Oklahoma

Economy, Energy, Natural Resources: Policy to People

The Unique Way Norman Sets Its Water, Sewer Rates Could Be Changing

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Norman is the only city in Oklahoma that requires water rate increases to be approved through a vote of the people, which at times has stymied attempts to upgrade aging water infrastructure, and makes planning for future expenses difficult.

At a special Norman City Council meeting Tuesday evening, the charter review commission will propose changing the city charter to put the power to hike rates back in the hands of the council.

From The Norman Transcript‘s Jessica Bruha:

“The city council would then set the rates for utilities,” said Harold Heiple, Charter Review Commission chairman, if the item was put on the ballot and approved by voters.

Heiple said Norman is the only city in the state that requires voter approval of utility rate increases.

The provision was put into the charter in 1974 after a dramatic increase in utility rates, but is now outdated when looking at long-term water needs for the city, he said.

Norman Utilities Director Ken Komiske tells StateImpact the vote requirement makes planning tough, but not impossible.

“It’s good news and bad news,” Komiske says. “If you educate your customers, tell them why you need the money, they’ll step up and they’ll help you with it.”

Komiske says voters approved sewer rate increases for improvements to Norman’s wastewater treatment plant in November 2013 by a more than 50-point margin.


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Comments

  • Robert Mark Campbell

    I wish Norman were more like Oklahoma City, who has a city council who can bring citizens on board for things like MAPS. Instead, we have council who run on the platform of “representing consituents”, yet after they are elected take the vote away from citizens on major issues. Citizens of Norman have proved with issues like Lindsey Street Widening, and the Animal Shelter, that they will vote on projects that make sense to them. I might vote for a water-rate increase, but not if it is really just a behind-the-scenes ploy to just pave the way for rampant overdevelopment (which it WILL always be if it is taken out of the hands of the citizens.)

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