Water bailout boosts deficit

By Joy Hampton, The Moore American, Norman, Okla.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Dec. 05--MOORE -- The Moore City Council approved an $820,000 budget adjustment Monday to help cover water service because of lost revenue resulting from the May 20 tornado.

The budget adjustment will allow the Moore Public Works Authority to retain money normally transferred to the general fund and the Moore Risk Management fund for two months.

Finance Director Jim Corbett said both funds were healthy enough to lose that funding for a temporary period.

Approximately 1,200 water meters serving homes and businesses were lost when the tornado wiped out a core section of the city. Water, sewer and sanitation revenues are affected. Until that area rebuilds and those customers are back online, utility revenue is taking a major hit.

Previously, the public works authority had been used to plump up the general revenue fund. Now, a healthy general fund can boost the public works trust.

"The general fund is in the best condition it has been in years due to the sales tax growth and the half-cent designated sales tax," Corbett said.

The half-cent tax covers residential street improvements and public safety equipment. Previously, the general fund had to pay for those items.

The year-to-date deficit in the MPWA trust is $1.7 million, with a debt service on the water treatment plant of $1.8 million due in March, Corbett said.

"We have $1.1 million in excess set up in the treatment plant construction account," Corbett said. That money will pay the bulk of the debt service, but help is needed to fund the rest.

The budget adjustment was unanimously approved.

In other city business, the city council postponed three items dealing with zoning change request that would allow a multi-family senior residential development in Ward 1 in the area of Southeast Fourth Street and Eastern Avenue.

Residents have expressed concerns about the increase in density near a residential development and increased traffic that the proposed Eastern Senior Community would bring to the area. Moore notified 625 properties within a quarter mile of the proposed planned unit development about the zoning change request.

"We did receive with the protest petition with approximately 250 signatures," Community Development Director Elizabeth Jones said.

Let's make dreams come true.

Of those signatures, city staff checked addresses, and protests represent 18 percent of the area surrounding the proposed development.

The applicant, Vuong Nguyen, wants to develop vacant land south of Southeast Fourth Street and east of Eastern Avenue. The PUD includes an enhanced entry-way design including a stockade fence with brick columns, brick entry pavers and landscaping.

The site will have numerous trees and shrubs, a gazebo and a playground. Thirty units are proposed for three acres, but because part of the land is in the flood plain, the density is approximately 15 units per acre.

The property is currently zoned commercial, and Nguyen asked for a Moore Vision 20/20 Comprehensive Land Change and zoning change from C-1 office to R-3 high residential. Nguyen currently owns a similar development in Oklahoma City, Western Senior Community LLC.

Morris Engineering, 617 NW 27th St. in Moore, is working on the project.

The planning commission recommended denial in April, but the applicant withdrew and refined plans before reapplying. Amenities were added to meet planning commission concerns, including gardens, more open space and a storm shelter.

A nearby resident, Ken Jarema, said the property is not flat and slopes toward his back yard.

"With all the drainage of this property -- the drainage of the roofs, the drainage of the cement -- something is going to flood," Jarema said.

He said there is already flooding in the area, and a nearby creek often can't handle heavy rains.

Jarema also expressed concerns about mud running into his yard during the construction phase, as well as an overtaxed aging sewer system once the senior apartments are filled.

"The sewers in the area right now are old," he said. "We've had the city come out several times to unplug the drains. I know they would have to tap into the sewer system to feed that."

Jarema said many seniors may still work and drive, and traffic will be affected.

"There is going to be an impact," Jarema said of traffic concerns. "This does not fit the area. It's all single-family housing."

"What if they put in a 7-Eleven in there?" Mayor Glenn Lewis said. "It's already zoned for that."

Lewis said several convenience chains are looking for more sites in that area.

Jarema said ambulance calls that are accompanied by a fire truck also would be a factor.

Let's make dreams come true.

"This is probably the lowest-impact development that we could approve," council member David Roberts said.

"There is a need for housing for senior adults," council member Mark Hamm said.

Hamm asked about drainage concerns.

City Manager Steve Eddy said a drainage study will have to be done, and the development would not proceed until that study is done and all city codes are met.

"Is there any guarantee you can give us that this will be a senior community?" Jarema said.

Jarema expressed concern that it could become multi-family housing in the future.

"As a PUD, we do maintain some control over that," Roberts said.

Because of the number of households signing the petition and concerns expressed, council members voted to postpone the three proposed items related to the senior residential development until they could study the matter more fully. Some said they would visit the Oklahoma City senior location.


(c)2013 The Moore American (Norman, Okla.)

Visit The Moore American (Norman, Okla.) at mooreamerican.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services



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