HEARING FROM THE OWNER’S BOX: Low water dam deadline needs to be extended
Bond issues are a great thing for cities like Jenks. General Obligation Bonds allow cities to grow and prosper, while giving the taxpayers a say in how their town moves forward into the future.
G.O. Bonds are in many ways how a city will improve its infrastructure and its road system. They give residents of a city a way to invest into their community and improve the quality of life in a town like Jenks.
For instance, in late August, the citizens of Jenks passed a G.O. Bond of $20.5 million to improve the roads in south Jenks. The bond issue passed by more than 71% of the vote and several thousand people came out and let their voices be heard.
Yes, property taxes will go up, but according to the residents of Jenks, it will be money well spent to alleviate the traffic issue in the south part of town.
The main thing I like about G.O. Bonds is they allow the taxpayers to let their voices be heard. If a citizen is in favor of the projects within the bond issue, he or she can vote yes. If another citizen is not in favor of that same bond issue, he or she can vote no.
Afterall, the right to vote is one of the most patriotic practices we can perform as American citizens.
Let us rewind back to April of 2016. The citizens of Jenks and citizens of Tulsa voted to pass the Vision 2025 Sales Tax Extension.
For residents in Jenks, the centerpiece of that bond issue was the inclusion of a low water dam, which would be built in the Arkansas River connecting Jenks and south Tulsa.
For Jenks, its portion of the low water dam construction would cost $16.67 million and for Tulsa, its portion was around $56 million.
That money was generated from a sales tax revenue increase and is there for both cities to use to construct the dam.
However, included in the fine print of the 2016 ballot was text saying if a maintenance endowment fund is not secured by Dec. 31 of 2020, both the city of Jenks and city of Tulsa can use the money secured for the construction of the dam for other capital-funded projects.
There have been several instances since the bond issue was passed in 2016 when both cities felt they had secured a maintenance endowment fund, but every time, it fell through for a variety of reasons.
The latest one was a rejected federal grant application, which INCOG applied for on behalf of the city of Jenks and city of Tulsa. The amount of the grant was $25 million and would have sufficed for the funding needed to move forward with the project.
As Dec. 31 quickly approaches, I can understand if both cities are exhausted with trying to find the funding needed to move forward with the low water dam project. It would make sense if both cities are starting to consider other options for the money designated for the construction of the structure.
For Jenks, there are numerous capital-funded projects the $16.67 million could be used for instead of the dam. Even after the passing of the August bond issue, there is still more than $120 million in projects the city has declared need to be capital funded before being completed.
However, I strongly urge both the city of Jenks and the city of Tulsa to take a step back and take other considerations into play before scrapping the low water dam project.
I would like to see the city of Jenks and city of Tulsa come together and extend the deadline one more year to Dec. 31, 2021.
The year 2020 was in large part engulfed by the COVID-19 pandemic and made it nearly impossible to get any business done, such as trying to secure the maintenance funding needed to construct a low water dam.
I believe if leaders in both cities came together and extended the deadline 365 days, it would be looked upon favorably by the citizens on both sides of the river.
When the bond was passed, the deadline was 45 months to secure the maintenance endowment fund, from April of 2016 to the end of 2020.
Given that we have been in a global pandemic for most of 2020, I don’t believe we have been given the full 45 months.
Let’s do the right thing here Jenks and Tulsa. Extend the deadline to the end of 2021 and let’s work as hard as we can to secure that funding and get the low water dam completed.
Why? Because that is what your citizens voted for and that is what they paid for. It is your job to make it happen.
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the Jenks Tribune.