By James Neal, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Revenue, jobs and private investment are on the rise; city costs and crime are down.
Those are a few of the highlights Enid Mayor Bill Shewey shared with about 150 attendees Monday morning during his State of the City address at Convention Hall.
Shewey gave his address on the eve of Enid’s Quality of Life ballot proposal, telling attendees Enid voters have the opportunity in the $50 million parks plan to “keep the momentum going.”
Economic indicators were a major focus of Shewey’s address, including figures on job growth, investment, unemployment and sales tax revenue.
“While many cities are still struggling to match the productivity they had reached years ago, our economy is performing extremely well,” Shewey said.
He said the unemployment rate in the Enid metropolitan area was 3.5 percent as of last December, while job growth was 4.1 percent over the last 12 months and 9.2 percent over the last three years.
Shewey said sales tax returns are a “good indicator of the local economy,” and said the pace of retail sales “shows whether consumers have confidence in their own lives,” and reflect whether or not business is growing.
He said retail sales in 2012 continued to show 10-12 percent growth over the previous year.
According to city figures, the city’s sales tax revenues have increased by 57 percent since 2003, when the current sales tax rate was set, increasing from $18.6 million in 2003 to $29.6 million in 2012.
“Our sales tax numbers last year were in record territory, and 2013 is outperforming those record highs,” Shewey said.
“This wonderful achievement reflects our energetic focus on retail development. We are making Enid the destination for western Oklahoma.”
Shewey said city funding for core services comes from sales tax revenue, and he outlined a number of accomplishments in city services in the past year.
He said Enid Fire Department investments in firefighting equipment have paid off in Enid receiving a lower Insurance Service Organization rating, a key factor in lowering insurance rates for homeowners in the city.
“This improvement can be directly correlated to the public safety sales tax and the progressive leadership of the departments involved,” Shewey said.
He said the most important achievement he had to share with attendees was the reduction in Enid’s crime rate.
Data provided by Enid Police Department shows violent crime was down in 2012, though property crimes were on the rise.
Shewey also highlighted the efforts of the city’s public works departments to deliver core services, paid for by sales tax revenue.
“Our public works department is busy every day making sure our core service requirements are uninterrupted and that our water and sewer needs are met,” Shewey said.
He said city crews cleaned out more than 45,000 feet of sewer line in 2012 to prevent blockages, repaired more than 120 water leaks, made 73 water main repairs, and responded to 1,706 requests to locate city water lines for developers and property owners.
Shewey said the work of public works crews is “not glamorous, but work that must be done in a timely and efficient manner.”
Shewey said the city has continued to invest in infrastructure over the last year, including continued development of the master trail plan and completion of the $32 million wastewater treatment plant.
The city also began work on two new water towers, at Meadowlake Park and 30th and Chestnut.
Shewey also outlined significant private investment in Enid and the region in 2012 and thus far in 2013:
• $50 million in city building permits were issued in 2012, including $39 million in commercial properties.
• The $400 million Chisholm View Wind Project was completed.
• Spring Hill Suites by Marriott opened an 88-unit hotel on the city’s west side.
• LodgeWell Group LLC signed a master development agreement with the city for a $14 million downtown hotel.
• Pelagic Tank purchased and opened a new manufacturing business in the former Chesterfield facility.
• NorthStar Agri Industries announced plans to construct a $200 million canola processing plant in the city.
Shewey said the commitment of $14 million in private investment for the downtown hotel “validates the decision to construct the downtown events center.”
Shewey also highlighted a recent city audit report and results of recent public projects to demonstrate the city continues to be “a good steward” of city funds:
• City revenue was $78.2 million in 2012, up 10 percent from 2011.
• City expenditures in 2012 were $62.4 million, down 6 percent from 2011 expenditures of $66.3 million.
• Net assets for the city have nearly doubled since 2005, from $100 million to $191.2 million.
• City assets increased nearly 9 percent in 2012, from $175.5 million in 2011 to $191.2 million in 2012.
• Capital assets — “things like roads, buildings, equipment and water lines” — increased 17 percent, from $178.6 million in 2011 to $209.1 million in 2012.
• The $32 million wastewater treatment plant was completed “on time and under budget.”
• The city’s current 7 mill ad valorem tax for bridge improvements, designed to fund seven bridge projects, actually funded 11 bridge projects, “again, completed on time and under budget.”
Shewey said Enid residents, in today’s Quality of Life ballot measures, have the opportunity to capitalize on these past accomplishments and pass “an initiative that will impact the quality of life for all citizens within Enid.”
Shewey said the best part of the $50 million parks plan is it would free up current city parks spending for more investment in streets, water lines, water wells and other infrastructure.
In an interview following Shewey’s address, Enid City Manager Eric Benson said passage of the Quality of Life plan would immediately free up $1.5 million in additional funding for city streets.
“This $50 million proposal will prepare Enid for the next decade of growth and quality-of-life needs,” Shewey said. “Enid residents will have the opportunity to keep the momentum going as they consider passage of this Quality of Life Initiative, which is potentially life-changing.
“In summary, the state of the city is strong,” he added. “We have money in the bank, we are paying our bills, we continue to make investments into the community to strengthen our position to attract industry. School enrollment is up as new schools are being built. The landscape of downtown Enid is changing.
“In the grand scheme of our city’s timeline, these are new events. But with each passing year, the generation that made these things happen — and that generation is you — must realize that we are only setting the stage for greater things to come.”�