Manitou administrator Benson to retire

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JackBensonCCManitou City Administrator Jack Benson will retire this year, but not as soon as he originally anticipated.

“Jack decided … he’s going to stay another two months,” said Manitou Mayor Marc Snyder.

In February, Benson submitted a letter of resignation, effective March 31.

“I had been on him for weeks, to see if he could see this flood mitigation through,” Snyder said, referring to work the city is doing in Williams Canyon upstream of the city to ameliorate flood damage.

“I intend to retire. It’s been something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a while,” said Benson, who is 66.

The new departure date of May 31 will give more time for a replacement to be hired and trained. Also, the annual budget process begins at the end of May, Benson said.

Benson cited three things as items he’s most proud of accomplishing during his three-year tenure: stabilizing the city’s finances, adopting competitive wages for employees; and managing traffic congestion through the installation of parking meters.

Snyder praised Benson, calling him “just the perfect fit for Manitou Springs.”

In 2010, the year before Benson came on board, the city’s financial reserves were around $120,000, Snyder said. In 2013, the city ended the year with $800,000 in reserve.

This year, the city budgeted its final fund reserve to be $595,000, without including potential tax receipts from the sale of recreational marijuana, Benson said.

“That’s pretty marginal,” Benson said, adding that Manitou, with its $5 million annual budget, should have a fund balance around $750,000.

While Benson was serving as city administrator, he implemented a budget that brought all city employees up to compensation levels similar to peer cities of similar size to Manitou, Snyder said.

“The recession, flooding and fire have really made that difficult,” Snyder added.

Significant accomplishments under Benson’s tutelage include two mergers: Manitou Springs Library became part of the Pikes Peak Library District, and the city’s dispatch center merged with El Paso County Dispatch, Snyder said.

With his time remaining, Benson said he hopes to complete the funding packages for installing debris nets in Williams Canyon.

“I’m spending most of my time pulling the money together” from state and federal agencies, in addition to matching funds.

In the $4.2 million project, “we’re trying to shoulder the matching funds of $400,000. That’s dipping into our reserves,” he said.

As for his post-retirement plans, Benson, who still has a home in Summit County, said they may involve his 13 grandchildren.