To the editor:
Thank you to City Administrator Denise Howell and the Manitou Springs Finance Department for their efforts in signing an agreement with the state Low-Income Energy Assistance Office to become a qualified water vendor. This enables residents with overdue water bills to obtain financial assistance through the Low-Income Household Water and Wastewater Assistance Program (LIHWAP).
Previously, Manitou residents were unable to access state assistance if they fell behind on their water bill. The policy has been if your bill falls behind, you receive a $10 late charge and one shut-off notice stating the full balance must be paid by 5 p.m. on the next due date or your water will be shut off.
Unfortunately, the city’s website doesn’t offer solutions to prevent water shutoff. In fact, when a family member recently called to inquire about assistance, the utility clerk was adamant that they cannot accept partial payments. The lack of transparency and access to readily available information lacked the human element we’ve come to expect here. We were disheartened to hear about it.
Once we combed through the city’s ordinance on the subject, we found that payment plans can be made but must be done directly through the city administrator. How many people in crisis will think to read an ordinance and then be comfortable contacting our top city official?
When we brought this to the attention of Rebecca Davis and Nicole Ortega from Manitou’s Finance Department, we also put them in contact with Theresa Kullen, LEAP manager for Colorado and they took it from there!
Although we’re unsure why Manitou hadn’t partnered with LEAP in the past, we’re grateful to live in a place where citizens can work alongside government officials to improve our community.
Water assistance is once per season for income qualified residents with an overdue water bill Nov. 1 through April 30. Apply through LEAP (cdhs.colorado.gov/leap) and include a water addendum and copy of your past-due water bill.
Whitney Lewis and her team at Embers Real Estate