Public to hear city improvement proposal at town hall meetings
BY ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writer
Sunday, March 03, 2013
3/04/13 at 9:38 AM
Read past stories about the proposed funding package, including what specific projects have been proposed or suggested.
City officials are hoping for strong attendance at a series of town hall meetings in the next two months to help whittle down a list of projects for what would be the largest capital improvements package in Tulsa's history.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the City Council have been collecting proposals from department heads and city facility administrators for months and will ask residents to weigh in at meetings in all nine council districts beginning Monday.
Councilors hope to vote by June to put the $800.25 million initiative on November's ballot.
"The mayor and the council have made a concerted effort to make this a very lengthy and public process," said Councilor G.T. Bynum, who chairs a council task force examining potential projects. "I think the most important thing to us is that the proposal that finally goes to the ballot reflects the citizens' desires as to how this money is spent."
The proposal would renew the funding behind the 2008 Fix Our Streets initiative, which collected $452 million from the existing Third Penny sales tax, the city's portion of the 0.167-cent 4 to Fix the County sales tax and general obligation bonds.
The new package would take effect when Fix Our Streets expires in fiscal year 2015 and would fund projects through fiscal year 2019.
Officials say it would address all capital needs - streets or otherwise - because substantial revenue would come from sales taxes, which are traditionally used for a variety of projects.
The original Fix Our Streets was restricted to roadwork partly because much of its revenue came from streets' traditional funding source - bonds - while the sales taxes were available only for a portion of its five-year run. That also accounts for the new package's higher value.
Incidentally, Tulsa's previous largest funding package, the $464 million 2006 Third Penny initiative, was the last time a city-only funding package addressed needs other than streets, officials say.
That is reason enough to consider such projects this time, they argue.
Before 2008, streets and other needs were considered in separate bond and sales tax elections.
"The vast majority of our needs, as will be illustrated at our meetings, remains on streets, but the City of Tulsa still has broad-ranging capital needs," Bynum said, "and what that largely boils down to are maintenance on existing facilities."
If the city begins ignoring facility maintenance, "you'll end up with what we've seen happen with our streets," he said.
Street maintenance needs are prioritized automatically by engineering formulas. Officials have said that they are considering giving those projects between $470 million and $670 million in the new package.
The purpose of the town hall meetings is to ask what residents think of the other needs that city departments and facilities have presented, Bynum said.
Once officials have gathered those opinions, they will draft a firmer list of projects and ask for additional input at a second round of town hall meetings before the council votes, he said.
Each council district will have one meeting hosted by that district's councilor, and possibly other councilors will attend.
Bartlett said he plans to attend each one.
"We're asking for an extension of an existing tax and, obviously, taxpayers need to know what they're voting on," he said. "We want them to tell us if they believe that they (the proposed projects) are in the best interest of the city and if they would prefer something else."
As of this week, city departments and facilities have formally presented to the City Council $688 million in projects unrelated to street rehabilitation. They are as diverse as street widening, sewer repairs, City Hall renovations, Tulsa Zoo exhibit construction and Performing Arts Center expansion.
However, the police, fire and information technology departments, city airport facilities, the Tulsa City-County Library, OSU Medical Center, Metropolitan Environmental Trust and Downtown Coordinating Council have yet to present their proposals to the City Council. Their presentations are scheduled through March 14.
Bynum said one challenge will be distinguishing between departments' needs and desires. He has said that he wants to limit the funding to "bread-and-butter" needs.
"One thing we are going to have to be very disciplined in doing is separating wants from needs and looking at what is the best long-term use of public funds versus making short-term political decisions," he said.
By the numbers
$800 million: Estimated funds available
$470 million-$670 million: Possible allocation for street repairs
Other proposals so far*
$109.3 million: River Parks (includes $41 million for Zink Dam)
$95.1 million: Street widening
$42.9 million: Traffic engineering (i.e., signals, lights)
$70 million: Citywide capital equipment
$62.7: Tulsa Transit Authority
$44.9 million: Planning and economic development
$43.6 million: Tulsa Zoo
$42.3 million: Performing arts, convention and BOK centers, Gilcrease Museum
$40 million: Parks Department
$35.3 million: City Hall and public facility renovations
$31.9 million: Bicycle, pedestrian infrastructure
$27.8 million: Bridge repair, replacements
$14.9 million: Sewers
$11.3 million: Stormwater/flood control
$8.6 million: Animal shelter expansion
$7.5 million: Gilcrease Expressway
* Police, fire, IT, airport, library, OSU Medical Center, MET and Downtown Coordinating Council to make proposals by March 14
All meetings are at 6 p.m.
Monday: District 4, Tulsa Community College Center for Creativity, 910 S. Boston Ave.
March 11: District 6, Martin Regional Library auditorium, 2601 S. Garnett Road.
March 12: District 8, Fellowship Bible Church Chapel, 5434 E. 91st St.
March 25: District 1, Booker T. Washington High School auditorium, 1514 E. Zion St.
March 26: District 2, Webster High School auditorium, 1919 W. 40th St.
April 2: District 9, Whiteside Community Center, 4009 S. Pittsburg Ave.
April 22: District 7, Hardesty Library, Frossard Auditorium, 8316 E. 93rd St.
April 29: District 5, Hale Jr. High School auditorium, 2177 S. 67th East Ave.
April 30: District 3, Hamilton Elementary School auditorium, 2316 N. Norwood Place.
No name yet
Officials have yet to name their proposal to renew the funding behind the 2008 Fix Our Streets initiative.
Although a majority of the new package would be dedicated to street repairs, it would also address other capital needs - unlike its predecessor. As a result, some officials have tried to distance it from the earlier package.
City Councilor G.T. Bynum, chairman of a committee exploring projects for the proposal, said officials right now are focused on assembling the package. After its projects are selected - hopefully by May or June - officials will pick a name and the marketing campaign will begin, he said.
Original Print Headline: Public to hear plan for streets, other projects
Zack Stoycoff 918-581-8486