Editor, Daily Press:
The headline in the Tahlequah Daily Press, dated Aug. 21, 2020, reads "TPWA announces 8 percent increase." It states the Tahlequah Public Works Authority Board of Trustees approved an 8 percent rate increase this year for electric, water and wastewater during an Aug. 21 meeting.
TPWA General Manager Mike Doublehead said there hasn't been a rate adjustment since 2004. "After a review of the costs, projects and ongoing increase of expenditures, the board looked at the rates and saw there had not been an adjustment since 2004," Doublehead said. "The cost of expenditures is not the same as 2004." The increase will be effective Oct. 1, and the adjustment will be on October statements, but will reflect usage during September. The next TPWA board meeting is on Sept. 18, at 9:05 a.m. in the Utilities Office Board Room, 710 W. Choctaw St. How many Tahlequah residents can afford the time to attend a 9:05 meeting?
No rate increases since 2004 is just not so, according to the audit report. The TPWA audit report for period ending June 30, 2019, dated April 14, 2020, indicates on page 8 of the audit report under the caption "Economic Factors and Next Year's Outlook." The paragraph states: "We have shored up the operational costs with the water and wastewater operations." The rate increases implemented over the last two years helped to offset the operational costs of those facilities."
The audit report is addressed to the Board of Trustees. In the June 17, 2017, Tahlequah Daily Press, the article states, "The board voted to approve a rate increase on the services to provide funding for future water and wastewater improvements and expansions. The increase will be phased in over the next two years and begin in the fall 2017. Jerry Cook, Stephen Higher, and another trustee voted in favor. Two other trustees voted no." The trustees are appointed by the mayor and approved by the City Council. Their term of office may extend beyond the term of office of the elected officials that appointed them. The trustees are not elected officials that are subject to the vote of the people.
If you read the Tahlequah Daily Press articles dated June 17, 2017, Aug. 13, 2017. June 19, 2018, and Aug. 2, 2019, details of operations will be discussed.
The question is: Can people on a fixed income afford this increase at this point in time? A performance audit of the general manager may be more appropriate and a legal opinion on compliance of the provisions of the Declaration of trust of the Tahlequah Public Trust Authority dated Dec. 4, 1970, by the Tahlequah city attorney.