The Norman Transcript

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February 22, 2013

Utilities work to keep costs down

NORMAN — The Norman Utilities Authority faces inflation and increased costs just like every other business. Unlike private businesses, however, the NUA and its sister trash service, the Norman Municipal Authority, cannot raise rates to meet costs without a vote of approval by Norman residents.

Less than two years ago in August 2010, voters rejected proposed rate increases for sanitation and water. Now, with Oklahoma’s water supply potentially reaching a crisis point this summer and the cost of curbside recycling on the rise, city leaders and staff are shuffling to make ends meet with the dollars already available.

A big feather in the cap of Mayor Cindy Rosenthal and city staff is a pending contract with Del City for a portion of its Lake Thunderbird allotment. On Feb. 23, 2011, Rosenthal and City Manager Steve Lewis went to Del City to talk to the mayor and city manager there about leasing some of Del City’s Thunderbird allocation.

This week Norman City Council previewed a draft contract with Del City and will likely vote on the contract at the next city council meeting this coming Tuesday.

In addition to Del City’s cooperation, city leaders had to obtain the support of the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District that manages and protects Lake Thunderbird.

“It has taken a while, but I am very happy that our outreach has come to fruition,” Rosenthal said.

Declining lake levels and continued drought resulted in COMCD reducing the allocation of its three water customers — Norman, Del City and Midwest City — by 10 percent. Thunderbird supplies about two-thirds of Norman’s water. The city quickly implemented mandatory water conservation and began looking for a safety net to carry the city through the hot summer months when water usage increases.

The contract with Del City will help Norman stay within its allocation. It will not, however, help Norman produce more treated water when the system is already at capacity during peak summer usage.

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