Water, or the lack thereof, was the main topic of both the regular Altus Municipal Authority meeting, and the regular Altus City Council meeting Tuesday night.
Matt Warren, with the Bureau of Reclamation, gave a briefing on the status of water storage at Tom Steed Lake. Also on hand was Will Archer, director at Tom Steed. Warren’s briefing included information recently given at their district board meeting that charted water fluctuation and precipitation history. In short, Warren said that if current drought conditions continue, the lake could be depleted in 2016.
Warren went on to say that although the reservoir was designed to the handle worst drought of recorded history, the weather can be unpredictable, so water conservation measures may be necessary. Archer said that Tom Steed Lake currently has 36% treatable water in it, and as it gets lower, the water is going to become harder, as well as harder to treat.
The recommendation to try and reduce Altus’ allocated water supply by 20% was made, but said that since Altus rarely uses their allocated amounts, the more realistic recommendation would be to reduce what we actually use by 10%.
One way to accomplish the reduction was on the regular Council agenda - water conservation initiatives. This would be to draw an invisible line through the City of Altus at Bradford/Falcon, allowing watering north and south on odd-even days. Other measures would be to only allow car washing at commercial facilities, and not to water between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Although tickets/fines were not agreed upon at the meeting, it was noted that if the citizens of Altus know what is needed, they will step up and do what is asked to conserve water.
Bob Stephenson then addressed the Council about seeking professional services through publication of an RFQ (request for qualifications) or RFP (request for proposals) to conduct the necessary study, survey and analysis of the City’s “Round Timber” well field to determine current water availability, potential yield, and quality. He said that depending on the extent, cost could be anywhere from $15,000 to $75,000. Stephenson said, “We need to start looking at a contingency plan in case the drought continues.” Even if the study shows the project to be viable, the yield would not provide all of the water needed, but it would be a great source for supplemental water.
Councilman Rick Henry said, “Running out of water is not an option. This is critical, the time is critical. I think this is a good and responsible thing to do.”
The motion to continue with the study was approved by all councilmen.
Other water related agenda items were to authorize staff to seek bids for contracting installation of a new segment of 10” water distribution line west of English Village Nursing Home south of Falcon Road at a cost of $30,000 to $40,000; and to replace a water line and damaged concrete at 812 Rosehaven Drive after a water main failure, at a cost of $15,000 to $25,000. Both items were approved.
In regular session, Council agreed on a recommendation from the Altus/Southwest Area Economic Development Corporation to delete the position of Business Development Director from the City of Altus, and to transfer the current salary funds for the position from the City to the EDC. The recommendation was approved with the contingency on a budget amendment item to appear on the next agenda.
The annual evaluation of the Planning and Development Director, Barbara Burleson, was held in executive session with no vote taken.
At the end of the meeting, under Council member’s comments, Jack Smiley said that he wanted to request a Utility Committee meeting as soon as possible to discuss why some water customers, although they have signed contracts, are being allowed to go - sometimes double - over their allotted water. He said he felt it wasn’t fair to ask our citizens to conserve water when we are allowing others to go over their allotted amounts on a regular basis. Another suggestion from Smiley was to find other uses for some of our waste water - such as using it to water the golf course.
Councilman Mike Patterson wanted to recognize local citizens Gerald Wallace and his wife for their continued efforts to keep the ditches near their home cleaned out.
Junior Rowland said he wanted to give an “Atta Boy” to those workers who helped with the recent water main break.
Mayor David Webb commented on how well the City Christmas Party went and appreciated all of those who participated.
Elizabeth Gray commented on Christmas in the Park, stating that it would be open for visits from their volunteer Santa Friday through Sunday from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. She also invited anyone who wanted to participate to come to their “Battle of the Badges” blood drive on Thursday.