Woodward, Okla. —
Woodward City Commissioners set an election date to ask voters to approve a penny's worth of sales taxes for the next 15 years.
On Aug. 13, Woodward citizens will cast their ballots on 2 sales tax issues. The first is the proposed 15-year extension of an existing half-cent sales tax that is dedicated to capitol improvement projects. The second is a proposed new half-cent sales tax increase that would provide funding for construction of a new central fire station and for the widening of 34th Street.
During the city commission meeting Monday, June 3, City Manager Alan Riffel and Chief Financial Officer Doug Haines explained why each of these half-cent taxes are important.
CAPITOL IMPROVEMENT TAX
Haines said the capitol improvement (CI) tax has already been in place for almost 20 years and in that time has proven to be "a vital source of revenue to the city, mainly in the areas of infrastructure improvements."
Riffel agreed, saying the CI tax has been used in the past to upgrade the city's wastewater, storm water, and potable water systems, as well as streets and bridges.
"On average each year we are able to put half a million to three-quarters of a million into our streets," Haines said.
"It's the same with water," Riffel added.
"Without this revenue source," Haines said "we would have no funds for those projects."
As for the new fire station and 34th street project (FS34) tax, Riffel said that "both projects have been identified as a high priority for the community for a number of years."
While certain preliminary work has been conducted, including hiring an engineer (Garver Engineering) for the 34th Street project and hiring an architect (Architects in Partnership) and construction manager (Joe D. Hall General Contractors) for the fire station, both Riffel and Haines said the projects can't go fully live until funding is in place.
"The preliminary proposals to the city for both projects put them in the range of $7 million per project," Riffel said.
However, he said that work is being done now to finalize plans and costs for the proposed project.
The city manager said that commissioners proceeded with setting an election date for the matter without these final numbers, because they have to call for an election at least 60 days in advance to allow proper time for notification to the public.
"But during the next 60 days we will be releasing the final drawings and final costs," he said. "We will roll out the plans and final costs of the projects in time for the public to make an educated decision at the polls."
In other financial matters Monday night, city commissioners approved an almost $43.2 million budget for Fiscal Year 2014.
This budget includes approximately $12.6 million for personnel services; $1.8 million for material and supplies; $5.5 million for other services and charges; $8.9 million for capitol outlay; $5.2 million for operating transfers; $2.7 million for debt service; $2.5 million for specific fund reserves, and $4 million for emergency reserves. (Numbers are rounded to the nearest tenth of a million.)
During a budget workshop held last week, Haines said that one of the big goals of this year's budget was to help meet staffing needs, which is why 5 additional staff positions have been included in the budget. These positions include an assistant to the E911 coordinator in the emergency dispatch center, a Geographic (Geospatial) Information Systems (GIS) operator in code enforcement, a heavy equipment operator in the street department, and 2 Class C maintenance workers in the water department.
UPDATE ON PLANNING PROCESS
In other business Monday night, city commissioners received a presentation from Brannyn McDougal, representing Gray Planning, regarding the city's comprehensive urban planning process.
McDougal explained the process is comprehensive because "while our focus will be on land use," Gray Planning will also be looking at housing, community facilities and services, infrastructure, transportation, parks and recreation, natural and cultural resources and the local economy as they develop a plan for Woodward's future.
McDougal also provided the commissioners with a general overview of the initial steps in the comprehensive planning process. She said the process kicked off last week with "some of the behind the scenes work," such as gathering demographic information for analysis.
"And this week we have a very full week of meetings," she said, where the McDougal team will start conversations with the many different groups that will be involved in the planning process.
She said these meetings will be with a project team, which is an internal meeting with city staff; a steering committee, which is the "citizen advisory group that will help shape the vision and goals of the plan;" and a public official roundtable, which will include elected and appointed officials from throughout the community.
"Later this summer, we'll also hold community town hall meetings and will be conducting a community-wide survey," McDougal said. "We're working to get as much community feedback as we can throughout the process."
To help involve the public and keep them informed about the process, she said Gray Planning will be launching a website as soon as possible with more information about the project, which has been named "Envision Woodward."
She said work is still being done on the website to make sure that all the links are working correctly, but expects the website will be live "sometime this week, hopefully."
Once it is up and running, she said the website can be found at EnvisionWoodward.com. "We will also have a Facebook page as well," McDougal said.
Riffel said that representatives from Gray Planning would be coming back before the city commission several times over the next few months to provide ongoing updates as the planning process continues.
For example, McDougal said she expects to return in a few weeks to present the commissioners with the results of the "baseline analysis."
In other action, commissioners approved items that will allow the city to move forward on a grant project for the GPS mapping of the city's water lines.
A similar project has already been done for the city's sewer lines. It is intended to help city maintenance personnel to locate lines and valves whenever repairs or maintenance is needed.
The commissioners approved authorizing the Oklahoma Economic Development Authority (OEDA) to submit a grant application for $25,000 in Community Development Block Grant funding for the project. They also approved a contract with OEDA for administration of the project, which has a total cost of $35,000. So if the grant is awarded, the city's portion will be $10,000.
City commissioners also approved a resolution showing local support for affordable housing. The resolution was requested by Affordable Equity Partners, Inc., is applying for allocation of tax credit funding through the Oklahoma Housing Finance Authority (OHFA) for construction of a proposed low-rent senior housing development north of Hanks Trail on 8th Street. Verification of community support is required to complete the OHFA funding application.