The Norman Transcript

June 17, 2014

Norman City Council members to consider charter recommendations from commission

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Charter Review Commission is making several recommendations to city council members tonight during a special meeting, one of which is asking the council to put an item on the ballot to remove a provision requiring voter approval for utility rate increases.

The special meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building Council Chambers.

“The city council would then set the rates for utilities,” said Harold Heiple, Charter Review Commission chairman, if the item was put on the ballot and approved by voters.

Heiple said Norman is the only city in the state that requires voter approval for utility rate increases.

The provision was put into the charter in 1974 after a dramatic increase in utility rates but is now outdated when looking at long-term water needs for the city, he said.

Norman does not have the option to participate in a consortion to bring water from south Oklahoma City like other cities do, Heiple said.

Carol Dillingham, Charter Review Commission member, said removing the provision would save taxpayers money. By having larger rate increases approved after longer periods of time, taxpayers are possibly paying more than necessary, she said.

“It makes our utility (increases) all wait until it’s almost desperation time,” Dillingham said.

Heiple said there are two ways to get the item on the ballot. The city council can put it on the ballot or voters can sign an initiative petition to get it on the ballot.

He is scheduled to give a presentation during the special meeting to discuss recommendations for all of the proposed charter amendments.

Other recommendations from the Charter Commission on the agenda include:

· Changing the language from “compensation” to “stipend” in regard to compensation of city council members.

· Simplifying the process for removal of the city manager.

· Creating a mechanism by which council members could request information regarding a specific city department.

· Creating a requirement that a city employee take a leave of absence to run for partisan political office.

· Modernizing employee compensation language by deleting language differentiating between full-time elective or appointive officers.

· Amending or updating the Reapportionment Commission process or procedure by making it an ad hoc committee that would only meet in specific circumstances.

· Adding language to the charter that would require the council to consider whether to appoint a Charter Review Committee if such review had not occurred within the prior 10 years.

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