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May 7, 2014

Tough choices lead to downgrade of park road

(Continued)

NORMAN —

And while a city charter amendment freed up money for park repairs and amenities, those funds are limited to neighborhood parks and do not benefit large, public parks like Reaves.

Over a period of years, developers were required to either donate parkland or contribute money in lieu of land. By amending the charter, that money became available and must only be used in the neighborhood for which it was originally destined.

Those funds have helped provide improvements for small parks, but there is no special fund for large, public park projects.

Private donations and charitable groups have long supported Norman parks from donating trees and benches to building new pavilions.

Recently, people volunteered weekend hours to refurbish the Kidspace playground at Reaves. That community involvement has been crucial, but some would argue that more funding is needed to maintain the parkland resources Norman currently owns.

Meanwhile, the city moves forward with a lean budget.

Last week, the council discussed the enterprise funds — water, trash and sewer — which are paid by Norman customers. The water fund is particularly tight. The city produces more than 4.5 billion gallons of water annually and maintains more than 570 miles of pipes.

Norman has the lowest water rates of comparable cities in the region including Midwest City, Moore, Edmond, Enid, Ardmore, Bartlesville, Lawton, Oklahoma City, Broken Arrow, Tulsa and Stillwater. Norman rates also are much lower than those in Lawrence, Kan., Lubbock, Texas, and Denton, Texas.

The city budgets $400,000 for emergency water purchases from Oklahoma City and another $1.2 million for raw water purchase from the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District, which manages Lake Thunderbird. This year’s estimated ending fund balance is projected at $3.2 million.

With a targeted operating reserve of 8 percent and a capital reserve equal to the annual average of the next five-year capital expenditure plan, the water fund is short $10.5 million of its desired target.

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