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Windy Gap Firming Project

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Water Storage Bond - Ballot Question 2J

The ballot question in substantially the following form shall be submitted to the registered electors of the City at the Election.

Shall City of Longmont debt be increased in an amount not to exceed $36,300,000 for the purpose of financing water system improvements, including but not limited to the construction of a water storage reservoir as part of the Windy Gap Firming Project at a participation level not to exceed 10,000 acre-feet; and shall the debt be evidenced by bonds, loan agreements, or other financial obligations payable solely from the City’s water utility enterprise revenues and be issued at one time or in a series at a price above, below or equal to the principal amount of such debt and with such terms and conditions, including provisions for redemption prior to maturity with or without payment of premium, as the City Council may determine?

What are voters being asked to do?

The City of Longmont is asking voters to approve the issuance of bonds to help fund construction of a water supply reservoir for use by Longmont.

Longmont and several other cities currently have water rights in what is known as the Windy Gap Project. Windy Gap water is diverted from the Colorado River and held in Lake Granby before it is delivered to Longmont and other towns through the Colorado-Big Thompson system.

During wet periods when Lake Granby is already full, there is no space to store Windy Gap water. The water rights held by Longmont and other communities are unable to be captured during these times. A new reservoir will fill this storage space need. In addition to helping Longmont store Windy Gap water during wet years, the reservoir will provide water in dry years.

Construction of this reservoir, known as the Windy Gap Firming Project, will be managed by the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District on behalf of 12 project participants – nine Northern Colorado communities (including Longmont), two water districts, and Platte River Power Authority (Longmont’s wholesale power supplier). The reservoir will be constructed west of Carter Lake and hold 90,000 acre feet of water (about the same size as Carter Lake).

City Council reviewed and approved a comprehensive Raw Water Master Plan (2004) and a future Water Demand Evaluation (2012) that outline the City’s water supply planning efforts. These studies indicate a future projected water demand of over 32,000 acre feet. If all assumptions in these studies hold, Longmont’s participation in the Windy Gap Firming Project reservoir will meet the current and future water supply demands of the City.

What does this cost residents?

The total cost for Longmont to secure (own) one-ninth (1/9) of the water to be stored in the reservoir (a volume similar to Union Reservoir) is $49.5 million.* The City has invested $5.1 million to date and has an estimated remaining contribution of $44.4 million.* If voters approve the bond, approximately 15% of this remaining cost would be funded by the Raw Water Storage and Water Acquisition funds, and the remainder would be funded by bonds (not to exceed $36.3 million). Repayment of the bonds would require City Council to increase water rates by 13% in 2018 and 10% in 2019, instead of the 9% increases already adopted.

*Note: Estimated cost and contribution updated respectively from $47 M and $41.8 M as of 9/26/2017 based on latest project cost estimates issued by Northern Water. As in all construction projects, actual cost of construction will not be accurately determined until the project is bid and final costs will not be determined until construction is complete.

Current Adopted Rate Increases  2017  2018  2019
 % increase
 9%  9%  9%
 Average Monthly Bill*
 $33.09  $35.81  $38.71
Rate Increases with Passage of Bond
 % increase
 9%  13%  10%
 Average Monthly Bill*
 $33.09  $37.31  $40.96

 *Assumes 9,000 gallons of use per month

 Perspective: 2017 Average Monthly Water Bills Across Cities
 City  Average Monthly Bill*
 Longmont  $33.09
 Arvada  $36.58
 Broomfield  $37.53
 Loveland  $38.36
 Boulder  $41.75
 Fort Collins
 $41.87
 Westminster  $42.57
 Northglenn  $46.12
 Greeley  $48.58
 Thornton  $52.62
 Erie  $69.35

 *Assumes 9,000 gallons of use per month

Arguments for and against the water storage bond issue

Those IN FAVOR believe

  • This project, developed through regional partnerships and decades of planning, represents a significant opportunity for Longmont to secure its current and future water supply.
  • Water supply in Colorado is highly vulnerable, and Longmont’s participation in the construction of a reservoir to maximize our existing water rights provides insurance to reliably meet the water needs of our community.
  • Bond financing results in user rates that are initially lower than if cash were used to fund the improvements and distributes costs more equitably across both current and future residents.
  • Through fees paid on building permits, new water connections will continue to contribute to funds dedicated to Longmont’s water supply.

Those OPPOSED believe

  • Longmont’s long-term water supply needs could be met though alternative methods or projects.
  • Longmont does not need this much water now or in the future.
  • Although cash funding the improvements would result in higher rates for several years, the long-term rate impact would be lower because there would be no bond interest to be paid.
  • The City should not go into debt to fund projects of this type; other sources of funding should be found.

References

Supplemental documents for all City Council meeting items and videos of past meetings can be found on the Agendas & Minutes webpage.

2017

  • August 22:  Consent Agenda - R-2017-78, A Resolution Of The Longmont City Council Submitting The Ballot Question To The Registered Electors Of The City Of Longmont, Colorado, At The Municipal Election To Be Held November 7, 2017, Of Issuing Bonds Payable From The City's Water Utility Enterprise Revenues To Finance Systemwide Water System Improvements, Including But Not Limited To The Windy Gap Firming Project
  • June 13: Windy Gap Firming Project Update And Council Direction On Financing Plan

2016

  • December 13: Second Reading - A Bill for an Ordinance Amending Chapter 140.04 of the Longmont Municipal Code on Water Rates
  • November 29: First Reading - A Bill for an Ordinance Amending Chapter 140.04 of the Longmont Municipal Code on Water Rates
  • October 25: Windy Gap Firming Financing Options & Survey Results
  • August 9: Update On Additional Windy Gap Firming Financing Options and Public Input
  • April 19: Long Term Cash Flow and Rate Impacts of Windy Gap Firming Project
  • March 22: Joint session with City Council and Water Advisory Board concerning the Windy Gap Firming Project

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