City Manager's Corner
Team Choctaw - congratulations to our newly-elected and re-elected officials. Small town elections are where the rubber meets the road and it was interesting to watch the process from the City Manager’s seat—and at times it was also frustrating. What I have said in the past on multiple occasions and still stand by today is: “My door is always open. I talk to citizens with concerns and constructive input every day. Holding on to a concern or speculating about an issue without the courtesy of inquiring is unhealthy. Call me or stop by City Hall, talk to my staff--I will do my level-best to help, engage to solve an issue causing frustration, or try to give insight into the why. You may not agree or like the answer, but every person I talk to gets a better understanding of the Why.” I also will work with you to solve a complaint or issue you have when working with City Hall Staff. If I don’t know about it I can’t very well assist.
We have a fairly new website and are attempting to get as much information out as possible to keep citizens apprised of happenings, events, announcements, agendas, etc. I admit it is not perfect and there is room for improvement. We strive to be as transparent as humanly possible and if you find a broken link, missing information, or just can’t find information at all, call or stop by City Hall. Short of personally talking to the 4900 households in Choctaw, your Professional City Hall Staff will do everything in their power to find the information or, if available at City Hall, get you the right information. I recommend citizens actually create a user account on the City Website, as doing so will get you linked-in for automatic updates and information that goes out periodically. The City Website also has a link to “Report a Concern” or “Request a Work Order”. If you are introverted and desire not to call us, leave your comment or concern on the website link referenced. Someone will get back to you with the information you request or want to know.
Potpourri of comments in no particular order:
- There seems to be a big miscommunication on “permit fees for food trucks.” Word is out that Choctaw charges a prohibitive amount for food truck permit fees compared to surrounding cities. I believe someone downloaded or was given a “Peddlers License” application by mistake—food trucks are not peddlers. Choctaw does not have or charge a permit fee for food trucks. Parks and Recreation sometimes charges a $10 to $25 reservation spot rental fee, but no permit fee. The city has no control over what the County Health department charges however, and Food Trucks are required to abide by current County health code.
- I received an email on this Monday before the election. “I read on Facebook there is a plan to put a hotel on City-owned land at the corner of Indian Meridian and Reno. This is a residential area and if you put a hotel there I will lose my house.” Not even sure where this came from or what motivation prompted it, but this is false and quite frankly just plain wrong.
- “the City had to provide significant incentives for Starbucks to come to Choctaw.” This is not true, and again, just plain wrong. The City has an agreement with Sooner Development to bring retail to the Markets area. Sooner Development negotiated a Letter of Intent with Starbucks to come to Choctaw and the only incentive to Starbucks is a prime location on a fairly busy corner in the Markets. Once Starbucks is open, projected late 2020, the city will receive the normal sales tax from the establishment. An added benefit for the development area, Starbucks is also a lead retail store and will most likely prompt other retail establishments to locate in the Market area to finish the build out.
- The use of Executive Sessions and implying council members are not transparent: I would not continue in this job if I thought your council was corrupt or underhanded. It is my duty as City Manager to abide by the International City Managers Association Ethical Tenants to “Affirm the dignity and worth of the services we provide, Serve in the best interest of the People, and protect the public trust.” I don’t know about prior to my arrival, but the use of Executive Sessions the last two years has been to discuss personnel matters or potential litigation. That is by law. Executive session motions are always made outside of the Executive Session in the open Council Meeting and recorded as such. Many times, Executive Sessions have no action out of session, as it was just informational, therefore no public motion. Personnel matters are not open to the public for obvious reasons. Litigation discussions are a bit different. The Executive Session is like the huddle in a football game. Why do two teams huddle? The huddle is a deliberate action to discuss a plan internally so as not to allow the other team insight into the planned play. This is the same for litigation, as it protects the Public Trust. If everything was open, The City would have no chance to protect the public trust in a lawsuit, and therefore never prevail.
- Ambulance service for Choctaw. “it is concerning the City of Choctaw does not have an Ambulance contract.” The City of Choctaw, as well as the rural communities in Eastern Oklahoma County, have an agreement with Midwest City (MWC) Ambulance Service. In fact, MWC Ambulance Service rents a stall at the Choctaw Fire Department #1. Throughout Eastern Oklahoma County, MWC Ambulance deploys 5 units for day shift and 4 units for night shift, covering the 24 hour period. EMSA fills in the gaps when all the ambulances are engaged with response. The stationing of units is not random and based on call volume and response over a period of time. Choctaw Fire Department responds to every EMS call. The response time average for an Ambulance in Choctaw as of May of last year was 7.31 Minutes compared to the National Suburban/Rural average of 8.00 to 10.00 minutes. With that said, after a public workshop to Council in May 2018, the Mayor put together a Mayoral Committee to work on getting a Hospital in Choctaw, with the intent of providing hospital services to Eastern Oklahoma County (EOC), as well as an ambulance service dedicated to the EOC. We are well on that path, and the committee continues to work with potential hospital entities to ensure that vision for Choctaw and the EOC.
- Soccer. “The city has no plans to help or expand soccer in Choctaw.” This is not true. For a variety of reasons, soccer fields were not built at Bouse Sports complex in Phase 1. However, this does not mean the other phases of the plan will not be executed. There are plans to clear the rest of the Bouse Park Land for expansion of soccer fields. This will happen in phases,as the clearing and leveling alone is labor/equipment-intensive, and will be fairly expensive. Most likely, in the interim, the cleared and leveled fields will be natural turf, providing more space for soccer fields in Choctaw. The long term plan, which has never changed, will be to turf the fields, expand facilities for restrooms, concessions, and parking. As long as I have been here, this has always been the plan. The Parks and Recreation Director meets with the Choctaw-Nicoma Park Soccer Association President about quarterly and confirms the association should know the City is planning soccer fields. This may not be as fast as desired, but there is movement by the city to make soccer fields.
- Parkway Corridor’s and connecting the Golf Course to Choctaw Creek Park Plan. Why is the City working this now and not fixing current roads? Why are we connecting Choctaw Creek Park to the Golf Course?
The City is not working new roads right now and has no plan in the near future to do so. The Parkway Corridor concept is just that. As the City grows the recommendation to ease traffic flow, create place, and connect green space is the concept of the Parkway Corridor. Development of the Comprehensive Master Plan started well before the City bought the Golf Course. If you really look at the Future Transportation Network, the proposed corridor connects Choctaw Creek Park along the route of a proposed bike and walking trail that connects to Hiwassee Road, where another trail will connect, going North toward Jones. Understandably, the City would not consider working any plans for this road until the basics are addressed, i.e. the $400M worth of road and street repairs and replacements facing the city now. If you refer to the recommendations at the back of the Transportation Chapter, there is not one recommendation in which the city even considers planning or building this road in the near term. Parkway Corridors are a future vision to incorporate biking and walking trails after the city addresses the more basic needs of Image zones, trails, and road and street repair. Parkway Corridors also promote safe bike and walking trail options for Citizens, and gets them off main thoroughfares for added safety.
- Financial Transparency—the City is in transition from a severely outdated financial software program to a much more modern software. The current program is COBAL based, 1970’s/80’s version, and is very labor-intensive. Our new system will have modules which will enable the City to provide more accurate, up-to-date financial information to the public on a regular basis and cut down on the multiple trees we kill annually. My plan is to make a section available on the website for financial information. Our new system goes on line starting June 2019, and the transition will continue through November 2019, with Utility Billing as the final step.
I could go on with other subjects like Sales Tax, Roads, Water, Sewer, Property Tax, and the like, but shall save these for another day. Contrary to popular belief, your council members and Mayor are in this game to make better the community of Choctaw. If they weren’t, I would be looking for employment elsewhere.
Your Professional Public Servant,
—More to follow….
posted April 5, 2019