As it approaches the halfway mark, Vision 2025 -- the regional economic development and capital improvements package that is being funded by a 13-year, once-penny sales tax -- has seen most of its major projects completed; although a few remain on the horizon.
Through May 31, total V2025 sales tax receipts stood at more than $329 million, while a total of $530.8 million had been paid out, according to Kirby Crowe, project director for the Program Management Group LLC, the Tulsa firm that was contracted to oversee Vision 2025's development, implementation and controls. Crowe said construction of the projects was funded through advance revenue bonds, which are being paid back as the sales tax receipts come in.
A total of 19 V2025 projects already have been completed across the county -- most notably the BOK Center, the Tulsa Convention Center renovation, various improvements to Expo Square, the Sky Theater at the Tulsa Air and Space Museum, numerous community centers and parks improvements, the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, a variety of projects at local colleges and universities, a series of financial incentives benefiting American Airlines, and several Route 66-related projects -- but others remain under construction or in the planning stages.
Tulsa, Owasso, Sperry, Skiatook, Bixby, Jenks, Glenpool, Collinsville, Sand Springs and Broken Arrow all have drawn V2025 projects.
Those being worked on right now include the LaFortune Park Tennis Center, a new Osage Trail trail head and park at State Highway 20 in Skiatook, and various projects scattered throughout downtown Tulsa and its neighborhoods. A series of improvements at Mohawk Park and a flood mitigation project on Haikey Creek will be undertaken soon.
Perhaps the two most prominent projects remaining to be constructed are a three-story interpretive center at the Route 66 Cyrus Avery Memorial Plaza just west of downtown and the construction of two low-water dams and the renovation of the Zink Dam on the Arkansas River.
The interpretive center is one of 11 Route 66-related projects, five of which already have been completed, including the construction of a plaza featuring the landmark Meadow Gold neon sign near 11th Street and Peoria Avenue. The delivery of a large bronze "East Meets West" sculpture at the plaza is expected sometime in September, according to Crowe, while a variety of gateway and streetscaping projects along the path of the famed highway will be undertaken soon.
The river projects, on the other hand, will be among the last V2025 projects completed, Crowe said.
"They're the slowest because of permitting and other (federal) funding (that is required for their construction)," he said.
V2025 funds also were allocated for site infrastructure work on the planned American Indian Cultural Center in Jenks, a project of the National Indian Monument & Institute Inc. But according to the latest V2025 monthly report, the allocation of those funds is subject to the results of NIMI's fundraising activities and schedule.
Crowe has been with the project since the beginning, which was initiated on Sept. 9, 2003, when Tulsa County voters approved the V2025 package -- actually four separate ballot questions -- by a wide margin. The first proposition, aimed at providing $350 million in financial incentives to the Boeing Company, did not go into effect when that firm chose not to locate a facility in Tulsa. But the other three did, providing for a total package worth approximately $575.5 million -- the largest in the history of the state until Oklahoma City voters recently adopted the MAPS 3 initiative, according to Crowe.
The one-penny V2025 sales tax will continue to be collected in Tulsa County through the end of 2017. About 90 percent of the money it is expected to raise already has been expended, he said.
The V2025 projects have experienced virtually no significant problems or delays so far, Crowe said.
"No, they've gone very well," he said. "The arena had a budget adjustment, but it's the only one that has."
The lengthy list of projects was compiled after officials projected how much revenue the sales tax increase would generate, leaving some doubt among citizens about whether everything would get built if those projections were overly optimistic. Crowe said those projections have been revised twice -- most recently in November 2009 -- but he said there is still enough money left to finish all the projects and retire all the debt.
But that doesn't stop the rumor mill from churning out plenty of misinformation about V2025, he said, noting that he spends a fair amount of his time dispelling those stories.
"There are rumors about giant overages, and there was one that the arena was never going to get built," he said, pausing before adding drily, "I think we've proven that one wrong."
The V2025 website includes a "Frequently asked questions" section that notes that a Tea Party flier has been circulated that asserts the county is collecting more V2025 sales tax revenue than it should. That claim is untrue, according to the website, which maintains the sales tax is being collected at exactly the rate and methodology approved by voters.
Crowe said his office puts out an annual report on V2025 each fall in an effort to combat that kind of misinformation, as well as keeping the website (vision2025.info) updated.
In the unlikely event that there is an overage of V2025 revenue when all the projects have been completed, a provision is in place whereby the Vision 2025 Authority would submit a list of additional projects to the Tulsa County Commission for consideration, according to the website.
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