By Robert Barron Staff Writer

After lengthy discussion, Enid city commissioners decided Tuesday to table a proposal to collect a 3 percent fee from customers who buy natural gas from a company other than Oklahoma Natural Gas.

ONG currently pays a 3 percent franchise fee to the city in exchange for the use of city rights of way. However, with deregulation of the natural gas industry, other companies sell natural gas in Enid and don't pay a franchise fee.

In 1995, the city passed an ordinance that would have required Enid customers to pay a 3 percent fee for gas bought from someone other than ONG. However, voluntary compliance has been low and ordinance en-forcement has been difficult, according to Tuesday's meeting agenda.

Jerald Gilbert, city finance director, told commissioners the city is losing between $80,000 and $100,000 a year by not collecting the fee.

As a solution, city staff members came up with the proposal to have ONG collect the fee since its pipelines are used to transport the natural gas. The fee would be based on volume and an average price determined once a year.

Rex Bland, of WAKO, which purchases gas from a company other than ONG, told commissioners if the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) price is used to figure the tax the price he would pay would be higher because the NYMEX rate is based on national gas usage.

"I only want to pay for what I buy," Bland said.

Commissioner Larry Dillon agreed, saying he did not want to use a national figure but wanted something based on prices that are more local.

City Manager Jerry Erwin said changing the way the rate is figured would be a good improvement.

"We want to do what is best for the citizens," he said.

Mayor Ernie Currier said the discussion brought up a number of interesting ideas and suggested the commission table the proposal until further talks can be held.

In other business Tuesday, commissioners authorized City Attorney Carol Lahman to begin condemnation proceedings for land to be used to build storm water detention facilities on South Garland if an agreement to buy the property cannot be worked out with the landowner.

Lahman also discussed the city's progress in acquiring the property and rights of way for the first phase of a multi-year plan to construct the storm water detention facilities.

The first phase required property from two landowners. A settlement was reached with one landowner for property; however, court action is ongoing with KM Properties over the acquisition of 31 acres, as well as easements on another 2.5 acres of a 65-acre tract.

The original plan was to build the detention basin west of Garland, leaving the frontage property for the landowner's use. Now, city officials say it would be best to extend the detention basin to Garland, and they are seeking to acquire the remainder of the 65-acre tract owned by KM Properties.

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