With the Breezeway no longer an option for Enid’s homeless people congregating downtown, efforts to alleviate the issue of where they can go during the day are reaching yet another impasse from nearby businesses.
City commissioners are set to hear an update Thursday on a building permit for Five80 Coffeehouse to add outdoor seating and a bathroom for customers, who include people who are homeless.
With its permit approved Jan. 7, Forgotten Ministries, which owns Five80, plans to add an awning, tables and chairs, and an outdoor bathroom in the back of the coffeehouse.
Five80 owner Jeremiah Herrian, director of Forgotten Ministries, previously told commissioners the construction would provide an alternative to the recently closed Breezeway area.
Homeless people often would gather in the walkway during the day while waiting between free services and meals provided by local ministries such as Our Daily Bread and Salvation Army, all within walking distance.
Five80’s regular customers include homeless people who have already gathered at the coffeehouse for years but needed a place to go now that the Breezeway was emptied, Herrian said during the Jan. 5 meeting.
However, on Tuesday, businesses appealed the permit to the city Board of Adjustment, “gravely concerned” the addition could instead exacerbate the recently reported homelessness problem in the downtown area, as well as vague permitting and shelter definitions, according to the city agenda.
City Manager Jerald Gilbert had removed the walkway’s chairs and tables in September after business owners began increasingly reporting misconduct and threatening behavior from several of the homeless people who’d hang out at the area.
“Having the Breezeway issue fresh in everybody’s mind, nobody wants a situation where the problem is exacerbated,” Gilbert said in a city Facebook video Tuesday.
He had said the city would stay the permit approval until the issue is resolved.
Attorney Clint Claypole, representing a group of Enid businesses, will speak against the permit on Thursday, Gilbert said.
It may be the first appeal of a building permit approval the board of adjustment would hear, City Attorney Carol Lahman wrote in a letter to Claypole last Friday before he filed the appeal.
The city does not have authority to take action on the building permit, Lahman wrote.
James Neal, director of the Enid Street Outreach Services, also is set to speak at the meeting about his new nonprofit’s own efforts to find a suitable replacement for the Breezeway and aid Enid’s homeless population, as part of the newly created Enid Community Coalition for the Unsheltered.
Annual city audit approval
City commissioners are set to vote Thursday to approve the city of Enid’s annual audit of its financial activities for the last fiscal year, which included a report of nearly $15 million in unassigned spending funds.
Covering the fiscal year 2019-2020, the city’s audit reports the city’s total ending fund balance increased by $13 million from the year before.
Of that total $60 million, about 58.9 million was available for spending, though $35 million had already been committed by the Enid City Commission.
The audit also reports the city’s total net position increased by nearly $27 million because of the Kaw Lake project, then in its early completion stages.
These increases included a $16 million increase in government activities and $11 million in business-related activities (such as the Enid Municipal Authority, Stride Bank Center, Enid Woodring Regional Airport, Meadowlark Golf Course and the Enid Public Transit Authority).
Gilbert said Tuesday the auditor reported the city missed some amounts for Kaw Lake, though those financial statements are now properly stated.
Commissioners also are set to approve a letter of intent to engage in a three-year lease with United Engines starting in July.
The city has three Mack trash trucks, but would sell them back and receive three 2021 Peterbilt refuse trucks when the city’s current 36-month agreement with United Engines expires.
However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, compactor trucks are taking longer to be built, so trucks cannot be delivered without authorization four months ahead of time, according to the city.
Therefore, with the approval of the letter, United Engines can begin to build the trucks in time for the new lease to begin in July.
The city commission will vote to approve a financing request for the agreement in July.
Commissioners also will award a $270,000 contract for services acquiring a needed right-of-way for the new Ames Raw Water Transmission Main.
Tulsa-based Meshek and Associates will perform services such as survey and research, negotiations and acquisition management, to be completed no later than July.
Commissioners will then vote to purchase a replacement excavator truck that would primarily load debris into the landfill grinder.
Need for replacing the original vehicle came faster than expected because of the volume of debris collected the last year, with $186,968 originally allocated for other replacements now lower in priority, according to the city.