By BOB LEWIS
B.A. TEAM: Broken Arrow City Manager Michael Spurgeon, in front, with his staff. To his immediate left is Krista Flasch, Communications Director; To her left is Mary McAtee, Digital Content Specialist. Top row from left are Brian Barger, Convention Sales and Marketing Manager; Russell Gale, Assistant City Manager of Administration; Norm Stephens, Economic Development Manager; and Kenny Schwab, Assistant City Manager of Operations. Second row from left are Lori Hill, Tourism Director; Crickett Moore, Executive Assistant; Holly Owings, Receptionist; Jennifer Hooks, Community Relations Liaison; and TJ Gerlach, Communications Coordinator.
While some communities might find it virtually impossible to surpass a year filled with laurels – including a couple of national Most Livable City awards – City Manager Michael Spurgeon says Broken Arrow is on track to do exactly that.
Excitement and enthusiasm took center stage in Spurgeon’s fourth annual State of the City address presented during the December meeting of the BA Chamber of Commerce.
A self-proclaimed “infrastructure guy,” Spurgeon said one of his top priorities is the implementation of a plan for completion of the 88 projects listed in the $210 million general obligation bond package that was overwhelmingly approved by voters last year.
Given the size and complexity of many of these undertakings, he noted it will take some time to get them all completed, but he pledged that the city will be thoughtful in establishing work schedules and in communicating plans as funds become available.
Recycling Pilot Programs
Beginning in January, Spurgeon said the city will launch a pilot program to test the viability of adding curbside recycling, a service not currently offered but recommended by residents in a 2016 customer survey.
On the drawing board are two projects. The “Thursday pilot” is a two-cart system, one for trash and the other for recycling. The “Friday pilot” employs one cart for recycling, and standard plastic bags for refuse disposal.
Spurgeon said the tests, which will involve 500 households each, will extend from January 24-25 to May 24-25. They will then be measured separately with results reported to the city council for its consideration and direction for future refuse and recycling service.
The city manager devoted considerable attention to the subject of economic development, including both the need to seek new business and industry and aid and retain operations already here.
Toward that end, he said a major focus in 2019 will involve improvement in the business climate in the southern portion of the city.
For some time, officials have pointed out that economic development is generally booming in many parts of the community, but south Broken Arrow is not following suit. A number of steps have been taken to make this area more appealing, including widening streets, the addition of an exit from the Creek Turnpike at Aspen and the installation of new water and sewer lines. The city manager also noted a study is now underway to identify opportunities to revitalize the once thriving New Orleans and Elm Place area.
On a highly positive note, Spurgeon indicated that it is likely the city will soon close on a piece of property near Aspen and the Creek Turnpike to house a new SoundMind Behavioral Health Hospital. Construction of that facility is anticipated to begin in 2019. When completed, it is expected to employ about 150 people and attract patients from across the region.
Spurgeon also said the Chamber of Commerce, Broken Arrow Economic Development Corp. and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology are working with the city to develop a concept for a unique undertaking in southeast Broken Arrow that is being called the Innovation District. By merging high-tech manufacturing, housing and education, planners say it should eventually attract thousands of high-paying jobs to the area.
In his presentation, Spurgeon pointed to the city’s strong financial position, the strength of its public-private partnerships and applauded its 800-plus employees for their continuing commitment to providing outstanding community service.
“This is a great time to be a Broken Arrowan,” he said, “because we have so many people here who want to be part of something that’s bigger than themselves.”