At the Town of Estes Park, we are proud to provide some of the best water in the country. Our customers' water comes straight off the mountains and into our treatment plants before being delivered to homes every day of the year. This is possible with extensive oversight and expert control, and our continual repairs to an aging system. Rate studies, which often recommend increases, are necessary to fund this work and to continue providing great water service. We have just completed a scheduled rate study, which proposes an average increase of five percent annually for the next three years. The recommended rates will be proposed at public meetings in May and July.
The process to determine new rates considers many factors:
Keeping the increases to a minimum for small year-round households with modest incomes
Saving funds in order to replace the 1970 Glacier Creek Water Treatment Plant by about 2026
Complying with state and federal regulatory standards
Continually replacing failing and undersized pipes
The current fixed monthly base charge on your water bill is intended to cover the fixed costs of everyday operations and maintenance. This base charge needs to increase to make sure these fixed costs are covered. The proposed monthly base charge includes 2,000 gallons a month for every residential customer. This will help smaller households that use about 2,000 gallons a month. Homes that are unoccupied through part of the year and use no water would see a larger monthly increase, since it's necessary to ensure water is always available to them even if it isn't being used.
The two main issues impacting the water rates in the Estes Valley are establishing an annual pipe replacement program at the expense of $1 million per year and rebuilding the Glacier Creek Water Treatment Plant at a cost of $35 million.
Nearly 40 miles of our underground pipe is outdated, undersized and prone to leaks. Replacing these pipes improves our community's fire protection capabilities and helps reduce costly emergency repairs. It will take a long time but the first step is having adequate funds to do the work.
The Glacier plant was built in 1970 with a planned 40-year life. As it approaches 50 years old, the plant won't be capable of meeting the Town's future water needs and ever-increasing regulatory requirements. Its replacement will be built to modern specifications and will be more energy-efficient. The plant will also use state-of-the-art membrane-based filters similar to the existing Marys Lake Water Treatment Plant.
Your rates are supported by other funding sources, too. The Water Division makes a focused effort to find grants and financing for large projects like these. We are applying for grants and funding with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). They offer a program to small rural communities that provides grants and 40-year low-interest loans. The USDA program was considered during the water rate study and has helped reduce the proposed rate increases.
The burden of addressing deferred maintenance on critical infrastructure is shared by communities across the country. Instead of continuing to pass challenges on to future generations, we are working to address the big issues before they reach the crisis point, to sustain our community's water needs into the future.
Complete details, available at www.estes.org/waterratesandtapfees, will be presented at the May 28 Town Board meeting, which takes place at 7 p.m. in the Town Board Room of Town Hall, 170 MacGregor Ave. Another public hearing will take place July 9, at which the Town Board is expected to adopt new water rates. All water customers are encouraged to provide comments to the Trustees now through July 9. Written comments may be provided to the Town Clerk in Room 130 of Town Hall or by emailing email@example.com. The meetings will be available live-streamed and recorded via www.estes.org/videos.