STILLWATER, Okla. — Pat Darlington and Jay Kuruvilla are running for Stillwater City Council Seat 3. The position is held by Chuck Hopkins, who couldn’t seek re-election because of term limits. Darlington and Kuruvilla answer five questions from the Stillwater News Press.
1 The city transfers nearly $18 million every year from the Stillwater Utility Authority to the city of Stillwater to balance the city's budget. Should the city raise taxes or cut services to reduce its dependency on the SUA or not make any changes? Why?
Darlington: ”The SUA is a public trust created by city ordinance in 1979. As described on the SUA website, it was established to operate and maintain the city utilities system, which provides water, electric, wastewater and waste collection to Stillwater residents, businesses and industries. The dollars we each pay each month for these services go to the SUA. Using a designated formula, the SUA transfers money to the city’s general fund. Changing the system seems unnecessary. Raising taxes; not too much latitude there. Cutting services? Perhaps exploring the designated formula would provide new possibilities.”
Kuruvilla: “I believe that it should remain the same. It is not uncommon in other Oklahoma municipalities for a utilities authority to transfer money to a city’s general fund. Right now, the Council has done a great job of staying in the green. It is important to remember that the SUA was an investment that the residents of Stillwater made in the 1970s and the transfer of revenue is equivalent of a dividend on that investment.”
2 Residential zoning has become a problem in Stillwater because the City Council has rezoned strips of land to allow large multi-family apartment complexes adjacent to neighborhoods filled with single-family homes. How would you balance the need for student housing and the privacy desire of homeowners?
Kuruvilla: “As a city councilor, you have the opportunity to have an influence in the development within the city. The best way to balance the need for student housing and the desire for privacy of nearby homeowners is through dialogue. This is a difficult situation and there is no ‘one’ right or wrong answer. There needs to be plenty discussion between the developer, city leaders and residents of the affected neighborhood to guarantee the best decision. Moving forward, it will then take decisive action and courage to make decisions.”
Darlington: “I have been a property owner in Stillwater for 37 years and have been on both sides of this issue. Thoughtful evaluation of needs for housing, clear planning, and well-articulated expectations for development provide a good starting place for these types of issues. The Comprehensive Plan 2030 as a work of the residents of Stillwater and approved by the City Council is a good example of being proactive rather than reactive. Helping ourselves out of the “us vs. them” mindset into one of “we are in this together” is an attitude shift for which we are all responsible.