Stored Up Energy
A program focusing on America's contributions to the energy industry is likely to reopen in a downtown location throughout the next several days, according to a consultant who is working on the project.
A geosciences center the Society of Exploration Geophysicists operated at its offices at 8801 S. Yale Ave. in Tulsa for many years recently was forced to close because of financial considerations. Energy America, a group that hopes to open a much larger energy-related museum in the Brady Arts District someday, has moved the center to a downtown building and will begin operating it as an education institute, according to Dr. Kerry Joels, a consultant to Energy America who is heading up the project.
"We've been able to reconstitute this," he said. "We've financed the construction and will be moving in very soon. We look at this as building the next generation of energy field specialists."
Joels, who also serves as executive director of the planned Cain's Ballroom Music Museum and Historical Society, said the SEG loaned its equipment and materials for the program to Energy America, which has set up an education institute in the old Oil Capital Building at 507 S. Main St. downtown. Renovation of the space is almost complete, and the program is expected to welcome its first visitors any day, he said.
"We're glad to have been able to save it when SEG could no longer support it," he said.
The institute essentially will serve as a sneak preview for the museum and science center Energy America hopes to open in the Brady in coming years, a planned 45,000-square-foot facility that recounts the history, current status and future of energy development in the United States. Joels said when that museum opens, it will be used to reach students from around the state and get them interested in the energy sector of the economy.
He noted that Tulsa is the former energy capital of the world and could be again someday.
"We think it's an important place to tell that story," he said of the museum.
The city's grim budget picture didn't get any brighter with the recent release of tax collection figures from the state Tax Commission.
The report revealed that sales tax collections from mid-February to mid-March totaled a little less than $15.5 million in Tulsa, a decline of 5.6 percent from the same period a year ago. That means the city has experienced 13 consecutive months of declines in sales tax collections, by far the longest such period in its history.
For the fiscal year to date, the city has collected a little more than $162 million sales taxes, down 10.6 percent from the same period the previous year when more than $181 million came in. The only bright spot in the report from the city's perspective was that the collections were 0.40 percent more than the revised budget estimate for the year to date.
"Our projections continue to stay on the mark," Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. said. "The actual decline in sales taxes for the month of April are in line with the decline we saw in April a year ago, which is when we posted our first of 13 consecutive months of lower sales tax collections."
Bartlett said his administration plans to present a nearly flat budget to the City Council this year and will be focused on revenue generation in the coming year in an effort to begin to restore core services that have been impacted by declining revenue. The mayor's budget presentation to the council is scheduled for April 29.
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