From Tulsa County By COMMISSIONER RON PETERS
Tulsa County Commissioner
One of my first priorities when I was elected was to seek approval from Tulsa County voters to replace the Juvenile Justice Center which is very outdated and unequipped to help families or correct the behavior of delinquent youths. Following many communitywide meetings with citizens from across Tulsa County I believed this was a project that is crucial to the health of families and the Tulsa community.
The current Juvenile Justice Center is a community embarrassment with its cramped and outdated rooms. Jurors have nowhere to gather, lawyers and their clients have no place to meet and talk, privacy is almost non-existent, and keeping abused children out of sight of their abusers is impossible. Given the fact the facilities are also in a flood zone, constant and repeated flooding was a regular occurrence.
As a result of talking with and listening to the citizens at many community meetings, over 65 percent of the voters approved the new Family Justice Center, which will be a hub for services centered on juvenile issues. When completed next year, it will be a facility where troubled youths can be counseled, adoptions are approved and child welfare cases are decided. It’s a place where kids get second chances and where families are made whole.
In the same election where the Family Justice Center was approved by the voters, over 65 percent also approved the county moving forward to build Oklahoma’s first mental health pods at a county jail. County jails are by default the place where those with mental health issues are housed. The two largest mental health facilities in the U.S. are the Los Angeles and Cook County jails. The new pods in Tulsa County are designed to help these people get back on their meds, obtain appropriate treatment and get stabilized before they are released back into society. Hopefully this treatment will help them to also break the cycle of incarceration.
Most recently, with widespread citizen’s support, the Vision Tulsa initiative passed, replacing the expiring Vision 2025 effort and will allow us to continue to build and maintain important county infrastructure projects without a tax increase.
This package includes $30 million of improvements at Expo Square. These dollars will be used to increase Expo’s competitive advantage over other cities that want to steal our events. Upgraded facilities are a must to retain clients who bring more than $300 million to the local economy annually. Without improving and maintaining the facilities at Expo Square, we will lose our competitive advantage over other regional event centers that are more than willing to accommodate the growing demand.
One of the more significant improvements coming to Expo Square is the new horse barn which will ensure we continue to have enough stable space to accommodate the huge horse shows that come to Tulsa.
The other major improvement is to upgrade our entertainment facilities.
Because Expo is also a hub of entertainment, there will be a new permanent outdoor stage to attract big name entertainers who need more stage space and give us the ability to have events year round, not just during the State Fair.
The Vision package is also about improving quality of life by investing in the county parks systems. Work is currently underway to redo the LaFortune Park trail and Par 3 golf course along with adding splash pads at County parks and redoing the O’Brien Park recreation center
We also recognize the importance of the county roads and bridges which connect all of our communities in Tulsa County. This is especially important to the 35,000 citizens who live in an unincorporated area of Tulsa County. With the Vision plan we will be investing $53 million to improve some of the 700 miles of county roads and 200 county bridges.
As most know, the county courthouse has more than just courtrooms. Each year, thousands of citizens come to the courthouse to take care of their business with the county clerk, county treasurer, county assessor or the county commissioners. Easy accessibility and parking has always been challenging to citizens. This year, we purchased the building across the street from the Courthouse that will provide over 600 additional parking spaces and make all of these county offices much more convenient and accessible.
Finally, citizens expect their local governments to work together for a common purpose: to deliver citizen friendly services as efficiently as possible. Starting with the parks system, the City and County have been working together in 2018 to develop new opportunities for a partnership that can lower the cost of operations while increasing the level of quality services. This is but the first joint initiative.
Mayor Bynum and I are committed to continued collaboration on projects that will benefit the City/County taxpayers.