At least one Yukon city councilman says a decision earlier this month to implement a rate increase for water and sanitation services was not something that was taken lightly.
Richard Cacini said he voted for increasing the rates out of necessity.
“Since we have no water, we have to buy it. And because we have to buy it, we have to pay Oklahoma City for the water,” Cacini said.
The rate increases are a sore subject for Cacini, who says he doesn’t like paying money to Oklahoma City for a commodity that is necessary.
He also said the city hasn’t seen the last of rate increases.
“The rates are going to go up. They will continually go up. There is not a day in the future that it will not go up until we have our own water filtration unit,” the first-term councilmember said.
That filtration system, he said, would solve much of Yukon’s rate problems.
Yukon purchases water from Oklahoma City that is blended with water from 15 wells operated by Yukon.
Much of the water that comes from the wells has arsenic levels above those allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is 10 parts per million.
Yukon’s arsenic levels at the well sites often come in significantly above that.
The water is blended to bring that arsenic levels into compliance.
Cacini said the city should build its own treatment plant so that it is no longer dependent on Oklahoma City’s water.
“A water treatment plant or filtration plant, whatever it takes so we don’t have to buy it,” he said.
A treatment plant would cost millions of dollars, said City Manager Jim Crosby.
He also pointed out that even if Yukon built its own system, it would still be necessary to purchase water from Oklahoma City because the well system is not large enough to handle the city’s daily needs.
Crosby also pointed out that cities, such as Norman and El Reno, that have their own sources of water also purchase water from other sources.
Yukon also pays Oklahoma City to reserve water for its use.
Yukon purchases about 60 million gallons of reserve each month. It pays $1.64 per 1,000 gallons for storage. When the water is used, the city pays an additional 46 cents per 1,000 gallons.
That number will increase to $1.73 and 49 cents beginning in January.
Crosby said the city has little choice but to pay the fees because 85 percent of the city’s water comes from Oklahoma City.
“We’re married to Oklahoma City. We’re using their water,” he said.
But the ongoing rate increases is not something Cacini said he is happy about.
“There are two people (on the council) who are on fixed income — the mayor and myself. We don’t want to raise rates. That would be raising our own rates. That doesn’t make sense,” Cacini said. “We don’t want to raise anybody’s rates. But it has to be done because Oklahoma City raised their rates. If they raise their rates, that makes us have to pay more money.”
Cacini said that at that point, Yukon has two options. The first is to not buy water from Oklahoma City. The second is to pay whatever rates Oklahoma City sets.
The first option doesn’t work because if the city refuses to pay Oklahoma City, there will not be any water available.
“Either I pay the fee and get to live in Yukon, a beautiful place, or I start putting money aside to build my own filtration system and make our own water. It’s an easy thing. There is not any board member who does not want lower rates. We all want lower rates. We’re tired of paying higher rates, but it will continue to happen until we look ahead. If we go day-by-day, this is our problem. Day-by-day, our rates will continue to keep going up” Cacini said.
Council member Shelli Selby voted against the water rate increase during the last council meeting, saying she had concerns about the $20 flat fee that is charged each customer.
She said that fee is higher than the water base rate, which is $14.45.
She said that fee is higher than what people who use the base amount pay for water service and that It should be reduced for those customers.
Crosby, however, said the cost of the fee is offset by a reduced rate that base customers pay for sanitation services.
Crosby said the cost of sanitation is the same for everyone, but customers who use less than 3,000 gallons of water pay only $5.56. Most customers pay $18 for the service.
The city manager said about 25 percent of the city’s utility customers pay that rate.