City Hall report
BY BRIAN BARBER & KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writers
Sunday, June 17, 2012
6/17/12 at 2:45 AM
Read all of the week’s stories on the city.
"I don't want to start off my campaign throwing stones at Mayor Bartlett. As a matter of fact, I'm really hoping to keep the campaign as positive as possible. I think by the end of November, the citizens will be tired of negative campaigning from the national and state elections."
- Former City Councilor Bill Christiansen, after announcing he will compete in the 2013 mayor's race
"It's remarkable that it's come down to two weeks before the contract expires and we are having this conversation. I told them that today. It's awful to put the citizens of Tulsa in this position."
- Council Chairman G.T. Bynum, after learning the city's trash board must develop an emergency trash collection plan for the summer
Utility increases: City councilors voted unanimously to increase water rates 7 percent and sewer rates 9 percent effective Oct. 1.
Lauren Brookey, chairwoman of the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority, said the rate increases were necessary to "ensure the safety of our water and the sanitization of our sewage."
For single-family residences with average monthly water usage (7,000 gallons), the rate increases amount to 12 cents a day, or $3.74 a month.
Ballpark assessment: City councilors deadlocked on a vote to increase the Tulsa Stadium Improvement District assessment in fiscal year 2013, effectively killing the proposal for at least one week.
The original assessment included two parts - a permanent 4.3 cents per square foot fee to help fund construction of ONEOK Field and a flexible rate for upkeep and maintenance of the area.
The initial service portion of the assessment was 2.2 cents per square foot. The proposed assessment change would increase that portion to 2.29 cents per square foot.
Councilors G.T. Bynum, David Patrick and Skip Steele voted to approve the rate increase. Councilors Jeannie Cue, Karen Gilbert and Tom Mansur voted against the increase. Councilors Phil Lakin and Blake Ewing recused themselves. Councilor Jack Henderson was not present.
All three councilors who opposed the assessment increase said they would reconsider their votes but only after they receive more information on the issue and it is vetted publicly.
Moratorium: The council approved a moratorium on the development of surface parking lots as a principal use within the Inner Dispersal Loop. The moratorium expires Jan. 31, 2013.
Councilor Blake Ewing, who sponsored the ordinance, said the moratorium will give the city time to complete its parking study. The long-term goal is to create density downtown "so that people can walk around past buildings and structures, not past empty lots," he said.
Week in review
Trash backup plan: Tulsa's trash board has scheduled a special meeting for Monday to flesh out a summertime trash-collection "Plan B" because the city's current hauler is unable to continue service beyond its June 30 contract expiration.
It could involve dropping to once-a-week trash collection for everyone, having a lower monthly rate and suspending the recycling program, among other changes, the Tulsa World has learned.
Tulsa Refuse Inc., the hauling consortium that has conducted the bulk of the city's trash service for more than 30 years, had agreed to keep providing the same level of service from July through September, until the new volume-based system launches Oct. 1 under NeWSolutions, the winning bidder for the new contract.
For the three months, TRI would have been paid its current rate of about $900,000 per month.
But board Chairwoman Cheryl Cohenour said TRI's diminishing manpower and equipment problems have made that plan unfeasible.
EMSA request: EMSA is asking Tulsa's City Council for increases in its ambulance transport rate from $1,100 to $1,300 and of its per mile charge from $9 to $12 effective in July.
The optional $3.64 monthly utility fee for households to be part of EMSA's TotalCare program to avoid out-of-pocket ambulance expenses would not change.
But some councilors say the increases should be considered only after EMSA undergoes the investigative audit that was prompted by the Tulsa World's coverage of its billing and collections practices, travel expenses and possible conflicts of interest.
EMSA Chief Financial Officer Kent Torrence said the investigative audit likely won't be conducted until the fall. EMSA's board voted in May to pursue it through the State Auditor and Inspector's Office.
More council discussion is expected this week.
Water study: The city of Tulsa should adopt an aggressive improvement strategy to address its water and wastewater system needs, a draft report presented to the Tulsa Metropolitan Utility Authority indicates.
Another option presented - but ultimately rejected - by Infrastructure Management Group in its 96-page draft executive summary of its final report is privatizing the city's water and wastewater services.
Although privatization would bring the short-term benefit of a lump-sum payment, "the loss of control over the utilities (would) constrain the government authority for the long term," the report states.
The authority is struggling to deal with mounting capital and debt-service costs. Infrastructure Management Group is being paid nearly $3.4 million to help the authority address those challenges through a comprehensive assessment of the city's water and sewer systems.
Mayor's race: Campaigning for Tulsa's 2013 mayor's election got off to an early start as former Councilor Bill Christiansen announced he will challenge Mayor Dewey Bartlett.
Christiansen, 64, was the city councilor for District 8 from 2002 to 2011 and owns Christiansen Aviation, which is celebrating its 40th year in business.
Christiansen said his platform is in the works but listed four priorities: pursuing economic development, restoring public safety, cultivating neighborhoods and continuing street improvements.
Filing for the mayor's race is not until spring 2013, with the primary in June and the general election in November.
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