Lawton water restoring fee increase tabled - KSWO 7News | Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Lawton water restoring fee increase tabled

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - On Tuesday night, Lawton City Council put off a decision on a proposal to increase the fee for restoring water service to Lawton customers who've been cut off for non-payment. The proposal would have increased that charge from $25 to $35. It also included a new $20 fee for residents who miss an appointment when a city worker comes to the home to turn the water back on, and a $10 increase in the cost for the city to check a water meter that a customer believes isn't reading properly.

The council members debated the item for nearly 30 minutes, but ultimately decided there wasn't enough information for them to approve an increase. The fee that drew the most attention was the one making it more expensive to restore water after the resident paid their bill. On average 1,100 meters are disconnected a month.

Councilman Doug Wells said most of those are lower-income families who are already struggling to make ends meet.

"They try to decide whether to pay their water bill, their gas bill, or buy food for their kids,” Wells said. “While $10, $20 doesn't seem like much to us, for them it's two or three days worth of food."

Councilwoman Gay McGahee also questioned the city's finance director about how the city staff arrived at the 10-dollar amount of the increase.

"Is it costing 35 dollars to go and restore their services?" McGahee asked.

"Our funds are not making a lot of money for the city," J.I. Johnson, Finance Director answered.

Councilman Caleb Davis said he researched that question, and determined that while some workers' pay had increased, other expenses, such as gasoline, have gone down. 

Councilwoman Cherry Phillips pressed Marti Repasy of the city's revenue services departments for specifics on the city's expenses that would justify the need for the increased fees.

"No, I can't cost it out exactly but I feel that it's a reasonable, responsible increase," said Repasy.

"I'm a little disappointed to see us asking to raise a fee when we don't have an exact cost of what it's costing us,” Davis said. “If we're trying to cover cost then why don't we know how much it's costing us now and what does it exactly take to cover those cost?”

After the debate, Councilman Davis proposed to form a committee to look into possibly contracting the service out in order to save money. Mayor Fred Fitch cast the tie-breaking vote against that, saying the city already had enough committees.

The water department was then directed to gather more specific information before bringing it to the council again.

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