project list, submitted Monday, includes 13 street and bridge projects ($75 million), 24 flood-control projects ($40 million), 11 public-safety projects ($20 million), and 30 parks projects ($10 million). The balance would be held in a required reserve fund.

Besides $36 million on street maintenance, topping the list as the single most expensive project is rehabilitation and replacement of the Fillmore Street bridge over Monument Creek, at $7.7 million. Other street work includes $5.5 million for West Woodmen Road improvements, $2.9 million to replace the Fillmore bridge over the railroad tracks, and $2.75 million to improve the intersection at Uintah and 19th streets.

The biggest parks project would be $1.55 million to install artificial turf at the Goose Gossage complex and Cottonwood Park fields. Citywide Americans with Disability Act improvements and tree plantings would cost a combined $2.9 million.

The biggest single stormwater project would be $5.75 million to upgrade Fountain Creek from Cimarron Street to the El Pomar Sports Park, south of Circle Drive.

As for the largest public safety projects, those would be $7.3 million to replace the Sand Creek police substation and $5.6 million to build a new police evidence building.

Bach called his blueprint — which calls for outsourcing projects and giving preference to local vendors — "an intermediate, half-decade action plan."

Councilor Don Knight expressed concerns about increasing the debt payment, while Councilor Joel Miller wondered if the city would be ahead if it merely dedicated the bond payment to capital each year. In 20 years, the city would spend $440 million and be debt free, he said.

"You talk about this being an intermediate solution," Councilor Jan Martin said to Bach's Chief of Staff Steve Cox. "What would a longer-term solution be? I don't think anyone wants to be back up here in five years after the money is spent, and we're right back where we started because we can't maintain what we have."

Councilor Val Snider was concerned the measure popped up so quickly, considering it took a multi-agency task force two years to generate the Pikes Peak Regional Drainage Authority ballot measure, nixed earlier this month by voters. Councilor Andy Pico also expressed concern that Bach's proposal addresses only 10 percent of the city's infrastructure needs.

But chief financial officer Kara Skinner said citizens are "exasperated" at the condition of roads. And Cox, while acknowledging the proposal doesn't solve all problems, maintained it would create jobs and help attract new industry. "The community looks rough, and employers look at the community and express concerns to us ... about how we care for our city," he said.

Council is slated to vote on referring the measure to the April ballot at its Dec. 9 meeting.

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