The state legislature’s flood disaster study committee traveled to Lyons, Longmont and Estes Park last week and got a compelling earful from officials about the status of flood recovery work. The three cities were among the many that sustained major damage during the mid-September floods, and the race is on to at least temporarily repair municipal infrastructure before the onset of winter.
In some cases – well, probably in almost every case – that becomes a matter of money.
Lyons Mayor Julie Van Domelen and town administrator Victoria Simonsen told the visiting legislators that their town had sustained $50 million in flood damages, according to Scott Rochat of The Longmont Times-Call, but that after federal and state funds come through, Lyons will only be on the hook for about $6.25 million in matching funds. The bad news, Rochat wrote, is that Lyons, with a population of just over 2,000, doesn’t have that kind of money, either.
Longmont, the much larger city with a population above 88,600, is currently estimating its infrastructure damage at $132 million and it has been paying for repairs by tapping its reserve fund, putting off other capital projects and raising its stormwater and park maintenance fees. But city officials worry that if federal and state reimbursements don’t come through quickly enough that they, too, will have money problems.
One major question of the day was vocalized by State Rep. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling. “Has there been a decision made, whether to make sure the (St. Vrain) river goes back to its original channel or if it should stay in its new channel?”
Officials from both Longmont and Lyons said no decision had been made, but that one needs to be made and acted upon before spring runoff next year, said The Times-Call, which has done exemplary reporting on flood recovery.
“Between December and March, the stream needs to have banks again, and we need to know who’s going to do that,” said Lyons administrator Simonsen.
Even as much of the unaffected state has moved on from the epic flooding, the communities most impacted are still grappling with basic questions about the future, even as they race to make workable repairs before winter.