Council vote on stadium assessment puts city on hook for $2 million
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Friday, July 15, 2011
7/15/11 at 8:11 AM
A split City Council voted down the annual Tulsa Stadium Improvement District assessments Thursday night, putting the city on the hook for the roughly $2 million that will be due if the vote isn't changed.
The 4-3 vote in favor of the assessments wasn't enough to pass because the item contained an emergency clause, which would have required a fifth affirmative vote.
Councilors G.T. Bynum, Chris Trail, Rick Westcott and Maria Barnes voted in favor of the assessments, while Councilors Jim Mautino, Roscoe Turner and Jack Henderson voted against them.
Councilors Bill Christiansen and John Eagleton were absent.
The council is expected to reconsider the vote next Thursday.
Because the city is already committed to making a roughly $2 million payment on a $25 million revenue bond to the stadium trust by November, the council's only role was to consider challenges of downtown property owners' square footage assessments or mathematical errors - not the merits of the assessment.
But the vote came after nine downtown property owners complained at the meeting that the ballpark and maintenance services funded through the assessments have no benefit to their properties.
As the situation now stands, the city is liable for the bond payment if the council's vote is not changed - and soon, because the bills are supposed to go out at the end of August.
The Tulsa Stadium Improvement District was approved by city councilors in June 2009 to help fund ONEOK Field and downtown services such as street-sweeping and landscaping.
The stadium is the home of the city's Double-A baseball team, the Tulsa Drillers.
The district assesses an annual fee that property owners within the Inner Dispersal Loop are required to pay for 30 years.
The fee is 6.5 cents per square foot of land and structure on each parcel of property. Of that, 4.3 cents funds $25 million of the $39.2 million construction cost of the stadium.
The remaining 2.2 cents is to pay for downtown services.
Executive orders: In a 5-2 vote, councilors turned down a mayoral executive order that would create numerous new city divisions - or groupings of departments - and abolish the previous ones.
Such executive orders require council approval.
The councilors who voted against - Westcott, Barnes, Henderson, Turner and Mautino - said they wouldn't support the structural changes unless Mayor Dewey Bartlett came to the council in person to answer questions and explain why the changes are needed.
The same councilors voted down four other executive orders, which the administration maintains didn't require council action at all, that were for other organizational changes. Those orders will go into effect despite the council's action.
Charter proposal: In a separate meeting Thursday, councilors made some changes to their proposal to change the city's form of government from strong mayor-council to council-city manager.
Turner, who has led the committee drafting the proposal, asked the city's Legal Department to insert provisions to have nonpartisan elections; to increase the councilors' terms to four years; and to limit the number of terms a councilor or mayor can serve to three.
The council is finalizing the proposal before deciding within two weeks whether to send it to voters in November.
According to the drafted proposal, the council would hire a professional city manager who would be in charge of day-to-day administrative responsibilities for the city.
The mayor would be part of a 10-member council, would be elected citywide and would provide political leadership and policy guidance.
The mayor not only would vote on issues but would cast an additional tie-breaking vote if necessary. There would be no mayoral veto power.
The other nine councilors would be elected by district, as they are now.
The entire council would hire the city manager and could fire the manager with a two-thirds vote.
It also would appoint the city auditor, whose position is now an elected one, and the city attorney.
Original Print Headline: Council may put city on the hook for $2 million
Brian Barber 918-581-8322