The Norman Transcript


August 25, 2010

Voters turn down water, sanitation increases



“Sure, we’re disappointed because council put in many, many long hours putting this together and we spent a lot of time on these things,” Rosenthal said. “Tomorrow we’ll start looking at how we balance the expenditure side and the revenue side … that’s the challenge we’re faced with.”

The first round of new rates would have taken effect Oct. 1, with the typical Norman resident paying about $5 more per month, Finance Director Anthony Francisco said.

New rates would’ve rolled out over the next three fiscal years, with the larger, initial increases to both services coming Oct. 1.

The next two increases would’ve taken effect July 1, 2011, and July 1, 2012.

Sanitation rates for residential customers would’ve increased $1 each fiscal year, going from $14.50 to $17.50 by the end of the three-year period.

The typical residential water customer — those using about 7,000 gallons per month — would’ve seen a roughly $2-per-month increase in the first year, followed by smaller increases of about $1 per month over the next two fiscal years.

Commercial water and sanitation customers would’ve seen similar hikes had the propositions been approved by voters, city officials said.

Ken Komiske said the sanitation fund, which hasn’t seen a hike since 2004, would’ve used the additional money coming in simply to keep going, citing swollen salaries, insurance and benefits of department employees, higher fuel costs, steeper tipping fees and more expensive garbage trucks.

If the rate hike had been approved, most of the new funds flowing into the water fund would’ve been used to maintain existing city-owned water supply infrastructure, compensate for the higher price of chemicals used to treat drinking water and meet growing day-to-day operating expenses.

Two percent of the funds would’ve been used to pay off debt related to Lake Thunderbird, while another 6 percent would’ve been used to pursue future water supply options — which include bringing water from Lake Sardis in southeast Oklahoma, investing in systems that allow for reuse of drinking water (something not regulated or allowed in Oklahoma at this point) or possibly partnering with the city of Ada to build a new reservoir for both towns to use.

The city could’ve also used some of that 6 percent to reclaim groundwater wells lost in 2006 when the Environmental Protection Agency lowered what is considered acceptable levels of arsenic in drinking water.

Andrew Knittle 366-3540

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