ColoSprgs: Too poor for street lights but $880M water project OK.

Can a city that has to shut off its street lights to balance the budget really afford an $880 million water project?

The Post story today… continues to examine what happens to a city of conservatives who refuse to raise taxes in an economic downturn. A budget shortfall of $24 million, compounded by the rejection of any tax increase, has resulted in closed swimming pools, turned off street lights, laid off police officers and firefighters, and suspended weekend bus service.

And while city services have been dramatically cut in response to a new era of austerity, the Colorado Springs City Council, acting though its utility department Colorado Spring Utilities, is proceeding with an $880 million water project known as Southern Delivery.

According to the Pueblo Chieftain… , the Council has approved water rate hikes (not tax increases) of 12% for 2011 and 2012 and similar rate increases are expected though 2016, the projected completion date of the project.

The average homeowner will pay $5 more per month, and by the end of the project, Colorado Springs water rates will have doubled. The Chieftain goes on to say that “factoring in financing and inflation, ratepayers will pay $2.3 billion” for the project, which will bring water from Pueblo Reservoir to Colorado Springs through a 60 mile pipeline system.

Colorado Springs is not out of water. There are no reported shortages. Current residents are not in jeopardy of loosing service-yet. The argument being made is that the city is relying too heavily on key infrastructure that is failing rapidly. And while Southern Delivery addresses the problem of deteriorating infrastructure, the reason for Southern Delivery is to ultimately provide for future growth. There is no other justification for a project of this size and scope.

Water rates should cover the cost of providing water service, but should water rates be raised in this manner to cover the cost providing service for people who won’t be residents of Colorado Springs for another 10 or 20 years?

Given the current financial state of the city, wouldn’t the $5 more per month Colorado Springs residents will be charged for water be put to more pressing items — oh like turning some of the street lights back on?

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Republican 36 says:

    Based on today’s Post story, property crimes like theft and burglary are, for the most part, no longer investigated in Colorado Springs. The police take the call and that’s it. The fire department is also deteriorating and neither the police or fire department has any new officers and fire fighters in training.

    The latest story also outlines how low the existing tax rates are in Colorado Springs compared to other major cities in Colorado.

    This is no longer just their local swimming pools or parks being shut down but basic services that are considered essential for protection of people and property are no longer functioning. As someone once said, taxes are the price of civilization.

    The conservative/libertarian electorate has created the local society they desire but for the rest of us here in Colorado and around the United States it is a lesson in how not to run a city, county, state or nation.

    • Dan Willis says:

      I would think the financial woes of the city would cause a lot of people to move to cities that are more functional.

      • Sir Robin says:

        Who needs basic services, when you’ll be with God in his Mansion for Eternity?

      • Barron X says:


        difference is, we’re doing something about it, besides waiting on a Bailout.


        • Dan Willis says:

          picking which crimes to investigte based on budget;

          not turning on street lights to save money;

          laying off firefighters;

          and these are just the tiems brought up in the thread. I am sure there are more.

          • RedGreen says:

            Every police department does that. If Colo Springs cops had actually been sending officers out to “investigate” routine car break-ins and thefts, rather than just taking reports over the phone, they were doing more than most metro area police departments have been doing for years.

            • Dan Willis says:

              When my car was broke into (this was in 2002), the cops came out, took pictures, questioned the lot attendants, looked at security footage and ultimately arrested and convicted someone. I got a restitution check (albeit many months later) for the cost of my broken window.

              • RedGreen says:

                if the car break-in seems like it’s part of a pattern. And if that’s what Denver routinely does, that’s great for Denver crime victims!

                But my car was broken into three times over several years 2001-2004 in Denver’s two largest suburbs, and all three times the cops just wanted to take info over the phone, even when I insisted they send someone to investigate (the items stolen each time were valued over $500, so it wasn’t just petty crime). That’s still the policy in both suburbs.

        • OuiserBoudreaux says:

          That would be the only true sign that you’re serious about your principles.  Git’r done already

      • EmeraldKnight76 says:

        in a city like Colorado Springs, being the utopia it is right now, houses are just flying off the shelves. I love when people make these types of statements. Selling your house in a strong market but weak town is hard enough. Couple that with the housing market we have now and it might explain why there’s been no exodus.

          • EmeraldKnight76 says:

            But I would think a “mass exodus” would probably require quite a few homeowners. I’m not able to find recent rental numbers to either confirm or deny an exodus of either kind. My only point was that some homeowners may not find it quite so easy to walk away from their homes in Colorado Springs regardless of whether they agree with TABOR or not.

  2. Barron X says:


    While we wallow in this purgatory of low taxes and relatively less socialism, having to fend for ourselves because our local government is just too darn small to run every aspect of our lives,

    our concerned neighbors in Pueblo worry that we might bankrupt ourselves by bringing the water that we own 60 miles uphill from the Arkansas to our little patch of hell on earth.  

    Our concerned neighbor Poodle Lord (whose IP address traces back to the offices of the Chieftain) seeks to unburden us of the water we bought 55 years ago, and won’t even charge us for leaving our fresh, clean transmountain diversion water to foul the Pueblo Riverwalk.  

    Funny, the Chieftain never thought to advise us in 1955 not to buy that water, or to dig those tunnels.  


    Editor Rawlings can slay his own strawmen as good as anybody.  The idea that we are building a brand new pipeline to take our water out of the Arkansas and suck it North to the Springs, water that up until now we had no way to use,

    as a response to crumbling infrastructure that carries water from completely different sources to completely different parts of town,

    that would be funny if it wasn’t so stupid.  Southern Delivery System has nothing to do with deteriorating infrastructure.  Nothing.  

    the reason for Southern Delivery is to ultimately provide for future growth. There is no other justification for a project of this size and scope.

    ya think ?

    This is a cleverly concealed attempt to get existing ratepayers to rise up and object to paying for SDS, which is mostly needed for the 75,000 houses to be built on the former Banning Lewis Ranch East of town.  

    “Why should I have to pay for something I’m never going to benefit from ?”

    Water rates should cover the cost of providing water service, but should water rates be raised in this manner to cover the cost providing service for people who won’t be residents of Colorado Springs for another 10 or 20 years? (sic)

    If I may restate Mr. Rawlings’ position,

    “if the residents of Somalia Springs would just be so stupid that they refused to invest in infrastructure necessary for future expansion, then the city could not grow anymore, and our (Pueblo’s) generational envy of Somalia Springs might finally subside.  

    Plus, we could continue to use their water without paying for it.”

    IIRC, when I moved into my current hovel, which (believe it or not) has running water, I don’t remember years before paying for the extension of water mains into that development, nor had I paid for the acquisition of transmountain water rights back when I was 2 years old.  

    Sometimes current ratepayers pay for things that don’t benefit them directly, and yet it makes sense in the long run.


    • poodlelord says:

      But you’re actually right on a few points. Colorado Springs owns the water, El Paso County residents have been paying for the reservoir to store the water in since the ’70s, and Pueblo County should have issued the 1041 years ago and got the hell out of the way.

      Your arguement that it is perfectly OK to double water rates in order build an $880M water project to serve 75,000 homes at a time the city can’t afford to keep the street lights on, pay for police and firefighters, or water the grass in the parks escapes me.

      In the current economic climate, SDS would never survive a vote of Colorado Springs residents, but it will never come to a vote because the political leadership can fund the project by raising rates, not by tax increase.

      • Barron X says:


        Now we’re pushing it through out of spite, even though we can no longer afford it, thanks to the expensive hurdles erected by the Riverwalk aficionados.


  3. JeffcoDemo says:

    I thought they were jumping on dark skies bandwagon.

    Who knew they were so progressive down there?

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