Westminster water and sewer rates could rise significantly through 2020 if a plan going to City Councilors Sept. 24 succeeds. Water rates for average Westminster water customers would increase about …
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Westminster water and sewer rates could rise significantly through 2020 if a plan going to City Councilors Sept. 24 succeeds.
Water rates for average Westminster water customers would increase about $11 per month next year and another $11.50 in 2020. Those new rates would affect about 78 percent of all Westminster households, which represents the average water use for a family of three with a yard.
Customers that use more water — including large families that need to irrigate more than an acre of grass or landscaping — would see higher increases. Those customers, with an annual water and sewer bill of $200 or more, could see that bill increase $73 per month in 2019 and another $32 in 2020, according to the city.
Tap fees, paid by developers, would also increase.
Councilors are scheduled to vote on the proposal at their Sept. 24 meeting, and they hosted a review at their meeting Sept. 10. Max Kirschbaum, director of Public Works and Utilities, told councilors the increases are needed to keep up with the rising costs of maintaining the city’s water system.
“A great deal of our budget is devoted to just the daily operation of a utility, 365 days a year and 24 hours a day,” Kirschbaum said. “We also have an obligation for both the repair and replacement of our aging infrastructure and as the years go by, our assets continue to depreciate. We are obligated to identify the greatest needs and meet them.”
It includes general maintenance across the city — including pipes, tanks and purchasing chemicals, he said. But it also represents major projects, like replacing the city’s Semper Water Treatment Facility by 2025 and improvements to the sewer collection system in the Big Dry Creek area. Councilors approved a development moratorium for the area from 92nd Avenue north to 136th while engineers investigate the costs and needs of replacing that sewer system.
Revenues will be predominately spent on taking care of specific infrastructure that has already shown signs of failure or reached the end of its useful life, Kirschbaum said.
The city would make changes to lessen the impact on low water users, Kirschbaum said. That includes increasing the amount of water low water users can use.
“The reason for doing that is so that the majority households use that much water for interior uses,” Kirschbaum said. “Increasing that limit would allow more people to stay within that lowest tier, which would lowest of the rates we offer.”
The city is doing what it can to encourage customers to conserve water as much as possible. That includes installing low-flow toilets and promoting low-water turf and plants in outside landscaping.
“We have a pretty wonderful track record as a community of citizens,” he said. “Over 35 years, we’ve seen a 35 percent decrease of water usage on a per capita basis. But more is needed.”
Councilor David Demott said he’s torn about promoting conservation.
“If we are encouraging people to conserve, not that it’s a bad thing, it’s almost self-defeating, in my mind,” Demott said. “If everybody went out and did what we are asking them to do, we’re not selling as much water and we’re not making as much money for the utility and we’re not able to pay for these things.”
Kirschbaum said the city is also promoting a water bill assistance program.
“We recognize that any increase in a utility bill, no matter how small, can have a large impact on people living on fixed incomes or those who struggle to pay even basic bills. In response, the city has for more than a year provided assistance to help pay bills.”
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