The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Local and State News

December 4, 2012

Parks revamp election is set

ENID, Okla. — A vote on two election proposals to raise $50 million to revamp the Enid park system was approved Tuesday by Enid City Commission.

The election date was set for March 5 to give bond attorneys time to get the issues written correctly. Allan Brooks, of Public Finance Law Group of Oklahoma City, has guided the commission through the process. The final form of the ballot, which will describe the process of renovations and construction of a new park to replace several old parks, will be stated on the ballot.

Brooks told commissioners during their study session a general obligation bond ballot must describe at least 70 percent of the project. He said he hesitated to describe 100 percent, because if bids came in higher than estimated, city officials would not have enough money to do everything.

The bond issue would continue a 7 mill levy approved in 2009 for the construction of new bridges. The plan would raise an estimated $30 million.

The second fundraising issue is a half-cent sales tax to raise an estimated $20 million. The tax would end after five years. It would raise Enid’s total sales tax to 8.85 percent, which City Manager Eric Benson said would keep Enid among the cities with the lowest sales tax in the state.

The centerpiece of the project would be a new community park to be built at Randolph and 30th. It would include an outdoor water park with a number of features, including a lazy river and large swimming pool. The swimming pool would replace the deteriorating Champlin Pool. New ball fields also will be part of the community park, while the number of soccer and softball fields will be determined by community demand. The park also will include new youth football fields, parking, tennis courts and a skate park.

Commissioners spent most of the study session debating the issue. All agreed the project needed to be done, but Ward 1 Commissioner Ron Janzen said a study showed people wanted their neighborhood parks done and that should be a priority. Janzen said if one of the issues fails, there will not be enough money to do everything.

“The commission has never studied the specifics. Howell and Vancuren study prioritized updating and improving local parks,” he said.

Ward 5 Commissioner Tammy Wilson, who is one of three commissioners to study and present the project, said the new park would replace several older parks that can’t be used anymore.

Janzen insisted residents wanted the existing parks updated, and said he is concerned if a plan is locked in, commissioners will be “stuck” with it. Assistant City Manager Joan Riley said another park is needed to replace Champlin Pool and South Government Springs Park. Champlin Pool has surpassed its lifespan and has a number of repairs to be made. South Government Springs Park has glass in the ball fields that can injure the young players.

Benson said he wanted to ask the public to decide and let their decision guide the commission.

“Let’s ask the people to tell us what we want,” he said. “If one issue is rejected, we can still come back with a smaller plan and identify what the voters really want.”

If both issues fail, the issue is dead, he said.

Janzen said he has been involved with Enid parks for 40 years and is concerned all the money will be spent in one location, when existing parks have gone without for a long time.

During the regular commission meeting, Benson said 34 percent of city sales tax comes from people who do not live in Enid. He described the project as collectively revamping all the parks in the city and building a new recreational complex to replace aging infrastructure in some other parks.

The commission approved the election unanimously.

In other business, commissioners:

• Approved an ordinance to establish an industrial workforce housing park. City Planner Chris Bauer said there will be notice posted and public hearings scheduled on the next phase of the ordinance adoption. Metropolitan Area Planning Commission must approve the ordinance and send it to the city commission for final approval. Industrial zoning was designated as the location for the housing. The city will collect 8 percent revenue from the owners, equal to the city hotel-motel tax so revenue will not be lost, Bauer said.

Bauer said two or three manufacturers are believed ready to begin construction when they can receive a permit.

After their executive session, commissioners voted to sign a letter of intent with LodgeWell Group, which has offices in Springfield, Mo., and Overland Park, Kan., to build a downtown hotel, and voted to hire Benson for another year as city manager.

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