Nov 21, 2009 7:52 AM by James Jarman

Road improvements on hold after layoffs hit city engineering

The latest round of city layoffs in Colorado Springs just hit the engineering department.

26 engineering employees just received the so-called "reduction in force" notices.  Their positions are slated to be eliminated by the end of December.

It's part of a $2 million cut to the department - a quarter of it's budget and staff.   As a result of those cuts several road improvement projects are now on hold and some people in the Springs-area construction industry fear the impact could cost the community millions.

"This impact will have a ripple through our economy at a time that we can't afford to have another ripple through the economy," Eric Smith, vice president of Matrix Design group told News First 5.  "It's gonna affect not only what we do from a professional perspective, but also all the way down to contractors and suppliers."

He says his company stands to lose $3 million to $4 million this year because of the projects that were put on hold.

Most of the improvement projects on hold are under the Rural Transportation Authority.  Tax money approved by the voters in 2004 pays for the projects, but the city engineers oversee the public's interest in those projects. 

Roughly $25 million a year goes to RTA projects and that money will be "held in the bank," until the projects move forward again, according to to Cam McNair, city egineering department manager. He says without the city engineering staff to oversee the public's interest in the projects, the improvements can't proceed.

The only RTA project not on hold right now is the Woodmen-Academy interchange. It's still moving forward because federal money's paying for it.

McNair says the city hoped the RTA could come up with the money to pay for the engineering oversight, but at this point it doesn't appear the RTA Board is prepared to approve that.  The board's next meeting to discuss the issue is December 9th.


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