Bynum Hopes for River Progress

Managing Editor

RIVER DREAMS: District 9 City Councilor G.T. Bynum stands near the Arkansas River, his district’s western boundary. Bynum, chairman for the Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force, is hoping to see a vote regarding the construction of low water dams come to voters in fall 2015.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Activity about and around the Arkansas River looks to be the major issue in 2015.
G.T. Bynum, District 9 city councilor and chairman of the Arkansas River Infrastructure Task Force, expects to see further progress on the issue occur throughout 2015.

The discussion revolves around the possible construction of three low water dams, in Jenks, Bixby and Sand Springs, and the reconstruction of Zink Dam in Tulsa.
Currently, engineers from the four cities are working on the design of the prospective dams, says Bynum.

Once that concludes in May, over the summer, city officials will hold a series of town hall meetings to educate the public and to receive feedback. Information gained from the meetings will help officials create a proposal, which will be brought to voters in the fall.

Bynum, whose district’s western boundary is formed by the Arkansas River, is hopeful that voters will see the sustained benefits that water in the river would bring to the greater Tulsa area.

“This would be the most transformative thing we can do for our community,” he says.

He is also happy with the approach the task force has taken of only including stakeholders that have a direct link to the river, including the cities that line the river and the Creek Nation.

“In the past, we’ve talked with the entire county (about the river), and no plan was ever passed,” says Bynum, “which was largely due to the fact that some of those cities didn’t equally benefit from water in the river.”

Toward the summer of 2015, residents will be more directly affected by the river due to the closure of Riverside Drive for nine months.

The closure is to allow for road reconstruction and sewer replacement by the city as well as for the needs of the Gathering Place.

However, the road is not going to be closed for nine months because of the Gathering Place, District 4 City Councilor Blake Ewing wants to emphasize. Instead, “construction crews with the city and the Gathering Place are working in conjunction to get all the work done in one timeframe.”

In early 2015, noticeable streetscaping improvements will take place on Cherry Street and 11th Street.

From Peoria to Utica avenues, 15th Street will be redesigned with more pedestrian-friendly sidewalks and bump-outs to allow for landscaping and bike racks, says Ewing. Crosswalks will include flashing lights.

“As popular as Cherry Street is, it should have proper walking areas, and so many other districts do,” he says.

Similar streetscaping, with widened sidewalks to encourage foot traffic, will take place on 11th Street, also between Peoria and Utica avenues.

Brookside will see Urban Outfitters opening in February in addition to beautification projects along Peoria Avenue funded by the Brookside Business Association (), says President Bill Grant.

In addition, the anticipated Reasor’s grocery store north of 41st Street and Peoria Avenue, since the building’s purchase by Reasor’s in 2013, is expected to see construction begin by early 2015.

A portion of the yearlong delay Jeff Reasor attributes to the company’s delayed access to building plans. Recently, design work was completed and preliminary plans submitted to the city. Reasor expects bids to begin soon for construction companies, followed by the start of construction.

Residential projects are expected to move forward in downtown’s East Village and Greenwood districts, including expansion of the Greenarch development to the southeast corner of Greenwood Avenue and Archer Street, due to the demand for downtown housing.

Additional businesses are being added to the Kendall Whittier neighborhood and along Route 66.

“I think this will be the year that the public wakes up to Route 66 and the East Village,” Ewing says.

Other areas of interest in the new year include the city’s budget process and public safety improvements.

Bynum hopes to see further city discussions revolve around transitioning from cost-based to performance-based budget evaluations.

“For the past 10 years, the national trend has been to measure city success not by what we’re putting into the city but by the outcomes,” says Bynum. “Seeing as that is how any successful business is run, it only makes sense that a city would do the same thing.”

Also, with the Vision 2025 sales tax expiring at the end of 2016, Mayor Dewey Bartlett has proposed extending the tax with a portion of it going toward public safety needs.

“The city councilors want to consider his suggestion but also look at the overall picture and consider what other things we can do to bring greater benefit to citizens and lower Tulsa’s crime rate,” Bynum says.

Updated 01-26-2015

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