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OKLAHOMA CITY (Free Press) — The City Council of Oklahoma City held their first meeting of 2022 on Tuesday morning coming in at a remarkably brief two hours but with some high-dollar decisions for the Council.

The Council approved a substantial amendment to the 2019 CARES Act Amendment and the Consolidated Plan for CARES spending. That amendment most notably included over $4 million dollars to be awarded to Mental Health Association Oklahoma for the acquisition and rehabilitation of an affordable-housing apartment complex in Northwest Oklahoma City.

Meanwhile, two other items were deferred so that Council members could do more research.

Securing funding for bike infrastructure projects, including one being planned for E.K. Gaylord between West Sheridan Avenue and NW 13th street was deferred by the Council at the request of Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher. The northside suburban council member expressed concerns about traffic disruption in the urban core, and requested a deferral so he could seek the counsel of employers in the area.

The Chamber of Commerce proffered a film industry incentive to the Council, but some Council members were concerned that the incentive left out minority and disadvantaged businesses and business owners. After much discussion, the incentive package was deferred for two weeks to fine tune the language of the resolution.

Marty Peercy reports Local government

Affordable Apartments

A significant move by the City Council on Tuesday was to approve the award of $4.8 million dollars to Mental Health Association Oklahoma (the Association, or MHAOK) as a subrecipient.

That money will be used to acquire and rehabilitate an apartment complex at 4759 NW 36th St. 

The complex, known as Taylor Ridge, is currently occupied. At least 51% of occupants there have an income of 80% or below of Area Mean Income (AMI). That threshold is currently $40,693 annually.

According to Greg Shinn, Associate Director-Chief Housing Officer for MHAOK, the goal is to preserve and enhance the affordable housing at the complex. Making the units and living conditions better, while still serving people in need of truly affordable housing.

The Association has great experience in operating their own housing in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. In fact, MHAOK boasts its own property management company, EastOak.

The rehabilitated complex will have on-site property management, and many residents will be able to avail themselves of other services from the association.

Shinn pointed out to the Council that the State of Oklahoma has shown that $4 is returned for every $1 invested in affordable housing in Oklahoma.

The Council passed the amendment unanimously.

Bike Infrastructure

A project agreement with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation was pulled out of Tuesday’s Consent Agenda for a separate vote by Ward 8 Councilman Mark Stonecipher.

The project agreement was to secure funding for five bicycle infrastructure installations in and around downtown in Wards 6 and 7.

Stonecipher’s concerns were with one of those projects, a bike facility to be installed on EK Gaylord from West Sheridan to NW 13th St.

Stonecipher explained that he parks in a parking garage there and sometimes traffic in the garage gets backed up to the 5th floor. He explained that he was concerned about traffic disruption during construction, but also that he was unsure bicycle facilities in the area wouldn’t disrupt traffic after construction as well.

“I’d like to defer this for two weeks so I can speak to Heather Scott at Continental and David Harlow at BancFirst and possibly Mr. Rainbolt and Mr. Hamm,” the  suburban councilor said.

Gene Rainbolt and Harold Hamm, two of the wealthiest businessmen in Oklahoma, own the businesses to which Stonecipher referred.

Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper expressed his own concerns that Stonecipher’s hesitance to move forward on bike infrastructure was to solely focus on automobile use in the downtown area.

Eric Wenger of Public Works explained to the Council that the specific bike facility for that stretch would be a Bike Track, which would be separated from the street, causing no traffic disruption.

The Council voted 6-2 to defer.

Film Incentive

Jeffery Seymour of the Greater OKC Chamber of Commerce delivered a presentation to the Council on a proposed film incentive program.

Seymour pointed out that Oklahoma City has been able to draw film and television productions here over the past few years, and that the industry is poised for more growth in our community.

The Chamber devised an incentive program to be able to provide 5% reimbursement on local costs for productions spending over $500,000, and 5-10% for productions spending $5 million or more.

Seymour’s presentation went over qualifications for applicants, and some guidelines for how the incentives could be deployed.

During the time for questioning, however, Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice challenged Seymour, and the Chamber in general, on the issue of diversity.

The resolution that was being proposed, argued Nice, lacked the language that would clarify specifically incentivizing local minority-owned or otherwise disadvantaged companies.

Nice pressed the issue for several minutes, something she has done several times in recent months when the Chamber or the Alliance for Economic Development or Urban Renewal ask for allocations of money or for business incentives.

Seymour attempted to counter by referencing the recent business relief package for minority-owned businesses. Nice cut Seymour off in his comment, explaining that she had seen how that program did not work the way it was presented.

Ultimately, after seeming confusion from Seymour and City Manager Craig Freeman, all parties agreed to defer the item for two more weeks so that the language of the resolution could be fine-tuned to include specificity about minority-owned and disadvantaged businesses.

The Council will meet again on January 18 at 8:30 a.m.

Disclosure: Marty Peercy is the husband of Oklahoma City Council member JoBeth Hamon.

Last Updated January 13, 2022, 3:49 PM by Brett Dickerson – Editor