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May 1, 2014

City staff creating new bulk water charges

NORMAN — The Norman City Council is working in conjunction with city staff to create new bulk water charges for temporary users.

Currently, the city rents water meters for temporary bulk water use to mostly commercial users. The rate is $2.50 per 1,000 gallons of water used, which is higher than the regular commercial rate. Additionally, temporary users must put down a deposit for the meter and pay a $25 per month rental fee.

During peak summer months, when the city has to buy water from Oklahoma City at $5.23 per 1,000 gallons, that’s a losing proposition.

“We are exposing ourselves to actually losing money by selling water, and that disturbs me,” Finance Committee Chair Tom Kovach said.

Council members looked at several options presented by city staff and said they are interested in an inverted charge based on monthly usage. Charges under consideration are $4 per 1,000 gallons for up to 10,000 gallons used in a month; $5 for 10,001-50,000 gallons per month; and $6 for more than 50,000 gallons used in a month.

The bulk water usage charge is set administratively, so no popular vote is required.

Silver Star is the city’s biggest repeat customer and paid about $5,500 for bulk water last year. The new pay schedule would double that cost, but that’s a small amount compared to the total budget of the road projects Silver Star contracts.

However, the point was made by Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary that while the contractor pays the fee, in building roads, the city or the Oklahoma Department of Transportation will most often foot the bill. So the city’s cost for road building will increase somewhat based on the water charges.

While the temporary bulk water meters are most commonly used by contractors doing road construction and by builders, anyone can rent the meters. Concerns were raised recently when an oil driller rented a meter for a site on Franklin Road because the meters are attached to hydrants and use potable water.

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