Norman residents have a chance to upgrade their sewage treatment plant with a “yes” vote Tuesday. Voters are being asked to increase their own sewer service rates by an additional $1.10 to the base charge and an additional $1.10 per thousand gallons of sewage treated.

The additional fees would be used for more than $63 million in improvements to the Norman Water Reclamation Facility. It includes increased capacity for the plant in south Norman, equipment replacement, regulatory change requirements and better odor control.

City officials said an average Norman home will pay an additional $3.74 per month beginning in December.

The average commercial rate would increase by $7.39 per month. It’s the first proposed increase in the sewer base rate and the commodity rate since 1996.

Some of the components in Norman’s sewage treatment plant were new in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and replacement parts must be custom manufactured. 

The three-year construction period would begin in the spring. The bonds would be paid back by a combination of higher sewer rate fees and the new development sewer excise tax. 

The plant improvements will get Norman one step closer to being able to reuse treated water. State law does not allow such reuse, but if it does change, Norman could easily be one of the state’s first cities to reuse treated water instead of sending it downstream. 

If approved, the city’s plant will be able to treat 17 million gallons of wastewater per day, compared to the current 12 million. Our plant runs at 92 percent capacity, meaning it could not accommodate a large industry or population increase without improvements.

The increase has been endorsed by the Norman Chamber of Commerce and the city’s citizens wastewater oversight committee, which has studied the issue for many years.

A “yes” vote Tuesday will give us a chance to be pro-active and a good steward of the environment. We strongly encourage you to vote “yes.”

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