Stillwater News Press

Q5 Interviews

March 22, 2014

QUICK 5: Stillwater City Council election: Seat 3 foes look at electricity, taxes

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 answered five questions from the Stillwater News Press.

1 The city’s half- cent sales tax for specific transportation projects expires in 2016. Should city officials develop specific transportation projects and ask voters to extend the sales tax for those projects, or ask residents to extend the sales tax based upon the city’s pavement management strategy?

Darlington: ”The strategy shift in the Transportation Department from “Pavement Maintenance Process” to “Pavement Management Program” is a thoughtful and proactive way of making the most of limited capital for street maintenance and preservation. In anticipation of extending the sales tax, I would like use a combination approach. Naming specific transportation projects communicates intentions and provides visible accountability to citizens. Allowing transportation to approach “pavement as a system” through the Pavement Management Program allows flexibility in planning and scheduling in the most efficient manner. Important— half-cent tax provides enough to maintain streets — not enough to cover costs of major improvement projects.”

Kuruvilla: “After talking to a various people in our community and asking them what the first is tangible issue City Council can work on, a majority of them said roads/infrastructure. It is clear that action needs to be taken. City officials need to create multiple plans and strategies to present to the public before the expiration date. One of those strategies should include the city’s pavement management strategy but before we extend sales tax, we need to make sure we have explored all of our options and let the people decide what the best solution is.”

2 Stillwater recently signed a new power contract with the Grand River Dam Authority. In the contract, the GRDA will pay Stillwater to generate electricity. Should the Stillwater Utility Authority proceed with plans to build a new power generation station? Why or why not?

Kuruvilla: “This is a great Idea and the city should proceed with the plans to build a new power station. This power station creates revenue for the city, meaning that the debt will be repaid and the city will make a profit. Having this power plant will add another valuable asset for our city. This contract benefits our city and I do not see any reason to not proceed with this plan.”

Darlington: “It sounds almost too good to be true … which makes me cautious. The proposed new station would have higher capability of production—56 megawatts vs. 35 megawatts. The amount GRDA pays Stillwater for having a generation station capable of producing electricity is set by formula based on capacity. Current capacity provides a significant amount of revenue to the city—approximately $1.2 million annually; it is estimated that with a new, more efficient, higher capacity station income could increase to $4.5 million annually. $3.6 million would be a nice increase in revenue without any taxpayer or rate-payer increase. What are the downsides?”

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