The Woodward News

December 28, 2012

Big plans for 2013

Leaders expect Woodward to continue growing, moving forward

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Local Woodward leaders have a lot of big expectations for the coming year.

"I have the highest of expectations for 2013," Woodward City Manager Alan Riffel said.



ECONOMIC GROWTH

"I think it may be the biggest year for Woodward in terms of economic development and growth," Riffel said.

That includes development on the housing front as well, as the city manager said that the city will likely see "both single family and multi-family developments" in the next year.

Woodward Mayor Roscoe Hill said the "promises of more housing and apartments coming up" will help to address what has become "about the only problem we have in Northwest Oklahoma."

"Our biggest problem is housing and as soon as we get that problem alleviated then people who want to move to Woodward will have a place to stay and a job if they want it," Hill said.

The mayor said the area's ongoing low unemployment rates show there are jobs out there for people wanting to work.

"We have less than 3 percent unemployment in Woodward County and there's probably 5 percent of people who wouldn't work even if they had a job, so really there's no unemployment," he said.

Riffel said he expects that to continue with more jobs and businesses coming into the area.

"I expect the energy sector will continue to drive our economy and continue to create even more jobs in the area," he said.

And it isn't just the industrial area that looks to grow.

"I believe our retail sector is destined to expand with new shopping opportunities for communities," Riffel said.

Woodward Chamber of Commerce President C. J. Montgomery agreed.

"In terms of retail development, I think we'll just continue to grow.  Woodward is a very attractive place to do business," Montgomery said, noting "that will help us continue to keep Woodward in the forefront of community retail and industrial development."



COMMUNITY IMPROVEMENTS

Montgomery said he also believes that Woodward's progressive approach to community improvement will only create a more favorable business environment.

"The foundation that's been laid recent for improvements and planned improvements in the community will certainly help Woodward continue to be an attractive place to live and do business," he said.

Those improvements include a proposal to renovate the Woodward County Fairgrounds and add an Expo Center.

"I hope people think about the way our town is growing and how we need a place to have some certain kind of activities.  I'm talking about activities that there is no place to do them now, but ones that will bring in traffic into our community," County Commissioner Vernie Matt said.  "I've heard talk about RV shows and stuff like that.  But right now there's no place to go for an RV show or for a big farm equipment show.  We just don't have the facilities."

However, Matt said the proposed Fairgrounds Improvement Project could change that and he hopes that voters will make it out this February to support the proposed half cent sales tax increase that would be used to fund the new $12.4 million fairgrounds complex.

"I really hope it passes. It's just my thinking so we can better the community," Matt said.

Other community improvement projects should come to be realized this next year.

"In 2013, you'll see the beginning of the Streetscape project downtown, starting in January and ending in June," Woodward Main Street Director Janet Fitz said.

Fitz asked shoppers to "bear with the merchants" throughout the construction process.

While there "might be some walking involved with the street closed for construction," Fitz said that people will still be able to shop the downtown businesses.

"Once it's done, it will enhance our downtown with new sidewalks, new entrances going into businesses and seating on Main Street.  It's just a big beautification project for our Main Street," she said.

But more than making the downtown area look nice, Fitz said Streetscape will make a larger area of Main Street more accessible for people of all abilities.  She said that the high curbs will be replaced with 2 shorter steps, the sidewalks will be fixed to provide level walking areas, and additional handicap ramps will be installed so that people in wheelchairs can actually use the sidewalks.

Riffel said the Streetscape project is just one of many improvements that the city of Woodward will see in 2013.

"We look forward to building a new fire station along a main thoroughfare," he said, adding "we will continue to look how to address the 34th Street improvements and will be bidding out the new softball fields.  And undoubtedly there will me more things to come as we go through the year."



EDUCATIONAL EXPECTATIONS

In addition to economic and community development, citizens will also likely see continued educational development in the coming year.

"In 2013, one of the biggest things is that we'll continue to move forward in our long-range planning," Woodward Public Schools Superintendent Tim Merchant said.

As part of that planning, Merchant said the school district will "probably be proposing a continuation of our current bonding for technology and possible expansions at our elementaries and middle school."

The superintendent said the schools will also continue to change over to the common core curriculum, which he expects to be fully implemented by the next school year.

"But we will also continue to emphasize all areas of education including the fine arts and health sciences and extracurriculars," he said.

Having a varied curriculum is important at all levels of education in Woodward as NWOSU-Woodward Dean Dr. Deena Fisher said that the college continues to develop its course schedule.

In addition to offering "all 55 hours of general education courses at our campus," Fisher said that NWOSU-Woodward also offers an increasing number of undergraduate and some graduate courses in a wide range of major subject areas including nursing, business administration, accounting, psychology, sociology, history, criminology and education.

"We keep adding to our education classes.  So if you're looking to get into elementary, early elementary or secondary education, we have about 80 percent of your classes available right her in Woodward and that grows every year," she said.

The spring semester classes will start on Jan. 24, but Fisher said that campus staff will be available starting Jan. 2 to start enrolling students.

Those interested in enrolling can check out the full list of available courses at the Northwestern Oklahoma State University website, nwosu.edu.

Students are bound to find a class that fits their schedule as Fisher said "we have classes going every day from 8 a.m. to 9:55 in the evening."

Beyond a nice selection of classes, Fisher said NWOSU-Woodward seeks to provide as complete of a university experience as possible.  To that end, she said NWOSU-Woodward continues to add to its schedule of campus events.

For instance, she said that toward the end of January, "I'm going to make my taco soup for the whole campus.  It's become sort of a campus tradition."

Then in later in the spring semester, she said "we're going to have the Northwestern orchestra visiting our campus for an evening program."