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Westminster city council member recall election surrounded by water, politics

Running water
Posted at 5:51 AM, Jun 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-30 07:51:01-04

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — What do water rates and a Westminster city council recall have in common? Resident Debbie Teter says they are linked.

"This is about water," said Teter, who is an organizer with the Westminster Water Warriors and a political advocate for the recall vote of Jon Voelz that is set for July 20. "Other projects didn't affect my life and didn't affect my finances, but water did."

The recall election is tied up in frustrations over water rate increases. However, in a statement to Denver7, Voelz said his recall is misdirected.

"Westminster residents are being misled because I was not even on the City Council at the time of the vote on water rates that triggered the recall effort," Voelz said in a statement. "I have never voted for a water rate increase during my time on Council. The only vote I have taken on water rates was for a zero increase to rates due to COVID-19."

Opponents of the recall said it is a political issue wrapped in financial messaging.

"I think that the water issue is a little bit of a Trojan horse," said resident Rebecca Arthur, who is opposed to the recall. "It's really unfortunate to have this big polarizing conversation when we could have had more of a conversation about what the solutions are."

Opponents also say the election will cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars for an election just months before Voelz is set for another election in November.

"You would think that some of these people were mortal enemies of the citizenry here as opposed to our neighbors," Arthur said. "We are going to have to find ways to sit down and talk about the realities."

The realities of water infrastructure in Westminster are apparent to Max Kirschbaum every day. He is the director of public works for the city of Westminster.

He said increases in water prices were designed to pay for a new water filtration system to replace the current one. He said it is hard to sell increases to city council when most of the infrastructure is hidden from view.

"Much of the infrastructure that I'm talking about is not visible to most of our customers," Kirschbaum said. "We need to do a better job communicating how important this Water 2025 project is to build a water plant to replace this one that is now 50 years old, and will be nearly 80 years old by the time we officially retire it by the year 2040."