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Parker Water: Costly Bureaucracy and Unchecked Local Control

The Colorado River Water Compact and climate change are all over the news again. And they should be. Responsible stewardship of our water is critical — both economically and ecologically — to every Colorado community and even users beyond our state borders.

While most of us yawn when the ins and outs of local water policy are discussed, investors and job creators pay laser-like attention. Companies looking at residential or commercial development – or national companies looking for retail expansion – home in on the reliability of water supply and its cost going forward. Even local real estate companies are making water a key sales factor, right up there with the quality of local schools.

READ: Water Pipeline Back in Play? — The Future of Colorado’s Water Distribution

That’s why the people who serve on local water boards are so important. A good example is the race for three seats on the board of the Parker Water and Sanitation District (PWSD), my local water provider. It might just become a case study in local control and costly bureaucratic abuse.

Without much fanfare or input, — I’m sorry, but public meetings are rarely convenient for your typical working Coloradan businessperson and/or parent — somehow a $52 million, 139,000-square-foot PWSD staff office building and headquarters is moving forward on the town’s outskirts. It’s a facility so lavish that both its architect and builder showcase it on their websites.

Unlike most Colorado companies of similar size that carefully watch the spending on their balance sheets, this public entity felt entitled to throw piles of public dollars at a luxurious office space reeking of self-indulgence. For many business owners, it’s likely hard to fathom erecting a building of this magnitude in an era in which countless companies are retreating from brick-and-mortar offices and so many sit vacant at a discounted rate.

READ: How Emily Griffith Technical College Is Helping To Ensure Clean Water for the Future

Divide $52,000,000 by the 19,500 accounts PWSD currently serves, and that’s approximately $2,666.66 each ratepayer is responsible for.

Some years ago, the term local control became very popular in Colorado, especially around energy development. No two states are alike, and so the argument goes, if federal oversight is too big, and state regulation doesn’t account for unique or regional or neighborhood nuances, then local-level accountability must be the answer. After all, this limits the one-size-fits-all approach and empowers those on the ground, i.e. the most impacted. The more local you get, the better — so the logic goes.

But eventually, we have to face the harsh reality: Sometimes local citizens are not trained, experienced or skilled enough for the offices the serve. That may be the case with Parker.

Like any public entity that doesn’t feel the need to answer to its constituents, the Parker Water Board has grown out of touch. That’s not just the downside of local control, but any entity in which bureaucracy can run wild and unchecked.

Hence, the need for elections.

READ: Are you Paying Attention to your Water Quality?

That is why two reform-oriented candidates, Robert Kennah and Kory Nelson, are calling for fresh faces and new eyes on the Parker Water board, and are running this year. Their message of conservative fiscal stewardship backed by increased transparency and accountability is a clear contrast with the incumbents’ sales pitch that “everything is just fine, trust us.” That’s simply not a message that holds water these days.

Given the very public concerns about water supply, sharply rising demand and a need to end overreliance on nonrenewable sources, water is destined to be the key economic development issue in the years to come, trumping regulatory burden, workforce preparedness and even taxation. Communities that create and execute smart water policies and instill confidence that water will flow into the next century will be the sought-after destinations for economic growth and increased opportunity.

That’s why it’s important not to toss out your local water board ballot with the coupon mailers and lawncare ads this spring. For all of us who care about supporting a vibrant economy and a pro-growth business environment, electing smart, accountable and bold leaders in Parker and throughout Colorado is critical.

 

Jon Haubert Hb Legacy Media Co 2Jon Haubert is the publisher of ColoradoBiz magazine.