City Beat  

May 17, 2023

Welcome to City Beat, a free weekly e-newsletter containing the latest news and information about the City of Bartlesville and related topics. Get yours delivered each week!

Peace Officer Memorial

Bartlesville Police Department Honor Guard conducted a 21-Gun Salute during the Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony held earlier today. The annual event was held at the Bartlesville Public Safety Complex, located in the 600 block of South Johnstone Avenue. Several members of the public turned out to recognize fallen Washington County peace officers. The guest speaker for the event was Clayton D. Johnson of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Water Status

Water supply shows slight improvement

Restrictions continue; Council OKs Stage 3 emergency rates

Overall water supply increased for the first time in nearly a year last week — thanks to recent rains in Southeast Kansas, where the watersheds for Hulah and Copan lakes are located.

But unfortunately, the increase isn’t enough to move the needle in Bartlesville’s drought situation, Director of Water Utilities Terry Lauritsen said this week.

“While the rains last week have not had a big impact on lake levels, we do have our first increase in water supply since last summer,” Lauritsen said. “Our water supply is currently at 56.2 percent, compared to 56.1 percent the week before. While this doesn’t solve our problems, as we are still under Stage 3 water restrictions, it does slow the progression of decline and is a step in the right direction, and that is always good news.”

Stages of the Water Shortage Ordinance are based on the percentage of overall water supply. Stage 1 kicks in when levels fall to 79-70 percent, Stage 2 is 69-60 percent, Stage 3 is 59-50 percent, and Stage 4, which is considered “critical,” is any level below 50 percent. The City entered Stage 1 of the ordinance in December 2022, and overall water supply has continued to decline at a steady rate since that time, with the exception of last week.

The area is currently under Stage 3 water restrictions as outlined in the Water Shortage Ordinance. Stage 3 restrictions limit outdoor water use to one day per week and imposes fines for violations. Additionally, the City Council on Monday voted to approve implementing Stage 3 emergency water rates, which will apply to households using 2,001 or more gallons of water per month. Stage 3 rates will affect 6,600 of the total 13,600 water customers, 7,000 of whom will not be affected.

"Emergency rate increases are intended to get people's attention and promote conservation but not be overly punitive," Lauritsen said. "For instance, if I use 25,000 gallons of water, which is about four times the volume that an average family would use, my billwith the Stage 3 emergency water rates, is going to go up $9.

"For average water consumption of 6,000 gallons per month, the bill will go up 88 cents. If a family that averages 6,000 gallons of water use a month is able to reduce their consumption by a 1,000 gallons a month, their water bill will go down, even with the emergency water rates."

In other good news, daily consumption declined last week in comparison to the previous week, Lauritsen said.

“We used 4.38 million gallons per day (mgd) last week, which is down from 4.69 mgd the week before,” he said. “The decline is likely due to a reduction in outdoor water use because of the rain, in addition to increased water rates for high-use households.”

Despite supply holding steady last week, a lot of rain is still needed in Southeast Kansas to fill Hulah and Copan lakes and bring the City’s overall water supply back up to normal, Lauritsen said.

“Over the last year, Hulah and Copan’s watershed is down from approximately 12 inches to more than 21 inches of normal rainfall,” he said. “Year to date, we’re six inches below what is normally received. Over the last two weeks, we’ve received around 1.4 inches less than what is normal. The rains last week have helped, but we’re not even at normal rainfall for the last two weeks. We need a lot more rain to start seeing runoff get to the lakes.”


Lauritsen said without enough measurable rainfall to change the picture, the City is projected to move to Stage 4 in June and could run out of water entirely as early as January 2024.

"We will likely move to Stage 4, the last stage in our ordinance and what we would consider 'critical,' in June," he said. "I think with the rains we've had recently we might have moved that back to mid to late June, but unless we get sizable rains, we're still heading toward a June threshold for being within Stage 4 water restrictions."

Lauritsen said City staff will likely recommend that the City Council consider more extreme conservation measures for heavy water users at that time.

"I suspect if we get to the 50 percent threshold we will probably look at making modifications to the ordinance to try to target these outliers, or heavier water users, in an effort to help preserve what water is left," he said.

Without intervention, the City is likely to run out of water early next year.

"Without rain and/or major reduction in consumption between now and then, we are targeted to be at roughly 15 percent in overall supply by January 2024," he said. "This is about where we were during the drought of 2001-02, so this would be a very serious situation for us."

What to do right now

The following provisions are in effect for all City of Bartlesville water customers:

  • Rates increases for customers using more than 2,000 gallons of water per month.
  • 2,001 gallons to 10,000 gallons – 5 percent increase
  • 10,001 gallons to 25,000 gallons – 10 percent increase
  • 25,001 to 50,000 gallons — 15 percent increase
  • In excess of 50,000 gallons – 20 percent increase

  • Outdoor water use is restricted to one day per week (Violations could result in a fine of $50 for the first offense up to $500 for the fifth or more offense.)
  • Even-numbered properties may water on Thursdays
  • Odd-numbered properties may water on Friday

  • Water pressure has been reduced within the distribution system to minimum levels allowed by state and federal regulations

To see the full list, see or Water Shortage Ordinance.

Note: A variance committee is in place to consider cases of undue hardship for the emergency rates only and does not apply to outdoor water use. To apply for a variance, complete the “Contact Us” form on the City’s website,, or call 918.338.4100. 

Sooner, Frontier pools to stay closed for now

City-owned pools won't open until water supply improves


City of Bartlesville-owned swimming pools will not open this summer unless water supply reaches 70 percent in time to adequately staff the facilities and apply the chemicals required to open them, City Manager Mike Bailey said Monday.


Sooner and Frontier pools, which are owned by the City but operated by the Richard Kane YMCA, normally open around Memorial Day weekend. However, due to ongoing drought conditions and a steady decline in available water supply since December 2022, the pools will not open unless the situation improves at least to the point that citizens are no longer subject to restrictions, Bailey said.


“This means our available water supply needs to reach 70 percent or above for the pools to open, and then we will open one or both pools only if there is a reasonable period of time left in the season for the YMCA to staff the facilities and apply the required chemicals in time for opening, which is approximately a two-week turnaround,” he said.


Due to severe drought conditions and declining available water supply, Bartlesville water customers have been subject to outdoor water use restrictions and emergency water rates since the City Council approved modifications to the City’s Water Shortage Ordinance in April.

The ordinance requires the closure of City-owned pools if water supply falls below 50 percent but contains no provisions on how to proceed if supply is hovering around the 50 percent threshold before the pools are opened.


“Our water shortage plan calls for the closure of the pools if we drop below 50 percent, but it is silent on what to do if the pools are not open at earlier stages,” Bailey said. “This has required us to develop guidance between City staff and the YMCA to determine how best to proceed, and these guidelines were developed as a result of those discussions.”


Bailey said he understands the decision will be met with criticism by some.


“We know this decision will not be popular with everyone,” he said. “Our pools provide space for recreation, exercise and socialization in our community, and they are an important piece of our park system and the services we provide for our citizens.

"However, we believe strongly that preserving our available water supply for as long as possible in preparation of continuing drought conditions must be our highest priority at this time. Hopefully, we will receive enough rain in the coming weeks that we can open the pools for everyone to enjoy.”


Full refunds will be made by the YMCA to anyone whose reservation is canceled due to the pools being closed. For more information, contact the YMCA at 918.336.0713.

Because you asked

Emergency rates, livestock, citations & more

We take on the latest round of water questions in today's Because You Asked. If you don't find your question or the information you need here, check previous editions of City Beat at City Beat archives.

No fines for water use

Am I going to be fined if I use more than 2,000 gallons of water a month?

No. No one is going to be cited or fined for using any amount of water. Citations apply only to outdoor water use, not to the volume of water used by each household.

In Stage 3 of the ordinance, the stage we are currently in, emergency water rates apply for households using 2,001 or more gallons of water each month. So you will pay a little more for the water used after the initial 2,000 gallons, but you will not be fined. (For more information about rates, scroll up or down in this newsletter.)

Rates are NOT double

The ordinance says Stage 3 rate increases for people using more than 2,000 gallons a day will be 105 percent of current rate. Does that mean you're charging us double?

No. It means you're paying 100 percent of the rate you normally pay plus 5 percent more for the number of gallons you use over 2,000 gallons. Thus, you would be paying 10 percent more for the gallons you use over 10,000 gallons, and so on. Here's a breakdown on Stage 3 rates:

  • 2,001 gallons to 10,000 gallons – 5 percent increase
  • 10,001 gallons to 25,000 gallons – 10 percent increase
  • 25,001 to 50,000 gallons — 15 percent increase
  • In excess of 50,000 gallons – 20 percent increase

Emergency rates: Why?

Aren't these emergency rates just like a tax increase? How is making us pay more for water going to help this situation?

It's nothing like a tax increase. It's a temporary rate increase intended to motivate water customers to use less water. In fact, higher rates and restrictions have been shown to work when little else has, far better than calls to voluntarily conserve.

Case in point, local water use has declined since restrictions were imposed on outdoor water use and emergency water rates were put into effect in April, even during a time of the year when water use typically escalates. Prior to this, the City strongly encouraged voluntary reduction, which had virtually no affect on consumption.

And for the record, the cost of even Stage 3 rates for the average water user is actually quite minimal — as little as $1 per month more for most customers. Emergency rates are a conservation tool, not a money-making endeavor.


My family/business/organization cannot afford these rate increases. What can we do?

You can apply for a variance by completing the "Contact Us" form on the City's website,, or call 918.338.4100.

Jumping the gun?

Isn't this just cyclical? Why are you closing pools and taking extreme measures when our water supply is nowhere near as low as it was in 2001-02?

All things are cyclical. The measures being taken now are an effort to ensure water is available during the down-cycle. The 2001-02 drought was the most serious experienced in this community in modern history, with overall water supply plummeting to less than 17 percent. Restrictions were not imposed until supply met the 20 percent threshold, which was arguably too late.

One of the lessons City staff learned from that experience is that municipal government needs to be more proactive in implementing water restrictions and any other measures likely to preserve the water supply.

Lakes low, river full

You always talk about how full Hulah and Copan lakes are. What about the Caney River?

The City is currently meeting local demand of approximately 4-5 million gallons of water per day, drawing solely from the Caney River. Federal law requires that 10 million gallons per day be released into the river system by the water source, which, for the Caney River, is Hulah and Copan lakes.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is releasing about 2 mgd from Hulah and about 8 mgd from Copan, due to their varying levels, 40 percent for Hulah and 54 percent for Copan as of this week. (The City has rights to 6 mgd of that 10 mgd and takes that water from the Caney River through the Caney River Pump Station, which is located in Johnstone Park.) The river is considered full until the lakes are dry enough that water can no longer be released.

Please water pets, livestock

I have livestock. Am I going to be fined if I give them water on a day other than the one day per week allowed?

Please water your livestock (and pets) as often as necessary. The Water Shortage Ordinance is intended to drastically reduce outdoor watering and irrigation, which has been proven to be extremely effective in curbing overall water use. It was never intended to contribute to possible health outcomes or death of livestock, pets or people.

Dish doing

Does doing dishes by hand use less water than a dishwasher?

It depends on how much water your dishwasher uses compared to how much water your dish "washer" uses. Both are too variable to say with any certainty.

No citations

How many citations have been issued for water violations?

None. Several warnings have been issued, which appears to have been effective as no repeat offenders have been noted.

No exceptions for outdoor use

We're not home on Fridays. Can we water on Thursdays instead? Also, somebody just gave us a tree. We didn't plant it because we didn't know it was going to rain. Can we plant it now and go ahead and water it every day?

Sorry, no. The City has no way to monitor these types of exceptions.

News & Updates

City Council hears budget, GO bond proposals

The Bartlesville City Council heard City staff proposals for the 2023-24 Fiscal Year operating and capital budgets as well as proposed projects for the upcoming General Obligation Bond Election during a workshop meeting held May 15.

No votes were taken on the items, as workshop meetings are scheduled to allow council members to discuss in-depth and/or more complicated issues facing the City. Workshop meetings are held every year prior to a public hearing and final adoption of the budgets in June. The budgets go into effect on July 1, when the new fiscal year begins.

The proposed FY 2023-24 budget is based on a projected 2 percent decline in sales tax, which is the City's primary funding source. City Manager Mike Bailey told the council in a letter issued last week that staff is projecting a decline in revenue due to uncertainties in the economy, including inflation and a possible recession.

Sales tax

"Over the last 10 years, the City’s most important revenue source, sales tax, has undergone many ups and downs, which has resulted in service contractions and expansions to the citizens of Bartlesville," Bailey said. "All City services were affected, and most departments suffered staffing decreases, including streets, parks, fire, police, and many other departments.

"As we enter Fiscal Year 2023-24, our main revenue concern, as it is in most other years, is sales tax. The performance of sales tax in FY 2022-23 was historic, and we expect to finish the year about $620,000 ahead of the previous fiscal year, which also produced record sales tax collections."

However, Bailey said, despite the growth in sales tax over the last few years, there are several issues that could impact the near future, including inflation, increasing labor costs, interest rates, and a potential recession.

"As with previous years, we have taken a conservative approach to estimating sales tax results, and due to these uncertainties, we are budgeting for a 2 percent overall decline in sales tax from FY 2022-23 to FY 2023-24," he said. "This provides a $460,000 decrease in sales tax across the entire organization."

Sales tax is expected to generate approximately $22.6 million during the next fiscal year. Sales tax revenue funds most City services and departments except utilities.


Use tax

The City's use tax, approved by the City Council last year, went into effect Jan. 1 and has yielded $1.15 million since that time. But it's difficult to project how much revenue the tax will generate over the upcoming year with just three returns in so far, Bailey said.

"Use tax is a companion tax to sales tax that was intended to close any loopholes in the sales tax law," he said. "In its simplest terms, use tax applies to anything that would have normally been subject to sales tax that didn’t get charged sales tax. These transactions range from business assets purchased out of state to the more common online purchases.

"We have received a few months of use tax at this point and are attempting to estimate the FY 2023-24 use tax amounts based on this brief history. It has been impossible to accurately estimate the impact of use tax prior to its implementation. As such, we only budgeted $400,000 in our current year, and we nearly exceeded this estimate in our first month. Based on these results, we are estimating $2.5 million in FY 2023-24."


The budget includes projections based on utility fee increases approved by the council in 2022, the third phase of which will go into effect on July 1.

A comprehensive water and wastewater rate study was conducted in fiscal year 2020-21, which included recommendations for new rates sufficient to support the operations of the system and capital fees to support mandatory improvements to the system.

The new rates were effective for customers within and outside the city limits and were phased in over a five-year period. The City Council adopted the first year of the five-year rate structure effective on July 1, 2021, and later adopted a slightly modified version of the rate structure for years two through five of the plan. The rates total a 5.5 percent increase for City utility customers.

Water Rates

  • Water base rates will not increase
  • Water incremental rates will not increase
  • Water capital investment fees will increase by about 18.5 percent

Wastewater Rates

  • Wastewater base rates will increase by about 11.6 percent
  • Wastewater incremental rates will increase by about 5.4 percent
  • Wastewater capital investment fees will increase by about 6.2 percent 

Sanitation Rates

  • Sanitation cart rates will increase by about 5.5 percent
  • Sanitation commercial rates will increase by about 10 percent

Local economy

Bailey said that despite higher labor costs potentially hampering business growth in the community, there are several signs of growth both in the retail and primary jobs sectors.

"Our restaurant offerings have increased over the last few years with the addition of a Schlotzsky’s, Tropical Smoothie Café, Scooter’s Coffee, HTeaO, and Bricktown Brewery," he said. "Existing restaurants have also undergone substantial upgrades and expansions, including Luigi’s, Wendy’s, and McAlister’s. Currently in development are a Whataburger and Jimmy’s Egg. This growth has fueled a facelift for some of our most prominent properties, and discussions about additional retail offerings in the next year are again positive."

Primary jobs have not grown quite as quickly, he said, but "there are several opportunities that are being evaluated" by the Bartlesville Development Authority.

"Additionally, the City of Bartlesville is working with the BDA and Bartlesville Redevelopment Authority to incentivize a state-of-the-art sound stage at the historic First Christian Church building. Bartlesville has played host to numerous Hollywood productions over the years, and the addition of this new sound stage would attempt to capitalize on our reputation and generous tax credits available through the State of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation.

"In addition to this economic growth, there has been our highest level of expansion of housing in Bartlesville in decades. DR Horton has constructed more than 70 new homes in the Park Place addition and has moved on to the Bison Trails subdivision. Brent Taylor has completed the infrastructure for 116 lots in the Stone Branch addition and construction of new homes has begun. Most recently, the City Council approved a PUD (Planned Unit Development) for the Oakwood Addition of Oak Park. This development should provide nearly 100 new homes.

"Overall, our economy appears to be performing well, but the same concerns addressed related to sales tax could weigh on our local economy as well."

Stabilization Reserve Fund

During the recent economic downturn, it became evident that a more effective and consistent method of accumulating reserve funds was needed. With the guidance of the City Council, staff established several mechanisms that will aid in the City’s future financial stability. These were the creation of the Stabilization Reserve Fund, Capital Reserve Fund, Auto Collision Insurance Fund, and the formalization of inner-fund reserve policies.

The City’s stabilization reserve policy calls for a contribution equal to 2 percent of the operating budget of these four funds until the maximum level is reached. The maximum level is defined as 35 percent of the operating budget of the fund. The minimum level set by the ordinance is 16 percent of the operating budget of the fund. As you can see from the results above, all funds have now reached the minimum level but are years from the maximum level.

Other items proposed

  • $1.2 million for the Stabilization Reserve Fund, which currently stands at $13.2 million.
  • The addition of two police officer positions to patrol City parks. The positions are needed due to a growing homeless population in Bartlesville, which has resulted in increased vandalization of public facilities and a fear of crime along Pathfinder Parkway.
  • The addition of a communication and marketing specialist, who will assist with content creation, management of the City's social media platforms, media requests and interviews, and goals of Bartlesville NEXT, the City's strategic plan.
  • Employee compensation increases of a 6 percent cost of living adjustment and 2.5 merit increases for all eligible employees. Similar increases are expected for union employees, police officers and firefighters, for whom negotiations are still ongoing.
  • Incentive funding for high-performing employees, who will be eligible for incentives ranging from $250 to $1,000.

Total resources and revenue in the General Fund are expected to exceed $36.5 million, with expenditures totaling $34.4 million.

Capital Projects, GO Bond

City staff also presented proposed funding for projects previously approved as part of the 5-year Capital Plan as well as projects proposed for an upcoming General Obligation Bond Election, tentatively planned for Oct. 10.

Staff is proposing asking voters to approve $12.5 million for streets, $388,050 for equipment, $2.3 million for buildings and facilities, and $2 million for parks and recreation. Projects proposed for council consideration in June include:

  • New fire station at Hensley Boulevard and Virginia Avenue
  • Improvements to Pathfinder Parkway
  • Security lighting in City-owned parks
  • Wayfinding signs
  • Douglass Park playground shade structure

The total cost proposed for the bond issue is $17.6 million for a period of four years. The council is expected to consider a final list of projects and officially call for the election during an upcoming meeting. Voters will decide the outcome in the Oct. 10 election.

Fire hydrant installation

City crews prepare for the installation of a new fire hydrant at the intersection of Johnstone Avenue and Adams Boulevard after a vehicle hit the hydrant at that location last week. The installation should be complete today.

Photo by Mike Wilt

Director's Cut

City code enforcement policies get overhaul

The Community Development Department has been busy streamlining the department's code enforcement policies and process to help improve the overall appearance and safety of our city. Community Development Director Larry Curtis fills us in on the changes and what they mean for the community in today's Director's Cut.


First, what is included in code enforcement process?


Code Enforcement Policies and Procedures applies to things like weeds and trash, zoning codes, and what we call "non-weed and trash" code violations. Enforcement of these important City codes ensure that our neighborhoods are safe and the overall appearance of our city meets a basic standard.


The need for policies and procedures is crucial as it will help address the growing concerns of code violations in our community. Weeds and trash in residential and commercial properties not only affect the aesthetic appeal of our city, but they also attract vermin and pose health hazards to our citizens. Similarly, non-compliance with zoning codes can lead to unwanted development that could affect the safety and well being of the residents. Non-weed and trash code violations, such as abandoned or inoperable vehicles, can create eyesores in our neighborhoods.


Why did the policies and procedures need to be streamlined?


The policies and procedures needed to be streamlined to ensure consistent and efficient enforcement of code violations, simplify the reporting process for citizens, and create a clear framework for addressing weeds and trash, zoning code, and non-weed and trash code violations in a timely manner.


The new policies and procedures for code enforcement are comprehensive and provide clear and specific measures to address each of these code violations. It includes provisions for regular inspections and timely enforcement of violations, as well as issuing citations and fines to property owners who do not comply with the regulations. It also provides information on how citizens can report code violations to the appropriate authorities and the timeline for resolution.


What are the biggest changes that will affect people the most?


The biggest changes that will affect people the most include:


  • Clear guidelines and expectations — The new policies and procedures will provide clear guidelines and expectations for property owners regarding the maintenance of their properties. This will help individuals understand their responsibilities and the consequences of non-compliance.


  • Timely enforcement — The streamlined procedures will emphasize timely enforcement of code violations. This means that violations will be addressed promptly, ensuring a quicker resolution and a cleaner environment for the community.


  • Enhanced reporting mechanisms — The new policies will introduce improved reporting mechanisms, making it easier for citizens to report code violations. This will empower individuals to take an active role in maintaining the integrity and appearance of their neighborhoods.


  • Consistent consequences — The updated policies will ensure consistent consequences for non-compliance. Property owners who fail to address code violations may face citations, fines, or other appropriate actions. This consistency will help insure a sense of fairness and encourage compliance across the community.


How can people learn more about these changes?


To learn more about these changes and the new policies and procedures for code enforcement, we invite everyone to reach out to the Community Development Department. We're located on the second floor of City Hall, 401 S. Johnstone Ave. We can also be reached by calling 918.338.4238. More information is available on the City's website,


Is there anything else you would like to say?


We would like to emphasize the importance of open communication and collaboration between the City and the residents. By working together, we can effectively implement and enforce the new policies and procedures for code enforcement, ensuring a cleaner, safer, and more attractive community for everyone. Additionally, I encourage individuals to stay engaged, actively report code violations, and participate in community initiatives aimed at maintaining the integrity of our neighborhoods. Together, we can make a significant impact and create a better living environment for all.

Team City

Jobs/open positions

Are you looking for a career that offers competitive pay, excellent benefits and an opportunity to serve your community? Look no further! The City of Bartlesville is currently accepting applications for the following positions:

Community Service Officer - Police Department

Maintenance Repair Technician I / II

Sanitation Collector II

Parks Summer Positions

Maintenance Worker - Street Department

Applications for firefighter and police officer positions are accepted on a continual basis. To apply for these or any other open position, or for more information visit the City's website,

Volunteer Opportunities


Board, Committee & Commission Openings

The City of Bartlesville has numerous boards, committees and commissions that are driven by citizen volunteers. All citizens are encouraged and welcome to apply. Board applications are available online and in the City Manager’s Office, located on the second floor of City Hall, 401 S. Johnstone Ave. Applications are kept on file for two years. To view a complete list, see Boards, Committees & Commissions.

The City currently has openings on the following committees/boards:

  • One opening on the Ambulance Commission
  • One opening on the Bartlesville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Board of Directors (Visit Bartlesville)
  • Two upcoming openings on the Park Board
  • Two upcoming opening on the Board of Adjustment

For more information, visit the City's website,

Kelli Williams, Editor

401 S. Johnstone Ave.

Bartlesville, OK 74003


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