The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local news

February 25, 2013

City’s PR director offers parks plan details

ENID, Okla. — Members of Enid Rotary Club heard a presentation on a proposed $50 million parks plan Monday, little more than a week before the proposal goes before city voters.

Steve Kime, director of marketing and public relations for the city of Enid, gave the presentation and answered questions from Rotarians.

The city’s Quality of Life Initiative would raise $50 million to improve existing city parks; build a downtown park and a large community park on the city’s east side; and establish a parks and recreation department for ongoing parks maintenance and management.

The proposal would raise $20 million by increasing the city sales tax rate by one-half cent for five years, and pay for $30 million in general obligation bonds by extending an existing 7 mill ad valorem tax. The 7 mill ad valorem tax previously was enacted to fund city bridge improvements.

Kime began his presentation Monday by showing a four-minute promotional video for the parks proposal, then asked attendees, “What improvements would you make to the parks where our children and grandchildren play?”

Only one person responded to the question, suggesting the city maintain the existing parks.

Kime responded that the proposed parks plan would address that issue by establishing a dedicated work force to maintain and manage parks.

“One of the challenges we have right now is, if we want someone to work in the parks, we have to pull them off other work,” Kime said. “We have to pull someone off fixing potholes or repairing a water line, and then that same person has to go and work in the park.”

He said the parks renovation and construction also would address a shortcoming in existing parks.

“There really isn’t one park in our community that’s truly ADA accessible,” Kime said. He said all of the city’s new parks and equipment would be Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant.

Kime said the proposed community park at 30th and Randolph would showcase the city’s investment in itself. He said cities such as Weatherford and Chickasha have developed large community parks near major avenues leading into their communities as a means of attracting new business.

“Communities are finding this to be a very effective way to bring people and business into town,” Kime said. “Those people come into town, they spend money and they stay in town to play in tournaments.

“The idea is for communities to find creative ways to promote economic development.”

The proposal also calls for a new park that would showcase the main thoroughfare leading to downtown.

The park, listed in the city’s bond proposal with a price tag of $820,000, would be bounded by Garriott on the south, Oklahoma on the north, Independence to the west and Grand on the east.

The park would include an amphitheater at its center, facing south toward the natural slope that comes down from Garriott toward downtown.

Kime outlined the cost taxpayers would pay to fund the parks proposal in terms of both ad valorem and sales taxes.

He said an owner of a home with an ad valorem tax valuation of $100,000 would pay about $8.41 per month for the parks plan, money that currently is being collected for the expiring bridge plan.

The half-cent sales tax would collect 50 cents for every $100 spent in the city for the next five years.

Kime said one of the advantages of the sales tax portion of the funding package is it allows shoppers from other communities to help pay for the parks in Enid.

“Close to 35-40 percent of our sales tax revenue is from people who don’t live in Enid,” Kime said. “When you have 35-plus percent of your revenue coming in from outside, this gives those people an opportunity to help pay for this.”

He said the parks proposal would fill an economic development need in the city, and help recruit both new businesses and new residents to staff those businesses.

“This will help attract businesses that seek communities with a vibrant quality of life,” Kime said. “In the past, if you asked business CEOs for their top 10 criteria in selecting a community site for their business, quality of life would have come in at about 17.”

He said quality of life has become increasingly important for employers’ ability to attract and retain a work force, and has become a “top-three” criterion in new business site selection.

Following his formal presentation, Kime took about 15 minutes to answer questions from the Rotarians.

One attendee asked Kime whether the land has been purchased for the 30th and Randolph park. Kime said the land for the new park has not yet been purchased, but is available for city purchase with the stipulation it only be used for parks and recreation development.

Another Rotarian asked Kime what percentage of the city’s master trail plan would be funded by the Quality of Life Initiative.

Kime said the plan would increase the city’s trail system from the existing three miles to a total of more than 12 miles. Jacob Foos, city of Enid deputy director of public relations, said the total master trails plan, when complete, will include about 32 miles of trails, at a cost of about $1 million per mile.

Kime also was asked about a budget to provide for ongoing parks maintenance, if the proposal passes.

He said the plan sets aside $5 million to establish a parks and recreation department and provide for parks maintenance. Kime didn’t have specifics on how the city’s expanded parks system and the parks and recreation department would be financed after that $5 million is spent.

“I can’t look into a crystal ball and say what’s going to happen seven years from now,” Kime said.

Another attendee asked Kime how the city is addressing negative responses to the parks proposal on Facebook and other social media sites.

“I don’t mess with the Facebook folks,” Kime said. “I just don’t go there. As a city staff person, I don’t think we need to spend time to refute that.”

Kime said information about the parks proposal has been made available through numerous public presentations, and is available on the city’s website.

Enid Mayor Bill Shewey stepped in to help Kime answer a question about how parks maintenance will be funded if the proposal does not pass.

Shewey said if the proposal fails, any ongoing parks maintenance would have to be funded by taking funds away from other city projects.

Members of the public who wish to hear more about the Quality of Life Initiative before they go to the polls will have an opportunity Thursday evening.

A public meeting regarding the parks proposal will be 7 p.m. Thursday at Convention Hall. A presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.

An informational video and presentation also are available online at Enid.org/qualityoflife, and questions may be sent to TheFuture@ Enid.org.

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