MEDICINE PARK The Medicine Park Aquarium and Natural Sciences Center is moving full steam ahead, despite opposition from two outspoken town residents.
The aquarium board of directors held its regular meeting Saturday, discussing the media attention surrounding an audit of the aquarium and town, and looking to the future. Medicine Park Mayor Dwight Cope, president of the board of directors, said the complaints levied by Larry Meese and Judy Nesiba which culminated in a petition prompting the Oklahoma state auditor to begin a special audit into the project and town are unfounded, and are being done out of spite.
"He's been doing all he can to hurt this project," Cope said. "He's a one man wrecking crew and doesn't realize how good this is going to be for the town of Medicine Park, and Southwest Oklahoma."
The board, including Candace McCoy, secretary and treasurer, and project executive director Doug Kemper are moving past the complaints, confident they will ultimately be vindicated by the upcoming audit. Everyone is focusing on the construction phase of the aquarium, which has already begun. Kemper said the operation is still moving toward an opening some time at the end of this year. Crews have been working at the aquarium site, on the side of a mountain just south of Oklahoma 49 overlooking Medicine Park, for some time. Barring any unforeseen weather complications, work could begin this week to bury utility lines as additional work continues to shore up a retaining wall on the south side of the clearing.
"We should be looking at pouring the concrete for the foundation some time toward the middle or end of next month," Kemper said. "The walls of the buildings are going to be pre-manufactured metal. So everything is going to go up quickly once we begin."
Kemper said, at the moment, all construction focus on the project is aimed at getting the utilities installed first and foremost.
Focusing in infrastructure
"We're really focusing on the site work and the infrastructure like water, sewer and getting the retaining wall in," he said. "We have already installed 100 concrete barriers and we have 200 more coming in. That's our main focus right now."
Kemper and McCoy said the town of Medicine Park and Cotton Electric have been tremendously helpful in helping with the utility burial at the site. Construction is moving at a swift pace. Construction crews have run into slight complications dealing with the logistics of building on the side of a mountain. But McCoy said the view overlooking the town with Mount Scott and Lake Lawtonka in the distance is part of the aquarium's charm.
"We think that's going to be a big part of the attraction," she said. "We feel it's going to be worth it in the end."