Mustang to raise water rates

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By Daniel Lapham,

The Mustang City Council voted 8-to-1 on Tuesday to approve a $4.50 capital improvement fee that will be added to all Mustang utility customers’ bills, effective in October.

The council also voted unanimously to increase water and sewer utility rates by 7 percent and signed a contract with Oklahoma Environmental Management Authority that will decrease curbside trash services by $1.50.

Mustang resident Michelle Fuller was the only resident present to speak out against the utility rate increases. She told the council she has abnormally high utility rates and because of this she is concerned with further rate increases.

“Anytime there is a proposed increase in city taxes or fees I have stood against them,” Fuller said after handing the council and city staff copies of her utility bill. “If you look at how much I pay you’ll see why.”

Fuller told the council she knew the rates would probably go through, but needed to be on record with her opposition. Prior to the council’s vote, City Manager Tim Rooney thanked her for respectfully speaking out against the increase.

“It is challenging to stand up here alone and speak against something the city is for,” Rooney said. “We need citizens like you to speak up and I thank you for letting your concerns be known, please continue.”

Rooney and Assistant City Manager Justin Battles presented numbers to the council showing increases in commercial water rates from Oklahoma City over the past several years.

“This 7 percent increase is meant to get us back to even,” Mayor Jay Adams said. “This way we are not taking money out of the general fund to make up the difference in what we are paying Oklahoma City for water and what our customers are paying us.”

Battles presented current and future steps the city is taking to improve Mustang’s infrastructure and decrease dependency on Oklahoma City to supply water.

This led to the approval of the $4.50 capital improvement fee, which is $3 more than Rooney initially proposed at a work session last week.

“Mustang could see a 48 percent increase on their water bills over the next three years,” said Jess Schweinberg, Ward VI councilman. “If this keeps happening, it won’t be long before no one could afford to live in Mustang because of the cost of water. We need to be aggressive with these capital improvement needs. Water is going to go up and we need to start today, $125,000 is not going to make a difference.”

Ward III Councilwoman Linda Bowers voted against the $4.50 increase, saying she agreed there needs to be investment, but an added fee of $4.50 is too much all at once.

“I think we need to do it in stages,” Bowers said.

Adams framed the immensity of the need to be self-sustaining.

“Water is the new oil. This isn’t going away and we need to address these things now.”

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

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