Lawton residents will go to the polls Feb. 11 to determine the fate of a new Capital Improvements Program, the City Council decided Tuesday.
And, after a lengthy executive session, the council directed the city attorney to negotiate with the owners of a local bar to avoid a public nuisance designation.
Council members considered four items tied directly to a proposal that has been advocated by Mayor Stan Booker: replace the 2015 Sales Tax Extension and the 2016 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) with a new CIP that would run through Dec. 31, 2034. That new CIP would incorporate the unfinished projects in the two existing programs, along with more than $100 million worth of new programs and projects that range from water and sewer line work to a new indoor youth sports complex.
Without voter approval, the two existing programs would continue uninterrupted until their expiration on Dec. 31, 2025.
Supporters have been careful to say that the proposal will not raise the existing sales tax, meaning the total rate paid inside Lawton would remain 9 percent (the combination of local, county and state sales tax). The combined total tax of those two CIPs is 2.125 percent, the same rate the new program would contain.
But, the ballot proposition to be considered by city voters would designate one-half percent of that total for an “indefinite” time, meaning it has no expiration. The remainder of the sales tax would expire Dec. 31, 2034, after going into effect April 1, 2020, under the ballot proposition.
That half-percent is intended to fund water and sewer system improvements, as well as funding dedicated to fire and police personnel (something the 2015 program now is funding). It also would dedicate $250,000 a year to the city’s emergency fund, according to the defining ordinance.
Council members had almost no comment on the proposition Tuesday, as they moved through the four agenda items that set the election date, outlined what the council intended to do and set the ordinance that defines the program.
The exception was Ward 3 Councilman Caleb Davis, who offered the council’s only comment at Tuesday’s meeting. Davis said the council’s affirmative vote was merely action to send the proposal out to voters, adding his affirmative vote on the four items “is not necessarily reflective of how I would vote.”
Davis said constituents told him during his last election campaign that they were excited to get to the polls “and wanted to vote on it.”
The four proposals passed by a 6-1 vote, with Ward 2 Councilman Keith Jackson casting the only “no” vote (Ward 5 Councilman Dwight Tanner was not at Tuesday’s meeting).
After the meeting, Jackson said he voted against the CIP proposals because it is too much money, adding that some projects “are a waste of money.”
Council members spent about two months in special meetings hearing discussions from residents in the community about projects they wanted included in the extended program.
Those new programs and projects are included in nine broad categories: water/sewer system improvements, street/sidewalk work, improvements to city buildings/facilities, parks and recreation work, youth programs, industrial development, information technology improvements, beautification efforts and designation to the city’s emergency fund.
In other action, the council returned from more than two hours in executive session and unanimously directed Acting City Attorney Bob Ross to enter into negotiations with the owners of The G Spot, 1714 Cache Road. Council members are looking to initiate “public nuisance” action against the bar, action that could take the business owner to district court if he doesn’t abate the nuisance.
The action, usually applied against issues such as dilapidated structures, tall grass/weeds and noise, has been used at least twice by the City of Lawton in recent years against commercial entities that city officials say constitute a public nuisance. In early October, a man was fatally shot while in the parking lot outside the bar.
Council members also ratified action by the acting city attorney to initiate action against the owners of Lincoln Villa Apartments, 1109 Lincoln, for $13,000 in unpaid water bills. The action, taken against owners CPD Holding Inc., The Flip Team LLC and Leonard Daye, allows the city an opportunity to recover the cost by attaching a lien to the property, which is in the midst of being sold, city officials said.