Water rates are going up next year to pay for watering parks properties in Colorado Springs, the City Council decided Tuesday.
The 6-3 vote – opposed by Councilmen Don Knight, Andy Pico and Bill Murray – will boost Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services’ foundering budget, still about $5 million shy of its 2008 level. The department’s current $3.3 million watering budget is about $1.2 million short of where it should be, Parks Director Karen Palus has said.
Ratepayers of Colorado Springs Utilities can expect to pay a half percentage point more, on average, starting Jan. 1, and the money will be transferred to the city for parks watering. Rates then will increase another half percent a year later.
Monthly bills for residential, commercial and industrial ratepayers will rise an average of 34 cents, $1.13 and $14.77, respectively, next year. Those increases will double in 2020.
That boost is relatively minimal but will significantly help the parks, Council President Richard Skorman said during the Tuesday meeting.
Growth in Colorado is booming. State census numbers just out, show Colorado’s population jumped by around 70,000 people in 2017…
When it comes to water supply, Colorado Springs utilities planners look decades into the future. Within the last year they completed what is called an Integrated Water Resources Plan. “That really looked at our future water supply, 50 plus years out. And a big component of that was estimating our future demand based in part on population.”
The supply is strong right now and into the near future, but they know long term growth will require expanding our water system. Front Range water comes from an extensive system of reservoirs, pumps and pipes. “If we didn’t change our system at all with our current configuration or our water supply system we’re probably good on water supply for at least another 20 to 25 years.” Growth, however, is expected to continue, so planning is happening now for future water needs. “When we need to start thinking about bringing in additional storage, maybe expanding some of our reservoir storage, perhaps building new reservoirs.”
Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte, who oversaw the massive expansion of the city’s water supply and the decision to eventually shutter the downtown, coal-fired Martin Drake Power Plant, will retire at the end of May.
Forte, 63, who was earning nearly $450,000 this year, said he told the Utilities board of his plans Wednesday in an executive session.
“It’s something that we’ve worked on, we developed a transition plan and it was just a matter of when the time is right,” Forte said. “And for me, I think the time is just right.”
A Colorado Springs native, Forte was with the municipal utility since 2002. He was the chief operating officer his first four years with Utilities before being promoted to chief executive officer in 2006.
Colorado Springs Utilities says that despite the dry weather of late, its water storage system is at 80 percent capacity, which translates to three years worth of water.
That’s pretty amazing, considering the city doesn’t sit anywhere near a major river, but rather relies on snowpack on Pikes Peak and transmountain water sources.
Here’s a report from Water Resources Manager Abby Ortega, sent to the Independent in an email:
• In June 2015 our storage was at 95 percent of capacity and last year our storage peaked at 93 percent of capacity. It is fairly typical for storage to fluctuate between 15 and 20 percent.
• Our water system storage is above average capacity despite dry conditions locally.
We are always planning for the future to meet our customers’ demand.
We currently have three years of demand in storage.
We are monitoring streamflow, demand and storage to maximize the available water supply.
While an average or better snowpack is always ideal, our system will withstand the current projected drier conditions without any impact to our customers this year.
Our system-wide storage is currently at about 80 percent of capacity.
The Drought Monitor shows areas with dry conditions have continued to increase across Colorado; however, due to our thoughtful planning, we do not anticipate mandatory water restrictions this year.
This year the biggest threat to our water supply is wildland fire. Springs Utilities’ has a volunteer wildland fire team representing all four services, to protect utilities property (pipes, equipment, watershed/reservoirs, etc.).
Please use water wisely. (Officially, the Water Shortage Ordinance is set at Stage 1 Voluntary Restrictions).
March and April are the most critical months for winter watering as this is when new roots are forming in your landscape. Water a couple of times this month and next on days 40 degrees or warmer.
Here’s the release from Colorado Springs Utilities:
Today [January 26, 2018], Colorado Springs Utilities CEO Jerry Forte announced the new Water Services Officer: Earl Wilkinson. His first day with Springs Utilities is Monday, February 26, 2018.
“Earl’s experience includes managing stormwater, wastewater and water divisions in multiple municipalities, as well extensive planning, design and construction experience,” Forte said. “He has served on numerous committees and boards where he established a focused customer-service approach with staff, politicians, consultants, citizens and other governmental agencies that builds trust and confidence. I am excited for the knowledge and expertise Earl will bring to our organization.”
Wilkinson has more than 26 years of experience working for municipal governments. Since 2009 he’s served as the Director of Public Works for the City of Pueblo. In this role, he collaborated with Colorado Springs Utilities and many of our stakeholders. He previously served as a senior professional engineer and administrator in Toledo, Ohio.
“I’m thrilled to be selected to be a part of the Colorado Springs Utilities team and look forward to working in an organization that is an industry leader in municipal utilities,” Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson has a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Ind. and a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Colorado Colorado Springs. He is married and has three daughters and five grandchildren.
The Water Services Officer position has been vacant since Jan. 5, 2018, when Dan Higgins retired.
Unusually high water bills have started to roll in for several folks in Colorado Springs for the month of September.
Colorado Springs Utilities says there are no leaks and no issues with their meters, it simply comes down to a matter of consumption and usage per household.
But many homeowners in the Stetson Hills neighborhood say that’s just not the case and they haven’t made any changes all summer.
“We got our bill and it was $460,” Stephanie Gordon, a Colorado Springs rate payer said…
So News 5 took these concerns straight to Colorado Springs Utilities.
“We take them seriously, we look into them, we investigate them, we checked out all of our billing and metering functionalities and our systems are working correctly so there is no reason to believe that we have billing errors on our side,” Eric Isaacson, a spokesperson for Colorado Springs Utilities said.
They say it’s likely an issue of consumption which could be to blame on the weather.
“When you see that hot, dry, spell come in for a little while, and you increase, if you do turn on your sprinkler system again, yeah it’s going to be a bit of a jump, you’re going to see that because it’s reflected in what you’re using,” Isaacson said.
Earlier this week, our community lost a great visionary and leader. While many may not think twice about getting a glass of water from the tap, taking a shower or watering their lawns, Gary Bostrom was always planning ahead to ensure our community had the water needed to grow and thrive. It’s thanks to people like Gary that our customers don’t have to think about their water.
Gary retired from Colorado Springs Utilities as the Chief Water Services Officer in 2015 after 36 years of service on most all facets of the water system, from Homestake to Southern Delivery. His career spanned a variety of leadership roles from water supply acquisition, water and wastewater infrastructure planning and engineering, and developing regional partnerships.
Earlier this year, Gary received the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas Award at the Arkansas River Water Basin Forum. The award is given annually to honor an individual who has served and worked to improve the condition of the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado. It was a well-deserved recognition.
A few of Gary’s career highlights include:
The design, development and negotiations for the completion of the Southern Delivery System
The development of the Arkansas River Exchange Program
The completion and implementation the 1996 Water Resource Plan
The establishment of the Fountain Creek Watershed Flood Control and Greenway District
The development of the Fountain Creek Corridor Master Plan
The development of Colorado Springs’ Arkansas River Exchange Program
Gary’s career was more than getting water to our community. He also believed in using water wisely. Under his direction, our 2008 Water Conservation Master Plan and 2015 Water Use Efficiency Plan incorporated measures that accumulate a permanent, water use reduction in our community of more than 10,000 acre feet by 2030. That’s a savings of more than 3 billion gallons of water!
Throughout his career, Gary was actively involved in a number of water organizations.
Director of the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
Past President of the Fountain Valley Authority
Past director of the Aurora-Colorado Springs Joint Water Authority
Member of the Homestake Steering Committee
Past President of the Twin Lakes Reservoir and Canal Company, the Lake Meredith Reservoir Company and the Lake Henry Reservoir Company
He was a true water champion for our community and region. Thanks in part to Gary’s vision and direction, Colorado Springs has a secure water supply and is a leader in water reuse in the state.
He was brilliant as an engineer and perhaps even better at building relationships and collaborating with others – even staying involved in regional water organizations after retirement.
A key figure in development of the $825 million Southern Delivery System, died unexpectedly on Monday while bicycling near his home in Colorado Springs. Cause of death has not been determined.
Gary Bostrom, 60, was the retired water services chief for Colorado Springs Utilities and shepherded SDS from its inception in the 1996 Colorado Springs Water Plan toward its eventual completion in 2016. Along the way, he fostered cooperation with Security, Fountain and Pueblo West as partners in SDS, while working to assure a clean drinking water supply for the future of Colorado Springs. He retired in 2015, but remained active in water issues. Bostrom joined the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District board of directors in 2009 and was vice president of the board.
“This is a great loss for the water community,” said Bill Long, president of the Southeastern board. “Gary’s knowledge about water, and his hard work to help achieve common goals will be sorely missed.”Former Chieftain editor and reporter Chris Woodka, who went to work for the Southeastern district last year, agreed.
“I met Gary about 27 years ago, and we were what I would call ‘friendly adversaries’ for many of those years,” Woodka said. “Over the years, our relationship evolved into a true friendship. He was always positive and truthful even when I’d ask him tough questions while I was a reporter. As a board member, he was top-notch, and I enjoyed getting to know him better. He was a wonderful individual to spend time with.”
Officials in Colorado Springs, including Mayor John Suthers, Utilities CEO Jerry Forte and former City Council members expressed their shock and sadness at Bostrom’s death.
Bostrom was active in the community as well and was a member of the Colorado Springs Parks and Recreation Advisory board. He is survived by his wife, Sara, four children and three grandchildren. Services will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Village Seven Presbyterian Church, 4040 Nonchalant Circle South, Colorado Springs.
Gary Bostrom, one of the driving forces behind Colorado Springs’ $825 million Southern Delivery System, died Monday while cycling on a trail along Monument Creek.
Bostrom, 60, had worked for Colorado Springs Utilities for nearly two-thirds of his life before retiring in 2015.
“He was just a prince of a man,” said John Fredell, former SDS program director who worked with Bostrom for many years. “All of us wish we were more like Gary Bostrom.”
Bostrom’s body was found shortly before 7 p.m. along a section of the trail near North Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway, said police Sgt. James Sokolik. The cause of death has not been determined, but police do not suspect foul play.
“We all wanted and expected another 30 years with Gary,” said former city Councilwoman Margaret Radford.
She said she got to know him soon after she was elected in 2001, and they stayed in touch after she left the council in 2009.
“Gary was always one who could find the good in anyone … and bring out more good, if that makes any sense,” she said.
Bostrom worked at Utilities for 36 years before retiring two years ago, Mayor John Suthers said in a post about Bostrom on his Facebook page.
“Gary spent his career making sure that our community had good, clean water and plenty of it,” Fredell said. “You can’t find many people who have done that for their community, and spent their careers doing it.”
On April 26, the Utilities engineer was given the “Bob Appel – Friend of Arkansas” award at the Arkansas River Water Basin Forum.
The SDS, a massive series of pipelines that funnels up to 50 million gallons a day of Arkansas River water to Colorado Springs, Fountain, Security and Pueblo West, began serving customers in 2016.
Decades of planning went into the project, which is made up of 50 miles of 66- and 90-inch-diameter pipelines, including a 1-mile tunnel under Interstate 25, Fountain Creek and railroad tracks.
Bostrom helped ensure the project was finished on time and under budget, Fredell said.
“(Bostrom) was instrumental in getting the permit in place and moving the Southern Delivery System forward,” said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.
“As far as water resources, there just wasn’t anybody better,” said Small, a former city councilman and vice mayor. “I don’t know of one person who knew Gary who would say one bad thing about him.”
Radford said she’s still grateful for what Bostrom taught her about “how valuable our utilities system – and in particular, our water system – is.” She said it altered her perspective and influenced her work as a councilwoman.