‘Justified’ cause 

On Oct. 19, Oklahoma Gazette published the top 10 residential and top 10 commercial users of Oklahoma City water.

At No. 8 on the list of residential users provided by the city was an account for Rodney and Shauna Timms, 7515 S.W. 119th, showing around 2.1 million gallons of water used between September 2010 to August 2011.

On Nov. 4, the Gazette received a letter from the law offices of Fellers Snider, which had been retained by the Timms, stating the two had been portrayed as “excessive and wasteful” water users, and that that portrayal was “false and misleading” and “invades the Timms’ privacy, and casts them in a false light.”

“The Timms’ home … is zoned and used for agricultural purposes,” wrote attorney Regina Marsh. “The Gazette inaccurately listed the Timms as residential water users. The article fails to mention that the Timms’ property, and hence the water usage at such property, supports and maintains approximately 70 head of livestock. Of course, the Timms’ care for these animals requires significantly more water than the typical ‘residential’ uses.”

Public records from the Cleveland County Assessor’s Office show that the land in question is zoned agricultural and has a home sitting on it.

However, a single water-utility account
with a residential customer code is used at the property, said Debbie
Ragan, public information and marketing director for the Oklahoma City
utilities department.

While the city does have customer codes for agricultural use, certain qualification guidelines exist.

“There
should be no structure of any kind. If there’s a house or mobile home,
it must be inspected and confirmed unlivable and have no utility service
— basically, a barn,” Ragan said. “If there is electric service, just
to verify bills or minimum bills, (it must be) for security light only.”

She said that because the Timms’ water
account also serves the home with a garage — at 3,694 and 1,070 square
feet, respectively, according to county assessor records — it is
considered a residential account. No second agricultural water account
exists for that address, Ragan said.

“He
may do some agricultural activities with his water, but with this large
house and garage, there’s only one meter, and so this qualifies him for
a residential customer code and not agricultural,” she said. “It’s
understandable if he had 70 head of cattle; his water use is pretty
justified.”

Editor’s note: Oklahoma Gazette plans to include agricultural accounts in future articles on city water use.

Photo by Mark Hancock

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