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November 20, 2013

Norman finance committee considers ballot initiative for charging utility customers for handling rain runoff

NORMAN — A storm water utility fee is the next ballot initiative on Norman’s horizon.

On Wednesday, the Norman City Council Finance Committee discussed a tiered option for charging Norman’s utility customers for handling the runoff from rain, based on the size of impervious area on a home or business.

If approved by voters, the fee would be assessed on monthly utility bills and the money would support the city’s storm water management and system maintenance.

The finance committee discussion was one in a series of talks about the need for money to boost the city’s revenue to deal with a need for new operations and maintenance for drainage, including enhanced channel maintenance, pipeline inventory and repair, and bridge repair.

Additionally, requirements are being handed down from the Department of Environmental Quality as a result of the recent TMDL study performed on Lake Thunderbird. The total maximum daily load — a pollution measurement — was required because Thunderbird is an impaired body of water and the water quality must be protected under the law.

Measures to meet new DEQ requirements as a result of that study will need to be funded, Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said.

Many cities throughout the nation already have storm water utility fees. Oklahoma City first implemented its storm water drainage fee in 1995. Stillwater created a storm water utility fee in 1997.

Storm water drainage and wastewater (sewer) drainage are two separate systems.

When residents water their lawns more than the ground can absorb or when rain runs off rooftops and driveways, it hits the street drains, culverts and drainage ditches. A network of ditches, streams and pipes carry away storm water directly into rivers and streams.

Storm water is not treated but can carry along pollutants such as phosphorus fertilizer, which Norman is currently regulating. Sediment from construction also is carried into the lake via storm water runoff.

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