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Is Denver Water Pinching Enough Pennies?

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After listening to public comments this morning, the board that oversees Denver Water is expected to be asked to approve a 10 percent rate hike for customers in 2011—the first of several anticipated increases through 2013. But has Denver Water been as frugal as some of its customers likely have in these economically challenging times? While the majority of Denver Water’s money in 2009 went toward the kind of costs one would expect—pipes, repairs, vehicles, etc.—hefty amounts were put toward other expenses that are now being more closely scrutinized.

For instance, $1.8 million went to community outreach and public relations, according to 7News, which doesn’t sit well with Denver City Councilman Paul Lopez, who points out that most of Denver Water’s 1.3 million customers don’t have options when it comes to water providers. “I don’t think there is a need to do that level of community outreach when they are a monopoly, essentially,” Lopez says. Penfield Tate, the president of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners, defends the spending, saying it is important that Denver Water be a visible part of the community.

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Other expenses included $2,000 for line dancing classes, $4,800 for golf outings, $2,500 for the softball team, and many other line items justified as part of a workplace wellness program. Some receipts do not include itemized lists, and some reveal signatures that have been blacked out, including $750 for an event at the Fort and two $105 tabs at Hooters.

Meanwhile, in light of the fact that Denver Water has said it needs more money to maintain and build infrastructure to keep up with demand, the Denver Daily News reports on salaries at the agency: 82 of its more than 1,000 employees are paid more than $100,000 annually.

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