Adams looks to answer bond issue questions

By Traci Chapman
Published on January 24, 2008

Looking to “avoid past mistakes,” Ward 1 Councilman Jay Adams gave a presentation to Positive Posse Tuesday outlining the general obligation bond proposals that will be decided in an April 1 vote.

Adams said he is giving his presentation to churches, business organizations and “anyone else who will listen” in an effort to give residents the facts about the proposals. He said always in his mind are the previously unsuccessful bond issues — one for $1.7 million in street improvements and the other for a $4.5 million sports complex — that failed in December 2006.

“We simply fell down last time,” he said. “We didn’t educate the voters on what those issues mean to the city and the residents. I don’t intend to repeat that mistake.”

Two separate proposals will appear on the April 1 ballot. While the issues are separate, Adams said both are vital to the city.

The issues

The first proposal is for a $5 million “total rebuild” of two miles of Czech Hall Road, split into two one-mile sections between SW 59th Street and state Highway 152 and south from state Highway 152 to SW 89th Street. The proposal also includes the addition of a turn lane into Mustang Centennial Elementary and improvements to drainage ditches.

The road project is more costly than the improvements submitted to — and rejected by — voters in 2006. However, Adams said the increase is justified by a better quality project and area growth, especially with the opening of Mustang Centennial Elementary.

“We have built into these costs the use of concrete, not asphalt. This project also includes drainage ditches, which are desperately needed along Czech Hall,” he said. “The previous project was for three miles of asphalt overlay only, which wouldn’t have lasted like this would. These roads will last more than 20 years without any major work needed.”

Adams said the road improvements are necessary for safety reasons. Along the stretch proposed for improvements, there have been 36 accidents in the last five years. Of those, eight were injury accidents.

“Right now, Czech Hall Road, both on the north and south sections, is only 22 feet wide with no shoulders. That means you have an 11-foot driving lane, which in most areas of the state is substandard in itself,” he said. “We’ve been lucky — there have been no fatalities yet. However, we need to quit being reactive. Let’s be proactive and not wait until someone is killed on that road.”

Compounding the issue, Adams said, is the increased traffic flow associated with Mustang Centennial Elementary.

“With that increased traffic flow, we’re hitting almost 4,000 cars a day through that south section,” he said.
Mustang School District Superintendent Karl Springer said 550 children attend Centennial. With the addition of 10 more classrooms, which were approved by the school board recently, he said officials anticipate a “substantial” increase in attendance at the school in the next few years.

“It’s reasonable to say there will be 200 more kids there in 2009,” he said. “These street improvements need to happen before everything’s landlocked.”

A bond issue is the only viable option to accomplish the needed repairs, Adams said, because the city does not have the funds in its annual street improvement budget to “fix the problems.” It also would not be feasible, he said, to obtain federal monies to fund the project because of the associated requirements.

“To get federal money, it would pretty much require a four-lane road. We would have to buy the right-of-way, move utilities and do an environmental impact study, among other requirements,” he said. “I’m certain we would end up spending as much, if not more, than we are proposing with this issue.”

City Manager David Cockrell said in years past, the city had a 1-cent sales tax that was used for road improvements. That tax was retired, he said, going toward Mustang Vision projects for 28 years.

While the City Council has established a $300,000 annual road improvement budget, Cockrell said those funds have been committed to a resurfacing project this year and, in any event, are not even close to what the Czech Hall Road project will require.

“We will need all of that budget this year for the Rancho Estates resurface,” he said. “There is no guaranteed source of income for roads from voters.”

Developer Don Anderson said if passed, the repairs would have an additional positive impact for homeowners.

“I tell you what, on those homes on both sides of Czech Hall, you’re looking at an increase in their property value because of those improvements,” he said.

The second bond proposal is for a $2.9 million baseball complex. The proposal was scaled down from the $4.5 million sports complex nixed by voters in 2006. That complex included seven baseball fields, six soccer fields, a centrally located concession area, restroom facilities, irrigation systems, tournament-grade lighting and roadways and parking lots.

In the new proposal, one field and most of the soccer complex was cut and changes were made to the concession stand and restrooms. Adams said if the issue passes, city staff has found a possible funding solution for soccer and football fields.

“We are looking at selling the property where the existing fields are located to a light industrial user and use that money to finance the soccer and football fields,” he said.

Adams said the current fields pose a health and safety issue not only to baseball players, but also to their families.

“Within a week, you’ve got 1,800 kids running through there, and that doesn’t include the parents, grandparents, siblings — everyone who comes to watch the games, as well,” he said.

Cockrell said the current fields are “an embarrassment” to the city and its residents.

“These fields are not to the standard Mustang has set for projects,” he said.

If the baseball proposal fails, Adams said it would cost about $199,000 to make necessary repairs to the current fields. Those include fixing the drainage ditch running adjacent to the fields and replacing the bridge over that ditch, which was destroyed in last year’s flooding rains, as well as $14,000 to address other “important safety issues.”

The city also spends over $10,000 per year, Adams said, in maintenance on the fields, which is far beyond what would be necessary for new fields.

“The fences are constantly falling down, and we are forced to just try to patch them up,” he said. “The $10,000 figure is conservative and includes materials only. Labor is that much more.”

Who uses the fields

One “controversy,” Adams said, is the “misconception a lot of residents have about who uses the baseball fields.” He said one thing he has heard repeatedly is some opponents to the new fields believe the children receiving the most benefit from the fields would be those who do not reside in the city and, therefore, residents are footing the bill for them.

“The way I look at it is … 80 percent of them go to school in Mustang. They don’t know what line they live on — go to any of these schools, go to Valley, go to Creek and you ask those kids, ‘Where are you from,’ and they’ll tell you, ‘I’m from Mustang, I go to school in Mustang, my friends go to Mustang,’” he said. “Kids don’t understand what side of the line they’re on, all they understand is, ‘I’m from Mustang.’”

Cockrell said the city analyzed the impact to the city from families living in the Mustang School District but outside the 12-mile city limits, and that analysis showed the positive impact of those residents and their families.

“If we didn’t have those residents spending their tax dollars in Mustang, each household in Mustang (city limits) — from apartments to everybody — would have to spend just under $2,400 a month here, specifically in this town,” he said. “That doesn’t happen.”

Financial impact to homeowners

If both measures are approved, a property owner with a $100,000 home will see an increase of $6 per month in property taxes, or $72 per year, during peak assessment, which will occur in 2009. A homeowner who owns a home with a $100,000 appraised value currently pays $3.87 per month in property taxes to the city of Mustang.

Finance Director Brenda Wright has said the assessment is tax deductible to homeowners who itemize their expenses.

Adams said Mustang property owners are assessed smaller tax levies than their neighbors in Oklahoma City and Yukon.

“In fact, even at the height of the tax increase in 2009, our mill levy would still be less than those cities,” he said.

“Again, you have to look at value — good roads, public safety and good recreational facilities increase value,” Cockrell said.

Reply

Special Sections