City puts brakes on single-hauler idea
Last updated 7/1/2021 at 4:03pm
At last week's Fountain City Council meeting, officials announced they would not continue to pursue switching the city's trash and recycling to a single-hauler model.
Although the plan could be revisited in the future, they said the public's 2-1 consensus against the proposal in conjunction with other city staff research led to the conclusion that "this is probably not the right time for this idea," City Attorney Troy Johnson said.
Officials noted that newer issues related to truck driver shortages, increased gas prices and others would be an impediment to a single-hauler plan at this time.
But the overwhelming sentiment from citizens at a series of meetings and online forums was that government-mandated trash service was a bad idea.
"At the end of the day, we all serve the citizens here," Johnson said.
Staff noted that many residents were adamant about being able to keep the waste service of their choice.
"One thing I didn't realize was how many people think so highly of their garbage man," Deputy City Manager Todd Evans said.
Since one of the primary goals of the proposal was to reduce truck traffic on residential streets while generating revenue for street maintenance, the next question at the June 22 council meeting was how the city might tackle streets now that this idea is off the table.
Street Superintendent Robert McDonald explained that the city is "knee deep" getting into a comprehensive study on all city streets that would look at the construction, current condition and needed repairs of each one.
McDonald noted that most residents do not realize how extensive some of these repairs will be – in some cases requiring complete rebuilds, particularly in neighborhoods in Heritage and Cross Creek where streets were not built correctly. He said he gets 25-30 calls a week from residents asking when the city is going to fix their street. In some of these cases, patching them isn't the answer, he said.
"Unfortunately, there's a lot of streets now in this city that I can't save anymore; we have to rebuild," he said. "If I overlay them, I'm wasting taxpayers' money."
The situation is so dire that McDonald warned certain streets might revert back to dirt roads if the necessary funding for rebuilds isn't found. And in the winter, some streets may not be plowed because that would destroy them.
He cited Barn Owl as an example. That street, which was annexed in from the county many years ago, has about 1.5 inches of asphalt currently – 4 inches shy of what it should be.
"That road is just doomed for failure," he said, adding just asphalt from Jimmy Camp Road to Progress would cost around $200,000, not including curbs and gutter.
McDonald said he hopes to have answers from the street study by the end of the year. Once that data is final, the city and residents will have a comprehensive understanding of what it will take to get streets repaired.
In other business, the council voted to approve three new police officer positions in the 2021 budget. Police Chief Chris Heberer said the addition of those patrol officers would not affect the General Fund, as there are new Medicare reimbursements from emergency medical services calls provided by the city. The city has already started advertising for these slots and hopes to fill them soon.
Heberer explained that the city is overdue for additional patrol officers to help maintain minimum staffing levels as well as the mental and physical well-being of officers. Many of them are foregoing vacation time "because they don't want to leave their guys hanging," he said.
Heberer noted that crime is up everywhere, including Fountain, but that a majority of it stems from other places such as Pueblo.
"Most of our violent offenders are not Fountain residents," he said.
Still, the crime totals continue to rise steadily.
"I know that we need the cops now, so to me this is a no-brainer," Council Member Sam Gieck said.
The council voted 6-0 to approve the positions. Mayor Gabe Ortega was absent.
Officials reminded the public that fireworks are illegal in the Fountain city limits this year.
"There's gonna be fireworks in the city of Fountain," Heberer admitted, adding that authorities would be lenient with small items such as sparklers and ground spinners. However, he warned that cops would monitor carefully for illegal varieties that shoot into the air.
Other council activity:
• Council Member Tamara Estes noted that a new round of health testing related to groundwater contamination is starting up in Fountain. The study will have an office at 320 S. Santa Fe Ave., and it will include testing of children.
• State Rep. Mary Bradfield (HD21) provided a summary of activities during her first year at the Capitol, with an emphasis on the large transportation bill that was passed. She highlighted several new enterprises that come with taxes or fees to be used for roads and bridges, a retail delivery fee that will be added to services such as Amazon, electric motor vehicle registration fees and others.
• Staff from El Paso County Public Health presented information on COVID-19 cases and vaccinations around the county and in Fountain specifically. Epidemiologist Fadi Youkhana said the majority of counties in Colorado will not meet the vaccination goals they set for this point in time, and El Paso County in particular has one of the lowest vaccination rates at right around 50 percent of those eligible being vaccinated. At least 305,534 people in the county have been vaccinated, and 271,702 are considered fully vaccinated.
In Fountain's 80817 Zip code, there have been 2,973 COVID-19 cases detected since the beginning of the pandemic. In the 14 days prior to this presentation, there were 44 cases.
Vaccinations here are at roughly 30 percent of the population, compared to the county's 42.3 percent of overall population vaccinated (not broken down by age eligibility).
More than 13,000 people have received a total of 20,098 doses at the new El Paso County Public Health South offices on Hwy. 85/87 since the first clinic on Feb. 19. In addition, more than 450 people received 918 doses at mobile clinics at Fountain-Fort Carson High School and Fountain Middle School.
EPCPH Deputy Director DeAnn Ryberg said the new health facility in Fountain will continue to expand the services it provides, and the county is pleased with the ability to serve southern Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security-Widefield and Fort Carson area residents from this site.