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May 14, 2014

Waurika Lake drops below 40 percent, but stricter rationings on hold

DUNCAN — Waurika Lake has dropped low enough to trigger more stringent water rationing in the City of Duncan, but neither the City Council nor City Manager Jim Frieda gave any indication tighter controls on water usage are forthcoming.

Waurika Lake, the city’s main water source, was calculated at 39.9 percent capacity on Monday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers web site puts the lake level at 39.53 percent late Tuesday.

An ordinance adopted in March 2013 states when the water level at Waurika Lake drops below 40 percent, the city manager “shall” restrict all outside water usage, including lawn watering and outdoor car washing.

For now, city officials are content to remain under the so-called Stage 3 rationing, which allows outdoor lawn watering only on Wednesdays and Saturdays from midnight to 9 a.m. Commercial car washes continue to operate but car dealers bring in tanker trucks from outside the city to clean their vehicles that are for sale.

Frieda said weeks ago he has discretion regarding when Stage 4 rationing might be invoked and each member of council has expressed reluctance to further tighten controls because of the economic impact.

Discussions during the past weeks have included whether the city pool at Fuqua Park should be filled for the summer swimming season. Moreover, the decrease in water usage has dramatically curtailed the city’s sales revenue that is combined with sales tax revenue to meet the payroll of police, firefighters and other city employees.

An unexpected bit of good news involves the water level at Duncan’s Lake Humphreys, which stood at 48 percent capacity on Monday.

Its water levels had been reported much closer to the 40 percent mark in previous weeks, but Frieda said those calculations were erroneous.

The higher-than-expected water levels in Lake Humphreys gives Duncan some breathing room, in the mind of Councilman Mike Nelson. Mayor Gene Brown said he agreed.

In other business, the City Council:

 Increased by 8 percent the rate that city-owned Duncan Power charges for electricity. The rate hike is attributed to increased costs incurred by the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, which furnishes wholesale  electricity to Duncan and other city-owned utilities in the state. The rate hike applies to all customer classes.

A customer that paid $86.07 for  800 killowats of electricity would pay $92.81 under the new rates, according to Electrical Utilities Director David Yeager.  

 Approved a bid by RJR Enterprises and Power Play to build an $180,000 splash pad at Douglass Park, which may be completed by late August. Money for the project comes from the city’s capital improvements project fund rather than its operating budget, which has been strained lately due to decreased water sales revenue caused by rationing. Councilman Ricky Mayes voted against the project, citing concerns about the project’s timing and the ongoing concerns about cash flow in the operating budget.

 Approved a bid by Action Target to build a $112,406 indoor firing range and an $18,800 bid by Jack Bishop Construction LLC to remodel the kitchen at the Duncan Criminal Justice Complex. The construction costs are paid with drug forfeiture funds.

 Approved a $29,258 bid from Cultural Surroundings to build a circulation desk at the Duncan Public Library.

 Approved a contract wtih the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to hire inmates to do weed cutting and other maintenace chores for the city. The inmates are paid $1 each per day.

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