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The provision was put into the charter in 1974 after a dramatic increase in utility rates, but is now outdated when looking at long-term water needs for the city, he said.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