Westminster— A recall effort in the waning weeks of the signature collection process aimed against three city council members and the mayor of Westminster centers around a significant increase in water rates that some say are questionable.
City Council members Anita Seitz, Kathryn Skulley and Jon Voelz along with Mayor Herb Atchison are facing recall after voting in favor of a water-rate hike, that residents and property owners say are out of control.
“Westminster is stealing from citizens through its water rates,” said property owner Susan Kochevar, who until recently lived in Westminster, but still owns her home there and uses it as rental property. “When I lived there, we would get a really big water bill in July, our tenant has the same problem. It’s wrong. It would take a tankerful of water to amount to what they say we wasted.”
Kochevar said she checked all the possible places for leaks in her house and found nothing. She said they also shut everything off and there was no movement to the meter, something she said is impossible considering the sheer volume of water the city said they were using.
Kochevar said even assuming the water usage was right, the math itself doesn’t add up, and some bills are missing the usual usage comparisons from the previous year.
“I requested all the meter readings for at least a year,” she said. “I took them and tried to figure out how they came to the total on the bill. You can’t do it. They don’t match up.”
According to the Westminster Window, “Westminster’s 2020 water residential water rates increased roughly 10 percent per 1,000 gallons compared to 2019 while commercial rates increased between 6 and 10 percent depending on how much is used.”
The city is on a tiered system, increasing price-per-gallon after the first 6,000 gallons of use each month, and again after 20,000 gallons.
After increased anger from residents climaxed to demonstrations against the city council, three residents — Gary Shea, Jessica True, and Deb Teter — filed the recall petitions.
“It’s a pity as the recall perhaps could have been avoided,” True told Complete Colorado. “It’s a pity that the mayor and three council members failed to see the light on joining (Rich) Seymour, (David) DeMott and (Lindsey) Smith on rolling back the 2020 water rate increase as summer hit. Just think, it very well could have prevented this recall effort.”
“When you are paying $500-$600 or even $1,000 per month in the heat of this summer to irrigate your lawn, you are likely to think all kinds of thoughts,” she continued. “Then there is the lady with her $250 water bill forced to choose between paying her water bill or purchasing groceries. This all could have been likely avoided if only one of the four had some empathy and had seen the light.”
The group has until Nov. 2nd to submit the petitions. Just more than 5,000 are needed to recall the mayor, while just under 6,100 are needed to recall each of the three council members. The number of valid signatures needed are based on 25 percent of the most recent election.
A list of places the petitions are available for signing can be found on the group’s Facebook page.
Atchison recently joked about the effort with Arvada Mayor Pro Tem Dot Miller at an unannounced meeting between Adams County Commissioners, various city leaders from across the county and Tri-County Health Department.
“Speaking from recent experience, they won’t even come close,” Miller said, while making a gesture that universally refers to people who are not in their right minds.
Atchison noted that there is money behind the effort, pointing to a mailer that he said cost the proponents of the recall $.35 cents each, and other advertising being used against the councilmembers.
“They would have the election in February, and I’ll be out of office in November anyway,” Atchison said.
True said Atchison’s comments were incorrect.
“We haven’t mailed anything,” True said. “And our group is 100 percent volunteers. I have submitted our first issue committee financials to the city clerk as required and we spent around $700 and had about left $300 in the bank.”
She said the highest donation received has been $100 and that small donations under $20 make up 80 percent of the donations.
Westminster’s city clerk will have 15 days to validate the petitions once turned in and the recall group will get another 15 days to cure any missing signatures, with a final five days for the clerk to review the petitions again. If sufficient, a special election would be scheduled between 45-60 days after, if the members don’t resign first.