Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Norman Could Create New Utility to Fight Storm-Water Runoff

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Norman Could Create New Utility to Fight Storm-Water Runoff

Article excerpt

NORMAN - The city of Norman has taken a small but important step toward lowering pollution in Lake Thunderbird, Director of Public Works Shawn O'Leary said. It has hired a consultant to help develop a cleanup plan for the reservoir. The plan could also lead to developing a new type of utility division, O'Leary said.

Mayor Cindy Rosenthal said at Tuesday's City Council meeting that the city must get serious about paying for water quality improvements that Norman needs.

The council voted to approve $294,421 to hire Oklahoma City- based Olsson Associates to create a plan to reduce pollution flowing into the reservoir. It will take about one year to develop the plan, which includes identifying best management practices, O'Leary said.

Norman officials are considering several ways to prevent water pollution. One way is to reduce silt that flows from construction sites and reduce lawn chemical runoff. City inspectors enforce construction rules to prevent silty spills, but Norman has only two storm-water enforcement employees. Each option will cost money.

O'Leary must compete with the fire and police departments for money from the city's general revenue fund. However, a new storm- water utility could provide the consistent, dedicated revenue stream he needs to put a cleanup plan in place.

Utility divisions for storm water are common. In fact, Norman is behind the curve in that respect, O'Leary said. There are 24 municipalities in Oklahoma with storm-water utilities, and about 1,400 in municipalities across the nation, he said. Norman is the only major city in Oklahoma without one.

Typically, a storm-water utility charges a separate fee for rainwater that runs off impermeable surfaces such as roofs, sidewalks, driveways and parking lots. The fees would help Norman hire more storm-water inspectors and buy pollution monitoring equipment and more street-sweeping equipment. …

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