Residents vote down Norman stormwater utility, rural community applauds voter turndown

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NORMAN, Okla.-- Residents rejected a new stormwater utility fee that would have paid for improvements to the city’s drainage system.

“Disappointing of course we were hoping for a positive vote. If not that then we are hoping that more percentage positive so 71-29 certainly wasn't what we are hoping for,” Shawn O’Leary, Director of the Public Works Department in Norman said.

On the ballot, this proposition to help raise $4.9 million for a storm water utility. It would charge Norman residents $1.25 per 1,000 square feet of hard surfaces that contribute to storm water runoff.

"What council has said over and over again is we've got to do this. We have a pretty serious set of problems here in Norman and we need to raise more funding to address that,” O’Leary said.

Faye Autry owns a cattle ranch in Noble. The proposal would have increased her monthly rate by about $83.

"I'm a small cattle operation so that's roughly about $990 something dollars, almost $1,000. I have 25 hay bales I just bought, that's roughly what that costs so,” Faye Autry said.

An extra cost she says would impact her livelihood.

"I would've had to of gotten rid of some of those cattle if I could not feed them through the winter because I would've been paying a utility that I would have not seen any services,” Autry said.

She acknowledges there's a problem but didn't think the ballot proposal was clear. The City Public Works Department says they based the rates off of other cities including Tulsa and Dallas.

But now they'll go back to the drawing board to fix the runoff issue.

"I think we need to listen to what the voter said and there's lots of different messages there. And then sort out what the rate structure might look like if we address all of those concerns or if we can address all those concerns,” O’Leary said.

The mayor of Norman says they plan to do focus groups with residents to figure out a solution.

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