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Proposed water/sewer rate increase goes before City Council Feb. 14

By: Alisha Thompson

A total of 28 people attended the Jan. 31 Town Hall Meeting regarding the proposed water/sewer price rate increases. City Manager Andy Holland said the meeting was held prior to the Feb. 14 council meeting so that concerned residents could have a chance to learn more about the proposed rate increases and speak with the councilman representing their ward. Holland said his door was open to residents that have questions and that he would be willing to crunch the numbers on what their “new” bill could look like.
The utility rate increase proposal was introduced at the Jan. 10 council meeting. “Today our main focus is to exchange information,” Holland said. “Question and answer is the main purpose of this meeting. So, two weeks from now, on Feb. 14, if everything goes well, is when we are hoping we can put this in front of the City Council for a vote.”
Holland reminded those present that there would be an opportunity for an appearance and petition (with a three minute limit to speak) from those attending the next council meeting. “But, what I suggest between now and then, talk to your city councilman. If you have more questions, I’ll be more than happy to sit one-on-one with you. Talk specifically about your situation, what its going to cost you. My time is your time,” Holland said.
The main sources of income for a city are revenues from the utilities and city sales tax. “Davis is fortunate that we have other means, like Turner Falls,” Holland explained. “That is just kind of a buffer.” Property taxes do not benefit local cities. City officials would like to see to a healthier bottom line so that revenue from Turner Falls could be used for major improvement projects for the City of Davis and Turner Falls.
The City of Davis receives 202 million gallons raw water from Arbuckle Lake. That water is pumped to water treatment plant. A total of 48% of the water produced by the City of Davis is used the city produces is used in the city limits; 14% goes to outside city limits; 8% goes to West Carter and 19% goes to West Davis. The Waste Water Treatment Plant uses an additional 17 million gallons for clarifier flow and daily flushing.
Holland said that he started looking at water rates in September 2020 and, after looking at numbers, he said that the “break-even” point was too high. So, he went to the Oklahoma Rural Water Association (OWRA) for assistance with a plan for a water/sewer rate increase. The study was returned around Christmas.
“They used ‘Davis data’ actual use from March 1, 2020, to Feb. 1, 2021. What has happened since then? Prices went up. Inflation,” said Holland. Further explaining that this rate increase is important in that the City needs to borrow money for the new Waste Water Treatment plant and, to do that, the City’s books have to be balanced.
OWRA came up with three different rate increase options and Holland came up with an option, too. These options, included with options and suggestions presented by Davis residents to their councilmen, will be considered at the Feb. 14 council meeting.
Holland said options presented by OWRA will put the City at breaking even with the cost of making water and the others will eventually strengthen the City’s utility account.
With a three year phased plan, the first year the City will break even, possibly a little ahead on water, sewer and garbage. The second year, will cover street maintenance (pot holes and patches.) The third year, Holland said the City will come out “positive,” including the cemetery. “I can plug in all kinds of numbers and cut the pie different ways,” he said. “But, this is where we need to come out. In the black.”
The majority of the users in Davis use less than 5,000 gallons of water. “Why is that important?” Holland asked. “Because a lot of our seniors, single income and fixed incomes reside in this area of use. So, that’s where I put a lot of interest. The resident rate is very similar to inside city limits commercial. Resident inside city limits has the least amount of increase and commercial outside of city limits has the biggest rate increase.”
The biggest jump in the proposed rate increase is sewer.
“Unfortunately we were paying around $11.15 for years in our sewer. So, therefore, we are way behind in our infrastructure. We have to upgrade our infrastructure. We are planning on a new Waste Water Treatment Plant,” Holland said. “It has to be in line with all the latest EPA codes, so that’s a big expense.”
Members of Rural Water were in attendance for the Town Hall meeting. He mentioned that there is room to work with the group with cost, that would involve a guaranteed minimum, that could give flexibility to their possible rate structure. Holland met with officials from Rural Water on Tuesday and will recap that meeting at the next council meeting.
Yes, the City is spending more money. Holland said that he’s hired more people who can add value to the town and he’s been able to upgrade infrastructure in town with the support of the City Council. “We are repairing things that have been neglected for a while because we didn’t have the funds,” he said. “I was able to purchase parts, back up systems. We are going to start gaining more mortgages on our Waste Water Treatment Plant.”
Holland said that a decision has to be made. “This is kinda a decision point. That’s an awful lot. Do we approve everything all at once? Or can we approve and modify parts of it? Percentage of increases could be changed,” Holland said.
Davis residents at the meeting suggested the percentage increase needed to bring the City into the “black” on the utilities be spread out more evenly over the three years and that’s been taken into consideration. With a few days left before Monday’s council meeting, Davis residents are encouraged to go to their councilman or set up a meeting with Holland.
(Editor’s note: Documents presented at the Town Hall meeting are available at City Hall upon request. Potential prices for the proposed rate increase are included in these documents.)

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