Oklahoma Municipal League

Champions for Effective Local Government

OML Goodwill Tour

Goodwill tours provide opportunity to get acquainted with OML members

Posted on September 15, 2010 at 6:09 AM

Antlers

 

I arrived at Antlers just prior to a special council meeting taking place at noon, but I was able to visit briefly with both Jinny Simpson, Antlers’ new Town Clerk, and Joel Taylor, Antlers’ City Manager. Joel previously served as city manager for six years, left to run a motor sport dealership and then returned four and one-half years ago to once again become the town’s city manager.

 

Orley Airport was on the Special Meeting Agenda for the board to discuss additional property for a safety zone.

 

Jinny said this has been a tough year for Antlers. They have had to cut and furlough employees. Antlers’ revenue has been down ten or twelve per cent, but is now coming back up. Their water and sewer plants also dropped twelve percent, during nine out of the last twelve months, which may sound strange, but Taylor says, “When income is down, the citizens use less water; they probably do not water lawns as much.” Antlers raised the water bill for the first time in three years.

 

Antlers built a new water plant and sewer plant over the past four years. The sewer has been in operation two years and the water plant a little over a year.

 

They used a 75/25 grant to loan combination from Rural Development. The water plant has been on line for about 16 months. The cost was $3.5 million at design, but $6.5 million from the design stage to completion.”

 

Despite the bad economic times, Antlers has five grants underway, CDBG and Rural Development grants will build an addition onto their library, fund the construction of an industrial building, renovate Antlers’ storm shelter, fund an industrial expansion, and overlay the airport. The city wrote some of these grants, and Turning Point wrote a grant to upgrade trails for the parks.


 

Broken Bow

 

The City of Broken Bow is a town of 4,230 in McCurtain County where tourists go to enjoy the lake, a local winery, beautiful scenery and great people. Under the management of John Dean, Jr., the city has undergone many changes over the past three years.

 

The water and sewer plant projects have been completed. Broken Bow just recently broke ground on their Streetscape project, which will provide transportation enhancements downtown.

 

The city has removed over 100 dilapidated structures through their condemnation process. Because of the city’s success with that effort, the citizens have taken it upon themselves to voluntarily clean up their dilapidated structures to not only avoid the city penalties, but to clean up the community and keep the city safe.

 

Tourism is one of Broken Bow’s greatest assets. Despite the downturn in the economy, the hotel/motel tax has increased due to the steady activity in tourism.

 

John Dean, Jr., who retired from the military after 20 years, is the city manager. Dean has a vision for how he would like to see the community of Broken Bow and its surrounding area grow. To facilitate that process, he created a four-member Visionary Committee.

 

He invited people with diverse opinions who have a lot of contacts and can get things done. During the first meeting, he provided each member a blank notebook and asked “How can we make this community better?” While not all of the committee members understood and liked the direction of this committee, he personally visited with them afterward to share his vision of Broken Bow and the surrounding areas and encouraged them to speak their minds.

 

Broken Bow is working on an eight-field baseball complex. As of today, they have two T-ball fields, two softball fields and two baseball fields. They are working on an additional two fields as well as a football/soccer field. The unique aspects of these fields are the infields which are made of pulverized granite. This was a $1.5 million project that will be used by youth for many years.

 

Another accomplishment for Broken Bow was the completion of lights for two intersections. This project did not come as easily as expected. When ODOT arrived to do their first traffic count before Thanksgiving, there was not a lot of traffic. When asked why, Dean said “the town shuts down the week of Thanksgiving for people to go hunt deer.” However, when ODOT came back in March, within 15 minutes the ODOT representative said these two intersections definitely qualified for lights. Now the citizens see red, yellow and green, and it’s a good thing.

 

Broken Bow plans to participate with several other cities in Oklahoma in the Regional International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) convention taking place in Grapevine, Texas in November. Several Oklahoma cities are joining together to have an Oklahoma booth where each of them will have an opportunity to showcase their community to potential vendors/businesses. Oklahoma has such unique geography around the state that the same business could potentially consider locating in both Guymon and Broken Bow.

 

I also visited with Broken Bow’s Clerk-Treasurer Vickie Pieratt. Pieratt says Broken Bow contracted with ETS for a credit card payment system last March, a system allowing citizens to pay court costs and utilities using credit cards. For walk-ins, the city absorbs the charge; but call-ins pay a $2 convenience fee.

 

So when looking for a wonderful getaway in Oklahoma, visit Broken Bow, the gateway for tourists and tell ‘em Carolyn sent you.



Coalgate

 

Sherlyn Walker has been Coalgate’s Clerk for 11 years. I was visiting with her in the office when Mayor Mike Elkins and the City Manager, Roger Cosper, concluded a meeting and stopped in to say hello, so it was a bonus that I was able to visit with them, also.

 

Sales tax revenues are leveling off in Coalgate, and like a lot of towns like to say, they are “rocking along.”

 

Sherlyn says the largest employer in Coalgate will be the Mary Hurley Hospital with 20 beds when it is finished, and the Ruth Wilson Hurley Manor, a 75-bed nursing home, both with the same owner. Together these institutions will employ about 150 people, many of those from Coalgate. The newspaper is already carrying an employment ad for the jobs that will be created.

 

The county is opening a new health clinic with access for all, which will greatly benefit the low income citizens. The clinic was financed with a CDBG/USDA grant combination, and will employ many Coalgate citizens.

 

In the mid-1960s, Wrangler Jeans built the Wrangler plant which is part of the Industrial Park. When Coalgate lost Wrangler, the Industrial Authority purchased the plant to utilize as a business incubator, and a USDA grant funded the rewiring. A&W Machines, a company that makes parts for oil rigs, moved into the incubator from a smaller PWA building which enabled it to add several more machines. It now operates three shifts and employs more than 20 workers.

 

Glenn Glass, a former Coalgate employee, is now an area manager for REI and helped the Coalgate Industrial Authority through some of the planning.

 

Another USDA grant will help construct a rural fire field station at the city park across the road from the Industrial Authority where a spring-fed pond offers the department free water and gives fire protection to area homes.

 

Their new $87,000 ambulance and a police car were purchased with ARRA monies through USDA. TriCounty Indian Nations Community Development Corporation (TINCDC), composed of Pontotoc, Coal and Johnson Counties, wrote the grant; and an Oklahoma Housing Finance Administration grant tore down and replaced four houses.

 

Sherlyn is completing two REAP grants ­— one for the fire department for self-contained breathing apparatus (SEBA) equipment, clothing and possible helmet lights, and a grant for cement work to make the Industrial Park building ADA compliant.

 

Mayor Elkins and City Manager Roger Cosper spoke about financing issues. A common theme is the issue with the Oklahoma Tax Commission and its lack of audits. OTC will not come to Coalgate to verify whether businesses are paying taxes. They were excited when I told them about OML’s Municipal Revenue and Efficiencies Task Force and the Municipal Liaison Board to the Oklahoma Tax Commission that will work on improving relationships with the Oklahoma Tax Commission to ensure better collection reporting and audits.

 

The Town of Coalgate also built a new splash pad by their swimming pool. The splash pad was paid for out of the capital improvement fund. It is mainly for toddlers, but anyone can enjoy it. The rules for operating a splash pad are less stringent than for operating a pool, and splash pads are also popular and in current demand by the public. Sherlyn plans to get her two grandchildren out there to enjoy it.

 

Coalgate officials are unable to attend OML’s conference but Sherlyn wants to shut down the office so all five ladies may attend the New Officials Institute in McAlester to hear about Open Meetings and Open Records.



Haworth

 

Upon entering the Haworth Town Hall office, I saw a small OML-member plaque on the desk of Joyce Brown who has been the clerk of this community of 354 people for 14 years. She grew up in McCurtain County.

 

Haworth has two grocery stores that provide most of their sales tax base. They also have a tire shop and a mechanic garage. Although the labor is not taxed, they are an advantage to the community. In late July a liquor store opened which will generate additional revenue.

 

Their fire department has 20 volunteers and just received a Homeland Security grant that enabled them to purchase a truck and some new equipment. All the firefighters are employed at other jobs and yet they volunteer to help their town. Trucks are kept at two substations in different rural areas around Haworth, so whoever lives closest can run and jump in one of those fire trucks and get to the scene quickly. Joyce says their volunteer fire department could hold up against any of the paid fire departments from anywhere. “They are a good fire department, a good team, and they are all volunteers,” she said.

 

One police officer, the chief, is assisted by two reserves. The crime rate is low here, but it is a secluded area and sometimes that attracts mischief. They recently applied for a federal COPS grant to get an additional full time employee in the department.

 

Haworth owns city water and sewer and picks up trash. At their next board meeting they will sign a contract for a CIP grant, which will be administered by KEDDO. They plan to apply for a REAP grant to acquire a garage to store big equipment such as tractors, a bush hog, a back hoe, a side boom, and generator. “It’s expensive equipment and we need a secure place to store it,” says Joyce. “We applied last year but didn’t get it. We were the alternate – that’s how close we came to getting it.”

 

Their biggest employer is the Pre-K through12 school system. Although it is small, it is a good school system, and Joyce thinks the rural Haworth setting is attractive to parents. The bus service covers the community. Haworth has a diversified group of citizens; some are employed by Wal-Mart, others at Tyson Foods, and at various places in the community.

 

They do use the OML Inquiry Service and appreciate the quick and good response. Haworth city officials do not get to Oklahoma City often and cannot attend many events as most of the council have full-time jobs. Joyce has attended the Municipal Clerks and Treasurers Handbook Training Program when it came to her area.

 

Joyce commented that it was nice to have OML come to them.



 

 

 

Heavener

 

Mike Kennerson has been the City Manager of Heavener in LeFlore County for ten years. The Heavener City Hall was formerly used as the bank building. Kennerson is a “hands on” manager, and sometimes operates the back hoe to save the city money.

 

Kennerson described some of the many projects happening in Heavener. A $5.2 million dollar water project funded by a USDA 40-year loan is now completed, and fire protection upgraded. The water improvement project requires four and one-half miles of 16” interceptor mains that feed potable water up to a storage tower, increasing storage capacity from 1.5 to 4.5 million gallons.

 

Heavener is involved in a $2.3 million sewer project funded with a USDA loan to build a sequence batch reactor (SBR) mechanical plant, a project similar to but much smaller than the one on the South Canadian River in Oklahoma City. They are hoping to use the 1.5 cent tax to retire the sewer debt.

 

Heavener passed a GO bond and a half-cent sales tax to pay for it. The bond did four things. It paid for four new tornado sirens giving the city 98 percent coverage, and allowed private corporations to purchase and install direct receiver sirens that emit a shrill beep, which is helpful in and around noisy areas. It purchased lights for Heavener’s other two ball fields for nighttime play; and upgraded their 1939 stone library by adding a state-of-the-art addition, and increased public access from three terminals to fifteen.

 

Heavener is also currently under a DEQ consent order, as are many other small Oklahoma communities.

 

Heavener has a new website, www.cityofheavener.us, which gets 1600 hits a day and is loaded with capability to interact with its citizens. Its social networking capability facilitates emergency alerts, specifically tornado warnings by Twitter, Facebook and Myspace.

 

They are currently considering express bill pay, which would allow payment with credit cards for utility billing and court fines.

 

Years ago Heavener passed a 1.5 cent dedicated tax to retire the FHA loan to avoid sewer debt. They put money back for when they needed it, and over the years it has built into a significant amount which they can now utilize.

 

They passed a bond issue and could use ad valorem monies that would help pay it off if needed, but their one-half cent sales tax has been adequate to make the payments so they haven’t had to tap into bond money.

 

Heavener has three TIF districts, which are ad valorem based. The city had to go through a process to identify all taxing entities that receive ad valorem money, list what beneficial projects they wanted to do, they have a list for each district, and name all upgrades. They are planning and visioning their designs.

 

Heavener has thirty new single family homes this year which will generate $16 or $17 thousand in ad valorem tax. The established cash flow can issue a bond with that revenue.

 

Mike talked about three projects that are planned or undersay — street paving, drainage, a 20,000 thousand-foot community center. Most also involved single family housing.

 

Kennerson had training in strategic planning before coming to Heavener. While based at the naval base in Florida, he won the Sterling Award, and went through their training program to become an inspector for the Sterling Award. When he transferred to the Oklahoma squadron at Tinker, he became part of the OK Quality Award program as an inspector for one year. It took 300 – 400 hours of labor on weekends and time off to attain this status. These award programs look at planning, leadership, how results are measured, and how they get there. Under his leadership many great projects are in the future plans for Heavener.



 

 

 

Hugo

 

Leah Savage, Hugo’s clerk, came on board one month after David Rawls became city manager; both have been in their offices a little over three years. Leah said Hugo is preparing for its big annual rodeo, which attracts a lot of visitors to the community every year. Their sales tax revenues are still fairly good, and they collect hotel/motel tax, which is dedicated to tourism for the city.

 

Both said they frequently call the OML Inquiry Department, and that they will be attending the OML conference. In fact, David said he thought all the councilors were packing up and heading for the conference. Rawls likes the roundtables, and he particularly likes sharing problems and solutions with people from cities close to the same size as Hugo (population 5,500). Having workshops nearby such as in McAlester also helps them because they don’t have to travel so far.

 

Hugo is currently free of DEQ Consent or NOV orders. They have their own water and waste water system, the Hugo Municipal Authority, whose operations Hugo has contracted to Severn Trent, a water and wastewater operations service.

 

Always a popular sport, football season is just beginning at Hugo schools. Leah said she would be attending a school committee meeting that evening as they consider implementing a policy for students to wear uniforms to school.

 

A very interesting bit of information about Hugo’s City Manager, David Rawls is that prior to becoming Hugo’s city manager, he owned the Kelly Miller Circus for 25 years. Rawls grew up in Hugo where nine circuses wintered over and three of those still do. Carson and Barnes Circus travels all over the world, and keeps circus animals on their own grounds during the winter so it is common to see elephants and zebras in Hugo. Mt. Olivet, in Hugo, is a circus designated cemetery for circus performers. The circus continues to be a major industry and large part of the Hugo community.

 

Rawls grew up in the circus. One of his favorite circus memories are the smiles of people enjoying the performances. He misses visiting with the friends he made traveling across the country once or twice a year. Rawls thinks the multi-tasking in managing a three-ring circus prepared him for the job of running a city with the many events constantly needing attention: water, streets, public safety, and the public constantly in and out of city hall – and city cleanups. Hugo took down 50 dilapidated houses this year, many belonging to absentee owners.

 

Rawls was complimentary toward Hugo’s work force of 77 employees. He thinks the city’s business licenses and permits are reasonably priced at $42. Their police department employs 15 officers, has eight vehicles and 24/7 community coverage. Twelve employees man the fire department whose ISO rating is four, which he considers good. Hugo is unionized and after four contract negotiations, Rawls says the city has a good relationship with the union, and both the police and fire departments.

 

Rawls explained that water sale is a huge issue in Hugo. Issues with the Oklahoma Tax Commission were also discussed.

 

With my visit ending, Leah said she “is ready to see us all next month” (at OML’s conference – and we are ready to see all of you, also.)



 

 

 

Idabel

 

I met with the Clerk-Treasurer, Tina Foshee and Jerry Shinn, Mayor, of this Aldermanic city. They were meeting later in the day to work on Enhanced 9-1-1. Idabel has 9-1-1 availability within city limits, but in cooperation with McCurtain County, they are endeavoring coverage enhancement to the northern 60 miles of mountainous region where signals are weak.

 

Idabel’s sales tax is down three to four per cent. That has been the standard I’ve heard in my travels throughout the state. Not as many of the cities have complained about sales tax, but they all have similar collection issues with the Oklahoma Tax Commission (OTC). The majority say some businesses are not paying their sales tax and it is difficult to get someone from the Oklahoma Tax Commission to respond.

 

Foshee says citizens call the city for information on whether businesses are paying sales tax, but it is difficult to get an answer from OTC. OTC used to have field representatives who visited cities and towns to verify business and vending machine owners’ sales tax compliance, and they no longer do that. Tina remembers from her previous job with the county that field representatives would come in regularly to file tax liens, and the lien would stay on the business until they satisfied their debt. She says “Idabel has a lot of ‘mom and pop’ stores, furniture, what-nots, barbeque stands, and I’m sure when they apply for a Tax ID Number they find out they need to pay sales tax. It’s a matter of whether or not they do it; a lot of it is just their personal integrity.”

 

Strangely enough, however, Tina says OTC has contacted Idabel about their farmer’s markets. OTC is requesting a copy of the farmer’s permits to ascertain whether farmers are paying sales tax to the state. OTC mailed tax forms and asked Idabel to help them out by giving the forms to the farmers.

 

Idabel City Hall is located in a unique old brick building which was formerly the Idabel National Bank. It is a 10,000 square foot brick building. Tina says when she became the Clerk-Treasurer she asked the mayor for a window in her office and he gave his approval. But perhaps they didn’t realize that installing a window meant boring through six feet of concrete! “It did use to be a bank,” she explains. City hall is listed as a storm shelter during the day.

 

At one time Weyerhaeuser had three plants and employed several hundred people from the surrounding areas. In leaving, the Weyerhaeuser-affiliated businesses in Idabel, such as Wood Lumber Company, lost the struggle to stay afloat, but are not giving up the fight. Idabel wrote a letter of city support for Wood Lumber, which along with letters from other area businesses, will accompany Wood’s application to USDA for a loan to reopen. If successful, it will restore the 60 – 70 jobs that were lost to Idabel citizens.

 

Idabel’s Movie Gallery also closed. Online companies like Netflix, or the Redboxes at Wal-Mart, McDonalds and other places seem to be competing with movie rental stores. A small ‘mom and pop’ video store is in town, and an Aaron’s store opened where consumers can purchase or rent-to-own furniture and appliances.

 

The Choctaw Native American Tribe is a big enterprise in Idabel and is preparing to build a travel plaza in the community which, Tina says, will be across the street from where she lives. The Tribe is currently securing property.

 

“In the seven years I’ve been city clerk, no one from OML has been here until today, and she took time out of her day to stop by and see us,” said Tina. I’m glad I was able to break that record.



 

 

 

Pocola

 

During my stop in Pocola, I visited with John Limbocker, the Clerk of Pocola. Looking around John’s office, I saw certificates and accreditations which revealed an interesting person who had a handle on things. The 340 hours of training he has accomplished are reflected in the many certificates lining the walls, including: DEQ Pipeline Safety, Storm Water Training, FEMA, Fire Service Training, Flood Plain Management (CFM) Administration, Oklahoma Emergency Management, laboratory and waste water certification, and CLEET. John says he also attended the New Officials Institute this year and thought it was very good. He told me they frequently use the OML Inquiry Service.

 

Pocola is on the border with Arkansas, and, in fact, John grew up in Ft. Smith. Pocola purchases water from Rural Water District #2, and their gas provider is AOG – Arkansas Oklahoma Gas. Pocola uses two electric providers: OG&E where Pocola borders Ft. Smith, and Arkansas Valley Electric, which provides power to the rural area.

 

Pocola bills for its own utility, a sewer, through the Pocola Municipal Authority. They receive a State Local Assistance Grant awarded yearly through the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management.

 

John said their sales tax base is stable, and has not dropped off. Sonic, Subway, two liquor stores, and two convenience stores, the Tote-a-Poke and Grand Slam comprise Pocola’s sales tax base, along with a couple of “mom and pop” businesses.

 

During our visit, Limbocker took a cell phone call, which sounded like a high-weeds complaint requesting a code enforcement officer, another hat John wears.

 

Pocola’s 10 percent sales tax includes town, county and state. One cent goes into a separate account for the Volunteer Fire Department, which further benefits from a LeFlore County one-half cent sales tax recently passed for all county fire departments. The tax generates between $1,800 and $2,300 per month, so the fire departments are very well funded and able to respond.

 

In other developments, Pocola has a new police chief. The town is planning a new park on acreage purchased by the city and enhanced by acreage and finances donated by a citizen who requested the park be named after her father, J.L. Swink.

 

Funny thing about really small towns — the Town of Rock Island is a small nearby community with a population of 750. Their office is located in a prefab trailer building and they hold meetings the first Tuesday of the month. Prior to coming to Pocola, I had attempted to make a stop in Rock Island. No one was at city hall or any place nearby. John said you have to know someone in Rock Island to be able to contact someone there.

 

In fact, as I was sharing this information, Limbocker began making calls to locate someone. The first place he called was Rick’s Corner Market, and subsequently provided me the phone numbers of the mayor and a council member. I called the mayor who was in New York City, who suggested I try to get in touch with one of the council members, but I had to leave messages and did not get to meet personally with anyone there. I followed up with a letter and mailed the packets of information I would have personally delivered to them. You gotta’ love small town Oklahoma – they are so resourceful! Hopefully, I will be able to personally meet the Rock Island officials during my next visit to this beautiful part of our state.



 

 

 

Rattan

 

Mary Turner has been clerk of this Pushmataha County town for a year. She has a business background and has implemented changes to make the office operate more efficiently.

 

She was appointed when their last clerk left, and says she has called the OML Inquiry Line several times for information. The clerk, mayor and council members attended the New Officials Institute in Tulsa.

 

The Rattan council would like to change the clerk’s position to an appointed one, and are in the process of reviewing a change from districts and wards to elections at large. They opted out of the Town Meeting Act about four years ago and since then have used the county election system. However, they are contemplating returning to the Town Meeting Act. After I left I contacted Kelly Danner, who manages the OML Inquiry Department, to forward Mary information on making these changes.

 

Three small stores, one which sells gasoline, one liquor store and three restaurants make up the Rattan sales tax base. Rattan has just increased their utility rates. They own their own wastewater system through the Public Works Authority. They are paying back some USDA loans, and have also recently increased utility rates.

 

The chief and one reserve officer comprise the Rattan Police Department, and ten volunteers and a chief make up their all-volunteer Fire Department. The Fire Department recently held a fish fry and garage sale with 10 percent of the proceeds going to the Rattan Fire Department. They have very little crime, “mostly speeders and that kind of thing,” says Mary.



 

 

 

Spiro

 

Vicki Cox is the Clerk-Treasurer of the Town of Spiro, located in Le Flore County in the southeast part of Oklahoma with a population of 2,227 at last census. Vicki says Spiro’s sales tax revenue has held fairly steady although it was a little down this year; but they have tightened their belt and did not have to furlough employees or dip into reserves. They are being prudent with their money.

 

Spiro is an Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority member and has had its own electric system since the 1970s through the Spiro Municipal Improvement Authority. A REAP grant provided an aerial lift basket truck for their electric department this year, and an OWRB loan enabled their sewer line extension to the Arkansas River in 2002. For two years in a row their applications for a CDBG grant for the water plant improvements have been rejected because, Vicki guesses, they are just “too far down on the list.”

 

Last year citizens approved a bond issue to build a multipurpose stage area and a new school gym that seats almost 2,000 people. Enrollment increased this year in Spiro’s K-12 school system. The building of new homes has slowed down this year. Traffic slowed as well. Spiro is just starting to feel it, Vicki says. Trends reach them later than other places.

 

Spiro’s tax base includes a grocery store, two dollar stores, and several food establishments for pizza, Mexican, Subway, Sonic, and others.

 

The city holds an annual fireworks display, and the chamber hosts an annual banquet. They also have a fall festival “arts and crafts” show every fall.

 

We talked about the Oklahoma Tax Commission and the issue of businesses not timely paying sales tax. The Oklahoma Municipal League is working with the Tax Commission to insure compliance in delivering tax payments back to cities and towns. This same difficulty is a common theme with each of my visits regardless of the size of the city or town.

 

Vicki says she uses the Oklahoma Municipal League’s Inquiry System and that she always gets a timely response. She says she is pleased with OML and we should just keep doing what we are doing.



 

 

 

Valliant

 

This McCurtain County town has a population of 771. Patsy Guest, the clerk, says sales tax is good and use tax is up this month. She sometimes uses the OML Inquiry Department and thinks they are doing a good job.

 

I could see across the desk from me, their computer screen showed OML on their “favorites” list. It was nice to hear her say we were a “favorite” and a resource she looked to.

 

About 15 volunteer firefighters assist the paid fire chief; the department is primarily funded with grants. The police department has two paid and one volunteer officer. Valliant has very little crime, with speeding and seat belt citations comprising most of their violations.

 

They tell us things are going great. Their location on a major highway generates quite a bit of sales tax revenue as a result of all those truck stops, stores, and fuel stops. Patsy says, “We’re holding our own, really doing good. I’m just amazed some months that a little town like this is doing so good.”

 

Valliant owns a building and shares expenses with the county for a nutrition center which is funded through Kiamichi Nutrition. The chamber of commerce has put on Valliant’s Watermelon Festival for nine years now. Valliant operates its own water, sewer, and trash system.

 

Although she will not be able to attend the OML Conference, Patsy plans to attend the court clerks conference in October, and says she likes going to training when it is nearby. I encouraged her to attend the OML District Dinner meeting this fall.

 

As I left, I saw a sign that read “Home of Senator Jerry Ellis.” Ellis has been in the House and has been their Senator for several years. He represented Valliant for several years as both a member of the House of Representatives and now the State Senate.



 

 

 

Wright City

 

Driving in I noticed the pretty entrance into Wright City. Once I arrived at the town hall, I met with Jackie Harris, a Wright City native who has been the clerk-treasurer since April 2007. I also got to visit with Georgia Boles, the deputy court clerk and secretary of the PWA. Georgia is also a retired postmaster of many years. Together they were a great source of information and were very knowledgeable about the Town of Wright City.

 

They think Wright City has one of the best K-12 school systems in the county. The town recently assisted the chamber with their Centennial celebration which featured a parade and rodeo, and was scheduled around homecoming to share with the folks returning for that event. It was a good time for a celebration.

 

The city sales tax base consists of a couple of cafes, an EZ Mart, the lumber yard, and a bank. Unfortunately, a large grocery store went out of business recently.

 

The volunteer fire department consists of approximately 13-14 firefighters; and the police department has a chief, two full-time officers and one reserve officer. Both the police and fire departments are larger than those in other towns of similar size.

 

About 200 workers were unemployed when Weyerhaeuser left about a year and a half ago. Weyerhaeuser did not pay much sales tax, but they did purchase about $4,000 - $5,000 per month in water, and that revenue loss hurt Wright City in many ways. Weyerhaeuser’s load on the city’s lagoons resulted in a DEQ consent order; so a USDA grant/loan combo, mostly loan, helped build a $1.8 million sewer treatment plant to facilitate Weyerhaeuser. When Weyerhaeuser left, the town struggled and finally increased utility rates, which was difficult for those on fixed incomes. Their request for loan forgiveness from USDA went to Washington and was refused. USDA allowed Wright City to pay off four of the original USDA loans with revenue earmarked for savings. When USDA makes loans, it requires monies to be automatically deposited into a savings account. That savings sometimes grows into a hefty sum.

 

Wright City utilizes the OML Inquiry Department, and they say it is always helpful; however they also try to be resourceful and find answers for themselves.

 


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