SUPERIOR, Colo. (CBS4)– Four months after the Marshall Fire, the toll continues to mount in the small town of Superior. But Town Trustee Neal Shah says the numbers are already staggering.
“Our economic core is right over there,” he said referencing a strip mall where a Target, TJ Maxx and Michaels were all damaged. “Eighty percent of our revenue is sales and use taxes so our engine is a little bit down for the count.”
With up to 440 homes destroyed, property tax revenue is also down, as the bills pile up. The town spent $2 million on a filtration system for its water treatment reservoir and will spend millions more on debris clean-up. Worst yet, it’s estimated 80% to 90% of the homeowners impacted by the fire are underinsured by $150 million to $200 million. Shah and other trustees rolled back the use tax and cut permit fees in half.
“Now we need the state and the county to step up and do the same thing,” said Shah.
Trustees fired off a letter to their State Sen. Steve Fenberg asking for help. He responded with a bill that provides $15 million in subsidies for fire impacted homeowners and local governments and $20 million in low-interest loans and grants for those who build green.
“Unless we start attacking how do we build resiliency, this is going to be the wave of the future.”
The legislation is part of a package of wildfire-related bills introduced in this session. Representatives Dylan Roberts and Marc Catlin, sponsors of several of the bills, including one that would position wildfire detection cameras around the state, “Once they see the heat and the smoke they can give you a GPS address, send it to the fire people, and say it’s right here.”
From early detection to mitigation, the bills total more than $80 million. There’s money for water restoration, fire apparatus and manpower including volunteer firefighters.
“We don’t have nearly the workforce or the firefighters to respond to every fire that might come up over the next several months so we’re going to rely on volunteers. We’re also working on a bill that would make sure firefighters have access to water in these remote locations by preserving fire suppression ponds.”
There are also bills to keep homeowners insurance rates in check and simplify the claims process.
“What you see with all these bills in total is us tackling the wildfire issue from all aspects of it,” says Roberts.
Lawmakers are expected to introduce two more wildfire bills in the final weeks of the session. Shah is hoping one of them will waive the state’s use tax on fire rebuilds, “We’re not talking about a basement remodel.”
Shah also wants to see Boulder County and special districts waive use taxes. If the County and RTD alone rolled back their use tax, he says, it would save $5,000 to $10,000 per homeowner.