Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

Norman Voters Approve Sewer Rate Hike Under Pressure from State Regulators

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Utility bills in Norman are going up. On Tuesday, voters there approved a sewer rate increase by a more than 50 point margin, 76 percent to 24 percent, as The Norman Transcript‘s Andy Rieger reports:

City utilities director Ken Komiske said he was proud that the community stepped forward to approve the increase which amounts to an estimated $3.74 per month for an average household. The increase will begin Dec. 1 and will partially fund $63 million in improvements to the wastewater treatment plant in south Norman.

The current wastewater treatment plant in south Norman is outdated and can’t handle the amount of sewage the city needs it to, among other problems like aging equipment and an unpleasant odor.

The result was a consent order from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, which means Norman has to fix the deficiencies or face fines of as much as $10,000 per day.This isn’t a new problem, as Van Mitchell reported in The Edmond Sun in August:

[Norman Finance Director Anthony Francisco] testified that the City of Norman has had plans to replace its sewer treatment facility since 2001 but that the project has been delayed.

“We have been delayed since 2001 for various reasons. Among them having an inadequate rate structure to make the improvements we know we need to make.”

One of the reasons Norman has a hard time putting together an adequate rate structure, according to Francisco, is because it’s is the only community in Oklahoma where voters decide on rate changes.

The Norman Transcript reports “Norman’s commodity fee has not been raised since 1996.”


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