WESTMINSTER, Colo. (CBS4) – Some Westminster voters will be casting ballots in this November’s city council races based on their water bills. City Council says a study shows that a third of their water infrastructure is beyond its useful life.
The council increased water rates between 16-36%, depending on how much water a homeowner uses, to pay for repairs including a new water treatment plant and upgrades to its main 22-mile sewer line.
Homeowner Steve Matthes is among those reeling from the increase in water rates. He says his August bill went from about $100 last year to $272 this year.
“What is that 150%? I thought it must be a mistake,” said Matthes.
“We are sensitive to the impact that increases do have,” said Max Kirschbaum, Director of Westminster Public Works.
Kirschbaum said a third of the city’s water infrastructure is at the end of its life. The increase allows the city to bond for $100 million over 20 years to replace it. Kirschbaum said its not something the city saves up for decades in advance.
“We don’t collect or increase rates and fees before that money is needed. We don’t want to do the work before it’s needed. We try to ensure that we’re getting the maximum benefit out of every asset,” he said.
But the bill came due during an election year in Westminster and has made its way into the city council race.
“It’s going to make us a less attractive city. You don’t need to drive more than a couple blocks to see all the browned out lawns,” said candidate Bruce Baker who is promising to repeal the increase that he says makes Westminster water rates the second highest in the metro area behind Boulder.
“The money is there. They just don’t want to spend it. They want more from taxpayers,” said Baker.
Kirschbaum disputes that saying, “Every dollar we put back into this infrastructure.”
He said a city survey found most people are satisfied with the water they get for the money. The election will be the survey that matters.