By John G. Gauthiere, P. E.
In the Greeley Tribune’s article of August 15, 2021, City of Greeley Officials and the Water and Sewer Board Chairman, Harold Evans, misrepresented the Charter Amendments and resorted to fear tactics to scare the voters into voting against them.
According to City of Greeley Officials, the charter changes would require special elections for certain water management decisions that could result in higher rates and taxes, water supply issues and impairment of the local agricultural economy.
Let’s take a look at these claims one-by-one.
- The Charter Amendments Would Require Special Elections:
Amendment 17-9 requires a vote of the public before water rights or water supply and treatment facilities can be sold.
Selling water rights and facilities should not be a routine task. Good water rights, with their historical priorities, should never be sold. Nor should treatment and supply facilities. Therefore, no special election is needed!
Amendment 17-10 requires a vote of the public before the city can buy and provide to its citizens groundwater and/or recycled wastewater.
The public is happy with its mountain surface water supply, so, no special election needed here!
- The Charter Amendments Could Result in Higher Rates and Taxes:
If anything would make water rates go up, it is the City’s attempt to provide substandard water such as Terry Ranch ground water or recycled wastewater to the public. Substandard water requires more intense and expensive treatment to make it acceptable to the public than our surface water supply. It would also require new infrastructure to be built to treat it and move it to Greeley.
The Water & Sewer Department does not levy taxes, nor will the Charter Amendments affect taxes.
- Water Supply Issues:
The Charter Amendments would not affect the ability of Greeley to, for instance, bypass fire ravaged Poudre River water supplies by pulling its own CBT water from Horsetooth Reservoir through the Pleasant Valley Pipeline, which was a project conceived by me many years ago when I was a young Engineer working for Greeley Water.
- Impairment of the Local Agricultural Economy:
Amendment 17-10 refers only to the purchase and delivery of groundwater or recycled wastewater. Agricultural water has been purchased and leased back to farmers for many years. This water is surface water not subject to Amendment 17-10 and could be leased back for 5 years at a time, or even longer if submitted to a regular (not special) election vote.
For more context regarding why these Charter Amendments should be approved, Greeley recently entertained the possibility of renting our Cache la Poudre treatment and transmission facilities to Thornton which would have resulted in Greeley Citizens consuming contaminated Terry Ranch water within the next couple of years. That idea appears to have fallen through for now, but it could reappear. Thornton is desperate to get their WS&S water moving south.
Also, in 1986 Greeley tried to sell our high mountain reservoirs to Thornton but was thwarted when the people started a Charter Amendment petition drive to stop the sell. The people stood up, and Mayor Markley broke the City Council tie vote in favor of the people. (The Markley Family apparently still agrees with the Mayor’s past decision. Five members of the Markley Family happily signed these Charter Amendment Petitions.)
Lastly, have you enjoyed that pure mountain drinking water from our high mountain reservoirs over the past 35 years?
If you have, it is because your fellow citizens stood up to their City Officials back then, just as we all are doing today.
*This article was submitted as a guest editorial to the Greeley Tribune on 8/18/21.