The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

June 19, 2013

City Manager addresses proposed Enid fire station move

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Moving fire station No. 4 to a secluded park bordered on all sides by homes is not a land grab, City Manager Eric Benson told residents of those homes Tuesday.

Rather, he said, the decision to relocate the substation to Lions Park is based on safety reasons.

“If you come to my house or any of my six siblings, you’ll notice that none of us have childhood mementos or pictures. We don’t have anything in my life that I possessed prior to my 22nd birthday, because in the town that we lived in, it was deemed unnecessary to build a fire house on that side of town,” Benson said. “So when my parents’ home caught fire, it burned to the ground without any response.”

The house could have been saved, he said.

Jerry Hager has lived across the street from Lions Park for 47 years, he told Enid City Commission during the public comment phase of Tuesday’s meeting.

“It’s used daily. Not by 30 or 40 people, but there’s some people there, weather permitting, daily. I never once thought in that 47 years I’d have to worry about the city coming in and taking that park. I just didn’t think that would happen,” he said. “This is our quality of life. I don’t think we ought to be even discussing this item.”

Pro-fire department

Protest organizer Paula Nightengale said the neighborhood is pro-city and pro-fire department, but Benson later said any criticism of the decision to relocate the station should be aimed at him, not Enid Fire Department.

Benson said if the plan moves forward, there would be “a much better park” with modern equipment.

“There’s another side to this issue, folks. And when our fire department wishes to see to your health and safety, it is not in a land grab. It’s an effort to make your life better and protect you,” Benson said. “If given the authority to build this firehouse there, we will not consider this without a level discussion across all neighborhoods. We’ll have an opportunity for input and design, and argument back and forth.”

Attorney contract

After meeting in a lengthy private executive session, Enid City Commission voted to alter the salary of the city attorney.

Andrea Springer’s salary was modified to $95,000, and she also received a $2,500 incentive bonus for her work last year.

The city is providing her a cellphone allowance of $35 per pay period, according to the vote Tuesday.

Meeting change

Enid City Commission has changed the date of a meeting scheduled for a makeup vote on the city budget emergency clause.

The meeting had been scheduled for 7 a.m. Friday, but has been changed to 7 a.m. Tuesday.

According to the city charter, five yes votes are needed to adopt the budget emergency clause; however the vote at the last commission meeting was 4-2 in favor. The issue was not realized until after adjournment, when an Enid News & Eagle reporter questioned whether the emergency test actually passed. Upon review of the city’s governing documents, staff confirmed a makeup vote is needed to avoid waiting the full 30 days before implementation.

Other business

Commissioners approved the following budget items:

• Improvement to three street intersections to make them compliant with federal disability regulations.

• A contract to replace some copper components in the city’s infrastructure, stemming from a notice of high copper content in wastewater from Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

• Accepted $500,000 grant from state to re-route Southgate to make way for Enid Woodring Regional Airport expansion.

• Purchase of a hydraulic excavator for the Stormwater Department.

Commissioners also approved a list of consent items, except for the planned sale of land lots near the city administration building. Benson said there was a minor alteration to the contract that couldn’t be added to the agenda in time for the meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, Benson congratulated Visit Enid Executive Director Marcy Jarrett for her selection as the Oklahoma Society of Association Executives Strategic Partner of the Year.

Betty Jane Harris and her daughter, Linda H. Evans, were  recognized by proclamation for their support of the city’s investment in Crosslin Dog Park.