Olney residents to vote on $13 million water plant in May election

Published: Mar. 14, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT
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OLNEY, Texas (KAUZ) - A 100 signature petition has been the deciding factor for giving Olney residents the option to vote to approve the construction of a new $13 million water treatment plant.

When this petition was submitted in January and accepted by the city of Olney, it paused a certificates of obligation that could be used by local governments to fund the$13 million water treatment plant project without a vote of the people of Olney. Now, those people say one issues has been traded with another.

“The city has imposed surcharges on the sewer, surcharges on the water, and they’re definitely not making it citizen friendly,” Oscar Munoz, a resident of Olney, said.

A monthly increase of up to $30 in surcharge fees was passed during a December Olney city council meeting. Despite the pause of a certification of obligation, some residents believe those charges should be based on usage and income.

“You’re charging grandma and grandpa or a retired veteran the same amount that you’re charging a $400 million company and that’s just not fair,” Munoz said.

Although we were unable to speak to Olney Mayor Rue Rogers before this story was published, during another board meeting in January, he had this to say in regards to those surcharges.

“We can’t come in and tie it strictly to usage because if we tie the rates and surcharges strictly to usage, then what is everyone going to do in town stop using water and you’re going to have a shortfall every single year,” said Rogers. “We went ahead and got started because we needed to start accumulating funds for water infrastructure repairs if the water treatment plant is postponed and delayed due to a petition, then we can still be accumulating funds and addressing water meters, water sewer lines, doing things that our city needs.”

“On the city’s Facebook page, they tried to explain all these surcharges and it just goes to show I think they are being spiteful and that’s honestly how I feel,” Munoz said.

Registered voters in Olney will be participating in a May election to decide if that certificate of obligation should continue or if it will be voted down into a into a moratorium. If that happens, the water treatment plant will not be allowed on the ballot for three years.

“I will vote on this because we do need a treatment plant, it is what it is, we need it. But it was the terms and the conditions that they were giving to us that didn’t benefit the people,” Munoz said.

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