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Thursday, February 13, 2020

City announces draft 2021-2022 water and sewer rate proposal

City announces draft 2021-2022 water and sewer rate proposal

The city wants residents to be informed about rate adjustments being considered for 2021 and 2022 that will fund the critical responsibility of providing safe, reliable and high-quality drinking water and sewer services.

The draft proposal includes several options, with the recommended option leading to an average monthly increase of $4 for drinking water services and $3 for sewer services for the average customer consuming 8,000 gallons of water a month in 2021 and by the same amount again in 2022. The recommended option provides the most consistent rate adjustments in future years.

“Rate adjustments are necessary to address the challenge of aging water and sewer infrastructure and to prevent the even higher costs of failure,” said Public Works and Utilities Director Max Kirschbaum. “We need to take care of what we own.”

A large portion of the city's infrastructure was built in the late 1970s and early 1980s during a period of significant growth in the city. This infrastructure is now close to 50 years old and needs to be replaced.

City staff recommend gradual, long-term rate adjustments to fund construction projects that repair and replace the city’s existing infrastructure to maintain the high-quality service customers expect and deserve. Over the last ten years, the city averaged about $30 million a year in water and sewer construction projects. Based on comprehensive engineering studies, staff recommend gradually increasing the city’s investment to an average of $60 to $80 million a year over the next ten years. The city’s long-term planning process systematically identifies the right projects at the right time to invest ratepayers’ funds as efficiently as possible.

Minimally responsible projects proposed for 2021 and 2022 include $16 million to replace deteriorating drinking water storage tanks, $11 million to replace an aging water main on Lowell Boulevard and $4.6 million to meet new environmental regulations by reducing nutrients leaving Big Dry Creek Wastewater Treatment Facility.

Staff also recommend using several strategies to help minimize the financial impact of these projects including using $2 million from a rate stabilization fund, reducing the utility’s contribution to the city’s General Fund by $500,000 each year for the next five years and financing select projects for intergenerational equity. The city has also formed an internal task force to identify innovative solutions to maintaining the city’s infrastructure and reducing costs.

The draft proposal can be found on the city's web site and will be available for public review and comment through Monday, April 27. Public comments will be documented and considered by City Council before voting on the proposal.

Two open houses will be held at city recreation centers to provide information to residents about the proposal and document feedback. Community members can attend these open houses at any time during the event. Refreshments will be provided.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 26, 6-8 p.m. at the City Park Recreation Center
  • Wednesday, March 18, 6-8 p.m. at The MAC

"We recognize that any increase in a utility bill, no matter the amount, can have a large impact on Westminster residents,” said City Manager Don Tripp. “Our concern is, failure to invest more in the city’s existing infrastructure today will lead to service interruptions and more expensive emergency repairs in the future. Westminster has a brand of high quality and reliable water and sewer service.”

The city also wants to meet with residents in smaller meetings and invites community organizations and homeowners associations to request additional presentations by phone at 303-706-3310 or waterinfo@westminsterco.gov.

The city offers several programs to help interested customers use less water and manage their bill. A water bill assistance program offers income-qualified customers a $15 per month credit toward their utility bill, free replacement of old toilets and no-cost leak repairs.

The city also offers several water conservation programs to help residents use less water outdoors including a new "Grass to Garden" program. Customers are encouraged to help the city design the best water conservation / efficiency programs by taking our survey.

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