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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The City Council of Oklahoma City finished out the year of 2021 with a final, nearly four-hour, meeting on Tuesday morning.

During the meeting, the Council voted on the first two allocations of ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds in the form of service agreement contracts with the Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD) and United Way.

The Council also heard about budget surpluses in a couple of areas that will assist in infrastructure repair, including the infamous May Avenue bridge over Northwest Expressway.

The Police Department got easy approval to purchase a new armored vehicle for their bomb squad.

The Council also voted to annex more land, making our city larger, which is all the more room for chickens, the ownership of which was introduced as an ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

Armored Vehicle

An item tucked away in the consent docket for Tuesday’s meeting was for the award and approval of a contract with Lenco Industries to purchase an armored vehicle for the Bomb Squad Tactical Unit of the Police Department.

The item, priced at $370,029, would bring the department’s “Bearcat” vehicles to 2.

Chief Gourley was asked for examples of how these vehicles are usually deployed. Gourley’s explanation, though typically vague, supplied anecdotal examples of serving “high-risk warrants” or at “large events.”

Gourley assured the Council that this vehicle is not for military use, but is rather for a civilian police force.

Gourley was stumped by Ward 6 Councilor JoBeth Hamon* when she asked what the differences were between this vehicle’s use for the military as opposed to civilian uses.

At no point did Gourley find an answer to the question.

Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice moved to defer the item until the Chief of Police could do the research necessary to answer a simple question about the $370,00 purchase.

That was voted down 5-3, with Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper joining Hamon and Nice in voting to defer.

Then the item was moved for approval and was passed by the same vote, 5-3, with the same minority voting against.

ARPA Funds

On Tuesday the Council made the first allocation of ARPA funds.

Two contracts were approved for use of a total of $6 million.

First was a $5 million contract with Oklahoma City-County Health Department (OCCHD).

Chief Operating Officer of OCCHD, Phil Maytubby, was on hand to discuss plans.

The Department would like to build a new drive-through site at SW 59th and May. Maytubby explained that the zip code in that area has one of the higher infection rates, and lower vaccination rates, in our city. Many things contribute to those statistics, chiefly access.

Creating a site in a neighborhood that has been underserved can truly spare many people in the community from illness.

Another access improvement measure the Department would like to take is the purchase of some mobile units. These large, RV-esque vehicles can travel to destinations for vaccine distribution events, testing events, and other public health-related situations. This would allow the OCCHD to, as Maytubby said, “take our services to the People.”

Exterior view – mobile clinic concept for OCCHD. (provided)
OCCHD
Interior view – mobile clinic concept for OCCHD. (provided)

They will also use money for testing and tracing.

As Maytubby pointed out, this money isn’t solely for response, it’s also for planning for the future. Having the infrastructure in place for future outbreaks is a smart investment.

The second contract is in the amount of $1 million with the United Way of Central Oklahoma. The United Way will be administering financial aid for nonprofits in Oklahoma City adversely affected by COVID.

Infrastructure

Two large infrastructure pieces were approved at Tuesday’s meeting, as some projects have come under budget, leaving money for more projects in the future.

Eric Wenger, Director of Public Works, explained that Better Streets Safer City money was used on some bicycle infrastructure projects that came in under budget, as well as some street resurfacing that did the same. Those amounts will stay in their silos of Bike infrastructure and resurfacing but will be applied to new projects in the coming year.

Wenger also described two large infrastructure projects slated for the next year.

The first is a project in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) to update the congested interface between the Lake Hefner Parkway and Northwest Expressway.

ODOT will design and partner with the City for the construction of an updated interchange. Currently, traffic during “rush hour” times can back up onto the Parkway in either direction. The redesign is expected to ameliorate that problem.

A problem in the same area that will not be addressed by this project is the impassibility of that interchange on foot or by mobility device or bicycle.

Cooper of Ward 2 brought up concern over this issue. Wenger said that the new project would not incorporate pedestrian infrastructure, because there is no existing pedestrian infrastructure there.

Wenger did assure Cooper that with the building of the Bus Rapid Transit system coming online in the next few years, future pedestrian infrastructure would not be impeded.

The Council also approved Wenger’s plan to improve the May Avenue Bridge over Northwest Expressway. Readers will probably remember when a portion of that bridge collapsed after being hit by a truck hauling a lift that was over the height limit, miraculously causing no harm to persons. That project is budgeted at $669,999, using GO Bonds from 2007 and 2017.

Annexation

Never satisfied with the physical size of this three-county city, the Council today agreed to increase the size of our boundaries by annexing 160 acres from unincorporated Oklahoma County.

The annexation was requested by a developer with plans to create a single-family residential neighborhood in the area, which is north of NW 206th Street, just west of Edmond, Oklahoma.

Geoff Butler from the planning department said that this annexation would be a near-neutral cost/benefit for the City.

The documents from the Planning Department described a sales tax benefit for the new addition. When asked what that benefit would be, Butler said that some of the new residents there would shop in Oklahoma City.

Chickens

As reported previously by Free Press, a plan to legalize urban hens (female domestic chickens) has been hatched by City Councilors Bradley Carter (Ward 1), JoBeth Hamon* (Ward 6), and Nikki Nice (Ward 7).

After sending their proposed ordinance to the Planning Commission, the Commission returned it to Council on Tuesday with a recommendation to approve.

The Council unanimously voted to introduce the ordinance formally. There will be a public hearing on the ordinance at the next Council meeting. Two weeks after that, the Council will vote on whether to adopt the ordinance allowing the raising of hens in the City limits.


*Hamon is the spouse of the author of this article


Last Updated December 21, 2021, 3:23 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor