By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman City Council discussed the possibility of a future storm water utility fee at Tuesday’s council study session.
The Storm Water Master Plan completed in 2009 recommended a fee to fund the expenses associated with storm water maintenance.
“We know it will improve the water quality and the water supply,” City Engineer Scott Sturtz said.
Sturtz said storm water feeds into Lake Thunderbird — the primary source of Norman’s drinking water. A fee could help pay for street sweeping to prevent pollution in the lake. Street sweepers are a best management practice.
“It’s something we’re supposed to be doing,” Sturtz said. Fertilizers, oils and other contaminants can be removed before they end up in the storm water system.
Fleet maintenance costs related to street sweepers are included in the projected expenses the storm water fee would offset.
“Street sweepers are very intensive equipment to keep on the road,” Sturtz said.
The storm water fee also would help fund means to mitigate flood, reduce erosion and improve stream stability, along with create recreational opportunities along Norman’s Green Belts.
“We have about 328 miles of stream corridors,” Sturtz said.
Maintaining those streams to prevent flooding and pollution is costly.
“Norman is the only large city that doesn’t have a storm water utility,” Sturtz said.
Storm water expenses annually run nearly $3 million. That includes salary and benefits for 26 employees, as well as supplies and materials, services and maintenance, and capital equipment.
An average residential house in Norman is 2,900 square feet, with an additional 700 square feet of impervious area to include driveway, patio and sidewalks. The total impervious area would be about 3,600 feet.
Various rates per size of homes have been studied, but the current plan would charge a rate of $5.75 a month for the average-sized home. That rate would put Norman in the middle range of charges when compared to other university cities.
In round figures, the proposed fee could raise close to $6 million annually. Applied to single-family residential, the fee would raise just more than $2,500,000 annually and the non-single family facilities — multi-family, commercial, industrial, institutional and agricultural — would generate about $3,400,000 annually.
The fee would pay for some important capital improvement projects and would provide a revenue stream for revenue bonds to pay for the largest projects.
There are 138 miles of storm water pipeline throughout the city, some of which are 90 years old.
In November, the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality published the Lake Thunderbird Total Maximum Daily Load to document the levels of pollutants the lake could tolerate. The TMDL establishes certain requirements Norman must meet.
“Oklahoma City and Moore also must comply with the TMDL, and we’ve already met with them,” Sturtz said.
The council will have a variety of group meetings to get public input moving forward toward an election date. The new storm water fee would have to be approved by Norman voters.
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