The newly elected mayor of Commerce said Tuesday, shortly after his election victory was announced, his first priority would be to make an effort to reduce water bills for city residents.
“We have to do it,” said Kenneth Duboise, a 67-year-old grandfather and local business owner. “The people in this town are working people and they can't keep on paying these high water bills.”
Tuesday, Duboise defeated former councilman Kenneth L. Leggett and current councilman Jack Julian in a special election called after John Crawford resigned as mayor. On an election day when temperatures topped 100 degrees Duboise received 100 votes., Leggett received 81 votes and Julian 60 votes.
Dubois will succeed Crawford, who resigned in April shortly after being elected to what would have been his first full term. Crawford was the fifth consecutive Commerce mayor to leave office without completing a full term. Four of his predecessors resigned before completing their terms, and one, Bill Rogers, died while in office. Dubois' term is set to end in April of 2010.
“I knew with the heat, turnout would be low,” Duboise said. “I thought there would be a lot more votes and that I'd get more votes than I did today, but older folks aren't going to go out on a day as hot as today.”
Duboise said his effort to reduce water bills for city residents would begin with a request to council members that they pass savings from the recent payoff of a loan that funded construction of a water tower on to consumers. Council members voted to pay the loan off in January, using profits from a federal-funded yard remediation project undertaken by city crews. City officials waited until the last yard was remediated for lead contamination before sending $554,000 to the Oklahoma Water Resources Board to pay off the loan. That payment was sent last week. The payoff will save the city about $3,200 a month in payments to the Board.
Duboise said he would also like to investigate eliminating a $5 surcharge on water bills that currently goes to the city's water works improvement fund. The surcharge was created in 1998 to fund payments on a loan to construct the tower, he said.
“Collecting that surcharge all those years should have paid off that loan, but it didn't and we still needed to increase water bills for customers,” he said. “Now that it's paid off we need to look at getting rid of the surcharge.”