Bartlett lists 12 Tulsa projects that would be "best use" of Vision2 funds
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Sunday, September 09, 2012
9/09/12 at 7:20 AM
Read additional coverage about the Vision2 proposal.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett has a dozen recommendations for how Tulsa should spend its $158 million share of the proposed Vision2 package, with a focus on leveraging the dollars through partnerships.
Bartlett said he generated his list based on projects that have been discussed for, in some cases, decades; are part of the city's various master plans; and for which he heard support from the public during recent forums.
"I'm using our collective best judgment on these projects," he told the Tulsa World. "This list of 12 is, in my view, the best use of this money."
The recommended projects, which include building low-water dams, cleaning up brownfield sites, and improving parks and the zoo, total $152.5 million. Bartlett said he left some money on the table for leeway.
The City Council will now evaluate the mayor's recommendations, use or discard them, and create a list on which it will vote through a resolution.
Council Chairman G.T. Bynum said he wants to see the council take action before the end of the month so voters can know what's been selected in plenty of time before they go to the polls Nov. 6.
The mayor is leaving Sunday for a business-recruitment trip to Japan and will not be back for two weeks.
During that time, councilors will be making their decisions about what to include on the projects list that they will vote on.
The resolution eventually will make its way to the mayor's desk, and he can either sign it, not sign it and it still passes, or veto it. Two-thirds of the council (or six of nine members) is needed to overturn a mayoral veto.
Bartlett said he has already spoken to councilors about his recommendations.
The council will be taking public comments about what's to be included on the list during its regular meetings, Bynum said.
"I have no intention of just taking whatever the mayor gives us and simply rubber stamping it and sending it on its way," he said.
"Councilors have been very committed to attending the town hall meetings and hearing what people have to say. We're going to take it all into consideration as we move forward."
1) Arkansas River, $55 million: Putting a consistent water level in the river through low-water dams is critical to developing its banks, Bartlett said.
"This would be the catalyst to make things happen," he said. "It would make the river visually exciting, and you'd also be able to get in and use it."
The Zink Dam needs to be raised 3 feet and undergo numerous structural and safety improvements at a cost of about $41 million, Bartlett said.
Also, roughly $8 million of work is desired to create a whitewater feature that would be a draw for kayakers and rafters, he said.
The state has agreed to chip in $25 million for the project, but the legality of the proposed bond issue is being challenged in the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Assuming that money eventually comes through, the city could have enough left over to put toward a new south Tulsa dam, along with other river improvements, Bartlett said.
The mayor said he is talking to Jenks and Bixby officials, Muscogee (Creek) Nation representatives and others to see if they would be willing to contribute to the new dam, which would cost about $60 million.
In addition to the state dollars, the federal government has authorized $50 million for Tulsa's Arkansas River dams, but that money has never been made available.
"We've been waiting on state and federal assistance for a very long time," Bartlett said. "In my view, we can't afford to wait any longer. We have to take care of our own destiny."
2) Tulsa Zoo, $20 million: Bartlett said the city needs to make a significant investment toward the zoo's 20-year, $150 million master plan involving upgrades and new exhibits.
The master plan calls for the addition of gorillas, African wild dogs and red river hogs; new exhibits for tigers, snow leopards, rhinos and lions; and the expansion of the chimpanzee, giraffe, jaguar, elephant and bear exhibits.
It also calls for improving visitors' experience, as well, with redesigned pathways for better navigation, an additional train station, and more retail and food vendors.
Tulsa Zoo Management Inc., the public-private entity that manages the zoo, is raising money to implement the full plan.
A half-million people visit the zoo each year, Bartlett said, and the city must properly care for it and invest in it to take it to the next level.
3) Parks, $15 million: The city's Park and Recreation Department is working to implement its master plan, tearing down closed, dilapidated recreation centers and planning to build a few large regional recreation centers in targeted areas.
The mayor said money needs to be set aside in hopes of partnering with private donors to build the first of these regional centers on the city's north side in Lacy Park.
"It's the perfect site," he said. "It's on a major street and at the corner of two bus routes, so it would be easily accessible."
The city simply can't afford all of the small neighborhood recreation centers that it has had in the past, he said.
In addition, Bartlett wants to see funding devoted to preserving and bettering the Turkey Mountain urban wilderness area on the west side of the river north of 71st Street.
4) Gilcrease Expressway extension, $10 million: Proposed more than 50 years ago, the Gilcrease Expressway connects some highways but has not yet been completed to finish a loop around the city.
The loop in its current form includes Interstate 44 on the south, U.S. 169 on the east, and Interstate 244 and Oklahoma 11 on the north - ending at the L.L. Tisdale Parkway.
Still to be constructed are portions northwest of downtown, a bridge across the Arkansas River west of downtown and a highway through western Tulsa County, according to the plan.
Bartlett said the city needs to devote money to the project to match with funding from other area municipalities, tribes and other government sources to finish it. The total would come to $120 million to $130 million.
Once done, it would unlock areas of north and west Tulsa that are ripe for economic development, he said.
5) Riverside Drive park-and-ride infrastructure, $10 million: A lot happens along Tulsa's east river bank, with the popularity of River Parks' trails and green space.
It's expected to be even busier with the future $150 million mega park, called A Gathering Place for Tulsa, spearheaded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, along with other development. Bartlett said there needs to be a more efficient method of moving visitors around.
"Right now, it's basically some surface parking lots where you have a hard time finding a spot," he said.
What's envisioned, Bartlett said, is a new parking garage in the area of Riverside Drive and Interstate 44 on the east side of the river where people could park and get on a bus that would be on a circular route.
6) Downtown, $10 million: A variety of projects have been pitched for downtown Tulsa, including upgrades to the Central Library, a new Tulsa Children's Museum, the OKPOP Museum and a baseball museum.
With the Vision2 tax not kicking in until 2017, Bartlett said, there's still time to evaluate where to best spend this money.
"I think it's premature for us to make a decision yet," he said. "But we'd have the money set aside."
Mayoral Chief of Staff Jarred Brejcha said that as downtown continues to develop, it also may have some infrastructure needs.
The long-discussed and desired acquisition of the Page Belcher Federal Building across from the BOK Center for redevelopment also is a potential use for the money, Bartlett said.
"That would be a home-run opportunity for us," he said.
7) Neighborhoods, $10 million: Tulsa is a city full of vibrant neighborhoods, Bartlett said, so he wants to set aside money to help with their beautification.
A program could be developed like the one in the early years of Vision 2025 that gave matching money to groups that wanted to pursue improvement projects for their neighborhoods, he said.
The money also could pay for speed humps, sidewalks and other residential infrastructure upgrades.
8) Brownfield cleanups, $5 million: Bartlett wants to see this money paired with federal Environmental Protection Agency funding to start cleaning up the city's six brownfield sites.
Such properties cannot be redeveloped until potential hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants are removed.
Tulsa's sites are the former Morton Health Center, 636 E. Pine St.; the Evans-Fintube site in the 100 block of North Lansing Avenue; a former gas station at 3519 N. Hartford Ave.; Apache Circle in the 500 block of East Apache Street; a shopping center in the 2100 block of North Cincinnati Avenue; and another former gas station at 1047 E. Apache St.
"This program really works to reclaim property that is otherwise unusable and put it back on the tax rolls," he said.
"If we are able to come up with some matching funds, it will put us at the top of a very long list. It's a smart investment."
9) Oklahoma State University-Tulsa medical school, $5 million: School officials have asked the city to put some money toward a new medical school building on the OSU-Tulsa campus just north of downtown.
The entire project could reach $25 million to $30 million.
10) University of Oklahoma-University of Tulsa medical school, $5 million: Officials from the two universities have requested funding to help build the first phase of their joint downtown medical school, expected to cost about $20 million.
Bartlett said the new school will bring a lot of new people to downtown who will want to live there and spend money.
11) Trails, $5 million: The network of trails Tulsans now enjoy is "world class," Bartlett said, but it can be better.
"There's certainly room for expansion," he said. "There's also some areas of the trails that are too narrow and areas where new, better material needs to be laid down."
Bartlett said this money would be allocated as appropriate when the time comes.
12) OSU Medical Center, $2.5 million: Hospital officials have announced plans for a $10 million capital campaign and have requested assistance.
The downtown hospital, which serves many low-income residents, was rescued from closing in 2008 by being acquired by the city.
Original Print Headline: Bartlett lists 12 projects he recommends for Vision2
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Mayor Dewey Bartlett