Council Schedules April 2011 General Obligation Bond Issue Election
On Monday night, Bixby City Council voted to hold an April 5, 2011 election to seek voter approval of a proposed $10 million General Obligation (G.O.) bond issue. The bond issue is designed to improve streets, parks and public safety in Bixby, without raising taxes. Passage would allow the City to continue progress on several fronts to provide for the growth of our community and positively impact local quality of life, officials said.
“Bixby voters, by an overwhelming margin, approved a $20 million G.O. bond in 2006, and have seen the positive impact local infrastructure investments make”, Mayor Ray Bowen said. “Council members have since received many requests from citizens to continue the progress, and this April 5th election will provide us the means to do so. I urge people to mark their calendars now to remind themselves to go to the polls in April and do their part to help make it possible.”
Voter approval would result in $4 million in new funds being allocated for critical transportation projects, $4.9 million for park improvements, and $1.1 million for public safety projects. Voters will also be asked to reauthorize use of nearly $1 million in previously approved funds, to help complete a road improvement project on Riverview Drive, a key Bixby school corridor.
Town Hall Meeting Held
The Council action comes on the heels of a City-led public outreach effort and well-attended town hall meeting held January 18th during which City officials presented the status of the various 2006 bond issue projects, demonstrating 95% as being either completed or now underway. Officials also explained the additional improvements to be funded by the proposed 2011 bond and listened to comments and answered questions from various citizens and representatives of local user groups. Comments received were overwhelmingly favorable towards the new bond issue.
Mayor Ray Bowen opened the town hall meeting by introducing Sean Kouplen. Kouplen was a leader in a 2005-2006 community-driven initiative known as “Make it Happen”, which culminated in crafting of the 2006 bond issue. Kouplen called the 2006 package a big success which had greatly benefitted the community of Bixby and urged citizens to embrace the proposed 2011 bond issue. “I view this new bond as a continuation of our 2006 effort to advance our community, and it does so without raising taxes,” Kouplen said.
Mayor Bowen said one reason for the 2006 bond issue’s success was an early decision to establish a bond oversight committee to oversee its implementation, something which would be repeated with the new bond. Comprised of local citizens, the Bond Oversight Committee met regularly during the past five years to review the various bond-funded projects to ensure they were within budget and spent in accordance with voters’ wishes. Grand Bank President Russ Smith, a member of the committee, read aloud a letter from Bond Oversight Committee Chairman Larry Whiteley, commending the manner in which the City had implemented the 2006 bond issue and expressing Committee’s support for the proposed 2011 bond issue. A copy of the letter can be found on the City’s website.
City Manager Doug Enevoldsen told the audience financial experts had advised completion of the 2006 projects and today’s historically low interest rates and favorable construction market pricing made this an ideal time to undertake a new bond package. “Delaying further infrastructure improvements to the future would not only be more costly and result in fewer improvements per dollar invested, but would deny citizens the benefit of the projects for that much longer,” Enevoldsen said. “As a rapidly growing city, it is important we maintain and upgrade our infrastructure to serve the public, and keep it an attractive place to live, work, and play.”
Enevoldsen said City Council members had instructed City staff members to ensure the bond package was sized so as to not raise taxes, and the 2011 proposal met that objective. He explained this was made possible due to other bonds retiring as well as from the City’s growth-induced increased bonding capacity.
In response to a question from the audience, Enevoldsen explained that without a new bond issue, property taxes on a $150,000 home would decline by $20 next year, by $39 the following year, and by $10 each of the following three years. “Failure to approve the bond issue, however, would also mean the package of proposed improvement projects would not be undertaken and citizens would not be able to benefit from them,” he said. Enevoldsen further explained bond issues to be one of the City’s primary means for making infrastructure improvements, noting that while the City’s General Revenue Fund receives two cents from the local sales tax, it spends more than that on public safety alone.
To address an inquiry about the procurement process to be followed in performing the bond projects, the City Manager explained that all applicable state statutes, including those involving competitive bidding, would be observed in administration of the projects and be approved by City Council in accordance with the Open Meetings Act.
Proposed Projects Detailed
City Engineer Jared Cottle explained that forty percent of the 2011 bond proceeds would be dedicated for street improvements needed to address immediate traffic safety and transportation issues. He said these primarily involve intersection widening projects at key intersections on Mingo as well as at Memorial and 111th Street, each of which have experienced significant traffic congestion as a result of rapid population growth in the area.
Roughly fifty percent of the bond funds would be allocated to address various quality of life initiatives in the Bixby parks system. These include adding elements included in the master plan for Bentley Park, such as restrooms for the super playground and splash pad area, a new softball quad, and a skate park facility and a basketball court. It would also include several improvements at Keas soccer complex, relocation of the rodeo grounds, and upgrading of multi-purpose practice fields to accommodate growing soccer, football, softball, and baseball programs. The bond funding would also provide for future trail system expansion in the community.
Cottle explained the remaining ten percent of bond proceeds would be dedicated to improve public safety assets, which wll update the City’s outdoor warning system and radio communications equipment, and reinforce the City Hall structure to meet current building code requirements. He said completion of the latter project would allow the Police Department to better serve the public, by separating functions and occupying the currently vacant second floor of City Hall.
Additional details and information concerning the proposed City of Bixby 2011 G.O. bond issue (budgets, descriptions, and conceptual drawings) are accessible through the following web link: www.bixby.com