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Filtering Out the Falsehoods
Truth matters, especially during elections. This is a truism that the staff and board of Parker Water & Sanitation District (PWSD) believe in and work hard to support every day as we provide essential services to our communities. In fact, two of the key values we work to achieve daily are to “Uphold Integrity” and to provide “Extraordinary Service.”
Our customers deserve to know the truth behind the misinformation that appeared in public during our recent board elections.
Below is accurate and truthful information concerning false allegations that were made about PWSD. We welcome the opportunity to speak directly to our customers and encourage you to contact us at 303-841-4627 if you have more questions.
Fact: This is false. The recent PWSD election for three (3) open board member seats was held in a drop-off and mail-in ballot format. PWSD hired an outside consultant to run the election on our behalf. The consultant was responsible for managing the ballot collection, ballot counting, and certifying the election. Ballot boxes at the two drop-off locations were locked and inaccessible to PWSD employees. Additional information about the election and how it was run is available on our website.
- Claim: PWSD intentionally left 96 voters off the election rolls and disenfranchised them by not giving them adequate time to vote in the recent election.
Fact: During our most recent board election, PWSD staff learned, for the first time, that in 2004 the Douglas County Assessor had not added 62 addresses to the district’s boundaries due to confusion over the legal description of these properties (which was provided to PWSD by the owner of these properties in 2004). As a consequence of that oversight, there were 96 voters living at those addresses who were not included in the list of voters PWSD received from the Douglas County Clerk’s office, and therefore did not receive ballots in the mail. This was an unintentional mistake that we are in the process of remedying with the county.
As soon as PWSD staff were made aware of the issue and received the list of impacted voters on the morning of the election, staff contacted the affected voters directly via email and automated phone messages to alert them about their opportunity to vote in the election. Of the impacted voters, six (6) individuals did vote in the election. Therefore, the turnout rate for these 96 properties was 6.3%. For context, PWSD sent out 37,683 ballots and had 3,091 returned ballots for an overall turnout rate of 8.2%.
Despite this unintentional error, the election was conducted fairly. PWSD had no authority to continue the election beyond the close of voting on May 2 at 7:00 p.m. PWSD did everything it reasonably could do to alert the impacted voters and provide them an opportunity to vote, given the circumstances.
- Claim: PWSD has been collecting property taxes from the affected voters in Lincoln Creek without allowing them to vote.
Fact: Because the affected residents were never included in PWSD by the Douglas County Assessor’s office, they had not paid any property taxes to PWSD before the issue was discovered. We are working with the county to review and update all PWSD boundaries and inclusion records to make sure that all property tax and voter information is accurate in the future.
Fact: This is false. PWSD has held open elections six (6) times since 2014. In 2014 PWSD ran a full election in which five (5) candidates ran for three (3) open seats. However, in the subsequent years when elections were called, there were never more candidates than there were open seats. Therefore, as allowed by the Colorado local government election code section 1-13.5-513(6) C.R.S, PWSD posted a notice of cancellation and automatic election of the candidates. Holding those complete elections without any reason would have cost approximately $100K for each election – costs that we did not have to then pass on to our ratepayers.
In one instance, in 2014, a board member resigned their seat in the middle of their term. As required by law, an individual was appointed to fill that position until the next election was held. The individual then ran for the seat in the next election cycle and completed the remainder of the term as an elected official rather than appointee.
Fact: This is false. The PWSD board has not given any direction to pursue an imminent rate increase. While all water providers require rate increases to keep up with the increased costs of providing water and wastewater services that come from inflation, regulatory requirements, and other pressures, the PWSD board generally only looks at rate adjustments during the annual budgeting process in the fall. The board works with staff to limit rate increases to levels needed to provide continued service and seeks to moderate increases to track as closely to inflation as is reasonably possible.
Additionally, any rate adjustments proposed by PWSD must be posted and open for public comment 30 days prior to any public hearing at which the board will consider the adjustment. Additionally, under Parker Water’s policies, two public hearings are required before adoption by the board, which means any rate or fee changes, if approved by the board, would not be effective until nearly 60 days after the notice. Additional information about how PWSD sets its rates and fees is available on our homepage.
Fact: This is false. PWSD has a robust long-term water supply plan that we have developed for more than a decade. The centerpiece of the plan is the Platte Valley Water Project (PVWP), which will help diversify our water portfolio, so that we are less reliant on Denver Basin groundwater and instead rely on renewable water sources for 75% of our water needs once all property in Parker Water is fully developed. That project has been lauded by the State of Colorado, water leaders, elected officials, and environmental groups as a sensible approach to delivering more water to Parker.
Unlike many water projects that propose to buy and dry farmland in rural Colorado, the PVWP is built on a unique partnership between PWSD and the Lower South Platte Water Conservancy District in the northeastern corner of the state. The partnership’s approach will provide both farmers and Front Range residents much-needed water by using new and existing infrastructure to capture and store South Platte River water, mostly in the spring and during storm events. This is water that currently leaves Colorado in quantities that exceed the state’s compact agreements with Nebraska and other downstream states.
As part of the project, PWSD is currently in the process of securing the necessary water rights, attracting more partners for the project to help defray costs, and acquiring the land and easements needed for the project infrastructure. We anticipate the project will begin to provide water to our customers in the late 2030s.
- Claim: PWSD is building a luxurious new administrative building at a cost of $53 million to house just 85 employees.
Fact: PWSD is in the process of building a new facility for our operations, maintenance, and administrative functions, and the cost for the construction of that facility is going to be approximately $53 million. That is true. However, rather than a luxury, this new building is a necessity for the following reasons:
- Since our current administrative building was built in 2003, PWSD has increased our service area from one municipality to three, our customer population has doubled, and our staffing numbers have consequently doubled as well.
- Currently PWSD staff, records, and equipment are squeezed into inadequate spaces in numerous facilities across the district, including our current 6,000 square foot administrative building and a temporary trailer that does not have indoor plumbing (including in its restroom facilities).
- The current administrative building is located in the far northeast corner of the district boundary, meaning staff spend significant amounts of time and fuel driving across the district every day while completing their duties. The new building is centrally located next to Rueter-Hess Reservoir and PWSD’s existing water treatment plant, which will lead to significant efficiencies while saving time and money.
- The building will not only house our current staff of 105 employees but is also being built to house our future staff of approximately 180 employees when the district reaches full build-out. It is planned to be our forever home.
- In addition to housing staff, the new building will also house a state-of-the-art water quality laboratory, electrical and mechanical workshops, a meter repair workshop, fleet parking, and needed warehouse storage space.
The total cost for the building comes in around $400 per square foot (psf) and is well below the national average of $591 psf for government administration buildings. Not planning for the district’s growth would only cost our ratepayers more in the future.