The Norman Transcript

June 20, 2014

Norman City Council weighs four options regarding storm water utility structure

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The city of Norman had a public meeting Thursday to discuss a Storm Water Master Plan and storm water utility rates with the public.

The city has been discussing storm water issues since 2006 and adopted a master plan in 2011 to get the ball rolling, but a final rate structure or method of allocation has not yet been determined, Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said Thursday.

The purpose of the meeting was to get feedback and work on putting together something to address increasing demands on the city with respect to water quality, infrastructure, remediation or problems in the current system.

“There are probably no issues more important in the city of Norman right now than those that are related to water,” Rosenthal said. “We have been discussing issues related to storm water, which relate primarily to water quality and the protection to Lake Thunderbird as our primary drinking source in the city of Norman.”

Director of Public Works Shawn O’Leary said 70 percent of the city’s water supply comes from Lake Thunderbird, which consists of storm water from Norman, Moore and Oklahoma City.

While storm water is the single-most important solution to drinking water across the United States, Norman is already late to the game in adopting a storm water utility, Rosenthal said.

“Most of the cities across the country have a storm water utility, which provides a dependable, reliable, steady source of revenue to deal with the issues related to storm water,” she said.

Four rate structures were presented at the Thursday night meeting, including Equivalent Residential Units (ERUs), flat rates, water meter size and Residential Equivalent Factors.

While the most common rate in the Oklahoma City and metro area was based on water meter size, O’Leary said it is also the least equitable, and Oklahoma City has had problems with underfunding because of using that kind of rate. Statistics also show less that than 1 percent of utilities nationally are billed in that manner.

The city based their rate estimates using ERUs, which is a more equitable rate structure that 82 percent of the nation uses for utility billing, he said.

Using the ERU structure, a tiered system was developed to determine an estimate for residential utility rates per month, based on hard surface areas such as roofs, sidewalks and patios. The average residential rate for a 2,900-square-foot house with 700 square feet of hard surfaces was estimated to be approximately $6 per month.

Storm water utility rates for business in Norman seemed to be less fair, a Norman business owner said. For Fowler Toyota and Fowler Honda business, rates would add up to approximately $1,000. Furthermore, the businesses have spent thousands of dollars on detention ponds.

O’Leary said the city has looked at including credits and exemptions for the rates, which could result in reduction of the monthly bill.

As far as new development goes, the city also looked at providing incentives if a storm water device was installed.

The total projected revenue from storm water utilities for the city was about $5.9 million, which is no where near the amount needed (about $65 million) for capital improvement projects, O’Leary said. However, with the help of the utilities, bond issues could be an option to help take care of some of the needed projects.

Several storm water utility programs also would be required, which address the four key components of the city’s master plan, including water quality or water supply protection, flooding, erosion or stream stability and recreation.

Listed below are the water utility programs:

· Storm water pipeline condition assessment

· Additional street sweeping

· Lake Thunderbird Total Maximum Daily Load, which is an unfunded mandate the city must be in compliance with by November 2015

· Additional stream maintenance

· Neighborhood enhanced maintenance

The recorded meeting is available on the city of Norman’s website. For more information, visit normanok.gov.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

Breaking news, severe weather alerts, AMBER alerts, sports scores from The Norman Transcript are available as text messages right to your phone or mobile device. You decide which type of alerts you want to receive. Find out more or to signup, click here.