Utilities ratepayers footing $25,000 water tour bill

September 6, 2012
photo - Pueblo Reservoir is part of Colorado Springs Utilities' Southern Delivery System water pipeline, now under construction Photo by Gazette file
Pueblo Reservoir is part of Colorado Springs Utilities' Southern Delivery System water pipeline, now under construction Photo by Gazette file 

Colorado Springs Utilities ratepayers are funding a two-day, $25,000 tour for 74 elected officials and community leaders to get a first-hand look at the city’s water system.

Participants include City Councilman Bernie Herpin, El Paso County Commissioner Dennis Hisey and state Rep. Janak Joshi, all of whom have gone on the tour in years past, according to documents obtained by The Gazette.

Other guests include a member of the Horticultural Art Society of Colorado Springs, a manager at GE Johnson Construction Co., a board member of the Colorado Springs Conservatory and the president of a Springs-based concrete company.

The invitation-only water tour from Colorado Springs to Leadville, which included an overnight stay Thursday in Salida, needs to be reevaluated along with every other expense at Utilities and the city government, City Councilwoman Angela Dougan said.

“This is just some more of the examples of expenditures that keep eking out and leaking out that we need as the Utilities Board to truly say, ‘Is this something that is a benefit to our ratepayers or is it not?’” Dougan said. “Could we put the information out on a DVD and hand it out to these 74 people instead?”

The tour is designed to inform “key stakeholders” about the city’s large and complex water system, Utilities spokesman Eric Isaacson said in an email.

“It would be difficult to give these stakeholders this level of information and insight in another forum,” he said.

Isaacson also said “most of the other major water providers in the state” host annual water tours, too.

“Given Colorado’s extreme drought conditions, there is a lot of interest in water issues,” he said. “The tour also gives our community leaders and elected officials an opportunity to see the significant progress being made on the Southern Delivery System and get an up close look (at) the investment they are making in our next major water system.”

Dougan said Utilities offered to take her on an SDS tour, too, when she was running for office. But she declined, she said.

“What I asked for was, ‘Could I please get a DVD?’ And I did receive a DVD. It was quite nice to watch. I got the point,” she said.

Dougan said the tour shows that Utilities, not the City Council, which doubles as the Utilities Board, is running the $1.1 billion city enterprise.

Paul Kleinschmidt, director of Taxpayers for Budget Reform, a limited liability company that keeps a close eye on city operations, agreed.

“They’re going to take this trip whether we think it’s right or not,” he said.

Isaacson said he couldn’t provide a cost breakdown because the person in charge of the tour couldn’t be reached.

“We’ve been trying to call for some time today, but with spotty cell coverage, it’s been difficult,” he said.

The cost breakdown won’t be available until Monday, he said.

Contact Daniel Chacón: 476-1623
Twitter @danieljchacon
Facebook Daniel Chacon

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