Item Coversheet

Agenda Item - 2.


Staff Report



City Council Pre/Post Briefing Meeting
May  24, 2021

Vibrant, Inclusive and Engaged Community
Subject:  
Presentation of the 2022 Water/Sewer Rate Recommendations and Community Outreach Update

Prepared By: 

Andrew Bliss, Communications and Outreach Coordinator

Christine Gray, Business Operations Administrator

Max Kirschbaum, Public Works and Utilities Director

 
Recommended City Council Action:
 
Review the results of the community outreach related to the 2022 water and sewer rate recommendation.
Summary Statement:

 

  • On March 15, Staff presented City Council with water and sewer rate recommendations to be considered for 2022. At that City Council Study Session, City Council directed Staff to collect community feedback on the rate proposal. 

  • Staff developed a multi-faceted community engagement plan to collect feedback on the rate proposal. Strategies included in-person engagement, a telephone survey, mailed information and digital engagement. 

  • This information was gathered in preparation for City Council's consideration of the proposed 2022 rates. This presentation was originally scheduled for the May 17 Study Session but was unable to proceed due to technical challenges that event.  As a result, the first reading of proposed 2022 rates is now scheduled for the June 14 City Council meeting.

  • Staff will provide the results at Monday night's Post City Council Meeting.
Fiscal Impact:

Not applicable.
Source of Funds:

Not applicable.

 

Policy Issue(s):

 

Should City Council review the presentation regarding the 2022 water/sewer rate recommendation community outreach?
Alternative(s):

 

City Council could choose not to receive a presentation about the community feedback related to the 2022 water/sewer rate recommendations. Staff does not recommend this alternative. The presentation will provide an important update about the community's input on the subject.

Background Information:

 

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:

  1. 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. 

  2. 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.

  3. 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. 

  4. 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.

  5. Bill inserts: Information about the rate proposal was included with April utility bills reaching 27,000 households.

  6. HOA letters: A letter summarizing the rate proposal, including proposed rates, was sent to 115 Homeowners Association property managers and board members. 

  7. Social Media: Six social media posts directing residents to provide feedback at WestyWaterRates.us were shared on Facebook, Nextdoor and Twitter.

  8. Email Outreach: An email was sent to over 24,000 City email subscribers encouraging them to provide feedback.

 

Survey responses by source:

Source:              

Number of Responses:

Online 1,689
In-Person 49
Telephone                                         155
Total: 1,893

 

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 impact of growth on rates: Many residents feel that rates are going up because of development projects and want the City to transfer more cost burden from existing residents to developers. A bill insert was included with the May bill providing information on this topic.

 

  • 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).

 

Next Steps

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.

This Staff Report summarizing community feedback on the 2022 proposed water/sewer rates meets the City's Strategic Plan goal of a Vibrant, Inclusive and Engaged Community by providing the City's residents with a variety of feedback opportunities.
Respectfully submitted,


Donald M. Tripp
City Manager
ATTACHMENTS:
DescriptionUpload DateType
Attachment A: 2022 Water Rate Recommendation Survey 5/6/2021Attachment
Attachment B: Water Rate Survey Summary Charts5/6/2021Attachment
Attachment C: Water Rate Survey Open Ended Comments5/11/2021Attachment