DENVER (CBS4) – Westminster residents packed the parking lot outside City Hall on Monday night to protest what have become some of the highest water rates on Colorado’s Front Range.
“Our water bill jumped to $186 for June and then in July it went to $250. We haven’t changed our water usage habits, in fact when we called they city they said our usage was lower. The city said it’s the new billing system,” resident Mary Martinez said.
After losing their jobs at the Pepsi Center to the COVID-19 shutdown, Martinez and her husband have been in a tough position.
“That money helped us make ends meet because we are retired and on a fixed income now we have to make tough decisions — Do we want to buy food that we need or pay for our water bill?” she said.
Across town, Debbie Teter’s bill hit $500. She says the city’s tier system is flawed.
“We go from $3.96 and then $8.15 in the 2nd tier. The first is barely enough for anyone to take care of a yard and then you jump up to almost $13,” she said.
The city’s Public Works and Utilities Director Max Kirschbaum says the rate increase, which was approved by city council members, helps promote conservation and supports necessary changes to the water system.
“No tax dollars go to the utility to do any of our work, whether it’s operations or capital improvements. The only funding can come from rates our residents’ pay,” Kirschbaum said.
But residents question more than the rates. The billing cycle, they say, is consistently 28 days — or sometimes less — but it jumps to 33 in the summer. A longer billing cycle adds a week of water usage, pushing any residents into the top and most expensive tier. Kirschbaum says there’s no consistent cycle because meters need to be read in person.
Residents would like to see a full audit and say it’s time for the city to listen to the people, who feel they are bearing the burden.
“They need to take care of the residents of Westminster. We have always been there for them and now it’s their turn,” Martinez said.