Oklahoma Municipal League

Champions for Effective Local Government

OML Goodwill Tour

On The Road Again

Posted on September 3, 2013 at 10:50 AM

SALLISAW

The name Sallisaw derives from the French salaison, which means salt provisions. The French, who hunted in the area long before the town was founded, called Sallisaw Creek “Salaiseau” because hunters salted bison meat there.English naturalist Thomas Nuttall may have been the first to record the name “Salaiseau” in the journal of his 1819 travels in the rea, then part of Arkansas. The organized settlement can be traced to 1887-1888 when Argyle Quesenbury, one of the first white men to settle in the vicinity, and Will Watie Wheeler, collateral descendent of Cherokee Confederate leader Stand Watie laid out lots for a town one-half mile square. The mostly Cherokee town was not incorporated until 1898 when William E. Whitsett, Jr., was elected mayor.

 

Director Stager continued her goodwill tour by taking a trip to Sallisaw. There she visited city manager Bill Baker and Debbie Keith, Grants Administrator. Mr. Baker has been with Sallisaw for approximately 10 years after previous employment as the assistant city manager in Lawton, while Ms. Keith has been working for the city for four years. As grants administrator she is currently working to secure funding for a school resource officer. She is also hoping that she can convince the Department of Commerce to convert street lights to LED.

 

Several good things are happening in Sallisaw. Recently, the voters passed a half cent sales tax to help fund a sports complex. The city plans to build the complex on a 100 acre piece of land that they already own. The first phase will include four softball and four baseball fields with walking trails to be built as well.

 

Additionally, the citizens of Sallisaw passed a millage for a new middle school to be built next to the high school. The existing middle school is located in the downtown area and has major structural concerns.

 

Sallisaw owns their water and utilities as well as being the first in the state to own their own telephone, internet and cable systems. Sallisaw officials are hopeful that what they have to offer will draw more businesses to locate in the city. Currently, Wal-Mart is their largest generator of sales tax revenue.

 

A new locally owned radio station is now broadcasting from Sallisaw and covers all of Sequoyah County. Although a new fitness center just opened in town, Sallisaw is still ranked as one of the top three Oklahoma cities with the highest unemployment rate. With the closing of the Whirlpool plant in Ft. Smith, many of Sallisaw’s residents also found themselves laid off from work.

 

Sallisaw has a unionized police force and a fire department with two paid fire fighters and 18 volunteers. They also own a municipal airport that supports approximately 200 flights per month. This airport also operates a flight school for the city.

 

When the State of Oklahoma decided to close Brushy Lake State Park, the city of Sallisaw stepped in and took over managing the Park which is located in the Cookson Hills and offers camping, fishing and boating. Tent and RV camping are available for guest to utilize while they enjoy the lake. Park Manager Mike Hancock stayed on after the city took over, which worked out well for all. The city parks department assists with the maintenance of the park as well.

Whether you want to stay overnight at Bushy Lake, do some shopping at the local stores, go to the local rodeo or have a bite at the Italian restaurant in town, there’s always something of interest for visitors to enjoy.

 

 

SPIRO

In 1895 - 1896, the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (later owned by the Kansas City Southern Railroad) established a station at the present site of Spiro, which it connected directly to Fort Smith, Arkansas. According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, this attracted residents from the nearby town of Skullyville and soon made Spiro the principal town in this area.

 

The Spiro post office was created in 1898. There are several reasons given for its name. One claims that Spiro was the maiden name of the first postmistress. Another claims it was the maiden name of the mother of a Fort Smith banker. Yet another claims it was named for the father-in-law of a Fort Smith banker.

 

Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Mayor Ronnie Parent and Vicki Cox, clerk treasurer. Stager learned that the town of Spiro owns its water and utilities and has a lake south of town for their water supply. The town also owns and operates Ward Lake which has a bike/pedestrian trail that goes around the lake.

 

While at city hall, Stager met Deputy Clerk Jackie Knobelsdorfl and Billing Clerk Shannon Kennedy. The town also employs four full time police officers and the fire department is staffed by 15 volunteer fire fighters. Their current ISO rating is 4.

 

An issue for Spiro is that since they are an Emergency Order of Detention (EOD) city, if an individual is determined to have mental issues and needs further treatment, it is Spiro’s responsibility to take that person to a mental facility and stay with him/her until he/she has been committed or kept by the facility. If they don’t stay with the individual, they will automatically send the person back with the officer to Spiro. The transfer takes quite a long time and with the limited number of officers in the department, town officials feel their citizens are too often left unprotected. This issue is becoming more of a concern for cities and towns throughout the state.

 

Spiro is also currently under a DEQ consent order and working to remedy the issues as is the case for many Oklahoma cities and towns. As with most towns, there are improvements that should be made but overall Spiro seemed to be prospering. Mayor Parent has been meeting with several mayors in his area of the state to discuss these same concerns with DEQ.

 

There are several business within city limits including, Mazzio’s, Sonic, Family Dollar, Dollar General, a Mexican restaurant, a pharmacy, 4 convenience stores, 4 insurance agencies, a nursing home, family medical clinic, funeral home, county commissioner’s office, law office and an accounting firm. They also have Marvin’s Food Stores, which is currently the largest sales tax revenue contributor.

 

Stager enjoyed her time in Spiro, visiting with Mayor Parent, whom she came to know as an intelligent man with a lot of down home charm.

 

 

WISTER

The Post Office Service designated a Wister post office on June 30, 1890. The town is a namesake of Gutman G. Wister, an official of the now defunct Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad. Wister is also the location of a popular Army Corps of Engineers lake with same name. Crappie, Bass and Catfish are the most frequently sought fish species in lake. Along with fishing, Wister Lake also offers a wide variety of tourist activities like camping, waterskiing and swimming.

 

Executive Director Carolyn Stager continued her goodwill journey to Wister, Oklahoma where she met with town officials. As Stager drove through town, she was struck by the care that the town and its residents take to maintain streets and public areas. Everything looked very clean and nicely maintained.

 

The town typically employs a town administrator along with four other employees to manage its affairs. The town also employees three full time and two part time police officers with 14 volunteer fire fighters.

 

The town was able to secure a grant to cover a $406,000 sewer project to build a new lagoon for the town. They are not under any consent orders by DEQ. They have also received several grants from the Department of Commerce.

Nine new retail businesses have opened in town with the local Dollar General store being the largest contributor to sales tax revenue.

 

Stager’s impression of Wister was that it’s a town with caring citizens, where the 1,100 residents enjoy a rich quality of life.

Goodwill Tour Continues - July 2013

Posted on July 29, 2013 at 5:05 AM

Covington

Covington, located in Garfield County, was part of the Cherokee Outlet which was opened by the run of 1893. The town is named for John Covington, a local homesteader and townsite investor. The earliest postal designation was for Tripp which was changed to Covington in February 1903. Two places in the town are on the Register of Historic Places. The Kimmell Barn (also called the Freese barn) was built in 1906 by Sam Kimmell in the German bank barn style. It is constructed of native Oklahoma sandstone, with used wood purchased from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, and has been on the National Register since 1984. The R.E. Hoy No. 1 Oil Well, constructed by Sinclair Oil & Refining Corporation in September 1916, has been listed on the National Register since 1986. The Hoy sand was the first successful sand of the Garber-Covington oil field, and the first well to be drilled with the advice of a geologist.

Executive Director Carolyn Stager visited Covington where she met with Sondra Easterly, the town clerk. Although that may be her title, the hats she actually wears are many, as is the case with many small towns like Covington. Sondra’s been with the city since 1991, her husband is from Covington and her father retired from the military to settle in Covington to be close to their parents.

The senior center, on Main Street across from city hall, is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to noon. This facility is partially funded by local donations and the Northern Oklahoma Development Authority (NODA).

The primary source of sales tax revenue for the town is the restaurants including the restaurant that is in the “sale” barn. The other food establishments include the Dairy Sweet, the Curbside Grill which is basically a very small trailer that sells ice cream, snow cones and burgers, and the General Store. Other businesses located in Covington include Miller Packing, Earnheart Oil, and Fix-it Tire.

Although Covington is still one of the small communities that has a local post office, the hours have been reduced and it now does not open until 1 p.m. This means a shorter amount of time for the clerk to get the town’s mail processed in a given day.

One of their biggest challenges is keeping utility rates low enough for their citizens, many of whom are elderly and on fixed incomes. The city purchases their water through Salt Fork Water Authority. The services the town provides their citizens include water, sewer, gas and trash.

Easterly stated that she is very grateful for the assistance OML has provided them in the past with regards to a DEQ problem; but even now they still struggle with DEQ. One of the areas she mentioned was a lab test they were having done quarterly, which cost $700. They have since discovered it only needs to be performed once a year. Their monthly water sample is performed by Accurate labs out of Stillwater, OK at a cost of $35 per month.

While visiting with Easterly, Stager learned that earlier that morning there had been a crop duster crash near the air strip. The airplane was destroyed, but the pilot escaped without major injury. Easterly is one of the volunteer firefighters and was called out to the accident. Covington has 14 volunteer firefights who also serve as EMTs and first responders.

As Stager was ending her meeting with Sondra, the next appointment on her calendar was from MESO who would be conducting a random drug test. Easterly is proud to be part of Covington and feels the best part is the neighbor helping neighbor aspect of her town.

 

Bokchito

Located in Bryan County, Bokchito is 13 miles east of Durant. The area around Bokchito, a Choctaw word meaning “big creek,” was occupied by Choctaw Nation members following their removal from their homesteads in the Southeastern U.S. Armstrong Academy was founded in 1844, about two miles north of the town. On April 27, 1901, Bokchito was incorporated as a part of the Choctaw Nation.

Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Melissa Scott, Town Clerk/Treasurer for Bokchito. Scott has lived in Bokchito since 1989 and wears many hats – some of which include, clerk, treasurer, court clerk, fire chief, EMS director and front desk manager. There is one other individual employed by the town who serves as the utility clerk, receptionist, and anything else as needed.

Bokchito operates a poice department and employs a chief and two full-time officers and one half-time officer. The fire department is made up of volunteers with 14 of the 20 allowed slots filled. The town employs a full time public works person who will be allowed to hire at least one and possibly two assistants this summer to assist with mowing and other special summer projects.

As a small town with a population of 634, Bokchito has its own set of issues. One of their biggest challenges is trying to seat a full council. At the time of Stager’s visit the town was without a mayor; since then the board appointed Cathey Keirsey as mayor and Patricia Mays as mayor pro-tem. There will be an election in September to fill the vacant trustee seats.

Space is another issue Bokchito has at city hall, since EMS, police, and the ambulance service all operate out of the same building. In fact, as Stager entered the council room she was met with a CPR dummy lying on the floor. She was informed that the town provides CPR training to their citizens and others who need the training at a cost of $15 per person. The local Dollar General Store is the largest generator of sales tax revenues.

Annexation is another issue for Bokchito. At this time there are some streets where residents located on one side are in municipal limits but the other side are not. Those people want to be annexed. In 2001, the town annexed two miles of highway on either side of the town and now they keep it maintained. The September election will also ask citizens to decide whether to annex the residents on the streets that are not currently in the city limits.

Bokchito has its own school system, K-12 grades with approximately 425 students. In 1992, Bokchito consolidated with the Blue Schools and changed the name to Rock Creek.

Stager enjoyed her time in Bokchito and hopes to be invited back in the near future.

 

 

Idabel

Idabel was established in 1902 by the Arkansas and Choctaw Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway or Frisco). The city was named Purnell, after Isaac Purnell, a railroad official. When postal officials rejected that designation, the name was changed to Mitchell, honoring another railroad company officer. That name was also rejected because another post office of that name existed elsewhere in the territory. They named the post office Bokhoma (a Choctaw word meaning Red River), which opened Dec. 15, 1902. Railroad officials then chose the name Idabel, a compound of the names of Isaac Purnell’s two daughters, Ida and Bell. The post office was then renamed Idabel. In 1906, the citizens elected the first mayor and estabished a mayor-council form of government. At the time of statehood, Nov. 16, 1907, the town was designated as the county seat of McCurtain County. Idabel is noted for being the “Dogwood Capital of Oklahoma.”

Executive Director Carolyn Stager’s final stop for May was in Idabel where she met with the Mayor Tina Foshee-Thomas. The meeting was held over dinner at the Idabel Country Club. Also at the country club were Vice Mayor Jack Griffin and his wife. Mayor Foshee-Thomas has been with the City of Idabel for 10 years and was elected as City Clerk / Treasurer in 2003. She held that position until the announcement came of the plans for retirement of former Mayor Jerry Shinn. Foshee-Thomas sought and won the election for the position of Mayor in 2011.

The Idabel fire department has union representation while the police department does not. With the exception of the uniform allowance, the city tries to provide the same benefits to both uniformed and non-uniformed employees.

Like other Oklahoma communities, Idabel is currently under a DEQ consent order due to a minute amount of minerals in their wastewater. The fine was negotiated down from $60,000 to $15,000 and like some of our other cities and towns in this situation, Idabel officials attempted to negotiate a solution in which the city would invest the money in a local improvement project. They were told by DEQ that they would consider an SEP, but that it would be for the remainder of the 75 percent of the $60,000 fine. Also, the minimum of 25 percent, or $15,000 had to be paid in cash.

Mayor Foshee-Thomas has a very good relationship with the Choctaw Tribe. They have worked together on projects, one of which is building the city’s new fire station. The fire station will be completed and dedicated to the City of Idabel on June 28, 2013 in a ribbon cutting ceremony hosted by Chief Greg Pyle, of the Choctaw Nation. The Tribe has also assisted the city with several other infrastructure projects, including sewer line projects, paving a parking lot for their airport, and has promised support for a healthy community park for the Idabel community. Stager presented at the Sovereign Symposium on June 5th in which she was able to use Idabel’s cooperative efforts with the Choctaw Tribe as an example in her speech.

The city has a 5 percent hotel/motel tax that was passed in 2002, with the funds dedicated to construction and maintenance of a new library. The city’s local sales tax rate is 9 percent with the Wal-Mart Super Center the largest contributor. Like other cities and towns, Idabel would like to be able to recruit more retail sales as well as restaurant chains such as Chili’s to their community but because liquor by the drink has not been passed, it has been a deterrent in doing so. At this time the Idabel Public Works Authority subsidizes the city by approximately $54,250 per month.

Idabel is a wonderful community that has made a lot of progress under the leadership of their mayor. It was quite apparent to Stager that Mayor Foshee-Thomas has continues to have a vested interest in the city and those living there.

 

 

Crescent

Located 14 miles northwest of Guthrie, Crescent was formed with the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889 on March 2, 1889, and officially started that fall when William Brown began selling general merchandise out of a wagon. Soon he took on a partner, Benjamin Ryland, and the two moved into a log cabin. A post office christened “Crescent City” was established on Feb. 21, 1890, the name taken from a moon-shaped glade where the town began. In November 1891 the town site was platted, and incorporated in 1893. The Denver, Enid and Gulf Railroad laid track one mile west of the city in 1902, and the city obtained 160 acres of land creating new Crescent or West Crescent. Eventually the town moved to the new location.

From 1989 to 1994, Ed Stanton was a bank examiner and then served his community as a long time community banker until February of 2013. Having always been active in the community of Crescent, Stanton was asked to be on the search committee to find a new city manager. It didn’t take long for the majority of the search committee members to realize that the person they had asked to be a member of this committee was a perfect candidate for the position. Instead of being on the search committee, he was asked to be the new city manager and accepted the position in February of this year. Ed has been a Crescent resident for over 20 years, serving in many capacities such as the Chamber of Commerce President, Crescent Education Foundation President, EMS Board President, Lions Club President, Crescent Sports Boosters President and Co-Chair of the 2010 Crescent Economic Development Vision Planning Committee to name a few. Although he was not required to attend the OML New Officials Institute (NOI), Ed opted to attend the event with one other council person and the clerk/treasurer. It is always a compliment to see seasoned officials and those not actually required to attend the NOI, choose to stay current on laws governing municipalities.

Crescent’s stately City Hall is located at 205 N. Grand and is also occupied by its public library, police department and dispatch center. Stanton has committed to a citywide Clean Community initiative as well as restoration of its historical Main Street District. With its close proximity to Edmond and Oklahoma City, they see great opportunity for economic development and destination commerce. Crescent is blessed with many basic services which include but are not limited to, Mercy Health Clinic, Pinnacle Dental, Dollar General and a full-service grocery store among many other services. Crescent Public Schools is also completing a renovation to its educational facilities and expanding its sports complex, which is sure to attract those looking for a safer environment and opportunity for their children who might not have such opportunities in larger schools. It’s a nice and quiet place to raise a family.

Crescent’s employees and all of its emergency services are second to none and Stanton was extremely proud of all of his departments and staff. Crescent is blessed with much quality water, no sanitation issues and will be completing Phase II of its wastewater rehab project. Mr. Stanton is also currently in the planning and bidding stages for a complete new water system rehab and looks forward to providing an exceptional delivery system for its exceptional water.

Crescent is a growing into a lovely bedroom community that is destined for even greater things under Mr. Stanton’s leadership and vision.

 

 

Garber

The city of Garfield, located in Garfield County, is named after Martin Garber, father of Milton C. Garber, former U.S. Congressman, Enid mayor, newspaper editor, and judge. The Garber family participated in the Land Run of 1893, claiming the land that is now Garber.

Executive Director Carolyn Stager met with Natawsha Wedel, city clerk for the City of Garber. Since Wedel was born and raised in Garber, she was able to enlighten Stager on the city. Wedel attended the MC&T certification training that was held in Woodward and utilizes OML inquiry system when needed. She’s found OML to be very helpful when she’s had questions or concerns.

When visitors drive into town and go down Main Street, they see a large Jiffy Trip Convenience Store and city hall, but there are also quite a few vacant holdings on the street as well. Wedel mentioned that a local resident had been purchasing the empty properties and restoring them in hopes of encouraging new business to come to town. Garber has two convenience stores, the Houston Electric Company, a bank and a local bar located on Main Street. The city also receives tax money from their co-op. The Garfield County rural water association offices are located in Garber. The city currently has a doctor in town three days per week. The city has a public pool which in past years has had trouble hiring certified lifeguards, however, this year they have several qualified applicants.

Garber is under a DEQ notice of violation on their drinking water at this time. They want to build a new wastewater treatment plant utilizing USFA grant, REAP grant and OWRB to update water lines. Many of the residents live below poverty level and are on a fixed income, making it difficult to increase water rates to pay for the improvements.

The city’s largest revenue generator is derived from their water, sewer and trash, however, the cost to provide these services is also expensive. They have a 4 cent local sales tax with two cents going to the city and two cents going to the “two cent account.” These funds are used for work done on streets and buildings. The city of Garber also receives funds through Pioneer telephone and OG&E franchise tax.

It is apparent by the well-maintained athletic fields visible when you drive into town that high school sports are an important part of the Garber community. Garber has its own school system, educating pre-K through 12th grade. This year the high school had 40 graduates. The athletic department has won state championships in the past with the latest one being won in 2009.

City of Enid "Still Moving" as Mayor Bill Shewey Delivers His State of the City Address

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!

Goodwill Tours Take OML Director to Stroud, Broken Arrow, Lindsay, Alex and Guthrie

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.

Lawton, Geary next stops on OML Executive Director's goodwill tours

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.


GEARY

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.”

GOODWILL TOURS TAKE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR TO PRAGUE, BOLEY, MEEKER AND PADEN

Posted on November 17, 2010 at 3:38 PM

Prague

 

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.

 


Good Will Visit to the City of Stillwater

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.

Good Will Visit to the City of Tulsa

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.

Good Will Tour Continues to Sand Springs

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.

Visit to The City of Weatherford

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”!


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