Longmont, Colo., may seek voters' OK of $80M bond issue for water treatment upgrades

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The Longmont, Colo., City Council is expected to formally decide in August whether to seek voters' November election approval of a ballot question that would authorize the city to sell up to $80 million in water revenue bonds.

The bonds, if voters authorize their sale, would finance upgrades, replacements, expansions and improvements to the city's drinking water supply, treatment, storage and delivery systems.

Their principal and interest repayment costs would be paid from a portion of future collections of revenues from a five-year schedule of water-rate increases the council approved last December.

On Tuesday night, council got a preview of a video that city staff has prepared to provide information to the community about Longmont's drinking water systems and why officials say they have determined that the upgrades are needed.

The video, along with a city government web page and virtual presentations the staff is offering to make to community organizations during the next several weeks, is designed to provide "general information about Longmont's high-quality, reliable, and safe drinking water," staff said in a memo to council.

"It also addresses how issuing water bonds will ensure continued funding for water treatment and water quality," staff said. "A shortened version of the video with factual information on specific projects for the ballot question, including arguments for and arguments against the issue, will be available for public viewing beginning in late August."

Staff said planned projects to be financed with the bonds include "an expansion of the Nelson Flanders Water Plant to replace the soon-to-be-decommissioned Wade Gaddis Water Plant, and replacement of aging potable water system infrastructure."

Barbara McGrane, a city business services and strategic planning manager in the Department of Public Works and Natural Resources, said in a Wednesday interview that the approximate amounts of projects the $80 million in bonds would pay for are $40 million for water treatment, including the decommissioning of the Wade Gaddis Water Treatment Plant and replacing that plant's capacity with the expansion of the Nelson Flanders Water Treatment Plant; $25 million for treated water storage tanks; and $15 million for replacement and repair of distribution and transmission pipelines.

Staff said in its memo to Council that it will "engage the public" in information about the water system and the proposed bond-financed projects "using several communication tools," including the city's website, news releases, social media posts, emailed newsletters, local cable TV subscribers' Longmont access channel, electronic display boards in city facilities and direct mailings.

Staff has created a city website with information about the bond proposal — LongmontColorado.gov/water-bonds — that includes a sampling of potential arguments for and against its passage. The staff's video about the bond electon is expected to be posted on that page by the end of this week.

Public Works and Natural Resources spokesperson Jennifer Loper said in a Wednesday email that community or neighborhood groups interested in scheduling a virtual presentation on the potential water bond ballot issue can call that department's customer service center at 303-651-8416.

Council informally directed staff in March to prepare the resolution that council will have to formally adopt next month if it decides to proceed with advancing the water revenue bonds question to the Nov. 3 election ballot.

The bond proposal is one of three local measures that may appear on Longmont voters' November election ballot.

Still collecting petition signatures to qualify for the ballot is Citizens for Airport Accountability, an organization proposing a municipal charter amendment that would impose financial constraints on the City Council's and city staff's future ability to budget for airport operations, maintenance and capital improvements expenses.

Citizens for Airport Accountability has until Aug. 5 to turn in a little more than 6,000 Longmont voters' signatures in order to advance their proposal to this year's ballot.

Scott Stewart, a spokesman for Citizens for Airport Accountability, did not say during a brief Wednesday interview how many signatures have been collected since it began circulating petitions in early June but said the petition drive "is still active."

The other potential ballot question would have the City Council seek voters' approval of a measure Longmont voters rejected last year, one that would amend Longmont's home rule charter to allow the city to lease city-owned property for up to 30 years.

Councilman Tim Waters recently brought up the idea of having council discuss whether to present that question to voters again this year, with more information about why it's being sought and more participation by community organizations in campaigning for its passage. Council agreed to talk about the possibility during at a yet-to-be scheduled meeting within the next several weeks.

Tribune Content Agency
Infrastructure Water bonds Colorado
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