Council changes electric rates, repeals bird sanctuary article

By Katrina Goforth -

Tim Sullivan was honored with the rank of assistant fire chief Tuesday evening in a pinning ceremony with his wife, Zelda McCall and daughter, Kelsey.

Katrina Goforth | Altus Times

The Altus Municipal Authority and City Council met in regular session Tuesday evening at the Altus Municipal Complex at 509 S. Main St. Though the two governing bodies are separate, they share the same members.

Earlier this year, the City of Altus had a rate study conducted to determine how electric rates are affecting the city’s budget. City Manager Janice Cain told the council in June the cost of electric service continues to rise and a subtle rate plan would potentially prevent city utility customers from being hit with a big rate change.

That thought was reiterated Tuesday night as the council considered amending the electric rates in the Code of Ordinances, Chapter 28.

Mayor Jack Smiley told the council that in order to offset increases in cost, the rate increases would go up a little over the next five years instead of increasing by a larger amount at once.

“This won’t make the city more money,” Smiley said. “And it won’t create new revenue,” but he told the council that it will help meet the demands of personnel costs in salary and insurance and equipment costs.

The current electric rate as of September 2017 the city charges a $31.43 per customer monthly charge with $0.10537 per kilowatt-hour charge for utilities used beyond that initial charge for residential customers. For now, those rates won’t change until January 2018 when the electric rate will increase to a $32.37 per customer monthly charge with $0.1085 per kilowatt-hour charged for utilities.

The rates will increase by small increments through 2022 unless the rate plan is changed again in the next five years.

The amendment also creates rates for solar power of $42.08 for residential customers,$48.24 for small commercial customers and $82.39 for large commercial customers.

Smiley said the city has planned the change-over to occur in the off-season to effect the least amount of customers in the smallest way possible.

Other amendments were made to the Code of Ordinances, including an amendment that repeals Chapter 5, Article IV which made the city limits of Altus as a bird sanctuary. With the amendment to the article, residents will be able to trap, catch and hunt birds — depending on where they’re located.

Police Chief Tim Murphy was quick to point out that discharging firearms is still prohibited in city limits, and hunting in town is prohibited by other city ordinances.

Smiley said officials at Altus Air Force Base and the Altus Municipal Airport have had problems with pigeons and geese that have halted operations due to bird strikes (birds caught in the engine of an aircraft).

Council member Chris Riffle alluded to the severity of a bird strike as was seen in U.S. Airways Flight 1549 when pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles landed a passenger aircraft in the Hudson River in New York after coming in contact with a flock of Canadian geese.

Smiley said thinning the goose population would ultimately also be a good thing for the flock that has begun to stop migrating, choosing to stay in Altus and inbreeding. He also said it would prepare the way for Altus Reservoir to be usable for drinking water storage in the future.

The council also approved an amendment to repeal a $100 towing fee, a fee Cain said the city is not really dealing with.

The fee has been generating revenue for the Altus Police Department for the purpose of traffic safety and police equipment. Murphy told the council the fee generates about $20,000 a year in revenue and the money has been used to purchase mobile radios, radar for new vehicles and a speed trailer.

Though it does produce revenue, City Attorney Andrea Chism was concerned it fell into a gray area that could cause problems later since it generates funds for the police and does not go through the district or municipal courts.

Council members Doyle Jencks and John Womack voted against the repeal, but the amendment passed with yes votes from all other council members.

The council also approved:

  • an amendment that brings municipal court fees up to state standard and creates a new $5 technology fee that will allow the court to purchase software upgrades;
  • acceptance and closeout of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce block grant that has helped the city remove nine commercial and two residential structures that were going unused; and
  • a resolution declaring the selection of a professional engineering firm to perform bridge inspections for the City of Altus in accordance with the National Bridge Inspection standards.

The body then convened as the Altus Municipal Authority. Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation Director Brian Bush presented the corporation’s quarterly review to the AMA. Bush updated the authority on base operations including the arrival of KC-46 Pegasus simulators in the next few months followed by the first aircraft scheduled for spring 2018.

Bush told the authority there are Pegasus aircrafts assembled that are undergoing safety testing before they come to Altus.

The authority approved the purchase of a new sanitation sideloader truck from Southwestern Equipment Company in an amount not to exceed $168,900 and authorized city staff to go out for bid to purchase a compactor for the city landfill.

Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.

Tim Sullivan was honored with the rank of assistant fire chief Tuesday evening in a pinning ceremony with his wife, Zelda McCall and daughter, Kelsey. Sullivan was honored with the rank of assistant fire chief Tuesday evening in a pinning ceremony with his wife, Zelda McCall and daughter, Kelsey. Katrina Goforth | Altus Times

By Katrina Goforth

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