TIME to decide: Stillwater City Council discusses election for project funding | New

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Residents of Stillwater will soon be asked to approve new sources of funding for a trio of high priority municipal projects.

City of Stillwater staff held a series of town halls to gather feedback on what they dubbed the TIME Projects, an acronym that stands for “Together Investing in Municipal Excellence.”

City staff have identified the construction of a new fire station to service the OSU campus and the west side of Stillwater, a new animal welfare facility and street improvements as priorities that the City of Stillwater will need additional funds to respond.

Fire Chief Terry Essery said the current No.2 Station, located at the corner of University Avenue and Knoblock Street in a charming, historic building on the Oklahoma State University campus, is no longer functional for an operation. modern fire / rescue. Traffic at Campus Corner often makes it difficult to remove fire trucks when answering calls.

It would cost around $ 9 million to build a modern station west of campus to store all necessary equipment and improve response times.

Captain Royce Stephens of the Stillwater Police Department explained that the town’s animal welfare building – shared with the Humane Society of Stillwater – is outdated and undersized, insufficient to meet the demands placed on it.

Building a larger, modern facility in the same area would cost around $ 4 million.

The Town of Stillwater would borrow money to pay them off by issuing general bonds. Residents of the city last passed a municipal bond issue about 20 years ago to build a new police station and renovate the municipal building.

Councilor Amy Dzialowski noted that most cities that are really flourishing are issuing bonds that allow them to invest in themselves. It also encourages others to make private investments, she said.

Moving the community forward will require issuing bonds, said Councilor John Wedlake.

The third problem requires a different approach.

Residents of Stillwater have long complained about the condition of its roads, from neighborhood streets to major thoroughfares like Duck Street.

City staff are proposing to add an additional half-cent sales tax on transportation that would double the $ 4 million raised annually by the current, more limited, half-cent sales tax on transportation.

City engineering director Monty Karns said the additional $ 4 million would allow staff to solve more problems. The current sales tax funds a pavement management program that keeps city streets in their current condition, but does not generate enough funds to make significant progress in improving it.

City staff launched a public information program in September to present the issues, but failed to reach the entire community.

Although Civic Innovation Leader Becky Taylor and other City staff held five community meetings, addressed seven community groups, posted a copy of the presentation on the City’s website, and While communications staff oversaw an outreach program that included television, radio and newspapers as well as social media and paid advertising, participation was low and the number of residents who participated in the process remains low – around 120 people – noted Mayor Will Joyce.

Taylor said 189 others interacted through the Speak Up Stillwater platform on the city government website.

But that means only 309 of Stillwater’s 48,394 residents were involved in the process.

“We’ve talked about it a lot, but have we really reached everyone we need to reach to have a successful community conversation? Asked Councilor Amy Dzialowski.

It will be important to clearly explain what will be done with the money, the advisers agreed. When presenting a bond issue, city authorities are required to detail exactly how the money will be used. Sales tax choices do not require the same level of detail. But councilors agreed it would be important for voters to at least give examples of a few projects, while still providing flexibility as new needs arise.

Taylor said comments received by staff during their public awareness campaign showed that more than 90% of those polled are in favor of replacing the fire hall and improving roads, while a smaller margin – but still majority – supports the new animal welfare facility.

Residents participating in the process indicated that they preferred to be able to view the three items as separate issues rather than grouping them together into a single question.

She recommended immediately forming a citizens’ action committee and asking the council to appoint an oversight committee to ensure transparency, if the issues are approved by voters.

Taylor and Director of Communications Dawn Jones are speaking to OSU students this week and have already planned a voter registration campaign.

The community meeting held on the OSU campus attracted the most attendees, Taylor said.

Councilors asked staff to come back with an election resolution by November 15, which would give them time to ask all three questions on the February 8 ballot.

They discussed whether turnout would be better if the issues were combined with the mayoral election and the school board primary in February or whether voters could be overwhelmed. Placing at least some of them on the April ballot is another option.

Mayor Will Joyce said staff had worked hard to explain the plans, but with the limited response, he knows there could be strong opposition from some residents.

“There is no doubt that these projects need to be done,” he said. “At some point, you just have to ask people if they’re okay with it.”

Twitter: @mcharlesNP


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