Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Chamber Suggests Changes for Economic Development

Tom Rider, left above, with Municipal Electric Systems of Oklahoma (MESO), presented the Don Howland Electric Operations and Safety Award to the Sallisaw Electric Department at the Sallisaw Board of City Commissioners meeting Monday. Accepting are, from Rider's left, Blakely Smith Jr., Austin Poindexter, David McMurtry, Sheldon Caughman, Steven Armstrong and Sonny Jasna. Unable to be present was Daniel Terrell.

At the meeting Darren Girdner, Sallisaw Chamber of Commerce president and owner of The Mix 105.1, KXMX, suggested ways to encourage economic development in the city. Girdner said that although the city was doing well, with current business expansions, two new retailers expected and a Cherokee Nation Culinary Arts School in the works, the chamber had four suggestions to encourage new business. He said:

1. One person should be designated as an Economic Development liaison, who would be a person "with all the answers" needed for prospective new businesses.

2. The city should "facilitate, not regulate" economic growth by conducting "a major, major reorganization of city ordinances." He suggested a "white zone" along the city's major thoroughfares, along U.S. Highway 64, Cherokee Street and Kerr Boulevard, where businesses may be established where there were no ordinances or where ordinances were adapted to encourage economic development.

3. The city should reduce the cost of doing business. Girdner noted that the city had one of the highest costs of new construction permits in the region, sometimes twice as high as in other cities of the same size. As an example, he said, Sallisaw is the only city to require new businesses to purchase their own transformers.

4. The city and the chamber should work together, Girdner pointed out, and should promote the city. He said, "Bad news sells, but it hurts the local economy."

Girdner concluded that he loved the city, and that the people in the audience loved the city, and all hoped to see positive attitudes and practices. Mayor Julie Ferguson said she appreciated the chamber's presentation and would seriously consider the suggestions with the city staff's assistance. New Ward 4 Commissioner Daryl Legg agreed, and said, "We've got to make it easier for businesses to come to Sallisaw, Oklahoma."

In other business the city commissioners approved the lease agreement with Fort Smith Aviation Services LLC to operate the Sallisaw Municipal Airport; approved the nomination of Robert Park as a candidate to fill an open position on the Oklahoma Municipal Retirement Fund Board of Trustees; authorized City Attorney John Robert Montgomery to seek debt collection of $11,895 for cleaning and powering property at 290 N. Cherry, owned by Property Choice Plus of Arkansas LLC; and approved the purchase of two dispatch consoles, at  an amount not to exceed $29,000 for the police department.

The commissioners tabled, for further review, a request from the Sallisaw Now Coalition to move the organization's prevention specialist position to be under the City of Sallisaw, from the current oversight of People Inc.; and tabled the decision on how  Brushy Lake City Park should be managed. City Manager Clayton E. Lucas II suggested the city would save money by not having a manager on site, but rather an automated self-registration and payment kiosk for campers. The commissioners asked Lucas to prepare  a detailed plan for the kiosk system. The present park manager, Mike Hancock, is retiring on June 30.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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