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Million-dollar members


OKC council chooses which projects are most important with $1 million discretionary spending programs.

Tim Farley September 25th, 2013

If Oklahoma City Council members had a million bucks to spend any way they’d like, it turns most of them would (and will) improve public transit, roads and develop a needed “quiet zone” in downtown Oklahoma City.

This year, each of the city’s eight council members will receive a $1 million allocation to spend on projects that were not previously funded.

The discretionary spending program comes from the city’s reserve fund, typically 8-15 percent of the total municipal budget. In six of the last 11 years, excess money from the reserve fund has allowed the eight councilmen to pay for special projects in their wards.

Four of the elected officials — Ward 4 Councilman Pete White, Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell, Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid (pictured) and Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis, Jr. — said they intend to spend a portion of their $1 million allocations for new, “long overdue” bus shelters.

Shadid plans to place 15 shelters at the busiest Ward 2 stops based on Metro Transit bus boarding information.

“I would like to pick locations with the highest need regardless of which ward they’re in. There’s two-and-a-half million people sitting on the curb in inclement weather,” he said, referring to the total number of bus riders each year. “It’s a question of priorities and treating people with dignity.”

In OKC, Metro Transit has 1,500 bus stops and 80 bus shelters. Remaining stops have benches or no seating at all, said Rick Cain, executive director of Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority (COTPA).

The proposed shelters could include real-time bus arrival information, a system map, lighting, bench seating and handicapped access.

“We recognize that sitting on a curb or standing there for five minutes can seem like an eternity. Shelters will get the riders out of the sun’s rays, the Oklahoma winds,” Cain said.

However, Cain admits the installation of more shelters will require COTPA to operate and maintain them, which also would require additional funding to be budgeted into operational plans.

The agency also has an additional $300,000 in federal funds that could be used to help purchase the bus shelters, but no decision has been made, Cain said.

Additionally, White said he wants to fund about six shelters in Ward 4 with his $1 million allocation, and then spend the balance on road and street repairs.

Pettis and Greenwell also committed to fund bus shelters and road repairs in their wards. However, Greenwell said most of the money for his southwest OKC ward will go to a pilot program that focuses on a “micro” street resurfacing technique.

“You go into a neighborhood, seal the cracks in the street and then put a durable layer of resurfacing over that,” Greenwell said. “In the past, we’ve focused on arterial streets, but this time we’re going with the neighborhood streets that have been ignored.”

Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer pledged to use half of her $1 million allocation for “quiet zone work” to silence train horns from blowing in downtown OKC. The zone could potentially stretch from Wilshire Boulevard to SE 25th Street along the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway, just east of Broadway Avenue.

The $500,000 from Salyer grows the $668,700 in private contributions from nearby businesses, a church and The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The total cost of the quiet zone is $2.9 million. The first phase is estimated at $1.9 million. Development will include street closings, the use of medians and reinforced cross gates, sidewalks and culs-de-sac on closed streets.

In addition, Salyer committed the rest of her ward’s $1 million toward a list of priority projects established by the Public Works department. Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner, Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee and Ward 8 Councilman Patrick Ryan intend to spend their discretionary money on the most pressing needs in their wards.

“I’m going to let public works decide where the money should go and take the politics out of it,” Ryan said.

 
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