The town of Palmer Lake is locked in a water fight. Some town officials say a water rate increase is needed to pay for rising costs. But others say water is already too expensive and the town needs to open its books and prove it needs the money.
The increase being talked about right now would raise the basic water rate by $10 a month. But many townspeople want to see a justification for the hike.
Chuck Cornell is the Palmer Lake water commissioner. He says right now, the town’s water rates are too low. "The water rates are insufficient to cover our costs at this time." So he's been working for months on a proposal that would raise the town’s water rates by $10 a month. But Cornell admits, it's an issue that doesn't affect him directly. "I'm a well user. I'm not on the town water, so I thought, ‘Well, I'm kinda unbiased on the whole thing.’ But even that's being held against me and I don't know why."
So far, he's presented the matter to council twice and has formed two committees to look at the increase. "The committee looked at it. We went back to the council earlier this month and we were shouted down again. So were gonna go back and hash it out one more time."
Naturally, most of the town’s 934 water customers don't want to see the rates go up. Jeff Hulsmann runs O'Malley's. He says a rate increase would definitely effect his business. "If it costs us more to stay in business here---prices go up, drinks go up, food goes up---because it costs us more to operate." And he says he wants to see, on paper, what the town's water costs are. "It's just a matter of being public. Coming to the public and saying, ‘This is what it costs to run our water department and where the money is going.’ And that's what I think people are up in arms about. Nobody knows where the money is being routed to and how it's being spent."
There's another point of disagreement in Palmer Lake. Some say the increase would make this one of the most expensive water districts in the state. But Cornell says it will put the town on average with the rest of the Front Range.
One resident who asked not to be identified said Palmer Lake is a special place to live, and if you want to live here, you have to pay for it.