Budget could take a beating from floods
~ by Rick Langenberg ~
Help! We need desperate professional assistance, and we need it now.
That was the plea of Green Mountain Falls Interim Town Manager Jason Wells, when requesting emergency financial assistance from elected leaders last week, as a result of the disaster that struck the region in late July.
After a detailed discussion, the GMF Board of Trustees agreed to slightly open the town’s purse strings, but only for a tiny gap.
According to Wells, he received the go-ahead to hire a project manager for 40 hours of work to oversee 60 identified areas of flood-related damage from the floods of July 23 and in the last few weeks that have ravaged the community.
“The main priority will be on doing repairs and not on re-engineering things,” said Wells, in an interview last week. He hopes to have a temporary project manager on board this week.
The big area on concentration will deal with parts of the town where residents can’t get any services due to damaged bridges and infrastructure. “I have people with good reason asking what is going on,” said Wells during a lengthy staff presentation at last week’s regular trustees meeting. He noted that his office is besieged now with calls and walk-in customers demanding road repairs and post-flood mitigation.
“My role has changed,” added Wells, who admitted that he has played the role as the GMF Flood Doctor, a job he admits he is ill-equipped to handle, when addressing the trustees. “This town needs some professional assistance.”
For the most part, the town manager stated that he has done much outreach “to the basic players” in dealing with the floods, such as key officials from neighboring entities and professional companies.
Wells had to do some hefty doing lobbying just to get the board to budge, as several trustees opted for trying to get free services, or to make more calls before they allocated any monies. Fiscal concerns also were raised regarding the current budget by the trustees.
Veteran Trustee Tyler Stevens expressed worries about allocating monies towards engineering plans and not on doing the repairs. He wanted the manager to come up with a detailed list of what needs to be fixed, and when.
“It is getting impossible,” replied Wells, who maintained that his hands are tied as a result of the latest disaster. That said, he agreed that the focus should be made towards using any extra monies on flood repairs and not on devising new improvement plans.
In a compromise move, the trustees agreed to allow Wells to contract out a professional manager for 40 hours of work. The town manager has already made contacts with a variety of engineering experts in the area regarding GMF’s situation. He urged the trustees to allow him to “bring in an engineering team.”
No word on disaster monies
GMF has declared a local disaster, stemming from the July 23 flash flood bombardment, with the estimated costs soaring into the millions for Ute Pass communities. This could open the door for state and federal funding, through a process initiated with the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA).
But in a somewhat dire assessment, the town manager last week cautioned the board and residents not to get too hopeful about these potential funds. He stated there is no guarantee about these monies. “I am a little skeptical,” said Wells.
Plus, he stated that even if the town is successful in landing emergency monies, they could get hit with a hefty matching requirement bill.
Currently, El Paso County officials are doing an assessment of the damage in GMF. In his report last week, the town manager stated that authorities have already identified 60 damaged points in the community from the floods. This list doesn’t include private properties.
This has forced GMF to delay its big road improvement projects, calling for a mag chloride applications of many roads.
Local street blues
Besides the recent floods, the town was thrown another curve ball, when the El Paso County government indicated that its regular on-call paving company is backing away from the long-awaited Belvidere street enhancement project due to budget concerns. This project has been authorized by the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority, which GMF is part of.
The project, including considerable paving and drainage work, estimated at between $200,000 and $300,000, was scheduled for completion this year. That is still the goal, noted Wells. But now the county may put the project out to a competitive bid.
The latest possible delay outraged several residents attending last week’s meeting. “It (Belvidere) is in such bad shape, it is pathetic,” said a local resident who lives in the impacted area. “That is going to be a real mess.”
Former trustee and long-time resident Mac Pitrone agreed. He stated that when the Falls’ residents supported to endorse the PPRTA and its tax funding, they were promised certain projects, such as improvements to Belvidere. “People on Belvidere have waited for 14 years to have that road paved,” said Pitrone.
On the upside, Wells said these scheduled improvements, unlike other parts of town, have a designated funding source. “There are thousands of dollars of problems (in GMF right now).”
The town manager said the improvement work will occur, it’s just a matter of when. According to county public works officials, the manager was given the indication the paving project is still a go for this year.
In other GMF news, the town swore in a familiar face. Margaret Peterson, who previously served on the board and is strongly involved with the Sally Bush Center, will assume a seat as an elected trustee. She was appointed to fill the term of David Pearlman, who recently resigned. Peterson was the only applicant for the position.
The board is still looking for fill two spots, which will be determined at the Nov. 6 election.