Wellington water tap fees to increase May 1

Homebuilders will face a nearly $4,000 bump in water tap fees following a unanimous decision by the Wellington Board of Trustees during its Jan. 13 meeting.

The tap fee increase, which is expected to take place May 1, was influenced in part by the increasing North Poudre water share prices, which raised from a 2014 average of $59,000 a share to nearly $80,000 in early Jan. 2015, said Mike Bean, utilities superintendent.

“Commodities jump up and down very quickly. It’s still the law of averages that come into play. We don’t need to raise prices right now,” Bean said.

Mayor Jack Brinkhoff disagreed.

“Yes, we do,” he said. “We are about four years behind raising tap fees, in my opinion.”

So what does this mean? A 35-percent increase in tap fees for single family homesis expected to reach $15,350 compared to the current rate of $11,300.

Though none of the trustees disagreed that an increase was needed, there was some debate about how the increase should be implemented.

Trustee Matt Michel expressed concerns that a sudden increase in price would blindside builders and buyers, since developers may have factored current tap prices for the budgets of their new projects.

Michael recommended a staggered approach, raising prices in smaller increments spread over several months until the $4,000 was reached. He even asked trustees to consider reduced fees for those wanting to build multiplex units, since usage fees are generally less due to smaller yard and maintenance needs.

“I am interested in keeping houses affordable in Wellington,” Michel said to fellow trustees.

Others, such as trustees Tim Singewald and Ashley Macdonald, thought spreading the fee was not necessary since it would act more like a “Band-Aid,” and builders still have the opportunity to purchase taps before the increase is implemented.

“My job is to make sure we break even. Not subsidize the builders,” said Singewald

No decision regarding reduced tap fees for multi-family units was made. Mayor Brinkhoff planned a work session to explore options pending data on water usage patterns.

Resident Chuck Mayhugh addressed the mayor and trustees, advocating for a reduction in tap fees for multi-family units in an effort to keep housing prices affordable.

Using the current water tap rates, Mayhugh ran some quick figures.

“You can put a four-plex on the same lot as a single family home. The water (tap) would be $56,000. That would be higher than any other place in Larimer County,” he said. “If you don’t want a multiplex, then do this.”

In addition to raising fees, the board approved a liquor license renewal for the T-Bar Inn, approved the request for Valerie Crego’s 4-H dance group to practice in the Leeper Center on Monday evenings without cost and ratified the updated Comprehensive Plan as presented in the packet. The trustees scheduled a Strategic Planning Session at CSU on Friday, Feb. 27 with authorization to spend $3,120 on the meeting.

Before closing, Singewald approached the trustees to debrief the group on an informal discussion with Boxelder Stormwater Authority Members on Dec. 23, 2014. Discussion attendees included Larimer County Commissioner Lew Gaiter III, Gerry Horak, Wade Troxell, Mayor Brinkhoff and Singewald. Since it was an informal discussion — not a meeting — titles and roll call were not taken, according to the discussion summary that was printed and distributed to trustee members.

The Boxelder members discussed plans to meet once annually to stay on top of funds, changes to boundaries in each member’s respective area, fee abnormalities and accounting discrepancies.

According to the printed recap of the unofficial discussion, the original project was expected to cost about $12.5 million. As of the Dec. 23 meeting, Pinnacle records show nearly 8 million has already been spent, with some projects such as Eastside Detention Facility and the L&W Crossing Design still incomplete.

“Where is Boxelder project going? How much money to get to completion? And how long is it going to take to get there?” Singewald said.

Though there are questions with respect to how the city is being billed, how the company determines who pays fees and who doesn’t, and where the city stands in terms of budget and estimated timeline, one thing is clear. The distribution shows the project benefits non-fee payers the most, to the tune of $46 million in benefits, Singewald says.

Boxelder members will likely have a second informal discussion before meeting on the issue. In the meantime, Singewald has requested an analysis and billing details from Fort Collins representative John Haukass. He has requested a pro forma for the remaining Boxelder projects directly from Stan Myers at Pinnacle.

“My background in finance and accounting (says) numbers don’t change once they are old. Numbers should be finite,” Singewald said. “Boxelder is moving too fast without taking care of its members. Hopefully by the end of this month, a lot of this stuff will hopefully get resolved.”

An official date to meet on the Boxelder project has not been announced. The Boxelder board packet shows a spreadsheet noted to be a “work in progress,” with every effort made to collect numbers that have been “liquid in nature.” Though there are some gaps in the reporting data, the board packet shows expenses of $65,000 with expected cash flow obligations, the bulk of which are engineering costs, reaching $226,624.

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