By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
An idea exchange between Enid and Muskogee officials seemed to go well, as the two groups compared the things they have in common Wednesday in Convention Hall.
Greg Buckley, Muskogee city manager, said Enid has done some great things that Muskogee also is considering.
“Muskogee is looking for ways to bring back our downtown, and looking for ways to bring businesses back to downtown,” Buckley said.
Muskogee has a 4 percent sales tax, which generates about $5.8 million for the general fund. Buckley said his city’s general fund revenue has been flat the past three years. Muskogee also is looking at economic development efforts Enid is making, as well as lowering of workers’ compensation costs, for which Enid was recognized statewide. Muskogee’s population of 40,000 has remained fairly constant for several years.
“We have ideas about building a city Wi-Fi and getting it into the field, which Enid has done. Our IT director is talking to your IT director,” Buckley said. “We will also do automated meter reading. Ponca City and Stillwater are already doing some of these things, but they have their own electrical systems.”
Enid City Manager Eric Benson said the two communities are fairly close in many areas. Muskogee’s utility rates are higher than Enid’s. Benson said much of his interest has been in the way the two communities focus on priorities. Both are considering quality-of-life improvements, he said, but Muskogee’s approach is different.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said.
Buckley focused on similarities, too. He said Enid produces more money with a 3.5 percent sales tax than Muskogee does with its 4 percent tax. Muskogee’s tax generates $5.8 million for the general fund, while Enid’s generates $7.8 million. The median income in Muskogee is $33,533 and the median age is 36.9.
Muskogee suffered $686 million in retail leakage last year, while Enid lost $289 million. Muskogee has dedicated $1.2 million of the city use tax for industrial development, and officials there have contracted the Port Authority to work with them for retail development, and also have contracted with Retail Attractions to assist with recruiting retail businesses.
Muskogee has an ongoing focus on quality-of-life issues, Buckley said, and is in the midst of improving neighborhood parks and developing a master trail system. The Muskogee airport was named Oklahoma Airport of the Year in 2011, and the city currently is working on a $1 million terminal improvement. Muskogee also recently completed work on a new water treatment plant.
Muskogee has 17,000 housing units, with 15,000 occupied and a 61 percent owner-occupant ratio. The city has a housing rehabilitation program for low-income housing that is operated by Community Development Block Grant funds, which are matched by the city. To date, the city has repaired 165 houses at a cost of $2.8 million.
Assisting with some expenses, the city of Muskogee Foundation helped clean up parts of the city and has contributed to several projects. Foundation funding came from the sale of the city hospital for $100 million, Buckley said. Muskogee also has used its Juvenile Community Service Program to clean up some problem areas, including graffiti in parks and homes of disabled or elderly residents.
Muskogee representatives also toured Enid sites and returned to Muskogee Wednesday afternoon.