DECISION OF DENVER WATER CASE.
After more than nine years’ delay the Supreme court of Colorado has decided that, while the waterworks company is furnishing Denver with abundance of pure water and pressure, the rateschedule, for private consumers, as fixed by Judge Le Fevre, it declares to be “unfair, unjust, unreasonable, unwarranted.” It was above the figure the company itself had fixed in 1895, and formed the subject of appeal. The fact that it had been very largely increased and fixed for the private consumers rendered it impossible for it to be sustained. The contract, also, the Supreme court has declared to be unenforceable, and, therefore, null and void. The Citizens’ Water company’s franchise was granted in 1890. It provided that, after five years, the company should make its rates the average of those of Chicago, St. Louis and Cincinnati. In 1895, the Denver Union Water company, being anxious to have certain city officials elected and a movement in favor of municipal ownership defeated, renewed the promise of cheap water rates, which they began to evade after the election, and introduced and had passed in the council an ordinance altogether at variance with the contract in the company’s charter. The mayor vetoed it; the council declined to make the company live up to the franchise; but made a sort of endeavor to obey a mandamus to do its duty. The company ignored the court in every way. On the reelection of the mayor in 1897, suit was begun in the District court to compel the company to live up to its bargain, and Judge Le Fevre not only did not compel the company to lower its rates, but fixed the schedule-rate already alluded to. The appeal now decided is that the contract between the city and the court in the matter of rates cannot be enforced. The court affirms, Justice Steele dissenting, that it is impossible to find the average rates charged in the three cities in question, because those cities do not use a common basis of computation. Therefore, the contract is void, the Le Fevre rate was illegal as well as unjust, and there is no legal schedule of rates in Denver. The ordinance granting the franchise provides no control over the rates, and the only way to get any relief is to cause the city administration to take up the matter with the company. If they agree, well and good. If not, then the matter must once more go to the courts for adjustment, and the old round of delays and more delays be repeated. These delays, spreading over nine years, have already cost the city of Denver between $300,000 and $400,000 per year, and these unfair, unjust, unreasonable and unwarranted rates have been exacted all that time, of course, hardly without the connivance of the officials. An adjustment of the rates by the city administration may ensue and possibly the companj’, which will ask for a renewal of its franchise in two years’ time, may yield, so as to gain the renewal.