STAFF SUMMARY OF MEETING
FLOOD DISASTER STUDY COMMITTEE
|Time:||09:00 AM to 03:55 PM|
|Place:||Longmont Public Library (a.m.) and Estes Park Town Hall (p.m.)|
|This Meeting was called to order by|
|Representative Young, Senator Renfroe |
|This Report was prepared by|
X = Present, E = Excused, A = Absent, * = Present after roll call
|Bills Addressed: ||Action Taken:|
|Call to Order|
9:00 AM -- Call to Order
Representative Young gave opening remarks explaining the role of committee and thanking the audience for attending. He invited members to the reopening of Highway 34 on Thursday. He announced that the committee would take testimony until 10:45 a.m. to give the audience as much time as possible to tell their stories.
9:10 AM -- Public Testimony
Dan Eamon, City of Longmont Emergency Manager, explained Longmont's emergency response. He showed pictures of the change in the St. Vrain River and subsequent damage, and he explained that the breaches were unanticipated so residents had no flood insurance (Attachment A). He also showed pictures of high water and explained that the final breach sent water towards the water treatment plant. He noted that the city's recent Lefthand Creek mitigation efforts were effective. Longmont used the Memorial Building for shelter staffed by city employees, and Lifebridge Church and Niwot High School also served as shelters.
9:32 AM -- Harold Dominguez, Longmont City Manager, explained that much of the city infrastructure runs through Lyons. He listed a number of infrastructure projects underway, including water supply and road repair, and explained that a majority of ditch diversions were destroyed, or are no longer near the rivers. He explained that the city has minor damage to water treatment and is finding more damaged sewer lines, and that the waste water treatment plant has major damage. The Royal Mobile Home Park was destroyed, and the city is working with residents and FEMA to get the residents reestablished. Mr. Dominguez showed pictures of debris in Button Creek. He explained that granular debris has reduced the capacity of the river to move water which may lead to additional flooding next spring, and that FEMA will not fund granular debris removal when not near structures.
Senator Lambert addressed granular debris in El Paso County and asked if the United States Geologic Survey (USGS) has studied this issue.
Mr. Dominguez responded that they are looking into whether research has been done by the USGS. The city will be looking at life safety concerns and the community in determining where repairs will be made. Their high level cost estimate is $132 million. In response to a question from Representative Young, Mr. Dominguez said that the city is in the process of putting together cost worksheets. The city has just raised the storm drainage fee. The city has a TABOR exemption now but getting state funds could make it non-exempt. He noted that some past improvements mitigated flood damage, and the city will continue to look at mitigation efforts.
Representative Foote asked about concerns related to ditches. Mr. Dominguez said that he expects some housing concerns. He suggested there could be an economic event because farmers can't get water, which could affect the state. He also noted that Longmont has ownership in a number of ditch companies.
Representative Sonnenberg asked about how the St. Vrain channel is treated. Mr. Dominguez explained that a number of groups are working on this. The Army Corps of Engineers has a proposal for getting the river back in the channel.
Mr. Eamon responded to the question as well. He explained that the city is negotiating the purchase of the Royal Mobile Home Park.
Senator Kefalas followed up on the Royal Mobile Home Park and FEMA payouts that are insufficient to purchase new manufactured homes. Mr. Dominguez explained that the purchase of the Royal Mobile Home Park was for flood control and that residents getting the maximum payments from FEMA are getting reestablished.
Representative Singer asked about relocation benefits for the Royal Mobile Home Park and what is being done to keep people in Longmont who want to stay in Longmont. Mr. Dominguez said that they are working within existing housing stock and doing a needs assessment. They intend to seek community development block grant (CDBG-R) funds. Longmont is an entitlement city and is therefore hoping to get money directly. Representative Singer asked about best practices that other cities can learn from Longmont. Mr. Dominguez said that they are moving through that process now. He mentioned the importance of improved warning systems.
Senator Nicholson asked about businesses affected. Mr. Dominguez said that they are meeting with business owners, have waived fees for permits, and changed the nature of economic development grants so they can be used for rebuilding. Small businesses are having the most difficulties. He is recommending that they apply for grants even if they don't need funds now. He agreed to get more information to the committee.
Senator Renfroe asked about the $132 million estimate and fee increases and whether the city council has reprioritized its budget and made cuts to other areas. Mr. Dominguez responded that the flood didn't affect the city's operational budget but that the capital budget is now problematic. They are reworking the budget and delaying projects to pay for flood repair.
Senator Jones asked about cash flow issues. Mr. Dominguez said they were able to move forward but that reserves are now becoming a problem. The city is anticipating some funding coming soon but if cash flow becomes a problem, their recovery efforts will need to slow.
10:05 AM -- Brian Bagley, Longmont Mayor Pro Tem, explained that the city is counting on funding coming in including 12.5 percent from the state, and FEMA. He's concerned about not everyone doing their part.
Senator Kefalas asked about flood insurance and how it should be addressed going forward. Mr. Dominguez said that a lot of flooded areas were not in the flood plain. They need to look at the flood plain and re-evalute the FEMA maps. If the river is not rechanneled and granular debris removed, there will be more areas in the flood plain.
Senator Kefalas asked about rebuilding roads with bike lanes. Mr. Dominguez clarified that FEMA will only pay to rebuild to standards. If standards have changed, they will pay for new standards. Some of the work in the greenway will be reimbursed because the standard for that area includes bike paths.
10:12 AM -- Deb Gardner, Boulder County Commissioner, provided a handout (Attachment B) about the road and bridge fund. She expects Boulder County to have costs of $250 million but probably more. She explained the statutory prohibition on using general fund dollars for road and bridge projects. They have to pay contractors prior to FEMA reimbursements of 75 precent. Boulder County is requesting legislative changes as noted in their letter. She clarified that this is not a TABOR issue but a statutory fix. She asked that a bill be introduced early in the session to address this issue.
Representative Singer asked about multi-modal transportation in the rebuilding of Boulder County roads. Commissioner Gardner explained that these are part of their standards so will be built with bike shoulders and that FEMA will pay for part of that.
Representative Foote asked about the effect of the road and bridge fund statute not being changed. Commissioner Gardner said it will slow projects.
Senator Marble asked about road closures in Boulder County. Commissioner Gardner said that only State Highway 7 is closed and will be open by December 1. Still closed are Left Hand and James Canyon and part of Four Mile Canyon. She stated that the Boulder County website is the best source for road closure information. There will be resident access only on winter roads.
10:27 AM -- Arthur Chavez, representing himself, explained that his house was flooded and he still has a huge pile of debris. His neighbor died in the flood. He is concerned with the river and explained that he can't rebuild because of where the river is now. He thinks the river should be moved back.
Senator Lambert asked about the public address and siren system and cell phones. Mr. Chavez said the PA system is tested daily and works well but that there is no cell service.
Senator Kefalas asked about land lines. Mr. Chavez said most people don't have land lines.
Representative Singer asked about expanding cell service using the high cost support mechanism. Mr. Chavez expressed approval of this idea.
10:35 AM -- Malcolm Fleming, City of Louisville City Manager, explained that flood control mechanisms in Louisville did their job but that there are still significant damages of approximately $10 million just to the city. There are also millions of dollars in damages to homes and businesses. The city lost one bridge, had significant damage to another bridge, and a water intake structure was wiped out, but the most significant damage was to the city golf course. The golf course provides at least 15 jobs, is a source of city revenue and also serves as a storm diversion. Mr. Fleming explained that cash flow issues are a concern. The city is hoping for FEMA reimbursement but is concerned about funding availability. Louisville trail infrastructure repair will be over $1 million. Mr. Fleming said that policy considerations include jurisdictional issues over stream beds. He noted that they had no warning system.
Senator Jones asked about bridge replacement. Mr. Fleming said they are awaiting Federal Highway Administration response on rebuilding bridges. He explained that the bridge on Dillon Road is critical to rebuilding the golf course.
Senator Jones noted other things that need to be fixed in Louisville.
10:45 AM -- Don Parcher, Boulder Flood Relief Board Member, explained that his organization is a grassroots volunteer group and would like the General Assembly to look at legal protections for volunteers. He's working on a network for needs assessment.
10:50 AM -- Mike Schnatzmeyer, representing the Campaign for St. Vrain, warned that a disaster was coming and that there would be $250 million in damage. He noted that Denver invested $100 million in its greenway and that improvements in this area can be done through economic development. He said that the river returned to its historical channel, not a new channel, according to maps from 1900. He explained that irrigation ditches got moved to higher ground, and that moving the river back to where it was prior to the flood will cause flooding to happen again. He suggested using Regional Tourism Act funds to create eco-tourism to the area. He wants a vision created for the future of the area.
Representative Sonnenberg asked for historical maps to be provided to committee. Mr. Schnatzmeyer asked that he be given time with the committee to discuss his ideas. He noted that diversions were political.
Representative Sonnenberg asked about diversions historically. Mr. Schnatzmeyer said that it is very important that those diversions be restored but out-of-bank flood channels need to be created. These could be greenway areas.
Senator Lambert asked Mr. Schnatzmeyer about whether water law would need to change. Mr. Schnatzmeyer said that is beyond his knowledge.
11:00AM -- The committee recessed to tour damage Lyons and Estes Park.
2:55 PM -- The committee reconvened at Estes Park Town Hall.
Co-chair Representative Young made introductory remarks.
2:57 PM -- Peggy Campbell, representing Visit Estes Park, presented a letter from her board about two state statutes that are hindering recovery (Attachment C). She explained that her organization's cash flow issues almost put them in Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Revenues from the two percent lodging tax that they expected November 8 will not be received until December because the state allowed a delay due to the flooding. This represents half of Visit Estes Park's annual revenue. She noted that sales taxes are paid monthly. Her organization laid off two of seven staff and halted mailing of their visitor guide. She would like the tax submission statute for Colorado Local Marketing Districts to be changed from quarterly to monthly. Ms. Campbell also noted that state law does not allow them to borrow money. She would like to see the marketing district statute changed to allow borrowing.
3:05 PM -- John Nicholas, representing Estes Park Economic Development Corporation, explained their role in business retention and development and that Estes Park is dependent on small business. He explained that important issues for recovery include: ensuring funding for tourism marketing, streamlining the collection of taxes, and allowing Estes Park to be in an enterprise zone. He expects significant job losses and noted that Estes Park schools have declining student numbers. He suggested establishing disaster zones for areas that aren't enterprise zones.
Representative Singer asked whether other states have disaster zones that we could look at. Mr. Nicholas mentioned programs in Iowa after their flooding. He noted that SBA loans are not a panacea.
3:13 PM -- Eric Blackhurst, Estes Park Mayor Pro Tem, thanked the committee for coming. He addressed the problem with the marketing district not being able to fund itself. August and September are major months, but businesses were allowed to hold onto tax revenue longer. He explained that the town has a TABOR reserve that they can't use because it has to be paid back in 12 months. He said that they have enough money to get through a 120-day delay in receiving tax revenue. He would like to be able to use the TABOR reserve, which may require legislation or voter approval.
Representative Sonnenberg asked Mr. Blackhurst to recommend a new repayment schedule for TABOR reserve. Mr. Blackhurst responded that the town is expecting to have declining revenue so it wouldn't be able to repay the funds in 12 months, and that 3 to 4 years would make more sense. He didn't know exactly how long it took to establish the reserve.
3:20 PM -- Joanna Darden, representing herself, has observed that the town can't answer all the questions she has about the recovery. She said that publicity from the flood has actually brought in visitors, and she expressed her appreciation to the state.
3:25 PM -- Dave Boon, representing himself, lives in Ft. Collins. He couldn't get FEMA funds for his second residence in the flooded area. He's going through the SBA process, which he can use to fund spring flood prevention. He's wondering about any available state money. Senator Lambert responded that the rules change depending on the area affected. Sen. Lambert addressed risk management and private insurance, noting that mandating insurance could make home ownership unaffordable in some areas. Mr. Boon is hoping that state will appropriate money to the town.
Senator Renfroe suggested that staff research other available funding.
Representative Singer mentioned that the committee is identifying gaps. He mentioned a long-term recovery group in Boulder county that is looking at all the funding sources available. He's not sure that Larimer County is doing this.
Senator Lambert talked about the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fires recovery. Two not-for-profit organizations were formed by residents to address recovery issues. He noted that a vast majority of homes that were burned in Colorado Springs have been replaced. He also noted that this event was not very long ago, and that the administrative process takes a while.
3:38 PM -- Libby Rehm, representing Colorado Spirit Mountain Outreach Team, said that Larimer County does have a long-term recovery group (Attachment D). Her group is on the ground working directly with people. She explained that local grants will go through her organization. According to Ms. Rehm, FEMA numbers capture damages to primary houses but not roads, second homes, or cabins. This creates an economic impact because people who might otherwise be in town aren't here spending money.
Senator Lambert asked about the effectiveness of flood insurance.
Ms. Rehm shared anecdotal stories about flood insurance but noted that hardly anyone has flood insurance here.
3:45 PM -- Elizabeth Fogerty, representing herself, thanked the committee for its work. She is also vice-president of the lodging association. She would like to see continued economic development from the state.
Senator Lundberg thanked everyone for coming including the committee. He noted that he was in Estes Park during 1976 flood. He's encouraged by the response.
3:48 PM -- Kent Smith, representing Estes Valley Partners for Commerce, noted that political boundaries are being erased. He would like the message that Estes Park is open for business to get out.
Senator Jones reviewed local disasters and noted how Estes Park always comes back. He expressed his appreciation for people attending the hearing.
3:55 PM -- The meeting adjourned and the committee toured flood damage in Glen Haven.