City Hall report
BY BRIAN BARBER & KEVIN CANFIELD World Staff Writers
Sunday, October 28, 2012
10/28/12 at 8:07 AM
Find all the stories from Staff Writers Brian Barber and Kevin Canfield about city government in Tulsa.
"I see the M.E.T. having a future. We are just having to find new challenges to help make this a better world."
- M.E.T. Executive Director Michael Patton said about the need for change in the operation in light of the new citywide residential recycling program.
"It's one thing to ride the bus for two hours to get to work and another thing to walk home four hours in the dark."
- Councilor David Patrick said about the need for extended bus hours.
"There is nothing I hate more than surprises. And this change in plans is totally new, and I am at a mystery as to why we have not heard from the Mayor's Office."
- Tulsa Park and Recreation Board Chairwoman Dale McNamara said of being kept in the dark about the delay of design work on Cousins Park.
Week in review
Park halted: Design work on Grace K. Cousins Park in south Tulsa has been put on hold to give city officials time to consider how a Bixby proposal for a toll bridge across the Arkansas River would affect the project.
The proposed bridge would land just south of the park, at about 124th Street, and include an extension of South Delaware Avenue through Cousins Park to 121st Street.
"It is a disappointment, and it is not what the family intended as an honor to Grace Cousins," said John Shivel. "It would potentially destroy the value to the citizens of the possible park."
Shivel, whose deceased wife, Vicki Cousins Shivel, spent the last days of her life working to see the park constructed in honor of her mother, said city officials never notified him about the bridge project and its potential effect on the park.
As recently as mid-July, city officials were speaking glowingly of the proposed park and even attended a fundraising kickoff sponsored by Park Friends Inc.
Park and Recreation Director Lucy Dolman said the department halted the design work in late July after Tulsa City Councilor Phil Lakin and Bixby city officials presented a schematic rendering showing the proposed location of the bridge.
Dolman said her department did not notify the park board or the Cousins family because the issue is still being examined.
Bixby Mayor Ray Bowen has said his city would propose spending its $11.3 million share of Vision2 funds on helping to build a bridge somewhere on the river, if voters approve the initiative on Nov. 6.
Recycling impact: Now that Tulsa has a new citywide household recycling program, the Metropolitan Environmental Trust is looking at ways to evolve to stay relevant.
Since the launch of the full program Oct. 1, the city is collecting about 400 tons of recyclables a week, on track for 20,000 tons annually.
As a result, the M.E.T.'s five Tulsa recycling centers have seen roughly a 75 percent drop in materials.
M.E.T. Executive Director Michael Patton said he expects the 1,500 tons he usually generates each year at the Tulsa sites to fall to about 400.
"Right now, I'm not going to overreact," he said. "I'm waiting until Dec. 1 to see how the numbers shake out and determine the best way forward."
The M.E.T. has eight drop-off sites located in Tulsa area suburbs which bring in about 4,000 tons. Patton doesn't expect changes to those.
Some of Tulsa's sites, however, could be moved or closed, have reduced hours and fewer workers, he said.
The M.E.T.'s 13 recycling centers employ about 120 part-time workers with developmental and physical disabilities from agencies such as Bios, Bridges Foundation, Central State Community Services, Gatesway, Home of Hope, ResCare Oklahoma, Show Inc. and The Major Group.
Bus trip: Five city councilors were dropped off in north Tulsa's Suburban Acres neighborhood Tuesday with a mission - take a Tulsa Transit bus to Gateway Market to buy groceries and make their way back.
It's something many residents must do as a part of their daily lives to feed their families, but it was a first for Councilors Phil Lakin, Karen Gilbert, Skip Steele, Jeannie Cue and David Patrick.
As the two-and-a-half-hour roundtrip unfolded, councilors encountered people who are completely reliant on the bus system for work, errands and school and who had the same suggestions for improvements - cut the wait time between buses and extend the service hours.
"This is really what we need to hear and experience from a rider's perspective in order to make better, more informed decisions going forward," Lakin said.
"It's one thing to sit at the council table making budget allocations related to public transportation, but an experience like this brings it into focus that all of this affects people's lives."
The council last month asked Tulsa Transit officials to prepare a plan for study that would shrink the bus system's coverage area to provide more timely service at the current funding level.
Tulsa Transit General Manager Bill Cartwright told the Tulsa World that the plan will be presented to councilors in the next few weeks.
The agency's budget is now about $18.5 million, with $7.9 million coming from the city and the rest from state and federal governments.
Funding cuts and increased expenses over the last decade have reduced the number of service hours by 27 percent - from 213,630 in 2002 to 155,472 this year.
The average wait time between buses is about 55 minutes, with sparse service Saturdays and no service Sundays.
Missed trash service: Complaints about trash not being collected have spiked and then decreased since Tulsa's new trash system was launched at the start of the month.
Solid Waste Manager Eric Lee told the city's trash board Tuesday that there were 1,423 calls for missed refuse service in week one, 1,636 in week two and 1,371 in week three.
That's an average of about 1.3 percent of the 116,451 households in the system each week.
"We are making headway, although maybe not as much as some people would like to see," Lee said during the Tulsa Authority for the Recovery of Energy's planning committee meeting.
But the number of missed recycling collections is on the rise, he said, with 745 in week one, 947 in week two and 951 in week three.
Many of the complaints for skipped trash and recycling pick-up were from customers who pay extra for backyard service.
The curbs by those customers' houses are being marked with paint dots so the haulers don't accidentally pass them by, Lee said.
Also, the city is providing haulers with lists of customers who call to report that they are frequently missed.
Route 55 bronze: The remainder of the bronze "East Meets West" sculpture has been delivered to Tulsa and is being assembled at the Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza.
City spokeswoman Lara Weber said she expects the assembly to be completed by Monday.
No date has been set for the formal unveiling of the statue, but Weber said she expects the event to be held in November.
The Cyrus Avery Centennial Plaza is at the intersection of Riverside Drive and Southwest Boulevard.
Tulsa County residents in 2003 approved $1.2 million in Vision 2025 funds for the project - part of $15 million allocated for Route 66 projects. The sculpture was scheduled to be finished in 2009, but the contract was modified to allow for delivery this year.
The sculpture, by Texas artist Robert Summers, features Avery and family in a Model T as they encounter a horse-drawn carriage on its way from the west Tulsa oil fields.
At 135 percent actual size, the sculpture weighs nearly 20,000 pounds, stretches more than 60 feet from end to end, and rises 15 feet in the air.
Development sites: The city of Tulsa has identified three areas of town in which to focus on the development - or redevelopment - of public land.
The areas include the former Evans-Fintube industrial site north of downtown; the west bank of the Arkansas River and the Eugene Field neighborhood; and Turkey Mountain and the 71st Street corridor.
City Planning Director Dawn Warrick told city councilors during a committee meeting Thursday that things are happening in those areas that can give the city real momentum.
"It came to a point that I realized that we had activities going on and some real impetus and direction in specific parts of the community," Warrick said. "We really need to play off of our best features, and downtown and the river are naturals."
She noted, for example, that the city is in the process of cleaning up the Evans- Fintube site through its brownfields remediation program and that a small-area plan is being developed for the Eugene Field neighborhood in west Tulsa.
At the same time, development of the west bank of the Arkansas River has been discussed for years, and the preservation and expansion of the urban wilderness at Turkey Mountain is a goal of the city's administration.
Identifying development areas and creating procedures by which the city could facilitate development of under-used public properties was one of the shared goals established by the City Council and Mayor's Office early this year.
Free dumping: The city of Tulsa is hosting its semi-annual Free Landfill Days for residents this weekend.
Sunday is the final day for the event from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Quarry Landfill on 46th Street North about 1 1/2 miles east of U.S. 169.
This is an opportunity for city utility customers to dispose of unwanted items, with the exception of objects containing Freon refrigerant, such as air conditioners and refrigerators.
A $2.50 fee will be applied to each discarded tire with rim sizes up to 19.5 inches. For larger tires, the fee is $3.50 per tire. A $1 fee will be applied to motorcycle and smaller tires. The tire disposal charges cover state disposal and recycling fees.
To be admitted to the landfill without paying a fee, participants must present a city utility bill or a valid driver's license with an address located within the Tulsa limits.
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