City Hall report
BY KEVIN CANFIELD & ZACK STOYCOFF World Staff Writers
Sunday, March 17, 2013
3/17/13 at 3:24 AM
Read all of the week’s stories on
"Now that was a good one. I have never seen so much pizza go to waste."
- Mayor Dewey Bartlett, speaking to District 4 City Councilor Blake Ewing, during Thursday night's City Council meeting, about attendance at the District 4 public meeting on the proposed capital improvements package
"I look at this as a parent and I can't help but note that, you know, we are going to consider this and vote on this in our building with our metal detectors and our security guards and the people that put this into law, they do the exact same thing, they go to their building and have their armed guards at their door with their metal detectors and everything else, but my kids are going to go play at a park with none of that."
- City Councilor G.T. Bynum, speaking during a Thursday committee meeting, about the city's effort to put its gun laws into compliance with state statutes that allow properly permitted gun owners to carry handguns into a park
Week in review
Airport improvements: City officials are considering including a portion of Vision2's airport facility renovations in the five-year capital improvements package that is being prepared for voters this November.
Tulsa Airports Director Jeff Mulder recently told the City Council that $37.45 million in projects has been requested for city-owned facilities at the Tulsa International Airport. That accounts for what facility tenants and Mayor Dewey Bartlett's office agreed are the most needed of the $122 million in renovations that were proposed in Vision2, Mulder told the Tulsa World.
"We really took what was on the table last year and shrunk it," he said. "This is a much smaller bite."
The capital improvements package would renew funding behind the 2008 Fix Our Streets initiative with an eye for streets and other capital needs between fiscal years 2015 and 2019. The proposal would generate either $800 million or $740 million during that span.
Officials are collecting project recommendations from city departments and facilities and plan to whittle down those lists after gathering opinions at two series of town hall meetings.
Vision2, which voters rejected in November, proposed extending the Vision 2025 0.6-cent sales tax from 2017 to 2029 for airport, economic development and quality of life projects countywide. Officials have stressed that the new proposal would differ significantly in that it would apply only to the city of Tulsa, address only essential needs and include no economic incentive fund.
Riverside Drive parking: Riverside Drive between 11th and 17th streets would gain approximately 90 parking spaces under a proposal being considered by the City Council and Mayor's Office.
Spaces for angled and parallel parking would be added to the west side of road, boosting the number to 113.
Adding more parking spaces along that stretch of Riverside Drive is one of the joint council/mayor goals.
The project is estimated to cost $8,000 to $10,000.
River Parks Executive Director Matt Meyer told councilors the organization has been looking for ways to increase parking for the Blue Rose Cafe at Riverside Drive and 19th Street. The restaurant, which fronts the Arkansas River, opened in February 2011. The hope is that providing more spaces along Riverside Drive would free up spaces in the parking lots close to the cafe.
Capital projects meetings: Mayor Dewey Bartlett and city councilors hosted two meeting to discuss the capital improvements package expected to got to voters in November.
About 60 people showed up to Monday night's Council District 6 meeting at Martin Regional Library, and 90 people attended Tuesday night's Council District 8 meeting at Fellowship Bible Church.
The meetings were the second and third of nine - one in each City Council district - scheduled by Mayor Dewey Bartlett and the council.
Funding needs outlined: Providing a dedicated stream of revenue for public safety and street maintenance would help plug manpower holes and extend the life of the city's streets, city councilors were told Tuesday.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett recently proposed dedicating the extension of the 0.167-cent 4 to Fix the County sales tax, which is still collected in the city, for public safety and routine road maintenance.
At Bartlett's request, Deputy Police Chief Dennis Larsen, Fire Chief Ray Driskell and Streets and Stormwater Director Dan Crossland explained to councilors how their departments would use the dedicated funds.
The tax would raise an estimated $60 million over five years - $12 million annually. Removing that from the capital improvements package under consideration would reduce it from $800 million to $740 million.
Bartlett told councilors Tuesday that for now he is estimating that the Tulsa Police Department would receive $4.8 million a year, the Fire Department $2.2 million a year and the Streets and Stormwater Department $1.8 million a year under that plan. But he said the numbers are not set and are meant to provide a little wiggle room.
City sales tax: Tulsa's sales-tax revenue for March jumped 4.2 percent from last year's level, reports released last week show.
The check from the Oklahoma Tax Commission containing sales taxes collected between Jan. 16 and Feb. 15 was $18,390,694, up from $17,661,602 in the March 2012 payment.
That's the first year-over-year increase since a 17-month streak of revenue increases ended.
Sales-tax revenue was higher than the previous year in each month since September 2011 before declining by 3 percent last month.
The March check is 0.25 percent more than budget estimates, but the city's sales-tax revenue so far this fiscal year - $173,045,064 - remains slightly less than estimates despite being up 5.9 percent from this point last year.
The year-to-date figure was 6 percent less than budget estimates after February's check, which was the first time the figure had fallen since November.
Rail service: The planned sale of a state-owned rail line between Oklahoma City and Sapulpa should not stifle Tulsa officials' hopes of using the line for passenger rail service, transportation officials said last week.
The Oklahoma Department of Transportation began preparations to sell the 95.7-mile Sooner Sub line after receiving unsolicited offers from four railroad companies late last year, but it would ensure that a provision of the sale contract forces the new owner to accommodate future passenger service, ODOT Engineering Director David Streb said.
A sale is expected by Sept. 1, according to an ODOT document.
"Instead of the sale of the Sooner Sub line hampering prospects for passenger rail, I'm going to tell you it would enhance it," Streb said.
The line, which runs along and south of Interstate 44, is the only direct rail connection between the state's two largest cities and has been a recent focus of the longstanding effort to bring passenger service to northeastern Oklahoma.
It would need significant upgrades to meet passenger rail standards, but officials say such work - recently estimated at $223.5 million - would be far cheaper than building a new line.
Rick Westcott, who last year headed a Tulsa City Council committee that supported upgrading the Sooner Sub line with state funds, said Tuesday that he strongly opposes selling the line even with a requirement to accommodate passenger service.
"It will severely damage, if not destroy, any hope for successful passenger rail service for Tulsa and all of northeast Oklahoma," he said.
Riverside Drive plan: The city's preliminary conceptual plan for 60 acres of city-owned land at Riverside Parkway and 71st Street envisions mixed-use development anchored by a tournament-quality volleyball facility.
The 71st Street and Riverside Parkway corridor is one of three city-owned properties targeted for redevelopment by the city. The city has also targeted the Evans-Fintube site north of downtown and the Eugene Field neighborhood in west Tulsa.
Planning Director Dawn Warrick cautioned that the plan is "very conceptual" and said the idea was to create a starting point from which private developers might pitch ideas for the property.
The city will likely solicit requests for proposals by the end of the year, Warrick said.
The conceptual plan developed by the Planning and Economic Development Department shows hotels and restaurants stretching south along Riverside from 71st to about 73rd Street, where a 10-court tournament-level volleyball facility is envisioned.
The city has no plans to include any portion of Helmerich Park, which sits south and east of the 60-acre site, for redevelopment.
Latest capital improvement package: Most city councilors support dividing what would be Tulsa's largest capital improvements package into two smaller initiatives targeting streets and other capital needs, they said Thursday.
Councilor G.T. Bynum told a city committee that he fears voters are suspicious about the $800 million proposal to renew the funding behind the 2008 Fix Our Streets package because officials want to use the money on other capital needs, as well as streets.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett's administration, with the previous support of the council, has eyed the Nov. 12 election for a package containing at least $470 million for street repairs and up to $330 million for unrelated capital needs from fiscal years 2015 to 2019.
Bynum asked councilors Thursday instead to consider putting a $418.7 million streets-only package on November's ballot and deferring the remaining requests for a separate election by April 1, 2014.
"What I'm hearing from people is they want a straight-up streets package - that they are suspicious that we are going to try to log-roll a bunch of garbage into something and count on streets being popular enough that it will carry the day and we can get away with mischief on other things," Bynum said.
Court administrator retires: Tulsa Municipal Court Administrator Tony Cellino is retiring effective April 1, city spokeswoman Kim MacLeod said Thursday.
The director of the city's Management Review Office, Kelly Brader, has been named interim court administrator.
Brader's position at the Management Review Office will be filled on an interim basis by T.L. Cox, who worked for Brader.
Cellino is taking accrued time off and will not be back at his job before his retirement becomes effective, MacLeod said.
Cellino, 57, was named court administrator in January 2005. His annual salary was $111,098.
Guns in parks: City councilors plan to make state lawmakers aware of their opposition to a provision in the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act that allows gun owners who have permits to carry handguns into a park, they said Thursday.
The law, which has been in effect for more than a decade, conflicts with city ordinances that prohibit handguns in parks.
Councilors had planned to hold a first reading of a proposed ordinance change Thursday night that would have put the city's gun laws in line with state statutes.
But after an informational briefing from Senior Assistant City Attorney Mark Swiney, councilors decided to pull the item from the agenda.
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