ENID, Okla. — City commission candidates for Wards 3, 4 and 6 answered questions about topics ranging from infrastructure to mask mandates from local media and the public at a forum Tuesday evening.
Enid area media — Enid News & Eagle, Williams Media Group, Chisholm Trail Broadcasting and Enid Buzz — held the forum Jan. 26 in the Stride Bank Center Ballroom, and the panel consisted of News & Eagle Staff Writer Alexander Ewald, Williams Group Operations Manager Alan Clepper, Williams Group Production Director J. Curtis Huckleberry and Chisholm Trail Broadcasting General Manager Kevin Waltman.
All eight candidates in Enid’s regular ward elections were in attendance: Ward 3 candidates Kent Rorick and Keith Siragusa; Ward 4 candidates Loyd Kaufman, Whitney Roberts and Jonathan Waddell; and Ward 6 candidates Ryan Redd, Scott Orr and Michael Shuck.
One of the first questions was posed by Huckleberry, who asked the candidates, “If you are elected, what are going to be your top couple of priorities, or what are your top priority concerns?”
All candidates answered this one, with Rorick answering first: “The top priorities for Ward 3 — the streets is No.1 … The streets in Ward 3 are inadequate. Brookside, where I live, the streets are pretty good, but a lot of the other parts of Ward 3, the streets, are, in some cases, a disgrace. Lighting is also bad, and of course, if we want to bring business to Ward 3, which we have an opportunity to, we’re going to need the infrastructure and the streets. And that also goes to safety with the streetlights and just the better water and keeping the water lines new and replacing them. If the streets are bad, you can imagine what underneath looks like … So that would be my No. 1 priority, and economic development will be my No. 2 … I believe Ward 3 has the most opportunity, just for the empty land in Ward 3 … We have a lot of room to grow over there.”
Siragusa answered next: “Several different areas that Ward 3 needs to improve — roadways, 100%, top of the line, because we have probably the worst roads in Ward 3 in the entire city of Enid. I put many hours on those roads when I was a police officer for 18 years. I traveled those roads every day, being that I live in the heart of Ward 3, and I also work there … I just spent $1,500 on the front end of my truck this past year, and I only traveled in Ward 3. Secondary, the Kaw Lake Project — greatest thing that happened to the east side of town … because we are on the total end of our water line, and our pressure in the summertime goes down to nothing. We built the water tower off 30th to give us that pressure in the summertime … The amount of water that we use, we were at max most summers. We have no water to use our industrial (park) over on 54th Street. We got pads that have everything except water, so that’s the next thing. Once we get that water in, then we can start bringing those industrial businesses in … “
Then answered Kaufman: “What are my top concerns? The waterline we’re getting from Kaw Lake is really the top issue in Enid … Have an $18 million bill to pay for the next 50 years on that waterline, and I don’t think the city, unless they raise a bunch of taxes … are going to have enough money to survive … We need the water, but can we really afford it? Then the streets … in Ward 4 are really in bad shape … I drive all over Enid every day, and I see them paving projects all over Enid, but I don’t see hardly any in Ward 4 … Then our sewer lines. When I was commissioner last time, we had $30 million worth of sewer lines that needed to be repaired 10 years ago … I don’t know how they are now, but that’s a big issue … We need the money to fix them. I guess COVID is a big issue, too … I want the TV station we had here brought back.”
Roberts came up next: “I think we can all agree that the roads are a major issue in all of Enid, but mostly in Ward 4 and Ward 3. I know the city has done a wonderful job at trying to attack this problem, but I think that it’s still a huge issue. I believe that, on the east side of town especially, the response time is unexcusable. I believe that our water issues are another major issue. Water pressure on the east side, it could potentially cause loss of life, and that is unacceptable, and I believe that it is the responsibility of the city. Another issue is there is negligent maintenance practices that I know that have led to the property damage, and I believe that is also the responsibility of the city. The Kaw Water Project — I am very pleased with it. I think that is the right step for our city to set up for our future. I believe from here on out, it would be up to the commission to keep it accountable, to keep it under budget, if possible, and ahead of schedule. I think that it would benefit the city in the long term.”
Waddell answered next: “I think our most precious resource here is our children, so for me — my first year coming in, there was no money from the city going toward youth and children’s programs, so I worked in order to be able to inject funding and pointed toward that direction. First year was around $35,000 to $40,000. Last year it was upwards of $200,000 and it’s grown every year toward that direction, and it needs to continue to grow … We have to help the schools … So after-school programs and summer programs in order to be able to help teach civic engagement, help children connect with their own communities, dealing with their own mental health and the issues that they face throughout their days in growing up is an important issue and something that we have to start investing in as a community. Infrastructure … is definitely an issue. Ward 4 has seen significant improvements … We’ve done multiple projects, but I don’t think anybody can argue the fact that we have to continue working to improve that, and I think to build on that is economic development. Our focus, in order to be able to invest in businesses here and build businesses here and grow businesses, it has to be a top-tier priority for us, and how we do that is in our industrial area east of town, preparing that area for businesses who want to come in and invest … That’s a way we can do that. Also investing in businesses that have been here … That’s the way that we can grow Enid, not just for the short term, but the long term.”
Orr’s answer came next: “My top three priorities are, No. 1, financial responsibility on the part of the city. I want to make sure that we are reviewing everything we spend money on to make sure it goes to needs before wants. Infrastructure here in Enid needs a little bit of work … a lot of roads need to be repaired … Water and sewer issues … to ensure clean drinking water, make sure the sewers are working, address the water pressure problem in certain areas of the city, not only for our quality of life, but also for safety … We’ve got a great resource at Vance Air Force Base. I would like to continue to work to make Enid an attractive place, and that’s a priority for me … Keep our fingers crossed, and we can continue to responsibly grow our population, not only with residents as tax revenue, but also attract new businesses to serve those folks … I’d like to see more money spent on recreation. I think two soccer fields on the southwest side of town are gonna be a great asset for the city … And I’d like to see the walking trail built … to give folks a safe place to run and ride bikes and get out and enjoy the great outdoors.”
Redd answered next: “We need financial accountability, we need to have financial transparency, the city needs to be spending money on the most important things, and those are the basic services, the utilities and the infrastructure, and the police and fire. And then after that, we do need to be very careful with this huge project that we’re doing … We need to hold those contractors accountable to bring that in within budget. I also want to see if it’s possible to reduce sales taxes here. We’re one of the higher sales tax levels in the area, and so people from Enid will go south to The City to make their major purchases, sometimes, because of the sales tax level. One thing that I want to try and focus on is I want Enid to become the best place, the friendliest place in Oklahoma to do business, to run a business and to start a business, and we can do that by reducing regulations, by reducing the burden that we put on businesses to jump through hoops, and I believe that if we can make this just a business friendly place, that businesses will come … Let’s have businesses coming to Enid because this is a business friendly place … ”
Lastly came Shuck’s answer: “ … That’s really where my focus is right now is on economic development … I’m used to taking projects, finding that spark to put in there and starting fires, and that’s what the city can do … What they can do is put a spark there and light a fire, where other developers, other people will see that the city’s investing, and that will bring other investors in — make other people feel confident in Enid that we can put something there that will thrive … We have a central park. Our central park, right now, it’s desolate … They never built anything back … It’s just sitting there right now. If we simply go back in — the streets are going to stay the same around it, no matter how we grade the thing. However we make it a park. We can still put the sidewalks around it … make a beautiful lawn for soccer and football, plant some little trees around it and let it grow into something really pretty nice. Add some activity back in there, add some energy back into our city and help the economy that way.”
Other questions included topics about the city’s mask mandate, KNID Agrifest, communication between commissioners and citizens and the Kaw Lake Water Pipeline Project, and all questions and answers can be found online. A lot of the audience members wrote questions that, due to time constraints, weren’t able to be answered during the forum.
The election will be Feb. 9.