The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

April 2, 2013

City commission hears proposal to realign public works, create robust parks and recreation

ENID, Okla. — Enid city commissioners heard a proposal Tuesday night to realign the city’s Public Works Department and create a more robust parks and recreation department.

Deputy Director of Public Works Rob Camp briefed commissioners on the proposed realignment during the commission’s study session.

The realignment would retain parks and recreation within  public works, but would separate out non-parks public works and create a department with the sole focus of maintaining city parks.

The realignment would create a parks department staffed by 26 people, including a parks director and three other new administrative positions. The remainder of the department staff would be reallocated from other city departments.

The plan calls for the net addition of 10 new city employees, with an annual cost increase of $382,000, and an initial outlay of about $600,000 for new equipment.

The realignment would remove maintenance and mowing of storm water channels from parks and recreation workers.

Storm water maintenance responsibilities would shift to a new Stormwater and Roadway Maintenance Department, which would replace the current Streets Department.

The Stormwater and Roadway Maintenance Department would mow all roadway areas and stormwater channels, and maintain and rebuild unimproved roads. Under the realignment, pothole repairs would be contracted out.

The proposal calls for funding the realignments and operations through general fund budget line items, trust authority funds and parks usage fees.

Enid City Manager Eric Benson said the proposed realignment is a starting point from which city staff and commissioners can reach consensus on how to fund and maintain city parks.

“I think we all heard during the bond debate that the public wanted better attention paid to the parks,” Benson said.

Ward 6 Commissioner Dr. David Vanhooser said he wants to see a viable parks and recreation department created in the immediate future.

“I want to see a radical change,” Vanhooser said. “I want the public to start seeing parks and ball fields that are beautiful as early as this summer.”

Vanhooser presented his fellow commissioners with a draft resolution that called for re-appropriating $750,000 from other areas of the city budget to “kick-start” development of the new parks department.

Commissioners also were briefed by the city’s chief financial officer, Jerald Gilbert, on a plan to remove an exemption from the city’s hotel tax ordinance.

Gilbert said the city currently collects an 8 percent hotel tax for all lodging facilities with five or more rooms.

The current ordinance includes exemptions from the hotel tax for state and federal employees staying on business and for “permanent residents,” defined as hotel guests who remain in residence for 30 consecutive days or more.

Hotel tax collections have boomed in recent years, due in large part to an increase in the number of workers in the energy sector booking long-term stays in local hotels.

Gilbert said the city collected about $707,000 in hotel taxes in 2009-10. That number has grown to $1.375 million thus far in 2012-13, up 32 percent over last year and projected to increase to between $1.7 million and $1.8 million by the end of the fiscal year.

While hotel tax revenue has been up, the amount of exemptions also has been on the rise.

Gilbert said the city granted $695,000-worth of exemptions to “permanent residents” last year, and already has granted $553,000 in the long-term stay exemptions this fiscal year.

The ordinance change discussed during the study session would remove the 30-day exemption for hotel tax, and require collecting the tax no matter how long a guest remains in a hotel.

During the commission’s regular meeting, commissioners approved rezoning of land for a proposed Northstar Agri Industries canola plant, to be located between 54th and 66th south of Willow. The commission approved rezoning the land from agricultural designation to high-intensity industrial.

The Metropolitan Area Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning in its March 18 meeting.

Commissioners also approved a change order for the Enid Event Center construction project, adding $58,114 to the project cost, to bring the new contract amount with Key Construction LLC to $18,485,300, with a completion date of May 31.

The change order will fund relocating three electrical panel boxes with connectors designed to power large shows at the event center.

The change order was the eighth since the original contract was awarded for $17,444,444.

Commissioners approved an ordinance banning motorized vehicles in city parks and on city trails. The ordinance permits the use of bicycles and mobility devices.

Enid Police Department Chief Brian O’Rourke presented the commissioners with a proposal to make the intersection of Maine and 10th a four-way stop. The intersection currently has stop signs on the north-south lanes on 10th, but traffic on Maine does not stop.

O’Rourke said EPD conducted a traffic accident study on the intersection from January 2012 to present, and found 14 accidents occurred at the intersection.

Three of those accidents involved injuries, and one in February claimed the life of a 55-year-old woman.

The commission approved adding the stop signs on Maine, making the intersection a four-way stop.

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