Tahlequah Daily Press

March 18, 2013

TPWA approves decrease in sewer rate

By ROB W. ANDERSON
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — A decrease in the sewer rate was approved in Friday’s regular Tahlequah Public Works Authority Board of Trustees meeting.

The new rate, which becomes effective April 1, includes a base sewer rate of $7, while the cost of water per 1,000 gallons will be $4. The curren rate is $10 and $4.50, respectively.

The need to reduce customer cost came as a result of expressed customer concern and the delayed regulation change in the Oklahoma Water Resources Board total phosphorus criterion, which is currently .037 mg/L.

The current rate schedule was set over span of time from 2010 to 2012 as a result of expected changes in phosphorus regulations and a customer survey, said TPWA General Manager Mike Doublehead.

During discussion, TPWA Board Chairman Kelly Ross reported a customer expressing financial stress regarding sewer cost and suggested the rate be reduced to $5, but policy committee member Dr. Mark Smith said the board’s need to keep the eventual change in phosphorous regulation in mind, as well as upkeep of the wastewater treatment plant is important.

“They’ve postponed the phosphorous level [regulation change] for a while. I understand they’re still working on that,” he said. “When that hits, it could mean a significant increase in what it will cost to treat waste water. The other thing is our plant is old. There will be some future additions we’re going to need to make to keep the infrastructure up and running with the growth of Tahlequah. So, we need to keep that in consideration.”

In other action, a deposit refund/transfer of services policy, which will also go into effect April 1, was approved. Residential homeowner and business owner customers who have been deemed to have a good payment history with TPWA may transfer services to a new account without being required to put up another $400 deposit, but will be required to pay a $60 transfer fee, said Doublehead. Home and business owners who pay their bill on time without issue for a year will have their deposit refunded. Renters are not eligible for deposit refund as is industry practice, he said.

Customers in good credit standing who have had their deposit refunded must first pay in full their current bill before a transfer may be made. The $60 transfer fee will be charged to the new account.

“Existing customers who are residential homeowners, business owners or renters who do not qualify for deposit refund and have not had their deposits refunded may transfer their deposit to a new account,” said Doublehead.