May 10, 2011 11:43 PM by John Romero
The debate between the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County over Stormwater Enterprise fees reached a boiling point this afternoon after the County Clerk and Recorder's Office released a letter saying the two sides had reached an impasse. The city has had liens rejected by the county against those who didn't pay the Stormwater Enterprise fee.
Originally the fee it paid for storm water "drainage" projects around the city. Voters effectively eliminated the Stormwater Enterprise fee in Colorado Springs back in 2009 by passing issue 300 on the November 2009 ballot. After that passed the Colorado Springs City Council voted to immediately suspend the enterprise.
What this all boils down to is a matter of whether or not the city has a right to place those liens against someone's property for not paying. The city says say it's backed up by case law. The county disagrees. They tell us since this was a fee and not a tax, the city has no right to place a lien on anyone and that they will continue to refuse any Stormwater Enterprise lien given to them by the city. "We don't believe that a city owned enterprise has the power to place a lien on a homeowner's property like a government entity does." explains Alissa Vander Veen with the El Paso County Clerk and Recorder's Office, "It gives a city owned business a power that a private owned business doesn't have."
We took that explanation to Colorado Springs City Council President Scott Hente. He says it comes down to a matter of fairness. "We don't think it's right to tell the over 90% of people that paid those, you had to pay but we're going to let the others off." he argues "So we think it's fair and we think it's equal treatment to say that everybody should pay and everybody should be treated fairly and equally." Hente went on to say he was disappointed with the county for making the discussion public after he says the city tried to solve the problem diplomatically.
Speaking on his own behalf, outgoing Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera told us he thinks the county is playing dirty and playing politics by releasing the press release. He said he hopes the new council will take the county to court. El Paso County Clerk and Recorder Wayne Williams' office says the county is ready for any litigation.