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Stormwater Utility, Comprehensive Plan Keep Council Busy - February 5, 2017

STORMWATER UTILITY, COMPREHENSIVE PLAN KEEP COUNCIL BUSY

It has been a busy two weeks.

Last week we had the third in a series of public education forums on stormwater. This meeting focused on our infrastructure challenges as a community.

The presentation was made by Duke Altman of Austin who was the primary consultant on our Storm Water Utility Master Plan. We also had a wonderful panel made up of local experts. About 80 people attended. Great questions were asked and we learned about creeks, streams, detention ponds and more.

Did you know that we have over 297 miles of open channels, 350 miles of creeks and nearly 300 detention ponds and dams? I was surprised by the number of bridges and culvert systems. We drive over them every day and don’t notice them, but there are over 500 of them, and should they go out, the street will be impassable. That is what happened on Havenbrook at the bridge spanning the Brookhaven Creek. It was an unexpected collapse of underground stormwater pipes, possibly preventable, and cost $450,000, even using city staff and equipment to make the repair. This is just another example of why we so desperately need to have a stormwater utility.

Tuesday night Council received an update on the Comprehensive Plan. We have a group of consultants working with a representative group of 48 citizens to help us craft our 2040 Comprehensive Master Plan. Our last Comp plan was completed 12 years ago and a lot of things have changed since then. A comprehensive plan is a long-range plan, developed with much citizen participation, which allows us to address issues, adapt to change, and benefit from opportunities as our city grows.

As Mayor I am frequently asked to address youth groups from elementary through college age. Last week I was able to talk about my role as Mayor and our City government to both Leadership Norman and Tomorrow’s Leaders. Our City Attorney Jeff Bryant and I had a great time doing a mock Council meeting with the high school students. They took it really seriously and did a good job, and they did not talk nearly as long as some of us do.

Maybe the best story I heard was about our animal welfare center. Amazingly a couple of weeks ago it was almost empty. This is a result of staff and volunteers really ramping up our foster and adoption programs. But apparently last week they got a request to send ten rescue animals to Oregon, via plane. The program is a collaborative effort between Fetch Fido a Flight, a local non-profit, and our staff. The staff does the extra paper work, blood tests and immunizations to make it happen and the non-profit pays for the cost of the flight. Almost all of the animals had been adopted before their plane landed.

I will close with my visit with the very bright young man from Angola. He is in his last year at OU studying Aviation Management and plans to return to Angola in June to play his part in making his country a better place to live. He recently attended a Council committee meeting and wanted to learn more about our democracy and local government. When asked what he thought the biggest problem was in Norman he said, “I look at your town and my town, you do not have any problems.” He lives in Luanda, the capital city with a million people, most of them poor, even though the cost of living there is very high. As little as 10 years ago their country had been involved in a long bloody civil war. I understand that we do have problems, but it is all relative. So often we fail to appreciate and feel gratitude for what we have.

Contact Miller via email or at 405-366-5402.

(Mayor Lynne Miller’s article appears in the Norman Transcript every other Sunday.)