Retiring Sallisaw City Manager Bill Baker said good bye to Sallisaw City Commissioners at their meeting Monday. Baker's last day on the job is April 1. His replacement, Clayton E. Lucas II, will take over May 4.
Baker told the commissioners, "This is most likely my last council meeting with you all. Thank you for your support." Baker also expressed his appreciation of and to the city department superintendents and city employees. "We all really care about this city," he said. "Our citizens are very fortunate. This is a wonderful community and Sallisaw has a bright future. I'm going to miss Sallisaw. This has been the best job of my career." Baker has served as city manager for 11 years.
Baker said he will be spending the next two years in Fort Smith as his son completes and graduates from high school. Then he and his wife will retire to Santa Fe, New Mexico. In those two years, Baker said he would be more than happy to return and offer assistance to the new city manager, for no additional salary.
Outgoing Ward 2 Commissioner Ro Poindexter responded, voice breaking, "You have been a great friend." Sallisaw Mayor Julie Ferguson acknowledged that she and Baker sometimes disagreed on issues, but always do so with civility. She told him, "You are like a deep rudder on a large ship. You always kept the city on course, even though you were not always seen." The three other commissioners also expressed their appreciation to Baker.
A farewell reception will be held for Baker from 2 to p.m. March 27 at City Hall.
The commissioners opened four bids for construction of a new animal shelter. B & B Welding submitted the low bid at $125,158.8. The city has set aside $100,000 for a new shelter. Baker recommended the bids be accepted for review, and said the staff will make sure the bids meet all requirements for the shelter of animals. He said that, because of controversy surrounding the new shelter, the "Bids need to be looked at carefully." At present the city is using a temporary shelter constructed at the proposed site of the new shelter on Eppler Street.
Sallisaw Librarian Bethia Owens thanked the city for recent updates at Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library in downtown Sallisaw, including new interior paint. She noted the building, begun in 1886, has problems, which resulted in a recent sewer line break. City employees immediately fixed the problem, and vacuumed 45 gallons of water out of the meeting room, she said. She also reviewed a few of the free programs at the library, such as Universal Classes for continuing education, Mango classes for foreign languages including the most recent, Cherokee, and pointed out the library will soon have Chrome books for checkout.
Baker informed the commissioners that the city has been cited by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) for too much zinc and copper released through the city's water treatment plant. ODEQ agreed, after meeting with the city, to lower a $24,000 fine to $15,000, with $5,000 due immediately, if the city can identify the reasons and locations of the zinc and copper. ODEQ gave the city until Jan. 1, 2016, to submit an engineering report on the problem. The excess amounts of zinc and copper were recorded between November 2012 and September 2014. But Baker warned that the amounts were so minute--seven parts per billion--that it might be impossible to identify the problem. He added there was no pattern, no rhyme or reason, why the amounts surpassed those allowed. The commissioners approved the mayor's signing of the consent order, which is the city's agreement to ODEQ's request.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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