Greater Tulsa Reporter
NEEDED FUNDING: Police Chief Scott Chambless speaks at the Owasso Chamber of Commerce’s March 1 luncheon regarding the use of the city’s half-penny tax that was passed in January 2015. Fire Chief Chris Garrett, seated, also spoke. Also pictured are Ray Adcock, second from right, member of the Owasso Character Council, and City Councilor Doug Bonebrake, right.
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
In January 2015, Owasso residents approved a half-penny sales tax that would be allocated specifically for police, fire and streets. The tax took effect on April 1, 2015, and is estimated to generate approximately $4 million annually.
On March 1, Police Chief Scott Chambless and Fire Chief Chris Garrett spoke at the Owasso Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon to provide updates on how that money has been used so far.
With the passing of the half penny tax increase in 2015, the department was able to hire seven additional officers, Chambless noted.
Since 2012, the city has experienced a consistent decrease in crime rates, which Chambless credits largely to the department’s focus on proactive law enforcement, which includes neighborhood security surveys, in which officers make visits to individual neighborhoods and homes. Thus far, officers have visited more than 35 Owasso neighborhoods and 7,000 homes.
“These statistics show that very few people in our community commit a crime and get away with it,” Chambless said. “And that discourages others from trying.”
Since Chambless took over the role of police chief in 2013, the department has given added attention to other preventative measures by officers. This includes increasing officers’ visibility in the community by regularly walking their patrol areas and determining any areas of potential criminal activity, he says.
In 2014, the department renewed its emphasis on K9 units, which helps in the city’s drug busts.
The department’s focus for the future will revolve largely around decreasing illegal drug sales and partnering with area law enforcement agencies in order to ensure a regional focus on reducing crime, he continued.
For the Owasso Fire Department, the half penny tax has been used to both enhance community education regarding avoiding and responding to a fire and increase staffing, particularly for the city’s Public Safety Operations and Training Complex, which will sit on 10 acres at 11933 E. 116 St. N. This facility will include Owasso’s fourth fire station that will help to lower fire truck response times in the northern part of the city, Garrett said.
The facility will serve as the fire department headquarters and include a police sub-station, winter weather salt and sand storage, and a multi-use training center. The training center was designed to incorporate training components for police, fire and public works.
Garrett expects to see construction begin by September.