On Tuesday, the City Council of Oklahoma City met virtually for a mere four hours in order to take care of business.
Notably, the Council agreed to allocate $1 million in City CARES Funds to local nonprofits.
The city also honored former Mayor Mick Cornett, agreed to purchase land along County Line Road for a future park, and extended the billboard moratorium for a full year. Also, heavy fines are on the way for drivers who obstruct the Streetcar.
The City Council agreed to allocate Community Development Block Grants funded by CARES Act money specific for CDBG use to local nonprofits. The amounts awarded range from $3,000 up to $24,000. Among the 53 recipients are nonprofits offering services to people experiencing homelessness, seniors, children, and transition-aged youth (18-25 years old).
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After applications were received a group of citizens reviewed the applications to make the difficult decisions of which organizations would be funded and at what amount. A lot of the organizations that will receive these block grants have had their fundraising efforts seriously diminished over the past year due to COVID-19.
This money comes on the heels of Emergency Solution Grant money to supplement COVID relief from HUD in the amount of $5,928,669. That money will be used after the December 31st deadline using CARES funds. The money will be used mostly for housing services for people who are experiencing homelessness, as well as some sheltering costs and prevention measures.
The Council voted to rename a portion of SW 4th Street as Mick Cornett Drive.
The “stub street” is located at the confluence of three MAPS 3 projects. The portion of 4th separates the new convention center and the Omni Hotel and leads up to Scissortail Park.
Cornett led Oklahoma City as Mayor for four terms, and championed the MAPS 3 tax and projects.
The Council agreed to purchase a 100 acre tract of land near SW 15th Street and County Line Road from the Swisher family. Readers may know the name Bill Swisher, a prominent Oklahoma City business man of recent decades. The land will come at a cost of $2,345,759.19.
The purchase of the land will be used for the construction of a future park in Oklahoma City’s Ward 3. The Council later voted in favor of naming the park Swisher Park.
The billboard moratorium approved by the City Council nearly six months ago was brought onto the agenda with the hope of extending the moratorium to a full 365 days. The moratorium is for applications for Planned Unit Developments and Special Planned Unit Developments to use property in Oklahoma City for signs with a surface area over 200 square feet and also for applications for electrical, building, or sign permits for freestanding signs over 200 square feet.
Internecine billboard squabbles have come before the Council several times in the last few years. This moratorium was declared so that stakeholders and city leadership could hold meetings together to find an agreeable way forward for the construction of these signs.
The moratorium was enacted with an emergency designation making it effective immediately instead of going through weeks of public hearing on the item. Seven affirmative votes are required to declare such an emergency. At the time the vote came up, there were not seven city councillors present. Once a seventh member rejoined the meeting the vote was immediately taken and passed unanimously.
After months of discussion and study, the Council decided on Tuesday to begin assessing fines of $130 to $150 for auto drivers parking along the streetcar route in a position that blocks the streetcar.
Several months prior, EMBARK and the City placed colorful warning signs at parking spots that were responsible for most streetcar blockages. A study of blockages at those locations last year during July and August compared with this year in the same months demonstrated that blockages had not declined significantly. Despite ridership and parking numbers being lower this summer than last summer, due to COVID, one location actually experienced an increase in blockages.
Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon expressed that she didn’t believe heavy fines would improve the situation.
Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher moved to amend the ordinance at the suggestions of Hamon and Ward 7’s Nikki Nice, to include a sundown clause so that the issue can be revisited with new data this Spring. The amendment passed unanimously. But, the ordinance for assessing fines passed with Hamon and Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper voting against.
The Council meets again on Tuesday, November 10 at 8:30 a.m.
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