Owasso Citizens Lose

Post date: Nov 4, 2008 6:04:32 AM

by J.B. Alexander

2003 Third Penny Tax projects take back seat

Over $50 million of proposed projects are now being sidelined in favor of projects that do not benefit current Owasso citizens.

North Garnett Road widening: IGNORED

East 76th Street North widening: IGNORED

Thousands of current citizens will continue to deal with traffic headaches while city leadership diverts millions of tax dollars to other projects.

Empty Promises by Owasso City Leadership

On August 5, 2003, the Owasso City Council passed Resolution 2003-10, asking Owasso voters to pass a law allowing for the Third Penny Capital Improvement tax (CIP) to be made permanent so the city could do better long term planning of projects. Before 2003, the city was required by ordinance to ask Owasso voters every two years for approval to spend the CIP funds on designated projects.

During this campaign the city presented to the Owasso citizens a list of twenty-one (21) proposed projects for the next ten years, which included approximately 11 miles of roadway widening improvements. Seventeen (17) of the proposed projects were to be funded though sales tax revenue. On October 14, 2003 Owasso voters approved this request.

Now here we are 5 years later. Six (6) of the original seventeen (17) sales tax projects have been completed and three (3) are being designed or currently under construction. However, as of today, seven (7) of the original eleven (11) miles of roadway widening projects are not even on the drawing board.

The following is a list of projects from the 2003 tax vote, along with today’s estimated construction cost, that are being ignored:

Garnett Road widening (96th – 116th) $11,500,000

Main Street Redevelopment (76th – 86th) 5,000,000

96th Street North (129th – 145th) 5,000,000

North 145th East Ave (86th – 116th) 18,000,000

East 76th Street North (Hwy 169 – 129th) 5,000,000

Additional Police Station 3,000,000

Recreational Trail Improvements 3,000,000

Total Estimated Cost $50,500,000

That’s over FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS. These figures do not include right of way acquisition or engineering design cost. The final total will be several million dollars more, and even higher, as time goes on due to the rate of inflation.

As the city continues to increase in population our public infrastructure repair needs continue to grow. Without regular maintenance and repair our streets, sanitary sewer and water infrastructure will continue to decay. Here are some of the projects that are being ignored or reduced in funding:

Four years ago, Public Works personnel estimated that $1,600,000 per year in repair and maintenance funding was needed to bring our city streets up to a 72% rating, close to the national average. For the past three years, city leadership has approved $1,000,000 per year for street overlay and repair projects and this year $250,000 was cut from that budget. Due to this under funding our city streets continue to fall behind in required maintenance and upgrades.

The residents of the Hale Acres addition (German Corner) have been in need of storm water improvements for over two decades. This needed improvement is estimated at $1,250,000.

The city’s sanitary sewer system has not had a rehabilitation project since 1995. The Sanitary Sewer Treatment facility treats about 2,000,000 gallons of waste water per day. When it rains that amount triples due to old and dilapidated lines. At a current treatment cost of about .79/thousand gallons this adds up over the years.

With all these millions of dollars of uncompleted 2003 projects, and the other currently needed improvements listed above, one would think that the city leadership would be working hard to complete them. Guess again!

Owasso City Leadership Diverts CIP Dollars

Earlier this year City Council voted to “borrow” (meaning: put the taxpayer in debt) $5,000,000 against the Capital Improvements fund and give it to the Tulsa Community College (TCC) so TCC could build a larger than already planned facility in Owasso.

According to Tulsa County Ken Yazel, TCC has a current fiscal year carry over of $41.2 million (Tulsa Beacon, October 16, 2008 and www.tctaxreduction.org). TCC’s own financial report shows they have an “unobligated reserve balance” of $12.3 million. Make sure you fully understand this. The City of Owasso is going to “borrow” money (meaning: put the taxpayer in debt) to GIVE to another tax supported agency which has MILLIONS of tax dollars sitting around.

With the defeat this year of the TCC property tax increase the building for the TCC facility in Owasso has been delayed. The city however is still proceeding with building a $1,900,000 roadway improvement for the future Tulsa Technology Center site at the same location.

Now the city is planning on annexing Stone Canyon, a residential development located two miles east of Owasso on East 76th Street North. With this annexation the Owasso Public Works Authority (OPWA) plans to “borrow” (meaning: put the taxpayer in debt) $4,800,000 to build a sanitary sewer line east of town to service this new development. On August 19, 2008 the Owasso Public Works Authority (OPWA) signed a $358,000 engineering contract to design this sanitary sewer extension.

There are also plans to build a new Owasso City Fire Station - funded out of the Capital Improvements fund - in this area (don’t you think the thousands of current residents of north Owasso/German Corner would also appreciate a new fire station in their area).

Mr. Eric Wiles, Owasso Community Development Director, was recently quoted in the Owasso Reporter concerning the Stone Canyon development:

“The cost to the city will be about $1,300 per acre and is estimated to cost $4,800,000. Stone Canyon’s developers will pay back the cost of the sewer line, Wiles said.” (Owasso Reporter, September 11, 2008)

Pay back the cost? When did the OPWA (AKA: City of Owasso) become a lending institution for developers? How can our city leadership justify “borrowing” (meaning: put the taxpayer in debt) millions of dollars just so a developer can pay us back? What does Stone Canyon offer the Owasso citizen? NOTHING!!

Mr. Rodney Ray, Owasso City Manger, was recently quoted in the Owasso Reporter by Editor Randy Cowling concerning future spending:

“He anticipates proposing to the council a $10 million revenue anticipation note by the end of the year for capital improvement projects. He ask that councilor(s) no(t) delay plans due to the current financial crisis. Next year city officials plan to borrow another $8 million from the OWRD for a water project”. (Owasso Reporter, October 9, 2008)

With the worse financial crisis in this nation’s history upon us, our city leadership is being told to “drive on” with borrowing more money. When it comes to personal finances the advice is “get out of debt”. Shouldn’t our city leadership take heed with this same sound advice?

Owasso Citizens Deserve Better

The projects presented to the citizens of Owasso in 2003 deserve to be given priority over a private development that will not benefit the current citizens of Owasso or the wants of another tax supported agency. And going further in debt is not in Owasso’s best interest.

Quoting from the vision statement for the City of Owasso:

“Public service is about removing the obstacles standing in the way of people celebrating their lives”.

These 2003 Third Penny tax projects would “remove the obstacles standing in the way of the current citizens celebrating their lives”.

The Owasso City Council is elected by you to represent you and they need to hear from you. We urge you to please, pick up the phone and call, or e-mail, all city councilors and let them know how you feel about these projects being sidelined and funds being diverted.