In the shadow of City Hall, that big, glistening glass building in downtown, the offices of Tulsa County staff are often overlooked. But progress and construction, deals and infighting come from the Tulsa County Courthouse, too.
To stay up-to-the-minute on all your key Tulsa County developments, here's a rundown of their latest headlines.
Wide Road to Cooperation
Recently, a $3.5 million project began to widen Yale Ave. near St. Francis Hospital.
While preliminary work began before Christmas, the widening work is now underway in earnest between 61st and 71st Sts. Yale will be opened up to six lanes (from the previous four).
The multimillion-dollar price tag will be split down the middle by the county and city of Tulsa.
More lanes are being added to help traffic flow around St. Francis Hospital at the 61st and Yale intersection. "With 10,000 people working in this area every day traffic flow is certainly a problem," said Commissioner Fred Perry "But public safety is also an issue involving ambulances getting to St. Francis during the rush hours."
Perry noted that the county is not under any obligation to work on projects inside the Tulsa city limits, though he said, "We saw this as an excellent way to cooperate and utilize our resources for the benefit of all involved."
With two extra lanes near the busy hospital, Perry said, "No longer should ambulances be stuck or delayed in traffic getting an injured citizen to the emergency room."
The city of Tulsa is handling engineering and materials while county funds will go toward manpower and equipment. Now, the Tulsa County Highway Construction Division is out on Yale Ave. working hard on road construction.
The road crews on the scene are closing lanes only temporarily to reduce the frustration factor in the area. Development plans show four lanes will be open throughout most of the project.
Five years ago, the Warren Foundation approached Perry and the city of Tulsa about traffic and public safety around St. Francis Hospital.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett Jr. also expressed support for the widening project. "This stretch of Yale Avenue is critical to many businesses--and obviously St. Francis--and we are pleased to work with our friends at Tulsa County on this project," Bartlett said.
The mayor touted the road widening as another example of city and county collaboration. "This relationship saves taxpayers money," he said.
Meanwhile, St. Francis Hospital officials are all smiles about new construction that should help clear up any safety problems, as far as the roadways are concerned. "We are extremely pleased that the city and county are working together to make this a reality," said Jake Henry, St. Francis Health System CEO.
"Adding lanes here will really help general traffic flow, but more importantly, it will allow ambulances and emergency vehicles better access," Henry said.
Construction will continue through spring and is set to be finished up by July.
After BA residents voiced vociferous opposition to the planned casino in their neck of the woods, the county's three commissioners chimed in.
Commissioner Perry stated he was opposed to the proposed casino near 129th E. Ave. and 110th St. S. in Broken Arrow. "While the proponents of casinos like to talk about jobs created, they ignore the fact that without casinos disposable income could be spent on other goods, services and entertainment which would create jobs or sustain existing jobs," Perry stated.
The beleaguered Kialegee Tribal Town casino has drawn fire from prominent politicians like U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and U.S. Rep. John Sullivan. Perry joined sides with BA Mayor Mike Lester.
"The societal cost of casinos has been significant," Perry explained. "Families have been deprived of money that would have gone for food, rent and clothing. Due to casino gambling, marriages and children have suffered. Tax revenues state and local governments would also have been substantially higher."
Perry said that while he was in the Oklahoma Legislature, he spoke out against casino gambling. "Additional casinos in the Tulsa metro area and especially in locations such as the one proposed by the Kialegee Tribal Town in Broken Arrow, will be detrimental," Perry said.
Soon after Perry's proclamation, all three county commissioners expressed joint opposition to the BA casino project. On Jan. 12, they passed a resolution during their morning Board of County Commissioners Management Conference.
"There's really nothing, legally, the County Commissioners can do," said Michael Willis, Tulsa County public information officer. "They just want it known publicly that they, as a board of commissioners, unanimously oppose the project."
Noted also was the proposed casino's proposed location -- "immediately adjacent to the Tulsa Technology Campus of Career Tech and a planned site of a public elementary school" -- as one of the reasons they disapprove. Additionally, the resolution noted "a growing sentiment of opposition to the building of this casino," and further disapproval by Mayor Lester and the Broken Arrow City Council.
"The Tulsa County Commission does hereby voice its well-considered and firm opposition to the currently developing Kialegee Casino, and respectfully requests that the honorable leadership of the Kialegee Tribal Town select a more suitable location within its jurisdiction," the resolution concluded.
So far, the Kialegee appear to be diving into their new construction project full-steam ahead.
Yazel Takes the Gloves Off
On Jan. 9, radio station KRMG ran with a fiery brief on Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel. The report stated Yazel is "taking the gloves off" to fight what he called a "systematic deception of taxpayers by city and county officials."
Yazel gave the right-leaning talk radio station plenty of fodder, so why didn't his strong words drive the rest of the Tulsa media wild?
No other stations or papers (except the UTW, now) ran with his comments, though Yazel's explosive and potentially divisive allegations are the stuff beat reporters' dreams are made of.
Tulsa County Public Information Officer Michael Willis directed questions on to Commissioner John Smaligo, but talks quickly fizzled out.
Recently, Smaligo announced plans to shrink the county's budget by five percent. Yazel hit back, saying, "There's a lot of misunderstanding about what 'limiting the budget' represents," Yazel told KRMG. "It doesn't limit the taxes that are collected from the people."
Yazel explained that altering the budget doesn't change the way taxes are collected.
Perhaps no one pounced on Yazel's fightin' words because, well, he's saying what we already know: Politicans preen and pose though their actions and promises are often empty postures.
During his nine years in office, Yazel has made a habit of pointing out misleading rhetoric and misguided spending.
Just another day at the office.
County Park Fees Increased
And in similar news, the County Commissioners also recently approved a slate of new park user fees. When spring comes along, you may notice an increase in fees for park and athletic facility rentals, day camp and sports league rates, and swimming pool entry fees.
The commissioners may have decided to pass fee increases on outdoor recreation areas in chilly January to avoid pushback from residents who are bundled up and indoors.
However, the commissioners insist their park fees are still below the "market rate" in most areas when compared to neighboring park systems and day camp providers. Many of the fees have not been adjusted in 15 years, a recent county press release stated.
The new fee structure is projected to generate $35,000 per year and is effective immediately, according to a county press release.
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