Disaster Declaration Requested in Ute Pass and Pikes Peak Area; $19.5 Million Repair Bill Cited
The town of Green Mountain Falls is jumping on board in a local disaster declaration, following a spree of floods and ravaging road damage that bombarded the area due to historic rainfall levels in the last month.
The entire carnage toll for the El Paso County region has now exceeded the $19.5 million level, a threshold that could qualify for federal aid, according to emergency management officials. The damage bill deals mostly with impacted roads, bridges and infrastructure repairs.
Last week, GMF Mayor Todd Dixon confirmed that the town is getting onboard in the disaster declaration for El Paso County. “We have the opportunity to tag along with this disaster declaration,” said Dixon during last week’s regular meeting of the GMF Board of Trustees. The announcement was well received by the fellow trustees.
The already bad state of local roads hit an even worse level, following unprecedented rain levels last month.
The El Paso County Board of Commissioners last week officially approved a Local Disaster Emergency Declaration in the hopes of securing federal aid.
Although the town has not received the damage that occurred in the eastern part of El Paso County, which had more than 15 roadways closed, the mayor estimated that GMF was hit with more than $30,000 worth of damage recently.
Dixon cited a “hail/water slurry” event and a significant weather-related storm that caused significant damage in mid-June. He reported significant damage to local roads, capped by the destruction of culverts and ravaging of already beat-up thoroughfares. He mentioned several extremely battered areas and in his monthly newsletter, provided detailed photos of the damage. These pictures almost depicted the terrain of a third-world country.
The brunt of the local damage occurred from storms invading the area between June 8 to June 17. The latter date marked the most extreme level.
Dixon said he recently attended an emergency management meeting, orchestrated by El Paso County, in an effort to get on the disaster declaration bandwagon. But with this type of aid, the town must prove in detail how it has been impacted, and unlike fire rescue relief, monies are not handed out at one time.
It is still unclear how much GMF will receive in aid, and when, as the funds will be dispersed in the form of reimbursements. “It would bring things back to the way things were before the flooding,” said the mayor.
Officials from the state and with the Federal Emergency Management Agency traveled to El Paso County late last week to view the damage in detail.
The timing of the recent flooding could not have occurred at a worst time. Currently, GMF and most small towns in the Ute Pass are suffering from limited public works personnel. GMF has received a little additional help recently with an extra contract employee, according to town manager Becky Frank. However, the public works crew is way down from previous levels.
Reports on social media cite a dire road situation, but this has been a familiar trend this time of year during the last few summers.
Luckily for GMF, the bad weather events were followed by a well-needed dose of warmer weather, allowing crews to work on its infusion of washed-out roads.
Still, road woes have become a familiar complaint echoed by local residents. The road carnage throughout the region is severe due to extreme rains for this time of year.
In fact, down the Pass, media reports indicate that Colorado Springs has gotten hit with 16 inches of rainfall since April, a level that is higher than what normally occurs in a total year.
To make matters worse, the emergency toll has been accelerated by vehicles getting embarked in flood water in the Springs area and in eastern El Paso County, and motorists not obeying road closure signs. GMF, luckily, has been sparred reports of delinquent motorists traveling to spots where they should not be driving.
Infrastructure Grant Jackpot
On the upside, significant grant dollars could help GMF in the near future, but the process of landing them could pose some hefty expenses.
At last week’s brief, zoom-only session, Dixon cited infrastructure and broadband internet grant funding as areas that GMF could potentially discover a mega jackpot. The mayor stated that much money is available through a variety of grant programs in helping GMF to fill a needed void in addressing these key issues that have riddled GMF for years.
But he warned the trustees that many of these potential grant sources could require fast action and come with preliminary expenses. “We need to have preliminary engineering and preliminary cost estimates,” said the mayor. “We need technical assistance. That is our biggest challenge.”
The trustees inquired about how much money was needed, and whether it exceeded currently-approved budget levels. Dixon responded that some of these grant programs are still in their infancy, but could offer the town huge opportunities. He didn’t stipulate any specific costs.
Unfortunately, he said many of these programs would have to be executed in a prompt manner.
Infrastructure and broadband funding are grant areas that many smaller communities, such as GMF, are eying. The city of Cripple Creek is also trying to follow a similar course.
Uncle Sam and the state are opening up their purse strings for these types of programs, but they come with tight restrictions and plenty of paper work and stern deadlines. The trustees assured the mayor they would try to act as quickly as possible in fulfilling these grant projects. They stopped short of giving him total authority to pursue the expenses involved without board approval, especially if they exceeded 2023 budget appropriations.
In another dose of good news, the GMF trustees approved grants from the Kirkpatrick Family last week for more face-lifting enhancements. These involve improvements at the Gazebo Lake Park for$42,500 and another $47,500 for the Haring Fitness Court.
Also, last week the GMF Trustees finalized new land use rules for the boarding of horses in the community. These set the space and buffer requirements for horse owners.