The Pueblo West Metro District board voted Wednesday to extend the pause on water tap sales for new homes and businesses until April 12.
The vote came after the board heard pleas from staff who are working to outline a way for sales to be overseen fairly without overextending the district’s water supply.
Matt Smith, the board’s vice president, had asked for the special meeting Wednesday in the hope that the pause on building, which was initially put in place in mid-January, could be lifted.
Smith said he wanted to “humbly pull myself back” from the request. He said he had made the request on behalf of community builders and residents who want to construct new homes in Pueblo West, but changed his mind after hearing the staff presentations.
Limited water supply for growth
According to a report from Alan Leak at RESPEC Engineering, Pueblo West could support the sale of a total of 14,000 water taps "without a significant reduction in water stored in Pueblo West's accounts in Pueblo Reservoir and Twin Lakes over the next 5 years."
The district currently has 13,305 taps serving 33,000 residents and businesses, according to Samantha Dosen, communications and public relations manager for the district. Commercial users often take up more than just one tap, she said.
The district has just enough water for about 695 new taps. Last year, Pueblo West sold 538 water taps, said Jeffrey DeHerrera, deputy director of utilities.
This year, 98 taps were sold just in the first couple of weeks of January before a pause was placed on sales. Residential water taps account for 98% of sales, DeHerrera said.
“We were set this year to see the most new home applications ever seen in Pueblo West. We all felt bad for the contractors who have to wait to submit water tap applications, but it’s best to take our time,” said John Nevel, community development manager.
Water restrictions expected
Part of what makes gauging the water supply so difficult is recent drought conditions. Last year, Pueblo West got a 78% yield per water share and this year that is “projected to be a little lower,” said Doug Proal, board president.
“We will be on water restrictions this year even if we don’t have any new water taps,” DeHerrera said. “Water pressure has dropped, especially out west, and the water master plan was blown out of the water by exponential growth."
District Manager Brian Caserta said he is aware of five contractors who have 115 applications ready to drop off when the pause is lifted. He said it will be “mayhem” if that happens before a plan is in place to deal with the district's growth.
“We need time to plan how many water taps to accept and to figure out how to be fair,” Caserta said.
Utilities Director Jim Blasing said the rollout of new water taps needs to take both major contractors and single home builders into colnsideration.
“How do we handle this in fairness?” Blasing questioned. “We all are in favor of economic vitality and development, but we must do so smartly.”
Public works director Christian Heyn said that, even if permits are sold again, the engineering office “would be the choke point for these water tap applications” because of the limited amount of staff it has to handle inspections.
The board voted three to one in favor of continuing the pause until April 12, with Proal voting against the motion. Board member Kim Swearingen was absent because she was on vacation.
The board will hear recommendations from its water consultants during its next meeting, set for 5 p.m. Monday, March 28, at SonRise Church, 421 E. Spaulding Ave. The board will vote on the new water tap and plant investment fee structure at its April 11 meeting.
Information provided by the district’s consulting groups is available for residents to review at pueblowestmetro.com/waterstudy.
Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or via Twitter at twitter.com/tracywumps.
This article originally appeared on The Pueblo Chieftain: Pueblo West water tap sales remain on hold until April 12