The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 9, 2013

Decades-long water policy worth a second look


Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — To Ward 6 City Commissioner Dr. David Vanhooser, a long-standing policy charging utility customers a flat water fee for each business inside a building is not exactly fair.

Currently, a strip mall with four commercial tenants may have just one water meter and utility account in the building owner’s name, but the owner will be charged at least the base rate for each “unit” — no matter how much water is used.

“The smaller building’s water bill is higher than the bigger building, and uses less water,” Vanhooser said.

According to the city’s published utility rates, commercial properties are charged $19.82 for the first thousand gallons of water they use and the same amount for wastewater they leave. Each additional thousand gallons of water costs less than $3.

That base rate is applied for every separate entity within a structure.

Utility Services Manager Scott Morris said that multiple charging units had been on the books since the 1970s. He also noted that if Enid were to abolish the practice outright, there would be a drop in revenue.

The issue at hand is revenue versus fairness. After identifying the problem, Vanhooser is pushing for a solution because the outdated ordinance is contradictory.

One option worth considering could be installing larger water meters to businesses that inherently use more water.

The commission plans to reconsider the policy at a meeting in early 2014, which allows city staff time to craft an ordinance.

Vanhooser said he expects the issue could be raised again next month. This looks like a legitimate subject to examine.