After voters declined to approve a renewable water plan in 2016 and 2018, Castle Pines residents living west of Interstate 25 will vote on a proposed water inclusion partnership with the Parker Water …
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After voters declined to approve a renewable water plan in 2016 and 2018, Castle Pines residents living west of Interstate 25 will vote on a proposed water inclusion partnership with the Parker Water and Sanitation District in May.
The May 4 special election will ask voters to approve the inclusion of Castle Pines North Metro District's water and wastewater utilities with those of the Parker Water and Sanitation District.
Parker Water CFO Steve Hellman said there are an estimated 12,000 residents living west of I-25. In total, that equates to about 3,500 accounts that would be switched to the Parker Water system. While the proposal calls for lower water and sewer bills for residents, if approved, it would require the metro district to pay an up-front cash payment of $34 million for meter upgrades, infrastructure and the pipeline needed to connect users to the Parker Water system.
District 1 City Councilmember Deborah Mulvey said the proposal impacts all residents living in north Castle Pines except those in the Hidden Pointe subdivision.
Mulvey said while the issue impacts her constituents, the Castle Pines City Council has no jurisdiction over the proposal and has not decided to take a position one way or the other at this time.
The plans were laid out for residents during a Feb. 11 meeting. The metro district and Parker Water have been studying and developing the proposed inclusion plans for more than two years.
Metro district President David McEntire said a solution is needed to secure future renewable water resources in Castle Pines. In 2018, voters removed four members of the metro district board, electing new members, including McEntire.
“When they elected us, we made one promise,” McEntiresaid. “We promised to find a renewable water option that wouldn't cost $100 million. It was a promise made and a promise kept.”
McEntire said it is important to secure the community's renewable water future wisely and at less cost. Voters rejected plans in 2016 and 2018 primarily because it called for more than $100 million to build the infrastructure required to support a renewable water system. The plan called for north residents to pay higher utility fees and property taxes over 30 years.
McEntire said the new board took a serious look at finding help outside the city, which led to them talking to every neighbor about a partnership. The metro district board talked to Castle Rock, the Centennial Water and Sanitation District, Denver and Parker about forming an inclusion plan. While others didn't have the resources or water capacity, McEntire said Parker Water took on the challenge.
Parker Water CFO Steve Hellman said what Castle Pines is going through will likely become more common across the Denver metro area. As developers build subdivisions, Hellman said, they find cheap water-utility options in order to meet minimum standards to build and move on.
“The custom model is developers put together smaller utilities because it is cheaper than joining an already-established utility,” he said. “Castle Pines North is now trying to solve longer-term water issues.”
McEntire said Parker Water is a good fit to meet community needs because it already has a comprehensive renewable water plan in place, giving an opportunity to move beyond unfunded renewable water plans. Making the plan possible, Parker Water owns and operates Rueter-Hess Reservoir with the raw-water-storage capacity of 75,000 acre-feet. One acre-foot of water equals 325,851 gallons.
Hellman said Parker Water is already “ahead of the curve” in future planning, adding that the metro district also owns water rights, which would allow both entities to benefit.
According to the metro district study, Castle Pines North residents currently pay some of the highest water fees in the region. On average, Castle Pines North residents pay $156.35 a month on water and sewer. That is more than Castle Rock, Aurora, Colorado Springs and the Village at Castle Pines, according to the study.
If given voter approval, Parker Water said the new services would go into effect on Jan. 3, 2022. Immediately, northside, single-family residential customers would no longer have to pay the metro district's monthly maintenance charge or the renewable water investment, which would decrease the average monthly bill by $25.23, amounting to $302.76 in annual savings.
Parker Water already provides utility services for Castle Pines residents living east of I-25. On average, the monthly water and service fees are $65.63.
Hellman said the lower fees are due to the “economies of scale.” Having more customers spread across the water system lowers rates.
In property taxes, the inclusion creates a higher valuation. Hellman said Parker Water currently has $800 million in assessed value. The addition of Castle Pines North customers will increase that value by $200 million.
If metro district voters approve the plan, 3,500 customer accounts would be added to Parker Water, which currently serves 17,500 accounts.
Hellman said the proposal would also benefit Parker. The added infrastructure and water rights will increase Parker's future renewable water supplies, he said. Hellman said Parker customers would also see a decrease in renewable water fees because costs could be spread out more with the added customers.
Under the plan, Parker Water will not assume any debt or current liabilities of the metro district, which will be required to pay off debt liabilities before the partnership becomes effective.
To learn more about the plan, go to the metro district's website at cpnmd.org
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