Edmond wastewater
Kris Neifing, the Edmond Public Works Authority's director of water resources, speaks to the Edmond City Council on Monday, May 13, 2024. (Joe Tomlinson)

After members of The Edmond Alliance voiced concern about incentivizing development north of city limits that could spur commercial options and decrease sales tax revenue, the Edmond City Council voted 4-1 to deny a wastewater treatment agreement that would make the municipal sewer system process additional load from residents who live outside of town.

Mayor Darrell Davis voted to approve the agreement between the Edmond Public Works Authority and Logan County Rural Water District 1, while the other four council members voted against it. Meanwhile, the council also recommended spending more than $6 million for full renovations to the leaking Pelican Bay Aquatic Center after the 2025 swim season.

While the idea of servicing wastewater treatment outside the city limits may seem peculiar, Kris Neifing, the EPWA director of water resources, noted that the city trust maintains similar agreements with the town of Arcadia for water and wastewater treatment. Neifing also said Edmond provides wastewater treatment to some areas of OKC through shared sewer lines on its south and west borders.

Neifing estimated the proposed 40-year agreement would have brought the city about $2.5 million to $5 million in revenue annually from new ratepayers in the unincorporated service areas around Edmond’s city limits. A public trust governed separately by the Edmond City Council, the EPWA is currently constructing a new water intake structure and expanding its water plant and water resource recovery facility. In total, those projects are estimated to cost upward of $460 million.

Neifing said he believes the agreement would have reduced the impact of current and future bills for Edmond residents.

“[Edmond residents] have been asked to front a lot of money for (water infrastructure) improvements out there,” Neifing said.

However, members of The Edmond Alliance, a 501(c)(4) social welfare group focused on policy impacting business and development in the city, expressed concern that the agreement will encourage development outside of Edmond’s city limits and into Logan County — where the city cannot collect sales tax.

“To me, all we’re doing is simply incentivizing financially another group of people outside of our community to take our sales tax dollars,” said Derek Turner, a longtime real estate developer in Edmond. “There’ll be a great incentive to be up there because they have sewer, they don’t have regulation controls, they don’t have the same building requirements we have. They don’t have any of that.”

Sales tax leakage among wastewater agreement concerns

If the agreement were approved, the Edmond Public Works Authority would have provided wastewater treatment service to each area outlined in red. (Screenshot)

If the agreement had been approved, LCRWD1 planned to construct a wastewater collection system and the delivery infrastructure required to connect with EPWA’s wastewater system for transport to and processing of raw sewage at Edmond’s Coffee Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, 1600 N. Midwest Boulevard.

With the proposal denied, Neifing said LCRWD1 plans to move forward with the permitting process for three or more package plants that could add more pollution upstream in Cowbell Creek and Coffee Creek, thus triggering additional remediation requirements for Edmond downstream.

“The dirtier the stream coming to the plant where we discharge, the more we have to clean that up, potentially,” Neifing said. “It’s not guaranteed, and I’m not a fan of using scare tactics, so I’m not going to say that they’re just going to pollute the whole city of Edmond because that’s not the intent of the Clean Water Act, but it’s not going to help anything either.”

However, during the public hearing portion of the item, Turner questioned city staff’s projected revenue increase from the project.

“I mean, our whole community is 59 some-odd square miles. It’s about 56,000 acres, so how are we going to get 10 to 20 percent of our (annual wastewater utility) revenue out of 1,900 acres, especially if only two of sites can actually be developed?” Turner asked.

Josh Moore, a homebuilder and former Edmond city councilman who is also a member of The Edmond Alliance, feared the agreement would place Edmond’s developers and builders at a disadvantage.

“When an Edmond developer on one side of Waterloo (Road) is required to spend six to nine months gaining their approvals, follow all of Edmond’s zoning and construction codes, meet all building inspections, and pay all Edmond fees including possible development impact fees, while another developer across Waterloo with Edmond sewer doesn’t have to do the same — it just doesn’t make sense to me,” Josh Moore said.

Moore also expressed concern about the city losing sales tax revenue by incentivizing development in unincorporated Logan County.

“Not only do our businesses rely on customers to pay their bills, our city relies on sales tax collections to operate. It’s a two-way street,” Moore said. “If we’re currently projecting a flat budget for the foreseeable future, this would be a time to focus on the Edmond businesses and help them thrive, not facilitate the creation of new businesses outside of our city limits.”

Prior to the vote, Davis acknowledged sales tax leakage on the south and west side of Edmond to Oklahoma City, but he claimed new residential development to the north could still benefit the city.

“From the west to the southwest, it’s not leakage, it’s a full-throttle flood of sales tax dollars because of Edmond and who we are,” Davis said. “Now, do we benefit from those stores sitting over there? Absolutely. Would we benefit from something being across in Logan County? Absolutely.”

Prior to Monday night’s vote, Ward 2 Councilman Barry Moore said he went “back and forth” about his decision, but ultimately he voted against the proposal out of concern for losing sales tax to Edmond’s north.

“I mentioned to the city manager the other day, if you drive south out of Wichita, Kansas, and head this direction, the first really major intersection you’re going to come to is Waterloo and I-35, just a few miles from Covell (Road) and I-35.” Moore said. “And if the developers of that piece of land are listening — build something out there, please.

“I’ve thought about it, I don’t want to have a hand in developing that corner for retail that could potentially harm us. That’s my view.”

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Myrtha Pools recommended for Pelican Bay renovations

Pelican Bay water leaks
Owned by the City of Edmond, Pelican Bay Aquatic Center is located at 1034 S. Bryant Ave. (Joe Tomlinson)

Also Monday, the Edmond City Council recommended an estimated $6.26 million in renovations at Pelican Bay Aquatic Center, which leaked an estimated 20,000 gallons of water each operational day last summer.

Council members did not take a vote on the item, but they recommended city staff to advance discussions with Myrtha Pools. While the company’s proposal was the most expensive of the three options outlined by city staff, council members favored Myrtha owing to the contractor’s 25-year warranty.

“Looking at the warranties, I feel like it’s the best investment or best use of our money to go with the first option,” said Ward 3 Councilwoman Christin Mugg.

Over the winter months, two major leaks at the facility were repaired, and the city pool and water park is set to open Friday, May 24. In March, the city contracted with Sunbelt Pools to provide ongoing maintenance.

However, the full renovations are not expected to start construction until after the 2025 swim season. Andrews said the timeline would allow design to begin this summer and documentation to be completed by 2025. The 2025 swim season would occur between bidding and the beginning of construction, Andrews said.

“When all this is done, it’s going to look like a brand new facility,” said Sara Andrews with GH2 Architects, the city’s consultant on the project.

However, the cost estimate discussed Monday does not include anticipated design services.

“From all the information that we have right now, it would cost $6.3 million to make all the improvements that are put in front you. In addition to that, we’re still working on the design scope that will be in excess of $500,000,” said Andy Conyers, assistant city manager of administration.

The full Pelican Bay renovations include replacing the entire pool deck and retaining walls near slides, determining the cause of structural issues, repairing leaks, refreshing building interiors, replacing the zero entry play structure, refinishing the slide structure and flume interiors, reconfiguring piping, replacing circulation and feature pumps, and upgrading to safety flooring at the splash pad. The city is also seeking to replace most splash pad features but retain and refinish the pelican spray feature.