Woodward, Okla. —
City leaders used Monday's monthly Chamber of Commerce luncheon to unveil plans for the proposed new central fire station and 34th Street widening project.
Woodward city commissioners set an Aug. 13 election date for a proposed half-cent sales tax increase to fund both projects, which are projected to cost a total of $14.5 million. The increase, which has been proposed for a 15-year term, would (combined with continuation of a current half-cent capital improvement tax which is also on the ballot) increase the city's total sales tax base to 4 cents per dollar, matching rates already in place in a number of similar communities including Weatherford, El Reno, Elk City, Clinton, Yukon and Guymon. Woodward would still remain below other communities including Alva which has a 4.25 cent rate, and Watonga, which has a 5 cent rate.
City Manager Alan Riffel said the sales tax increase is "a public safety initiative."
"Anytime you're talking about a new fire station or a new traffic corridor, you're talking about public safety," he said.
FIRE STATION TO OFFER IMPROVED RESPONSE TIMES, MORE ROOM
Riffel explained the new fire station will improve public safety by relocating personnel and equipment from it's current 80-year-old, "decaying" facility on a "dangerous" and busy intersection to a brand new facility with room to grow on a site where they will have signal control access for improved response times.
City commissioners approved the purchase of the old Golden Corral property at the intersection of 8th St. and Williams Ave. last year as the location for the new fire station.
But the new location isn't the only thing that will help firefighters improve response times. Almost everything about the new station's design is geared toward helping firefighters be able to get in their vehicles and get out to an emergency scene as quickly as possible.
This includes some of the proposed station's new amenities, such as an on-site fitness center. Riffel noted that currently firefighters have to leave their station area and go to another nearby building to use fitness equipment, which can impact response times should an emergency occur while they're working out. But with the new station, he said the fitness center would be on the second floor of the facility along with all the other living space for the firefighters, and not more than a few feet away from a pole that they can slide down into the equipment bay and then drive out to the emergency.
Because of the proposed size of the new station, almost 28,000 square feet, Riffel said there will be 2 poles for the firefighters to use to help increase access to the equipment bay on the first floor.
In addition to the fitness center, the new fire station would include a spacious kitchen, a day room area, sleeping quarters, bathrooms, and a training/conference room all on the second level. Then on the first level there will be an administrative area with offices and a lobby, a total of 8 apparatus bays, including 5 pull-through bays and 3 shorter rear-entry bays, along with an indoor wash bay where firefighters can clean their equipment.
Riffel previously told The News that the larger size of the proposed new station would essentially double the equipment room available, and would allow the fire department to once again house some of its equipment that has been placed in other locations. This includes bringing the new 95-foot ladder truck from Station 2 along 22nd St. north of the railroad tracks back into the central fire station, as well as bring the fire department's hazmat unit back from being housed at the old armory so that it's once again at a WFD facility.
Riffel said the additional equipment space will not only better handle current equipment needs but will also leave some room for additional equipment.
TRAFFIC INCREASING ON 34TH STREET
When Alan Case II, who is the chair of the Woodward Industrial Foundation, was asked to speak about why he would be voting in favor of the new sales tax increase, he said the fire station was an obvious need for public safety.
"I'm not going to bore you with talk about the fire station. Everyone knows the need there. No one in this room has a beef for extending funds for a fire station," Case said.
Instead he focused on the traffic issues in Woodward and how that points to a need for improvements along 34th Street.
Case said he has lived here most of his life and moved back to the community in the late 90s, purchasing a home along Yeager Dr. in 1999.
Back then he said you could "hear crickets along Downs Ave." because there wasn't much traffic. However, he said traffic has steadily increased in the area, both from local drivers using Downs to avoid traffic along Oklahoma Ave. and from new developments along 34th Street that are drawing more people to that area, from the Early Childhood Center to the Conference Center to the new movie theaters.
Case described trying to turn onto Downs from his street on Yeager Dr. "like that video game frogger," in terms of the amount of traffic going through the area at times making it difficult sometimes to enter that traffic flow.
"I'm happy to have the traffic, I'm happy to have the growth," Case said. "But this is a traffic problem that needs to be addressed."
Riffel agreed, sharing some statistics from a traffic study showing just how busy 34th Street has become in terms of traffic flow. At 34th and Oklahoma, he said the study showed an average vehicle per day (AVPD) rate of 22,308, with a projection that that number will reach 32,570 AVPD by 2035. Then by the ECC, he said the AVPD rate is currently 2,692 cars, and is projected to near 4,240 AVPD by 2035.
The city manager said this becomes a public safety issue when considering that more traffic can increase the chance for more traffic accidents. He provided statistics from a 5-year crash analysis for 34th St. showing an average over 8 accidents per year.
With more vehicles on that road, Riffel said there needs to be more room for those vehicles to travel. That is why the proposed widening project seeks to expand 34th St. into a "super 2-lane," which will add dedicated turning lanes, for left hand turns at the intersections with Oklahoma, Downs and Hanks Trail, he said. There will also be added right hand turning lanes added off of Hanks Trail and Oklahoma Ave. onto 34th St. to help improve access to the street, he said.
In addition, Riffel said a holding lane will be added with a passing lane along southbound 34th St. by the Early Childhood Center to help ease some of the traffic congestion in that area that has been caused by parents picking up and dropping off students for school. Also by the ECC there will be a dedicated left-hand turning lane for northbound travelers, to help hold the school traffic by allowing them to continue on in the normal northbound lane, he said.
Another element of the project will be a center turning lane for about half a mile south of Oklahoma Ave., Riffel said, to allow for easier turning into neighborhoods and businesses in that area. The project also includes the proposed extension of the walking trail from where it currently ends at the south side of Experiment Lake all the way north to Oklahoma Avenue.