The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

June 28, 2013

Hearing on Lions Park, fire station postponed; ‘other offers’ on table

ENID, Okla. — There might be other options for the city’s No. 4 fire station besides the beleaguered Lions Park proposal now under consideration.

In a filing Thursday, city of Enid asked District Judge Dennis Hladik to push back a hearing to vacate the park’s plat, or land plan, to Aug. 8. It originally was scheduled for next week.

The move will allow officials to explore other options for relocating the West Garriott substation, City Manager Eric Benson confirmed Friday.

“I think a previous property or two that might not have been available — the visibility on this issue has brought other offers out onto the table,” Benson said.

Benson said he doesn’t know where the new properties are and if he did, he wouldn’t publicly identify them yet.

“People in this town really don’t like doing business in the open like we have to do,” he said. “It really makes life hard for us, but it’s the law.”

Neighbors around Lions Park, a small triangle-shaped patch of grass and playground equipment along Maine just east of Cleveland, are opposed to the city’s plan to relocate a fire department substation there.

A statement from the Lions Park neighbors, read by organizer Judy Watson, said the group still is “very diligently working to save our park.

“Knowing that the city is looking at some other options is encouraging to us,” Watson said. “Any time the city is going to make an investment of this size, it’s important to exercise all due diligence in making sure that you get the best return on your investment.”

Several dozen neighbors signed a petition and submitted opposition letters to Hladik’s court in advance of the July 3 hearing, which likely will be rescheduled. They claim annoyance from lights and sirens, the danger of emergency vehicles driving down a residential street, the loss of their park and the expectation their properties won’t be as attractive with a fire station next door.

“All the complaints they had about lights and sirens are easily solved,” Benson said, referring to the department’s promise to not use them until a truck reaches Cleveland.

The city wants to move the No. 4 fire station for three main reasons. For one, it sits directly on Garriott, a thoroughfare that causes traffic issues during an emergency call.

It’s also too close to the city’s main fire station, Chief Joe Jackson has said. Finally, old No. 4 is just that — old. Modern equipment and trucks just won’t fit inside it.

Officials have said building at Lions Park was not their first option, but it was the best available. Its location was ideal for Jackson and the city already owned the land.

“We never said that was our only option and we’re going to do it regardless. It was an option,” said Benson. “It was a very attractive option because we saved the taxpayers a bunch of money.”

And that’s what Benson says the issue comes down to: money. There has to be a decision to spend taxpayer money to acquire land for the station, or save that money to use the city’s property, he said.

“We’re happy to do it either way. I know (Jackson’s) scrubbing his budget to find what he thinks is going to be the necessary funding,” said Benson.

City Attorney Andrea Springer said she has mailed notifications to residents around Lions Park informing them of the city’s continuance filing. The city’s request for a continuance still must be approved by Hladik, though, which likely will happen next week.

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