The Pryor Times

June 4, 2013

Utility rates going down

Staff Writer
Cydney Baron

— The Pryor Municipal Utlity Board voted to save customers money.

At the last meeting, members discussed a charter change in the 1970's that requires the board to reduce retail rates by a certain percentage any time the wholesale rates change.

"Our new wholesale rate is four dollars and 52 and a half cents per unit and our new retail cost is six dollars and 33 and a half cents per unit. We've saved 75 cents per unit, but returning to our customers $1.05," said MUB General Manager Gary Pruett.

"Nobody ever thought our rates would be decreasing," Pruett said.

Pruett recommended the board reduce the retail rates to 6.335 cents per unit plus varying purchase gas adjustment (which is a fluctuating rate that includes transportation rates) cost which will put MUB into compliance with the charter change. Utility customers will see the change on their bill due July 1. Pruett said people may not notice a big savings over the summer, but when the winter months come back around and gas usage goes up, the savings will add up.

The board noted this change is going to make preparing the next fiscal year budget for the gas department very challenging.

With the new city hall building nearing completion, the board discussed seeking bids for a new cash collection and computer system.

Pruett said the utility office will need to have cash collection up and running at both locations through the duration of the transition. Suggesting the board begin seeking bids, Pruett said the cost is estimated to be $35,000. This cost includes a third cash collection station not present in the current facility as the new building will have a drive-through window for utility payments.

The funds will not be deducted from the current fiscal year's funds, but be taken from the capital outlay reserve fund. Pruett said the board has been putting money into that fund for quite some time in case they ever had a new building. Furniture for the MUB offices in the new city hall will be paid for from this fund as well.

A report from Steve Powell of Mehlburger Brawley Engineering on pending projects revealed a potential problem with a bid.

"In regards to the Southridge lift station, an extensive review of Cherokee Pride Construction has been done," said Powell, referring to a Sapulpa-based company which submitted a bid for the project.

As the Pryor Wastewater Treatment Plant has recently been updated to conform to Supervisory Control and Data Aquisition (SCADA) requirements, it is crucial that the lift station be in compliance. Essentially this is a computer-run industrial control system used to monitor critical infrastructure systems and provide warnings of potential problems. SCADA is a system that can monitor and control a plant or facility’s telecommunications, water and waste control, energy, gas and transportation, according to the website.

Cherokee Pride was the apparent low bidder, but upon closer review of the bid, it was noted the pumps and controls Cherokee Pride planned to use were not in compliance.

When Powell explained the need to the contractor, he was assurred that upon being awarded the bid, Cherokee Pride would use the appropriate equipment.

"I've got real reservations about this. This contractor has done work for us before under a different name," said Pruett. "I think this will be a real battle."

Pruiet expressed concern that Cherokee Pride "left $1,800 on the table."

"I'm concerned about this contractor. So my question is this, did we get his agreement to comply in writing?" Pruett said.

"No, he refused to put it in writing. He said it would be discrimination against him," said Powell.

"This guy wants to go to battle before he even starts," said Board Chairman Jack Ledbetter.

Before it was named Cherokee Pride, the company was called Yocham Enterprising which had a "colorful past," according to Powell.

Yocham was involved in a Tulsa project that ended in scandal. According to Powell, contractors in that project were providing kick-backs to the city of Tulsa. Yocham was among them. He was formally charged wtih procurement fraud bribery and ordered to pay a $250,000 fine.

"So, it's more than just a bad job in Pryor," said Powell.

Pruett said the contractor in question had previously done work on a Pryor street. The project was done incorrectly, but the mistake was corrected without question.

After further discussion a motion was made to accept Cherokee Pride as the best low bidder contingent upon submittal of shop drawings for the pumps and  controls by 5 p.m., June 14. This would allow the board time to award the bid to the second best bidder should Cherokee Pride not be able to comply.

The motion passed.