Glenwood Springs planners propose water and sewer rate increases averaging 36.8% per user

The plan also proposes yearly increases of 5% for the following nine years, which would generate the $36 million needed to update the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure.

Glenwood Springs city officials are proposing to raise water rates an average of 36.8% per user on July 1, then a 5% increase per year for the next nine years.

Public Works Director Matthew Langhorst said the plan to increase water rates over the next 10 years is necessary to generate $36 million for water and wastewater infrastructure upgrades.

Langhorst said proposed rate increases this year are 51% for water rates and 26% for sewer rates.

“We just need to catch back up in one lump sum here,” he added.

Langhorst said the city discovered the water and wastewater pipes to be in poor condition in 2019.

The city also needs to update the pipes to accommodate higher water usage needs resulting from changing environmental conditions and wildfire.

“The 2021 budget places the City of Glenwood Springs between Silt and Carbondale rates. We are on par with the region and other communities looking at the same type of infrastructure costs and needs for additional capital,” a PowerPoint presentation to city council states.

The city included the proposed water rate increases and infrastructure projects during a virtual town hall Thursday night.

When asked why it took the city so long to raise rates, Langhorst said he didn’t start in his position as public works director until 2019, the same year the city realized there was an issue with the wastewater and water systems.

“Then 2020 hit, and we weren’t going to walk out to the public and say ‘hey we’re going to raise rates 10% this year.’ That wouldn’t go too well,” Langhorst said.

City planners then pushed plans to increase water rates to July 2021, which caused the percentage of increase the first year to go up.

City Manager Debra Figueroa said the city council wanted to address the water and sewer rates in 2019, which would’ve been funded by a street tax measure that didn’t pass that year.

“The council did really want to make these improvements, but life happens, politics happen,” Figueroa said.

City Engineer Terri Partch said Glenwood Springs would try to have water infrastructure improvements coincide with road improvements as much as possible..

“We recognized the pipes under the roads were in poor condition. Leaving pipes we knew would need to be replaced underneath a brand new road would be fiscally irresponsible,” Partch said.

The city has not increased water or sewer rates since 2015.

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