Woodward, Okla. —
By Rachael Van Horn
Living in a small town has its perks. By and large, the local small towns around Woodward and in the Panhandle are safe communities where someone can rear children, attend a church of their choice and basically enjoy a quiet lifestyle.
On the face of it, creating these little bastions of serenity looks more like fun than work. But talk to the various city managers and administrators of each town and you might find a city is a city.
Simply put, most of the area city managers know this truth: If you are in charge of one toilet flushing, you might as well have a million.
So just like the President of the United States offers his State of the Union Address, usually at the beginning of the year, so too this year, will some local city administrators of Northwest Oklahoma.
Brian Bowles is the new superintendent of the City of Buffalo. A life-long resident of Buffalo, Bowles has optimistic plans in store for the small town, population 1,289.
But Bowles is a realist who knows in this era of shrinking state and federal support for small towns the road ahead might be harder than it ever has.
“There are lots of things we want to do,” he said. “Small towns like us basically live off grants and it is getting harder and harder to qualify for those.”
That said, Bowles is enthusiastic about a recent grant that will allow Buffalo to resurface its airport runway.
“Because we are a town with a hospital, we have an airport and a heliport,” Bowles said. “Because we have that hospital we qualified for a grant to resurface the runway.”
According to Bowles, Buffalo might be small, but its diverse and active community still has pilots who rent the hangers at the airport as well as a small pilot headquarters at the facility.
But everything isn’t all sunshine and skittles, Bowles said. The town has an aging sewer and water system that will need attention soon and his focus in the coming months will be to apply for enough grant money to begin that work.
The town has a full time grant writer on staff and Bowles is hopeful that with continued effort and planning, Buffalo will continue to upgrade and improve in 2014.
“I’m just very appreciative that I have this job,” he said. “As a life-long Buffalonian, feel some loyalty here and I want to see things steered in the right direction.”
With about a year under his belt at the Laverne City Manager Jeff Howard walked into a pretty large project when he decided to take the job early last year.
The city was just beginning a large, new water system installation that removed old, antiquated water system pipes and replaced them with new.
“The water line project went great,” Howard said. “Really, even better than that because we finished before we planned and had extra money left over.”
Going into 2014, Howard plans to place a new sprinkler system in the park and begin some steps toward updating the electrical infrastructure as well as working to get a grant for the continued improvement of the sewer lagoons.
Laverne had its roots in 1889 in a settlement that began with a one room sod house that served as the postal office, according to written historical accounts. It is said the town got its name from the daughter of one of the town’s founders. But there are other versions as well to the origin of the town’s moniker.
Now the town serves about 1,338 people and still boasts an active school district with a winning football team as well as a vibrant business climate.
Howard’s hope for the coming year is to continue updating old infrastructure and provide reliable utility services for the residents here.
Mooreland: Mooreland City Manager Karen Riffel has a name you can recognize. But that probably doesn't have anything to do with the serious tone she takes when she begins talking about city planning for Mooreland.
Perhaps on the cutting edge, at least for small towns, Riffel’s vision for Mooreland will help take it into the 21st century.
Her biggest plans for 2014 involve updating at least half the households with utility meters that can be read remotely.
“What this will help with is that the employees we have can accomplish that task quicker because of the meters and then move onto the other important jobs they have like maintenance and mowing.”
She also plans to install more security cameras throughout the city to combat vandalism and that will allow continued development of the park area with the confidence of being able to protect it.
But she is also enthused, she said, of the recent development in Mooreland near the intersections of U.S. Highway 270 and State Highway 183 of a new truck wash, convenience store and a possible Sonic slated to be developed there.
“I’m just really proud of those accomplishments for Mooreland,” she said.
Shattuck: Shattuck City Manager Sam Hamilton has just taken the reins at the city offices. But he still knows a thing or two about Shattuck and its plans for the future.
In 2013, Hamilton said, the city obtained a brand new water tower and installed new lines, tieing in some to allow them to have a better connection.
His plans for the coming year are to throw what support he can behind the work being done at the Shattuck Public School which is building a new gym, middle school and cafeteria as part of a $16 million bond issue.
Shattuck is a robust and interestingly little community that has traditionally attracted new business.
According to McKenzie Pshigoda, Shattuck Chamber of Commerce Director, Shattuck is still attracting new families and business.
“Economic development has definitely been on the increase for the last few years here in Shattuck and it doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon. 2013 was a great year for Shattuck and 2014 is looking even better,” she said. “We invited almost 10 new businesses to our community this past year including two new restaurants.”
According to Pshigoda, The Chamber of Commerce completed its “Housing Project” where they built and sold two new homes to families here in Shattuck.
At present, there are four construction projects taking place this month alone, all business-related, she said.
“ Shattuck is a great place to live, shop, dine, and work,” she said. “It’s a family-friendly town and all of the positive development we are experiencing here is credited to the amazing citizens, supportive business community and outstanding fellowship that exists here.”
The history of Fort Supply reaches back as far as 1868, but there is one thing that is not of any "historical" value anymore and that is the water system.
Fort Supply Mayor, Mike Lowden is celebrating the completion of the upgrade of the city's water system and feeling thankful for the engineers that helped make the new system a reality.
"We saw a lot of improvement last year and hopefully this year we will be just as successful," he said.
Fort Supply is home to 338 residents and hosts the William S. Key Correction Center on its south boarder.
The small community also serves as a hub for those who come in from all around the state to enjoy Fort Supply Lake during the warm season.
Lowden said his hopes for this year include putting an new advanced school zone warning signs with lights.