Staff provided City Council with water and sewer rate recommendations for 2022 at the March 15, 2021, City Council Study Session. At that meeting, Staff committed to collecting community feedback on the rate proposal and presenting that information to City Council prior to requesting adoption of the 2022 water/sewer rates.
To ensure that a variety of community members were aware of the 2022 rate recommendations, Staff implemented a multi-faceted community outreach effort to provide information and to invite utility customers to participate in a short survey. This included a combination of outdoor in-person engagements, a survey provided at library book check-outs, a telephone survey, bill insert information, a mailing to homeowner association (HOA) contacts, and a series of social media posts.
Community feedback activities from March 31 through May 4, 2021, included the following:
- Survey: A five question survey was developed to understand resident satisfaction with current service levels and cost as well as their position on the tradeoff between rate increases and service reliability/safety. An open ended comment field allowed residents to provide additional feedback (see attached comments). This survey was designed to collect community feedback through multiple channels under a short time frame and is not a scientifically valid survey.
- In-person engagement: Four pop-up table events were set up at recreation centers and parks with a summary factsheet and surveys. Both Westminster libraries also distributed summary factsheets and surveys. These materials were provided in English and Spanish. 70 surveys were completed.
- WestyWaterRates.us: A website dedicated to rate proposal community feedback with background information, Q&A forms, and a survey. Over 3,700 visits were recorded on this site.
- Telephone survey: A cost effective telephone survey was used to reach out to Westminster residents that have a landline phone number. Residents with landlines may be less likely to engage with the City on its online platforms. 155 surveys were completed.
- Bill inserts: Information about the rate proposal was included with April utility bills reaching 27,000 households.
- HOA letters: A letter summarizing the rate proposal, including proposed rates, was sent to 115 Homeowners Association property managers and board members.
- Social Media: Six social media posts directing residents to provide feedback at WestyWaterRates.us were shared on Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter.
- Email Outreach: An email was sent to over 24,000 City email subscribers encouraging them to provide feedback.
Survey responses by source:
Number of Responses:
Key insights from the 1,893 survey responses include:
- 87% of residents have heard some or a lot about rates
- 60% of residents have heard some or a lot about the WATER2025 project
- 79% of residents are somewhat or very satisfied with the safety and reliability of their water
- 73% of residents are somewhat or very dissatisfied with the cost of water and sewer services
- 53% of residents feel that water rates are too high and should not be increased
- 47% of residents support reasonable rate increases
Customers who completed the survey were asked to provide open ended comments. The most common themes focused on the following topics:
The survey being biased: Many residents felt that survey question #5 was unfair and biased the survey. Staff carefully worded that question to represent the tradeoffs in the proposal that City Council is considering.
- Finding alternatives to the current tiered rate structure: Many residents want to see an adjustment to the current rate structure.
- Rates being higher than neighboring communities: Many residents want Westminster's water rates to be more in line with the rates in surrounding communities.
Survey results showed that more survey participants owned their home and were older than Westminster's demographics. Staff has provided attachments with the survey questions (Attachment A), graphical summaries of the survey responses (Attachment B), and all of the open-ended comments (Attachment C).
This presentation was originally planned for May 17 but rescheduled to the Post City Council meeting on May 24 due to technical challenges on May 17. Based on City Council feedback, Staff plans to return at the June 14, 2021, City Council meeting for City Council to consider formal action to adopt the 2022 water and sewer rates.