City Council members put the finishing touches on the 2020-2021 budget Tuesday, then supported a recommendation to erect a statue at the new public safety facility to honor the late C.H. Brazzel.
Both decisions date back to previous decisions made at earlier meetings: increasing city utility rates by 1.7 percent, beginning July 1, and finding a way to honor the late Brazzel, who spent decades working as a police officer and concerned citizen in the community.
Brazzel died in January after a traffic accident, ending a 45-year career with Lawton Police Department that began when he joined the department as a rookie officer and ended with the job he took on when he “retired”: a reserve deputy. Family and friends said Brazzel had a deep, abiding love for this community and its residents, affection that extended beyond his work hours. Council members said those friends have been clear in their desire to honor Brazzel’s memory in some way, with many suggesting the solution was naming the new public safety facility in Brazzel’s honor.
Ward 8 Councilman Randy Warren, who headed the council study committee tasked with analyzing ideas to honor Brazzel, said committee members believe Brazzel wouldn’t be in favor of applying his name to the city jail or its court system, saying Brazzel’s life was about keeping people away from those two entities.
The committee’s suggestion was a bronze statue of Brazzel, to be placed near the entrance of the public safety facility that will be the new home for Lawton Police Department and the city jail, municipal court and the firefighting crews of Central Fire Station. Warren said the statue is to be placed north of the building’s front awning, in a rock garden that also will house the historic bell now in front of Lawton Police Department but to be moved when the police department moves.
The bronze statue will be funded with private donations, an effort to be coordinated by the Lawton Enhancement Trust Authority, said Ward 4 Councilman/LETA Chairman Jay Burk.
“This is our recommendation,” Burk said, adding the committee had input from numerous residents, police officers and firefighters as they explored options to honor Brazzel’s memory.
The committee also offered a recommendation for the name that should be placed on the new facility: The Henry “Heck” Thomas public safety facility, a recommendation that will be brought back to the full council for action at its next meeting (the item wasn’t listed for action on Tuesday’s agenda).
Warren said that, too, was a natural recommendation because it honors Lawton’s first police chief (1902) and first fire chief (1905). Thomas was a legendary lawman whose reputation stretches across the decades, beginning with his tenure as a U.S. deputy marshal in Indian Territory, working under the U.S. District Judge Isaac “Hanging Judge” Parker. Thomas was a lawman in early day Lawton until his death in 1912 and is buried in Highland Cemetery.
In other business, the council made a final vote on a decision it actually made last week, setting a 1.7 percent utility rate increase for water, sewer, refuse and landfill fees. The action, calculated to raise an additional $600,000, is part of the revenue package that will fund the budget that begins July 1 and equates to the increase in the Consumer Price Index in the last 12 months.
City officials have said the action is necessary as Lawton faces steep drops in major revenue sources — including water sales — because of a slow down in the economy that resulted from actions taken to stem the spread of COVID-19. The new utility rates would go into effect July 1 with the new billing cycle and will add less than $1 to base level water customers (those who use 2,000 gallons or less of water each month) or about $1.20 to the bills of those who use 5,000 gallons of water a month, which the city considers its average customer.
The monthly reduction given to low-income elderly and disabled on their utility bill will increase by 25 cents, to help offset the increase, city officials said.
Council members did make one adjustment to the new utility rate schedule, dropping a penny from the increase to be added to wholesale water customers. Acting City Attorney Tim Wilson said a negotiated settlement specifies that wholesale water rates applied to per-1,000-gallons of usage must be raised by the same amount applied to regular utility customers, and that per-1,000-gallon fee went up by 7 cents for other users. That makes the rate for wholesale users $4.64 per 1,000 gallons, rather than the $4.65 initially set by simply calculating a 1.7 percent increase, Wilson said.