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August 28, 2013

The water effect

An election is dividing voters, but there's more to the future of Chickasha's water than a 3/4 cent tax

CHICKASHA —

Regardless of whether a 3/4 cent capital improvement sales tax is continued or defeated on Sept. 10, the issues facing Chickasha's water system will last, and require more action and money to be fixed.

The tax in its current incarnation is expected to produce $24 million over the next 10 years. Mayor Hank Ross said the city plans to spend $7 million of that on the city's Phase 1 water plan, which will replace clear water towers in the treatment plant. From here, the city will look to renew the same CIP tax in 10 years, which will take them to phase 2, and the complete restructure of the water treatment plant, but this will not satiate Mark Keeling, or the TEA Party. 

Last year the city invested in a study, which showed a complete $150 million overhaul in the next 30 years of the city's water infrastructure is  needed to combat problems with the water's taste, smell and appearance, according to Ross. Rate increases and bond issues will have to be looked at, as well as other possible taxes. Millions of dollars will have to be spent on new waste water lines, drinking water lines and the line that connects Chickasha to its reservoir, Ft. Cobb Lake. 

The CIP tax renewal is only step one. 

 "For the first time in the last 30 years this council is not just kicking the can down the road," Ross said. "We have a plan." 

Keeling said he has not seen a master plan for the city's water, and although he has seen the study Ross referred to, he's unsure if it is enough. 

"I'm no expert in the study," he said. "The tax is not a rainy day fund for problems that occur over time. Hank (Ross) is going to fix the parks and downtown before he does anything with water." 

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