New vehicles and equipment for the city’s emergency responders top the list of public-safety upgrades voters will decide on when the Improve Our Tulsa renewal package goes to the ballot Nov. 12.
“We’re really lucky that we have the No. 1 ranked fleet-management team in all of North America. But they can only do so much if we’re not replacing vehicles on a predictable schedule,” Mayor G.T. Bynum said at a press conference Friday, adding that the city bought its first fire truck in more than a decade just last year.
Bynum was joined by other community leaders for the event, held at the Tulsa Police Department’s Riverside Division, to promote the $639 million capital improvements package’s public safety-related projects.
The public safety needs are part of a $193 million proposal for temporary sales tax-funded projects. The biggest chunk of Improve Our Tulsa — $427 million — is dedicated to transportation and streets.
For the Tulsa Fire Department, an allotted $26 million would include $23 million for new firefighting vehicles and equipment. The remaining $3 million would upgrade the 911 Station Alert System.
Karen Gilbert, executive director of Tulsa’s Crime Prevention Network, said: “Firefighters going out and fighting fires, then getting back into their trucks with no air conditioning. That’s not right. They deserve to have that equipment. And not only to keep the residents safe, but to keep them safe, as well.”
Out of $5.6 million designated for Tulsa police, $4.5 million would go to replace a police helicopter. The city replaced its other police helicopter in August at a cost of $4.3 million.
The helicopters should be replaced every decade, Bynum said, or the cost of maintenance surpasses that of replacement. The plan would allow for regular replacement of police helicopters.
The $50.75 million in the package earmarked for capital equipment would include police vehicles and lab equipment.
Former state legislator Lucky Lamons, a former TPD officer, said, “When I was a recruiter and a background investigator for the Police Department and went out throughout the state, everybody looked at Tulsa for two things: No. 1, our equipment, and No. 2, our training.
“There is no other city that equips and trains their police department better than the city of Tulsa. And I’m just asking for the citizens to continue this and support Improve Our Tulsa.”
State Sen. Kevin Matthews, who had a 25-year career with the Tulsa Fire Department before going into politics, said: “There’s nothing more important for our community than the health and safety of our citizens. … This package will go a long way to making our community much better.”
The package was planned over the last two years with input from eight public meetings.
About two-thirds of the renewal’s funding would come from bond sales, financed with property taxes, and a third from sales tax. The proposal does not call for tax increases.
The renewal would begin in fiscal year 2020 and end in fiscal year 2026.
Said Bynum: “The citizens of Tulsa are spending over $100 million every year for public safety services. We want to make sure that when they’re calling for help, the police officers and firefighters that are responding … have vehicles that work, that they have technology that alerts them of the need for help as quickly as possible.”
For more information, go to improveourtulsayes.com.