Mustang City Council considers needs of growing city

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By Daniel Lapham,

Mustang’s City Council, along with City Manager Tim Rooney and members of his staff discussed several areas dealing with the municipal government Monday in a special work session at the Mustang Town Center.

One of those areas dealt with the need for capital improvements and how to pay for them. Another area discussed was the cost of buying water from Oklahoma City. Rooney said Mustang can longer afford to “absord” the cost of doing business with the much larger neighbor.

Rooney presented a breakdown of the upcoming rate structure changes to Mayor Jay Adams and members of the council. The fiscal year 2014 to 2015 City of Mustang Budget, which was adopted and approved by the city council on June 3, included a proposed water and sewer rate increase of 7 percent. The rate was proposed to go into effect beginning Oct. 1.

“Revenues and expenditures within the Mustang Improvement Authority that were included in the budget were based on the 7 percent increase occurring in the October billing cycles,” stated Rooney’s utility rate review. “Since the June 3 meeting in which the FY 2014-15 budget was approved, RFP’s (Request for Proposal) for refuse service were also opened.  OEMA, the city of Mustang’s existing refuse contractor, was the low bidder and staff was directed to develop a contract based on the bid submitted by OEMA.”

The action item to accept or decline the contract with OEMA will appear on the Aug. 19 agenda for action by the city council. The bid submitted by OEMA included a proposed $1.50 reduction in the monthly refuse rate. Rooney is proposing an additional fee of $1.50 be added to all customer utility bills as a capital improvement fee. This fee would be used for water and wastewater system capital improvements and would balance out the savings seen from the refuse fee reduction.

Assistant City Manager Justin Battles gave a slide presentation to the council outlining the current and future capital improvement needs. Current projects under way include the 74th Street booster station and County Line water tower budgeted at a cost of $201,743.15, and the Lakehoma Lift Station budgeted at $174,021.

“Any capital improvement fees added to utilities bills could give us a starting point to funding these projects,” Rooney said. “Currently, the city of Mustang has no identified method or revenue to be used for these improvements and this would provide a method to do so.  The cities of Lawton, Edmond and Norman already have this sort of funding in place.”

With the current amount of customers in Mustang, the capital improvement fee would generate approximately $125,000 per year to be used toward capital improvements.

“I don’t think that’s enough, $1.50 just doesn’t look like enough of an increase to meet our capital improvement needs. We need to get these projects going now.,” said Councilman Jess Schweinberg, Ward 6.

In addition to the 7 percent increase in the water and sewer rates for everyone, Rooney recommended the possibility of changing or adding one-time fees for residential, commercial and rental deposits. He also included ideas to encourage responsible customer habits by charging fees for chronic disconnect due to non-payment, account holds, pull meter, illegal hook-ups, stolen meters, tampering and re-reads at the customer’s request.

“Many of these fees have not been changed since the late ’80s or early ’90s, while others are fees that are currently not being charged at all,” Rooney said.

The final change city staff recommended to the council concerning utility rates is to include wording for any future utility-related ordinance that would pass cost increases through to customers.

“While utility rate increases are never popular, they are necessary,” Rooney said. “The city of Mustang cannot afford to not pass along utility rate increases that are passed on to it from Oklahoma City, nor can it afford to continue to fail in addressing capital improvement needs of an aging system.  Staff plans to place an ordinance/resolution with the above referenced fee adjustments on the Aug. 19 agenda for action.”

Daniel Lapham is a reporter for the sister paper of the Mustang News, the El Reno Tribune. He can be reached at dlapham@elrenotribune.com.