PUEBLO – Small business owner Lee Gladney thinks Pueblo voters were played for fools with the passage of ballot question 2C in the 2017 general election. It created the Street Repair Enterprise with the promise to raise $3.5 million a year for road projects by adding a $1 fee to residential water bills and monthly fees based on the acreage of properties owned by businesses.
Pueblo small business owner Lee Gladney says the monthly street repair enterprise fees on his 0.25 acre shopping center are higher than what the city charges larger retail chains like Walmart or Target.In October, City Council rolled out a fee structure that charges residential customers $2 a month and set three tiers of monthly fees for businesses ranging between $10 and $100 depending on the size and nature of the business.
“Absolutely, it was a bait and switch,” Gladney said. “That’s not what the voters voted on. They voted on one item and City Council went in a totally different direction.”
What’s more, Gladney explained the tiered rate scale is actually costing him more money than the big box stores are paying. He owns commercial properties downtown with multiple small businesses as tenants. However, there is only one water meter at each property.
“Our facility, just that one building, is $160 (a month),” Gladney said. “It sits on less than an acre. So, I paid $160 just for that building, and again, the big box stores paid $100.”
He estimates the street repair fees for all of his properties will top $5,280 this year while a typical big box store would be expected to pay $1,200.
The Pueblo Board of Water Works reports as of February 1, there were some 110 water meters considered “mixed-use” where the billing of enterprise fees will consist of a mixture of fees. Gladney said his bill doesn’t include an itemized breakdown of how the fees were calculated.
City Council President Dennis Flores told News 5 that he is aware of the problem that property owners like Gladney are facing.
“It was never our intent to try and manipulate this or try and put the burden on just some people,” Flores said.
He said he was unaware of the promises that posted on the City’s webpage soliciting votes for 2C and promised to review the issue.
“I promise to the voters, I’m going to look at everything,” Flores said. “I’ll even look at the website again and I’ll look at all angles. Our intent was just to fix the streets.”
The ballot language of question 2C is sparse. Voters were asked: “Shall the City Council Establish a Street Repair Enterprise?” No explanation was included on how the City was to collect the funds for the enterprise, nor was a cap placed on how much money the City could collect.
Flores wants to revisit the issue with City Council, but he said he needs to speak with Mayor Nick Gradisar first.