Parker Water considering rate increase


> Correction to the earlier version of the story: The overall rate increase is 2.56 percent, which equates to $2.62 per month for the average tier 1 residential customer <</p>

Parker’s water users could see higher water and sewer rates starting in January.

The Parker Water and Sanitation Board of Directors was scheduled to consider a proposal Nov. 7 to raise water rates by 3.5 percent and sewer rates by 1.5 percent. The second reading of the proposal will be Nov. 14.

The 2.56 percent overall increase would add an average of $2.62 to the monthly bill of a tier 1 residential customer. District manager Ron Redd said the rate hike is needed to cover the costs of new programs, including infrastructure needed for the district’s participation in WISE, an agreement that will send an average of 1,200 acre-feet of recycled water to Parker annually from Denver and Aurora.

Additional money is also needed to fund operations at the water treatment plant under construction north of Rueter-Hess Reservoir, including more staff, chemicals and electricity. General inflation costs are also figured into the proposed increase, Redd said.

“No one likes their bills to go up, but I feel like we’ve done a good job of holding costs in line,” he said. “This is a new cost and we’re passing that cost along to our customers.”

Tracy Hutchins, one of five members of the Parker Water and Sanitation District board, said she is voting against the increase, partly because she says the district doesn’t have a detailed financial plan to go with its long-range master plan.

“We don’t have a good handle on it, and personally, I don’t think we should be raising rates until we have a handle on it,” Hutchins said, referring to the district’s financial future.

Redd acknowledged that the district needs to get a more rigid financial plan in place, saying “we’ve got a lot of work to do.” But he said the district must fund new programs approved by the board, including WISE, and obligations made by previous leadership, like the water treatment plant. A thorough rate and fee analysis will be conducted this winter and spring, Redd said.

“If you ask me six months from now, I’ll be able to tell you what the rates will be long-term, but I think you will see incremental rate increases for a while,” he said. He later added: “We will have a fine-toothed comb on this in the future.”

The cost of bringing in new water, and building the pipelines to transport the water, will continue to rise. More users will help spread out the costs; Ridgegate and the Canyons, in Lone Tree and Castle Pines, respectively, will be served by Parker Water.

Redd had “no indication whatsoever” that Hutchins was opposed to the increase and said he assumed it would get unanimous approval.

Hutchins said she believes the district should not only continue cutting administrative costs, but that the board should consider a proposal from private investors who want to build Stroh Road to Interstate 25, with some federal funding.

Although impact fees, such as tap fees paid by new customers to hook into the PWSD system, will not be affected by the proposed increase, they could change in the future; Redd says they will be looked at during the rate study.

More rooftops will alleviate the financial burden on existing customers, Hutchins said, and keeping tap fees low for new customers is crucial because “future development is what keeps us in business.”

“The reality is if home prices become more out of this world, the land’s not going to get developed,” she said.

If approved on second reading Nov. 14, the 2.56 percent increase would take effect Jan. 1.