Sallisaw City Commissioners, at their meeting Thursday, approved an agreement with the Sallisaw School District to take possession of the old Tommie Spear Middle School property, on the west side of Main Street, and demolish it with the exception of the smaller, back gymnasium.
The school district will then lease the property from the city for $50,000 and maintain the gym. The city will build a splash pad on the property.
City Manager Clayton Lucas announced the city has received a $150,000 grant to build the splash pad. Lucas said the city is seeking additional funds for the splash pad, and has about $300,000 in the city’s hotel/motel tax fund. “And we have other sources we are going after,” Lucas said.
Both the gym and proposed splash pad are located across the street from the Sequoyah County Boys and Girls Club, which is located in other, newer buildings of the old middle school.
The city has two years to demolish the old school building.
City commissioners also approved the city’s 2016-17 budget by a vote of four to one. Ward 2 Commissioner Jim Hudgens voted against approving the budget.
Before the vote Hudgens again spoke of his concern about the city’s financial affairs. He said he is concerned about the 4 percent salary increase for employees; about the city’s pension system; about the city’s health insurance plan; and about the $1.2 million the city owes in debt service. He said he is concerned about upcoming costs which include the widening of U.S. Highway 59 on the city’s north side and about improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant that will cost over $1 million. He said the city’s water treatment plant could have been built for less money, and too much money, at $5.5 million, was spent on the new sports complex on the city’s east side.
“I don’t think we are addressing the issues we have,” Hudgens said. “I’m worried about trying to live within our means.”
Lucas answered, “You make some valid points. We are making an effort to correct all those issues.”
Lucas pointed out that many of the issues which concern Hudgens were done in the past, before the present commissioners and city administration were in place.
Other city commissioners also said the city has made some substantial cutbacks, which will add up over the next few years.
The commissioners complimented city employees on their work and response to the cutbacks.
The commissioners also:
-approved participation in the Oklahoma Municipal Assurance Group Workers’ Compensation, noting the city received a refund and saved some money there because there were no new claims;
-approved small increases in the city’s water and sewer rates;
-approved the yearly agreement for Juvenile Court Services with the Sequoyah County District Court; and
-tabled a discussion on a contract for mowing services with A.C. Lawns of Warner. Lucas said he met with the contractor, Amy Wiley, and agreed there had been some communication problems, which have since been worked out. The commissioners agreed to wait 30 days before reviewing the contract for possible cancellation.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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