Oklahoma Municipal League

Champions for Effective Local Government

OML Goodwill Tour

Goodwill tours take OML director to Slick, Beggs, Okmulgee, Dewar, Weleetka

Posted on August 12, 2010 at 2:02 PM

Slick


 

The Town of Slick was founded in 1920 by Tom Slick, and quickly became an oil boomtown with exploration and drilling, which drew business and industry. During the boom years, it was a thriving town with five banks, a movie theater and two schools. Kassie Gass, Slick’s clerk-treasurer of two years, says the town’s population and businesses dwindled as the drilling did.


 

A few years ago the town implemented Tom Slick Day as an October festival in honor of its founder, as well as to raise revenue. On display at town hall, I noticed a scrapbook filled with pictures of past festivals. The town’s former clerk-treasurer lost her husband in a fatal accident last year, so the money raised at the festival was given to help the family.


 

The Slick Town Hall was previously located in an old school building that was built in 1929. It closed as a school in the ‘50s, but the building continued to house the town hall until 2004, when it was condemned. A museum now holds all the school history and memorabilia from 1929, and town hall resettled into a trailer.


 

Gass grew up in the area. Her parents own a bail bond service and she still works occasionally as a process server. Most of the area kids attend Bristow or Beggs schools.

 

Offices hours at Slick are Monday evening 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. and Tuesday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. A new town board has formed and includes Violet Hayes, Mayor and Melissa Riley, Trustee. The office of vice-mayor is currently vacant. Kassie reports that with a new board, many citizens are watching them closely to be certain they are conducting their meetings properly, making her a frequent user of OML’s Inquiry Service. She wants to be certain Slick’s minutes and meetings are correct. Kassie and the new councilmembers are planning to attend one of OML’s upcoming New Officials Institutes this fall.


 

Like much of Oklahoma caught up in the early July deluge, Slick’s 4th of July Fireworks Celebration was rained out (twice). Donation buckets had been set up around the town for citizen contributions to pay for the fireworks and they are still hoping to have the display, perhaps during the fall festival.

 

Slick has several improvement projects underway. Fences are going up around the ballpark and water tower, a slab is being laid for handicapped parking and the pavilion is being improved.


 

The town has a convenience store and owns and operates its own water system through the Slick Public Works. The system was funded with a USDA loan for infrastructure improvements. Kassie says it is difficult to stay in compliance with all the DEQ rules, which she says she is still learning.



 

 

 

Beggs


 

Karla St Cyr Poe, Clerk and Emma Hill, Treasurer, are officials in this Aldermanic city of 1,364. They reported some difficulty in getting an accurate census count and appreciate the helpfulness of the census class they attended at the OML conference. Poe says it was a great class which both she and Emma enjoyed. Poe has been with the city for 13 years, and has previously held the office of treasurer.

 

Beggs’ sales tax base is comprised of a Dollar General, two convenience stores and a grocery store. Economic hard times are to blame for the loss of three businesses. They definitely need more businesses to locate in Beggs. Financially, the city is holding steady but revenues are at a lull. Sales taxes are starting to show a little improvement.


 

A $4.2 million wastewater system is scheduled for completion within 90-120 days. A DEQ consent order forced them to obtain an OWRB loan, enabling them to build the system, but it will unfortunately require an increase in Beggs’ water rates. The previous council had begun building a mechanical plant for the facility, but the wastewater treatment plant became a priority and the mechanical plant caused delays and setbacks. Since the previous council had already begun implementation, DEQ made them stay with the old plan. It has caused a hardship for Beggs but it will be finished soon.

 

REAP and CDBG funding is important to Beggs, particularly since they did not receive any stimulus dollars because their project was already underway. Next up on the project list is to replace water lines.


 

Police Chief James Poulin stopped by while I was there. I discovered he is also a minister in Tulsa, and Beggs’ mayor, Rich Mitchell, is the fire chief in Okmulgee.



 

 

Okmulgee 


I had a very pleasant visit over lunch with City Manager Bob Baxter and Mayor Brian Priegel. Bob is our newest OML Board of Director, representing District 2. I took the opportunity to personally deliver his copy of the OML Board of Director’s handbook to him.


Bob said he appreciated the OML Sine Die Report he recently received, and he had already visited with his department heads to discuss the impact of some of the new legislation. One issue of concern was the implementation of SB 1900, http://www.oml.org/npps/story.cfm?ID=1996 which will require the city to provide building permit applicants, information, and a list of state taxes that may be assessed against anyone applying for a building permit, whether in or out of state. The bill also directs the clerk or other employee to request applicants for occupancy permits, to submit proof of registration with the Oklahoma Tax Commission, under the Oklahoma Business Registration System. Baxter believes that these new regulations may be a challenge to implement.


Another bill we discussed was SB 1998, http://www.oml.org/npps/story.cfm?ID=1996 which allows counties to assist smaller cities with street improvements. After returning to OML, I was able to provide him with some additional information.


Baxter spoke of some ongoing issues regarding county services for their 9-1-1 system. Okmulgee and the county continue to be at odds over 9-1-1.


Lastly, Bob said his intentions as the District 2 boardmember are to get out and visit communities in his OML District very soon.


Please note: you can find out about these bills mentioned in this article and many more that affect municipalities on the OML web site at www.oml.org, 2010 OML Sine Die Legislative Report.

 


Dewar  


In this charming town of 950 people, I visited with Brenda Wilhite, the Town Clerk since 2003. Before becoming clerk, she worked for the senior center for 15 years, which is in the same building as town hall. They just completed their 2010 census and report that numbers remained level with last year. The census workers utilized a town hall office but ran into some difficulty in getting good results at first. Some folks, especially seniors, were reluctant to open their doors to the census takers, but once they did, they discovered it was a painless and simple process.


Dewar has some wonderful assets, and one is TJ’s Diner, a little restaurant, which coincidentally opened the day of my July visit!  TJ’s features home cooking by locals. The other is a Mexican restaurant, Pancho Villas. Both serve up delicious food.


Dewar is very familiar with REAP grants, which they receive frequently. They have used them to remodel city hall, to buy new lawn mowers, a tractor and other equipment; and they are working to obtain a CDBG grant for the sewer lagoon system.


A one-quarter penny sales tax pays for equipment and uniforms for their all-volunteer fire department. Other fire department expenditures are budgeted from utilities or by grants, like the one that recently paid for a new fire truck.


Dewer’s citizens love sports and their girl’s fast pitch softball won state last year. They have a K-12 school system with between 300-400 students. Their school is associated with the Family Career & Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a school program on parliamentary procedure. They dress in uniform, practice parliamentary procedure, and this year, returned from the Chicago Nationals with 1st place in their division and 2nd in the nation. Last year they took 1st in the nation, and have been awarded ten gold medals from the nationals.


Brenda and Kimberly Wadsworth, Deputy Clerk, attended the NOI in Stillwater last February and loved it. Brenda reports that they use OML’s Inquiry Service frequently.


One of the biggest challenges in the town government is enforcing its own rules. Citizens are good neighbors and friends, and have lived in the vicinity for 20-30 years. Through the years, the town has had to add on fees and deposits these long-time residents have never had to pay before. It used to be that when they built their homes, they could have all the animals they wanted; yet now their neighbors live closer and the town has to enforce code regulations that are not always popular.


Police Chief Nathan Bartlett was recently involved in an auto accident and is currently on workers’ compensation. Everyone is hopeful that he will be back in a month or so and Dewar reserve officers are filling in. Municipal court is held once a month, mostly for traffic-related matters.


Brenda gave me a delightful example of what it’s like to serve in her community. While she was visiting her daughter one weekend, a neighbor saw Brenda’s car and called her daughter to see if Brenda could get her dog out of the pound. Now that’s small town life!!!!

 



 

 

Weleetka


 

Nancy Shannon is new to the clerk/treasurer position, having resigned her town trustee seat to take the position. She also agreed to take over the duties of court clerk, but is still learning those additional duties. She reports that she is a frequent user of OML’s Inquiry System.


 

Nancy is working ardently to bring the accounting up to date and get Weleetka’s books in order. She reports that Weleetka’s books are not currently auditable and, therefore, they are not able to apply for grants. Although they hired a CPA, he was only able to get the books updated through 2006 before the town ran out of funds to pay him. With the help of a citizen volunteer, Nancy is sifting through the remaining documents. On his own time, the volunteer set up a QuickBooks program for Nancy and is training her to be proficient. She commented that he and most Weleetkans are pretty good to help when they know it is needed; and in fact, many citizens have volunteered to help with Weleetka’s records situation.


 

Weleetka has had to increase its water-sewer-trash rate by 35 percent in recent years and has hired an engineer to oversee the water-sewer plant, which is under a DEQ consent order.

 

The only restaurant in town burned a few years ago, which led to the decline in sales tax revenue, so the citizens were very excited about the new restaurant, “Home Plate,” that just came into town. Nancy reported that she had just eaten there on the day I arrived “and it’s good!” Other Weleetka businesses include a bank, flower shop, gas station and grocery store, which sells ready-made sandwiches and pizza.


 

Weleetka operates a K-12 school system, which has about 400 students currently enrolled.

 

Before I left, Mayor Jimpsey Micco popped in and said a quick hello.


 

Nancy was very excited about Carolyn’s visit. “Her visit really helped me,” she says. After returning to OML, Carolyn notified the OMCCA district representative of Nancy’s new court clerk responsibilities and the rep was able to assist her through the OSBI reporting on tickets. “She was helpful on other things as well. I really appreciate what she did.”


 

Nancy was happy to hear that the Weleetka story will be printed in Carolyn’s Good Will Tour article and blog and that she is looking forward to reading about other towns and how they are solving their problems. She also reported that an article she recently read in the Oklahoma Cities & Towns about a new requirement for house addresses to be visible from the streets has prompted her to alert the citizens of in her town.


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