|Posted on March 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM|
OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager was honored to be among many to be invited to participate in Mayor Bill Shewey’s State of the City Address Monday, March 04, 2013 in Enid. The breakfast was held at the recently renovated and beautiful Convention Hall. Mayor Shewey was happy to report on Enid’s accomplishments over the past year. Whether it’s was the low unemployment rate of 3.5% for the Enid metro area, the growth in population to over 52,000 or the fact that Enid has been able to track a significant growth in jobs for 2012---Mayor Shewey was proud to say that “Enid is Still Moving”.
He continued by reporting that their local sales tax revenue was on an upward trend at 10-12% above previous years and that their city had been recognized as one of the top 10 small cities in America for affordable housing. The Enid Event Center is also set to open in June.
As the Mayor emphasized Enid’s quality of life, he reminded the audience that Tuesday, March 5, the citizens would have the opportunity to vote on the “Quality of Life” initiative that will impact the city’s parks and recreation system when voters consider two questions that would ensure the upgrade to this program. The $50 million bond proposal will allow Enid to be prepared for the next decade of growth and quality of life needs for all of Enid to enjoy. We wish Enid success as they continue to move forward!
|Posted on January 29, 2013 at 2:55 PM|
OML Welcomes Broken Arrow’s New City Manager
As 2013 commenced, Carolyn Stager, OML’s executive director, began her year visiting as many municipalities as possible. She began with Broken Arrow where she welcomed Thom Moton, the new city manager to the state. Armed with information for the new manager, she and Kelly Danner, OML’s information specialist, met with Moton and City Attorney Beth Anne Wilkening, to discuss what OML had to offer as well as some of the issues Moton was about to face in the upcoming legislative session.
As Stager went through OML’s 2013 legislative priorities, it became apparent that Moton was already familiar with these items. He explained that the Broken Arrow council had passed a resolution in support of OML’s position on the ODEQ Public Water Supply fees and notified ODEQ of the action taken.
Moton shared his concerns about transportation funding. He felt that the current formulas need to be changed. He spoke of an initiative in North Carolina in which they had taken legislators on a “school bus” tour through municipal roads, giving them the opportunity to experience first hand what the real needs were. The tour resulted in legislation being passed based on a percentage of roads maintained plus growth. Moton also suggested OML take a look at a plan from South Carolina which was a ‘model pennies for roads’ plan that has apparently proven to be successful.
The Rental Registration legislation, which gives cities and towns some administrative oversight over rental properties within their municipal limits, is of interest to Moton. He said that even though the majority of Broken Arrow’s housing is owner occupied, it is important to have the registration process in order for the city to know who owns property within the community in order to enforce any code issues. Danner also shared that the City of Del City has been successful with their program that requires an inspection before a residence can be rented.
The visit with Thom Moton was enjoyable and informative. OML is happy to welcome him to our great state and look forward to his many years of service on the OML board of directors as the alternate representative for Broken Arrow.
Lindsay City Manager’s Family History Rich in Government Service
During the Lindsay Goodwill Tour, Stager met with Lindsay city manager Luke Olson. It would seem that public service is part of the Olson family DNA. Olson’s father is a long-time city manager currently serving in North Carolina while his brother is currently working for the governor of Florida. Olson moved to Lindsay a couple of years ago after working for the city of Kearney, Nebraska. In October of last year, he and his wife celebrated the birth of their daughter, Savannah.
The city of Lindsay currently has one hotel and Olson is in the process of securing a second hotel in the near future.
The drilling industry continues to be active with close to 250 permits issued in the region.
The city has see a steady increase in sales tax revenue each month, with two grocery stores contributing to that rate and the local Wal-Mart, the largest generator of sales tax for the city.
Olson is actively working to secure additional business entities as well as new restaurants. At this time there are a few businesses outside the city limits which Olson would like to see annexed into the town. However, legislation passed a few years ago resulted in annexation restrictions making it a little more challenging to incorporate them.
The Lindsay Fire Department consists of 10 full-time firefighters and has recently unionized. They also have a 16-person volunteer fire unit to assist with the needs of the community.
Lindsay is currently under a DEQ consent order on wastewater but after receiving a CDBG grant, they are hopeful that these funds will help with the needed improvements.
The city has a thirty-year contract to sell water to the rural water district.
Lindsay owns a nine-hole golf course outside of town and, as with most municipally run courses, is not profitable at this time.
EMS funding continues to be a struggle for Lindsay, as it is for many communities. The service region includes 22,000 people and with the city operating EMS, it must be financially supplemented by the city trust (approximately $1 million last year) just to keep it operating.
Luke has a good relationship with his local legislators and already had a follow-up visit with Rep. Lisa Billy who had attended the OML Legislative Committee meeting the day before Stager’s visit to Lindsay.
Alex Exudes Small Town Charm
The charm of a small town was certainly ever present when Director Stager visited Alex recently. She was fortunate enough to meet with Charlet Penney, the clerk/treasurer for the town. Penney is originally from Chickasha but moved to Alex as a child and attended school there as well. She also served time on the town board, as well as serving as mayor. When the long-time clerk/treasurer retired, Penney resigned her board seat in order to take over the clerk-treasurer duties. During Stager’s visit, several citizens with a variety of concerns came to city hall, showing Stager that no matter the size of the municipality, people need assistance with a wide range of issues.
The town board consists of three members that serve four-year terms. At the time of Stager’s visit, they were preparing for an election to fill two vacant trustee positions. The board meets every third Monday of each month.
Alex has a water superintendent, three police officers and a volunteer fire department that is operated through the county.
The school district has approximately 400 students in Pre-K through 12 and includes students from the nearby town of Bradley.
The town’s sales tax revenues remain fairly constant generating between $7,000 and $10,000 per month. These revenues come from two convenience stores, a flower shop, and a boutique called Callie’s Shabby Chic.
Alex is on water wells, which the superintendent has checked every month. Two years ago the town of Alex was able to purchase a new water tower.
Penney is very proud of her community and the contributions that are made on behalf of the businesses in Alex.
A new park is being built in Alex. The local First National Bank branch out of Chickasha, recently donated funds allowing the town to add a pavilion to the park’s plans. The town also received a grant from ASCOG, which will allow the town to build walking paths along the park. The town plans to have fundraising events to secure funds for other items such as playground equipment.
In the small amount of time Stager spent in Alex, she saw a community that cares about each other, a clerk/treasurer that takes care of each and every member of her community with grace and ease. Stager witnessed Penney welcoming a new resident with kindness and information and listened as Penney calmed an upset mother. No matter how large or small the community is, people that live there are the same and need professionals like Charlet Penney on their side.
Guthrie’s New City Manager Brings High Energy
During her tour of Guthrie, Carolyn Stager had the privilege of meeting Guthrie’s new high energy and progressive city manager, Sereniah Breland. Breland comes to Oklahoma from Texas where she served in several communities while there. Breland and her fiancée are settling into Guthrie and look forward to purchasing a home in the near future. As Stager and Breland spoke, there were many comparisons between how municipal government in Texas was funded vs. Oklahoma funding for cities and towns.
Without the ad valorem tax Breland was accustomed to receiving to fund operations in Texas, she is finding this issue to be one of her biggest challenges since arriving last October. Although the hotel/motel taxes are less than in Texas; there are fewer restrictions with how cities are allowed to utilize the funds. Guthrie’s sales tax revenues have been steady and last month they were up from where they were a year ago.
Breland questioned the lack of vehicle inspections in Oklahoma and thought it would be a great source of transportation funding for cities and towns.
She believes Guthrie needs to improve on activities for their youth. The town has made improvements to the skate park and they have a public pool but feel there is still room for improvements in this area.
While in Texas, Breland was active in the Texas City Managers Association (TCMA) and plans to be just as active with the City Management Association of Oklahoma (CMAO). She attended the CMAO Fall Meeting in Edmond and the Winter Conference in Stillwater in January.
Over the course of their conversation, Breland said she fell in love with Guthrie on her first visit. With Guthrie being a smaller community than she was used to working in Texas; being recognized when she was at the grocery store or at CVS was a new experience for her. She loves the sense of community in beautiful Guthrie.
Stroud Known for Popular Rock Cafe
During the visit to Stroud OML Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with City Manager Tim Schook and Clerk-Treasurer Gayle Thornton.
As it is with so many Oklahoma towns and cities, DEQ issues are ever present in Schook’s mind, which prompted a comprehensive conversation on the matter when Stager brought the information regarding OML’s position on the proposed public water supply fee increase to this attention. They talked about OML’s position regarding the $500,000 fee increase, which was to be spread evenly over ‘all’users of the system.
The City of Stroud does not utilize the ODEQ lab and instead conducts their testing with an outside, private company. Schook also informed Stager that Stroud has been under a consent order since 2007 and has recently obtained an OWRB loan, an ODOC grant and ARRA monies. These funds have allowed the city to move forward with some badly needed water infrastructure updates on a variety of projects. Although DEQ is a frequent visitor to Stroud, Schook feels he has a good working relationship with them.
After the horrific May 1999 tornado, the once popular Factory Outlet Mall’s parcel of land still sits vacant. Schook stated that the Sac & Fox Nation owns one-half of the property and there has been talk of opening a casino.
For the first time, Stroud participated in the 2012 ICSC cooperative booth in Dallas, TX and also attended the OKC event, which was hailed as a success. Like most communities, Stroud continues to search for new tax-paying businesses for the community.
Stroud is also known for the popular Rock Café along Route 66 which, although still open, has been put up for sale by its current owner. The Daily Oklahoman recently featured the café with a nice write-up reminding its readers of the many celebrities that have enjoyed the café over the years.
Three of the major issues Stroud is facing include the DEQ consent order, ambulance funding, and 911 funding. As more customers switch to cell phones and many discontinue hard line phones in their homes, the PSAP’s are facing the real possibility of failing financially. Even though this is a critical public safety issue that requires immediate attention, the possibility of raising taxes on cell phones for this purpose has not allowed it to gain much traction in the legislature. Fortunately, Schook feels the new House member, Rep. Jason Smalley, who replaced long-time legislator Danny Morgan, will be sensitive to the needs of Stroud and the other cities he represents.
|Posted on July 9, 2012 at 4:10 PM|
Lawton was one of the first cities I visited when first embarking on my goodwill visits over three years ago and I made another visit there last week to get a tour of their beautiful new city hall and to also evaluate potential meeting sites for the August OML Citizens Academy/Leadership Training that will be hosted by the City of Lawton. Lawton serves as the county seat of Comanche County and after Lawton annexed neighboring Fort Sill in 1988 they now hold the title of being the fifth largest city in the state.
The city is built on former reservation lands of Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Indians. Lawton was founded on August 6, 1901 and was named after major General Henry Ware Lawton, a Civil War Medal of Honor recipient who was killed in action in the Philippine-American War. Lawton’s landscape is typical of the Great Plains with flat topography and gently rolling hills, while the area north of the city is marked by the Wichita Mountains.
I initially was scheduled to meet with City Manager Larry Mitchell; however, due to an unanticipated meeting he was unable to attend. In Larry’s absence, I instead met with Assistant City Manager Bryan Long who is the son of Huey Pat Long, a longtime city manager who has served several Oklahoma cities and most recently retired from the City of Miami, OK.
Lawton has a beautiful new city hall that was formerly the old Lawton High School and Central Junior High built in 1909. The remodeling has been underway for about 10 years and is being accomplished under four phases. The McMahon Foundation has been a significant financial contributor toward the early success of this project. Other notable financial support was secured through AEP/PSO, the city’s electric utility provider, and Lawton’s 2005 CIP Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).
As you drive toward the facility, you notice the magnitude and beauty of the building adorned with a large copper dome. I had been to Lawton and their new offices earlier this year to participate in their 25-year award ceremony, it was late evening and the dome was not as noticeable. In the daylight, you can truly appreciate the beauty of the dome when you see the sun shining off of it. As you enter the building there is a reception area with a beautiful atrium that can be used for receptions.
Approximately 60 percent of the building’s usable floor space has been preserved and in some areas they have kept some of the original “school-building” look and feel. The hallway leading to the administrative and mayor’s office still contains the old lockers that look just as they would have ‘back in the day’ and are filled with letter jackets and other important items you would imagine finding in a high school student’s locker. There is an old classroom set aside as an “Archive Classroom” that contains much of the historical information and artifacts relating to the building and its inhabitants throughout its accomplished use as an education facility.
The city is actually leasing the building from the school on a 99-year lease. This allows the school to continue to utilize the facility for various functions. There are many areas in the building available to host large groups, including the beautiful council chamber.
There is also a large area behind the council chambers that can be set with tables and chairs for meetings plus four breakout rooms. Downstairs there is a large room that can also be used for various events with a warming kitchen next door.
While touring city hall we stopped in at the clerk’s office that was beautifully decorated and had the opportunity to speak to Traci Hushbeck, City Clerk; Denise Ezell, Deputy Clerk, and Councilman Jay Burk.
Lunch time provided me with several options. The Leadership Lawton class was having their graduation luncheon that Bryan was attending and invited me to join him, or I could have attended Larry Mitchell’s Rotary Club, also meeting that day. I attended the Leadership Lawton graduation luncheon, which was a very nice event. I actually knew several people there including Jane Mitchell (Larry’s wife) and councilmember Doug Wells, who is also a member of the OML Citizens Academy/Leadership Training.
It was so nice to have a personally guided tour of the building and OML appreciates the City of Lawton for agreeing to host the August OML Citizen Academy/Leadership Training session. Larry wanted to host the meeting in August so that the Thursday evening social event could include attending the annual Lawton Rodeo. The Rodeo is just one of the many events and festivals that are held in Lawton each year. Others include the Easter Passion Play held in the Holy City in the Wichita Mountain Refuge each year on Palm Sunday, and continues until Easter eve. In May, Lawton Arts for All, Inc. hosts a festival, and in late September, Lawton hosts The International Festival, which showcases the many different cultural styles, arts and music of the community. Lawton is also home to Cameron University, the largest four-year university in southwest Oklahoma, offering more than 50 degree programs.
Lawton has a crown jewel in the form of their spectacular, new city hall and they couldn’t be prouder. Stop by if you are in the area. I am sure they would love to give you a tour.
Mary Hays, Clerk Treasurer has been with the city for 23 years, serving as clerk-treasurer since 1995. In addition to Ms. Hays, there are two or three other ladies that work in the city hall office and when I was visiting, city hall was abuzz with activity.
One of my fondest memories of Geary was when my son was a high school wrestler and the “Geary Invitational Tournament” was always a big event of the year. This tournament, known not only in Oklahoma but throughout the country, was started by Bob Steagle, a former wrestling coach, and still continues 67 years later. Schools from across Oklahoma and even out-of-state schools from Arizona and Kansas participate each year. Mary said that many of the former wrestlers have gone on to become coaches in other schools and states and they all tend to return to the tournament each year with their teams.
How can a city the size of Geary with 1,280 citizens host such an event, especially since they do not have any hotels/motels in town? For Geary, that is an easy answer: visiting schools are housed in local homes, churches, and even classrooms. Some families will host an entire wresting team during this weekend. Many of the citizens of Geary turn out for the tournament, a great indicator of how much of a generous, courteous, and friendly community this is.
As you exit I-40 heading north towards Geary, there is a Cherokee Restaurant that is in Geary corporate boundaries. This is the largest generator of sales tax for the city. There used to also be a hotel connected to the restaurant, but it burned down and existing water pressure is not adequate to rebuild the hotel. All of that may be changing soon as the city just completed a 12 inch water line out to the area, which was funded by a $1 million dollar loan form OWRB. They are waiting for the final inspection.
Sadly, Geary mayor Mitchell Paxton recently lost his battle to cancer and it was obvious his absence is still being felt by those at city hall. Vice-mayor Leslie Swinerton has stepped in to fill this position until a new election is held. She happened to be at city hall when I was there and could have been easily mistaken for one of the office staff, as she was at the copy machine, working away. We had a nice visit and discussed many of the federal and state agency regulations that affect cities and towns. I shared with her what OML is doing in this regard and that we were hopeful for changes.
Mary was very appreciative to OML for conducting the New Officials Institutes (NOI). As a long-time city clerk-treasurer, she understands the need to be current on state laws and regulations that affect municipal government. She is required to have training as a clerk-treasurer and she said that it is very helpful for the new council to also have this training. She noted that keeping them informed on things happening legislatively was another valuable service OML provided for their city. She also said she uses the inquiry department and other resources when needed.
The first Oklahoman to receive a total artificial heart (bionic heart) was from Geary. Troy Golden, who was a minister in town, had received a mechanical artificial heart and was the first person who was able to leave the hospital and come home for several months after receiving the heart. He has since died but his story was very touching and inspirational.
In addition to the Cherokee Restaurant, other sources of revenue include a couple of restaurants, gas station that also services trucks and vehicles, and a Quick Stop. A fairly new business in town, called the Plum Krazy Cottage, originally began with the conversion of an old church into a hair salon. It has grown to now include a craft store, nail and massage shop and ‘bistro’ that currently operates three days a week during lunch and offers ‘healthy’ meals. A greenhouse has also been added.
Geary has its own school system consisting of grades Pre-K through 12, with approximately 400 students. They also own a park and pool that opened for the summer on Memorial Day. The pool is old and is sometimes a challenge to maintain. They were able to open on Memorial Day, which has not always been the case because at times they have difficulty getting students trained and certified to work as life guards.
The fire department is all volunteer and consists of 13 members. Geary maintains a police department, with a chief of police and five officers, along with six dispatchers (some are part time). They hold municipal court one day a month and most offenses are traffic related.
Mary was delightful to visit with and I am certain anything you want to know about the town, she will have the answers. If you are in the area or passing through stop by and say “hi.”
|Posted on November 17, 2010 at 3:38 PM|
I met with Jim Greff, City Manager of Prague since November 2007. Jim has been with Prague in various capacities for 30 years, serving as Interim City Manager and as Public Works Director prior to being named as city manager.
Prague City Hall offices are housed in the beautiful former bank building which is shared with the Red Cross, Oklahoma Main Street Program and the Prague Chamber. The bank built an attractive facility next door to city hall, and all are on the town’s main street. Having formerly been a bank, the city hall building contains two vaults, one used by Emergency Management as a shelter in the event of storms.
The city funds a 22-member all volunteer fire department; and Prague’s police department is staffed with seven full-time officers and a chief for 24/7 city coverage.
Prague has received several grants of late including $135,000 from the Department of Energy as part of the federal stimulus monies, which will fund changing out the heat and air system and installing heat pumps to increase utility efficiency at city hall. Funds have also been released for street improvements through a CDBG grant. Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars will repave streets near the high school with $150,000 funded from grants and $100,000 by the city. Prague, like other cities that own their own airport, receives $150,000 annually from FAA for airport improvements, which will help fund the runway expansion. Other airport projects have included securing land, rerouting a county road, fencing the property, and dirt work. Asphalt and lighting will soon be added. Ten planes are housed at the airport. The city has secured property for an airport expansion.
Something I thought was very interesting that I have not heard about from any other cities I have visited to date is Prague’s 30-mile horse riding trails around the city lake. Since no option exists for renting horses, you must bring your own. ATV’s were formerly allowed on these same trails but had to be shut down about five years ago due to non compliance with the rules by some of the riders.
As I looked around Jim’s neatly kept office, I noticed some bowling awards adorning his wall. Jim says he bowls in a league every Friday night in Shawnee since Prague does not have a bowling alley. He has been bowling for several years, sometimes competitively.
Prague has neither a hotel nor bed & breakfast (B&B) in their city, but has been contemplating building a new sports complex. The water and wastewater systems are functioning well, and are not under NOV or consent orders from DEQ or EPA. The city owns an electric system which breaks even, and operates its own trash/sanitation service with two workers on the back of the truck. Citizens can use any trash receptacle they wish for the once a week pick-up. Jim says he has discussed contracting this service out at different times but their citizens are insistent that the city continue the existing service.
Prague lost its ambulance service four or five years ago and currently contracts for service with REACT in Shawnee. A $9.00 monthly fee is assessed on each utility bill to pay for this service. This primarily pays to house an ambulance in Prague in the event it is needed.
Their sales tax was down a little bit last year (only 3.6%) but has risen somewhat so far this year. Although they were not able to give their employees a raise this year, they also did not have lay-offs or furlough days. We talked about the efforts currently being undertaken by the two OML finance and revenue committees and their accomplishments towards improvements in finances for cities and towns.
Jim gave me a tour of the facility and I was very impressed with the entire offices and operation. As we were concluding our meeting, Mayor Bryan Benson stopped in at city hall so I was able to visit with him for a few minutes.
Town of Paden
I met with the Paden Town Clerk, Melanie Brown, who is in her third year serving as the Paden Town Clerk. She was appointed to the position when medical issues arose for the former clerk. Brown has a close connection to Paden history. Pretty Boy Floyd actually robbed Paden’s bank where her godfather was a teller. Pretty Boy kidnapped Brown’s godfather, but they let him go – he had to jump out of the car of course, but was not harmed.
Melanie is excited about the grant Paden recently received from the Department of Tourism to build a 32-acre walking trail for Paden. The trails were partially funded by the Creek Nation which started a competition walking program. Thirty towns participated with everyone wearing pedometers. Paden won the first year and received one mile of walking trails; Paden purchased the land from a citizen who had used it for pasture. They won again the second year and netted $3,500 of outdoor exercise equipment. Leveraging that with a match from Tourism, Paden actually got a park and used the grant for the trail. Paden plans to embellish the park and trail with a pavilion and restrooms and to continue the upgrades as time and resources allow. Melanie says the town is looking for a method of enforcing their ordinance against dogs in the park and on the trail, but currently there is no code enforcement.
Paden schools, elementary through high school, number about 200 students. Sports, especially basketball, are highly popular. Paden recently started a youth organization which was active in this year’s fireworks display. A tragic car accident took the lives of three of Paden’s students. When another youth died a short time later his parents donated money toward building a volleyball court, and the youth organization was started. It was important to the town and citizens to provide a place for the youth. The Town of Paden is enjoying these things as they did not have them in the past.
Paden’s retail base is a grocery store and convenience store. A lumber company generates most of the sales tax revenue. They appreciate their all-volunteer Fire Department, but have no police. A county deputy living in town helps them feel secure.
Paden is one of those historical Oklahoma towns once thriving along the Fort Smith and Western Railroad line with a colorful and exciting history. The town is named after its hero, the rough and tough U.S. Marshall Paden Tolbert, who “fought the meanest outlaws” in the Territory and cleaned up the badlands, earning commissions with Judge Isaac C. Parker, ‘the hangin’ judge’, and in the U.S. court at Muskogee under Marshall S. Morton Rutherford. He trailed Henry Starr and the Cook Gang, and captured the Buck and Jennings Gangs. The Indian Territory Town of Paden, which Tolbert helped found, got off to a peaceful start since outlaws just didn’t go there. Tolbert resigned his federal commission in 1904, the year he died. The grieving town appointed the Marshall’s wife, Lucy, as postmistress of Paden.
Paden has survived a series of calamities that reduced its population to its current 400 citizens. The prosperous early coalmining declined, and with it the railroad. Even the discovery of nearby oil was not enough to save the Fort Smith and Western. The Great Fire of 1915 devastated the town; but the recent major setback has been the building of I-40 which diverted vehicular traffic away from town.
I find it so interesting to visit these small towns. I always learn some interesting tidbits of history from each one.
Town of Meeker
I met with Donna Watkins, the Town Clerk, and Jim Howard, the Town Administrator.
Donna had just gotten off the phone with officials of the Red Cross who were checking whether anything was happening in town. At the time of my visit, there had been hurricane activity in the southern gulf and it was not yet known whether the effects would reach Oklahoma. Since the city is also the Red Cross shelter in the event of disasters, they wanted to ensure nothing was happening in Meeker and people weren’t showing up at the shelter.
Also, next door actually contiguous to city hall is a history museum. A long-time citizen donated money to build the museum onto the existing city hall. The museum has many interesting items of history including the first mail buggy, an area that housed old medical tables and utensils, old quilts and many, many other things of interest. Donna said all of the items came from local donations. There were even items dating from 1891 from Donna’s grandfather who was born in Oklahoma Territory, and who was also named “Oklahoma.”
Upon entering city hall, you see the Carl Hubbard Museum. Hubbard was a baseball and football Hall of Famer from Missouri who played pro football with the Giants, the Packers, and baseball with the Pirates. He later umpired baseball in the minors, and officiated American League, World Series and All Star Games.
Meeker refurbished its city hall about nine months ago with a REAP grant. Donna stressed how important REAP funding was to small communities. They added brick in front, new metal, new awnings, and raised the ceilings. Much of the work was “in kind.”
Meeker owns its own Pre-K to 12 school system including Kindergarten. Both are full-day programs.
Jim Howard has been Meeker’s city manager for about three years, and has lived in Meeker for about six years. His wife was born and raised in this town. His prior municipal experience was as the Mayor of Earlsboro in the 1980s.
Howard had several concerns with the CLEET operations and said that every year CLEET adds a little more training here and there. As a result the current academy lasted 14½ weeks. The lengthy training creates many problems for small towns. When an officer is sent to training, the town must pay their salary while they are away, plus pay for someone to cover in their absence. He would like to see CLEET place more emphasis on the basics such as report writing, and spend less time on criminal investigation, which he feels should be part of specialized training. He would like more time spent on learning more about traffic accidents which is what most of his officers would be covering. Their chief recently conducted a training session for their officers and others on report writing.
He also has concerns with the recently passed Uniform Building Code (UBC) and thinks it is a duplication of efforts since the Constructions Industries Board (CIB) is already in place and another new ‘agency’ was unnecessary. He shared his concerns with his legislator, Representative Danny Morgan.
Another concern of Howard is unfunded mandates (which we all hate). Meeker recently passed a one cent ($.01) sales tax increase in April 2009.
Mr. Howard visits with some of the city managers in the near by cities and is considering joining the City Managers Association of Oklahoma (CMAO). He mentioned having received a question from a neighboring city manager asking if other cities evaluated their judges and municipal attorneys, and if so, what process is used. He thinks this is a great way to let managers talk to each other. He would like to see OML host a blog where members could ask a question and other could members provide input for all to see. He appreciates the training opportunities offered by OML but is restricted from sending some of his employees to training due to time away and limited financial resources.
He was complimentary of the inquiry service at OML and thought he always received good and timely responses.
|Posted on April 6, 2010 at 3:32 PM|
Being able to combine two events into one afternoon was a treat during my Goodwill Visit to City of Stillwater. The Municipal Clerks, Treasurers & Finance Officers’ annual Spring Institute Graduation Luncheon at the Wes Watkins Center capped the graduates’ program with certification, as others drew closer to the Certified Municipal Clerk designation. I was pleased to visit with many in the group about new legislation the Oklahoma Municipal League is following, and particularly how their cities and towns would be impacted.
After the luncheon, I visited with Dan Galloway, Stillwater City Manager, and Deputy City Manager, Mary Rupp at the Stillwater City Hall. We talked on a variety of city events and issues, and the discussion, of course, included finances. We agreed the State of Oklahoma taxing system needs an overhaul, and we discussed the several bills pending before the Oklahoma legislature.
House Bill 2646 removes the population limitations on county assistance to municipalities for road construction and repairs and addresses the problem created in Attorney General Opinion 2008 OK AG 9 which states counties may not use funds for construction, repair or street maintenance if the municipality’s population exceeds 15,000. This issue is also addressed by Senate Bill 1908 which is currently pending before the state legislature. OML will work to ensure passage of these priority bills.
Another important bill introduced at the request of the City of Oklahoma City (Senate Bill 2166) would make it a felony for hotels or motels to collect and not remit a hotel/motel tax.
We discussed the Municipal Lobbying Strategy Ad Hoc Committee being chaired by Dan Galloway. A couple of good meetings have transpired and Galloway continues to improve an already strong base. This committee likely got started a little late prior to session beginning and will pick up momentum once session has adjourned and everyone has a little more time.
The City of Stillwater is looking at two recall petitions: one pending, and one on the mayor, which is scheduled for May 11. A general election is scheduled for April 6 to fill an open council seat.
Recently elected to the council without a run-off election (with 4 candidates in the field) was Joe Weaver. Mr. Weaver is the Assistant Vice-President of Finance at Oklahoma State University (OSU), and has worked in cooperation with the city for a long time on issues of mutual benefit.
|Posted on April 6, 2010 at 3:30 PM|
My Good Will visit to the City of Tulsa met a full house. In attendance were: Robert Johnston, City Manager of Frederick and President of the Oklahoma Municipal League (OML) Board of Directors; Cheryl Dorrance, OML Director of Research; and me - Carolyn Stager, OML Executive Director. From the City of Tulsa were Mayor Dewey Bartlett; his Chief of Staff, Terry Simonson; The Director of Administration, Jim Twombly, and Karl Ahlgren, who is an advisor to the Mayor.
Problems with the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC) have motivated several cities, including Tulsa, to explore the idea of collecting their own taxes. The City of Tulsa currently pays $2 Million to the OTC to collect their sales tax, yet they say they receive little information, limited support, and few audits.
On the legislative level, Rep. Dan Sullivan and Senator Crain from Tulsa have introduced legislation that initially dealt with the municipalities’ sinking fund. However, House Bill 2653 was amended to legislation that would create a nine (9) member task force to examine the laws governing municipal finance for all forms of municipal government, giving specific attention to existing sources of revenues available to municipal governments; the requirements for establishing and maintaining sinking funds; the laws governing the creation and maintenance of separate accounts within municipal general funds; the laws governing the investment or other use of municipal revenues; the laws governing the establishment of municipal reserve funds and other matters related to municipal finance as the Task Force may deem to be relevant.
This task force should dove-tail nicely with the recently created OML Revenue & Efficiencies Task Force which Mayors Bartlett (Tulsa) and Cornett (OKC) are co-chairing.
Tulsa is also planning to begin collection of insurance fees for fire department emergency runs – an idea garnered from Oklahoma Municipal League’s Practical Guide Workshop in a session delivered by Diane Pedicord, OML’s General Counsel. Tulsa officials believe that public safety districts could allow more efficiency and result in improved fire ratings for some areas.
The City of Tulsa is modeling a study by the City of Indianapolis which proved greatly beneficial to the economic development of that city. Utilizing the expertise of KPMG, a similar study lasting 14 weeks and fully funded by donations is beginning for the City of Tulsa.
They had discussed a fire protection district bill pending before the legislature. They previously had discussions with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office with reference to Public Safety Services, and they have support for these. They are now focusing on regional fire protection services. Upon returning home I forwarded a copy of an Attorney General’s opinion regarding the required votes for classifying fire services as a utility, and wish them well on the undertaking.
Mayor Bartlett recently returned from Washington D.C. after meeting with various agencies and committees including DOE and EPA. “He went on his own,” explained Twombly. “He was going earlier with Tulsa Chamber, but got snowed out by one of those Washington D.C. snow storms, so he rescheduled a week ago and visited on his own.”
Tulsa is planning to announce an energy program funded with previously collected monies which are as yet unused. The energy audits and improvements will use both ARRA energy funds, the federal stimulus money on energy efficiency, and local funds reserved for that purpose. “The mayor unveiled his energy efficiency and sustainability program a week ago,” says Twombly.
Twombly describes a “listening tour” Mayor Bartlett has planned for small businesses. “They will be held on Tuesdays from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. for five weeks for business forums around the community. He is inviting business owners to talk about their issues, maybe dealing with the city if they see there are areas where the city creates obstacles or hindrances, or areas where the city could be more supportive of business – really, to help businesses grow and prosper in the community.”
Mayor Bartlett serves on the Grand River Dam Authority (GRDA) board. He mentioned they sell a lot of water to rural water districts and cities and could improve efficiencies by metering their water usage. Tulsa is one of the biggest borrowers from the CWSRF and DWSRF (Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds) for water and sewer projects.
It is clear from our discussions that Tulsa’s Mayor Bartlett and his senior staff are focused on revenue enhancement.
I am pleased that the mayor and his staff will be active in OML activities, particularly the Municipal Revenues and Efficiencies Task Force.
|Posted on April 6, 2010 at 3:25 PM|
I was honored to have Robert Johnston, OML Board of Directors President, and Cheryl Dorrance, OML Director of Research join me for two goodwill visits. One of those was to the City of Tulsa and the other to the City of Sand Springs where we met with City Manager Doug Enevoldsen.
Much of the conversation evolved around a topic on the mind of many city managers these days – city and town finances. Doug indicated a growing interest among the Sand Springs metro area cities in collecting their own sales tax.
Mr. Enevoldsen discussed with us the great communications benefits he thought OML could provide to cities and towns through various electronic and remote training and telecommunication centers. He thinks remote training from OML could relieve cities’ cash-strapped travel budgets.
Enevoldsen was instrumental in the introduction of HB 3054 to this year’s legislation. This law would require a financial impact statement before any legislation could be passed that would have a significant financial impact on cities and towns. If the statement revealed the financial impact was greater than $10,000, the bill would be introduced in an odd year and passed the following year. The year study time would allow legislators to actually review the implications of the bill, and not rush to judgment or a vote.
Doug also serves on the recently-formed OML Municipal Revenue & Efficiencies Task Force. The second meeting of the Task Force will be Monday, April 5 and will be provided with information obtained from several meetings held with the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
Mr. Enevoldsen has offered suggestions for OML to improve the GRIPs that are so integral to OML’s critical communications requesting quick actions on the part of cities and towns. He suggested streamlining the GRIPs with a “click button” allowing municipal officials the ability to personalize the information they present, and immediate access to their representatives. OML continually strives to progressively improve our services and communications to our members, and we will certainly look at revamping the GRIP format.
Doug’s suggestion for more face time with the media was accomplished with a hugely successful press conference held in conjunction with the Mayors & Municipal Officials Day at the Capitol on Monday, March 22. A press conference was held on the opposing SB 1328 which threatens to eliminate sales tax on groceries. Our Forum received television media coverage from all local channels in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, as well as others around the state, and was reported in print media from many, many local and out-of-state newspapers. You can view all of this on the OML website at: www.oml.org. Just go to the front page, click on the “grocery bag,” and you will have it.
|Posted on April 6, 2010 at 3:21 PM|
My visit to the City of Weatherford began as the keynote speaker to the Association of American University Women (AAUW) at their annual luncheon meeting held at South West Oklahoma State University (SWOSU).
The remainder of the day was spent with Mayor Mike Brown’s wife. We attended a coalition meeting with Mayor Mike Brown and involved investors of the upcoming “Yes Weatherford” election on April 6. The proposed projects involve a $20 Million investment in the community. No new taxes are proposed, as the ballot would extend an existing one penny sales tax for ten years. The city’s share of the projects is $11.5 million. “Plus, assuming the ballot passes, the city will add another $10 million in revenue bonds,” says Tony Davenport, Finance Director of Weatherford. “The university would get $8 million and is also matching.”
The upcoming election ballot lists five separate initiatives, including:
1. Infrastructure: a new fire station, recycling centers, street drainage, parks improvement for the city;
2. Revitalization: a community master plan, pedestrian walkways, landscaping, university corridor;
3. Public Schools: safety, health and fire improvements, a middle school safe room and band room;
4. For the University: an event center, supporting conventions, major entertainment, student recruitment, sporting events; and
5. Health Care: an additional surgical suite, new in-patient rehabilitation facility, and therapy pool/wound care.
It is great to see the various aspects of the community coming together, embracing the city, schools, higher education, and the hospital. These initiatives include something for everyone. No apparent opposition exists to this initiative. All signs indicate support of the effort.
“This is a huge step for Weatherford,” Davenport says. “We feel like it’s the best time in the world to expand because of construction costs and the low interest rate. Weatherford has the ability to be debt free, but if we stand still we are really not progressing.”
A wonderful dinner at the White Dog Hill Restaurant topped off the evening in the company of Mayor Brown and his wife Debbie Brown, the city Finance Director Tony Davenport with Darla, his wife. Also present, was the Economic Development Director Chuck Daugherty, and Weatherford’s Personnel Director, Dana Carson.
OML wishes the City of Weatherford the best on April 6---Vote “Yes Weatherford”!
|Posted on March 18, 2010 at 4:10 PM|
My Goodwill Tour took me to the City of Choctaw on February 24. Choctaw City Hall of interesting design was formerly a church building. I had a great visit with Choctaw’s City Manager, Robert Floyd, which included a tour of the greatest part of the 27 square miles encompassing the City. Floyd said they “really appreciated Carolyn coming to Choctaw, and they had a good visit.” Choctaw is located within the greater Oklahoma City Metro Area and due east of Midwest City.
While the majority of Choctaw’s citizens get their water supply from wells and septic tanks, at least 32% are on public water supply. Choctaw plans to acquire a water tower from the City of Grove in Northeast Oklahoma which will be relocated in Choctaw and refurbished to provide an additional water tower for its citizens.
Choctaw and its near neighbor, City of Nicoma Park, have united their school systems into one, called Choctaw-Nicoma Park School District. The Choctaw citizens passed a $95 Million Bond issue last year enabling Choctaw to build a new middle school. Additionally, a new elementary school will be built near the currently existing building which is south of City Hall on the Nicoma Park side.
Choctaw’s high school activity center is named after Lyle Boren, the father of Oklahoma University’s President David Boren, who graduated from Choctaw High School. Choctaw is also home to Eastern Oklahoma County Career Tech, which houses a small business resource center as well as a fire training center.
The Choctaw senior citizens were hit hard when the Oklahoma Nutritional Program located in the senior citizens’ facility suffered county budget cuts and dropped the meals program. Only senior citizens are allowed to utilize the facility. Choctaw stepped up to the plate, so to speak, put the Nutritional Program’s site manager on the city payroll and is funding the program for twenty meals per day, five days a week until the end of the year. Floyd said he was “hopeful the county will begin funding again by that time.”
A tax increment financing (TIF) district created for a 38-acre shopping center will sit on Northeast 23rd Street, which runs through the City of Choctaw. The models chosen for replication will be similar to either South Lake, Texas or Utica Square in Tulsa.
Twenty-Third Street is also the location of a medical clinic trust operated by Saint Anthony and is owned jointly by five cities: Choctaw, Jones, Nicoma Park, Harrah and Luther.
The former John Miskelley State Park, named after State Senator John Miskelley, deceased, was purchased from the state at very low cost and is now maintained by Choctaw. Renamed “Choctaw Creek Park, this facility is the location of both the annual October Fest hosted by the city and Old Germany Restaurant’s annual festival. The four-day event which costs $1.00 to attend is a huge economic development boost for the city and has drawn as many as 35,000 attendees.
Choctaw’s great Industrial Park is well occupied with only three vacancies. The tenants include a plastics company, Goddard Concrete and Excel Products which produces marketing and advertising, including banners, the smiley face for Wal-Mart, and products for the Defense Department’s PXs. They have contracts with companies around the world. The city’s waster water treatment facility is also housed to the north of this area.
The meeting was capped off with a wonderful lunch at Old Germany Restaurant which included a visit with restaurant owners, Mike and George Turek.
Old Germany will be hosting a fundraiser for the Choctaw Rotary Club on April 17 at the Choctaw Creek Park. The tickets are $45 and include food and beer tasting for 80 different beers.
This was a delightful and informative visit to Choctaw.