Street utility enterprise funding costing property owners in Pueblo

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PUEBLO, Colo. (KKTV) - A property owner in Pueblo thinks the new way to collect money to repair the roads isn't fair, and it’ll hurt small businesses. The street repair utility enterprise collects money through the Board of Waterworks, and that money goes to fixing the roads throughout the city. Starting this month, there is going to be an extra line item on everyone’s water bill.

For a homeowner, they will see an additional $2 on their bill. Small service businesses will pay an extra $10. Restaurants and small retail businesses will pay $50 and big box stores will pay $100.

Lee Gladney owns four buildings. All of them are in the downtown area and three of them have a few businesses inside. So he's been charged for each business.

The street repair utility enterprise was approved by voters in November of 2017. It passed with nearly 60 percent of the vote. Council didn’t approve the funding structure though until last October. A link to that article is here. Based on what voters approved, council has the power to change the enterprise funding whenever they want.

“I think the voters recognized the need and they were hoping that city council would do the right thing, but I think what they’ve done is they’ve opened a Pandora’s box to allow city council to run rampant and charge whatever they want,” Gladney said.

Gladney saw his water bill with this street utility part of it for the first time on Friday. He will have to pay an additional $440 every month, totaling $5,280 every year.

“I’m going to have to pass that cost to my tenants,” Gladney said. “It is absolutely putting the burden on small businesses, and it’s a mom and pop shop. You know the commercials like the Walmarts or the Targets; if they only have to pay $100 a month, that’s not equitable for folks.”

Gladney said the funds should be collected from businesses when they renew their business licenses. That way all the businesses are paying, and the landlords aren’t stuck with all the bills. It’s a plan the new mayor agreed with.

“Just the fact that it’s based on businesses licenses, if you want to base it on that, then collect it from the businesses when they get their licenses. Don’t tack it onto their water bill. I think that’s a fair way to do it,” said Nick Gradisar, the newly sworn-in mayor of the city.

Gradisar wasn’t in power when council adopted this payment structure. He told 11 News he actually emailed council another plan, but that one wasn’t taken up.

“I had proposed last year a different rate structure where it was based simply on the size of the waterline coming into your property,” said Gradisar. “There is some sort of relationship to the economic activity that’s taking place on the premises.”

Gradisar said the city will have to see how this plays out before any possible changes are brought forward or thought of. He told 11 News that it’s projected to cost the city around $3.5 million every year to put a good dent into the amount of road work that is needed in the city. The current pay structure adopted by the council is projected to raise around $2 million every year. Gradisar said the remaining funding could come from the general fund and the highway users’ tax fund the city receives.

Meanwhile, Gladney doesn’t think it’s fair property owners like himself are being tasked with paying thousands of dollars to repair the roads when big corporations will be paying less under the payment structure, and their businesses are taking up more square footage.

“We have Squawk Coffee in Pueblo Metro Plaza, and they're a great example of the inequity. They’re considered a restaurant. So all restaurants are considered $50 but they only have 800 square feet, so they are going to pay half of what Walmart is going to pay and how many tens of thousands of square feet is that building,” said Gladney.

As for the road repairs, the mayor said people can expect to see work starting this spring.

“Hopefully as the weather warms up, we’ll start seeing some activity and repairs on some of the streets that people have been complaining about for a long time,” Gradisar said.