Olney residents petition against $13 million water plant

Published: Jan. 6, 2022 at 11:05 PM CST
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - A petition to stop Olney city leaders from building a new $13 million water treatment plant has gathered 89 signatures from residents.

The proposal to replace the current 100-year-old water treatment plant has been a hot-button issue for months, but it wasn’t until a town hall meeting on Dec. 10 that residents decided to take action.

The petition needed 5% of registered voters in Olney to sign up in order to put a stop to a certificate of obligation that could be used to fund the project without the vote of residents.

“It took me a little while to get the petition because there was a lot of legalities to it, but once I had the petition I got the required 89 signatures within 72 hours,” said Oscar Munoz, resident of Olney. “Once this goes through now it gives the power back to the people so they can vote if they want a $13 million debt. This is a generational debt that is being put on the elderly and the poor.”

If the petition is successful, the water treatment plant will be put on the ballot and voted on during the city’s general election in May.

“The citizens have a right to petition the certificate of obligation to force it to a general vote. The danger with that is the longer that we wait the more expensive this project could ultimately costs,” said Rue Rogers, Olney mayor. “We’ll go forward from there to see if it’s passed at that time. If we’re not petitioned to sell bonds in January, it will likely be July until we could sell bonds.”

The water facility will be put into a moratorium if it is voted down during the elections and it will not be allowed on the ballot for three years. However, Mayor Rogers said no matter what happens in the next few months residents will still be seeing a surcharge of up to $30 dollars in their water bill.

“So what happens if the $13 million project goes through? You think $30 dollars is all it’s going to take to pay $13 or $20 million after everything is completed? No!” said Munoz.

“The surcharges were passed at the second meeting in December and those have been approved into effect starting Jan. 1, but you’ll see your first increase in February. The petition has nothing to do with the surcharges. This is just a way that we’ve got to start accumulating some money to be able to address some of the problems and issues that need to be fixed in the community,” said Rogers.

Munoz is planning to get more signatures before taking the petition to Olney City Hall before Jan. 15.

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