By Jeff Harrison
Midwest City residents and businesses could be asked to pay more for services in the future.
City officials say they plan to reevaluate rates for water, stormwater, recycling and streetlighting later this year.
City Manager Tim Lyon targeted the four areas during a budget workshop in May. Lyon says some of the fees need to be increased to keep up with expenses, while others need to be restructured.
While Midwest City’s water and sanitation rates increase automatically, Lyon believes the city should take a closer look at the base water rates.
The city council approved the escalator clause in 2021. The water/sanitation rates will increase by the rate of the Consumer Price Index. This year, rates went up by 5.2% following a 4.2% hike in 2022.
This year’s rate increase is expected to generate about $362,472 this year. That money will be used to help fund the water and sanitation departments.
Lyon said they need to reconfigure the stormwater drainage fees. Midwest City charges customers based on the size of their water meter, with no differentiation between residential or commercial properties. The rates range from $2.42 for a 5/8-inch line to $14.20 for a 4-inch line.
“The fundamental problem is we’re charging the same amount for commercial and residential customers,” Lyon said during the budget workshop.
Lyon said commercial properties typically have more impervious surfaces and generate more runoff than residential properties.
The streetlight fee is a more recent addition. The city council approved the fee in 2016. The monthly rates are $1.75 for residential customers, $7.50 for commercial and $1 for apartments and mobile or manufactured homes.
The recycling program has become a contentious issue for city leaders. Assistant city manager Vaughn Sullivan said at the budget workshop that the program has become unstable due to decreasing demand for recycled materials overseas. He said cardboard is the only profitable material.
“It’s on the rebound and we think it’s continuing on an upward trajectory, and we want to give it a little more time to see if it returns,” Sullivan said. “If we can get value back into the recyclables – plastics, aluminum and cardboard – that lowers the cost to our citizens.”
Mayor Matt Dukes said at some point the recycling might not be worth it.
“It’s a valued service to a lot of people, but at what cost,” he said.
Sullivan agreed with the concern and said they will need to continue to monitor costs and public interest.
Midwest City contracts with Republic Services for curbside recycling. The city council will consider an amendment to the contract to provide curbside recycling through June 30, 2026.
Residential customers pay $19.36 per month for trash and recycling collection. The recycling portion will be $4.40 for 2023-24 with annual increases of 18 cents in each of the following two years.
The recycling program has been well received by residents with about 82% participation, said Carrie J. Evenson, assistant public works director. She said they also conduct annual audits of the material that residents recycle. The city partnered with Republic Services and the Chamber of Commerce for a new Super Recyclers program that rewarded residents who were recycling properly with a $25 gift card to local restaurants.
“It was so well received that we will be doing it again in October of this year,” Evenson said.
Evenson acknowledged that the recycling program comes at a cost.
“Rising costs are always a challenge for local governments,” she said. “We will continue to provide recycling services as long as Midwest City residents, through their City Council representatives, continue to tell us it is a service that they want and need.”