OUA adjusts rural water district rates

By Joshua Allen
ONL Staff Reporter

The Okemah Utilities Authority called a special meeting Monday to consider a modification of water rates for two rural water districts following a review of the current numbers by an Oklahoma City-area certified public accounting firm. 

Crawford & Associates CPAs consulted with the authority, assisting in determining the cost of acquiring, treating and delivering water to Rural Water District (RWD) #2 and RWD #3 in Okfuskee County. 

Since the City of Okemah has a water treatment plant and the county does not, the county’s water districts are essentially clients of the city, buying treated water to sell to citizens within the rural districts. The City of Okemah is responsible for the treatment and delivery of the water. 

The aforementioned agreement between county and municipality is laid out in a “water sale contract,” according to Interim City Manager Dustin Danker. 

The two entities have worked together in this way for almost 50 years … and counting.  

The original agreement between the municipality of Okemah and RWD2 originated in June 1971 before being amended in August 2016. Likewise, a second “water sale contract” with similar provisions contained therein exists between the city and RWD3, signed and dated in June 2017. 

Water is therefore treated at the Okemah Water Treatment Plant and distributed to the two rural water districts, arriving at a manifold outside the city limits where it officially becomes Okfuskee County’s water. 

With distribution and use measured in a price-per-thousand-gallons format, the consulting accountants determined approximate figures for the Okemah City Council’s consideration of rate adjustments. 

Those numbers put the incurring cost at approximately $2.85 per thousand gallons of water distributed to RWD2 and $3.10 per thousand gallons of water delivered to RWD3. 

Noted at the meeting and in the report provided by Crawford & Associates was a recalculation of the “percentage of OUA line used to serve RWD3 in accordance with the contract as presented … OUA Pipe Investment Assigned to RWD3 as of June 30, 2018.”

The method used to calculate operating costs and applicable adjustments by the consulting accountants involved a few data sets. Averages were calculated using information derived from the city’s utility enterprise accounting system, while monthly operational reports sent by the city to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality were used to determine the total annual gallons processed in thousand gallon increments. 

Contractually, the current schedules of fees between municipality and rural districts are only slightly indifferent than the newer numbers provided by the third-party accounting firm, which prompted placement of the agenda item, its subsequent discussion and eventual approval by the OUA board Monday evening. 

The decision adjusts RWD2 with a decrease, from $2.87 per thousand gallons of water to $2.85, and RWD3 with a one-cent increase, from $3.09 to $3.10, effectively matching the approximations reached by Crawford & Associates. 

Mayor Mike Fuller said the OUA board’s decision could mean rate adjustments for citizens within the two Okfuskee County Rural Water Districts, but he said, “Then again, it may not. That will be for the (water districts or) county commissioners to decide.”  

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